Posted in Christianity and Culture, World Religions

Impressions from the Koran

Having read the Koran in its entirety (A. J. Arberry’s translation), I have various impressions of it. Some might accuse me of lacking objectivity, to which I would reply that everyone has a worldview which he brings to any subject. It is possible, by the evidence, to be persuaded out of a given worldview and into another. But, everyone brings his current beliefs to the table. So, I don’t claim “objectivity” in the sense of not already having my own conclusion. That would be akin to someone telling you, “Here’s a new math theory to consider, but first you’ve got to stop knowing that 2+2=4.” One cannot just “stop knowing” that 2+2=4, anymore than I can “stop knowing” that God wrote the Bible. Having completed my trip through the Koran, nothing in it came close to convincing me that Mohammad was inspired, or that I should abandon the Bible. What follows are a few scattered thoughts, though so much more could be said.

Beware the lone prophet. Mohammad lived c. 570-632 A.D. and the Koran was supposedly revealed to him by the angel Gabriel. Thus the content of an entire religion is filtered through one human being. In stark contrast, the Bible was penned over 1,500 years by about forty different writers—separated by time, education, ethnicity—who, nevertheless, composed a thematically cohesive book like no other. The last book in the Bible was written 500 years before the Koran. Mohammad was clearly influenced—directly or indirectly—by the Bible. There would be no Koran had the Bible not been here first, for Mohammad spends a lot of time talking about biblical characters, rewriting biblical accounts (e.g. Abraham was a Muslim), and criticizing Bible believers. At times, Mohammad introduces things without context or explanation, expecting the reader to know what he’s talking about, when the answer has to be sought somewhere outside the Koran.

The Koran is repetitive in the extreme. Not that repetition is bad, but read it yourself and you will soon see. Omitting the duplicate stories and phraseology, the book might immediately shrink by half. Or more. Were it a novel, the Koran would surely have few readers. Its content, style, and language plod on in a tautologous circle. The very last page contains a warning about evil women “who blow on knots.” I realize the suras (i.e. chapters) are arranged by length, not chronology, but, still, the whole thing winds down in a very anti-climactic “more of the same”—certainly nothing to compare with the moving, encouraging invitation in the Bible’s final chapter.

The Bible has convinced minds for millennia, on the persuasiveness of its evidence. While there are adults who voluntarily convert to Islam, the religion’s success is tied to pounding (not persuading) the Koran into children from earliest days. Read the New Testament and the Koran’s inferiority is painfully evident by any measure of comparison. There are unbelievers who read the Bible and even write commentaries on it. Even some unbelievers appreciate the moral influence the Bible has exerted in history. Were the Koran not drummed into their heads from childhood, it would not be convincing multitudes to convert on the merit of its message. In point of fact, it just might be the loneliest book on the library shelf. The late, former atheist philosopher, Antony Flew, decided at the end of his life that God exists, but he was not ready to embrace the gospel. However, in his book, There Is a God, Flew noted, “…I think that the Christian religion is the one religion that most clearly deserves to be honored and respected whether or not its claim to be a divine revelation is true. There is nothing like the combination of a charismatic figure like Jesus and a first-class intellectual like St. Paul…If you’re wanting Omnipotence to set up a religion, this is the one to beat” (p. 185f.).

Maybe it’s me, but the Koran comes across as paranoid. Over and over it says “they cried lies.” The “they” who “cried lies” are those who reject Islam. Imagine someone who wants to rule other people by convincing them it is God’s will, but his case is so unconvincing. What to do? He can call names, threaten, intimidate, terrorize. It is incredible how much of the Koran is devoted to people who reject the Koran, as though Mohammad could not deal with opposers who called his work lies and fairy tales. He brings them up ad nauseam. “They cried lies,” and Mohammad cannot stand them for it.

Whatever the page, you are never far from a line in the Koran about unbelievers, chastisement, an evil homecoming, or being roasted in the fire, even having to drink “oozing pus.” Sura 56 warns, “Then you erring ones, you that cried lies, you shall eat of a tree called Zakkoum, and you shall fill therewith your bellies and drink on top of that boiling water lapping it down like thirsty camels.” There is an unmistakable fixation on punishment that permeates the Koran. The gospel of Christ stresses holiness and the struggle against sin, whereas the Koran hammers on the conflict between Muslims and non-Muslims, and how Allah is going to get all those who “cried lies.” Over and over the Koran criticizes Jews and Christians as unfit for friends on earth, and losers in eternity. Take out its constant criticism of non-Muslims, and its unending talk of their roasting in hell, and what is left? The Bible has warnings about hell, but it is all about avoiding the place. The Koran, on the other hand, seems to relish the fate awaiting unbelievers, and cannot emphasize it enough.

