R.C. Sproul’s What Is The Trinity?

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What The Triune God Isn’t and What He Is

Book Reviewed by Dr. David P. Craig

If you were asked to clearly define what it means that God is Triune could you do it? In this short book (60 pages) Sproul helps you to understand the biblical doctrine that God is one in essence and three in person. In his inimitable style Sproul gives a lucid  and cogent defense of the Trinity as articulated in key passages of Scripture and as has been defended in the great early Church Council’s of Nicea and Chalcedon.

One of the most helpful sections in this book is when Sproul explains what the Trinity is, by explaining what it isn’t. He gives a brief history of the different early heresies with reference to the early teachings of the church in trying to articulate a unified understanding of the doctrine of God – His character, nature, and essence. He explains and shows the weaknesses of all the major early heresies with reference to a misunderstanding of the Trinity: Adoptionism, Monarchianism, Modalism, Monarchianistic Modalism, Monophysitism, Nestorianism, and Dynamic Monarchianism.

I highly recommend this book on the Trinity as a good place to start in trying to comprehend the biblical doctrine of how God can be one in essence and three in person. Don’t let the shortness of this book turn you away. Sproul is always deep, clear, biblical, theologically precise, and easy to understand. You are sure to learn something new and practical to help you in your walk with Jesus.

Favorite Quotes on Bible Study

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“Body parts make sense only in relation to a whole human; and every Bible text is understood only in relation to the whole Bible.” ~ F.F. Bruce

“The analogy of faith is the rule that Scripture is to interpret Scripture.”  ~ R.C. Sproul

“Isn’t is amazing that almost everyone has an opinion to offer about the Bible, and yet so few have studied it?” ~ R.C. Sproul

“When there’s something in the Word of God that I don’t like, the problem is not with the Word of God, it’s with me.” ~ R.C. Sproul

“We fail in our duty to study God’s Word not so much because it is difficult to understand, not so much because it is dull and boring, but because it is work. Our problem is not a lack of intelligence or a lack of passion. Our problem is that we are lazy.” ~ R.C. Sproul

“One of the great realities of the Bible is the way its story connects with our story at our point of deepest need.” ~ Anonymous

“The shortest road to an understanding of the Bible is the acceptance of the fact that God is speaking in every line.” ~ Donald G. Barnhouse

“We do not worship the Bible, but in the Word of God written, in a sense we have God in a book. In Jesus, we have God in a body. In the Bible, God is on a page. In Jesus God is a person. In the Bible, God is on a leaf; in Jesus, God is in a life. The living and the printed word, then are twin records of God in this world.” ~ John Bisagno

“If you reject the Bible, you will reject Jesus Christ. If you believe the Bible, you will accept Him. He is the subject of it.” ~ James Montgomery Boice

“Don’t say God is silent when your Bible is closed.” ~ Matt Brown

“Rebellion against the Word of God is rebellion against the God whose word it is.” ~ Kevin DeYoung

“If I can twist the Bible to make it say anything I want it to then it is no longer God speaking to me, it’s just me talking to myself.” ~ Joshua Harris

“Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.” ~ Jerome

“The fact that God’s Word is alive can be seen in the life it produces in all who take it up and act on its instructions.” ~ Walter Kaiser

“The Bible tells us foolishness is a proud willfulness that keeps us from learning, form seeing the evidence.” ~ Tim Keller

“Unless you have an authoritative view of the Bible, you’ve got a God you created and you’re going to be lonely.” ~ Tim Keller

“The Bible says that our real problem is that every one of us is building our identity on something besides Jesus.”  ~ Tim Keller

“If we believe he is who he said he was, then we must accept the entire Bible as God’s word.” ~ Tim Keller

“So Jesus’ authority & the absolute authority of the Bible stand or fall together.” Tim Keller

“If you only obey God’s Word when it seems reasonable or profitable to you – well, that isn’t really obedience at all.” ~ Tim Keller

“When you’re interpreting the Scriptures, the clear parts should inform the murkier parts.” ~ Tim Keller

“We need to remember to rely not only the Word of the Lord, but also on the Lord of the Word.” ~ Tim Keller

“We need to see the Bible as a Story with principles sprinkled throughout, as opposed to a book of doctrines sprinkled with stories.” ~ Tim Keller

“There are, in the end, only two ways to read the Bible: Is it basically about me or basically about Jesus?” ~ Tim Keller

“If Jesus didn’t think he could handle life without knowing the Scripture inside and out, what makes you think you can?” ~ Tim Keller

“It can, and perhaps ought to be, read cover to cover—as you might read any other book. In fact, the Bible can be read, at a speaking speed, in approximately eighty hours. This means it takes no more than thirteen minutes per day to read through the Bible from start to finish in a year; this is less time than is given over to commercials in one hour of television.” ~ Jerry Root , Introduction in the C.S. Lewis Study Bible, p. xxii.

“Ignorance of Scripture is the root of every error in religion, and the source of every heresy.” ~ J.C. Ryle

“Scripture is not man-centered as though salvation were the main theme, but it is God-centered because His glory is the center.” ~ C. Ryrie

“The Bible teaches that salvation is not an end in itself but is rather a means to the end of glorifying God.” ~ C.C. Ryrie

“We come to Scripture each day to discover where we are not listening, not assure ourselves we are right.” ~ Pete Scazzero

“Only a strong view of Scripture can withstand the pressure of relativistic thinking.” ~ Francis Schaeffer

“If we believe the Bible is the Word of God, it’s natural not to want to miss a word of it.” ~ R.C. Sproul

“Take away the Scriptures and you take away Jesus, take away Jesus and you take away life.” ~ R.C. Sproul

“The more I expose myself to the Word of God, the greater my faith will be.” ~ R. C. Sproul

“The word of God can be in the mind without being in the heart, but it cannot be in the heart without first being in the mind.” ~ R.C. Sproul

“There is an inseparable relationship between your affection for Christ and your affection for the Scriptures.” ~ R.C. Sproul

“The greatest weakness in the church today is no one believes that God invests His power in the Bible. Everyone is looking for power in a program, in a methodology, in a technique, in anything but that in which God has placed it—His Word.” ~ R.C. Sproul

“I think the greatest weakness in the church today is that almost no one believes that God invests His power in the Bible. Everyone is looking for power in a program, in a methodology, in a technique, in anything and everything but that in which God has placed it—His Word. He alone has the power to change lives for eternity, and that power is focused on the Scriptures.”  ~ R.C. Sproul

“The Word of God, whether it is preached and heard or read and memorized, is more than simply true. It is effectual.” ~ Sam Storms

“The Bible isn’t about people trying to discover God, but about God reaching out to find us.” ~ John R.W. Stott

“The Word of God comes to us most effectively in the context of community.” ~ Steve Timmis

“The Bible is a narrative, it tells us everything we need to know about mid-life concerns. The Bible is the great story of redemption that encompasses the stories of every human life. It is the overarching ‘everything’ story. It is comprehensive in scope without being exhaustive in content. It gives us wisdom for everything without directly discussing every particular thing.” (Paul Tripp, Lost In the Middle, Loc. 74)

Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God is one Lord: and thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be upon thine heart: and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be for frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the door posts of thy house, and upon thy gates. — Moses, in Deuteronomy 6:4-9

We fail in our duty to study God’s Word not so much because it is difficult to understand, not so much because it is dull and boring, but because it is work. Our problem is not a lack of intelligence or a lack of passion. Our problem is that we are lazy. — R.C. Sproul

To get the full flavor of an herb, it must be pressed between the fingers, so it is the same with the Scriptures; the more familiar they become, the more they reveal their hidden treasures and yield their indescribable riches. — John Chrysostom, A.D. 347-407

The New Testament lies hidden in the Old, and the Old Testament is unveiled in the New.— Augustine, A.D. 354-430

Though our covetous clerics are altogether carried away by bribery, heresy, and many other sins, and though they despise and oppose the scripture, as much as they can, yet the common people cry out for the scripture, to know it, and obey it, with great cost and peril to their lives — Prologue to the Wyclif Bible, c. 1395.

Mark the plain and manifest places of the Scriptures, and in doubtful places see thou add no interpretation contrary to them; but (as Paul saith) let all be conformable and agreeing to the faith. — William Tyndale, Preface to the New Testament, 1526.

Our malicious and wily hypocrites … with wresting the scripture unto their own purpose clean contrary unto the process, order, and meaning of the text … so delude [the laymen] in descanting upon it with allegories, and amaze them expounding it in many senses before the unlearned lay people (when it hath but one simple literal sense whose light the owls cannot abide), that though thou feel in thine heart and art sure how that all is false that they say, yet couldest thou not solve their subtle riddles. Which thing only moved me to translate the New Testament. Because I had perceived by experience, how that it was impossible to stablish the lay people in any truth, except the scripture were plainly laid before their eyes in their mother tongue, that they might see the process, order, and meaning of the text. — William Tyndale, Preface to the Pentateuch, 1530.

Again, it shall greatly help thee to understand scripture, if thou mark not only what is spoken or written, but of whom, and unto whom, with what words, at what time, where, to what intent, with what circumstance, considering what goeth before, and what followeth after. For there be some things which are done and written, to the intent that we should do likewise: as when Abraham believeth God, is obedient unto his word, and defendeth Lot his kinsman from violent wrong. There be some things also which are written, to the intent that we should eschew such like. As when David lieth with Urias’ wife, and causeth him to be slain. Therefore (I say) when thou readest scripture, be wise and circumspect: and when thou commest to such strange manners of speaking and dark sentences, to such parables and similitudes, to such dreams or visions as are hid from thy understanding, commit them unto God or to the gift of his holy spirit in them that are better learned than thou. — Miles Coverdale, Preface to the Bible, 1535.

But still ye will say I can not understand it. What marvel? How shouldest thou understand, if thou wilt not read, nor look upon it? Take the books into thine hands, read the whole story, and that thou understandest, keep it well in memory; that thou understandest not, read it again, and again. If thou can neither so come by it, counsel with some other that is better learned. Go to thy curate and preacher; show thyself to be desirous to know and learn, and I doubt not but God – seeing thy diligence and readiness (if no man else teach thee) – will himself vouchsafe with his holy spirit to illuminate thee, and to open unto thee that which was locked from thee. — Thomas Cranmer, Preface to the Great Bible, 1540.

And considering how hard a thing it is to understand the holy Scriptures, and what errors, sects, and heresies grow daily for lack of the true knowledge thereof, and how many are discouraged (as they pretend) because they cannot attain to the true and simple meaning of the same, we have also endeavored both by the diligent reading of the best commentaries, and also by the conference with the godly and learned brethren, to gather brief annotations upon all the hard places, as well for the understanding of such words as are obscure, and for the declaration of the text, as for the application of the same as may most appertain to God’s glory and the edification of his Church. — Geneva Bible Preface, 1560.

