A subject that keeps drawing attention is the question of whether we are alone in the universe or could there be life on other planets. Many people seem to feel that this is a religious issue. They assume if science discovers life on another planet, it will discredit the Bible in some way. This has led some religious writers to try to prove that life exists nowhere but on the Earth.
Discover magazine devotes much of the December issue to the question, “Could there be life on other planets?” The cover picture shows the parabolic reflector of a large radio telescope with the heading “Are We Alone?”
It is essential to understand that this is NOT a religious issue, and the search for life in space has no biblical implications. The Genesis account describes Earth’s history and gives no discussion of any other planets in the cosmos. A careful scientific study of the requirements for life to emerge from non-life shows complexity beyond the reach of any chance process. If there is life elsewhere, God created it.
Why would God do that? Why do all of the other stars and their planets and galaxies exist? God has not limited humans to where we can travel. It may be that in the distant future, humans will live somewhere else in space. It may be that natural resources on Earth will eventually run out, and we will need to secure those resources in space. The biblical message is intended for this planet (Mark 16:15), but the language does not exclude a relationship between God and any creature. For example, Hebrews 4:13 says, “There is not a creature that exists that is hidden from him.”
This discussion reminds me of a radio debate I had in Washington, D.C., with Larry King as the moderator. My opponent was a leader of the atheist group in Washington, and people could call in questions for the two of us to answer. A caller asked, “What would you do if a spaceship landed on the White House lawn, an alien got out with a Bible in his hand and said ‘Has Jesus been here yet?’” My atheist friend said, “Punt.” In reality, that proposal would raise many other questions, but the point is that life in space is not a biblical issue.
The Discover article runs through many familiar suggestions. One popular proposal says that we don’t see alien-inhabited planets because they have built a sphere around their solar system, trapping all energy and making it impossible to see them. Called a Dyson sphere, it demands a level of sophistication that is hard to imagine. Another popular suggestion is that aliens camouflage their space ships to look like asteroids. We saw that idea suggested recently when an asteroid called Oumuamua came through our solar system from outer space.
Aliens capable of building such technological wonders would not need to camouflage since they would have better ways to protect themselves. There are some newer and wilder proposals, but the question, “Could there be life on other planets?” is not a biblical issue. If life is out there, it is so far away that it is unlikely to be a threat to our planet in the near future.
The November/December 2020, issue of Archaeology, the journal of the Archaeological Institute of America, carried an interesting article titled “The Price of Purple.” It tells about an archaeological site known as Tel Shikmonan in northern Israel, where there is a very long history of securing purple dye for coloring textiles.
Textiles colored with purple dye were listed along with precious metals in trade and tax records indicating prestige and royal status. In Jesus’ time, Roman high officials wore distinctive purple togas. In Mark 15:17, Jesus was clothed in purple when the Romans wanted to portray Him as king of the Jews. In Luke 16:19, the rich man in Jesus’ parable of the rich man and Lazarus was clothed in purple to indicate his status.
In the New Testament, we read the story of Lydia (Acts 16:14-15, 40). Paul had arrived in Philippi, which was a “chief city” of that part of Macedonia. There he met Lydia, who came from Thyatira, which was a city near Philippi. Lydia was a “seller of purple” (verse 14). Verse 15 tells us that she owned a house and other people lived in the house with her. Selling purple dye was a high scale business. A woman owning a home and having a household indicated wealth and prestige in the Roman culture. Verse 40 tells us that the Church was meeting in Lydia’s house.
Skeptics have attempted to deny this account, but excavation at Tel Shikmona has strongly supported the Bible. Tel Shikmona is located on the coast at the foot of Mount Carmel near the present-day port city of Haifa, Israel. The ocean is shallow and rocky at Tel Shikmona, and there are large populations of murex snails in those waters. Liquid extracted from the hypobranchial glands of murex sea snails formed the purple dye when treated with light or oxygen. The sea snails at Tel Shikmona can produce large quantities of the purple dye that stains textiles like no other known dye. People had ground up lapis lazuli, which we rock hounds know is a blue color, but it fades and was not as unique as the murex purple.
