Pornography – A Biblical Worldview Perspective

Kerby Anderson looks at pornography from a biblical worldview perspective. He clearly chronicles the physical, emotional and spiritual harm created by pornography and lays out the scriptural warnings to protect us from its degrading effects.

Pornography has been tearing apart the very fabric of modern society, but the problem has been made much worse with pornography’s proliferation through the Internet. Studies show that 40 million adults regularly visit Internet pornography sites.{1} To put that in perspective, that is ten times the amount of people who regularly watch baseball.

download-podcastWhen I first started writing about pornography in the 1980s, it was already a multi-billion dollar-a-year business mostly promoted through so-called “adult bookstores” and pornographic magazines. With the development of videos, DVDs, and the Internet, pornography has become ubiquitous.

The wages of sin are enormous when pornography is involved. Revenue from Internet porn exceeds by nearly a 2 to 1 ratio, the combined revenues of ABC, CBS, and NBC.{2} And sales of pornographic material on the Internet surpass the cumulative sales of all other products sold online.{3}

The current estimate is the there are over 4 million pornographic websites representing almost 400 million pages of pornographic material.{4}

Pornography is not just something a few men view in the late hours in the privacy of their homes. At least 70 percent of porn is downloaded during work hours (9 am to 5 pm). A percentage of those who do so admit to accessing pornography at work.

And pornography also affects those in church. According to Leadership Journal, 40 percent of pastors admit to visiting a pornographic website.{5} And at one Promise Keepers Convention, 53 percent of men admitted to visiting a porn site the week before.{6}

The impact pornography is having on young people is alarming. It used to be that when you would ask someone when they first saw pornography they would tell you a story about seeing a porn magazine at a friend’s house when they were in middle school or high school. Now a child in grade school has already seen images that were only available in an adult bookstore a few years ago. At one time these images were inaccessible to youth; now they are merely a mouse click away. The average age of first exposure to Internet pornography is 11 years old. And the largest consumer of Internet pornography is the 12-17 age group.{7}

How should we define pornography? What is the effect on individuals and society? And what is a biblical perspective on this? I deal with each of these questions in detail in my book, Christians Ethics in Plain Language.{8} In the next section, we address some of these questions.

Definition and Types of Pornography

How should we define pornography? Pornography has been defined as material that “is predominantly sexually explicit and intended primarily for the purpose of sexual arousal.” Hard-core pornography “is sexually explicit in the extreme, and devoid of any other apparent content or purpose.”{9}

Another important term is obscenity. In the 1973 Supreme Court case of Miller v. California, the justices set forth a three-part test to define obscenity:{10}

(a) The average person, applying contemporary community standards, would find the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest.

(b) The work depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by the applicable state law, and

(c) The work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.

What are the types of pornography? The first type of pornography is adult magazines, which are primarily directed toward adult male readers. The magazines with the widest distribution (Playboy and Penthouse) do not violate the Miller standards of obscenity and thus can be legally distributed.

The second type of pornography is video. Videocassettes or DVDs are rented or sold in most adult bookstores and the Internet. They have become a growth industry for pornography.

The third type of pornography is motion pictures. Ratings standards are being relaxed, and many pornographic movies are being shown and distributed carrying R and NC-17 ratings. Many of these so-called “hard R” rated films would have been considered obscene just a few decades ago.

A fourth type of pornography is television. As in motion pictures, standards for commercial television have been continuously lowered. But cable television poses an even greater threat. The Federal Communications Commission does not regulate cable in the same way it does public access stations. Thus, many pornographic movies are shown on cable television.

A fifth type of pornography is audio porn, which includes “Dial-a-porn” telephone calls, the second fastest growth market of pornography. Although most of the messages are within the Miller definition of obscenity, these businesses continue to thrive and are often used by children.

A sixth type of pornography is “cyberporn,” or Internet pornography. Virtually anyone can download and view hard-core pictures, movies, online chat, and even live sex acts through the Internet.

Addiction to Pornography

Victor Cline, a psychologist, documented how men become addicted to pornographic materials, then begin to desire more explicit or deviant material, and finally act out what they have seen.{11} He maintained “that memories of experiences that occurred at times of emotional arousal (which could include sexual arousal) are imprinted on the brain by epinephrine, an adrenal gland hormone, and are difficult to erase. This may partly explain pornography’s addicting effect.”{12}

Other research showed that biochemical and neurological responses in individuals who are aroused release the adrenal hormone epinephrine in the brain, which is why one can remember pornographic images seen years before. In response to pleasure, nerve endings release chemicals that reinforce the body’s own desire to repeat the process.{13} Kimberly Young, an authority on Internet addiction, found that 90 percent of those who became addicted to cyberporn became addicted to the two-way communication functions: chat rooms, newsgroups, and e-mail.{14}

Psychologists identified a five-step pattern in pornographic addiction. The first step is exposure. Addicts have been exposed to pornography in many ways, ranging from sexual abuse as children to looking at widely available pornographic magazines.

The second step is addiction. People who continually expose themselves to pornography “keep coming back for more and more” in order to get new sexual highs. James L. McCough of the University of California at Irvine said that “experiences at times of emotional or sexual arousal get locked in the brain by the chemical epinephrine and become virtually impossible to erase.”{15}

A third step is escalation. Previous sexual highs become more difficult to attain; therefore users of pornography begin to look for more exotic forms of sexual behavior to bring them stimulation.

A fourth step is desensitization. What was initially shocking becomes routine. Shocking and disgusting sexual behavior is no longer avoided but is sought out for more intense stimulation. Concern about pain and degradation get lost in the pursuit of the next sexual experience.

A fifth step is acting out fantasies. People do what they have seen and find pleasurable. Not every pornography addict will become a serial murderer or a rapist. But many do look for ways to act out their sexual fantasies

In my book Christian Ethics in Plain Language, I discuss in further detail the issue of pornographic addiction as well as describe the social and psychological effects of pornography.

Social Effects

Defining the social effects of pornography has been difficult because of some of the prevailing theories of its impact. One theory was that pornography actually performs a positive function in society by acting like a “safety valve” for potential sexual offenders.

The most famous proponent of this theory was Berl Kutchinsky, a criminologist at the University of Copenhagen. His famous study on pornography found that when the Danish government lifted restrictions on pornography, the number of sex crimes decreased.{16} Therefore, he concluded that the availability of pornography siphons off dangerous sexual impulses. But when the data for his “safety-valve” theory was further evaluated, many of his research flaws began to show.

For example, Kutchinsky failed to distinguish between different kinds of sex crimes (such as rape and indecent exposure) and instead merely lumped them together, effectively masking an increase in rape statistics. He also failed to consider that increased tolerance for certain crimes (public nudity and sex with a minor) may have contributed to a drop in the reported crimes.

Proving cause and effect in pornography is virtually impossible because, ethically, researchers cannot do certain kinds of research. As Dolf Zillman said, “Men cannot be placed at risk of developing sexually violent inclinations by extensive exposure to violent or nonviolent pornography, and women cannot be placed at risk of becoming victims of such inclinations.”{17}

Nevertheless, a number of compelling statistics suggest that pornography does have profound social consequences. For example, of the 1,400 child sexual molestation cases in Louisville, Kentucky, between July 1980 and February 1984, adult pornography was connected with each incident and child pornography with the majority of them.{18}

Extensive interviews with sex offenders (rapists, incest offenders, and child molesters) have uncovered a sizable percentage of offenders who use pornography to arouse themselves before and during their assaults.{19} Police officers have seen the impact pornography has had on serial murders. In fact, pornography consumption is one of the most common profile characteristics of serial murders and rapists.{20}

Professor Cass Sunstein, writing in the Duke Law Journal, said that some sexual violence against women “would not have occurred but for the massive circulation of pornography.” Citing cross-cultural data, he concluded, “The liberalization of pornography laws in the United States, Britain, Australia, and the Scandinavian countries has been accompanied by a rise in reported rape rates. In countries where pornography laws have not been liberalized, there has been a less steep rise in reported rapes. And in countries where restrictions have been adopted, reported rapes have decreased.”{21}

Biblical Perspective

God created men and women in His image (Gen. 1:27) as sexual beings. But because of sin in the world (Rom. 3:23), sex has been misused and abused (Rom. 1:24-25).

Pornography attacks the dignity of men and women created in the image of God. Pornography also distorts God’s gift of sex which should be shared only within the bounds of marriage (1 Cor. 7:2-3). When the Bible refers to human sexual organs, it often employs euphemisms and indirect language. Although there are some exceptions (a woman’s breasts and womb are sometimes mentioned), generally Scripture maintains a basic modesty towards a man’s or woman’s sexual organs.

Moreover, Scripture specifically condemns the practices that result from pornography such as sexual exposure (Gen. 9:21-23), adultery (Lev. 18:20), bestiality (Lev. 18:23), homosexuality (Lev. 18:22 and 20:13), incest (Lev. 18:6-18), and prostitution (Deut. 23:17-18).

A biblical perspective of human sexuality must recognize that sexual intercourse is exclusively reserved for marriage for the following purposes. First, it establishes the one-flesh union (Gen. 2:24-25; Matt. 19:4-6). Second, it provides for sexual intimacy within the marriage bond. The use of the word “know” indicates a profound meaning of sexual intercourse (Gen. 4:1). Third, sexual intercourse is for the mutual pleasure of husband and wife (Prov. 5:18-19). Fourth, sexual intercourse is for procreation (Gen. 1:28).

The Bible also warns against the misuse of sex. Premarital and extramarital sex is condemned (1 Cor. 6:13-18; 1 Thess. 4:3). Even thoughts of sexual immorality (often fed by pornographic material) are condemned (Matt. 5:27-28).

Moreover, Christians must realize that pornography can have significant harmful effects on the user. These include: a comparison mentality, a performance-based sexuality, a feeling that only forbidden things are sexually satisfying, increased guilt, decreased self concept, and obsessive thinking.

Christians, therefore, must do two things. First, they must work to keep themselves pure by fleeing immorality (1 Cor. 6:18) and thinking on those things which are pure (Phil. 4:8). As a man thinks in his heart, so is he (Prov. 23:7). Christians must make no provision for the flesh (Rom. 13:14). Pornography will fuel the sexual desire in abnormal ways and can eventually lead to even more debase perversion. We, therefore, must “abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul” (1 Peter 2:11). Second, Christians must work to remove the sexual perversion of pornography from society.

Notes

1. Mark Penn, Microtrends: The Small Forces Behind Tomorrow’s Big Changes (NY: Twelve, 2007), 276.
2. Ibid., 277.
3. George Barna, Boiling Point: Monitoring Cultural Shifts in the 21st Century (Ventura, CA: Regal, 2003), 223.
4. Truth in Porn, www.truthinporn.org.
5. The Leadership survey on Pastors and Internet Pornography, 1 January 2001, http://ctlibrary.com/9582.
6. Today’s Christian Woman, September/October 2003.
7. Truth in Porn.
8. Kerby Anderson, Christian Ethics in Plain Language (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2005), chapter 11.
9. Michael McManus, ed., Final Report of the Attorney General’s Commission on Pornography (Nashville: Rutledge Hill, 1986), 8.
10. Miller v. California, 413 US 15, 47 (1973).
11. Victor Cline, Where Do You Draw the Line? (Provo, UT: Brigham Young University Press, 1974).
12. Victor B. Cline, Pornography’s Effects on Adults and Children (New York: Morality in Media, 1990), 11.
13. J. L. McGaugh, “Preserving the Presence of the Past,” American Psychologist, February 1983, 161.
14. Kimberley Young, Paper presented to 1997 convention of the American Psychological Association. A full treatment can be found in Kimberley Young, Caught in the Net: How to Recognize the Signs of Internet Addiction-and a Winning Strategy for Recovery (New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 1998).
15.Quoted in Kenneth Kantzer, “The Power of Porn,” Christianity Today, 7 February 1989, 18.
16. Berl Kutchinsky, “The Effect of Easy Availability of Pornography on the Incidence of Sex Crimes: The Danish Experience,” Journal of Social Issues 29 (1973): 163-81.
17. Dolf Zillman, “Pornography Research and Public Policy,” in Pornography: Research Advances and Policy Considerations, ed. Dolf Zillman and Jennings Bryant (New York: Academic, 1989), 387-88.
18. Testimony by John B. Rabun, deputy director of the National Center for Missing and Exploited children, before the Subcommittee on Juvenile Justice of the Senate Judiciary Committee, 12 September 1984.
19. W. Marshall, “Pornography and Sex Offenders,” in Pornography: Research Advances and Policy Considerations.
20. The Men Who Murdered, FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, August 1985.
21. Cass R. Sunstein, “Pornography and the First Amendment,” Duke Law Journal, September 1986, 595.

© 2008 Probe Ministries


Are the Biblical Documents Reliable?

We can trust that the Bible we hold in our hands today is the same as when the various documents were written. Probe founder Jimmy Williams provides evidence for the trustworthiness of the biblical documents.

How do we know that the Bible we have today is even close to the original? Haven’t copiers down through the centuries inserted and deleted and embellished the documents so that the original message of the Bible has been obscured? These questions are frequently asked to discredit the sources of information from which the Christian faith has come to us.

Three Errors To Avoid

1. Do not assume inspiration or infallibility of the documents, with the intent of attempting to prove the inspiration or infallibility of the documents. Do not say the bible is inspired or infallible simply because it claims to be. This is circular reasoning.

2. When considering the original documents, forget about the present form of your Bible and regard them as the collection of ancient source documents that they are.

3. Do not start with modern “authorities” and then move to the documents to see if the authorities were right. Begin with the documents themselves.

Procedure for Testing a Document’s Validity

In his book, Introduction in Research in English Literary History, C. Sanders sets forth three tests of reliability employed in general historiography and literary criticism.{1} These tests are:

  • Bibliographical (i.e., the textual tradition from the original document to the copies and manuscripts of that document we possess today)
  • Internal evidence (what the document claims for itself)
  • External evidence (how the document squares or aligns itself with facts, dates, persons from its own contemporary world).

It might be noteworthy to mention that Sanders is a professor of military history, not a theologian. He uses these three tests of reliability in his own study of historical military events.

We will look now at the bibliographical, or textual evidence for the Bible’s reliability.

The Old Testament

For both Old and New Testaments, the crucial question is: “Not having any original copies or scraps of the Bible, can we reconstruct them well enough from the oldest manuscript evidence we do have so they give us a true, undistorted view of actual people, places and events?”

The Scribe

The scribe was considered a professional person in antiquity. No printing presses existed, so people were trained to copy documents. The task was usually undertaken by a devout Jew. The Scribes believed they were dealing with the very Word of God and were therefore extremely careful in copying. They did not just hastily write things down. The earliest complete copy of the Hebrew Old Testament dates from c. 900 A.D.

The Masoretic Text

During the early part of the tenth century (916 A.D.), there was a group of Jews called the Masoretes. These Jews were meticulous in their copying. The texts they had were all in capital letters, and there was no punctuation or paragraphs. The Masoretes would copy Isaiah, for example, and when they were through, they would total up the number of letters. Then they would find the middle letter of the book. If it was not the same, they made a new copy. All of the present copies of the Hebrew text which come from this period are in remarkable agreement. Comparisons of the Massretic text with earlier Latin and Greek versions have also revealed careful copying and little deviation during the thousand years from 100 B.C. to 900 A.D. But until this century, there was scant material written in Hebrew from antiquity which could be compared to the Masoretic texts of the tenth century A.D.

The Dead Sea Scrolls

In 1947, a young Bedouin goat herdsman found some strange clay jars in caves near the valley of the Dead Sea. Inside the jars were some leather scrolls. The discovery of these “Dead Sea Scrolls” at Qumran has been hailed as the outstanding archeological discovery of the twentieth century. The scrolls have revealed that a commune of monastic farmers flourished in the valley from 150 B.C. to 70 A.D. It is believed that when they saw the Romans invade the land they put their cherished leather scrolls in the jars and hid them in the caves on the cliffs northwest of the Dead Sea.

The Dead Sea Scrolls include a complete copy of the Book of Isaiah, a fragmented copy of Isaiah, containing much of Isaiah 38-6, and fragments of almost every book in the Old Testament. The majority of the fragments are from Isaiah and the Pentateuch (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy). The books of Samuel, in a tattered copy, were also found and also two complete chapters of the book of Habakkuk. In addition, there were a number of nonbiblical scrolls related to the commune found.