For though, whatsoever things are necessary are manifest, as S. Chrysostom saith, and as S. Augustine, In those things that are plainly set down in the Scriptures, all such matters are found that concern Faith, Hope, and Charity. Yet for all that it cannot be dissembled, that partly to exercise and whet our wits, partly to wean the curious from loathing of them for their every-where plainness, partly also to stir up our devotion to crave the assistance of God’s spirit by prayer, and lastly, that we might be forward to seek aid of our brethren by conference, and never scorn those that be not in all respects so complete as they should be, being to seek in many things ourselves, it hath pleased God in his divine providence, here and there to scatter words and sentences of that difficulty and doubtfulness … — King James Version Preface, 1611.

I want to know one thing, the way to heaven: how to land safe on that happy shore. God himself has condescended to teach the way; for this very end he came from heaven. He hath written it down in a book. O give me that book! At any price give me the Book of God! I have it: here is knowledge enough for me. Let me be homo unius libri. Here then I am, far from the busy ways of men. I sit down alone; only God is here. In his presence I open, I read his book; for this end, to find the way to heaven. Is there a doubt concerning the meaning of what I read? Does any thing appear dark or intricate? I lift up my heart to the Father of Lights. “Lord, is it not thy word, If any man lack wisdom, let him ask it of God? Thou givest liberally and upbraidest not. Thou hast said, if any be willing to do thy will, he shall know. I am willing to do. Let me know thy will.” I then search after and consider parallel passages of Scripture, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. I meditate thereon, with all the attention and earnestness of which my mind is capable. If any doubt still remain, I consult those who are experienced in the things of God: And then, the writings whereby being dead, they yet speak. And what I thus learn, that I teach. —John Wesley, Preface to Sermons on Several Occasions, 1746.

In the language of the sacred writings, we may observe the utmost depth, together with the utmost ease. All the elegancies of human composures sink into nothing before it: God speaks not as man, but as God. His thoughts are very deep; and thence his words are of inexhaustible virtue. And the language of his messengers also, is exact in the highest degree: for the words which were given them accurately answered the impression made upon their minds: and hence Luther says, “divinity is nothing but a grammar of the language of the Holy Ghost.” To understand this throughly, we should observe the emphasis which lies on every word; the holy affections expressed thereby, and the tempers shewn by every writer. — John Wesley, Preface to the New Testament, 1754.

THIS BOOK contains the mind of God, the state of man, the way of salvation, the doom of sinners and the happiness of believers. Its doctrines are holy, its precepts are binding, its histories are true, and its decisions are immutable. Read it to be wise, believe it to be safe and practice it to be holy. It contains light to direct you, food to support you and comfort to cheer you. It is the traveller’s map, the pilgrim’s staff, the pilot’s compass, the soldier’s sword and the Christian’s charter. Here paradise is restored, heaven opened and the gates of hell disclosed. Christ is its grand object, our good is its design and the glory of God its end. It should fill the memory, rule the heart, and guide the feet. Read it slowly, frequently, and prayerfully. It is a mine of wealth, a paradise of glory, and a river of pleasure. It is given you in life, will be opened in the judgement, and will be remembered forever. It involves the highest responsibility, will reward the greatest labour, and will condemn all who trifle with its sacred contents. — Anonymous

Born in the East and clothed in Oriental form and imagery, the Bible walks the ways of all the world with familiar feet, and enters land after land to find its own everywhere. It has learned to speak in hundreds of languages to the heart of man. It comes into the palace to tell the monarch that he is a servant of the Most High, and into the cottage to assure the peasant that he is a son of God. Children listen to its stories with wonder and delight, and wise men ponder them as parables of life. It has a word of peace for the time of peril, a word of comfort for the time of calamity, a word of light for the hour of darkness. Its oracles are repeated in the assembly of the people, and its counsels whispered in the ear of the lonely. The wicked and the proud tremble at its warnings, but to the wounded and the penitent it has a mother’s voice. The wilderness and the solitary place have been made glad by it, and the fire on the hearth has lit the reading of its well-worn pages. It has woven itself into our dearest dreams; so that love, friendship, sympathy and devotion, memory and hope put on the beautiful garments of its treasured speech, breathing of frankincense and myrrh. — Henry van Dyke

The Bible is a corridor between two eternities down which walks the Christ of God; His invisible steps echo through the Old Testament, but we meet Him face to face in the throne room of the New; and it is through that Christ alone, crucified for me, that I have found forgiveness for sins and life eternal. The Old Testament is summed up in the word Christ; the New Testament is summed up in the word Jesus; and the summary of the whole Bible is that Jesus is the Christ. — Bishop Pollock

All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all; yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed, for salvation, are so clearly propounded and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them … The infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture is the Scripture itself; and therefore, when there is a question about the true and full sense of any scripture (which is not manifold, but one), it must be searched and known by other places that speak more clearly. — Westminster Confession of Faith, 1647.

In order to be able to expound the Scriptures, and as an aid to your pulpit studies, you will need to be familiar with the commentators: a glorious army, let me tell you, whose acquaintance will be your delight and profit. Of course, you are not such wiseacres as to think or say that you can expound Scripture without assistance from the works of divines and learned men who have laboured before you in the field of exposition. If you are of that opinion, pray remain so, for you are not worth the trouble of conversion, and like a little coterie who think with you, would resent the attempt as an insult to your infallibility. It seems odd, that certain men who talk so much of what the Holy Spirit reveals to themselves, should think so little of what he has revealed to others. — C.H. Spurgeon, Commenting and Commentaries, 1890.

Men must interpret to the best of their ability each particular part of Scripture separately, and then combine all that the Scriptures teach upon every subject into a consistent whole, and then adjust their teachings upon different subjects in mutual consistency as parts of a harmonious system. Every student of the Bible must do this, and all make it obvious that they do it by the terms they use in their prayers and religious discourse, whether they admit or deny the propriety of human creeds and confessions. If they refuse the assistance afforded by the statements of doctrine slowly elaborated and defined by the Church, they must make out their own creed by their own unaided wisdom. The real question is not, as often pretended, between the word of God and the creed of man, but between the tried and proved faith of the collective body of God’s people, and the private judgment and the unassisted wisdom of the repudiator of creeds.— A. A. Hodge, A Short History of Creeds and Confessions, 1869.

Every one who knows what it is to give a lesson or an address occasionaly on Scripture is aware how the verse or paragraph on which he has had to prepare himself to speak stands out in his Bible afterwards from the rest of the text, as if its letters were embossed on the page. Something thus to awaken the mind and concentrate the attention should be devised by every one; because it is not mere reading, but meditation — “meditation all the day,” as the Psalmist says — which extracts the sweetness and the power out of Scripture. — Dr. James Stalker, How to Study the Bible, 1895.

I had then, and at other times, the greatest delight in the holy Scriptures, of any book whatsoever. Oftentimes in reading it, every word seemed to touch my heart. I felt a harmony between something in my heart, and those sweet powerful words. I seemed often to see so much light, exhibited by every sentence, and such a refreshing ravishing food communicated, that I could not get along in reading. Used oftentimes to dwell long on one sentence, to see the wonders contained in it; and yet almost every sentence seemed to be full of wonders. — Jonathan Edwards, quoted in Jonathan Edwards and the Bible by Robert E. Brown (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2002), p.3.

Again, we are taught by this passage [John 5:39-40], that if we wish to obtain the knowledge of Christ, we must seek it from the Scriptures; for they who imagine whatever they choose concerning Christ will ultimately have nothing of him but a shadowy phantom. First, then, we ought to believe that Christ cannot be properly known in any other way than from the Scriptures; and if it be so, it follows that we ought to read the Scriptures with the express design of finding Christ in them. Whoever shall turn aside from this object, though he may weary himself throughout his whole life in learning, will never attain the knowledge of the truth; for what wisdom can we have without the wisdom of God? Next, as we are commanded to seek Christ in the Scriptures, so he declares in this passage that our labors shall not be fruitless; for the Father testifies in them concerning his Son in such a manner that He will manifest him to us beyond all doubt. But what hinders the greater part of men from profiting is, that they give to the subject nothing more than a superficial and cursory glance. Yet it requires the utmost attention, and, therefore, Christ enjoins us to search diligently for this hidden treasure. Consequently, the deep abhorrence of Christ which is entertained by the Jews, who have the Law constantly in their hands, must be imputed to their indolence. For the lustre of the glory of God shines brightly in Moses, but they choose to have a vail to obscure that lustre. — John Calvin, Commentary on the Gospel of John (1563).

So then, from this we must gather that to profit much in the holy Scripture we must always resort to our Lord Jesus Christ and cast our eyes upon him, without turning away from him at any time. You will see a number of people who labor very hard indeed at reading the holy Scriptures — they do nothing else but turn over the leaves of it, and yet after ten years they have as much knowledge of it as if they had never read a single line. And why? Because they do not have any particular aim in view, they only wander about. And even in worldly learning you will see a great number who take pains enough, and yet all to no purpose, because they kept neither order nor proportion, nor do anything else but gather material from this quarter and from that, by means of which they are always confused and can never bring anything worthwhile. And although they have gathered together a number of sentences of all sorts, yet nothing of value results from them. Even so it is with them that labor in reading the holy Scriptures and do not know which is the point they ought to rest on, namely, the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.— John Calvin, Sermon on Ephesians 2:19-22 (1559).

Heresy is not so much rejecting as selecting. The heretic simply selects the parts of the Scripture he wants to emphasize and lets the rest go. This is shown by the etymology of the word heresy and by the practice of the heretic. “Beware,” an editorial scribe of the fourteenth century warned his readers in the preface to a book. “Beware thou take not one thing after thy affection and liking, and leave another: for that is the condition of an heretique. But take everything with other.” The old scribe knew well how prone we are to take to ourselves those parts of the truth that please us and ignore the other parts. And that is heresy. —A. W. Tozer, We Travel An Appointed Way.

One does not hear God’s word of grace in the Scriptures unless he has decided that this is the word he really needs and wants to hear. He must decide that as he hears he is prepared to submit to the voice of God, to be judged by it and to have it challenge all that he knows and intends. He must understand that what he hears the Bible say can change his very life. Therefore, he cannot come to the New Testament as the disputer, the wise man, the judge over the word of God. He can come only as the child who needs to be made wise by the Wisdom of God (I Cor. 1:18-31). —Glenn W. Barker, The New Testament Speaks (New York: Harper & Row, 1969), p. 18.

