December 23, 2011

The Great Christmas Exchange...The Reason for The Season?
Below is an article I wrote several years ago but deserves an airing at this time of the year.

The Great Christmas Exchange

by Kenneth Westby

 

 

Q "Doesn’t our celebration of Christmas have some roots in
pagan religious practices? How do you feel about Christians
participating in that sort of thing?"

 

Actually, the above question wasn’t asked of me or of The New Millennium, the journal I edit. It

was the lead question from Dr. James Dobson’s Q & A column in a recent issue of Focus on the

Family magazine. It’s a good question, as is Dr. Dobson’s fair, honest, and reasoned answer. I

challenge his conclusion, but admire his candor. Here is the entirety of his answer, followed by

my comments.

 

A "It’s true that the timing of our modern Christmas season coincides with that of an ancient

Roman festival, the Saturnalia. There’s even an historical connection between the two. In the

fourth century, Emperor Constantine declared Christianity the official religion of the Roman

Empire and outlawed all pagan religious practices.

 

"But it seems Constantine also had a fair understanding of human nature and was something of

a diplomat. He didn’t want the public outcry that would be sure to result if he simply banned the

Saturnalia. He declared that the festivities should continue from year to year, but be given a new

meaning. The old pagan holiday was transformed into a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ -

- the most important event in human history! In time, the old pagan associations faded and were

eventually forgotten.

 

"Despite the secular origins of the Christmas holiday, I am not troubled by its celebration.

I do understand why other believers are, and I respect their point of view. To my mind, it’s what

you make of the event that counts -- as the old Emperor seems to have understood so well.

"I seriously doubt that any of us today are in much danger of being lured into the worship of

Roman deities. For us, a much more serious threat is posed by the gods of materialism and

secularism, who have so successfully established themselves on what Constantine intended to

be holy ground.

 

"But it doesn’t have to be that way. For our family, Christmas has traditionally been one of the

spiritual highlights of the year, as well as the focal point of many treasured memories. It is my

opinion that this holy holiday can be the same for any family that chooses to make it so."

I believe Dr. Dobson’s response to the question of Christmas’ pagan roots and practices reflects

a widely held view among Christian teachers. Much more could, of course, be brought up on the

historical roots of this pagan religious celebration.

 

Quick research will reveal that Christmas and it’s most popular practices predate the Roman

deities Dobson mentions, taking us back to its religious genesis among Babylonian sun and

fertility (sex) worship. A few days before Christmas in 1993 Pope John Paul II admitted that the

25th of December date didn’t come from the Bible: "On that day in pagan antiquity, the birthday

of the ‘Invincible Sun’ was celebrated to coincide with the winter solstice. . . . It seemed logical

and natural to Christians to replace that feast with the celebration of the only and true Sun,

Jesus Christ."

 

Apparently, establishing a false and fabricated date for the birth of Christ and then merging true

worship with pagan customs seemed quite "logical and natural." It didn’t to the early Christians.

But then as a Vatican press release stated: "The festival of Christmas appeared for the first time

[as an official church celebration] in 354 [AD]" -- three centuries after Christ.

 

THE EXCHANGE

 

It is important to understand that Christmas, and Easter, modern Christianity’s other major

religious holiday, did not enter our calendar in isolation. They were not simply inserted into a

blank calendar in want of religious holidays. These holidays are replacements for

other holydays that were once part of a biblically based calendar of celebration and worship.

What Constantine did for the empire on a grand scale had already begun centuries earlier on a

smaller scale. Namely, the transformation of the traditions of the early church.

 

The traditions of the first century church, which were closest to the teachings and practices of its

founder, Christ, were very Jewish. Or, more accurately put, very biblical. The church Jesus, the

original apostles, and Paul (all Jews) built was for the most part a continuation of Yahweh

worship as practiced by the Old Testament faithful. The traditions and celebrations were largely

the same, but now enlivened by the life and resurrection of the very Son of God and his

Kingdom message. The New Testament Sabbath, Passover, and Pentecost are clear examples

of the Savior’s influence upon these ancient celebrations. Christ added greatly to their sacred

traditional meanings by his miraculous appearance as God's Son in human flesh, his death and

resurrection, and by his call to us for sonship and eternal life. Please understand, these

celebrations were not the exclusive property of the Jews, as Christ reminded the Pharisees;

rather, like the Sabbath, these are God's and he made them for all mankind -- especially for his

spiritual people, the Church (Lk 2:27).

 

Worship on Sunday, and Saturnalia and Ishtar (Easter) celebrations were not found in the early

church of Christ and the Apostles. Instead of coming from Babylon, the religious calendar of the

early (can we say "the not yet corrupted") church came from Genesis and Exodus and the rest

of Torah (meaning God’s teaching/instruction). It is this venerable, ancient, and biblical tradition

that was exchanged in the centuries following Christ for a far inferior religious tradition.

This new tradition, which of course was also an ancient tradition among the idolatrous pagan

world, was gaining some acceptance by the close of the first century as Christianity rapidly

expanded into the Roman Empire. In the third and fourth centuries a new church began to

emerge; one that was Hellenistic, gentile dominated, and contained a syncretistic blend of

pagan and biblical practices. In name it was Christian; in many of its practices, neo-pagan.

 

What Constantine did when he declared Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire
was not "outlaw" the practices of Saturnalia , but rename them to make the exchange easy.

 

By his time, a similar transition into these practices within the church was well under way.
The church of Jesus and the Apostles, now centuries later, had a totally different look, tradition, and calendar.

 

Was it even the same church? This transformation should not be considered progress.

Let’s look more closely at the other part of this equation which has brought our modern culture

these Roman/Babylonian holidays. What were the festivals of the early church that were

replaced? As we briefly mentioned above, there exists a rich biblical history of God’s people, in

Old Testament times as well as in the early church, celebrating a totally other set of religious

holidays/holydays. These were not the religious festivals of sun-worshipping pagans, but "the

Feasts of God."

 

History records that these biblical festivals (Sabbath, Days of Unleavened Bread, Passover,

Pentecost, Trumpets, Atonement, Tabernacles) were deliberately set aside by later church

officials in favor of "baptized" pagan holidays. The motive? There are probably several, but an

important one among many 2nd-4th century church leaders was an abiding anti-Jewish bias and

the desire to unlink the new Christian religion from its Jewish/Old Testament foundation. For

over a century leaders debated the Passover/Easter question. The quartodeciman controversy

which festered during the second century is a case in point. Quartodeciman means fourteenth,

the day on which Passover was celebrated according the Hebrew calendar. Irenaeus (115-202

AD), who was taught by Polycarp, John’s disciple, fought for a fourteenth day of Nisan

observance, "arguing that the practice was an old one in western Asia Minor that went back to

the time of the apostles" (Encyclopedia of Early Christianity, Everett Ferguson, Editor, Garland

Publishing, NY, 1990, p.107).                                                                                                  

 

Irenaeus was a powerful fighter against Gnosticism in the early

church and is regarded as the first great Catholic theologian. Later Emperor Constantine, the

same one who brought us Christmas, summoned the council of Nicaea in 325 AD to do the

business of establishing a uniform observance throughout the empire of Easter on a Sunday.

One of his purposes was to do away with the still lingering practice of observing the Passover.

To insure that Easter in no way could harmonize with the "Jewish" Passover (which is the day

on which captive Israel was spared by the lamb’s blood and on which Christ was crucified, both

events integral to Salvation History), church officials devised a rotating date for Easter, the

substituted celebration for the biblical Passover. They did this by concocting an elaborate

calendar formula pegged to Passover that would never allow the two celebrations to occur on

the same day. Such was the bitter bias against the early church’s "Jewish" traditions. It also

forced the remaining Passover observing Christians, of which there were many, to forever

choose which tradition would be theirs. Active persecution of those that didn’t bend to Rome’s

direction followed.

 

This important historical story should be told side by side with the one Dr. Dobson summarizes

for us. We will save a more detailed recounting of it for another time.

From the first century on, Christians have had options concerning the days they choose to

celebrate. They could observe the "baptized" pagan events or they could celebrate the biblical

festivals -- but not both. I say not both because we are discussing two different and opposite

traditions -- poles apart. The biblical festivals came directly from God and were part of his plan

for his people’s worship -- his way for their coming to know him and his plan. In fact, these days

came from the mind of God and are his unique creation. From creation onward they

memorialize the mighty works of Yahweh -- past, present, and future. The prime way for the

created to come to know its Creator is by what he has said and done. The biblical celebrations

enshrine that fundamental information in annual remembrances done as celebrations.

 

The holidays mainstream Christianity got in the exchange for these noble biblical events, came

indisputably straight from rank sun and fertility worship -- which idolatry God has everywhere

condemned as sin. In their origins and practices these two holiday/holyday traditions are

philosophically and theologically opposites.

 

OPTIONS

 

Now getting back to the original Christmas-keeping question asked of Dr. Dobson. Using the

example of Christmas and acknowledging its pagan religious roots, you as a Christian have

certain options. You can:

 

Option # 1: Accept it. Hallow this historically pagan event by giving it a Christian meaning.

Ignore its origins. Emphasize Christ’s birth and family togetherness.

 

Option # 2: Reject the biblical holydays and don’t celebrate them (which choice seems implicit
to exercising option # 1). If one doesn’t celebrate them one has in effect rejected them for

whatever reason -- or ignored them, which amounts to the same. The common reason offered

for rejection is their Jewish roots. Unfortunately, many who reject them for this reason take

another step and judge those who continue to celebrate the biblical days as being Judaizers,

legalists, and perhaps even anti-Christian.

 

Most Christians, including Dobson, have chosen both Option 1 & Option 2, although Dobson

clearly has not engaged in judgment against those of us who celebrate the biblical festivals.

 

Option # 3: Celebrate both the Christianized pagan festivals and the biblical festivals. This

would certainly make for a busy calendar. But practically, since each represents opposite and

conflicting traditions, I doubt a serious and intellectually engaged Christian would be

comfortable standing on both sides of this issue.

 

Option # 4: Acknowledge the pagan religious practices and origins of Christmas and choose not

to get involved.

