“I am a Christ-Believing Hindu”

I am a Hindu by birth. A Christ-believing Hindu (we will get to that a little later).

I was just reading your write up on “Do Hindus believe in Jesus.” And I am writing to thank you! Thank you for not calling Hinduism a religion creating by Satan as some do, for not outrightly dismissing our faith as pagan or evil. Thank you for the open mind with which you view Hinduism. And thank you for not considering Jesus a western God.

But the article talks about the Jesus of the Bible and the Jesus that the Hindu man believes in. Being a Jesus lover myself (don’t get me wrong, I mean I love Jesus absolutely, unconditionally, and like crazy, talk to Jesus 24/7 and try to listen to what He tells me), I can tell you that Jesus is God according to Hinduism as He could be according to Christianity. This is because Hinduism lets you choose your path to salvation. It lets you believe in any Ista of God or all of it. And I have chosen Jesus and His path to salvation.

And yes, my Jesus is the Jesus of the Bible. I read the Bible as often as I can. I was introduced to Jesus by the Bible and I know no other Jesus. There is nothing just nothing in the Bible that does not fit into the Hindu scheme of things. Yes, John 4:16 says Jesus only! But so does every scripture of Isha. Scriptures will tell man that following God/Jesus/Allah/Krishna is the only way of attaining God! This is because there is just One God. So there can be only one way. And that is to follow God.

It is important that people of God (I will happily claim that I belong to the group) accept that there is just one God. Different people choose different ways to reach God. But so be it. As it is stated in Romans 14:4, who are we to judge another, it is before our master, that we stand or fall. Our Master is one. He is the same to a Muslim who believes in Allah, to a Christian who believes that Jesus is the only way to heaven, to an atheist and to a Christ believing Hindu who believes that loving Jesus is the awesomest thing ever.

Good day
Bless the Lord

First of all, let me thank you for contacting Probe Ministries with your thoughts on Jesus. We must confess that your letter was thought-provoking and deserves a reasonable response. Hence, let me point out few things to shed some light on few things mentioned in your letter.

I agree with you that we have no choice when it comes to our birth. However, we all have the privilege of making a choice on what to believe and what to reject.

Regarding your comment on Jesus, we agree that Jesus is “not a western God.” In fact, Jesus, in his incarnation, was born in the Middle East. So, when it comes to region, He was more eastern than western. However, we must clarify that God, the Creator of the whole universe, is not limited to a region. He is not a foreigner or alien to any country or culture.

We are pleased to know that you have a loving relationship with Jesus. That is wonderful. We hope that this relationship will help you to listen to Him better and understand Him better and to follow Him better. In fact, Jesus said that “If you love me, you will obey my commands” (John 14:15).

While we respect your freedom to believe in Jesus or not to believe in Jesus, we want to point out a couple of things that Jesus taught. The first thing to keep in mind is that the information about Jesus as God is available only in the writings of the disciples of Christ. Hindu literature does not speak about Jesus. In the writings of the disciples of Jesus, it is made very clear that Jesus made some exclusive claims. For example, Jesus claimed “I am the way, the truth and the life.” The definite articles in these claims make it clear that they are exclusive claims. He also claimed that “No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). The Bible is unambiguous in making exclusive claims. Exclusive claims of truth are logical. Truth by definition is exclusive—truth excludes what is false. It is from this kind of a worldview that the followers of Jesus, who loved him, believed His claim that He is the only way to the Father and therefore the only Savior of the world (Acts 4:12).

We agree with you that there is only one God. On the other hand, if there is only one God, it is reasonable for us to leave it to God to decide how many ways are there to reach Him. In fact, you might have heard of a religion known as Satanism. It will be injustice to the followers of Satan if we claim that their religion will lead to God. Don’t they have a right to pick their destination? Won’t it be cruel to them if we or God refuse them their right to follow someone other than God? If God has given that freedom to men, let us respect that freedom.

We agree with you that we do not have to judge others. And we do not. Jesus will be the judge during the final judgment. We just believe Jesus’ claim that He is the only way to the Father, and teach that belief, as an expression of our faith in Christ and as a response to His love shown to us on the cross. In fact, if there were another way for mankind to be saved, the death of Christ was futile or meaningless. We hope that you will find meaning in the death of Christ on the cross for you and me and will show your love to Jesus by believing in His claims. For a factual belief in Jesus, read the writings about Him and His teachings recorded by His direct disciples who saw His death and witnessed His resurrection and ascension. If you really love Jesus, you will believe His claims and obey them. I am sure that you do not want to love someone who taught wrong things, right? Jesus was either right in making those claims, or he was a liar or lunatic (to die for those claims). You must make a choice!

Rajesh Sebastian

 

Grace and peace of God be with one and all. Thank you for considering my mail and send such a beautiful reply.

Just two things. One, Lord Jesus Christ has been mentioned in the Hindu scriptures. So has Noah, Adam and Eve. Besides I see no reason why the holy Bible would not qualify as a Hindu scripture.

And second, Mr. Rajesh spoke about the option to choose your destination. If there can be two destinations, can’t there be two paths to a destination?? Why did the holy Bible give us the laws but later God blessed us with the Grace through Lord Jesus Christ? That’s two paths, right? And accepting that Jesus Christ is the path does not mean that we deny the laws.

Lastly, the very thought of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ going meaningless sends a chill down my spine. For He has done so much for me and to save me. But trust me, as long as all the sheep get home safely, my Shepherd will be glad. That’s all that matters to my Savior.

May the Grace of Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all.

Happy Sabbath.

 

Greetings in the name of the Saviour.

You brought up some interesting topics for discussion. Let me quickly respond to a couple of them that might be beneficial to you.

You mentioned that “Lord Jesus Christ has been mentioned in the Hindu scriptures. So has Noah, Adam and Eve.”

You are right. It is true that Bhavishyapurana mentions the names you have mentioned above. However, there is nothing to wonder about that. It also mentioned the names of Muhammad, Sankaracharya, Babar, Akbar, East India Company, Queen Victoria etc. Guess the date of its composition!

As mentioned to you earlier, let me repeat that the only source of reliable information for the teachings of Jesus Christ are from the writings of the disciples who gave their life for following those teachings. Almost all of them were killed for their faith in Christ by followers of various religion. St. Thomas was killed in India.

You also stated that “Besides I see no reason why the holy Bible would not qualify as a Hindu scripture.”

On the other hand, will you have a problem if Hindu Scriptures are considered as Islamic or Christian or Jewish? Each religion and their texts present different and competing worldviews to people. They are mutually exclusive. While Christianity believes in One personal God, Hinduism offers One non-personal Brahman (Nirguna Brahman) as the ultimate reality. Both views can not be right at the same time in the same sense.

Regarding your question “Can’t there be two paths to a destination?” We would prefer to say that it is for God to decide how many ways are there to reach Him. We also believe that, if there were another way, the death of Christ would have been unnecessary. Moreover, what God has revealed to us in the Bible is that there is only one way to Christ. Jesus and the writers of Bible are unambiguous about it.

Regarding your comment on law and grace, let me clarify that Bible clearly teaches that the giving of the law and the sending of Christ were both actions of grace. While the law was helpful in preventing sin, it was not enough to save sinners. So, as planned in advance and promised in advance, Christ came to make the sufficient incarnation and sacrifice once and for all so that whole mankind can be forgiven through his sacrifice. Law is never presented as a path of salvation in the Bible.

As you wrote, we hope that you will find your trust in the True Shepherd and Savior. He is the way, the Truth and the Life.

Rajesh Sebastian

Posted March 2014
© 2014 Probe Ministries


“I Think Some of the Indian Gods Are Aliens From Ancient Visits to Earth”

I think we’re not alone in the universe because of lots of old evidence of aliens found on Earth. I’m an Indian, there are (traditionally 330 million!) gods and goddesses in Hindu culture. I’m always confused about whom to pray. In Indian culture I heard about the flying machine that our gods used at that time and also heard that our ancestors found all the planets in our solar system thousand years ago that scientists came to know with the help of modern technology. I think thousand of years ago aliens visited India, and it may be some of the Indian gods are aliens. So there is a possibility that they exist in the universe.

You brought up an interesting and relevant issue worth discussing. People talk a lot about alien beings these days. The Bible also speaks about aliens. In the Biblical language, they are called angels, spirits, cherubim, etc. The Bible also speaks about their interactions with human beings at different times in the history of mankind.

All through the history, without geographical and cultural limits, mankind has been making scientific discoveries based on research methods available to us. Such scientific advantages have been made by people of different cultures and nationalities in different part of the world. India is one of them. However, to assume that they were revelations will be making a giant leap. This will undermine the foundational principles of science, which is observation and research. The Bible teaches about seeking and finding. Those who seek find solutions in spite of what their culture and nationality is. Fictions will always predict possibilities. There is no wonder when a fiction speaks about flying objects or beings. There are other examples in history where people wrote about flying objects before man actually made airplanes.

The Bible teaches that there is only One God who deserves worship and prayer. This one God created everything else in the world. Therefore, God is not an alien to any culture of country. He is the Master and Creator of the whole universe. In fact belief in many gods will fall on its own feet when you ask a couple of questions—who created god “D,” who created god “C,” who created god “B,” and you will end up in an absolute One. That is the One we call God and who deserves your worship and prayer.

Rajesh Sebastian

Posted March 2014
© 2014 Probe Ministries


“Why Does God Allow Natural Evils Such as Tsunamis, Hurricanes and Earthquakes?”

My question is about natural evils such as tsunamis, hurricanes, earthquakes etc. I feel like the problem of moral evil such as murder and stealing is solved by the free will defense but I haven’t heard a good refution of why God allows tsunamis and other natural events to take out huge villages and kill children.

The so called “natural evils” such as natural disasters are only evil from a human perspective. Tsunamis and earthquakes are normal and necessary occurrences in nature. We could not live on planet earth without them. They shape the environment and contribute to an inhabitable planet. They are part of a normal cycle of nature, along with every other occurrence in nature such as volcanoes, floods and even disease and plague, which is God’s way of maintaining balance in the ecology, necessary for human survival. These natural occurrences only become evil when humanity gets in their way. This sometimes has to do with human choices and “moral evil.” For example building huge population centers on known fault lines and danger zones and not taking proper precautions in construction or having an efficient evacuation plan and warning system in place. Humanity cannot do away with the normal cycles of nature because we need a healthy natural environment to live. But we can adjust ourselves to nature in order to mitigate some of its more deadly effects on civilization. New Orleans is the perfect example of human arrogance, neglect and apathy in the face of known dangers from hurricanes. This city did not take the proper precautions in building a technological defense against hurricanes when it was known for decades that it was in danger of a disaster. The Netherlands is an example of a country that did take the proper precautions in protecting itself from flooding and goes on to survive without incident. So should we blame God for the apathy of New Orleans? This means there is not a strict separation between natural and moral evil and that they are more interwoven than we realize or care to admit.

Now, many times natural disasters are not the result of human choices. We have two options. First, it is a judgment of God. Second, we don’t know why, other than saying God has a purpose in this disaster that we don’t understand, which is certainly an acceptable choice; that is how the problem of evil is explained in the book of Job. I am not averse to saying natural disasters are a judgment from God. The Bible has no problem calling natural disasters judgments—floods and earthquakes are perfect examples. This does not mean that every natural disaster is a judgment. I am only saying judgment is a possibility.

So there are three possible answers to your question. Natural disasters happen as a result of human choices. They are a judgment of God or they happen for a reason we do not understand.

Feel free to follow up on any of these issues with me if you like.

Lawrence Terlizzese, Ph.D.

Posted Feb. 26, 2013
© 2013 Probe Ministries


“Help Me Understand Biblical Inerrancy?”

A friend of mine with teenage daughters asked me recently if I understood the concept of Biblical inerrancy well enough to explain/justify it for her children. Seems a “pastor” in their local church was attempting to explain the “errors” in the Bible to a group and they were a bit concerned that this leader would indicate the Bible had errors. I was unable to find much on the Probe Web site regarding the inerrancy of the Bible and wondered if you had a document or publication that would cover the topic rather completely yet simply enough for me to understand and to present to these kids. Also, how does the concept of the inspiration of Bible and the inerrancy of the Bibly interplay? It seems to me that if we truly believe the Bible was inspired by God and given to men by the Holy Spirit, it would follow that the Bible in its original autographs would be inerrant.

An excellent resource for a variety of biblical and theological questions is www.bible.org. After reading your letter, I visited their website, typed “inerrancy” in the search engine, and the following resources came up (see bible.org/search/apachesolr_search/inerrancy).

The above link will give you a lot of help with the question of biblical inspiration and inerrancy. Another good resource is When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties by Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe (Baker Books, 1992).

You are absolutely correct in observing that the inspiration of Scripture (2 Tim. 3:16; etc.) logically entails biblical inerrancy in the original writings. Although inerrancy cannot be extended to the copies, the science and art of textual criticism has been quite successful in restoring the original text from the thousands of manuscripts available for scholarly study.

Shalom,

Michael Gleghorn
Probe Ministries

 

See Also Probe Answers Our Email:

 

Updated July 2011

© 2004 Probe Ministries


Boy Scouts and the ACLU: A War of Worldviews

Byron Barlowe, an Eagle Scout and Assistant Scoutmaster, assesses the battle with the values of the ACLU from an insider’s perspective.

