Archive for the ‘Miscellaneous’ Category

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In:Miscellaneous, The Church, The Kingdom of God

Comments Off on In Praise of Unity

By Andrew V. Ste. Marie

 

Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron’s beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments; As the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion: for there the LORD commanded the blessing, even life for evermore (Psalm 133).

 

“Church unity” was a phrase I grew up being somewhat afraid of. In response to the ecumenical movement, many in the Protestant/Evangelical churches seemed to view any talk of “unity” as an invitation to compromise – a sellout to the Roman Catholic Church.  “We don’t want unity for unity’s sake, at the expense of truth,” they would say.  “What we need is unity around truth.”

 

There is something tragically wrong with the mindset that “we need unity around truth.” Unity is not something we have around truth.  Scriptural church unity is doctrinal truth.  Far more than just being a shared agreement about a list of theological statements, Scriptural unity is “the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3), which we are to be eager (World English Bible), diligent (Tyndale), and busy (Wycliffe) to preserve.

 

Scriptural unity is being of one heart and one soul.[1]  It is having the same mind and speaking the same thing, having the same discernment, and having the same love one for another.[2]  It may even mean sharing the same purse.[3]  It is an imitation of the Trinity.[4]  It is being identical to each other, and becoming more and more alike as we all become more like our common Savior.

 

Where this unity is, there is an anointing of the Holy Spirit and the grace of God. [5]  There is power to plead with God.[6]  There is apologetic group witness.[7]  There is a single answer for the young and weak, whoever in the church they ask.  There is power to strive together for the faith of the gospel, without fear of adversaries.[8]  There is power to convict the sinner and bring him to his knees before God.[9]  This unity is a witness to the world.[10]  There is peace as in all the churches, and contention must cease.[11]

 

[1] Jeremiah 32:39; Ezekiel 11:19; Acts 4:32.

[2] I Corinthians 1:10; Philippians 2:2.

[3] Acts 2:44-47; 4:32-35.

[4] John 17:11, 20-23.

[5] Acts 1:14; 2:1-4; 4:33.

[6] Acts 1:14; 4:21-31;

[7] Acts 4:21-32; I Corinthians 14:23-25.

[8] Philippians 1:27-28.

[9] I Corinthians 14:23-25.

[10] John 17:21-23.

[11] Acts 15:25, 31; I Corinthians 11:16.

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In:Accuracy of the Bible, Creation, Genesis, Miscellaneous

Comments Off on Is the Bible Wrong About Camels?

By Andrew V. Ste. Marie

Will archeologists ever learn that questioning the reliability and accuracy of the Bible is not a good idea?

Recently, a paper was published on the use of domesticated camels in two ancient copper mines in modern-day Israel and Jordan.  The authors of the study came to the conclusion that camels were not used in the mines until the last third of the 10th century B.C.  This was then related to the Biblical account of the Patriarchs, which portrays Abraham and Jacob making use of camels circa 2000 B.C. – much earlier.  Gleefully, the press reported on the find and its supposed impact on the Bible with headlines like:

 

“Domesticated Camels Came to Israel in 930 B.C., Centuries Later Than Bible Says.”

“Camels Had No Business in Genesis.”

“Will Camel Discovery Break the Bible’s Back?”

“Camel Bones Suggest Error in Bible, Archaeologists Say.”

 

The New York Times, in reporting on the paper, said:

There are too many camels in the Bible, out of time and out of place.  Camels probably had little or no role in the lives of such early Jewish patriarchs as Abraham, Jacob and Joseph, who lived in the first half of the second millennium B.C., and yet stories about them mention these domesticated pack animals more than 20 times.  Genesis 24, for example, tells of Abraham’s servant going by camel on a mission to find a wife for Isaac.  These anachronisms are telling evidence that the Bible was written or edited long after the events it narrates and is not always reliable as verifiable history.

Despite the excitement of the press, these claims are not new.  Rather, critics of the Bible have used the domestication of camels as “proof” of the Bible’s unreliability for well over 50 years.

Are these claims accurate, or overblown?  The claims fall short on several levels.  First of all, the original study was about two copper mines in Israel and Jordan, not about the entire ancient near East (ANE).  Therefore, even if we accepted the claim that domesticated camels were not used in the entire Israel-Jordan-southern Lebanon area until the 10th century B.C., this would not tell us anything about other areas of the ANE – such as Egypt (where Abraham is said to have gotten his camels) and Mesopotamia (where he came from) – and their possible use of domesticated camels.

Secondly, just because no evidence can be found of domesticated camels does not mean that they did not exist, or that no evidence for them will be discovered in the future.  In other words, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.  It is an argument from silence – a silence which may someday be broken by the discovery of solid evidence for earlier camel domestication.

Thirdly, evidence for the early domestication of camels – even before the time of Abraham – has been discovered in Egypt and Mesopotamia.  This includes artistic portrayals of domesticated camels with people riding or leading them, as well as ropes made of camel hair.  These artifacts are dated to the time of Abraham or before.  Notably, the first mention of camels in the Bible is where the Pharaoh of Egypt gives camels to Abraham.  The Bible does not portray camels as being common domesticated animals in Canaan at the time of the Patriarchs.

Fourthly, if domesticated camels were present, but rare, in Canaan earlier than the 10th century B.C., it would not be very likely that we would find physical evidence of their existence.

Fifthly, the Bible itself is an archeological artifact from the ancient world, providing textual evidence for the use of domesticated camels in the time of the Patriarchs.  If any other ancient text mentioning the use of domesticated camels earlier than the 10th century B.C. were discovered, it would be taken seriously, but the Bible is not.  Why?  Could it have to do with the religious motivations of those who do not want to submit to the requirements of the Bible?

