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Category Archives: Book Excerpts

Book excerpts – many of which are unavailable or out of print – These excerpts are here with the hope that you will like what you read and purchase books by the authors (if available) for your own study and the edification of those you influence as a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ.

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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George Sweeting’s 7 Steps To Personal Revival

*George Sweeting’s Seven Steps To Revival:

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(1) Develop the desire to know Jesus Christ better. Develop a holy dissatisfaction. The contented Christian is the sterile Christian. Paul said in substance, “Jesus arrested me on the Damascus road. Now I want to lay hold of all that for which I was arrested by God.” Be thoroughly dissatisfied with your spiritual posture.

(2) Pray for a revolutionary change in your life. I think of Jacob wrestling with God. He wanted a blessing. He wouldn’t be denied. Throw your entire life into the will of God. Seek God’s very best.

(3) Do what you know to do. If we pray for revival and neglect prayer, that’s hypocrisy. To pray for growth and neglect the local church is absolute foolishness. To pray that you’ll mature and neglect the Word of God is incongruous. Put yourself in the way of blessing.

(4) Totally repent. “Create in me a clean heart!” David sobbed. For a whole year David was out of fellowship. But he confessed his sin; he turned away from that sin, and then he could sing again; he could write again; he could pray again.

(5) Make the crooked straight. If you owe a debt, pay it. Or have an understanding with the people you owe. Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” (Luke 19:8). As much as possible, make the crooked straight.

(6) Develop a seriousness of purpose. Keep off the detours. Let nothing deflect that magnetic needle of your calling. If there is anything that is a trojan horse in our day, it is the television set. Beware lest it rob you of your passion and purpose.

(7) Major in majors. The Christian life requires specialists. Jesus said in effect, “Be a one-eyed man” (Luke 11:34-36, “Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light, but when it is bad, your body is full of darkness. Therefore be careful lest the light in you be darkness. If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, it will be wholly bright, as when a lamp with its rays gives you light”). Paul said, “This one thing I do.” Too many of us burn up too much energy without engaging in things that bring us nearer to God.

Refuse to rust out. Start sharing your faith. Make yourself available. Back your decision with your time and talent and dollars. Finally, ask God for great faith in Him. Begin to expect great things.” ~ George Sweeting

*This insight on Revival was gleaned from the book of Quotes and Illustrations called Who Said That? by George Sweeting. Dr. Sweeting was the sixth president (1971–1987) and chancellor of Moody Bible Institute. He received a diploma from Moody Bible Institute (1945), his B.A. from Gordon College and his Doctor of Divinity from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. Dr. Sweeting has served as a pastor in several churches, including Grace Church, Madison Avenue Baptist Church and The Moody Church and also spent nine years traveling the world as an evangelist. Dr. Sweeting has written numerous books, including The Joys of Successful Aging, Too Soon to Quit, Lessons from the Life of Moody and Don’t Doubt in the Dark. He formerly hosted the Moody Radio program Climbing Higher and is a former columnist for Moody Magazine. Dr. Sweeting and his wife, Hilde, reside in the Chicagoland area.

 

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Great Article on Journaling Your Prayers by Bill Hybels

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Note from Dr.David Craig – The book Honest To God? by Bill Hybels is unfortunately out of print. The article below is adapted from Chapter Two of the Book. I include it here with the hope that those who read it will be especially helped with regard to their prayer lives. I can still remember reading this chapter as a young youth pastor trying to develop an authentic and intimate prayer life with God. The example Hybels gives of journaling prayer has been immensely helpful to me over the last 28 years of life and ministry. May God use this article to help you connect intimately and authentically with God. 

*”A New Dimension in Spirituality” by Bill Hybels

I backed the car out of the driveway as I do every morning at 5:45. I switched the radio from a program on ethics to the Tokyo stock closing. While I drove through the neighborhood subdivision, I critiqued architectural designs. I bought coffee at the twenty-four-hour coffee shop and successfully avoided the talkative cashier. As I turned onto the church campus, I formulated a convincing defense for a ministry plan I hoped the staff would adopt. I climbed to my third floor office, wondering about the productivity of the nighttime maintenance crew. I shuffled through the mountain of mail on my desk and wished someone else could answer it.

I spun the my chair around and looked out the window at the church lake, steaming in the crispness of the morning. In that quiet moment I saw the previous quarter hour for what it had been—an hour tainted by purely human perspective. Not once during that hour had I seen the world through godly eyes. I had been more interested in international finances than in the moral demise of out nation. I thought more about houses than the people inside them. I had considered the tasks awaiting me more important than the woman who served my coffee. I had been more intent on logically supporting my plans than sincerely seeking God’s. I’d thought more about staff members’ productivity than their walk with the Lord or their family life. I’d viewed correspondence as a drudgery rather than a way to offer encouragement, counsel, or help.

It was 6:00 A.M. and I needed a renewed heart and mind. Like a compass out of adjustment, my thoughts and feelings were pointing in the wrong direction. They needed to be recalibrated—to be realigned with God’s accurate, perfect perspective.

You see, in the space of a day my relationship with Jesus Christ can fall from the heights to the depths, from vitality to superficiality, from life-changing interaction to meaningless ritual. That’s a humbling admission, but it’s true. In a mere twenty-four hours, I can slide from spiritual authenticity into spiritual inauthenticity.

Some years ago I got tired of this daily descent. I decided then to either do something to stop it, or to get out of the ministry. Christendom didn’t need another inauthentic leader.

I began to pray for guidance and to experience with various disciplines that would help me be more consistent. Eventually I developed a three-phased discipline that I employ every day to keep me truly “connected” to God. It’s not the only path to spiritual authenticity, but for me and many of my friends, coworkers, and church members, it’s proven to be a genuinely life-changing discipline.

YOU WANT ME TO DO WHAT?

Over the years, as I traveled and spoke at churches and conferences, I occasionally met leaders who somehow seemed to avoid the daily slide into artificial Christianity. Whenever I could, I asked what their secret was. In almost every case, they said “journaling”—the daily process of examining and evaluating their lives in written form.

Now if you think I heard that and ran out to buy a journal, you’re dead wrong. I thought the idea was ridiculous. I envisioned the saints of antiquity, with fragile parchments and ink-dipped quills, waxing eloquent in the flickering light of a candle. People who had time for that were not like me. They didn’t have my schedule or live with my kind of pressure. Besides, blank sheets of paper scared me. I’m not the “deep” type; I haven’t had an original thought in my life. What would I write?

Still I had to admit that too often I repeated the same mistakes again and again. Too often I went to bed with regrets about my actions. Too often I made decisions inconsistent with my professed values. In a rare moment of honesty, I faced the fact that I was living under the tyranny of an unexamined life.

At that time, I was chaplain for the Chicago Bears. Occasionally before the Monday morning Bible study, I’d join them at Halas Hall while they watched films and did postgame analysis! They would go over every play of the previous day’s game so they could learn from their mistakes and not repeat them in the next game.

Finally, I understood. The journal’s were simply telling me to do a postgame analysis! How could I expect to be conformed to the image of Christ without evaluating my mistakes and progress? How could I grow without examining my character, decision-making, ministry, marriage, child-rearing? Maybe journaling was for me.

YESTERDAY

I was still worried about facing a blank sheet of paper, but a well-known author offered a simple suggestion: Buy a spiral notebook and restrict yourself to one page a day. Every day start with the word “Yesterday.” Write a brief description of people you met with, decisions you made, thoughts or feelings you had, high points, low points, frustrations, Bible-reading—anything about the previous day. Then analyze it. Did you make good decisions, or bad? Did you use your time wisely or waste it? Should you have done anything differently?

Evaluating my day would help me avoid repeating my mistakes. But writing for five or ten minutes would also slow down my pace. I knew I needed that. I’m a morning person, and when I get to the office at 6 A.M., I’m ready to roll. The phone starts ringing, the adrenaline starts pumping, and there’s no stopping me. If journaling could slow me down, I would be ready to really connect with God.

I decided to try it. My first journal entry says this: “Yesterday I said I hated the concept of journals, and I still do. But if this is what it takes to rid myself of inauthentic spirituality, I’ll do it. If this is what it takes to reduce my RPM’s enough to talk and walk with Christ, I’ll do it. I’ll journal.

And I have—nearly every day. I’ve never written anything profound, but in simple terms I’ve chronicled the activity of God in my life, relationships, marriage, children, and ministry. I’ve also worked through feelings, confronted fears, and weighed decisions. And I’ve slowed down enough to meet with God.

NOW WHAT?

The only problem with slowing down and meeting with God was that I realized I didn’t have much to say. The second part of my path to spiritual authenticity, my prayer life, was amazingly weak, and had been for years.

It wasn’t that I hadn’t wanted to pray. I always had good intentions. I tried to pray. But I would get down on my knees and say, “Dear God…” and in five seconds my mind would be in outer space. I would start thinking of people I hadn’t seen in years, making up problems for solutions that didn’t exist, strategizing for new ministries, or planning family vacations. 

It was so frustrating. I normally have a tremendous ability to concentrate. I pride myself with an ability to stick with a project till it’s done. But prayer did me in every time. I would hear of people speak of praying for four hours, and I would feel terrible knowing I couldn’t pray for four minutes. 

I would probably still be a prayerless man if a friend hadn’t suggested his habit of writing out his prayers. He said God created him with a very active mind, and the only way he had been able to “capture” it and focus on God was to write out his prayers. I thought to myself, “That’s me! That’s what I need to do.” 

Another concern I had about my prayer life was imbalance. I knew how easy it was to fall into the “Please God” syndrome. “Please God give me…help me…comfort me…strengthen me…” I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to pray with balance.  So adopted a simple pattern of prayer that’s not original with me. But it includes the four sturdy legs of balanced prayer.

ADORATION

Each morning after filling out my “yesterday page,” I write a big A on the next page, then spend a few minutes writing a paragraph of praise to the Lord. Sometimes I paraphrase a psalm, or attempt to write a poem. Sometimes I write the words to a praise song, then sing it quietly in the privacy of my office. Often I focus on the attributes of God, sometimes listing them all, sometimes meditating on just one. 

Though I’ve been a Christian for years, I never privately worshiped God on a consistent basis—until I started writing out my prayers. Worship os foreign to us. We were made for it. Yet because of sin, worship doesn’t come naturally. We have to work at it; we have to be disciplined at it. And like any other learned activity, the first few times we try it, we feel awkward. But our sincerity, not our eloquence, is what matters to God.

There are several reasons for beginning prayer with worship. First, worship reminds us that we’re addressing the Holy Majestic God and prevents us from reducing prayer to a wish list—the “Please God…” syndrome again.

Second, worship establishes the identity of God. It reminds us that God has power to intervene in any situation, that He cares about us, and whether we are in a car, an office, or an airplane, He is always available to us.

Adoration also purges. After five or ten minutes in adoration, I find my spirit has been softened. My heart has been purified. My agenda changes. That burning issue I just had to bring to God’s attention suddenly seems less crucial. My sense of desperation subsides. I begin to say, and mean, “It is well with my soul. I am enjoying You, God. I am at peace.”

Finally, adoration is the appropriate introduction to prayer simply because God deserves it.

Begin to worship God when you pray. Be creative. Experiment. Use verses and psalms to get you started. Don’t worry if you feel clumsy at first. God’s heart is thrilled by even our most feeble attempts.

CONFESSION

I used to be an “oops” confessor. I would say an unkind word to someone, then say, “Oops, Lord, I’ll have to confess that to You later.” Then I would exaggerate a story, and say, “Oops, Lord, I’ll catch that one later too.” All day I would add the tally, fully intending to clear the bill later.

But later seldom came. When it did, I would make a blanket confession of “my many sins.” I thought I was wonderfully honest and humble, claiming my sins like that. In reality, it was a colossal cop-out.

You see, blanket confessions are nice, virtually painless. But they do nothing to transform our hearts. It seems confession has to hurt a bit, even embarrass us, before we’ll take it seriously. 

One way to make confession hurt is to write out specific sins. Do you know what it’s like to see your sins in print? Try writing something like this: “Yesterday I chose to wound Lynne with my words. I was cruel, insensitive, and sinful.” Or, “Last night I told Todd I would play ball with him, but I didn’t keep my word. I lied to my son.”

It’s easy to justify our behavior: “I had a rough day. I was busy. Lynne shouldn’t have expected so much from me.” Or, “I intended to play ball. It just didn’t work out.” But we need to see our sins for what they are. Writing them out helps.

In one particular Sunday message, I emphasized the fact that we’re all sinners who need a Savior. After the service, a salesman informed me that he didn’t consider himself a sinner. I asked If he had been faithful to his wife. “Well, I travel a lot you know…” Then I asked about his expense account. “Oh, everybody stretches the truth a little bit…” Finally, I questioned his sales techniques. Did he ever exaggerate or overstate a claim? “That’s standard in the industry…” “Well,” I said, “you just told me you’re an adulterer, a cheater, and a liar.” “How dare you call me those things?!” He was appalled by my “brash insensitivity.”