These materials are dated around 100 B.C. The significance of the find, and particularly the copy of Isaiah, was recognized by Merrill F. Unger when he said, “This complete document of Isaiah quite understandably created a sensation since it was the first major Biblical manuscript of great antiquity ever to be recovered. Interest in it was especially keen since it antedates by more than a thousand years the oldest Hebrew texts preserved in the Masoretic tradition.”{2}

The supreme value of these Qumran documents lies in the ability of biblical scholars to compare them with the Masoretic Hebrew texts of the tenth century A.D. If, upon examination, there were little or no textual changes in those Masoretic texts where comparisons were possible, an assumption could then be made that the Masoretic Scribes had probably been just as faithful in their copying of the other biblical texts which could not be compared with the Qumran material.

What was learned? A comparison of the Qumran manuscript of Isaiah with the Masoretic text revealed them to be extremely close in accuracy to each other: “A comparison of Isaiah 53 shows that only 17 letters differ from the Masoretic text. Ten of these are mere differences in spelling (like our “honor” and the British “honour”) and produce no change in the meaning at all. Four more are very minor differences, such as the presence of a conjunction (and) which are stylistic rather than substantive. The other three letters are the Hebrew word for “light.” This word was added to the text by someone after “they shall see” in verse 11. Out of 166 words in this chapter, only this one word is really in question, and it does not at all change the meaning of the passage. We are told by biblical scholars that this is typical of the whole manuscript of Isaiah.”{3}

The Septuagint

The Greek translation of the Old Testament, called the Septuagint, also confirms the accuracy of the copyists who ultimately gave us the Masoretic text. The Septuagint is often referred to as the LXX because it was reputedly done by seventy (for which LXX is the Roman numeral) Jewish scholars in Alexandria around 200 B.C. The LXX appears to be a rather literal translation from the Hebrew, and the manuscripts we have are pretty good copies of the original translation.

Conclusion

In his book, Can I Trust My Bible, R. Laird Harris concluded, “We can now be sure that copyists worked with great care and accuracy on the Old Testament, even back to 225 B.C. . . . indeed, it would be rash skepticism that would now deny that we have our Old Testament in a form very close to that used by Ezra when he taught the word of the Lord to those who had returned from the Babylonian captivity.”{4}

The New Testament

The Greek Manuscript Evidence

There are more than 4,000 different ancient Greek manuscripts containing all or portions of the New Testament that have survived to our time. These are written on different materials.

Papyrus and Parchment

During the early Christian era, the writing material most commonly used was papyrus. This highly durable reed from the Nile Valley was glued together much like plywood and then allowed to dry in the sun. In the twentieth century many remains of documents (both biblical and non-biblical) on papyrus have been discovered, especially in the dry, arid lands of North Africa and the Middle East.

Another material used was parchment. This was made from the skin of sheep or goats, and was in wide use until the late Middle Ages when paper began to replace it. It was scarce and more expensive; hence, it was used almost exclusively for important documents.

Examples

1. Codex Vaticanus and Codex Siniaticus

These are two excellent parchment copies of the entire New Testament which date from the 4th century (325-450 A.D.).{5}

2. Older Papyrii

Earlier still, fragments and papyrus copies of portions of the New Testament date from 100 to 200 years (180-225 A.D.) before Vaticanus and Sinaticus. The outstanding ones are the Chester Beatty Papyrus (P45, P46, P47) and the Bodmer Papyrus II, XIV, XV (P46, P75).

From these five manuscripts alone, we can construct all of Luke, John, Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, Hebrews, and portions of Matthew, Mark, Acts, and Revelation. Only the Pastoral Epistles (Titus, 1 and 2 Timothy) and the General Epistles (James, 1 and 2 Peter, and 1, 2, and 3 John) and Philemon are excluded.{6}

3. Oldest Fragment

Perhaps the earliest piece of Scripture surviving is a fragment of a papyrus codex containing John 18:31-33 and 37. It is called the Rylands Papyrus (P52) and dates from 130 A.D., having been found in Egypt. The Rylands Papyrus has forced the critics to place the fourth gospel back into the first century, abandoning their earlier assertion that it could not have been written then by the Apostle John.{7}

4. This manuscript evidence creates a bridge of extant papyrus and parchment fragments and copies of the New Testament stretching back to almost the end of the first century.

Versions (Translations)

In addition to the actual Greek manuscripts, there are more than 1,000 copies and fragments of the New Testament in Syria, Coptic, Armenian, Gothic, and Ethiopic, as well as 8,000 copies of the Latin Vulgate, some of which date back almost to Jerome’s original translation in 384 400 A.D.

Church Fathers

A further witness to the New Testament text is sourced in the thousands of quotations found throughout the writings of the Church Fathers (the early Christian clergy [100-450 A.D.] who followed the Apostles and gave leadership to the fledgling church, beginning with Clement of Rome (96 A.D.).

It has been observed that if all of the New Testament manuscripts and Versions mentioned above were to disappear overnight, it would still be possible to reconstruct the entire New Testament with quotes from the Church Fathers, with the exception of fifteen to twenty verses!

A Comparison

The evidence for the early existence of the New Testament writings is clear. The wealth of materials for the New Testament becomes even more significant when we compare it with other ancient documents which have been accepted without question.

Author and Work Author’s Lifespan Date of Events Date of Writing* Earliest Extant MS** Lapse: Event to Writing Lapse: Event to MS
Matthew,
Gospel
ca. 0-70? 4 BC – AD 30 50 – 65/75 ca. 200 <50 years <200 years
Mark,
Gospel
ca. 15-90? 27 – 30 65/70 ca. 225 <50 years <200 years
Luke,
Gospel
ca. 10-80? 5 BC – AD 30 60/75 ca. 200 <50 years <200 years
John,
Gospel
ca. 10-100 27-30 90-110 ca. 130 <80 years <100 years
Paul,
Letters
ca. 0-65 30 50-65 ca. 200 20-30 years <200 years
Josephus,
War
ca. 37-100 200 BC – AD 70 ca. 80 ca. 950 10-300 years 900-1200 years
Josephus,
Antiquities
ca. 37-100 200 BC – AD 65 ca. 95 ca. 1050 30-300 years 1000-1300 years
Tacitus,
Annals
ca. 56-120 AD 14-68 100-120 ca. 850 30-100 years 800-850 years
Seutonius,
Lives
ca. 69-130 50 BC – AD 95 ca. 120 ca. 850 25-170 years 750-900 years
Pliny,
Letters
ca. 60-115 97-112 110-112 ca. 850 0-3 years 725-750 years
Plutarch,
Lives
ca. 50-120 500 BC – AD 70 ca. 100 ca. 950 30-600 years 850-1500 years
Herodotus,
History
ca. 485-425 BC 546-478 BC 430-425 BC ca. 900 50-125 years 1400-1450 years
Thucydides,
History
ca. 460-400 BC 431-411 BC 410-400 BC ca. 900 0-30 years 1300-1350 years
Xenophon,
Anabasis
ca. 430-355 BC 401-399 BC 385-375 BC ca. 1350 15-25 years 1750 years
Polybius,
History
ca. 200-120 BC 220-168 BC ca. 150 BC ca. 950 20-70 years 1100-1150 years

 

 

*Where a slash occurs, the first date is conservative, and the second is liberal.
**New Testament manuscripts are fragmentary. Earliest complete manuscript is from ca. 350; lapse of event to complete manuscript is about 325 years.

Conclusion

In his book, The Bible and Archaeology, Sir Frederic G. Kenyon, former director and principal librarian of the British Museum, stated about the New Testament, “The interval, then, between the dates of original composition and the earliest extant evidence becomes so small as to be in fact negligible, and the last foundation for any doubt that the Scriptures have come down to us substantially as they were written has now been removed. Both the authenticity and the general integrity of the books of the New Testament may be regarded as finally established.”{8}

To be skeptical of the twenty-seven documents in the New Testament, and to say they are unreliable is to allow all of classical antiquity to slip into obscurity, for no documents of the ancient period are as well attested bibliographically as these in the New Testament.

B. F. Westcott and F.J.A. Hort, the creators of The New Testament in Original Greek, also commented: “If comparative trivialities such as changes of order, the insertion or omission of the article with proper names, and the like are set aside, the works in our opinion still subject to doubt can hardly mount to more than a thousandth part of the whole New Testament.”{9} In other words, the small changes and variations in manuscripts change no major doctrine: they do not affect Christianity in the least. The message is the same with or without the variations. We have the Word of God.

The Anvil? God’s Word.
 

Last eve I passed beside a blacksmith’s door
And heard the anvil ring the vesper chime:
Then looking in, I saw upon the floor
Old hammers, worn with beating years of time.

“How many anvils have you had,” said I,
“To wear and batter all these hammers so?”
“Just one,” said he, and then, with twinkling eye,
“The anvil wears the hammers out, you know.”

And so, thought I, the anvil of God’s word,
For ages skeptic blows have beat upon;
Yet though the noise of falling blows was heard,
The anvil is unharmed . . . the hammer’s gone.

Author unknown

Notes

1. C.Sanders, Introduction in Research in English Literacy (New York: MacMillan, 1952), 143.

2. Merrill F. Unger, Famous Archaeological Discoveries (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1957), 72.

3. R. Laird Harris, Can I Trust My Bible? (Chicago: Moody Press, 1963), 124.

4. Ibid., 129-30.

5. Merrill F. Unger, Unger’s Bible Handbook (Chicago: Moody Press, 1967), 892.

6. Ibid.

7. Ibid.

8. Sir Fredric Kenyon, The Bible and Archaeology (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1940), 288ff.

9. B.F. Westcott, and F.J.A. Hort, eds., New Testament in Original Greek, 1881, vol. II, 2.

 

 

© 1995 Probe Ministries


A Probe Mom Looks at Halloween from a Christian Perspective

Sue Bohlin takes at hard look at Halloween celebrations, applying a biblical worldview. As Christians, we cannot shield our children from this popular cultural event, but Sue provides some ideas on bringing a Christian perspective to this time of year.

A number of articles are available advising Christians to have nothing to do with Halloween. And I do agree that Christians have no business celebrating a holiday that glorifies something that delights the enemy of our souls. And potentially opens us up to demonic harrassment, to boot!

But if we’ve got kids, especially kids in public school or who hang around other kids in the neighborhood, it’s entirely possible that parents can feel pressured to do something about Halloween. After all, it’s pretty hard to hide under a rock for the whole month of October. A number of houses on our street are more decorated for Halloween than for Christmas!

It seems that the costume manufacturers have really cranked up production of all sorts of costumes to a degree we’ve never seen before. Gone are the days of burning a cork to blacken a face, put on some thrift-shop oversized clothes and dressing up as a hobo. (There’s probably some politically-correct term for “hobo” these days anyway. . .)

Is there anything intrinsically wrong with dressing up in a costume and getting a bunch of candy from consenting adults? I don’t think so; hey, the Bible tells us that God instructed the children of Israel to ask their neighbors for silver and gold their last night in Egypt in a VERY early version of “Trick or Treat” (Exodus 11:2). But we can cooperate with the forces of darkness, however unwittingly, by participating unwisely in Halloween festivities.

It is essential to exercise discernment in how we handle Halloween. If you can get away with ignoring it, wonderful! That would be the best solution. But you may find yourself in a place where you want to provide some way for your kids to have fun in a Halloween-immersed culture without compromising on our Christian values and beliefs. For instance, your child’s school may invite all the students to dress up in a costume on October 31. I know a number of Christian schools that do this. May I make these suggestions:

Halloween Don’ts

God gave us some very strict guidelines for our own protection, commanding us to stay away from items and practices of witchcraft and divination in Deuteronomy 18. These “doorways to the occult” make us wide open to the influence of Satan and the demons. For more information on this, click here.

So stay away from anything that glorifies:

The occult. Witches, warlocks, sorcerers and sorcery, casting spells, mediums, magic, ouija boards, crystal balls, tarot cards, and astrology are doors to the kingdom of darkness. Satan/Beelzebub masks and costumes have no place on a Christian or in a Christian family—not even “adorable”(??) little baby devil costumes complete with horns and pitchfork.

Darkness. Satan and the demons are the rulers of darkness (Eph. 6:12). There’s a reason so many people are afraid of the dark; it is a fearful thing both physically and spiritually.

Death. Satan has had the power of death over people (Heb. 2:14) ever since the Fall, and he uses it to control people through fear. Death is an enemy of God (1 Cor. 15:26), not something to flirt with. Vampires, ghosts, goblins and gargoyles (concepts rooted in the reality of demons) are all figures of death.

Fear. Fear is both a feeling and a reality where Satan dwells. It is one of his most effective means of spiritual warfare against us. When we use Halloween events, decorations and costumes to cause and build fear in other people, we are cooperating with the sworn enemy of God and of God’s people. This would include anything spooky, such as cemeteries, haunted houses, and scary stories. You can now buy “The Scream” masks that are as disturbing as Edvard Munch’s original painting; their purpose is to make people afraid, even if they don’t know why.

Anything gruesome falls in this category as well; you can buy special effects like fake slash wounds, hanging eyeballs, and stakes through the forehead. Blood and gore are neither funny nor godly. Needless to say, slasher movies and horror films that deliberately terrorize and stir up fear are a tool in Satan’s hand. Scripture tells us that God does not give us a spirit of fear (2 Tim. 1:7), nor does He want us to be a slave again to fear (Rom. 8:15). That’s Satan’s arena.

Note: there are a number of churches that use the legitimate fear of an eternity in hell, separated from God, as a platform for drawing people into a creative presentation of the gospel. Many young people have been saved as a result. This is a God-honoring use of fear, not glorifying fear for fear’s sake.

Worldliness. Costumes that glorify some of the world’s heroes and heroines can shape our values in ungodly, unchristian ways. Little girls dressing like female pop stars, exposing their midriffs and looking as sexy as possible, is completely against biblical values. God calls girls and women to dress and act modestly, decently and with propriety (1 Tim. 2:9). Costumes of movie and TV characters that represent anti-biblical values are inappropriate for believers (and believers’ children).

Halloween Do’s

• If your church sponsors a Halloween alternative event such as a fall festival, that’s a great idea to allow kids to have fun within pre-set boundaries. (Note: it’s important to specify what kind of costumes are NOT welcome!)

Child Evangelism Fellowship (www.cefonline.com) has reported that Halloween has been the best time of year for children to trust Christ, simply because the spirit of fear that pervades our culture at this time makes them more open than usual to hearing a good news of the gospel. Halloween is a great time to sponsor Good News Clubs and invite kids in your neighborhood to hear stories that will comfort, rather than terrorize, them.

American Tract Society (www.crossway.org/group/ats) has some terrific kid-friendly tracts to include with the candy you give out. This year, ATS has introduced the most practical Halloween evangelism resource yet! The Halloween Rescue Kit includes candy, bags, stickers and tracts — everything you need to reach 31 kids this Halloween. They suggest (and I think it’s a great idea!) that if you expect kids to actually read the tracts once they get home from Trick-or-Treating (instead of tossing them out unread with the empty candy wrappers), that you tape them to popular candy bars that kids actually want. (Find out what kids in your area consider “cool” candy.) Or make your own tract kit by putting a tract plus quality candy inside sandwich bags. Either way, it forces kids to handle the tract in order to get to the candy. Sounds like following the Lord Jesus’ command to be “shrewd as serpents, and innocent as doves” (Matt. 10:16) to me!

I know several families who have purchased tracts for the neighborhood ADULTS, and when their kids go trick-or-treating, when the adults give them candy the kids will hand them a tract (aimed at adults) and say, “Thank you for the candy. Here’s a treat for you!” How often do people open their doors and make themselves open to this kind of opportunity?

Let the Little Children Come (www.letthelittlechildrencome.com) has a wonderful “Is anything better than candy?” Box-tract. Give out more than just candy this Halloween! This attractive pumpkin shaped Box-Tract is designed to contain children’s favorite candies. More importantly, the pumpkin opens up to answer the question, “Is There Anything Better Than Candy?” Yes, there is something much, much better than candy. It’s being God’s friend!

• Look for teachable moments to relate the things of Halloween to spiritual truth. Talk to your kids about the way fear is glorified at Halloween, and teach them what Jesus said about it: “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful” (John 14:27), and “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

Talk to your kids about “God’s no-no list” in Deuteronomy 18 and have them help you identify those things when they see them advertised or used as decorations. (You might keep a running total of all the witches you’ll see just to quantify this concept.) This is probably the best way to prevent your children from getting desensitized to things of the occult. Help them identify all the Halloween items that strike fear in them, and encourage them to take a stand against their power by saying out loud, “God has not given me a spirit of fear!” Show them this verse in their Bibles (2 Timothy 1:7) so they know they are using the sword of the Spirit against one of the wiles of the enemy.