We can conclude that the Bible is accurate in all of its statements, including those about camels.  It is those who wish to disprove it that are shown to be mistaken.

 

Sources

Holy Bible, Authorized Version

Lidar Sapir-Hen and Erez Ben-Yosef, “The Introduction of Domestic Camels to the Southern Levant: Evidence from the Aravah Valley,” Tel Aviv 40:277-285

Jake Hebert, “Genesis Camels: Biblical Error?,” www.icr.org/article/8008/ (Accessed March 4, 2014)

Rusty Osborne, “Camels and Consternations,” http://lawprophetsandwritings.com/2014/02/camels-and-consternations/ (Accessed March 4, 2014)

Kenneth Way, “Is the Bible Wrong about Camels in Genesis?,” http://thegoodbookblog.com/2014/feb/19/is-the-bible-wrong-about-camels-in-genesis/ (Accessed March 4, 2014)

Jan Verbruggen, “5 Things You Need to Know About Camels and Biblical Accuracy,” http://www.westernseminary.edu/transformedblog/2014/02/24/5-things-you-need-to-know-about-camels-and-biblical-accuracy/ (Accessed March 4, 2014)

Lita Cosner, “Camels and the Bible,” www.creation.com/camels (Accessed March 4, 2014)

 

Originally published in The Witness (March 2014).

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In:Creation, Miscellaneous

Comments Off on Mysterious Dinosaur De-Mystified!

By Andrew V. Ste. Marie

If a giant shark is called Jaws, then Deinocheirus could aptly be called Arms.  For decades, little was known of this dinosaur but its enormous, terrifying, mysterious 8-foot long arms tipped with huge claws – arms so awe-inspiring that the dinosaur’s name means “Terrible Hand.”

These arms were discovered in 1965 during the Polish-Mongolian Palaeontological Expedition in the Gobi Desert of Mongolia.  Along with a few ribs, vertebrae, and other scraps, the arms were all that was found of the skeleton.  A later expedition to the same site found hundreds of bone fragments, but not much more from which to reconstruct the creature’s skeleton.  What it did find was two Deinocheirus belly ribs with bite marks on them from a Tarbosaurus, a giant predatory dinosaur very similar to Tyrannosaurus rex.  This gives us a clue as to why so little of the Deinocheirus skeleton was found.

So for nearly 50 years, this animal has been a mystery.  What could it have been?  Early on, it was imagined as a giant, Allosaurus-style predator.  If its arms were the same size proportionate to its body as those of Allosaurus, we would have a gigantic theropod which would put Tyrannosaurus rex to shame!

Later analyses suggested a more mundane explanation.  The arms bore similarities to the ornithomimids, the “ostrich mimic” theropods with long necks, toothless beaks, small skulls, and long arms.  Their slight build suggests they were apt at running and they seem to have had little other defense against more aggressive theropods.  For some time, their diet was unknown as well.

So it came to be somewhat accepted by the paleontological community that Deinocheirus was an ornithomimid.  The question remained, however, of its exact size and form.  Were its arms the same size, proportionately, as other ornithomimids?  If so, Deinocheirus would be about forty feet long – the size of T. rex.  Or was it a smaller animal with disproportionately long arms?

All of these questions promise to be answered soon, as two new skeletons of Deinocheirus have been discovered near the site of the original find.  Between the two, we now have a mostly complete skeleton of Deinocheirus – missing only the end of the tail, the feet, some of the vertebrae, and the skull.  One of the specimens has an arm even larger than the original Deinocheirus arms!

So what do these new remains reveal?  They reveal that Deinocheirus was, indeed, an ornithomimid about the size of Tyrannosaurus rex.  But it was not just any old ornithomimid!  In addition to its immense size, it had another unique feature which no one had suspected – it had a sail or partial sail on its back,[1] similar to some other theropod dinosaurs such as Spinosaurus and Concavenator.  This very interesting feature adds to the thrill of finally discovering the identity of Deinocheirus.  The skeletons also reveal that whereas most ornithomimosaurs seem to have been lightly-built creatures fit for running, Deinocheirus was a heavier-built animal which probably was not as much of a runner.

Additionally, one of the skeletons was discovered with over 1,100 gastroliths, or stomach stones.  These are stones swallowed by plant-eating animals to help grind up vegetable material in the stomach to facilitate the digestion process.  This find indicates that Deinocheirus, despite its terrifying arms, was a plant-eater.

This discovery, combined with the revelation that Deinocheirus had been scavenged by a Tarbosaurus, shows that, while certainly exciting and unique, it does not displace Tyrannosaurus rex from its long-held position as “tyrant lizard king.”

We eagerly await the publication of the description of the new Deinocheirus material, at which time we will be able to learn more about this long-standing paleontological mystery.

“It is the glory of God to conceal a thing: but the honour of kings is to search out a matter” (Proverbs 25:2).

 

Sources

Holy Bible, Authorized Version

Halszka Osmólska & Ewa Roniewicz, “Deinocheiridae, A New Family of Theropod Dinosaurs,” Palaeontologica Polonica 21:5-19

Phil R. Bell, Philip J. Currie, & Yuong-Nam Lee, “Tyrannosaur feeding traces on Deinocheirus (Theropoda:?Ornithomimosauria) remains from the Nemegt Formation (Late Cretaceous), Mongolia,” Cretaceous Research 37 (October 2012):186-190

Yuong-Nam Lee, Rinchen Barsbold, Philip Currie, Yoshitsugu Kobayashi, & Hang-Jae Lee, “New Specimens of Deinocheirus mirificus from the Late Cretaceous of Mongolia,” Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology October 2013 supplement, p. 161

 

[1] Or possibly a fleshy hump.

