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*C.S. Lewis and 8 Reasons for Believing in Objective Morality

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The cornerstone of the moral argument is the existence of an objective moral standard. If there really is a standard of right and wrong that holds true regardless of our opinions and emotions, then the moral argument has the ability to convince. However, apart from the existence of such an objective standard, moral arguments for God’s existence (and Christian theism) quickly lose their persuasive power and morality as a whole falls to the realm of subjective preference. Although I could say a fair amount about what the world would be like if morality really was a matter of preference (consider The Purge), the purpose of this article is to provide reasons for believing in objective morality (or “moral realism,” as philosophers call it).

Because of his continued focus on the objective nature of morality throughout his writings, and due to his unique ability to communicate and defend this concept in a clear and compelling manner, I will rely heavily on the thought of C. S. Lewis below. As I’ve read through a number of Lewis’s books, I’ve identified eight arguments he raises in favor of objective morality. Below is my attempt to list these eight arguments and offer a few thoughts of my own concerning each.

1)    Quarreling between two or more individuals. [1] When quarreling occurs, individuals assume there is an objective standard of right and wrong, of which each person is aware and one has broken. Why quarrel if no objective standard exists? 

By definition, quarreling (or arguing) involves trying to show another person that he is in the wrong. And as Lewis indicates, there is no point in trying to do that unless there is some sort of agreement as to what right and wrong actually are, just like there is no sense in saying a football player has committed a foul if there is no agreement about the rules of football. [2]

2)    It’s obvious that an objective moral standard exists. [3] Throughout history, mankind has generally agreed that “the human idea of decent behavior [is] obvious to everyone.” [4] For example, it’s obvious (or self-evident) that torturing a child for fun is morally reprehensible. 

As the father of two children, a daughter who is five and a son who is three, I have noticed that even my young children recognize that certain things are obviously right or wrong. For example, while watching a show like PJ Masks, my children can easily point out the good characters as well as the bad ones – even without my help. In short, the overwhelming obviousness that certain acts are clearly right or wrong indicates that an objective moral standard exists.

3)    Mistreatment. [5] One might say he does not believe in objective morality, however, the moment he is mistreated he will react as if such a standard exists. When one denies the existence of an objective standard of behavior, the moment he is mistreated, “he will be complaining ‘It’s not fair!’ before you can say Jack Robinson.” [6] 

Sean McDowell relays an example of this when he shares a story involving J. P. Moreland taking the stereo of a University of Vermont student who denied the existence of objective morality in favor of moral relativism. As Moreland was sharing the gospel with the university student, the student responded by saying he (Moreland) couldn’t force his views on others because “everything is relative.” Following this claim, in an effort to reveal what the student really believed about moral issues, Moreland picked up the student’s stereo from his dorm room and began to walk down the hallway, when the student suddenly shouted, “Hey, what are you doing? You can’t do that!” [7] 

Again, one might deny the existence of an objective standard of behavior through his words or actions, but he will always reveal what he really believes through his reactions when mistreated. (Note: Here at moralapologetics.com, we do not recommend you go around and mistreat others, as that wouldn’t be a moral way to do apologetics. See what I did there? Rather, we are simply bringing up the mistreatment issue as a way of exposing a deep flaw within moral relativism.)

4)    Measuring value systems. [8] When an individual states that one value system is better than another, or attempts to replace a particular value system with a better one, he assumes there is an objective standard of judgment. This objective standard of judgment, which is different from either value system, helps one conclude that one value system conforms more closely to the moral standard than another. Without some sort of objective measuring stick for value systems, there is no way to conclude that civilized morality, where humans treat one another with dignity and respect, is better than savage morality, where humans brutally murder others, even within their own tribe at times, for various reasons. 

To illustrate this point, Lewis says, “The reason why your idea of New York can be truer or less true than mine is that New York is a real place, existing quite apart from what either of us thinks. If when each of us said ‘New York’ each means merely ‘The town I am imagining in my own head,’ how could one of us have truer ideas than the other? There would be no question of truth or falsehood at all.” [9] In the same way, if there is no objective moral standard, then there is no sense in saying that any one value system has ever been morally good or morally bad, or morally superior or inferior to other value systems. 

5)    Attempting to improve morally. [10] Certainly, countless individuals attempt to improve themselves morally on a daily basis. No sane person wakes up and declares, “My goal is to become more immoral today!” [11] If there is no absolute standard of good which exists, then talk of moral improvement is nonsensical and actual moral progress is impossible. If no ultimate standard of right and wrong exists, then one might change his actions, but he can never improve his morality.

If there is hope of moral improvement, then there must be some sort of absolute standard of good that exists above and outside the process of improvement. In other words, there must be a target for humans to aim their moral efforts at and also a ruler by which to measure moral progress. Without an objective moral standard of behavior, then “[t]here is no sense in talking of ‘becoming better’ if better means simply ‘what we are becoming’ – it is like congratulating yourself on reaching your destination and defining destination as ‘the place you have reached.’” [12]  

6)    Reasoning over moral issues. [13] When men reason over moral issues, it is assumed there is an objective standard of right and wrong. If there is no objective standard, then reasoning over moral issues is on the same level as one arguing with his friends about the best flavor of ice cream at the local parlor (“I prefer this” and “I don’t like that”). In short, a world where morality is a matter of preference makes it impossible to have meaningful conversations over issues like adultery, sexuality, abortion, immigration, drugs, bullying, stealing, and so on.

7)    Feeling a sense of obligation over moral matters. [14] The words “ought” and “ought not” imply the existence of an objective moral law that mankind recognizes and feels obligated to follow. Virtually all humans would agree that one ought to try to save the life of a drowning child and that one ought not kill innocent people for sheer entertainment. It is also perfectly intelligible to believe that humans are morally obligated to possess (or acquire) traits such as compassion, mercifulness, generosity, and courage. [15]

8)    Making excuses for not behaving appropriately. [16] If one does not believe in an objective standard of behavior, then why should he become anxious to make excuses for how he behaved in a given circumstance? Why doesn’t he just go on with his life without defending himself? After all, a man doesn’t have to defend himself if there is no standard for him to fall short of or altogether break. Lewis maintains, “The truth is, we believe in decency so much – we feel the Rule of Law pressing on us so – that we cannot bear to face the fact that we are breaking it, and consequently we try to shift the responsibility.” [17] 

Although the eight reasons provided above do not cover all of the reasons for believing in objective morality, it is a starting point nonetheless. If any of the reasons above for believing in objective morality are valid, then the moral argument for God’s existence (and Christian theism) has the ability to get off the ground. In fact, if there are any good reasons (in this article or beyond it) for believing in an objective moral standard, then I think God’s existence becomes the best possible explanation for morality since such a standard at the least requires a transcendent, good, and personal source – which sounds a lot like the God of Christian theism.

        FOOTNOTES

[1] C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York, NY: HarperCollins, 2001), 3.

[2] Ibid., 4.

[3] Ibid., 5.

[4] Ibid. In the appendix section of The Abolition of Man, Lewis provides a list that illustrates the points of agreement amongst various civilizations throughout history. See C. S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man (New York, NY: HarperCollins, 2001), 83-101.

[5] Ibid., 6.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Sean McDowell, Ethix: Being Bold in a Whatever World (Nashville, TN: B&H Books, 2006), 45-46.

[8] C. S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man (New York, NY: HarperCollins, 2001), 43, 73. Also see Lewis, Mere Christianity, 13.

[9] Lewis, Mere Christianity, 13-14.

[10] C. S. Lewis, “Evil and God,” in God in the Dock, ed. Walter Hooper (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2014), 3-4.

[11] Even if someone’s goal is to become more immoral, he still needs an objective standard to measure the level of his badness.

[12] Ibid.

[13] C. S. Lewis, Miracles (New York, NY: HarperCollins, 2001), 54.

[14] C. S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain (New York, NY: HarperCollins, 2001), 10.

[15] C. Stephen Evans, God and Moral Obligation (New York, NY: Oxford University Press), 2-3.

[16] Lewis, Mere Christianity, 8.

[17] Ibid.

*About the Author: Stephen S. Jordan currently serves as a high school Bible teacher at Liberty Christian Academy. He is also a Bible teacher, curriculum developer, and curriculum editor at Liberty University Online Academy, as well as a PhD student at Liberty University. He and his wife, along with their two children and German shepherd, reside in Goode, Virginia. This article first appeared on January 18, 2019 at moral apologetics.com

 

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Posted by on April 10, 2019 in Apologetics, C.S. Lewis

 

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*5 BIBLICAL TRUTHS ON BAPTISM

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Article Written By David Schrock

Too often baptism is seen as waters that divide. In the New Testament, however, baptism publicly identifies Christians with their Lord and one another. Especially in Paul, baptism is appealed to as a means of unity in the church. Those who have died and risen again with Christ are known by their common baptism (Romans 6:3–6). As Paul says in Galatians 3:25–29, all those who are “one in Christ Jesus” have been “baptized into Christ.” Baptism, therefore, is a means of identifying those who are one in Christ.

This unifying purpose of baptism explains why Paul is emphatic about baptism in 1 Corinthians chapter one. Instead of unifying the church in Corinth, it was dividing it. In response to the news that the church was fractured by personality cults (“I am of Paul, I am of Apollos, I am of Cephas, I am of Christ,” v. 12), Paul reminds the Corinthians of their unity in the gospel (see 1:17–2:16). He reproves them for the way baptism was playing a part in dividing them, and in the process Paul presents five truths about baptism.

1. Baptism Identifies Us With Christ

The Corinthians had made the mistake of identifying their baptism with the person who baptized them. Or at least, that’s what Paul’s rhetorical question overturns in verse 13: “Were you baptized in the name of Paul?” Absolutely not!

Baptism doesn’t connect us to the individual who immerses us; it identifies us with the king represented by that individual. Even if that person later disqualifies themselves from ministry or leaves the faith, the baptism remains valid. Baptism symbolizes Christ’s work of grace; it doesn’t confer grace in itself.

As Jesus taught in Matthew 28:19 (“make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit”), baptism identifies us with Christ, as it is administered by his church. In this way, baptism is the way Jesus gave his disciples to publicly identify with him. He could have said build an ark or move to Israel, or stop cutting your hair. In the Old Testament he commanded some of his people to do these things. However, in the New Testament, baptism is the initiatory rite of every follower of Christ.

Baptism is what marks out Christians and divides them from the world. It symbolizes our spiritual unity in Christ and brings visible unity to Christ’s church. Therefore, if you want to publicly identify with Jesus, water baptism is the way.

2. Baptism Doesn’t Save; It Announces Salvation

First Corinthians 1:14 is a fascinating verse because of the way it downplays baptism. Paul says, “I thank God that I baptized none of you . . .” And to paraphrase, “Oh well, except for a few like Crispus and Gaius. And, oh yes, the household of Stephanas too. I don’t remember anyone else” (vv. 14–16).

These verses disclose the humanity of Paul’s letter, and strangely his Godward praise for few baptisms reveals something about baptism. Most immediately, it reveals that baptism was a concern for Paul in Corinth—why else the emphasis on baptism right after introducing the problem of divisions? Clearly, Paul’s gladness for baptizing only a few people relates to the factions in the church (v. 12).

More theologically, Paul’s words reveal that baptism is not salvific—i.e., baptism does not grant or guarantee salvation; it announces salvation. If baptism effected salvation (as in the erroneous doctrine of “baptismal regeneration”) he would not be able to say: “I’m glad I baptized only a few.” He can only say this if baptism symbolizes the real thing.

Therefore, we conclude from this verse (and the rest of the New Testament), baptism doesn’t confer or complete salvation; it announces the antecedent, already-present gift of salvation. In fact, baptism makes two announcements, one by the individual and one by the church.

3. Baptism Is An Individual Announcement

Most familiar to us in baptism is the reality that baptism gives the individual an opportunity to pledge themselves to Jesus. In Acts, when individuals repented and believed, they “publicized” their newfound faith by baptism. The same is true today. When I was 17 and just beginning to learn how to walk with God, I was asked if I wanted to be baptized. I absolutely did. Somewhere during that year, God opened my eyes to see my need for Jesus and filled my heart with faith.

I spent weeks preparing to give my testimony, so that before entering the water I would verbalize my trust in Jesus. At my baptism I shared my testimony and my faith in Christ’s death and resurrection. The visible act of baptism was personalized by the verbal announcement I made just before.

In every baptism, the individual makes a public confession of their sin and their need for a savior. For this reason, it is vital he or she knows how baptism symbolizes the gospel they believe—i.e., death and resurrection with Jesus (Rom 6:3–6). At the same time, churches must help individuals know what they are announcing in baptism. Ideally, this includes the person sharing their testimony of conversion (through writing, video, or speaking).

In 1 Corinthians 1, Paul identifies two names and one household baptized by him. These individuals testify to God’s work of grace in Corinth and each of them publicly announced their break from Corinth and their allegiance to Christ in their baptism. In this way, they reiterate the point: baptism is an individual announcement. But that’s not all.

4. Baptism Is Also A Church Announcement.

In 1 Corinthians 1 we find two ways baptism is the church’s announcement. First, consider the time Paul spent in Corinth compared to the number of people he baptized. How could Paul spend 18 months in Corinth and only baptize a few people? The best answer is that he instructed others to baptize. In other words, he entrusted the work of baptism to the church that he planted in Corinth.

When Paul came to Corinth, no church existed. Typically the church, as an embassy of the kingdom, baptizes the new citizen of the kingdom. Because baptism and church discipline are the means by which the church exercises the keys of the kingdom (cf. Matthew 16:18–20; 18:15–20), the church is the spiritual institution authorized to baptize.

However, when a church does not exist, as in Corinth, it must be the apostle or missionary who baptizes. This is what Paul did in Corinth (see Acts 18). But as soon as he baptized a few, he apparently handed over the baptismal duties to someone else.

