Author Archive

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In:Early Church, Endurance, Nonresistance & Nonparticipation, Sin, Spiritual Warfare

Comments Off on Patience in Temptation

We who carry about our very soul, our very body, exposed in this world to injury from all, and exhibit patience under that injury; shall we be hurt at the loss of less important things?  Far from a servant of Christ be such a defilement as that the patience which has been prepared for greater temptations should forsake him in frivolous ones.  If one attempt to provoke you by manual violence, the monition of the Lord is at hand: “To him,” He saith, “Who smiteth thee on the face, turn the other cheek likewise.”  Let outrageousness be wearied out by your patience.  Whatever that blow may be, conjoined with pain and contumely,[1] it shall receive a heavier one from the Lord.  You wound that outrageous one more by enduring: for he will be beaten by Him for whose sake you endure.  If the tongue’s bitterness break out in malediction or reproach, look back at the saying, “When they curse you, rejoice.”  The Lord Himself was “cursed” in the eye of the law; and yet is He the only Blessed One.  Let us servants, therefore, follow our Lord closely; and be cursed patiently, that we may be able to be blessed.

 

(From Tertullian’s work On Patience, written circa 202 A.D.  Translation from Ante-Nicene Fathers volume 3, p. 712.)

 

[1] Contumely, n.  Rudeness or reproach compounded of haughtiness and contempt; contemptuousness; insolence; contemptuous language.  (Webster’s 1828 Dictionary).

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In:Early Church, Endurance, Martyrs, The Church

Comments Off on Ignatius’s Epistle to Polycarp

Editor’s Note: Ignatius was a student of the apostle John and a bishop in Antioch. Polycarp was a fellow-student of the apostle John and a bishop in Smyrna. Ignatius wrote this letter to his friend Polycarp while he (Ignatius) was on the way to his martyrdom in Rome. Polycarp was himself to meet with martyrdom some years later in Smyrna.

 

This letter by Ignatius is very inspiring and is full of material for deep reflection. It is my personal favorite of the letters of Ignatius.

 

This translation is taken from the Ante-Nicene Fathers, volume 1, pp. 93-96. The “shorter version” is used. I have modernized the language somewhat to make it easier for the modern reader.—Ed.

 

Ignatius, who is also called Theophorus, to Polycarp, Bishop of the Church of the Smyrnaeans, or rather, who has, as his own bishop, God the Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ: [wishes] abundance of happiness.

 

Having obtained good proof that your mind is fixed in God as upon an immoveable rock, I loudly glorify [His name] that I have been thought worthy [to behold] your blameless face, which may I ever enjoy in God! I entreat you, by the grace with which you are clothed, to press forward in your course, and to exhort all that they may be saved. Maintain your position with all care, both in the flesh and spirit. Have a regard to preserve unity – nothing is better than that. Bear with all, even as the Lord does with you. Support all in love, as you do. Give yourself to prayer without ceasing. Beg for more understanding than you already have. Be watchful, possessing a sleepless spirit. Speak to every man separately, as God enables you. Bear the infirmities of all, as being a perfect athlete [in the Christian life]: where the labor is great, the gain is all the more.

 

If you love the good disciples, you merit no thanks for that; but rather seek by meekness to subdue the more troublesome. Every kind of wound is not healed with the same plaster. Mitigate violent attacks [of disease] by gentle applications. Be in all things “wise as a serpent, and harmless as a dove.” For this purpose you are composed of both flesh and spirit, that you may deal tenderly with those [evils] that present themselves visibly before you. And as respects those that are not seen, pray that [God] would reveal them to you, in order that you may be wanting in nothing, but may abound in every gift. The times call for you, as pilots do for the winds, and as one tossed with tempest seeks for the haven, so that both you [and those under your care] may attain to God. Be sober as an athlete of God: the prize set before you is immortality and eternal life, of which you are also persuaded. In all things may my soul be for yours, and my bonds also, which you have loved.

 

Let not those who seem worthy of credit, but teach strange doctrines, fill you with apprehension. Stand firm, as does an anvil which is beaten. It is the part of a noble athlete to be wounded, and yet to conquer. And especially, we ought to bear all things for the sake of God, that He also may bear with us. Be ever becoming more zealous than what you are. Weigh carefully the times. Look for Him who is above all time, eternal and invisible, yet who became visible for our sakes; who cannot be felt with the touch and who cannot suffer pain, yet who became capable of feeling pain on our account; and who in every kind of way suffered for our sakes.

 

Let not widows be neglected. You should be their protector and friend, second only to the Lord. Let nothing be done without your consent; neither should you do anything without the approval of God, which indeed you do not do, inasmuch as you are steadfast. Let your assembling together be of frequent occurrence: seek after all by name. Do not despise either male or female slaves, yet neither let them be puffed up with conceit, but rather let them submit themselves the more, for the glory of God, that they may obtain from God a better liberty. Let them not long to be set free [from slavery] at the public expense, that they be not found slaves to their own desires.

