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Religion

The Qur’an gets the Trinity wrong

Islam teaches that the Qur’an is the perfect revelation of Allah, but that presents a problem for Muslims then when it gets things wrong. One of the more notable errors is found in its explanation of what Christians believe about the Trinity. It makes two clear mistakes, first describing us as worshipping three gods. As we read in the fourth and fifth surahs:

.…The Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary, was but a messenger of Allah and His word which He directed to Mary and a soul [created at a command] from Him. So believe in Allah and His messengers. And do not say, "Three"; desist - it is better for you. Indeed, Allah is but one God. Exalted is He above having a son. To Him belongs whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth. And sufficient is Allah as Disposer of affairs. (4:171)

They have certainly disbelieved who say, "Allah is the third of three." And there is no god except one God. And if they do not desist from what they are saying, there will surely afflict the disbelievers among them a painful punishment. (5:73)

Secondly, the Qur'an describes Christians as believing in a Trinity made up of the Father, Jesus, and Mary.

And [beware the Day] when Allah will say, "O Jesus, Son of Mary, did you say to the people, 'Take me and my mother as deities besides Allah?'"…. (5:116)

As you might expect, Muslims do have their explanations for these verses. In some translations they change 5:73’s “…third of three” to say “…one of three in a Trinity” to correct the original error. And they do the same with the "three" in Surah 4:171, changing it to "Trinity." But as Luke Wayne, of the Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry, notes in his article "Did the author of the Quran understand the Trinity?" that’s not how the earliest Islamic scholars understood these passages:

Muqatil ibn Sulayman's mid-eighth-century tafsir is considered by scholars to be the earliest complete commentary on the Quran to have survived in good condition. In it, Sulayman claims that Christians "say that Allah, powerful and exalted, is the third of three – he is a god, [Jesus] is a god, and [Mary] is a god, making Allah weak.”

To explain away the error in 5:116 the suggestion is made that Allah, rather than addressing Christians here, was addressing some obscure sect that worshipped a Trinity made up of the Father, Son, and Mary. Or some will point to how Catholics are elevating Mary to an almost god-like status. That is the best they can do. As Wayne concludes:

It is not hard to understand how a pagan Arab might make these kinds of mistakes based on second-hand stories, hearsay, and uninformed observations and thus end up with the Quran's erroneous conception of Christian belief. But to say that God Himself might get so confused as to what Christians believe is ludicrous.

Politics

Electoral Reform: paper and pen beat bits and bytes

As we progress ever farther into the digital age there is going to be an increased push to have voting go from paper to digital, with voting done on, and tabulated by, computers. Part of this push comes from those who just think it a natural progression. After all, isn't everything going digital? Others think it will increase voter turnout, especially if we open things up by allowing voting over the Internet (then you could vote from your own home). But another reason for this push to digital comes from the complicated ways that other countries do elections. In Australia's 2016 federal election, because of their ranked ballot, it took more than a week for the country to find out who had won. If voting had been done electronically this could have been resolved almost right after voting concluded. But there is a problem with electronic voting that makes Canada's present paper and pen voting method vastly superior. If we want people to be involved and invested in the democratic process, then the one thing we need them to know is that the results reported at the end are, without a shadow of a doubt, legitimate. That’s true of the Canada’s present federal system…and in a way that should be the envy of every other country. Our paper ballots leave a paper trail that can be checked and double check and triple checked too. In fact, in most ridings there are people with at least 3 different perspectives counting each vote: the (hopefully neutral) Elections Canada staff a Liberal Party scrutineer a Conservative Party scrutineer In addition there are often scrutineers from the smaller parties like the New Democrats and the Greens (though they don’t have the manpower to scrutinize at every poll). This independent triple check keeps the system entirely transparent – if Elections Canada, the Liberals, and the Conservatives can all agree on the vote total (and they do 99% of the time) then we know that the result are trustworthy. Compare that to United States, where electronic voting tabulates the vast majority of votes and there is no paper trail. Every election there are reports of computer errors – someone voting Republican and their vote being given to the Democrat candidate, and vice versa. Some of these errant votes are caught – one famous example occurred when, in a precinct where just 412 people voted, presidential candidate Al Gore received a negative vote count of minus 16,022 votes. Someone, it seems, had hacked the machine. Errant totals like this are easy to spot, but if a machine can be hacked once, why should we trust all the others? And how many of the other vote totals might be the result of simple computer error? American voters can only wonder how many less obvious errors may have escaped notice. Long ago Joseph Stalin said something to the effect of: "The people who cast the votes decide nothing. The people who count the votes decide everything." Americans’ dependency on electronic voting machines means their system is based on trust – trust that the machines our counting properly, and trust that the people making and programming these counting machines are competent and honest, and trust that their security is flawless. Meanwhile in Canada our hand counting approach recognizes that it is foolish to trust overmuch, that we are fallen and depraved creatures. Of course election officials have never stated it in such explicitly biblical terms, but that is the difference nonetheless. Instead of trust, we have verification, with two, three and even more vote totals from the different parties available to check against the official results. From a Reformed perspective then, the Canadian hand count is vastly superior to the American voting machine count. On the federal level Canada currently has the most trustworthy, and therefore best, vote-counting system in the world. We need to let our friends and neighbors know that when it comes to voting and verification, bits and bytes don't beat pen and paper.