As hard as it was for him to hear those words, I believe I did him favor. I also believe I do myself a favor when I write in my journal, “I am a liar. I am greedy. I have a problem with lust. I am envious.: Two things happen when we confess our sins honestly.

First, we experience the freedom of forgiveness. For years I tried to run the race of faith with chains of unconfessed sin tangled around my legs. I didn’t know how much they were hindering me until I quit playing games and got honest with God.

Second, gratitude for God’s forgiveness motivates us to forsake our sin. Why hurt Someone who loves us that much? Why disobey Someone who extends so much grace to us?

There doesn’t appear to be much true confession in Christian circles. That’s a shame, because exciting things happen when God’s children get honest about their sin. Five days of having to call oneself a liar, a greedy person, a cheat, or whatever, is enough to drive any spiritually sensitive person to forsake that sin.

A man in my church recently began “confessing” in his journal. He said, “My sins didn’t bother me much before. Now I realize I have to take them seriously, and do my best to forsake them. When it comes to this sin business, I have to fish or cut bait.”

We all need to realize that sin is serious business and enlist the Holy Spirit’s help in forsaking it. Then we can make progress in rooting specific sins out of our lives, and we’ll know what the Scripture means when it says, “the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

THANKSGIVING

First Thessalonians 5:18 says, “Give thanks in all circumstances.” For years I misunderstood this. I thought having feelings of gratitude toward God was the same as thanksgiving. It isn’t.

Do you remember the ten leapers described in Luke 17? They begged Jesus to heal them, but when He did, only one bothered to thank Him. Jesus asked, “Where are the other nine?”

I am confident that the other nine were thankful. They had to be. If you had a debilitating, terminal illness that rotted your limbs and made you a social outcast, and suddenly you were cleansed and healed, wouldn’t you have tremendous feelings of gratitude toward your Healer? Of course you would. But nine lepers didn’t take the time to say it. And that mattered to Jesus.

One summer I took my son Todd for a helicopter ride at a county fair. He was so excited he could hardly stand it. Later, I thought he was asleep in the car until he slid his arm around my shoulder and said, “Dad, I just want to thank you for taking me to that fair.” That expression of gratitude tempted me to turn the car around and go back to the fair for round two.

When I understood that distinction between feeling gratitude and expressing thanksgiving. I decided to become a more “thanks-giving” man. I want to be like the one leper who ran back and showered Jesus with thanks. I want to be like Todd, who warmed my heart with his gratitude.

We’re God’s children. We have the power to offer Him joy through thanksgiving. In my journal, I thank God for answered prayers, and for specific spiritual, relational, and material blessings. Almost everything in my life fits under one of those categories. By the time I finish my list. I’m ready to go back to adoration.

An added benefit of giving thanks is a transformed attitude. I used to be a very covetous man. I struggled hard with wanting more than I had. But a daily look at my blessings has led me from covetousness to contentment to awe at the abundance in my life.

SUPPLICATION

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6). After adoring God, confessing our sins, and thanking Him for His goodness, we’re in the right frame of mind to ask God for what we need.

Nothing is too big for God to handle or too small for Him to be interested in. But sometimes I still wonder if my requests are legitimate. So I’m honest with God. I say, “God I have told You how I feel about this situation. You’ve asked me to make my requests known, so I have. I would love to see You do this. But if You have other plans, I don’t want to get in the way. If these requests are wrong, or the timing isn’t right, that’s fine. We’ll go Your way.”

Sometimes I don’t even know how to begin to pray about a certain situation. Then I say, “I don’t know what to say, Lord.” If You’ll tell me how to pray, I’ll pray that way.”

God honors that kind of prayer. James 1:5 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” 

I break my prayers into four categories: ministry, people, family, and personal. Under ministry I pray for my church. Under people I pray for my staff and elders, and I pray for my friends, both Christian and non-Christian. Under family I pray for Lynne, Todd, and Shauna. I pray that I would be a godly father and husband. I pray about finances, education, vacations, and other areas of my family life.  Under personal I pray about my character. I pray that God would help me be more righteous man. 

Make up your own categories of prayer. Then keep a list of what you’ve prayed about. After a few weeks, look back over it. You’ll be amazed at what God has done.

LISTENING

Journaling and writing out my prayers slow me down enough to hear God’s still, small voice. The third step in my daily discipline is to listen and ask God to speak to me.

Scripture says, “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). It’s these quiet moments after prayer that really matter. They nourish authentic Christianity. Power flows out of stillness, strength out of solitude. Decisions that change the course of our lives come out of these quiet times. 

I begin with these words: “Lord, You talked to Your children all through history, and You said You’re unchangeable God. Talk to me now. I’m listening. I’m open.”

Then I ask four questions. I never hear an audible voice, but often I get impressions that are so strong I write them down.

First, I ask, “What is the next step in my relationship with You?” Sometimes I sense nothing, and interpret that to mean, “We’re all right. Don’t worry. If I wanted to say something I would. Just relax in My presence.”

At other times He tells me I need to learn more about His character. One time I sensed God telling me to loosen up. I was too concerned with how to please Him, and had to learn to enjoy Him more.

Second, I ask, “What’s the next step in the development of my character?” I always get a response from this one. There seems to be plenty of rough edges for God to chip away at! “Honesty,” He’ll say, or “Humility,” or “purity.”

God has taught me that in regard to character, little things matter. At the office, I usually do only ministry-related correspondence; the church pays the postage. Occasionally, however, the distinctions between ministry and personal correspondence blurs. Once during my listening time, I sensed God telling me to be more scrupulous in distinguishing between ministry and personal mail.

That afternoon I taped quarters to two of my outgoing letters. My secretary said, “What’s this?” I said, “Just pay the meter. It’s important.” It’s such a little thing, but not to God.

Third, I ask, “What’s the next step in my family life?” Again, God gets specific. “Be more encouraging Lynne. Take time to serve her.” Or, “You’ve been out of town a lot. Plan a special getaway with the kids.” Being a godly husband and father is a tremendous challenge for me. I need God’s suggestions.

Finally, I ask “What’s the next step in my ministry?” I don’t know how anyone survives ministry without listening to God. Most of my illustrations, messages, and new ministry directions come out of this time of listening. I would have little creativity and insight without it. 

You might ask other questions: What’s the next step in my vocation? In my dating relationship? In my education?

Over time, you’ll become more adept at sensing God’s answers to these questions. You’ll receive Scripture verses, ideas, or insights that are just what you need. Those moments of inspiration will become precious memories you carry with you all day.

The great adventure of listening to God can be scary sometimes. Often God tells me to call or write someone, or apologize for something I’ve done, or give away a possession, or start a new ministry, and I think, “Why? I don’t understand?”

But I’ve learned to walk by faith, not by sight. God’s leadings don’t have to make sense. Some of the wisest direction I’ve received has been ridiculous from a human viewpoint. So If God tells you to write someone, write. if He tells you to serve somewhere, serve. Trust Him, and take the risk.

PURSUE THE DISCIPLINES

Several years ago, I played on a park district football team. During the warm-up before our first game, I learned that I would play middle linebacker on the defensive unit. That was fine with me; my favorite professional athlete is Mike Singletary, All_pro middle linebacker for the Chicago Bears.

The game started. When it was time for the defense to take the field, I stood in my middle linebacker position, determined to play with the same intensity and effectiveness I’d so often seen in Mike. Scenes of nationally televised Sunday afternoon football games flashed through my mind and psyched me for a major hit.

The opposing offensive unit approached the line to run the first play. Mimicking Mike, I crouched low and stared intently at the quarterback, readying myself to explode into the middle of the action in typical Singletary style. The battle raged…and reality struck with a vengeance. Using a simple head fake, the quarterback sent me in the opposite direction of the play, and the offense gained fifteen yards.

So went the rest of the game. By the fourth quarter I came to a brilliant conclusion: If I wanted to play football like Mike Singletary, I would have to do more than mimic his on-the-filed actions. I would have to get behind the scenes, and practice like he practiced. I would have to lift weights and run laps like he did. I would have to memorize plays and study films as he did. If I wanted his success on the field, I would have to pursue his disciplines off the field. Discipling is no less important on the field of Christian living.

One of the most positive trends in the contemporary church is the recent interest in the spiritual disciplines. Dallas Willard’s book, The Spirit of the Disciplines: Understanding How God Changes Lives, has been called “the book of the decade,” and I believe it is. After five years of journaling, writing out my prayers, and listening to God, I am delighted to discover additional disciplines to further enhance my pursuit of a consistent spiritual life.

Willard asserts that the key to being conformed to the image of Christ is to follow Him in the overall style of life He chose for Himself.

If we have faith in Christ, we must believe that he knew how to live. We can, through faith and grace, become like Christ by practicing the types of activities he engaged in, by arranging our whole lives around the activities he engaged in, by arranging our whole lives around the activities he himself practiced in order to remain constantly at home in the fellowship of his Father (Dallas Willard, The Spirit of the Disciplines: Understanding How God Changes Lives. San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1988, ix.).

If we want to be like Christ, we have to live as He lived. That doesn’t mean we focus on the special moments when His character and compassion shone in the public spotlight or try to mimic Him in the way I tried to mimic Mike Sigletary on the football field. It means we imitate His entire life, including the behind-the-scenes disciplines that prepared Him to shine when the pressure was on. It means we “practice the activities he practiced.”

What are these activities? The disciplines include “solitude and silence, prayer, simple and sacrificial living, intense study and meditation upon God’s Word and God’s way, and service to others (See Willard, ix).

Every true Christian wants to live like Jesus lived—to love the unlovely, to serve with grace, to resist temptation, to uphold conviction, exhibit power. But we can only live that way if we devote ourselves to the same disciplines He practiced. If Jesus pursued these disciplines to maintain spiritual authenticity, how much more must we.

In his book, Willard suggests disciplines of abstinence and engagement. The former include solitude, silence, fasting, frugality, chastity, secrecy, and sacrifice. The latter include study, worship, celebration, service, prayer, fellowship, confession, and submission (See Willard, 158). 

We have looked at the discipline of prayer. I conclude with a discussion of solitude and fasting.

SOLITUDE

The discipline of solitude isn’t entirely new to me. For years I’ve spent my first hour at the office alone, journaling, praying, and listening. After that, I spend time in quiet message preparation before meeting with other staff members. I’ve also made periodic use of brief getaways for solitary retreats.

Recently, however, I have incorporated even more solitude into my schedule. As I get in better touch with the natural ebb and flow of my life, I see a direct correlation between ministry effectiveness and the amount of time I spend alone. Solitude builds my emotional and spiritual reserves and increases my ability to help others.

I am a relational person. I thrive on the stimulation of being with people. I’m learning, however, that there is a danger in being with people too much. It can drain my spiritual vitality and dilute my effectiveness. I may still enjoy being with people, but I have nothing worthwhile to offer them. Lately, when I’ve noticed my life getting too crowded with people and activity, I’ve scheduled lunchtimes alone. I go to a local restaurant, eat by myself, and let God refresh me.

Because of the demands in my work, I was often tempted to schedule ministry appointments one after the other. If I had an evening meeting at church, I would return to my office immediately after dinner so I could “get some work done” before the meeting. I’ve learned however, than an hour of “disengaging” may be a better use of time. If I sit for an hour in my backyard, and enjoy the evening sun, I can attend the meeting refreshed and offer something worthwhile.

What do I do in these occasional hours of quietness? I step out of the day’s frantic pace, and focus my attention on God. I remind myself that He’s in control. I ask for the infilling power of the Holy Spirit. I dwell on His love. Sometimes I sit and watch my kids play, or just sit quietly with my wife. Sometimes I walk in the country. There are no set rules for making solitude count. Just be quiet. Let God do His work.

FASTING

I hesitate to write about fasting, because I’m such a novice at it. But if this book is to honestly chronicle the work of God in my life right now, I have to mention the tremendous impact that fasting has had on me.

There are numerous benefits to fasting. One is the purely physical benefit of cleansing our bodies; another is the psychological benefit of learning self-control and denial. But what has most benefitted me is the increased alertness to spiritual perspectives. Prayer, Bible study, and meditation on Scripture, worship—all are enhanced when I am fasting. I think I feel an inner abandonment that makes me a more usable vessel.

Once Jesus’ disciples complained because they were unable to cast out a certain demon. Jesus said, “But this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting” (Matthew 17:21). I’m beginning to understand why Jesus said that. Spiritually motivated fasting seems to unlock a deeper dimension of spiritual power. Recently, I’ve sensed God working in and though me in ways I hadn’t previously experienced. I attribute the excitement and productivity in my ministry to this simple discipline of fasting.