The Bible’s is a soaring story of redemption, inspiring with God’s own sacrifice for humanity’s sins. There is nothing remotely akin to it in the Koran. Islam is missing a Savior. It speaks much of sin, and says that God is forgiving, but offers no basis of forgiveness—there is no sacrifice to wash away sin. Christianity has the cross because that was the unavoidable price required, the only thing that could deal with sin. Islam makes salvation cheap. Say the prayers. Give the alms. Obey the Prophet. Paradise awaits. Islam fails utterly to provide a mechanism by which a holy God can save sinners. Only by the blood of Christ can it be done.

But what Islam lacks in a Savior it makes up in severity. The New Testament teaches Christians, “the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh” (2 Corinthians 10:4, ESV) and “our wrestling is not against flesh and blood” (Ephesians 6:12), and “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). It is a far cry from Mohammad’s instruction to slay people. As one of a multitude of examples from the Koran, consider: “This is the recompense of those who fight against God and His Messenger…they shall be slaughtered, or crucified, or their hands and feet shall alternately be struck off, or they shall be banished from the land. That is a degradation for them in this world; and in the world to come awaits them a mighty chastisement…” (from Sura V). “Muhammad is the Messenger of God, and those who are with him are hard against the unbelievers, merciful one to another” (from sura XLVIII). Search the Koran in vain for anything resembling Jesus’ lofty ethic in the Sermon on the Mount. Islam, as portrayed in its founding document, is a violent religion. Anyone who says Islam is inherently peaceful is either ignorant or lying. The violent, so-called “extremists” have not hijacked Islam. They are the true believers, taking their cue from the Koran itself. Islam offers a theocracy completely incompatible with the American Constitution and Bill of Rights.

Concerning the sexes, it was the gospel of Christ, more than anything in history, that elevated women. “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25), and “there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). “Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered” (1 Peter 3:7). In contrast, the Koran advises, “…marry such women as seem good to you, two, three, four” (sura IV). Likewise, Mohammad says “Men are the managers of the affairs of women…And those you fear may be rebellious admonish; banish them to their couches, and beat them” (sura IV). Thus, Mohammad condones domestic violence, at least in cases where a husband thinks his wife has a bad attitude.

The Bible and the Koran have vastly differing concepts of the next life. According to Jesus, “in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven” (Matthew 22:30). The Bible says there are no sexual relationships in heaven. The Koran, on the other hand, describes Paradise as a place of sensual pleasure, full of “maidens…untouched…by any man” (sura LV) and “spotless virgins, chastely amorous” (sura LVI). Per Mohammad, “Surely for the godfearing awaits a place of security, gardens and vineyards and maidens with swelling breasts, like of age, and a cup overflowing” (sura LXXVIII).

Nothing in the Koran is worse than its denial of Jesus’ deity, which it does over and over. For example, “They are unbelievers who say, ‘God is the Messiah, Mary’s son’” and “The Messiah, son of Mary, was only a Messenger” (sura V). Muslims say Jesus existed, but that he was not God’s Son and he did not die on the cross: “for their saying, ‘We slew the Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, the Messenger of God’—yet they did not slay him, neither crucified him…” (sura IV).

This is a tiny handful of examples, and much could be said regarding the traits of inspiration in the Bible, and their absence in the Koran. The ethic of Christ and the ethic of Mohammad are light years apart. Remember, the New Testament and church of Christ had been on earth nearly 600 years before the Koran was written. Islam is a late comer on the scene. It offers nothing good except what it borrows from the gospel (which is always better stated in the New Testament), which it mixes, unashamedly, with a host of gospel-denying verses.

Islam’s threat to Christianity comes, not from any theological superiority, but from its oft-exercised powers of intimidation, threat, coercion, and violence. Those who still live in a culture not dominated by Muslim oppression should recognize the threat and refuse to buckle. Silencing ourselves for fear of reprisal means we are already losing to its influence, and being victimized by the very definition of “terrorism.”

Posted in Christianity and Culture, Nature of Man

What Is Man?