Science - Environmental Stewardship, Theology

Global warming crisis? A brief biblical case for skepticism

The media tells us that the question is settled, there is a 97% consensus, and that anyone who has questions is a “denier,” likened to those who are either so foolish, or malicious, as to deny the reality of the Holocaust. But there are reasons to question. And while climate science might be beyond most of us, God has given us another means – a far more reliable means – of discerning truth, via His Word. Gender: the Bible shows the way Sometimes it doesn’t take much Bible study to be able to discern truth from error, and that’s certainly true in today’s gender debate. Young children are being surgically mutilated and hormonally sterilized and yet the government, doctors, psychologists, and media are applauding. While it might not be at 97% yet, the consensus is growing such that fines are being issued, teachers fired, students expelled, and Twitter mobs set loose on any who disagree. Despite the pressure, few Christians are being fooled, though that might be due as much to the newness of the debate as it is that Evangelicals are turning to their Bibles for guidance. But if they do open His Word it won’t take a believer long to figure out God’s position. In Genesis 1:27 we learn it is God, not Man, who determines our gender:

“So God created Man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”

Population: following the Bible would have saved tens of millions The overpopulation crisis has a longer history to it and, consequently, many more Christians have bought into it. Since the 1950s we’ve been hearing that sometime soon the world’s population will outstrip the planet’s resources. In his 1969 book The Population Bomb Paul Ehrlich warned:

“The battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the 1970s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now. At this late date nothing can prevent a substantial increase in the world death rate.”

You would think that by now it would be easy to see that these overpopulation fears were mistaken. As economist Arthur Brooks has noted, what’s happened is the very opposite of Ehrlich’s dire prediction:

“From the 1970s until today the percentage of people living at starvation’s door has decreased by 80%. Two billion people have been pulled out of starvation-level poverty.”