This story making its rounds on the internet is a good pumpkin-carving object lesson:

A lady had recently been baptized. One of her co-workers asked her what it was like to be a Christian. She was caught off guard and didn’t know how to answer, but when she looked up she saw a jack-o-lantern on the desk and answered, “It’s like being a pumpkin.”

The co-worker asked her to explain that one.

“Well, God picks you from the patch and brings you in and washes off all the dirt on the outside that you got from being around all the other pumpkins. Then he cuts off the top and takes all the yucky stuff out from inside. He removes all those seeds of doubt, hate, greed, etc. Then he carves you a new smiling face and puts his light inside of you to shine for all to see. It is our choice to either stay outside and rot on the vine or come inside and be something new and bright.”

Sue Bohlin
Probe Ministries Mom

© 2002, updated Sept. 2013


Divorce – A Biblical Christian Perspective

Kerby Anderson examines the epidemic of divorce from a Christian, biblical worldview perspective.  He presents data on its impact on families and society and compares the trend with biblical teaching on the subject.

Families are experiencing many problems today, but the role of divorce in this picture has been frequently overlooked because its destructive effects have been subtle, yet insidious. When the divorce rate increased in the 1960s, few would have predicted its dire consequences three decades later. Yet divorce has changed both the structure and the impact of the family.

This is not just the conclusion of Christians, but also the conclusion of non-Christian researchers working in the field. Clinical psychologist Diane Medved set out to write a book to help couples facing transitions due to divorce. She begins her book with this startling statement:

I have to start with a confession: This isn’t the book I set out to write. I planned to write something consistent with my previous professional experience helping people with decision making. . . . For example, I started this project believing that people who suffer over an extended period in unhappy marriages ought to get out….I thought that striking down taboos about divorce was another part of the ongoing enlightenment of the women’s, civil- rights, and human potential movements of the last twenty-five years….To my utter befuddlement, the extensive research I conducted for this book brought me to one inescapable and irrefutable conclusion: I had been wrong.”(1)

She titled her book The Case Against Divorce.

Until the 1960s, divorce has been a relatively rare phenomenon. Certainly there have always been some couples who have considered divorce an option. But fundamental changes in our society in the last few decades have changed divorce from being rare to routine.

During the 1970s, the divorce rate doubled (and the number of divorces tripled from 400,000 in 1962 to 1.2 million in 1981).(2) The increase in the divorce rate came not from older couples but from the baby boom generation. One sociologist at Stanford University calculated that while men and women in their twenties comprised only about 20 percent of the population, they contributed 60 percent of the growth in the divorce rate in the 1960s and early 1970s.(3)

This increase was due to at least two major factors: attitude and opportunity. The baby boom generation’s attitude toward such issues as fidelity, chastity, and commitment were strikingly different from their parents’. Their parents would stay in a marriage in order to make it work. Baby boomers, however, were less committed to the ideal of marriage and quite willing to end what they felt was a bad marriage and move on with their lives. While their parents might keep a marriage going “for the sake of the kids,” the baby boom generation as a whole was much less concerned about such issues.

Economic opportunities also seem to be a significant factor in divorce. The rise in divorce closely parallels the increase in the number of women working. Women with a paycheck were less likely to stay in a marriage that wasn’t fulfilling to them. Armed with a measure of economic power, many women had less incentive to stay in a marriage and work out their differences with their husbands. A study of mature women done at Ohio State University found that the higher a woman’s income in relation to the total income of her family, the more likely she was to seek a divorce.(4)

Divorce and Children

Divorce is having a devastating impact on both adults and children. Every year, parents of over 1 million children divorce. These divorces effectively cut one generation off from another. Children are reared without the presence of their father or mother. Children are often forced to take sides in the conflict. And, children often carry the scars of the conflict and frequently blame themselves for the divorce.

So what is the impact? Well, one demographer looking at this ominous trend of divorce and reflecting on its impact, acknowledged:

No one knows what effect divorce and remarriage will have on the children of the baby boom. A few decades ago, children of divorced parents were an oddity. Today they are the majority. The fact that divorce is the norm may make it easier for children to accept their parents’ divorce. But what will it do to their marriages in the decades ahead? No one will know until it’s too late to do anything about it.(5)

What little we do know about the long-term impact of divorce is disturbing. In 1971, Judith Wallerstein began a study of sixty middle-class families in the midst of divorce. Her ongoing research has provided a longitudinal study of the long-term effects of divorce on parents and children.

Like Diane Medved, Judith Wallerstein had to revise her previous assumptions. According to the prevailing view at the time, divorce was seen as a brief crisis that would resolve itself. Her book, Second Chances: Men, Women and Children a Decade After Divorce, vividly illustrates the long-term psychological devastation wrought not only on the children but the adults.(6) Here are just a few of her findings in her study of the aftershocks of divorce:

  • Three out of five children felt rejected by at least one parent.
  • Five years after their parent’s divorce, more than one-third of the children were doing markedly worse than they had been before the divorce.
  • Half grew up in settings in which the parents were warring with each other even after the divorce.
  • One-third of the women and one-quarter of the men felt that life had been unfair, disappointing and lonely.

In essence, Wallerstein found that the emotional tremors register on the psychological Richter scale many years after the divorce.

In addition to the emotional impact is the educational impact. Children growing up in broken homes do not do as well in school as children from stable families. One national study found an overall average of one lost year of education for children in single-parent families.(7)

Divorce and remarriage adds another additional twist to modern families. Nearly half of all marriages in 1990 involved at least one person who had been down the aisle before, up from 31 percent in 1970.(8)

These changing family structures complicate relationships. Divorce and remarriage shuffle family members together in foreign and awkward ways. Clear lines of authority and communication get blurred and confused in these newly revised families. One commentator trying to get a linguistic handle on these arrangements called them “neo-nuclear” families.(9) The rules for these neo- nukes are complex and ever-changing. Children looking for stability are often insecure and frustrated. One futuristic commentator imagined this possible scenario:

On a spring afternoon, half a century from today, the Joneses are gathered to sing “Happy Birthday” to Junior. There’s Dad and his third wife, Mom and her second husband, Junior’s two half brothers from his father’s first marriage, his six stepsisters from his mother’s spouse’s previous unions, 100-year- old Great Grandpa, all eight of Junior’s current “grandparents,” assorted aunts, uncles- in-law and step-cousins. While one robot scoops up the gift wrappings and another blows out the candles, Junior makes a wish …that he didn’t have so many relatives.(10)

The stress on remarried couples is difficult enough, but it intensifies when step-children are involved. Conflict between a stepparent and stepchild is inevitable and can be enough to threaten the stability of a remarriage. According to one study, remarriages that involve stepchildren are more likely to end in divorce than those that don’t.(11) Fully 17 percent of marriages that are remarriages for both husband and wife and that involve stepchildren break up within three years.(12)

No Fault Divorce

Historically the laws governing marriage were based upon the traditional, Judeo-Christian belief that marriage was for life. Marriage was intended to be a permanent institution. Thus, the desire for divorce was not held to be self-justifying. Legally the grounds for divorce had to be circumstances that justified making an exemption to the assumption of marital permanence. The spouse seeking a divorce had to prove that the other spouse had committed one of the “faults” recognized as justifying the dissolution of the marriage. In most states, the classic grounds for divorce were cruelty, desertion, and adultery.

This legal foundation changed when California enacted a statute in 1969 which allowed for no-fault divorce. This experiment has effectively led to what could now be called “divorce-on-demand.” One by one, various state legislatures enacted no-fault divorce laws so that today, this concept has become the de facto legal principle in every state.

The fault-based system of divorce law had its roots in the view that marriage was a sacrament and indissoluble. The current no- fault provisions changed this perception. Marriage is no longer viewed as a covenant; it’s a contract. But it’s an even less reliable contract than a standard business contract.

Classic contract law holds that a specific promise is binding and cannot be broken merely because the promisor changes his/her mind. In fact, the concept of “fault” in divorce proceedings is more like tort law than contract law in that it implies an binding obligation between two parties which has been breached, thus leading to a divorce. When state legislatures implemented no-fault divorce provisions, they could have replaced the fault-based protections with contract-like protections. Unfortunately, they did not. In just a few decades we have moved from a position where divorce was permitted for a few reasons to a position in which divorce is permitted for any reason, or no reason at all.

The impact on the institution of marriage has been devastating. Marginal marriages are much easier to dissolve, and couples who may have tried to stick it out and work out their problems instead opt for a no-fault divorce.

But all marriages (not just marginal marriages) are at risk. After all, marriages do not start out marginal. Most marriages start out on a solid footing. But after the honeymoon, comes the more difficult process of learning to live together harmoniously. The success of the process is affected by both internal factors (willingness to meet each other’s needs, etc.) and external factors (such as the availability of divorce). But even these factors are interrelated. If the law gives more protection to the marriage contract, a partner may be more likely to love sacrificially and invest effort in the marriage. If the law gives less protection, a partner may be more likely to adopt a “looking out for number one” attitude.

Biblical Perspective

The Bible speaks to the issue of divorce in both the Old Testament and the New Testament. The most important Old Testament passage on divorce is Deuteronomy 24:1-4.

If a man marries a woman who becomes displeasing to him because he finds something indecent about her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house, and if after she leaves his house she becomes the wife of another man, and her second husband dislikes her and writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house, or if he dies, then her first husband, who divorced her, is not allowed to marry her again after she has been defiled. That would be detestable in the eyes of the LORD. Do not bring sin upon the land the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance.

These verses were not intended to endorse divorce; just the contrary. The intention was to regulate the existing custom of divorce, not to put forth God’s ideal for marriage. Divorce was allowed in certain instances because of human sinfulness (Matt. 19:8).

Divorce was widespread in the ancient Near East. The certificate of divorce apparently was intended to protect the reputation of the woman and provided her with the right to remarry. This public declaration protected her from charges of adultery. The Mishnah, for example, stated that a divorce certificate was not valid unless the husband explicitly said, “Thou art free to marry any man.”(13)

Key to understanding this passage is the definition of “something indecent.” It probably did not mean adultery since that was subject to the penalty of death (22:22), nor did it probably mean premarital intercourse with another man (22:20-21) since that carried the same penalty. The precise meaning of the phrase is unknown.

In fact, the meaning of this phrase was subject to some debate even during the time of Christ. The conservative school of Shammai understood it to mean a major sexual offense. The liberal school of Hillel taught that it referred to anything displeasing to the husband (including something as trivial as spoiling his food). The apparent purpose of this law was to prevent frivolous divorce and to protect a woman who was divorced by her husband. The passage in no way encourages divorce but regulates the consequences of divorce.

Another significant Old Testament passage is Malachi 2:10-16.

Have we not all one Father ? Did not one God create us? Why do we profane the covenant of our fathers by breaking faith with one another?…Has not the LORD made them one? In flesh and spirit they are his. And why one? Because he was seeking godly offspring. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith with the wife of your youth. “I hate divorce,” says the LORD God of Israel.

This passage deals with breaking a prior agreement or covenant. It specifically addresses the issue of illegal intermarriage and the issue of divorce. Malachi specifically teaches that husbands and wives are to be faithful to one another because they have God as their Father. The marriage relationship is built upon a solemn covenant. While God may tolerate divorce under some of the circumstances described in Deuteronomy 24, the instructions were given to protect the woman if a divorce should occur. This passage in Malachi reminds us that God hates divorce.

In the New Testament book of Matthew, we have the clearest teachings by Jesus on the subject of divorce.

It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to commit adultery, and anyone who marries a woman so divorced commits adultery. (Matthew 5:31 32) I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery. (Matthew 19:9)

In these two passages, Jesus challenges the views of the two schools of Jewish thought (Shammai, Hillel). He teaches that marriage is for life and should not be dissolved by divorce.

Defining the word porneia (which is translated marital unfaithfulness) is a key element in trying to understanding these passages. While some commentators teach that this word refers to incestuous relationships or sexual promiscuity during the betrothal period, most scholars believe the word applies to relentless, persistent, and unrepentant adultery. Among those holding to this exception clause for adultery, some believe remarriage is possible while others do not.

The other significant section of teaching on divorce in the New Testament can be found in Paul’s teaching on divorce in 1 Corinthians 7:10-15.

To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband. But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife. To the rest I say this (I, not the Lord): If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her. And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. But if the unbeliever leaves, let him do so. A believing man or woman is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace.

In the first section, Paul addresses Christians married to one another. Paul was obviously aware of the prevalence of divorce in the Greek world and of the legal right that a wife has to initiate a divorce. He gives the command for believers to stay married.

In the next section, Paul addresses the issue of mixed marriages. He says that even in spite of religious incompatibility in such a marriage, Paul teaches that the believing spouse is not to seek divorce. Some divorces may have been initiated because of the command of Ezra to the Israelites in Jerusalem after the exile (Ezra 10:11) to divorce themselves from pagan spouses. Paul affirms the same biblical principle: do not seek divorce. However, if the unbelieving spouse insists on divorce, the believer may have to concede to those proceedings and is not bound in such circumstances.

Based on the preceding verses, we can therefore conclude that a Christian can acquiesce to divorce in cases of marital infidelity by the other spouse or in cases of desertion by an unbelieving spouse. Yet even in these cases, the church should not encourage divorce. Certainly in very troubling cases which involve mental, sexual, and/or physical abuse, legal separation is available as a remedy to protect the abused spouse. God hates divorce; therefore Christians should never be in the position of encouraging or promoting divorce. Instead they should be encouraging reconciliation.

One final question is whether a divorced person is eligible for a leadership position within the church. The key passage is 1 Timothy 3:2 which calls for a church leader to be above reproach and “the husband of one wife.” Rather than prohibiting a divorced person from serving in leadership, the language of this verse actually focuses on practicing polygamists. Polygamy was practiced in the first century and found among Jewish and Christian groups. The passage could be translated “a one-woman man.” If Paul intended to prohibit a divorced person from leadership, he could have used a much less ambiguous term.

As Christians in a society where divorce is rampant, I believe we must come back to these important biblical principles concerning marriage. Christians should work to build strong marriages. Pastors must frequently preach and teach about the importance of marriage. We should encourage fellow Christians to attend various marriage enrichment seminars and ministries in our community.

As Christians I also believe we should reach out to those who have been through divorce. We must communicate Christ’s forgiveness to them in the midst of their shattered lives. They need counseling and support groups. Many times they also need financial help and direction as they begin to put together the shattered pieces of their lives.

But as we reach out to those whose lives are shattered by divorce, we must be careful that our ministry does not compromise our theology. We must reach out with both biblical convictions and biblical compassion. Marriage for life is God’s ideal (Genesis 2), nevertheless, millions of people have been devastated by divorce and need to feel care and compassion from Christians. Churches have unfortunately erred on one side or another. Most churches have maintained a strong stand on marriage and divorce. While this strong biblical stand is admirable, it should also be balanced with compassion towards those caught in the throes of divorce. Strong convictions without compassionate outreach often seems to communicate that divorce is the unforgivable sin.

On the other hand, some churches in their desire to minister to divorced people have compromised their theological convictions. By starting without biblically-based convictions about marriage and divorce, they have let their congregation’s circumstances influence their theology.

Christians must simultaneously reach out with conviction and compassion. Marriage for life is God’s ideal, but divorce is a reality in our society. Christians should reach out with Christ’s forgiveness to those whose lives have been shattered by divorce.

Notes

1. Diane Medved, The Case Against Divorce (New York:Donald I. Fine, Inc., 1989), 1-2.

2. National Center for Health Statistics, “Advance Report of Final Divorce Statistics, 1983,” NCHS Monthly Vital Statistics Report, vol. 34, no. 9, 26 December 1985, table 1.

3. Landon Jones, Great Expectations: America and the Baby Boom Generation (New York: Ballantine Books, 1980), 215.

4. Ibid., 216.

5. Cheryl Russell, 100 Predictions for the Baby Boom (New York: Plenum, 1987), 107.

6. Judith Wallerstein and Sandra Blakeslee, Second Chances: Men, Women and Children A Decade After Divorce (New York: Ticknor and Fields, 1989).

7. Sheila Fitzgerald Klein and Andrea Beller, American Demographics, March 1989, 13.

8. William Dunn, “I do, is repeat refrain for half of newlyweds,” USA Today, 15 February 1991, A-1.

9. “Families: neo-nukes,” Research Alert, 17 August 1990, 6.

10. “When the Family Will Have a New Definition,” What the Next 50 Years Will Bring, a special edition of U.S. News and World Report, 9 May 1983, A-3.