Traditional Mainstay As Good Cultural Influence vs. Liberal Legal Activists with Social Engineering Agenda

In a gang-ridden section of Dallas, 13-year-old Jose saw a Boy Scouts recruiting poster. That started Jose’s improbable climb to Scouting’s highest rank of Eagle and a life of beating the odds. He said this about Scoutmaster Mike Ross: “He was a father figure watching over me, the first time I felt it from someone other than my [single] mom.”{1}

In February 2010, the Boy Scouts of America, or BSA, celebrated a century of building traditional values into nearly 100 million youths like Jose through adults like Mr. Ross. The original Boy Scouts began in England in 1907. The Prime Minister said the new movement was “potentially ‘the greatest moral force the world has ever known’.” Yet surprisingly, there are those who would gut the movement of its culture-shaping distinctives.

In this article we take a look at the warring worldviews of The BSA and its arch-enemy, The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). In his book On My Honor: Why the American Values of the Boy Scouts Are Worth Fighting For, Texas governor and Eagle Scout Rick Perry writes, “The institutions we saw as bulwarks of stability—such as the Scouts—are under steady attack by groups that seem intent upon remaking (if not replacing) them in pursuit of a very different [worldview].”{2} In a crusade to elevate the minority viewpoints of girls who want entry, as well as atheists and gay activists, the ACLU’s unending efforts to ensure inclusiveness undermine the very Scout laws and oath that make it strong—commitment to virtues like kindness, helpfulness and trustworthiness. This is no less than a war of worldviews.

I ran through all the ranks from Cub Scouts to Eagle Scout, worked professionally with the BSA, and now serve as Asst. Scoutmaster. I have first-hand, lifelong knowledge of Scouting’s benefits to boys, their families, and society. Nowhere else can young men-in-the-making be exposed to dozens of new interests (which often inspire lasting careers) and gain confidence in everything from leadership to lifesaving to family life. Scouting is good life skills insurance!

The pitched battle between the BSA and the ACLU embodies what many call the Culture Wars—battles that in this case reveal contrasting values like humanism vs. religious faith, politically correct “tolerance” vs. more traditional, absolutist views and radical individual rights vs. group–centered freedoms of speech and association. The contrast is stark.

Conservatives relate most to Scouting. “Of course, the Boy Scout Handbook is rarely regarded as being a conservative book. That probably accounts for why the Handbook has managed to continuously stay in print since 1910. If it were widely known how masterly the book inculcates conservative values, it would, like Socrates, be charged with corrupting the nation’s youth.”{3}

Scouting is also good for culture. Harris pollsters found that former Scouts agreed in larger numbers than non-Scouts that the following behaviors are “wrong under all circumstances”: to exaggerate one’s education on a resume, lie to the IRS, and steal office supplies for home use. Scouts pull well ahead of non–Scouts on college graduation rates. The “stick-to-it” mentality that Scouting demands comes into play here and in other findings. Scouting positively affects things like treating co–workers with respect, showing understanding to those less fortunate than you and being successful in a career. “This conclusion is hard to escape: Scouting engenders respect for others, honesty, cooperation, self–confidence and other desirable traits.”{4} It also promotes the freedom to exercise a Christian worldview within its program, which provides a venue for transmitting a Christian worldview within the context of the outdoors and community service.

The absolutist morality of Scouting stands in stark relief to the moral relativism of our day and to the ACLU’s worldview. Wouldn’t you prefer to hire someone with Scouting’s values of trustworthiness and honesty?

The Battles, Including Girls Joining the BSA

The Boy Scouts of America celebrates its centennial this year, but its long-time nemesis the ACLU isn’t celebrating. In fact, they and other litigants have maintained a siege against the BSA in court in order to transform key characteristics including Scouting’s “duty to God,” the exclusion of openly gay leaders, and Scouting’s access to government forums like schools. “In all, the Boy Scouts have been involved in thirty lawsuits since the filing of the [original] case,” many brought by the ACLU.{5}

The opening salvo was a string of lawsuits on behalf of girls who wanted membership, many brought by the ACLU. The primary legal issue regarding these kinds of cases is “public accommodation.” The BSA’s position is that refusing membership to certain individuals like girls and open gays is its right as a private organization. Freedoms of speech and association are at stake for the BSA. Indeed, the definition of freedom of association is “the right guaranteed especially by the First Amendment . . . to join with others . . . as part of a group usually having a common viewpoint or purpose and often exercising the right to assemble and to free speech.”{6}

In the case of Mankes vs. the BSA, the plaintiff claimed that restricting membership to boys amounted to sex discrimination. Yet the court decided against the claim on the basis that “the Boy Scouts did not, in creating its organization to help develop the moral character of young boys, intentionally set out to discriminate against girls.”{7} Even the U.S. Congress chartered separate Scouting organizations, one for girls and one for boys, not one unisex organization.

C.S. “Lewis puts it this way in discussing the crisis of post-Christian humanist education: ‘We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst.’”{8} I believe that even the most committed feminist would inwardly hope for brave, virtuous men of integrity. That’s what Boy Scouts is all about: engendering young men with chests.

Underneath these battles lies an aversion to any kind of discrimination of supposed victims. The ACLU’s goals raise ethical concerns: when one individual or a minority seeks rights that are not in the best interest of the community at large, it leads to unintended consequences, like possibly shutting down good institutions like the Scouts.

It’s understandable why some girls would want to participate. However, given gender differences and the right to freedom of association, it seems best to restrict the Boys Scouts to boys.

The Battles over Gay Leaders (the Scouts’ Doctrine of “Morally Straight”)

A very contentious battle between the Boy Scouts of America and equal rights advocates revolves around disallowing openly gay leaders from joining the organization. “The BSA’s position is that a homosexual who makes his sex life a public matter is not an appropriate role model of the Scout Oath and Law for adolescent boys.”{9} Or as Rick Perry puts it, “Tolerance is a two-way street. The Boy Scouts is not the proper intersection for a debate over sexual preference.” He continues, “A number of active homosexuals, with the assistance of the ACLU and…various gay activist organizations have challenged the BSA’s long-standing policy.” {10}

The landmark Dale case featured a lifelong Scouter who discovered his gay identity only then to realize the Scouts’ policy against openly gay leaders. Eventually landing in the U.S. Supreme Court, BSA vs. Dale marked the end of cases in this category. The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that state laws may not prohibit the BSA’s moral point of view and the right to expressing its own internal leadership.{11}

Ultimately, gay people could launch their own organization and any good Scout would recognize the right for them to do this. Even the courts have implied this view, again and again upholding the Scout’s rights to operate the way they see fit. Why would it be improper for a private organization like the BSA to restrict leadership to those who share its values?

“BSA units do not routinely ask a prospective adult leader about his (or her) sex life,” writes Perry.{12} This approach falls in line with the controversial “Don’t ask, don’t tell” doctrine of the U.S. military that’s currently being challenged in court. Where members of the military may be concerned about the affect of another squad member’s sexuality on its rank-and-file members, Scout units are concerned with the even greater influence of adults on the minds and morals of the children they lead.

A biblical worldview recognizes that belief that gay rights supersede traditional moral teachings springs from the fleshly, fallen state of man’s soul. Romans 1 says humans “suppress the truth,” and speaks out against unnatural acts in a clear allusion to homosexual unions. People—sometimes believers—fight morality as revealed by God through our conscience and stated moral law. The virtue ethics of the Scouts at least makes room for this morality.

Despite all the cases, “evidence of a planned, strategic legal assault on the Scouts didn’t arise until the ACLU became involved, with cases that focused Scouts’ ‘duty to God.’”{13}

The Battle over “Duty to God”

Boy Scouts and Scout leaders are really into patches for our uniforms. One of the most beautiful I’ve ever owned is my Duty to God patch earned at the legendary Rocky Mountain Scout adventure ranch known as Philmont. The requirements were minimal: take part in several devotions and lead blessings over the food. Nothing dictated which god to pray to, just a built-in acknowledgement of the Creator. This non-sectarian, undirected acknowledgement of God is classic Scout stuff. The program has long featured specific special awards for all major world religions, including Christianity. Scouting’s Creator-consciousness can seem vague or even smack of animistic Native American religion, but troops chartered by Christian organizations like ours simply turn it into a chance to honor the God of the Bible.

This hallmark of Scouting is vilified by atheists and agnostics who would participate in Scouting only minus the nod to God. The ACLU has carried out a culture-wide campaign to cut out all mention of God from the public square, motivated by a warped value of self-determination.{14} Seeking protections from all things religious, the ACLU’s activist lawyers have raised human autonomy up as the ultimate good. And the Boy Scouts are a tempting target to further this cause célèbre. From where do the ACLU’s motivations spring? Apparently, from the ideology known as humanism, a philosophical commitment to man as the measure of all things coupled with an atheist anti-supernatural bias. But not even Rousseau, whose political theory emphasized individual freedoms, would likely have gone so far. In his view, the individual was subordinate to the general will of the people—and most people in American society agree that the BSA’s values and impact outweighs any individual right “not to hear” anything at all of religion.{15}

When the BSA lays out its broad yet very absolute requirements, the most prominent and controversial are a “duty to God”{16} and a Scout’s pledge to be reverent.{17} This in no way dictates which or even what kind of deity one’s faith is ascribed to, but it sharply clashes with the ACLU’s ideals of secularism and humanism. In effect, the BSA directly challenges the sacred-secular split so prevalent today, where faith is to be kept totally private and godless science serves as the only source of real knowledge. As a result of this worldview mistake, religious commitments and the supernatural are relegated to the personal, subjective, and ultimately meaningless level.

One blogger opines about a duty to God passage in the original 1910 Scout handbook:

“A Scout is reverent toward God. He is faithful in his religious duties. He respects the beliefs of others.” Such an earnest and irony-free worldview is naturally antithetical to the South Park-style mock-the-world moronity that pervades the culture. In a society that combines libertarian Me-ism with a liberal nanny state that suckles “men without chests,” it is not surprising that the ranks of Boy Scouts are dwindling (Scouting is down 11 percent over the last decade). But we should be cheerful that an institution where self-sacrifice and manly virtues are encouraged manages to survive at all.{18}

The ACLU was not involved in the first “duty to God” case against the Scouts. Yet by 2007, its “involvement in fourteen cases against the Boy Scouts had covered, cumulatively, more than 100 years of litigation.”{19} The ACLU’s view, according to Governor Perry, “is that if one citizen believes there is no God, they must be protected from public references to or acknowledgement of an Almighty Creator. . . . When they get their way, the ACLU enforces upon us the tyranny of the minority.”{20}

Thank God the courts have not yet allowed this to happen.

Pluralism Done Right

A fellow in my Sunday school sounded alarmed when I asked the class to pray for a Scouting trip: “Isn’t The Boy Scouts a Mormon outfit?” Since Mormons use Scouts as their official youth program for boys, his experience was skewed. Yet, the BSA is a non-sectarian association that simply requires chartering groups to promote belief in God and requires boys to reflect on reverence according to their family’s chosen religion. The Boy Scout Handbook, (11th ed.) explains a Scout’s “duty to God” like this: “Your family and religious leaders teach you about God and the ways you can serve. You do your duty to God by following the wisdom of those teachings every day and by respecting and defending the rights of others to practice their own beliefs.” Note the genuine tolerance toward other religions. Even a pack or troop member cannot be forced by that unit to engage in religious observances with which they disagree.{21} This policy is the best way to handle a wide-open boys’ training program in a very pluralistic culture.

Many Christians talk as if any kind of pluralism is anathema, especially the religious kind, as if we should live in a thoroughly Christianized society that, for all intents and purposes, is like church. However, this is unrealistic. America’s Founding Fathers guarded against state-sanctioned religion.

God Himself tacitly acknowledged, even in the theocracy of the Old Testament period that living around His people were those of other religions. Jehovah didn’t force people to believe in Him. God was pluralistic in the sense of allowing man’s free will.

The Boy Scouts reflects this larger reality and it serves the organization well. It is not seeking to be a church or synagogue or temple. The BSA’s Scoutcraft skills and coaching, its citizenship and moral training, remains open to people of all religions. The BSA’s vagueness regarding “duty to God” is actually a plus for Christians interested in promoting their own understanding of God and His world. Talk about a platform to pass along a biblical worldview! Think of it: Scouting’s genius is that it combines outdoor exploits like regular camping trips and high-adventure activities with moral and religious instruction in the context of boy-run leadership training. Regular and intensive meetings with dedicated adults to review skills and Scouting’s ideals provide ample time for what amounts to discipleship. Some of the richest ministry opportunities in my quarter-century as a full-time minister have been during Scoutmaster-to-Scout conferences in the great outdoors.

If you’re committed to seeing the next generation of boys walk into adulthood not only as capable young men but with their faith intact, Scouting is one of the best venues out there. Hopefully, the ACLU won’t be able to quash that.

