About Cindy Koen

"Born and raised in Pueblo, Colorado, Cindy Koen gave her life to Jesus at 4 years old and has been serving Him ever since. She and her husband, Matt, served in Youth and Young Adult Ministry for 14 years and currently reside in Pueblo West, where they homeschool their 9 children. Cindy started writing in high school and is currently a Christian opinion blogger. She is passionate about fulfilling the calling of all Christ-followers to be salt and light in the world."

David: The Man, The Myths … The Truth

If you went to church as a child, you’ve probably heard the traditional Sunday School version of David and Goliath. If not, it goes something like this…

The Israelite army was being challenged by a giant named Goliath. All of the soldiers were terrified of Goliath and no one would step up to fight him. Then, David, a young boy around 12 years old came to visit his brothers, heard about Goliath and got mad! David volunteered to fight the giant and everyone thought he was crazy! Saul finally agreed and offered David his armor, which was much too big for the boy. David looked like a little boy wearing his Dad’s t-shirt. So, he took the armor off and went to face the giant with his little slingshot and miraculously hit Goliath between his eyes and killed him. The moral of the story? You are never too small to be used by God!

It’s a great story, but is it really what the Bible describes? Well, not quite. Unfortunately, the Sunday School version, as well as the story that is portrayed on many children’s cartoons, takes a lot of poetic license. 

Anointed to be King

The first time David enters Israel’s story is in 1 Samuel 16. In this chapter, the prophet Samuel has followed God’s instructions and traveled to Bethlehem to anoint one of Jesse’s sons to be the next king. God told Samuel to set up a sacrifice so that he would not have to tell the people the primary reason for his visit. Jesse and his sons are consecrated and invited to attend the sacrifice and, upon their arrival, Samuel assumes that David’s oldest brother is God’s chosen one. He is rebuked by God for looking only at Eliab’s appearance. One by one, Jesse’s sons pass by Samuel and one by one, God says, “No.” This is where we pick the story up.

Thus Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel. And Samuel said to Jesse, “The Lord has not chosen these.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all the young men here?” Then he said, “There remains yet the youngest, and there he is, keeping the sheep.”

And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and bring him. For we will not sit down till he comes here.” So he sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, with bright eyes, and good-looking. And the Lord said, “Arise, anoint him; for this is the one!” Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward. So Samuel arose and went to Ramah. (1 Samuel 16:10-13)

Many people point to God’s words regarding Eliab, “Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature…” along with the fact that David was the youngest and was not called to join them with the prophet and assume that David must have been a young boy – too young to be considered. That, however, is just not in this text. There could have been a reason why David may have had to remain with the sheep or David might have been a bit neglected by his family and forgotten about. Similarly, Eliab’s stature does not imply that David – or any of his other brothers – was small. Eliab may have just been the tallest and most impressive of the brothers, the golden child so to speak.

Mighty Man of Valor, A Man of War

Right after this event, the Bible tells us that the Spirit of the Lord left King Saul and that a distressing spirit troubled him. Saul’s servants wanted to help and offered a suggestion…

Let our master now command your servants, who are before you, to seek out a man who is a skillful player on the harp. And it shall be that he will play it with his hand when the distressing spirit from God is upon you, and you shall be well.” So Saul said to his servants, “Provide me now a man who can play well, and bring him to me.” Then one of the servants answered and said, “Look, I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite, who is skillful in playing, a mighty man of valor, a man of war, prudent in speech, and a handsome person; and the Lord is with him. (1 Samuel 16:16-18)

 

Image courtesy flanagan.wikia.com.

Saul’s servants referred to David as a “mighty man of valor, a man of war, prudent in speech, and a handsome person.”  These are hardly words that would be used to describe a child, or even a young teenage boy. Some respond to this by saying that the events were not written in chronological order and that this really happened after David fought Goliath. However, there is not only a lack of evidence for this argument, there are some indications that it could not be true. Tim Chaffey explains

First and foremost, 1 Samuel 17:15 states, “But David occasionally went and returned from Saul to feed his father’s sheep at Bethlehem.” So David regularly served Saul before his encounter with Goliath. Also, 1 Samuel 18:2, which immediately followed the battle with Goliath, states, “Saul took him [David] that day, and would not let him go home to his father’s house anymore.” Finally, chapter 16 shows that Saul and David were introduced to each other and that David became his armor bearer (v. 21), whereas chapter 17 shows no such introduction, indicating they knew already knew each other.

David Leaves Home

Subsequently, King Saul sent for David and, “… David came to Saul and stood before him. And he loved him greatly, and he became his armorbearer. Then Saul sent to Jesse, saying, “Please let David stand before me, for he has found favor in my sight.” And so it was, whenever the spirit from God was upon Saul, that David would take a harp and play it with his hand. Then Saul would become refreshed and well, and the distressing spirit would depart from him.” (1 Samuel 16:21-23) We know 2 things from this passage. (1) David became Saul’s armorbearer. (2) Whenever the distressing spirit came upon Saul, David would take a harp and play it. Both bring us to an easy conclusion that David moved into the palace and was required to be in the presence of Saul at all times. 1 Samuel 17:15 confirms that, “… David occasionally went and returned from Saul to feed his father’s sheep at Bethlehem.

Too Young to Fight?

Next, we come to the story of David and Goliath. Israel’s army is gathered in the Valley of Elah, terrified by the Philistine giant, who twice a day issued this challenge…

 

The Valley of Elah, Wikimedia Commons, public domain

Choose a man for yourselves, and let him come down to me. If he is able to fight with me and kill me, then we will be your servants. But if I prevail against him and kill him, then you shall be our servants and serve us … I defy the armies of Israel this day; give me a man, that we may fight together. (1 Samuel 17:8b-10)

This had gone on for 40 days when David entered the camp to bring his brothers provisions from their elderly father. Here is where we find one of the most common misconceptions about David. Because only the 3 oldest brothers were with Saul, it is assumed that the other 5 brothers, including David, were all under the age of 20 (the age that men in Israel were required to enter military service). This theory makes sense until you look at all of the exemptions to military service that are provided in the Torah. Deuteronomy 20 lists the following reasons why a man who was over the age of 20 would be allowed to stay home from battle.

  • He bought a new house and had not dedicated it.
  • He planted a vineyard and had not eaten from it.
  • He was betrothed to a woman and not yet married.
  • He was fearful and fainthearted.

Deuteronomy 24:5 also instructs Israel that a man is exempt from service for 1 year following his wedding. It is apparent that David did not qualify for any of these exemptions, so it is safe to say that he was almost certainly under the age of 20. However, we should not read more into the text than what is written. We have no reason to presume that the rest of David’s brothers were too young to be at war. One or all could have simply been fearful or fainthearted. They were, after all, facing a giant that was terrorizing them. It is also quite likely when you are talking about a group of young men that at least 1 would have just built a new house that was not yet dedicated, planted a vineyard that he had not eaten of or become betrothed or recently married. It is certainly within the realm of possibility that David could have been as old as 19 years old – even right up to the day before his 20th birthday, which would better fit the description of David in 1 Samuel 16.

Untested Armor

But, doesn’t the Bible say that Saul’s armor much too big for David? This is really just another unfortunate myth portrayed in many Sunday school lessons. Let’s look at the relevant verses in 1 Samuel 17:38-39.

So Saul clothed David with his armor, and he put a bronze helmet on his head; he also clothed him with a coat of mail. David fastened his sword to his armor and tried to walk, for he had not tested them. And David said to Saul, “I cannot walk with these, for I have not tested them.” So David took them off.

David simply stated that he could not walk with the armor because he had not tested it. In the KJV, David’s words are translated this way, “I cannot go with these; for I have not proved them.” Testing or proving armor means to test it for defensive ability. David’s statement could actually indicate that he had some experience in battle.

Not a Boy

A second misunderstanding of this conversation comes from Saul’s words of caution to David, “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him; for you are a youth, and he a man of war from his youth.” Some versions of the Bible use the word “boy” in Saul’s description of David, but that is not an accurate translation and creates even more confusion. The Hebrew word that is translated “youth” here can also be translated servant and can be used to describe a child, teenager or even a younger adult man, as was the case when it was used to describe Absalom in 2 Samuel 18:29 right after he was killed for attempting to take the throne from his father, David. At the time of Absalom’s death, most scholars believe that he was somewhere around 30 years old, give or take a couple of years.

Ancient Slingers

Image courtesy of www.ancient.eu.

In our day, slingshots are commonly marketed as children’s toys and that is how most in America view them.  However, that was not always the case. In ancient times, slingers were skilled, deadly warriors who were employed by the Roman, Assyrian, Egyptian and Israelite armies (among others).  Stones flung from their slings rivaled the velocity and precision of a handgun today. Most had been trained since childhood and had finely tuned their skill.  In his book, Babylon: Mesopotamia and the Birth of Civilization, Paul Kriwaczek explains how and why a sling worked so well. (emphasis added)

 

A sling works by increasing the effective length of a stone-thrower’s arm. Modern cricket bowlers or baseball pitchers can achieve maximum ball velocities of over 150 kilometres per hour. A slingshot as long again as the thrower’s arm will double the projectile’s speed, making the velocity of the bullet when it leaves the sling nearly 100 metres per second. This is already considerably greater than that of a longbow arrow, at only about 60 mps. Intensively trained from childhood onward, there is no reason to believe that a professional slinger could not beat 100 mps (meters per second) fairly easily and perhaps even begin to approach the muzzle velocity of a .45 calibre pistol round: about 150 mps. What is more, a smooth slingshot projectile has a far greater range than an arrow, as much as half a kilometre, because an arrow’s flight feather’s produce so much drag. The modern world-record distance for a stone cast with a sling was achieved by Larry Bray in 1981, who managed 437 metres, and thought in retrospect that he could surpass the 600-metre mark with a better sling and lead projectiles.

Conclusion

Without the myths, David’s victory over Goliath is a powerful testimony of God’s hand in Israel’s history. While faith is our primary goal when reading Scripture, we should not shy away from reason, logic and historical context. David was a mighty man of valor who had likely been trained in the use of a sling from the time he was a child. By faith, David surrendered his skills to God and was used mightily to defeat a man whose intention was to thwart God’s plan for Israel.

 


* All scriptures are quoted from the New King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise noted.

