The Decline of Biblical Authority

In a recent article Why So Many Churches Hear So Little of the Bible Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr. laments the decline of biblical authority in our churches. He writes, “Indeed, in many churches there is very little reading of the Bible in worship.”

For a country that was founded on biblical principles and the consensus of a Christian worldview, we have witnessed a rapid retreat from the acceptance of biblical authority as our rule for life, and a corresponding decline in biblical literacy. Is it fair to say this is because the reading of Scripture is no longer an integral part of most church worship services?

There was a time when Bible reading was an integral and important part of a Christian worship service. During the first fourteen hundred years of the Church Bibles were transcribed by hand making few available and for the common man unaffordable. The only access a poor man had to the Word of God was when it was read in church. That changed around 1439.

When Johann Gutenberg invented his printing press with movable type the ability to mass produce all sorts of written material exploded. Books that had been scarce and expensive became available and affordable. Chief among these was the Bible. The Gutenberg Bible rolled off the press around 1454 and was the first major book printed.

Technology has not slowed down. There is a Bible app available for smart phones with 39 English versions of the Scriptures, and it’s a free download. Talk about availability and affordability. I call it a “Bible on my belt.” There has never been a time in human history that the Word of God has been more available and affordable. So, if the Scriptures have slipped from their place of influence it is not because they are not being read in church, or their inaccessibility; they simply are not being read.

The lack of biblical literacy is apparent in the comments you hear or read. “My god would not do this” or “my god would do that,” and the list goes on. This god many speak of is the one they have fabricated in their own mind, a god they have imagined, because their god is nothing like the God who reveals Himself in the Bible. Instead of believing they are created in the image of God, they create a god in their image.

Moses declared, “Know therefore today, and take it to your heart, that the Lord, He is God in heaven above and on the earth below; there is no other,” Deuteronomy 4:39. The reason people worship the god of their imagination is because they have rejected the God of revelation, the God of the Bible. I agree with Dr. Mohler there has been a decline in biblical authority and literacy, but I think those who do not read God’s Word out of church, will not listen to it being read in church.

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A Biblical Perspective on Global Warming

Although the Bible clashes with some scientific theories, I think many would be surprised at how many times the Bible agrees with science.

Scientists say before the Big Bang there was nothing, or they do not know what existed. That makes sense; if the Big bang was the beginning of everything, then before everything existed there must have been nothing. The Bible says God called “into being that which does not exist,” Romans 4:17. Christians believe the universe was created by God ex nihilo. Ex nihilo is a Latin phrase meaning “from nothing.”

According to physicists the Big Bang was a tremendous release of energy that resulted in the creation of the universe. One of the byproducts of expended energy is light. The Big Bang sounds similar to the Creation narrative where God said, “Let there be light; and there was light,” Genesis 1:3.

Scientists said the Big Bang happened 13.7 billion years ago, but recently changed that to 13.81 billion years ago. That means their first theory was wrong and they did not know how old the universe was then. But even the new figure is an estimate based on a host of factors remaining constant for the last 13.81 billion years. Since it is reasonably possible things have not remained constant, including scientists’ theories, I am inclined to believe they do not really know when it began. I am sure God knows when He created the universe, but He’s not saying, just that He was there to make it happen.

Theoretical physicist Dr. Lawrence Krauss of Arizona State University says all of the matter in the universe came into existence within three minutes after the Big Bang. That’s fast. It makes you wonder why the Bible says it took God six days. But God was busy doing other things besides making matter, like creating every living thing.

Scientists say the earth is getting warmer. It is a fact that global temperatures are hotter than they were just a few hundred years ago during the Little Ice Age, which according to NASA occurred from about 1550 to 1850 AD. The planet is warmer presumably because of industrial emissions and automobile exhaust, etcetera. But the temperatures today are barely warmer than they were during the Medieval Warm Period from 950 to 1250 AD. A thousand years ago the planet was as warm as it is now without factories and cars. It may be an inconvenient truth that we have nothing to do with global warming.

I do not know if mankind can destroy itself, but I do not believe that is how things will end. Science and the Bible agree that the universe as we know it will come to an end. Scientists don’t know when, and again God is not saying, but He has told us “the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat,” 2 Peter 3:12. It looks like global warming is going to get us after all.

The Kiss Seen Around the Nation

It was the kiss seen around the nation. When Michael Sam became the 249th draft pick in the seventh and final round of the National Football League, the media erupted in a feeding frenzy to video his celebratory kiss with his boyfriend. There were more instant replays of that kiss than a Super Bowl touchdown, and it was orchestrated better than most halftime shows thanks to the media and the NFL. That’s because Sam is the first openly gay draft pick in the history of the game.

This darling debutant of the draft was applauded by the President, praised by Oprah, celebrated by the league, and has become an overnight media sensation. Without attending his first practice and unproven as a professional, he has garnered several commercial endorsements. But not everyone is cheering.

Matt Walsh is not impressed. He said, “if you do anything less than fall to your knees weeping tears of jubilation that a man who is sexually attracted to men was picked to play a game for a living you’re a homophobe.” He is not lying. The homosexual agenda began with a call for tolerance, but has predictably devolved into heterophobic and intolerant rants and sanctions for anyone who disagrees with their lifestyle. Ask Don Jones of the Miami Dolphins, so much for tolerance.

Picked late in the final round, the gay community is already saying it is because of his open stand on homosexuality, but others are saying it is the only reason he was picked at all. The latter seems to be the case when you consider Sam has another first under his belt. He is the first final round draft pick handed commercial endorsements without even setting foot on a practice field.