Are you ready for a spiritual challenge that holds a storehouse of rewards? Try fasting. If you don’t know how to begin, read the fifth chapter of Stormie Omartian’s book, Greater Health God’s Way. She gives careful guidelines and thoroughly explains the physical, psychological, and spiritual benefits.

To people who have grown up in food-obsessed America, fasting sounds like a fate worse than death. In reality, it opens the door to freedom and strength.

A WHOLE NEW DIMENSION

I took a giant step on the path to spiritual authenticity when I started journaling, writing out my prayers, and listening to God. The disciplines of solitude and fasting have opened up new dimensions of that journey.

I can’t say what it will take for you to become spiritually authentic. But before I can say this: There are no shortcuts. Wishing for spirituality isn’t enough. Growth that produces power and consistency requires strategy and discipline.

*Adapted from Chapter Two in Honest To God by Bill Hybels, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1990.

 

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THE THREE STAGES OF DISPENSATIONALISM

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CLASSICAL REVISED PROGRESSIVE
Other Names Essentialist Normative Non-dispensational
Dates 1830-1952 1952-present 1987-present
Scholars Darby, Scofield, Chafer, Ironside McClain, Walvoord, Pentecost, Ryrie Bock, Blaising, Saucy, Ware
Dispensations Seven Four or More Three or More
Schools Dallas Dallas, Talbot, Western, Moody, Grace Dallas, Talbot
Covenants David future; Two new covenants Davidic future; One New Covenant Davidic Present; One New Covenant
Continuity Sharp Discontinuity More Continuity Even greater Continuity
Peoples Two separate programs: Israel-earthly;

Church-heavenly

Converging programs: earthly/heavenly distinctions are minimal One people: the church continues program with Israel until Israel believes
Believers of Daniel’s 70th Week Tribulation saints who are not part of the church Tribulation saints who are not part of the church Tribulation saints who are part of the church
Church Age Parenthesis in God’s program with Israel Parenthesis in God’s program with Israel Not a parenthesis but a progressive outworking of God’s program
Postponement Theory Belief that the kingdom was postponed due to Israels rejection Believed by many but de-emphasized Not taught due to the progressive fulfillment of the kingdom
Kingdom Totally Future Mostly Future (majority) or Total Future (some) Present now, though fullest dimensions are yet Future
Spirit during Tribulation Absent and not indwelling Present but not indwelling Present and indwelling
Sermon on the Mount Millennial Principles Present ethics while anticipating the kingdom Present ethics while anticipating the kingdom

RESOURCES ON CLASSIC/REVISED AND PROGRESSIVE DISPENSATIONALISM:

HISTORICAL DEVELOPMENT OF DISPENSATIONALISM:

Dispensationalism Before Darby by William C. Watson.

Dispensationalism and the History of Redemption: A Developing and Diverse Tradition edited by D. Jeffrey Bingham and Glenn R. Kreider.

CLASSIC:

The Scofield Reference Bible. Oxford University Press. 1909, 1917, 1937, 1945.

God’s Plan of the Ages: A Comprehensive View of God’s Great Plan from Eternity to Eternity by Louis T. Talbot.

Dispensationalism and Systematic Theology by Lewis Sperry Chafer.

REVISED:

The New Scofield Reference Bible. Oxford University Press, 1967.

Dispensationalism by Charles Ryrie, 2007.

Dispensationalism: Essential Beliefs and Common Myths by Michael J. Vlach, 2017.

Things to Come by J. Dwight Pentecost, 2010.

PROGRESSIVE:

Three Central Issues in Contemporary Dispensationalism by Darrell L. Bock and Elliott Johnson, 1999.

Progressive Dispensationalism by Craig A. Blaising and Darrell L. Bock, 2000.

The Case for Progressive Dispensationalism by Robert Saucy, 2010.

Dispensationalism, Israel And The Church by Craig A. Blaising and Darrell L. Bock, 2010.

 

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Jewish Evangelism in the New Millennium in Light of Israel’s Future (Rom. 9-11) By Dr. Walter C. Kaiser Jr

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It is impossible to read and interpret the epistle to the Romans without confronting its central issue—the relation of the Jewish people to God’s plan of salvation and evangelism. Throughout the entire apostolic ministry of Paul, we, in fact, find this “two-step missionary pattern”: [Note #1: This expression is from Mark D. Nanos, The Mystery of Romans: The Jewish Context of Paul’s Letters (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Fortress, 1996), 239-47]. “to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Rom. 1:16; 2:10 RSV). Paul’s custom, upon arrival in a city where he had not previously preached, was first to enter the synagogue to preach, then to preach to the Gentiles of that city. [Note: #2: Acts 17:1-2, “Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures.”]. This two-step pattern is a distinctive of the apostle’s ministry and message: the Jew first and then to the Gentiles.

Nevertheless, even though all will agree on the correctness of this assessment, it has become commonplace among more recent theologians to regard the Christian church as the new successor and replacement for the Israel of Romans 9-11. Or alternatively, Israel is treated as a parenthetical insertion into, or disruption to the Gentile evangelistic outreach of, the otherwise unified argument of the book of Romans.

Examples of the former mistake can be seen in a fairly large number of places. The second Vatican Council described the Christian church as “the new Israel.” [Note #3: Geoffrey Chapman, The Documents of Vatican II (London: n.p., 1966), 24-26, as cited in D.B. W. Robinson, “The Salvation of Israel in Romans 9-11,” Reformed Theological Review 26 (1967): 81. Robinson also alerted me to several of the surfaces that follow from the church documents.] A similar document titled “Report of the Joint Commission on Church Union of the Congregational, Methodist, and Presbyterian Churches of Australia” also identified the church with “the true Israel.”[Note #4: Joint Commission on Church Union, The Church: Its Nature, Function and Ordering (Melbourne: Joint Board of Christian Education, 1964), 12ff.]. These citations are only a small representation of the reigning thought among many reformed and covenantal theologians today.

But just as troubling is another sentiment among many dispensational and non reformed theologians. This perspective asserts that the doctrine of salvation in the book of Romans can be dealt with apart from the question of the Jewish people. It is thought that Romans 9-11 is merely a parenthetical insertion between Romans 1-8 and Romans 12-16, one that momentarily halts the discussion of the doctrine of salvation in the former passage and its practical implications in the latter. Even though this group correctly believes there is a future for ethnic Israel of the flesh, they do not clearly connect it with the present-day church. It is almost as if the plan of God for salvation changes as the days of the eschaton appear in the windup of the present period of history.

To counter such a belief, both of these positions must come in for some serious modification according to the biblical data. The task of this article, then, is not only to interpret the meaning of Romans 9-11 as faithful to the apostle’s assertions, but also to show that Romans 9-11, with its message about Israel, is integral to the subject matter of the epistle as a whole with its single plan of the salvation of God.

The Ancient Covenant: A Troubling Question

Romans 9-11 is not, as Hendrikus Berkof affirmed, some sort of “eccentric outburst, nor is it particularly difficult, as is suggested by the contradictory explanations.” [Note #5: Hendrikus Berkof, Christ the Meaning of History, trans. Lambertus Buurman, Dutch 4th ed. (Richmond, VA: John Knox Press, 1966), 141.]. Berkhof went on to correctly observe that this text becomes especially difficult only when we wish to make it say something it does not say.

Why, for example, does the apostle say, “I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart” (Rom. 9:2 NIV)? So strongly does Paul feel about this matter that he could wish himself personally accursed and cut off from the Messiah if it would have the benefit of bringing his Jewish brethren to the light of the gospel in the Messiah (Rom. 9:3).

Surely, this is a noble and praiseworthy sentiment, but it does not explain why the area of Jewish acceptance of the gospel is so troubling for Paul. Only when we get to Romans 11:1 do we find out what is so troubling to the apostle: “Did God reject his people?” The question poses a potential problem not only about Israel, but a bigger problem not only about Israel, but a bigger problem about God. In short, how can the everlasting plan of God be trusted and believed in for the salvation of all peoples? If God—the same God, who, based on His word and his own life (Gen. 12; 22; Her. 6:18)—once promised to Israel similar outcomes as those found in Romans 9-11, but has now rejected Israel and turned his back on them, what is left of the doctrine of the faithfulness and dependability of God? It is simply impossible for God to lie or go back on what he promises. Therefore, the problem of Israel is the problem of God due to his eternal promise-plan. [Note #6: I have developed the continuity theme of the promise-plan of God between the two testaments in my books Toward an Old Testament Theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1978) and The Christian and the “Old” Testament (Pasadena, CA: William Carey Press, 1999).].

The answer Paul will give to his own question is that the rejection of Israel is not total or complete, but only temporary and partial at that. “It is not as though the word of God had failed; for not all who are descended from Israel are Israel” (Rom. 9:6 NIV). That is, there are many Israelites who are not lost, but are saved. This same divine discriminating policy has been observed from the very beginning. God chose Isaac, not Ishmael; Jacob, not Esau (Rom. 9:7-12). In so doing, Paul argues, God was not unjust. The marvel is that anyone experienced the mercy of God. The better question to ask is why God spared anyone at the time of the golden calf (Rom. 9:14-18). Furthermore, this divine sovereignty does not exempt human responsibility, for while the grace and mercy of God cannot be pursued by works, but only by faith (Rom. 9:31-32), mortals still culpable for their own refusals of this grace of God. But there is more to the answer: in Romans 10 Paul demonstrates that the rejection of so large a number in Israel is not arbitrary or out of character for God. Israel disregarded the righteousness that came from God and substituted instead a homemade righteousness that refused to submit to God’s righteousness (Rom. 10:3). Most of Israel failed to “confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead” (Rom. 10:9). Thus, there is no way that any Israelite, who rejects God’s way of salvation, can blame anyone other than themselves. Had not the prophet Isaiah cried out on God’s behalf, “All day long I have held out my hands to an obstinate people, who walk in ways not good, pursuing their own imaginations” (Isaiah 65:2) Paul used in Romans 10:21 this very argument from the prophet Isaiah to show that many of the Jewish people must bear responsibility.

The rejection of the majority of Israel, however, is “neither absolute nor unqualified.” [Note #7: Anthony A. Hoekema, The Bible and the Future (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1979), 142]. Romans 11:1-10 argues that God’s dealings with the Jews and the Gentiles are closely interrelated. What may have seemed to be a divine rejection of the Jewish people was and is not such, for there has always been a remnant selected by grace who did believe and were saved (Rom. 11:5). Thus, the gospel had a twofold effect: some were saved and others were hardened by the same good news. This double effect mirrors that which the plagues of Egypt had on Pharaoh and the Egyptians. The plagues were meant to lead the Egyptians to repentance (Exodus 7:17; 9:14, 29 et passim), but it hardened many off them. Some did believe (Ex. 12:38), but most, like Pharaoh, rejected all of God’s evidences.

Israel: An Indefectible Destiny

It is clear that Paul focuses his attention on Israel in these three chapters, but what “Israel” is Paul thinking about? Nowhere else in Paul’s writings has he expounded and used the term Israel so centrally and so insistently. Elsewhere in Paul’s writings, Israel occurs only five times (NIV):

  1. 1 Corinthians 10:18—“Consider the people of Israel,” a passing allusion to the sacrificial order in the older testament;
  2. 2 Corinthians 3:7, 13—“the Israelites,” who were unable to look on Moses’ face when he came down from Mount Sinai;
  3. Ephesians 2:12—“excluded from citizenship in Israel,” refers to Christians who were not part of the state of Israel;
  4. Philippians 3:5—“of the people [stock] of Israel,” describes Paul as being a legitimate Jew;
  5. Galatians 6:16—“Israel of God,” is a passage hotly contested both for and against an identification with Israel.

In Romans 9-11, however, the term Israel or Israelites occurs fourteen times. But this recurrence represents more than focus: Paul speaks from within, and on behalf, of Israel. We shall badly misunderstand Paul if we think that he has renounced his membership within Israel due to his faith in Jesus. The apostle never seceded from his Jewish heritage and his people, for what he taught was consistent with his Jewish faith taught in the Tenakh.

Paul proposes no new definition for Israel: for him there was only one Israel. C.F.D. Moule had thought that the name Israel had lost its original character, with Paul reserving the name Jews for those who are externally, or by both, Jewish, and the term Israel being reserved for those who were part of the people of God, the religious community. [Note #8: C.F.D. Moule, The Birth of the New Testament (London: Adam and Charles Black, 1962), 46.]. This cannot be sustained however, in biblical usage. These two terms, Jews and Israel, are never contrasting terms, for when Paul wished to make that distinction, he spoke of those who were Jews “outwardly” versus those who were Jews “inwardly” (Rom. 2:28-29).