America’s Founders – Deists or Apologists?

Jean Leon Gerome Ferris [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

It is often claimed that America’s founding fathers were irreligious deists who never intended

to establish a Christian nation. Secularists point to quotes from Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin and even George Washington in their quest to detach our nation from her Judeo-Christian roots. The quotes that they use are almost always taken out of context or sometimes even completely fabricated. But, if we simply read through founding era speeches, letters and other writings, it is easy to see that most of our founders would more easily fit the description of apologist.

For example, secularists claim that because George Washington used terms like Divine Providence and Supreme Being, he must have been a Deist and not a Christian. However, they overlook (or ignore) the fact that Providence was a term commonly used to refer to God during the founding era and for at least 2 centuries before. The Geneva Bible alone referred to God as Providence 144 times. Many sermons of the day utilized the word as well, including “Dominion of Providence Over the Passions of Men,” which was delivered by John Witherspoon on May 17, 1776. In this sermon, Witherspoon referred to Providence 10 times overall and twice in these opening sentences…

THERE is not a greater evidence either of the reality or the power of religion, than a firm belief of God’s universal presence, and a constant attention to the influence and operation of his providence. It is by this means that the Christian may be said, in the emphatical scripture language, to walk with God, and to endure as seeing him who is invisible.

THE doctrine of divine providence is very full and complete in the sacred oracles. It extends not only to things which we may think of great moment, and therefore worthy of notice, but to things the most indifferent and inconsiderable: Are not two sparrows sold for a farthings, says our Lord, and one of them falleth not on the ground without your heavenly Father; nay, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. It extends not only to things beneficial and salutary, or to the direction and assistance of those who are the servants of the living God; but to things seemingly most hurtful and destructive, and to persons the most refractory and disobedient. He over-rules all his creatures, and all their actions.”

Regardless of how many others used the term, Washington made it clear that he was, in fact, a Christian. On May 2, 1778, General Washington issued general orders to his soldiers at Valley Forge. Included in his brief statement were these words…

While we are zealously performing the duties of good Citizens and soldiers we certainly ought not to be inattentive to the higher duties of Religion—To the distinguished Character of Patriot, it should be our highest Glory to add the more distinguished Character of Christian…

Later, when he resigned from his post as commander in chief of the Continental army, Washington closed his Circular to the States this way…

I now make it my earnest prayer, that God would have you, and the State over which you preside, in his holy protection, that he would incline the hearts of the Citizens to cultivate a spirit of subordination and obedience to Government, to entertain a brotherly affection and love for one another, for their fellow Citizens of the United States at large, and particularly for their brethren who have served in the Field, and finally, that he would most graciously be pleased to dispose us all, to do Justice, to love mercy, and to demean ourselves with that Charity, humility and pacific temper of mind, which were the Characteristicks [original spelling] of the Divine Author of our blessed Religion, and without an humble imitation of whose example in these things, we can never hope to be a happy Nation.

In March of 1785, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson traveled to France to meet with the ambassador of Tripoli in hopes of ending the attacks on American merchant ships. Tragically, the attacks would continue for more than 3 decades and 4 presidents. One of many treaties signed along the way was the Treaty of Tripoli. A small snippet from this treaty is used by atheists and secularists to defend their position that America was never a Christian nation. The quote is often incorrectly attributed to John Adams and is usually presented this way: “The United States is in no sense founded on the Christian religion.” Apart from its context, this sentence seems like a death knell. But, context is everything. This is the full paragraph.

As the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Musselmen [Muslims] and as the said States [America] have never entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.

As you can see, what it is quoted as a complete sentence is actually just a small part of a much longer sentence and it is clear that this was nothing more than an attempt to placate the Muslim nations and convince them that the United States had no interest in a holy war. Wallbuilders has an article on The Treaty of Tripoli that explains this quote in more detail here.

In addition to attributing the preceding quote to John Adams, revisionists label him as a Unitarian who rejected orthodox Christianity, the doctrine of the Trinity and the divinity of Christ. Below are just a few quotations from Adams that demonstrate that, in fact, Adams was a devout and outspoken Christian. (Read more about John Adams here; full bibliography including page numbers at the end of the article.)

It is notorious enough that I have been a church-going animal for seventy-six years from the cradle.”

John Adams to Benjamin Rush on August 28, 1811, Quoted from The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States, Charles Francis Adams, editor

The general principles on which the fathers achieved independence were . . . . the general principles of Christianity. . . . I will avow that I then believed (and now believe) that those general principles of Christianity are as eternal and immutable as the existence and attributes of God.”

From John Adams to Thomas Jefferson on June 28, 1813, Quoted from The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, Andrew A. Lipscomb, editor

I have examined all [religions], . . . and the result is that the Bible is the best book in the world.”

John Adams to Thomas Jefferson on December 25, 1813, Quoted from The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States, Charles Francis Adams, editor

I think there is nothing upon this earth more sublime and affecting than the idea of a great nation all on their knees at once before their God, acknowledging their faults and imploring His blessing and protection.”

John Adams, correspondence originally published in the Boston Patriot, 1809, Letter XIII, Quoted from The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States, Charles Francis Adams, editor

The Bible contains the most profound philosophy, the most perfect morality, and the most refined policy that ever was conceived upon earth. . . .The curses against fornication and adultery, and the prohibition of every wanton glance or libidinous ogle at a woman, I believe to be the only system that ever did or ever will preserve a republic in the world. . . . I say then that national morality never was and never can be preserved without the utmost purity and chastity in women; and without national morality a republican government cannot be maintained.”

John Adams to Benjamin Rush on February 2, 1807, Quoted from Old Family Letters, Alexander Biddle, editor

Charles Willson Peale [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Thomas Jefferson is probably the most slandered founding father. Christians and atheists alike have attacked Jefferson’s religion, character and actions. David Barton wrote an excellent book entitled, “The Jefferson Lies,” which dispels commonly held beliefs about the primary author of the Declaration of Independence. One of the things that he covers in that book is the so-called “Jefferson Bible.” The lie that is spread is that Thomas Jefferson cut pages out of his Bible, removing things that he didn’t agree with. This is a myth at best and outright propaganda at worst. The truth is that Jefferson wanted to give the Native Americans an abridgment of the Bible that would introduce them to Biblical morality and be easy to understand. He titled the work, “The Philosophy of Jesus of Nazareth. Extracted from the Account of His Life and Doctrines Given by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Being an Abridgement of the New Testament for the Use of the Indians, Unembarrassed [Uncomplicated] with Matters of Fact or Faith beyond the Level of their Comprehensions.” (See Defending The Jefferson Lies: David Barton Responds to his Conservative Critics.) This fits perfectly with Jefferson’s life as he used both his own money as well as federal funds to send missionaries to the Native Americans and build churches for them.

Furthermore, while Jefferson is held up as the champion of the “separation of church and state,” i.e. church should have no involvement in the state, much evidence exists that the only thing he was interested in was keeping the state out of the church and not the other way around. According to Wallbuilders,Jefferson never promoted the concept of a secular state. While serving in the Virginia House of Burgesses he introduced a resolution for a day of fasting and prayer in 1774. As governor of Virginia he issued a proclamation for a day of prayer and thanksgiving in November 1779. While President, he chaired the school board for the District of Columbia and authored its plan of education using the Bible and Watt’s Hymnal as reading texts. He also proposed a treaty with the Kaskaskia Indians, which included using Federal money to build a church and support a clergyman. When he established the University of Virginia, he encouraged the teaching of religion and set apart space in the Rotunda for chapel services. He also praised the use of the local courthouse in his home town for religious services.(See footnotes here.)

Jefferson wrote extensively about his Christian faith and the benefits of Christianity to society. Here are some examples.

The doctrines of Jesus are simple, and tend all to the happiness of man.”

Thomas Jefferson to Dr. Benjamin Waterhouse on June 26, 1822, Quoted from The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, Albert Bergh, editor (Washington, D.C.: The Thomas Jefferson Memorial Association, 1904)

The practice of morality being necessary for the well being of society, He [God] has taken care to impress its precepts so indelibly on our hearts that they shall not be effaced by the subtleties of our brain. We all agree in the obligation of the moral principles of Jesus and nowhere will they be found delivered in greater purity than in His discourses.”

Thomas Jefferson to James Fishback, September 27, 1809, Quoted from The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, Albert Bergh, editor (Washington, D.C.: The Thomas Jefferson Memorial Association, 1904)

I am a Christian in the only sense in which He wished anyone to be: sincerely attached to His doctrines in preference to all others.”

Thomas Jefferson to Benjamin Rush, April 21, 1803, Quoted from Memoir, Correspondence, and Miscellanies from the Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Jefferson Randolph, editor (Boston: Grey & Bowen, 1830)

I am a real Christian – that is to say, a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus Christ.”

Thomas Jefferson to Charles Thomson on January 9, 1816, Quoted from The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, Albert Ellery Bergh, editor (Washington, D.C.: The Thomas Jefferson Memorial Association, 1904)

Finally, like the others Benjamin Franklin is thought by most to have been a Deist. While certainly one of the least religious of the founding fathers, Franklin was no Deist. At one point the Constitutional Convention seemed doomed to failure, but on June 28, 1787, the 81 year old Franklin rose from his seat and spoke these words

Mr. President

The small progress we have made after 4 or five weeks close attendance & continual reasonings with each other,”our different sentiments on almost every question, several of the last producing as many noes and ays, is methinks a melancholy proof of the imperfection of the Human Understanding. We indeed seem to feel our own want of political wisdom, some we have been running about in search of it. We have gone back to ancient history for models of Government, and examined the different forms of those Republics which having been formed with the seeds of their own dissolution now no longer exist. And we have viewed Modern States all round Europe, but find none of their Constitutions suitable to our circumstances.

In this situation of this Assembly, groping as it were in the dark to find political truth, and scarce able to distinguish it when presented to us, how has it happened, Sir, that we have not hitherto once thought of humbly applying to the Father of lights to illuminate our understandings? In the beginning of the Contest with G. Britain, when we were sensible of danger we had daily prayer in this room for the divine protection. ”Our prayers, Sir, were heard, and they were graciously answered. All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of a Superintending providence in our favor. To that kind providence we owe this happy opportunity of consulting in peace on the means of establishing our future national felicity. And have we now forgotten that powerful friend? I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth- that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid? We have been assured, Sir, in the sacred writings, that “except the Lord build the House they labour in vain that build it.” I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without his concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better than the Builders of Babel: We shall be divided by our little partial local interests; our projects will be confounded, and we ourselves shall become a reproach and bye word down to future ages. And what is worse, mankind may hereafter from this unfortunate instance, despair of establishing Governments be Human Wisdom and leave it to chance, war and conquest.