Notes

1. Readers Digest, May, 2010, 138.
2. Rick Perry, On My Honor: Why the American Values of the Boy Scouts Are Worth Fighting For (Macon, GA: Stroud & Hall Publishers, 2008).
3. Carter, Joe, “The Most Influential Conservative Book Ever Produced in America,” First Thoughts (the official blog of the journal First Things), posted February 8, 2010: http://bit.ly/fI8V9Z.
4. Perry, On My Honor, 163.
5. Ibid., 57.
6. Dictionary.com. Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of Law. Merriam-Webster, Inc. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/freedom of association (accessed: April 21, 2010).
7. Perry, On My Honor, 59.
8. Lewis, C.S., The Abolition of Man (Macmillan Publishing: New York, NY) 1947, p. 34; as quoted by R. J. Snell, “Making Men without Chests: The Intellectual Life and Moral Imagination,” First Principles: ISI Web Journal, posted Feb. 25, 2010: www.firstprinciplesjournal.com/articles.aspx?article=1380.
9. Ibid., 69.
10. Ibid., 71.
11. Ibid., 71-73.
12. Ibid., 69.
13. For a brief list of individual cases, some of which are being brought by the ACLU, see: www.bsalegal.org/duty-to-god-cases-224.asp.
14. Evans, C. Stephen, Pocket Dictionary of Apologetics & Philosophy of Religion: 300 Terms & Thinkers Clearly & Concisely Defined (Intervarsity Press: Downer’s Grove, Ill.), 2002, p. 103.
15. The Scout Oath, quoted in reprint of 1910 original Boy Scouts of America: The Official Handbook for Boys, Seventeenth Edition p. 32, accessed 1-20-11 http://bit.ly/gaM5OM. (Note, the table of contents links to page 22, but page 32 is the actual location in this format.)
16. The Scout Law, 33-34.
17. Carter, “The Most Influential Conservative Book Ever Produced in America.”
18. Perry, On My Honor, 64 and 66.
19. Ibid, 87-88.
20. Bylaws of Boy Scouts of America, art. IX, § 1, cls. 2-4, as quoted on the BSA legal Web site: www.bsalegal.org/duty-to-god-cases-224.asp.

© 2011 Probe Ministries


God and the Canaanites: A Biblical Perspective

Rick Wade provides a biblically informed perspective of these Old Testament events, looking back at them with a Christian view of history and its significance.

The Charge of Genocide

A common attack today on Christianity has to do with the character of the God of the Old Testament{1}. Moses’ instructions to the Israelites as they were about to move into Canaan included this:

In the cities of these peoples that the LORD your God is giving you for an inheritance, you shall save alive nothing that breathes, but you shall devote them to complete destruction, the Hittites and the Amorites, the Canaanites and the Perizzites, the Hivites and the Jebusites, as the LORD your God has commanded (Deut. 20:16-17).

download-podcastBecause of such things, biologist and prominent atheist Richard Dawkins describes God as “a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser . . .  genocidal . . . [a] capriciously malevolent bully.”{2}

Can the actions of the Israelites legitimately be called genocide?

The term “genocide” means a major action “committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group.” {3} Some twentieth-century examples are the extermination of six million Jews by the Nazis and the slaughter of 800,000 Tutsis by the Hutus in Rwanda in 1994. Going by this definition alone, the destruction of the Canaanites would seem to have been genocide.

But there is a major difference. These twentieth-century examples were basically people killing people simply because they hated them and/or wanted their land. The Canaanites, by contrast, were destroyed at the direction of God and primarily because of their sin. Because of this, I think the term should be avoided. The completely negative connotations of “genocide” make it hard to look at the biblical events without a jaundiced eye.

One’s background theological beliefs make a big difference in how one sees this. If God was not behind the conquest of Canaan, then the Israelites were no different than the Nazis and the Hutus. However, once the biblical doctrines of God and of sin are taken into consideration, the background scenery changes and the picture looks very different. There is only one true God, and that God deserves all honor and worship. Furthermore, justice must respond to the moral failure of sin. The Canaanites were grossly sinful people who were given plenty of time by God to change their ways. They had passed the point of redeemability, and were ripe for judgment.

Yahweh War

To understand what God was doing in Canaan, one must see it within the larger context of redemptive history.

The category scholars use for such events as the battles in the conquest of Canaan is Yahweh war. Yahweh wars are battles recorded in Scripture that are prompted by God for His purposes and won by His power.{4}

Old Testament scholar Tremper Longman sees five phases of Yahweh war in the Bible. In phase one, God fought the flesh-and-blood enemies of Israel. In phase two, God fought against Israel when it broke its side of its covenant with God (cf. Dt. 28:7. 25). In phase three, when Israel and Judah were in exile, God promised to come in the future as a warrior to rescue them from their oppressors (cf. Dan. 7).

In phase four there was a major change. When Jesus came, He shifted the battle to the spiritual realm; He fought spiritual powers and authorities. Jesus’ power was shown in His healings and exorcisms and preeminently in His victory in the heavenlies by His death and resurrection (see Col. 2:13-15). Christians today are engaged in warfare on this level. Paul wrote to the Ephesians, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against . . . the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (6:12).

Phase five of Yahweh war will be the final battle of history when Jesus returns and will once again be military in nature.

Thus, Longman says, “The war against the Canaanites was simply an earlier phase of the battle that comes to its climax on the cross and its completion at the final judgment.”{5}

There are several aspects of Yahweh war. The part that concerns us here—the real culmination of Yahweh war—is called herem. Herem literally means “ban” or “banned.” It means to ban from human use and to give over completely to God. The ESV and NIV give a fuller understanding of the term by translating it “devote to destruction” (the NASB renders it “set apart”).

Old Testament scholars Keil and Delitsch write that “there can be no doubt that the idea which lay at the foundation of the ban was that of a compulsory dedication of something which resisted or impeded sanctification; . . . it was an act of the judicial holiness of God manifesting itself in righteousness and judgment.”{6}

Canaan, because of its sin, was to be herem—devoted to destruction.

The Conquest of Canaan

In the conquest of Canaan, three goals were being accomplished.

First, the movement of the Israelites into Canaan was the fruition of God’s promise to Abram that He would give that land to his children (Gen. 12:7). When Joshua led the people across the Jordan River into Canaan, he was fulfilling this promise. Since the land wasn’t empty, this could only be accomplished by driving the Canaanites out.

The second goal of the conquest was the judgment of the Canaanites. Driving them out wasn’t simply a way of making room for Israel. The Canaanites were an evil, depraved people who had to be judged to fulfill the demands of justice. What about these people prompted such a harsh judgment?

For one thing, the Canaanites worshipped other gods. In our pluralistic age, it’s easy to forget what an offense that is to the true God.

In the worship of their gods, the Canaanites committed other evils. They engaged in temple prostitution which was thought to be a re-enactment of the sexual unions of the gods and goddesses.

An even more detestable practice was that of child sacrifice. Under the sanctuary in the ancient city of Gezer, urns containing the burnt bones of children have been found. They are dated to somewhere between 2000 and 1500 BC, between the time of Abraham and the Exodus.{7}

The third goal of the conquest was the protection of Israel. God was concerned that, if the Canaanites remained in the land, they would draw the Israelites into their evil practices.

How could the Canaanites have that much influence over the Israelites? For one thing, the Israelites would intermarry with them, and their spouses would bring their gods into the marriage with all that entailed.{8} In addition, the Israelites would be tempted to imitate Canaanite religious rituals because of their close connection to agricultural rhythms. The fertility of the land was believed to be directly connected to the sexual relations of the gods and goddesses. The people believed that re-enacting these unions themselves played a part in the fertility of the land.{9}

At first, the Israelites tried to compromise and worship God the way the Canaanites worshiped their gods. God had warned them against that (Deut. 12:4, 30, 31). Then they would simply abandon worship of the true God. As a result, they eventually received the same judgment the Canaanites experienced (Deut. 4:26; 7:4).

The Dispossession and Destruction of the Canaanites

In Deuteronomy 20:16, Moses said the Israelites were to “save alive nothing that breathes” in the cities in their new land. The question has been raised whether God really intended the Israelites to kill all the people. It has been suggested that such “obliteration language” was “hyperbolic.”{10} Commands to destroy everyone are sometimes followed by commands not to intermarry, such as in Deut. 7:2-3. How could the Israelites intermarry with the Canaanites if they killed them all? Maybe this was just an example of Ancient Near Eastern military language.{11}

I think God meant it quite literally. Here’s why. Leviticus 27:29 says very plainly that every person devoted to destruction was to be killed. Further, in Deuteronomy 20, Moses said they were only to kill the adult males in far away cities (vv. 13-14), but in nearby cities they were to “save nothing alive that breathes” (v. 16). If God didn’t mean to kill everyone in nearby cities, then what distinction was being made? And how else would God have said it if He did mean that? That being said, I do not think God had the Israelites comb the land to find and destroy every person; they were to devote to destruction the people who remained in the cities when they attacked.

Another observation is that the instruction is frequently to dispossess the Canaanites or move them out rather than to destroy them. Scholar Glen Miller points out that “dispossession” words are used by a three-to-one margin over “destruction” words.{12}

Can these be put together? With Miller, I think they can. The people of the land had heard about all that had happened with the Israelites from the time they escaped Egypt. “As soon as we heard it,” Rahab of Jericho said, “our hearts melted, and there was no spirit left in any man because of you, for the LORD your God, he is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath” (Josh. 2:11). Because of that advance warning, it is possible that some people abandoned their cities. Thus, the Israelites could possibly have married people who weren’t in the cities when they were attacked.

A more obvious reason for the possibility of intermarriage is the fact that the Israelites didn’t fully obey God’s commands. In Jdg. 1:27-2:5, we read that tribe after tribe of Israelites did not drive out all the inhabitants of the cities they conquered. The Israelites intermarried with them which eventually drew God’s judgment on them as well.

Final Comments

The most disturbing part of the conquest of Canaan for most people is the killing of children. After the defeats of both Heshbon and Bashan, Moses noted that they had “devoted to destruction every city, men, women, and children” (Deut. 2:34; 3:3, 6).

No matter what explanation of the death of children is given, no one except the most cold hearted will find joy in it. God didn’t. He gets no pleasure in the death of anyone. In Ezekiel 18:23 we read, “Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord God, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?” (see also Ezek. 33:11). When God told Abraham He was going to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham pleaded for them, and God agreed in his mercy that if but only ten righteous people were found, He wouldn’t do it. Long after the conquest of the land, when God decided He would have to destroy Moab, according to Isaiah God “wept bitterly” over her cities (Isa. 16:9; cf. 15:5).

But what about Deuteronomy 24:16 which says that children shall not be put to death because of their fathers’ sins? Isn’t there an inconsistency here?

The law given in Deuteronomy provided regulations for the people of Israel. On an individual basis, when a father sinned, his son wasn’t to be punished for it. The situation with Canaan was different. Generation after generation of Canaanites continued in the same evil practices. What was to stop it? God knew it would take the destruction of the nations.

Here are a few factors to take into consideration:

First, the sins of parents, just like their successes, have an impact on their children.

Second, if the Canaanite children were allowed to live and remain in the land, they could very well act to avenge their parents when they grew up, or at least to pick up again the practices of their parents.

Third, if one holds that there is an age of accountability for children, and that those younger than that are received into heaven with God at their death, although the means of death were frightful and harsh, the Canaanite children’s experience after death would be better than if they’d continued to live among such a sinful people.{13} How persuasive this thought is will depend on how seriously we take biblical teaching about our future after the grave. [Ed. note: please see Probe’s article Do Babies Go to Hell?by Probe’s founder Jimmy Williams.]

These ideas may provide little consolation. But we must keep in mind that God is not subject to our contemporary sensibilities.{14} The only test we can put to God is consistency with His own nature and word. Yahweh is a God of justice as well as mercy. He is also a God who takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked.

Notes
1. This article is a slightly adapted version of the program that aired on the Probe radio program. A more detailed version is also available on our Web site with the title “Yahweh War and the Conquest of Canaan.”
2. Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion (Boston: Mariner Books, 2008), 51.
3. “Convention on the Punishment and Prevention of the Crime of Genocide,” Article II, University of the West of England, at: www.ess.uwe.ac.uk/.
4. The phrase “the Lord’s battles” or “battles of the Lord” are found in 1 Sam. 18:17 and 25:28.
5. Tremper Longman III, “The Case for Spiritual Continuity,” in C. S. Cowles, Eugene H. Merrill, Daniel L. Gard, and Tremper Longman III, Show Them No Mercy: Four Views on God and Canaanite Genocide (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003), 185.
6. C.F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, trans., James Martin, Commentary on the Old Testament, vol. 1: The Pentateuch (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, n.d.), 484-485. Emphasis added.
7. M.G. Kyle, “Canaan,” in The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, James Orr, ed. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1974), 550. 8. The atheism of today wasn’t an option. If the Israelites started to get a little slack in their obligations to Yahweh, they would turn to other gods.
9. Bernhard Anderson, Understanding the Old Testament (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1957), 93-94; 96-103.
10. Paul Copan, “Is Yahweh a Moral Monster?”, Philosophia Christi 10, no. 1 (2008): 7-37; www.epsociety.org/library/articles.asp?pid=45. In his article “Yahweh Wars” which was written after “Is Yahweh a Moral Monster?,” Copan presents two scenarios, one in which everyone was put to death, and the other in which the targets were military leaders and soldiers. He believes the latter is the correct interpretation. See Paul Copan, “Yahweh Wars and the Canaanites,” Philosophia Christi 11, no. 1 (2009): 73-92; www.epsociety.org/library/articles.asp?pid=63.
In his discussion in “Moral Monster,” Copan refers specifically to Deut. 23:12-13 where Joshua also warns the people against intermarrying. One should note that Joshua’s commands in Deuteronomy 23 are given before the Israelites have completed their sweep through the land, so of course there are Canaanites there to marry. The Deut. 7 passage provides better support for his position.
11. Copan, “Yahweh Wars and the Canaanites.”
12. Glenn M. Miller, “How could a God of Love order the massacre/annihilation of the Canaanites?” on the web site A Christian Thinktank,
13. Cf. Paul Copan, “How Could a Loving God Command Genocide,” in That’s Just Your Interpretation (Grand Rapid: Baker, 2001), 165.
14. And I say “contemporary” because children weren’t regarded as highly in the Ancient Near East as they are today.