The real character and definition of Israel is set out in Romans 9:4-5. Their articles of incorporation, as it were, included “the adoption as sons,” “the divine glory,” “the covenants,” “the receiving of the law,” “the temple worship,” “the promises,” “the patriarchs,” and “the human ancestry of Christ [the Messiah]” (NIV). But even more startling, this calling and these gifts were “irrevocable” (Rom. 11:29). God himself could not change his purpose and plan toward his people whom he had set as the object of his election (Rom. 11:2).

It is this simple but complex affirmation that makes Romans 9-11 so difficult for those who approach it with a different idea in mind. The Jewish people are forever loved by God because of the promise God had given to the patriarchs (Rom. 11:28). Moreover, the promise of Isaiah 54:17 was true: “Israel will be saved by the LORD with an everlasting salvation” (NIV). This would be fulfilled when “all Israel” would be saved (Rom. 11:26).

Therefore, we must not separate and set asunder an eschatological Israel of the promise from an ethnic-empirical Israel of history. The Israel that Paul refers to in these three chapters is the one that “descended from Jacob/Israel” (Rom. 9:6, 10). What is more, the salvation of the Gentiles is closely related to the salvation of Israel, two arms of the one and same divine purpose and plan of God. That single plan for both is, in fact, the finale to the whole argument of the book of Romans. Paul concludes, “Messiah has become a minister of the circumcision {Jews} for the truth of God, that he might confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, and that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy” (Rom. 15:8-13). Accordingly, the salvation of the Gentiles rests on the promises given to the patriarchs just as much as did the salvation of the Jews. But that same salvation is the one now confirmed in the appearance of the Messiah, Yeshua/Jesus, who is also a minister to the Jewish people with the same message of salvation.

There is the marvel: even though the Gentiles lacked the covenant and the divine promises made with Israel, they can now enter into that same experience though faith without becoming Israelites. They are partners with Israel, but not Israel. As believers, Gentiles are “children of Abraham” (see Gal. 3:29), but that’s not the same thing as saying they are “children of Israel.” [Note #9: This fine point is made by Robinson, “The Salvation of Israel in Romans 9-11,” 89. Robinson notes that this equation is sometimes made by theologians, but Paul never makes it.].

Paul uses the former term, but he refrains from using the latter. Thus, the term of continuity between believers, Jew and Gentiles, is “the people of God.” [Note #10: For further details, see Walter C. Kaiser Jr., “Israel as the People of God,” in The People of God: Essays on the Believer’s Church, dedicated to James Leo Garret Jr. (Nashville: Broadman, 1991), 99-108.]. God may, and does, call other nations as “his.” Egypt, for example, is called “my people” in that future day of the Lord (Isa. 19:25). He also took out of the Gentiles “a people for his name” (Acts 15:14), but in no case did the writers of Scripture ever thereby consider these new believers as the “new Israel” and to be equated with national Israel.

The One Olive Tree

The imagery of the olive tree [Note #11: The most extensive treatment of the olive tree is found in A.G. Baxter and J.A. Ziesler, “Paul and Arboriculture: Romans 11:17-24, “Journal for the Study of the New Testament 24 (1985); 25-32.] is developed to warn the new Gentile believers that they have not supplanted Israel or that the ancient promises made to the patriarchs have been rescinded. W. D. Davies suggests that Paul may have purposely chosen the olive tree analogy over that of the vine, which is more natural to the Jews. The olive, Davies remarks, is a powerful symbol of Athens and the Greek culture. [Note #12: W.D. Davies, “Paul and the Gentiles: A Suggestion Concerning Romans 11:13-24,” in Jewish and Pauline Studies (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1984), 153-63, esp. 155].

Paul’s primary purpose, though, was to make his sharp contrast between the wild and cultivated olive trees. The wild tree (Gr. agrielaios) was unproductive and bore no useful fruit, thereby making it a perfect analogy for contrast between the Jewish culture as supplied by God and the Hellenistic culture of the Gentiles.

The olive tree analogy focuses on the root and the branches. The other symbols in Romans 11:16, that of the “firstfruits,” the “dough,” and the “whole batch,” serve the same purpose as the root and the branches: the solidarity of the part with the whole. The apostle uses the Semitic concept of solidarity when he argues that the character of the root of a tree, or body, carries over into the whole plant or the branches into two separate entities, for the quality of the source of nourishment inheres in the quality of the resulting branches.

But what is the “root”? Whether the root is Abraham, the blessings and promises given to Abraham, or Messiah himself, as he is the “seed of Abraham to whom the promises were made” (Gal. 3:16ff.), makes little difference here. The same covenantal promise of God is referred to in any event: the promised Messiah who would come though Abraham. It is this root that sustains all the branches, whether they are newly grafted in or part of the original olive tree.

The branches, however, are a different story. The olive tree is rightly regarded as the Israelites’ “own olive tree” (Rom. 11:24). But does the entire tree represent Israel? Yes, insofar as it represents the dependence of Israel on the Abrahamic blessing. “Certain,” or “some” (Gr. tines), of the olive branches, however, have been lopped off (Rom. 11:17). So sensitive is Paul to the unbelief of his people that he uses the word “some,” or a “certain”  number, of branches have been cut off, thereby suggesting a minority, even though he perceives that it is a majority for the present time (cf. Rom. 3:3).

But from what have these natural branches been cut? They have not been severed from their ethnic entities, for they are still Jews regardless of their lack of belief. Moreover, Paul uses the passive verb (Gr. exeklasthesan—Rom. 11:17, 19029) for the breaking off of the branches, indicating that it is the action of God himself. (If it is a middle voice, then the action is one that the branches have brought themselves.) The branches have left the promises that God to Abraham. It is not that these branches have been replaced, but branches from a wild olive have been grafted in—in and among those natural branches that still have their roots in the promise of Abraham. The salvation now enjoyed by the Gentiles is continuous with the root of Abraham. In this way, Gentiles share in what had originally been given to Israel, which “some,” or “certain,” of Israel now reject.

The Gentile believers are designated as a wild olive. It is not their “wildness” that is in view here, however, but that they are not “cultivated,” “cultured.” In and of themselves, the Gentiles will never produce olive oil. (Had Paul used a vine for his analogy, it wouldn’t have worked because the wild grapevine does produce wild grapes.) Therefore, if the Gentiles are going to produce anything, they must be grafted into the people of God who spring from the root of Abraham. The Gentiles do not “support the root, but the root supports [them]” (Rom. 11:18 NIV). Without this root, Gentile Christians cannot live—nor can the church exist, for it would float in midair with no anchorage in the past or present.

Has God grown weary of Israel? Is that why some of the natural branches were lopped off? Paul meets this misconception in Romans ,11:19. On the contrary, the Jews have chosen not to believe and thus were lopped off. The Gentiles have been grafted in not because of a superior virtue on their part; rather, it was solely because of their belief (Rom. 11:19-20). Jews who believe in Messiah do not need to be grafted into an alien root as do the Gentiles, who came from paganism (Rom. 11:23-24). Jews could be re-engrafted into the olive tree all the more easily than the Gentiles were grafted in.

The ultimate acceptance of the Jews into those “in Christ” would be like “life from the dead” (Rom. 11:15 NIV). By this, Paul meant that more than merely untold spiritual blessings would result. The “acceptance” (Rom. 11:15—Gr. prolempsis) would be an act inaugurating the end of all things. The final act of history would rest upon the Jews. When these who were “in Abraham” would also be “in Christ,” untold benefits would result, signaling the coming of the eschaton itself.

The Mystery of Romans 11:25

The “mystery” in Romans 11:25 does not hark back to the olive tree analogy so much as it does to the earlier statements in Romans 11:11-14, with its reference to “provoking to emulation,” i.e., “arouse my own people to envy and save some of them” (Rom. 11:14 NIV). The mystery is not so much that “all Israel will be saved” as it is how all Israel will be saved.

So the mystery is not the fact of Israel’s having “stumbled” (Gr. proskoptein). Note that Paul distinguishes between Greek ptaiein, “to stumble,” and Greek piptein, “to fall.” Israel has stumbled but not fallen. The question is why Israel stumbled and how they will be saved. The mystery, then, is the process that God is employing to bring about Israel’s final redemption.

How, then, does the metaphor of “hardening” of Israel illustrate the mystery of how God is dealing with the nation that has rejected him? Paul has used the concepts of “stumbling,” over the “stone that causes men to stumble” (see Rom. 9:32-33 NIV), and the branches that have “been broken off”(Rom. 11:17)—as well as the concept of “hardening” (Rom. 11:7)—to indicated the status of “the others” from the “remnant” (Rom. 11:7, 5). Mark D. Nanos comments that the word hardening (Gr. porosis) is derived from a medical group of words that refers to the hardening swelling of a bone that has been broken. It was used frequently and so interchangeably with the Greek paposis, meaning “maiming,” or “blinding,” that there was often little or no distinction between the two terms. [Note #13: Nanos, The Mystery of Romans, 261]. This hardening is not final, but is a temporary division of Israel that will set up the final benefits that will come in the end times.

What, then is the “partial hardening,” or “hardening in part” (Gr. app merous—Rom. 11:25) that has come over Israel? Some interpreters argue that only a part of the people were hardened while others argue that all Israel is hardened partially. But Paul is only concerned here with that part of Israel that has stumbled, not with all of Israel stumbling partially. Further, not all Israel has been hardened, even partially. There have always been a remnant and holy branches in the nation of Israel. But it is the hardened part in contrast to the remnant, that is in Paul’s view, who will eventually see and believe along with the newly grafted-in Gentile believers.

When will this hardening that has come over a part of the Jewish people end? Not “until [Gr. achri, a conjunction followed by an untranslated relative pronoun hou, that gives a future, temporal sense] the fulness of the Gentiles has come in” (Rom. 11:25 NASB). Sometime during or after the “fulness of the Gentiles” (KJV) takes place, this hardening of part of Israel will end.

But what di Paul mean by “the fulness of the Gentiles”? The “fulness” (Gr. pleroma) usually takes on a numeric quality of that which brings to completion what had been planned or sought. The RSV translates the term “fulness” in Romans 11:12 as the “full inclusion,” or “full number.” Thus, God has in mind a full number of Israelites just as a full number of Gentiles. When the full number of the Gentiles is reached, it will be Israel’s opportunity to experience their full number. The gathering of Gentiles goes on throughout all history, but there will come a time when this process will be wrapped up. That time is similar to Luke 21:24, where “Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled” (KJV). Upon that happening, Jesus’ comment was, “You know that the kingdom of God is near” (Luke 21:31 NIV).

The benefits that God has bestowed on the Gentiles are but “the proleptic deposit of what God will bestow upon Israel at the culmination of salvation history.” [Note #14: Bruce W. Longenecker, Eschatology and the Covenant: A Comparison of 4 Ezra and Romans 1-11 (Sheffield, UK: Journal for the Study of the New Testament, 1991), 261]. That is the point of Paul’s jealousy motif: Israel will one day realize that some Gentiles are enjoying what was originally promised to all Israel and thereby be provoked to jealousy to start emulating the faith that the Gentiles are exercising. Accordingly, the Gentiles are presently awaiting their full adoption as sons (Rom. 8:23), an adoption that Israel originally enjoyed (Rom. 9:4). These two adoptions come together, as we have already seen in Romans 15:2, where it is said that Gentiles share in the blessings of the Jews.

All Israel Will Be Saved

All Israel” cannot refer to the church. Instead, the real goal of Paul’s ministry could now be announced: it was the restoration of “all Israel” as God had promised (Rom. 11:26).

The “And so” (KJV Gr. kai hoots) that introduces verse 26 is descriptive of a process that plays off the earlier “until the full number of the gentiles has come in.” As Nanos said, “This balance allows one to avoid  the bifurcation most interpreters find necessary to support their larger reading of Paul’s message here. Paul is telling his reader both how and when God is saving ‘all Israel.’” [Note #15: Nanos, The Mystery of Romans, 274].

Surely this will answer Anthony A. Hoekema’s objection that Romans 11:26 does not say, “And then [implying the Greek word tote or epeita] all Israel will be saved,” but it has (kai) hoots (“thus, so, in this manner”), a word manner, not temporal succession. “In other words, Paul is not saying, ‘Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in, and then (after this has happened) all Israel will be saved.’ But he is saying, ‘Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in, and in this way all Israel will be saved.’” [Note #16: Hoekema, The Bible and the Future, 144-45].

Hoekema’s objection was dealt with more than a decade before Hoekema’s time when Hendrikus Berkof also connected the “And so” with “until the full number of the gentiles has come in.” But a point that both Hoekema and Berkhof missed was that Romans 11:27 linked this “And so,” with “this is my covenant with them when I take away their sins.” That has to be a clear reference to the new covenant [Note #17: Walter C. Kaiser Jr., “The Old Promise and the New Covenant,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 15 (1972): 11-23.] that Jeremiah announced in 31:31-34 and that is seen in some sixteen other passages that refer to the “eternal covenant,” “my covenant,” or “the new heart and the new spirit.” The contents of that new covenant are not only a replication of the promises made to Abraham and David but an expansion of them into the future.