I therefore beg leave to move, that henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessings on our deliberations, be held in this Assembly every morning before we proceed to business, and that one or more of the Clergy of the City be requested to officiate in that service.

Benjamin Franklin had more to say about Christianity and a personal God.

As to Jesus of Nazareth, my opinion of whom you particularly desire, I think the system of morals and His religion as He left them to us, the best the world ever saw or is likely to see.”

Franklin to Ezra Stiles, March 9, 1790, Quoted from Works of Benjamin Franklin, John Bigelow, editor

The body of Benjamin Franklin, printer, like the cover of an old book, its contents torn out and stripped of its lettering and guilding, lies here, food for worms. Yet the work itself shall not be lost; for it will, as he believed, appear once more in a new and more beatiful edition, corrected and amended by the Author.” (FRANKLIN’S EULOGY THAT HE WROTE FOR HIMSELF)

Quoted from Works of the Late Doctor Benjamin Franklin (Dublin: P. Wogan, P. Byrne, J. More, and W. Janes, 1793)

Whosoever shall introduce into public affairs the principles of primitive Christianity will change the face of the world.”                  

Benjamin Franklin

Again, most of America’s Founding Fathers could more easily be classified apologists than secularists since they spent most of their lives defending Christianity. Volumes more could be (and have been) written on the Christian faith of our founding fathers, but I will leave you with these words from John Quincy Adams,

In the chain of human events, the birthday of the nation is indissolubly linked with the birthday of the Savior. The Declaration of Independence laid the cornerstone of human government upon the first precepts of Christianity.

 

Why Did God Command the Destruction of the Canaanites?

All scriptures are quoted from the New King James Version unless otherwise noted.

Have you ever been asked a question about God that you couldn’t answer? For many of us, that question is, “If God is love, then why did He command Joshua to kill every man, woman and child in the Canaanite nations?” Skeptics point to the 6th commandment and claim that God is a hypocrite, telling His people not to commit murder in one verse and then commanding them to murder in another. If we are honest, we will admit that this is a perplexing event. There are many different proposed explanations, but we are going to look at the two theories that I believe have the most biblical support.

Judgment Theory

The first possibility is that God used the Israelites to execute His judgment against these nations because of their great sin, which is based largely on God’s word to Abraham in Genesis 15:15-16…

Now as for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried at a good old age. But in the fourth generation they shall return here, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.

In the verses preceding this promise, God gave Abraham an outline of future events. God told Abraham that his descendants would be strangers in a foreign land where they would be afflicted for 400 years. Then, He would judge that land and Abraham’s descendants would leave with great possessions and return to the land that He had given them. The reason for the delay was that the iniquity of the Amorites was not yet complete. (The Amorites were one of the Canaanite tribes and the name was probably used in this context to refer to all of the Canaanite people.)

The Canaanites were an utterly wicked and immoral people. Their culture was defined by child sacrifice, witchcraft, divination, sorcery, necromancy (consulting with the dead, aka demons) and debauchery of all kinds, including bestiality, incest and temple prostitution. God required the death penalty for every one of these practices. Yet, because God is patient and long-suffering, He waited several centuries to send His judgment. In other words, the sin of these people did not come to the point of warranting God’s judgment until the time of the Exodus and by that time, the Bible implies that every single person in the culture was corrupted.

Scripture clearly demonstrates that God uses nations to judge other nations – even nations that are not righteous themselves. For example, God describes Assyria as the rod of His anger in Isaiah 10:5-6…

Woe to Assyria, the rod of My anger

And the staff in whose hand is My indignation.

I will send him against an ungodly nation,

And against the people of My wrath

I will give him charge,

To seize the spoil, to take the prey,

And to tread them down like the mire of the streets.

Then, in Jeremiah 25:8-9, God declares His intentions to use Babylon in judgment against Israel…

Therefore thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘Because you have not heard My words, behold, I will send and take all the families of the north,’ says the Lord, ‘and Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, My servant, and will bring them against this land, against its inhabitants, and against these nations all around, and will utterly destroy them, and make them an astonishment, a hissing, and perpetual desolations.

Ironically, God sent Assyria and Babylon to judge Israel for the very same reasons He used Israel to destroy the Canaanites.

For so it was that the children of Israel had sinned against the Lord their God… and they had feared other gods, and had walked in the statutes of the nations whom the Lord had cast out from before the children of Israel, and of the kings of Israel, which they had made… the children of Israel secretly did against the Lord their God things that were not right, and they built for themselves high places in all their cities… They set up for themselves sacred pillars and wooden images on every high hill and under every green tree. There they burned incense on all the high places, like the nations whom the Lord had carried away before them; and they did wicked things to provoke the Lord to anger, for they served idols…they followed idols, became idolaters, and went after the nations who were all around them, concerning whom the Lord had charged them that they should not do like them. So they left all the commandments of the Lord their God, made for themselves a molded image and two calves, made a wooden image and worshiped all the host of heaven, and served Baal. And they caused their sons and daughters to pass through the fire, practiced witchcraft and soothsaying, and sold themselves to do evil in the sight of the Lord, to provoke Him to anger.

2 Kings 17:7-17, abridged

When we see the destruction of the Canaanites as judgment, we can understand that it was not genocide. God was not sending Joshua to kill a certain race or ethnicity of people, but was employing Joshua and his army as a sword of judgment on a society who had permanently rejected Him and plunged headfirst into unrestrained evil. Despite what skeptics allege, God’s love was shown to humanity in this instance and others. He knew that if evil was left to continue to spread, more people would be lost for eternity and He could not allow that to happen. It was a cleansing of the land similar to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah and the global flood of Noah’s time. Yet, it is likely that had they repented, God would have spared them, just as He did for Rahab and all that she brought into her home.

Angel View

The second explanation is referred to as the “angel view.” While it is controversial in some circles, it is certainly not a fringe theory. The angel view was universally accepted doctrine in the early church up until the 5th century A.D. At that time, critics used anything they could to attack and mock the church. Because of this, many Christians began to discard certain beliefs in exchange for new, more palatable theology. In recent times, many respected Bible scholars have subscribed to this belief, including:

  • M. R. DeHaan, founder of Our Daily Bread Ministries

  • Merrill Unger, author of various works including Biblical Demonology

  • Henry Morris, founder of the Creation Research Society and the Institute for Creation Research

  • Hal Lindsey, best known for his books on the end times

  • Chuck Smith, Calvary Chapel founder

  • Chuck Missler, founder of Koinonia House

So, what exactly is the angel view? To fully explain, we must go back to Genesis 6:1-7, which says…

Now it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born to them, that the sons of God saw the daughters of men, that they were beautiful; and they took wives for themselves of all whom they chose.

And the Lord said, “My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, for he is indeed flesh; yet his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.” There were giants on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men and they bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown.

Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. So the Lord said, “I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.”

A basic reading of these verses does not aptly convey the meaning of the words. I am grateful to the late Chuck Missler for his teachings on this subject, which served as a springboard for my research. Much of my explanation comes from his messages.

The word that is translated “giant” in our Bibles is actually “Nephilim.” Nephilim means, literally, “fallen ones.” The word giant came about as a translation of the Greek word used in the Septuagint, “gigantes.” While the word giant is derived from gigantes, that was not the original meaning of the word. Missler taught that the original meaning of gigantes was “Earth-born.” Greek and Roman mythology support that definition as the Gigantes were said to be the offspring of Gaia and Uranus.

The Hebrew words for “Sons of God” are bene ha’elohim, a phrase which, as Chuck Missler explains, is reserved in the Old Testament for direct creations of God, like angels or Adam, the first man created from the earth by the hands of God. In fact, even in the New Testament, Adam is the only person in Jesus’ genealogy who is called a son of God.

Finally, “daughters of men” is literally “daughters of Adam.” In contrast to what some who oppose the angel view teach, there is no indication that these women who bore the Nephilim were specifically descendants of Cain.  

So, if we take the Bible literally, the text says that the Sons of God (fallen angels) took wives from the daughters of Adam and produced offspring called Nephilim (fallen ones). Those who hold to this view believe that except for Noah’s line (Genesis 6 says that he was perfect in his generations), all of humanity was contaminated with these Nephilim genes and God sent the flood to wipe them out in order to preserve a pure line through which Jesus could come as our Messiah.  There are many other indications that this theory could be true, including in the New Testament.  In his article, “Mischievous Angels or Sethites? Textual Controversy” Chuck Missler point to 2 New Testament verses that seem to confirm the angel view:

“In the mouths of two or three witnesses every word shall be established.” In Biblical matters, it is essential to always compare Scripture with Scripture. The New Testament confirmations in Jude and 2 Peter are impossible to ignore.

For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell [Tartarus], and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment; And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly; 2 Peter 2:4-5

Peter’s comments even establishes the time of the fall of these angels to the days of the Flood of Noah.

Even Peter’s vocabulary is provocative. Peter uses the term Tartarus, here translated “hell.” This is the only place that this Greek term appears in the Bible. Tartarus is a Greek term for “dark abode of woe”; “the pit of darkness in the unseen world.” As used in Homer’s Iliad, it is “…as far beneath hades as the earth is below heaven`.” In Greek mythology, some of the demigods, Chronos and the rebel Titans, were said to have rebelled against their father, Uranus, and after a prolonged contest they were defeated by Zeus and were condemned into Tartarus.

The Epistle of Jude also alludes to the strange episodes when these “alien” creatures intruded themselves into the human reproductive process:

And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day. Even as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire. Jude 6,7

The allusions to “going after strange flesh,” keeping “not their first estate,” having “left their own habitation,” and “giving themselves over to fornication,” seem to clearly fit the alien intrusions of Genesis 6. (The term for habitation, oivkhth,rion, refers to their heavenly bodies from which they had disrobed.)