Joseph Elgavish excavated Tel Shikmona in the 1960s and found thousands of artifacts. Later excavations convinced archaeologists that this was an industrial site focused on the purple dye industry. Roman rulers starting with Julius Caesar (46-44 BC) and continuing through Nero (AD 54 – 68) had laws to fine anyone wearing murex purple without permission. So Lydia was indeed a special woman with connections and clout with people at the top of the social structure. These facts strongly support her ability to use her status to help Paul in his work at Philippi.
The Bible refers to the benefits of honey. In the Old Testament, the ideal place to live was “the land of milk and honey.” Proverbs 24:13 finds Solomon telling his son, “You should eat honey because it is good.” John the Baptist’s diet consisted of locusts and wild honey (Matthew 3:4). It is important to note we are talking about natural, wild honey, not the processed honey with nutrients removed that you might find in your grocery store.
Skeptics will complain that honey is just sugar. Although it does have high sugar content in its 64 calories per tablespoon, wild honey is packed with vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and antioxidants. The nutrients in the honey depend on where the bees gathered the nectar. The darker the color, the greater the antioxidant punch and benefits of honey. Dark honey has antibacterial, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, and anti-fungal properties.
The Old Farmer’s Almanac for the fall and winter of 2020 has the following facts about the uses of dark, wild honey:
A spoonful of honey will ease a nighttime cough and is an excellent antihistamine.
A spoonful of honey at bedtime will cause a rise in insulin, which triggers a release of serotonin, which is converted to melatonin, a chemical that regulates sleep.
A 2001 study published by the European Journal of Medical Research revealed that a honey solution in warm water applied to itchy areas of the scalp will reduce itching and scaling. It can also reduce skin lesions and hair loss.
A dressing of honey with hydrogen peroxide applied to burns, scrapes, and wounds speeds up healing.
One word of caution–the American Academy of Pediatrics warns parents of children under the age of 12 months not to use honey on the child. Before their first birthday, their underdeveloped immune system cannot handle impurities that can get into the honey.
The fact that ancient biblical characters ate honey, and even locusts, as a staple in their diet, is not a foolish error. We now know that eating some insects and honey can provide a very nutritious line of food. Only recently has modern science come to understand why the Bible references to the benefits of honey make sense.
Does Jesus hate women? That may sound ridiculous to most of our readers. However, there is continual rhetoric in the media and from skeptics suggesting that Christianity is opposed to women’s rights and tries to oppress women. A careful study of Jesus and women and the early Church’s history shows that isn’t the case.
The world at the time of Christ was in turmoil. People ignored God’s teachings and moral laws, women were considered property, and they were totally dependent on men. A young woman was supported by her father and then her husband. Her primary role was to bear a male child. This treatment of women led to polygamy, prostitution, and easy divorce. Jesus comes on the scene and overturns all of this. In John 4, Jesus talks to a Samaritan woman without denigrating her. He amazed His disciples by breaking all social taboos by teaching her. In Luke 10:38, Jesus enters the house of Martha and treats her and her sister Mary with respect. Mary Magdalene played a vital role in the ministry of Jesus, and she was the first person He appeared to after His resurrection. In Luke 8:1-3, she and Joanna, a Roman steward’s wife, are portrayed as financial backers of Jesus’ travels. Jesus defended the woman taken in adultery in John 8:3-11. Does Jesus hate women? No, He treated women with dignity and respect. The Church in the first century did not oppress women. In Titus chapter 2, Paul gives instructions to old and young men and women and slaves regarding how to live. The reason for his instructions is “to make the teaching about God our Savior attractive” to unbelievers. Acts 16:14-15 describes a woman named Lydia, who ran a high-end business, owned her own home, and had a household. We are reminded of Proverbs 31 as we read this. Martha, mentioned earlier, also owned a home where her brother and sister lived.