This leads to a second observation. In verse 17 Paul declares, “For Christ did not send me to baptize.” What an odd statement. How can Paul say Christ did not call him to baptize? What about the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19)? Was Paul only called to make converts, not disciples? He did in fact baptize some; so what is Paul saying?

I don’t believe Paul is confused or negligent in his calling. Rather, he understands his calling as distinct from the work of the local church (where baptism is “housed”). He was not a local pastor. He was an apostle (1 Corinthians 1:1), an evangelist, a missionary. If you follow Paul through Acts, he went around preaching the gospel and planting churches. Even when he stayed from longer periods (18 months in Corinth; 3 years in Ephesus), he was not a local elder per se.

It’s for this reason that Paul distinguishes his mission as a call to preach the gospel and not to baptize. In planting churches, it makes sense he would baptize some, but as a roaming apostle his life-calling was not to baptize many in a local church.

Broadening Paul’s personal conviction to a wider principle, his statement reiterates the point Jesus made about the keys of the kingdom. They are not given to any individual but the church in its local assembly. It is the local church that baptizes believers—unless, of course, no church exists. In which case, someone like Paul in Corinth or Philip with the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8) baptizes a new convert in hopes that he (or she, in the case of Lydia) will be part of a new church.

The abiding principle is this: the church has the responsibility in baptism to testify to a person’s faith. The church does not have the power to confer or complete salvation. However, it does have the delegated authority to baptize believers in Christ based on their visible faith, which leads to a final consideration: the relationship between belief and baptism.

5. Baptism Follows Belief

Believer’s baptism, defined as baptism following belief, is the pattern in Corinth. Acts 18:8 says, “And many of the Corinthians hearing Paul believed and were baptized.” This comports with the regular pattern in Acts: the gospel is preached, people believe, and they are baptized.

Throughout the New Testament, baptism comes after belief. Even when households were baptized, as with Stephanas (1 Corinthians 1:16), the baptism came to the believers of the household.

Acts 16 bears this out. When Paul was in Philippi, the jailer asks, “What must I do to be saved?” Paul responds: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household” (v. 31). In short, it is not baptism that saves, it is faith in Jesus Christ. However, because baptism is the means by which individuals make their faith public, and the way churches affirm their profession, Luke continues the baptismal story of the jailer:

And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family. Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God. (vv. 32–34)

Notice the stress on the preaching of the Word (v. 32) and the joy of receiving that Word in faith (v. 34). Significantly, it wasn’t just the jailer who rejoiced in faith; it was the whole household. There is no mention of infants here; no mention of sprinkling. Sprinkling cannot be “baptism” because the word baptizō means “to immerse.” The pattern repeats: baptism follows belief.

Historical records show the origin of infant “baptism” did not occur until the practice of “emergency baptisms” began in the third century.[1] In the New Testament, the regular pattern is for baptism to follow belief. To a church divided by the practice of baptism, Paul emphasized their belief in the gospel. In fact, Paul’s words about divisions exacerbated by baptism (vv. 13–16) are followed by his corrective: a renewed vision and focus on the cross of Christ (vv. 17–25).

In truth, baptism is given to affirm the faith of those who believe the gospel. In Corinth, they had lost sight of Christ’s cross (1:18–25), the Father’s calling (1:26 – 31), and the Spirit’s illumination (2:6–16). Indeed, baptisms that should have been pointing to the gospel of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit had become an object in and of themselves. And for that reason, Paul called the church to look through the symbol to the substance, to see the one God in whose triune name they were baptized. Indeed, this is the unifying purpose of baptism—to conjoin through the same covenant sign believers in Christ to enjoy the same fellowship with God by the same Holy Spirit.

A FINAL WORD

Today, baptism is both overemphasized and underemphasized. Some make baptism necessary (and sufficient) for salvation. Others, in response to this overemphasis, make light of baptism. Likewise, some put no barrier around baptism, letting anyone who wants to dive in. Still others, who want to only baptize true converts, make it overly hard to be baptized. To be balanced, faithful pastors and churches should aim to affirm evident faith as soon as possible.

For some, like the Philippians jailer, it will not take long to observe their faith or to join that brother or sister in affirming his or her faith with baptism. For others, for children or those who are still hazy about the gospel, the decision to baptize may take longer. In principle, though, the five truths outlined above will be helpful to remind us of the importance of baptism. While not essential for salvation, it is essential for the health and witness of the church. Moreover, churches who take baptism seriously serve individuals well by stressing the seriousness of baptism and the joy it is to be baptized.

*Adapted from the article: “Waters That Unite: Five Truths About Water Baptism” by David Schrock. David is the pastor for preaching and theology at Occoquan Bible Church in Woodbridge, Virginia. This article was adapted from 9marks.org 

[1] Everett Ferguson, Baptism in the Early Church: History, Theology, and Liturgy in the First Five Centuries (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2009), 857: “The most plausible explanation for the origin of infant baptism is found in the emergency baptism of sick children expected to die soon so that they would be assured of entrance into the kingdom of heaven. There was a slow extension of the practice of baptizing babies as a precautionary measure. It was generally accepted, but questions continued to be raised about his propriety into the fifth century. It became the usual practice in the fifth and sixth centuries.” See also Steven A. McKinion, “Baptism in the Patristic Writings,” in Believer’s Baptism: A Sign of the New Covenant in Christ (ed. Thomas R. Schreiner and Shawn D. Wright; Nashville: B & H Academic, 2006), 163–88.

For Further Reading/Study on Baptism:

Jamieson, Bobby. Understanding Baptism.

Jamieson, Bobby. Going Public: Why Baptism Is Required For Church Membership.

Pratt, Jr. Richard, editor. Understanding Four Views on Baptism.

Wright, Shawn D. Believer’s Baptism.

Wright, Shawn D. & Ferguson, Sinclair (editors). Baptism: Three Views.

 

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Should We Pray For Revival?

 

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*By Alvin Reid

Ministers today seem more concerned with political power in society than spiritual fervency in the church, while pop culture contributes to the moral decay among the youth.

While marked by an increasing ethnic diversity and various religious beliefs, the nation’s established religious groups –– particularly Protestants –– demonstrate a sterile spirituality. One pastor bemoans the obsession with gambling and rudeness, while churches are attended at convenience.

College campuses teem with students chasing after the latest philosophies, the more unbiblical the better. The more educated a person you find, the less likely you are to discover a Christian. Meanwhile, churches are filled with people who listen to pastors preach then contradict the sermon by the way they live.

You may think these descriptions came from the blog of some concerned Christian commenting on our time. But the first one comes from Great Britain just before the preaching of John and Charles Wesley, George Whitefield, and others who were used by God to lead a great revival there. The second comes from the American colonies prior to the First Great Awakening. The final came around 1800, with college campuses in the newly formed United States influenced by Voltaire, Rousseau, and others, at the dawn of the Second Great Awakening.

Ours is not the first generation to recognize the spiritual declension among us, or to see the need for God to awaken his church and touch our land. From the saints of the Old Testament to leaders in our time, prayer for revival has marked believers who understand the need for the Spirit surpasses our ability and intelligence.

In my own tradition of the Southern Baptist Convention, I see a growing focus on prayer for revival. New SBC president Ronnie Floyd has already led several gatherings of pastors across the nation to pray for revival. I participated in one in Atlanta with almost 400 people –– mostly pastors –– seeking the Lord. You can be sure that when revival comes, it will not just touch Southern Baptists! Revival is the work of God, not of a tradition of men. “We can define it as a period of unusual blessing and activity in the life of the Christian Church,” Lloyd-Jones observed. “Revival means awakening, stimulating the life, bringing it to the surface again.”

Five Reasons to Pray for Revival

So should we pray for revival? Let me offer five thoughts on the topic:

1. If we choose to pray for revival instead of obeying God, we should not pray for revival; we should pray a prayer of repentance.

Prayer for revival is not a bandaid cure. If we are not passionate about sharing the gospel, honoring the word, and bringing glory to God, our prayers for revival are meaningless. Note the words of Tozer: “Have you noticed how much praying for revival has been going on of late — and how little revival has resulted? I believe the problem is that we have been trying to substitute praying for obeying, and it simply will not work.”

2. If we see revival as God’s stamp of approval on our status quo Christianity, we may not desire the answer God gives.

Past awakenings brought fundamental changes to music and methods, for instance. Both John Wesley and Whitefield struggled mightily with the idea of preaching in the fields. They were proper Oxford men, after all! But their use of such a “profane” method helped to spur a great revival. In past revivals both gospel proclamation and social ministry converged, whereas today they are too often seen as rivals. Revival separates our preferences from unchanging truth.

3. That being said, we should pray for revival, starting with our own hearts.

I know I am experiencing a fresh touch of God when I stop confessing everyone else’s sins and start with my own. Too many of us are better at expressing our opinions on social media than focusing on what the Spirit is saying to us.

4. We pray for revival because of biblical teaching.

Psalm 85:6 and Habakkuk 3:2, among others, offer us examples of revival prayer. Michael Haykin offers insight on the apostle Paul and prayer for revival. Ray Ortlund also has a fine article on biblical revival praying.

5. We pray for revival because of our study of history.

Here are only a few examples:

It is God’s will through his wonderful grace, that the prayers of his saints should be one of the great principal means of carrying on the designs of Christ’s kingdom in the world. When God has something very great to accomplish for his church, it is his will that there should precede it the extraordinary prayers of his people; . . . and it is revealed that, when God is about to accomplish great things for his church, he will begin by remarkably pouring out the spirit of grace and supplication. ~ Jonathan Edwards, Some Thoughts on Revival)

Oh! men and brethren, what would this heart feel if I could but believe that there were some among you who would go home and pray for a revival: men whose faith is large enough, and their love fiery enough to lead them from this moment to exercise unceasing intercessions that God would appear among us and do wondrous things here, as in the times of former generations. ~ Charles Spurgeon

When did you last hear anyone praying for revival, praying that God might open the windows of heaven and pour out his Spirit? When did you last pray for that yourself? I suggest seriously that we are neglecting this almost entirely. We are guilty of forgetting the authority of the Holy Spirit. . . . When God sends revival he can do more in a single day than in fifty years of all our organization. That is the verdict of sheer history which emerges clearly from the long story of the Church. ~ David Martin Lloyd-Jones

I continue to dream and pray about a revival of holiness in our day that moves forth in mission and creates authentic community in which each person can be unleashed through the empowerment of the Spirit to fulfill God’s creational intentions. ~ John Wesley

G. Campbell Morgan famously observed how a sailor has no impact on the wind. But a good sailor knows the wind, and knows how to set the sails when the wind blows. Let us study the history of revival and let us gather in what Edwards called “a humble attempt to promote explicit agreement and visible union of God’s people, in extraordinary prayer” so that we will know when the Spirit moves afresh. Then we may set our sails accordingly.

*Source: Alvin Reid (www.desiringgod.org – June 18, 2014)

About the Author: Alvin Reid is Professor of Evangelism and Student Ministry at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, NC. He is the author of several books, including Firefall 2.0: How God Has Shaped History Through Revivals.

 
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Posted by on March 26, 2019 in Revival

 

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4 Ways To Spot a Bitter Root by Erin Davis

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Every good gardener knows that you can’t chop weeds. Try to go after those buggers with a weed eater, and you’ll get nowhere in a hurry. You’ve got to rip weeds up by the roots. Otherwise, they will just keep coming back, and when they do, they’re bound to bring more and more of their weedy friends.

It’s no accident that God uses the image of a weed to describe a particular sin that has a way of creeping into all of our hearts . . . bitterness.

See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled (Heb. 12:15).

Bitterness isn’t one of those big, flashy sins that you can see growing above the surface of our hearts. It may not show off like anger or produce big ol’ hunks of rotten fruit like disobedience. Bitterness is a sleeper sin. It grows beneath the surface, down deep in the soil of our hearts.

But the author’s warning in Hebrews is clear—that bitter root will one day sprout, and when it does, “many will become defiled.” In other words, if that bitter root keeps growing, there will be a harvest of pain for you and the people in your world. And because bitterness is a weedy sin that burrows in our hearts first, we can’t just cut off the behaviors that bitterness causes. (We will get to those in a minute.) We need the Lord’s help to yank that baby up by the root.

The Pack That Bitterness Travels In

Ephesians 4:31 says, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.”

Paul is describing a cluster of emotions here that come along with bitterness. I know from experience that bitterness almost always travels in a nasty pack. When bitterness is taking root in my heart, usually wrath is, too. The same goes for anger, slander, and malice.

Our pastor directed my husband and me to this passage as part of our premarital counseling. He described these emotions as a progression.

  • If we don’t deal with bitterness, that bitterness will progress toward extreme anger (that’s wrath).
  • If we don’t deal with the anger, we will start to clamor or demand what we want.
  • If that doesn’t work, we will start to talk bad about the object of our bitterness in the hopes of recruiting others to agree with and justify our feelings (that’s slander).
  • If that goes unchecked, we will eventually have a desire to cause harm to the person we are bitter toward.

All along the way, people are hurt, relationships are derailed, joy is stolen, and growth of the fruit of the Spirit is stunted.

Four Ways to Spot a Bitter Root

With so much on the line, it is wise to ask ourselves often, “Am I bitter?” Since bitterness is a sleeper sin, the answer isn’t always obvious. Here are four questions to help you spot a bitter root.

  1. Am I replaying the tapes?

Do you find yourself constantly replaying the tapes of a conversation with someone? When you interact with her, do you spend days rehashing every word or body language cue?

Bitterness flourishes in the soil of justification. I’ve found that when I fixate on my interactions with a specific individual, I’m looking for justification for the anger or frustration I’m feeling in a relationship. I’ve learned that if I find myself replaying the tapes often, I should see it as red flag that something is off in my own heart.

