In the modern Christmas celebration, we tend to think of the cute little baby lying in a sanitized manger with cattle and sheep and handsome shepherds looking on. We see oriental kings bringing expensive gifts to the Christ child. The birth of Christ was far more than that. We need to go back to see the connection between Christmas and creation.
Before creation, there was nothing – no matter, no space, no time. John 1:1-3 tells us, “In the beginning was the Word (Logos) and the Word (Logos) was with God, and the Word (Logos) was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made.”
In John 1:14, we read that the Logos became flesh and dwelt among us. Colossians 1:16-20 tells us: “For by him (Jesus) were all things created, that are in heaven and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him and for him: And he is before all things, and by Him all things hold together.” As we learn more about quarks and the whole subject of quantum mechanics, we are beginning to understand a small part of what creation involved scientifically.
Part of the process was the creation of humans in the image of God with the capacity to demonstrate God’s “agape” kind of love. “God so loved the world…” (John 3;16a) is an expression of God’s love. To demonstrate that love, we had to have a choice not to love. If you can’t choose, you can’t really love. Because they had the choice, humans chose not only to reject God’s love but to rebel against Him. John 1:9-14 describes the Logos or Word coming into the world and His own people rejecting Him. This set the stage for the fulfillment of God’s love “..that He gave His only begotten Son …” (John 3:16b).
That is how Christmas and creation tie together. John 1:17 tells us that Moses gave the physical rules for life, but the spiritual redemption came from Jesus. “For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” The Logos became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14). The Logos didn’t come in power and splendor but as a baby born to a poor couple in a dirty feeding trough surrounded by smelly, filthy animals.
Even though John 1:11 says that His own people did not receive Him, verse 12 tells us, “But to all who did receive him, who believed on his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” As we celebrate the birth of Jesus, let us think about the connection between Christmas and creation. Jesus, the Logos, the one who created all things, “became flesh and dwelt among us” and redeemed us through His agape love.
Skeptics seem to use every crisis or injustice to make false claims about the Bible. In several recent references, skeptics have claimed that the Bible does not accept black people as human. That simply isn’t true. Black lives matter in the Bible.
The word “cush” means “black” in Hebrew, and we find it in numerous biblical passages. Most frequently, it refers to a geographical area in Africa. English Bibles often translate references to the land of Cush as Nubia or Ethiopia, and a person from there is called an Ethiopian.
Archeologists have found a wide variety of remains of the Cushite people because they were excellent soldiers and masters of horses and chariots. In 701 B.C., Tirhakah, king of Cush, defended Judah against the Syrian invasion of Sennacherib. His help and God’s hand saved Jerusalem at that time.
The denigration of black people is a modern, western activity. Ancient Greeks, Assyrians, and Egyptians did not show the racism of recent times. The Greek historian Herodotus wrote that Ethiopians were the “most handsome of all men.” In Song of Solomon, there is a love song between Solomon and a Shulammite girl in which she tells Solomon not to love her just because she is black.
The Bible and the history of Israel and Judaism do not show any denigration of those with dark skin. The book of Jeremiah credits Ebed-Melech the Cushite as a hero for saving Jeremiah’s life (Jeremiah 38:7-13).
When we turn to the New Testament, we find more evidence that black lives matter in the Bible. In Acts 8:26-39, we read of the Holy Spirit sending evangelist Philip to an Ethiopian who was in charge of the treasury of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians. He had come to Jerusalem to worship God and was reading the book of Isaiah as he traveled. Philip explained the gospel and baptized him. Jesus made a point of dealing with the racial prejudice that existed at that time. (See John 4.) Galatians 3:26-28 makes it clear that there were no racial, political, or gender boundaries in the early Christian churches–“There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
Black lives matter in the Bible just as much as every other life because we are all created in God’s image.
Someone asked me, “Why did God do it that way? My only reply was, “I don’t know. I would not have done it that way. I guess you’ll have to ask God.” Why is it that we want God to do things the way we would do them? Are we remaking God in our image?
One of the objections that people have to God’s existence is that they think a loving and omnipotent God would do things differently. Why does God allow suffering? Why did God create viruses? Why didn’t God do a better job of designing (insert anything here)? Like Job in the Old Testament, we think we are smarter than God, and we want to tell Him how to do things. God set Job straight by giving him some challenges such as: “Do you know how to make (insert item here)?” – “Where were you when I did (this thing)?” – “Do you know how (this works)?” Job suddenly realized that he didn’t know everything. He was not as smart as the thought he was.
