As we pointed out yesterday, critics of the Bible say that it describes many disgusting stories. Of course, that is true, but the critics fail to realize that the Bible accurately reports human history without condoning it.
The Bible does not even whitewash its heroes. David’s horrible sin with Bathsheba is reported, but it certainly is not endorsed. A man named Jephthah makes a vow that he will sacrifice to God whatever comes out of his house if God gives him a victory (Judges 11:30-40). God did not command that, and He has always discouraged careless vows on the part of His people. In this case, Jephthah’s daughter was the first thing that came out to him after the victory. This was not a case of God commanding human sacrifice as atheists have claimed. Exactly what was done with the girl can be argued, but the message is about vows, not a command of God to engage in human sacrifice. The incident is reported but certainly was not condoned or commanded by God.
Another example is Judges 20:5-7, where a woman is raped and killed. Then her body is cut into pieces, and the parts are sent throughout Israel to rally a response to the crime. Again, this awful story is a news report, not a religious act done at the command of God.
We all know that whatever is on the news is not something the channel or the news reporter necessarily endorses. In the same way, the Bible reports human history without condoning it.
Critics of the Bible say that it describes many disgusting stories. However, they are missing the point that God tolerates human actions He does not desire.
Polygamy is a good example. We all know that many biblical characters had more than one wife–especially in the Old Testament. In Genesis 2:24, God said the man was to have one wife, and that man and wife were to become one. Despite that, Lamech takes two wives in Genesis 4:19-22.
In Deuteronomy 17:17, God commands one wife, but Solomon takes hundreds of wives as God pleads with him not to do it (1 Kings 11:1-10). God is tolerant and does not force the issue, but the Bible shows the problems created by having multiple wives and refusing to do what God said.
In the New Testament, Jesus tells the Jews that God tolerated these things “because of the hardness of your hearts” (Matthew 19:3-9). However, when God gave instructions for the church leaders called bishops and deacons in 1 Timothy 3:2, 12, He specified that they were to have only one wife. What God wanted for marriage is described in Ephesians 5:22-33 and 1 Corinthians 7:2-5.
God never commanded polygamy. He warned against it and tried to teach humans what a wonderful thing marriage could be with one man and one woman for life. Tragically, that concept has been lost today, but God tolerates human actions He does not desire.
Human actions are often contrary to God’s will. We will continue along this line of thought tomorrow.
On October 9-10, we attended a seminar on archaeology presented by Dr. Rick Bullard at the new CCL Center in Florence, Kentucky. We also toured the Elliott Library and Museum located there. Suppose you are interested in historical books dating back to the early 17th century, original bibles, archaeological finds, and a library with books and artifacts related to the Restoration Movement. In that case, this is a learning center you should visit.
The Christian Church Leadership Center is unique in that it houses rare items not found in any other museum. The library’s curator is Jim Lloyd, and he has a thorough understanding of the books and the issues relating to the history of religion in America. Dr. David Fincher, president of Central Christian College of the Bible in Moberly, Missouri, was our host and the man behind the CCL project. In addition, he has connections with David Lipscomb University in Nashville and York College in Nebraska, home of the Clayton Museum of Ancient History.
We also enjoyed talking at length with Dr. William Custer, an expert in apologetics and the philosophy of religion. Custer is a graduate of the University of Chicago and an associate of Norman Geissler. These men and the CCL Center are interested in working with Does God Exist? to provide apologetics training to leaders in Churches of Christ and Christian Churches.
The CCL Center is offering monthly Saturday presentations by respected scholars on apologetics and topics related to the Restoration Movement. The session we attended, led by Dr. Bullard, was titled “Archaeology and the Bible: Stories and Artifacts.” Dr. Bullard is an archaeology professor who has spent many weeks on actual digs in the Holy Land. His father, Dr. Reuben Bullard, was a well-known archeologist and author of many books and articles. The program included lunch and a tour of the library and museum. For information about upcoming sessions, visit their website at the link below.