These allusions from the New Testament would seem to be fatal to the “Sethite” alternative in interpreting Genesis 6. If the intercourse between the “sons of God” and the “daughters of men” were merely marriage between Sethites and Cainites, it seems impossible to explain these passages, and the reason why some fallen angels are imprisoned and others are free to roam the heavenlies.”

The connection between the pre-flood Nephilim and the Canaanite destruction can be found in verse 4, “There were giants (Nephilim) on the earth in those days, and also afterward…” So, there were Nephilim in the Earth after the flood, but, who were they and where did they live? Deuteronomy 9:1-2 tell us that the people of Canaan were descendants of the Anakim and Numbers 13:33 explains that the Anakim came from the Nephilim. They were numerous and included:

  • The Rephaim, Emim, Horim & Zamsummim of Genesis 14-15

  • Arba, the father of Anak, Joshua 14:15, 15:13

  • Anak and his 7 sons, the Anakim from Numbers 13:33

  • Og, King of Bashan, mentioned in Deuteronomy 3:11 and Joshua 12

  • Goliath and his 4 brothers, 2 Samuel 21:16-22; 1 Chronicles 20:4-8 (“giant” used in these verses is literally, “Rephaim”)

The Canaanites were descendants of the Nephilim and, if the angel view is correct, then it would indicate that the human line in this area was corrupted. According to this view, God commanded Joshua and his army to kill every man, woman and child in Canaan in order to prevent them from corrupting the people that He had chosen to become the lineage of the Messiah.

God’s Justice

Whichever view is correct, it is clear that the destruction of the Canaanites was not genocide, but judgment of pervasive sin. God made clear that He was the one that would be dealing with the inhabitants of Canaan and that He was not doing any of it because of Israel’s righteousness, but only because of the wickedness of the Canaanites.

Therefore understand today that the Lord your God is He who goes over before you as a consuming fire. He will destroy them and bring them down before you; so you shall drive them out and destroy them quickly, as the Lord has said to you.

Do not think in your heart, after the Lord your God has cast them out before you, saying, ‘Because of my righteousness the Lord has brought me in to possess this land’; but it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the Lord is driving them out from before you. It is not because of your righteousness or the uprightness of your heart that you go in to possess their land, but because of the wickedness of these nations that the Lord your God drives them out from before you, and that He may fulfill the word which the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Deuteronomy 9:3-5

Throughout the Bible, God judged nations that rejected Him and embraced wickedness, including His own people Israel. This does not make God evil, but instead demonstrates His perfect righteousness. Just as we would not expect a murderer or rapist to be spared justice, so we cannot condemn God’s actions against wicked people. In reality, all of us deserve the sword of God’s judgment. Yet, through His amazing grace, God Himself came, the seed of the woman, to take that judgment on Himself at the cross. Just like Noah’s great Ark and the home of Rahab with the scarlet cord hung from her window, Jesus is our escape hatch. He is coming back one day to judge all people and nations who have rebelled against Him, but if we have accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we will not have to face that judgment. As long as the Earth remains, there will be things we don’t understand, but we can take comfort in these words….

Seek the Lord while He may be found, Call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, And the unrighteous man his thoughts; Let him return to the Lord, And He will have mercy on him; And to our God, For He will abundantly pardon.

For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.”

So Will I – Theistic Evolution in Worship

Image courtesy of pixabay.com

If the stars were made to worship so will I

If the mountains bow in reverence so will I

If the oceans roar Your greatness so will I

For if everything exists to lift You high so will I

These beautiful lyrics have impacted me deeply from the first moment they came through the speakers of my car stereo. It is so worshipful and really helps me to visualize the power and glory of God at the creation of the universe.

God of creation

There at the start

Before the beginning of time

God was there from before the beginning of time, He created everything and everything exists to worship and exalt Him.

God of Your promise

You don’t speak in vain

No syllable empty or void

God’s promises come to pass! His Word will accomplish His purpose and will not return to Him void.

God of salvation

You chased down my heart

Through all of my failure and pride

On a hill You created

The light of the world

Abandoned in darkness to die

Despite all of the failures and pride and sinfulness of humanity, God came to Earth and became a man to die for people created by His own hands on a hill created by His very Word. It is simply amazing that the God of the universe would do that for you and me.

If You left the grave behind You so will I

I can see Your heart in everything You’ve done

Every part designed in a work of art called love

If You gladly chose surrender so will I

God’s plan of salvation culminated in the resurrection of Jesus, the second person of the Trinity, as He left the grave behind Him to sit at the right hand of the Father on our behalf. Everything He created, everything He did for us on the cross was out of His never-ending love for His creation. He orchestrated His own execution and then in His human form, surrendered to the cross for us. Knowing all that He did for us, we should willingly and happily surrender to Him.

I can see Your heart

Eight billion different ways

Every precious one

A child You died to save

If You gave Your life to love them so will I

Every single person is created by God and so precious to Him that He died to save them! Because of His great love for humanity, we should give our lives to love people by proclaiming His gospel.

These are all such breathtaking verses about our awesome God and Creator!

After a few times listening, I decided to Google the lyrics. What I found was disheartening.

For once You have spoken

All nature and science

Follow the sound of Your voice

And as You speak

A hundred billion creatures catch Your breath

Evolving in pursuit of what You said

If it all reveals Your nature so will I

I don’t really follow Hillsong, so it came as a surprise to me that they would insert theistic evolution into one of their worship songs like this. Apparently, however, this is nothing new for the Australian megachurch. In a 2010 article entitled, “A Sad Day for the Assemblies of God Denomination,” Ken Ham* addresses the connection between AOG changing their official position on the Genesis creation account and this 2005 statement from Hillsong’s founder, Brian Houston. (Note: Hillsong is an Assemblies of God church.)

I believe in creation. The Bible starts in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. If I waver on the first 10 words of the Bible I think I’m going to have problems properly representing the rest of the Bible. However, timeframes, over what period of time that was, whether there was room for any evolving in some areas of life as well, I’m more than open to that. I’m happy to leave that to the experts. – Brian Houston

(Quoted in the above referenced article, originally posted here.)

Theistic evolution is the attempt to reconcile the Bible with Darwinian Evolution. Most Christians want to shake the notion that Christianity is in conflict with science. Some do this through the study of apologetics while others simply rewrite their doctrine to fit the “science” of the day. That is what theistic evolution does. It takes a little bit of evolution and a little bit of God and mixes it all together in an “origins of life stew” that teaches some version of, “God created the world through the process of evolution and the Big Bang.” This theory cannot be found within the pages of the Bible and it is, in fact, wholly incompatible with Christianity.

Millions/Billions of Years

Christians who believe in evolution all accept the modern “scientific” claims that mammals, including the ancestors of modern humans, have existed for millions of years and that the Earth is billions of years old. They will either place eons of time between each day in Genesis 1-2 or claim that the 6 day creation is literal but Scripture does not say how long ago it took place. This is one of their most glaring mistakes since genealogies and timelines throughout the Bible clearly demonstrate that approximately 6,000 years have passed since the creation. John D. Morris of the Institute for Creation Research said this

… every honest attempt to determine the date, starting with a deep commitment to the inerrancy of God’s Word, has calculated a span of just a few thousand years, most likely close to 6000 years, since creation. The largest figure I’ve ever seen from a trustworthy scholar is approximately 15,000 years, but even this seems to stretch the Biblical data too far.

Answers in Genesis explains the method of calculating 6,000 years in their article, “It All Adds Up,” by Roger Patterson. You simply cannot fit millions or billions of years into the Bible and the evidence for such a length of time is severely lacking.

https://isgenesishistory.com

In the opening scene of the movie, “Is Genesis History,” Del Tackett explores a canyon with a small stream running through it and wonders how long it must have taken for that little stream to carve the massive canyon. He then picks up a rock and begins to explain its history. The rock that he holds and others from the area have been dated to be anywhere from 350,000-2 million years old. Eventually Del reveals that he is standing at the site of Mount St. Helens and that the rocks and everything there (including the canyon and the geological formations) are younger than he is!

The layers were formed quickly and a couple of years after the initial eruption, more volcanic activity caused a mud flow that cut the canyon out in a couple of days. The dating method used to arrive at these highly inflated figures was radioisotope dating. It is the same method scientists use to this day to “prove” that the earth is billions of years old. The Mount St. Helens experiment should have been reason enough to reevaluate their methods, but instead scientists just make excuses to fit their narrative.

Biblical Timeline vs. Evolutionary Timeline

Another major problem for theistic evolution is that the evolutionary timeline contradicts the biblical timeline. For example, Genesis records that God created grass, herbs and fruit trees on the 3rd day and all living creatures in the water on the 5th day. Evolution, however, claims that water creatures existed before any land vegetation. The Bible says that God created birds on the 5th day and land animals on the 6th day, while evolution contends that dinosaurs (land animals) evolved into birds. According to evolution, land mammals evolved into whales, but the Bible teaches us that water creatures were created the day before land animals. There are many more discrepancies between the biblical creation timeline and the evolutionary timeline – so many that it is impossible to reconcile the two.

The Cause of Death

The most significant deviation between evolution and the Bible is the cause of death. Evolution teaches natural selection or survival of the fittest. The strong survive and the weak do not. Life is made better through death. In absolute contrast stands the gospel which teaches that everything – people, animals, and all life – was perfect from the moment of creation. God created Adam and Eve with free will and forbade them from only 1 thing. They were warned that doing that 1 thing (eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil) would result in death, but they did it anyway. Just as God promised, death resulted – spiritual death was instantaneous and physical death would come later. But, God had a plan in the works. In fact, according to Revelation 13:8, His plan was in the works since the foundation of the world. That plan was to come to Earth Himself, in human form as the seed of the woman (Genesis 3:15) and dwell among men in order to give His own life for all of mankind. Thus death as the result of sin was the reason Jesus came. He told His disciples that He came to give us life. So, what happens to the gospel in evolution’s scenario of death as a natural process that came before sin?

Scriptural Authority

The truth is, rejecting the Genesis creation account as a literal and historical event is a dangerous practice that will lead only to the dismantling of the Christian faith. The Virgin Birth, Incarnation, Resurrection and miracles such as the parting of the Red Sea, raising the dead and walking on water all defy science in an arguably more profound manner than does a literal 6 day creation and it won’t be long until they too are tossed onto the garbage heap if Christians continue to compromise on scriptural authority. God’s Word is our basis of all truth and should be treated as such. When Scripture disagrees with science, we must not back down. Instead, we wait for the day when the Bible is vindicated by science as true. It has happened before and it will continue to happen until Jesus returns. Until then, instead of falling prey to false doctrines as Hillsong and others have done, let us heed the words of Paul…

Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. 

