Category Archives: Biblical Lesson/Teaching

The Fallacy of Uniformitarianism

Code: B170426

[Editor’s Note: This article was first published in the earliest days of the GTY Blog. As we recently culled through the ministry archives in preparation for a new blog series on God’s work of creation—which coincides with the broadcast of The Battle for the Beginning sermon series on “Grace to You”—we believed this post deserved further consideration.]

The hypothesis that the earth is billions of years old is rooted in the unbiblical premise that what is happening now is just what has always happened. This idea is known as uniformitarianism. It is the theory that natural and geological phenomena are for the most part the results of forces that have operated continuously, with uniformity, and without interruption, over billions and billions of years. Uniformitarians assume that the forces at work in nature are essentially fixed and constant. Scientists who hold this view explain nearly all geological phenomena in terms of processes that are still occurring. The uniformitarian sees sedimentary rock strata, for example, and assumes that the sediments that formed them resulted from the natural, slow settling of particles in water over several million years. A uniformitarian observes the Grand Canyon and assumes the natural flow of the Colorado River carved that immense chasm over many ages with a steady (though constantly decreasing) stream.

Uniformitarianism was first proposed around the beginning of the nineteenth century by two British geologists, James Hutton and his best–known disciple, Charles Lyell. Lyell’s work Principles of Geology was an explicit rejection of creation and flood–based explanations for geological formulations. Lyell insisted that all the features of earth’s geology must be explainable by natural, rather than supernatural, processes. He regarded all biblical or supernatural explanations as inherently unscientific and therefore false. In other words, he began with the presupposition that Scripture itself is untrue. And his work essentially canonized atheistic naturalism as the basis for “scientific” research.

As we have noted previously, naturalism itself is a religious belief. The conviction that nothing happens supernaturally is a tenet of faith, not a fact that can be verified by any scientific means. Indeed, an a priori rejection of everything supernatural involves a giant, irrational leap of faith. So the presuppositions of atheistic naturalism are actually no more “scientific” than the beliefs of biblical Christianity. That obvious fact seems to have escaped Lyell and many who have followed him.

Nonetheless, Lyell’s uniformitarian theory was enormously influential on other scientists of his age. (Darwin even took a copy of Lyell’s work with him when he sailed on the Beagle in 1831.) And from the first publication of Lyell’s work until today, the hypothesis that the earth is ages old has dominated secular science. The theory of evolution itself was the predictable and nearly immediate result of Lyell’s uniformitarian hypothesis.

Of course, modern scientists have expanded their estimates of the age of the earth beyond anything Lyell himself ever imagined. But the basic theory of uniformitarianism first emerged from Lyell’s antibiblical belief system.

The opposite of uniformitarianism is catastrophism, the view that dramatic geological changes have occurred in sudden, violent, or unusual events. A catastrophist observing sedimentary rock formations or large canyons is more likely (and more accurately) to interpret them as the result of massive flooding. Of course, this yields a much younger time frame for the development of earth’s geological features. (A sudden flood, for example, can produce a thick layer of sediment in a few hours. That means a large stratum of sedimentary rock, which a uniformitarian might assume took millions of years to form, could actually be the result of a single flash flood.) Catastrophism therefore poses a major challenge to the evolutionary timetable, eliminating the multiple billions of years demanded to make the evolutionary hypothesis work. And for that reason it is rejected out of hand by most evolutionists.

But a moment’s reflection will reveal that the fossil record is impossible to explain by any uniformitarian scheme. For a living creature to become fossilized (rather than to decay and turn to dust—Job 34:15), it must be buried immediately under a great weight of sediment. Apart from a catastrophic deluge on a scale unlike any observed in recent history, how can we explain the existence of massive fossil beds (such as the Karoo formation fossil field in Africa, which is thought to hold eight hundred billion vertebrate fossils)? Natural sedimentation over several ages cannot explain how so many fossils came to be concentrated in one place. And every inhabited continent contains large fossil beds where millions of fossilized species are found together in large concentrations, as if all these creatures were destroyed and buried together by massive flooding. Fossils of sea creatures are even found on many of the world’s highest mountain tops. How do uniformitarians explain such phenomena? The only way they can: They constantly increase their estimate of the age of the earth.

Scripture expressly condemns uniformitarianism in 2 Peter 3:4. Peter prophesied that this erroneous view would be adopted in the last days by scoffers—men walking after their own lusts—who imagine that “all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.” The apostle Peter goes on to write, “For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water” (2 Peter 3:5–6).

In other words, the plain teaching of Scripture is that this world’s history has not been one of uniform natural and geological processes from the beginning. But according to the Bible, there have been at least two global cataclysmic events: creation itself and a catastrophic worldwide flood in Noah’s time. These would sufficiently explain virtually all the geological and hydrological features of the earth as we know it.

In fact, large–scale catastrophic forces are the only really plausible explanation for some geological features. Not far from where I live is an area known as Vasquez Rocks. It has the appearance of a rugged moonscape (and is a familiar site in science–fiction films, where it is often employed as a setting for scenes depicting exotic planets). Its main features are massive shards of jagged rock strata, broken sharply and thrusting out of the ground to great heights. Whatever force stood those rocks on end was obviously sudden and violent, not slow and gradual. The entire region is filled with similar evidences of catastrophe. Not far away is the notorious San Andreas fault. There, where the roadway has been cut into the hillside, travelers may observe violently twisted rock strata. These features are mute evidence to extraordinary forces that have shaped the topography of Southern California—far exceeding the power of any known earthquake. Such phenomena are what we might expect, given the historicity of the biblical record. Scripture says, for example, that when the Flood began, “all the fountains of the great deep were broken up” (Genesis 7:11). No doubt the Flood was accompanied by volcanic activity, massive geological movements, and the shifting of the earth’s tectonic plates. Such a catastrophe would not only explain twisted and upthrust rock strata, but it would also easily explain why so many of the earth’s mountain ranges give evidence of having once been under the sea. Uniformitarians cannot agree on any feasible explanation for features like these.

A massive flood would also explain the formation of the Grand Canyon. In fact, it would be a better explanation of how the canyon came to be than any uniformitarian hypothesis. The features of the canyon itself (extremely deep gorges with level plateaus at the rims) suggest that it was formed by rapid erosion. A strikingly similar formation is Providence Canyon, near Lumpkin, Georgia—a spectacular canyon that covers more than eleven hundred acres. In the early 1800s the entire area was flat farmland. By the mid 1800s, farmers had completely cleared the area of trees and their root systems, leaving the area susceptible to erosion. In 1846, heavy rainfall began forming small gullies and crevices. These expanded with every successive rainfall. By the 1940s, nearby buildings and towns had to be moved to accommodate the growing canyon. Today the canyon comprises sixteen fingers, some more than one mile in length. At places the distance from the canyon floor to the rim is as high as a fifteen–story building. Today it is a scenic area, lush with trees and wildlife, often called “Georgia’s Little Grand Canyon.” Its features are indistinguishable from canyons geologists claim took billions of years to form.

Douglas F. Kelly writes:

The uniformitarian assumption that millions of years of geological work (extrapolating from present, slow, natural processes) would be required to explain structures such as the American Grand Canyon for instance, is called into serious question by the explosion of Mount St. Helens in the state of Washington on the 18 of May 1980. Massive energy equivalent to 20 million tons of TNT destroyed 400 square kilometers of forest in six minutes, changing the face of the mountain and digging out depths of earth and rock, leaving formations not unlike parts of the larger Grand Canyon. Recent studies of the Mount St. Helens phenomenon indicate that if attempts were made to date these structures (which were formed in 1980) on the basis of uniformitarian theory, millions of years of formation time would be necessarily postulated. [1]

Christians who reinterpret the biblical text to try to accommodate the uniformitarians’ old–earth hypotheses do so unnecessarily. To imagine that the earth was formed by natural processes over billions and billions of years through slow and steady evolution is to deny the very essence of what Scripture teaches about the earth’s creation. It is to reject the clear account of God Himself that He created the earth and all its life in six days.