 

Option # 5: Acknowledge the divine origins of the seven biblical festivals and celebrate them as

part of your Christian worship. Acknowledge that they commemorate the magnalia dei, the

mighty salvational acts of God -- past, present, and future -- and include them in your yearly

calendar to be shared with family and fellow Christians.

 

There are other options, but these are sufficient as my purpose here is to contrast two different

approaches toward choosing which religious days to celebrate. Celebration of secular holidays

is of no concern here, only days that have religious worship as an integral part of their

significance.

 

Dr. Dobson is right to conclude that Christians today are not consciously (or unconsciously)

worshipping Roman deities in their Christmas celebrations. God does look upon the heart of

one’s intellect, and in their hearts most people who give religious importance to Christmas give

it to honor Christ. Whether Christ is pleased with this sort of worship is another question which

should be considered. Of course, the majority of Christmas celebrators think little about Christ

and a lot about everything else. But for those serious Christians, I think it wrong to judge their

Christmas keeping as idolatry. (The sin of idolatry nevertheless does exist, note Dobson’s

concern above regarding materialism; and it comes in many manifestations and is probably one

of the most common sins on earth.) It is also wrong to judge those who keep the biblical

festivals as being legalists, Judaizers, or worse.

 

If idolatry, strictly speaking, is not involved in Christian Christmas keeping, bad judgment might

be. We all make choices, some good, some not. Choosing a religious calendar of celebrations

based on pagan deities over one based on the Bible and the One True God, is by any measure

a bad exchange. Trading precious and stunningly beautiful jewels of truth by the whole carats,

for fables, made-in-China plastic Santas and nativity scenes with light bulbs in them, is a bad

deal.

 

Then why have so many intelligent and well-meaning Christians made just such an exchange?

Ignorance of the facts might explain the most of it, but there is as well this fact of human nature:

It is easier to go along to get along. Emperor Constantine figured that out. Baptizing paganism

may be good, strategic public policy to "convert" an empire, but is it good theology? Is it a good

exchange? Consider the exchange: An enlightened, unique package of biblical days which tell

the orderly story of God’s Grand Plan of Salvation, exchanged for days that must be constantly

separated from their pagan baggage.

 

Dr. Dobson and many fine Christians like him work hard to put a Christian spin to Christmas,

and they do a good job. And for their good intentions, I applaud them. But we should go beyond

good intentions. There is a more God-centered option that affords us all the benefits of family

togetherness around festive holiday seasons, while teaching the uncorrupted and pure message

of salvation. If you would like to know more about the biblical festivals write us for Dr. Charles

Dorothy’s article Rediscovering Biblical Celebrations.

 

It is time we Christmas-keeping Christians stand back and take a careful look at what we
have rejected in favor of what we have accepted. The wily Emperor’s present of Christmas
doesn’t fit true Christianity -- it should be returned for a refund.

 


 

 

August 31, 2011

The Way to Happiness

How many of us know people who are always complaining about their day and just can’t seem to find happiness in anything?  They may have the “perfect” family, or job, but for some reason there is something missing for them.  They develop negative feelings about all areas of their life.  Some people turn to illegal drug use, some to food or other “mindless” activities in their search for that elusive “something” that will bring happiness. 

Then there are those who never seem to have a bad day.  They always seem to be on top of the world… and you wonder how they do it.  This is the category we would all like to be in, but just how do we get there? 

In one of my old Prevention magazines, there is an article on maximizing joy, or happiness.  Some of the suggestions they make for increasing joy are right out of the Bible.  First, notice what’s RIGHT in a situation, don’t focus on what is wrong… or, put another way, think on things that are good.  It fits!  Philippians 4:8 reads, “Whatever things are true…noble… just… pure… lovely… of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy, meditate on these things.”  Don’t focus on the mistakes the kids make when they are helping with chores, but on the good they are doing… the praiseworthy!  Overlook the things your spouse forgot to do and focus on those things that were remembered.  If you focus on the things that are wrong, you will not experience happiness, but frustration and discouragement, which can lead to depression. 

Another thing that leads to happiness is gratitude.  Being grateful… and expressing that gratefulness… is key.  Consider maintaining a “Gratitude Journal” with the instruction that each night you write down three things that happened that day that you're grateful for.  At first this exercise is difficult… you can’t write the same three things every day, so you have to start being aware of the “blessings” in your life.  You begin to see things you may not have noticed before, such as the beautiful blue sky after a rain storm, the “close call” while driving (see, God was protecting you!), yes, and when your kids remember to put the dishes away and pick up their things from the living room that’s something to be grateful for too.  In the Prevention article, they mentioned a study which shows that those who regularly recorded the things they were grateful for showed more optimism, enthusiasm, attentiveness and energy, and they felt better about their life as a whole.  There are a lot of benefits to being grateful!  And it also brings you closer to God… He may not need to hear about how grateful we are, but WE benefit immensely by telling him!

Of course being kind… and showing that kindness to others is important.  When we focus our attention outward toward others rather than always thinking about our needs and our lives, it helps us to see things from a different angle.  Many times our “problems” disappear when put in perspective.  And the physical act of doing for others has a positive effect on us as well… and that includes giving others a smile!   “Putting on a happy face” has been shown to increase happiness.  Just the act of smiling, even if you don’t really feel like it, can be the boost someone else needs… and can help you feel happier.  According to Jewish thought, feelings follow actions, so if you “act” like you are happy, the “feeling” of happiness will follow.

Noticing the positive rather than the negative in a situation, being grateful for everything, showing kindness in large and small ways, and putting on a happy face, these are all stepping stones to help us grow, to bring us closer to the relationships our Father in heaven wants us to have… with our family, friends, co-workers… and with Him.  Every day is another chance to grow and move closer to Him.  So remember, look for what is good in a situation, show your gratitude, pass on the kindness… and smile!  Every day can be filled with the happiness God wants for us. --Ken Westby

August 11, 2011

Post-Christian Chaos

If Britain’s barbaric youths had been raised with the Judeo-Christian ethic, they probably wouldn’t have rioted. The problem in England is not politics, race, youth, or even class - its values. The world in general is facing a values crisis. Values, or the lack of same, drive everything in the chaotic modern world.

            Destroying property, stealing, looting, arson, assault and the manifestation of the mob mentality reflect a paucity of values. Values override the concerns of class warfare, partisan politics and self-interest. When properly positioned in one’s life, values trump everything. They represent a governor on behavior that determines what one will, or will not do. People who have internalized high values exercise noble character even under duress, or when no one is watching. People with low or ignoble values give in to their animal instincts under the least provocation.

            A headline in Mail Online (August 10, 2011) identified one of the major influences in creating the kind of people who commit such horrors: “Years of liberal dogma have spawned a generation of amoral, uneducated, welfare dependent, brutalized youngsters.” A female looter told a reporter that her looting showed the “rich” and the police that “we can do what we want.”

            What they wanted was the random destruction of property, the burning of vehicles and the terrorizing of neighborhoods and communities. Why did they want to do such irresponsible, destructive things? To relieve their boredom, create excitement and wield some sort of power. Max Hastings, in the aforementioned Mail article describes Britain’s rioters as having “no moral compass that would make them susceptible to guilt or shame.” Like I said - it’s a matter of values or the lack thereof. Continues Hastings, “Most have no jobs to go to or exams they might pass. They know no family role models, for most live in homes in which the father is unemployed, or from which he has decamped.”

            “They are,” says Hastings, “essentially wild beasts.” They are rabid wolf packs roaming once civilized streets in a nation that was known for its advanced social development. Too borrow a phrase from the Bible, “Destruction and misery are in their ways.” (Romans 3:16). They know nothing about responsible living.

How did this happen?

Hastings cites “liberal dogma” as a major cause. It is such dogma that has created the welfare state. In earlier times, Britain dealt with its troublesome underclass with capital punishment and deportation to the colonies (like Australia). Today it is subsidized by “the dole.”

            Furthermore, there are no governors on feral behavior. No measures are in place that would effectively deter this wanton barbarism. Like the girl cited above said, “We can do what we want.” Authorities, including schools, the police, the judiciary and even Parliament, according to Hastings, all too often take the part of the perpetrators instead of the victims.

What’s to be done?

Writes Hastings, “Only education - together with politicians, judges, policemen and teachers with the courage to force feral humans to obey rules the rest of us have accepted all our lives - can provide a way forward and a way out for these people.” These young barbarians need incentives for good behavior and swift punishment for bad. They need the restoration of moral authority in their lives. A verse from the Bible applies here: “…the fact that the sentence imposed for evil deeds is not executed swiftly…is why men are emboldened to do evil…” Ecclesiastes 8:11, JT.

            Fear of punishment is a motivator for good behavior. Appeasement, mollycoddling and the subsidization of sloth has the opposite effect. Writes Dennis Prager, “…the human desire to reject the primacy of values is deep.

            “The reason? As soon as we hold values responsible for human conduct, we must hold people, ourselves included, responsible for the bad that we do,” Think A Second Time, page 158.

            Facing down evil takes moral courage. Evil unopposed grows. Unless we resist it now - unless we repeal the “liberal dogma” that is behind it - we will surely succumb to it. Our Western cultures need a values revolution - a return to the Judeo-Christian ethic that helped build the most civilized nations in history. --Brian Knowles           

           

March 17, 2011

Too Many People?
Yes, according to the zero-population-growth crowd. These "man-haters" all drink from the same polluted liberal pond of stagnant ideas. Mankind is regarded at the ultimate spoiler of pristine nature. How dare we humans leave our footprint on nature's planet. How dare we multiply and fill-up the earth. Among this crowd are the eugenicists who hide behind nice-sounding family planning placards and billboards promoting contraception. They are radicals who believe we need to save the earth by reducing its population by a few billion. Just how we go about that isn't made clear, but the self-loathing contempt for humans having children is palpable. Thankfully they are a minority in the greater Mother Earth/environmentalist movement, but their attitude permeates much of the movement. If you wonder who some of these people are, you can identify them by there continual use of the word "sustainable."