– Colossians 2:8, NKJV


* There was a bit of a back and forth between AOG and Ken Ham. Please refer to his second article on this topic, “Assemblies of God Denomination Responds…but What Does It Really Mean?”

Did Jesus Really Exist?

Skeptics can’t seem to come to an agreement about which aspects of Christianity to attack. As addressed in my previous post, some admit that Jesus was a real historical figure, but allege that He never claimed to be God. Others, however, want to throw the baby out with the bathwater by claiming that He never even existed. The proponents of such intellectual dishonesty are even denounced by those on their own side. For example…

The consensus of scholars, including non-Christian scholars, is that a historical Jesus most likely existed and the later stories about “Jesus Christ” were told about him. The idea that there was no such historical person at all and that “Jesus Christ” was a purely mythical figure has been posited in one form or another since the eighteenth century, but is not taken seriously by anyone but a tiny handful of fringe scholars and amateurs.”

~ Tim O’Neill, History for Atheists

This billboard for poor method, we are now asked to believe by freethought’s bad boy, PZ Myers, has cold-cocked a senior New Testament scholar for saying something as reasonable as “Jesus existed.” Only in the age of instant misinformation and net-attack is this kind of idiocy possible. Only in the atheist universe where the major premise– “religion is a lie so the study of religion is a study of lying”—infects everything is this kind of lunacy possible. Unfortunately, we have Richard Dawkins to thank for the original formulation of that premise.”

~R. Joseph Hoffmann, The New Oxonian

Even though the, “Jesus Myth Theory,” is not taken seriously by most serious scholars, it is important to be equipped to respond to challenges such as these. Just like everything else presented in the Bible, there is ample evidence for the existence of Jesus. An article published on carm.org entitled, “Did Jesus Ever Exist,” outlines, “over 42 sources within 150 years after Jesus’ death which mention his existence and record many events of his life.”

It is clear that the claims that no evidence of Jesus exists outside of the pages of the Bible are false. I want to spotlight a few of the writings here (I have displayed some parts in bold for emphasis), but as always, I encourage you to investigate them for yourself. Links are provided at the end of this article to help you get started. There are also hyperlinks within the text that will point you to articles referenced here.

Biblical Writings

While others might conclude with the biblical evidence since it is not necessarily trusted by those outside of the faith, I have chosen to open with it. The Bible is God’s Word and as followers of Christ, we should not be ashamed to refer to it first and often. More than that, the Bible is an extremely reliable historical document that was finalized before the end of the first century (not canonized, but all books were written), and likely before 70 AD. The 27 books of the New Testament were written by 4 close friends who were eye witnesses to virtually every event in Jesus’ life, 2 of His brothers who had previously been hostile to His ministry, a physician who painstakingly interviewed eyewitnesses, a Pharisee who was killing Christians prior to his conversion, and a young man who was close to the apostles and wrote his Gospel from the testimony of Peter. We have more and earlier manuscripts for all of these books than for any other trusted historical document. But what is even more significant is the fact that these men and others were all willing to be tortured, imprisoned and murdered for what they believed about Jesus. It is inconceivable that anyone would do that for a fictional person.

Other Christian Writings

Aristides was a second century philosopher and Christian apologist who wrote, “The Apology of Aristides,” between 120-130 A.D. It was a defense of the Christian faith written and delivered to Emperor Hadrian. Among other things, he confirms the virgin birth to a Jewish woman, the fact that Jesus chose twelve disciples, that he was crucified, died and buried and subsequently rose from the dead after three days.

The Christians, then, trace the beginning of their religion from Jesus the Messiah; and he is named the Son of God Most High. And it is said that God came down from heaven, and from a Hebrew virgin assumed and clothed himself with flesh; and the Son of God lived in a daughter of man. This is taught in the gospel, as it is called, which a short time was preached among them; and you also if you will read therein, may perceive the power which belongs to it. This Jesus, then, was born of the race of the Hebrews; and he had twelve disciples in order that the purpose of his incarnation might in time be accomplished. But he himself was pierced by the Jews, and he died and was buried; and they say that after three days he rose and ascended to heaven. Thereupon these twelve disciples went forth throughout the known parts of the world, and kept showing his greatness with all modesty and uprightness. And hence also those of the present day who believe that preaching are called Christians, and they are become famous.”

By James Rendel Harris [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons, no attribution required

The Didache, or the Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, was written very early between 50-120 A.D. and referenced by Eusebius, Athanasius, the Epistle of Barnabas and likely Origen. It is highly respected and considered helpful, though not canonical. The entire Didache is based on the teachings of Jesus, but mentions His name specifically in the context of the Eucharist or communion.

“Now concerning the Eucharist, give thanks this way. First, concerning the cup: We thank thee, our Father, for the holy vine of David Thy servant, which You madest known to us through Jesus Thy Servant; to Thee be the glory for ever. And concerning the broken bread: We thank Thee, our Father, for the life and knowledge which You madest known to us through Jesus Thy Servant; to Thee be the glory for ever. Even as this broken bread was scattered over the hills, and was gathered together and became one, so let Thy Church be gathered together from the ends of the earth into Thy kingdom; for Thine is the glory and the power through Jesus Christ for ever.

But let no one eat or drink of your Eucharist, unless they have been baptized into the name of the Lord; for concerning this also the Lord has said, “Give not that which is holy to the dogs.”

But after you are filled, give thanks this way: We thank Thee, holy Father, for Thy holy name which You didst cause to tabernacle in our hearts, and for the knowledge and faith and immortality, which You modest known to us through Jesus Thy Servant; to Thee be the glory for ever.”

Secular, Jewish and Other Sources

The Works of Josephus, By Internet Archive Book Images [No restrictions], via Wikimedia Commons

Flavius Josephus, or Josephus as he is more commonly known, was born in Jerusalem in 37 A.D. He was a Jewish historian who wrote volumes on Jewish history. His work, Antiquities of the Jews, includes a section called the “Testimonium Flavianum,” which confirms the existence of the Jesus of the Bible. While there have been some disputes about this section, they do not negate the fact that he did write about Jesus as a real person who existed in the first century. This is one translation of his account.

“At this time there was a wise man who was called Jesus. And his conduct was good, and he was known to be virtuous. And many people from among the Jews and the other nations became his disciples. Pilate condemned him to be crucified and to die. And those who had become his disciples did not abandon his discipleship. They reported that he had appeared to them after his crucifixion and that he was alive; accordingly, he was perhaps the Messiah concerning whom the prophets have recounted wonders.”

Tacitus was a Roman senator and historian who lived from 56-120 A.D. and is greatly renowned for his works. He wrote about the Christian persecution by Nero, the execution of Jesus by Pontius Pilate, as well as explains that Christianity got its name from its founder, Christ.

“But not all the relief that could come from man, not all the Bounties that the prince could bestow, nor all the atonements Which could be presented to the gods, availed to relieve Nero From the infamy of being believed to have ordered the Conflagration, the fire of Rome. Hence to suppress the rumor, he Falsely charged with the guilt, and punished Christians, who were Hated for their enormities. Christus, the founder of the name, was Put to death by Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judea in the reign Of Tiberius: but the pernicious superstition, repressed for a time Broke out again, not only through Judea, where the mischief Originated, but through the city of Rome also, where all things Hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their Center and become popular. Accordingly, an arrest was first Made of all who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an Immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of Firing the city, as of hatred against mankind.”

Pliny the Younger lived from approximately 61-113 A.D. and was governor of Bithynia around the turn of the century. In 106 A.D., he mentioned the worship of Christ as a god in a letter to Emperor Trajan.

“They affirmed, however, that the whole of their guilt, or their error, was, that they were in the habit of meeting on a certain fixed day before it was light, when they sang in alternate verse a hymn to Christ as to a god, and bound themselves to a solemn oath, not to any wicked deeds, but never to commit any fraud, theft, adultery, never to falsify their word, not to deny a trust when they should be called upon to deliver it up.”

While some may consider the debate of his existence to be of little value, the apostle John would have a different view.

By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world.”

1 John 4:2, NKJV

According to John, the very spirit of the Antichrist is to deny that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh, which makes it one of the most significant issues of our time. The sources that I have listed are really just the tip of the iceberg. An examination into the divinity of Jesus or His resurrection might be a reasonable pursuit, but it is so abundantly clear that Jesus of Nazareth was a real person who existed in the early first century that the only way to believe the “Jesus myth theory” is to simply refuse to examine the evidence.


More information:

1. “Did Jesus Really Exist?” By Paul L. Maier, Emeritus, Russell H. Seibert Professor of Ancient History, Western Michigan University

2. “Is There Any Evidence for Jesus Outside the Bible?” By J. Wallace

3. “Did Jesus Exist? Searching for Evidence Beyond the Bible” By Lawrence Mykytiuk

4. “What is the historical evidence that Jesus Christ lived and died?” By Simon Gathercole

5. “Was Jesus a Real Person?” published by y-jesus.com, author unavailable

6. “Darkness at the crucifixion: metaphor or real history?” By Daniel Anderson

7. “Historical Evidence” published by reasonsforjesus.com

Was Jesus Always Worshiped as God?

Some critics of Christianity argue that Jesus never claimed to be God and that early Christians did not even hold to the belief. They maintain that Jesus was not worshiped as a deity until several hundred years after His death. Can our faith withstand these attacks or will they crumble in light of Scripture? Let’s find out.  

The Son of God

William Hole [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Jesus’ assertion that He was the Son of God is what compelled Israel’s religious leaders to plot His execution. Jesus was not claiming to be simply a child of God, like you or I. Rather, by claiming to be the Son of God, He was actually claiming to be God. They knew it and He knew it.

In the second chapter of his gospel, Luke records a well known story of Jesus’ boyhood. At 12 years old Jesus traveled to Jerusalem with his family for Passover. When their group left to head home, Mary and Joseph thought he was somewhere in their caravan. After a day’s journey, they couldn’t find Him and returned, panic-stricken, to Jerusalem. Upon discovering Him in the temple, astonishing everyone with His wisdom and knowledge of the scriptures, they scolded Him as most parents would. This was His response…

And He said to them, “Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?”