11. Arland Thornton and Deborah Freedman, “The Changing American Family,” Population Bulletin, vol. 38, no. 4 (Washington, D.C.: Population Reference Bureau, Inc., 1983), 10.

12. Lynn K. White and Alan Booth, “The quality and stability of remarriages: the role of stepchildren,” American Sociological Review, vol. 50, no. 5, October 1985, 689-98.

13. G. J. Wenham, “Gospel Definitions of Adultery and Women’s Rights,” Expository Times 95, 11 (1984): 330.

©1997 Probe Ministries


Adultery

Adultery and Society

The seventh commandment says “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” Nevertheless, this sin has been committed throughout history. Today, though, adultery seems more rampant than ever. While tabloid stories report the affairs of politicians, millionaires, and movie stars, films like “The English Patient,” “The Prince of Tides,” or “The Bridges of Madison County” feature and even promote adultery.

How prevalent is adultery? Two of the most reliable studies come to similar conclusions. The Janus Report on Sexual Behavior estimates that “More than one-third of men and one-quarter of women admit having had at least one extramarital sexual experience.”{1} A survey by the National Opinion Research Center (University of Chicago) found lower percentages: 25 percent of men had been unfaithful and 17 percent of women. Even when these lower ratios are applied to the current adult population, that means that some 19 million husbands and 12 million wives have had an affair.{2}

Whatever the actual numbers, the point to be made is that adultery is much more common than we would like to admit. Family therapist and psychiatrist Frank Pittman believes “There may be as many acts of infidelity in our society as there are traffic accidents.”{3} He further argues that the fact that adultery has become commonplace has altered society’s perception of it. He says, “We won’t go back to the times when adulterers were put in the stocks and publicly humiliated, or become one of those societies and there are many in which adultery is punishable by death. Society in any case is unable to enforce a rule that the majority of people break, and infidelity is so common it is no longer deviant.”{4}

Perhaps you are thinking, “This is just a problem with non-Christians in society. It can’t be a problem in the church. Certainly the moral standards of Christians are higher.” Well, there is growing evidence that adultery is also a problem in Christian circles. An article in a 1997 issue of Newsweek magazine noted that various surveys suggest that as many as 30 percent of male Protestant ministers have had sexual relationships with women other than their wives.{5}

The Journal of Pastoral Care in 1993 reported a survey of Southern Baptist pastors in which 14 percent acknowledged they had engaged in “sexual behavior inappropriate to a minister.” It also reported that 70 percent had counseled at least one woman who had had intercourse with another minister.

A 1988 survey of nearly 1000 Protestant clergy by Leadership magazine found that of the 300 pastors who responded, 12 percent admitted to sexual intercourse outside of marriage, and that 23 percent had done something sexually inappropriate with someone other than their spouse. The researchers also interviewed nearly 1000 subscribers to Christianity Today who were not pastors. They found the numbers were nearly double: 45 percent indicated having done something sexually inappropriate, and 23 percent having extramarital intercourse.{6}

Adultery is in society and is now in the church. Next, we’ll look at some of the myths surrounding extramarital affairs.

Myths About Adultery

Marital infidelity destroys marriages and families and often leads to divorce. Public sentiment against adultery is actually very strong as approximately eight out of ten of Americans disapprove of adultery.{7}

Yet even though most people consider adultery to be wrong and know that it can be devastating, our society still perpetuates a number of untruths about adultery through a popular mythology about extramarital affairs. At this point we want to examine some of the myths about adultery.

Myth #1: “Adultery is about sex.” Often just the opposite seems the case. When a sexual affair is uncovered, observers often say, “What did he see in her?” or “What did she see in him?” Frequently the sex is better at home, and the marriage partner is at least as attractive as the adulterous partner.

Being pretty, handsome, or sensual is usually not the major issue. Partners in affairs are not usually chosen because they are prettier, more handsome, or sexier. They are chosen for various sorts of strange and nonsexual reasons. Usually the other woman or the other man in an adulterous relationship meets needs the spouse does not meet in the marriage. Dr. Willard Harley lists five primary needs for a man and five primary needs for a women in his book His Needs, Her Needs: Building an Affair-Proof Marriage. He believes that unmet needs, by either partner, are a primary cause of extramarital affairs. He has also found that people wander into these affairs with astonishing regularity, in spite of whatever strong moral or religious convictions they may hold. A lack of fulfillment in one of these basic emotional areas creates a dangerous vacuum in a person’s life. And, unfortunately, many will eventually fill that need outside of marriage.

Frank Pittman, author of the book Private Lies: Infidelity and the Betrayal of Intimacy, found in his own personal study that many of his patients who had affairs had a good sex life, but came from marriages with little or no intimacy. He concluded that, “Affairs were thus three times more likely to be the pursuit of a buddy than the pursuit of a better orgasm.”{8}

Sex may not be involved in some affairs. The relationship may be merely an emotional liaison. Counselor Bonnie Weil warns that these so-called “affairs of the heart can be even more treacherous than the purely physical kind. Women, particularly, are inclined to leave their husbands when they feel a strong emotional bond with another man.”{9}

Myth #2: “Adultery is about character.” In the past, society looked down on alcoholics as having weak character because of their problem. Now we see it as an addiction or even a disease. While that doesn’t excuse the behavior, we can see that can’t be merely labeled as bad character.

There is growing psychological evidence that adulterous behavior in parents dramatically affects children when they reach adulthood. Just as divorce in a family influences the likelihood of the adult children to consider divorce, adulterous behavior by parents seems to beget similar behavior by their offspring. Is this not one more example of the biblical teaching that the sins of one generation being visited upon the next?

Myth #3: “Adultery is therapeutic.” Some of the psychology books and women’s magazines circulating through our culture promote extra-marital affairs as positive. This myth that an affair can revive a dull marriage is a devastating lie. Depending on which source you are reading, an affair will: make you a better lover, help you with your mid-life crisis, bring joy into your life, or even bring excitement back into your marriage. Nothing could be further from the truth. An affair might give you more sex, but it could also give you a sexually transmitted disease. It might bring your marriage more excitement, if you consider divorce court exciting. Remember that adultery results in divorce 65 percent of the time. “For most people and most marriages, infidelity is dangerous.”{10}

Myth #4: “Adultery is harmless.” Movies are just one venue in which adultery has been promoted positively. The English Patient received twelve Oscar nominations including best picture of the year for its depiction of an adulterous relationship between a handsome count and the English-born wife of his colleague. The Bridges of Madison County relates the story of an Iowa farmer’s wife who has a brief extra-marital affair with a National Geographic photographer that supposedly helped re-energize her marriage. The Prince of Tides received seven Oscar nominations and shows a married therapist bedding down her also-married patient.

Notice the euphemisms society has developed over the years to excuse or soften the perception of adultery. Many are not repeatable, but ones that are include: fooling around, sleeping around, flings, affairs, and dalliances. These and many other phrases perpetuate the notion the adultery is guilt-free and hurts no one. Some have even suggested that it’s just a recreational activity like playing softball or going to the movies. Well, don’t pass the popcorn, please.

Forbidden sex is an addiction that can–and usually does–have devastating consequences to an individual and a family. Adultery shatters trust, intimacy, and self-esteem. It breaks up families, ruins careers, and leaves a trail of pain and destruction in its path. This potential legacy of emotional pain for one’s children should be enough to make a person stop and count the costs before it’s too late.

Even when affairs are never exposed, emotional costs are involved. For example,adulterous mates deprive their spouses of energy and intimacy that should go into the marriage. They deceive their marriage partners and become dishonest about their feelings and actions. As Frank Pittman says, “The infidelity is not in the sex, necessarily, but in the secrecy. It isn’t whom you lie with. It’s whom you lie to.”{11} 1

Myth #5: “Adultery has to end in divorce.” Only about 35 percent of couples remain together after the discovery of an adulterous affair; the other 65 percent divorce. Perhaps nothing can destroy a marriage faster than marital infidelity.

The good news is that it doesn’t have to be that way. One counselor claims that 98 percent of the couples she treats remain together after counseling. Granted this success rate is not easy to achieve and requires immediate moral choices and forgiveness, but it does demonstrate that adultery does not have to end in divorce.

Preventing Adultery: Her Needs

His Needs, Her NeedsHow can a couple prevent adultery? Dr. Willard Harley in his book His Needs, Her Needs: Building an Affair-Proof Marriage provides some answers. He has found that marriages that fail to meet a spouse’s needs are more vulnerable to an extramarital affair. Often the failure of men and women to meet each other’s needs is due to a lack of knowledge rather than a selfish unwillingness to be considerate. Meeting these needs is critically important because in marriages that fail to meet needs, it is striking and alarming how consistently married people seek to satisfy their unmet needs through an extramarital affair. If any of a spouse’s five basic needs goes unmet, that spouse becomes vulnerable to the temptation of an affair.

First, let’s look at the five needs of a wife. The first need is for affection. To most women affection symbolizes security, protection, comfort, and approval. When a husband shows his wife affection, he sends the following messages: (1) I’ll take care of you and protect you; (2) I’m concerned about the problems you face, and I am with you; (3) I think you’ve done a good job, and I’m so proud of you.

Men need to understand how strongly women need these affirmations. For the typical wife, there can hardly be enough of them. A hug can communicate all of the affirmations of the previous paragraph. But, affection can be shown in many ways such as: kisses, cards, flowers, dinners out, opening the car door, holding hands, walks after dinner, back rubs, phone calls–there are a thousand ways to say “I love you.” From a woman’s point of view, affection is the essential cement of her relationship with a man.

The second need is conversation. Wives need their husbands to talk to them and to listen to them; they need lots of two-way conversation. In their dating life prior to marriage, most couples spent time time showing each other affection and talking. This shouldn’t be dropped after the wedding. When two people get married, each partner has a right to expect the same loving care and attention that prevailed during courtship to continue after the wedding. The man who takes time to talk to a woman will have an inside track to her heart.

The third need is honesty and openness. A wife needs to trust her husband totally. A sense of security is the common thread woven through all of a woman’s five basic needs. If a husband does not keep up honest and open communication with his wife, he undermines her trust and eventually destroys her security. To feel secure, a wife must trust her husband to give her accurate information about his past, the present, and the future. If she can’t trust the signals he sends, she has no foundation on which to build a solid relationship. Instead of adjusting to him, she always feels off balance; instead of growing toward him, she grows away from him.

Financial commitment is a fourth need a wife experiences. She needs enough money to live comfortably: she needs financial support. No matter how successful a career a woman might have, she usually wants her husband to earn enough money to allow her to feel supported and to feel cared for.

The fifth need is family commitment. A wife needs her husband to be a good father and have a family commitment. The vast majority of women who get married have a powerful instinct to create a home and have children. Above all, wives want their husbands to take a leadership role in the family and to commit themselves to the moral and educational development of their children.

Preventing Adultery: His Needs

Now, let’s look at the five needs husbands have. The first is sexual fulfillment. The typical wife doesn’t understand her husband’s deep need for sex anymore than the typical husband understands his wife’s deep need for affection. But these two ingredients can work very closely together in a happy, fulfilled marriage. Sex can come naturally and often, if there is enough affection.

The second need for a man is recreational companionship. He needs her to be his playmate. It is not uncommon for women, when they are single, to join men in pursuing their interests. They find themselves hunting, fishing, playing football, and watching sports and movies they would never have chosen on their own.

After marriage wives often try to interest their husbands in activities more to their own liking. If their attempts fail, they may encourage their husbands to continue their recreational activities without them. But this option is very dangerous to a marriage, because men place surprising importance on having their wives as recreational companions. Among the five basic male needs, spending recreational time with his wife is second only to sex for the typical husband.

A husband’s third need is an attractive spouse. A man needs a wife who looks good to him. Dr. Harley states that in sexual relationships most men find it nearly impossible to appreciate a woman for her inner qualities alone–there must be more. A man’s need for physical attractiveness in a mate is profound.

The fourth need for a man is domestic support. He needs peace and quiet. So deep is a husband’s need for domestic support from his wife that he often fantasizes about how she will greet him lovingly and pleasantly at the door, about well-behaved children who likewise act glad to see him and welcome him to the comfort of a well-maintained home.

The fantasy continues as his wife urges him to sit down and relax before taking part in a tasty dinner. Later the family goes out for an evening stroll, and he returns to put the children to bed with no hassle or fuss. Then he and his wife relax, talk together, and perhaps watch a little television until they retire at a reasonable hour to love each other. Wives may chuckle at this scenario, but this vision is quite common in the fantasy lives of many men. The male need for his wife to “take care of things”–especially him–is widespread, persistent, and deep.

The fifth need is admiration. He needs her to be proud of him. Wives need to learn how to express the admiration they already feel for their husbands instead of pressuring them to greater achievements. Honest admiration is a great motivator for men. When a woman tells a man she thinks he’s wonderful, that inspires him to achieve more. He sees himself capable of handling new responsibilities and perfecting skills far above those of his present level.

If any of a spouse’s five basic needs go unmet, that person becomes vulnerable to the temptation of an affair. Therefore, the best way to prevent adultery is to meet the needs of your spouse and make your marriage strong.

Notes

1. Samuel Janus and Cynthia Janus, The Janus Report on Sexual Behavior (New York: John Wiley and Sons, 1993), 169.

2. Joannie Schrof, “Adultery in America,” U.S. News and World Report, 31 Aug. 1998, 31.

3. Frank Pittman, Private Lies: Infidelity and the Betrayal of Intimacy (New York: Norton, 1989), 117.

4. Ibid., 13.

5. Kenneth Woodward, “Sex, Morality and the Protestant Minister,” Newsweek (28 July 1997), 62.

6. “How Common Is Pastoral Indiscretion?” Leadership (Winter 1988), 12.

7. In this poll Americans were asked: “What is your opinion about a married person having sexual relations with someone other than his or her spouse? Their answers: 79% answered “always wrong” and another 11% answered “almost always wrong.” Cited in “Attitudes on Adultery,” USA Today/CNN/Gallup Poll, 1997.

8. Pittman, 122.

9. Bonnie Eaker Weil, Adultery: The Forgivable Sin (Norwalk, Conn.: Hastings House, 1994), 9.

10. Pittman, 37.

11. Ibid., 53.

© 2001 Probe Ministries

 


One Christian Perspective on the Immigration Reform Debate

Steve Cable takes a look at the immigration issue from a biblical point of view.  Setting aside all the political rhetoric, what does the Bible really have to say about this topic and how should the church respond with an authenic Christian perspective.

Introduction

Immigration issues have garnered a lot of headlines in recent weeks. Is there a clear biblical position on immigration laws and on how Christians should respond to immigrants?

A January 2006 Gallup poll indicated that “immigration reform” ranked at the bottom of seven national issues behind the war in Iraq, healthcare, and the economy.{1} However, after the large rallies in April, it had moved up into the number two spot behind the war in Iraq. While more Americans are concerned about improving control of our borders than developing a comprehensive strategy for illegal immigrants, over seventy-five percent of those polled consider such a comprehensive strategy “extremely important” or “very important.” In part, this is due to a heightened awareness of the approximately twelve million illegal aliens in our country and to the intense interest in the Hispanic community. The concern also feeds on the conflicting desires for low cost labor on the one hand and protection from terrorist infiltration on the other.

At a time when the American public is becoming sensitized to the illegal immigrant issue, the evangelical community has not presented a unified front. As reported in the April 28 (2006) edition of the Dallas Morning News, “At a forum . . ., conservative and liberal religious leaders lobbed Bible verses, unable to agree on what Jesus would do about the nation’s nearly 12 million illegal immigrants.”{2} Three general positions have emerged among the evangelical community.

One position promotes honoring God through obeying the law, focusing on the responsibility of the government to provide for the security of its people.

A second position focuses on our responsibility to care for the needy, particularly the alien and the stranger.

The third position assumes this is an amoral political and economic issue that the church is wise to stay clear of.

The conundrum was aptly summarized by Dr. Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission:

“We have a right to expect the government to fulfill its divinely ordained mandate to punish those who break the laws and reward those who do not. Romans 13. We also have a divine mandate to act redemptively and compassionately toward those who are in need.”{3}

Since we are all created in the image of God, should nations place any restrictions upon our ability to move about and take up residence where we will? Certainly, if we were all Christians, Colossians 3:11 might apply, stating, “there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all.” From this verse and others like it, we might argue that we should not make any distinctions between citizens and non-citizens. Yet, the Bible clearly indicates that there will be distinct nations until Jesus returns.