2. Is my mouth out of control?

Romans 3:14 says, “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”

There’s a connection between the junk that comes out of our mouths and the bitterness that tends to take root in our hearts. Do you find yourself losing your cool often? Are you critical, snappy, rude? Do you find you cuss more easily following your interactions with someone who has hurt you? Maybe the sins you’re committing with your mouth are simply an extension of the bitterness that you’ve allowed to grow in your heart. If you’re trying to deal with the way you speak and gaining no ground, it’s possible that you need to dig deeper and yank out the root of the problem.

3. Am I sick?

Psychologist Dr. Carsten Wrosch has studied bitterness for fifteen years. He says:

When harbored for a long time, bitterness may forecast patterns of biological dysregulation (a physiological impairment that can affect metabolism, immune response or organ function) and physical disease.

Scientists have concluded that bitterness, if left unchecked, interferes with the body’s hormonal and immune systems. Bitter people tend to have higher blood pressure and heart rate and are much more likely to die of heart disease and other illnesses.

Of course, the apostle Paul didn’t have access to this scientific data when he wrote much of the New Testament, but that didn’t keep him from connecting the dots between bitterness and our bodies. In Acts 8:23, Paul describes the “gall of bitterness.” It’s a bile, a bitter substance that can literally make us sick.

I have a friend who regularly visits nursing homes to serve communion to the infirm. She has told me on multiple occasions that she can walk into such settings and identify bitter women simply by looking at them. Their postures and expressions can’t help but betray the bitterness that has burrowed deep into their hearts. Certainly, not all physical ailments are the fruit of a bitter root, but some are. Is it possible that the cells of your body are wilting under the weight of unchecked bitterness?

4. Is my clan bitter?

The “bitter root” in Hebrews 12:15 is first described in Deuteronomy 29:18:

Beware lest there be among you a man or woman or clan or tribe whose heart is turning away today from the LORD our God to go and serve the gods of those nations. Beware lest there be among you a root bearing poisonous and bitter fruit.

Like all weeds, bitterness has a way of spreading. This passage describes one possible progression. A man infects his wife. She infects her children. The bitterness spreads, and soon the whole tribe is infected.

  • Is your marriage marked by bitterness?
  • Are your children bitter?
  • Does your group of friends tend to sit around and gripe?
  • Is your church filled with harsh and angry people?
  • Is your community prone to placing blame?

Is it possible that your own bitterness has had a ripple effect and that the poisonous root has burrowed past your own heart and into the hearts of the people you love?

About The Author: Erin Davis is a popular author, blogger, and speaker who loves to see women of all ages run to the deep well of God’s Word. She is the author of many books and Bible studies including Connected, Beautiful Encounters, and the My Name Is Erin series. Erin also has the privilege of serving women in her local church as the women’s ministry director. When she’s not writing, you can find Erin chasing chickens and children on her small farm in the Midwest.

 
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Posted by on September 21, 2018 in Sanctification

 

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*Making Disciples Jesus Way: A Few at a Time by Dr. Greg Ogden

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Thesis: The church urgently needs to recapture its original mission of making disciples of Jesus by creating intimate, relational environments of multiplication and transformation.

“The crisis at the heart of the church is a crisis of product”, writes Bill Hull (Hull, Bill. The Disciple Making Pastor. Grand Rapids, MI: Fleming H. Revell, 1988, 14.). Is there any more important question for a pastor to answer than, “what kind of people are we growing in our ministries”? According to pollsters such as George Barna and George Gallup, we are not producing people who are a whole lot different in conviction and lifestyle than the rest of society. This has been well documented so I will not bore you with a recitation of the bad news. I will get right to what I consider the solution.

Jesus made it crystal clear that there is to be a singular product which He equates with the mission of the church—“Go and make disciples of all nations.” (Matthew 28:19) Every church’s mission is the same. There is only one mission: making disciples of Jesus. We may prefer to express it in a fresh, contemporary way, such as “to turn irreligious people into fully devoted followers of Christ” (Mission Statement of Willow Creek Community Church , South Barrington , IL), but it will still just be a restatement of the Great Commission.

When I have opportunities to speak to pastors on the subject of disciple-making, I have taken an informal poll, “Raise your hand if you have a few people in your weekly schedule with whom you meet for the purpose of helping them to become reproducing disciples of Jesus?” Sadly, I get minimal response. It would seem to be a natural expectation since Jesus modeled for us the way to grow disciples. He called twelve “to be with him” in order to shape their character and transfer his mission to them. I believe we have a crisis of product in major part because pastors are not following the model that Jesus gave us. And we are missing out on a most joyful and fruitful opportunity.

In this article I will describe an embarrassingly simple, yet reproducible way to grow disciples of Jesus that will leave your practice of ministry forever changed and your church populated with self initiating, reproducing disciples of Christ.

Here is the model: Disciples are made in small, reproducible groups of 3 or 4 (triads or quads) that cultivate an environment of transformation and multiplication.

In my experience, the following three elements form the necessary building blocks to grow disciples, which, in turn, addresses our “crisis of product”:

• The model for multiplication

• The priority of relationships

• The environment for accelerated growth

The Model for Multiplication

I call it my major “ah-ha” moment in ministry. It has shaped my approach to growing disciples more than anything else. Frankly, it was a discovery break-through I stumbled on.

I had been frustrated that I was not seeing a multiplication of disciples. The one-on-one model was the paradigm that I had assumed was the way to make reproducing disciples. After all, wasn’t the Paul-Timothy relationship the biblical pattern? Discipling meant to give myself to one other person for the purpose of seeing the life of Christ built in them, which would then lead them to do the same for another and so on. The only trouble was, I wasn’t seeing “them doing the same for another.” In other words, there was no multiplication.

What was I doing wrong? We have all heard that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, while expecting different results. Frustrated, I would redouble my efforts: make sure I had good content; ratchet up my prayer life; teach the skills of bible study, witness, etc; and yet I was not able to instill confidence, pass on the vision, nor empower the other person to disciple others. All my refinements only led to the same results.

Then the break-through came. I had written a disciple-making curriculum (Greg Ogden. Discipleship Essentials: A Guide to Building Your Life in Christ. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1998), which became the basis for my final project for a Doctor of Ministry degree. My faculty mentor thought it would be a worthy experiment to test the dynamics of this material in a variety of settings. So in addition to the one-on-one, I invited two others to join me on this journey. There was no way I could have anticipated the potency to be unleashed. Just by adding a third person it was as if the Holy Spirit was present to us in a way that was life-giving and transforming and laid the foundation for multiplication.

I have never gone back to the one-on-one model for making disciples because of what I experienced. Now thirty years later, I have had considerable opportunity to reflect on the difference in dynamics between triad and quads, and the one-on-one approach.

What were the limitations of the one-on-one model?

1. In the one-on-one the discipler carries the full weight of responsibility for the spiritual welfare of another. The discipler is like the mother bird that goes out to scavenge for worms to feed to her babies. With their mouths wide open, the babes wait in their nest for the mother bird to return. The discipler is cast in the role of passing on their vast knowledge to the one with limited knowledge.

2. The one-on-one relationship sets up a hierarchy that tends to result in dependency. The one- on-one creates a father-son, teacher-student, mature-immature relationship. As appreciative as the Timothy might be, the one in the receiving position will more often than not, not be able to see themselves in the giving position. The gulf between the Paul and the Timothy is only accentuated when the relationship is between pastor and parishioner. The pastor is the trained professional, who has superior biblical knowledge which the non-professional, ordinary lay person will never see themselves achieving.

3. The one-on-one limits the interchange or dialogue. I liken the one-on-one discourse to playing ping-pong. It is back and forth, with the discipler under continuous pressure to advance the ball. The discipler must keep pressing the interchange on to a higher plane.

4. The one-on-one also creates a one-model approach. The primary influence on a new disciple becomes a single person. The parameters of the discipling experience are defined by the strengths and weaknesses of one individual.

5. Finally, the one-on-one model does not generally reproduce. If it does, it is rare. Only self- confident, inwardly motivated persons can break the dependency and become self-initiating and reproducing (These generalities are in no way meant to demean the positive and powerful experiences that a one-on-one relationship has meant to many. When it comes to the multiplication of disciples my experience teaches me that this generally does not lead to reproduction).

In my opinion we have inadvertently held up a hierarchical, positional model of discipling that is non-transferable. As long as there is the sense that one person is over another by virtue of superior spiritual authority, however that is measured, very few people are going to see themselves as qualified to disciple others. We may tout this is as a multiplication method, but in actuality it contains the seeds of its own destruction.

As a result of my experience, I commend a non-hierarchical model that views discipling as a mutual process of peer mentoring (“Discipling is an intentional relationship in which we walk alongside other disciples in order to encourage, equip and challenge one another in love to grow toward maturity in Christ. This includes equipping the disciple to teach others as well” – Ogden, Discipleship Essentials, 17). In order to avoid the dependency trap, the relationship needs to be seen as side-by-side, rather than one having authority or position over another.

An Alternative Practical Model of Disciple-Making (Triads/Quads)

Here is my best take on why triads/quads are energizing, joy-filled and reproductive:

1. There is a shift from unnatural pressure to the natural participation of the discipler. When a third or fourth person is added, the discipler is no longer the focal point, but they are a part of a group process. The discipler in this setting is a fellow participant. Though the discipler is the convener of the triad/quad, they quickly become one of the group on the journey together toward maturity in Christ.

2. There is a shift from hierarchy to peer relationship. The triad/quad naturally creates more of a come-alongside mutual journey. The focus is not so much upon the discipler as it is upon Christ as the one toward whom all are pointing their lives. Even as a pastor, I found that though the relationship may have started with a consciousness that I was the “Bible answer-man” because of my title and training, within the first few weeks the triad/quad allows me to be another disciple with fellow disciples who are attempting together to follow Jesus.

3. There is a shift from dialogue to dynamic interchange. In my initial experiment with triads, I often came away from those times saying to myself, “What made that interchange so alive and dynamic?” The presence of the Holy Spirit seemed palpable. Life and energy marked the exchange. As I have come to understand group dynamics, one-on-one is not a group. It is only as you add a third that you have the first makings of a group (Think Trinity).

4. There is shift from limited input to wisdom in numbers. The book of Proverbs speaks of the wisdom that comes from many counselors (Proverbs 15:22). It is often those who may be perceived as younger or less mature in the faith from which great wisdom comes, or a fresh spark of life or just great questions. In a current quad, one of the men at our initial gathering announced, “I have never opened the Bible.” I had observed an eagerness and hunger in Mick, so I was sure that I had misunderstood his comment. So I responded, “You mean you have never studied the Bible seriously”. “No, I have never opened a Bible.” Since that first session, Mick has demonstrated a veracious appetite for Scripture. Yet what has been particularly challenging is his perceptive questions that have led to engaging dialogue and deeper exploration.

5. There is a shift from addition to multiplication. For me there is no greater joy than to see a Christian reproduce. All the above adds up to empowerment. For over two decades, I have observed an approximate 75% reproduction rate through the triad/quad model of disciple- making.

In summary, a smaller unit encourages multiplication because it minimizes the hierarchical dimensions and maximizes a peer-mentoring model. By providing a discipleship curriculum specifically designed for this intimate relationship, it creates a simple, reproducible structure, which almost any growing believer can lead. Leadership in these groups can be rotated early on since the size makes for an informal interchange and the curriculum provides a guide to follow.

Anything worthy of the name of discipling must have a way of creating the dynamic of intergenerational multiplication.

But this is only one aspect of growing self-intiating, reproducing disciples.

Disciples Are Made In Relationships, Not Programs

Making disciples places priority on an invitation to relationships, not an invitation to a program.

Disciple-making is not a six-week nor a ten-week, nor even a thirty-week program. We have tended to bank our efforts on making disciples through programs, while not keeping a priority on the relational process.

Biblically, though, disciples are made in relationships. When I am forming a new triad/quad, I approach someone personally, eyeball to eyeball in the following way: First, I ask the Lord to put on my heart those to whom He is drawing me. I am looking for those who are hungry and teachable. When there is a settled conviction as to who the Lord would have me approach, here is generally what I say to them, “Will you join me, walk with me as we grow together to become better disciples of Christ? I would like to invite you to meet with me and one or two others weekly for the purpose of becoming all that the Lord intends us to be. As I was praying about this relationship, I sensed the Lord drawing me to you.”

How does this relational approach differ from a program?

(1) Discipling relationships are marked by intimacy, whereas programs tend to be focused on information.

Programs operate with the assumption that if someone has more information that it will automatically lead to transformation. In other words, right doctrine will produce right living. Filling people’s heads with Scripture verses and biblical principles will lead to change in character, values and a heart for God.

Alicia Britt Cole captures this difference between program and relationship, “Program was safer, more controllable, and reproducible—less risky, less messy, less intrusive. It seemed easier to give someone an outline than an hour, a well-worn book than a window into our humanity. How easy it is to substitute informing people for investing in people, to confuse organizing people with actually discipling people. Life is not the offspring of program or paper. Life is the offspring of life. Jesus prioritized shoulder-to-shoulder mentoring because His prize was much larger than information; it was integration” (Alicia Britt Cole, “Purposeful Proximity—Jesus’ Model of Mentoring”, Online Enrichment, A Journal for Pentecostal Ministry).

(2) Discipling relationships involve full, mutual responsibility of the participants, whereas programs have one or a few who do on behalf of the many.

Most programs are built around an individual or a few core people who do the hard work of preparation and the rest come as passive recipients of their work. Of course, this is less true of a more egalitarian small group than it is of a class where one-way communication dominates. Though this may provide tremendous benefit to one who has done the preparation, the result is usually enormous amounts of unprocessed information. As much as I believe in the power of preaching for conviction and decision, I would be naïve to believe that preaching alone produces disciples. If preaching could produce disciples, the job would have been done.