 

Flee evil arts; but all the more discourse in public regarding them. Speak to my sisters, that they love the Lord, and be satisfied with their husbands both in the flesh and spirit. In like manner also, exhort my brethren, in the name of Jesus Christ, that they love their wives, even as the Lord the Church. If anyone can continue in a state of purity [celibacy], to the honor of Him who is Lord of the flesh, let him so remain without boasting. If he begins to boast, he is undone; and if he reckons himself greater than the bishop, he is ruined. But it becomes both men and women who marry, to form their union with the approval of the bishop, so that their marriage may be according to God, and not after their own lust. Let all things be done to the honor of God.

 

[Addressed to the congregation:] Give ye heed to the bishop, that God also may give heed to you. My soul be for theirs that are submissive to the bishop, to the presbyters, and to the deacons, and may my portion be along with them in God! Labor together with one another; strive in company together; run together; suffer together; sleep together; and awake together, as the stewards, and associates, and servants of God. Please Him under whom you fight, and from whom you receive your wages. Let none of you be found a deserter. Let your baptism endure as your arms; your faith as your helmet; your love as your spear; your patience as a complete armor. Let your works be the charge assigned to you, that ye may receive a worthy recompense. Be long-suffering, therefore, with one another, in meekness, as God is towards you. May I have joy of you forever!

 

Seeing that the church which is at Antioch in Syria is, as report has informed me, at peace, through your prayers, I also am the more encouraged, resting without anxiety in God, if indeed by means of suffering I may attain to God, so that, through your prayers, I may be found a disciple [of Christ]. It is fitting, O Polycarp, most blessed in God, to assemble a very solemn council, and to elect one whom you greatly love, and know to be a man of activity, who may be designated the messenger of God; and to bestow on him this honor that he may go into Syria, and glorify your ever active love to the praise of Christ. A Christian has not power over himself, but must always be ready for the service of God. Now, this work is both God’s and yours, when ye shall have completed it to His glory. For I trust that, through grace, ye are prepared for every good work pertaining to God. Knowing, therefore, your energetic love of the truth, I have exhorted you by this brief Epistle.

 

Inasmuch as I have not been able to write to all the churches, because I must suddenly sail from Troas to Neapolis, as the will [of the emperor] enjoins, [I beg that] you, as being acquainted with the purpose of God, will write to the adjacent churches, that they also may act in like manner, such as are able to do so sending messengers, and the others transmitting letters through those persons who are sent by you, that you may be glorified by a work which shall be remembered forever, as indeed you are worthy to be. I salute all by name, and in particular the wife of Epitropus, with all her house and children. I salute Attalus, my beloved. I salute him who shall be deemed worthy to go [from you] into Syria. Grace shall be with him forever, and with Polycarp that sends him. I pray for you to have happiness forever in our God, Jesus Christ, by whom continue in the unity and under the protection of God. I salute Alce, my dearly beloved. Fare well in the Lord.

On March 28, 2014, a debate was held in Boston, Massachusetts, on the topic “It’s Just War: Can Christians Fight?”  Two men took a position of Biblical nonresistance and two took a Just War Theory position.  Defending nonresistance were David Bercot, an attorney and scholar of early Christianity, and Dean Taylor, popular speaker, author, and an ex-Army soldier who left as a conscientious objector.  Defending the Just War Theory were two theologians, philosophers, authors, and professors, Dr. J. Daryl Charles (an Evangelical Protestant) and Dr. Peter Kreeft (Roman Catholic).  The debate lasted two hours and was held before a large audience.

 

A range of products related to the debate, including CD and .mp3 CD recordings, a partial transcript with commentary, and a complete transcript, are available from Sermon on the Mount Publishing.  Click here for more information.

 

 

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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:James, Matthew, Separation & Nonconformity, Sin

Comments Off on Swear Not At All

Matt. 5:33-37; James 5:12.

By Simon P. Yoder

 

“Swear not at all”—thus taught the Son

Of God, that pure and holy One,

Whose words with truth are ever rife;

Who for a ransom gave his life—

Man to restore from Adam’s fall—

Yes, Jesus said, “Swear not at all.”

 

“Swear not at all.”  In times of old,

Before Christ came truth to unfold,

Oaths were allowed, and men would bind

Themselves with solemn oaths to find

Their perjured souls could not obey—

But Jesus taught a better way.

 

“Swear not at all,” whate’er you do,

Oaths cannot make your words more true.

Speak words of promise with a “yea,”

And when denying, answer “nay;”

But keep your lips from words profane,

They come of evil and are vain.