© 2010 Probe Ministries


“Does the Bible Talk About Reincarnation?”

Does the Bible ever talk about reincarnation?

The short answer is “No; the Bible nowhere speaks of reincarnation.” Unfortunately, however, some people have claimed to find evidence for this belief in the Bible. For example, John the Baptist is often claimed to be the reincarnation of Elijah.

This is a popular “New Age” sort of interpretation. Of course, no respected biblical scholar would accept this interpretation as true.

And it certainly wasn’t the view of Jesus, His disciples, John the Baptist, or the Gospel writers. Luke 1:17 tells us that John came in the “spirit and power” of Elijah, which is far different than asserting that John was the reincarnation of Elijah. In addition, it’s important to remember that Moses and Elijah appeared to Jesus, Peter, James, and John on the Mount of Transfiguration. But as Geisler and Rhodes observe, “Since John [the Baptist] had already lived and died by then, and since Elijah still had the same name and self-consciousness, Elijah had obviously not been reincarnated as John the Baptist.” Third, we must remember that Elijah never died (2 Kings 2:11); therefore, he doesn’t fit the reincarnation model.

An important verse to bear in mind in these discussions is Hebrews 9:27. This verse teaches us that we die once, and then face God’s judgment. The consequences of that judgment, according to the Bible, are eternal—not temporal (Matt. 25:46; 2 Thess. 1:9; Rev. 20:10-15).

If you would like more information about this subject, please see the following two resources on Probe’s website:

1. The Mystery of Reincarnation – www.probe.org/the-mystery-of-reincarnation/

2. “Was Reincarnation Ever in the Bible?” – www.probe.org/was-reincarnation-ever-in-the-bible/

Shalom in Christ,
Michael Gleghorn

© 2010 Probe Ministries


A Trial in Athens – Apologetics in the New Testament

Acts 17 provides one of the best examples of Paul engaging in apologetics in the New Testament. Rick Wade shows how Paul finds a point of contact with people to get a hearing.

The Apologist Paul

When we think of a biblical basis for apologetics, we typically think of Peter’s brief comments about defending the faith in 1 Pet. 3:15. We don’t typically think of Paul as an apologist. But in his letter to the church at Philippi, Paul said that they were “partakers with [him] in the defense and confirmation of the faith” (1:7; see also v.16). Apologetics was a significant aspect of Paul’s ministry.

An event that has received a great amount of attention in the study of Paul’s ministry is his address to the Areopagus in Athens, recorded in Acts 17: 16-34. That address will be my topic in this article. Maybe we can be encouraged by Paul’s example to speak out for Christ the way he did.

Athens was a still a significant city in Paul’s day. Although not so much a major political power, it retained its prestige for its cultural and intellectual achievements.{1} What we see today as the art treasures of the ancient world, however, Paul saw as images of gods and places for their worship. And there were a lot of them.

Being provoked by this in his spirit, Paul began telling people about Jesus. He made his way to the synagogue as he had done in various cities before.{2} There he bore witness to Jews and to God-fearing Gentiles.

He also went to the Agora—the marketplace—to talk with the citizens of Athens.{3} Among them were Epicurean and Stoic philosophers. After hearing him for a bit, the philosophers started calling Paul a “babbler,” a term of derision that meant literally “seed picker.” F. F. Bruce wrote that “[this word] was used of one who picked up scraps of learning here and there and purveyed them where he could.”{4}

Peddlers of strange new religious beliefs were fairly common in those days. But this was a risky thing to do. It was unlawful to teach the worship of gods that hadn’t been officially authorized.{5} Not long before this event, Paul was dragged into the marketplace in Philippi for “advocating customs unlawful for . . . Romans to accept or practice” (Acts 16:19-21). Eventually the people of Athens took Paul to the Areopagus, a powerful court which had authority in matters of religion and philosophy.{6} They wanted to know about these strange new ideas he was presenting.

Paul had the opportunity to tell the highest religious and philosophical body in Athens about the true God.

Greek Religion

As Paul looked around the city of Athens, his spirit was provoked within him. The people of Athens had surrounded themselves with idols that obscured the reality of the one true God.

Other historical writings affirm the prominence of religion in Athens. For example, a second century writer named Pausanius claimed that “the Athenians are far more devoted to religion than other men.”{7} His description of Athens names statue after statue, temple after temple. There were statues of gods everywhere, even on the mountains. There were temples built to Athena, Poseidon, Hephaestus, Zeus, Artemis, Ares, and more.

Paul spoke of the altar to the unknown god (Acts 17:23).There were quite a few such altars in those days. The late New Testament scholar, Bertil Gärtner, wrote that these altars were erected “either because an unknown god was considered the author of tribulations or good fortune, or because men feared to pass over some deity.”{8}

Greco-Roman religion was mainly about myth and ritual. Myths were the religious explanations of life and the world, and rituals were reenactments of them. Religion was mostly about appeasing the gods with the proper sacrifices to gain their favor and avoid their wrath.

Although morality wasn’t closely associated with religion, that isn’t to say that the way one lived was irrelevant.{9} As described in Virgil’s Aeneid, the souls of the dead were led by the god Hermes to the depths of the earth to await the decision about their eternal place. The guilty were sent to “dark Tartarus.” The pious went to the Elysian Fields.{10} In later years, the place of the blessed souls was said to be in the celestial realm. The afterlife, however, was still one of a shadowy existence.

There was no sacred/profane distinction in the Greco-Roman world; religion was not only a part of everyday life, it was integral to all the rest. Because of that, Christianity was not just a threat to religious belief; it threatened to upset all of culture. This is why Paul ran into such harsh opposition not only in Athens but also in Lystra and Philippi and Ephesus.

We live in a pluralistic society today. So did the apostles. But this did not stop the spread of the gospel. As we see at the end of Acts 17, some people did abandon their pluralism for faith in the one true God.

Epicureanism

When Paul went to the Agora in Athens to tell people about Jesus, he encountered some Epicurean and Stoic philosophers.

Epicureanism and Stoicism had “an influence that eclipsed that of all rival [philosophical] schools.”{11} The late British scholar Christopher Stead wrote that they “offered a practical policy for ordering one’s life which could appeal to the ordinary man. It has been argued that this was especially needed in the disorientation caused by the decline of the Greek city-states in the face of Alexander’s empire.”{12}

The school of Epicureanism was founded by Epicurus in the fourth century BC. His primary goal was to help people find happiness and peace of mind. He taught that a happy life is one in which pleasure predominates. These pleasures shouldn’t, however, cause any harm or discomfort. They aren’t found in a life of debauchery. Drinking and revelry just bring pain and confusion.{13} Pleasure was to be found in living a peaceful life in the company of like-minded friends. The intellectual pleasures of contemplation were the highest, because they could be experienced even if the body suffered.

There was more to Epicureanism than simply a lifestyle, however. Epicureans held two basic beliefs which stand in stark contrast to the message Paul preached to the Areopagus. These beliefs were thought to provide the basis for a tranquil life.

First, although Epicureans believed in the existence of the gods, they believed the gods had no interest in the affairs of people. Epicurus taught that the gods were very much like the Epicureans; they were examples of the ideal tranquil life. Although Epicureans might participate in religious ceremonies and “honour the gods for their excellence,”{14} they didn’t seek the gods’ favor through sacrifice.

A second key belief was the denial of the afterlife. Epicurus taught that after death comes extinction. According to their cosmogony, the world was created when atoms, falling through space, began to collide and form bodies. Like the heavenly bodies, we also are merely material beings. When we die, our material bodies decay and we no longer exist.{15} Thus, there was no fear of judgment in an afterlife.

Stoicism

As Paul mingled with the people in the Athenian Agora, he spoke not only with Epicureans, but with Stoics as well.

Stoicism was a school of philosophy founded by Zeno of Cyprus who lived from 335 to 263 BC. During a time of political instability, Stoicism “provided a means for maintaining tranquility amid the struggles of life.”{16} As with Epicurus, freedom from fear was a motivating force in Zeno’s thought.{17}

What did the Stoics believe that released them from fear? Stoicism changed over the centuries, but this is a good general description.

While the Epicureans believed the gods didn’t get involved in the affairs of people on earth, Stoics denied the existence of personal gods altogether.

Stoics believed the universe began with fire that differentiated itself into the other basic elements of water, air, and earth. The universe was composed purely of matter. The coarser matter made up the physical bodies we see. The finer matter was defused throughout everything and held everything together. This they called logos (reason) or sometimes breath or spirit or even fire. The idea of logos meant there was a rational principle operating in the universe.

Because the universe was thought to be ordered by an inbuilt principle and not by a mind, Stoics were deterministic. This raises a question, though. If everything was determined, what would that mean for ethics? Virtue was of supreme importance for Stoics. How could one choose the good if one’s actions are determined? One answer given was this: while people had the freedom to choose, the universe would do what it was determined to do. But if one wanted to live well, one had to live rationally in keeping with the rational order of the universe. To do otherwise was to make oneself miserable.

Some Stoics believed that the universe would one day erupt in a great fire from which would come another universe. Others thought the universe was eternal. Some believed that in future universes, people would repeat their lives over and over. Others believed that death was the end of a person’s existence. In either case, there was no immortality as we understand it.

Thus, Stoics sought peace in their troubled times by denying the existence of meddlesome gods and an afterlife that would bring judgment.

Paul’s Speech

When Paul was allowed to speak before the Areopagus, he made a strategic move. By pointing to the altar to the unknown god, and later referring to the comments of the Greeks’ own poets, he averted the charge of introducing new gods. At least on the surface!

Having brought their admitted ignorance to light, Paul told them about the true God. His declaration that a personal God made the heavens and the earth was a direct challenge to the Epicureans and Stoics. His announcement that God didn’t live in temples or need the service of people was a challenge to the practices of the religious Greeks.

Paul told them that God wasn’t far off and unknown. The phrase “in him we live, and move, and have our being,” which refers to Zeus, likely comes from Epimenides of Crete. The line, “we are his offspring,” is found in a poem by Aratus.{18} Paul wasn’t equating Zeus with God, but was telling them which God they were really near to.

Then Paul delivered a charge to the people. God was overlooking their time of ignorance and calling them to repent.{19} This was more than simply a call to a virtuous life as with the philosophers or a call to perform the required sacrifices to the gods. This repentance was necessary, Paul said, for God has set a time to judge the world through His appointed man, and that judgment is assured by the raising of that man from the dead. (2:26)

This was too much for the people of Athens for a few reasons. First, Paul presented an entirely different cosmology. History, he told them, was bound by the creation of God on one end and the judgment of God on the other. Second, there was no room for a historical resurrection in Greek thought. The dyings and risings of their gods didn’t occur in space-time history.

By attacking the Greeks’ religion, Paul attacked the foundations of their whole cultural structure. New Testament scholar Kavin Rowe writes that, because religion was so interwoven with the rest of life, Paul’s visit to Athens –and to Lystra, Philippi, and Ephesus as well—“[displays] . . . the collision between two different ways of life.”{20}

The gospel we proclaim doesn’t just lay claim to our religious beliefs. It affects our entire lives. Paul knew what was central to the Greeks, what was the core issue that had to be addressed. Likewise, we need to know the fundamental worldview beliefs of our neighbors and how to address them with an approach that will get us a hearing.

Notes

1. F.F. Bruce, The Book of Acts, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1971), 349.
2. Acts 13 gives a good picture of how Paul presented the gospel to his fellow Jews.
3. The Web site Ancient Athens 3D gives an interesting visual representation of the Agora, the marketplace, as it looked in Paul’s day. ancientathens3d.com/romagoralEn.htm.
4. Bruce, Acts, 351, n. 20.
5. Charles Carter and Ralph Earle, The Acts of the Apostles (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1978), 256, and Richard N. Longenecker, “The Acts of the Apostle,” Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Frank E. Gaebelein, gen. ed., J.D. Douglas, assoc. ed., (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1976-1992), CD.
6. See C. Kavin Rowe, World Upside Down: Reading Acts in the Graeco-Roman Age (New York: Oxford, 2009), 31.
7. Pausanius, Description of Greece, “Attica”, 1:24:1, written c. AD 160, www.fordham.edu/halsall/ancient/pausanias-bk1.html
8. Bertil Edgar Gärtner, The Areopagus Speech and Natural Revelation, Acta Seminarii Neotestamentici Upsaliensis, vol. 21 (Uppsala, 1955), 245, quoted in Everett Harrison, Acts: The Expanding Church (Chicago: Moody Press, 1978), 270. See also the discussion in Carter and Earle, Acts, 259.
9. This may seem inconsistent. But one must keep in mind that religion wasn’t one aspect of life that was clearly distinguishable from the rest. Life was all of a piece in the ancient world.
10. Everett Ferguson, Backgrounds of Early Christianity, 2nd ed., (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1993), 233.
11. Christopher Stead, Philosophy in Christian Antiquity (New York: Cambridge, 1998), 40.
12. Ibid.
13. Diogenes Laertius, Lives of the Philosophers, quoted in Frederick Copleston, A History of Philosophy, bk. 1, vol. 1 (Garden City, NY: Image Books, 1985), 407-08.
14. Copleston, History, 406.
15. Stead, Philosophy in Christian Antiquity, 42.
16. Kelly James Clark, Richard Lints, and James K.A. Smith, 101 Key Terms in Philosophy and Their Importance for Theology (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2004), s.v. “Stoicism.”
17. Ferguson, Backgrounds of Early Christianity, 333.
18. Carter and Earle note that this line also appears in Cleanthes’ Hymn to Zeus. I credited Aratus with the line because F. F. Bruce notes that Kirsopp Lake “points out that the immediately following lines of Aratus’s poem have ‘a strong general resemblance to v. 26 of the Areopagitica’” (Bruce, Acts, 360, n. 50). It could be that Aratus got it from Cleanthes (cf. Rowe, World Upside Down, 37-38).
19. Some Christians hold that the Greek word for “repent,” metanoe­ō, means merely to change one’s mind. This sometimes comes up in Lordship salvation debates. The basic meanings of the two parts of the word aren’t sufficient for understanding its use. Metanoeō, in the New Testament, denotes conversion. “The predominantly intellectual understanding of metanoe­ō as change of mind plays very little part in the NT. Rather the decision by the whole man to turn round is stressed. It is clear that we are concerned neither with a purely outward turning nor with a merely intellectual change of ideas.” Colin Brown, ed., The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, vol. 1 (Grand Rapids: Regency Reference Library, 1975), s.v., “Conversion, 358).
20. Rowe, World Upside Down, 50, 51.

