William Ramsey – The Secret of the Smiley Face Serial Killer
Gary Wayne and David Carrico – The Mysterious Essene- From Ancient Times to Present Day
Richard Phillips – Biblical Parenting 3: Parenting for Middle Childhood
For more than 200 years, Christians have been trying to reinterpret the six days of Creation in Genesis 1 to make them align with millions of years. But every attempt has a fatal flaw.
“And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day” (Genesis 1:31).
“The sixth day.” What does that phrase mean to you? More than 200 years ago, Christians began to question whether this day truly was the sixth day, instead of the six millionth or six billionth day. They were responding to an idea, popularized in the late 1700s, that our planet and universe are much older than Scripture indicates. They wondered where millions of years might harmonize with the Bible. So they scrutinized Genesis 1 and reinterpreted the days of Creation Week in a variety of ways.
But they didn’t recognize that each of these attempts to insert long ages into Scripture had fatal flaws (even beyond the alarming fact that they tried to change the original intent of the language). Most notably, they place death, suffering, and disease long before Adam and Eve sinned.
Yet you will still hear varieties of these views. What are we to make of them? Is there any justification for changing the meaning of the Bible’s first chapter?
Is the Bible the reliable Word of God or a fallible collection of human religious ideas? The purpose of this article is to show that the conflict between secular science and the Bible is not new, but dates back to the days of the early church. Greek scientists like Porphyry and Celsus questioned the reliability of the contents of Genesis, Jonah, Daniel, as well as the factuality of Jesus’ Virgin Birth and Resurrection. This paper will demonstrate how early Greek scholars alleged that the holy Christian Scriptures were unreliable productions of men and will consider the commitment of the early church to these writings as the voice of God.
Often research articles have the aim of stating something that is experienced as new and relevant for a limited group of colleagues with expert knowledge. This paper has a different purpose, namely to translate some of these results from the field of patristic studies1 and make them available to fellow Christian scholars who are active in the natural sciences. This is likely to be encouraging, as the world of the early Christians was in many ways like the post-Christian Western world of the 21st century. What early Fathers embraced as Scripture is now usually also found in our printed Bibles. The fact that they took the Bible as the literal voice of God does not imply their interpretation was always right or that they were unaffected by the philosophies and pressures of their time and cultural surroundings. Likewise for Greek science in the late ancient era: although some philosophers preceded the modern ‘unbelief’ of the Continental Enlightenment Theology in many ways, this article does not claim that their worldview or motivation was identical, or deny that their work is inconsequential when it comes to considering the unusual or ‘miraculous’ in their own tradition.
Continuing in our series on Puritan preachers (parts #1, #2), we come to Richard Sibbes (1577–1635). One source in which he reveals his view of preaching is The Fountain Opened, a collection of his sermons on 1 Timothy 3:16 (Works, vol. 5), where he addresses the office of the preacher particularly when he comes to the phrase “preached unto the Gentiles.”
When a king is enthroned, both his nobles and his common subjects must know it. Therefore, it is not enough for Christ to be “seen of angels,” His heavenly nobility. His kingdom must also be proclaimed to the entire world, all men called to submit to Him. He must be preached before He can be “believed on in the world,” Sibbes writes, for “faith is the issue and fruit of preaching” (Works 5:504). Sibbes says, “Preaching is the ordinance of God, sanctified for the begetting of faith, for the opening of the understanding, for the drawing of the will and affections to Christ.” This is the ladder of heaven that we must ascend one step at a time: first preaching, then faith, then prayer (Works 5:514).
Richard Rogers (1551–1618) is best known today for his massive Commentary on the Book of Judges, which is a collection of 103 sermons. In it we see that his preaching was very practical and experiential. For example, in Sermon 74, he describes the Holy Spirit’s inward work of conversion upon the soul: “While we give heed to the doctrine of the Lord Jesus, which is plainly, soundly, and powerfully taught us, the Lord enlighteneth us with grace and power of the Holy Ghost, and giveth us another heart to serve him (as he saith in Ezek. 36), than we had before” (pp. 655–656).
Here again we see the Reformed doctrine of predestination applied to the personal experience of salvation. Referring, like Perkins, to “that golden chaine” of Romans 8:30, Rogers said, “There is no other way to seek out the certainty of our election” apart from “the gift of faith, and the Spirit of God sanctifying” in our effectual calling. He explains that “predestination itself is manifested in time, by the enlightening and opening of the heart to receive the glad tidings of the gospel,” so that “Christ is embraced by faith” and “the Holy Ghost is given to the believer, who quickens the heart with spiritual grace.” God gives different degrees of grace to different people, but the work of salvation is fundamentally the same (p. 656).
To the utter consternation of the abortion rights movement, the issue simply will not go away. Decades after they thought they had put the matter to rest with the Roe v. Wade decision, America’s conscience is more troubled than ever, and near panic appears regularly to break out among abortion activists. Such a panic is now underway, and the defenders of abortion are trotting out some of their most dishonest arguments. One of the worst is the claim that Christians have only quite recently become concerned about the sanctity of human life and the evil of abortion.