(Adapted from The Battle for the Beginning.)

 


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Friday’s Featured Sermon: “Evangelicals, Evolution, and the BioLogos Disaster”

Genesis 1:1

Code: B170428

How important are the first three chapters of Genesis—the creation and fall accounts? Does it matter if we allegorize the text to allow for billions of years rather than read it as a straightforward narrative? Does it matter if we allow for death prior to Adam’s fall? There are many—even in the Reformed camp—who argue that these are trivial issues in comparison to getting the gospel right. And while that may sound persuasive, it’s actually a misleading argument.

Driving a wedge between soteriology (doctrine of salvation) and our view of creation creates a dichotomy when there should be a dependency. The good news of the gospel is only good because of the bad news recorded in Genesis—that sin and death are intrusions on what was God’s glorious and perfect creation.

Moreover, if we are allowed to take subjective liberties with the first three chapters of the Bible, what’s stopping us from doing it elsewhere? And then there’s the question of biblical perspicuity—or clarity. Has God spoken clearly about the origins of the universe and man or has He spoken to us in metaphors that modern science can decipher? The stakes are infinitely high when it comes to God’s revelation of Himself in Scripture.

For that reason, Phil Johnson interviewed John MacArthur several years ago to discuss modern assaults on the veracity of the creation account in Genesis. In “Evangelicals, Evolution, and the BioLogos Disaster,” they take aim at the supposedly Christian organization known as BioLogos.

“BioLogos invites the church and the world to see the harmony between science and biblical faith as we present an evolutionary understanding of God’s creation.” That’s their mission statement and it’s a clear agenda. In recent years they have labored tirelessly to bring Genesis into conformity with Darwinian evolution. They argue that the scientific data is simply too compelling to ignore and Scripture needs to fall into line.

In the interview, John doesn’t hold back in stating the seriousness of their crimes, and those of anyone else who dares to tamper with the plain meaning of Scripture:

Is there a more deadly, more devastating, a more destructive, a more ungodly act than to openly and purposely and publicly denounce the veracity of the Bible? Is there a worse crime? Is not that the crime of all crimes? Because if you can’t believe what the Bible says, all is lost. And if you think because you have a Ph.D. in microbiology that you are the judge of all the earth and you have a right to edit what God has revealed by His Holy Spirit, then we better run over to wherever you are and bow down, because we need to worship you since you’ve got it right and the writers of the Scriptures, though inspired by the Holy Spirit didn’t get it right. I mean, there is no more serious crime than that. That is the ultimate crime, is to attack the veracity of Holy Scripture at any point.

And listen, this is not because there are alternate readings of Genesis. Let’s get that straight. This is not because we have some kind of manuscript diversity of Genesis. This is not because we’ve got five different accounts of Genesis and they’re all over the place. No. The manuscripts that we have of Genesis are all in absolute agreement, uniformity. This is exactly what Moses wrote and said, “This is the Word of the Lord.” This is a firsthand, eyewitness account by the Creator Himself.

So I don’t know that there’s a more heinous crime than destroying people’s confidence in Scripture. And if you start tampering in Genesis 1 and 2, where can we trust this book?

We should never treat our interpretation of the biblical creation account as theological hair-splitting. In “Evangelicals, Evolution, and the BioLogos Disaster,” John MacArthur and Phil Johnson show us that the inerrancy, authority, and clarity of Scripture is at stake. They show how the truth of the gospel stands or falls on the truth of Genesis. And they compel us to take up arms in the war against God’s truth.

Click here to listen to “Evangelicals, Evolution, and the BioLogos Disaster.”

 


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CultureWatch: Faith Versus Feelings

The Christian life is meant to be based on faith, not on feelings. Followers of Jesus are to seek to know and understand God and what he desires of us and then act upon that. Thus we are to use our minds to read and study God’s Word and use our wills to obey it.

How we feel about all this is of little consequence. Or should be of little consequence. Feelings come and go and are unreliable guides to truth and what is right. Sure, God created us with emotions and there is a place for them. But they should follow, and not lead.

Yet sadly there are millions of Christians who seem to base their entire Christian life on how they happen to feel at any given moment. The idea of living their lives in alignment with the Word of God and engaging in daily disciplines to become more Christlike seems to elude them.

emotion 5They just glide through life running on emotion. If they feel like praying, they might. If they feel like reading the Word, they might. If they feel like obeying, they might. If they feel like fellowshipping, they might. But their feelings basically determine how they go through life.

We all have seen blatant examples of this. We all have heard of so-called believers defending even clearly defined sinful activities because it “felt right” to them. How many nominal Christians for example engage in things like fornication because it ‘feels so good’ and ‘seems so right’?

I encountered another example of this the other day on the social media. One popular Christian writer whose books are becoming more and more heretical by the day had a film made of one of his earlier books. Christians are flocking to see the movie just as they did his book.

I saw one group of Christian women absolutely gushing over the film. There was zero rational and intellectual assessment or discussion of the film. Everything said about it was entirely on an emotional level: ‘It touched my heart.’ ‘It really moved me.’ ‘It made me feel so good.’

On and on they went like this, simply reporting on their emotional reaction to the film. There was not an ounce of theological or biblical interaction with the film. It was as if their brains turned to mush while watching the film. Or perhaps they simply checked their brains at the door before going in to the theatre.

Their biblical discernment seemed to be nonexistent. Their ability to think critically and offer a rational and biblical evaluation of the film (and book) seemed to be quite beyond them. Their only frame of assessment was how they reacted emotionally.

And because they emoted positively about the film, it was a real winner in their eyes. Why do I suspect that they might view everything else through the clouded lens of emotions? Why do I suspect that they would evaluate everything in terms of how they feel about it?

If a homosexual came along and offered a sob story about how he really wants to marry but he can’t because of our “discriminatory” and “unloving” laws, why do I suspect that these sorts of Christians would fully side with him, no questions asked?

Why do I suspect that if a threesome said they had a really neat, loving relationship and they too should be given full marital rights, these believers would support their cause and demand we change our laws to be more “compassionate” and “inclusive”?

Why do I suspect that if a Muslim came to their church and said he worships the same God and he would like to read the Koran and pray in Arabic in their congregation’s worship service, these Christians would find it a pretty cool idea and think it was “Christlike”?

My friends, the Christian life was never meant to be run on mere feelings. Knowing about God and his will and obediently following him are the basics of Christian discipleship. Knowing what is right and choosing that which is right is the heart of the Christian life.

It certainly is not mushy emotionalism and sappy sentimentalism. Christians should know better than to depend on their feelings. Yet we have plenty who are doing this very thing. And that is why so much of the church today is in such a wretched condition.

A Christian mind and biblical discernment have been replaced with emotion. Such believers emote their way through life, and if something feels good they will run with it, and if it feels bad they will reject it. That is simply a recipe for disaster.