© 2010 Probe Ministries


The Darkness of Twilight: A Christian Perspective

Sue Bohlin examines the message of Twilight from a biblically informed, Christian perspective, helping Christians understand how they should approach such popular fare.

Demonic Origin of Twilight?

The Twilight saga is a publishing and movie phenomenon that sweeps tween and teen girls (and a whole lot of other people) off their feet with an obsessive kind of following. Millions of Christian girls are huge fans of this series about love between a teenage girl and her vampire boyfriend-then-husband. But it’s not just a love story made exciting by the danger of vampires’ blood-lust. I believe the Twilight saga, all four books and their corresponding movies, is spiritually dangerous. I believe there is a demonic origin to the series, and the occult themes that permeate the books are a dangerous open door to Satan and his hordes of unholy angels.

I was stunned to learn about how the idea for Twilight came to the author, Stephenie Meyer. She tells this story:

I woke up . . . from a very vivid dream. In my dream, two people were having an intense conversation in a meadow in the woods. One of these people was just your average girl. The other person was fantastically beautiful, sparkly, and a vampire. They were discussing the difficulties inherent in the facts that A) they were falling in love with each other while B) the vampire was particularly attracted to the scent of her blood, and was having a difficult time restraining himself from killing her immediately.{1}

Twilight“Fantastically beautiful, sparkly, and a vampire”? Consider what vampires are, in the vampire genre that arose in the 1800s: demon-possessed, undead, former human beings who suck blood from their victims to sustain themselves. A vampire is evil. And the vampire who came to Stephenie Meyer in a dream is not only supernaturally beautiful and sparkly, but when she awoke she was deeply in love with this being who virtually moved into her head, creating conversations for months that she typed out until Twilight was written.

When I heard this part of the story, it gave me chills. Scripture tells us that Satan disguises himself as an angel of light, which is a perfect description of the Edward Cullen character.

Then I learned that “Edward” came to Meyer in a second dream that frightened her. She said, “I had this dream that Edward actually showed up and told me that I got it all wrong and like he exists and everything but he couldn’t live off animals . . . and I kind of got the sense he was going to kill me. It was really terrifying and bizarrely different from every other time I’ve thought about his character.”{2}

I suggest that if the Twilight saga is demonic in origin, it is dangerous, to Christians and non-Christians alike.

Vampires, Blood, and Salvation

I explained above how the Twilight saga was birthed in an unusually vivid dream that I believe was demonic in origin. So it’s really no surprise that the books are permeated with the occult.

The Twilight vampires all have various kinds of powers that don’t come from God. They are supernaturally fast, supernaturally strong, able to read others’ minds and control others’ feelings. Some can tell the future, others can see things at great distances. These aspects of the occult are an important part of what makes Twilight so successful.

In both the Old and New Testaments, God strongly warns us not to have anything to do with the occult, which is part of the “domain of darkness” (Col. 1:13) where demons reign. He calls occult practices “detestable,” which tells us that He is passionate about protecting us. One of the reasons Twilight is so dangerous is that readers can long for these kinds of supernatural but ungodly powers; if not in real life, then in their imagination. And this is a doorway to the demonic, which is all about gaining power from a source other than God. Twilight glorifies the occult, the very thing God calls detestable (Deut. 18:9). This is reason enough for Christ-followers to stay away from it!

For a growing number of people, vampirism is not make-believe. In a special report on the Fox News Channel, Sean Hannity reported, “there’s actually a vampire subculture that exists in the United States right now and spreads into almost every community in this country.”{3} Joseph Laylock, the author of a book on modern vampires, explains that there are three general categories of people who “believe they have an ‘energy deficit,’ and need to feed on blood or energy to maintain their wellbeing.”{4} Some drink real blood, others feed only on “energy” they draw from other humans, and “hybrids” who are a bit of both.{5}

My Probe colleague Todd Kappelman, a philosopher and literature critic, observed that Stephenie Meyer took unwarranted liberties with the genre. Vampires are evil, and you can’t just turn them “good” by writing them that way.

You can’t have vampires strolling around in the daytime. You can’t make evil good and good evil, putting light for darkness and darkness for light [Is. 5:20]. It’s a law of physics: light always dispels the darkness. You can’t have the bad guys win. There is no system in the world where evil is rewarded with “happily ever after”; it violates our sensibilities too much. Either the extremely ignorant or the extremely childish would fall for it. And apart from the moral aspect, it’s doing violence to the genre—like putting Darth Vader in a Jane Austen novel.{6}

Writer Michael O’Brien comments,

In the Twilight series we have a cultural work that converts a traditional archetype of evil into a morally neutral one. Vampires are no longer the “un-dead,” no longer possessed by demons. There are “good” vampires and “bad” vampires, and because the good vampire is incredibly handsome and possesses all the other qualities of an adolescent girl’s idealized dreamboat, everything is forgivable.{7}

Closely connected to the occult is drinking blood, which is a focus of the vampire literary genre; vampires feed on the blood of humans. In Twilight, we are supposed to embrace the “good” vampires who have learned to feed on the blood of animals, calling themselves vegetarians (which is an insult to all vegetarians!). Interestingly, in Lev. 19:26 God connected the occult with ingesting blood 3200 years before the vampire genre was invented.

God understands the importance of blood; in both the Old and New Testaments, He forbids eating or drinking it. Not only did this separate His followers from the surrounding pagan cultures, but it also separated out the importance of blood because it atones for sin. In the Old Testament, animals were sacrificed as a picture of how the spotless Lamb of God, the Lord Jesus Christ, would pour out His sacred blood to pay for our sins. God doesn’t want people to focus on the wrong blood!{8}

Twilight is also spiritually dangerous in the way it presents salvation. When Daddy Vampire Carlisle turns Edward into a vampire, it is described as saving him.{9} He ended a 17-year-old boy’s physical life and turned him into an undead, stone cold superbeing, which Edward describes as a “new birth.”{10} Vampire Alice describes the process as the venom spreading through the body, healing it, changing it, until the heart stops and the conversion is finished.{11} Poison heals, and changes, and converts to lifelessness? Healing poison? This is spiritually dangerous thinking. Isaiah warns us (5:20), “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!”

This upside-down, inside-out way of thinking is rooted in Stephenie Meyer’s strong Mormon beliefs. Twilight’s cover photo of a woman’s hands offering an apple is an intentional reference to the way Mormonism reinvents the Genesis story of the Fall. LDS (Latter Day Saints) doctrine makes the Fall a necessary step, called a “fall up.”{12} At the beginning of the book you will find, alone on a page, Genesis 2: 17—”But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.”

Stephenie Meyer explains:

The apple on the cover of Twilight represents “forbidden fruit.” I used the scripture from Genesis (located just after the table of contents) because I loved the phrase “the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil.” Isn’t this exactly what Bella ends up with? A working knowledge of what good is, and what evil is. . . . In the end, I love the beautiful simplicity of the picture. To me it says: choice.{13}

Echoing Satan’s deception of Eve with the temptation to become like God on her own terms, the heroine Bella eventually becomes a god-like vampire, glorying in her perfection, her beauty, her infallibility. She transcends her detested humanity and becomes a goddess. This is basic Mormon doctrine, not surprising since the author is a Mormon.{14}

One of the messages of Twilight is that there is a way to have immortal life, eternal life, apart from a relationship with God through Jesus Christ; that there is a way to live forever without dealing with the obstacle of our sin problem by confessing that we are sinners and we need the forgiveness and grace of a loving Savior.

This is a spiritually dangerous series.

A Love Story on Steroids: Emotional Dependency

Why are girls of all ages, but especially tweens and teens, so passionately and obsessively in love with Edward, the vampire in Twilight?

Edward is very different from the vast majority of young men today. He is chivalrous, sensitive, self-sacrificing and honorable. He wants the best for Bella, his teenage girlfriend and eventual wife. He is able to keep his impulses in check, which is a good thing since he lusts after her scent and wants to kill her so he can drain her blood. No wonder girls and women declare they’re in love with Edward Cullen!

But one of the troubling aspects of the Twilight saga is Edward and Bella’s unhealthy and dysfunctional relationship. Yet millions of female readers can’t stop thinking about this “love story on steroids,” which means it is shaping their hopes and expectations for their own relationships. That’s scary.

The best way to describe their relationship is emotional dependency. This is when you have to have a constant connection to another person in order for you to be okay. Emotional dependency is characterized by a desperate neediness. You put all your relational eggs in one basket, engaging in an intense one-on-one relationship that renders other relationships unnecessary. In fact, there is often a resentment of not only the people that used to be your friends, but you resent anyone in the other person’s world who could pull their attention and devotion away from you.

When things are going well, it’s like emotional crack cocaine. The intensity is addictive and exhilarating. When things aren’t going well, it’s an absolute nightmare. Emotionally dependent relationships strap people into an emotional roller coaster full of drama, manipulation, and a constant need for reassurance from the other.

When Edward leaves Bella for a time, she becomes an emotional zombie. The book New Moon is full of descriptions of the pain of the hole in her chest because when he left, he took her heart with him. She had withdrawn from all her friends to make Edward into her whole world, so she had no support network in place when he left. All of her emotional eggs were in his basket. Many readers see this as highly romantic rather than breathtakingly dysfunctional.

One or both people are looking to another to meet their basic needs for love and security, instead of to God. So emotional dependency is a form of relational idolatry. People put their loved one or the relationship on a pedestal and worship them or it as a false god. When you look to another person to give you worth and make you feel loved and valued, they become inordinately essential. When we worship the creature rather than the Creator as in Romans 1, what results is a desperate neediness that puts us and keeps us at the mercy of the one we worship. They have a lot of power over us, which is one reason why God wants to protect us from idolatry.

Twilight is like an emotional dependency how-to manual. At one point, Bella’s mother tells her, “The way you move—you orient yourself around him without even thinking about it. When he moves, even a little bit, you adjust your position at the same time—like magnets . . . or gravity. You’re like a . . . satellite, or something.”{15} The power of story, especially this story, is that it can set up readers to mistake emotional dependency and relational idolatry for what a love story should look and feel like.

On the Credenda blog, Douglas Wilson makes a powerful case for Twilight also serving as a manual for how to become an abused girlfriend and then an abused wife. Edward’s moods are mercurial and unpredictable, and Bella just goes along with it, making excuses and justifying his actions.{16}

Twilight is spiritually dangerous because of its demonic origin and its occult themes, both of which God commands us to stay away from. But it’s emotionally dangerous too.

Emotional Pornography

The Twilight series is touted as pro-abstinence and pro-chastity because the main characters don’t “go all the way” before they get married. A lot of parents hear that and give a green light for their daughters to read the books and see the movies. But the Twilight books are a lust-filled series, so embedded with writing intended to arouse the emotions, that it is legitimately considered emotional pornography.

Marcia Montenegro writes,

Much has been made of the alleged message of Twilight, that it is one of abstinence and shows control over desire. In truth, Edward is controlling himself because he does not want to kill Bella; her life is truly in danger from a ferocious vampire attack from the one who loves her.  Aside from that, a vibrant sensuality of attraction lies just beneath the surface. A TIME reporter who interviewed Meyer wrote, “It’s never quite clear whether Edward wants to sleep with Bella or rip her throat out or both, but he wants something, and he wants it bad, and you feel it all the more because he never gets it. That’s the power of the Twilight books: they’re squeaky, geeky clean on the surface, but right below it, they are absolutely, deliciously filthy.”{17}

The struggle with self-control is saturated with eroticism and lust. It’s so sensual that teenage boys and young men will read it simply for that reason. The protest, “They don’t have sex” is lame; the relationship is extremely sensual. One very insightful blogger writes,

To claim that the Twilight saga is based on the virtue of chastity is like calling the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition pro-chastity because the girls are clothed.