I could list several things right now that I think God should have done differently. But, before I do that, I have to look at my own failures and weaknesses. I have to look at times when things didn’t work out the way I planned, and I am thankful they didn’t. Small changes in my life’s circumstances would have led me in a completely different direction. God knew what was going to happen. He knew what was best. I can only be thankful that God has not allowed me to remake Him in my image.
We are created in the image of God, but sometimes we become guilty of remaking God in our image. Can we fully understand God and why He does things the way He does? Absolutely not! Can we trust Him to do things right? Absolutely yes! J. I. Packer, the late Bible scholar and author of Knowing God, was interviewed at age 89 after losing sight from macular degeneration. When asked how he felt about no longer being able to read, write, and teach, he replied, “God knows what He’s doing,…this comes as a clear indication from headquarters. And I take it from Him.”
We need to stop remaking God in our image and simply trust God to be God. He knows what He’s doing.
The subject of human evolution is an area that continues to change with new techniques and new data, such as the study of a fossil nicknamed Little Foot. This area is of interest to those of us involved in apologetics – the study of evidence for the existence of God. The biblical concept of human creation is that we are created in the “image of God.” That message is clearly not referring to our physical makeup or how we look. God is a spirit (John 4:24), and it is our spiritual makeup, which is in God’s image.
The origin of the races of humans is interesting historically, but especially now with the “black lives matter” movement. Evolutionists at the time of Darwin claimed that black people were early prototypes of humans, but were not fully human and therefore could be treated like animals. For many people, that belief, as absurd as it is, was the justification for slavery. As far as apologetics is concerned, the uniqueness of all humans is rooted in human spiritual abilities. Those include the capacity to worship, the ability to create music and art, the ability to feel spiritual emotions, and our concept of self-awareness.
The assumption that humans evolved from some ancient ape-like animal has been fraught with difficulties and controversy. A skeleton of Australopithecus prometheus found at Sterkfontein in South Africa has added to the discussion. The fossil nicknamed Little Foot has a well-preserved atlas vertebra that sits just beneath the cranium at the top of the spinal column. By studying this vertebra, scientists can determine the flow of blood to the brain.
Little Foot’s blood flow was significantly lower than the flow into human brains, which means that Little Foot’s brain was severely restricted. Scientists classify it as Australopithecus, which refers to a group of apes and monkeys. New data adds to the evidence that science needs to clarify the physical models of change in monkeys, apes, and, most importantly, in humans.
Any attempt to use science to denigrate a race of humans as inferior is unsupported by the evidence. We see human uniqueness in the truth of the simple biblical statement, “God that made the world and all things within it … has made of one blood all nations of men to dwell upon the earth…” (Acts 17:24 and 26).
One of the significant points of contention between those who believe in God and those who don’t is the concept of what makes us human. The biblical position is that humans are that form of life created in the image of God. Our spiritual makeup allows us to create art and music, worship a supreme being, feel guilt, be sympathetic, and have a form of love that is self-sacrificing and has nothing to do with survival. The atheist response to this is that our intelligence and brain structure accounts for these characteristics. The atheist insists that they are totally a product of our evolution.
What does the evidence show? That is a complicated question, and one we frequently address as science makes new discoveries. National Wildlife magazine (June/July 2020) published an interesting article about crows and research by John Marzluff at the University of Washington. For the past ten years, researchers at the university have been putting on caveman masks and catching and tagging crows. The crows have learned that the caveman face means trouble, and they mob and dive-bomb the researchers. When baby crows learn to fly, they immediately do the same, even though they do not have personal experience with being caught and tagged.
Crows are incredible creatures. Crows will fashion twigs into hooks to reach food in a hollow tree or limb. Other crows will drop nuts on a hard pavement to crack them open. Crows have learned to pay attention to what a farmer has in his hands. They will fly away from a farmer with a gun, but not when the same farmer holds a rake. Crows will help raise younger siblings, and that cooperation causes them to flock together and seemingly communicate with each other.
The point is that intelligence is not a measure of human-ness. The things that make humans different than crows is not our brain. Mentally challenged humans do the things that make us human. Many animals with high intelligence do not engage in those things. What makes us human is being created in the image of God. Having that image makes humans unique and special, and gives us value and purpose in our existence. Human life is sacred, and that hasn’t changed despite our abuse of one another.
Books and articles have been published indicating that chimpanzees and humans share about 98.7% of the same genes. So some have suggested that chimpanzees should be considered 98.7% human and have all the rights that humans enjoy. There have been lawsuits to remove chimps from zoos or restrictive areas so they can express their “humanness.”