First Corinthians 14:26-40 addresses a chaotic worship assembly. Paul tells various people to be silent or to speak one at a time. He instructed married women to remain silent and address their questions to their husbands at home. Paul was concerned about the chaotic assembly causing outsiders to think the worshippers were crazy (verse 23).
In 1 Timothy 2:9-15, Paul encourages women to dress modestly and not usurp authority. The Greek word here is “authenteo” and means “to exercise the power of one’s self,” according to the lexicon. An overly aggressive woman could intimidate and discourage a young Christian preacher like Timothy. Paul’s instruction for women to protect the role of men and allow them to lead was important to the Church’s growth then, as it is today.
Does Jesus hate women? No. Did the early Church oppress women? No. Neither should it do so today. Paul wrote in Galatians 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, MALE NOR FEMALE, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” We need to love each other enough to allow everyone to have a role in the work of the Church. Caring enough to serve is not oppressing or denigrating anyone.
One of the great sources of conflict among religious groups and atheists alike is understanding who Christ is. Was Jesus a man who became God? Was Jesus a biological son of God? Was Jesus God wearing a different name? Owen Olbricht is a scholar who knows biblical Greek and has spent a lifetime studying this issue. He has written a helpful word study for an upcoming Bible dictionary. Here are some points from his word study of “huiou theou”:
The phrase “Son of God” is a translation of the Greek huiou theou and is used many times in the New Testament. It is frequently used with the phrase “only begotten” from the Greek mono and genes, meaning “one of a kind.” “Begotten” is from the Greek genneo meaning “brought forth,” and it usually refers to being born of a mother. An example of this is the reference in Hebrews 11:17 in which Isaac is called Abraham’s monogenes. Monogene is used in reference to Issac but not to Ishmael or the six sons of Keturah, which Abraham also fathered.
The Bible refers to Jesus as the one and only special Son (John 14:31, Hebrews 5:8 and 10:9). Christians are also the sons of God but do not have the huiou theou that Jesus has. (Romans 8:4 and 9:26 and Galatians 3:26). Throughout the New Testament, when Jesus is referred to, it is always as the Son of God (huiou theou). (See Matthew 1:18 and 3:17, Mark 1:1 and 1:11, Luke 1:31-35 and 3:22, and John 1:33-34.)
During the ministry of Jesus, the people that saw His miracles identified Him as” The Son of God” (Matthew 14:33 and 27:54, Mark 15:39, John 1:49, 6:69, and 11:27 and 16:16. The people who witnessed what Christ did were not referencing Jesus as a normal biological son but as a special Son. When Jesus was transfigured, God declared from heaven, “This is my beloved Son” again using words that described Christ as unique (See Matthew 17:5, Mark 9:7, Luke 9:35, and 2 Peter 1:17.)
Owen Olbricht also goes on in his writings to show that Satan and the demons recognized that Jesus was uniquely huiou theou, the one and only Son of God. Even the opponents of Jesus knew that He was not just a human with extraordinary powers and understanding. Olbricht also points out that Paul’s preaching consistently referenced Jesus as the one special Son of God.
Owen concludes his word study by saying, “As God’s Son, Jesus does the same works as the Father (John 5:19), is one with the Father (John 10:30), and has the Father’s appearance and traits (John 12:45 and 14:7-9). Jesus was proven to be the Son of God by God’s testimony (Matthew 3:17 and 17:5), Jesus’ teaching (Matthew 7:28,29 and John 7:46), His resurrection (Romans 1:4), His fulfillment of Scriptures (Luke 24:47-48), and His miracles (John 20:30-31).”
We will let you know when this new dictionary is available.
We don’t often publish a response from a reader, but the following comments on human suffering were so good I had to share them:
“The classic argument against the existence of God fails because of a false dichotomy. Quite simply, no one is in a position to know that it is God’s agenda to remove all suffering and evil from the world. *God created neither good nor evil. Good is an extension of His essence. Evil is merely the absence of good. *Although God is ultimately in control, He does not control every event. The One who created the world – electrons, protons, energy, physical parameters – does not micromanage. *Those who blame God on account of suffering – or deny there is a God, given the degree of the world’s suffering – are open to the charge of hypocrisy unless they are actively involved in doing something about the problem.”