Not yet a teenager, Jesus knew His identity as the Son of God. He repeated this claim many times. For example, in Matthew 16:15-17, Jesus affirmed Peter’s proclamation that He was the Son of God and then proceeded to refer to God as His Father. 

He said to them,  “But who do you say that I am?”  Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”  Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.

When Jesus came to Bethany after the death of Lazarus, Martha found Jesus and lamented that her brother would not have died if He would have come sooner. During their conversation, she professed her belief that He was the Son of God.

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?”

She said to Him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” (John 11:25-27)

There are many other scriptures throughout the gospels as well as the rest of the New Testament that proclaim Jesus as the Son of God (see Jesus Christ, Son of God) and, as I mentioned previously, it is for this reason His own people sought to crucify Him.

But Jesus kept silent. And the high priest answered and said to Him, “I put You under oath by the living God: Tell us if You are the Christ, the Son of God!”

Jesus said to him, “It is as you said. Nevertheless, I say to you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

Then the high priest tore his clothes, saying, “He has spoken blasphemy! What further need do we have of witnesses? Look, now you have heard His blasphemy! What do you think?”

They answered and said, “He is deserving of death.” (Matthew 26:63-66; see also John 5:18, Luke 22:66-71 & Mark 14:60-64)

Jesus Accepted Worship

Unlike angels and the apostles, Jesus accepted worship many times, indicating that He did, in fact, believe know He was God.

When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!” (Luke 5:8)

And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. Then those who were in the boat came and worshiped 

Him, saying, “Truly You are the Son of God.” (Matthew 14:31-33)

Then he said, “Lord, I believe!” And he worshiped Him.  And Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may be made blind.” (John 9:38-39)

Many others fell down before Him in worship during His time on Earth and one day, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that He is Lord. If you have not read through the four Gospels, now is a great time to start.

Courtesy of pixabay.com.

Other Indications of His Claim to Divinity

The very first verse of the Gospel of Mark recognizes Jesus as God, and a few verses later, Mark tells us of the baptism of Jesus, when

…immediately, coming up from the water, He saw the heavens parting and the Spirit descending upon Him like a dove. Then a voice came from heaven, ‘You are My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.’ (Mark 1:10-11)

Similarly, John begins his Gospel with a proclamation of Jesus as part of the triune God.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. (John 1:1-3)

Then, he expands on this in verse 14…

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

Matthew also has a lot to say about the divinity of Jesus very early in his writing.

And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”  So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.” (Matthew 1:21-23)

Finally, Luke’s gospel refers to Jesus as the Son of God twice in the first chapter alone.

He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.  (Luke 1:32-33)

And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God. (Luke 1:35)

From these examples alone we can conclude that all of the Gospel writers believed that Jesus was God. However, there is so much more evidence throughout the New Testament scriptures that Jesus’ followers worshiped Him as God that, as C.S. Lewis so aptly put it, “Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronising nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”  Consider the following.

Jesus forgave sins, as only God can do.

When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven you.”  And some of the scribes were sitting there and reasoning in their hearts, “Why does this Man speak blasphemies like this? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” (Mark 2:5-7)

Jesus said that He was Lord (i.e. master, owner) of the Sabbath.

And He said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. 28 Therefore the Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27-28)

Jesus used the title of God from the Old Testament, “I Am,” for Himself!

Then the Jews said to Him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?”  Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.”  Then they took up stones to throw at Him; but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by. (John 8:57-59)

Jesus told His disciples that He was one with the Father.

Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? (John 14:9)

The Apostles and New Testament writers believed (and taught) that Jesus was God.

Then He said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.”  And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!”  Jesus said to him, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:27-29)

Simon Peter, a bondservant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained like precious faith with us by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ: Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord… (2 Peter 1:1-2)

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth….No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known. (John 1:14 & 18 ESV)

And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us an understanding, that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life. (1 John 5:20)

For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ. (Jude 4)

Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power. (Colossians 2:8-10)

Even the demons knew that Jesus was God (and trembled).

For He healed many, so that as many as had afflictions pressed about Him to touch Him. And the unclean spirits, whenever they saw Him, fell down before Him and cried out, saying, “You are the Son of God.” But He sternly warned them that they should not make Him known. (Mark 3:10-12)

As we have seen, the New Testament clearly demonstrates that not only did Jesus proclaim Himself God, but His followers from the beginning (some even before the resurrection) worshiped Him as God. Even His enemies knew exactly what He was doing and had Him killed for it. So, despite the claims of Dan Brown, Bart Erhman and others, it is not reasonable to believe that Jesus was only made into a God three or four hundred years after His death. There is simply too much evidence to the contrary.

Christmas Apologetics – Getting the Story Right

The gifts have been open and the guests have gone home. As the Christmas season winds down and Jesus’ birth is still at the forefront of our minds, let us use this time to look at some of the myths and questions surrounding His first coming. Just like with every other aspect of our faith, it is important that we get the story right, not just at Christmas, but throughout the year whenever the opportunity arises.

We Three Kings?

Many myths have developed concerning the wise men, or Magi, that visited Mary, Joseph and Jesus and then fled, refusing to go back to Herod with their location. Some of these are:

  • There were 3 men.
  • They were kings.
  • They visited the newborn Jesus in the stable.
  • Their names were Bithisarea, Melichior, and Gathaspa.

None of these things are true and can make Christianity seem more like a myth than factual history. This is quite a shame, since the real history of the Magi is much more interesting than any of the made up stories.

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. (Matthew 2:1-3, NKJV)

 

Image courtesy pixabay.com

Although the gospels record very little in terms of who the Magi were or how many came to visit the Messiah, we can look to history as well as the book of Daniel for more details. The Greek word for “wise men” was magoi, which is transliterated as Magi. The Magi were a Median priesthood, not kings, whose specialty was dream interpretation. They are the very group that Nebuchadnezzar II summoned to interpret his dream in Daniel 2. Under both Nebuchadnezzar and subsequent Persian rule, Daniel was entrusted as “Chief of the Magi.” The most likely scenario is that Daniel imparted Messianic prophecies to the Magi under his charge, which were passed down for generations until the appearing of the star after the birth of the Messiah. The assumption that there were only three Magi is based on nothing more than the number of gifts that were given. Since the Bible does not say, there could have been anywhere from 2 up to a significant number and there is no record of their names. Chuck Missler had this to say in his article, “Who Were The Magi?”

In Jerusalem, the sudden appearance of the Magi, probably traveling in force with every imaginable oriental pomp and accompanied by adequate cavalry escort to insure their safe penetration of Roman territory, certainly alarmed Herod and the populace of Jerusalem. Their request of Herod regarding the one “who has been born King of the Jews” was a calculated insult to him, a non-Jew who had contrived and bribed his way into that office.

When one considers the practices of the ancient world, along with the fact that the coming of the Magi troubled all of Jerusalem, Missler’s description could be closer to the truth than some of the traditional tales.

Finally, we can say with near certainty that the Magi did not visit the family in the stable as most Nativity scenes depict, but rather some time later in a house, as mentioned in Matthew 2:11. For more information and a possible timeline of the Christmas story, including the timing of the visit of the Magi, I recommend an excellent article written by Bodie Hodge and Tim Chaffey and published by Answers in Genesis, entitled, “Christmas Timeline of the Biblical Account.”

December 25th

The church fathers first proclaimed December 25th to be the birthday of Jesus in AD 440,. The date was chosen because of it’s proximity to Saturnalia (a Roman festival in honor of Saturn) and other pagan holidays. After Constantine’s Edict of Toleration legalized Christianity in the Roman Empire, the church began to replace beloved pagan festivals with Christian holidays. Since the people were used to celebrating at this time, it seemed to make sense to give them a new holiday honoring Jesus instead of the false gods. There is no basis in history or the Bible for the birth of Jesus occurring on December 25th. Many scholars believe the birth of Jesus actually occurred around the end of September. (See here, here and here.)

Mary

A couple of years ago, I read a Facebook post decrying the “bad theology” of the song, “Mary, Did You Know,” based on the belief that Mary did not need to be delivered (“…this child that you’ve delivered will soon deliver you…”). While Mary was a godly woman, who was shown favor from God, she was just a person. She was not divine, not the mother of God and not born free from original sin. Romans 5:12 tells us that, “…through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned…” and Roman 3:23 says, “…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…” All means all. There is no exception given anywhere in Scripture for Mary because she was shown favor to be the human mother of the Messiah.

Why Didn’t Mary Name Him Immanuel?

Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14, NKJV)

In light of this prophecy, some wonder why Mary named the baby Jesus (actually Yeshua) instead of Immanuel. Matthew sheds some light on the subject.

So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.” (Mt. 1:22-23, NKJV)

Image courtesy pixabay.com

As Matthew indicates here, Immanuel was a description or title given to Jesus, meaning that God came down to dwell with humanity. Similarly in Isaiah 9, “…His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” All of these are descriptions or titles and would not be expected to be literal names given to the Messiah when He was born to Mary.

Does the Virgin Birth Matter?

This is an issue that has stirred much controversy in recent years, with some Bible teachers proclaiming that the virgin birth just doesn’t matter. While insisting later that he does believe in the virgin birth, Pastor Andy Stanley introduced a Christmas message this way

It’s interesting because Matthew gives us a version of the birth of Christ, Luke does, but Mark and John, they don’t even mention it and a lot has been made of that. So before we jump in I just want to say one thing about that whole thing . . . if somebody could predict their own death and their own resurrection, I’m not all that concerned about how they got into the world because the whole resurrection thing is so amazing and . . . Christianity doesn’t hinge on the truth or even the stories around the birth of Jesus. It really hinges on the Resurrection of Jesus.

Other pastors have gone even further.

What if tomorrow someone digs up definitive proof that Jesus has a real, earthly, biological father named Larry, and archaeologists find Larry’s tomb and do DNA samples and prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the virgin birth was really just a bit of mythologizing the Gospel writers threw in to appeal to the followers of Mithra and Dionysian religious cults that were hugely popular at the time of Jesus, whose gods had virgin births?

