Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Does A Literal Adam & Eve Matter?

Biblegems # 248

Question: Does the existence of a literal Adam and Eve really matter?

Contemporary science and the Bible propose distinctly different definitions of what it means to be human.

Modern definitions of “human” vary, but all share this fundamental understanding:
         “Human” means the only surviving species that evolved hundreds of thousands of years ago from a common group (Genus) identified as “Homo,” which in turn evolved from the great apes millions of years ago. Homo-sapiens (humans) walk on two feet, possess manual dexterity, have more complex brains and more complex societies than other animals.

The Bible portrays humanity as a distinctly unique “kind” of being, created fully mature, one male and one female, on the sixth day of the universe’s existence, for the purpose of exercising dominion over the newly created earth (Gen. 1:28).
         Gen. 5:1-2  This is the written account of Adam’s family line. When God created mankind, he made them in the likeness of God. He created them male and female and blessed them. And he named them “Mankind” when they were created.  (NIV ’11)

Either, one is correct and the other incorrect, or else both are incorrect. Both cannot be true; they are mutually exclusive. One view assumes man is an accidental byproduct of millions of years of evolution, which in turn is the accidental byproduct of billions of years of evolution emanating from the Big Bang. The other view assumes the existence of God, the Creator of all that exists, who brought a fully formed universe and mature human beings into existence for His specific purpose.
         Col. 1:16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.

The ramifications of these two conflicting worldviews are profound. According to the current scientific worldview, matter and energy cannot be created or destroyed (First Law of Thermodynamics), and that all matter and energy steadily decays (Second Law of Thermodynamics). In other words, the universe is falling apart.

Unfortunately, these two “laws” are in conflict with each other. The Second Law describes a universe in a constant and steady state of chaos, decay and death, implying that there was once a “beginning” when everything was in perfect order, and that there will be an “end” when everything finally falls apart. But a “beginning” and an “end” contradict the First Law—that matter and energy have no beginning or end!
The Bible, however, makes sense of this apparent contradiction:
         Rom. 5:12b   …sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin and in this way death came to all people (Second Law).

Death and decay are the result of man’s rebellion against God, who created of all matter and energy in the beginning (First Law).


         Rom. 5:17  if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Predestined For Hell?

Biblegems #247

Question: If God knows all things—past, present and future—before they happen, does this mean that He condemns people to hell before they are even born?

First, God is all knowing:
         Heb. 4:13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

Second, hell was created for Satan and his rebellious angels, not people, even though millions will end up there:
         Matt. 25:41  “Then he will say to those (people at the Judgment) on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”

Think of it this way—farmlands and cities were never intended to be a place for thousands of mutilated bodies, yet millions have ended up there as the result of war.

The word “cursed” Jesus used in the verse above is the Greek word kataraomai, meaning, “doomed”. The idea is that these people standing before God on Judgment Day are beyond the point of rescue. Like the last moment before impact in a car crash, when the time to turn the wheel or apply the break is passed, collision is inevitable—it is doomed to happen.

Third, although God knows everything in advance, He allows for human free will. The apostle Peter reminds followers of Jesus how choices in life-style are theirs to make:
         1Pet. 4:3 For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do—living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry.

Some things, however, God does predetermine to take place to fulfill His purpose for creation. The apostles, for example, were specifically predestined by God for their role as apostles:
         Eph. 1:11  In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will

God does not predetermine in advance who is going to hell because He desires that no one end up there. The time we have on this planet, individually and for the human race, is our opportunity to swerve out of its path. If our loyalties lie with living for self-interest rather than for God we will perish. If our loyalties lie with Jesus, who rescues us for life in His Kingdom, we will enjoy eternal life:
         2Pet. 3:9  The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

The entire human race is on a collision course with hell. Like children born in Hiroshima or Nagasaki before the A-bomb hit, we are born into a world doomed to destruction due to the choices of others made long before we were born. Because God sees all things, He sent His Son Jesus into the world to rescue us from certain destruction:

         John 3:16-17  For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

“Flesh” Or “Sinful Nature”?

Biblegems #246

Question: Some Bible translations use the term “sinful nature” instead of “flesh.” Which is more accurate?

Usually, “flesh” is the more accurate translation. Here’s why:

The phrase “sinful nature” in many of our English Bibles typically translates the Greek word sarx, which literally means “flesh,” meat,” or sometimes “body.” However, it can also be used as a metaphor (occasionally) to mean the “sinful nature” associated with the powerful passions of our physical body.  Romans 7:5 and 18 (NIV, 2011) represent good examples of sarx being accurately translated both ways:
         Rom. 7:5 For when we were in the realm of the flesh (sarx), the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in us, so that we bore fruit for death.

Here, sarx literally refers to the “flesh” as the physical home (“realm”) of sinful passions and desires. In verse 18, however, Paul uses the same word (sarx) in a somewhat broader way, where “flesh” refers to himself as a human being once controlled by physical passions:
Rom. 7:18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature (sarx). For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.

Notice how Paul says, “good…does not dwell in me,”—then explains “me” with the word sarx—meaning the physical, fleshly part of his nature that is dominated by sinful desires.  Here, sarx is used metaphorically to indicate the man he once was before he came under the control of the Holy Spirit.

As he explains a little later…
         Rom. 8:5   Those who live according to the flesh (sarx) have their minds set on what the flesh (sarx) desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.

Simply put, the New Testament teaches that the “desires” that drive human beings have their source in the flesh (sarx)—our physical nature. We are slaves to those desires, unable to live as God desires for us, even when we desire His will for ourselves (Rom. 7:25; Rom. 8:8). However, when we surrender control of our lives to Jesus Christ as Lord, His Holy Spirit takes up residence in our physical bodies. Then we have a choice…
         Rom. 8:5   Those who live according to the flesh (sarx) have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.

The newest edition of the NIV (2011) has actually improved upon the earlier, 1984 translation in this regard, changing the older version’s over-use of “sinful nature” back to “flesh,” where the word sarx is clearly intended in the Greek to be literally understood. “Sinful nature” is not incorrect, just less clear in terms of how powerful the body is in determining human behavior.

But the really good news is this:

         Gal. 5:24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.