Reasons for Restricted Immigration Policy

As noted above, a simple Christian perspective would welcome everyone to settle in our nation at any time. However, the Bible clearly supports the concept of national sovereignty as a means through which God works in this fallen world. In 1 Timothy 2:1-2, we are called to pray for government officials, not that they would cease to exist, but that they would facilitate a society where we can follow God and share Christ in a secure, peaceful environment. Three common reasons a government may choose to control traffic across its borders and limit citizenship opportunities are as follows:

1. National security—A nation with enemies has a need to know that those enemies are not dwelling within their land. In Deut. 31:12-13, the foreigners dwelling among the people of Israel were required to enter into the covenant to obey God. Those that did not support God’s leadership were not allowed to enter the land. Today, like never before, America must be concerned about enemies attacking from inside her border. The government has a responsibility to protect the security of her people by taking reasonable means to keep threats outside of our borders.

2. Economic prosperity—A perception of limited resources may cause a nation to curtail immigration in order to reserve a greater share of those resources for the existing citizens. They may say, “We have the sturdiest and most well stocked lifeboat, but if everyone abandons their inferior lifeboats and flocks to this one, we will go from prosperity and security to sinking and perishing.” Under the same motivation, it is common for nations to import foreign workers to perform low paid, menial tasks. There is biblical support for property ownership and rewards for ones labor. It is balanced by the clear teaching to proactively minister to the needy and to beware of being motivated by greed.{4}

3. Cultural integrity—A people group may want restrictions on immigration to protect the integrity of their historic traditions and society. Certainly, God directed the nation of Israel to ensure that all members of society worshiped the God of Abraham and did not introduce other forms of worship into society. In Exodus 12:43-49, foreigners are prohibited from participating in the Passover unless their entire household is circumcised and they covenant to obey God. America has thrived with a cultural and religious diversity, while enforcing a uniform acceptance of the Constitution and the principles of democracy, freedom, and equality.

Although the Bible does not mandate that nations should have laws to control their borders and manage immigration, it is clear that there are biblically acceptable reasons for a national policy in this area. The two that are the clearest are national security from known enemies and protecting common cultural ideals. Greed often plays a role in establishing immigration policies, an attitude clearly prohibited by our Lord.

The Case for Law and Order

Conflicting positions on immigration policy stake their claim on respect for authority at one end and on compassion for the needy at the other. Let’s consider the matter of law and order.

Romans 13 states:

Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God. . . . But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil. Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience’ sake (vv. 1,2,4,5).{5}

Christians are to be in subjection to governing authorities not only to avoid punishment, but also to be able to minister with a clear conscience. Peter expands on the motivation in 1 Peter 2:13-15 where he writes, “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men.”

Thus, for Christians, obeying the law is one way honor God. God ordains authority with the responsibility to punish “the one who practices evil.” For those who take the law-and-order position, these verses are a clear biblical mandate for dealing with illegal immigration. Not only should we personally obey the law, we should support our governing authorities in enforcing it.

However, those who take a different position argue our imperative to follow Christ’s example takes precedence over any laws. Certainly, Jesus and the apostles did not always obey the strict direction of the ruling authorities. One notable example is found in Acts 4:19-20. When commanded not “to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus,” Peter replied, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; for we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.” Not only did they refuse to submit to the command, they encouraged others to follow their example. However, one should be careful about using these examples as a trump card to justify ignoring any laws that one believes are contrary to the teaching of Christ. Both Jesus and Paul direct us to pay our taxes, knowing full well that some of those tax dollars may be spent in ways that do not honor Christ.

As believers, we are called to obey laws that do not require us to directly disobey God.

The Case for Compassion

Another important consideration is whether Christ’s directive to show compassion to the needy should be our primary concern in establishing and enforcing immigration policy. Those who promote this case point to two primary principles in the Scriptures:

1. Treat the alien in our midst with fairness, remembering that we too are aliens.

2. Minister to the least of these as unto Jesus Himself.

Deuteronomy 10:18-19 states, “He . . . shows His love for the alien by giving him food and clothing. So show your love for the alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.” Remembering their history as aliens dwelling in Egypt, the children of Israel were to show love for the aliens in their midst. We, too, should remember that most of us did nothing to deserve being born in America. We could just as easily be the person seeking a better life by becoming an alien in America.

Does this passage mean that we have a responsibility to care for any person who is able to cross our borders?

The Hebrew word most often translated as “alien” is ger. According to Vines, a ger “was not simply a foreigner or a stranger. He was a permanent resident, once a citizen of another land, who had moved into his new residence.”{6} The Jewish law was clear that these aliens should be afforded equitable treatment under the law (e.g., Num. 15:16, Deut. 1:16). However, special provisions were also in place for the alien. Not being a member of one of the twelve tribes, the alien could not own land. Consequently, the alien was grouped together with widows and orphans to receive a portion of the tithe (Deut. 14:28-29), access to the gleanings in the field (Deut. 24:19-22) and justice (Deut. 24:17-18). However, these provisions did not apply to the foreigner temporarily in the country for work or other purposes. These temporary visitors did not receive a food allotment and were not allowed to fully participate in society.

We know that God wants us to treat aliens fairly, but the biblical example shows a greater responsibility to those who meet the requirements to become residents.

Compassion is a emphasized in Jesus’ command to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” in the parable of the Good Samaritan, and in us observation in Matt 25:40, “to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.” We are called to demonstrate sacrificial love in meeting the needs of both friends and strangers. Each person we meet is created in the image of God, worthy of our love and our concern for their spiritual and physical needs. Whatever our position on immigration policy and enforcement, Christians should be at the forefront of ministering to people far from home.

Responding to Our Current Situation

Is it possible within our current immigration laws to be compassionate and to be subject to ruling authorities at the same time? One way to answer that question is to apply the biblical guidelines reviewed earlier to the different roles in the immigration debate.

First, let’s consider a potential immigrant. Barring a direct threat upon your life, abide by the laws of your current country and America. If you have a desire to work in America, apply through appropriate channels and use all legal means to expedite the process. Desiring more opportunity for your family is commendable. However, choosing to break the law to achieve that goal is telling God that He cannot be trusted to provide.

Now assume you were an illegal immigrant. Report yourself to the appropriate authorities to obtain a hearing and abide by the results. Some argue that it is cruel to separate families. Current laws do not normally force families to be separated. Separation is the result of family members choosing to stay in the U.S. when a person is required to leave the country.

What attitude should be taken by an employer? Obey the employment laws. Do not knowingly hire illegal aliens and take steps to prevent accidentally hiring illegal aliens.

Finally, consider a Christian citizen. Reach out in love to all people regardless of their immigration status. Help them find help in dealing with the process and caring for their family. Counsel those in your flock to come into compliance with any laws they are breaking. Ask your representatives to support legislation which balances security with generosity and compassion. Most Americans desire to protect or improve their standard of living. Doing this at the expense of others is clearly contrary to biblical teaching. At the same time, lowering our standard of living by being less productive is not good stewardship either. We should promote policies that reflect a willingness to reduce our consumption to benefit others while promoting improvements across the board. What might this look like?

  • Increased legal immigration for a variety of skill and educational levels, believing that we have the ingenuity to utilize these additional resources productively.
  • Fair pay for all jobs with strong penalties for employers who break the laws.
  • Requiring immigrants to maintain a record of gainful employment.
  • Rapid deportation for those who enter illegally.
  • While there is a real terrorist threat, making it difficult to enter our country surreptitiously.
  • Pressuring other countries not to exploit their labor force.

Although there is no simple scriptural prescription to “fix” the immigration issue, Christians can model how to reach out in compassion and submit to authority at the same time. Prayerfully consider how God wants you to respond in this area.

Notes

1. “Halting the Flow is American’s Illegal Immigration Priority”, Lydia Saad, Gallup News Service, April 13, 2006
2. Todd J. Gillman, “Christians ask: Can you love thy neighbor but deport him, too?” Dallas Morning News, April 28, 2006.
3. Ibid.
4. Luke 12:15
5. All Scripture references from the New American Standard Bible, 1995.
6. Vine’s Expository Dictionary of biblical Words, Copyright (c)1985, Thomas Nelson Publishers

© 2006 Probe Ministries


Abortion: A Biblical View

Sue Bohlin takes a hard look at abortion from a biblical perspective.  Her Christian viewpoint focuses on the Bible’s perspective on the source and sanctity of life while understanding the emotions many women face.

Why Abortion is So Volatile

Abortion is one of the most divisive and controversial issues of our day. People generally have strong views about abortion. It is not a social issue of mere preference, but an issue about life and death.

Abortion draws out the clashes between two divergent world views. The humanistic worldview says, “Man is the highest standard there is. You don’t answer to anyone, so do whatever you want.” The Christian worldview says, “We answer to God, and He has commanded us not to murder. We must always submit our desires and preferences to the authority of His word.”

I believe that the real reason that we see such emotional, tenacious commitment to the availability of abortion goes even deeper than the issue of abortion: people want sexual freedom without consequences.

Our culture has a definite agenda supporting any and all sexual expression. It’s difficult to find a new movie, or a successful TV show, or a popular song, that doesn’t embrace this view of sex. When the director of a Crisis Pregnancy Center in Dallas offered a school district a presentation supporting abstinence till marriage, the district turned her down. Their own presentation featured birth control devices, and they couldn’t let her talk about self-control one day if they were going to sell the kids on condoms the next.

As a society, we are amazingly schizophrenic about this sort of thing. My son, who was born in 1982, is a de facto member of what they’re calling the “Smokefree Class of 2000.” No one bats an eye at this worthy national goal of graduating an entire class of non-smokers, but people laugh derisively at the thought of kids not having sex. Which is easier to get, a sex partner or a cigarette?

Teenagers are becoming more and more open about the fact that they are having sex, and this is a reflection of the sexual mores they see in movies, on TV, and in music. The whole society is loosening up to the point that people who have chosen to remain chaste are openly ridiculed on Geraldo; the decision of Doogie Howser, a TV hero and role model for young people, Doogie Howser, to lose his virginity is hailed as “responsible sex”; and a couple that doesn’t live together before the wedding is asked, “Why not?”

Western civilization has been heading down this path for a long time. With the rise of Humanism during the Renaissance, societies began turning away from God’s laws and God’s ways. From the Enlightenment sprang a virtual worship of nature. Once nature, not God, became the standard for morality, people started believing that, since humans are a mere product of nature, anything we do naturally is normal, and even good. Sex is natural, sex is powerful, and so it eventually followed that sexual expression was seen as a natural and normal part of all human existence in any circumstances, much on the level of eating and sleeping.

It’s no coincidence that the two most heated issues of our day are abortion and homosexuality; underlying both is an insistence on sexual freedom while thumbing one’s nose at God and His laws.

Given the sexually charged atmosphere in which we live, it is not surprising that so many people are having sex outside of marriage and getting pregnant. And so abortion is treated like an eraser; people see it as a way to try to get rid of the consequences of their sexual activity. Of course, there are always exceptions; pregnancies do occur as a result of incest and rape. Some women get pregnant because of someone else’s sin. But does that make it right to kill the baby that has been conceived?

The Bible’s View of the Unborn

Historically, hiding the evidence of sexual activity was the main reason for abortions. One of the early church fathers, Clement of Alexandria, maintained that “those who use abortifacient medicines to hide their fornication cause not only the outright murder of the fetus, but of the whole human race as well.”(1)

Pro-choice advocates don’t like the use of the word “murder.” They maintain that no one really knows when human life begins, and they choose to believe that the idea of personhood at conception is a religious tenet and therefore not valid. It is a human life that is formed at conception. The zygote contains 46 chromosomes, half contributed by each parent, in a unique configuration that has never existed before and never will again. It is not plant life or animal life, nor is it mere tissue like a tumor. From the moment of conception, the new life is genetically different from his or her mother, and is not a part of her body like her tonsils or appendix. This new human being is a separate individual living inside the mother.

The Bible doesn’t specifically address the subject of abortion, probably since it is covered in the commandment, “Thou shalt not murder.”(Ex. 20:13) But it does give us insight into God’s view of the unborn. In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word for the unborn (yeled) is the same word used for young children. The Hebrew language did not have or need a separate word for pre-born babies. All children were children regardless of whether they lived inside or outside the womb. In the New Testament, the same word is used to describe the unborn John the Baptist and the already-born baby Jesus. The process of birth just doesn’t make any difference concerning a baby’s worth or status in the Bible.

We are given some wonderful insights into God’s intimate involvement in the development and life of the pre-born infant in Psalm 139:13-16:

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

All people, regardless of the circumstances of their conception, or whether they are healthy or handicapped, have been personally knit together by God’s fingers. He has planned out all the days of the unborn child’s life before one of them has happened.

Sometimes you will hear a pro-choice argument that says the Bible does not put the same value on the life of the unborn as on infants, citing an Old Testament passage on personal injury law. Exodus 21:22-25 gives two penalties if fighting men hit a pregnant woman. The first penalty was a fine, and some people conclude from this that an unborn baby doesn’t have the same value as a born child. But that penalty was for a situation where nothing serious happened. If there was serious injury, the offender was severely punished with the same injury he inflicted. If the mother or baby died, the offender was to be put to death. This actually shows very eloquently how valuable God considers both the mother and her unborn baby.

Post-Abortion Syndrome

After having an abortion, many women feel a sense of relief at having avoided the stress and responsibility of pregnancy and a baby, but abortions eventually cause serious emotional damage in millions of women.

The American Psychiatric Association has identified abortion as one of the stressor events that can trigger post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Many of us associate PTSD with Vietnam Veterans suffering from the effects of the war; but post-abortion syndrome is a form of PTSD that affects women who have had abortions.

The death of a child is one of the biggest stress points a person can experience in life. Post-abortion syndrome is the emotional stress of not grieving, not letting ourselves feel the pain and suffering that is part of a loss. To be emotional healthy, we all have to grieve through our losses; but what do you do when society tells you there’s nothing to grieve about? If a woman does not recognize her need to grieve for her baby, or if she does not allow it to occur, that emotional pain is going to go somewhere. Frequently, following a woman’s abortion, she goes into what one CPC counselor described as “self-destruct mode”: getting pregnant again, having an affair, punishing herself, and generally showing all the variations that severe depression can take.

Depending on how stressed a woman is, PAS can show up within weeks or months of the abortion, or she can have a delayed reaction to it, typically seven to eight years later. Women experiencing post-abortion syndrome generally feel a confusing and overwhelming sense of guilt. One study reported that 92 percent of women who have had an abortion feel guilt.(2) One woman who is now involved in a post-abortion healing group reports that after her abortion, the memory haunted her. She heard this little voice in her head: “Abortion, abortion; you’re a terrible, awful person.”(3) For many women, the guilt and shame is expressed through a deep anger–at the doctors and abortion counselors for hurting her and her baby, at her husband, boyfriend, or parents for pressuring her into an abortion, and at herself for getting pregnant and having the abortion.

Many women dealing with the effects of abortion spend a great deal of emotional energy denying the death and denying that what they did was wrong. A woman uses denial to keep herself from coming face to face with the fact that her child was killed and she allowed it to happen. One young woman pleaded with my sister not to leave her alone the day she had an abortion. This hurting teen tried to keep her feelings at bay as she spent the afternoon telling dead baby jokes.

Abortion is not an eraser to rub out a mistake or an inconvenience. It has more than one victim; women as well as their babies are victims of abortions. It is essential that a woman grieve for her baby and face her role in the baby’s death; in fact, women who allow themselves to grieve and understand their need to grieve are not likely to experience post-abortion syndrome. But even more essential is that women who have had abortions accept that there really has been a death, that abortion is sin, and that the Lord Jesus Christ’s death covered every wrong they have ever done. No sin–not even abortion–is greater than the power of His blood, and He offers total forgiveness and cleansing to everyone who will come to Him in faith.

The Sawyers’ Story

Steve and Tessie Sawyer will never forget Halloween 1990. Tessie was four months pregnant, and her doctor had suggested, “Tess, you’re 35 years old; let’s do a neurological test on the baby. It’s just a simple blood test.” Sure, that was fine with Tessie…until the day before Halloween, when the test results came back.

The alpha-fetoprotein test indicated that her blood count was extremely low. Normal was 450, and hers was 120. This test has three parts, and the part that came back so abnormal tested for Down’s Syndrome. Neither Steve nor Tessie were the least bit prepared for the staggering news that something might be terribly wrong with their baby.

This baby was a surprise to the Sawyers, who already had two very active little boys and weren’t anticipating any more. But, being believers, they knew that God’s sense of humor and timing is something to be reckoned with.

