Providential Preservation

The Florida Department of Education is promoting Celebrate Literacy Week, Florida! It is an effort to highlight the advantages of reading. As a Christian I understand the importance of literacy, especially biblical literacy.

The trustworthiness of the Bible is under constant attack from its critics. The skeptics may dissuade some from reading it, so to promote biblical literacy I offer the following.

A criticism commonly levied against the Bible is, after several millennia of transcription and translation how do we know the Scriptures are accurately preserved? How do we know what God said then is what we read now?

At the outset, I want to make what I believe is a salient point. It is only natural to assume that any writing if copied repeatedly for 3500 years, the first 3000 by hand, and translated from one language to another should contain a multitude of mistakes. If, on the other hand, that same writing can be shown to be remarkably free of error and transcribed with uncommon exactitude, then one must consider God not only inspired such a work, but also played an active role in preserving it.

In the twenty-second chapter of Matthew beginning in verse twenty-three, the Sadducees confront Jesus. They do not believe in the resurrection and relate a story they think disproves it. Jesus explains their argument is not valid and then in verse thirty-two gives a simple argument for the afterlife.

Jesus quotes Exodus 3:6 where God speaks to Moses and declares, “I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob,” and offers the following interpretation, “He is not the God of the dead but of the living.”

Jesus’ point is this, when God spoke to Moses, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had been dead for over 400 years. Yet, God referred to them in the present tense, “I am.” If God is referring to them in the present tense, even if their bodies are dead, their spirits are live in some real sense and in His care. This silenced the Sadducees.

Follow me carefully. Moses wrote Exodus and the rest of the Pentateuch 1500 years before Christ in Hebrew. The rest of the Old Testament canon followed and was translated into Greek about 200 B.C. and became known as the Septuagint. Jesus’ life and ministry are recorded in the Gospels and are joined by the rest of New Testament during the first century A.D., which is also written in Greek. In the fourth century Jerome translates the Bible into Latin. Many of the early English translations can find their origins in the Latin Vulgate. Since the first English Bible was printed, the English language has undergone at least five revisions.

Here is my point. After 3500 years of transcription and translation the tense of a verb has not changed. If it had Jesus’s reasoning regarding the resurrection would have be inscrutable.
“The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever,” Isaiah 40:8.

Kelvin Cochran

Atlanta Mayor Kaseem Reed fired Kelvin Cochran about two weeks ago as Atlanta’s Fire Chief. Cochran published a book he wrote titled, Who Told You That You Are Naked?. He passed several of the books out to his co-workers. The book said sins such as adultery, bestiality, and homosexuality are “sexual perversions” and “vulgar.” Mayor Reed said Cochran was not fired for his religious beliefs, but because he did not have permission to write the book and pass it out.

An investigation was conducted on Cochran and determined he had not discriminated against any of his subordinates based on his beliefs. Cochran disputes whether he had permission to write and distribute his book. He is currently speaking with his attorneys as to whether or not he will challenge his firing in court. It would seem his freedom of religion and speech were infringed upon. How free can speech be if you have to get permission to write a book?

If Cochran did not discriminate against anyone then this is just a concern over what he has written and said. This is what free speech is about what we say and write. No one has been harmed by what he wrote, they just do not like it. Some may have got their feelings hurt, but no one was fired or treated ill, except Kelvin Cochran.

In the latter part of Leviticus chapter 18 God calls adultery, bestiality, and homosexuality abominations. Christians believe any sexual act apart from a man and a woman in a marital covenant is a perversion of the sex act. We believe that because it is clearly stated in the Scriptures. We are not going to change what we think and what we believe just because we are called names and people are mean to us.

When the men of Sodom surrounded Lot’s house and demanded he bring them out the two men so they could have sex with them, Lot said, “Please, my brothers, do not act wickedly,” Genesis 19:7. The men of Sodom were enraged an replied, “Stand aside…This one came in as an alien, and already he is acting like a judge; now we will treat you worse than them,” Genesis 19:9.

What we see here and in Atlanta is not a call for tolerance or equality, something that is being denied to Kelvin Cochran. The LGBT community wants to be treated like their behavior is normal. They do not want to be called wicked or perverse. They may have gotten the right to marry, I do not think they will manage to gag the public, freedom of speech and freedom of religion have a long history in America.

The Expendables

This coming Thursday, January 22, 2015, is the forty-second anniversary of the landmark Roe v. Wade decision handed down by the Supreme Court of the United States. Since then it is estimated that more than fifty-six million babies have been aborted. This figure is more than nine times the number who died in the Nazi-inspired Holocaust. This is why some refer to abortion as the American Holocaust.

The basic philosophy underlining the Court’s decision is the fetus is not legally considered a person until birth and is not afforded legal protection of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. Advances in medical science have made huge strides in neo-natal care challenging the limits of ex utero viability and the advent of sonograms have put a decidedly human face on the developing baby in the womb. For these reasons, the incidence of abortion is on the decline. But a new threat looms.

Francesca Minerva, at the University of Melbourne and Oxford University, and Alberto Giubilini with the University of Milan, published a paper in January of 2012 in the Journal of Medical Ethics entitled After-birth abortion: why should the baby live? My first thought was, why ask why?