In a discipling relationship the partners share equal responsibility for preparation, self-disclosure, and an agenda of life-change. This is not about one person being the insightful teacher, whereas the others are the learners who are taking in the insights of one whose wisdom far exceeds the others. Certainly maturity levels in Christ will vary, but the basic assumption is that in the give and take of relationships, the one who is the teacher and the one who is taught can vary from moment to moment.

(3) Discipling relationships are customized to the unique growth process of the individuals, whereas programs emphasize synchronization and regimentation.

The very nature of most of our programs is that they cannot take into account the uniqueness of the individual, which is essential to growing disciples. A program usually has a defined length. You commit to ten weeks and you are done. Often churches follow the academic calendar. Start a program in September when school starts and complete it in June in time for summer vacation. Once the cycle is completed, disciples are supposed to pop out the other end of the system. Completing the program is equated with making disciples.

Discipling relationships must necessarily vary in length of time, because no two people grow at the same speed. It is not just a matter of a forced march through the curriculum, but an individualized approach that takes into account the unique growth issues of those involved.

(4) Discipling relationships focus accountability around life-change, where as programs focus accountability around content.

Programs of discipleship give the illusion of accountability. But upon closer look the accountability is more focused on completing the assigned study curriculum than follow through on the changes or transformation into Christlikeness that is expected of a disciple of Jesus.

Growth into Christ-likeness is the ultimate goal. The gauge of accountability in programs tend to be easily measurable, observable behaviors such as Scripture memory, completing the required weekly reading, and practicing spiritual disciplines. In a discipling relationship the accountability focuses on learning to “observe or obey all that [Jesus] has commanded” (Matt. 28:19). For example, there is a huge difference between knowing that Jesus taught that we are to love our enemies, and actually loving our enemies. Discipling relationships are centered on incorporating the life of Jesus in all we are in the context of all that we do.

The Environment of Transformation: The Three Necessary Ingredients

Without question the setting where I have experienced the most accelerated transformation in the lives of believers has been in these triads/quads or small reproducible discipleship groups. I call them the “hot-house” of Christian growth. Hot houses maximize the environmental conditions so that living things can grow at a rate greater than would exist under normal circumstances. The conditions are ripe for accelerated growth. This is what happens in a triad/quad.

Why is this? What are the climatic conditions in a discipleship group of three or four that create the hothouse effect? There are four ingredients when exercised in a balanced way that release the Holy Spirit to bring about a rapid growth toward Christlikeness: This can be summarized in the following Biblical principle: When we (1) open our hearts in transparent trust to each other (2) around the truth of God’s word (3) in the spirit of mutual accountability ,(4) while engaged in our God-designed mission, we are in the Holy Spirit’s hothouse of transformation.

Let’s look at what is contained in each of these three environmental elements that makes for accelerated growth and reproduction.

Climatic Condition #1—Transparent Trust

We return to the fundamental truth that has been repeated the theme throughout this article: Intimate, accountable relationships with other believers is the foundation for growing in discipleship. Why is transparency a necessary condition for change? The extent to which we are willing to reveal to others those areas of our life that need God’s transforming touch is the extent to which we are inviting the Holy Spirit to make us new. Our willingness to enter into horizontal or relational intimacy is a statement of our true desire before God of our willingness to invite the Lord to do His makeover in our life.

The small size of a triad/quad says that this is going to be close. There is little place to hide. The environment in which self-revelation is drawn out is increasing trust. Certainly trust does not happen instantaneously. Trust is an earned and developed quality. To get to the deep end of the pool we must go through the shallower waters of the affirmation of encouragement, support through life’s difficulties, and prayerful listening in order to help our partners hear God’s voice in life’s decisions. Only then are we likely to venture in over our heads by confessing our patterns of besetting sin to one another.

My experience tells me that few believers either have the regular habit or the safe context in which we can reveal to another human being what lurks inside the recesses of our hearts. Until we get to point where we can articulate to another those things that have a hold on us, then we will live under the tyranny of our own darkness. James admonished his readers, “Confess your sins to another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed” (James 5:16 ). James makes a direct connection between confession and healing. In this context healing appears to be of a physical nature. Yet James believed that the health of one’s spirit directly affected the health of one’s body.

What is the connection between confession and freedom? Bringing the shame of our guilt into the light before trusted members of the body of Christ can in itself have a liberating effect. Once something is admitted before others, it begins to lose it power to control. Sin loves the darkness, but its power weakens in the light.

To learn to swim in the deep waters of transparent trust is a necessary element for accelerated growth in the Christian. Learning to swim can be a scary experience, especially when you in over your head. But once you learn to trust the water to hold you up, you can relax and experience its refreshment.

Climatic Condition #2–Truth in Community

The second of four environmental elements that creates the conditions for the hothouse of accelerated growth is the truth of God’s word in community. I started with relationships because I believe that the context in which God’s word should be studied is in community. A great failing today is that we have separated the study of God’s word from transparent relationships. We have been more concerned about getting our doctrine right than our lives right. It is not that knowledge is not important, it is. It is not that right doctrine is not important, it is. It is just not enough. Because the goal is to incorporate truth into our being which happens as we process it with others.

It is particularly important in our day that a disciple has the opportunity to cover the essential teachings of the Christian life in a systematic and sequential fashion. We are living at a time when the average person has minimal foundation for their Christian faith. A generation ago Francis Schaeffer and Elton Trueblood warned us in prophetic voice that we were one generation away from losing the memory of Christian faith in our culture. We are the next generation of which they spoke!

The Tonight Show with Jay Leno is an unlikely place to find evidence for this loss memory. One night Leno took to the streets with microphone in hand asking people questions about their biblical knowledge. He approached two college age women with the question, “Can you name one of the Ten Commandments?” Quizzical and blanks looks led to this reply, “Freedom of speech?” Then Leno turned to a young man, “Who according to the Bible was eaten by a whale?” With confidence and excitement, he blurted out, “I know, I know, Pinnochio!” The memory of Christianity has been lost.

One of the participants in a discipling triad that I led was woman about ten years my senior who had been raised in the home of a congregational pastor. After we had completed our time together, she said to me, “Greg, I have something to confess. When you asked me to join this group, I didn’t think I had a whole lot to learn. After all I had been studying the Scriptures all of my life having been raised in a home where the Bible was central. But I discovered as we covered the faith in a systematic and sequential order, that my understanding was much like a mosaic. I had clusters of tiles with a lot of empty spaces in between. This approach has allowed me to fill in all those places where tiles belong. I now see in a comprehensive fashion how the Christian faith makes sense of it all.”

Climatic Condition #3–Life-Change Accountability

Life-change accountability is rooted in a covenant. What is a covenant? A covenant is written, mutual agreement between 2 or more parties that clearly states the expectations and commitments in the relationship (Greg Ogden’s Discipleship Essentials, page 14 provides an illustration of what a mutual covenant might look like). Implied in this definition is that the covenantal partners are giving each other authority to hold them to the covenant to which they have all agreed.

Yet there is a rub. To willingly give others authority to hold us accountable to what we said we would do is for most Westerners a violation of what we hold most dear. Robert Bellah’s ground breaking research, Habits of the Heart, is a sociologist’s search for the core of the American character. He found that freedom from obligation defined the center of what it is be to an American. Here it is in a nutshell: We want to do, what we want do to, when we want to do it, and no one better tell us otherwise. We want to be in control of our own choices, life direction, character formation, schedules, etc. Everything in us grates against accountability.

Yet accountability brings us back to the very core of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. A disciple is one under authority. Disciples of Jesus are who leave no doubt that it is Jesus who is exerting the formative influence over our lives. Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23) The way to get serious about this truth is to practice by coming under authority in our covenantal relationships in Christ.

Climatic Condition #4: Engaged in our God-Designed Mission

Micro groups are not designed to be holy huddles. Though we all seek safe environments where our true self can be nurtured, micro groups also need to be springboards from we are sent to serve Christ in all dimensions of our life. In many ways, this fourth dimension, though last in order, is most critical. Without mission, there will be little transformation. It is as we apply our faith in the work place, in our roles in the home, are stewards of our financial resources, exercise or spiritual gifts in ministry the church or addressing an area of brokenness in the world, that we have to come to terms with our fears and limitations.

As we are engaged is mission we are stretched beyond our limited resources. When we are thrown back in reliance on Jesus, waiting for Him to show up because we are beyond our confort zone, we are just where we need to be. This is where the importance of our micro group takes on even deeper significance. In this group we are refreshed, patched up, encouraged and sent back out to be ambassadors of Jesus.

Conclusion: “The crisis at the heart of the church is a crisis of product.” I would challenge every pastor in America to schedule into his week a 90-minute time slot to meet with two or three others for the express purpose of discipling for multiplication. Can you imagine the impact on the quality and quantity of the product, if we began to see an organic multiplication of these reproducible groups over the next ten years?

*This article is presented here with the written permission of the author – Dr. Greg Ogden. The original article may be found along with many excellent disciple making resources at the website: globaldi.org which stands for the Global Discipleship Initiative of which Greg Ogden is the Chairman of the Board. The Global Discipleship Initiative trains, coaches, and inspires pastors and Christian leaders to establish indigenous, multiplying disciple making movements, both nationally and internationally.

About the Author: Greg Ogden (D.Min, Fuller Theological Seminary) recently retired from professional church leadership and now lives out his passion of speaking, teaching and writing about the disciple-making mission of the church. Most recently Greg served as executive pastor of discipleship at Christ Church of Oak Brook in the Chicago western suburbs. He previously held the positions of director of the Doctor of Ministry Program at Fuller Theological Seminary and associate professor of lay equipping and discipleship. His seminal book Discipleship Essentials: A Guide to Building Your Life in Christ has sold over 250,000 copies and has been a major influence on discipleship in the contemporary church. He is also the author of several other excellent resources that will help you in effectively making disciples who make disciples: Transforming Discipleship; Making Disciples a Few at a Time; The Essential Commandment: A Disciple’s Guide to Loving God and Others;  Leadership Essentials: Shaping Vision, Multiplying Influence, Defining Character (co-authored with Dan Meyer); Essential Guide to Becoming a Disciple: Eight Sessions for Mentoring and Discipleship; and Unfinished Business: Returning the Ministry to the People of God.

 

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*Prayer: The Prelude to Revival by Roger R. Nicole

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It is in keeping with Reformed thought that revival should be grounded in prayer, because in prayer we acknowledge God’s sovereignty. God alone is the One who can dispense revival. So, revival is not something that is within the reach of human beings; it is something God alone can provide.

Sometimes people have expressed the attitude they think we ought to have in a motto which goes like this: “You ought to pray like a Calvinist and preach like an Arminian.” That is, pray as if everything depended upon God and preach as if everything depended on you. I would like to suggest a change in this formula which will improve it by fifty percent: “You ought to pray like a Calvinist and preach like a Calvinist.” Do not pray as if everything depends on God. (There is no good reason to have an “as if” in that motto, because things do depend on God. He is the One who sovereignly ordains and blesses.) Then preach like a Calvinist, because there, too, the results depend on God. Do not imagine that either prayer or preaching are activities in which we suddenly take leave of the doctrine of God’s sovereignty.

What Does Prayer Change?

When we consider prayer, there are questions which often are disturbing to the minds of some people. The first question is: “Do you think that you can really change the mind of God? That is, can prayer make God modify His sovereign plan?” There are people who feel that unless you are prepared to say this, there is no great value in prayer. I do not know what the reader’s particular idea on this subject may be, but I would like to say that if you believe you can change the mind of God through prayer, I hope you are using some discretion. If that is the power you have, it is certainly a most dangerous thing. Surely God does not need our counsel in order to set up what is desirable. Surely God, whose knowledge penetrates all minds and hearts, does not need to have us intervene to tell Him what He ought to do. The thought that we are changing the mind of God by our prayers is a terrifying concept.

I will be frank to confess that if I really thought I could change the mind of God by praying, I would abstain. I would have to say, “How can I presume, with the limitations of my own mind and the corruptions of my own heart-how can I presume to interfere in the counsels of the Almighty?” It is almost as if you were to introduce somebody who is utterly ignorant of electronics to a weapons plant in which, by pushing certain buttons, one might precipitate an explosion. You say, “Go ahead and push buttons. Never mind what happens.” Oh, no! There is comfort for the child of God in being assured that our prayers will not change God’s mind. This is not what is involved in prayer, and we are not in danger of precipitating explosions by some rash desire on our part.

But then people say, “If you cannot change God’s mind, what is the point of praying? If prayer does not change things, prayer is worthless.”

Here you have perhaps noticed that I have changed the formula. I did not say,”change the mind of God,” but “change things.” I never said that prayer does not change things. Prayer does change things, but it does not change the mind of God. The reason prayer changes things but does not change God is that He has appointed prayer as an effectual means for accomplishing His own purpose. This effectual means is essential for this accomplishment. When we have a right understanding of the sovereignty of God, we recognize that God has established a plan in which not only the effects but also the causes are ordained. We cannot disconnect the causes from the effects or the effects from the causes.

For example, I lift a book in your sight. Because the book has risen into the air, I am in a position to say, “God has ordained that it should get to this particular place.” He must have ordained it because that is where the book is. But notice, God did not ordain for the book to rise all by itself. He ordained that it should rise at the end of my hand. He ordained that I should have strength in my arm to lift it. He ordained that I should choose this particular book in order to illustrate this particular point. There is a connection between the book’s rising and the subject I wish to develop. All these things are tied up together. If there were no lecture, there would be no point of illustrating the power of second causes. If there were no desire to illustrate the power of second causes, my hand would have remained at my side. If my hand had remained at my side, the book would not have risen. I think we can argue in this way.

God, however, ordained that there should be this lecture, that there should be a desire to show the correlation of causes and effects in His sovereign plan, that this particular illustration should come to my mind, and that I should implement it by the strength that He has given me. One cannot say, “If you hadn’t touched it, it would have risen anyway,” because God did not ordain that it should rise anyway. He ordained that it should rise through my hand.