The CCL Center is about a 20-minute drive from the young earth Creation Museum and the Ark Encounter theme park. It is a tragedy that many people who visit those commercialized dispensational museums are unaware of the CCL Center with its positive biblical teaching. Attending sessions at the CCL Center is much less expensive, and the library and museum do not charge. We recommend the CCL Center as a new opportunity for solid biblical learning in the Cincinnati area.
Domestic violence is a major problem in the United States today. The Cora Lamping Center reports that one in four women and one in nine men experience intimate partner violence. We suggest that Christianity is the one belief system that directly addresses this issue. Ephesians 5:22-33 spells out the Christian system of domestic relationships:
“You wives must learn to adapt yourselves to your husbands as you submit yourselves to the Lord … Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the Church and gave himself for it … So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. The love a man gives his wife is the extending of his love for himself to enfold her … But as for you individually, you must each of you love his own wife exactly as if she were yourself and the wife must see to it that she deeply respects her husband…” (Phillips translation)
Galatians 3:28 adds to this view by describing the equality of all humans in the Christian system. “All distinctions between Jew and Greek, slave and freeman, male and female, have vanished for in union with Christ you are all one.”
Many religions teach that women are inferior to men and have a servant role. While Christianity assigns roles to men and to women, the equality and rights of men and women are clear. The most basic cause of domestic violence is an unwillingness to follow what God has told us about relationships with one another. The media and proponents of evolution suggest that our lives are driven by “survival of the fittest,” and we have to “look after #1,” meaning ourselves.
Why are premarital sex and cohabitation rapidly increasing in our culture? If a man can get what he wants and then walk away from the relationship, his investment is minimized. Marriage, as described in Ephesians and Galatians, involves sacrifice and patience. It isn’t hard to understand the reason for domestic violence. The only real answer is for men and women together to look to God for the strength to live and love as He intended. Becoming “one” and following God’s plan works. Alternatives do not work and lead to frustration and destructive results.
The year was 1799. A farmer was working hard supervising farming activities from horseback through snow, hail, and rain. The next day, despite a sore throat, he was back out in the snow. That night he woke with difficulty breathing. In those days, it was common practice to bleed a person who was ill. Doctors, believing that illness is in the blood, sought to cure it by removing some of the person’s blood.
A supervisor on the farm opened the man’s vein and drained half a pint of blood. The farmer was not getting better. The family doctor arrived and bled the patient a second time with still no improvement. That doctor sent for another doctor, and while waiting for the second doctor to come, he bled the patient a third time. When the second doctor did not arrive, they sent for a third doctor. Then the patient was bled a fourth time, this time removing a quart of blood. Within two days from the time he first developed a sore throat, George Washington was dead at age 67.
What was the problem that led to the death of our first president—the man we call the father of our country? Believing that illness is in the blood, medical doctors ignored a simple truth found in the Bible. Leviticus 17:11 clearly says, “the life of a creature is in the blood.” Since life is in the blood, draining a person’s blood is not the way to cure a person’s illness. It’s a way to end a person’s life. It took thousands of years for medical science to catch up with the wisdom of the Bible.
After feeding thousands of people with five barley loaves and two fish, questioners confronted Jesus. He told them, “…it is my father who gives you the true bread from heaven (John 6:32). He went on to say, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty (John 6:35).” Then, in perhaps the most shocking statement of all, Jesus spoke in a figurative sense. He said: “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man (Jesus’ most common name for himself) and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day (John 6:53-54).”
Life is in the blood. That is true of any creature or person. Moses knew it because of divine revelation, not from human wisdom. We can see evidence for the accuracy of the Bible in this and many other ways. However, the blood of Jesus Christ sacrificed for us on the cross is the ultimate source of life. As John wrote, “…the blood of Jesus, God’s Son, purifies us from all sin (1 John 1:7). Eternal life is in the blood of Jesus.
The above data compiled by health policy columnist Dr. Richard Feldman shows the benefit of vaccines. Using available public health data, he researched the prevalence of those diseases before science developed vaccines against them. He then adjusted for population growth and projected what the numbers could be today without a vaccine. Then, he listed the recent number of reported cases. The chart above shows only some of his statistics. You can find his complete article at THIS LINK.