It is strange how powerful is the tradition of the pulpit; how often able and thoughtful men will go all their lives taking for granted that an important passage has that meaning which in youth they heard ascribed to it, when the slightest examination would show them that it is far otherwise. —John A. Broadus, A Treatise on the Preparation and Delivery of Sermons

When I Read the Bible Through

by Amos R. Wells

I supposed I knew my Bible
Reading piecemeal, hit and miss,
Now a bit of John or Matthew,
Now a snatch of Genesis,
Certain chapters of Isaiah
Certain Psalms (the twenty-third);
Twelfth of Romans, First of Proverbs
Yes, I thought I knew the Word;
But I found that thorough reading
Was a different thing to do,
And the way was unfamiliar
When I read the Bible through.

Oh, the massive, mighty volume!
Oh, the treasures manifold!
Oh, the beauty of the wisdom
And the grace it proved to hold!
As the story of the Hebrews
Swept in majesty along,
As it leaped in waves prophetic,
As it burst to sacred song,
As it gleamed with Christly omens,
The Old Testament was new,
Strong with cumulative power,
When I read the Bible through.

Ah! Imperial Jeremiah,
With his keen, coruscant mind;
And the blunt old Nehemiah,
And Ezekiel refined!
Newly came the song idyllic,
And the tragedy of Job;
Deuteronomy, the regal,
To a towering mountain grew,
With its comrade peaks around it
When I read the Bible through.

What a radiant procession
As the pages rise and fall,
James the sturdy, John the tender
Oh, the myriad-minded Paul!
Vast apocalyptic glories
Wheel and thunder, flash and flame,
While the church triumphant raises
One incomparable name.
Ah, the story of the Saviour
Never glows supremely true
Till you read it whole and swiftly,
Till you read the Bible through.

You who like to play at Bible,
Dip and dabble, here and there,
Just before you kneel, aweary,
And yawn thro’ a hurried prayer;
You who treat the Crown of Writings
As you treat no other book
Just a paragraph disjointed,
Just a crude, impatient look
Try a worthier procedure,
Try a broad and steady view;
You will kneel in very rapture
When you read the Bible through.

Tolle lege

A man was looking for some guidance from God so he asked God to make his Bible open at the page He wanted him to read. So the man opened his bible randomly and the first verse that his eyes met was 2 Corinthians 13:12, “Greet one another with a holy kiss.” A little discouraged he tried again and this time he found himself at 1 Corinthians 14:39 “Do not forbid the use of tongues.”

He tried again the next day, and the first verse he found was Matthew 27:5, “he went and hanged himself.” The next verse was Luke 10:37, “… go and do likewise!”

Bible Interpretation Help from John Goldingay

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*Interpreting the Bible

The Rev. J. E. Goldingay, B.A., is Lecturer in Old Testament at St. John’s College, Nottingham. The following is the outline of a paper originally given at the C.B.R.F. Seminar in June 1980.

Four key features of the way we go about this task:

1. REVERENTLY

(a)  The Bible is God’s book: by his providence (books such as Kings, Luke) by His initiative (books such as Isaiah, Revelation)

(b)  It is therefore wholly true, because He is true (Jn. 17:17)

(c)  But each individual theological statement has to be seen in the context of the whole of biblical truth and of its place in the biblical story (e.g. God’s justice and His love).

Each individual behavioural demand has to be seen in the context of the whole of biblical theology and ethics and of its place in the biblical story (cp. Jesus’s discussion of divorce, Mk. 10).

Each individual ‘historical’ narrative has to be understood in the light of the kind of narrative it is (e.g. Genesis 1; differences between the Gospels).

(d)  Hence part of the problem of the stress on inerrancy is that it tends to imply that the whole Bible is a blow-by-blow chronological narrative, when actually its narrative is more like a portrait than a photograph; and, of course, much of the Bible is not narrative at all, so that the concept is an inappropriate one. It’s not that the Bible has any ‘mistakes’―it’s that this is the wrong question.

(e)  It is the fact that it is a collection of God’s words that gives us confidence it will speak today, and obliges us to be committed to believe and do all that we find in it.

2. HISTORICALLY

(a) Because God spoke through men who lived in history, the only way to understand his statements is to understand them on the lips of the men who uttered them and in the ears of those to whom they were spoken. (The problem with much prophetic interpretation lies in ignoring this point.)

 

(b)  The NT doesn’t always interpret the OT historically, but it encourages us to do so by picturing God himself speaking historically.

(c)  In understanding the Bible, however, we are building on the fact that we are one with the biblical writers in many ways (we share in their humanity, their experience of God, their indwelling with the Holy Spirit, and so on).

(d)  At the same time, the fact that we feel one with them can also make us mishear what they are saying, and we need all possible aids to true hearing.

(e)  Thus understanding the Bible involves a paradoxical combination of being objective, distancing ourselves from it (to try to lessen the extent to which we mishear it and enable us really to hear what God was saying back then) with. appropriating it for ourselves by making our response to God as we hear him speaking in some long-past context―speaking not just then but to me too. The Holy Spirit is involved in the whole of this process.

3. RELEVANTLY

(a)  Many passages of Scripture are of clear meaning and timeless significance, and can be applied directly to today. But precisely how they apply we have to ‘work out’, ‘guess’, or seek the Spirit’s leading on. We need to understand the world, ourselves, and our congregation as well as Scripture, to be able to do this. A preacher has to be a man of two worlds. (J. D. Smart)

(b)  Different biblical books address different situations and have different emphases according as they see people needing challenge or encouragement, the building up of faith, hope or obedience, and so on. We need to be able to understand where our congregation is so as to be able to apply the right biblical emphasis to them, to move them on from where they are now to the next place of God’s leading.

(c) A brief consideration of books such as Deuteronomy or 1 Chronicles reveals that many chapters are of no direct application today. Here we have to seek to see what principles may be inferred from these chapters and then see how those principles apply today.

(d)  Biblical narratives (e.g. stories in Genesis or the Gospels) can be relevant in one of two ways. Sometimes their once-for-all historicalness is what we note. (Jesus rose from the dead: that fact is part of the basis of my faith in him.) Sometimes they can be examples of how God always acts (God’s raising Jesus is paralleled by his giving me new life). We can thus link our story to God’s story. But note that in preaching we too easily fall into ‘moralizing―turning stories into examples of how we ought to act (or ought not to act)―which often wasn’t their purpose (e.g. stories about Abraham).

(e)  The Bible itself remains the check on what we think is the Spirit’s teaching on how it applies today.

 

4. IMAGINATIVELY

Our aim in preaching is to enable the inspired Word of God to get home today to the people of God by the help of the Spirit of God. This involves him breathing new life into:

(a)  the direct teaching of the Bible (e.g. prophets, letters). Classical expository preaching is at its best here, following the writer’s argument and letting the sermon’s structure reflect it. Note the need of bringing biblical symbols back to life (e.g. kingdom, redemption, fatherhood).

(b)  the narratives in the Bible (Genesis to Esther, Matthew to Acts), which teach indirectly. We usually turn them into direct teaching, losing their particular value. We need to retell stories, incorporating new insight, comment, and application as the original writer did (in the way Chronicles does this to Kings, and Matthew to Mark)―not making the story the mere lead into a list of ‘lessons’. Help people to get into the story, identifying with situations and characters as if hearing it for the first time. Value of drama.

(c)  the imaginary stories in the Bible (parables). The parables worker: by starting in people’s familiar world and taking people on to something totally revolutionary; a parable is a story with a kick in the tale. Our problem is that the familiar world is now strange and the revolutionary punchline is old hat. We have to bring old parables to life and tell new ones.

*http://www.biblicalstudies.org.uk/John Goldingay, “Interpreting the Bible,” Christian Brethren Review 31, 32 (1982): 145-148.

 

5 Things To Pray For Your Pastor

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5 Ways to Pray for Your Pastor in 2020

By Nicholas Batzig

As a pastor, I sometimes mistakenly think that those most in need of my prayers in the church are those who have the most noticeable spiritual or physical weaknesses. I would imagine that, if we are honest with ourselves, we have all thought or said at some time or another something along the lines of, “So-and-so is really going to need a lot of prayer.” On the one hand, it is entirely right that we acknowledge that our brothers and sisters who have more noticeable weaknesses have a great need for our prayers. On the other hand, however, those to whom God has given the most gifts and graces are also greatly in need of our prayers. Contrary to what some might suppose, ministers of the gospel desperately need the prayers of the saints.

Pastors need the saints’ prayers because they are ever the object of the flaming arrows of the evil one. In addition, the world is eager to run them over at any opportunity. As one of my seminary professors so illustratively put it, “Ministers have a bull’s eye on their backs and footprints up their chests.” Sadly, this is even a reality for pastors within the context of the local church.

With so much opposition and difficulty within and without, pastors constantly need the people of God to be praying for them. The shepherd needs the prayers of the sheep as much as they need his prayers. He also is one of Christ’s sheep and is susceptible to the same weaknesses. While there are many things one could pray for pastors, here are five straightforward scriptural categories:

1. Pray for their spiritual protection from the world, the flesh, and the devil.

Whether it was Moses’ sinful anger leading to his striking of the rock (Num. 20:7-12), David’s adultery and murder (2 Sam. 11), or Simon Peter’s denial of the Lord (Matt. 26:69-75) and practical denial of justification by faith alone (Gal. 2:11-21), ministers are faced with the reality of the weakness of the flesh, the assaults of the world, and the rage of the devil. There have been a plethora of ministers who have fallen into sinful practices in the history of the church and so brought disgrace to the name of Christ. Since Satan has ministers of the gospel (and their families) locked in his sight—and since God’s honor is at stake in a heightened sense with any public ministry of the word—members of the church should pray that their pastor and their pastor’s family would not fall prey to the world, the flesh, or the devil.

2. Pray for their deliverance from the physical attacks of the world and the devil.

While under prison guard in Rome, the Apostle Paul encouraged the believers in Philippi to pray for his release when he wrote, “I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayer and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:19; see also 2 Cor. 1:9-11.). After Herod imprisoned Simon Peter, we learn that “constant prayer was offered to God for him by the church” (Acts 12:5). After an exodus-like deliverance from prison, Luke tells us that Peter showed up at the home where the disciples were continuing to pray for his deliverance. This is yet another example of the minister being delivered from harm due, in part, to the prayers of the saints.