By Weylan Deaver

“O Lord, what is man that you regard him, or the son of man that you think of him?” (Psalm 144:3, ESV). How we define ourselves—the human race—is tied to worldview and greatly affects how we live now, not to mention what we believe about the future. Notice the question is not seeking a definition as much as it is asking God why he cares so much for us. To the Psalmist, it was a given that God made man. Sadly, to many now, it is not.

Man is not a great ape, and it is not best to define us in terms of opposable thumbs, large brains, upright posture, tool use, complex societies, etc. The truth is far nobler and impressive: man is the only terrestrial creature made in God’s image (Gen. 1:27) who will live eternally in heaven or hell (Matt. 25:46; 2 Cor. 5:10). Man is also the only being on earth who can be described in relation to his personally named original ancestor. That is, mankind can accurately be defined as the descendants of Adam.

So many things separate us from all animals. Humans are self-aware. This is more than being alive; we can think about the fact we are alive and have individual, personal existence. Humans are able to ponder their own origin. No kangaroo wondered where the first kangaroo came from, or how Australia got here. Cosmology is not considered by canines and cattle.

Humans have an innate capacity to appreciate and reflect on beauty, whether it be outer appearance, personality, music, a work of art or a dazzling Texas sunset. Poetry and prose are not the province of the finned or four-footed. No aardvark has given us a treatise on aesthetics.

Humans ask about the right thing to do. Even if we sometimes arrive at the wrong answer, it is still because something in us seeks to define right from wrong. Dolphins do not have penal codes, courts of law, or crime statistics. Elephants do not philosophize on ethics. Animals operate on instinct. Calling people animals cannot nullify that we reason and behave on a higher plane, which gives the lie to our being labeled animals.

Humans have to do with time. We can ponder the past and plan for the future. Hounds do not study history, but people do. We are keenly, uniquely concerned with time. Squirrels may stash nuts for the coming winter, but they are not worrying whether there will be nuts left for their offspring twenty years from now. People, on the other hand, can plan long-term. Some of us even plan our own funerals and we leave behind wills to make sure our wishes are carried out when the clock no longer affects us.

And, humans think about what follows death. Even those who disbelieve the Bible still wrestle with the future and come to some conclusion about it—accurate or not. No horse ever entertained the concept of whether there would be divine judgment on its life, or decided it did not have a soul. It takes a human to grapple with such ideas. Eschatology is the field that studies last things, such as death, judgment, eternity, the end of the world. It is one more of the many areas where animals have no concern, and lack any capacity to have concern. Why is it we think on such things?

These facts, and more, should help us realize we are neither animals nor relatives thereof. To be human is to be different from every creature on earth in striking, undeniable ways. We can admit it and seek the One who made us like this (Acts 17:26-27). Or, we can kid ourselves in futile effort to deny the obvious. But, wherever the skeptic runs, he cannot get away from his own shadow. He, too, is man.

“When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” (Psalm 8:3-4). Here, again, is the question. The Psalmist begins to describe man, not in terms of physical traits, but that he is “a little lower than the heavenly beings,” and “crowned…with glory and honor” (v. 5). God has given man “dominion” over the whole of creation, including “beasts of the field” and “birds of the heavens” and “fish of the sea” (vv. 6-8). The conclusion? “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” (v. 9). The right answer to “What is man?” should lead naturally and inevitably to praising the Lord’s majesty. If God is not worshiped because of our conclusion to the greatest question, then we have the wrong answer.

Posted in Christianity and Culture, Racism

Race and the Bible

If you are human, your ancestry goes back, initially, to Adam and Eve. Later, every one of us descends from Noah, and there were only eight people aboard the ark (1 Peter 3:20). The apostle Paul said that God “made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth” (Acts 17:26, ESV).

We are all kinfolk, all created in the image of God. That is why all human lives matter. That is why no animal life will ever be as important as any human life. That is why God himself said, “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image” (Genesis 9:6). As the children’s Bible song goes, “Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight.” Jesus died on the cross “for everyone” (Hebrews 2:9), and God “desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). No skin color has a claim on divine favoritism.

Behavior is another matter altogether. Among things that the Lord hates are “hands that shed innocent blood,” and “one who sows discord among brothers” (Proverbs 6:16-19). It will always be wrong to equate a behavior (e.g. homosexuality) with skin color (which has nothing to do with behavior) in the interest of fostering equal treatment for aberrant behavior. Wrong behavior has no inherent connection to race, and Americans are naive to be tricked into thinking civil rights based on being human are akin to civil rights granted for being perverse.