Thankfully God’s choice servants throughout church history have known the dangers of all this, and have warned against it. Let me finish by simply offering a few of their wise words here on these matters:

“It is Christ who is to be exalted, not our feelings. We will know Him by obedience, not by emotions. Our love will be shown by obedience, not by how good we feel about God at a given moment. And love means following the commands of God. ‘Do you love Me?’ Jesus asked Peter. ‘Feed My lambs.’ He was not asking, ‘How do you feel about Me?’ for love is not a feeling. He was asking for action.” Elisabeth Elliot

“There is nothing so deluding as feelings. Christians cannot live by feelings. Let me further tell you that these feelings are the work of Satan, for they are not right feelings. What right have you to set up your feelings against the Word of Christ.” Charles Spurgeon

“Obedience means marching right on whether we feel like it or not. Many times we go against our feelings. Faith is one thing, feeling is another.” D.L. Moody

“Faith has nothing to do with feelings or with impressions, with improbabilities or with outward experiences. If we desire to couple such things with faith, then we are no longer resting on the Word of God, because faith needs nothing of the kind. Faith rests on the naked Word of God. When we take Him at His Word, the heart is at peace.” George Mueller

“Sight is not faith, and hearing is not faith, neither is feeling faith; but believing when we neither see, hear, nor feel is faith; and everywhere the Bible tells us our salvation is to be by faith. Therefore we must believe before we feel, and often against our feelings, if we would honour God by our faith.” Hannah Whitall Smith

“Consecration is not the act of our feelings but of our will.” F.B. Meyer

And a final, longer quote from R. C. Sproul who calls these emotional believers “sensual Christians”:

Many of us have become sensuous Christians, living by our feelings rather than through our understanding of the Word of God. Sensuous Christians cannot be moved to service, prayer or study unless they “feel like it.” Their Christian life is only as effective as the intensity of present feelings. When they experience spiritual euphoria, they are a whirlwind of godly activity; when they are depressed, they are a spiritual incompetent. They constantly seek new and fresh spiritual experiences, and use them to determine the Word of God. Their “inner feelings” become the ultimate test of truth.
Sensuous Christians don’t need to study the Word of God because they already know the will of God by their feelings. They don’t want to know God; they want to experience him. Sensuous Christians equate “childlike faith” with ignorance. They think that when the Bible calls us to childlike faith, it means a faith without content, a faith without understanding. They don’t know the Bible says, “In evil be infants, but in your thinking be mature” (1 Cor. 14:20). They don’t realize that Paul tells us again and again, “My beloved brethren, I would not have you ignorant” (see, for example, Rom 11:25)
Sensuous Christians go their merry way until they encounter the pain of life that is not so merry – and they fold. They usually end up embracing a kind of “relational theology” (a curse on modern Christianity) where personal relationships and experience take precedence over the Word of God. If the Scripture calls us to action that may jeopardize a personal relationship, then the Scripture must be compromised. The highest law of sensuous Christians is that bad feelings must be avoided at all cost.

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Three Keys to Abide in Christ

“Abide in me, and I in you.” (John 15:4)

Christianity is about far more than holding right beliefs or adopting right behaviors. At salvation, we enter into a union with God that changes our legal status. We have right standing with God now. We have a righteousness that comes by faith, and that faith justifies us (Philippians 3:7-9; Romans 3:21-26, 5:1).

But we have more. We also have communion with God. We have access to a life-giving, soul-thrilling, joy-producing communion with God through Christ (1 John 1:3; John 15:11). The Christian faith is about union and communion with Jesus.

Union with Christ without communion with Christ is joyless Christianity.


Union with Christ without communion with Christ is joyless Christianity.
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Our hearts should desire this intimate relationship. We should long for this fellowship with God. David reflects this posture when he prays, “O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water” (Psalm 63:1). David earnestly seeks God. His soul thirsts for God. There is desperation. There is urgency. Oh, to have a heart that echoes his!

Do we seek God like this? Do we desire God in this manner? Is there any part of David’s cry that you recognize in your heart?

Jesus Invites You to Abide

In John’s Gospel, Jesus teaches his disciples about this communion. He informs them that he has already made them clean (John 15:3), and has pronounced them clean during the upper room foot washing (John 13:10-11). This ceremony wasn’t pointing to Jesus’ hyper-aversion to dirty feet; it was a symbolic display of his incarnation, atoning sacrifice, resurrection, and ascension. This is why he declared them clean, with the exception of Judas (a clear indication dirty feet was not the idea).

Jesus says this hours before going to the cross to bear their sins and make them clean. So Jesus’ declaration in John 15:3 is a statement of legal status.

He follows this with the command “abide in me, and I in you” (John 15:4). To “abide” is a verb. It is active. Abiding in Christ is not a feeling or a belief, but something we do. It means to “remain” or “stay” and entails far more than the idea of continued belief in the Savior.

John 15:5 further illustrates this abiding relationship with a parallel relationship of a vine and a branch. We (the branches) are to be connected to him (the Vine) for our life and sustenance. Only in him can we bear fruit.

What the Saints Say

But how? What does it look like to abide in Christ daily? A few descriptions from other godly saints help us get a picture:

John Piper

John Piper says, “Hour-by-hour abiding in Jesus means hour-by-hour trusting him to meet all your needs and be all our treasure.[1]

J.C. Ryle

J.C. Ryle explains, “To abide in Christ means to keep up a habit of constant close communion with Him–to be always leaning on Him, resting on Him, pouring out our hearts to Him, and using Him as our Fountain of life and strength, as our chief Companion and best Friend. To have His words abiding in us, is to keep His sayings and precepts continually before our memories and minds, and to make them the guide of our actions and the rule of our daily conduct and behavior.”[2]

John Owen

John Owen exhorts, “Would a soul continually eye His everlasting tenderness and compassion, His thoughts of kindness that have been from of old, His present gracious acceptance, it could not bear an hour’s absence from Him; whereas now, perhaps, it cannot watch with Him one hour.”[3]

Three Keys to Abiding

Abiding has a continual, hour-by-hour nature to it, a constant looking to Jesus through the Scriptures. If we could avoid gospel-amnesia and remember his grace, we could barely stand an hour’s absence from him. These saints give incredible definitions to help us grasp abiding in Christ. Here’s mine:

To abide in Christ daily requires dependence upon the Holy Spirit in which we do three things:

  • Walk by faith
  • Spend focused time
  • Engage in intentional actions

We daily preach the gospel to ourselves (walk by faith); plan to abide throughout our days (focused time); and read Scripture, pray, live in community with others, and fight sin (intentional actions). We do this as we live dependent upon the Holy Spirit to bring us closer to Christ.

To be “in Christ” means to have a new legal standing and a new relational orientation. We do not solely want to be made right with God—we want to be with God. We are new creations in Christ, freed from sin and worldly pursuits to abide in him. And he gives us what we need to pursue this by giving us himself.

Are you eager to say with David, “Earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you?” May the Holy Spirit spark in us a want for more of Christ. May we yearn with holy urgency to know the depths and riches of the love of Christ, grasped through abiding.

[1] John Piper sermon “The New Commandment of Christ” http://www.desiringgod.org/messages/the-new-commandment-of-christ-love-one-another-as-i-have-loved-you [2] Ryle, John Charles. Expository Thoughts on the Gospels: St. John, Volume 3. p.104 [3] Owen, John. The Works of John Owen, Volume 2. p.32

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Dethroning the Judge

Code: B170424

[Editor’s Note: This article was first published in the earliest days of the GTY Blog. As we recently culled through the ministry archives in preparation for a new blog series on God’s work of creation—which coincides with the broadcast of The Battle for the Beginning sermon series on “Grace to You”—we believed this post deserved further consideration.]

Evolution was introduced as an atheistic alternative to the biblical view of creation. According to evolution, man created God rather than vice versa. The evolutionists’ ultimate agenda is to eliminate faith in God altogether and thereby do away with moral accountability.

Intuition suggests a series of questions to the human mind when we contemplate our origin: Who is in control of the universe? Is there Someone who is sovereign—a Lawgiver? Is there a universal Judge? Is there a transcendent moral standard to live by? Is there Someone to whom we will be accountable? Will there be a final assessment of how we live our lives? Will there be any final judgment?

Those are the very questions evolution was invented to avoid.

Evolution was devised to explain away the God of the Bible—not because evolutionists really believed a Creator was unnecessary to explain how things began, but because they did not want the God of Scripture as their Judge. Marvin L. Lubenow writes,

The real issue in the creation/evolution debate is not the existence of God. The real issue is the nature of God. To think of evolution as basically atheistic is to misunderstand the uniqueness of evolution. Evolution was not designed as a general attack against theism. It was designed as a specific attack against the God of the Bible, and the God of the Bible is clearly revealed through the doctrine of creation. Obviously, if a person is an atheist, it would be normal for him to also be an evolutionist. But evolution is as comfortable with theism as it is with atheism. An evolutionist is perfectly free to choose any god he wishes, as long as it is not the God of the Bible. The gods allowed by evolution are private, subjective, and artificial. They bother no one and make no absolute ethical demands. However, the God of the Bible is the Creator, Sustainer, Savior, and Judge. All are responsible to him. He has an agenda that conflicts with that of sinful humans. For man to be created in the image of God is very awesome. For God to be created in the image of man is very comfortable. [1]

To put it simply, evolution was invented in order to eliminate the God of Genesis and thereby to oust the Lawgiver and obliterate the inviolability of His law. Evolution is simply the latest means our fallen race has devised in order to suppress our innate knowledge and the biblical testimony that there is a God and that we are accountable to Him (cf. Romans 1:28). By embracing evolution, modern society aims to do away with morality, responsibility, and guilt. Society has embraced evolution with such enthusiasm because people imagine that it eliminates the Judge and leaves them free to do whatever they want without guilt and without consequences.