Later, they did another alpha-fetoprotein test. Hoping against hope, they waited in anguish for the results to come back to Dallas from the lab in Santa Fe. But the second results were just as abnormal as the first. The doctor informed Steve and Tessie of their option to abort the baby, since there was an almost certain indication that he would be handicapped. But that was never an option for them. The doctors wanted to do amniocentesis on Tess, but they refused that, too.

At this point, the Sawyers’ friends had two different perspectives. Their church friends were wonderfully supportive, both emotionally and in prayer; their unchurched friends questioned them: “Why don’t you have an amnio?” Steve and Tessie were delighted, in the midst of their fear, to be able to share their faith that God was the One in control: “It doesn’t matter what the test results would be. We’re not aborting this baby. There’s a risk of miscarriage or early labor with amniocentesis, and five months’ peace of mind in exchange for our baby’s life just isn’t worth it.”

At seven months, the doctor did a special, extensive sonogram to measure the baby’s femur. Down’s Syndrome babies have longer than normal extremities, but the doctor couldn’t see anything unusual about the baby’s bones. And he couldn’t see the baby’s face, either. The waiting, and not knowing, went on two more months.

Tessie had a scheduled C-section. As she was being prepped for surgery, it hit her that in a matter of moments, their lives could be changed forever. That kind of fear feels like a cold, hard iceball in your stomach. But Steve and Tessie were trusting God no matter what happened, believing in His love for them and for their baby, believing that He was still in control.

The doctor delivered Lucas Clay Sawyer and turned him over. “He looks perfectly normal,” he pronounced cautiously. But sometimes Down’s Syndrome takes a while to show up, and for the next 24 hours they ran a lot of tests on Luke. And I’m glad to say that today he is absolutely, positively, the healthiest, most robust, smartest little kid you’ve ever seen.

All the world’s conventional wisdom advised Steve and Tessie, “Your baby is probably not normal. You should seriously consider abortion.” But are they glad they didn’t!! We need to hear that test results are sometimes wrong. No one knows why the Sawyers’ alpha-fetoprotein test came back with such dismal numbers on such a healthy baby. How many other healthy babies are being aborted after the parents get misleading or just plain wrong test results?

Handicapped Children

The Sawyers had a very happy ending to their story, but sometimes the tests do tell the truth and babies really are sick or handicapped. There’s no doubt about it, raising a handicapped child is painful and hard. Is it ever okay to abort a child whose life will be less than perfect?

We need to ask ourselves, does the child deserve to die because of his handicap or illness? Life is hard, both for the handicapped person and for her parents. But it is significant that no organization of parents of mentally retarded children has ever endorsed abortion.

Some people honestly believe that it’s better to abort a handicapped child than to let him experience the difficult life ahead. Dr. C. Everett Koop, former Surgeon General of the United States, has performed thousands of pediatric surgeries on handicapped children. He remarks that disability and unhappiness do not necessarily go together. Some of the unhappiest children he has known had full mental and physical faculties, and some of the happiest youngsters have borne very difficult burdens.(4) Life is a lot harder for people with disabilities, but I can tell you personally that there is a precious side to it as well. I have lived most of my life with a physical handicap, but it hasn’t stopped me from experiencing a fierce joy from living life to the fullest of the abilities I do have. I can honestly rejoice in my broken body because it is that very brokenness and weakness that makes it easier for others to see the power and glory of my Lord in me, because His power is perfected in weakness.

Often, parents abort children with defects because they don’t want to face the certain suffering and pain that comes with caring for a handicapped individual. By aborting the child, they believe they are aborting the trouble. But as we discussed earlier, there is no way to avoid the consequences of abortion: the need to grieve, the guilt, the anger, the depression.

What if a baby is going to die anyway? Anencephalic babies, babies born without brains, have no hope of living any length of time. I think we need to look at the larger picture, one that includes God and His purposes for our lives. When a tragedy like this occurs, we can know that it is only happening because He has a reason behind it. God’s will for us is not that we live easy lives, but that we be changed into the image of Jesus. He wants us to be holy, not comfortable. The pain of difficult circumstances is often His chosen method to grow godliness in us and in the lives of those touched by the tragedy of a child’s handicap. When it is a matter of life and death, as abortion is, it is not our place to avoid the pain.

My husband and I know what it is to bury a baby who only lived nine days. We saw God use this situation to draw people to Himself and to teach and strengthen and bless so many people beyond our immediate family. Despite the tremendous pain of that time, now that I have seen how God used it to glorify Himself, I would go through it again.

Not all abortions are performed as a matter of convenience. Some are performed in very hard cases, such as a handicapped child or as the result of rape or incest. But again, we need to back off and look at things from an eternal perspective. God is the One who gives life, and only He has the right to take it away. Every person, born or unborn, is a precious soul made by God, in His image. Every life is an entrustment from God we need to celebrate and protect.

Notes

1. Paedogus 2:10, 96, 1

2. Ann Speckhard, “The Psycho-Social Aspects of Stress Following Abortion,” doctoral thesis submitted to the University of Minnesota.

3. Nancy Michels, Helping Women Recover From Abortion (Minneapolis: Bethany, 1988), 76.

4. C. Everett Koop, “The Slide to Auschwitz,” in Ronald Reagan, Abortion and the Conscience of the Nation (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1984), 45-46.

For Further Reading

Alcorn, Randy. Pro-Life Answers to Pro-Choice Arguments, Portland: Multnomah, 1992.

Garton, Jean. Who Broke the Baby? Minneapolis: Bethany, 1988.

Michels, Nancy. Helping Women Recover From Abortion. Minneapolis: Bethany, 1988.

Schaeffer, Francis and C. Everett Koop, Whatever Happened to the Human Race? Westchester, Ill.: Crossway, 1983.

Young, Curt. The Least of These. Chicago: Moody, 1984.

© 1992 Probe Ministries.


Archaeology and the Old Testament

Dr. Patrick Zukeran surveys the importance of archaeology with regard to its confirmation of biblical history.

Spanish flagThis article is also available in Spanish.

Understanding Archaeology

Christianity is a historical faith based on actual events recorded in the Bible. Archaeology has therefore played a key role in biblical studies and Christian apologetics in several ways.

First, archaeology has confirmed the historical accuracy of the Bible. It has verified many ancient sites, civilizations, and biblical characters whose existence was questioned by the academic world and often dismissed as myths. Biblical archaeology has silenced many critics as new discoveries supported the facts of the Bible.

Second, archaeology helps us improve our understanding of the Bible. Although we do not have the original writings of the authors, thousands of ancient manuscripts affirm that we have an accurate transmission of the original texts.{1} Archaeology can also help us to understand more accurately the nuances and uses of biblical words as they were used in their day.

Third, archaeology helps illustrate and explain Bible passages. The events of the Bible occurred at a certain time, in a particular culture, influenced by a particular social and political structure. Archaeology gives us insights into these areas. Archaeology also helps to supplement topics not covered in the Bible. Much of what we know of the pagan religions and the intertestamental period comes from archaeological research.

As we approach this study we must keep in mind the limits of archaeology. First, it does not prove the divine inspiration of the Bible. It can only confirm the accuracy of the events. Second, unlike other fields of science, archaeology cannot re-create the process under study. Archaeologists must study and interpret the evidence left behind. All conclusions must allow for revision and reinterpretation based on new discoveries. Third, how archaeological evidence is understood depends on the interpreter’s presuppositions and worldview. It is important to understand that many researchers are skeptics of the Bible and hostile to its world view.

Fourth, thousands of archives have been discovered, but an enormous amount of material has been lost. For example, the library in Alexandria held over one million volumes, but all were lost in a seventh century fire.

Fifth, only a fraction of available archaeological sites have been surveyed, and only a fraction of surveyed sites have been excavated. In fact, it is estimated that less than two percent of surveyed sites have been worked on. Once work begins, only a fraction of an excavation site is actually examined, and only a small part of what is examined is published. For example, the photographs of the Dead Sea Scrolls were withheld from the public for forty years after they were uncovered.

It is important to understand that the Scriptures remain the primary source of authority. We must not elevate archaeology to the point that it becomes the judge for the validity of Scripture. Randall Price states, “There are indeed instances where the information needed to resolve a historical or chronological question is lacking from both archaeology and the Bible, but it is unwarranted to assume the material evidence taken from the more limited content of archaeological excavations can be used to dispute the literary evidence from the more complete content of the canonical scriptures.”{2} The Bible has proven to be an accurate and trustworthy source of history.

Noted archaeologist Nelson Glueck writes, “As a matter of fact, however, it may be clearly stated categorically that no archeological discovery has ever controverted a single biblical reference. Scores of archeological findings have been made which confirm in clear outline or exact detail historical statements in the Bible.”{3}

The Discovery of the Hittites

The Hittites played a prominent role in Old Testament history. They interacted with biblical figures as early as Abraham and as late as Solomon. They are mentioned in Genesis 15:20 as people who inhabited the land of Canaan. 1 Kings 10:29 records that they purchased chariots and horses from King Solomon. The most prominent Hittite is Uriah the husband of Bathsheba. The Hittites were a powerful force in the Middle East from 1750 B.C. until 1200 B.C. Prior to the late 19th century, nothing was known of the Hittites outside the Bible, and many critics alleged that they were an invention of the biblical authors.

In 1876 a dramatic discovery changed this perception. A British scholar named A. H. Sayce found inscriptions carved on rocks in Turkey. He suspected that they might be evidence of the Hittite nation. Ten years later, more clay tablets were found in Turkey at a place called Boghaz-koy. German cuneiform expert Hugo Winckler investigated the tablets and began his own expedition at the site in 1906.

Winckler’s excavations uncovered five temples, a fortified citadel and several massive sculptures. In one storeroom he found over ten thousand clay tablets. One of the documents proved to be a record of a treaty between Ramesses II and the Hittite king. Other tablets showed that Boghaz-koy was the capital of the Hittite kingdom. Its original name was Hattusha and the city covered an area of 300 acres. The Hittite nation had been discovered!

Less than a decade after Winckler’s find, Czech scholar Bedrich Hronzny proved the Hittite language is an early relative of the Indo-European languages of Greek, Latin, French, German, and English. The Hittite language now has a central place in the study of the history of the Indo-European languages.

The discovery also confirmed other biblical facts. Five temples were found containing many tablets with details of the rites and ceremonies that priests performed. These ceremonies described rites for purification from sin and purification of a new temple. The instructions proved to be very elaborate and lengthy. Critics once criticized the laws and instructions found in the books of Leviticus and Deuteronomy as too complicated for the time it was written (1400 B.C.). The Boghaz-koy texts along with others from Egyptian sites and a site along the Euphrates called Emar have proven that the ceremonies described in the Jewish Pentateuch are consistent with the ceremonies of the cultures of this time period.

The Hittite Empire made treaties with civilizations they conquered. Two dozen of these have been translated and provide a better understanding of treaties in the Old Testament. The discovery of the Hittite Empire at Boghaz-koy has significantly advanced our understanding of the patriarchal period. Dr. Fred Wright summarizes the importance of this find in regard to biblical historicity:

Now the Bible picture of this people fits in perfectly with what we know of the Hittite nation from the monuments. As an empire they never conquered the land of Canaan itself, although the Hittite local tribes did settle there at an early date. Nothing discovered by the excavators has in any way discredited the Biblical account. Scripture accuracy has once more been proved by the archaeologist.{4}

The discovery of the Hittites has proven to be one of the great archaeological finds of all time. It has helped to confirm the biblical narrative and had a great impact on Middle East archaeological study. Because of it, we have come to a greater understanding of the history of our language, as well as the religious, social, and political practices of the ancient Middle East.

Sodom and Gomorrah

The story of Sodom and Gomorrah has long been viewed as a legend. Critics assume that it was created to communicate moral principles. However, throughout the Bible this story is treated as a historical event. The Old Testament prophets refer to the destruction of Sodom on several occasions (Deut. 29:23, Isa. 13:19, Jer. 49:18), and these cities play a key role in the teachings of Jesus and the Apostles (Matt. 10:15, 2 Pet. 2:6 and Jude 1:7). What has archaeology found to establish the existence of these cities?

Archaeologists have searched the Dead Sea region for many years in search of Sodom and Gomorrah. Genesis 14:3 gives their location as the Valley of Siddim known as the Salt Sea, another name for the Dead Sea. On the east side six wadies, or river valleys, flow into the Dead Sea. Along five of these wadies, ancient cities were discovered. The northern most is named Bab edh-Drha. In 1924, renowned archaeologist Dr. William Albright excavated at this site, searching for Sodom and Gomorrah. He discovered it to be a heavily fortified city. Although he connected this city with one of the biblical “Cities of the Plains,” he could not find conclusive evidence to justify this assumption.

More digging was done in 1965, 1967, and 1973. The archaeologists discovered a 23-inch thick wall around the city, along with numerous houses and a large temple. Outside the city were huge grave sites where thousands of skeletons were unearthed. This revealed that the city had been well populated during the early Bronze Age, about the time Abraham would have lived.

Most intriguing was evidence that a massive fire had destroyed the city. It lay buried under a coating of ash several feet thick. A cemetery one kilometer outside the city contained charred remains of roofs, posts, and bricks turned red from heat.

Dr. Bryant Wood, in describing these charnel houses, stated that a fire began on the roofs of these buildings. Eventually the burning roof collapsed into the interior and spread inside the building. This was the case in every house they excavated. Such a massive fiery destruction would match the biblical account that the city was destroyed by fire that rained down from heaven. Wood states, “The evidence would suggest that this site of Bab edh-Drha is the biblical city of Sodom.”{5}

Five cities of the plain are mentioned in Genesis 14: Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, Zoar, and Zeboiim. Remnants of these other four cities are also found along the Dead Sea. Following a southward path from Bab edh-Drha there is the city called Numeria. Continuing south is the city called es-Safi. Further south are the ancient cities of Feifa and Khanazir. Studies at these cities revealed that they had been abandoned at the same time about 24502350 B.C. Many archaeologists believe if Bab ed-Drha is Sodom, Numeria is Gomorrah, and es-Safi is Zoar.

What fascinated the archaeologists is that these cities were covered in the same ash as Bab ed-Drha. Numeria, believed to be Gomorrah, had seven feet of ash in some places. In every one of the destroyed cities ash deposits made the soil a spongy charcoal, making it impossible to rebuild. According to the Bible, four of the five cities were destroyed, leaving Lot to flee to Zoar. Zoar was not destroyed by fire, but was abandoned during this period.

Although archaeologists are still disputing these findings, this is one discovery we will be hearing more about in years to come.

The Walls of Jericho

According to the Bible, the conquest of Jericho occurred in approximately 1440 B.C. The miraculous nature of the conquest has caused some scholars to dismiss the story as folklore. Does archaeology support the biblical account? Over the past century four prominent archaeologists have excavated the site: Carl Watzinger from 1907-1909, John Garstang in the 1930’s, Kathleen Kenyon from 1952-1958, and currently Bryant Wood. The result of their work has been remarkable.

First, they discovered that Jericho had an impressive system of fortifications. Surrounding the city was a retaining wall fifteen feet high. At its top was an eight-foot brick wall strengthened from behind by an earthen rampart. Domestic structures were found behind this first wall. Another brick wall enclosed the rest of the city. The domestic structures found between the two walls is consistent with Joshua’s description of Rahab’s quarters (Josh. 2:15). Archeologists also found that in one part of the city, large piles of bricks were found at the base of both the inner and outer walls, indicating a sudden collapse of the fortifications. Scholars feel that an earthquake, which may also explain the damming of the Jordan in the biblical account, caused this collapse. The collapsed bricks formed a ramp by which an invader might easily enter the city (Josh. 6:20).

Of this amazing discovery Garstang states, “As to the main fact, then, there remains no doubt: the walls fell outwards so completely, the attackers would be able to clamber up and over the ruins of the city.”{6} This is remarkable because when attacked city walls fall inward, not outward.

A thick layer of soot indicates that the city was destroyed by fire as described in Joshua 6:24. Kenyon describes it this way. “The destruction was complete. Walls and floors were blackened or reddened by fire and every room was filled with fallen bricks.”{7} Archaeologists also discovered large amounts of grain at the site. This is again consistent with the biblical account that the city was captured quickly. If it had fallen as a result of a siege, the grain would have been used up. According to Joshua 6:17, the Israelites were forbidden to plunder the city, but had to destroy it totally.

Although the archaeologists agreed Jericho was violently destroyed, they disagreed on the date of the conquest. Garstang held to the biblical date of 1400 B.C. while Watzinger and Kenyon believed the destruction occurred in 1550 B.C. In other words, if the later date is accurate, Joshua arrived at a previously destroyed Jericho. This earlier date would pose a serious challenge to the historicity of the Old Testament.