These folks are the self-appointed arbiters of what is "enough" and what constitutes "sustainable" levels of human population, use of resources, carbon dioxide, etc. These are the elite who know better than the rest of us and are destined to rule the masses by the laws of evolution--the survival and superiority of the fittest. They are the most fit to tell the masses what to eat, where to live, how to travel, how many children to have, and how to vote. They know what is "sustainable" for the environment.

Well, this year earth's population will pass 7,000,000,000...seven billion! How big is that number? As the folks at National Geographic Magazine illustrate: "Don't even try to count to seven billion. Even if each number took just a second to say (and you didn't lose your place), getting there would take more than two centuries."  (And our government is pilling up trillion dollar deficits!) So when is there going to be enough people? Certainly, that is not for anyone but the Owner of the earth to decide. So far He has remained silent on the population question. The last global command Yahweh gave regarding population was to Noah after the flood: "Then God blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them, 'Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth'" (Genesis 9:1). This is similar to the command given to Adam and Eve at the beginning of the human race.

Just when will God consider the earth filled up? Truly, no one knows. Scientists and demographers can give ideas and projections on how much population the earth could support. But all such projections depend on human behaviors more than on the planet's ability to provide material for food and shelter. Ignorance, corrupt governments, war, socialism, communist, despotism and the like are what cause shortages, famine, disease, and want. The earth has the capacity to support many times this year's seven billion people with plenty of food left over to export to Mars. Talk of shortages and limited resources is the grist of those playing a zero-sum game. They don't see that the greatest resource the earth has is its people. People made in the Image of God. People with immense capacities for creating new wealth, discovering new sources and inventing new technologies and solutions to problems.

All that is needed is to turn these billions of humans lose to develop their God-given potential and talents. All they need is good education, freedom, and the ability to profit from the labor of their own hands without corrupt governments and religions enslaving them. If that sounds utopian, it probably is--at least on a world-wide scale. Yet, we see how this human-capital-prosperity can work in nations on earth right now. Which nations? The nations people are trying to enter as they flee from their native corrupt countries. Are not people fleeing to Western Europe and the USA and other nations of the Judeo-Christian heritage? Why? The reasons are obvious: freedom, opportunity, civilization, safety, and the prospect of prospering and being able to keep it.

What would this earth look like if it had the kind of freedom described above. Imagine the prosperity, happiness, and creativity that would explode upon an earth without wars and corrupt governments and religions. That is exactly what the Kingdom of God will bring our weary planet. Call it the Millennium, the Day of the Lord, the Second Coming, the Reign of God, it is the time of the return to Paradise with God on earth. When will God declare that there are "enough" people on earth? The fact is, God loves people and wants them to fulfill their created destiny to become fully in His Image. His plan calls for every human who has ever existed to have the opportunity to do so. He will even resurrect those from past millennia to live again in the new world he will make and give them the freedom to chose how they want to live and under whose leadership they want to live. God is not nervous about how things will turn ultimately out.

Here is a thought test. Why did God make hundreds of billions of galaxies each with hundreds of billions of stars and innumerable planets and moons? We are talking hundreds of trillions of giant stars and star systems. Why so many? Isn't that too many? Don't those numbers of exploding nuclear reactor stars threaten the sustainability of the cosmos? Is God laughing? Let's face it, God thinks big and he has big plans for those he has made in his image. We would be smart to learn more about God and what his plan is. --Ken Westby

March 2, 2011

Unity or Uniformity?   (Nehemia Gordon is a Torah teachers living in Jerusalem. He will be a presenter at our coming One God Seminar in Pasadena, May 28-29--Ed)
God's people are re-awakening all around the world to his truth but not everyone is ready, willing, or able to the same degree or at the same pace. God waited twenty-four years before revealing to Abraham the commandment of circumcision. Don't be so quick to circumcise your neighbor or condemn him for not being where you are in your walk with God. Let God speak to him in his own time when he is ready.

Many people call for "unity" but what they really mean is "uniformity". They claim unity is important to them but reject everyone who doesn't agree with their understanding of Scripture. Unity can and must be achieved even when there is a lack of uniformity. This requires a certain degree of spiritual maturity and humility. It is only human that we get frustrated when others do not see things our way. But we must be humble before the Almighty and ask him to lead us on our walk with him. If those who walk alongside us in faith approach Yehovah with the same humility then it is not for us to judge them. We should be united, not divided, by our love of our heavenly Father and desire to live by His Word.

I got some real insight into unity last week when Keith Johnson and I were down in Egypt. Unless you've been serving on a deep-water submarine or stuck in Canada, then you know Egypt is a country still recovering from thirty years of rule by a brutal dictator. Keith and I had the opportunity to sit down with several Bedouin men in Nuweiba on the shore of the Red Sea, where the Israelites crossed over from slavery into freedom. I asked them what they thought of the overthrow of Mubarak. One young man was nostalgic about the fallen dictator insisting that as bad as he was, at least there was "unity" under his rule. This young Bedouin man has never known the basic freedoms many of us take for granted. He was terrified by the "division" that now racks his country. I realized that political tyranny creates unity at the cost of freedom just as spiritual tyranny creates unity at the cost of truth and the individual's relationship of faith with God.

"What does YHWH require of you? To do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your Elohim?" (Micah 6:8).

Nehemia Gordon
Jerusalem, Israel (Visit Nehemia's website: http://www.karaite-korner.org/abib.shtml )

February 23, 2011

Blood-Sucking Politicians

A little government and a little luck are necessary in life, but only a fool trusts either of them.

Those wise words were spoken by the political humorist P. J. O'Rourke who also said: "Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys." Those of us living in the democracies of the West are plagued by profiteering politicians, corrupt media, and compromised courts. Yet for all the financial mess we see in places like Wisconsin and California, our worst woes are but a restful picnic in the park compared to what is going on in Egypt and Libya and twenty other crazed Muslim countries. But if we take our freedom and prosperity for granted by killing the Golden Goose of Judeo-Christian culture and economics, we can decline and fall into the pit of failed nations. America has no permanent lease on power and prosperity.

There is a political fight underway between factions that want to preserve the free capitalistic system that has allowed human creativity to thrive and America rise to greatness, and the faction that wants to cook the Golden Goose for dinner, spend like fools, redistribute wealth, fatten government, and promise a socialistic utopia. That assessment may seem stark and overdrawn, but I believe this is where the lines are drawn. At root are two different view of human nature. The one wants minimum government, maximum personal freedoms and markets to do business, and respects and wants to preserve traditional values. Human beings thrive with freedom, opportunity, property, and are best civilized by religious values and law and order based on those values. The other faction sees no ultimate truths, has an evolutionary view that human nature can be perfected by reeducation including what is called political correctness, sees economics as zero-sum game thus needing strong central government to distribute opportunities, markets, jobs and goods "fairly." The former feeds and cares for the Golden Goose. The latter thinks golden eggs can be produced by government bureaucratic control freeing the elite sit down to eat the Golden Goose.

This verse always comes to mind when I think of putting faith in political promises:  "Do not put your trust in princes, in mortal man, who cannot save" (Psalm 146:3). P. J. O'Rourke has a more colorful and earthy way of expressing the same idea and captures the frustration that many a voter must feel seeing the way blood-sucking politicians play the game.

"The American political system is like a gigantic Mexican Christmas fiesta. Each political party is a huge piňata--a papier mȃché donkey, for example. The donkey is filled with full employment, low interest rates, affordable housing, comprehensive medical benefits, a balanced budget, and other goodies. The American voter is blindfolded and given a stick. The voter then swings the stick wildly in every direction, trying to hit a political candidate on the head and knock some sense into the silly bastard."

O'Rourke wrote those prescient words back in 1991 (Parliament of Whores--A Lone Humorist Attempts to Explain the Entire U.S. Government, Atlantic Monthly Press, 1991). If it were true in '91 it is oppressingly true today. There are ways to promote prosperity while still controlling the excesses of greed and power, and the system of free enterprise with minimal democratic government has done a pretty good job of it for almost 240 years. Our Founders sought a system that would bring out the best in human ambition while keeping its excesses at bay. They also realized that for it to truly work citizens needed personal morality best gotten from their religious beliefs. There is a delicate balance here. America's success is not a lark or an accident. I think God had a powerful hand in blessing this land and he no doubt approved of that approach toward governing humans made in his image. God is free and he loves freedom and made man free to make his own choices. Good choices produce good results. Bad choices produce bad results.

Today we are seeing bad results and the delicate balance is threatened. Pray that our leaders and the people who vote for them consider what made our nation free and prosperous. History has a pit of failed nations led by fools. How should we pray? Paul gives us the answer in 1 Timothy 2:1-5.  --Ken Westby   

January 23, 2011

Pre-Adamic Man?
In his response to an on-going discussion on Genesis and "old earth vs young earth" arguments the subject of pre-adamic creation came up. Below are Noel Rude's comments. As always, your comments pro or con are welcomed. --Editor

Actually,

When I say understanding Genesis is important, I do not mean that it’s of top importance for those who already believe and serve God.  I only say it should be a top priority thing for the Judeo-Christian world in general.  The justification given for our post-Judeo-Christian situation is that Genesis got it wrong and Darwin got it right.  Both sides of that equation—in complete violation of the First Amendment—have become the state religion of the United States.  That is the operating principle in the universities, the public schools, the media, the courts, the bureaucracy, the current President, and anyone who defies it will be completely marginalized.  It is for this reason that intelligent design is on the cutting edge of the Work of God at this time.  Understanding Genesis is of similar importance, but there is currently no discussion of it on a par with intelligent design.  There are only the scholarly works of those who consider Genesis myth, and the maintenance of sectarian positions among marginalized believers.