That is exactly the case with prayer. Prayer is an effectual secondary cause that God has related to the effects involved. Just as the activity of human beings on earth is related to the effects that are produced, just as the book rising is related to the hand lifting, so are the effects of prayer related to the prayer that is offered. So although prayer does not change the mind of God, it does change things. God has appointed change through prayer, even though the way in which the cause is related to the effect is not perfectly clear to us.

The fact that the way this happens is not clear does not give us grounds for denying the relationship. We pray for healing. If God provides healing, we cannot say, “There would have been healing whether I prayed or not; I would have gotten well anyway.” God provided healing in relation to prayer.

We pray for an increase in the knowledge of God and earnestness in His service. If God is pleased to bless our lives in this way, we cannot say, “This would have happened whether I prayed or not.” God provides His blessing in relation to the prayer.

We pray for the salvation of someone we love, someone God placed on our hearts to intercede and plead for. That person is born again by the work of the Holy Spirit. We cannot say, “This would have happened whether I prayed or not.” It is related to our prayers. God, who has appointed the salvation, has also appointed prayer as the means to that salvation. We cannot omit any link in that chain and say that the chain will exist whether the link is there or not.

A final question is: “How can I pray if I do not see how prayer works?” That is not a wise way of handling the matter, since it is God who tells us that prayer is part of His plan for us. It is not necessary that we have an understanding of the ways in which God’s purposes are implemented. God has put this means at our disposal. He encourages us to pray. In 2 Chronicles 7:14 He says, “If My people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” To insist that we must have an understanding of how this works is a very unreasonable attitude.

Even in affairs of daily life we do not have this attitude. I am sure you have used a touch-system telephone. Do you understand how it works? Do you have that consummate knowledge of communications to know exactly what goes on when you press those little buttons? Do you know how those numbers are changed into binary code and used to track down the particular telephone you wish to call? Experts may understand this. But I must say, as far as I am concerned, when I am calling, I do not think of any of those things. I just pick up the phone and touch the buttons. I do not worry about how this happens. I am interested only in whom I am going to reach and what I will say.

It is the same with prayer. We do not have to know how it works. It is enough to know that it does work. Prayer is part of God’s sovereign plan and is an effectual means by which we can share with God in the fulfillment of that plan. When we pray, we are cooperating; we are working together with God in the work to which, in His own mercy, He has been pleased to call us.

Since prayer is part of God’s plan, we are not forcing God’s hand at any time by praying. We are not intruding our own will in a way that is disagreeable or uncomfortable to God. We do not need to fear that we are finagling with buttons about which we know nothing, which might bring disaster on ourselves and others. We are praying in line with the great purposes of God. Without prayer there are many things that would be different. It is by virtue of prayer that they are what God has planned them to be.

In Scripture, prayer is presented as a prerequisite for revival. It is a prelude. If you study the history of revivals, you will find that they are best documented not only in their effects but also in their preparatory prayer periods. This was true of the revival in New England under the ministry of Jonathan Edwards. It was true in the revival in Wales under Evan Roberts. It was true of the revivals attending the ministry of Charles Grandison Finney in the United States. Revival that is worthwhile is bathed in prayer. When He wants a revival, God is pleased to lead His people· to pray that revival might be forthcoming.

(1) The prayer that leads to revival must be believing prayer. This is the point the apostle James makes in his Epistle (James 1:5-7, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord”). When we come to the Lord we must come with the expectation that He is able and will do great things. If we come vacillating, wondering whether God is able to accomplish anything, whether the situation is really so desperate that even God cannot touch it, then obviously our prayer is lacking in fervency. We are just going through the motions, as it were. We are not really praying.

God wants us to come to Him in faith. Indeed, prayer is an exercise of faith in which we are steeped in the supreme greatness and ability of God, and have our eyes fixed on the majesty of His purpose and the superlative quality of His resources. Nothing is impossible for our God. Our God is able to move mountains. He is able to transform hearts, break resistances, reach out even underneath the conscious lives of people to transform them. So we should never say, “Here is somebody beyond God’s reach. The hardness of heart is so great, the wickedness of life is so manifest, that this cannot possibly be a candidate for acceptance into the kingdom of God. We might as well give up on this person.”

In spite of the fact that the early church had seen God do many great things, it undoubtedly thought this way about Paul. The early Christians thought. “This one is lost. There is no way God will bring Paul into the kingdom. He is a persecutor, an enemy, an opponent. There is no hope for him.” When Paul tried to join the church, they gave him the cold shoulder (Acts 9:26). They said, “We can’t trust this man. He will be spying on us and then use his knowledge to annihilate the church.” It took Barnabas to reason, “God saved me; maybe He can save Paul, too.” He went close to Paul and befriended him at great danger to himself. He made sure that Paul truly was a child of God. Then he brought him to the apostles (Acts 9:27). We, too, might think, “What less likely a candidate for election than Paul?” Yet God was pleased to reach him and change him. God made him the great apostle of the Gentiles, the benefit of whose ministry is still with us to this day. We need believing prayer, prayer that does not concentrate on the obstacles. We must not say, “He is hopeless,” or “Our country has gone to the dogs,” or “Our church has gone liberal.” Prayer must recognize that God is all-powerful and can do wonders. If anyone prays and does not believe, that one is unstable (James 1:6-7). He cannot expect anything. But if we come with faith, accepting the reality of the power of God, we will experience that effective prayer which changes things in keeping with God’s purpose.

(2) The second characteristic of the prayer that brings revival is submission. It must be submissive prayer. That is, we must be prepared to submit our own ideas, aims, and ambitions to the sovereign God. We must not intrude with our outlook, pressing it on God, as it were. Rather, we must come with a desire to understand God’s outlook and subordinate our desires to what He has ordained.

Some people say, ”That kind of prayer is not really effective. If you start by saying, ‘If it be Your will … ‘you are attempting to give God an out in case He is not going to do it. You are not believing.” That is not the point at all. We do not need to give God an out. God does not need an out. What we are doing when we say, “If it is Your will … ” is articulating the principle that we are not telling God what should be done but are actually identifying with His purpose and asking to work together with Him in fulfillment of that purpose.

We have a moving example of this kind of prayer on the lips of our Lord Himself. In Gethsemane He said, “If it is possible . . . Yet not as I will, but as You will” (Matt. 26:39). This is mysterious to us, for it indicates that at that point of His human consciousness, our Lord was left in suspense as to what the will of God was. “Not as I will, but as You will.” That is the condition of effective prayer-that we should be willing to accept what God has ordained in order that His purpose might be accomplished.

Sometimes it is hard for us to pray that way, because our will is so strong, and our understanding of what God should want is so clear that we do not even feel like saying, “Your will be done.” When we pray for revival, especially, we say, “We do not need to introduce conditional clauses. The very fact that God leads us to pray is an indication that He wills that some form of revival should come.” Still, the very essence of a consecrated prayer is that it should be in keeping with the will of God.

This is what is meant by praying in the name of Jesus. To pray in the name of Christ is not simply to have a little addition to your prayer, in which you use those words almost as a magical formula to insure success. To pray in the name of Christ is to identify yourself with Christ, with His aims, His purposes, His ministry. It is to say, “I am with Jesus, I am for Him and His purposes.” The one who prays in the name of Jesus does not need to fear disappointments, because unity with the purpose of God protects him from that. There is a submission to God which acknowledges with gratitude the way in which God is pleased to answer.

This prayer must be God-centered. It must relate itself to God’s glory rather than to our private desires. Of course, God permits us to present our private desires as well. There is nothing wrong in asking God to give us good weather for mountain climbing if good weather is important for it. But here again, it would be wise to say, “If it be Your will,” because there are also people, such as farmers, who need rain. Since the desire of the mountaineer may conflict with the desire of the farmer, it would be good for both of them to be submitted to whatever God is pleased to send. God permits us to present our desires, but we must have a supreme desire, especially in the prayer for revival, to see the glory of God manifested.

Some of the most effective prayers in Scripture do this. They are even argumentative at this point.Think of the prayer of Abraham when he prayed for Sodom and Gomorrah. He even argued with God, saying, “Is it right for You to destroy those cities if fifty … forty-five … forty: .. thirty… twenty… ten righteous people live there?” (Gen. 18:24-33). God blessed that prayer. So we can say that if Lot and his family were saved, it was because of the faithful intercession of Abraham, who did not relent, even though, in the end, the number he cited was not sufficiently small to warrant ID salvation of the wicked cities.

Think of the prayer of Moses who argued, “If You destroy Your people, what will happen to Your name? Your glory is at stake. Don’t do it” (Ex.32:11-13).God blessed that glorious intercessory prayer of Moses, who disregarded his personal ambitions in order to identify with the purposes of God.

A prayer for revival should be centered, not in the desire that we should have more money for our church (because there will be more people coming), not that there should be a new Vitality in our denomination (as compared with other denominations), nor that any other of our human desires and ambitions should be satisfied, but rather that the glory of God might be manifested. We should pray that His name might be exalted, that His kingdom might be made evident, that His glorious reign might be established even more widely in the hearts of men and women.

(3) Our prayer must be persistent. The Scripture emphasizes that we ought not easily be discouraged in prayer (Luke 18:1). If we do not receive at once the answer we are looking for, we ought not to reason, “Well, God just doesn’t want me to have that; I guess I’ll give up.” There are people who have been wonderfully persistent in prayer-for husbands or wives, children or parents-and God has blessed their persistence. Do not give up too soon. Do not conclude too rapidly that God is uninterested. So long as you have a burden on your heart, keep praying.

In the church in which I am a member there is a man who has moved me profoundly in this respect. It is a wonderful church now. We have a preacher who is a wonderful expositor of the Word of God. I never attend a service there at which my soul is not blessed. But some 40 years ago this church was exceedingly small-there were about 10 or 12 people on a Sunday morning-and it was passing through a veritable desert from the point of view of biblical ministry. I understand that at one time one of the pastors was actually a practicing Christian Scientist.

Throughout this bleak period this man, Deacon George Day, was praying. He did not say, “This church gives me nothing. There is nothing to be expected here, nothing to be hoped. I am going to find another fellowship that will be more fruitful for me.” No! This man said, “This is my church. I am not going to give up. Since I do not get any spiritual nurture from the sermons, I will get it from the Bible directly. I will attend some other meetings in other places, but I am still going to be in my own church on Sunday morning, and I am going to pray for this ministry.” Deacon Day kept praying for that church for years. Now he is an old man, more than 80. There is hardly any strength left in his body. When he can come to church he uses an earphone, because he is very deaf. But there is joy in his heart which moves one to tears. Whenever I see Deacon Day, I see the power of God to answer persistent prayer. I see a warrior who did not allow himself to be defeated, but who stayed at his post, pleading for his church and asking God’s blessing upon it.

(4) Finally, the prayer that leads to revival must be consistent prayer, in which we are prepared also to do what we can to achieve what we are asking. If we pray for the conversion of our loved ones, somehow we must give out witness, too. We must witness by life and words, when they can be effectually presented. If we pray for revival, we must be prepared to open our hearts so that God may revive them. We ought never to take prayer as a means of avoiding the actions God challenges us to.

My father had an experience which I would like to relate to illustrate this point. As a young minister he had been an assistant in a large church which had only two pastors in 50 years, one ministry of 25 years, followed by another of 25 years. After having been in that church, my father became pastor of a very small church in a little village in southern France. Prayer meeting was on Wednesday evening, and there was usually a very limited attendance. One Wednesday there was a frightful storm. The wind was blowing. Rain was falling in buckets. My father thought, “There is not going to be anybody at the prayer meeting tonight. If I go, I will only drench myself. I might as well stay home.” My father was very interested in Hebrew and was studying the song of Deborah in the book of Judges. The temptation was great to stay in his cozy home and deal with that.

As my father was wrestling with this, there came to his memory a sermon given at the time of his ordination. It was on the passage which says, “Go out and make them come in” (Luke 14:23). Most of the time we think about the expression “make them come in.” But on this occasion, the preacher had focused on the phrase, “Go out.” He had said, ” ‘Go out’ means to reach out for people; it means, do not stay in the coziness of your study. You must go out and reach out.” While the gales were blowing and the wind was hitting the windows, my father remembered that and concluded, “Well, I guess God wants me to go out. I do not expect many people. I do not expect very much of anything at this prayer meeting. But if God has told me to go out, I will go out and speak at the prayer meeting;” This was the meeting in which revival started in his church!

Prayer is the prelude to revival. Do you want revival? Then be prepared to pray. “If My people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray . . . then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and will heal their land.”

*This article was originally an address given at the 1982 Philadelphia Conference on Reformed Theology, Philadelphia, PA. and is adapted from Dr. Roger R. Nicole, “Prayer: The Prelude to Revival” in Reformation and Revival, A Quarterly Journal for Church Leadership (Volume 1, No. 3, Summer, 1992).

About the Author: Dr. Roger R. Nicole (1915-2010) was a native Swiss Reformed Baptist theologian and taught for many years at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary as well as the founder of the Evangelical Theological Society.

 

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Is Evolution a Viable Option Scientifically?

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Some Key Problems With Evolution

  • Darwinian evolution is based on a hopelessly illogical premise, the concept of spontaneous generation, or life arising from non-living matter.
  • If Darwinian evolution were true we should literally find millions of transitional forms in the fossil record, but the missing links are still missing.
  • Darwinists claim that natural selection is evidence of macroevolution. However, natural selection, which is basic science, simply demonstrates change within species or microevolution.
  • Critiquing Darwinism does not make a person anti-science. We all share the same scientific evidence. The question is, what theory or interpretive framework best explains the evidence? (Ron Carlson, Christian Ministries International)

Synopsis of 6 Big Problems with Evolution:

(1) Scientists today generally agree that the universe had a beginning. This implies the existence of a Beginner or Creator (Hebrews 3:4, “For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.”).