Their premise has three points. First, “Both fetuses and newborns do not have the same moral status as actual persons.” Second, “The fact that both are potential persons is morally irrelevant.” And last, “After-birth abortion (killing a newborn) should be permissible in all cases were abortion is, including cases where the newborn is not disabled.” You read that right.

The authors write “having a child can itself be an unbearable burden for the psychological health of the woman or for her already existing children.” Are we really expected to believe that adding to the family will create irreparable psychological trauma? These are supposed to be professors teaching ethics. I would think the proper teaching of ethics would be to condemn murder, not formulate a specious argument to condone it.

It would be easy to dismiss such papers as ridiculous drivel, but these are educated people who are discussing whether or not it is ethically moral to kill a newborn. Many feared acceptance of abortion would place the sanctity of life on a slippery slope, but the truth is these authors suggest it is okay to throw newborns over the bridge railing in much the same way John Jonchuck threw his five year old daughter into the Tampa Bay.

Christians hold life sacred. The psalmist has written, “Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; and in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them,” Psalm 139:16.

I suppose I was aware there are those who viewed human life in such cold, utilitarian terms. But I never thought such ideas would be given a public hearing, or serious consideration. I never thought newborns would be considered expendables.

Just Some Thoughts

The Christian worldview is under constant attack. These attacks span the spectrum from silly to hateful. The atheistic affirmation that God does not exist is silly because of the logical impossibility of proving a negative. The argument goes something like this, if something does not exist, the evidence of its non-existence is equally non-existent. I think this is why the Scriptures declare, “The fool has said in His heart, ‘There is no God,’” Psalm 14:1.

This is why many atheists move on to agnosticism. Agnostics claim they do not know if God exists because there is no evidence of His existence. It is a clever twist on atheism. The fly in that particular ointment is no knowledge of anything’s existence does not mean it does not exist. I am sure our universe contains worlds unknown to us and yet to be discovered, but though they are undiscovered they still exist. Just because God has not proven Himself to the agnostic, does not mean He has not proven Himself to others.

The truth is you will not find what you are not looking for. The Father has clearly said, “You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart,” Jeremiah 29:13. If one is not looking for God, he will not find Him. God does not reveal Himself to the convinced, but to the contrite. We cannot see the hand of God in His creation until we behold Him by faith. It is just the way God has set things up. We are told “without faith it is impossible to please Him,” Hebrews 11:6. He reveals Himself most clearly to those who please Him.

I embrace what God has revealed to us in Scripture as opposed to the reasoning of man because man is imperfect and his ability to reason is subsequently imperfect and flawed. I know that any argument raised against the truth revealed in the Scriptures is flawed because it is an argument against truth; all I need to do is search for the mistake.

Any truth whether those revealed to us in creation or the Scriptures is not dependent on the outcome of any debate. Truth is independent of anything we can think, say, or do. Mere arguments persuade very few people, but the Christian has something more than an argument, he has an experience. Since I gave my life to Christ at the age of eight, I have a relationship with the living God. I am now sixty-two and during those fifty-four years I have experienced the presence of God in my life.

God is not a figment of my imagination and my experiences of His presence in my life are not a host of hallucinations. Since I embraced Jesus Christ as my Savior by faith, God has not failed to reveal to me His presence throughout my walk with Him, and that is not something mere words can take away.

Speaking the Truth in Love

Thom Rainer is the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. A couple of years ago he wrote an article titled What Non-Christians Really Think About Christians. He interviewed unbelievers to get their perspectives of Christians. I will share one of these comments followed by an anonymous quote that highlights the observation.

Christians are against more things than they are for. “It just seems to me that Christians are mad at the world and mad at each other. They are so negative that they seem unhappy. I have no desire to be like them and stay upset all the time.”

In some respects we are guilty as charged. Over the centuries and even today Christians, or at least those who claim to be, have said and done some of the most stupid things in the name of Christ. We need to be more understanding of those who do not know Christ as we do
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This past week some in the Christian community got upset when astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson tweeted on Christmas Day, “On this day long ago, a child was born who, by age 30, would transform the world. Happy Birthday Isaac Newton b. Dec 25, 1642.” Those Christians who were angered by this are missing two important points. First, this statement is true, and second; Sir Isaac Newton was one of the greatest Christians to have ever lived. I saw this as a great opportunity to tweet Neil Tyson, “@neiltyson Thank you for reminding us that one can be both a great scientist and a great Christian.”

We get a bad rap from those who in ignorance misrepresent what we actually do believe, and those antagonists who mock and mischaracterize our intentions, but do we have to add fuel to the fire by acting insulted at every trifle. Christians need to wake up and smell the coffee and quit taking the bait. Non-believers will act like non-believers until they become believers, and it is a waste of our time and energy getting upset with them. Jesus taught us to “love our enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” Matthew 5:44. That is not just a Christian cliché; it is a command.

While I am at it let me say something about persecution. When we are ridiculed for our faith it is a form of persecution, but before we whine about it let us remember it is nothing in comparison to what our first century brothers and sisters were subjected to, or what our fellow believers experience today in China where they are politically oppressed, and in Africa and Islamic nations where they are often tortured and martyred for their faith.

We are to defend what we believe, but not in a mean and hateful way. He are called to speak “the truth in love,” the truth that man is a sinner and lost without Christ will be offensive enough.