 

Now as for death—the orthodox Christian view is that “death entered” with Adam, that before that there was no such thing—not even the death of a mosquito, let alone the dinosaurs.  It is for this reason, I’m told, that evangelicals so fiercely defend the Young Earth position.  Mainstream Christianity isn’t concerned because to them it is all myth.  But if we are going to argue with the YECs [young-earth creationists] we’re going to have to argue with their interpretation of Romans 5, and with what they call “the Fall”.  Mostly they believe that Adam was created immortal and that he lost his immortality in “the Fall”.  For insight into the orthodox Christian take on these things I recommend William A. Dembski’s The End of Christianity: Finding a Good God in an Evil World.  Aside from a PhD in mathematics from the University of Chicago, Dembski also holds an MDiv in theology from the Princeton Theological Seminary and a PhD in philosophy from the University of Illinois at Chicago.  He is second to none in regard to intelligent design, but he won’t deviate from the orthodox doctrines of historic Christendom.

 

But what if death is essential in a dynamic material world, that new life implies the passing away of the old, and therefore most creatures have built in clocks to determine their life spans.  These are philosophical and scientific questions.  We look at the world and ask: Could it be any other way?  Yes, it could be better.  But is its overall essence, as it says, “very good”?  And because God has been around for a very long time, why put him out of a job for most of that time?  There is no reason to believe that there are not an unlimited number of planets out there just like ours, splendorous in beauty and teeming with life.  And why not intelligent life also?  Do we know whether we are—as intelligent physical beings—alone in the Universe?  No, we don’t know—not unless you can show me from the Bible.  You might have a look at David Berlinski’s Was there a Big Bang?

 

Now if the paleontological evidence is clear and man long predates Adam whom biblical chronology puts only some six millennia in the past, then we might ask with David, “What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?”  David gets his answer from Genesis (Psalms 8:5-9): “For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour. Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet: All sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field; The fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas. O LORD our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth!”

 

Ruling over the creatures is a messianic metaphor first found in Genesis: “And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and [fill] the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.” Even if only local, Adam’s seed was nevertheless destroyed in the Flood, and so God renewed the covenant with Noah and his sons (Gen 9:1-2): “And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and [fill] the earth. And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth, and upon every fowl of the air, upon all that moveth upon the earth, and upon all the fishes of the sea; into your hand are they delivered.”

It is no wonder that both David and Paul saw in Adam the messianic office.  It’s there also in Isaiah 11.

 

“And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots: And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD; And shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the LORD: and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears: But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and he shall smite the earth: with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked. And righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins. The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice’ den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea. And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek: and his rest shall be glorious.”

 

The big deal in Scripture is not man ruling over the beast—it is Israel and Israel’s messiah ruling over the nations.

 

And so if that was Adam’s purpose—then maybe Adam was not the first human being—rather Adam was created to rule in place of the fallen angels—as his seed is yet destined (Heb 2:5), “For unto the angels hath [God] not put in subjection the world to come, whereof we speak.”

 

OK, we know that the scientists are biased in favor of Darwin, but don’t we also know that the biblical exegetes are just as biased in favor of sectarian tradition—be it either the old Christendom or the new accommodation to Darwin?  What we want is the truth from both books—the book of nature and the book of Israel.  There are honest folks out there and it is possible to move beyond our biases.  But it’s probably not possible for an organized body to do this—be it the National Science Foundation or the Institute for Creation Research.

Anyway that’s my early morning Spiel.  Now for some coffee.

 

--Noel

 

PS: Being made in the image of God should probably be defined on several levels.  There is physical form and moral accountability via the gift of language. On another level it seems to mean rulership over the nations (Gen 1:26): “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.”

 

God is foremost a creator and ruler, and being made in his image involves those things.  Here, let me quote from Asaf Inbari in AZURE (2000) “Towards Towards a Hebrew Literature” (http://inbari.co.il/en_hebrew1.htm):

 

The biblical God is not something, as were the ma'at, brahman and moira-but someone; not a "Supreme Being" or the "Absolute," not the "Unlimited" (apeiron) of Anaximander, or the "Idea of Ideas" of Plato, the "Unmoved Mover" of Aristotle, the "One" of Plotinus, or any other monist abstraction. God is not the law, but the lawmaker. He is the Master of the Universe, and his sovereignty is manifest in history.

This meshes with the following from Isaac Newton:

 

This Being governs all things, not as the soul of the world, but as Lord over all: And on account of his dominion he is wont to be called Lord God παντοκράτωρ, or Universal Ruler. For God is a relative word, and has a respect to servants; and Deity is the dominion of God not over his own body, as those imagine who fancy God to be the soul of the world, but over servants. The supreme God is a Being eternal, infinite, absolutely perfect; but a being, however perfect, without dominion, cannot be said to be Lord God; for we say, my God, your God, the God of Israel, the God of Gods, and Lord of Lords; but we do not say, my Eternal, your Eternal, the Eternal of Israel, the Eternal of Gods; we do not say, my Infinite, or my Perfect: These are titles which have no respect to servants. The word God usually signifies Lord; but every lord is not a God. It is the dominion of a spiritual being which constitutes a God; a true, supreme or imaginary dominion makes a true, supreme or imaginary God. And from his true dominion it follows, that the true God is a Living, Intelligent, and Powerful Being; and from his other perfections, that he is Supreme, or most Perfect.

From Stephen D. Snobelen, "'God of gods, and Lord of lords': the theology of Isaac Newton's General Scholium to the Principia." Osiris 16 (2001:169-208).  Available at http://www.isaac-newton.org/pdf/Snobelen%20Theology%20of%20General%20Scholium%202001.pdf.

Greco-Roman Christianity defined God ontologically—as an essence (οὐσία or substantia), the Hebrew Bible describes him as an agent, an actor, a great king and ruler of his vast creation.

January 7, 2011

The Way to Happiness

How many of us know people who are always complaining about their day and just can’t seem to find happiness in anything?  They may have the “perfect” family, or job, but for some reason there is something missing for them.  They develop negative feelings about all areas of their life.  Some people turn to illegal drug use, some to food or other “mindless” activities in their search for that elusive “something” that will bring happiness. 

 

Then there are those who never seem to have a bad day.  They always seem to be on top of the world… and you wonder how they do it.  This is the category we would all like to be in, but just how do we get there?

 

In one of my old Prevention magazines, there is an article on maximizing joy, or happiness.  Some of the suggestions they make for increasing joy are right out of the Bible.  First, notice what’s RIGHT in a situation, don’t focus on what is wrong… or, put another way, think on things that are good.  It fits!  Philippians 4:8 reads, “Whatever things are true…noble… just… pure… lovely… of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy, meditate on these things.”  Don’t focus on the mistakes the kids make when they are helping with chores, but on the good they are doing… the praiseworthy!  Overlook the things your spouse forgot to do and focus on those things that were remembered.  If you focus on the things that are wrong, you will not experience happiness, but frustration and discouragement, which can lead to depression. 

 

Another thing that leads to happiness is gratitude.  Being grateful… and expressing that gratefulness… is key.  Consider maintaining a “Gratitude Journal” with the instruction that each night you write down three things that happened that day that you're grateful for.  At first this exercise is difficult… you can’t write the same three things every day, so you have to start being aware of the “blessings” in your life.  You begin to see things you may not have noticed before, such as the beautiful blue sky after a rain storm, the “close call” while driving (see, God was protecting you!), yes, and when your kids remember to put the dishes away and pick up their things from the living room that’s something to be grateful for too.  In the Prevention article, they mentioned a study which shows that those who regularly recorded the things they were grateful for showed more optimism, enthusiasm, attentiveness and energy, and they felt better about their life as a whole.  There are a lot of benefits to being grateful!  And it also brings you closer to God… He may not need to hear about how grateful we are, but WE benefit immensely by telling him!

 

Of course being kind… and showing that kindness to others is important.  When we focus our attention outward toward others rather than always thinking about our needs and our lives, it helps us to see things from a different angle.  Many times our “problems” disappear when put in perspective.  And the physical act of doing for others has a positive effect on us as well… and that includes giving others a smile!   “Putting on a happy face” has been shown to increase happiness.  Just the act of smiling, even if you don’t really feel like it, can be the boost someone else needs… and can help you feel happier.  According to Jewish thought, feelings follow actions, so if you “act” like you are happy, the “feeling” of happiness will follow.

Noticing the positive rather than the negative in a situation, being grateful for everything, showing kindness in large and small ways, and putting on a happy face, these are all stepping stones to help us grow, to bring us closer to the relationships our Father in heaven wants us to have… with our family, friends, co-workers… and with Him.  Every day is another chance to grow and move closer to Him.  So remember, look for what is good in a situation, show your gratitude, pass on the kindness… and smile!  Every day can be filled with the happiness God wants for us. (anon.)

November 15, 2010

Angels at work--above and below
The writer is a friend and the director of security for one of America's largest hotels.

I enjoyed the article at the web site on God's Board Room [see home page]. I am hailed into a staff meeting every Wed. morning at 10:00 and have to listen to the new and old business of each department. Many times we discuss line employees and what is going on with them in our departments. It is comforting to know and also awe inspiring to think that YHWH may be sitting up there "in The Big Chair" talking about me or my little family. We must be in somebody's department and under someone's care, some "Department Head" or "Director."

I often refer to my guys and gals as the Hotel's Protecting Angel's or watch dogs. Mostly the people don't see us, even though we walk visibly among them. They have their eyes and minds on "other matters" so they don't even see us pass by, unless they are injured or in a desperate need of something. They never pause to consider that on the other side of their Guest Room door some fellow or Gal walks the floors at night  maintaining the solitude and keeping watch over their safety. That’s probably a commentary on the entire human race. Many hotels don't maintain a Security Department because they feel like it’s a waste of money or something unneeded, but in their own homes they have a big dog and an alarm system. I know FATHER has a Security Force that patrols the halls of humanity day and night. Thanks for bringing that into focus....  -- Anon. 

October 8, 2010

Fornication Okay?
In response to an article in The Journal by John Sash in which the author questions whether "singles sex" is sinful or included in the commandment against adultery, Noel Rude offers these thoughts.

Mr. John Sash’s provocative piece in THE JOURNAL (Issue No. 140, July 31, 2010) cries out for comment, but then who wants to be seen as an expert on—fornication.  In any event Mr. Sash is to be commended for stirring the pot, for how much study is there if we never hear anything controversial?

Mr Sash says, “For the next three days, try as I might I could not think of one logical reason (apart from the Bible) that it was wrong for a single person to have sex.