In fact, one of America’s most infamous abortion doctors, Dr. Willie Parker of Mississippi, has made such a claim in his new book, Life’s Work: A Moral Argument for Choice. Parker, who refers to himself as a Christian, writes: “If you take anti-abortion rhetoric at face value, without knowing much about the Bible, you might assume that the antis have Scripture on their side. That’s how dominant and pervasive their righteous rhetoric has become. but they do not. The Bible does not contain the word ‘abortion’ anywhere in it.”
This is the same argument we so often confront on sexuality issues. We are told that Jesus never said anything against same-sex marriage. The disingenuous nature of this argument is fully apparent when we look to a text like Matthew 19:3-6. Jesus makes abundantly clear that God’s intention “from the beginning” is that humanity, made male and female, should united in marriage and “the two shall become one flesh.” As Jesus continued, “What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” That should settle the matter.
No Puritan was more concerned about preaching than William Perkins (1558–1602). Detesting the substitution of eloquence for the “lost art” of preaching, Perkins led a reformation of preaching. He did this in his instruction to theological students at Cambridge; in his manual on preaching, The Arte of Prophecying (Latin: 1592; English 1606), which quickly became a classic among Puritans; in advocating a “plain style” of preaching in his own pulpit; and, above all, in stressing the experimental application of predestinarian doctrines.
Joseph Pipa suggests three reasons why Perkins wrote his preaching manual. First, there was a “dearth of able preachers in Elizabethan England” (“William Perkins and the Development of Puritan Preaching.” PhD dissertation, Westminster Theological Seminary, 1985, p. 86). By 1583, only a sixth of English clergy were licensed to preach, and even in 1603 there were only half as many preachers as parishes. Second, there were gaps in the university curriculum, with particular deficiencies in theology, preaching, and spiritual direction. Third, Perkins aimed to promote a “plain” style of preaching as opposed to the ornate style of high-church Anglicans (Pipa, “William Perkins,” pp. 87–88); the latter heaped up quotations from ancient authorities, often in Greek or Latin, together with many puns, extravagant and surprising analogies, rhymes, and alliteration.
I certainly do not wish to leave the impression from my previous post that the Puritans were bad examples as preachers. There are many ways in which we can and should imitate their preaching. Here are a few of the lessons we can learn from them.
1. Preach Well-Rounded Sermons
There are four dimensions of a good sermon. It must be biblical, offering an explanation of the meaning of the text in its biblical and historical context; doctrinal, deriving and defining truths from the text about God and man; experiential, addressing the truths to the hearts of the listeners with idealism, realism, and optimism; and practical, giving specific directions for how hearers should respond to God’s Word.
We may view these four words as the “golden chain of preaching.” All the doctrine we preach must be rooted in Bible, not in human traditions, experiences, or speculations. Christian experience must be informed by and conformed to the doctrines of Scripture, and must allow itself to be judged and measured by God’s Word lest we drift into mysticism and emotionalism. Our practical activity must always flow from the faith and love of our hearts, and must spring out of spiritual experience based in the truth of the written Word of God.
Meet Alvin Plantinga
Alvin Plantinga was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Raised in the Christian Reformed Church, he has theological roots in the Dutch Reformed tradition. As the son of a philosophy and psychology professor, Plantinga evidenced a knack for and interest in philosophy early on.1
Plantinga studied philosophy at Harvard, Calvin College, the University of Michigan, and Yale, earning his PhD from Yale in 1957. Throughout his prolific career, Plantinga spent the majority of his years teaching, first, at Calvin College for nineteen years, then, until his recent retirement, at Notre Dame University. It would not be an overstatement to say that virtually all matters metaphysical and epistemological must address much of Plantinga’s own work. His Nature of Necessity did much to further discussions of modality in metaphysics, and his most recent work in epistemology, the roots of which began early in his career, have stimulated a multitude of developments and critiques in philosophical and theological circles.
The English philosopher Francis Bacon (1561-1626) once said that the three greatest inventions during his lifetime were gunpowder, the mariner’s compass, and printing. Gunpowder forever changed the nature of armed conflict and introduced an era of savage warfare that is with us still. The compass enabled Columbus, Magellan, and other navigators to discover the New World and map it with precision. The printing press brought about an explosion of knowledge, the expansion of literacy, and a revolution in learning that touched every aspect of European civilization, not least the church.
One of the leaders of the church who recognized the importance of printing right from the start was the scholar-bishop Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini, who in 1458 became Pope Pius II. In October of 1454, Aeneas Silvius found himself at the famous Frankfurt book fair, no doubt on the hunt for special treasures for his great library. Soon after the fair, he wrote to a friend about his meeting there a “marvelous man” (vir mirabilis) who had with him a perfectly produced book, one that was exceedingly clean and correct in all of its lettering, with beautiful characters that could be read “effortlessly without glasses.” Some scholars think that the wondrous man Aeneas Silvius encountered at the fair was Johann Gutenberg and that the spotless book he saw was Gutenberg’s masterpiece, the forty-two-line Bible (so called because it had forty-two lines per page), hot off the press from his workshop at Mainz.
Gutenberg was a goldsmith by trade. While living in Strasbourg, he had experimented with a metal alloy suitable for type and a machine that would allow printed characters to be cast with relative ease, placed in even lines of composition, and then manipulated again and again to make possible the mass production of a large number of texts. Moving down the Rhine to the city of Mainz, he perfected his experiment with the press and was soon able to produce the world’s first printed Bible, an edition of the Latin Vulgate.