Black lives matter, as do brown and white. Fill in the blank with any other hue. Unborn lives matter. Everyone matters, not because of any particular skin pigmentation, but because we are all in God’s own image. To despise or mistreat a man because of his color, is to sin. We cannot get out of the skin we were born with, and there is nothing inherently better about a certain variety. “Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots? Then also you can do good who are accustomed to do evil” (Jeremiah 13:23). Importance is in the kind, not the color. Paul writes that “not all flesh is the same, but there is one kind for humans, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish” (1 Corinthians 15:39). Those who believe people are just sophisticated animals (as evolutionary theory teaches) will never grasp the God-designed, inherent distinction between humanity and other creatures, and the value God places on human life.

Skin color pales in comparison to spiritual condition. Ethics trumps ethnicity. “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil” (2 Corinthians 5:10). On that day, no one will be concerned with skin tone. Meanwhile, failing to love a brother made in God’s image is just one more crime for which we will answer at God’s judgment bar, if we are guilty of it. “For the commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,’ and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’” (Romans 13:9).

Posted in Christian Living, Old Testament

The spies never said it

By Weylan Deaver

Perhaps a year or less after bringing Israel out of Egypt in miracle-saturated fashion, God has Moses send twelve tribal leaders to spy out the land of promise (Num. 13:1-2). The mission was not to see whether they could conquer the land (that should have been a foregone conclusion), but to see what the geography and its people were like (vv. 17-20). Nevertheless, ten of the twelve return and give a negative appraisal of the prospect of even taking the land (vv. 25-33). We know what they reported, but it is instructive to consider some things they never said.

The spies never said, “There is no God to help us.” Per divine definition, every atheist is a fool (Psa. 14:1), but you can be a fool without being an atheist. These were men who had witnessed the plagues in Egypt and who had walked across the Red Sea on dry land, all within their recent past. The Lord even asks, “how long will they not believe in me, in spite of all the signs that I have done among them?” (Num. 14:11). The spies act like practical atheists, in that their minds are not influenced by God. They do not even mention God in their report. Do we ever, without verbally denying the Lord, end up practically denying him by living without his impact in our thoughts and deeds?

The spies never said, “God has not promised us this land.” We could be more sympathetic to their report, had God never explained his intention to give them the land. But Israel knew. They do not doubt God’s bringing them to the land; what they doubt is their ability to survive it. The people ask, “Why is the Lord bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword?” and then suggest returning to Egypt as a better option (Num. 14:3). They do not see themselves belonging in Canaan. What of us? Jesus said, “it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32, ESV). Are you comfortable in the kingdom? Do you see yourself belonging only there? Would you fight to stay?

The spies never said, “God has abandoned us, so we cannot conquer the land.” They had no evidence of divine abandonment. In fact, “the Lord came down in a pillar of cloud” in the previous chapter (Num. 12:5). The problem was not God’s distance; the problem was their doubt. Despite what the Bible says, do we sometimes act like we are alone? Do we live as though the future depends on our efforts, completely factoring out divine providence and promises? Without accusing God of not being here, do we still live like he is not going to help us?

The spies never said, “We do not believe what God told us.” But, that is exactly the spiritual crime for which God indicts them. “So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief” (Heb. 3:19). Unbelief makes people unable. We can fall into the same pit, our lack of faith robbing us of blessings God would like to bestow.

In truth, the spies did not have to make any of those statements to prove themselves unbelieving and, thus, unable to take the land. God sent a plague to kill the ten faithless spies (Num. 14:37), and banished the nation to forty years of wandering. Ironically, when God was there to make it happen, Israel did not believe she could enter Canaan. But, when God removed his help, Israel then decided it was the right time to go into Canaan, after all (Num. 14:39-45). A fool’s errand, and it did not work—Israel was defeated, humiliated, and still had to wander forty years. May God give us faith that conquers, instead of fear that quakes.

Posted in Christian Living, Expository, Old Testament

Benaiah

Anyone who would go into a pit and kill a lion has my high regard, which is why—hunter that I am—Benaiah has long held a special place for me. There are several Old Testament men named Benaiah, and all are more or less obscure. Our focus is on the one who served as captain over King David’s bodyguard. Consider some lessons from the account of him in 2 Samuel 23:20-23.