 

Originally published in The Witness (March 2014).

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In:Accuracy of the Bible, Creation, Miscellaneous

Comments Off on Walking Up the Geologic Column

By Andrew V. Ste. Marie

 

Fossil footprints and trackways are found all over the world, left by many different types of animals.  They are normally found running along the surfaces of sedimentary layers, showing the locomotion of animals across the tops of soft layers of mud.

 

However, discovery of an unusual trackway breaks these normal rules.  The trackway was discussed in the latest issue of Creation Matters, a publication of the Creation Research Society.

 

Near Slick Rock, Colorado, the trackway is actually three trackways – the tracks of three individual animals.  The footprints are in the Middle Jurassic rocks of the Entrada Sandstone or the Junction Creek Sandstone – allegedly 120-150 million years old, by evolutionary dates.  These rocks are under the Morrison Formation, a Jurassic layer famous for its allosaurs, stegosaurs, and sauropods.  Joe Taylor, a creationist paleontologist who was involved in studying the trackways, described the layer they were in: “It is a whitish-gray layer seen for miles and miles under the generally red layers above, which look to be possibly 200 feet thick or more.”

 

What is unique about these new trackways is that the animals which made them did not walk across the geologic layers, but up them.  Terry Beh, author of the article, wrote, “There are three distinct trackways of varying lengths, which ascend vertically across several bedding planes of a 15- to 20-feet-thick exposure of Junction Creek Sandstone…The left side trackway…consists of at least 10 footprints and crosses the entire face of the exposure, including four separate beds, and extends up and over the topmost, cross-bedded layer.”

 

What does this mean?  If an animal can ascend vertically across the rock layers and leave footprints in them, that means that these layers were all soft when it walked across them.  If they were all soft at the same time, that means that the rock layers had to have been laid down almost simultaneously.  Joe Taylor said, “Since these layers, all six visible feet of them, had to all be wet and soft at the time the dinosaurs ran up them, it means that they cannot possibly have taken hundreds or thousands or hundreds of thousands of years to form.  All of the dozens of ¼“ thick layers comprising the track ways, had to be laid down at the same time with no erosion between them. There is however, a layer at the top about 16 inches thick that is a cross-bed. But, it too was soft, as the tracks make the same impressions in it as the lower layers.”

 

This conclusion does not just affect our view of a few local Colorado rock outcroppings.  The rock layers that these tracks were found in extend great distances; the Junction Creek Sandstone covers parts of all of the Four Corners states, with a wide distribution in western Colorado.  These tracks show that the entire extent of the whole set of layers had to be soft, all at the same time.  Joe Taylor said, “Given their vast extent, this requires a massive, massive deposition at one time by liquid mud.”

 

Thus, the evolutionary idea that these rock layers were laid down slowly over thousands or millions of years by small river floods is discredited.  However, the creationist idea that the geologic rock layers containing dinosaurs and their footprints were laid down simultaneously during the Flood of Noah’s day is supported.

 

What type of animal made these footprints?  The locals call them “cat tracks.”  This would be a major challenge for the evolutionary timescale, because cats were not supposed to have evolved by the Jurassic.  Unfortunately, the tracks are too eroded to discern for sure what type of animal made them.  While showing the similarity in shape between the Slick Rock tracks and modern cougar prints, Terry Beh concludes that the tracks were probably made by a prosauropod or a similar type of dinosaur.  Joe Taylor said, “It looks like a bipedal [two-footed] animal made the tracks. There were at least three individuals moving side by side up the soft wet sand layers.”

 

Once again, the discoveries of science have confirmed the Biblical account found in Genesis and have discredited atheistic “millions-of-years” speculations.

 

Sources

 

Holy Bible, Authorized Version

 

Terry P. Beh, “Unique Trackway in Middle Jurassic Rocks Defies Evolution,” Creation Matters 19(1) (January/February 2014)

 

Casey G. Dick, “New Stratigraphic Interpretations of the Jurassic ‘Junction Creek Sandstone,’ Upper Gunnison Basin, Colorado,” poster presentation

 

Joe Taylor, personal communication

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In:Early Church, Miscellaneous, Salvation and the New Birth, Sin

Comments Off on Are We Born Dead?

By Andrew V. Ste. Marie

It is often said that “We are born spiritually dead” or “We are born dead in trespasses and sins.”  In other words, as soon as a little, pure, sweet, innocent baby is born, he is spiritually languishing in corruption, sin, and death.  Some would go so far as to say that any infant or child dying unbaptized (or unsaved) will go to hell for eternity.  Others say that although the infant is spiritually dead, if the baby dies, he will go to heaven despite being unsaved (?) due to the grace of God.  Are these claims true?

When Does Spiritual Death Occur?

The Apostle Paul teaches very clearly in Romans 7 regarding spiritual death and when it occurs.

What shall we say then?  Is the law sin?  God forbid.  Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.  But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence.  For without the law sin was dead.  For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.  And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death.  For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me.  Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.  Was then that which is good made death unto me?  God forbid.  But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful (Romans 7:7-13).

Paul had been teaching earlier in the chapter that by the death of Christ, all those in the New Covenant are dead to the Law of Moses, and we may now “serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.”  Immediately, then, Paul anticipates the question which may be asked: Is the Law inherently wrong or sinful, since the “motions of sins” were actually “by the law” and “did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death” (verse 5)?