3. Pray for doors to be opened to them for the spread of the gospel.

In his letter to the Colossians, Paul asked the church to be praying “that God would open to us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in chains” (Col. 4:3). The success of the spread of the gospel is dependent in part on the prayers of the people of God. In this way, the church shares in the gospel ministry with the pastor. Though he is not the only one in the body who is called to spread the word, he has a unique calling to “do the work of an evangelist.” The saints help him fulfill this work by praying that the Lord would open doors “for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ.”

4. Pray that they might have boldness and power to preach the gospel.

In addition to praying for open doors for the ministry of the word, the people of God should pray that ministers would have Spirit-wrought boldness. When writing to the church in Ephesus, the Apostle Paul asked them to pray for him “that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel” (Eph. 6:19). There is a well-known story of several college students going to visit the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London in order to hear Charles Spurgeon preach. As the story goes, Spurgeon met them at the door and offered to show them around. At one point he asked if they wanted to see the church’s heater plant (boiler room). He took them downstairs where they saw hundreds of people praying for God’s blessings on the service and on Spurgeon’s preaching. The gathering of the people of God to pray for the ministry of the word is what he called “the heating plant”! Believers can help ministers by praying that they would be given boldness and power in preaching the gospel.

5. Pray that they might have a spirit of wisdom and understanding.

One of the most pressing needs for a minister of the gospel is that he would be given the necessary wisdom to counsel, to know when to confront, to mediate, and to discern the particular pastoral needs of a congregation. This is an all-encompassing and recurring need. The minister is daily faced with particular challenges for which he desperately needs the wisdom of Christ. It is said of Jesus that “the Spirit of wisdom and knowledge, and of counsel and might” was upon Him (Is. 11:2). The servants of Christ need that same Spirit. Much harm is done to the church as a whole if the minister does not proceed with the wisdom commensurate to the challenges with which he is faced. Those who benefit from this wisdom can help the minister by calling down this divine blessing from heaven upon him.

*Article adapted from Ligonier Ministries, ligonier.org  (January 3, 2020)

How Solid Is Evolution Scientifically?

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Some Key Problems With Evolution

  • Darwinian evolution is based on a hopelessly illogical premise, the concept of spontaneous generation, or life arising from non-living matter.
  • If Darwinian evolution were true we should literally find millions of transitional forms in the fossil record, but the missing links are still missing.
  • Darwinists claim that natural selection is evidence of macroevolution. However, natural selection, which is basic science, simply demonstrates change within species or microevolution.
  • Critiquing Darwinism does not make a person anti-science. We all share the same scientific evidence. The question is, what theory or interpretive framework best explains the evidence? (Ron Carlson, Christian Ministries International)

Synopsis of 6 Big Problems with Evolution:

(1) Scientists today generally agree that the universe had a beginning. This implies the existence of a Beginner or Creator (Hebrews 3:4, “For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.”).

(2) The universe is so perfectly fine-tuned for life on earth, it must have come from the hands of an intelligent Designer ([God] Romans 1:20 & Psalm 19:1, “For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse….The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork”).

(3) If evolution were true, the fossil records would reveal progressively complex evolutionary forms with transitions. However, no transitional links (with species forming into different species) have been discovered in the fossil records.

(4) Evolution assumes a long series of positive and upward mutations. In almost all known cases, however, mutations are not beneficial but are harmful to living beings. This is a huge problem for evolution.

(5) The Second Law of thermodynamics, which has never been contradicted in observable nature, says that in an isolated system (like our universe), the natural course of things is degenerate. The universe is running down, not evolving upward. In a closed, isolated system, the amount of useable energy decreases. That is, matter and energy deteriorate gradually over time. Also, things tend to move from order to disorder, not the reverse.

(6) Evolutionists often make false claims. Some have claimed that scientific evidence confirms that evolution is true. They generally appeal to the fact that mutations do occur within species (microevolution). But an incredible leap of logic is required to say that mutations within species prove that mutations can yield entirely new species (macroevolution). Two dogs cannot produce a cat! (Ron Rhodes, 5-Minute Apologetics for Today)

How Did the Universe Come to Be? The opening line of Genesis puts it succinctly: “In the beginning God created the heavens and earth” (1:1). The Bible teaches that through an act of God the temporal creation of the universe came from nothing (ex nihilo).

CREATOR CREATION
Uncreated Created
Necessary Contingent
Eternal Temporal
Infinite Finite
Changeless Changing

Christianity teaches that God is the Originating Cause (Eph. 3:9) who created the space-time universe and is also the Sustaining Cause that keeps everything together (Col. 1:17). Moses declared, “For in six days the LORD made the heavens and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but He rested on the seventh day” (Exodus 20:11).

According to Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646-1716), a German philosopher and mathematician, everything that exists has a cause for its existence. We know the universe exists and didn’t get here on its own. God is the necessary being who produces external causes that don’t exist necessarily because they are contingent on something greater than their own existence.

But there are two other options: (1) Naturalism teaches that nothing created the universe—it just came to be with no real explanation. (2) Pantheism teaches that God and the universe are one and eternally the same. The problem with naturalism is that it holds to a contradictory claim that nothing created something created itself. But this is fundamentally irrational. Pantheism, on the other hand, is fundamentally flawed because it identifies the universe as eternal, when the Second Law of Thermodynamics proves that wrong.

To know there is a God who created the universe and controls all things ought to give you great comfort. Evolutionists attempt to rule out a Creator, but thankfully as a Christian, you know God as a personal Creator, and we are made in His image. (See Genesis 1-2; Job 26:10; Isaiah 40:22; John 1:3; Colossians 1:17; Hebrews 1:3).

Is Evolution a Viable Option? Although macroevolution is the dominant scientific theory taught in schools and upheld in academia, the majority of the public still holds to a belief in creation. But how is this possible? How is it that the majority of people still don’t buy into the explanation of evolution? We will provide three essential flaws to the theory of evolution, but first, here’s evolution in a nutshell:

Evolution (common ancestry) is simply defined as a gradual development of simple life forms into more complex life forms brought about by natural processes. Thus, for evolution to be a viable option, it must be able to explain (1) the origin of the universe, (2) the origin of first life, and (3) the origin of new life forms.

  1. the origin of the universe: According to cosmic evolution, the universe just popped into existence. Though evolutionists now admit the universe had a beginning, they deny and designed cause or purpose behind the existence of the universe. Thus, evolution offers no real explanation for the existence of an incredibly big and complex universe.
  1. the origin of first life: Biological evolutionists teach that a primordial soup (simple organic chemicals) produced the first life a few billion years ago as the earth was shaped, formed, and cooled down. But the earth had to be incredibly fine-tuned from the start in order for the necessary and specific conditions to be balanced precisely to produce life. Some evolutionists even speculate that life arose on another planet and was transported here. But this is simply speculation; there is no real evidence for it. Further, if life arose elsewhere, the same problem exists, namely, that non life does not produce life.

(3) the origin of new life forms: Evolution teaches that certain genetic mutations occurred among species that eventually caused them to transition into completely new species with all new genetic information. This is known as macroevolution. The evolutionist bases this idea on observing slight changes or modifications in species within their environment (macroevolution). Yet, macroevolution is a huge leap from the slight modifications that we witness and has absolutely no evidence to support it. What we do observe and can verify is that there is a single common ancestor of humankind (Adam and Eve). Humans beget humans and dogs beget dogs (Gen. 1:21-24). Thus, evolutionists make unwarranted claims that have never been proven that different species emanated from a single cell, or common ancestry.

Most revealing is that Darwin himself admitted, in his book Origin of Species (written in 1859), to the lack of evidence for “intermediate links” in the fossil record. The fossil evidence (as a whole) is even greater than in Darwin’s day, and yet it still does not show evidence of macroevolution. What the fossil record does show, however, are fully formed and fully functional species. This confirms the obvious: transitional forms cannot survive with missing or evolving parts, especially considering survival of the fittest.

Someone may ask, “What about Archaeopteryx?” Isn’t this a great example of a transitional species from a feathered dinosaur to modern birds? The problem with Archaeopteryx is that it’s not a transitional life form that evolved from reptile to bird. Rather, Archaeopteryx appears in the fossil record as a fully developed bird. Thus, Archaeopteryx is not a missing link between birds and reptiles. It’s a bird.

In the end, what the evidence points to is a designer who created a good design and applied it to various other species to gain the best results.

When talking to evolutionists, make sure not to assume what they believe, and don’t allow them to make up evidence in support of evolution. Some great questions to ask evolutionists are:

  • What do you mean by evolution?
  • If there is no God, why is there something rather than nothing?
  • Where did the first life come from?
  • Doesn’t there have to be preexisting life for life to exist?
  • What caused nonliving chemicals to produce life?
  • How did non intelligent matter produce intelligent life?

See Genesis 1-2; 5:1-3; Psalms 8; 33; Isaiah 42:5-9; Acts 17:26; Romans 1:20-27; 2 Peter 3:3-6.

Did God use Evolution as His method of creation? Under the banner of ‘theistic evolution,’ a growing number of Christians maintain that God used evolution as his method for creation. It is one thing to believe in evolution; it is quite another thing to blame God for it.

First, the biblical account of creation specifically states that God created living creatures according to their own “kinds” (Genesis 1:24-25). As confirmed by science, the DNA for a fetus is not the DNA for a frog, and the DNA for a frog is not the DNA for a fish. Rather, the DNA of a fetus, frog, or fish is uniquely programmed for reproduction after its own kind. Thus, while Scripture and science allow for microevolution (transitions within “the kinds”), they do not allow for macroevolution (amoebas evolving into areas or apes evolving into humans).

Furthermore, evolution is the cruelest, most inefficient system for creation imaginable. Perhaps Nobel Prize-winning evolutionist Jacques Monod put it best: “The struggle for life and elimination of the weakest is a horrible process, against which our whole modern ethic revolts.” Indeed, says Monod, “I am surprised that a Christian would defend the idea that this is the process which God more or less set up in order to have evolution.”

Finally, theistic evolution is a contradiction in terms—like the phrase flaming snowflakes. God can no more direct an undirected process than he can create a square circle. Yet this is precisely what theistic evolution presupposes. Evolutionism is fighting for its very life. Rather than prop it up with theories such as theistic evolution, thinking people everywhere must be on the vanguard of demonstrating its demise.

“From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.” ~ Acts 17:26-27

Is it Possible for a Protein Molecule to Come into Existence by Chance? Evolutionary theory concerning how the first organized form of primitive life evolved hardly corresponds to reality.

First, there is not the slightest evidence for an evolutionary sequence among the unimaginably varied cells existing on our planet.

Furthermore, no living system can rightly be called primitive with respect to any other. Consider, for example, that life at bare minimum demands no fewer than 250 different kinds of protein molecules.