It’s important to remember that evolutionary theories (e.g., favorable mutation, millions of years) did not arise from honest scientific inquiry—evolution is science with an agenda. Evolution began and continues in rebellion against the Creator, ignoring the Lawgiver and dethroning the Judge. Even its science is afloat on a sea of irrationality, supported only by the murky depths of contradiction and speculation.

Many professing and influential Christians are ignoring that evidence these days—i.e., the origins of evolution—when they encourage us to harmonize evolutionary theory with the Bible. Why surrender the ground to unlawful rebels? Why dialogue with the enemy about this? Why give the interloper a voice?

There are far too many who claim Christ’s name but are not delighted with His law; they are not content to meditate on God’s Word day and night. Rather, they are intimidated by the counsel of the wicked (evolutionary theory), are attracted to the way of sinners (desire for relevance and academic credibility), and are longing for the seat of scoffers (positions of respect and influence). Try as they may, there’s no dethroning the Judge; they’ll meet Him one day.

(Adapted from The Battle for the Beginning.)

 


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Friday’s Featured Sermon: “Creation: Believe It or Not, Part 1” Genesis 1:1

Genesis 1:1

Code: B170421

Have you ever believed in evolution? Maybe you still do. It’s almost impossible to avoid indoctrination by this pseudo-scientific religion. Its tentacles have reached into every realm of education and the media.

Today, evolutionary theory is taught as historical fact. Most children are unlikely to be exposed to any alternative view of our origins in school or secular media. And in western countries outside the United States, skepticism regarding Darwin’s theory is almost non-existent. In fact, the expulsion of academics who deny, or even question, evolution is commonplace in colleges and universities.

Christians are likewise vulnerable to the dominant and intimidating sway evolution holds over our culture. Many scholars and preachers choose appeasement and compromise over biblical fidelity—trying to accommodate modern theory and ancient truth.

But John MacArthur argues that there is no way to insert billions of years and natural selection into the Bible’s opening chapter. You either believe Genesis 1, or you don’t. In his sermon, “Creation: Believe It or Not, Part 1,” John compares the biblical account of creation with the evolutionary worldview and finds zero compatibility between the two. Whether you’re a theistic evolutionist, progressive creationist, or hold to any other middle position, you are denying the straightforward biblical narrative found in Genesis 1.

While a literal understanding of Genesis is not essential for salvation, John points out that our view of the creation account has massive ramifications for fundamental Christian truths.

It is also important to all of us because understanding origins in the book of Genesis is foundational to the rest of the Bible. If Genesis, chapter 1 and chapter 2 don’t tell us the truth, then why should we believe anything else in the Bible? If it says in the New Testament that the Creator is our Redeemer, but God is not the Creator, then maybe He’s not the Redeemer either. If it tells us in 2 Peter that God Himself will bring about an instantaneous dissolution of the entire universe as we know it, that God in a moment will uncreate everything, then that has tremendous bearing upon His power to create. The same One who with a word can uncreate the universe is capable of creating it as quickly as He desires.

So what we believe about creation, what we believe about Genesis has implications all the way to the end of Scripture, implications with regard to the veracity and truthfulness of Scripture, implications as to the gospel, and implications as to the end of human history, all wrapped up in how we understand origins in the book of Genesis. The matter of origins then is absolutely critical to all human thinking. It becomes critical to how we conduct our lives as human beings.  Without an understanding of origins, without a right understanding of origins, there is no way to comprehend ourselves. There is no way to understand humanity, as to the purpose of our existence, and as to our destiny.  If we cannot believe what Genesis says about origins, we are lost as to our purpose and our destiny. Whether this world and its life as we know it evolved by chance, without a cause, or was created by God, has immense comprehensive implications for all of human life.

We don’t need to be intimidated by the aura of evolutionary theory. It’s just a false religion masquerading as scientific truth. In “Creation: Believe It or Not, Part 1,” John MacArthur shows us that God can be taken at His Word from the very first chapter.

Click here to listen to “Creation: Believe It or Not, Part 1.”

 


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Naturalism as Religion

Code: B170419

[Editor’s Note: This article was first published in the earliest days of the GTY Blog. As we recently culled through the ministry archives in preparation for a new blog series on God’s work of creation—which coincides with the broadcast of The Battle for the Beginning sermon series on “Grace to You”—we believed this post deserved further consideration.]

Thanks to the theory of evolution, naturalism is now the dominant religion of modern society. Less than a century and a half ago, Charles Darwin popularized the credo for this secular religion with his book The Origin of Species. Although most of Darwin’s theories about the mechanisms of evolution were discarded long ago, the doctrine of evolution itself has managed to achieve the status of a fundamental article of faith in the popular modern mind. Naturalism has now replaced Christianity as the main religion of the Western world, and evolution has become naturalism’s principal dogma.

Naturalism is the view that every law and every force operating in the universe is natural rather than moral, spiritual, or supernatural. Naturalism is inherently anti-theistic, rejecting the very concept of a personal God. Many assume naturalism therefore has nothing to do with religion. In fact, it is a common misconception that naturalism embodies the very essence of scientific objectivity. Naturalists themselves like to portray their system as a philosophy that stands in opposition to all faith-based world-views, pretending that it is scientifically and intellectually superior precisely because of its supposed non-religious character.

Not so. Religion is exactly the right word to describe naturalism. The entire philosophy is built on a faith-based premise. Its basic presupposition—an a priori rejection of everything supernatural—requires a giant leap of faith. And nearly all its supporting theories must be taken by faith as well.

Consider the dogma of evolution, for example. The notion that natural evolutionary processes can account for the origin of all living species has never been and never will be established as fact. Nor is it “scientific” in any true sense of the word. Science deals with what can be observed and reproduced by experimentation. The origin of life can be neither observed nor reproduced in any laboratory. By definition, then, true science can give us no knowledge whatsoever about where we came from or how we got here. Belief in evolutionary theory is a matter of sheer faith. And dogmatic belief in any naturalistic theory is no more “scientific” than any other kind of religious faith.

Modern naturalism is often promulgated with a missionary zeal that has powerful religious overtones. The popular fish symbol many Christians put on their cars now has a naturalist counterpart: a fish with feet and the word “Darwin” embossed into its side. The Internet has become naturalism’s busiest mission field, where evangelists for the cause aggressively try to deliver benighted souls who still cling to their theistic presuppositions. Judging from the tenor of some of the material I have read seeking to win converts to naturalism, naturalists are often dedicated to their faith with a devout passion that rivals or easily exceeds the fanaticism of any radical religious zealot. Naturalism is clearly as much a religion as any theistic world-view.

The point is further proved by examining the beliefs of those naturalists who claim to be most unfettered by religious beliefs. Take, for example, the case of Carl Sagan, perhaps the best-known scientific celebrity of the past couple of decades. A renowned astronomer and media figure, Sagan was overtly antagonistic to biblical theism. But he became the chief televangelist for the religion of naturalism. He preached a world-view that was based entirely on naturalistic assumptions. Underlying all he taught was the firm conviction that everything in the universe has a natural cause and a natural explanation. That belief—a matter of faith, not a truly scientific observation—governed and shaped every one of his theories about the universe.