Rob Bell from his book, “Velvet Elvis”

According to Scotland’s Herald, Rev. Andrew Frater wants Christians to “move on from the ‘fanciful, fairy tale’ Nativity story and ‘disentangle the truth from the tinsel.’” The report said Frater believes telling the traditional story of the birth of Jesus “had the effect of keeping people with doubts about their faith away from the church, as the Nativity was too easily dismissed.” He wrote in the newspaper: “This year I’m promising myself to be more theologically honest. No more going home with fanciful, fairy tale assumptions destined to make Good News seem incredible.” He said Christians should “look for the symbolism in the Nativity. Focus on “missiles and housing and unemployment” instead, he advised. The virgin birth, he said, leaves people “hung up.”… “Too much serious stuff is going on in the world for folk in my position to even risk the possibility of sounding remote, irrelevant or both,” he said. “For me, it’s time to travel beyond the literalists’ landscape; time to acknowledge that Luke and Matthew were not newspaper reporters. Although facts were for them significant, they were also secondary.”

From the article, “’Fairy Tale’: Many Pastors Don’t Believe Jesus Born Of Virgin,” wnd.com, 12/23/15

Does the virgin birth matter? Yes! Could we cease that one teaching today and continue with Christianity fully intact? The answer is a resounding NO! The truth is, Christianity does indeed hinge on the virgin birth, because without it, Jesus is just another person born into sin and, therefore, unfit to die as the sacrificial lamb in our place. Without the virgin birth, Jesus is neither holy nor divine. Without the virgin birth, everything else in the Bible comes into question, because if the very first chapter of the New Testament gets it wrong, then how can we assume that anything else within it’s pages is true? If, as the Scottish pastor claims, Luke and Matthew were not newspaper reporters and facts were merely secondary to them, then the implications to the entire gospel message are devastating. Our faith is not based on solving the serious problems of the world, but rather on trusting in the Son of God to save our souls from eternity without him, which leads me to my next point…

Did Jesus Come to Change the World?

During the month of December, it is all too common to hear conversations, songs or sermons about how Jesus came to change the world. This is perhaps a minor issue when compared to the others that I have addressed so far, but it is, nonetheless, important enough to get right. While Jesus did change the world in some very profound ways (for examples see, “What if Jesus Had Never Been Born?”), that is not why He came. The current state of the world with so much evil, pain and suffering, is a frequent talking point among those who have rejected Christianity and if His purpose were simply to change the world, then I would contend that those naysayers make a good point. However, when we preach the true gospel message, which is that Jesus came to save an inherently sinful people from eternal damnation and to bring reconciliation between God and man (the gospel of peace), then we have a better starting point in explaining why all of those bad things exist.

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Image courtesy pixabay.com

So, as you sit beside your Christmas tree a few more times, don’t let the New Year go by without pondering these questions. The coming of God to dwell among men and to die as one of us, a perfect sacrifice for the sin of the world, is one of the biggest miracles to ever grace this planet and it should not be taken lightly nor should it be relegated to just one month of the year. Happy New Year and may God’s blessings be upon you and your family in the 2018.

 

Should Christians Celebrate Halloween?

Do you celebrate Halloween? If you answered, “yes,” then you agree with the majority of Christians in America. A 2015 Lifeway Research survey found that 54% of Christians believe that Halloween is “all in good fun,” and another 18% celebrate while avoiding the pagan elements. Only 23% of Christians avoid the holiday completely.

The majority opinion does not necessarily equate to truth, however, and the question that is too seldom pondered is, “Should Christians celebrate Halloween?” In preparing for this post, I spent time reading articles and listening to messages on both sides of this issue, including one writer who claimed that Halloween was, “more Christian than pagan,” and a pastor who argued that pagan roots cannot produce anything but pagan fruits. Let’s explore some of the facts surrounding this holiday.

Christian or Pagan Roots?

While there are Christian practices in the history of Halloween, it’s earliest roots can be traced back to Samhain (pronounced SAH-win). Samhain was a pagan festival that marked the final harvest and the end of summer for the ancient Celts, who lived a little over two millennia ago. It was held on the last night of the year and into the next day (October 31-November 1). October 31st was believed to be the one night of the year that the veil between the physical and spiritual worlds was thinned as Samhain, the god of the dead, allowed the spirits of those who died that year to return to visit their friends and family once more before being reincarnated (the good into humans and the bad into animals). The people would light up the hilltops with bonfires where they would offer sacrifices (both human and animal) to appease Samhain, the god of the dead, and don masks and costumes in order to ward off the evil spirits. (The word bonfire is believed to come from bone-fire because the Celts used bones to fuel their fires.) They would also put out banquet tables full of delicious food to welcome the wandering spirits of their loved ones.

After Rome conquered Celtic lands, (appx. 43 a.d.) they combined two of their festivals, Feralia (another festival of the dead) and Pomona (named after the Roman goddess of fruit and trees, whose symbol was the apple) with Samhain, co-mingling traditions from all three.

It wasn’t until the eighth century A.D. that the Christian, or to be more accurate – Catholic – aspects of Halloween came into the picture. It was during that time that Pope Gregory III expanded All Martyrs Day (a holiday that was established to coincide with the pagan Lemuria Festival) to All Saints Day or All Hallows Day and moved the celebration from May 13th to November 1st, in an attempt to Christianize the festival of Samhain. Thus, the preceding night became All Hallows Eve and eventually Halloween. In 1000 A.D., the church added All Soul’s Day on November 2nd and the trio of “Christian” holidays was celebrated much the same way as Samhain with bonfires and costumes.

Modern Practices

Halloween was not commonly celebrated in America until the late 19th century after more than 650,000 Irish immigrants came here seeking relief from the potato famine. As they settled into this great “melting pot,” they introduced many of their cultural traditions to their new land, including Halloween. Although Halloween is celebrated in other countries, it is still most popular in America and Ireland. Following are some of the Halloween traditions and their origins.

Costumes
Costumes are one of the most anticipated parts of Halloween for children and adults alike. As mentioned previously, this part of Halloween originates from the costumes that the ancient Celts donned in order to confuse and ward off evil spirits on Samhain.

Jack-O-Lanterns

Every October, throngs of children visit pumpkin patches, most in order to select the best pumpkin for carving their perfect jack-o-lantern. There are a couple of theories as to the origin of this practice. The first is the legend of stingy Jack, a man who made a deal with the devil in order to stay out of Hell when he died. Nevertheless, when his time came, he was rejected from Heaven because of his stingy life. When he ventured down to Hell, he was not welcomed there either, as the devil had a promise to keep. So, as he left to wander the earth, the devil threw a burning coal at him, which he placed inside a turnip to use as a lantern – hence the modern jack-o-lantern. Despite the dreadfully erroneous theology at the basis of this story, it is a reasonable explanation. The second theory is that the Jack-O-Lantern originated with the witches’ use of skulls with candles inside to light the path to their coven meetings.

Trick-or-Treating

One belief concerning the origin of trick-or-treating was that ancient witches stole the supplies needed for their festivals. Another connection is to the Druids (Celtic priests), who would go door to door begging for materials for their Samhain bonfires. Later, after the institution of All Soul’s Day by the Catholic church, the people began making and eating Soul Cakes for the dead. They believed that the more Soul Cakes they ate, the more souls they could save from Purgatory. The poor would go around their neighborhoods begging for soul cakes because they couldn’t afford them. (Interestingly, the concept of Purgatory developed not from the Bible, but from the Celtic belief that gifts and sacrifices offered to Samhain could help to lighten their punishment.) The “trick” aspect of trick-or-treating can be traced back to the belief that spirits would play tricks or make mischief if they weren’t provided with treats on Samhain.

Bobbing for Apples

This tradition was added to the Samhain festival by the Romans, who used bobbing for apples as a way to divine (foretell) who their future spouse would be. Apple divination was a common practice in Scotland and other cultures as well. For both the Celts and the ancient Romans, Samhain was a special night of divination. Celtic divination mostly revolved around human sacrifice, which was ended by the Romans.

Although the majority of people who celebrate Halloween consider it a secular holiday, Samhain is still practiced by Wiccans and neo-pagans and the church of satan describes Halloween this way, (note: this is a link to a Christian website. Please don’t carelessly visit the website of the church of satan or others like it. It is spiritually dangerous to dabble with things like that unless you are well grounded spiritually and have a specific, God-given reason to do so.)

Satanists embrace what this holiday has become, and do not feel the need to be tied to ancient practices. This night, we smile at the amateur explorers of their own inner darkness, for we know that they enjoy their brief dip into the pool of the “shadow world.” We encourage their tenebrous fantasies, the candied indulgence, and the wide-ranging evocation of our aesthetics (while tolerating some of the chintzy versions), even if it is but once a year. For the rest of the time, when those not of our meta-tribe shake their heads in wonder at us, we can point out that they may find some understanding by examining their own All Hallows Eve doings, but we generally find it simpler to just say: “Think of the Addams Family and you’ll begin to see what we’re about.” (emphasis mine)

Is the Bible Silent?

Often, Christians will excuse certain activities because, they say, the Bible is silent on the issue. There are indeed many things that the Bible does not directly address. In reality, the only way that the Bible could possibly address every issue that has arisen throughout 6,000+ years of human history would be to continue it’s writing indefinitely. However, the Bible does lay out principles that can guide us through every situation in life and Halloween is no exception. Let’s look at a few scriptures.

9 “When you come into the land which the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominations of those nations. 10 There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, or one who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, 11 or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. 12 For all who do these things are an abomination to the Lord, and because of these abominations the Lord your God drives them out from before you. 13 You shall be blameless before the Lord your God. 14 For these nations which you will dispossess listened to soothsayers and diviners; but as for you, the Lord your God has not appointed such for you.  (Deuteronomy 18:9-14, NKJV)

According to scripture, Samhain was and is an abomination to God and not only does virtually every aspect of Halloween have it’s roots in that pagan festival, but Samhain is still celebrated today by Wiccans, Neo-Pagans and others worldwide (appx. 3 million Wiccans and 1 million Neo-Pagans in America alone). This commandment still applies to us today. We are to be separate, in the world but not of it, and we should not adopt the wicked customs of our culture just because everyone else is doing it.