Finally, giving the evolutionary process every possible concession, the probability of arranging a simple protein molecule by chance is estimated to be one chance in 10[161] (that’s a 1 followed by 161 zeros). For a frame of reference, consider the fact that there are only 10[80] (that’s a 1 followed by 80 zeros) atoms in the entire known universe.

If in time a protein molecule were eventually formed by chance, forming a second one would be infinitely more difficult. As such, the science of statistical probability demonstrates that forming a protein molecule by random processes is not only improbable, it is impossible—and forming a cell or a chimp, beyond illustration. “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’” ~ Psalm 14:1

The Fossil Record: Historically, the most convincing evidence for evolution is the fossil record. Evolutionists claim that the fossil record displays a gradual evolution of animal and plant life from primitive forms to complex forms with transitional phases between major classes (e.g., between fish and amphibians, amphibians and reptiles, reptiles and birds, and so on).

But this scenario has no support. There is no evidence that complex life forms evolve from primitive life forms because no such transitional species between any of these groups of animals have ever been found in the tons of fossil-bearing rock recovered over the past one hundred thirty years. Textbook drawings of transitional species are simply artists’ conceptions of what they think such animals would look like if they did exist. All the major groups of animals are distinct from one another throughout the fossil record, and their particular characteristics are fully formed and functional when they first appear. For example, when feathers and wings first show up, they are fully formed feathers and wings. No part-leg/part-wing or part-scale/ part-feather fossils have ever been found. What use would a part-leg/ part-wing have anyway? According to evolution, for any trait to be passed along, it must have survival value. Certainly a part-leg/part-wing would have no survival value to either a reptile or a bird. In fact, it would likely be a detriment.

On the other hand, the creationist model explains the absence of transitional species. The Bible teaches that God created living creatures “after their kind” (Gen. 1:24). This can be interpreted to mean that God created all the original kinds of animals with specific “gene pools” that contained all of the genetic potential needed for each type of animal to produce diverse varieties within its own kind. For example, the canine family probably arose from an original created kind. From the first dog, all the various wild and domestic dogs on earth developed. But this is not evolution in the sense that modern canines evolved from some pre-dog ancestor. Rather, the original created dog-kind developed, through adaption to diverse environmental conditions, into the numerous forms of dogs we see today. This process is called microevolution, which is not one species evolving from a more primitive species but a created kind fulfilling its full genetic potential within the limits of its original gene pool. Both extinct and modern canines have always been just dogs. In the fossil record, there has never been a half dog/half cat or half dog/half some other animal. There has always been just dogs.

Natural selection within created gene pools accounts for every change seen in every kind of animal on earth, extinct or modern. All the illustrations given by evolutionists to prove evolution are in reality no more than adaptions within specific gene pools. Science has never seen in nature or observed in a laboratory one species of animal evolve into another. When cockroaches become resistant to a pesticide, it does not represent the evolution of a new species of cockroach. Rather it illustrates natural selection within the cockroach gene pool, allowing insects already resistant to a particular pesticide because of their existing genetic makeup to become dominant within a population of cockroaches. But the new breed of resistant cockroaches are still cockroaches.

Mutations: A second important argument used to support evolution focuses on mutations. Evolutionists argue that the mechanism by which one species evolves into another is through genetic mutations. The idea goes something like this. Through a genetic foul-up, a species of animal is born with a new trait that aids its survival. For instance, an animal is born with a deformed ear that actually allows that animal to hear an approaching predator better than others of his species. Because this characteristic is beneficial, that particular animal survives to pass on the trait to its offspring, which in turn benefit from the same trait and pass it on to their offspring. Eventually, after millions of years and countless generations, the animals with the more efficient hearing dominate the species, and what was once a deformity is now part of the genetic makeup of all the animals within that particular species. Evolutionists teach that with vast amounts of time, thousands of these tiny mutations can eventually give rise to an entirely new species of animal. Thus accidental mutations plus long time spans plus natural selection (“survival of the fittest”) result in the continual emergence of new species of animals.

The flaw in this theory is twofold. First, in practically every known case, a mutation is not beneficial but harmful to an animal and usually kills it. A deformity lessens the survival potential of an animal—it does not strengthen it. And even if there are “good” mutations, the tremendous number of bad mutations would overwhelm the fewer number of good ones. What one would expect to see, if mutations were passed along to future generations, is a tendency for a species to degenerate and eventually become extinct, not evolve upward to a new or better species.

The second flaw in the mutation theory is that the time needed for a primitive animal to evolve into a higher animal through random mutational changes is mathematically impossible. The problem lies in the fact that there must be a series of both related mutations and subsequent mutations that are complementary to one another. A new trait does not evolve in one generation. For a deer to evolve greater speed requires not only that it slowly, over countless generations, develops more powerful legs but that corresponding mutations in other areas of its body must also take place at the same time. To run faster, more efficient circulation, heart, lungs, and so on are needed. Creationist Dr. Gary Parker explains that the chances of getting three related mutations in a row is one in a billion trillion (1021). To illustrate the odds of this, he states that “the ocean isn’t big enough to hold enough bacteria to make it likely for you to find a bacterium with three simultaneous or sequential related mutations.” Moreover, the time that would be needed for enough mutations to occur to evolve even a simple organism is many billions of years longer than what evolutionists themselves believe the age of the earth to be.

A similar problem exists with regard to the probability of life accidentally coming into existence from nonlife through chemical processes in the earth’s alleged primordial soup. With the discovery of the genetic code, we now know that the amount of information coded in the organization of a simple living cell is so vast that its accidental formation by random processes is beyond possibility. According to Sir Fred Hoyle, an eminent mathematician and astronomer, if the earth is 4.6 billion years old, as most evolutionists believe, the probability of a single living cell originating by random processes would be one chance in 1040,000 (ten with forty thousand zeros behind it). In other words, the probability is so small that it is not even considered as a viable option by most scientists familiar with information theory and probability studies. Today, thanks to “super computers,” it is firmly established that chance, long time spans, and mutations cannot account for the origin of life nor confirm the evolution of even a simple organism. As Hoyle puts it, “The chance that higher life forms might have emerged in this way is comparable with the chance that a tornado sweeping through a junkyard might assemble a Boeing 747 from the materials therein.”

The Age of the Earth: The third ingredient vital to the evolution recipe is an old earth. Although the age of the earth is not a factor in the creationist model of origins (remember, even if the earth is 5 billion years old, it is still not old enough for even simple organisms to evolve), time is of the utmost importance on the evolution model.

Evolutionists generally agree that the age of the earth is between 4.5 and 5 billion years old. The most common dating methods used by science to substantiate this age are one of several radiometric systems. These methods measure geologic time according to the rate of disintegration of radioactive elements. They are based on the assumption that decay processes have remained fairly stable throughout geologic history.

Today, much data is available that questions the accuracy of radiometric dating systems, and there are numerous other dating methods that suggest a young earth. In fact, over sixty chronometers date the earth as young (in geologic time, a young earth would be tens of thousands to hundreds of millions of years old rather than billions of years old). Dating methods that point to a geologically young earth include the decay of the earth’s magnetic field, the accumulation of meteoritic dust on the earth’s crust, the amount of helium in the atmosphere, the influx of sediment into the oceans via rivers, and the influx of specific chemicals into the oceans. In all of these cases, if the earth was billions of years old, the amount of decay or accumulation would be much greater than they are today.

Thermodynamics: The first and second laws of thermodynamics are foundational to all of science and have never been contradicted in observable nature. The first law, also called the “law of conservation of mass-energy,” states that matter and energy are neither being created nor destroyed. In other words, matter and energy do not have within themselves the ability to create. This implies that they must have been created. The first law of thermodynamics points away from evolution to a creator.

The second law, also called the “law of increasing entropy,” states that entropy (which is the measurement of disorganization) always increases in an isolated system (a system which does not have an external influence that can sustain or increase its available energy, such as the universe). Now, what does this mean? Simply put, it means that the natural course of anything is to degenerate. An old automobile in a junkyard eventually rusts away. An animal is born and eventually grows old and dies. A star burns out and vanishes. In short, the universe is running down. But if the universe is running down, it must have had a beginning. It is not eternal. This implies a creator. It also contradicts evolution which depicts life moving upward rather than slowly degenerating.

The Anthropic Principle: One of the most compelling evidences supporting creationism involves the anthropic principle, although it is sometimes used as an argument supporting evolution. The anthropic principle observes that the earth is fashioned so precisely that life as we know it could not exist if the earth were even minutely different. Evolutionists acknowledge this and then argue that, although the universe is incredibly complex and wonderfully ordered, we should not be surprised that life came into existence through random process. Why? Because the very fact that we exist demonstrates that evolution occurred. In other words, in an infinite universe, the diverse circumstances needed for life to occur were bound to fall into place sooner or later—even if only once—no matter how unlikely it may be.

The fundamental problem with this argument should be obvious. It is merely a philosophical statement that relies on circular reasoning. It assumes that evolution accounts for the origin of life and then states, because life exists, we have proof that evolution is true. To counter this, we can offer our own philosophical statement. Robert Newman does this well: “If such a being as the God of the Bible exists, then an apparently designed universe such as ours would be a likely result rather than such a surprise as we have in an accidental universe.”

Hence, we are right back to arguing which model, creation or evolution, best fits the available evidence. And here is where the creationists can use the anthropic principle to their advantage. The value of the anthropic principle, as a support for creation, lies in its recognition that life can exist only within very narrow margins. For example, if the earth was located closer or farther from the sun, life could not exist due to excessive heat or cold. If the chemical composition of the atmosphere varied only slightly, the air would be poisonous to life. If the sea-to-land-mass ratio, depth of the oceans, and the earth’s cloud cover were different, the earth’s ability to store and release heat would change dramatically. All such events could result in the absence of life on earth. Rather than all of these variables being the result of accidental processes (luck), it appears much more probable that the earth was specifically designed to sustain life. And if it was designed, there must be a Designer—God.

Actually, this concept can be carried a step further. According to the evolutionary scenario, when the earth was formed, it did not initially possess the right chemical balance for life to exist. A hardening ball of gases would hardly support life. For the earth to reach a stage in which it could support life, some form of inorganic (nonliving) evolution would have had to occur. This would be necessary in order to achieve the right combination of ingredients from which organic molecules could emerge. Even if we can envision organic evolution (the evolution of living plants and animals), it takes a colorful imagination to accept the premise that nonliving elements such as gases and minerals evolved to a point where they could support life. I’m convinced that evolutionists demand we believe in the absurd.