Bella gives detailed first person accounts of her “make out” encounters with Edward—everything from trying to unbutton clothing, to how loud her breathing is and how this or that feels . . . these detailed first person descriptions are designed to arouse young girls—like a gateway drug to full blown romance novels or vampire lore. How can books in which the author has written detailed first person descriptions of actions leading to arousal help readers to be chaste? The words on the page defy chastity. Anyone who claims that the books promote chastity has to explain how a young girl can read detailed first-person descriptions of “making out” as a tool to preserving her innocence.{18}

The sensuality of Twilight is not lost on even the youngest readers and movie-goers. Robert Pattinson, the actor who plays Edward Cullen in the Twilight movies, was asked in a Rolling Stone interview, “Is it weird to have girls that are so young have this incredibly sexualized thing around you?” He answered, “It’s weird that you get 8-year-old girls coming up to you saying, ‘Can you just bite me? I want you to bite me.’ It is really strange how young the girls are, considering the book is based on the virtues of chastity, but I think it has the opposite effect on its readers though. [Laughs]”{19}

God’s word says, “Flee youthful lusts” (2 Tim. 2:22). Without a strong discernment filter in place, and without a strong determination to guard one’s heart (Prov. 4:23), it will be very hard to obey that protective command when reading the Twilight books or watching the movies.

Recently at a youth discipleship camp, I asked the young men how they felt about Twilight. They booed. Real men don’t stand a chance to be enough compared to the too-good-to-be-true Edward Cullen. When girls use the emotional porn of romance novels or movies, they are setting up impossible expectations that have no hope of being fulfilled by limited, fallible, all-too-human beings. It’s a cruel twist on the way men can sabotage their relationships with real women by their use of internet porn. Is there much of a difference between using sexual porn or emotional porn? In both cases, fantasy creates unrealistic expectations that reality cannot satisfy.

Apart from the problem of unrealistic expectations, it is unhealthy to make such an intense heart connection with a fictional character. Some people choose getting lost in reading and re-reading the books over having connections with real human beings in community. One lady told me that she called a friend about going out to a movie, but her friend begged off: “Oh, I’m going to stay in with Edward tonight.” A nail technician had one 60-year-old client who confided, “Don’t tell my husband, but I’m in love with Edward.”

In the first Twilight book, Edward sweeps Bella off her feet with the intoxicating description of his intense desire for her and why she desires him: “I’m the world’s most dangerous predator. Everything about me invites you in. My voice, my face, even my smell. . . I’m designed to kill. . . I’ve wanted to kill you. I’ve never wanted a human’s blood so much in my life. . . Your scent, it’s like a drug to me. You’re like my own personal brand of heroin.”{20}

I believe there is a spirit of seduction in the Twilight saga. Something supernatural draws millions of readers to fantasize about being desired, pursued and falling in love with a character that I believe has a deeply demonic component. It’s dangerous on several levels.

The (Rotten) Fruit of Twilight

Twilight is one of the most successful series ever published. Readers don’t just read the books; many of them re-read them, multiple times. In order to be discerning, we need to examine the fruit of this series to see its effect on readers. I believe that there is a spiritual reality of evil behind Twilight that explains three kinds of fruit I see.

First is the fruit of obsession. Literally millions of fans can’t stop thinking and talking about the books, the characters, the minutia of the Twilight world. There is an addictive element of the series for many people. Addiction is bondage; why willingly submit yourself to bondage?

Some girls talk about their daily reading and study of “The Book,” and they’re talking about the whole saga—not the Bible.{21} With social networking and digital media, fans have access to an ever-growing community of other Twilight-obsessed people, which allows them to connect with their God-given desire to be part of something bigger than themselves. But the transcendence of connecting to the Twilight world is so much less than God intends for us to experience!

The second fruit is the spiritual warfare reported by Christians, especially those who disobeyed God’s leading to get rid of the books—night sweats, hearing voices and other unusual noises, being gripped by a spirit of fear, loss of intimacy with God. Some thoughtful people have reported what one woman called “a stronghold I didn’t want and couldn’t seem to overcome. I became uncontrollably obsessed over this make-believe world. And fell into a pit of manic-depressive-suicidal state.”{22}

One Christian teenager, clearly under conviction, wrote this comment on a blog:

As a 15-year-old, reading those books was a . . . strange experience for me.

I didn’t think they were too bad or morally lacking until I heard my old high-school chaplain [a thirty-something woman, I think. Never dared to ask 🙂 ] praise them. And then something inside me clicked, because it struck me as wrong that a Godly woman would find this series good. . . .

Another problem with Twilight that I had is that it drives girls to think of love before they are emotionally and mentally ready for the idea. It pretty much skews their ideas of love up. I know it’s done that to me. Because what this series has done is stick Edward Cullen in one category (i.e. “pure perfection”) and “everyone else” lumped together in another as a portrayal of pure “ocker”ness. I am now not sure to what percentage *gentlemanliness* exists in a normal, TANNED boy. So it’s not really fair to guys, or girls, because of skewed expectations. . . .

Otherwise, I enjoyed the Twilight series, but I don’t feel that I should have, so I’m going to pray about that one.{23}

The third fruit is a spirit of divisiveness. Some Christians are inordinately defensive about Twilight, choosing the books over relationships with other believers who take a negative view of the series. One Christian speaker who shared her deep concerns over Twilight at a church conference was verbally attacked at the break by supposedly mature women. Some of them still refuse to speak to her.

Of course, we hear the refrain, “Oh come on. It’s just a book. It’s just fiction.” But all forms of entertainment are a wrapper for values and a message, and we need to be aware of what it is. Remember, what we take into our imaginations is really like food for our souls. If something has poison in it, it shouldn’t be eaten. Saying “It’s just a book, who cares what it is as long as we’re reading,” is equivalent to saying, “If you can put it in your mouth and swallow it, it must be food.” What are you feeding your soul? Goodness or poison?

Readers resonate with the important themes of life and literature: romantic love, family love and loyalty, beauty, sacrifice, fear, danger, overcoming, conflict, resolution. But these themes are laced with spiritual deception: “You, too, can be like God.” You hear that Twilight is a love story on steroids, and people—especially young girls—are drawn to God’s design for a woman to be cherished, protected, and provided for. They are drawn to the way Bella responds to Edward with love, respect and submission, which is also God’s design. So it is especially devious that the elements that resonate with our God-given desires for love are poisoned as occult principles are interwoven with the story.{24}

One teenage girl made this comment on a blog: “I never thought of [the books] as arousing or erotic in any way. Like many other girls, I found myself falling for Edward as I delved into the story. Before I knew it, my heart was beating faster during the mushier scenes.” Like millions of others, she is unable to discern the line between emotional and sexual arousal. Swooning because you are in love with a fictional character, when you long for this character when you’re not reading the book, means you’ve been taken captive (Col. 2:8). And God does not want us in bondage to anything except Him!

Twilight is dangerous because it subtly stretches us into accommodating that which God calls sin. People don’t leap from embracing good to embracing evil in one giant step; it’s a series of small, incremental allowances. Readers easily accept unthinkingly an unmarried couple spending every single night together when the Word says to avoid every form of evil and to flee temptation, not lie there cuddling with it! Readers are led to accept as heroes and friends vampires who murder human beings to drink their blood.

Commentator Michael O’Brien makes a stunning analysis of Twilight:

In the Twilight series, vampirism is not identified as the root cause of all the carnage; instead the evil is attributed to the way a person lives out his vampirism. Though Bella is at first shocked by the truth about the family’s old ways (murder, dismemberment, sucking the blood from victims), she is nevertheless overwhelmed by her “feelings” for Edward, and her yearning to believe that he is truly capable of noble self-sacrifice. So much so that her natural feminine instinct for submission to the masculine suitor increases to the degree that she desires to offer her life to her conqueror. She trusts that he will not kill her; she wants him to drink her essence and infect her. This will give her a magnificent unending romance and an historical role in creating with her lover a new kind of human being. They will have superhuman powers. They will be moral vampires—and they will be immortal.

Here, then, is the embedded spiritual narrative (probably invisible to the author and her audience alike): You shall be as gods. You will overcome death on your own terms. You will be master over death. Good and evil are not necessarily what Western civilization has, until now, called good and evil. You will define the meaning of symbols and morals and human identity. And all of this is subsumed in the ultimate message: The image and likeness of God in you can be the image and likeness of a god whose characteristics are satanic, as long as you are a “basically good person.”

In this way, coasting on a tsunami of intoxicating visuals and emotions, the image of supernatural evil is transformed into an image of supernatural good.{25}

Twilight is not dangerous because people will literally want to become vampires. Twilight is dangerous because, through the powerful medium of storytelling, dangerous ideas and messages go straight to the heart like a poisoned-tipped arrow, without being passed through a biblical filter. Beware the darkness of Twilight.

Addendum: Should I Let My Children/Grandchildren/Students Read Twilight?

I have read all four books in the Twilight series. I strongly recommend against reading these books.

But I also understand that it’s a cultural phenomenon, and lots of people are going to read the books no matter what anyone says. So allow me to attempt to redeem the cultural pressure inherent in these books’ popularity by suggesting how you can help the tender, untaught minds of your loved ones to think critically as they read.

If your teen or tween expresses a desire to read the books, give an explanation for why you think they shouldn’t. (“Just say no” just doesn’t work with most kids. They need to know why, and that’s fair.) I would suggest something along the lines of, “I love you and I want what is best for you, and that means protecting you from dangers you are not aware of. This series is steeped in the occult and in demonic influence, both of which God strongly warns us against in His word. There is also a powerful emotional draw into unhealthy fantasy which could sabotage future relationships with real people. There are spiritual dangers and emotional dangers that I want to protect you from.”

If you receive pushback, then you might respond by saying, “If you want to read the books, then I’ll read them with you. We’ll talk about them, a chapter or a scene at a time. The choice is yours.” This gives your loved one the power of choice, but you remain involved in the process. What would be especially powerful for young girls is for Dad to read the books as well and talk to his daughter(s) about what’s in them. Men would have a very different take on the emotional lust in these books, as well as a sensitivity to the unfair expectations of a lover that would be formed in their daughters’ hearts. Girls need their father’s input in this adolescent time of emotional and sexual confusion, and Twilight is almost guaranteed to add to the confusion.

Talk about the books’ content frankly and openly; if they are embarrassed for you to know what they are reading, their well-placed shame will make a powerful statement about the wisdom of reading this kind of book. Make sure they know that you are completely aware of what they are taking into their minds and spirits, just as you would want to know if they were taking drugs into their bodies. Reframe the book’s content in terms of what the Bible says, and ask questions: Does this agree with the Bible’s explanation of life and reality? Does this help you draw near to God, or does it make you want to avoid Him and His Word? How do the descriptions of Bella’s, Edward’s and Jacob’s thoughts and feelings make you think about the people in your real life? Are you tempted to look down your nose at the “mere humans” you do life with?

Even though this work is fiction, it is still making statements about reality. What is it saying about life on earth? About God? About sin? About love? About the soul? About heaven and hell? About biblical truth?

How does the book compare to what the Bible says? For example, look together at the Ephesians 5 passage about marriage and why it is important. (Marriage is an earthbound illustration of the union of Christ and the church.) And what Jesus said about the nature of the marriage relationship in heaven in Matthew 22:30. (The marriage relationship is ended by death.) How does it compare with the ideas about marriage in Twilight? Look for the ways Bella relates to her father. Is it according to God’s command to children to obey their parents (Eph. 6:1; Col. 3:20)? Does she get away with her deceptions and repeated acts of disobedience? (Yes.) Is this consistent with the Bible’s teaching on the consequences of sin (Gal. 6:7)?

Talk about the gold standard for what God wants us to expose ourselves to: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things” (Phil. 4:8). Look for what is true and not true, noble and not noble, right and not right, etc. The books are not without statements and ideas that are true, noble, and right; the problem is that they are mixed in with even more compelling ideas that are false, ignoble, wrong, impure, unlovely, and shameful.

“As a man thinks in his heart, so is he” (Prov. 7:23). The things we think about by filling our minds and hearts will shape us. What are you filling your mind and heart with? Longing for the perfect lover that no human being can fulfill? Discontent with being human and wishing you could have supernatural powers? Will that serve you well?

Lia Carlile, a teacher at a Christian school in Washington State, offered these excellent critical thinking questions to help students think through Twilight or any other cultural phenomenon. Lia cites many Scriptures in her notes, which I highly recommend.{26}

Question 1 – Me and God

• How is this thing building my relationship with the Lord?

• How does my interest in this area compare with my time invested in my relationship with the Lord?

Question 2 – Me and the People Around Me

• Is this creating conflict in my family or with others?

• Does it offend other believers or is it confusing them in their faith?

• What am I saying to my non-Christian friends or what example am I setting for others?

Question 3 – The Bible

• What does the Bible have to say about this? Who does it glorify—God or Satan? Jesus or the things of the World?

Question 4 – Me and Twilight (or whatever applies)

• How is this affecting what I think about; my attitude, heart, and mind?

• Does it help me to do what is right according to God? Or, does it promote things of the world?

• Does it distract me from the Lord and my relationships with others? Serving, praying, reading Bible, ministry, etc.

• Does it cause me to say, think, or do things that are contrary to Jesus and his life?

Notes

1. www.stepheniemeyer.com/twilight.html

2. www.Twilightgear.net/Twilight-news-and-gossip/stephenie-meyer-reveals-details-of-new-dream-about-edward-cullen/2493, March 29, 2009.