To this question, Paul gives an emphatic no.  The Law points out what sin is (for example, covetousness), but it is human nature that what is forbidden is doubly attractive, simply for the reason that it is forbidden.  The Law, then, makes opportunities for sin, and Paul says that the commandment against covetousness actually helped to foster covetousness in his own life.  The sin (such as covetousness) was “dead” in Paul’s life before he knew God’s standard.

Now we come to the sentence which is important to our question: “For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.”  Notice that Paul was “alive without the law once.”  Does this mean physical life?  The context tells us that it does not, for “I died” later in the verse obviously refers to spiritual death.  (Paul was physically alive when he was writing the letter to the Romans.)  So from this we learn that children, such as the Apostle Paul as a little boy, are born and grow up spiritually alive.  Is the spiritual life of children the same as that of mature adults who make a conscious decision to follow Christ?  No.  However, although children have not experienced the new birth, they do not need to until they have died spiritually.  The Apostle Paul did not need to experience the new birth when he was “alive without the law once,” nor could he have.[1]

So when did Paul die spiritually?  Notice that he says “when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.”  The spiritual death was the result, not of some guilt imputed to him from Adam, but of his own personal, conscious sin against the will of God.  Paul was able to sin on this level once he came face-to-face with God’s righteous standard revealed in the Law of Moses.  Was Paul a naughty little boy on occasion before then?  Probably he was, just like all little boys (and girls) are.  But he was not in conscious sin against the Law of God on the same level as when he was older.  When did the commandment come to Paul?  Did his parents teach him from the Law?  They probably did, at least the Ten Commandments and probably more; Paul’s father was a member of the Pharisees, “the most straitest sect of our religion” (Acts 23:6; 26:5).  We cannot say exactly when Paul had the experiences recounted in the following verses.  Perhaps it was due to his father’s or rabbi’s teaching from the Law; perhaps it was due to his own reading from the Law; or perhaps it did not occur until he began to sit at the feet of Gamaliel and learn the Law.  In any event, it did not occur until he had the knowledge and mental understanding of what God required and he was able to interact with the Law (so to speak) at a mature level.[2]  The exact timing of these events in Paul’s life is a side question; what we can see clearly in this passage is that it was only once sin had been stirred up in his life by the Law of Moses that he died spiritually.  We can say the same for every infant – born and raised spiritually alive, but dead spiritually when, like Adam, they knowingly and willingly sin against God stirred up by the prohibitions of God’s will.

Savior of All Men

For therefore we both labour and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe (I Timothy 4:10).

In what way is God the “Saviour of all men,” and why is it said that he is “specially” the Savior of those that believe?  This must mean that He is also, in a sense, the Savior of those who do not believe.  Comparison with other Scriptures (such as Romans 7) leads us to the conclusion that God is unconditionally the savior of all men in infancy, but is the savior of those mature people who meet the Gospel conditions – such as faith (belief).[3]

Many Go in Thereat

Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it (Matthew 7:13-14).

Related to the idea that people are “born spiritually dead” is the statement sometimes made that people are “born on the broad road.”  In Matthew 7, however, Jesus teaches us that the broad gate which leads to destruction is a gate which “many…go in.”  People must enter into the broad way; they are not born there without any personal choice in the matter.  When a man comes to the age of understanding, he must make a personal choice whether he will go into the broad way or the narrow way.  Praise God, a man on the broad way can repent and enter the narrow way; but they are not born onto the broad way.

Of Such is the Kingdom of God

And they brought young children to him, that he should touch them: and his disciples rebuked those that brought them.  But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.  Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein.  And he took them up in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them (Mark 10:13-16).

Jesus welcomed the children to Himself and blessed them, and specifically said that “of such is the kingdom of God.”  Had these children been baptized?  We have no hint of it in this passage.  Had they experienced some kind of crisis conversion?  Not likely.  They were simply, as Paul was, “alive without the law,” and Jesus gave them what they needed and could have at their age – a blessing from God.

The Mouths of Babes and Sucklings

And when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying in the temple, and saying, Hosanna to the Son of David; they were sore displeased, And said unto him, Hearest thou what these say?  And Jesus saith unto them, Yea; have ye never read, Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise?  (Matthew 21:15-16).

Jesus taught that God has “perfected praise” out of the mouths of innocent little children.  Their praises are highly pleasing to God.  How can this be reconciled with the idea that they are lost sinners?  “The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD: but the prayer of the upright is his delight” (Proverbs 15:8).

Dead in Trespasses and Sins

You might be thinking, “But doesn’t the Bible say, ‘born dead in trespasses and sins’?”  It actually does not.  This is a misquotation of Ephesians 2:1: “And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins” (compare with Colossians 2:13).  Notice: They were dead, not “born dead.”  The following two verses show that the people being referred to could not have been infants; they are said to have “walked according to the course of this world” and to have lived “fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind.”

The Early Christians

The early Christians believed that infants and young children were innocent and pure, and that, if they died, they would be saved.