Each of these three comments on human suffering raises many questions for discussion. The last point is especially interesting. It is easy to sit in the philosopher’s chair and complain about why God doesn’t or can’t do something about human suffering. It is more important to get involved in correcting those things that cause much of the suffering.
One of the challenges that college students face in America today is the fact that many of their professors try to force their own personal opinions on them. We have reported on examples of college mind control in previous postings such as HERE, HERE, and HERE.
The Week magazine for August 28, 2020, (page 8) reported on a case at Iowa State University. Professor Chloe Clark announced she would eject any student who engaged in saying anything negative about “Black Lives Matter, gay marriage or legal abortion.” Say goodbye to academic freedom for students being able to express their own opinions.
A free and open discussion leads to understanding and learning. There is no way to advance those things when professors attempt to force their young disciples into college mind control. To make matters worse, they are doing it while being supported by public tax dollars and high-priced tuition paid by the parents.
Second Timothy 3:16-17 says that all Scripture is inspired by God, and God uses it to prepare and equip His people to do every good work. One of the major evidences that the Bible is not a human creation is the Old Testament prophecies fulfilled. The correlation between the prophecies of the ancient books and the historical documentation of Jesus fulfilling those prophecies is fantastic.
Atheists and biblical minimalists have tried to use all kinds of explanations to deny the proof from prophecies. We have a list of 44 prophecies that were fulfilled by Christ. Many of these prophecies were beyond the ability of any human to fulfill. You have a hard time saying that Jesus made special arrangements to fulfill them all. Here are 20 examples:
*Christ would be born in Bethlehem Ephrathah. Micah 5:2 (There were two Bethlehems.) -Fulfilled in Matthew 2:1 and Luke 2:4-6
*Christ would be a descendant of Jacob and Isaac. Numbers 24:17, Genesis 17:19 and 21:12 -Fulfilled in Matthew 1:2 and Luke 3:34
*Christ would spend time in Egypt. Hosea 11:1 -Fulfilled in Matthew 2:14-15
*A massacre of children would happen at Christ’s birthplace. Jeremiah 31:15 -Fulfilled in Matthew 2:16-18
*A messenger would prepare the way for Christ. Isaiah 40:3-5 -Fulfilled in Luke 3:3-6
*Christ would be preceded by “Elijah.” Malachi 4:5-6 -Fulfilled in Matthew 11:13-14
*Christ would be rejected by his own people. Psalms 69:8 and Isaiah 53:3 -Fulfilled in John 1:11 and 7:5.
*Christ would be declared the Son of God. Psalms 2:7 -Fulfilled in Matthew 3:16-17
*Christ would speak in parables. Psalm 78:2-4. Isaiah 6:9-10 -Fulfilled in Mathew 13:10-15, 34-35.
*Christ would be a priest after the order of Melchizedek. Psalms 110:4 -Fulfilled in Hebrews 5:5-6.
*Christ would be praised by little children. Psalms 8:2 -Fulfilled in Matthew 21:16
*Christ would be sold for 30 pieces of silver. Zechariah 11:12 -Fulfilled in Matthew 26:14-16.
*Christ’s price money would be used to buy a potter’s field. Zechariah 11:13 -Fulfilled in Matthew 27:9-10
*Christ would be spat on and struck. Isaiah 50:6 -Fulfilled in Matthew 26:67
*Christ would be crucified with criminals. Isaiah 53:12 -Fulfilled in Matthew 27:38
*Christ would be given vinegar to drink. Psalms 69:21 -Fulfilled in Matthew 27:34
*Christ’s hands and feet would be pierced. Psalms 22:16. Zechariah. 12:10 -Fulfilled in John 20:25-27
*Soldiers would gamble for Christ’s garments. Psalms 22:18 -Fulfilled in Matthew 27:35-36 and Luke 23:34.