A basic Bible principle is that you can judge the validity of something by its fruit. Jesus said it clearly, “You shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes out of thorns or figs out of thistles? Every good tree brings forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree brings forth evil fruit” (Matthew 7:15-18). In this passage, Jesus was talking about false prophets, but the principle can apply to “false prophets” who tell people to avoid vaccines. God’s design of the human immune system and an understanding of diseases has resulted in “good fruit.” of vaccines that save lives.
The COVID virus is going to add another set of numbers. Because medical science understands some of the design in God’s creation, we have the benefit of vaccines. God can provide us with the tools to improve our lives, but He will not force us to use what He gives us. That is true of every teaching of Jesus, and it is true of COVID.
I enjoy watching BBC’s video programs “Planet Earth” and “The Blue Planet” written and narrated by David Attenborough. Those programs display the fantastic beauty and design of this planet and its many living creatures. Seeing the way planet Earth’s systems work together like a well-designed machine fills me with awe. However, I find it amazing that Attenborough believes that this incredible beauty and structure came about by mere chance and natural selection without any design, purpose, or meaning. How can he not realize that ultimate meaning, purpose, and morality come from the God who created these wonders?
In his book Miracles, Christian philosopher C.S. Lewis refers to unbelievers as “naturalists.” He wrote, “A moment after they have admitted that good and evil are illusions, you will find them exhorting us to work for posterity, to educate, revolutionise, liquidate, live and die for the good of the human race.” Lewis called that “very odd.” Attenborough teaches us about the beautiful design of our planet without a Designer. He advocates for the environment, even though that environment may have no ultimate purpose or meaning. A BBC interviewer once asked Attenborough if he ever had any religious faith, and he replied “no.” He said, “It never really occurred to me to believe in God.”
When asked why he does not believe in a creator, Attenborough will point out what he considers an evil creature, such as the parasitic worm Onchocerca volvulus that infects children’s eyes in tropical climates. He said creationists believe that God created each individual species, so why would “an all-merciful God who cares for each of us individually” make a creature like that. However, as John Clayton has pointed out many times, the Bible says God created “kinds” of animals, not each individual species. (See Genesis 1:11, 12, 21, 24, and 25.) But then He specially created the first humans in His image (Genesis 1:27).
Attenborough strongly advocates for various environmentalist causes telling us what we ought or ought not to do. C.S. Lewis said that those who don’t believe in God often tell us what we ought to do, but their natural impulses can say nothing about objective right or wrong. Lewis wrote, “Do they remember while they are writing thus that when they tell us we ‘ought to make a better world’ the words ‘ought’ and ‘better’ must, on their own showing, refer to an irrationally conditioned impulse which cannot be true or false any more than a vomit or a yawn?”
Lewis goes on to say that if we make moral judgments, “then we must believe that the conscience of man is not a product of Nature.” He writes that it “can be valid only if it is an offshoot of some absolute moral wisdom…” In other words, ultimate meaning, purpose, and morality come from God, not evolution.
Ancient Hebrew used far fewer words than modern English. That can cause misunderstandings when translated into English. For example, a term that has confused many people is the Hebrew word yom, commonly translated “day.”
The Genesis creation account uses the word in multiple ways. It is present in Genesis 1:1-13 in connection with “evening and morning.” Genesis 2:4 uses yom to refer to the entire creation “week.” In Deuteronomy 10:10, we find yom used twice with two meanings, a longer period of time (40 days) and the daylight hours. “And I stayed in the mount just like the first time (yom) 40 days (yom) and 40 nights …” We also see yom used to refer to long time periods such as in Hosea 6:2.
In the New Testament. Peter reminds us that “one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years one day (2 Peter 3:8).” In Acts 1:7, Jesus says, “It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father has put in His own power.” The context of that passage refers to restoring the kingdom, but the message carried throughout the scriptures is that God is in control of time.
Both creationists and atheists have often used the Hebrew word yom to make Earth’s age an issue, limiting what God can do or has done. God created time and is not limited by it. The “days” of Genesis may be 24 hours or some other time period. The creation verse in Genesis is verse one, “God created the heaven and the earth,” and it is undated and untimed.