“And Benaiah the son of Jehoiada was a valiant man of Kabzeel, a doer of great deeds. He struck down two ariels of Moab. He also went down and struck down a lion in a pit on a day when snow had fallen” (v. 20, ESV). Since his father, Jehoiada, was a priest, that makes Benaiah a Levite warrior, and he had 24,000 men under his command (cf. 1 Chron. 27:5). It is unclear what “ariels” are, but, if the Septuagint is correct, it appears Ariel was Moab’s king and that Benaiah killed his two sons. How there came to be a lion in a pit goes unstated. Suggestions include that the pit was dug as a trap (cf. Lockyer, All the Men of the Bible, p. 73), or that it was a cistern for drinking water into which the lion had fallen (cf. Bergen, New American Commentary, p. 471), or that the lion had been driven by the cold weather to make the dry tank his lair (cf. Smith, Pulpit Commentary, p. 571). Whatever the case, Benaiah—on a cold day, when fingers might be numb—descended into a confined area with a fearsome, deadly animal and slew it (without any high-powered rifle). He was “a doer of great deeds.” Are we? Great deeds in God’s sight do not have to be dangerous, or even big; they just have to be good (see Mark 9:41).

“And he struck down an Egyptian, a handsome man. The Egyptian had a spear in his hand, but Benaiah went down to him with a staff and snatched the spear out of the Egyptian’s hand and killed him with his own spear” (v. 21). Another account puts this Egyptian’s height at five cubits (1 Chron. 11:23), which, given an 18-inch cubit, would make him 7.5 feet tall! But a giant with a giant spear was not enough to intimidate Benaiah, who wrested it from the Egyptian and struck him therewith. What audacity! He did not even call for backup. What of us? Are we intimidated by the devil? Faithful Christians recognize that the One who is in us is stronger than the devil who wants us (cf. 1 John 4:4).

“These things did Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, and won a name beside the three mighty men” (v. 22). David had a highly select group of about thirty men known for boundless courage and awesome accomplishment. The three highest are named earlier in the chapter (vv. 8, 9, 11). Benaiah, though not one of the three mightiest, did things that could not escape their notice. Think of that. Today, the greatest, mightiest folk in the world are the Lord’s saints. The world may pay us little attention, but, we ought to be living lives so spiritually courageous that other Christians cannot but take notice. Notoriety is never the goal; it is simply the inevitable outcome if we go where the world will not go, and do what the world will not do, all to God’s glory.

“He was renowned among the thirty, but he did not attain to the three. And David set him over his bodyguard” (v. 23). Great as he was, that still could have been a problem had Benaiah been prideful, selfishly ambitious, power-hungry, narcissistic. But, instead of bemoaning that “he did not attain to the three,” Benaiah seems to have been content with what he was, and where that put him. What about us? Are we happy to do for God the work that we can in the place where we are? Or, is there dissatisfaction that we lack another’s talent, or that someone else seems to have the spotlight? There will always be others who are ahead of us in ability, and none of us should be seeking for renown. Thankfully, the kingdom of Christ is not a competition, and we need not suffer by comparing ourselves with others (cf. 2 Cor. 10:12; Phil. 4:11). What a man Benaiah was: neither lion, nor giant, nor enemy soldier could stop him, and his betters could not fail to be impressed. No wonder he was among David’s mighty men. Though few today have ever heard his name, the Lord’s church needs people like Benaiah.

Posted in Christianity and Culture, Church and State, LGBTQ

What the Supreme Court did not change

By Weylan Deaver

The Court declared homosexual “marriage” a Constitutional right in a 5-4 decision on June 26. With fallout still to be felt, the decision did immediately change Texas law, gave sin a victory, made a mockery of marriage, and opened a door that may be impossible to shut to further imaginary rights of groups who define themselves by their deviant sexuality. For example, if marriage is not gender-dependent, why must it be number-dependent (enter, polygamy)? Why must it be age-dependent (enter, pedophilia)? Why must it be species-dependent (enter, bestiality)? If God, who created marriage, is not the grounding factor in our concept of the institution, then there is no rational argument against an ever-evolving definition of it. Yet, despite such a monumentally mistaken decision, growing out of colossal confusion, some things remain as they were. First, the Court cannot alter God’s definition of marriage (“…a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” [Genesis 2:24, ESV]; “…each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband” [1 Corinthians 7:2]). Second, the Court cannot change who God joins. “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?… What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate” (Matthew 19:4-6). God joins no couple in marriage out of harmony with his own marriage law, which excludes all same-sex relationships, as well as all adulterous ones. Third, the Court cannot change what the church teaches about marriage. Jesus said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away” (Matthew 24:35). That should scare us. Divine law is not nullified by misguided human efforts—no matter how popular—and those who respect God will not be swayed by evil practices cloaked in legal respectability. “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil” (2 Corinthians 5:10).