Yet the overpopulation hysteria has never gone away. And the damage it has done has been on par with that of a Hitler or Stalin – tens of millions have been killed. Under threat of this crisis China implemented their infamous one-child policy, with its fines and forced abortions for couples who tried for two. And the deaths weren’t limited to China; overpopulation fears were used to justify the push for legalized abortion in countries around the world. Murdering your own children wasn’t cold and selfish anymore; now it was a woman doing her part to save the planet. Christians opposed abortion, of course, but some believers started questioning whether overpopulation concerns might be correct. Maybe God’s call to “be fruitful and multiply” and fill the earth (Gen. 1:28) was just a temporary directive that we’ve fulfilled and should now treat as being over and done with. But it takes only a little more digging to find out that’s not what God thinks. Overpopulation proponents saw children as more mouths to find – they saw them as a problem – but God speaks repeatedly of children as a blessing (Ps. 113:9, 127:3-5, Prov. 17:6, Matt. 18:10, John 16:21). And opportunities present themselves when we see children as God sees them. When we understand they are a blessing, then we realize that not only do children come with a mouth that needs filling, but they also have hands that can produce even more than their mouth consumes. And they have a brain to invent and problem solve. When we see children this way – as a blessing and not a curse – then we'll realize there’s a real practical benefit in having lots of them: as we’ve been told, many hands make light work, and two heads are also better than one! That’s why it shouldn’t have surprised Christians when in the 1950s and 60s a group of inventive sorts, led by American Norman Borlaug, helped develop much higher-yielding strains of cereal crops. This “Green Revolution” turned wheat-importing countries into wheat exporting countries by more than doubling yields. And while there are no prophecies in the Bible specifically mentioning Norman Borlaug, Christians could have seen him coming, and in a sense some did. Those who continued having large families, despite the dire predictions, could do so confident that any problems caused by the innumerable nature of their progeny would be solved by something like the Green Revolution happening. Today, decades later, we can look back and see that a country like China, that ignored what God says about children, is facing a different sort of demographic crisis. A young Chinese couple will have two sets of parents and four sets of grandparents to look after and support, but have no siblings or cousins to help them. As soon as 2030 China will see their population start to decline, with not nearly enough working age citizens to provide for their aging population. It’s not all that different in the Western world where, even without government coercion, our families have been shrinking and women are averaging far less than two children each. We aren’t as near the crisis point as China, but by aborting a quarter of the next generation, we’ve created our own coming demographic crisis. Global warming: a biblical case for skepticism The population and gender debates remind us that the Bible is more reliable than any-sized consensus no matter how big. They also teach us that the world can get things not just completely wrong, but monstrously so, leading to the deaths of tens of millions. That’s why when it comes to global warming, where we’re being told once again that the fate of the planet is at stake, we want any and all guidance we can get from God’s Word. Cornelius Van Til once noted:

“The Bible is thought of as authoritative on everything of which it speaks. Moreover, it speaks of everything. We do not mean that it speaks of football games, of atoms, etc., directly, but we do mean that it speaks of everything either directly or by implication.”