Dr. Bryant Wood, who is currently excavating the site, found that Kenyon’s early date was based on faulty assumptions about pottery found at the site. His later date is also based on the discovery of Egyptian amulets in the tombs northwest of Jericho. Inscribed under these amulets were the names of Egyptian Pharaohs dating from 1500-1386 B.C., showing that the cemetery was in use up to the end of the late Bronze Age (1550-1400 B.C.). Finally, a piece of charcoal found in the debris was carbon-14 dated to be 1410 B.C. The evidence leads Wood to this conclusion. “The pottery, stratigraphic considerations, scarab data and a carbon-14 date all point to a destruction of the city around the end of the Late Bronze Age, about 1400 BCE.”{8}

Thus, current archeological evidence supports the Bible’s account of when and how Jericho fell.

House of David

One of the most beloved characters in the Bible is King David. Scripture says that he was a man after God’s own heart. He is revered as the greatest of all Israelite kings and the messianic covenant is established through his lineage. Despite his key role in Israel’s history, until recently no evidence outside the Bible attested to his existence. For this reason critics questioned the existence of a King David.

In the summer of 1993, an archaeologist made what has been labeled as a phenomenal and stunning discovery. Dr. Avraham Biran and his team were excavating a site labeled Tell Dan, located in northern Galilee at the foot of Mt. Hermon. Evidence indicates that this is the site of the Old Testament land of Dan.

The team had discovered an impressive royal plaza. As they were clearing the debris, they discovered in the ruins the remains of a black basalt stele, or stone slab, containing Aramaic inscriptions. The stele contained thirteen lines of writing but none of the sentences were complete. Some of the lines contained only three letters while the widest contained fourteen. The letters that remained were clearly engraved and easy to read. Two of the lines included the phrases “The King of Israel” and “House of David.”

This is the first reference to King David found outside of the Bible. This discovery has caused many critics to reconsider their view of the historicity of the Davidic kingdom. Pottery found in the vicinity, along with the construction and style of writing, lead Dr. Biran to argue that the stele was erected in the first quarter of the ninth century B.C., about a century after the death of King David.

The translation team discovered that the inscription told of warfare between the Israelites and the Arameans, which the Bible refers to during this period. In this find, a ruler of the Arameans probably Hazael is victorious over Israel and Judah. The stele was erected to celebrate the defeat of the two kings. In 1994 two more pieces were found with inscriptions which refer to Jehoram, the son of Ahab, ruler over Israel, and Ahaziah, who was the ruler over the “House of David” or Judah. These names and facts correspond to the account given in chapters 8 and 9 of 2 Kings. Dr. Hershel Shanks of Biblical Archaeological Review states, “The stele brings to life the biblical text in a very dramatic way. It also gives us more confidence in the historical reality of the biblical text.”{9}

The find has confirmed a number of facts. First, the use of the term “House of David” implies that there was a Davidic dynasty that ruled Israel. We can conclude, then, that a historic King David existed. Second, the kingdoms of Judah and Israel were prominent political entities as the Bible describes. Critics long viewed the two nations as simply insignificant states.

Dr. Bryant Wood summarizes the importance of this find this way. “In our day, most scholars, archaeologist and biblical scholars would take a very critical view of the historical accuracy of many of the accounts in the Bible. . . . Many scholars have said there never was a David or a Solomon, and now we have a stele that actually mentions David.”{10}

Although many archeologists remain skeptical of the biblical record, the evidence for the historical accuracy of the Bible continues to build.

Notes

1. See Are the Biblical Documents Reliable? available on the Web at www.probe.org/are-the-biblical-documents-reliable/

2. Randall Price, The Stones Cry Out (Eugene, OR.: Harvest House Publishers, 1997), 46. e, 173.

3. Nelson Glueck, Rivers in the Desert, (New York: Farrar, Strous and Cudahy, 1959), 136. e, 173.

4.Fred Wright, Highlights of Archaeology in the Bible Lands, (Chicago: Moody Press, 1955), 94-95.

5. Price, 118.

6. John Garstang, The Foundations of Bible History; Joshua, Judges (London: Constable, 1931), 146.

7. Kathleen Kenyon and Thomas Holland, Excavations at Jericho Vol. 3: The Architecture and Stratigraphy of the Tell, (London: BSA), 370.

8. Bryant Wood, “Did the Israelites Conquer Jericho?” Biblical Archaeological Review, March/April, 1990, 57.

9. John Wilford, “Areologists say Evidence of House of David Found.” Dallas Morning News, 6 August 1993, 1A

10. Price, 173.

Bibliography

1. Biblical Archaeological Review, March/April 1994, “David Found at Dan,” 26-39.

2. Bryce, Trevor. The Kingdom of the Hittites. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1998.

3. Freedman, Noel and Geoghegan, Jeffrey. “House of David Is There!” Biblical Archaeological Review. March/April,1995, 78-79.

4. Garstang, John. The Foundations of Bible History; Joshua, Judges. London: Constable, 1931.

5. _______. The Land of the Hittites. London: Constable and Company, 1910.

6. Geisler, Norman. When Skeptics Ask. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1989.

7. Glueck, Nelson. Rivers in the Desert. New York: Farrar, Strous and Cudahy, 1959.

8. Hoerth, Alfred. Archaeology and the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1998.

9. Kenyon, Kathleen and Holland, Thomas. Excavations at Jericho Vol. 3: The Architecture and Stratigraphy of the Tell. London: BSA 370.

10. _______. Digging Up Jericho. New York: Fredrick Praeger Publisher, 1957.

11. Lemonick, Michael. “Score One for the Bible.” Time Magazine, 5 March 1990, 59.

12. _______. “Are the Bible Stories True?” Time Magazine, December 18, 1995, 62-70.

13. McDowell, Josh. Evidence That Demands a Verdict. San Bernadino: Here’s Life Publishers, 1979.

14. _______. More Evidence That Demands a Verdict. San Bernadino: Here’s Life Publishers, 1975.

15. Merrill, Eugene. “The Very Stones Cry Out: A New Witness to an Ancient Record.” Gospel Herald at the Sunday School Times. Fall 1995, 54-55, 59.

16. Millard, Alan. Nelson’s Illustrated Wonders and Discoveries of the Bible. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1997.

17. Price, Randall. The Stones Cry Out. Eugene, OR.: Harvest House Publishers, 1997.

18. Wilford, John. “Archaeologists say Evidence of House of David Found.” Dallas Morning News, 6 August 1993, 1A and 11A.

19. Wood, Bryant. “Did the Israelites Conquer Jericho?” Biblical Archaeological Review, Vol. 16:2, 1990.

20. Wright, Fred. Highlights of Archaeology in the Bible Lands. Chicago: Moody Press, 1955.

21. Yamauchi, Edwin, The Stones and the Scriptures. Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott Company, 1972.

© 2000 Probe Ministries.


Authority of the Bible – A Strong Argument for Christianity

Dr. Pat Zukeran examines some of the compelling evidence for the reliability and the authority of the Bible. The uniqueness and astounding accuracy of this ancient text is an important apologetic for Christianity.

Spanish flag This article is also available in Spanish.

There are many books today that claim to be the Word of God. The Koran, the Bhagavad Gita, The Book of Mormon, and other religious works all claim to be divinely inspired. The Bible claims to be the only book that is divinely inspired and that all other claims of inspiration from other works should be ruled out. Does the Bible confirm its exclusive claim to be the Word of God? The totality of evidences presents a strong case for the divine inspiration of the Bible.

download-podcastThe strongest argument for the divine inspiration of the Bible is the testimony of Jesus. Jesus claimed to be the divine Son of God and confirmed His claims through His sinless, miraculous life and resurrection. The events of His life have been recorded in the four Gospels, which have proven to be historically accurate and written by first century eyewitnesses.{1} Since Jesus is God incarnate, whatever He taught is true, and anything opposed to His teaching is false.

Jesus directly affirmed the authority of the Old Testament and indirectly affirmed the New Testament. In Luke 11:51, Jesus identified the prophets and the canon of the Old Testament. He names Abel as the first prophet from Genesis, and Zechariah the last prophet mentioned in 2 Chronicles, the last book in the Jewish Old Testament (which contains the same books we have today although placed in a different order). In Mark 7:8-9, Jesus refers to the Old Testament as the commands of God. In Matthew 5:17, Jesus states that the Law and the Prophets referring to the Old Testament is authoritative and imperishable. Throughout His ministry, Jesus made clear His teachings, corrections, and actions were consistent with the Old Testament. He also judged others teachings and traditions by the Old Testament. He thus demonstrated His affirmation of the Old Testament to be the Word of God.

Jesus even specifically affirmed as historical several disputed stories of the Old Testament. He affirms as true the accounts of Adam and Eve (Matthew 19:4-5), Noah and the flood (Matthew 24:39), Jonah and the whale (Matthew 12:40), Sodom and Gomorrah (Matthew 10:15), and more.

Jesus confirmed the Old Testament and promised that the Holy Spirit would inspire the apostles in the continuation of His teaching and in the writing of what would become the New Testament (John 14:25-26 and John 16:12-13). The apostles demonstrated that they came with the authority of God through the miracles they performed as Jesus and the Prophets did before them. The book of Acts, which records the miracles of the apostles, has also proven to be a historically accurate record written by a first century eyewitness.

Prophecy

Many religious books claim to be divinely inspired, but only the Bible has evidence of supernatural confirmation. We have seen that Jesus, being God incarnate, affirms the inspiration of the Bible. Another evidence of supernatural confirmation is the testimony of prophecy. The biblical authors made hundreds of specific prophecies of future events that have come to pass in the manner they were predicted. No book in history can compare to the Bible when it comes to the fulfillment of prophecy.

Here are some examples. Ezekiel 26, which was written in 587 B.C., predicted the destruction of Tyre, a city made up of two parts: a mainland port city, and an island city half a mile off shore. Ezekiel prophesied that Nebuchadnezzar would destroy the city, many nations would fight against her, the debris of the city would be thrown into the ocean, the city would never be found again, and fishermen would come there to lay their nets.

In 573 B.C., Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the mainland city of Tyre. Many of the refugees of the city sailed to the island, and the island city of Tyre remained a powerful city. In 333 B.C., however, Alexander the Great laid siege to Tyre. Using the rubble of mainland Tyre, he built a causeway to the island city of Tyre. He then captured and completely destroyed the city.

Today, Tyre is a small fishing town where fishing boats come to rest and fisherman spread their nets. The great ancient city of Tyre to this day lies buried in ruins exactly as prophesied. If we were to calculate the odds of this event happening by chance, the figures would be astronomical. No, it was not by coincidence.{2}

Here’s another example. There are nearly one hundred prophecies made about Jesus in the Old Testament, prophecies such as His place of birth, how he would die, His rejection by the nation of Israel, and so on. All these prophecies were made hundreds of years before Jesus ever came to earth. Because of the accuracy of the prophecies, many skeptics have believed that they must have been written after A.D. 70—after the birth and death of Jesus and the destruction of Jerusalem. They have thereby tried to deny that they are even prophecies.

However, in 1947 the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered. These scrolls contained the book of Isaiah and other prophetic books. When dated, they were found to be written from 120 to 100 B.C.,{3} well before Jesus was born. It would have been an incredible accomplishment for Jesus to have fulfilled the numerous prophecies. Some say these prophecies were fulfilled by chance, but the odds against this would be exceptionally large. It would take more a greater leap of faith to believe in that chance happening than in the fact that Jesus is God and these prophecies are divinely inspired.

The record of prophecy is thus evidence for the unique and supernatural origin of the Bible.

Unity

The Bible is the only book with supernatural confirmation to support its claim of divine inspiration. The testimony of Christ and the legacy of prophecy are two proofs for inspiration. A third line of evidence is the unity of the Bible.

The Bible covers hundreds of topics, yet it does not contradict itself. It remains united in its theme. Well, what’s so amazing about that? you may ask. Consider these facts. First, the Bible was written over a span of fifteen hundred years. Second, it was written by more than forty men from every walk of life. For example, Moses was educated in Egypt, Peter was a fisherman, Solomon was a king, Luke was a doctor, Amos was a shepherd, and Matthew was a tax collector. All the writers were of vastly different occupations and backgrounds.

Third, it was written in many different places. The Bible was written on three different continents: Asia, Africa, and Europe. Moses wrote in the desert of Sinai, Paul wrote in a prison in Rome, Daniel wrote in exile in Babylon, and Ezra wrote in the ruined city of Jerusalem.

Fourth, it was written under many different circumstances. David wrote during a time of war, Jeremiah wrote at the sorrowful time of Israel’s downfall, Peter wrote while Israel was under Roman domination, and Joshua wrote while invading the land of Canaan.

Fifth, the writers had different purposes for writing. Isaiah wrote to warn Israel of God’s coming judgment on their sin; Matthew wrote to prove to the Jews that Jesus is the Messiah; Zechariah wrote to encourage a disheartened Israel who had returned from Babylonian exile; and Paul wrote addressing problems in different Asian and European churches.

If we put all these factors together—the Bible was written over fifteen hundred years by forty different authors at different places, under various circumstances, and addressing a multitude of issues—how amazing that with such diversity, the Bible proclaims a unified message! That unity is organized around one theme: God’s redemption of man and all of creation. The writers address numerous controversial subjects yet contradictions never appear. The Bible is an incredible document.

Let me offer you a good illustration. Suppose ten medical students graduating in the same year from medical school wrote position papers on four controversial subjects. Would they all agree on each point? No, we would have disagreements from one author to another. Now look at the authorship of the Bible. All these authors, from a span of fifteen hundred years, wrote on many controversial subjects, yet they do not contradict one another.

It seems one author guided these writers through the whole process: the Holy Spirit. 2 Peter 1:21 states, “No prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” The unity of the Bible is just one more amazing proof of the divine inspiration and authority of the Bible.

Archaeology

We’ve studied the testimony of Jesus, prophecy, and the unity of the Bible as providing supernatural confirmation of the divine inspiration of the Bible. Another line of evidence is archaeology. Archaeology does not directly prove the Bibles inspiration, but it does prove its historical reliability.

Middle Eastern archaeological investigations have proven the Bible to be true and unerringly accurate in its historical descriptions. Nelson Glueck, a renowned Jewish archaeologist, states, No archaeological discovery has ever controverted a biblical reference.{4} Dr. William Albright, who was probably the foremost authority in Middle East archaeology in his time, said this about the Bible: There can be no doubt that archaeology has confirmed the substantial historicity of the Old Testament.{5} At this time, the number of archaeological discoveries that relate to the Bible number in the hundreds of thousands.{6}

Archaeology has verified numerous ancient sites, civilizations, and biblical characters whose existence was questioned by the academic world and often dismissed as myths. Biblical archaeology has silenced many critics as new discoveries supported the facts of the Bible.

Here are a few examples of the historical accuracy of the Bible. The Bible records that the Hittites were a powerful force in the Middle East from 1750 B.C. until 1200 B.C. (Genesis 15:20, 2 Samuel 11, and 1 Kings 10:29). Prior to the late nineteenth century, nothing was known of the Hittites outside the Bible, and many critics alleged that they were an invention of the biblical authors.

However, in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, archaeologists in Turkey discovered a city which proved to be the capital of the Hittite empire. In the city they discovered a massive library of thousands of tablets. These tablets showed that the Hittite language was an early relative of the Indo-European languages.

Another example is the story of Jericho recorded in the book of Joshua. For years, skeptics thought the story of the falling walls of Jericho was a myth. However, recent archaeological discoveries have led several prominent scholars to conclude that the biblical description of the fall of Jericho is consistent with the discoveries they have made. One of the leading archaeologists on Jericho presently is Dr. Bryant Wood. His research has shown that the archaeological evidence matches perfectly with the biblical record.{7}

Archaeology has also demonstrated the accuracy of the New Testament. One of the most well attested to New Testament authors is Luke. Scholars have found him to be a very accurate historian, even in many of his details. In the Gospel of Luke and Acts, Luke names thirty-two countries, fifty-four cities, and nine islands without error.{8} A. N. Sherwin-White states, For Acts the confirmation of historicity is overwhelming. . . . Any attempt to reject its basic historicity must now appear absurd. Roman historians have long taken it for granted.{9}

There is no other ancient book that has so much archaeological evidence to support its accounts. Since God is a God of truth, we should expect His revelation to present what is historically true. Archaeology presents tangible proof of the historical accuracy of the Bible.