Posted in Apologetics, Reviews

An “Intelligent Design” debate review

By Weylan Deaver

On November 7, 2008 I attended a debate with my father and oldest son. It was held from 7:00-10:00 p.m. at the Will Rogers Auditorium in Fort Worth, Texas. The discussion was billed as “The Great Debate: Intelligent Design and the Existence of God.” There were probably 600-700 in attendance.

The debate was sponsored by St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church of Fort Worth. I assume this church wanted to spark interest in the community and spur people toward what they consider to be Christianity. If that were their goal, then the selection of speakers was quite curious, since there was not a single Bible believer on the panel. Of the four panelists, the only one who claimed to be a Christian was an ardent evolutionist who actually sided with the atheist against the concept that intelligent design (ID) theory has any usefulness for science.

Unlike a typical debate with each speaker behind a podium, this was more a round table discussion, with all speakers seated. Each was given twelve minutes to make an opening speech, then each speaker was allowed to ask another speaker a question. After a break, questions collected from the audience were asked of the speakers, during which there was give-and-take among the panelists. The four panelists were Dr. David Berlinski, Dr. Bradley Monton, Dr. Denis Alexander, and Dr. Lawrence Krauss, all of whom have impressive academic credentials and achievements unnecessary to document here.

Berlinski is a secular Jew and an agnostic. Ironically, he was there to represent the “Pro-ID Theist Position.” In the course of discussion, he made cogent observations and served to counterbalance the strident atheist sitting across from him. But the best he could do was poke holes in the anti-ID position, since he, himself, is not yet convinced that God really exists and/or that intelligent design has been proven. That the man closest to the truth (i.e. Berlinski) was a Jewish agnostic, we wonder why the Episcopal Church could not field a man to debate who was convicted of God’s existence, intelligent design, and even the inspiration of the Bible.

Monton was a curiosity. He was there to represent the “Pro-ID Atheist Position.” He began by describing himself as an atheist who believed there was evidence of intelligent design in the universe, that this evidence deserved to be taken seriously, and that this evidence should not — a priori — be ruled out as unscientific. He said the evidence was not enough to convince him that design exists, but that it was enough to make him less confident in his atheism. So, though he was there to represent an atheistic viewpoint, he seemed more agnostic than atheistic from the get-go. Monton, along with Berlinski, believes that ID ought to at least be considered by the scientific world. Furthermore, and most ironic, Monton actually argued that science should not dismiss the possibility of the supernatural as a legitimate explanation for certain phenomena!

Alexander was a disappointment. Of the four, he alone claimed to be a Christian. Yet, he fought tooth and nail (with soft-spoken British reserve) against the concept that ID has anything to do with science. To his way of thinking, if ID does not lead to experiments and doctoral dissertations, then ID is useless. Berlinski (the theistic-leaning agnostic) tried to convince Alexander (the theistic evolutionist) that a truth can have inherent value even if it does not lead to scientific experiments, but Alexander would have none of it. He has drunk deeply at the Darwinian well and, in his mind, has somehow wedded Christianity to evolution so that he thinks both can be true. Monton (the agnostic-leaning atheist) was taken aback that a “Christian” would argue against ID, since it would seem to be only natural that a Christian would be in favor of the concept.

Krauss was the staunch atheist, there to argue in favor of the “Anti-ID Atheist Position.” Unlike the two agnostic-leaning panelists (Berlinski and Monton), Krauss was completely secure in his convictions. Unlike the theistic evolutionist (Alexander), Krauss had absolutely no use for God or the Bible. Krauss was the bombastic, no-holds-barred, in your face atheist who was not embarrassed to say the most blasphemous things in an effort to make a mockery of Scripture. He was witty, obnoxious, and dominated more than his share of the conversation. Krauss bows at the altar of science, believing that science must inform religion, and never vice versa. Thus, if the Bible and current scientific theory ever clash, science should never be the one to reevaluate its conclusions to accommodate Scripture (rather, the Bible should be considered to be wrong). Krauss argued that God is not falsifiable; thus the concept of God has no bearing on science. Krauss argued from both sides of his mouth, on the one hand that scientific laws (e.g. gravity) are immutable, while on the other hand criticizing the suggestion that there is constancy in the universe (which, if it existed, would lend credence to ID theory). Though the subject of miracles was not explored to any depth, one can imagine Krauss (or any thoroughgoing atheist) using the perceived constancy of scientific laws as an argument against the supernatural. The fact that he argues against constancy when someone suggests that the observed regularity of the planets is evidence in favor of design only shows that this atheist wants to have his cake and eat it too.