Sagan examined the vastness and complexity of the universe and concluded—as he was bound to do, given his starting point—that there is nothing greater than the universe itself. So he borrowed divine attributes such as infinitude, eternality, and omnipotence, and he made them properties of the universe itself.

Sagan’s religion was actually a kind of naturalistic pantheism, and his motto sums it up perfectly. He deified the universe and everything in it—insisting that the cosmos itself is that which was, and is, and is to come (cf. Revelation 4:8). Having examined enough of the cosmos to see evidence of the Creator’s infinite power and majesty, he imputed that omnipotence and glory to creation itself—precisely the error the apostle Paul describes in Romans 1:20-22:

For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools.

Exactly like the idolaters Paul was describing, Sagan put creation in the Creator’s rightful place.

Carl Sagan looked at the universe and saw its greatness and concluded nothing could possibly be greater. His religious presuppositions forced him to deny that the universe was the result of intelligent design. In fact, as a devoted naturalist, he had to deny that it was created at all. Therefore he saw it as eternal and infinite—so it naturally took the place of God in his thinking.

The religious character of the philosophy that shaped Sagan’s world-view is evident in much of what he wrote and said. His novel Contact (made into a major motion picture in 1997) is loaded with religious metaphors and imagery. It’s about the discovery of extraterrestrial life, which occurs in December 1999, at the dawn of a new millennium, when the world is rife with Messianic expectations and apocalyptic fears. In Sagan’s imagination, the discovery of intelligent life elsewhere in the universe becomes the “revelation” that affords a basis for the fusing of science and religion into a world-view that perfectly mirrors Sagan’s own belief system—with the cosmos as God and scientists as the new priesthood.

Although not every naturalist is as explicit in their use of religious language, their worldview is inherently the same. If there is no God, the only way to make sense of creation is to turn the natural into the supernatural. While naturalism cannot explain why people would believe in God, God tells us why people would believe in naturalism.

(Adapted from The Battle for the Beginning.)

 


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Faith and Science, Falsely So-Called

Code: B170417

[Editor’s Note: This article was first published in the earliest days of the GTY Blog. As we recently culled through the ministry archives in preparation for a new blog series on God’s work of creation—which coincides with the broadcast of The Battle for the Beginning sermon series on “Grace to You”—we believed this post deserved further consideration.]

The apostle Paul closed his first epistle to Timothy by urging the young pastor to guard the deposit of truth that had been entrusted to him, “avoiding the profane and idle babblings and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge” (1 Timothy 6:20-21). In the King James Version, the text famously speaks of “science falsely so called.”

Over the course of human history, all kinds of speculative ideas have been falsely labeled “science” and mistakenly accepted as true and reliable knowledge by otherwise brilliant people. The now-discredited dogmas of older scientific theories are numerous—and in some cases laughable. They include alchemy (the medieval belief that other base metals could be transmuted into gold); phrenology (the Victorian belief that the shape of one’s skull reflects character traits and mental capacity); astrology (the pagan belief that human destiny is determined by the motions of celestial bodies); and abiogenesis (the long-standing belief that living organisms are spontaneously generated by decaying organic substances). All those false beliefs were deemed credible as “science” by the leading minds of their times.

Consider just one of those—abiogenesis. Popularly known as “spontaneous generation,” this idea has long been, and continues to be, one of the archetypal expressions of “science falsely so called.” It is also one of the most persistent of all demonstrably pseudoscientific fictions. The notion that aphids arise naturally from dew on plant leaves, mold is generated automatically by aging bread, and maggots are spontaneously begotten by rotting meat was more or less deemed self-evident by most of humanity’s brightest intellects from the time of Aristotle until 1861, when Louis Pasteur conclusively proved that non-living matter cannot spawn life on its own.

Take for example Alexander Ross, an early seventeenth-century Scottish writer and intellectual who harshly criticized Sir Thomas Browne for questioning the dogma of spontaneous generation. Under the heading “Mice and other vermin bred of putrefaction, even in mens bodies,” he wrote:

He doubts whether mice can be procreated of putrefaction. So he may doubt whether in cheese and timber worms are generated; Or if Betels and wasps in cowes dung; Or if butterflies, locusts, grasshoppers, shel-fish, snails, eeles, and such like, be procreated of putrefied matter, which is apt to receive the form of that creature to which it is by the formative power disposed. To question this, is to question Reason, Sense, and Experience: If he doubts of this, let him go to Egypt, and there he will finde the fields swarming with mice begot of the mud of [the Nile]. [1]

It is one of the great ironies of scientific history that the first edition of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species was published exactly two years before Pasteur’s famous experiments proved that life cannot arise spontaneously from non-living matter. The publication of Darwin’s book marked the apotheosis of evolutionary theory, and it was rooted in the basic presupposition that under the right circumstances, life can spring on its own from non-living matter. In other words, two years before abiogenesis was scientifically debunked, it was in effect canonized as the central dogma of modern secular belief about the origins of life. The discovery that fleas don’t magically form out of decomposing dander on the backs of dirty dogs did not dissuade most in the scientific world from embracing the theory that all life in the universe arose by itself out of nothing. The belief that life spontaneously came from non-life remains to this day the great unexplained (albeit easily disprovable) assumption underlying the dogma of evolution.

The irony of that is utterly lost on many in the scientific community today, where evolution has become an article of faith—unshakable faith, it turns out.

Evolutionists have conveniently “solved” the problem of abiogenesis by repeatedly moving their estimates of the earth’s age backward toward infinity. Given enough time, it seems, anything is possible. Trying desperately to keep the biblical concept of eternity at bay, evolutionists have thus devised an alternative kind of infinitude. Every time a challenge to current evolutionary theory arises, geologists and astronomers dutifully tack billions and billions of eons onto their theories about the earth’s age, adding however many ancient epochs are deemed necessary for some new impossibility to be explained.

In the introduction to my 2001 book, The Battle for the Beginning, I suggested naturalism had become the dominant religion of contemporary secular society. “Religion is exactly the right word to describe naturalism,” I wrote. “The entire philosophy is built on a faith-based premise. Its basic presupposition—a rejection of everything supernatural—requires a giant leap of faith. And nearly all its supporting theories must be taken by faith as well.” [2]

Here, then, is a classic example of what I was talking about: the typical evolutionist’s starting point is this notion that life arose spontaneously from inanimate matter sometime in eternity past. That requires not merely the willful suspension of what we know for certain about the origins of life and the impossibility of abiogenesis—but also enough deliberate gullibility to believe that moving-target estimates of the earth’s antiquity can sufficiently answer all the problems and contradictions sheer naturalism poses.

Meanwhile, in the popular media, evolutionary doctrine and ever-expanding notions of prehistory are being promoted with all the pious zeal of the latest religious sect. Watch the Internet forums, programs on the Discovery Channel, interviews and articles published in the mass media, school textbooks, and books aimed at lay readers—and what you will usually see is raw assertions, demagoguery, intimidation, and ridicule (especially when the subjects of biblical theism and the Genesis account of creation are raised).

But question the dogma that all life evolved from a single spontaneously-generated cell, point out that the universe is full of evidence for intelligent design, or demand the kind of proof for evolutionary origins that would ordinarily pass scientific muster, and the ardent evolutionist will simply dismiss you as a heretic or a bigot of the worst stripe. What they are tacitly acknowledging is that as far as they are concerned, evolution is a doctrine that must be received with implicit faith, not something that can be scientifically demonstrated. After all, the claims of true science can always be investigated, observed, reproduced, tested, and proved in the laboratory. So to insist that evolution and so-called “deep time” doctrines must be accepted without question is really just a tacit admission that these are not scientific ideas at all.