Hermas (c. 150) wrote:

…they are as infant children, in whose hearts no evil originates…for all infants are honorable before God, and are the first persons with Him.[4]

Irenaeus (c. 180), a disciple of Polycarp (who was a disciple of the Apostle John), wrote:

And again, who are they that have been saved, and received the inheritance?  Those, doubtless, who do believe God, and who have continued in His love; as did Caleb [the son] of Jephuneh and Joshua [the son] of Nun, and innocent children, who have had no sense of evil.[5]

Tertullian (c. 198), regarding the idea of infant baptism, wrote:

And so, according to the circumstances and disposition, and even age, of each individual, the delay of baptism is preferable; principally, however, in the case of little children…The Lord does indeed say, “Forbid them not to come unto me.”  Let them “come,” then, while they are growing up; let them “come” while they are learning, while they are learning whither to come; let them become Christians when they have become able to know Christ.  Why does the innocent period of life hasten to the “remission of sins?”[6]

He also wrote (c. 207):

But, behold, Christ takes infants, and teaches how all ought to be like them, if they ever wish to be greater.  The Creator, on the contrary, let loose bears against children, in order to avenge His prophet Elisha, who had been mocked by them.[7]  This antithesis is impudent enough, since it throws together things so different as infants and children,—an age still innocent, and one already capable of discretion—able to mock, if not to blaspheme.  As therefore God is a just God, He spared not impious children, exacting as He does honor for every time of life, and especially, of course, from youth.  And as God is good, He so loves infants as to have blessed the midwives in Egypt, when they protected the infants of the Hebrews which were in peril from Pharaoh’s command.  Christ therefore shares this kindness with the Creator.[8]

Cyprian (c. 250) wrote that “Infancy is still yet innocent and unconscious of worldly evil.”[9]

Origen (185-254) was one of the most famous Christian teachers of his time and wrote the first surviving set of Bible commentaries.  While teaching that even infants are subject to sin’s defilement (he quoted the Septuagint rendering of Job 14:4-5 several times: “No one is pure from uncleanness, even if his life should be one day long”),[10] he nevertheless taught the following in his Commentary on Romans (written c. 246):

But this law [referring to natural law, or the law of the conscience] is found in man neither at all times nor from the beginning, when a man is born, but rather he lives without this law for a certain time, while his age does not allow it, just as Paul himself acknowledges when he says, “I was once alive without the law.”  Therefore, at that time, when we lived without the law, we did not know covetousness.  He did not say: I was not having it; but: “I was not knowing it,” as if covetousness existed, but it was not known what it was.  But when reason arrives and the natural law finds a place within us in the advancement of age, it begins to teach us what is good and to turn us away from evils.  Thus, when it says, “You shall not covet,” we learn from it what we did not know before: Covetousness is evil.

“But sin, receiving an opportunity, worked in me through the commandment all kinds of covetousness.”  That law of which he says, “For I would not have known covetous desire had the law not said: You shall not covet,” is also called the commandment.  Thus he says that by an opportunity afforded by this commandment, in which we are forbidden to covet, sin was kindled all the more intensely within us and worked all kinds of covetousness within us.  For because the flesh lusts against the Spirit, i.e., against the law that says, “You shall not covet,” it is likewise opposed to it and engages it in battle in a certain manner, so that not only would it satisfy the covetousness but also it would conquer an enemy.

This then is the opportunity that he says comes from the commandment.  For these things that are forbidden are somehow longed for more passionately.  On this account, though the commandment is holy and just and good—for what prohibits evil must of necessity be good—yet by prohibiting covetousness it instead provokes and kindles it; and through the good it worked death in me.  The Apostle is showing by these things, however, that the origin of sin has arisen from covetousness.  As long as the law is issuing prohibitions, whether it is Moses’ law, which says, “You shall not covet,” or even natural law, as I have explained above, whatever is forbidden is desired all the more tenaciously…

“For apart from the law sin is dead.  But I was once alive without the law.  But when the commandment came, sin revived.  I, however, died; and the very commandment that was unto life was found to be unto death to me.”  Up above has already been conducted a full investigation of practically all these matters.  Therefore, in order that we not be constantly repeating the same things, we shall briefly call to remembrance what was previously said.  We showed how sin is dead in us without law, i.e., before the mind within us grows vigorous when it reaches the age of reason, when we introduced the example of the little child who strikes or curses his father or mother.  In such a case it would appear that at least according to the law, which forbids striking and cursing the father and mother, a sin was committed.  Yet that sin is said to be dead since the law is not yet present within the child to teach him that what he is doing ought not be done.  It is certain that Paul and all men have lived at one time without this law, namely, the age of childhood.  After all, during that time everyone is equally not yet capable of this natural law.  For Paul’s confession concerning this would not seem to be true.  Indeed how will it be proved that Paul once lived without the law of Moses, seeing that he declares himself to be a Hebrew of Hebrews and circumcised on the eighth day according to the precepts of the law?  On the contrary, in the way in which we have said, in childhood he also once lived without natural law.  He did not say that sin did not exist in man at this time, but that sin was dead and afterward revived when natural law came and began to forbid covetousness.  This law raised sin from the dead, so to speak.  In fact this is the nature of sin, if what the law forbids to be done happens.  Therefore, when sin revived, he says, “I died.”  “I.”  Who does he mean?  Doubtless, the soul that had committed what the law was forbidding to be done; for “the soul that sins,” as the prophet says, “shall itself die.”  The commandment, therefore, that had been given unto life, i.e., unto [the life] of the soul, that it might teach the soul the works that lead to life, was found to have surrendered it over to death when it does not flee the things forbidden but desires them all the more passionately.[11]

Summary

The idea that “we are all born spiritually dead” cannot be found in Scripture; rather, there are several Scriptures which clearly teach against such an idea.  The early Christians believed that infants and young children are pure, innocent, and saved, and sinful actions which they do are not counted as sin against them until “the commandment [comes]” and sin revives.

Knowing the truth on this subject can help safeguard us against such errors as infant baptism and child evangelism and can provide comfort in knowing that our departed little ones are safe with Christ.

 

[1] This is one of the problems with child evangelism – little innocent children, who should be taught to love Jesus at a simple, age-appropriate level, are instead pressed to “ask Jesus into their hearts” so that they can escape the damnation of hell.  At the stage before the Law has stirred up the lust to sin in them, they are still “alive without the law” and must not be pressed into an adult experience with Christ.  Trying to do so may result in so-called “conversions” in the short run, but in the end can cause confusion at best; at worst, it may cause sin, doubt, and apostasy.