Objective observers who study chimp behavior in detail do not see chimps as human. The Bible makes it clear that only humans are created in the image of God. Being in God’s image leads to attributes that are unique to humans. Those include not only creative ability such as in art and music, but they also include the way we treat one another. In Galatians 3:28, Paul makes it clear that as Christians, there is no distinction between one human and another. Paul specifically includes “no male nor female” in his list of who are equals. The whole notion of marriage (Genesis 2:24) and the role of women (Proverbs 31:10-31) esteem and protects women.
Chimpanzees and humans are not alike. In his book The Human Swarm, Dr. Mark Moffett describes the real life of female chimpanzees. When female chimps reach sexual maturity, they leave their group never to return. Female chimps are beaten up or ignored by males except when they are in heat, and then sex is forced upon them. Female chimps do not befriend each other. They give birth in a private, hidden place to avoid having their babies killed by other females. Male chimps have no role in parenting or protecting the mother and baby.
There is an adage said in jest that we often hear in the break room at the graduate center, “Make sure your data conforms to your conclusions.” It is easy for us to interpret animal behavior as human-like, especially comparing chimpanzees and humans. But we must recognize human uniqueness. We have heard the horror story of a pet chimp turning on and seriously injuring a human. You can remove the chimp from its fellow animals, but you cannot remove the animal behavior from the chimp. We are the only beings created in God’s image.
One of the main sticking points for those who say that we are just highly evolved animals is the capacity of humans to display spiritual characteristics.Humans show creativity in our ability to create art and music, to feel guilt, to be sympathetic, to have a concept of self, and to worship. Those who suggest we are just animals with big brains and no unique qualities have tried for over 100 years to find examples of “human behavior” in the animal kingdom. Some of those attempts have been front-page stories such as the reports of Koko, the gorilla. The trainer claimed that Koko created works of art and adopted a cat as a pet, but the bias of Koko’s trainer turned out to be the cause of the behavior. Most researchers admit that there was a great deal of anthropomorphism involved in the stories about Koko, and the same goes for elephant wakes.
Anthropomorphism is the attribution of human characteristics or behavior to an animal. Recently the Washington Post and The Week have published articles about elephants grieving and holding wakes or “religious services” when one of their kind dies. As you read the reports, you see strong suggestions that the reporters are engaging in anthropomorphism to support their claims of elephant wakes.
One report tells of seeing elephants touching corpses with their trunks and trying to lift them. It said they were “performing dominance behaviors typically used to protect sought after resources such as plentiful fruit trees or shady groves.” The reports also tell of members of five different elephant families interacting with a corpse for three weeks. There is also mention of a ten-year-old elephant walking away from her mother’s body with liquid streaming from her temporal glands indicating “great stress.” To suggest that these behaviors are religious ceremonies or elephant wakes seems to be the least likely explanation.
Elephants are herd animals. The matriarch is the leader of the herd, and when that leader dies, a power struggle takes place among the other females. This competition involves great stress, but it is a long way from a religious service. There is no evidence of elephants comprehending death. Some try to lift the corpse to its feet, demonstrating a lack of understanding of death. No elephant has attempted a burial, memorial, or preservation.
Humans are created in the image of God. We not only grieve, but we engage in behavior that indicates a belief that the departed is in a better existence. We honor our dead, and we continue to honor their memory. This is a spiritual awareness that is unique to humans. The value of human life cannot be denigrated by trying to find animal behavior with the same cause and effect.
Many people misunderstand what it means to be created in the image of God. If you think that God is an “old man in the sky,” then you probably believe that God looks like you. I have a whole shelf of children’s books that portray God as a caucasian, male, old white-bearded man in the sky. I have a few that show God as a man of color. I have one that shows Him as an oriental. All of these are dead wrong and can lead a child to misunderstand an essential concept that we are created in the spiritual image of God. God is not any racial, ethnic, sexual, or aged physical being (John 4:24). We know this is true because we see God’s image in human creativity and spirituality.
The March 2020 issue of Scientific American (page 70-73) carried an interesting article by Kateb Wong titled “The First Story.” She begins a report on new archeological discoveries by saying, “Homo sapiens is the only species known to make figurative art, engage in spiritual thinking, and convey fictional tales through imagery.” We suggest that this is true because humans are the only life-form created in the image of God. We see God’s image in human creativity and spirituality. We don’t see this ability developing gradually over a long period of evolutionary change. The article reports on cave paintings discovered by archaeologists on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi.