Consider these quotations from typical evolutionist writers:

  • No biologist today would think of submitting a paper entitled “New evidence for evolution;” it simply has not been an issue for a century. [3]
  • It is time for students of the evolutionary process, especially those who have been misquoted and used by the creationists, to state clearly that evolution is a fact, not theory. . . . All present forms of life arose from ancestral forms that were different. Birds arose from nonbirds and humans from nonhumans. No person who pretends to any understanding of the natural world can deny these facts. [4]
  • Here is what separates real scientists from the pseudoscientists of the school of intelligent design. . . . One thing all real scientists agree upon is the fact of evolution itself. It is a fact that we are cousins of gorillas, kangaroos, starfish, and bacteria. Evolution is as much a fact as the heat of the sun. It is not a theory, and for pity’s sake, let’s stop confusing the philosophically naive by calling it so. Evolution is a fact. [5]

But as those statements themselves show, evolution is a dogma, not a demonstrable “fact.” I stand by the position I took in The Battle for the Beginning: “Belief in evolutionary theory is a matter of sheer faith. [It is] as much a religion as any theistic world-view.” [6]

I’ll go even further: science cannot speak with any authority about when the universe began, how it came into being, or how life originated on earth. Science by definition deals with what can be observed, tested, measured, and investigated by empirical means. Scientific data by definition are facts that can be demonstrated by controlled, repeatable experiments that always yield consistent results. The beginning of the universe by its very nature falls outside the realm of scientific investigation.

To state the case plainly: there is no scientific way to explain creation. No one but God actually observed creation. It did not happen by any uniform, predictable, observable, repeatable, fixed, or natural laws. It was not a natural event or a series of natural events. The initial creation of matter was an instantaneous, monumental, inexplicable miracle—the exact opposite of a “natural” phenomenon. And the formation of the universe was a brief series of supernatural events that simply cannot be studied or explained by science. There are no natural processes involved in creation; the act of creation cannot be repeated; it cannot be tested; and therefore naturalistic theories purporting to explain the origin and age of the universe are unverifiable.

In other words, creation is a theological issue, not a scientific one. Scripture is our only credible source of information about creation, because God Himself was the only eyewitness to the event. We can either believe what He says or reject it. But no Christian should ever imagine that what we believe about the origin of the universe is merely a secondary, nonessential, or incidental matter. It is, after all, the very starting point of God’s self-revelation.

In fact, in its profound brevity, Genesis 1:1 is a very simple, clear, and unequivocal account of how the universe, the earth, and everything on the earth came to be: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” That is not an ambiguous statement.

Christians should not be intimidated by dogmatic naturalism. We do not need to invent a new interpretation of Genesis every time some geologist or astronomer declares that the universe must be older than he previously thought. Nor should we imagine that legitimate science poses any threat to the truth of Scripture. Above all, we must not seek ways to circumvent the clear meaning of God’s Word, compromise our trust in the Creator, or continually yield ground to every new theory of falsely-so-called science. That is precisely what Paul was warning Timothy about.

Sadly, it seems evolutionary thinking and qualms about the Genesis account of creation have reached epidemic levels among professing Christians in recent decades. Too many Christian leaders, evangelical schools, and Bible commentators have been willing to set aside the biblical account of a relatively young earth in order to accommodate the ever-changing estimates of naturalistic geologists and astronomers. They have thrown away sound hermeneutical principles—at least in the early chapters of Genesis—to accommodate the latest theories of evolution.

When I encounter people who think evolutionary doctrine trumps the biblical account of creation, I like to ask them where their belief in the Bible kicks in. Is it in chapter 3, where the fall of Adam and original sin are accounted for? In chapters 4-5, where early human history is chronicled? In chapters 6-8, with the record of the flood? In chapter 11, with the Tower of Babel? Because if you bring naturalism and its presuppositions to the early chapters of Genesis, it is just a short step to denying all the miracles of Scripture—including the resurrection of Christ. If we want to make science the test of biblical truth rather than vice versa, why would it not make just as much sense to question the biblical record of the resurrection as it does to reject the Genesis account? But “if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! . . . If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable” (1 Corinthians 15:17-19).

 

 


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Forsake Sin by Following the Good Shepherd

Seeing the people, [Jesus] felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd. (Matthew 9:36, NASB)

Brothers and sisters, the fight against sin feels prolonged and arduous in this life—doesn’t it? We grow in one area, only to meet the next depravity in ourselves to war. Well, though the fight against sin is difficult, sin’s harm within us is far worse.

Jesus, the One who sees into our bare souls, noticed without exception that the people he preached to were “distressed” and “dispirited” without him. Jesus cared about the damaging effects of sin on our souls, and he saw our barren want—coming to give us life and truth for all eternity (c.f. Matthew 9:37-38).

How Sin Scatters the Sheep

Distressed and dispirited.

Distressed denotes that our souls are being harassed by sin and, therefore, are disoriented about our circumstances. Sin rips away at us. It leaves us troubled, disconcerted, anxious, and unhappy.

The second word, dispirited, suggests a limp form, haggardly and motionlessly positioned without help or care.¹ We are astray and lifeless by sin whose wages are death (Romans 6:23; Matthew 18:8), for it keeps us from our Shepherd. The people of Jesus’ time—and we in ours—needed the foretold, divine Ruler:

“And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.” (Matthew 2:6)


The opposite of sin is to be led as sheep by the Good Shepherd who has compassion on us.
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This Shepherd would be unlike any other. The infamous Pharisees, the spiritual leadership at the time of Jesus’ first coming, were not shepherding their people well. They were concerned with themselves primarily, and it grievously muddled the hearts and minds of the people in their care, as in the mold of the words of Ezekiel 34:5 and Jeremiah 50:6:

“So [the sheep] were scattered, because there was no shepherd, and they became food for all the wild beasts. My sheep were scattered;”

“My people have become lost sheep; Their shepherds have led them astray…and have forgotten their resting place.”

Good earthly shepherds herd sheep toward the guidance of the true Shepherd. Yet, without good earthly shepherds, people’s souls are consumed by unsound doctrine and wither from sin, and people do not see their needs accurately. In order to understand our needs as they are, we have to truly hear and see him.

It might be natural to assume that the opposite of sin is not to sin. Yet, better, the opposite of sin is to be led as sheep by the Good Shepherd who has compassion on us.

How Jesus Shows Compassion to His Sheep

Throughout the Gospels, Jesus’ compassion is associated with his messianic signs, people’s faith in him, and his teaching.

“Your sins are forgiven.”

Matthew’s Gospel teaches Jesus as Israel’s Messiah (Matthew 1:1). In Matthew 15:31, Jesus performs many miraculous signs, and people glorify the “God of Israel.” Then, Jesus has “compassion” for the crowd of four thousand, and with a messianic sign he feeds them.

In the previous chapter, a great crowd follows Jesus after the news of the beheading of John the Baptist (14:13), and he miraculously feeds the five thousand, with “compassion” upon them (14:14). These miraculous, messianic signs were likely associated with some display of faith, considering Matthew 13:58 which tells us about a place where Jesus “did not do many might works…because of their unbelief.”

Earlier in Matthew, his miraculous signs were seen alongside the message of having faith in his ability to do the more difficult work: “For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’?” (9:5). He is not merely one who has compassion and performs wonders—he forgives sins. By him, we have eternal direction and life.

“He began to teach them many things.”

Mark 6:34 directly connects Jesus’ compassion with his response of teaching these eternal truths: “When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things”—presumably about his being the Son of God (1:1), their need for his forgiveness (3:28), and their response of repentance and faith (4, 6:12).

Jesus met physical needs; he fed crowds and performed miracles—for he was the long-awaited Messiah (Matthew 1:1) and the Son of God (Mark 1:1). These attested to his authority, but Jesus taught that he was the eternal remedy for our sin-ravaged souls. So the Gospels, including Jesus’ compassionate messianic signs, teach us to follow him toward eternity in full confidence and belief. In him, we become sheep with the Shepherd we have always needed.

How Jesus’ Sheep Forsake Their Sin

Sheep are not the smartest of animals; but I think the comparison can also be one of beauty. I envision sheep following a shepherd trustingly, willingly, and without second-guessing their way.