Krauss was upset at the idea of ID being taught in schools because, to his thinking, evolution is a settled fact and to suggest that evolution is controversial would be lying to students. What Krauss fails to realize is that, if atheism is true, then he has no reason to value truth at all, and there is no more good in telling truth than there is harm in telling lies. Again, he wants it both ways: to kick God out of the picture while still trying to value truth — an unjustifiable position.

To Krauss, evolution is a proven, uncontested fact of science. He said there was much evidence proving this to be the case; yet, given opportunity, he refused to comment on the “origin of man.” Berlinski pointed out the arrogance of modern science, and Krauss came across (to me, at least) as exhibit #1 for science’s complete lack of humility as a discipline. Dr. Krauss would do well to back away from his idolizing of modern science. After all, it is very limited in what it can do. For example:

  • Science alone cannot give us a reason to value science.
  • Science alone cannot give us a reason to value truth.
  • Science alone cannot explain the nature of a “fact.”
  • Science alone cannot demonstrate an obligation regarding any fact.
  • Science alone cannot explain purpose.
  • Science alone cannot prove that we should reject lies.

Science must eventually defer to philosophy (and, dare we say, to revelation?), whether it likes it or not. Those who bow to the god of science fail to grasp where the more important truths lie, including truths about why science should even exist, how it could be useful, and the nature of the knowledge it seeks.

Overall, the debate was an intellectually stimulating disappointment, at least compared to what might have been. In 1976, Thomas B. Warren debated renowned British atheist, Antony Flew, on the existence of God (in Denton, Texas). Flew’s atheism suffered a relentless and withering attack from Warren, who deftly wielded religious, philosophic, and scientific truth in such a way as to leave Flew with the newfound notion that he was not going to say as much about God in the future as he had in the past. Amazingly, thirty-one years later (in 2007), Flew published a book making the case for why he changed to belief in God. Why couldn’t those who arranged this Fort Worth debate have found somebody willing to defend ID who was neither an agnostic nor evolutionist? The truth deserved a better defense than it got.

There is obvious design in the universe, and this design does point directly to a Creator. Moreover, we would even argue that the capacity and tendency to recognize design are — like the laws of thought — inherent in man’s mind. God made us to perceive design and expects us to use our design-perceiving nature when we analyze the universe. Consider two passages. “For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God” (Heb. 3:4, ESV). A man who looks at a house and concludes that it was not designed is being false to the way God made him to think. “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” (Rom. 1:20).

I left the debate that night thinking of two passages, in particular. “Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?” (1 Cor. 1:20). Here was a panel of men of erudition and the highest attainment of academia; yet, they all rejected the facts as stated in Genesis 1. Truly, some are “always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth” (2 Tim. 3:7).

[Note: Earlier published on my personal blog, this review appears here for the first time.]

Posted in Announcements, Christianity and Culture

Miscellaneous and a brief analysis from Florida

Biblical Notes has a brand new look. It is very minimal and will hopefully prove easier to read. Past articles are not completely uniform in font, but, going forward, the type should be better.

Menu items run across the top of the page, including drop menus for audio sermons, video lessons, and book info.

The right column has new features, including links to a few recommended sites, and a feed for our new Twitter account. If you’re not already, please follow @BiblicalNotes.

Newer articles will be on top, as usual, but scrolling down will get you to previous posts. For a specific topic, you can type a keyword into the search box (for example, to locate a post from three years ago on a particular subject). Or, you can use the drop-down categories box.

As always, if you find a post helpful, please share on Facebook, Twitter, and whatever social media you frequent. Let us know if you have any suggestions for improving the site.

Finally, here’s a short take on recent events from staff writer, Marlin Kilpatrick, who preaches for the Lord’s church in Fruitland Park, Florida. Marlin writes the following about “the change that’s needed”…

Someone has said, “Times, they are ‘a changing.” Indeed! But, not all change is for the better.

Recently the U.S. Supreme Court determined that “same-sex marriage” is now the law of the land. The court’s decision is definitely a change, but not for the betterment of mankind. Homosexuals and lesbians are now encouraged to pursue immorality. How disgusting before our fellowman and God, can we be!