14 Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? 15 And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? 16 And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will dwell in them And walk among them. I will be their God, And they shall be My people.” 17 Therefore “Come out from among them And be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, And I will receive you.” 18 “I will be a Father to you, And you shall be My sons and daughters, Says the Lord Almighty.”  (2 Corinthians 6:14-18, NKJV)

Halloween is a dark day – I don’t think anyone would disagree with that – and New Testament scriptures instruct us to have nothing to do with darkness. Ephesians 5:11 tells us to, “… have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them.”

God takes spiritual darkness very seriously. The punishment for things like witchcraft and sorcery in the Old Testament was death. Why? Because our loving Father knows that those things will destroy us and He didn’t want them to have any part in the congregation of His people. So, why do so many believe that taking part in a holiday that glorifies darkness is okay? Romans 16:19 implores Christ followers to be innocent of evil and 1 Thessalonians 5:22 says, “Abstain from all appearance of evil.”

Our Story

My family celebrated Halloween until I was 10 or 11 years old, when my parents felt that God was leading them to stop participating. Since Matt made a personal decision in high school to stop celebrating, it was a given that we would not celebrate the holiday with our own children. In the early 2000’s, our church decided to directly confront Halloween in an attempt to reach out to our neighborhood. For several years, we held an annual “Dragon Slayer Party” with the theme of slaying the dragon (satan) as followers of Christ in order to bring souls into God’s kingdom. As with Harvest Parties, we invited the community to come in their costumes and join us for a meal, games and candy and during the night they would hear a short, casually presented Gospel message. Later, we held Harvest Parties at our house for our extended family. Our children and their cousins dressed in costumes, we had hay rides, bounce houses and candy. We tried to keep the party at least a couple of weeks before October 31st, but since half of the family celebrated Halloween, our younger children became confused and believed that we were celebrating Halloween just like everyone else. As we attempted to explain, they didn’t understand why Halloween was bad and what the difference was between Halloween and our Harvest Parties, so we stopped holding or attending Harvest Parties altogether.

As our children get older, our story may change, but we are committed to avoiding all appearance of evil in the form of Halloween and anything else that God convicts us of. Harvest Parties can be a great outreach, but we should always be careful to obey God’s command to, “come out and be separate,” which is what holiness is. One pastor that I listened to explained his belief that we should attract people to Christ, not through entertaining them but by just being different so that our friends and neighbors will realize that we have something they don’t and come to us for answers on Halloween and every other day of the year and I think that is the best that we can strive for.

The Value of Our Experience in Evangelism and Apologetics

When it comes to Christian apologetics, my logical side can really take over. The sheer number of facts supporting the Bible is so astounding to me that sometimes I neglect to impart the other side of the coin – experience. Revelation 12:11 tells us that the end times saints (followers of Christ) will overcome the enemy, the accuser of the brethren, “…by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony…” Very often, it is our testimonies of God’s faithfulness, of His working in our lives, answering our prayers, protecting us through trials and performing miracles on our behalf that can take someone from teetering on the edge of faith in Christ and propel them into His arms. I was recently reminded of this during a Sunday morning church service.

A couple of nights before, I was laying in bed struggling with some fear and anxiety that was preventing me from falling asleep. I prayed for deliverance, for God to help me to fully trust Him and prayed some scriptures over myself and my family. Eventually I fell asleep, but it was a restless night and I found myself awakened a couple of hours later. My husband woke up and we talked and prayed together and I felt quite a bit better the next day. Then, on Sunday morning, after praise and worship, our pastor came up to pray and started praying against fear and speaking one of the scriptures that I had prayed over myself that night. It may not sound like a lot, but it was so stunning to me that I had to check with my husband to make sure he hadn’t spoken with anyone from the church or asked for prayer for me. He had not. I sat there in church just so in awe of how much our Heavenly Father cares for each of us – how much He cared for me – that He would take the time to answer my specific prayers and comfort me in that way. Even the message that day, delivered by a guest speaker, spoke directly to my situation. God brought such peace to me that day that I am still amazed by it.

Over the last several weeks, I have been meditating on the many things God has done in my life that have shown me that He is who He says He is. While I have had what I feel is far more than my share of trials, I have also seen God work in some pretty amazing ways, some of which I would like to share with you.

One day in the first grade, I passed out in class. I can still remember coming back to consciousness and being very confused about what had happened. Unfortunately, it didn’t end there and I passed out many more times over the next couple of years. My parents tried many things, from following the advice of a Christian chiropractor who suggested getting me off of sugar to checking me into the hospital for testing. The EEG as a little girl was a little scary, but the cards and gifts I got from friends and family made up for it. They were never (to my knowledge) able to figure out what was going on. Over the next couple of years, I had frequent dizzy spells and passed out a couple of more times. Then, my dad gave me a notepad that his Christian boss had given him with Philippians 4:13 printed at the bottom of each page. He told me to pray that scripture – I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength – whenever I started feeling like I might pass out. I began to do that and God completely healed me.

I love this picture because it is a lasting reminder of God’s protection.

When my husband (Matt) and I were dating in high school, I had gone up to Colorado Springs with him for a track meet. He was taking me home and we were using the time to study for a Bible college class we were taking together. We were traveling down a dirt road and hit some loose gravel on a curve and rolled his old 1980’s Plymouth. This was before everyone had cell phones and we were miles away from anything, but apart from being pretty shaken up, a scratch on his nose and some soreness in my wrist from bracing myself, we were perfectly fine. There is no doubt in my mind that He performed a miracle for us that day and that what the enemy meant for harm, God turned into a testimony. He certainly had His hand on us that day!

Years later, I was 6 months pregnant and involved in another car accident. Matt and I were youth pastors at my dad’s church at the time. I was at the church with our 2 year old (our oldest was playing at my parents’ house) preparing for youth group while Matt was still at work. As I was getting ready to head out to Pueblo West to pick up my little brother and his friend, my 2 brothers-in-law noticed something about my car that they thought they should look at. They suggested that I take my sister’s little Toyota Echo and leave my car there with them. I agreed and loaded Bethany’s car seat into my sister’s car and drove away. Fifteen minutes later, while waiting to turn left onto my parents’ street, I was rear-ended by a truck going 45-55 mph who didn’t see me before he reached down to pick something up off the floor. As you can imagine, the car was completely smashed, with the trunk pushed up to the front seat. It was nothing short of a miracle that both of my daughters (our unborn child as well as my 2 year old in the back seat) and I all came out unscathed. I had pain in my neck and back for awhile, but even that was healed after a local pastor at a multi-church event prayed for me.

These are 3 of the most significant events in my life where I saw God’s hand, but there have been many more, some just as miraculous, but too personal to write about here. This world is fallen and, until Jesus returns, will be a tumultuous place where we will face trials and heartache. However, when we belong to God, we will also see Him intervene mightily on our behalf throughout our lives.

God made us all different and while some, like me, will lean more on the evidence when telling people about Christ, others will lean more on their experience. The reality, however, is that we need both. With only our experiences, some will respond with doubts based on what they view as a lack of evidence and chalk our experience up to mere coincidence. However, if we rely on just the evidence, others will not see the real and present and loving Father that we know our God to be. Evidence combined with experience is the most powerful way that we can overcome the enemy and bring souls into God’s Kingdom. So, don’t neglect your story – it is God’s gift to you and He can use it to make a difference in the lives of others.

The Most Reliable Ancient Text

Our local newspaper recently announced that they would no longer allow religious letters to the editor. The managing editor is a professing Christian who says that his faith is critical to his life. However, in explaining his decision, he made some statements that are troubling.

… no one knows for certain what the Bible says or means… The Bible has been translated so many times from so many different languages that no one knows if the original messages are intact. Yes, I know the argument that God guided the hands of all of those poor monks who translated and penned the Bibles, but we don’t know that.”  (Read more)

While you would expect this opinion from those outside of the faith in an attempt to discredit the Bible, it is surprising how often it comes up in conversations with other Christians. This modern spin on Christianity, sometimes labeled as “Progressive Christianity,” takes some of the teachings of Jesus, combines them with New Age relativism and produces a new kind of faith that rejects God’s righteousness, man’s need for redemption and a single path to God through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In order to accomplish this, large sections of the Bible must be discarded, which is why the contention that the Bible is flawed and unreliable is the most common starting point. This perspective, however, lacks credibility when you examine the facts. Mr. Henson made two claims in his brief editorial and both are demonstrably false.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/3/31/Great_Isaiah_Scroll.jpg/1280px-Great_Isaiah_Scroll.jpg

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/3/31/Great_Isaiah_Scroll.jpg/1280px-Great_Isaiah_Scroll.jpg

 

False Claim #1 – The Bible has been translated many times from many different languages.

The idea here is that the Bible was translated from one language to another until it eventually ended up in English and that, because it is so far removed from the original, we cannot trust it’s authenticity.

Truth – The truth is that the Bible has been translated into many different languages, but from only 3 original languages – Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic. Today, we have more than 5800 New Testament manuscripts that date as far back as 130 AD, which is within 50 years of the original writings. The Old Testament was validated by the Dead Sea Scrolls that were discovered from 1947 to 1956 and date back to 250 B.C. The Dead Sea scrolls verified the accuracy of the Masoretic text to within 1%.  These manuscripts and scrolls are used in translating the Bible.

https://craigtowens.files.wordpress.com/2017/01/manuscript-evidence.jpg

https://craigtowens.files.wordpress.com/2017/01/manuscript-evidence.jpg

False Claim #2 – “No one knows for certain what the Bible really says or means.”

Truth – The number of manuscripts available to us implies just the opposite. We do know with extreme accuracy what the Bible really says and means. In addition to the 5800 manuscripts, we have more than 25,000 partial or complete early copies of the New Testament and over 36,000 quotations of New Testament writings from other works during the first few centuries of Christianity. Because of the number of manuscripts, there are, in fact, a large number of variants between them. Many use this as a criticism of the Bible in an attempt to prove that it is unreliable. However, only .5 – 1% of the variants are meaningful and none of these contradict essential doctrines of Christianity. (For some examples, read here and here.)

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There is much more that could be and has been said on this subject but the fact remains that, when compared with other works of antiquity, the Bible is far and away the most reliable and documented ancient text in existence. Yet, it is the only work that is continuously attacked by critics who expect that most people will not look into the facts for themselves. Winston Churchill said, “A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.” Many lies about God and His Word are spread by media, universities and other means, but the truth is out there if you are willing to take the time to find it, and in so many ways, it is indeed truth that will set you free.