(2) The universe is so perfectly fine-tuned for life on earth, it must have come from the hands of an intelligent Designer ([God] Romans 1:20 & Psalm 19:1, “For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse….The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork”).

(3) If evolution were true, the fossil records would reveal progressively complex evolutionary forms with transitions. However, no transitional links (with species forming into different species) have been discovered in the fossil records.

(4) Evolution assumes a long series of positive and upward mutations. In almost all known cases, however, mutations are not beneficial but are harmful to living beings. This is a huge problem for evolution.

(5) The Second Law of thermodynamics, which has never been contradicted in observable nature, says that in an isolated system (like our universe), the natural course of things is degenerate. The universe is running down, not evolving upward. In a closed, isolated system, the amount of useable energy decreases. That is, matter and energy deteriorate gradually over time. Also, things tend to move from order to disorder, not the reverse.

(6) Evolutionists often make false claims. Some have claimed that scientific evidence confirms that evolution is true. They generally appeal to the fact that mutations do occur within species (microevolution). But an incredible leap of logic is required to say that mutations within species prove that mutations can yield entirely new species (macroevolution). Two dogs cannot produce a cat! (Ron Rhodes, 5-Minute Apologetics for Today)

How Did the Universe Come to Be? The opening line of Genesis puts it succinctly: “In the beginning God created the heavens and earth” (1:1). The Bible teaches that through an act of God the temporal creation of the universe came from nothing (ex nihilo).

CREATOR CREATION
Uncreated Created
Necessary Contingent
Eternal Temporal
Infinite Finite
Changeless Changing

Christianity teaches that God is the Originating Cause (Eph. 3:9) who created the space-time universe and is also the Sustaining Cause that keeps everything together (Col. 1:17). Moses declared, “For in six days the LORD made the heavens and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but He rested on the seventh day” (Exodus 20:11).

According to Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646-1716), a German philosopher and mathematician, everything that exists has a cause for its existence. We know the universe exists and didn’t get here on its own. God is the necessary being who produces external causes that don’t exist necessarily because they are contingent on something greater than their own existence.

But there are two other options: (1) Naturalism teaches that nothing created the universe—it just came to be with no real explanation. (2) Pantheism teaches that God and the universe are one and eternally the same. The problem with naturalism is that it holds to a contradictory claim that nothing created something created itself. But this is fundamentally irrational. Pantheism, on the other hand, is fundamentally flawed because it identifies the universe as eternal, when the Second Law of Thermodynamics proves that wrong.

To know there is a God who created the universe and controls all things ought to give you great comfort. Evolutionists attempt to rule out a Creator, but thankfully as a Christian, you know God as a personal Creator, and we are made in His image. (See Genesis 1-2; Job 26:10; Isaiah 40:22; John 1:3; Colossians 1:17; Hebrews 1:3).

Is Evolution a Viable Option? Although macroevolution is the dominant scientific theory taught in schools and upheld in academia, the majority of the public still holds to a belief in creation. But how is this possible? How is it that the majority of people still don’t buy into the explanation of evolution? We will provide three essential flaws to the theory of evolution, but first, here’s evolution in a nutshell:

Evolution (common ancestry) is simply defined as a gradual development of simple life forms into more complex life forms brought about by natural processes. Thus, for evolution to be a viable option, it must be able to explain (1) the origin of the universe, (2) the origin of first life, and (3) the origin of new life forms.

  1. the origin of the universe: According to cosmic evolution, the universe just popped into existence. Though evolutionists now admit the universe had a beginning, they deny and designed cause or purpose behind the existence of the universe. Thus, evolution offers no real explanation for the existence of an incredibly big and complex universe.
  1. the origin of first life: Biological evolutionists teach that a primordial soup (simple organic chemicals) produced the first life a few billion years ago as the earth was shaped, formed, and cooled down. But the earth had to be incredibly fine-tuned from the start in order for the necessary and specific conditions to be balanced precisely to produce life. Some evolutionists even speculate that life arose on another planet and was transported here. But this is simply speculation; there is no real evidence for it. Further, if life arose elsewhere, the same problem exists, namely, that non life does not produce life.

(3) the origin of new life forms: Evolution teaches that certain genetic mutations occurred among species that eventually caused them to transition into completely new species with all new genetic information. This is known as macroevolution. The evolutionist bases this idea on observing slight changes or modifications in species within their environment (macroevolution). Yet, macroevolution is a huge leap from the slight modifications that we witness and has absolutely no evidence to support it. What we do observe and can verify is that there is a single common ancestor of humankind (Adam and Eve). Humans beget humans and dogs beget dogs (Gen. 1:21-24). Thus, evolutionists make unwarranted claims that have never been proven that different species emanated from a single cell, or common ancestry.

Most revealing is that Darwin himself admitted, in his book Origin of Species (written in 1859), to the lack of evidence for “intermediate links” in the fossil record. The fossil evidence (as a whole) is even greater than in Darwin’s day, and yet it still does not show evidence of macroevolution. What the fossil record does show, however, are fully formed and fully functional species. This confirms the obvious: transitional forms cannot survive with missing or evolving parts, especially considering survival of the fittest. 

Someone may ask, “What about Archaeopteryx?” Isn’t this a great example of a transitional species from a feathered dinosaur to modern birds? The problem with Archaeopteryx is that it’s not a transitional life form that evolved from reptile to bird. Rather, Archaeopteryx appears in the fossil record as a fully developed bird. Thus, Archaeopteryx is not a missing link between birds and reptiles. It’s a bird. 

In the end, what the evidence points to is a designer who created a good design and applied it to various other species to gain the best results.

When talking to evolutionists, make sure not to assume what they believe, and don’t allow them to make up evidence in support of evolution. Some great questions to ask evolutionists are:

  • What do you mean by evolution?
  • If there is no God, why is there something rather than nothing?
  • Where did the first life come from?
  • Doesn’t there have to be preexisting life for life to exist?
  • What caused nonliving chemicals to produce life?
  • How did non intelligent matter produce intelligent life?

See Genesis 1-2; 5:1-3; Psalms 8; 33; Isaiah 42:5-9; Acts 17:26; Romans 1:20-27; 2 Peter 3:3-6.

Did God use Evolution as His method of creation? Under the banner of ‘theistic evolution,’ a growing number of Christians maintain that God used evolution as his method for creation. It is one thing to believe in evolution; it is quite another thing to blame God for it.

First, the biblical account of creation specifically states that God created living creatures according to their own “kinds” (Genesis 1:24-25). As confirmed by science, the DNA for a fetus is not the DNA for a frog, and the DNA for a frog is not the DNA for a fish. Rather, the DNA of a fetus, frog, or fish is uniquely programmed for reproduction after its own kind. Thus, while Scripture and science allow for microevolution (transitions within “the kinds”), they do not allow for macroevolution (amoebas evolving into areas or apes evolving into humans).

Furthermore, evolution is the cruelest, most inefficient system for creation imaginable. Perhaps Nobel Prize-winning evolutionist Jacques Monod put it best: “The struggle for life and elimination of the weakest is a horrible process, against which our whole modern ethic revolts.” Indeed, says Monod, “I am surprised that a Christian would defend the idea that this is the process which God more or less set up in order to have evolution.”

Finally, theistic evolution is a contradiction in terms—like the phrase flaming snowflakes. God can no more direct an undirected process than he can create a square circle. Yet this is precisely what theistic evolution presupposes. Evolutionism is fighting for its very life. Rather than prop it up with theories such as theistic evolution, thinking people everywhere must be on the vanguard of demonstrating its demise.

“From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.” ~ Acts 17:26-27

Is it Possible for a Protein Molecule to Come into Existence by Chance? Evolutionary theory concerning how the first organized form of primitive life evolved hardly corresponds to reality.

First, there is not the slightest evidence for an evolutionary sequence among the unimaginably varied cells existing on our planet.

Furthermore, no living system can rightly be called primitive with respect to any other. Consider, for example, that life at bare minimum demands no fewer than 250 different kinds of protein molecules.

Finally, giving the evolutionary process every possible concession, the probability of arranging a simple protein molecule by chance is estimated to be one chance in 10[161] (that’s a 1 followed by 161 zeros). For a frame of reference, consider the fact that there are only 10[80] (that’s a 1 followed by 80 zeros) atoms in the entire known universe.

If in time a protein molecule were eventually formed by chance, forming a second one would be infinitely more difficult. As such, the science of statistical probability demonstrates that forming a protein molecule by random processes is not only improbable, it is impossible—and forming a cell or a chimp, beyond illustration. “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’” ~ Psalm 14:1

The Fossil Record: Historically, the most convincing evidence for evolution is the fossil record. Evolutionists claim that the fossil record displays a gradual evolution of animal and plant life from primitive forms to complex forms with transitional phases between major classes (e.g., between fish and amphibians, amphibians and reptiles, reptiles and birds, and so on).

But this scenario has no support. There is no evidence that complex life forms evolve from primitive life forms because no such transitional species between any of these groups of animals have ever been found in the tons of fossil-bearing rock recovered over the past one hundred thirty years. Textbook drawings of transitional species are simply artists’ conceptions of what they think such animals would look like if they did exist. All the major groups of animals are distinct from one another throughout the fossil record, and their particular characteristics are fully formed and functional when they first appear. For example, when feathers and wings first show up, they are fully formed feathers and wings. No part-leg/part-wing or part-scale/ part-feather fossils have ever been found. What use would a part-leg/ part-wing have anyway? According to evolution, for any trait to be passed along, it must have survival value. Certainly a part-leg/part-wing would have no survival value to either a reptile or a bird. In fact, it would likely be a detriment.

On the other hand, the creationist model explains the absence of transitional species. The Bible teaches that God created living creatures “after their kind” (Gen. 1:24). This can be interpreted to mean that God created all the original kinds of animals with specific “gene pools” that contained all of the genetic potential needed for each type of animal to produce diverse varieties within its own kind. For example, the canine family probably arose from an original created kind. From the first dog, all the various wild and domestic dogs on earth developed. But this is not evolution in the sense that modern canines evolved from some pre-dog ancestor. Rather, the original created dog-kind developed, through adaption to diverse environmental conditions, into the numerous forms of dogs we see today. This process is called microevolution, which is not one species evolving from a more primitive species but a created kind fulfilling its full genetic potential within the limits of its original gene pool. Both extinct and modern canines have always been just dogs. In the fossil record, there has never been a half dog/half cat or half dog/half some other animal. There has always been just dogs.

Natural selection within created gene pools accounts for every change seen in every kind of animal on earth, extinct or modern. All the illustrations given by evolutionists to prove evolution are in reality no more than adaptions within specific gene pools. Science has never seen in nature or observed in a laboratory one species of animal evolve into another. When cockroaches become resistant to a pesticide, it does not represent the evolution of a new species of cockroach. Rather it illustrates natural selection within the cockroach gene pool, allowing insects already resistant to a particular pesticide because of their existing genetic makeup to become dominant within a population of cockroaches. But the new breed of resistant cockroaches are still cockroaches.

Mutations: A second important argument used to support evolution focuses on mutations. Evolutionists argue that the mechanism by which one species evolves into another is through genetic mutations. The idea goes something like this. Through a genetic foul-up, a species of animal is born with a new trait that aids its survival. For instance, an animal is born with a deformed ear that actually allows that animal to hear an approaching predator better than others of his species. Because this characteristic is beneficial, that particular animal survives to pass on the trait to its offspring, which in turn benefit from the same trait and pass it on to their offspring. Eventually, after millions of years and countless generations, the animals with the more efficient hearing dominate the species, and what was once a deformity is now part of the genetic makeup of all the animals within that particular species. Evolutionists teach that with vast amounts of time, thousands of these tiny mutations can eventually give rise to an entirely new species of animal. Thus accidental mutations plus long time spans plus natural selection (“survival of the fittest”) result in the continual emergence of new species of animals.

The flaw in this theory is twofold. First, in practically every known case, a mutation is not beneficial but harmful to an animal and usually kills it. A deformity lessens the survival potential of an animal—it does not strengthen it. And even if there are “good” mutations, the tremendous number of bad mutations would overwhelm the fewer number of good ones. What one would expect to see, if mutations were passed along to future generations, is a tendency for a species to degenerate and eventually become extinct, not evolve upward to a new or better species.

The second flaw in the mutation theory is that the time needed for a primitive animal to evolve into a higher animal through random mutational changes is mathematically impossible. The problem lies in the fact that there must be a series of both related mutations and subsequent mutations that are complementary to one another. A new trait does not evolve in one generation. For a deer to evolve greater speed requires not only that it slowly, over countless generations, develops more powerful legs but that corresponding mutations in other areas of its body must also take place at the same time. To run faster, more efficient circulation, heart, lungs, and so on are needed. Creationist Dr. Gary Parker explains that the chances of getting three related mutations in a row is one in a billion trillion (1021). To illustrate the odds of this, he states that “the ocean isn’t big enough to hold enough bacteria to make it likely for you to find a bacterium with three simultaneous or sequential related mutations.” Moreover, the time that would be needed for enough mutations to occur to evolve even a simple organism is many billions of years longer than what evolutionists themselves believe the age of the earth to be.

A similar problem exists with regard to the probability of life accidentally coming into existence from nonlife through chemical processes in the earth’s alleged primordial soup. With the discovery of the genetic code, we now know that the amount of information coded in the organization of a simple living cell is so vast that its accidental formation by random processes is beyond possibility. According to Sir Fred Hoyle, an eminent mathematician and astronomer, if the earth is 4.6 billion years old, as most evolutionists believe, the probability of a single living cell originating by random processes would be one chance in 1040,000 (ten with forty thousand zeros behind it). In other words, the probability is so small that it is not even considered as a viable option by most scientists familiar with information theory and probability studies. Today, thanks to “super computers,” it is firmly established that chance, long time spans, and mutations cannot account for the origin of life nor confirm the evolution of even a simple organism. As Hoyle puts it, “The chance that higher life forms might have emerged in this way is comparable with the chance that a tornado sweeping through a junkyard might assemble a Boeing 747 from the materials therein.”