What the paintings describe is a hunt. Six hunters using ropes or spears confront a large buffalo. Nearby more hunters are attacking other buffalos and pigs. One of the hunters is a therianthrope, meaning a spiritual leader and similar to the minotaur of Greek mythology. The researchers suggest that the scene shows a communal hunting strategy or game drive in which prey are flushed from cover and driven toward other hunters. These paintings are high up in hard to reach caves, and they appear to be made for cultural and symbolic use.
These are the oldest artworks anthropologists have ever found that depict a story. They show the uniqueness of humans from their earliest days on Earth. When God excluded humans from the “Garden,” they left with no experience, tools, or data. They had to start at the very beginning of the learning curve, but their desire for self-expression artistically and spiritually was in full operation. These ancient drawings display God’s image in human creativity and spirituality.
Yesterday we discussed the push for euthanasia in secular society.We have received a massive reaction to the euthanasia article. Several people have asked what states in the U.S. allow assisted suicide. In addition to Washington, D.C., those states are California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, New Jersey, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington.
We received information about Professor Theo Boer, a Dutch ethicist who was a major supporter of the Netherlands’ 2002 Euthanasia legislation. Boer wrote to the British House of Lords in 2014, “We were wrong, terribly wrong. Assisted dying in the beginning was the odd exception, accepted by many including myself as a last resort.” He pointed out that what happened was that many patients who received euthanasia were patients who were depressed, lonely, or in bereavement. In Switzerland a woman paid to be euthanized because she no longer felt pretty. He concludes by saying, “Public opinion has shifted dramatically toward considering assisted dying a patient’s right and a physician’s duty.”
In Oregon, physician-assisted suicide was legalized in 1997 “for cases of suffering from terminal disease.” In 2018 a followup study found that 75% of the people who died by assisted suicide said their pain control was adequate, but over 50% were concerned about being a burden to their families.
We also received a story of Karen Welch, who was a missionary in Belgium. During a routine surgery, blood was cut off to her brain resulting in a stroke. After several days, doctors told her husband that her MRI showed dead brain cells and that there was no hope for her recovery. “Your wife will be a vegetable,” Mr. Welch was told. The medical establishment recommended euthanasia. To make a long story short, Karen Welch eventually walked out of the hospital, and that December, she played the piano and sang at the Belgium School Chapel Christmas program.
As we said in our original article, euthanasia is a highly complex issue. The reaction to the euthanasia article we posted indicates that people are concerned about the issue. Until you are involved in a personal situation where euthanasia is offered as a simple and inexpensive solution, it is easy to give simplistic answers. The critical thing to remember is that humans are not just animals. We are created in the image of God, so we must treat every human life as special.
Calvin Fields wrote an interesting book titled From Desperation to Peace of Mind, which we will be reviewing soon. The book is a goldmine of quotes that most of us are not familiar with. One of the areas involves the fruits of Social Darwinism, and they relate to the social issues of our day. Here are some examples for your consideration:
Philosopher Herbert Spencer was the founder of Social Darwinism, which said that “poverty and wealth are inevitable as they represent the biological rules which govern society.” He used The Origin of Species as a rationale to justify the excesses of 19th-century capitalism. Andrew Carnegie, who liked the idea that evolution justifies injustice, invited Spencer to come to Pittsburgh to see his theories applied to the steel industry. Spencer’s response to what he saw was that “six months residence here would justify suicide.” Charles Darwin’s cousin Francis Galton “was all in favor of interfering with human evolution and supported the idea of breeding (humans) from the best and sterilizing those whose inheritance did not meet with his approval.” (Those quotes are from The Language of Genes by Steve Jones, Anchor Books.)
Ernst Haeckel used Galton’s ideas as justification for establishing the Monist League in Germany before the First World War. After the war, thousands of Germans joined the league and dedicated themselves to the advancement of doctrines declaring the superiority of a select group of white Europeans. This idea contributed to Hitler’s “Final Solution” to class distinctions in Germany.
Roger Lewin wrote, “Racism as we would characterize it today, was explicit in the writings of virtually all the major anthropologists of the first decades (of the 20th century) simply because it was the generally accepted world view.” (Roger Lewin in Bones of Contention, Simon & Schuster.)
It is essential to look at the logical implications of what we view humans to be. Darwin’s The Origin of Species was applied by others to justify injustice and mistreatment of people. Those are the fruits of Social Darwinism. The biblical view that we are all uniquely created in the image of God has significant implications for how we should treat others.