3. Steve Wohlberg, “The Menace Behind Twilight,” SCP Journal: Vol. 32:2-33:3 (2009), p. 27.

4. Ibid., 28.

5. Ibid.

6. Personal conversation with the author, May 2010.

7. Michael O’Brien, “Twilight of the West,”www.studiobrien.com/writings_on_fantasy/Twilight-of-the-west.html

8. I am indebted to Steve Wohlberg’s article cited above for this insight.

9. Stephenie Meyer, Twilight (New York: Little, Brown and Co., 2005), 288.

10. Meyer, Twilight, 342.

11. Meyer, Twilight, 414.

12. http://www.truthinlovetomormons.com/basic_mormon_doctrine/doctrine/theo/fall.htm

13. www.stepheniemeyer.com/twilight_faq.html

14. “As God now is, man can become. As man now is, God once was.” James E. Talmadge, Articles of Faith (Salt Lake City, UT: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1976). See also Oscar W. McConkie, Jr., God and Man (Salt Lake City, UT: The Corporation of the Presiding Bishop, 1963), 5. Cited in Russ Wise, “Mormon Beliefs About the Bible and Salvation,” www.probe.org/mormon-beliefs-about-bible-salvation.

15. Stephenie Meyer, Eclipse (New York: Little, Brown and Co., 2007), 68.

16. Douglas Wilson has written a series of insightful reviews of Twilight at Credenda: www.credenda.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=author&id=64&Itemid=127

17. Lev Grossman, “Stephenie Meyer: A New JK Rowling?” TIME Magazine, April 24, 2008, www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1734838,00.html). Cited in Marcia Montenegro, “A Girl and Her Vampire: The Frenzy Over Twilight.” www.christiananswersforthenewage.org/Articles_Twilight.html

18. spesunica.wordpress.com/

19. bit.ly/9m4Nje

20. Meyer, Twilight, 268.

21. www.radicalparenting.com/2009/05/14/the-new-bible-Twilight-mini-article/

22. spesunica.wordpress.com/is-Twilight-anti-christian-yes/

23. bit.ly/aSKdWl/

24. I am indebted to the wisdom shown in the comment by Jae Stellari on spesunica.wordpress.com.

25. O’Brien, “Twilight of the West.”

26. www.ericbarger.com/twilight.carlile.pdf

© 2010 Probe Ministries


How to Talk to Your Kids About Evolution and Creation – What Kids Should Know About Evolution

Sue and Dr. Ray Bohlin bring decades of Christian worldview thinking and a PhD in science to the important topic of communicating a balanced rational position to our children and teenagers on questions that they will encounter in our society.

This article is the transcript of a Probe radio program the Bohlins recorded. Sue’s questions and comments are in italics, followed by Ray’s answers.

Problems with Evolutionary Theory

Why is there a problem with evolution in the first place? Someone once asked you, “What should I believe?” Remember what you told them?

Basically I said you should only believe what there is evidence for. After spending years studying evolution in bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral programs, I can tell you that, first of all, there is evidence for small changes in organisms as they adapt to small environmental fluctuations.

Second, there is evidence that new species do arise. We see new species of fruit flies, rodents, and even birds. But when the original species is a fruit fly, the new species is still a fruit fly. These processes do not tell us how we get horses and wasps and woodpeckers.

Third, in the fossil record, there are only a few transitions between major groups of organisms, like between reptiles and birds, and these are controversial, even among evolutionists. If evolutionary theory is correct, the fossil record should be full of them.

Fourth, there are no real evolutionary answers for the origin of complex adaptations like the tongue of the woodpecker; or flight in birds, mammals, insects, and reptiles; or the swimming adaptations in fish, mammals, reptiles, and the marine invertebrates. These adaptations appear in the fossil record with no transitions. And fifth, there is no genetic mechanism for these large-scale evolutionary changes. The theory of evolution from amoeba to man is an extrapolation from very meager data.

So the problem with evolution is that it is a mechanistic theory without a mechanism, and there is no evidence for the big changes from amoeba to man.

The Evolution of the Horse

I have our son’s eighth-grade biology textbook here. Every textbook, including this one, has a story about the evolution of the horse. It is always offered as proof of evolution. What do you say?

It does not prove much about evolution at all. David Raup, with the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, says:

“Well, we are now about 120 years after Darwin and the knowledge of the fossil record has been greatly expanded. We now have a quarter of a million fossil species but the situation hasn’t changed much. The record of evolution is still surprisingly jerky and, ironically, we have even fewer examples of evolutionary transitions than we had in Darwin’s time. By this I mean that some of the classic cases of darwinian change in the fossil record, such as the evolution of the horse in North America, have had to be discarded or modified as a result of more detailed information—what appeared to be a nice simple progression when relatively few data were available now appear to be much more complex and much less gradualistic. So Darwin’s problem has not been alleviated in the last 120 years and we still have a record which does show change but one that can hardly be looked upon as the most reasonable consequence of natural selection.”{1}

There is no chronological sequence of horse-like fossils. The story of the gradual reduction from the four-toed horse of 60 million years ago to the one-toed horse of today has been called pure fiction. All that can be shown is the transition from a little horse to a big one. This is not significant evolutionary change, and it still took some 60 million years. It does not say anything about how the horse evolved from a shrew-like mammal.

Homologous and Vestigial Organs

Homologous organs: What are they?

Homologous organs are organs or structures from different organisms that have the same or similar function. Evolutionists say this similarity is due to common ancestry. The important question is, Do these organs look and function the same because of common ancestry or because of a simple common design? In other words, do they look this way because they are related to one another, or were they designed to perform a similar function? Homology is not a problem for creationists; we have a different but reasonable explanation. It is the result of common design, not common ancestry.

What about vestigial organs, the ones that are supposedly left over from the evolutionary past? I remember being taught that the coccyx, the tailbone, is left over from when we were monkeys. And the appendix, same thing—we needed it when we were evolving, but we do not need it now. Vestigial organs are unused leftovers from our evolutionary past. Since we do not use them, they have diminished; they have become vestiges of their past function—according to evolutionary theory.

Yes, according to evolution. But we have discovered that these structures do have a function. The prime example is the one you mentioned, the tailbone. The coccyx serves as a point of attachment for several pelvic muscles. You would not be able to sit very well or comfortably without a tailbone.

The appendix was also long thought to be a vestigial organ, having absolutely no function within our bodies, but now we find it is involved in the immune system. It does have a function. It is true that you can live without it. However, as we learn more about the appendix, we realize that if it remains uninfected, it may be serving a very useful purpose.

So in other words, “vestigial organs” are not necessarily useless; we just may not have discovered what their role is.

Yes, very often we have called these things “vestigial” because we never bothered to investigate their function because of their reduced stature. Now we find that things like the coccyx and the appendix really do have a function. And if they have a function, then we cannot call them vestigial; they are not leftovers from our evolutionary past.

I am looking at pictures of embryos in this textbook that are very similar. The explanation given in the book is that they are similar because they have a common evolutionary ancestor. Obviously, this is being advanced as evidence of evolution. Is that what it is?

Definitely not. Embryological development does not follow the history of our evolutionary past. That idea was proven wrong 50 or 60 years ago. It is unfortunate that this error is still in the textbooks. Obviously, there are some similarities among species very early in embryological development; for instance, among mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and birds. That is because they all start from a single cell. As development progresses, they become less similar. That is exactly what you would expect from an evolutionist or creationist perspective.

The Early Atmosphere of the Earth

You know, I was pretty happy with how this particular textbook treated evolution. It does not even use the word evolution, and it treats it strictly as a matter of theory, not fact. But you came across another, newer high-school textbook that is stridently pro-evolution. I am concerned about some things I see in this chapter on the origin of life. It is talking about the earth’s early atmosphere, and this statement is in bold print (so the students know it’s going to be on the test, don’t you know!) <smile>

“The earth’s first atmosphere most likely contained water vapor, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide, nitrogen, hydrogen sulfide, and hydrogen cyanide.”

Then in the very next section it talks about Stanley Miller’s famous experiments in 1953. It says the atmosphere he was trying to recreate was made of ammonia, water, hydrogen, and methane. What is going on here?

This particular section is confusing at best and misleading at worst. Clearly they have described Miller’s classic experiment, but researchers today agree that the atmosphere used for that simulation did not exist. But yet Miller’s experiment produced results. If you use the atmosphere that the textbook describes as the real one, the results are much less significant. The textbook gives the impression that chemical evolution is easy to simulate. But this is far from the truth. One experimenter says:

At present, all discussions on principles and theories in the field [meaning the origin of life] either end in stalemate or in a confession of ignorance.{2}

But you would definitely not get that impression from reading this section of the book.

Phylogenetic Trees

I have another question. Here is this beautiful, tidy chart that shows how neatly different animals evolved from one common ancestor. This evolutionary tree has a crocodile-like animal at the bottom, and all these branches coming out from him, and we end up with turtles and snakes and reptiles and birds and mammals all descended from this one animal. Are we talking science fantasy here, or is there a problem with this evolutionary tree?

Evolutionary trees, or phylogenetic trees, are regularly misrepresented in high-school textbooks. The nice solid lines give the impression that there is plenty of evidence, plenty of fossils to document these transitions—but the transitions are not there. If we were to look at this same type of diagram in a college textbook, all those connecting lines—the transitions—would be dotted lines, indicating that we do not have the evidence to prove that these organisms are related. The transition is an assumption. They assume these organisms are related to each other, but the evidence is lacking. Stephen Gould, a paleontologist and evolutionist from Harvard, says,

“The extreme rarity of transitional forms in the fossil record persists as the trade secret of paleontology. The evolutionary trees that adorn our textbooks have data only at the tips and nodes of their branches. The rest is inference, however reasonable: not the evidence of fossils.”{3}

In other words, these charts make pretty pictures, but they’re not pictures of reality.

That’s correct.

Natural Selection and Speciation

In this same high-school biology text, I am looking at the chapter on evolution called “How Change Occurs.” The big heading for this section is “Evolution by Natural Selection.” Natural selection always seems to be linked inseparably to evolution. What is it?

Natural selection is a process where the organisms that are fit to survive and reproduce, do so at a greater rate than those that are less fit. It sounds circular, but it is a simple process, something you can easily observe in nature.

There are some pictures here of England’s famous peppered moths. Why do they keep showing up in science textbooks?

They keep showing up because the peppered moth was the first documented example of Darwin’s natural selection at work. There were two different color varieties of the same moth: a peppered variety and a dark black variety. The peppered variety was camouflaged on the bark of trees, but the black variety was conspicuous. As a result, the birds ate a lot of black moths. The most common variety, therefore, was the peppered variety. But then the bark of the trees turned dark or black because of pollution. Now the dark form was hidden, but the peppered variety stood out, so the birds ate up the peppered variety. The proportion of peppered moths to black moths shifted in response to the change in the environment.

So here was a change of frequency. At one time we had more peppered moths, and now we have more dark ones. A clear example of natural selection taking place. But the question is, Is this really evolution? I don’t think so. It just shows variety within a form. This does not tell me anything as a biologist and a geneticist about how we have come to have horses and wasps and woodpeckers.

When we are looking at peppered moths, we are dealing with natural selection within the same species. What about a whole new species; for example, Darwin’s Galapagos finches off the coast of Ecuador. Isn’t that an evidence of evolution?

Here is another area where we need to be careful. Speciation is indeed a real process, but speciation only means that two populations of a particular species can no longer interbreed. The two populations get separated by a geographical barrier such as a mountain range, and after a time they are no longer able to interbreed or to reproduce between themselves.

But all we have really done is split up the gene pool into two different, separate populations; if you want to call them different species, that’s fine. But even Darwin’s finches, although there are some changes in the shape and size of the bill, are clearly related to one another. Drosophila fruit flies on the Hawaiian Islands—there are over 300 species—probably originated from one initial species. But they look very much the same. The primary way to distinguish them is by their mating behavior.

There is a lot of variety within the organisms God created, and species can adapt to small changes in the environment. But there is a limit to how far that change can go. And the examples we have, like peppered moths and Darwin’s finches, show that very clearly.

Responding to Evolutionary Theory

You have given a creationist’s response to evolution in textbooks, but apart from the books there is a personal issue to deal with. How do you think Christian students ought to react when they get to evolution in a science curriculum in school?

First, don’t panic. This should not be a surprise; you knew it was going to come eventually. Second, understand that evolution is a very important idea in society today. It is important to know about it and to understand it. Try to explain it to your kids in that way. You do not have to believe it or accept it, but you need to understand it, know what people mean when they talk about evolution.

What about answering a question on a test?

Here it can get a little sticky. You may feel that you have to lie in order to give the answer the teacher wants. But I do not think that is the case at all. What you are doing is simply addressing the issue of evolution; you are showing that you understand it. You do not have to phrase your answer in such a way that says, “I believe this is the way it is.” It may come down to how you state your answer. But you are simply demonstrating your knowledge about evolution, not your acceptance of it.

It seems to me that when you show you understand the concept of evolution, you are demonstrating respect for the teacher and really for the theory too, as the prevalent theory of our day, without having to make a statement of, “Yes, I believe this!”

Sure. The concept of respect, I think, is extremely important, because you have to realize that as a middle-school or high-school student, you are dealing with teachers who have studied or taught evolutionary theory for many years. Their level of understanding is much deeper than yours. You cannot simply go in there and try to convince the class that the teacher is wrong, or that evolution is wrong; you need to play the role of a student. And the role of a student is to learn, to try to understand and comprehend the ideas being discussed. But you do not have to communicate in such a way that you appear to believe evolutionary theory.

I found this page in the textbook we have been looking at, right after the chapters on evolution. It is a message from the authors to the students. It says,

“Evolutionary theory unites all living things into one enormous family—from the tallest redwoods to the tiniest bacteria to each and every human on Earth. And, most importantly, the evolutionary history of life makes it clear that all living things—all of us—share a common destiny on this planet. If you remember nothing else from this course ten years from now, remember this, and your year will have been well spent.”{4}

I have never seen a message like this before, from the authors to the student. This textbook obviously has a very strong evolution bias.