 

What!?

 

You haven’t noticed the devastation wrought by the sexual revolution?  You aren’t aware of abortion—the sacrament of the seculars—and the majority of children of certain social classes and ethnicities now born out of wedlock and caught up in crime and rotting in our prisons?

 

Our betters—those with elite educations and societal sway—believe in and mouth the mantras of the sexual revolution even as they themselves often live Spartan lives and thus avoid the consequences of the ideas they espouse.  Illegitimacy and divorce have lower rates among the highly educated, just as good diet and vigorous exercise are more prevalent among them.  It’s like the reverse of the Victorian era when the elites championed chastity but often themselves fell short, yet they believed in keeping their indiscretions secret lest the citizenry be corrupted.  Now the elites corrupt the citizenry and protect themselves from the ravages they have unleashed.

 

Mr. Sash says: “My mother taught me that all sex was bad if you weren’t married. She learned it from the puritanical church she then attended, which got it from puritanical preachers hundreds of years ago who beat, scourged, branded, tormented, humiliated and burned enough women to know what they were talking about.

 

How awful!!  Yet aside from said extremes, why might society once have taught against premarital sex?  Why, to protect women! to avoid shotgun marriages, the corruption of abortion, the travesty of lost youth and the devastation of today’s inner city.  I suppose if our author had gone on to “have a relationship” with this woman she would have gone on the pill—but what were our girls expected to do before The Sixties?

 

The sexual revolution not only abused women and killed off much of the next generation through abortion, it emasculated men.  Now men even talk in a higher pitch.  Let the older reader remember.

 

Yes the law has its weightier matters.  Who says that premarital sex is as bad as adultery, sodomy, or bestiality?  Today’s libertines, of course, champion all of these (see Peter Singer on bestiality) and will not rest until we do too, but certainly most Americans throughout most of American history have understood that white grades into gray before becoming black.  It’s the libertines who see no gray areas.

 

The sages say that the biblical narrative never moralizes, that to see whether something is right or wrong, as for example Jacob’s guile or his playing favorites with Joseph, you need to hear the rest of the story.  If you wish to learn the moral lesson, you should just read on and note the consequences of the behavior in question.

 

Must everything be spelled out in black and white?  The Proverb says (Prov 1:20), “Wisdom crieth without; she uttereth her voice in the streets…”

 

Just look around you.  It was our Puritan forebears who created the most stable and most prosperous and most free of all societies.  Compare that with the venereal disease and illegitimacy and instability and crime and poverty wherever fornication flourishes.

 

We might note that some laws were of Moses’ own making.  Thus in regard to Deuteronomy 24:1-3 Jesus said (Mar 10:5), “For the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept.”  Jesus derived a lesson from the account of the creation of Adam and Eve.  But how do we know that God had not dictated the law of divorce?  Because there is no “Thus saith the LORD” in Deut 24, and because of Jeremiah 3:1 where God quotes Moses: “They say, If a man put away his wife, and she go from him, and become another man’s, shall he return unto her again? shall not that land be greatly polluted?”

 

God goes on to say that when (verse 8) “backsliding Israel committed adultery I had put her away, and given her a bill of divorce...”—just as specified by Moses in Deut 24.  God, however, hates divorce (Mal 2:16), and God is also merciful (Jer 3:12-15): “Go and proclaim these words toward the north, and say, Return, thou backsliding Israel, saith the LORD; and I will not cause mine anger to fall upon you: for I am merciful, saith the LORD, and I will not keep anger for ever. Only acknowledge thine iniquity, that thou hast transgressed against the LORD thy God, and hast scattered thy ways to the strangers under every green tree, and ye have not obeyed my voice, saith the LORD. Turn, O backsliding children, saith the LORD; for I am married unto you: and I will take you one of a city, and two of a family, and I will bring you to Zion: And I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding.”

 

Yes, I know, Mr. Sash argues that there is a distinction between those sexual sins that carry the death penalty (but which, by the way, might also be forgiven—consider David) and those that do not, and that we not stigmatize those who have transgressed the less weighty matters of our Puritan heritage.  Well and good.  But let us also not forget how Paul warns those of us nearing the end of the six millennia (2Tim 3:1-5): “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.”  If you’re wondering let me suggest that fornication and its attendant single motherhood and delinquent fatherhood are not an insignificant factor in this prophesied disaster.

 

The temptations today are greater than ever before.  When the elites pushed no fault divorce they mostly abstained but scores of our people didn’t.  Now that the sexual revolution stands at the cliff of utter oblivion—there being no limit and no stopping its advocates—perhaps it is time for some adult supervision.  Maybe it’s better to position ourselves further from the cliff than to edge up closer to the precipice.

 

There are areas of moral law where God expected Moses to judge, which he did and which he did appropriate to the times—thus the laws relating to polygamy and divorce, “because of the hardness of your hearts” (Mat 19:8).  In Deuteronomy the penalty for rape is death if the woman is betrothed (Deut 22:25), but if she is not betrothed then the rapist must pay the bride price and marry her with no possibility of divorce (Deut 22:28-29).  Could she refuse?  Could she go on welfare?

 

Deut 22 speaks of rape.  Is it then alright simply to seduce a maiden?  Or might we say that Exodus 22:16-17 actually forbids fornication in the real sense of the English word?  “And if a man entice a maid that is not betrothed, and lie with her, he shall surely endow her to be his wife. If her father utterly refuse to give her unto him, he shall pay money according to the dowry of virgins.”

 

Moses himself takes a pretty dim view of siring children out of wedlock.  See Deuteronomy 23:2.

 

In Exodus 20-23 we have the words of the covenant of which God says (Jer 7:22-23), “For I spake not unto your fathers, nor commanded them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt offerings or sacrifices: But this thing commanded I them, saying, Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and ye shall be my people: and walk ye in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well unto you.”  When it says (Heb 7:11), “If therefore perfection were by the Levitical priesthood…for under it the people received the law,” it cannot be referring to Exodus 20-23, because when Moses came down from the mountain with the words of that law Aaron had just crafted a golden calf.  Hebrews is thus speaking of the law of the tabernacle which was given after the Levites were made priests, after the sin of the golden calf.

 

And thus it appears to me that the original covenant as also Moses forbade fornication.

 

If you suppose there was in that day a fornication free-for-all with all its consequent unwed mothers and rampant illegitimacy, I suggest you think again.  Today such a situation flourishes because we empower the nanny state to care for our widows and orphans, whereas in biblical times that was the responsibility of the extended family and local community—witness the reaction of Simeon and Levi when their sister “went out to see the daughters of the land.”  Was it rape or seduction?  In one sense did it matter?  Say what you will but those two brothers stood up for their sister.

 

Not being any kind of authority on this subject I can only appeal to the wisdom that cries out from the street.  I assume some of our heavyweights will weigh in on the biblical teaching and the relevant vocabulary.  In the meantime I wonder—if pornea doesn’t include fornication, what is the biblical word for “have a relationship”?

 

Mr. Sash concludes: “I don’t think our children who may have slipped up in the backseat of a car and then gone on to marry and have a wonderful family are the same as murderers, sorcerers and idolaters who will be tossed into the lake of fire.

 

But if there’s a gray area here there are also two ditches—the one where forgiveness is foreign and the other where judgmentalism is the unpardonable sin.  Mr. Sash seems to be contrasting his gray area with harsh judgment all the while ignoring the moral depravity of the opposite ditch.

 

Let me suggest that God speaks out against the new morality on two cardinal points: the breaking of covenants, and unnaturalness.  Marriage is a covenant and the sex drive is natural.  Divorce is breaking a covenant and sodomy is a perversion.  Anything that in any way detracts on these two points shades into sin.

 

Mr. Sash concedes: “Something in a gray area can be good or bad but not necessarily totally right or totally wrong.”  OK, and what about other unmentionables that the Bible doesn’t mention?  What about the biblical silence—if there is such a silence—in regard to pedophilia?  Anyone want to argue for that as a gray area?

 

Must God spell out everything!?  Or as the Proverb asks (Prov 8:1), “Doth not wisdom cry? and understanding put forth her voice?”

 

 

July 1, 2010

JUST WHAT DO YOU MEAN THE BIBLE?

Noel Rude

Pendleton, Oregon

 

Below are random comments generated by an article of the above title that appeared in THE JOURNAL, Issue No. 139 (Vol. XIV, No. 2, June 17, 2010).[1]  The following appeared on page 10:

 

During the discussion this writer for THE JOURNAL commented that young people having grown up in a church environment go off to college and encounter startling opinions and theories, philosophical and theological,

they had never heard before, and as a result many of them lose faith in the Bible and God.

 

Therefore, what about a discussion about the Bible itself?

 

Church of God and other preachers constantly sermonize from the Bible and sometimes even debate Bible subjects with other Christians.

 

But rarely does a Church of God minister or scholar attempt to prove specifically that the Bible is what Church of God writers and preachers say it is: the inspired, infallible (some say inerrant) Word of God.

 

So the debate occurred and I’d say that as a debates go Dennis Diehl won—but not because I think his ideas have merit.  Nobody seemed aware of intelligent design.[2]

 

Believers sometimes refer to the Bible as inerrant—which sounds suspiciously like the proposal that (John 10:35) “the scripture cannot be broken”[3]—but which is a pretty strong claim that few respectable scholars would make today.  Though the Bible makes such a strong claim, it has become de rigueur among sophisticates to make no claims at all that could ever be proven false.  On the other hand there are those out on the margins that do proclaim inerrancy but never put their exegesis of the Scriptures to the test.

 

Scientific theories, at least in the Popperian sense,[4] are not theories unless they make bold predictions that could be refuted by evidence.  In serious science one begins with the strongest possible claim.  This, I believe, is how we should approach the Bible.  For unless we are willing to step out with bold claims that might be shot down and leave us embarrassed, we will never really learn anything.  Rather we will be, as Paul puts it, “Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

 

Don’t Begin with a Weak Claim

If we do not begin with a strong claim of inerrancy, we will never know whether such a claim might be true.  But if we make the claim we can weaken it and adjust as further research and facts demand.