Matt Walsh is insightful when he writes, “In the Visa spot, Sam insists that he only wants to be judged for what he does on the field. A fine sentiment, but one that would have been easily accomplished had he not gone to great lengths to be applauded for what he does in the bedroom.”

Comparisons are unavoidable. Tim Tebow was slapped down by the media and the NFL for being openly Christian, but Michael Sam is celebrated and called heroic by the media and the NFL for being openly gay. What has become of our nation, a country that once boasted being founded on a Christian consensus and biblical principles?

Isaiah warns us, “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil,” Isaiah 5:20. God does not warn us about the evil of sinful practices because He wants to deprive us of pleasure; He warns us because some pleasures have terrible consequences, now and later. I am afraid when it comes to homosexuality in our current culture, we are no better than Belshazzar; we cannot read the handwriting on the wall either.

Is Heaven for Real?

Just before turning four years old, Colton Burpo almost dies from appendicitis. While undergoing emergency surgery, he has an out-of-body, near death experience. He says he went to heaven. In a book entitled Heaven is for Real, his experience is recorded and has now been made into a movie.

The book and the movie have become a controversy. Some doubt Colton’s account and dismiss it as an anesthesia-induced hallucination. Others think Todd Burpo, Colton’s father, who related the story to Lynn Vincent for publication, may be exploiting his son’s imagination. What’s a Christian to think?

I read the book and saw the movie. The movie is not entirely consistent with the substance or scope of Colton’s experience as related in the book, but gives a fair account of it. And to be honest Colton’s account is not entirely consistent in substance and scope with what the Bible says about heaven, but it is not entirely inconsistent either.

Colton is not the first person to have an out-of-body, near death experience. There are a host of accounts that are similar to Colton’s. The specifics vary and may be questionable, but there are aspects of these experiences that are not easily dismissed, such as the ability to recount factual events at different times and in different places that are humanly impossible to know. If nothing else, these accounts raise the question of a spiritual realm and an afterlife.

Colton is not the first believer (he is older now and his father says he has an unshakable faith) to have a supernatural experience. They are recorded from Genesis to Revelation, from Abraham to John. And the list of people who experience spiritual encounters continues throughout the history of the church.

While I cannot say Scripture validates every particular of Colton’s account, he said he met Jesus, and family and friends who have went on before. Of the things the Bible promises, these two hold my greatest longings, to see Jesus, and be reunited with loved ones forever. Certainly, this is not unbiblical.

In his book Why I Believe, the late Dr. D. James Kennedy in the chapter on Hell recounts the story of a man who visited hell during a near death experience. Near death experiences are not always pleasant. I share this because the Bible also speaks of hell. In fact, the Scriptures teach it is our default destination if we refuse to repent and trust Christ.

A rich man in agony cries out to Abraham to send Lazarus to warn the rich man’s brothers about the horrors of hell. Abraham told him, “They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them,” Luke 16:29. Near death experiences are very subjective; when it comes to spiritual realities we should heed Abraham’s advice and trust the Scriptures. I believe heaven and hell are for real, not because of Colton Burpo or anyone else. I believe, because I believe the Bible.

It Wasn’t Botched

Recently the State of Oklahoma executed Clayton Lockett. It was handled poorly. Lockett resisted being restrained and had an “electric shock administered” to achieve compliance. This may have damaged the vein where the needle was inserted for the lethal injection. Apparently it collapsed. They then had the needle inserted in the groin area, but there were not enough lethal drugs left to administer another dose. Nevertheless, Lockett died from a heart attack (evidently he received a deadly dose despite the collapsed vein) fifty-one minutes into the procedure.

Lockett had been convicted of shooting and then helping bury Stephanie Nieman alive, a nineteen-year-old, who died. His attorney Madeline Cohen criticized the Oklahoma Department of Corrections for “using an invasive and painful method, an IV line in his groin.” Death penalty foes are screaming “cruel and unusual punishment,” and the White House said “the process fell short of humane standards.” Many are saying the execution was botched.

The Fifth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States says, in part, a person shall not “be deprived the right to life…without due process of law.” The Eighth Amendment prohibits the infliction of “cruel and unusual punishments.” Both of these Amendments were adopted at the same time as part of the first Ten Amendments known collectively as the Bill of Rights. It is logically inconceivable that the framers considered capital punishment cruel and unusual. The death penalty is not inherently unconstitutional.

The trier of the facts, a jury of his peers, found Clayton Lockett guilty of murder. The trier of the law, the judge in the case, sentenced him to a legal punishment for his crime. That is what we call “due process” in America.

I do not know if there is a painless or humane way to administer the death penalty, but legally speaking there is no constitutional requirement for it to be painless or humane. I am not saying we should torture felons to death, but hangings, electrocution, and lethal injections, while possibly painful and inhumane, are not considered unusual forms of execution in human history.

After the Flood when Noah disembarked from the Ark, God commanded him, “Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed, for in the image of God He made man,” Genesis 9:6. God instituted the death penalty at the reestablishment of civilization, for the wellbeing of society, and the administration of justice lost by humanity before the Flood. Society is responsible to its citizens to protect them from murderers by the administration of justice. While the death penalty may be painful and inhumane, it is still necessary if we want to maintain justice.

The express purpose of an execution is to apply the death penalty in the furtherance of the administration of justice. Clayton Lockett died for his crimes; it may have been handled poorly, but his execution wasn’t botched.