Religious groups have done an injustice to the Genesis account by not recognizing the economy of language in scripture. Atheists have used that to destroy many people’s faith by showing evidence that the universe’s age is not measured in thousands of years. The message of Genesis is that God created everything, not when or how He did it. Taking the Bible literally is not taking a human theology and forcing it on the scriptures.
One of the most incredible sights we frequently see in the fall of the year is the flocking behavior of birds. Starlings are one of the most visible examples, with tens of thousands forming a massive cloud of flapping wings. The term “murmuration” comes from the fact that thousands of wings flapping at once give a murmur-like sound.
National Geographic magazine (October 2021, pages 26-28) published great pictures of a starling murmuration. The magazine estimates that in their photographs, there are “tens of thousands of starlings … a quarter-mile wide, and several hundred feet tall.” The article asks the question, “What is the purpose of murmurings?” They conclude that it’s a way to avoid predators or gain a feeding advantage. Since starlings don’t eat while migrating, the magazine speculates that starling murmurations offer an advantage over the falcons that feed on starlings.
A bigger question for anyone who observes the flocking behavior of thousands of birds is how they avoid hitting each other. It seems that built into every bird is a genetically imprinted instinctive drive to synchronize their wing beat, reducing the chance of a collision. How do they navigate? I have seen a whole flock make a quick 90-degree turn in which every bird seems to have instructions of when to turn and how far.
Besides the murmuration of birds, we see flocking behavior in many forms of life. Geese fly in flocks, and salmon move upstream in groups. Insects swarm around a hive or nest to protect the hive. Wolves form a pack to bring down a large animal. There are negative swarms such as insect swarms that eat themselves out of food reserves and a bison herd running off a cliff.
Our understanding of the genetic drives designed into living things is very primitive. However, it is clear that, at least in some situations, the grouping of animals presents advantages. Watching starlings move like a giant cloud and hearing their synchronized wing beats, one has to be amazed at the design and complexity God put into all of His creatures. We are continually reminded in Romans 1:20 that “the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made … so the (unbeliever) is without excuse.”
In his 1871 book The Descent of Man, Charles Darwin hypothesized that the evolutionary ancestors of modern humans originated in Africa. He pointed out that African apes most resemble humans, but he lacked fossil evidence to support his conjecture. The missing link, as it was called, showed up more than 50 years later.
In 1924, some miners working in a limestone quarry in Taung, South Africa, found a fossil of a child. Anatomists determined that this 3-to-4-year-old child had some humanlike and some apelike features. They called this “Taung Child” the missing link between apes and humans. Scientists gave it the name Australopithecus africanus, which means southern African ape.
Critics pointed out that young apes have similarities to young humans, but the resemblance goes away as they mature. However, racist attitudes were strong at the time, and eugenics was accepted as real science. Meanwhile, anthropologists were busy categorizing people into races. Western researchers wanted to justify their claim that Africans were more primitive and less evolved than other people, thus justifying slavery and racism.
One of the challenges to people who believe the Bible is making sense of the fossils and interpretations we read about or see in a museum or video documentary. The basic proposal of the “Does God Exist?” ministry is that science and faith are friends. We are interested in understanding–not conflict or debate. As science makes discoveries in various fields, our understanding may grow. We are seeing more evidence for God’s existence in the design of the universe and life.
The history of paleoanthropology has shown that people have used scientific discoveries in political battles and as justification for slavery, eugenics, and racism. The Bible simply says God created man of the dust of the earth. It does not tell us how long ago or give any other details. The most important thing is that He created humans in His own image (Genesis 1:27). That spiritual creation makes ALL humans equal and of infinite value. Christians recognize that fact (Galatians 3:26-29). Even scientists studying mitochondrial DNA have determined that every human alive today can be traced back to one woman they have called “Mitochondrial Eve.”
As science continues to look for the missing link, paleoanthropologist Bernard Wood said that from a scientific perspective, “Our origin story is a work in progress.” In other words, even scientists have trouble making sense of the fossils. Scientific discoveries in various fields may tell us more about how God did what He did, but science cannot tell us how to live successfully. Only the teachings of Jesus Christ that we find in the Bible can do that.