 

“Swear not at all,” said Christ; and James

His own apostle too, proclaims

The same divine commands for see:

“Above all things swear not!” said he.—

And are not here forbidden both

The statesman and the ruffian’s oath?

 

“Swear not at all” includes all kinds

Of oaths, and how the swearer finds

A way to reconcile his words

With the plain teachings of the Lord

I know not,—for to great and small

Is this command: “Swear not at all.”

 

“Swear not at all.”—Then while we live

O let us due obedience give

To this commandment firm and plain.

No “legal oaths” nor words profane

From Christian lips should ever fall,

Since Jesus said, “SWEAR NOT AT ALL.”

 

Originally published in the Herald of Truth 11(11) (November 1874):185.

 

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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:Early Church, Salvation and the New Birth, Separation & Nonconformity, Sin

Comments Off on “We Follow God”: by Justin Martyr

From Justin Martyr’s First Apology, addressed to the Roman emperor Antoninus Pius. Justin was martyred c. 165 A.D. From Ante-Nicene Fathers, volume 1, pp. 166-167.

 

What sober-minded man, then, will not acknowledge that we are not atheists, worshipping as we do the Maker of this universe, and declaring, as we have been taught, that He has no need of streams of blood and libations and incense; whom we praise to the utmost of our power by the exercise of prayer and thanksgiving for all things wherewith we are supplied, as we have been taught that the only honor that is worthy of Him is not to consume by fire what He has brought into being for our sustenance, but to use it for ourselves and those who need, and with gratitude to Him to offer thanks by invocations and hymns for our creation, and for all the means of health, and for the various qualities of the different kinds of things, and for the changes of the seasons; and to present before Him petitions for our existing again in incorruption through faith in Him…

And thus do we also, since our persuasion by the Word, stand aloof from them [the demons], and follow the only unbegotten God through His Son—we who formerly delighted in fornication, but now embrace chastity alone; we who formerly used magical arts, dedicate ourselves to the good and unbegotten God; we who valued above all things the acquisition of wealth and possessions, now bring what we have into a common stock, and communicate to every one in need; we who hated and destroyed one another, and on account of their different manners would not live with men of a different tribe, now, since the coming of Christ, live familiarly with them, and pray for our enemies, and endeavor to persuade those who hate us unjustly to live conformably to the good precepts of Christ, to the end that they may become partakers with us of the same joyful hope of a reward from God the ruler of all.

 

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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:Endurance, Modesty, Separation & Nonconformity, Youth

Comments Off on “I Do Not Want to be Laughed At”

By Brother Henry

 

From the January 1871 issue of Herald of Truth, p. 10. Title ours. All capitalization and emphasis as in the original.

 

Not long since a mother talked to me about her children, and said they obeyed her very well, only they wanted their clothes more fashionable than she was willing they should. Her youngest daughter, who was perhaps twelve years old, said that if they did not have their clothes something near like other people, they would be laughed at and made sport of. Well the little girl was right; those who do not love and obey God, and make light of his commandments, as though he did not mean what he said, do laugh at those who love and obey him and try to keep his commandments. Good people never laugh at those who try to please God, and we must not forget that he has said, “Come ye out from among them, and touch not the unclean thing (the wickedness and foolishness of the world), and I will receive you and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters.” We must not forget that Jesus says, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself (forsake everything that belongs to this world, that is vain and foolish), and take up his cross, and follow me.” Again we read, “Know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.”

 

Now then, children, whose friend do you wish to be? or who would you like to have for your friend, the wicked people of this world or God? I think you will all say, I want God to be my friend. Well then, if you want him to be your friend, you must become willing to be laughed at by the people. They who are not willing to be laughed at in this world, must be laughed at and rejected after they die. If we are not willing to be laughed at, we will be the enemies of God, and hear what God says about his enemies, “But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me.” Luke 19:27.

 

Would you not rather have God to be your friend and be laughed at now, than to be laughed at by him and never be permitted to live with him in heaven? “He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh. The Lord shall have them in derision.” Psalm 2:4. “The wicked plotteth against the just, and gnasheth upon him with his teeth. The Lord shall laugh at him; for he seeth that his day is coming.” Ps. 37:12, 13. “I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh,” Prov. 1:26. Read also the rest of the verses of this chapter. Hear what the Bible says about those who laugh at others and do not obey God, “Woe unto you that laugh now, for ye shall mourn and weep,” Luke 6:25.

 

Jesus our Savior also was laughed at, as we read, “And they shall mock him, and shall scourge him, and shall spit upon him, and shall kill him.” Mark 10:34. “And when they had platted a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand; and they bowed the knee before him, and mocked him.” [Matthew 27:29].

 

Now I hope this little girl, and all the little girls and boys who read this, will hereafter try to please and obey God, and be willing to be laughed at for Jesus’ sake.

 

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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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