Being spiritual sheep means we cannot discern that we are sinners in need of a Shepherd without being told so (Romans 10:14). Yet, once we truly hear him and see the truth of his teaching about ourselves and who he is, then we believe he is our Shepherd, and like sheep, we will follow him anywhere. Beautiful! So it is as the Christian life continues—as we see and hear more of Jesus, we want to follow and be led away from sin.

Christian, he has seen your need; he has acted for you for eternal life. So keep fighting your sin! Continue, because you have a true Shepherd whose life-giving voice your reborn soul loves to hear, and whose reorienting truth it marvels to see. Keep fighting your sin because you know you have a Shepherd who has had such compassion upon you. “Compassion involves so identifying with the situation of others that one is prepared to act for their benefit.”²

No other has, will, or ever could act for our behalf as he did.

Forsake your sin by knowing, listening to, and following the sin-forgiving, debt-paying Ruler and Shepherd of your soul.

[1] Nolland, John. The Gospel of Matthew: A Commentary on the Greek Text. New International Greek Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press, 2005. [2] Ibid. Photo Credit: Shutterstock]

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CultureWatch: Why the Cross?

The Easter event is the most important even in human history. Without the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ we would all be lost – forever. The love relationship God desired with his creatures was marred by sin and rebellion, and there was nothing we could do to make things right.

So he took the initiative, he sent his Son, he allowed our punishment to fall on him, and he let himself, in some strange way, die on our behalf. But he rose again and all who now come to Christ in repentance and faith can experience new life, and a restored relationship with God.

easter 16There is nothing greater or more important than this. That is why Easter is so utterly important, and that is why we must never trivialise it nor minimise it. It is the turning point of human history. It is indeed the greatest story ever told. With two thousand years of reflection and meditation and writing on this, I have nothing new to add here.

With so much already written on the Cross of Christ and what it has achieved for us, allow me if you will to simply offer a number of stirring and inspiring quotes. They are just a drop in the bucket, and plenty more could be offered here of course.

But taken together they offer us something of what the Easter story is all about, and why the Cross is the lynchpin of human history. Here they are in no particular order:

“If we want proof of God’s love for us, then we must look first at the Cross where God offered up His Son as a sacrifice for our sins. Calvary is the one objective, absolute, irrefutable proof of God’s love for us.” Jerry Bridges

“Before we can begin to see the cross as something done for us, we have to see it as something done by us.” John Stott

“God undertook the most dramatic rescue operation in cosmic history. He determined to save the human race from self-destruction, and He sent His Son Jesus Christ to salvage and redeem them. The work of man’s redemption was accomplished at the cross.” Billy Graham

“Easter is always the answer to ‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me!’” Madeleine L’Engle

“As they were looking on, so we too gaze on his wounds as he hangs. We see his blood as he dies. We see the price offered by the redeemer, touch the scars of his resurrection. He bows his head, as if to kiss you. His heart is made bare open, as it were, in love to you. His arms are extended that he may embrace you. His whole body is displayed for your redemption. Ponder how great these things are. Let all this be rightly weighed in your mind: as he was once fixed to the cross in every part of his body for you, so he may now be fixed in every part of your soul.” Augustine

“It was Christ who willingly went to the cross, and it was our sins that took him there.” Franklin Graham

“As we face the cross, then, we can say to ourselves both, “I did it, my sins sent him there,” and “He did it, his love took him there.” John Stott

“We believe that the history of the world is but the history of His influence and that the center of the whole universe is the cross of Calvary.” Alexander MacLaren

“It costs God nothing, so far as we know, to create nice things: but to convert rebellious wills cost Him crucifixion.” C. S. Lewis

“God turned our greatest evil (sin) into the occasion for our greatest good (salvation); in fact He turned the greatest sin ever—deicide—into the very instrument of our greatest good, ‘Good Friday’.” Peter Kreeft

“The heart of the Christian Gospel with its incarnation and atonement is in the cross and the resurrection. Jesus was born to die.” Billy Graham

“The great event on Calvary . . . is an eternal reminder to a power drunk generation that love is the most durable power in the world, and that it is at bottom the heartbeat of the moral cosmos. Only through achieving this love can you expect to matriculate into the university of eternal life.” Martin Luther

“Jesus has borne the death penalty on our behalf. Behold the wonder! There He hangs upon the cross! This is the greatest sight you will ever see. Son of God and Son of Man, there He hangs, bearing pains unutterable, the just for the unjust, to bring us to God. Oh, the glory of that sight!” Charles Spurgeon

“Miserable indeed is that religious teaching which calls itself Christian, and yet contains nothing of the cross.” J. C. Ryle

“Forgiveness is the reason for the crucifixion, and the crucifixion is the reason for the Incarnation.” Peter Kreeft

“All of heaven is interested in the cross of Christ, hell afraid of it, while men are the only ones to ignore its meaning.” Oswald Chambers

“When Jesus died on the cross the mercy of God did not become any greater. It could not become any greater, for it was already infinite. We get the odd notion that God is showing mercy because Jesus died. No – Jesus died because God is showing mercy. It was the mercy of God that gave us Calvary, not Calvary that gave us mercy. If God had not been merciful there would have been no incarnation, no babe in the manger, no man on a cross and no open tomb.” A. W. Tozer

“Let us go to Calvary to learn how we may be forgiven. And then let us linger there to learn how to forgive.” Charles Spurgeon

“The most obscene symbol in human history is the Cross; yet in its ugliness it remains the most eloquent testimony to human dignity.” R. C. Sproul

“Outside of the cross of Jesus Christ, there is no hope in this world. That cross and resurrection at the core of the Gospel is the only hope for humanity. Wherever you go, ask God for wisdom on how to get that Gospel in, even in the toughest situations of life.” Ravi Zacharias

“The cross … is the watershed event for the whole of the cosmos, affecting everything after it”. J. Louis Martyn

“Both God’s love and God’s wrath are ratcheted up in the move from the old covenant to the new, from the Old Testament to the New. These themes barrel along through redemptive history, unresolved, until they come to a resounding climax – at the cross. Do you wish to see God’s love? Look at the cross. Do you wish to see God’s wrath? Look at the cross.” D. A. Carson

“God, who needs nothing, loves into existence wholly superfluous creatures in order that He may love and perfect them. He creates the universe, already foreseeing – or should we say ‘seeing’? there are no tenses in God – the buzzing cloud of flies about the cross, the flayed back pressed against the uneven stake, the nails driven through the medial nerves, the repeated incipient suffocation as the body droops, the repeated torture of back and arms as it is time after time, for breath’s sake, hitched up. If I may dare the biological image, God is a ‘host’ who deliberately creates His own parasites; causes us to be that we may exploit and ‘take advantage of’ Him. Herein is love. This is the diagram of Love Himself, the inventor of all loves.” C. S. Lewis

“God Hold us to that which drew us first, when the Cross was the attraction, and we wanted nothing else.” Amy Carmichael

“Jesus’ death was seen by Jesus himself … as the ultimate means by which God’s kingdom was established. The crucifixion was the shocking answer to the prayer that God’s kingdom would come on earth as in heaven.” N. T. Wright

“In the cross of Christ justice was fully done, its claims were fully met and God’s mercy to sinners triumphed in the provision of a complete forgiveness and a full salvation. . . . Judgment looks at our deserts; mercy at our needs. And God himself looks at the cross of his Son.” John Stott

“The reconciliation of justice with mercy lies in the Cross. God does not balance mercy and justice; He accomplishes both to the full.” J. Budziszewski

Easter rembrandt“Look again at the cross, my friend. Take another survey. Examine it again with greater depth and profundity, and having seen the grace and the mercy and the compassion and the kindness of God, look again and this is what you will see. You will see the righteousness of God. You will see the justice of God and his holiness. It is the place of all places in the universe where these attributes of God can be seen most plainly.” Martyn Lloyd-Jones

“I wonder maybe if our Lord does not suffer more from our indifference, than He did from the crucifixion.” Fulton J. Sheen

“Life is wasted if we do not grasp the glory of the cross, cherish it for the treasure that it is, and cleave to it as the highest price of every pleasure and the deepest comfort in every pain. What was once foolishness to us—a crucified God—must become our wisdom and our power and our only boast in this world.” John Piper

“Come, and see the victories of the cross. Christ’s wounds are your healings, His agonies your repose, His conflicts your conquests, His groans your songs, His pains your ease, His shame your glory, His death your life, His sufferings your salvation.” Matthew Henry

“But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” The Apostle Paul

Let me conclude by reminding you of the wonderful painting “The Raising of the Cross”. In it we find Rembrandt crucifying Christ. He sure got the gospel right. Have we done the same? Do we really understand the vital truth that we (you and me) put Christ on the cross? We can never become a true Christian until we personally and profoundly grasp that reality.