[2] This probably happens for most people well before 20 years old.  Paul explains that for heathens who have no knowledge of the true God or of the Scriptures, they still are accountable for the revelation of God through their own consciences (Romans 2:12-29), so the “law” comes to them in the form of “natural law,” the law in their consciences.

[3] I am indebted to George R. Brunk I and his son, George II, for this commentary.  They explained this Scripture in this fashion.

[4] Ante-Nicene Fathers (ANF), volume 2, p. 53.

[5] ANF, volume 1, p. 502.

[6] ANF, volume 3, p. 678.

[7] This was written against the Gnostics, who claimed that the Creator God (the “Demiurge”), the God of the Old Testament, was not the Father of Jesus.  These two sentences give a Gnostic argument urged against the orthodox Christians, to which Tertullian replies as follows.

[8] ANF, volume 3, p. 386.

[9] David W. Bercot, ed., A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs, 1998, Hendrickson Publishers, p. 93.

[10] For this reason Origen supported infant baptism – the first Christian teacher known to have done so.

[11] Thomas P. Scheck, translator, Origen: Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, Books 6-10, 2002, Catholic University of America Press, pp. 31-33.

 

Originally published in The Witness, February 2014.

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In:Endurance, Miscellaneous

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By John M. Brenneman

From the January 1871 issue of Herald of Truth

 

Another year has passed away,

     Which brings us nearer to the tomb;

Should we not all then watch and pray

     And seek for an eternal home?

 

Another year is now begun

     Which possibly may be our last;

Our race perhaps we may have run

     Before the present year is past.

 

This year may close the pilgrimage

     Of our short life on earth below;

Let us then heed the privilege

     Of being well prepared to go.

 

This year our destiny may seal,

     For future joys, or misery;

Soon Jesus will himself reveal,

     In glory and great majesty.

 

To judge the world in righteousness,

     When sinners will be cast away,

To outer darkness and distress,

     But saints shall with their Jesus stay.

 

Wake up ye mortals, and be wise,

     As days, and months, and years pass by;

O haste and make a noble choice—

     In Jesus trust, to Jesus fly.

 

What awful scenes may we behold,

     Before the present year rolls round—

O let us then not live so cold;

     Soon may the Lord us all confound.

 

O let us think how short is time,

     In which we may great wealth secure—

O Lord, do thou our hearts incline,

     To seek for treasures ever sure.

 

Soon, soon the harvest day may close,

     The summer soon be ended too;

Yet we may gather, yet may choose,

     And yet avoid eternal woe.

 

Come, fellow pilgrim, haste away

     To Jesus Christ who bids you come,

For here we cannot always stay;

     Then let us seek in heaven a home.

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In:Miscellaneous, Modesty, Separation & Nonconformity, Sin, Youth

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By Andrew V. Ste. Marie

 

Following fashion is a very common mistake – or shall we be bold enough to call it a sin? – which often goes unrebuked, with no warning against its dangers being heard.  Every year, when the fashion designers arbitrarily decide that the old fashion is over and the new is in, thousands – if not millions – dump their old clothes and buy new ones.  Better to be dead than out of style, it has been said, and apparently some live by this philosophy.  No matter how bizarre or outlandish the fashions are, the devoted slaves of the fashion goddess will obey her every dictate.  Brown, green, blue.  Tight pants, baggy pants, falling-down-behind pants.  Cut-away shoes, boost-you-in-the-air shoes, untied-shoes, long-pointy-square-toed shoes.  New clothes, new clothes, and more new clothes – until the fashion dictators declare that old clothes are in style – and the people buy more new clothes, artificially made to look old.  And every year less fabric overall is worn, more money is spent, and the worshippers of fashion waste time and money to fulfill their lusts – all while children starve the world over, the Chinese and others beg for Bibles, the cry of the poor ascends to the Lord of Sabaoth, and the fashion designers fill their pockets with ill-gotten gains.

 

What saith the Scripture?  The Apostle Paul wrote, “the fashion of this world passeth away” (I Corinthians 7:31b).  Obviously, he is referring to the physical form of this earth, but the statement is true of the type of fashion which we have been considering.  Such fashions are very temporary.  After a few years or even months, the fashions change, and all one’s labor to conform to the fashions is brought to nothing – no value – in a very brief time.  The pleasures associated with pleasing the goddess of fashion are likewise transitory.  Following fashion cannot satisfy a human soul; only following the Lord Jesus and obeying His Word can provide deep, lasting satisfaction.  As soon as fashions change, the followers of the cruel goddess find themselves dissatisfied and discontented once again, and have to labor to make themselves acceptable to their demanding mistress and their peers.

 

Jesus said, “Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed” (John 6:27).  Fashions perish.  The work of those who follow fashion will quickly perish and come to nothing.  The money they have spent, the effort they have invested is all worthless once the fashions change.  Jesus told us not to spend our labor on meat which perishes, but rather to labor for that which is eternal.  When our focus is on eternity, we can ignore those things – such as fashion – which are transitory, time-bound, and ready to perish.  We can focus on working for those things which are eternal – the kingdom of God, the salvation of souls, ministering to those in need, etc.

 

God asked through the prophet Isaiah, “Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread?  and your labour for that which satisfieth not?  hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness” (Isaiah 55:2).  Again, fashion cannot bring lasting satisfaction because it passes away.  So many people spend their money and labor for something so vain which will pass away so quickly.  Why would they continue to do something so foolish, when God offers lasting and true satisfaction?