The late Reformed theologian John Murray commented, after noting that Romans 11:26-27 is a quotation from Isaiah 59:20-21 and Jeremiah 31:34, “There should be no question but Paul regards these passages as applicable to the restoration of Israel.” He went on to say, We cannot dissociate this covenantal assurance from the proposition in support of which the text is adduced or from that which follows in verse 28 [‘on account of the patriarchs’]. Thus the effect is that the future restoration of Israel is certified by nothing less than the certainty beginning to covenantal institution.” [Note #18: John Murray, The Epistle to the Romans, 2 vols. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1965), 2:99-100.].

It can be concluded then, that while the “And so” may not be as fully temporal in its reference as some may desire, it is sequential in though and consequential in that it ties the promises of the patriarchal-Davidic-new covenant with the coming of the full number of Israel. Once this interconnectedness is admitted, the three elements—Messiah, the gospel, and the land—come back into play once again.

Hoekema also did not like limiting the “full inclusion” to the end times. But this too came from a refusal to see the past and present remnant of Israel as the foundation and guarantee that God would complete his eschatological and climactic act. Had not the prophets of Israel depicted a remnant returning to the land (e.g., Isa. 10:20-23) and becoming prominent among the nations in the latter day (Isa. 2:2; Mic. 4:1)? Paul’s phrase of “life from the dead” in Romans 11:15 takes on new force in light of Ezekiel’s figure in 37:12, 14. There, Ezekiel intoned, “O my people. I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel…I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land” (NIV).

But how many of Israel will be saved—“all”? It cannot mean “true” or “spiritual” Israel, as some have alleged, as if the church had supplanted Israel. That was the very point Paul was arguing against.

The notion of the substitution of the church for Israel was a historical development that Richardson says first began with Justin Martyr around A.D. 160. [Note #19: Peter Richardson, Israel in the Apostolic Church (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1969), 205-6.]. But this conclusion is not based on what Paul is claiming in this passage; it owes more to many having concluded that Israel has been rejected. Surprisingly, however, Paul claims the reverse: Israel has not been rejected. Indeed, the church is built on the shoulders of the ancient promises to Israel and the future restoration of all Israel.

So how many did “all Israel” involve? “All Israel,” argued Dunn, was a common idiom for corporate or collective Israel as a whole. It referred to Israel as a people, even if not every person was necessarily meant. [Note #20: James D.G. Dunn, Romans 9-16, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word, 1988), 38B:681. See, for example, 1 Samuel 25:1; 2 Chronicles 12:1; Daniel 9:11, etc.]. The apostle has maintained a distinction between the “remnant” and “the others” in Israel. His goal was to “save some of them” (i.e., “the others,” Rom. 11:14 NIV) who were among the hardened. In this way, he sees all Israel being saved.

How will the coming “deliverer,” who comes out of Zion, accomplish this task of restoring Israel and regathering the dispersed of Israel? Contrary to Mark Nanos, the Dekliverer is a christological figure. He alone is able to “turn godlessness away from Jacob” (Rom. 11:26 NIV). If it is asked, “When shall Deliverer do this?” the answer is “When [he] take [s] away their sins” (Rom. 11:27 NIV), as was promised in the covenant promises.

Thus the pendulum of history swung from Israel to the Gentiles, but it will swing back to Israel again. And that is but another way of stating the mystery of this passage. From the standpoint of Messiah, many of the Jewish people are enemies of the gospel, but from the standpoint of God, they are beloved for the sake of the patriarchs (Rom. 11:28).

Conclusion

It is possible that the Gentile Christian church has lost its rootage and connectedness with its past and the single plan of redemption that stretched from eternity to eternity. When many in the church denied a physical Israel as being a part of God’s plan, it lost its missionary and evangelistic strategy for Jews, for it floated in the air without any antecedent history of, or connectivity to, the plan of God delivered in and through Israel.

The key objection to replacement or parenthetical theologies was made by Willis J. Beecher in his 1904 Stone Lectures at Princeton Seminary. He warned,

“If the Christian interpreter persists in excluding the ethical Israel from his conception of the fulfillment, or in regarding Israel’s part in the matter as merely preparatory and not eternal, then he [sic] comes into conflict with the plain witness of both testaments…Rightly interpreted, the biblical statements include in their fulfillment both Israel the race, with whom the covenant is eternal, and also the personal Christ and his mission, with the whole spiritual Israel of the redeemed in all ages.” [Note #21: Willis J. Beecher, The Prophets and the Promise (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1970), 383. See also Walter C. Kaiser Jr. “The Land of Israel and the Future Return (Zechariah 10:6-12),” in Israel: The Land and the People, ed. H. Wayne House (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1998), 168-85.].

Jewish evangelism in the new millennium will need to take a full accounting of this marvelous book of Romans. God’s plan of salvation cannot be announced without taking the promise of God given to Israel and her history into its purview. The two-step program of Paul appears to be more than a matter of personal strategy: it is a program to go to the Jew first and also to the Gentiles, and has a divine rationale behind it. It would be wise for the church to once again take another look at how she is carrying out the work of the kingdom and how she is regarding the nation of Israel. Otherwise we will have small victories here and there, but we will miss the full favor of our Lord, who calls us to a much higher biblical standard of performance for the sake of his excellent name and his Jewish people.

Adapted from Chapter Two in To The Jew First: The Case For Jewish Evangelism In Sacrifice and History. Grand Rapids, MI.: Kregel, 2008.

 

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Jewish Evangelism in the New Millennium in Light of Israel’s Future (Rom. 9-11) By Dr. Walter C. Kaiser Jr. 

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It is impossible to read and interpret the epistle to the Romans without confronting its central issue—the relation of the Jewish people to God’s plan of salvation and evangelism. Throughout the entire apostolic ministry of Paul, we, in fact, find this “two-step missionary pattern”: [Note #1: This expression is from Mark D. Nanos, The Mystery of Romans: The Jewish Context of Paul’s Letters (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Fortress, 1996), 239-47]. “to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Rom. 1:16; 2:10 RSV). Paul’s custom, upon arrival in a city where he had not previously preached, was first to enter the synagogue to preach, then to preach to the Gentiles of that city. [Note: #2: Acts 17:1-2, “Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures.”]. This two-step pattern is a distinctive of the apostle’s ministry and message: the Jew first and then to the Gentiles.

Nevertheless, even though all will agree on the correctness of this assessment, it has become commonplace among more recent theologians to regard the Christian church as the new successor and replacement for the Israel of Romans 9-11. Or alternatively, Israel is treated as a parenthetical insertion into, or disruption to the Gentile evangelistic outreach of, the otherwise unified argument of the book of Romans.

Examples of the former mistake can be seen in a fairly large number of places. The second Vatican Council described the Christian church as “the new Israel.” [Note #3: Geoffrey Chapman, The Documents of Vatican II (London: n.p., 1966), 24-26, as cited in D.B. W. Robinson, “The Salvation of Israel in Romans 9-11,” Reformed Theological Review 26 (1967): 81. Robinson also alerted me to several of the surfaces that follow from the church documents.] A similar document titled “Report of the Joint Commission on Church Union of the Congregational, Methodist, and Presbyterian Churches of Australia” also identified the church with “the true Israel.”[Note #4: Joint Commission on Church Union, The Church: Its Nature, Function and Ordering (Melbourne: Joint Board of Christian Education, 1964), 12ff.]. These citations are only a small representation of the reigning thought among many reformed and covenantal theologians today.

But just as troubling is another sentiment among many dispensational and non reformed theologians. This perspective asserts that the doctrine of salvation in the book of Romans can be dealt with apart from the question of the Jewish people. It is thought that Romans 9-11 is merely a parenthetical insertion between Romans 1-8 and Romans 12-16, one that momentarily halts the discussion of the doctrine of salvation in the former passage and its practical implications in the latter. Even though this group correctly believes there is a future for ethnic Israel of the flesh, they do not clearly connect it with the present-day church. It is almost as if the plan of God for salvation changes as the days of the eschaton appear in the windup of the present period of history.

To counter such a belief, both of these positions must come in for some serious modification according to the biblical data. The task of this article, then, is not only to interpret the meaning of Romans 9-11 as faithful to the apostle’s assertions, but also to show that Romans 9-11, with its message about Israel, is integral to the subject matter of the epistle as a whole with its single plan of the salvation of God.

The Ancient Covenant: A Troubling Question

Romans 9-11 is not, as Hendrikus Berkof affirmed, some sort of “eccentric outburst, nor is it particularly difficult, as is suggested by the contradictory explanations.” [Note #5: Hendrikus Berkof, Christ the Meaning of History, trans. Lambertus Buurman, Dutch 4th ed. (Richmond, VA: John Knox Press, 1966), 141.]. Berkhof went on to correctly observe that this text becomes especially difficult only when we wish to make it say something it does not say.

Why, for example, does the apostle say, “I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart” (Rom. 9:2 NIV)? So strongly does Paul feel about this matter that he could wish himself personally accursed and cut off from the Messiah if it would have the benefit of bringing his Jewish brethren to the light of the gospel in the Messiah (Rom. 9:3).

Surely, this is a noble and praiseworthy sentiment, but it does not explain why the area of Jewish acceptance of the gospel is so troubling for Paul. Only when we get to Romans 11:1 do we find out what is so troubling to the apostle: “Did God reject his people?” The question poses a potential problem not only about Israel, but a bigger problem not only about Israel, but a bigger problem about God. In short, how can the everlasting plan of God be trusted and believed in for the salvation of all peoples? If God—the same God, who, based on His word and his own life (Gen. 12; 22; Her. 6:18)—once promised to Israel similar outcomes as those found in Romans 9-11, but has now rejected Israel and turned his back on them, what is left of the doctrine of the faithfulness and dependability of God? It is simply impossible for God to lie or go back on what he promises. Therefore, the problem of Israel is the problem of God due to his eternal promise-plan. [Note #6: I have developed the continuity theme of the promise-plan of God between the two testaments in my books Toward an Old Testament Theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1978) and The Christian and the “Old” Testament (Pasadena, CA: William Carey Press, 1999).].

The answer Paul will give to his own question is that the rejection of Israel is not total or complete, but only temporary and partial at that. “It is not as though the word of God had failed; for not all who are descended from Israel are Israel” (Rom. 9:6 NIV). That is, there are many Israelites who are not lost, but are saved. This same divine discriminating policy has been observed from the very beginning. God chose Isaac, not Ishmael; Jacob, not Esau (Rom. 9:7-12). In so doing, Paul argues, God was not unjust. The marvel is that anyone experienced the mercy of God. The better question to ask is why God spared anyone at the time of the golden calf (Rom. 9:14-18). Furthermore, this divine sovereignty does not exempt human responsibility, for while the grace and mercy of God cannot be pursued by works, but only by faith (Rom. 9:31-32), mortals still culpable for their own refusals of this grace of God. But there is more to the answer: in Romans 10 Paul demonstrates that the rejection of so large a number in Israel is not arbitrary or out of character for God. Israel disregarded the righteousness that came from God and substituted instead a homemade righteousness that refused to submit to God’s righteousness (Rom. 10:3). Most of Israel failed to “confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead” (Rom. 10:9). Thus, there is no way that any Israelite, who rejects God’s way of salvation, can blame anyone other than themselves. Had not the prophet Isaiah cried out on God’s behalf, “All day long I have held out my hands to an obstinate people, who walk in ways not good, pursuing their own imaginations” (Isaiah 65:2) Paul used in Romans 10:21 this very argument from the prophet Isaiah to show that many of the Jewish people must bear responsibility.

The rejection of the majority of Israel, however, is “neither absolute nor unqualified.” [Note #7: Anthony A. Hoekema, The Bible and the Future (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1979), 142]. Romans 11:1-10 argues that God’s dealings with the Jews and the Gentiles are closely interrelated. What may have seemed to be a divine rejection of the Jewish people was and is not such, for there has always been a remnant selected by grace who did believe and were saved (Rom. 11:5). Thus, the gospel had a twofold effect: some were saved and others were hardened by the same good news. This double effect mirrors that which the plagues of Egypt had on Pharaoh and the Egyptians. The plagues were meant to lead the Egyptians to repentance (Exodus 7:17; 9:14, 29 et passim), but it hardened many off them. Some did believe (Ex. 12:38), but most, like Pharaoh, rejected all of God’s evidences.