Applying Scientific Evidence (Creationism vs. Evolutionism)

Evidence Creationism Evolutionism
No transitional fossils Not expected because God created “Kinds.” Needed for evolution to work but missing in the fossil record.
Mutations Most mutations are “bad” and destroy organisms. The earth is not old enough for “good” mutations to account for evolution. Without an abundance of good mutations, there is no way to account for evolutionary change.
Age of earth Creation model fits with both an old and young earth. Old earth is necessary for evolution.
Thermodynamics Demonstrates the universe had a beginning (created) and is running down (will end). Violates the evolutionary assumptions that the universe is eternal and uncaused.
Anthropic Principle Explains the order and design in the universe as the product of an intelligent Creator. God created the earth specifically to sustain life. Evolution requires that the ingredients necessary to support life are the product of random processes.

Atheism: The atheist often criticizes the believer by remarking, “How can you believe in creation when there is no God?” To say there is no God is to say one has enough knowledge to conclude there is no God. But an atheist can never have sufficient knowledge to be certain there is no God. He would have to be omniscient, for if there is something outside his area of knowledge, that something could include God. An atheist would have to be everywhere in and out of the universe all at one time; for if there is anywhere he cannot be, God could be there.

No atheist can claim total knowledge; therefore, atheism is self-refuting. Knowing everything and being everywhere is to be like God. Since no one can prove God does not exist, the question becomes irrelevant and so does atheism. Thus, creation cannot be ruled out as a potential alternative.

Origin of God: The Bible makes no attempt to prove the existence of God, nor to describe His origin. It simply says, “God has spoken; God has acted.” The first chapter of Genesis uses the word “God” 32 times, it is the most God-centered chapter in the Bible.

“The idea of creation is inconceivable without God.” (Wemher Von Braun, Vice President, Fairchild industries, German-town, Maryland)

Alexander I. Solzhenitsyn, winner of the 1970 Nobel Prize for Literature gave an address in London in which he endeavored to explain why so much evil had befallen his people, the Soviets: “Over a half century ago, while I was still a child, I recall hearing a number of old people offer the following explanation for the great disasters that had befallen Russia: Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.

“Since then I have spent well-nigh 50 years working on the history of our revolution; in the process I have read hundreds of books, collected hundreds of personal testimonies, and have already contributed eight volumes of my own toward the effort of clearing away the rubble left by that upheaval. But if I were asked today to formulate as concisely as possible the main cause of the ruinous revolution that swallowed up some 60 million of our people, I could not put it more accurately than to repeat: Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.”

The Atheistic Faith: Atheistic evolutionists believe:

* No supernatural power exists.

* All creation is the product of chance.

* Living matter comes from dead matter.

* intelligence and conscience appeared without sponsorship.

* Matter is self-creative, self-determinate and indestructible.

Conclusion:

* Nothing produced something.

* Intelligence, design, conscience, and personality are free from any external influence.

* Life follows a deterministic law.

It boils down to choosing to have faith in accidental miracles or created miracles—God or man.

“… In the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, ‘Where is this coming he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.…’ But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness” (2 Peter 3:4 NIV).

Evolution is an animistic religion requiring completely uncritical faith, offering an absurd life and absolute death as rewards for belief. The evolutionist says he does not believe in God because he cannot believe the supernatural miracles which violate or deviate from the known laws of nature. However, the theory of evolution violates every known law for its existence. The atheistic faith is more incredible than Christian faith in light of the evidences.

Is Evolution Scientific? No matter how one looks at it, the theory of evolution must trace back to a point at which inanimate matter became a living form. Here is the absurd story of evolution:

Unknown chemicals

in the primordial past …

through.…

Unknown processes

which no longer exist …

produced …

Unknown life forms

which are not to be found …

but could, through …

Unknown reproduction methods

spawn new life …

in an …

Unknown atmospheric composition …

in an …

Unknown oceanic soup complex …

at an …

Unknown time and place.

Composed by Dr. Henry Morris, the above reveals evolution does not constitute a bona fide scientific theory. Evolution is 20th century mythology.

The Odds for Evolution: One of the best known evolutionists, Julian Huxley, surmised that the probability of natural selection leading to higher forms to be one chance in a number so large, it would occupy 1500 pages of print. Yet he made the following statement, which shows the amazing depth of his anti-God religious zeal:

“No one would bet on anything so improbable happening … and yet it happened” (Huxley, Evolution in Action, 1953).

In his book, The Creation Evolution Controversy, R. L. Wysong makes a forceful expression from a technical standpoint.

“Evolution requires plenty of faith: a faith in proteins that defy chance formation; a faith in the formation of DNA codes which if generated spontaneously would spell only pandemonium; a faith in a primitive environment that in reality would fiendishly devour any chemical precursor to life; a faith in (origin of life) experiments that prove nothing but the need for intelligence in the beginning; a faith in a primitive ocean that would not thicken but would hopelessly dilute chemicals; a faith in natural laws including the laws of thermodynamics and biogenesis that actually deny the possibility for the spontaneous generation of life; a faith in future scientific revelations which when realized always seem to present more dilemmas to the evolutionists; faith in probabilities that reasonably tell two stories—one denying evolution, the other confirming the creator; faith in transformations that remain fixed; faith in mutations and natural selection that add to a double negative for evolution; faith in fossils which embarrassingly show fixity through time, regular absence of transitional forms and striking testimony to a worldwide water deluge; a faith in time which proves to only promote degradation in the absence of mind; and faith in reductionism that ends up reducing the materialist’s arguments to zero and forcing the need to invoke a supernatural creator.”

Battle Between Two Religions: The controversy over creation and evolution is really a battle between two religions. One must choose the chance, randomness, no-God evolutionary philosophy which provides the basis for the religion of humanism in which ‘anything goes’; homosexuality, nudity, abortion, incest, etc., cannot be regarded as evil, for evil does not exist. Or one must choose the absolutes of the Creator God who made everything, and therefore has the authority to dictate what is right or wrong for His creation. The choice, then, is between the religion of Christianity with the basis of its Gospel in a literal creation, or the religion of humanism with its basis in evolution.

What Scientists Think of Evolution:

Ultimately the Darwinian theory of evolution is no more nor less than the great cosmogenic myth of the twentieth century.—Michael Denton, molecular biologist and medical doctor

It is becoming increasingly apparent that evolutionism is not even a good scientific theory.—Dr. Willem J. Ouweneel, Research Associate in Developmental Genetics, Ultrech, Netherlands

What I have learned in the past ten years of review of recent scientific knowledge of cellular morphology and physiology, the code of life (DNA), and the lack of supporting evidence for evolution in the light of recent scientific evidence is a shocking rebuttal to the theory of evolution.—Dr. Isaac Manly of Harvard Medical School

The human fossil record is strongly supportive of the concept of Special Creation. On the other hand, the fossil evidence is so contrary to human evolution as to effectively falsify the idea that humans evolved.—Professor Marvin L. Lubenow, in his book Bones of Contention

For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.—Robert Jastrow, Ph.D. Chief of the Theoretical Division of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (1958–61) and Founder/Director of NASA’s Goddard Institute; Professor of Geophysics at Columbia University; Professor of Space Studies—Earth Sciences at Dartmouth College, in his book God and the Astronomers

Can all of life be fit into Darwin’s theory of evolution?… If you search the scientific literature on evolution, and if you focus your search on the question of how molecular machines—the basis of life—developed, you find an eerie and complete silence. The complexity of life’s foundation has paralyzed science’s attempt to account for it.… I do not think [Darwin’s mechanism] explains molecular life.—Michael Behe, Associate Professor of Biochemistry at Lehigh University

Views of Creation: Evolution (Dr. James Boice)

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. ~ Genesis 1:1–2

When Charles Darwin published The Origin of Species in 1859, he received more abuse than perhaps any modern scientist. To be sure, even Einstein originally objected to Slipher’s discovery of an expanding universe. He wrote, “This circumstance irritates me.” Others also objected. But none of these heaped personal abuse on Slipher. Darwin, by contrast, was greeted with: “Rotten fabric of speculation. … Utterly false. … Deep in the mire of folly [and] … I laughed till my sides were sore.”2 The remarkable thing, however, is that the theory that became the laughing stock and then eventually the battleground of the second half of the nineteenth century has now become widely accepted, not only by scientists but also by a wide variety of people from most walks of life.

This is not to say that evolution is the only theory going. It is merely the dominant view today and is therefore the one with which any discussion of the theory of origins should start. Actually, our discussion in this and the following chapters is going to take us over five competing theories: 1) atheistic evolution, 2) theistic evolution, 3) the so-called “gap theory” popularized by C. I. Scofield, 4) six-day creationism, and finally 5) progressive creationism. We are going to see what each of these theories has to commend it and then also explore its weaknesses.

Let us say at the beginning that a final answer as to how the universe came into being may not be attainable now. We may exclude some possibilities, both as Christians and as scientists. As Christians we may exclude even more. But this still falls short of a full answer to the “how.” Indeed, even taking the explanations of origins in the order proposed above does not necessarily imply that the latter positions are better than the earlier ones. They are taken in this order simply because they have appeared in this order historically.

The Evolutionary Theory

We begin by noting that in spite of the association of evolution with the name of Charles Darwin, evolution itself is nothing new. It existed among the ancient Greeks, for example. Thales, Anaximander, Anaximenes, Epicurus, and Lucretius were all evolutionists. So also was Aristotle (384–322 b.c.), who believed in a complete gradation in nature accompanied by a perfecting principle. This was imagined to have caused gradation from the imperfect to the perfect. Man, of course, stood at the highest point of the ascent.

Again, there were evolutionists in more modern times before Darwin. Some early precursors were Francis Bacon (1561–1626), René Descartes (1596–1650), and Immanuel Kant (1724–1804). The first biologist to make a contribution to evolutionary thought was George Louis Leclerc de Buffon (1707–1788), the French naturalist. Another was Erasmus Darwin (1731–1802), the grandfather of Charles Darwin. The first fairly complete theory of evolution was by Chevalier de Lamarck (1744–1829), who became a professor in zoology at the Museum of Natural History in Paris and later popularized his views in Philosophie Zoologique.

It was Charles Darwin, however, who rightly captured the world’s attention. His theory was developed to a degree that none of the others were and, perhaps even more importantly, it was supported by an impressive array of observations collected initially on the world-encircling tour of the HMS Beagle from 1831 to 1836. Darwin’s theory may be arranged in these postulates and conclusions.

Postulate number one: variation. There are variations within individuals of the same species.

Postulate number two: overproduction. In most cases, more individuals are born to a species than can possibly survive to maturity.

Conclusion number one: struggle for existence. In order to survive individuals must compete with other members of the same species.