The Bible Alone Is God’s Word

We have given several proofs for the divine inspiration of the Bible. These include the testimony of Jesus the divine Son of God, prophecy, unity, and archaeology. Accepting the divine inspiration of the Bible leads to the conclusion that all other works cannot be divinely inspired. This does not mean other works do not contain truth. All people are created in the image of God and can articulate principles that are true. However, only the Bible proves to be divinely inspired by God and therefore, other claims of divine inspiration should be ruled out for several reasons.

The Bible is the only book that gives supernatural confirmation to support its claim of divine inspiration. Other scriptures which contradict it cannot, therefore, be true.

The law of non-contradiction states that two contradictory statements cannot be true at the same time. If one proposition is known to be true, its opposite must be false. If it is true that I am presently alive, it cannot also be true to say that I am presently not alive. This is a universal law which is practiced daily in every part of the world. Even if you claim, the law of non-contradiction is false, you are asserting this statement is true and its opposite is false. In other words you end up appealing to the law you are trying to deny thus making a self-defeating argument.

Since we have good reason to believe the Bible is the inspired word of God, any teaching that contradicts the Bible must be false. The Bible makes exclusive claims regarding God, truth and salvation that would exclude other scriptures. The Bible teaches that any deity other than the God of the Bible is a false deity (Exodus 20). Jesus declared that he is the divine Son of God, the source of truth, and the only way to eternal life (John 1 & 14:6).

A look at a few works from other religions illustrates this point. The Hindu scriptures include the Vedas and the Upanishads. These books present views of God that are contrary to the Bible. The Vedas are polytheistic, and the Upanishads present a pantheistic worldview of an impersonal divine essence called Brahma, not a personal God.

The Koran, the holy book of Islam, denies the deity of Christ, the triune nature of God, and the atoning work of Christ on the cross (Sura 4:116, 168). These are foundational truths taught in the Bible. The Pali Canon, the holy scriptures of Southern Buddhism, teach a naturalistic worldview (or pantheistic, as some schools interpret it). It also teaches salvation by works and the doctrine of reincarnation. The worldview of the Pali Canon and its view of salvation contradict biblical teachings. Since these works contradict biblical teaching, we reject their claim to divine inspiration.

The Bible alone proves to be divinely inspired and its exclusive claims rule out the claims of other books.

Notes

1. For more information refer to the articles “The Historical Reliability of the Gospels” (probe.org/historical-reliability-of-the-gospels/) and “The Uniqueness of Jesus” (www.probe.org/uniqueness-of-jesus).
2. Ralph H. Alexander, “Ezekiel,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1986), 869.
3. Norman Geisler and William Nix, A General Introduction to the Bible, (Chicago, IL.: Moody Press, 1986), 364-367.
4. Nelson Glueck, Rivers in the Desert: A History of the Negev (New York: Farrar, Strauss, and Cudahy, 1959), 31.
5. William F. Albright, Archaeology and the Religion of Israel (Baltimore: John Hopkins, 1953), 176.
6. Randall Price, The Stones Cry Out (Eugene, OR.: Harvest House Publishers, 1997), 25.
7. Ibid., 152-53.
8. Norman Geisler, Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1999), s.v., Archaeology, New Testament.
9. Josh McDowell, Evidence That Demands a Verdict (San Bernardino: Here’s Life Publishers,1999), 66.

© 2005 Probe Ministries


Evidence for God’s Existence

Romans chapter 1 says that God has planted evidence of Himself throughout His creation so we are without excuse. Sue Bohlin looks at different types of evidence indicating that God really does exist.

A “Just Right” Universe

There’s so much about the universe, and our world in particular, that we take for granted because it works so well. But Christian astronomer Dr. Hugh Ross has cited twenty-six different characteristics about the universe that enable it to sustain life. And there are thirty-three characteristics about our galaxy, our solar system, and the planet Earth that are finely-tuned to allow life to exist.{1} I do well to make the meat, potatoes, vegetables, and bread all come out at the same time for dinner; we’re talking about fifty-nine different aspects all being kept in perfect balance so the universe hangs together and we can live in it!

Our Earth, for instance, is perfectly designed for life. It’s the “just right” size for the atmosphere we need. Its size and corresponding gravity hold a thin, but not too thin, layer of gases to protect us and allow us to breathe. When astronaut John Glenn returned to space, one of the things that struck him was how thin and fragile our atmosphere is (only 50 miles above the Earth). If our planet were smaller it couldn’t support an atmosphere, like on Mercury. If it were larger, like Jupiter, the atmosphere would contain free hydrogen, which is poison for us.{2} Earth is the only planet we know of that contains an atmosphere that can support human, animal, and plant life.

The Earth is also placed at a “just right” distance from the sun and the other planets in our solar system. If we were closer to the sun, we’d burn up. If we were farther away, we’d freeze. Because Earth’s orbit is nearly circular, this slightly elliptical shape means that we enjoy a quite narrow range of temperatures, which is important to life. The speed of Earth’s rotation on its axis, completing one turn every 24 hours, means that the sun warms the planet evenly. Compare our world to the moon, where there are incredible temperature variations because it lacks sufficient atmosphere or water to retain or deflect the sun’s energy.

Speaking of the moon, its important that there is only one moon, not two or three or none, and it’s the “just right” size and distance from us. The moon’s gravity impacts the movement of ocean currents, keeping the water from becoming stagnant.{3}

Water itself is an important part of a “just right” world. Plants, animals and human beings are mostly made of water, and we need it to live. One of the things that makes Earth unique is the abundance of water in a liquid state.

Water has surface tension. This means that water can move upward, against gravity, to bring liquid nutrients to the tops of the tallest plants.

Everything else in the world freezes from the bottom up, but water freezes from the top down. Everything else contracts when it freezes, but water expands. This means that in winter, ponds and rivers and lakes can freeze at the surface, but allow fish and other marine creatures to live down below.

The fact that we live on a “just right” planet in a “just right” universe is evidence that it all was created by a loving God.

The Nagging Itch of “Ought”

As a mother, I was convinced of the existence of a moral God when my children, without being taught, would complain that something wasn’t “fair.” Fair? Who taught them about fair? Why is it that no one ever has to teach children about fairness, but all parents hear the universal wail of “That’s not fa-a-a-a-a-air!” The concept of fairness is about an internal awareness that there’s a certain way that things ought to be. It’s not limited to three-year-olds who are unhappy that their older siblings get to stay up later. We see the same thing on “Save the Whales” bumper stickers. Why should we save the whales? Because we ought to take care of the world. Why should we take care of the world? Because we just should, that’s why. It’s the right thing to do. There’s that sense of “ought” again.

Certain values can be found in all human cultures, a belief that we act certain ways because they’re the right thing to do. Murdering one’s own people is wrong, for example. Lying and cheating is wrong. So is stealing. Where did this universal sense of right and wrong come from? If we just evolved from the apes, and there is nothing except space, time, and matter, then from where did this moral sense of right and wrong arise?

A moral sense of right and wrong isn’t connected to our muscles or bones or blood. Some scientists argue that it comes from our genes — that belief in morality selects us for survival and reproduction. But if pressed, those same scientists would assure you that ultimate right and wrong don’t exist in a measurable way, and it’s only the illusion of morality that helps us survive. But if one researcher stole another’s data and published results under his own name, all the theories about morality as illusion would go right out the window. I don’t know of any scientist who wouldn’t cry, “That’s not fair!” Living in the real world is a true antidote for sophisticated arguments against right and wrong.

Apologist Greg Koukl points out that guilt is another indicator of ultimate right and wrong. “It’s tied into our understanding of things that are right and things that are wrong. We feel guilty when we think we’ve violated a moral rule, an “ought.” And that feeling hurts. It doesn’t hurt our body; it hurts our souls. An ethical violation is not a physical thing, like a punch in the nose, producing physical pain. It’s a soulish injury producing a soulish pain. That’s why I call it ethical pain. That’s what guilt is — ethical pain.”{4}

The reason all human beings start out with an awareness of right and wrong, the reason we all yearn for justice and fairness, is that we are made in the image of God, who is just and right. The reason we feel violated when someone does us wrong is that a moral law has been broken — and you can’t have a moral law without a moral law giver. Every time we feel that old feeling of, “It’s not fa-a-a-a-a-air!” rising up within us, it’s a signpost pointing us to the existence of God. He has left signposts pointing to Himself all over creation. That’s why we are without excuse.

Evidence of Design Implies a Designer

Mt. RushmoreIf you’ve ever visited or seen pictures of Mount Rushmore (South Dakota USA), you cannot help but look at the gigantic sculpture of four presidents’ faces and wonder at the skill of the sculptor. You know, without having to be told, that the natural forces of wind and rain did not erode the rock into those shapes. It took the skilled hands of an artist.

William Paley made a compelling argument years ago that the intricacies of a watch are so clearly engineered that it cannot be the product of nature: a watch demands a watchmaker. In the same way, the more we discover about our world and ourselves, the more we see that like an expertly-fashioned watch, our world and we ourselves have been finely crafted with intentional design. And design implies a designer.

Since we live in our bodies and take so much of our abilities for granted, it’s understandable that we might miss the evidence of design within ourselves — much like a fish might be oblivious to what it means to be wet. Dr. Phillip Bishop at the University of Alabama, challenges us to consider what would happen if we commissioned a team of mechanical engineers to develop a robot that could lift 500 pounds. And let’s say we also commissioned them to design a robot that could play Chopin. They could probably do that. But what if we asked them to come up with a robot that could do both, and limit the robot’s weight to 250 pounds, and require that it be able to do a variety of similar tasks? They’d laugh in our faces, no matter how much time or money we gave them to do it. But you know, all we’d be asking them to do is to come up with a very crude replication of former football player Mike Reid.{5}

Probably the greatest evidence of design in creation is DNA, the material of which our genes are made, as well as the genetic material for every living thing on the planet. One of the startling discoveries about DNA is that it is a highly complex informational code, so complex that scientists struggle hard to decipher even the tiniest portions of the various genes in every organism. DNA conveys intelligent information; in fact, molecular biologists use language terms — code, translation, transcription — to describe what it does and how it acts. Communication engineers and information scientists tell us that you can’t have a code without a code-maker, so it would seem that DNA is probably the strongest indicator in our world that there is an intelligent Designer behind its existence.

Dr. Richard Dawkins, a professor of biology who writes books and articles praising evolution, said in his book The Blind Watchmaker, “Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose.”{6} Even those who desperately fear the implications of design keep running into it.

Those who deny the evidence of a designer are a lot like the foolish fisherman. If he fails to catch a fish, he says, “Aha! This proves there are no fish!” He doesn’t want to consider the possibility that it might be he is an inept fisherman. Since science cannot measure the intangible or the supernatural, there are many people who say, “Aha! There is no Creator.”{7} Foolish fishermen deny the evidence that God exists and has left His fingerprints all over creation.

The Reliability of the Bible

Every religion has its own holy book, but the Bible is different from all the others. It claims to be the very Word of God, not dropped out of the sky but God-breathed, infused with God’s power as He communicated His thoughts and intent through human writers.

The Bible was written over a period of 1500 years, by about forty different writers, on three different continents. They addressed a wide variety of subjects, and yet the individual books of the Bible show a remarkable consistency within themselves. There is a great deal of diversity within the Bible, at the same time displaying an amazing unity. It presents an internally consistent message with one great theme: God’s love for man and the great lengths to which He went to demonstrate that love.

If you pick up any city newspaper, you won’t find the kind of agreement and harmony in it that is the hallmark of the biblical books. A collection of documents that spans so much time and distance could not be marked by this unity unless it was superintended by one Author who was behind it all. The unity of the Bible is evidence of God’s existence.

One other aspect of the Bible is probably the greatest evidence that God exists and that He has spoken to us in His holy book: fulfilled prophecy. The Bible contains hundreds of details of history which were written in advance before any of them came to pass. Only a sovereign God, who knows the future and can make it happen, can write prophecy that is accurately and always — eventually — fulfilled.

For example, God spoke through the prophet Ezekiel against the bustling seaport and trade center of Tyre. In Ezekiel 26:3-6, He said He would bring nations against her: “They shall destroy the walls of Tyre and break down her towers; and I will scrape her soil from her, and make her a bare rock.” Ezekiel 26-28 has many details of this prophecy against Tyre, which would be like Billy Graham announcing that God was going to wipe New York off the map.

Tyre consisted of two parts, a mainland city and an island a half- mile offshore. The first attack came from the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar, who laid siege to Tyre for thirteen years. Finally, his battering rams broke through the walls, and he tore down the city’s towers. But the island part of the city wasn’t yet destroyed, because this prophecy was fulfilled in stages. For 250 years it flourished, until Alexander the Great set his sights on Tyre. Even without a navy, he was able to conquer this island city in what some consider his greatest military exploit. He turned the ruined walls and towers of Old Tyre into rubble, which he used to build a causeway from the mainland to the island. When he ran out of material, he scraped the soil from the land to finish the land- bridge, leaving only barren rocks where the old city used to be. He fulfilled the prophecy, “They will break down your walls and destroy your pleasant houses; your stones and timber and soil they will cast into the midst of the waters”(Ez. 26:12).

Fulfilled prophecy is just one example of how God shows He is there and He is not silent. How else do we explain the existence of history written in advance?

Jesus: The Ultimate Evidence

The most astounding thing God has ever done to show His existence to us is when He passed through the veil between heaven and earth and came to live among us as a man.

Jesus Christ was far more than just a great moral teacher. He said things that would be outrageous if they weren’t true, but He backed them up with even more outrageous signs to prove they were. Jesus claimed not to speak for God as a prophet, but to be God in human flesh. He said, “If you’ve seen Me, you’ve seen the Father” (John 14:9), and, “The Father and I are one” (John 10:30). When asked if He was the Messiah, the promised Savior, He said yes.{8} He told his contemporaries, “Before Abraham was, I am”(John 8:58). The fact that His unbelieving listeners decided then to kill Him shows that they realized He was claiming to be Yahweh, God Almighty.

When Jesus told His followers that He was the Good Shepherd (John 10:11-18), they would immediately be reminded of a passage in the book of Ezekiel where Yahweh God pronounced Himself shepherd over Israel (Ez. 34:1-16). Jesus equated Himself with God.

But words are cheap, so Jesus backed up His words with miracles and signs to validate His truth-claims. He healed all sorts of diseases in people: the blind, the deaf, the crippled, lepers, epileptics, and even a woman with a twelve-year hemorrhage. He took authority over the demons that terrorized and possessed people. He even raised the dead.

Jesus showed His authority over nature, as well. He calmed a terrible storm with just a word. He created food out of thin air, with bread and fish left over! He turned water into wine. He walked on water.

He showed us what God the Father is like; Jesus was God with skin on. He was loving and sensitive, at the same time strong and determined. Children and troubled people were drawn to Him like a magnet, but the arrogant and self-sufficient were threatened by Him. He drenched people with grace and mercy while never compromising His holiness and righteousness.

And after living a perfect life, He showed His love to us by dying in our place on a Roman cross, promising to come back to life. Who else but God Himself could make a promise like thatand then fulfill it? The literal, bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ is the final, greatest proof that there is a God, that Jesus is God Himself, and that God has entered our world and showed us the way to heaven so we can be with Him forever. He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except by Me” (John 14:6).

God exists, and He has spoken. He made a “just right” universe that is stamped with clues of its Maker. He placed eternity in our hearts, as Ecclesiastes tells us, and all people have a strong moral streak because we are made in the image of a moral God. The evidence of design in our bodies, our world and the universe is a signpost pointing to a loving, intelligent Designer behind it all. The unity of the Bible and the hundreds of fulfilled prophecies in it show the mind of God behind its creation. And we’ve looked at the way Jesus punched through the space-time continuum to show us what God looks like, and opened the doorway to heaven. Jesus is the clearest evidence of all that God does exist.

Notes

1. Hugh Ross, Creator and the Cosmos. (Colorado Springs, CO.: Navpress, 1995), 111-145.
2. R.E.D. Clark, Creation (London: Tyndale Press, 1946), 20.
3. The Wonders of God’s Creation, Moody Institute of Science (Chicago, IL).
4. Gregory Koukl, “Guilt and God,” Stand to Reason Commentary.
http://www.str.org/free/commentaries/theology/gultngod.htm.
5. Phillip Bishop, “Evidence of God in Human Physiology.”
http://www.leaderu.com/science/bishop.html
6. Richard Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1986), 1.
7. Bishop.
8. Mark 14:61-62; Matthew 26: 63-65; Luke 22:67-70

The author gratefully acknowledges the insights of Marilyn Adamson, whose article “Is There a God?” on LeaderU.com formed the basis for much of this essay.

© 1999 Probe Ministries.