Israel: An Indefectible Destiny

It is clear that Paul focuses his attention on Israel in these three chapters, but what “Israel” is Paul thinking about? Nowhere else in Paul’s writings has he expounded and used the term Israel so centrally and so insistently. Elsewhere in Paul’s writings, Israel occurs only five times (NIV):

  1. 1 Corinthians 10:18—“Consider the people of Israel,” a passing allusion to the sacrificial order in the older testament;
  2. 2 Corinthians 3:7, 13—“the Israelites,” who were unable to look on Moses’ face when he came down from Mount Sinai;
  3. Ephesians 2:12—“excluded from citizenship in Israel,” refers to Christians who were not part of the state of Israel;
  4. Philippians 3:5—“of the people [stock] of Israel,” describes Paul as being a legitimate Jew;
  5. Galatians 6:16—“Israel of God,” is a passage hotly contested both for and against an identification with Israel.

In Romans 9-11, however, the term Israel or Israelites occurs fourteen times. But this recurrence represents more than focus: Paul speaks from within, and on behalf, of Israel. We shall badly misunderstand Paul if we think that he has renounced his membership within Israel due to his faith in Jesus. The apostle never seceded from his Jewish heritage and his people, for what he taught was consistent with his Jewish faith taught in the Tenakh.

Paul proposes no new definition for Israel: for him there was only one Israel. C.F.D. Moule had thought that the name Israel had lost its original character, with Paul reserving the name Jews for those who are externally, or by both, Jewish, and the term Israel being reserved for those who were part of the people of God, the religious community. [Note #8: C.F.D. Moule, The Birth of the New Testament (London: Adam and Charles Black, 1962), 46.]. This cannot be sustained however, in biblical usage. These two terms, Jews and Israel, are never contrasting terms, for when Paul wished to make that distinction, he spoke of those who were Jews “outwardly” versus those who were Jews “inwardly” (Rom. 2:28-29).

The real character and definition of Israel is set out in Romans 9:4-5. Their articles of incorporation, as it were, included “the adoption as sons,” “the divine glory,” “the covenants,” “the receiving of the law,” “the temple worship,” “the promises,” “the patriarchs,” and “the human ancestry of Christ [the Messiah]” (NIV). But even more startling, this calling and these gifts were “irrevocable” (Rom. 11:29). God himself could not change his purpose and plan toward his people whom he had set as the object of his election (Rom. 11:2).

It is this simple but complex affirmation that makes Romans 9-11 so difficult for those who approach it with a different idea in mind. The Jewish people are forever loved by God because of the promise God had given to the patriarchs (Rom. 11:28). Moreover, the promise of Isaiah 54:17 was true: “Israel will be saved by the LORD with an everlasting salvation” (NIV). This would be fulfilled when “all Israel” would be saved (Rom. 11:26).

Therefore, we must not separate and set asunder an eschatological Israel of the promise from an ethnic-empirical Israel of history. The Israel that Paul refers to in these three chapters is the one that “descended from Jacob/Israel” (Rom. 9:6, 10). What is more, the salvation of the Gentiles is closely related to the salvation of Israel, two arms of the one and same divine purpose and plan of God. That single plan for both is, in fact, the finale to the whole argument of the book of Romans. Paul concludes, “Messiah has become a minister of the circumcision {Jews} for the truth of God, that he might confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, and that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy” (Rom. 15:8-13). Accordingly, the salvation of the Gentiles rests on the promises given to the patriarchs just as much as did the salvation of the Jews. But that same salvation is the one now confirmed in the appearance of the Messiah, Yeshua/Jesus, who is also a minister to the Jewish people with the same message of salvation.

There is the marvel: even though the Gentiles lacked the covenant and the divine promises made with Israel, they can now enter into that same experience though faith without becoming Israelites. They are partners with Israel, but not Israel. As believers, Gentiles are “children of Abraham” (see Gal. 3:29), but that’s not the same thing as saying they are “children of Israel.” [Note #9: This fine point is made by Robinson, “The Salvation of Israel in Romans 9-11,” 89. Robinson notes that this equation is sometimes made by theologians, but Paul never makes it.].

Paul uses the former term, but he refrains from using the latter. Thus, the term of continuity between believers, Jew and Gentiles, is “the people of God.” [Note #10: For further details, see Walter C. Kaiser Jr., “Israel as the People of God,” in The People of God: Essays on the Believer’s Church, dedicated to James Leo Garret Jr. (Nashville: Broadman, 1991), 99-108.]. God may, and does, call other nations as “his.” Egypt, for example, is called “my people” in that future day of the Lord (Isa. 19:25). He also took out of the Gentiles “a people for his name” (Acts 15:14), but in no case did the writers of Scripture ever thereby consider these new believers as the “new Israel” and to be equated with national Israel.

The One Olive Tree

The imagery of the olive tree [Note #11: The most extensive treatment of the olive tree is found in A.G. Baxter and J.A. Ziesler, “Paul and Arboriculture: Romans 11:17-24, “Journal for the Study of the New Testament 24 (1985); 25-32.] is developed to warn the new Gentile believers that they have not supplanted Israel or that the ancient promises made to the patriarchs have been rescinded. W. D. Davies suggests that Paul may have purposely chosen the olive tree analogy over that of the vine, which is more natural to the Jews. The olive, Davies remarks, is a powerful symbol of Athens and the Greek culture. [Note #12: W.D. Davies, “Paul and the Gentiles: A Suggestion Concerning Romans 11:13-24,” in Jewish and Pauline Studies (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1984), 153-63, esp. 155].

Paul’s primary purpose, though, was to make his sharp contrast between the wild and cultivated olive trees. The wild tree (Gr. agrielaios) was unproductive and bore no useful fruit, thereby making it a perfect analogy for contrast between the Jewish culture as supplied by God and the Hellenistic culture of the Gentiles.

The olive tree analogy focuses on the root and the branches. The other symbols in Romans 11:16, that of the “firstfruits,” the “dough,” and the “whole batch,” serve the same purpose as the root and the branches: the solidarity of the part with the whole. The apostle uses the Semitic concept of solidarity when he argues that the character of the root of a tree, or body, carries over into the whole plant or the branches into two separate entities, for the quality of the source of nourishment inheres in the quality of the resulting branches.

But what is the “root”? Whether the root is Abraham, the blessings and promises given to Abraham, or Messiah himself, as he is the “seed of Abraham to whom the promises were made” (Gal. 3:16ff.), makes little difference here. The same covenantal promise of God is referred to in any event: the promised Messiah who would come though Abraham. It is this root that sustains all the branches, whether they are newly grafted in or part of the original olive tree.

The branches, however, are a different story. The olive tree is rightly regarded as the Israelites’ “own olive tree” (Rom. 11:24). But does the entire tree represent Israel? Yes, insofar as it represents the dependence of Israel on the Abrahamic blessing. “Certain,” or “some” (Gr. tines), of the olive branches, however, have been lopped off (Rom. 11:17). So sensitive is Paul to the unbelief of his people that he uses the word “some,” or a “certain”  number, of branches have been cut off, thereby suggesting a minority, even though he perceives that it is a majority for the present time (cf. Rom. 3:3).

But from what have these natural branches been cut? They have not been severed from their ethnic entities, for they are still Jews regardless of their lack of belief. Moreover, Paul uses the passive verb (Gr. exeklasthesan—Rom. 11:17, 19029) for the breaking off of the branches, indicating that it is the action of God himself. (If it is a middle voice, then the action is one that the branches have brought themselves.) The branches have left the promises that God to Abraham. It is not that these branches have been replaced, but branches from a wild olive have been grafted in—in and among those natural branches that still have their roots in the promise of Abraham. The salvation now enjoyed by the Gentiles is continuous with the root of Abraham. In this way, Gentiles share in what had originally been given to Israel, which “some,” or “certain,” of Israel now reject.

The Gentile believers are designated as a wild olive. It is not their “wildness” that is in view here, however, but that they are not “cultivated,” “cultured.” In and of themselves, the Gentiles will never produce olive oil. (Had Paul used a vine for his analogy, it wouldn’t have worked because the wild grapevine does produce wild grapes.) Therefore, if the Gentiles are going to produce anything, they must be grafted into the people of God who spring from the root of Abraham. The Gentiles do not “support the root, but the root supports [them]” (Rom. 11:18 NIV). Without this root, Gentile Christians cannot live—nor can the church exist, for it would float in midair with no anchorage in the past or present.

Has God grown weary of Israel? Is that why some of the natural branches were lopped off? Paul meets this misconception in Romans ,11:19. On the contrary, the Jews have chosen not to believe and thus were lopped off. The Gentiles have been grafted in not because of a superior virtue on their part; rather, it was solely because of their belief (Rom. 11:19-20). Jews who believe in Messiah do not need to be grafted into an alien root as do the Gentiles, who came from paganism (Rom. 11:23-24). Jews could be re-engrafted into the olive tree all the more easily than the Gentiles were grafted in.

The ultimate acceptance of the Jews into those “in Christ” would be like “life from the dead” (Rom. 11:15 NIV). By this, Paul meant that more than merely untold spiritual blessings would result. The “acceptance” (Rom. 11:15—Gr. prolempsis) would be an act inaugurating the end of all things. The final act of history would rest upon the Jews. When these who were “in Abraham” would also be “in Christ,” untold benefits would result, signaling the coming of the eschaton itself.

The Mystery of Romans 11:25

The “mystery” in Romans 11:25 does not hark back to the olive tree analogy so much as it does to the earlier statements in Romans 11:11-14, with its reference to “provoking to emulation,” i.e., “arouse my own people to envy and save some of them” (Rom. 11:14 NIV). The mystery is not so much that “all Israel will be saved” as it is how all Israel will be saved.

So the mystery is not the fact of Israel’s having “stumbled” (Gr. proskoptein). Note that Paul distinguishes between Greek ptaiein, “to stumble,” and Greek piptein, “to fall.” Israel has stumbled but not fallen. The question is why Israel stumbled and how they will be saved. The mystery, then, is the process that God is employing to bring about Israel’s final redemption.

How, then, does the metaphor of “hardening” of Israel illustrate the mystery of how God is dealing with the nation that has rejected him? Paul has used the concepts of “stumbling,” over the “stone that causes men to stumble” (see Rom. 9:32-33 NIV), and the branches that have “been broken off”(Rom. 11:17)—as well as the concept of “hardening” (Rom. 11:7)—to indicated the status of “the others” from the “remnant” (Rom. 11:7, 5). Mark D. Nanos comments that the word hardening (Gr. porosis) is derived from a medical group of words that refers to the hardening swelling of a bone that has been broken. It was used frequently and so interchangeably with the Greek paposis, meaning “maiming,” or “blinding,” that there was often little or no distinction between the two terms. [Note #13: Nanos, The Mystery of Romans, 261]. This hardening is not final, but is a temporary division of Israel that will set up the final benefits that will come in the end times.

What, then is the “partial hardening,” or “hardening in part” (Gr. app merous—Rom. 11:25) that has come over Israel? Some interpreters argue that only a part of the people were hardened while others argue that all Israel is hardened partially. But Paul is only concerned here with that part of Israel that has stumbled, not with all of Israel stumbling partially. Further, not all Israel has been hardened, even partially. There have always been a remnant and holy branches in the nation of Israel. But it is the hardened part in contrast to the remnant, that is in Paul’s view, who will eventually see and believe along with the newly grafted-in Gentile believers.

When will this hardening that has come over a part of the Jewish people end? Not “until [Gr. achri, a conjunction followed by an untranslated relative pronoun hou, that gives a future, temporal sense] the fulness of the Gentiles has come in” (Rom. 11:25 NASB). Sometime during or after the “fulness of the Gentiles” (KJV) takes place, this hardening of part of Israel will end.

But what di Paul mean by “the fulness of the Gentiles”? The “fulness” (Gr. pleroma) usually takes on a numeric quality of that which brings to completion what had been planned or sought. The RSV translates the term “fulness” in Romans 11:12 as the “full inclusion,” or “full number.” Thus, God has in mind a full number of Israelites just as a full number of Gentiles. When the full number of the Gentiles is reached, it will be Israel’s opportunity to experience their full number. The gathering of Gentiles goes on throughout all history, but there will come a time when this process will be wrapped up. That time is similar to Luke 21:24, where “Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled” (KJV). Upon that happening, Jesus’ comment was, “You know that the kingdom of God is near” (Luke 21:31 NIV).

The benefits that God has bestowed on the Gentiles are but “the proleptic deposit of what God will bestow upon Israel at the culmination of salvation history.” [Note #14: Bruce W. Longenecker, Eschatology and the Covenant: A Comparison of 4 Ezra and Romans 1-11 (Sheffield, UK: Journal for the Study of the New Testament, 1991), 261]. That is the point of Paul’s jealousy motif: Israel will one day realize that some Gentiles are enjoying what was originally promised to all Israel and thereby be provoked to jealousy to start emulating the faith that the Gentiles are exercising. Accordingly, the Gentiles are presently awaiting their full adoption as sons (Rom. 8:23), an adoption that Israel originally enjoyed (Rom. 9:4). These two adoptions come together, as we have already seen in Romans 15:2, where it is said that Gentiles share in the blessings of the Jews.