 

Don’t get me wrong, however.  I do not believe that there is such a thing as “the scientific method.”  Popper’s refutation works for theories; mathematics, on the other hand, has no need of it.  Theory is what physicists do, biology is mostly just descriptive.  Inerrancy is a theory and therefore it should be put to the test.

 

Now—once we accept some form of inerrancy—then there is the problem of which text.  The Jewish view of the Massoretic text is supported by Paul (Rom 3:2), “…because that unto them were committed the oracles of God.”  But, as we know, the text of the New Testament is controversial.  Some align themselves with the Byzantine Majority camp, whereas at least in practice the Church of God often would defer to the textual critics.  In this instance I think the Church was right.  Bart D. Ehrman makes a pretty good case for discernable corruption in the majority text.

 

But even here I think we should go with the strongest case for inerrancy: Choose the reading you think coheres best but only when there is textual evidence for it, otherwise do not emend the text.  Matthew 1:18-25, for me, is still problematic because it seems to contradict the Tanakh and logic, and though there is evidence for the reading “and Joseph begat Jesus,”[5] there is still the fact that in all manuscripts I know of Joseph seems to think Mary has committed adultery.  Interestingly in verse 20 the angel says, “…for that which is begotten [γεννηθν] in her is of the Holy Spirit.”  The word implies being sired by a father, yet of course the Holy Spirit is not the father, nor according to the Trinitarians was God the Father of Jesus by contributing a sperm (however produced) to unite with an egg in the womb of Mary—they do not accuse God of adultery.  For them Mary was a surrogate mother and the creeds speak of “the Father eternally generating the Son”.  Anyway I can’t emend the text, but I can suggest that either there has been some corruption or that there is something there that I don’t understand—the latter being the more likely.

 

One point of particular interest to me was the comment by Dennis Diehl:All the people that are related to Jesus in the genealogies are not related to Jesus if God is Jesus’ literal Father. You can’t have genealogies and the story of the virgin birth. They’re exclusive. Either one stays or one goes.

 

Ron Moseley wasn’t quite right when he responded, “In Judaism it doesn’t matter who your father is—if your mother is a Jew—and it gives Mary’s genealogy back to David.”  The rabbis don’t say that at all!  They insist that the scepters (such as David’s and Aaron’s) must be inherited through the father.[6]  And isn’t this implicit in Jeremiah 33?

 

The other question is content.  Our theory of inerrancy is strengthened if Scripture makes no outlandish claims, such as in the contemporary pagan literature with its satyrs and minotaurs and other fantastic beings.  The Church fathers and also the rabbis take for granted the four classical elements (earth, fire, water, air), which we now know to be a false picture of reality.  The New Testament never makes that mistake.  The Bible sometimes uses fantastic imagery, seven headed dragons and such, but always symbolically.

 

Inerrancy is also strengthened by the internal coherence of Scripture.  Rudolf Bultmann insisted that pastors not assume coherence and therefore should avoid “proof texting,” and sadly like sheep most respectable pastors have complied.  But why assume the negative?  Why not first take the Bible seriously for its claim that “all scripture is given by inspiration of God”?

 

How will we ever know that the claim is false if we never put it to the test?

 

The two central events of Scripture—the Exodus and the Resurrection—do not appear to be subject to refutation nor perhaps to scientific confirmation.  How could you prove they never happened?  And so the atheists turned to Genesis which supposedly does make refutable claims, claims which Richard Dawkins says have been refuted.  Richard Dawkins is right when he says that Young Earth Creationism (YEC) is scientific[7]—as opposed to the mushy BioLogos Forum[8] which claims that science and religion never the twain meet.  At least Young Earth Creationism (YEC) does stick its neck out and make claims that could be proven wrong—which, as Richard Dawkins loudly trumpets, supposedly has happened.  In my opinion the YECs are blinded by an unwillingness to question theological doctrines such as original sin and the fall of man which they see as demanding the YEC position.[9]  It turns out the real reason they want a young earth is because all evil and death is supposed to have entered the cosmos through Adam’s sin (Romans 5), therefore the dinosaurs couldn’t have died before Adam sinned, etc.

 

But are there any real difficulties for the inerrantist?  There always are, of course, but no reason to throw in the towel.  One difficulty that remains unsolved for me at least is the “firmament” that was created on the 2nd day in Genesis and which God called “heaven”.  “Heaven” in Hebrew is equivalent to our “sky”, and “firmament” is supposed to refer to something solid or hammered out.[10]

 

I already believe that Genesis 1 is more prophecy than history—that its historical sense is local (as in Genesis 2) but that it acts out God’s plan for seven thousand years into the future—yet I’d like to believe that God isn’t using a falsity to picture a truth.  I don’t want to believe that the Hebrews believed the firmament was solid, though interestingly the Indians I work with believed just that—that the “sky” (χɨn) is a solid sheet above.  In one myth they shoot arrows into it.  So if it turns out that the Hebrews believed the firmament to be solid then perhaps that’s no worse then God using the imagery of Leviathan (in Isaiah 27:1 even with vocabulary identical to that in a Ugaritic text[11]).  But I’m not ready to concede just yet that Genesis 1:6-8 & 14-19 pictures a solid sky.

 

Modernists believe it’s all metaphor—except for trivialities it’s always just meaningless metaphor—but that’s an oxymoron.  The Bible’s metaphors better mean something more than fluff or the proverbial “Don’t worry everything’ll turn out OK.”  Scripture better cohere and not only not say things that are wrong, it should make predictions that confirm its validity.  Those predictions may be couched such that those without the spirit of God will miss it, but it better be there for those with ears to hear.

 

Where would one start should he want to do a study of inerrancy?  One article I’d recommend—though it’s been a while now since I read it—is Bill Dembski’s article in Dembski & Richards (2001).  To me it seems that those who opt out of any kind of inerrancy are really left with nothing but mush.

 

Yet once we accept the Bible as the word of God there remains the question of interpretation.  Sjødal (2009) rejects the New Testament and rabbinical mode of midrash, but fails to realize that the Prophets and Psalms employ it too.  Modernist scholars too refuse to take seriously this style of interpretation.  Moisés Silva, however, argues that we ourselves should return to this kind of allegorical interpretation: [12]

 

If we refuse to pattern our exegesis after that of the apostles, we are in practice denying the authoritative character of their scriptural interpretation—and to do so is to strike at the very heart of the Christian faith.

 

What are the Consequences of Demoting the Bible?

Is what some call “bibliolatry” really a negative?[13]  I don’t think so.  Ministers and laymen burned by Ezekiel 34 style corruption and tired of know-nothing religious fanatics often forget that the battle for the West has been won.  Not for nothing do we call it the post-Christian West.  On this let me recommend Melanie Phillips’ recent The World Turned Upside Down: The Global Battle over God, Truth, and Power.  Phillips herself is an agnostic, yet she writes (page 325), “Far from being in opposition to religion, Western science actually depends on it—and, contrary to much popular assumption, specifically on the Hebrew Bible.”  She is alarmed by the accelerating demise of reason and subsequent rise of anti-Semitism, “Indeed, the history of thought since the Enlightenment might be summed up as man first dethroning God in favor of reason, then dethroning reason in favor of man, and finally dethroning man himself.” (pg. 303)

 

Western civilization was tamed, not by Christendom, but by the Bible.  Whenever churchmen strayed from the Scriptures they were worse than the pagans.  But in the end their inquisitions and pogroms tended to be moderated by a return to the Bible.  Islam rejects the Bible and so doesn’t have that safety valve.  Secularism has no safety valve either. 

 

Throw out the Bible and there is no way to hold on to our historic belief in the sanctity of human life—just ask Peter Singer.[14]

 

I remember Mark Falcoff[15] (my Latin American History teacher—excellent teacher, by the way—he was later a consultant for the Reagan administration) describing so eloquently how Bartolomé de las Casas petitioned Carlos V regarding the Spanish mistreatment of the Indians.  Las Casas quoted Scripture whereas his opponent reasoned from Aristotle.

 

The United States has been great for one reason only, and that is the love and respect its founders had for the Scriptures—a love and respect that remained strong until recent times.  The Scriptures, according some interesting articles by David Gelernter in Commentary,[16] played a much larger role in our founding than scholars realize, this in large part because today’s scholars do not know the Scriptures and thus do not catch the Scriptural language and imagery in the founders’ writings.  We are limping on the last legs of the moral capital of centuries of Bible reading, and now those legs are buckling under, and when they have collapsed altogether there will be no restraint whatsoever.

 

Dennis Diehl still believes in God—how long can that last?  He thinks Darwin explains our origins, which—as Phillip Johnson has reminded us—renders God unemployed and therefore unnecessary.[17]

 

Larry Arnhart[18] believes we can derive conservative values from Darwinism.  He was kind enough to exchange some emails with me some time back, but I have to say that besides the fact that Darwinism finds no support in the book of Nature, it fares even worse than the pagan gods when it comes to values.[19]

 

Ethics in paganism has no connection to the gods.  The Indians end their myths with, “Now children let that be a lesson.  Don’t ever do like the gods.”  The Greco-Roman or Nordic or Hindu gods were no better.

 

The difference between biblical faith (the Judeo-Christian) and all others is its particularism and exceptionalism—something that is passionately rejected today.  God has revealed himself—not to everyone but to a few through the ages—most notably the patriarchs and those at Sinai and the five hundred or so who saw the risen Jesus.  Secularist or Islamic univesalism will not save us, rather the law will yet go forth from Zion.  Without the hope of the Scriptures there is no hope.

 

I have found that after you dig to the bottom of the activist’s unease and the hater’s hate—what they’re all really against is the Bible.  Hitler even admitted this.[20] He thought if he could do away with the Jews he would finally do away with the Bible. This is the whole foundation of the International Left, of fascism and Marxism and militant Islam and today’s Democratic Party.  It isn’t so much religion or deities or spirits or Islam that they passionately loath—it’s the Bible.