 

The Apostle Paul wrote, “All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any” (I Corinthians 6:12).  Sometimes, people will admit that they are slaves to fashion.  While some people can be addicted to tobacco, alcohol, or drugs, others are addicted to following fashion.  The Apostle Paul refused to do anything which would bring him under bondage – even if they were not necessarily sin – so as to not be hindered from fully following the Lord.  Why remain in bondage when the Lord offers freedom?

 

Our world and its fashion designers are eagerly pursuing the broad way to hell, and need to hear that the Lord Jesus offers freedom, pardon, and deliverance.  Meanwhile, even in some “plain” (Anabaptist) churches, there seems to be a definite flow of fashion.  First someone makes or buys a dress (or shirt, or shoes, etc.) which is different, then all the rest want the same, then they all (who are interested in following the fashion, anyway) have it, then the first one has something else…and the cycle repeats itself.  “Wherefore do ye spend…your labour for that which satisfieth not?”

 

If you are held in the clutches of the goddess of fashion, I encourage – I exhort – I plead – I beg with you to fly to the Lord Jesus and seek His pardon and His deliverance from your cruel mistress.  “Him that cometh to me,” Jesus promised, “I will in no wise cast out” (John 6:37b).

 

Originally published in The Witness (October 2013).

Jun 18

A Godly Woman

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In:Miscellaneous, Modesty, Separation & Nonconformity, Youth

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Written by an anonymous godly woman

 

Based on the following scriptures: Proverbs 31, Deuteronomy 6:5-7 & 11:19, Titus 2, I Timothy 2, I Peter 3:1-7, I Corinthians 11 & 14:29-40

 

The Bible speaks to everyone who follows in the Way, But some parts are specific in the things they have to say. The fathers are encouraged, and those alone in life, And there are admonitions for the mother and the wife.

 

 I always linger over these; they speak to my estate. They offer me direction in the small things and the great. To be a godly woman is the goal I want to reach, And so I need to study what the Scriptures have to teach.

 

A woman who is called to be a mother and a wife, Who takes the cross and purposes to live a godly life, Is ever growing in the faith she’s chosen to profess, And there are certain qualities she covets to possess.

 

The godly woman stays at home; her duties keep her there. She rises while it yet is night and gives herself to prayer. Her days are full of service and her heart is full of love; Her mind is full of gratitude and praise for God above.

 

Though not employed outside the home, she has no mind to shirk. She eats not bread of idleness, but fruit of honest work. Her brother and her sister, her parents and her neighbor, Her husband and her children share the blessing of her labor.

 

 The love her husband feels for her is easy to reflect, And she not only loves him, but she gives him her respect. In her his heart may safely trust; she does him only good; When he confides his inner thoughts, he finds them understood.

 

She’s mindful, too, of Eden, where the woman was deceived. She knows it’s not her place to teach (as others have believed) Nor to usurp authority, but listens with subjection, In meekness and humility, accepting his direction.

 

When all the church assembles in a solemn, formal way, The godly woman listens what the brethren have to say; And if she hears a statement made that makes her sit up straighter, The question forming in her mind is asked her husband later.

 

There is a congregation where her voice is often heard, And her children are attentive as she teaches them the Word, When she sits within her house, and when she walks along the way; When she lays them down at night, and when she rises with the day.

 

The godly woman is discreet, not seeking others’ praise; She’s modest in appearance, and she’s modest in her ways. She isn’t prone to gossip, but her neighbors know she cares, And any help her hands can give is certain to be theirs.

 

The godly woman doesn’t follow fashion’s idle whim, Nor deck herself in gold or gems to draw the eyes of men. And yet, compared to those who do, she is exceeding fair; Her meek and quiet spirit is an ornament more rare.

 

 The godly woman isn’t gay; she’s left that all behind. She’s pleasant and she’s cheerful, but she has a sober mind. Her covered head, her simple dress, her modest mein are one; Her singular adornment is the good that she has done.

 

When years of faithful laboring have bent her body low, She’ll teach the younger women in the way that they should go. Her works are their example in the service of the Lord; And verily, I say to you, she’ll have a rich reward.

 

Oh, make of me that woman, Lord! And guide me in that way. Behold, Thou art the potter, and I the softened clay. Encourage me where I am right; rebuke me where I’m wrong. I read these Scriptures often and I ponder on them long.

 

Originally published in The Heartbeat of the Remnant (May/June 2013), 400 W. Main Street Ste. 1, Ephrata, PA 17522.

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In:Miscellaneous

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By Andrew V. Ste. Marie

 

Recently my family received an advertisement for a series of DVDs teaching Old Testament stories to children. Across the top of the postcard was the slogan, “The Bible Made Easy.” Then there were pictures of the eight volumes already released, followed by an endorsement saying “My kids are learning the word of God and enjoying every minute of it!” The series was created by Phil Vischer, creator of the very popular VeggieTales video series.

 

Looking at the covers of these new videos, it is hard to believe they are any more serious than VeggieTales. “Cute” Bible characters sport huge smiles as they are pictured in dramatic moments of their lives. Moses, for instance, smiles from Mt. Sinai with the tablets of the Law in his hands.

 

Seeing the cover artwork for the series makes me deeply question the assertion that children are learning the Word of God. Moses, for instance, was not a “cute” fellow. Mt. Sinai was not something to laugh and joke about. The seriousness of Mt. Sinai and what occurred there is plainly shown in Exodus 19. We are told that “so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake” (Hebrews 12:21). If the impression children get of Moses and Mt. Sinai is anything less than the terrifying awesomeness of God’s descent, clearly showing that He is not Someone to be trifled with, instilling a holy and awesome fear of God, they have not learned what the Word of God has to say about that event!