[1716 words]

The post Why the Cross? appeared first on CultureWatch.

Of First Importance: The Priority of the Cross and the Empty Tomb

The Christian faith is not a mere collection of doctrines — a bag of truths. Christianity is a comprehensive truth claim that encompasses every aspect of revealed doctrine, but is centered in the gospel of Jesus Christ. And, as the apostolic preaching makes clear, the gospel is the priority.

The Apostle Paul affirms this priority when he writes to the Christians in Corinth. In the opening verses of 1 Corinthians 15, Paul sets out his case:

Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.

Paul points directly to the events of the cross and resurrection of Christ. He is not concerned with just any gospel, but with the only gospel that saves. This is “the gospel I preached to you,” Paul reminds the Corinthians. The same Paul who so forcefully warned the Galatians against accepting any false gospel reminds the church at Corinth that the very “gospel I preached to you” is the gospel “by which you are being saved.” Their stewardship of the gospel is underlined in Paul’s words, “if you hold fast to the word I preached to you.”

Paul’s statement of priority is a vital corrective for our confused times. Without hesitation, Paul writes with urgency about the truths that are “as of first importance.” All revealed truth is vital, invaluable, life-changing truth to which every disciple of Christ is fully accountable. But certain truths are of highest importance, and that is the language Paul uses without qualification.

And what is of first importance? “That Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures,” and “that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.” The cross and the empty tomb stand at the center of the Christian faith. Without these, there is no good news — no salvation.

Paul gets right to the heart of the matter in setting out those truths that are “of first importance.” Following his example, we can do no less. These twin truths remain “as of first importance,” and no sermon is complete without the explicit affirmation of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. So it was then, so it is now, and so it ever shall be until Christ claims his church.

As Paul reminded the Corinthians — and now instructs us — the gospel is at the center of our faith, and the cross and the empty tomb are at the center of the gospel. “So we preach, and so you believed,” Paul encourages us. [1 Cor. 15:11]

May the power of the cross and the victory of the empty tomb fill every pulpit, every pew, and every Christian heart — and may the Good News of the gospel be received with joy by sinners in need of a Savior.

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. [1 Corinthians 15:56-58]

The post Of First Importance: The Priority of the Cross and the Empty Tomb appeared first on AlbertMohler.com.

What will become of you when you die?

Easter conjures images of Easter egg hunts, decorative baskets filled with all sorts of goodies, cool new clothes, church services, and families and friends gathering together for a feast. It’s all about….what? Is the reason we observe Easter Sunday to celebrate the coming of the Easter Bunny? To usher in springtime? Or is it an excuse for a parade?

As you might have already surmised, it is none of the above. The significance of Easter is to celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

For many professing Christians, Easter isn’t about Jesus — it’s about binging on sweets! There’s nothing wrong with Easter festivities per se; but to be sure, the reason we celebrate is Christ’s triumph over death. A little more than two thousand years ago the Son of God experienced a humiliating horrific death to atone for the sins of humankind. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

The Son of God condescended to take on human flesh and come to Earth to die, not because He had some sort of social or political agenda that weighed heavy on His heart. Jesus was not concerned with “social justice.” He came to Earth to die for our sins.

The Bible is clear that God’s hates sin — yet He went to great lengths to save us!  Pastor and author John MacArthur explains it thusly:

When we say God hates sin and doesn’t hate the sinner, you’re really drawing a fine line. God looked on all His creation and said that it was good, so that basically what God created He adores, He considers the work of His hand, and man, though the image of God is marred is none the less made in the image of God. So, the New Testament says God loves the world, God loves all men. It even says that we are to do good unto all men especially of the household of faith, so we are to do good to all men for they are made in the image of God. There is a sense in which no matter what we do in our lives, God still loves what we are as the expression of His creation. But He hates the sin.

The thing most people fail to understand is that God is holy. (Isaiah 6:3, Rev 4:8) And because God is holy He is repelled by evil. All sin is evil — even those “little white lies” we tell. Washing away our sins (cleaning us up) is the sole purpose for Jesus’ death on the cross. He died for one and all, and that includes those we think aren’t worth a plug nickel.

My point is that the person who truly BELIEVES that Jesus shed His blood for his sins and realizes his need for repentance and forgiveness will be saved from eternal damnation. Yes, Jesus died for the worst of the worst, the scum of the earth, the reprobate, the smelly homeless guy, the ugly girl in your math class, Bashful, Dopey, Doc and, yes, even Grumpy. So if an outlaw like Billy the Kid comes to faith in Christ, that outlaw is heaven bound! The blood of Christ has washed away his sins.  From the moment the Kid repents and places his faith in Christ, he is no longer that outlaw; he has become a son of the King.

Christ’s death on the cross is God’s way of saving humans from being sent to hell for all eternity. Every sinner is destined for hell — and hell is a real place! How do I know that? Because Jesus gave us fair warning when He spoke these words:  “If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell” (Matthew 5:29). He also spoke of hell to the Pharisees: “You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell?” (Matthew 23:33). Again: “And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You shall be brought down to Hades” (Luke 10:15). Christ’s words were not just hyperbole!  If hell is nonexistent, the Lord Jesus wouldn’t have warned people about it. Those who reject Him will be sentenced to hell!

But never fear! There is a way to avoid being sentenced to that terrible place. The Apostle Paul tells us how to avoid it: “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved [from hell]” (Romans 10:9).

Now, those who think they know better than God who should enter the Highway to Heaven or be thrown into hell will no doubt reject what Paul said. But they cannot ignore the fact that the scriptures teach that God, no one else, will decide who ultimately goes up…and who goes into the pit.

There are those who believe that “good people” go to heaven. Au contraire! By God’s standard of “good” the Bible says a person’s good deeds are “filthy rags.” No Good person, no good Protestant, Catholic, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu or Mormon will ever see the Kingdom of Heaven. Why? For the simple reason that “good people” will not be invited into God’s kingdom. Jesus said “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) So no matter how good an individual appears to be, he/she will never be “good enough” to stand in the presence of Holiness unless he/she is cleansed of all sin by the blood of the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

It’s going to be a huge shock when those in the “me” generation find themselves in the courtroom of the One who will judge the world and are handed a one way ticket to hell. After all, they think God created the sun just to light up their lives. Hell isn’t a real place anyway, they say. So why should anyone have to worry about going there? And if there is a hell, only murders, rapists, pedophiles and Adolph Hitler will go there. It’s indeed true that unrepentant murders and so forth will go to hell; likewise, anyone else who rejects Christ will spend eternity “where the worm never turns…”  Including “good people.”

Warning to the unbeliever! Jesus Christ is the CEO (Chief Executive Over-all) of Heaven.   So – if you have little or no interest in getting to know the Lord Jesus while residing on this planet, why would you want to live in the kingdom He rules for all eternity?  Moreover, if you have no use for biblical Christianity and its “outdated confessions, creeds and dogmas,” then would you really want to bow to and worship the Son of God for all eternity?

One last thing.  There are a large number of professing Christians who claim to love Jesus yet they’re too embarrassed–or proud–to bend a knee to Him.  They embrace Him as their Savior but they’ll not allow Him to be their Lord and Master.  They disobey His commands and live by their own rules…and they believe they’re saved.  Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15) So are these people saved?  Really?

Not judging, just saying.

© Marsha West, 2017

Source: What will become of you when you die?