All Israel Will Be Saved

All Israel” cannot refer to the church. Instead, the real goal of Paul’s ministry could now be announced: it was the restoration of “all Israel” as God had promised (Rom. 11:26).

The “And so” (KJV Gr. kai hoots) that introduces verse 26 is descriptive of a process that plays off the earlier “until the full number of the gentiles has come in.” As Nanos said, “This balance allows one to avoid  the bifurcation most interpreters find necessary to support their larger reading of Paul’s message here. Paul is telling his reader both how and when God is saving ‘all Israel.’” [Note #15: Nanos, The Mystery of Romans, 274].

Surely this will answer Anthony A. Hoekema’s objection that Romans 11:26 does not say, “And then [implying the Greek word tote or epeita] all Israel will be saved,” but it has (kai) hoots (“thus, so, in this manner”), a word manner, not temporal succession. “In other words, Paul is not saying, ‘Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in, and then (after this has happened) all Israel will be saved.’ But he is saying, ‘Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in, and in this way all Israel will be saved.’” [Note #16: Hoekema, The Bible and the Future, 144-45].

Hoekema’s objection was dealt with more than a decade before Hoekema’s time when Hendrikus Berkof also connected the “And so” with “until the full number of the gentiles has come in.” But a point that both Hoekema and Berkhof missed was that Romans 11:27 linked this “And so,” with “this is my covenant with them when I take away their sins.” That has to be a clear reference to the new covenant [Note #17: Walter C. Kaiser Jr., “The Old Promise and the New Covenant,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 15 (1972): 11-23.] that Jeremiah announced in 31:31-34 and that is seen in some sixteen other passages that refer to the “eternal covenant,” “my covenant,” or “the new heart and the new spirit.” The contents of that new covenant are not only a replication of the promises made to Abraham and David but an expansion of them into the future.

The late Reformed theologian John Murray commented, after noting that Romans 11:26-27 is a quotation from Isaiah 59:20-21 and Jeremiah 31:34, “There should be no question but Paul regards these passages as applicable to the restoration of Israel.” He went on to say, We cannot dissociate this covenantal assurance from the proposition in support of which the text is adduced or from that which follows in verse 28 [‘on account of the patriarchs’]. Thus the effect is that the future restoration of Israel is certified by nothing less than the certainty beginning to covenantal institution.” [Note #18: John Murray, The Epistle to the Romans, 2 vols. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1965), 2:99-100.].

It can be concluded then, that while the “And so” may not be as fully temporal in its reference as some may desire, it is sequential in though and consequential in that it ties the promises of the patriarchal-Davidic-new covenant with the coming of the full number of Israel. Once this interconnectedness is admitted, the three elements—Messiah, the gospel, and the land—come back into play once again.

Hoekema also did not like limiting the “full inclusion” to the end times. But this too came from a refusal to see the past and present remnant of Israel as the foundation and guarantee that God would complete his eschatological and climactic act. Had not the prophets of Israel depicted a remnant returning to the land (e.g., Isa. 10:20-23) and becoming prominent among the nations in the latter day (Isa. 2:2; Mic. 4:1)? Paul’s phrase of “life from the dead” in Romans 11:15 takes on new force in light of Ezekiel’s figure in 37:12, 14. There, Ezekiel intoned, “O my people. I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel…I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land” (NIV).

But how many of Israel will be saved—“all”? It cannot mean “true” or “spiritual” Israel, as some have alleged, as if the church had supplanted Israel. That was the very point Paul was arguing against.

The notion of the substitution of the church for Israel was a historical development that Richardson says first began with Justin Martyr around A.D. 160. [Note #19: Peter Richardson, Israel in the Apostolic Church (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1969), 205-6.]. But this conclusion is not based on what Paul is claiming in this passage; it owes more to many having concluded that Israel has been rejected. Surprisingly, however, Paul claims the reverse: Israel has not been rejected. Indeed, the church is built on the shoulders of the ancient promises to Israel and the future restoration of all Israel.

So how many did “all Israel” involve? “All Israel,” argued Dunn, was a common idiom for corporate or collective Israel as a whole. It referred to Israel as a people, even if not every person was necessarily meant. [Note #20: James D.G. Dunn, Romans 9-16, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word, 1988), 38B:681. See, for example, 1 Samuel 25:1; 2 Chronicles 12:1; Daniel 9:11, etc.]. The apostle has maintained a distinction between the “remnant” and “the others” in Israel. His goal was to “save some of them” (i.e., “the others,” Rom. 11:14 NIV) who were among the hardened. In this way, he sees all Israel being saved.

How will the coming “deliverer,” who comes out of Zion, accomplish this task of restoring Israel and regathering the dispersed of Israel? Contrary to Mark Nanos, the Dekliverer is a christological figure. He alone is able to “turn godlessness away from Jacob” (Rom. 11:26 NIV). If it is asked, “When shall Deliverer do this?” the answer is “When [he] take [s] away their sins” (Rom. 11:27 NIV), as was promised in the covenant promises.

Thus the pendulum of history swung from Israel to the Gentiles, but it will swing back to Israel again. And that is but another way of stating the mystery of this passage. From the standpoint of Messiah, many of the Jewish people are enemies of the gospel, but from the standpoint of God, they are beloved for the sake of the patriarchs (Rom. 11:28).

Conclusion

It is possible that the Gentile Christian church has lost its rootage and connectedness with its past and the single plan of redemption that stretched from eternity to eternity. When many in the church denied a physical Israel as being a part of God’s plan, it lost its missionary and evangelistic strategy for Jews, for it floated in the air without any antecedent history of, or connectivity to, the plan of God delivered in and through Israel.

The key objection to replacement or parenthetical theologies was made by Willis J. Beecher in his 1904 Stone Lectures at Princeton Seminary. He warned,

“If the Christian interpreter persists in excluding the ethical Israel from his conception of the fulfillment, or in regarding Israel’s part in the matter as merely preparatory and not eternal, then he [sic] comes into conflict with the plain witness of both testaments…Rightly interpreted, the biblical statements include in their fulfillment both Israel the race, with whom the covenant is eternal, and also the personal Christ and his mission, with the whole spiritual Israel of the redeemed in all ages.” [Note #21: Willis J. Beecher, The Prophets and the Promise (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1970), 383. See also Walter C. Kaiser Jr. “The Land of Israel and the Future Return (Zechariah 10:6-12),” in Israel: The Land and the People, ed. H. Wayne House (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1998), 168-85.].

Jewish evangelism in the new millennium will need to take a full accounting of this marvelous book of Romans. God’s plan of salvation cannot be announced without taking the promise of God given to Israel and her history into its purview. The two-step program of Paul appears to be more than a matter of personal strategy: it is a program to go to the Jew first and also to the Gentiles, and has a divine rationale behind it. It would be wise for the church to once again take another look at how she is carrying out the work of the kingdom and how she is regarding the nation of Israel. Otherwise we will have small victories here and there, but we will miss the full favor of our Lord, who calls us to a much higher biblical standard of performance for the sake of his excellent name and his Jewish people.

Adapted from Chapter Two in To The Jew First: The Case For Jewish Evangelism In Sacrifice and History. Grand Rapids, MI.: Kregel, 2008.

 

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Israel In Prophecy – What Of The State Of Israel?

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The New State Of Israel

(Chapter 1 in Israel in Prophecy by Dr. John F. Walvoord, Zondervan, 1962)

When Theodor Herzel announced in 1897 the purpose of the Zionist movement—“to create for the Jewish people a home in Palestine secured by public law”—few realized how dramatic would be the fulfillment. The Jews had dreamed for centuries of re-establishing themselves in their ancient land. Now this longing was translated into action. Few nations could point to a richer heritage as a basis for the hope of the restoration of the nation.

The History Of Israel In The Old Testament

The history of Israel began more than thirty-five hundred years ago, when, according to the early chapters of Genesis, the divine call was extended to Abraham to leave his ancient land of Ur and proceed to a land that God would show him. After some delay, Abraham finally entered the land, and there the promised son Isaac was born.

Though God miraculously fulfilled the promise of a son in Isaac, Abraham himself never possessed the Promised Land but lived as a pilgrim and stranger. Rich in earthly goods, Abraham never fulfilled his hope of a homeland in his lifetime. His son Isaac shared a similar fate. Under Jacob, Isaac’s son, the people of Israel forsook the Promised Land entirely and at the invitation of Joseph set up their homes in Egypt where they lived for hundreds of years. It was not until their very existence was threatened in Egypt by a hostile king that the day finally came for Israel’s possession of the land. With Moses as their appointed leader, they began their momentous migration, one of the largest ever undertaken by any nation. After forty years of wandering in the wilderness, they finally completed their pilgrimage from Egypt to the land promised Abraham.

The book of Joshua records the conquest of Palestine and its partial occupation. The nation Israel, however, was doomed to generations of oppression and moral declension. They periodically were oppressed by Gentile nations about them with occasional cycles of spiritual and political revival, led by judges whom God raised up. The political anarchy which characterized the period of the judges was succeeded by the reign of the kings, beginning with Saul, and was followed by the glory and political power of the kingdoms under David and Solomon. Under Solomon, Israel reached its highest point of prestige, wealth, and splendor, and much of the land which God promised Abraham temporarily came under the sway of Solomon.

Again, however, moral deterioration attacked from within. Because of Solomon’s disregard of the law against marriage to the heathen, many of his wives were pagans who did not share his faith in God. His children, therefore, were raised by their pagan mothers and they were trained to worship idols instead of the God of Israel. The resulting judgment of God upon Israel was manifested in the divided kingdoms of Judah and Israel. The ten tribes, united to form the Kingdom of Israel, persisted in complete apostasy from God, and idol worship became the national religion. In 721 B.C. the ten tribes were carried off into captivity by the Assyrians. The Kingdom of Judah, including the tribes of Benjamin and Judah, continued for a little more than another century until they too were taken captive by Babylonia. For a generation, the land of Israel was denuded of the descendants of Abraham.

The book of Ezra records the restoration of Israel which followed the captivities. In keeping with the promise given to Jeremiah that the captivity would continue for only seventy years (Jeremiah 29:10), the first expedition of the children of Israel, led by Zerubbabel, began their trek to their homeland. The book of Ezra records their early steps in restoring the land and building the temple. Nehemiah completes the picture with the building of the walls and the restoration of the city of Jerusalem itself. Once again Israel was in their ancient land, re-established as a nation.

The history of Israel from that point on was not without its serious problems. First, the warriors of Macedon under Alexander the Great swept over Palestine. Then they were subject to the rule of the Seleucian monarchs and later were controlled by Syrians. One of the sad chapters in Israel’s history was the Maccabean revolt which occurred in 167 B.C. and which resulted in severe persecution of the people of Israel. In 63 B.C. Pompey established Roman control and from then on the land of Palestine, the homeland of Israel, was under Roman control for centuries. It was in this period that Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem. During Christ’s lifetime on earth, Israel was under the heel of Rome and Christ Himself was sent to the cross on the basis of Roman authority.

The History Of Israel Since Christ

The subsequent history of Israel was most unhappy. In A.9. 70, Titus, the Roman general, ordered Jerusalem and its beautiful temple destroyed, and a quarter of a million Jews perished. The remaining Jews continued to revolt and finally in A.9. 135 the desolation of Judea was ordered. Almost a thousand towns and villages were left in ashes and fifty fortresses razed to the ground. The people of Israel, except for a few scattered families who remained, were dispersed to the four winds.

From A.D. 135 to modern times, the nation Israel made their homes all over the world. In the eighth century the Abbasid Arabs took possession of Israel’s ancient land. For a brief period the Frankish crusaders were established in Palestine only to be defeated by Saladin in 1187. The Ottoman Turks assumed power in 1517 and the land of Palestine continued as part of the Ottoman Empire until Turkey was defeated in World War I. The conquering of Palestine by General Allenby in 1917 and the British occupation of Palestine proved to be a dramatic turning point in the history of Israel.

The Return Of Israel To The Land

Before control of Palestine was wrested from the Turks, the Zionist movement had already begun. As early as 1871 some efforts were made by the Jews to re-establish themselves in a small way, but in the entire area there was not one Jewish village and only the more learned were familiar with the Hebrew tongue. In 1881 modern Zionist resettlement began in earnest. At that time only 25,000 Jews lived in the entire area. The Zionist idea as stated in “The Basle Programme” was adopted by the first Zionist congress called by Theodor Herzl in 1897. Its published aim was to reclaim the land of Palestine as the home for Jewish people. By the outbreak of World War I, the number of Jews had swelled to 80,000.