*Christ’s bones would not be broken. Exodus 12:46, Psalms 34:20 -Fulfilled in John 19:33-36
*Soldiers would pierce Christ’s side. Zechariah 12:10 -Fulfilled in John 19:34
When you consider the Old Testament prophecies fulfilled, realize that they were written many hundreds of years before the New Testament historical events. To see our previous posts on Old Testament prophecies of Christ click HERE and HERE.
Researchers at Penn State University and the National Center for Science Education report that teaching human evolution in public schools has doubled since 2007. The study shows that the percentage of public school science teachers who teach evolution as established science has grown from 51% in 2007 to 67% in 2019. Simultaneously, the percentage of science teachers who discuss intelligent design has dropped from 23% to 14%.
The problem with data like this is that terminology is not defined. There is a difference between teaching human evolution according to neo-Darwinian theory and teaching the fact that living things can change. Nobody denies that new breeds of dogs, roses, corn, cattle, and fish have come into existence within recorded human history. There is also no doubt that racial variations of humans are happening as we watch. The Bible even describes evolutionary change as we read about what Jacob did with Laban’s flocks in Genesis 30:31-43. It is difficult to imagine a competent biology teacher not explaining how these changes come about, and how we can use them to solve the problems of hunger and disease today.
This ministry is based on the belief that science and faith in God are symbiotic. They support each other. It is bad science to teach theory as fact. It is also wrong to be selective in what valid data we use to make decisions about what we teach children. As a science teacher in public schools for 41 years, I know the pressure that teachers face. But avoiding bad science and bad theology is the answer to the evolution/creation controversy. The current pandemic may offer parents and teachers a unique opportunity to improve the education of our students and reduce the tension between science and faith in America today.
Churches are seeing an exodus of young people. One reason is that many do not provide relevant teaching for building faith in God and the Bible. I recently received an announcement by a well-known preacher that he was beginning a series of lessons on reasons to believe in Jesus. I’m sure that the lessons will be outstanding, but will they address the things that are keeping young adults away from the Church?
The listing of evidences in the announcement included the empty tomb, the stone taken away, the grave clothes lying there, the eyewitness testimony, the faith of the apostles, and the conversion of James and Paul. Those are all evidences based on the Bible. Those of us with a long history of hearing sermons and being in Bible classes are familiar with the biblical teachings and believe them to be true. We still need to have our faith strengthened, so we are not denigrating this kind of teaching. But building faith in God and the Bible requires more than quoting the Bible. Where is the Church failing the unchurched, and, in many cases, failing the children of church members?
In recent postings, we have dealt with the popular teachings of Bart Ehrman, who devotes many of his books and articles to attacking the biblical account. We receive many letters from skeptics and atheists attacking the biblical account based on Ehrman’s material. Magazines like the Skeptical Inquirer and Skeptic Magazine are full of attacks on the Christ and the Bible. The leader of many attacks in these atheist publications is Michael Shermer, a former preacher, and graduate of Pepperdine University. The Freedom From Religion organization joins the attacks with advertisements in Scientific American and other popular scientific journals.
It is essential for church leaders to understand that young adults receive a heavy dose of attacks on the Bible. Quoting the Bible as proof of something only works for people who believe the Bible is 100% true. Most of our preacher training schools have a single course on apologetics. They pay very little attention to archeological evidence, historical support, and scientific answers to the skeptic attacks. Building faith in God and the Bible requires more than quoting the Bible.
Bible classes for young people must include evidence that does not depend on scripture alone.This ministry provides resources to do that, and we often review books that give this kind of support. We are in the process of completing a video series by John Cooper on archaeological support for the Bible. We have a museum in York, Nebraska, designed to show through artifacts the credibility of the Biblical account. Before we quote scripture to prove anything, we need to be sure that the person we are dealing with believes the Bible is from God. God has given us the tools to do that, and we must use them.