 

God can hear our prayers and we can see his hand in history and in our lives.  But God does not speak to us audibly.  There is no knowledge of the God of Israel apart from the Book that reveals him.  Of those who had not been privy to the Bible Paul says (Eph 2:12), “That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world”.

 

That which separates us from the beasts is human language, in other words, the word.  It makes possible our receiving of a verbal revelation from God.  In my field we define human language—as opposed to animal communication—as having the ability to communicate complex information.[21]  The pagans mumble mantras but it’s not the truth they seek—their enlightenment is nonverbal—it’s an experience on another level of consciousness.  And now postmodernism—which denies that language communicates anything but power politics—has infiltrated ALL the humanities and much of the hard sciences.  Neither paganism nor atheistic nihilism provided the foundation for our Western world, of its science and pursuit of knowledge, of the thinking that went into our national founding.  At the root of it all was the Bible.

 

But they don’t like the biblical God because—aside from his strict moral code—they say he can wipe out thousands in an instant and sometimes does.  Yet the sugar and spice god or gods of their imagination are utterly unrealistic.  The reality is that people are wiped out in an instant—in natural disasters and in sickness and in wars and human cruelty—and standing by when you could stop it all is as bad as instigating it in the first place.  Here I think Art Mokorow gets it right: “God did flood the world and kill everybody.  But God cannot murder.  The reason He can’t murder is because He can resurrect you.”  All death, in fact, is in one sense by God’s design, for it is he who has made us mortal, as it says (Heb 9:27), “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment”.

 

Yes, there’s a book of Nature too.  But it should be held at some distance from the book of Scripture—which has been the genius of intelligent design.  Our physical environment doesn’t speak in plain words but rather in brute physical facts to which we must apply reason.  None of this can tell us why we are here or the way out of our mess.

 

I’m a mathematical realist (such as argued in Hersh 1999) and I believe in natural law (such as argued in Budziszewski 2004), yet I don’t believe that is near enough.  Humans require a verbal revelation.  The Gospel is framed in the written word and “the foolishness of preaching” (Rom 10:14): “How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?

 

As for bibliolatry—note that it says, “and the word was God.”  I take this in the sense that the word is our judge (John 12:48): “He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.”

 

So let me take issue with the notion that the Bible isn’t the word of God.  What, pray tell, other word of God do we have?  The Bible may not contain all the word of God, nevertheless it is the only word of God we have.

 

The Scripture (γραφή) or Scriptures (αγραφα) are referred to 51 times in the New Testament.  “...and the scripture cannot be broken,” John has Jesus say (John 109:35).  Paul writes (2Tim 3:16), “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness”.  Whatever is the sophisticated thinking today, there can be no doubt that for Jesus and the apostles the Old Testament was the Word of God.

 

But does the Bible actually call itself the word of God?  One place I can think of is 2Chronicles 34 where in the reforms of Josiah they found the book of the Torah (סֵפֶר הַתּוֹרָה)—verse 15.  And thus they explained their misfortune (verse 21), “…because our fathers have not kept the word of the LORD [אֶת־דְּבַר יהוה / τν λγων Κυρου], to do after all that is written in this book.

 

Why should we position ourselves before the fact against inerrancy?  Why not at least be agnostic?  Or, if scientifically inclined and as I argued before, why not take the high road?  Weak theories are worthless—strong ones can be adjusted as required.

 

I make three suggestions: 1) Go with the strong horse—or rather theory; 2) Be willing to adapt to facts as they arise; and 3) Know the consequences of joining today’s culture in sloughing off the Bible.

 

I would argue that the words of life that Jesus spoke (John 6:63, 68; etc.) were his understanding of the Scriptures.  The word came by Moses and the Prophets, understanding Moses and the Prophets came by Jesus Christ.

 

Does the Bible Merely Contain the Word of God

Whether the Bible is the word of God or whether it contains that word—continues to cogitate.  It’s that slippery slope again, the one where we pick and choose and in a couple of generations can’t agree on what we agreed on in the first place.  America was a Judeo-Christian nation and though deeply divided on “doctrine” was nevertheless united on ethics—on the sanctity of life, marriage and the family, the right to property, the rule of law—this whether Protestant, Catholic, Evangelical, Jewish.  That day is now past and it was the abandonment of the Bible as our common heritage that opened the floodgates of utilitarian materialism.

 

Bolstered by faith in the scientific merit of Darwin’s creation myth it was easy to abandon the Bible and believe that reason alone would provide us our ethics.  Now the big question for our top ethicists is defining personhood.  Though nowhere is the unborn a person, in Spain the chimpanzee now is.  And there is serious debate on whether to confer personhood on robots.[22]

 

Yes, some of those smitten of materialism were nevertheless great biblical scholars, and they proved no less ambitious in weaving together speculative stories than the apostles and rabbinical sages whose authority they rejected.

 

Maybe that’s why I liked reading these guys—at least they say something based on biblical motifs, word connections and typologies.  And though disrespectful of Scriptural authority they knew the languages and noticed things that neither our antifundamentalist churchmen nor those committed to church orthodoxy could ever bring themselves to see.

 

The really important things that we know we know provisionally, for who among us has encountered God directly or returned from the World to Come?  But that doesn’t mean we should have no passion.  We have passion because we know the secularist alternative—humility because we know provisionally.

 

Dennis Diehl says, “nt, and I think it connotes more than “don’t misinterpret the text”.  I think it eschews any kind of inspiration, or any notion that the Bible could be a coded book (which of course implies a divine hand).  It means, “I’m wise enough to determine what it never meant.”

 

From what Mr. Diehl says it appears he would agree with Rudolf Bultmann,[23] that we should expect no behind the scenes guiding hand giving coherence to the whole Scriptural enterprise.  Rather each passage must be interpreted only in its immediate context (textual, historic, etc.).  The Prophets contradict Moses, the Gospels don’t harmonize, Paul cannot base his theology on Jesus’ teaching.

 

Mr. Diehl, I think, took his interlocutors aback—he says the most in the fewest words and they were not used to hearing such straight talk from a nonbeliever.  They didn’t want to think that what they were hearing was blasphemy.  But there was nothing new there—the Torah cobbled together by postexilic redactor(s) (though Diehl suggested it happened in Babylon), Peter and Paul battling it out for political hegemony, Paul lying about his Jewishness, etc.  None of this is new—all of it Mr. Diehl has absorbed from the culture.

 

Few, it seems, survive the materialism of the academy.  It isn’t always explicit but it’s always there, however subtle and assumed without dispute.  Should any challenge arise it is dealt with swiftly and decisively, for there can be no compromise whatsoever without risking the collapse of the whole house of cards.  As Bill Dembski has noted, not the tiniest aspect of ID can receive the slightest nod of acceptance.[24]  The naïve student supposes he walks the hallowed halls of intellectual freedom, and deep down even the dullest knows that none of the smart people respect the Bible.

 

I’ve been reading Jon D. Levenson—he’s a sort of Jewish N. T. Wright with his focus on the resurrection.  I recommend him but not to those whose faith is shallow.  In his earlier book he thinks YHWH originally commanded human sacrifice and to support his point he sites, among other scriptures, Ezekiel 20:25,

 

וְגַם־אֲנִי נָתַתִּי לָהֶם חֻקִּים לֹא טוֹבִים

καὶ ἐγὼ ἔδωκα αὐτοῖς προστάγματα οὐ καλά

‘and also I gave them statutes not good’

 

Which in context he takes to mean human sacrifice.  The early secular scholars pooh-poohed the biblical claim that child sacrifice was rampant in the ancient world, but now that archaeology has confirmed this it is popular to blame YHWH.  Jeremiah 19:5-6 is seen as a revulsion against what YHWH had originally commanded, and Leviticus 20:1-5 is easily dismissed via the documentary hypothesis.

 

Such speculation is second nature for materialists, and the Bible is written such that whatever framework of interpretation we operate under there always will be difficult scriptures.  Rashi paraphrases Ezekiel 20:25 as “I delivered them via their evil inclination to statutes not good…”  I believe this is also how some of us interpreted it long ago.  In much of the first chapter of Romans Paul argues along this line, as in verse 28, “And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient…”

 

But what happens if the Bible contains the word of God?  Then we are justified to go with Jon D. Levenson and assume that YHWH—as the concept of him evolved—had earlier commanded human sacrifice but later through the protest of the prophets came to be seen as proscribing it.  If we can pick and choose we also can dispense with miracles such as the Exodus and the revelation at Sinai, and we are free to speculate wildly as long as we frame it with valid linguistics, archaeology, etc.  But the day also arises when postmodernism seeps into our discipline, when all objective truth is rejected and one is left only to tell stories of oppression by white, heterosexual males.  And in that day—a day which is mostly here already—the greatest evil in the world will be those Israelis and right wing American fundamentalists who still cling to their Bibles and their guns.[25]

 

References:

 

Behe, Michael J.  2006.  Darwin’s Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution.  Second Edition.  New York: Free Press.

 

Behe, Michael J.  2008.  The Edge of Evolution: The Search for the Limits of Darwinism.  New York: Free Press.

 

Berlinski, David.  1996.  The Deniable Darwin.  Commentary 101, no. 6.  Available at http://www.discovery.org/a/130.

 

Berlinski, David.  2008.  The Devil’s Delusion: Atheism and Its Scientific Pretensions.  New York: Crown Forum.

 

Berlinski, David.  2010.  The Deniable Darwin and other Essays.  Seattle: Discovery Institute Press.

 

Budziszewski, J.  2004.  What We Can’t Not Know: A Guide.  Spence Publishing Company.  Dallas: Spence Publishing Company.

 

Bultmann, Rudolf.  1954-1944.  History and Eschatology.  Gifford Lectures.  Text available on line at http://www.giffordlectures.org/Browse.asp?PubID=TPESCH&Volume=0&Issue=0&TOC=True.

 

Dembski, William A.  1998.  The Design Inference: Eliminating Chance through Small Probabilities.  Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

 

Dembski, William A.  1998.  Intelligent Design: The Bridge between Science and Theology.  Downer's Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press.

 

Dembski, William A.  2002.  No Free Lunch: Why Specified Complexity Cannot Be Purchased without Intelligence.  Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield.