Here we have to realize that what is being taught is not science anymore; this is a worldview. This is a statement of naturalism. Obviously, evolution is extremely important to the naturalistic worldview, and the authors are trying to communicate its significance. We are going to see more and more of this bias in textbooks.

Before Christian parents can talk to our kids about evolution, we first must have an understanding of evolution itself, as well as an understanding of the problems with it. We don’t need to be afraid of this powerful theory; we do, however, need discernment, in sifting through the rhetoric and distinguishing it from the truth about God’s world.

Genesis 1

Typically, if a child spends any time at all in Sunday school, he gets to the point where he realizes, “Hey, this doesn’t relate at all to what I’m learning in school!” Our hope is that we can help parents integrate the truth of Scripture with what is known about origins in the world. As Christians, our starting point for thinking about origins is Genesis 1: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” From that point on, though, there are a lot of different perspectives explaining the rest of the chapter.

That is true, and unfortunately it not only gets confusing for many of us, but it gets very confusing for many of the academics and the scholars as well. There are a number of different ways to interpret Genesis 1. Let me just run through three of the most prominent views among evangelicals today.

The first is the literal or the very recent creation account. Some people would call the proponents of this view “young earth creationists.” They believe that each of the six days of creation was a twenty-four hour period similar to our days today. These days were consecutive and in the recent past, probably ten to thirty thousand years ago. They hold that the flood was a world-wide and catastrophic event and that all the sedimentary layers were a result of Noah’s flood. All the fossils, therefore, are a result of the flood of Noah.

The second way of looking at Genesis 1 is the Day Age Theory, sometimes called Progressive Creation. Here, each of the six days of creation is a very long period of time, perhaps hundreds of millions of years. God would have created progressively through time, not all at once. The flood was a local event in Mesopotamia or perhaps even a world-wide, but tranquil flood. Therefore, the flood did not leave any great scars or sediments across the earth.

The third view understands Genesis 1 as a Literary Framework. This view suggests that Genesis 1 was not meant to communicate history. Peoples of the Ancient Near East used a similar literary device to describe a complete or perfect work; in this case, a perfect creation. God could have created using evolution or progressive creation; the point is that there is really no concordance between earth history and the days of Genesis 1.

We need to explain to our children the view that makes the most sense to us, but at the same time let them know that there is some disagreement between evangelicals. You may even be confused yourself, and it is okay to communicate to your children that you do not know, either, and that not knowing is all right. We need to give direction but leave the doors open for other options.

Can we know which one is the correct interpretation?

Creation is a mystery. We need to show respect, not only for the mystery, but also for those people holding different views. Evangelicals with backgrounds in Hebrew and Greek differ on their understanding of Genesis 1. So how can we expect a ten-year-old to grasp the problem and make an actual decision?

When we explain the creation account in Genesis 1, we need to communicate to our children that different scholars, all committed to the Bible as God’s Word, interpret Scripture differently. The important thing is that we stress that God created the earth, the universe, and every living thing, especially humans.

Early Human History

Now we are going to look at some specific issues that arise from Genesis in terms of early human history. Let’s start with Adam and Eve. Were they real people?

This is a very important question, and I think it is one that most evangelical scholars can agree on. Adam and Eve were real people, and almost all evangelical scholars agree that they were created by God. The reason is that this is the one creation event where God gives us details as to how He went about it. When He created the other mammals and the sea creatures and the birds, He made them or He created them or He formed them, but we are given details about Adam and Eve’s creation. We are told how God did it. Adam was formed from dust, and Eve was created from a rib taken out of Adam’s side. It is clear that humans do not have an evolutionary origin.

What about australopithecines, those supposed ape-like human ancestors?

Australopithecines most likely are simply extinct apes. Some quibble as to whether they walked upright and therefore may have been on their way to developing into human beings, but even if they did walk upright, that is not a real problem. They are still extinct apes, and they really had no human qualities whatsoever. There is a very good book that you may want to look at called Bones of Contention. There are a couple of books called Bones of Contention, but this is a recent one by Marvin Lubenow. Lubenow goes into great detail about the actual fossil finds—what they mean, where they fit—all from a creationist’s perspective, and he does a very good job. He talks about the fact that human remains seem to span the whole era of supposed human evolution from four million years ago to the present, and that even the one particular type of fossil called homo erectus covers a very broad range. Homo erectus does not really fit where he is supposed to, and the fossils seem to contradict evolutionary theory rather than support it.

There is one more question that keeps coming up again and again. Where did Cain’s wife come from?

In some ways it is surprising that this question seems to be so perplexing to people, but in another way I really understand it. Clearly, Cain married a sister. We react against that idea today because of the many laws we have today concerning incestuous relationships. We have laws against incest because the children that result from that type of relationship are often afflicted with a genetic disease. This is because all of us carry detrimental recessive genes within our chromosomes. Closely related family members may carry similar if not the same set of recessive genes. When we marry within the family, those recessives can pair up and result in a child who is genetically handicapped. But in the original creation, there was no such problem. These were the originally created beings, there were no genetic mutations to worry about.

When it comes to human origins, the Bible gives no room for anything other than God’s personal fashioning of Adam and Eve. It is the fact that God personally created mankind that gives us such intrinsic value.

Noah’s Flood

The flood of Noah is extremely important because several New Testament teachings depend on it. The Lord Jesus told us that the time right before He returns will be just like it was in the days before the flood. Peter reminds us that God’s judgment fell once on the earth and He has promised to do it again. If the first judgment was not real, what are we to think of the second one?

But all too often what comes to mind when we think of Noah’s flood is the image of a cute little round boat with the heads of fluffy sheep and tall giraffes and friendly elephants sticking out of it. We think of it as a harmless bedtime story like Cinderella or Scuffy the Tugboat, a remnant of childhood Bible lessons and storybook times. Did the flood of Noah really happen?

We are talking about an historical event and one that is very serious. It is spoken of in Genesis in a historical narrative. But evangelicals do disagree as to just how it happened. There are basically three different views.

One is the universal catastrophic flood account, where the flood was a world-wide event. It did indeed cover all the high mountains at that time, and it was catastrophic—lots of tidal waves and breaking up of the fountains of the great deep.

The other view is that the flood was universal—it covered the whole earth—but it was a tranquil event and probably did not leave any scars or sediments on the earth.

And the third view is that the flood was just in the Mesopotamian area. Since its intent was to destroy mankind, and mankind had not spread very far, the flood only had to cover the Mesopotamian area. Again, as with the creation account, we need to tell our kids what our conviction is. What do we think about it? And again, if you are not certain, if you are not sure about your view, go ahead and communicate your uncertainty as well. It is okay to be uncertain about some of these things; scholars do not really know everything about them, either. And we have to be ready to realize that the kids might not even like our particular interpretation, or they may have heard things in school, Sunday school, or church that may differ with our view. But it is okay to give our kids a little bit of room on these kinds of issues.

With all of these different interpretations of the flood, what can we feel safe telling our children? What is the point of the flood? What is the bottom line of this event?

The purpose of the flood of Noah was to destroy mankind as it existed at that time. Where scholars differ is just how far mankind had spread. Some suggest that the human population may only have been a couple hundred thousand, so they may have been contained in the Mesopotamian area. But if humans had been around for four or five thousand years, and they had a chance to multiply and grow, there may have been several millions or tens of millions of people spread across the earth. That may be why some suggest that, in order to destroy mankind, the flood had to be universal. But we still do not know whether the flood was a catastrophic or a tranquil event, and so there is some room for discussion. I think all these different theories are helpful because they allow us to investigate God’s Word to the best of our ability and try to determine what it really means.

There is one view of the flood—the universal catastrophic flood model—that has really captured the attention of much of the Christian community. Several organizations propose this model. In fact, you spent a couple of weeks in the Grand Canyon with one of these organizations investigating the flood model for the formation of the canyon. We want to address a few specifics about this catastrophic model of the flood of Noah. Would you give just a brief outline of this model?

This catastrophic model definitely suggests a very different scenario than the cute animals or the little round boat. We are talking about the breaking up of the fountains of the great deep and huge amounts of water rocking back and forth across the earth. The young earth creationists suggest that most of the sedimentary layers were formed during the flood. Most of the fossils that we find in those sedimentary layers, therefore, would have been laid down as a result of the flood of Noah. There should also be evidence around the earth of the catastrophic formation of all these sedimentary layers.

How close to the truth is this model? Does it explain everything?

There are a lot of things that it does explain. There is evidence for catastrophic origin for most, if not all, sedimentary layers. Organisms seem to require a very rapid burial in order for them to be formed as fossils. But there are problems with this model as well, and I think it is important that we recognize what those are. For instance, all the different types of sediment would have to be the result of just one event, a catastrophic flood. When we look at these sedimentary layers, we have sandstone, limestone, mudstone, shale—all different types of rocks—but they all would have had to come from the same event, and that is a bit of a problem. The majority of Christian geologists believe that the strata are due to other events like river floods, deposits from big storms or hurricanes that occurred periodically or, in some cases regarding the sandstones, even desert sand dunes. While the catastrophic model is a captivating idea, I do not see a need to force ourselves to accept it or reject it at this time.

There is a lot of work to be done concerning this model. If you have a curious, science-oriented child, why not encourage him or her to pursue a career in science and become a part of the group that tries to investigate it?

Cavemen

Another question the kids are often curious about: Where do cavemen fit into the Bible?

Most creationists believe cavemen were the early survivors of the flood. Remember, if the purpose of the flood was to destroy mankind, then most of these fossils would be individuals who survived the flood or lived soon afterwards. Cro-Magnon man and Neanderthal man, and probably even fossils described as homo erectus, are all post-flood humans, descendants of Noah’s three sons. The so-called primitive characteristics could be due to genetic in-breeding, faulty diets, and life in a harsh environment.

Racial Differences

Where do the different races come from? If we are all descended from one couple, Adam and Eve, why are there different colors of skin?

Races would have originated with Noah’s three sons and their wives. Several sets of genes produce the wide variety of skin color present in the current population. It is not difficult at all to envision genetically-similar populations becoming isolated after the flood and being the progenitors of the different races. Much of this genetic variability may have been contained in Noah’s sons’ wives, arising from genetic segregation that took place since the creation of Adam and Eve. Adam and Eve were probably people of intermediate skin color with most, if not all, of the genetic variability present in their genes.

Dinosaurs

We cannot talk about explaining creation to our kids without addressing the inevitable question of the dinosaurs. Where do dinosaurs fit into the Bible?

There is no question that kids today, particularly boys, are really enamored of dinosaurs. The answer depends on what your approach is.

If you are approaching creation from an old earth perspective, then the dinosaurs have been extinct for seventy or so million years and there is no reason to expect them to be mentioned in the Bible at all. Men and dinosaurs never existed together.

If, however, you are approaching creation from a young earth model, where everything was created in the fairly recent past, then dinosaurs must have existed at the same time as man because they were created on the same day, only ten to thirty thousand years ago. And that raises the question as to whether Noah took dinosaurs on the ark.

It is difficult to imagine a brontosaurus getting on the ark, and most creationists answer that by suggesting he probably did not take adult dinosaurs on the ark, just juveniles or small babies. The extinction of the dinosaurs then was probably due to the flood. Even if Noah did take some on the ark, apparently the climate and ecology of the earth had changed dramatically as the result of the flood and they were not able to survive following the flood.

But it also raises the very distinct possibility that some dinosaurs may still exist in small, isolated pockets around the world. I do not want to add too much credence to this, but there are very intriguing stories—and I just want to call them stories for right now, not fact—from the Congo of different kinds of dinosaurs being reported by villagers and even some missionaries seeing very large reptile-like creatures out in the swamps. We have cave paintings from South America of dinosaur-like creatures. We have legends from all over the world about dragons, in China and the East and in Europe during the Middle Ages. We seem to have it in our heads that big reptiles are out there somewhere. It is a lot easier to think of them as being left-overs from the flood rather than having existed in small pockets for sixty or so million years since they became extinct in an evolutionary perspective. It is also feasible that dinosaurs could be mentioned in the Bible.

You mean under a different name?

Yes. For instance, Job 40 talks of a creature called “behemoth” in verses 15 to 24. He feeds on grass, he has strength in his loins,

What we have tried to do in this discussion is help parents understand the biblical accounts of creation in the early earth so that they can explain it to their children. Although we have presented a few options instead of absolutes, we can still tell our kids that God is the Creator and Sustainer of all things, and that the flood was a real event, although some of the details of how these things happened may escape us at this time. This approach allows us to communicate clear biblical truth while at the same time encouraging a child’s curiosity and desire to investigate God’s world. This is our Father’s world, and it delights Him when His children want to discover it and search out the mysteries of the past, of history, of His story.

Notes

1. David Raup, “Conflicts Between Darwin and Palentology,” Field Museum of Natural History Bulletin, vol. 30, no. 1 (1979): 25.
2. Kraus Dose, “The Origin of Life: More Questions Than Answers,” Interdisciplinary Science Review 13 (1988): 348-56.
3. Stephen J. Gould, The Panda’s Thumb (New York: Norton, 1980), 181.
4. Kenneth Miller and Joseph Levine, Biology (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1991), 335.

© 1993 Probe Ministries

See Also:

Pictures and Account of Ray and Sue Bohlin’s Visit to the Galapagos Islands
All the Probe articles on Origins