Postulate number three: survival of the fittest. In a competitive environment only those individuals best fitted to survive will survive.

Postulate number four: inheritance of favorable characteristics. Fit individuals pass their “good” characteristics to their descendants.

Final conclusion: New species arise by the continued survival and reproduction of the individuals best suited to their particular environment.

What has happened to this theory in the one hundred or so years since the publication of Darwin’s Origin? For the most part it is still held, though much work has been done in the one area that presents a flaw in the argument. As anyone can see, the chief mechanism of evolution according to Darwin’s theory is “natural selection,” the impersonal preference given to a certain variation in a species permitting one individual rather than another to survive. This is supposed to explain how the variety of forms we know came about. But this is precisely what it does not do. Natural selection may explain how certain individuals have more offspring than others and therefore survive, or survive and have offspring while other less favored individuals do not. But it does not tell us how there came to be the various organisms or “good” characteristics of organisms in the first place.

Thomas Bethell, editor of the Washington Monthly, has written of this problem in an article for Harper’s Magazine. He observes, “There is, then, no ‘selection’ by nature at all. Nor does nature ‘act’ as it so often is said to do in biology books. One organism may indeed be ‘fitter’ than another from an evolutionary point of view, but the only event that determines this fitness is death (or infertility). This, of course, is not something which helps create the organism, but is something that terminates it.”

To deal with this problem evolutionists have come to speak of mutations as the primary source of variations. This was proposed first by a Dutch botanist, Hugo de Vries, in a work entitled Species and Varieties: Their Origin by Mutation (1905). It has since been suggested that mutations are caused by cosmic radiations, the latter being perhaps far more intense than in modern times.

The Fossil Record

What are we to say of Darwin’s theory? We must begin by noting that there is no question on the part of any informed thinker or writer that there are varieties within a given species. This is simply to say that all individuals are not alike. Some are tall, some short. Some are strong, others weak, and so on. The question is whether these acknowledged variations are sufficient to account for the development of entirely different species and, second, whether such development has in fact occurred. (The possibility of the development of species in this manner does not prove that this is the way it happened.)

At this point we have to turn to the evidence for evolution, and when we do we must acknowledge that the only true historical evidence is the evidence of fossils. There are other things that might be seen as supporting evolution: the possibility of classifying organisms from the simple to the more complex, similarities of structure in “related” species, the existence of vestigial organs (that is, organs like the human appendix for which no present function is known), similar blood types between some species. But these are all circumstantial arguments, and in some cases they are also ambiguous. The only truly historical evidence—evidence that evolution has actually occurred—is fossils.

The fossil remains may be evidence of evolution, but what is not adequately said today is that they do not prove evolution and are in fact highly questionable when applied to evolutionary theory. Let us begin with positive statements. First, although very fragmentary, the fossils do lend themselves to a historical sequence in which the more simple forms of life may be dated earlier (because found in older rock) and more complex forms of life may be dated later. Thus, although the very ancient dates given may be wrong, it does seem that algae, protozoa, and sponges came first. After that are fish, reptiles, and amphibians, then the land animals, including the dinosaurs. Finally, there are the animals we know today, and then man. Another positive statement is that some species have become extinct, the dinosaurs being the most notable example. The combination of these two sets of observations suggests that new forms of life develop and that others become extinct—according to Darwin.

But it is not that simple. There are problems in fitting the fossil record into an evolutionary system. Moreover, these are so great as to bring the entire theory into question.

For example, if evolution is true, what we should expect to find in the fossil record is finely graded and generally continuous development from the simplest forms to the higher forms. Although this is often claimed for the fossil record, it is not what is in fact found when we study it closely. Certainly there are simpler forms in (presumably) earlier rocks. Higher forms (like man) come relatively late. But there are no gradual developments. On the contrary, the major groups appear suddenly, and there is little or no evidence of transition. Everett C. Olson, a well-known evolutionist, mentions this difficulty: “More important, however, are the data revealed by the fossil record. There are great spatial and temporal gaps, sudden appearances of new major groups, equally sudden appearances of old, including very rapid extinctions of groups that had flourished for long periods of time. There were mass extinctions marked by equally simultaneous death of several apparently little associated groups of organisms. At the time the record first is seen with any real clarity [in Cambrian rock strata], the differentiation of phyla is virtually complete. As far as major groups are concerned, we see little clear evidence of time succession in differentiation with the simpler first and the more complex later.”

It may be argued at this point—indeed, it is argued by evolutionists—that the fossil record is simply incomplete, that if fossils for every prior form of life existed, such gaps would be filled. But in a hundred years of study the tendency has not been this way, and it is hard to convince oneself today that this will yet happen. It is not just a question of several missing links. There are hundreds of missing links. Moreover, the grouping of major species in certain past periods of earth’s history works strongly against this argument. Christians can argue, even if they cannot fully prove, that special creation is a far better explanation.

A second major problem with the use of fossils to support evolution is the subjective nature of arranging fossil histories. It might be argued by one who has seen the difficulty just mentioned that there is nevertheless evidence for development within one of the ancient time periods, even if not from one to the other. The supposed development of the horse from the Eocene period to modern times is an oft-cited example. During 60 million or so years the horse is supposed to have increased in size, lengthened its limbs, reduced and then eventually discarded toes, and become a grazer. Many museums have skeletons or pictures that are supposed to represent this development. But the fossils do not prove this development. They may suggest it, and the development they suggest may in fact be right. But there is still no evidence that one supposed form of the horse gave place to another. In actuality the skeletons may have come from similar but otherwise unrelated animals. Moreover, even if the fossils of these horselike animals prove a development, it is still not an example of the development of new species but only of a change within a species.

Mutations

Another area of difficulty for evolution is the mechanism used to explain the emergence of significant variations in the species, chiefly mutations (sudden unexpected changes brought about by otherwise unexplained alterations in the organism’s genes). This was the solution to the problem of “newness” proposed by Hugo de Vries. De Vries did his work with the evening primrose, a weed that he found in a potato field. He bred this plant over a period of several generations in the course of which he noticed a number of abrupt changes that he called mutations. He concluded that these were developments of such magnitude that the process itself could explain the emergence of new species.

Unfortunately, the new “species” of de Vries were not new species but simply varieties within the same species. Moreover, they were not produced by mutations in the sense of that word today but rather by breeding out recessive characteristics. In other words, de Vries produced nothing that was not in the plant originally.

De Vries’s failure does not entirely discredit the theory, however, for mutations do occur and can be passed down from generation to generation. The question is whether these mutations are sufficient to account for new species. Are they? Many evolutionists would say yes at this point. But it is important to note that no one has as yet demonstrated this to be so. In fact, there is important evidence to the contrary. Walter Lammerts is a rose breeder from southern California and the author of the books Why Not Creation? and Scientific Studies in Creation. He tells of attempts to breed roses with more petals or less petals, using every imaginable technique including radiation. He acknowledges that it is possible to use radiation to create roses with a significant increase in petals. But here is the point: there is a limit beyond which the increase in petals apparently will not go. If a rose has forty-four petals, for example, it may be reduced to thirty-two or increased to fifty-six. But that is all. Moreover, if the hybrid rose is left to mix with others from that point on, it does not retain its new characteristics but soon loses them. In fact, all the hybrid roses we have would soon turn to wild roses if left to them-selves—because they are bred from the wild roses originally. And if that in itself is not enough to cast doubt on the theory, there is the fact that the “improved” roses did not attain their improved form naturally but rather through the concentrated and prolonged efforts of Lammerts and other breeders. In other words, even in so limited a matter as this there is need for a design and a designer, a planner and a plan.

The Crucial Areas

An essay such as this can only begin to suggest a few of the problems the theory of evolution poses. But even in such a short study, concentrating on the basic scientific evidence for and against evolution, we can hardly pass over the far greater and (from the point of view of the Christian) unsolvable problems that exist where the crucial points of evolution are concerned. There are four of them.

First, even were we to grant the truthfulness of the evolutionary system as currently put forth, we still have the problem of the origin of the matter from which the later forms sprang. Evolution implies matter by the very meaning of the word, for in order for something to evolve there must be something there in the first place to evolve, and that first something cannot evolve but rather must be either eternally present or created. Since the eternity of matter is today increasingly untenable, as we saw in a previous study, we must have God as Creator. And this obviously nudges us toward the Christian position, whatever our opinions of a greater or lesser degree of evolutionary development may be.

Second, there is the form of matter. We may speak of “mere” matter as if it were a simple irreducible entity, but we do not actually know of any such “simple” matter and cannot in fact even conceive of it. Everything we know, however simple, already has a form—generally a highly complex form. Even hydrogen, the basic building block of everything according to astrophysics, is not simple. It has a proton, neutron, and electron, all operating according to fixed laws. Where did this fixed form and laws come from? They did not evolve. They are in matter to start with.

Third, there is the emergence of life. This is a complex problem, and much has been done to develop laboratory models according to which life could have arisen on earth during the early ages of the planet. The most acceptable model is a three-stage process involving: 1) the origin of bio-organics (amino acids, sugars) from inorganic compounds (hydrogen, water, ammonia, carbon dioxide, methane); 2) the origin of biopolymers (large molecules such as proteins) from the bio-organics; and finally 3) the origin of primordial life (simple plant or algaelike cells) from the biopolymers. But this is an extremely complex process, even assuming that this is how life came about, and therefore has an extremely low level of probability. True, scientists have achieved the first two of these stages in carefully controlled laboratory experiments. But the crucial third stage is elusive. And even in the second stage, the polymers seem to deteriorate faster than they would normally be created in anything approaching a natural environment. Again, it is not a matter of a single event of low probability. It is a matter of a long series of events, each with a very small probability, so that, as one writer says, “for all practical purposes the probability of this series of events may safely be regarded as zero.”

Two scientists, who nevertheless believe in the spontaneous generation of life, write, “The macromolecule-to-cell transition is a jump of fantastic dimensions, which lies beyond the range of testable hypothesis. In this area, all is conjecture. The available facts do not provide a basis for postulating that cells arose on this planet.”

The fourth of the truly great problems for an atheistic theory of evolution is the emergence of personality in man, or to be more specific, the emergence of the soul, spirit, or God-consciousness. What caused non-man to become man? One writer asks, “Where did the soul of man come from? Why is it that the highest and best animals are unable to pray? They are unable to communicate in a rational way. They are unable to do the things that man is able to do. The lowest type of man upon the face of the earth is far higher than the highest of the animals, because he has the capacity to worship God and can be brought to be a child of God, able to live in the glory of God through Jesus Christ, and that is true of none of the animals.” This writer concludes, “I am not ashamed to say that I believe in the first chapter of Genesis, but I should be ashamed to say that I held to any form of evolution.”