 

Dembski, William A.  2004a.  The Design Revolution: Answering the Toughest Questions about Intelligent Design.  Downer’s Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press.

 

Dembski, William A.  2004b.  Dealing with the Backlash Against Intelligent Design.  On line article at http://www.designinference.com/documents/2004.04.Backlash.htm.

 

Dembski, William A.  2009.  The End of Christianity: Finding a Good God in an Evil World.  Nashville, Tennessee: B&H Publishing.

 

Dembski, William A., and Jonathan DeWitt.  2010.  Intelligent Design Uncensored: An Easy-to-Understand Guide to the ControversyWestmont, Illinois: Intervarsity Press.

 

Dembski, William A., and Sean McDowell.  2008.  Understanding Intelligent Design: Everything You Need to Know in Plain Language.  Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers.

 

Dembski, William A., and Jay Richards, editors.  2001.  Unapologetic Apologetics: Meeting the Challenges of Theological Studies.  IVP Academic.

 

Dembski, William A., and Jonathan Wells.  2007.  The Design of Life: Discovering Signs of Intelligence In Biological SystemsRichardson, Texas: Foundation for Thought and Ethics.

 

Dembski, William A., and Jonathan Wells.  2008.  How to be an Intellectually Fulfilled Atheist (Or Not).  Wilmington, Delaware: Intercollegiate Studies Institute, Inc.

 

Denton, Michael.  1986.  Evolution: A Theory In Crisis.  Third revised edition.  Chevy Chase, Maryland: Adler & Adler.

 

Ellul, Jacques.  1985.  The Humiliation of the Word.  Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

 

Ehrman, Bart D.  1996.  The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture: The Effect of Early Christological Controversies on the Text of the New Testament.  Oxford University Press.

 

Gelernter, David.  2005.  Americanism—and Its Enemies.  Commentary, January.  For those who do not have access to Commentary’s archives, this article is available at http://theroadtoemmaus.org/RdLb/21PbAr/Hst/US/AmericanismGelernter.htm.

 

Gibson, John C.L.  1977.  Canaanite Myths and Legends.  Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark.

 

Hamilton, James Merrill.  2006.  The Skull Crushing Seed of the Woman: Inner-Biblical Interpretation of Genesis 3:15.  The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology 10.2:30-54. Available on line at http://jimhamilton.files.wordpress.com/2008/04/hamilton_sbjt_10-2.pdf.

 

Hersh, Reuben.  1999.  What Is Mathematics, Really?  Oxford University Press.

 

House, H. Wayne, editor.  2008.  Intelligent Design 101: Leading Experts Explain the Key Issues.  Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications.

 

Johnson, Phillip.  1993.  Darwin on Trial.  Second edition.  Westmont, Illinois: Intervarsity Press.

 

Johnson, Phillip.  1997.  Defeating Darwinism by Opening Minds.  Westmont, Illinois: Intervarsity Press.

 

Johnson, Phillip.  1998.  Reason in the Balance: The Case Against Naturalism in Science, Law & Education.  Westmont, Illinois: Intervarsity Press.

 

Johnson, Phillip E., and John Mark Reynolds.  2010.  Against All Gods: What’s Right and Wrong About the New Atheism.  Westmont, Illinois: Intervarsity Press.

 

Kiraz, George Anton.  2002.  Comparative Edition of the Syriac Gospels: Aligning the Sinaiticus, Curetonianus, Peshîṭta and Ḥarklean Versions.  Volume One.  Matthew.  Piscataway, New Jersey: Gorgias Press.

 

Klinghoffer, David.  2005.  Why the Jews Rejected Jesus: The Turning Point in Western History.  New York: Doubleday.

 

Levenson, Jon D.  1993.  The Death and Resurrection of the Beloved Son: The Transformation of Child Sacrifice in Judaism and Christianity.  New Haven: Yale University Press.

 

Levenson, Jon D.  2006.  Resurrection and the Restoration of Israel: The Ultimate Victory of the God of Life.  New Haven: Yale University Press.

 

Macbeth, Norman.  1979.  Darwin Retried.  Harvard Common Press.


Merrell, A. William.  2000. 
Bibliolatry — A Fraudulent AccusationSouthern Baptist Convention Life.  Available on line at http://www.baptist2baptist.net/b2barticle.asp?ID=54.

 

Meyer, Stephen C.  2010.  Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design.  New York: HarperOne.

 

Pearcey, Nancey, and Charles Thaxton.  1994.  The Soul of Science: Christian Faith and Natural Philosophy.  Turning Point Christian Worldview Series.  Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books.

 

Phillips, Melanie.  2010.  The World Turned Upside Down: The Global Battle over God, Truth, and Power.  New York & London: Encounter Books.

 

Popper, Karl Raimund.  1963.  Conjectures and Refutations: The Growth of Scientific Knowledge.  London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.

 

Seely, Paul H.  1991.  The Firmament and the Water Above.  Part I: The Meaning of raqia‘ in Gen 1:6-8.  The Westminster Theological Journal 53, pp. 227-40.  Available on line at http://faculty.gordon.edu/hu/bi/Ted_Hildebrandt/OTeSources/01-Genesis/Text/Articles-Books/Seely-Firmament-WTJ.pdf.

 

Silva, Moisés.  1983.  The New Testament use of the Old Testament: text form and authority.  Pages 147-172 in Scripture and Truth, ed. By D. A Carson and John D. Woodbridge.  Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan.

 

Sjørdal, Jonathan Erik.  2009.  Two Witnesses: Hebrew Texts Changed By The Greek New Testament.  Seattle: CreateSpace.

 

Weikart, Richard.  2004.  From Darwin to Hitler, Evolutionary Ethics, Eugenics and Racism in Germany.  New York: Palgrave MacMillan.

 

Weikart, Richard.  2009.  Hitler’s Ethic: The Nazi Pursuit of Evolutionary ProgressNew York: Palgrave MacMillan.

 

Wells, Jonathan.  2002.  Icons of Evolution: Science or Myth? Why Much of What We Teach About Evolution is Wrong.  Washington, D.C.: Regnery Publishing.

 

Wells, Jonathan.  2006.  The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design.  Washington, D.C.: Regnery Publishing.

 

Wiker, Benjamin.  2002.  Moral Darwinism: How We Became Hedonists.  Westmont, Illinois: Intervarsity Press.

 

Wiker, Benjamin.  2009.  The Darwin Myth: The Life and Lies of Charles DarwinWashington, D.C.: Regnery Publishing.

 

Wright, Nicholas Thomas.  2008Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church.  Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge.  New York: HarperOne.

 

 


[1] The following links are available as of June 27, 2010: www.thejournal.org/issues/issue139/jx061710.pdf; www.thejournal.org/issues/issue139/ja061710.pdf; www.thejournal.org/issues/issue139/jc061710.pdf; www.thejournal.org/issues/issue139/jf061710.pdf.

[2] Intelligent design changes everything, this because the whole materialist enterprise is predicated on Darwinism or some similar materialist theory of origins.  Some recommended expositions by leading ID exponents are Behe (2006, 2008), Dembski (1998, 1999, 2002, 2004a), Dembski and DeWitt (2010), Dembski & McDowell (2008), Dembski & Wells (2007, 2008), Johnson (1993, 1997, 1998), Meyer (2010), Wells (2002, 2006).

[3] Greek: οὐ δύναται λυθῆναι ἡ γραφή.

[4] Popper (1963).

[5] Thus the Sinaitic Syriac to Matthew 1, for which see Kiraz (2002).

ܝܥܩܘܒ ܐܘܠܕ ܠܝܘܣܦ

16 Jacob begat Joseph,

ܝܘܣܦ ܕܡܟܝܪܐ ܗܘܬ ܠܗ ܡܪܝܡ ܒܬܘܠܬܐ

Joseph who was betrothed to the virgin Mary,

ܐܘܠܕ ܠܝܫܘܥ ܕܡܬܩܪܐ ܡܫܝܚܐ

begat Jesus who is called the messiah.

 

 

ܬܐܠܕ ܠܟ ܕܝܢ ܒܪܐ

21 And she shall bear thee a son

ܘܬ݂ܩܪܐ ܫܡܗ ܝܫܘܥ

and thou shalt call his name Jesus,

 

 

ܘܝܠܕܬ ܠܗ ܒܪܐ

25 and she bore him a son,

ܘܩܪܐ ܫܡܗ ܝܫܘܥ

and he called his name Jesus.

[6] See Klinghoffer (2005).

[7] See Johnson & Reynolds (2010).

[8] See http://biologos.org/.

[9] Dembski (2009).

[10] See, for example, Paul H. Seely (1991).

[11] Hebrew בָּרִחַ ‘piercing’ in parallel with עֲקַלָּתוֹן ‘crooked’ in Isaiah 27:1 is perfectly matched by Ugaritic br and ‘qltn in the Baal and Mot myth—which also mentions leviathan.  See Gibson (1977).

 [12] From Silva (1983:164), as quoted in Hamilton (2006:30).

[13] See Merrell (2000).

[14] Peter Singer is Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University.  He is a champion of the notion that man has no preeminence above the beast, a strong proponent of abortion, euthanasia and infanticide, and even argues for bestiality.  His website is at http://www.princeton.edu/~psinger/.

[15] See http://www.aei.org/scholar/14.

[16] For example, Gelernter (2005).

[17] Johnson (1998).

[18] See http://darwinianconservatism.blogspot.com/.

[19] See Wiker (2002).

[20] Weikart (2004, 2009).

[21] For a great read in this regard, see Ellul (1985). 

[22] See http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/jun/26/humanrights.animalwelfare; and also http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/Xplore/login.jsp?url=http%3A%2F%2Fieeexplore.ieee.org%2Fiel5%2F4107768%2F4107769%2F04107837.pdf%3Farnumber%3D4107837&authDecision=-203.

[23] See for example Bultmann’s 1954-55 Gifford lectures, “History and Eschatology”.

[24] For example see Dembski (2004).

[25] See Obama angers midwest voters with guns and religion remark at http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/apr/14/barackobama.uselections2008.