 

Who says children need the Word of God made “fun” for them? The Bible is not meant to be “fun”. Sin, salvation, the Kingdom of God, Heaven, and Hell are serious issues not to be made light of. There is nothing wrong with simplifying complex stories or concepts for children to understand, but are we to make the Bible into a show of foolishness in order to “teach” children? Is that really what God wants?

 

When Paul wrote to the churches, it appears that he intended that his letters would be read by the churches in their normal meetings. Notice that he inserts instructions to the children right in the middle of those letters! That means the children would have been sitting right by their parents, paying attention through Paul’s sometimes hard-to-understand letters. What does that say about modern attempts to dumbdown the Bible to make it “interesting” and “fun” for children?

 

Such attempts, whether in video form or in Bible storybooks, reduce the Bible to a heap of foolishness to be laughed at and used for entertainment. “I’m bored! I want to watch a Bible tape!” Is this what God wants? What will such attempts lead to? May I suggest that it will lead to adults who take the Bible no more seriously than they did as children – a funny book filled with “cute” or laughable stories, to be used for the amusement of children.

 

Is God pleased with this? I will leave it to the reader to decide.

 

Originally published in The Witness, November 2012.

By Andrew V. Ste. Marie

 

News agencies and Internet bloggers pounced on the news of a new “gospel” unveiled at a conference in Rome recently. The fragment, dubbed the “Gospel of Jesus’ Wife,” allegedly mentions Jesus as being married.

  Finding spurious gospels is not new. Along with the four canonical Gospels giving accounts of Jesus’ life and ministry, pseudo-Christian groups in the first centuries of the church (most notably the Gnostics) produced their own “holy writings,” including The Gospel of Thomas, The Gospel of Philip, The Acts of Peter, etc. Of course, the books were not actually written by the people they were named for.

  This new “gospel” is not a complete work at all – rather it is a tiny scrap of papyrus with eight partial lines of text on one side and a few words on the other. What is so exciting about it? Lines 3-5 read, “deny. Mary is [?not] worthy of it…Jesus said to them, ‘my wife…she will be able to be my disciple.” Several secular news agencies are taking this as “evidence” that Jesus Christ was married and hyping the fragment intensely. Although it is simply a scrap, it was given the name “The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife.”

  In the midst of the excitement, it is good to keep the following points in mind:

 

1. There is essentially no context at all for the statement about the “wife”. We have no idea what the Jesus character in the text was saying. What if the original (complete) text said, “My wife is the church, whom I shall take to Heaven to be where I am.” It is a possibility! 2. The dating of the fragment is quite uncertain, but the scholar who announced it has tentatively dated the text (not the fragment) to the second century A.D. The fragment itself she believes to be from the fourth century. Obviously, the canonical gospels, which were written in the first century by people who knew Jesus personally or (as in the case of Mark and Luke) knew those who knew Jesus, are more reliable than this undated, unattributed scrap even from a secular viewpoint. 3. Very few scholars are willing at this point to vouch for the authenticity of the text. Many are strongly suspicious that it is a modern forgery; some are absolutely convinced that it is. Even Prof. Karen King, who unveiled the fragment, admitted to having doubts about its authenticity. Some have questioned why the scrap is a perfect rectangle. Might someone have found it as part of a larger text and cut out the small piece – perhaps because the broader context gave information about what the “wife” comment meant which made it sound less sensational? 4. Even if the scrap is genuinely ancient (mid-2nd century, as Prof. King suggested) and is suggesting that Jesus was married (in a literal sense), that does not mean that the real Jesus actually was married. It only means that one author who wrote this document may have believed that Jesus was married. (For all we know, the author may have been disputing such an idea or simply making some scribblings for his own amusement.) Prof. King wrote that the text “does not, however, provide evidence that the historical Jesus was married, given the late date of the fragment and the probable date of original composition only in the second half of the second century.”

 

Need this new scrap shake anyone’s faith in what the Biblical Gospels say about Jesus’ life? No. Its late date and lack of context make it essentially worthless even from a secular viewpoint in telling us anything about Jesus’ life. Those who have experienced the power of Jesus in their lives personally need not let any evidence shake them away from their own experiential knowledge of the truth of the Bible.

 

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek”

Romans 1:16

Sources

Holy Bible, Authorized Version

There is an enormous amount of discussion of the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife online. Here are a few main references:

1. Henry B. Smith, Jr., “Brief Reflections on the So-Called ‘Jesus Wife’ Fragment,” http://www.biblearchaeology.org/post/2012/09/24/Brief-Reflections-on-the-So-Called-Jesus-Wife-Fragment.aspx (Accessed September 27, 2012)

2. Tim Chaffey, “Was Jesus Married?,” http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/2012/09/21/feedback-was-jesus-married (Accessed September 27, 2012)

3. Karen L. King & AnneMarie Luijendijk, “ ‘Jesus said to them, “My wife…”’ A New Coptic Gospel Papyrus,” draft of paper submitted to Harvard Theological Review, http://www.hds.harvard.edu/sites/hds.harvard.edu/files/attachments/faculty-research/research-projects/the-gospel-of-jesuss-wife/29865/King_JesusSaidToThem_draft_0920.pdf

4. Lillian Kwon, “ ‘Gospel of Jesus’ Wife’ Historian Admits to Having Doubts About Authenticity,” http://www.christianpost.com/news/gospel-of-jesus-wife-historian-admits-to-having-doubts-about-authenticity-82229/ (Accessed September 27, 2012)

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