The Age of the Earth: The third ingredient vital to the evolution recipe is an old earth. Although the age of the earth is not a factor in the creationist model of origins (remember, even if the earth is 5 billion years old, it is still not old enough for even simple organisms to evolve), time is of the utmost importance on the evolution model.

Evolutionists generally agree that the age of the earth is between 4.5 and 5 billion years old. The most common dating methods used by science to substantiate this age are one of several radiometric systems. These methods measure geologic time according to the rate of disintegration of radioactive elements. They are based on the assumption that decay processes have remained fairly stable throughout geologic history.

Today, much data is available that questions the accuracy of radiometric dating systems, and there are numerous other dating methods that suggest a young earth. In fact, over sixty chronometers date the earth as young (in geologic time, a young earth would be tens of thousands to hundreds of millions of years old rather than billions of years old). Dating methods that point to a geologically young earth include the decay of the earth’s magnetic field, the accumulation of meteoritic dust on the earth’s crust, the amount of helium in the atmosphere, the influx of sediment into the oceans via rivers, and the influx of specific chemicals into the oceans. In all of these cases, if the earth was billions of years old, the amount of decay or accumulation would be much greater than they are today.

Thermodynamics: The first and second laws of thermodynamics are foundational to all of science and have never been contradicted in observable nature. The first law, also called the “law of conservation of mass-energy,” states that matter and energy are neither being created nor destroyed. In other words, matter and energy do not have within themselves the ability to create. This implies that they must have been created. The first law of thermodynamics points away from evolution to a creator.

The second law, also called the “law of increasing entropy,” states that entropy (which is the measurement of disorganization) always increases in an isolated system (a system which does not have an external influence that can sustain or increase its available energy, such as the universe). Now, what does this mean? Simply put, it means that the natural course of anything is to degenerate. An old automobile in a junkyard eventually rusts away. An animal is born and eventually grows old and dies. A star burns out and vanishes. In short, the universe is running down. But if the universe is running down, it must have had a beginning. It is not eternal. This implies a creator. It also contradicts evolution which depicts life moving upward rather than slowly degenerating.

The Anthropic Principle: One of the most compelling evidences supporting creationism involves the anthropic principle, although it is sometimes used as an argument supporting evolution. The anthropic principle observes that the earth is fashioned so precisely that life as we know it could not exist if the earth were even minutely different. Evolutionists acknowledge this and then argue that, although the universe is incredibly complex and wonderfully ordered, we should not be surprised that life came into existence through random process. Why? Because the very fact that we exist demonstrates that evolution occurred. In other words, in an infinite universe, the diverse circumstances needed for life to occur were bound to fall into place sooner or later—even if only once—no matter how unlikely it may be.

The fundamental problem with this argument should be obvious. It is merely a philosophical statement that relies on circular reasoning. It assumes that evolution accounts for the origin of life and then states, because life exists, we have proof that evolution is true. To counter this, we can offer our own philosophical statement. Robert Newman does this well: “If such a being as the God of the Bible exists, then an apparently designed universe such as ours would be a likely result rather than such a surprise as we have in an accidental universe.”

Hence, we are right back to arguing which model, creation or evolution, best fits the available evidence. And here is where the creationists can use the anthropic principle to their advantage. The value of the anthropic principle, as a support for creation, lies in its recognition that life can exist only within very narrow margins. For example, if the earth was located closer or farther from the sun, life could not exist due to excessive heat or cold. If the chemical composition of the atmosphere varied only slightly, the air would be poisonous to life. If the sea-to-land-mass ratio, depth of the oceans, and the earth’s cloud cover were different, the earth’s ability to store and release heat would change dramatically. All such events could result in the absence of life on earth. Rather than all of these variables being the result of accidental processes (luck), it appears much more probable that the earth was specifically designed to sustain life. And if it was designed, there must be a Designer—God.

Actually, this concept can be carried a step further. According to the evolutionary scenario, when the earth was formed, it did not initially possess the right chemical balance for life to exist. A hardening ball of gases would hardly support life. For the earth to reach a stage in which it could support life, some form of inorganic (nonliving) evolution would have had to occur. This would be necessary in order to achieve the right combination of ingredients from which organic molecules could emerge. Even if we can envision organic evolution (the evolution of living plants and animals), it takes a colorful imagination to accept the premise that nonliving elements such as gases and minerals evolved to a point where they could support life. I’m convinced that evolutionists demand we believe in the absurd.

Applying Scientific Evidence (Creationism vs. Evolutionism)

Evidence Creationism Evolutionism
No transitional fossils Not expected because God created “Kinds.” Needed for evolution to work but missing in the fossil record.
Mutations Most mutations are “bad” and destroy organisms. The earth is not old enough for “good” mutations to account for evolution. Without an abundance of good mutations, there is no way to account for evolutionary change.
Age of earth Creation model fits with both an old and young earth. Old earth is necessary for evolution.
Thermodynamics Demonstrates the universe had a beginning (created) and is running down (will end). Violates the evolutionary assumptions that the universe is eternal and uncaused.
Anthropic Principle Explains the order and design in the universe as the product of an intelligent Creator. God created the earth specifically to sustain life. Evolution requires that the ingredients necessary to support life are the product of random processes.

Atheism: The atheist often criticizes the believer by remarking, “How can you believe in creation when there is no God?” To say there is no God is to say one has enough knowledge to conclude there is no God. But an atheist can never have sufficient knowledge to be certain there is no God. He would have to be omniscient, for if there is something outside his area of knowledge, that something could include God. An atheist would have to be everywhere in and out of the universe all at one time; for if there is anywhere he cannot be, God could be there.

No atheist can claim total knowledge; therefore, atheism is self-refuting. Knowing everything and being everywhere is to be like God. Since no one can prove God does not exist, the question becomes irrelevant and so does atheism. Thus, creation cannot be ruled out as a potential alternative.

Origin of God: The Bible makes no attempt to prove the existence of God, nor to describe His origin. It simply says, “God has spoken; God has acted.” The first chapter of Genesis uses the word “God” 32 times, it is the most God-centered chapter in the Bible.

“The idea of creation is inconceivable without God.” (Wemher Von Braun, Vice President, Fairchild industries, German-town, Maryland)

Alexander I. Solzhenitsyn, winner of the 1970 Nobel Prize for Literature gave an address in London in which he endeavored to explain why so much evil had befallen his people, the Soviets: “Over a half century ago, while I was still a child, I recall hearing a number of old people offer the following explanation for the great disasters that had befallen Russia: Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.

“Since then I have spent well-nigh 50 years working on the history of our revolution; in the process I have read hundreds of books, collected hundreds of personal testimonies, and have already contributed eight volumes of my own toward the effort of clearing away the rubble left by that upheaval. But if I were asked today to formulate as concisely as possible the main cause of the ruinous revolution that swallowed up some 60 million of our people, I could not put it more accurately than to repeat: Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.”

The Atheistic Faith: Atheistic evolutionists believe:

* No supernatural power exists.

* All creation is the product of chance.

* Living matter comes from dead matter.

* intelligence and conscience appeared without sponsorship.

* Matter is self-creative, self-determinate and indestructible.

Conclusion:

* Nothing produced something.

* Intelligence, design, conscience, and personality are free from any external influence.

* Life follows a deterministic law.

It boils down to choosing to have faith in accidental miracles or created miracles—God or man.

“… In the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, ‘Where is this coming he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.…’ But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness” (2 Peter 3:4 NIV).

Evolution is an animistic religion requiring completely uncritical faith, offering an absurd life and absolute death as rewards for belief. The evolutionist says he does not believe in God because he cannot believe the supernatural miracles which violate or deviate from the known laws of nature. However, the theory of evolution violates every known law for its existence. The atheistic faith is more incredible than Christian faith in light of the evidences.

Is Evolution Scientific? No matter how one looks at it, the theory of evolution must trace back to a point at which inanimate matter became a living form. Here is the absurd story of evolution:

Unknown chemicals

in the primordial past …

through.…

Unknown processes

which no longer exist …

produced …

Unknown life forms

which are not to be found …

but could, through …

Unknown reproduction methods

spawn new life …

in an …

Unknown atmospheric composition …

in an …

Unknown oceanic soup complex …

at an …

Unknown time and place.

Composed by Dr. Henry Morris, the above reveals evolution does not constitute a bona fide scientific theory. Evolution is 20th century mythology.

The Odds for Evolution: One of the best known evolutionists, Julian Huxley, surmised that the probability of natural selection leading to higher forms to be one chance in a number so large, it would occupy 1500 pages of print. Yet he made the following statement, which shows the amazing depth of his anti-God religious zeal:

“No one would bet on anything so improbable happening … and yet it happened” (Huxley, Evolution in Action, 1953).

In his book, The Creation Evolution Controversy, R. L. Wysong makes a forceful expression from a technical standpoint.

“Evolution requires plenty of faith: a faith in proteins that defy chance formation; a faith in the formation of DNA codes which if generated spontaneously would spell only pandemonium; a faith in a primitive environment that in reality would fiendishly devour any chemical precursor to life; a faith in (origin of life) experiments that prove nothing but the need for intelligence in the beginning; a faith in a primitive ocean that would not thicken but would hopelessly dilute chemicals; a faith in natural laws including the laws of thermodynamics and biogenesis that actually deny the possibility for the spontaneous generation of life; a faith in future scientific revelations which when realized always seem to present more dilemmas to the evolutionists; faith in probabilities that reasonably tell two stories—one denying evolution, the other confirming the creator; faith in transformations that remain fixed; faith in mutations and natural selection that add to a double negative for evolution; faith in fossils which embarrassingly show fixity through time, regular absence of transitional forms and striking testimony to a worldwide water deluge; a faith in time which proves to only promote degradation in the absence of mind; and faith in reductionism that ends up reducing the materialist’s arguments to zero and forcing the need to invoke a supernatural creator.”

Battle Between Two Religions: The controversy over creation and evolution is really a battle between two religions. One must choose the chance, randomness, no-God evolutionary philosophy which provides the basis for the religion of humanism in which ‘anything goes’; homosexuality, nudity, abortion, incest, etc., cannot be regarded as evil, for evil does not exist. Or one must choose the absolutes of the Creator God who made everything, and therefore has the authority to dictate what is right or wrong for His creation. The choice, then, is between the religion of Christianity with the basis of its Gospel in a literal creation, or the religion of humanism with its basis in evolution.

What Scientists Think of Evolution:

Ultimately the Darwinian theory of evolution is no more nor less than the great cosmogenic myth of the twentieth century.—Michael Denton, molecular biologist and medical doctor

It is becoming increasingly apparent that evolutionism is not even a good scientific theory.—Dr. Willem J. Ouweneel, Research Associate in Developmental Genetics, Ultrech, Netherlands

What I have learned in the past ten years of review of recent scientific knowledge of cellular morphology and physiology, the code of life (DNA), and the lack of supporting evidence for evolution in the light of recent scientific evidence is a shocking rebuttal to the theory of evolution.—Dr. Isaac Manly of Harvard Medical School

The human fossil record is strongly supportive of the concept of Special Creation. On the other hand, the fossil evidence is so contrary to human evolution as to effectively falsify the idea that humans evolved.—Professor Marvin L. Lubenow, in his book Bones of Contention

For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.—Robert Jastrow, Ph.D. Chief of the Theoretical Division of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (1958–61) and Founder/Director of NASA’s Goddard Institute; Professor of Geophysics at Columbia University; Professor of Space Studies—Earth Sciences at Dartmouth College, in his book God and the Astronomers

Can all of life be fit into Darwin’s theory of evolution?… If you search the scientific literature on evolution, and if you focus your search on the question of how molecular machines—the basis of life—developed, you find an eerie and complete silence. The complexity of life’s foundation has paralyzed science’s attempt to account for it.… I do not think [Darwin’s mechanism] explains molecular life.—Michael Behe, Associate Professor of Biochemistry at Lehigh University

Views of Creation: Evolution (Dr. James Boice)

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. ~ Genesis 1:1–2

When Charles Darwin published The Origin of Species in 1859, he received more abuse than perhaps any modern scientist. To be sure, even Einstein originally objected to Slipher’s discovery of an expanding universe. He wrote, “This circumstance irritates me.” Others also objected. But none of these heaped personal abuse on Slipher. Darwin, by contrast, was greeted with: “Rotten fabric of speculation. … Utterly false. … Deep in the mire of folly [and] … I laughed till my sides were sore.”2 The remarkable thing, however, is that the theory that became the laughing stock and then eventually the battleground of the second half of the nineteenth century has now become widely accepted, not only by scientists but also by a wide variety of people from most walks of life.

This is not to say that evolution is the only theory going. It is merely the dominant view today and is therefore the one with which any discussion of the theory of origins should start. Actually, our discussion in this and the following chapters is going to take us over five competing theories: 1) atheistic evolution, 2) theistic evolution, 3) the so-called “gap theory” popularized by C. I. Scofield, 4) six-day creationism, and finally 5) progressive creationism. We are going to see what each of these theories has to commend it and then also explore its weaknesses.

Let us say at the beginning that a final answer as to how the universe came into being may not be attainable now. We may exclude some possibilities, both as Christians and as scientists. As Christians we may exclude even more. But this still falls short of a full answer to the “how.” Indeed, even taking the explanations of origins in the order proposed above does not necessarily imply that the latter positions are better than the earlier ones. They are taken in this order simply because they have appeared in this order historically.