The Zionist movement was, given impetus during World War I when British Foreign Secretary Arthur J. Balfour instituted the Balfour Declaration on November 2, 1917, in which he stated: “His Majesty’s Government views with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people…“This declaration, though welcomed by the Jews, was opposed by the Arabs and little came of it. Meanwhile a British mandate given over the land of Palestine by the League of Nations became effective, but through a desire of the British to maintain friendship with the Arab nations, no progress was allowed in establishing a homeland for Israel.

In 1939, during the early portion of World War II, the British government issued a white paper which set forth the conditions for establishing an independent Arab state in Palestine. By that time, 400,000 Jews were in the country. The restrictions on Jewish immigration, however, were severe, and future immigration was subject to Arab consent. Only a small part of the land could be sold to the Jews.

During World War II, however, due to the world-wide sympathy aroused for the people of Israel because of the slaughter of six million Jews under Nazi domination, the feeling became widespread that Israel should have a homeland to which its refugees could come and establish themselves. An Arab league was formed in 1945 to oppose further Jewish expansion. After World War II the British government turned Palestine over to the United Nations and under the direction of this body a partition of Palestine was recommended with the division into a Jewish state and an Arab state. By 1948 Jewish population had risen to 650,000.

The Establishment Of The New State Of Israel

On May 14, 1948, as the British withdrew control, Israel proclaimed itself an independent state within the boundaries set up by the United Nations. Before the day passed, however, Israel was attacked by Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Saudi Arabia, and open warfare broke out. Though both sides suffered heavily, a series of truces began. The first was on June 11 and was followed by a renewal of hostilities which ended in a final truce on July 17. On January 7, 1949, a general armistice was arranged in which Israel was allowed to retain the additional land secured during the hostilities. Israel itself was admitted to the United Nations. In the years that followed no adequate solution was found for the many difficulties attending a permanent peace. The Arab nations refused to recognize Israel and denied it the right of existence. Israel on her part adopted an unrealistic approach to the refugee problem which continued to be an open sore.

Since 1949, the nation Israel has made rapid strides until today it is well established. Though surrounded by enemies, Israel rests in its security of superior arms and effective military organization. Of significance is the unassailable fact, that for the first time since A.D. 70, the nation Israel is independent and self-sustaining, and is recognized as a political state.

The restoration of Israel to its ancient land and its establishment as a political government is almost without parallel in the history of the world. Never before has an ancient people, scattered for so many centuries, been able to return to their ancient land and re-establish themselves with such success and such swift progress as is witnessed in the new state of Israel.

Political And Military Growth Of Israel

Of special significance is the fact that Israel is a recognized political state. In its original declaration on May 14, 1948, provision was made for the establishment of an ordered government in the form of a democratic parliamentary republic. The principal legislative body in Israel is the knesset, from a Hebrew word which means “assembly.” The knesset meets in Jerusalem, which is the capitol of Israel, and temporarily occupies quarters adapted for this purpose. A government center is planned on an elevation which will face Mount Herzl where the founder of the Zionist movement is buried. The knesset has power to make and amend laws, and its approval is necessary before a government can take office. A new government must be formed at such times as the knesset votes no confidence in the existing government. Of its 120 members, the great majority are of Jewish background, but a few Arabs are included.

The constitution of Israel provides that any citizen over twenty-one may be elected, and each citizen over eighteen, without respect to sex, race, or religion, is entitled to vote for members of the knesset. Though most matters of law are handled by civil courts divided into three main categories—namely, magistrate courts, district courts, and the supreme court—a series of special courts corresponding to the religion of respective citizens have been established in regard to marriage, divorce, and similar matters. A Jew therefore is referred to the rabbinical courts, Moslems to the Moslem court, and Christians to the Christian court. All of the religious courts are under the control of the Ministry of Religion. The internal government of Israel allows considerable freedom to minority groups, and provides a proper legal basis for this enterprising nation to grow.

One of the important factors of Israel’s progress has been its highly efficient army. Formed under great difficulty during the early days of the state of Israel when they were being attacked by enemies on all sides, through heroic efforts, it was able to give a good account of itself and actually enlarge the area of Israel by some fifty per cent in the resulting hostilities. The army is called in Hebrew Tsahal, representing the initials of the defense army in Israel known in Hebrew as the Tseva Hagana Leisrael. Included in its organization are forces equipped to fight on land, sea, and air. The army has been trained by experienced officers from Europe and America and several military academies and a staff college have been created.

The corps of the army consists of volunteers who are supplemented by reserves. Men on reaching the age of eighteen serve for two and one half years. They are eligible for service until they are forty-five. Single women are also given two years of training. A system has been devised by which reservists are settled in border areas and Israel is reputed to have the fastest mobilization system of any nation in the world. Along with the development of the army itself has been the creation of an arms industry which has enabled Israel not only to supply its own forces, but to export in large quantities arms of various kinds, including one of the best automatic weapons available today.

Humanly speaking, it is because of the efficiency of their army that Israel has enjoyed peace since the armistice of 1949 and was able to overrun the Gaza Strip in the hostilities which broke out in October, 1956. Though the nations which surround Israel number some thirty million and conceivably could overwhelm the small nation, the army of Israel is more than a match for all of its enemies combined. Because of this, the nation Israel today is in a high state of confidence coupled with alertness.

Development Of Agriculture And Industry

Probably the most astounding aspect of the restoration of Israel is the rapid reclamation of the eroded land and wasted resources which for centuries have characterized the area which Israel now occupies. Travelers who visit Syria and Jordan first before coming to Israel are immediately impressed with the dramatic difference. Everywhere there is evidence of astounding progress in Israel.

One of the first problems which beset Israel was to reclaim the land strewn with rocks and seemingly hopeless as far as vegetation was concerned. By prodigious toil, often on the part of immigrants who had little knowledge of agriculture before, the land was cleared, terraced, and cultivated. In Israel, as in surrounding countries, the scarcity of water is a principal problem. Huge projects provided water for irrigation, not only for the northern portion of the nation, but also for the reclamation of the Negiv, the southern desert which forms a major portion of Israel’s territory.

Travelers through Israel are introduced to field after field of cultivated crops on land that was hopelessly eroded just a few years before. By 1961, eighty million trees had been planted, and the continuing program eventually will make a major contribution in conserving water and providing timber. Orange trees have been planted in abundance, as well as other citrus fruits, and oranges have become a major export of the new nation. Crops such as cotton, sugar cane, grapes, peanuts, and sisal have become major productions, just a few years ago eggs were closely rationed. By 1961 Israel was exporting almost a million eggs a day.

Though hampered somewhat by failure to conclude peace agreements with Arab nations which share the water available, by making the most of its own opportunities, Israel is building a gigantic irrigation system, drawing water from the Yarkon as well as from the Jordan and sending it south to the Negiv. Thousands of acres are being restored to fertility, and it is estimated that the reclaimed land, will permit another one million immigrants during the next decade. Not only have desert lands been reclaimed, but one of the spectacular achievements was the draining of the swampland of the Valley of Esdraelon, the elimination of the mosquito menace, and the restoration of this broad area to cultivation, which has proved to be one of the most fertile areas in all Israel.

Progress in agriculture and reclamation of the land has been matched to some extent by establishment of industries. Textiles have now become an important part of Israel’s production. The cutting of diamonds imported for this purpose, the manufacture of military weapons and arms, and the exploitation of the measureless chemical wealth of the Dead Sea are major factors of Israel’s economy. Some oil has already been discovered as well as gas. One by one problems that beset Israel at the beginning are being solved.

The expanding economy has also furnished a basis for construction of fabulous new cities. The new city of Jerusalem, the capitol of Israel, has been beautifully constructed of stone with lovely streets and parks and by 1961 had attained a population of 160,000. Tel Aviv, the largest of the cities in Israel, has a population nearing 400,000, and offers every convenience of a modern city. Next to Tel Aviv is Haifa, with a population of 175,000. The growth of the cities has kept up with the growth in population which has almost tripled since 1948, reaching over two million in 1960.

Educational System And Revival Of Biblical Hebrew

One of the impressive sights in Israel is the spectacular rise of its educational system. Not only are new elementary schools built throughout the country to take care of the expanding population, but the Hebrew university with an enrollment in 1959-60 of seven thousand is one of the finest in the Middle East. In addition the Israel Institute of Technology has some twenty-five hundred students with training in various aspects of modern science. In the entire educational system Biblical Hebrew is used as the spoken and written language and has restored this ancient language to popular usage in Israel. New terms are being coined to meet modern situations. The revival of Hebrew inevitably ties the people of Israel to their ancient Scriptures in a way that otherwise would have been impossible.

The revival of Hebrew has also paved the way for a renewal of Biblical studies. Unlike American universities which neglect the Bible, the Old Testament is taught in public schools, including the universities, and is considered essential to any true education. Some four hundred study groups have been formed by the Israel Bible Study Association with a membership approaching twenty thousand. The reading of the Old Testament is popular, though often attended by little theological discernment. Even the New Testament is read as religious literature, though not considered on a par with the Old Testament by orthodox Jews. To some extent the new interest in the Bible has created an increased interest in the Jewish religion as such.

Religious Life Of Israel

It is to be expected with the rebirth of the nation and its renewed interest in the Bible that attendance at the synagogue has taken on new life in Israel. Visitors normally will find the synagogue crowded, though meeting in new and spacious buildings. It soon becomes evident, however, that the religious life of Israel is to some extent one of outer form. The religious exercises are devoted primarily to revival of their traditions, their reassurance of the general providence of God, and the application to some extent of moral standards. For Israel their religion is one of works rather than of faith, and their redemption is to be achieved by their own efforts.

The religious life of Israel is directed by some 430 rabbis who actively carry on their duties. It is to these leaders that Israel turns for direction. As a result of the revival of Judaism, the Sabbath is strictly enforced and everyone observes it, even those who never attend the synagogue. The religious life of Israel is largely in the hands of the orthodox, though the majority of ordinary Jews in Israel do not necessarily follow their leaders. The revival of interest, therefore, in the Jewish faith and the religious activities which characterize it, to some extent is an expression of patriotism and enthusiasm for the progress of the state rather than for theological or spiritual reasons. Nevertheless, the movement is a phenomenon without parallel in the modern history of Israel and is doing much to revive their ancient faith. The land of Israel which historically has been the cradle of Judaism, Christianity, and the Moslem faith is once again witnessing a revival of that which held sway for centuries.

Political And Prophetic Significance Of The New State Of Israel

The significance of the new state of Israel is bound up with the growing importance of the Middle East in international affairs. The land of Israel is located geographically in the hub of three major continents. Because of this strategic location, it is involved in the economic life of the world. Any major nation seeking to dominate the world would need to conquer this portion. Its military value is also obvious, for the Middle East is not only a channel of world commerce but is the gateway to the immense reserves in oil and chemicals found in that portion of the world. It is inevitable that any future world conflict would engulf this portion of the world as a primary objective. It is especially significant that from a Biblical standpoint the Middle East remains a center of interest. World events which are yet to unfold will find this area also its major theater. It is for this reason that students of the Bible, whether Jews or Christians, find the development of the new state of Israel one of the most important and significant events of the twentieth century.

The repossession of a portion of their ancient land by the new state of Israel is especially striking because of the promise given by God to Abraham of perpetual title to the land between Egypt and the Euphrates. As recorded in Genesis 15:18 the covenant of God with Abraham included the promise: “Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates.” This promise was subsequently repeated in Genesis 17:8 in these words: “And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land of thy sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.” Consideration will be given to these passages in later discussion, but their mention at this time demonstrates the great significance of the reoccupation of this area by the new state of Israel.

In the subsequent history of Israel neither Abraham nor his immediate posterity were able to possess the land and, as stated earlier, only at the time of the Exodus was the land ever actually possessed. Of great importance are the Scriptures which describe the dispersion of Israel in the captivities of Babylon and Assyria and the later scattering of Israel resulting from the persecution of the Romans. This will be followed by Israel’s ultimate regathering. A study of some of the great promises relating to this future restoration of Israel to the land will be examined in detail later. The revival of Israel after these many centuries of dispersion introduces the major questions relating to the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham and whether the creation of the new state of Israel is indeed a confirmation of Israel’s continuance as a nation.

The return of Israel and the organization of the new state of Israel is especially significant in the light of prophecies to be examined concerning Israel’s future time of trouble when Israel is pictured in the land, as for instance in Matthew 24:15-26. The predictions of the grand climax of the nation’s history, given in Daniel 9:26, 27, when Israel is described as making a covenant with the future world ruler, is of special importance in the light of their renewed presence in their ancient land. Of the many peculiar phenomena which characterize the present generation, few events can claim equal significance as far as Biblical prophecy is concerned with that of the return of Israel to their land. It constitutes a preparation for the end of the age, the setting for the coming of the Lord for His church, and the fulfillment of Israel’s prophetic destiny.

 

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