Why Evolution?

I conclude with this question. Why is it, if the theory of evolution is as weak as it seems to be, that it has the popular appeal acknowledged at the beginning of this chapter? Why is it that evolution is today’s dominant view and not one of the other views mentioned? I think there are four answers, three of which I want to put in the form of statements and one of which I want to put in the form of a question.

The statements are these. First, according to evolution, everything—absolutely everything—is knowable, and this has obvious appeal. Everything comes from something else, and we can trace the developments back. It is a closed system. There is no need for anything outside. Above all, there is no need for God who by the very definition of that word is One who is unknowable and who does not need to give an account of himself. Second, according to evolution, there is one explanation for everything. Everything evolves: matter, life, ideas, even religion. We can project this framework from our own small world throughout the universe. Third, and this is perhaps the chief reason, if creation of the world by God is eliminated (as many clearly wish to do), evolution is the only other option.

On the basis of those three statements I now ask my question: Is it not possible, then, that in the last analysis the appeal of evolution is in its elimination of God and its exaltation of man? In this system man does not merely become the highest point of creation, which Christians would themselves willingly affirm. He becomes the god of creation. Consequently, to challenge evolution is to blaspheme against man, and blasphemy against man is the sin for which there is now no pardon. Algernon Charles Swinburne gives expression to this spirit in his Hymn of Man.

But God, if a God there be, is the

Substance of men which is Man.

Thou art smitten, thou God, thou art smitten;

Thy death is upon thee, O Lord.

And the love-song of earth as thou diest

Resounds through the wind of her wings—

Glory to Man in the highest!

For Man is the master of things.

Is man the master? If he is, then he can go his way and devise any theory of origins he chooses. But if he is not—if there is a God—then he is the creation of this God and owes this God allegiance.

What is the Role of a Biblical Deacon?

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*What Is The Role of a Deacon? 

(Benjamin Merkle, 40 Questions & Answers Series)

Whereas the office of elder is often ignored in the modern church, the office of deacon is often misunderstood. In many churches, the board of deacons provides the spiritual leadership in the church in partnership with the pastor. They are involved in making the important decisions of the church and often involved in teaching and shepherding. But based on the NT data, the role of the deacon is mainly a servant role.

Deacons are needed in the church to provide logistical and material support so that the elders concentrate their efforts on the Word of God and prayer.

Differences with Elders

The NT does not provide much information concerning the role of deacons. The requirements given in 1 Timothy 3:8-13 focus on the deacon’s character and family life. There are, however, some clues as to the function of deacons when their requirements are compared with those of the elders. Although many of the qualifications are similar, there are some notable differences.

Perhaps the most notable distinction between elders and deacons is that deacons do not need to be “able to teach” (1 Tim. 3:2). Deacons are called to “hold” to the faith with a clear conscience, but they are not called to “teach” the faith (1 Tim. 3:9). This suggests that the deacons do not have an official teaching role in the church. D.A. Carson rightly comments, “Deacons were responsible to serve the church in a variety of subsidiary roles, but enjoyed no church-recognized teaching authority akin to that of elders” (D.A. Carson, Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, p. 229). Wayne Grudem likewise states, “It is significant that nowhere in the NT do deacons have ruling authority over the church as the elders do, nor are deacons ever required to be able to teach Scripture or sound doctrine” (Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, p. 920).

Again, this does not mean that deacons cannot teach in any capacity but simply that they are not called to teach or preach as a matter of responsibility related to their office as deacon.

Like elders, deacons must manage their house and children well (1 Tim. 3:4, 12). But when referring to deacons, Paul does not compare managing one’s household to taking care of God’s church (1 Tim. 3:5). The reason for this omission is most likely due to the fact that deacons are not given a ruling or leading position in the church—a function that belongs to the elders.

Other differences provide us with less information. Some maintain that the omission for deacons be gentle and not quarrelsome (1 Tim. 3:3) may indicate that the elders were often put in situations that required such characteristics. Knight, for example, suggests that this omission “may reflect the fact that the deacon is not in the role of one who must give oversight and direction, as well as discipline, in sometimes difficult situations that make such qualifications imperative” (George W. Knight, The Pastoral Epistles, p. 167).

Although Paul indicates that a person must be tested before he can hold the office of deacon (1 Tim. 3:10), the requirement that he cannot be a new convert is not included. Paul notes that if an elder is a recent convert, “he may become puffed up with conceit” (1 Tim. 3:6). One implication of this distinction could be that those who hold the office of elder—because they possess leadership over the church—are more susceptible to pride. On the contrary, it is not as likely for a deacon—someone who is in more of a servant role—to fall into the same sin.

The fact that Paul includes the character of a deacon’s wife also might reveal an important distinction (1 Tim. 3:11). Because the role of a deacon is focused toward serving and not leading, a wife could easily be involved. The wife of an elder would be more limited since Paul forbids women “to teach or exercise authority over a man” (1 Tim. 2:12). Finally, the title “overseer” (1 Tim. 3:2) implies general oversight over the spiritual well-being of the congregation, whereas the title “deacon” implies one who has a service-oriented ministry.

Duties of Deacons

We have discussed some distinctions between elders and deacons, but we have yet to specify the precise duties of deacons. We already have indicated that deacons are not responsible to teach or lead the congregation. They are not the spiritual elders of the church. Instead, the deacons provide leadership over the service-oriented functions of the church. The Bible, however, does not clearly indicate the function of deacons. But based on the pattern established in Acts 6 with the apostles and the Seven, it seems best to view the deacons as servants who do whatever is necessary to allow the elders to accomplish their God-given calling of shepherding and teaching the church (The role of the Seven should not be compared too closely with the role of the deacons since Steven was also a miracle-worker [Acts 6:8] and preacher [Acts 6:8-10] and Philip was an evangelist [Acts 21:8]).

Just as the apostles delegated administrative responsibilities to the Seven, so the elders are to delegate responsibilities to the deacons so that the elders can focus their efforts elsewhere. Newton rightly concludes, “In the servant role, deacons take care of those mundane and temporal matters of church life so that elders are freed to concentrate upon spiritual matters. Deacons provide much needed wisdom and energy to the ample physical needs of the church, often using such provision as opportunities to minister as well to the spiritual needs of others” (Phil A. Newton, Elders in Congregational Life, p. 41). As a result, each local church is free to define the tasks of deacons based on its particular needs.

There are some clues as to the function of deacons based on the requirements in 1 Timothy 3. Wayne Grudem offers some possibilities:

“Deacons seem to have had some responsibility in caring for the finances of the church, since they had to be people who were “not greedy for gain” (v. 8). They perhaps had some administrative responsibilities in other activities of the church as well, because they were to manage their children and their households well (v.12). They may have ministered to the physical needs of those in the church or community who needed help [Acts 6]…Moreover, if verse 11 speaks of their wives (as I think it does), then it would also be likely that they were involved in some house-to-house visitation and counseling, because the wives are to be “no slanderers” (Grudem, ST, p. 919).

We must note, however, that some of the requirements could have been given to counter the characteristics of false teachers and were not so much directed toward deacons’ duties. William Mounce maintains that the requirements listed suggest that a deacon would have substantial contact with people: he must not be double-tongued, must have a dignified wife, be faithful in marriage, and have a well-managed family (William D. Mounce, Pastoral Epistles, 46:195). Although such a conclusion is possible, it cannot be given too much weight.

What are some duties that deacons might be responsible for today? Basically they could be responsible for any item not related to teaching and ruling in the church. Below is a list of possible duties:

Benevolence – Similar to what took place in Acts 6 with the daily distribution to the widows, the deacons should be involved in administering funds for the needy.

Facilities – The deacons could be responsible for the basic management of the church property. This would include making sure the place of worship is prepared for the worship service. Other items may include cleanup, sound system, etc.

Finances – Some believe that matters of finance should be handled by the elders since the famine-relief money brought by Paul and Barnabas was delivered to the elders (Acts 11:30). But while the elders can oversee the financial business of the church, it is probably best left to the deacons to handle the day-to-day matters. This would include collecting and counting the offering, record keeping, helping to set the church budget, etc.

Logistics – Deacons should be available to help in a variety of ways so that the elders are able to concentrate on teaching and shepherding the church.

Ushers – The deacons could be responsible for distributing bulletins, seating the congregation, preparing the elements for communion, etc.

Summary

The role of a deacon is different from the role of an elder. Whereas elders are charged with the tasks of teaching and shepherding the church, deacons are given a more service-oriented function. That is, they are given the task of taking care of matters related more to the physical or temporal concerns of the church. For example, they might have responsibility over areas such as benevolence, facilities, finances, and other matters related to the practical logistics of running a church.

Reflection Questions

(1) What are the roles of the deacons in your church?

(2) In one sentence, how would you describe the main function of the deacons from a biblical perspective?

(3) What are the main differences between the elders and the deacons?

(4) Are there any clues given in the qualifications for deacons that might shed light on their duties?

(5) What are some needs deacons might fill in your church?

*Article Adapted from Chapter 36: “What Is the Role of a Deacon?” in 40 Questions About Elders and Deacons by Benjamin L. Merkle. Benjamin L. Merkle is Professor of New Testament and Greek at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina where he has taught since 2008. 

Charles C. Ryrie’s “Nailing Down A Board: Serving Effectively on the Non-Profit Board”

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Succinct and Helpful Guide For Non-Profit Board Members

Book Review by Dr. David P. Craig 

Many people know the name Charles Ryrie. He was a prolific author, college president, and author of the famous Ryrie Study Bible. What a lot of people don’t know is that Dr. Ryrie served with distinction on many Board’s over his adult life until his death just a few years ago. 

This book has everything you need to know about serving well and effectively on a non-profit Board. As someone that has served on Church and Non-profit Board’s for close to thirty years I’m grateful for this very helpful resource. Here are some of the things Ryrie addresses in this book:

What are the biblical reasons for having a Board of Directors?

Who is qualified to be on a Board?

Why should we have Boards at all? And what does the Bible have to say about this?

How to choose and NOT choose Board Members.

How to make a wise decision on whether or not to serve on a Board.

Financial matters, legal matters, and missional matters that are necessary for a Board.

Primary responsibilities for the Board organizationally – requirements.

The philosophy, agenda, function, and success of Boardmanship.

These and many more topics are covered. As a matter of fact this book is so thorough, succinct, and helpful it could be your one-stop resource for being an effective Board member. I highly recommend this book for anyone who is a part of a Non-profit organization.