Politics plays a significant role in promoting the various changes in the laws of our country. A prime example is seen in the recent tragedy in Charleston, South Carolina. The killing of nine innocent black people is not condoned by any sane person. But I am amazed how, before the senseless killings in the Methodist Church in Charleston, not one politician of whom I am aware was clamoring for the removal of the Confederate flag from the South Carolina state capitol building, where it had flown for some 54 years. It would be interesting to know how many speeches the governor of South Carolina made, pleading for the removal of the Confederate flag, BEFORE the tragedy in the Methodist Church. So, we must make a change! Take the Confederate flag down! But will removal of the flag from all government buildings in South Carolina eliminate racism? No. Will it eliminate bigotry and hatred among the races? No. Only to the extent that men and women change their hearts (minds) will racism be eliminated.

The message of Jesus Christ is the only real answer to life’s problems, because it requires, not only faith, but also repentance. Repentance involves a change of the mind (i.e. our will). We must develop a different mindset toward sin. We must hate all sin, including the sin of prejudice.

When one obeys the gospel of Christ, he becomes a new creation in Christ (cf. 2 Cor. 5:17). This is the change that is needed, if we truly want to eliminate racism.

Posted in Books, Christian Living

Nothing But Good

In his Pulitzer Prize-winning biography, The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt, Edmund Morris describes Roosevelt’s 1898 campaign for Governor of New York. Earlier that year, he had left his job as Assistant Secretary of the Navy to organize a volunteer regiment for the Army—what became known as the Rough Riders—in view of coming hostilities with Spain over the island of Cuba. Roosevelt was 39 years old and longed to experience battle. He got his wish and led the Rough Riders in taking Kettle Hill, followed by San Juan Hill, overlooking the city of Santiago. All told, the Rough Riders were organized, trained, sent off to war, won, came home, and were disbanded in less than five months’ time. Colonel Roosevelt was now a national hero, and next sought the governorship of his home state.

Barnstorming the Empire State by train, he gave speeches at dozens of whistle stops. For added effect, he took along a small cadre of former Rough Riders who would talk about the Colonel, providing more color for his campaign. At one depot, a Rough Rider named Buck Taylor attempted a speech about his fearless leader’s courage in Cuba, praising him in these words:

“I want to talk to you about mah Colonel. He kept ev’y promise he made to us and he will to you….He told us we might meet wounds and death and we done it, but he was thar in the midst of us, and when it came to the great day he led us up San Juan Hill like sheep to the slaughter and so will he lead you” (Morris, p. 720).

Roosevelt was not much bothered by the misguided comparison. Afterward, he remarked on Taylor’s well-intentioned effort, “This hardly seemed a tribute to my military skill, but it delighted the crowd, and as far as I could tell did me nothing but good” (ibid.).

We try, as Christians, to do good for the Lord. Unlike Jesus, we don’t always have the perfect word at precisely the right moment. We don’t always know exactly what to do, or the wisest way to go about it. With our own glaring imperfections, we seek to praise the One who is perfection personified. But, that is the way Jesus wants it. He is content to take us along the journey. He doesn’t mind our company. He wants us with him. And, though Jesus could always say it best, he asks us just to do what we can—even if we stumble over our words or mix up a metaphor. He who became for us “like a lamb that is led to the slaughter” (Isa. 53:7, ESV), now leads us on to highest reward as we try to spread the news about the victory he won us. Or, as Paul put it, “But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere” (2 Cor. 2:14). May the Lord help us to do him “nothing but good.”

Posted in Announcements, Books

Kindle version now available for new Acts commentary

Mac Deaver’s new commentary on Acts, I Will Pour Forth of My Spirit, is now available in paperback and Kindle editions. Order your copy if you haven’t already.

Though they do not generate email notices to your inbox, we are constantly adding sermons to the “Audio” section (Mac Deaver’s sermons are added weekly). There are also a couple of debates you can listen to.

We encourage readers to know about two great resources. For online Christian education, check out Tennessee Bible College. An excellent resource in the ongoing war between Christianity and our increasingly secular culture is the new Warren Christian Apologetics Center. Take a look at what they have to offer.

If you find a Biblical Notes article helpful, please do hit the “like” button and/or share it on your social media sites. Encourage your friends to subscribe. This month has already set a new record for visitors, page views, and shares. Also, remember that there are articles in the archives going back over five years. You can search the archives by category, by month, or by keyword.

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Eph. 3:20-31, ESV)