The Evolutionary Theory

We begin by noting that in spite of the association of evolution with the name of Charles Darwin, evolution itself is nothing new. It existed among the ancient Greeks, for example. Thales, Anaximander, Anaximenes, Epicurus, and Lucretius were all evolutionists. So also was Aristotle (384–322 b.c.), who believed in a complete gradation in nature accompanied by a perfecting principle. This was imagined to have caused gradation from the imperfect to the perfect. Man, of course, stood at the highest point of the ascent.

Again, there were evolutionists in more modern times before Darwin. Some early precursors were Francis Bacon (1561–1626), René Descartes (1596–1650), and Immanuel Kant (1724–1804). The first biologist to make a contribution to evolutionary thought was George Louis Leclerc de Buffon (1707–1788), the French naturalist. Another was Erasmus Darwin (1731–1802), the grandfather of Charles Darwin. The first fairly complete theory of evolution was by Chevalier de Lamarck (1744–1829), who became a professor in zoology at the Museum of Natural History in Paris and later popularized his views in Philosophie Zoologique.

It was Charles Darwin, however, who rightly captured the world’s attention. His theory was developed to a degree that none of the others were and, perhaps even more importantly, it was supported by an impressive array of observations collected initially on the world-encircling tour of the HMS Beagle from 1831 to 1836. Darwin’s theory may be arranged in these postulates and conclusions.

Postulate number one: variation. There are variations within individuals of the same species.

Postulate number two: overproduction. In most cases, more individuals are born to a species than can possibly survive to maturity.

Conclusion number one: struggle for existence. In order to survive individuals must compete with other members of the same species.

Postulate number three: survival of the fittest. In a competitive environment only those individuals best fitted to survive will survive.

Postulate number four: inheritance of favorable characteristics. Fit individuals pass their “good” characteristics to their descendants.

Final conclusion: New species arise by the continued survival and reproduction of the individuals best suited to their particular environment.

What has happened to this theory in the one hundred or so years since the publication of Darwin’s Origin? For the most part it is still held, though much work has been done in the one area that presents a flaw in the argument. As anyone can see, the chief mechanism of evolution according to Darwin’s theory is “natural selection,” the impersonal preference given to a certain variation in a species permitting one individual rather than another to survive. This is supposed to explain how the variety of forms we know came about. But this is precisely what it does not do. Natural selection may explain how certain individuals have more offspring than others and therefore survive, or survive and have offspring while other less favored individuals do not. But it does not tell us how there came to be the various organisms or “good” characteristics of organisms in the first place.

Thomas Bethell, editor of the Washington Monthly, has written of this problem in an article for Harper’s Magazine. He observes, “There is, then, no ‘selection’ by nature at all. Nor does nature ‘act’ as it so often is said to do in biology books. One organism may indeed be ‘fitter’ than another from an evolutionary point of view, but the only event that determines this fitness is death (or infertility). This, of course, is not something which helps create the organism, but is something that terminates it.”

To deal with this problem evolutionists have come to speak of mutations as the primary source of variations. This was proposed first by a Dutch botanist, Hugo de Vries, in a work entitled Species and Varieties: Their Origin by Mutation (1905). It has since been suggested that mutations are caused by cosmic radiations, the latter being perhaps far more intense than in modern times.

The Fossil Record

What are we to say of Darwin’s theory? We must begin by noting that there is no question on the part of any informed thinker or writer that there are varieties within a given species. This is simply to say that all individuals are not alike. Some are tall, some short. Some are strong, others weak, and so on. The question is whether these acknowledged variations are sufficient to account for the development of entirely different species and, second, whether such development has in fact occurred. (The possibility of the development of species in this manner does not prove that this is the way it happened.)

At this point we have to turn to the evidence for evolution, and when we do we must acknowledge that the only true historical evidence is the evidence of fossils. There are other things that might be seen as supporting evolution: the possibility of classifying organisms from the simple to the more complex, similarities of structure in “related” species, the existence of vestigial organs (that is, organs like the human appendix for which no present function is known), similar blood types between some species. But these are all circumstantial arguments, and in some cases they are also ambiguous. The only truly historical evidence—evidence that evolution has actually occurred—is fossils.

The fossil remains may be evidence of evolution, but what is not adequately said today is that they do not prove evolution and are in fact highly questionable when applied to evolutionary theory. Let us begin with positive statements. First, although very fragmentary, the fossils do lend themselves to a historical sequence in which the more simple forms of life may be dated earlier (because found in older rock) and more complex forms of life may be dated later. Thus, although the very ancient dates given may be wrong, it does seem that algae, protozoa, and sponges came first. After that are fish, reptiles, and amphibians, then the land animals, including the dinosaurs. Finally, there are the animals we know today, and then man. Another positive statement is that some species have become extinct, the dinosaurs being the most notable example. The combination of these two sets of observations suggests that new forms of life develop and that others become extinct—according to Darwin.

But it is not that simple. There are problems in fitting the fossil record into an evolutionary system. Moreover, these are so great as to bring the entire theory into question.

For example, if evolution is true, what we should expect to find in the fossil record is finely graded and generally continuous development from the simplest forms to the higher forms. Although this is often claimed for the fossil record, it is not what is in fact found when we study it closely. Certainly there are simpler forms in (presumably) earlier rocks. Higher forms (like man) come relatively late. But there are no gradual developments. On the contrary, the major groups appear suddenly, and there is little or no evidence of transition. Everett C. Olson, a well-known evolutionist, mentions this difficulty: “More important, however, are the data revealed by the fossil record. There are great spatial and temporal gaps, sudden appearances of new major groups, equally sudden appearances of old, including very rapid extinctions of groups that had flourished for long periods of time. There were mass extinctions marked by equally simultaneous death of several apparently little associated groups of organisms. At the time the record first is seen with any real clarity [in Cambrian rock strata], the differentiation of phyla is virtually complete. As far as major groups are concerned, we see little clear evidence of time succession in differentiation with the simpler first and the more complex later.”

It may be argued at this point—indeed, it is argued by evolutionists—that the fossil record is simply incomplete, that if fossils for every prior form of life existed, such gaps would be filled. But in a hundred years of study the tendency has not been this way, and it is hard to convince oneself today that this will yet happen. It is not just a question of several missing links. There are hundreds of missing links. Moreover, the grouping of major species in certain past periods of earth’s history works strongly against this argument. Christians can argue, even if they cannot fully prove, that special creation is a far better explanation.

A second major problem with the use of fossils to support evolution is the subjective nature of arranging fossil histories. It might be argued by one who has seen the difficulty just mentioned that there is nevertheless evidence for development within one of the ancient time periods, even if not from one to the other. The supposed development of the horse from the Eocene period to modern times is an oft-cited example. During 60 million or so years the horse is supposed to have increased in size, lengthened its limbs, reduced and then eventually discarded toes, and become a grazer. Many museums have skeletons or pictures that are supposed to represent this development. But the fossils do not prove this development. They may suggest it, and the development they suggest may in fact be right. But there is still no evidence that one supposed form of the horse gave place to another. In actuality the skeletons may have come from similar but otherwise unrelated animals. Moreover, even if the fossils of these horselike animals prove a development, it is still not an example of the development of new species but only of a change within a species.

Mutations

Another area of difficulty for evolution is the mechanism used to explain the emergence of significant variations in the species, chiefly mutations (sudden unexpected changes brought about by otherwise unexplained alterations in the organism’s genes). This was the solution to the problem of “newness” proposed by Hugo de Vries. De Vries did his work with the evening primrose, a weed that he found in a potato field. He bred this plant over a period of several generations in the course of which he noticed a number of abrupt changes that he called mutations. He concluded that these were developments of such magnitude that the process itself could explain the emergence of new species.

Unfortunately, the new “species” of de Vries were not new species but simply varieties within the same species. Moreover, they were not produced by mutations in the sense of that word today but rather by breeding out recessive characteristics. In other words, de Vries produced nothing that was not in the plant originally.

De Vries’s failure does not entirely discredit the theory, however, for mutations do occur and can be passed down from generation to generation. The question is whether these mutations are sufficient to account for new species. Are they? Many evolutionists would say yes at this point. But it is important to note that no one has as yet demonstrated this to be so. In fact, there is important evidence to the contrary. Walter Lammerts is a rose breeder from southern California and the author of the books Why Not Creation? and Scientific Studies in Creation. He tells of attempts to breed roses with more petals or less petals, using every imaginable technique including radiation. He acknowledges that it is possible to use radiation to create roses with a significant increase in petals. But here is the point: there is a limit beyond which the increase in petals apparently will not go. If a rose has forty-four petals, for example, it may be reduced to thirty-two or increased to fifty-six. But that is all. Moreover, if the hybrid rose is left to mix with others from that point on, it does not retain its new characteristics but soon loses them. In fact, all the hybrid roses we have would soon turn to wild roses if left to them-selves—because they are bred from the wild roses originally. And if that in itself is not enough to cast doubt on the theory, there is the fact that the “improved” roses did not attain their improved form naturally but rather through the concentrated and prolonged efforts of Lammerts and other breeders. In other words, even in so limited a matter as this there is need for a design and a designer, a planner and a plan.

The Crucial Areas

An essay such as this can only begin to suggest a few of the problems the theory of evolution poses. But even in such a short study, concentrating on the basic scientific evidence for and against evolution, we can hardly pass over the far greater and (from the point of view of the Christian) unsolvable problems that exist where the crucial points of evolution are concerned. There are four of them.

First, even were we to grant the truthfulness of the evolutionary system as currently put forth, we still have the problem of the origin of the matter from which the later forms sprang. Evolution implies matter by the very meaning of the word, for in order for something to evolve there must be something there in the first place to evolve, and that first something cannot evolve but rather must be either eternally present or created. Since the eternity of matter is today increasingly untenable, as we saw in a previous study, we must have God as Creator. And this obviously nudges us toward the Christian position, whatever our opinions of a greater or lesser degree of evolutionary development may be.

Second, there is the form of matter. We may speak of “mere” matter as if it were a simple irreducible entity, but we do not actually know of any such “simple” matter and cannot in fact even conceive of it. Everything we know, however simple, already has a form—generally a highly complex form. Even hydrogen, the basic building block of everything according to astrophysics, is not simple. It has a proton, neutron, and electron, all operating according to fixed laws. Where did this fixed form and laws come from? They did not evolve. They are in matter to start with.

Third, there is the emergence of life. This is a complex problem, and much has been done to develop laboratory models according to which life could have arisen on earth during the early ages of the planet. The most acceptable model is a three-stage process involving: 1) the origin of bio-organics (amino acids, sugars) from inorganic compounds (hydrogen, water, ammonia, carbon dioxide, methane); 2) the origin of biopolymers (large molecules such as proteins) from the bio-organics; and finally 3) the origin of primordial life (simple plant or algaelike cells) from the biopolymers. But this is an extremely complex process, even assuming that this is how life came about, and therefore has an extremely low level of probability. True, scientists have achieved the first two of these stages in carefully controlled laboratory experiments. But the crucial third stage is elusive. And even in the second stage, the polymers seem to deteriorate faster than they would normally be created in anything approaching a natural environment. Again, it is not a matter of a single event of low probability. It is a matter of a long series of events, each with a very small probability, so that, as one writer says, “for all practical purposes the probability of this series of events may safely be regarded as zero.”

Two scientists, who nevertheless believe in the spontaneous generation of life, write, “The macromolecule-to-cell transition is a jump of fantastic dimensions, which lies beyond the range of testable hypothesis. In this area, all is conjecture. The available facts do not provide a basis for postulating that cells arose on this planet.”

The fourth of the truly great problems for an atheistic theory of evolution is the emergence of personality in man, or to be more specific, the emergence of the soul, spirit, or God-consciousness. What caused non-man to become man? One writer asks, “Where did the soul of man come from? Why is it that the highest and best animals are unable to pray? They are unable to communicate in a rational way. They are unable to do the things that man is able to do. The lowest type of man upon the face of the earth is far higher than the highest of the animals, because he has the capacity to worship God and can be brought to be a child of God, able to live in the glory of God through Jesus Christ, and that is true of none of the animals.” This writer concludes, “I am not ashamed to say that I believe in the first chapter of Genesis, but I should be ashamed to say that I held to any form of evolution.”

Why Evolution?

I conclude with this question. Why is it, if the theory of evolution is as weak as it seems to be, that it has the popular appeal acknowledged at the beginning of this chapter? Why is it that evolution is today’s dominant view and not one of the other views mentioned? I think there are four answers, three of which I want to put in the form of statements and one of which I want to put in the form of a question.

The statements are these. First, according to evolution, everything—absolutely everything—is knowable, and this has obvious appeal. Everything comes from something else, and we can trace the developments back. It is a closed system. There is no need for anything outside. Above all, there is no need for God who by the very definition of that word is One who is unknowable and who does not need to give an account of himself. Second, according to evolution, there is one explanation for everything. Everything evolves: matter, life, ideas, even religion. We can project this framework from our own small world throughout the universe. Third, and this is perhaps the chief reason, if creation of the world by God is eliminated (as many clearly wish to do), evolution is the only other option.

On the basis of those three statements I now ask my question: Is it not possible, then, that in the last analysis the appeal of evolution is in its elimination of God and its exaltation of man? In this system man does not merely become the highest point of creation, which Christians would themselves willingly affirm. He becomes the god of creation. Consequently, to challenge evolution is to blaspheme against man, and blasphemy against man is the sin for which there is now no pardon. Algernon Charles Swinburne gives expression to this spirit in his Hymn of Man.

But God, if a God there be, is the

Substance of men which is Man.

Thou art smitten, thou God, thou art smitten;

Thy death is upon thee, O Lord.

And the love-song of earth as thou diest

Resounds through the wind of her wings—

Glory to Man in the highest!

For Man is the master of things.

Is man the master? If he is, then he can go his way and devise any theory of origins he chooses. But if he is not—if there is a God—then he is the creation of this God and owes this God allegiance.

 

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