The Bible does speak to global warming, but not directly. This isn’t like the gender debate, which runs smack up against Genesis 1:27 (“male and female He created them”) or the overpopulation crisis, which directly opposes the very next verse (“be fruitful and multiply”). When it comes to global warming the Bible isn’t as direct. But there are lots of implications. Time and space only allow me to present a half dozen texts. I’m not pretending that any one of them makes the definitive case for skepticism. But I do think that together they start pointing us decidedly in that direction. "You will know them by their fruits" – Matt. 7:15-20 In Matthew 7 Jesus tells us that we can tell a good tree from a bad one by the fruit on it. His concern wasn’t with trees though, but with telling false prophets from good ones. When it comes to global warming the science is beyond most of us, but we can evaluate the people. So let’s return to this 97% consensus we’ve heard so much about. This statistic is used to argue that there is no question but that the planet is headed to catastrophic climate change. But is this a reliable number, or is it like the greatly exaggerated 10% figure commonly given for the homosexual population? The figure has a few different origins, but one of the more commonly cited is a paper by John Cook and his colleagues reviewing 11,944 published peer-reviewed papers from climate scientists. Did 97% of those papers’ authors agree with the statement “humans are causing global warming”? That’s what we would expect. But instead of 10,000+ papers with that position, there were 3,894, or approximately 33%. So how did the 97% figure come out of that then? Well, it turns out only approximately 34% of the papers took a position one way or the other, with just 1% disagreeing or uncertain, and 33% agreeing. Thus, of the 34% who took a position, 97% agreed that humans are causing global warming. Is it honest to ignore the two thirds who didn’t state a position, and say there is a 97% consensus and no room for a debate? How this statistic has been used reminds me of a trick from another debate – equivocation about the definition of “evolution.” In his book, The Greatest Show on Earth, Richard Dawkins notes that when poachers shoot elephants with long tusks, the next generation is liable to have shorter tusks. Okay, but creationists also believe species can undergo changes over time. We’re the folks arguing that the array of cats we see today are all modified versions of a single cat kind brought on the ark. Dawkins has presented “minor changes over time” – a definition of evolution so broad that it enfolds even creationists into the evolution camp – as if it were proof of the from-goo-to-you sort of evolution that is actually under dispute. Similarly, the 97% consensus is being presented as if all those counted hold that the warming is catastrophic, humans are the primary cause, and there is a need for immediate, drastic, global action. But the agreement was only that “humans are causing global warming.” And that’s a statement so broad as to enfold even many of the so-called “deniers.” So on a statement we can verify – whether there really is a 97% consensus on catastrophic global warming – we find “bad fruit.” There are many other facts and claims we can’t evaluate, but doesn’t this tell us something about the “tree”? “The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.” – Proverbs 18:17 God says that to find the truth good questions are helpful. That’s not going on here, where questioners are likened to Holocaust deniers. But here’s a few questions worth considering: Aren’t there bigger priorities than global warming, like the millions who will starve to death this year, or the billions who lack basic access to clean water and sanitation? If fossil fuels are harmful, and solar and wind problematic, why aren’t we turning to nuclear? How will the world’s poor be impacted by a move away from fossil fuels toward more expensive alternatives? Are we again (as we did in response to overpopulation fears) seeking to save the planet by harming those who live on it? Samuel’s warning against kings – 1 Samuel 8:10-22 President Obama’s chief of staff famously said, “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste” and if you want to understand what he meant, looking no further than Justin Trudeau’s proposed ban on single-use plastics. This past year a video of a sea turtle with a plastic straw stuck up deep inside his nose went viral, alerting the tens of millions of viewers to the growing problem of plastics in our oceans. The movement to ban plastic straws has taken off since then. But will Trudeau’s single-use plastics ban save turtles? No, because our straws don’t end up in the ocean. Of the mass of plastic in the ocean it’s been estimated the US is responsible for one percent, and it’d be reasonable to conclude that Canada is responsible for far less. So how, then, does all the plastic end up in the ocean? It turns out that the vast majority of it comes from poorer countries that don’t have proper trash disposal. They simply dump their waste into the ocean and into their rivers. Trudeau’s ban will do nothing to help the turtles…but it will expand the government’s reach. The proposed solutions for climate change all involve expanding the government too, giving it a larger role in directing all things energy-related. So, how is 1 Samuel 8 relevant? Here we find Samuel warning against an expansion of government – get a king and he’ll start intruding into all areas of your lives. If there is a biblical case to be made for limited, small government (and there is) then Christians have a reason to question crises that seem to necessitate an ever-expanding role for the State. “…and it was very good.” – Gen. 1:31 While we no longer live in the perfect world Adam and Eve started with, we have only to wriggle our toes, or watch a ladybug crawl across the back of our hand to recognize that God’s brilliant design is still evident and at work all around us. We are on a blue and white marble, spinning at just the right angle, and orbiting at just the right distance from the sun, for it to rain and snow in season. We have a moon just the right size, and circling at just the right distance for us to study our own sun, and to bring the tides that sweep our beaches each day. And our planet is graced with a molten iron core that generates the very magnetic field we need to protect us from the solar winds, which would otherwise strip away the ozone layer that protects us from ultraviolet radiation. It is wheels within wheels within wheels, and while we can do damage to it, when we appreciate how brilliantly our world is designed we aren’t surprised there is a robustness to it. Meanwhile, the unbeliever thinks our world is the result of one lucky circumstance after another – a tower of teacups, all balanced perfectly, but accidentally. If the world did come about by mere happenstance, then what an unbelievable run of happenstance we’ve had, and isn’t there every reason to fear change? Sure, the teacup tower is balanced now, but if we mess with it, how long can we count on our luck to hold? “He who oppresses the poor taunts his Maker” – Prov. 14:31 At first glance, this text might not seem to provide much direction in this debate. After all, couldn’t a Christian who holds to catastrophic man-caused global warming cite it in support of their position too? Yes they could. If climate change is real, then the oppression it would bring on the poor would be a reason to fight it. Yet this text does provide a very specific sort of direction. It lays out limits on what sort of global warming plans Christians should view as acceptable: any plan to save the planet that does so by hurting the poor is not biblical. That means increasing energy costs has to be out. Millions are starving already and raising energy prices will only increase those numbers. “Be fruitful and multiply” – Gen. 1:28 Children come with an inevitable “carbon footprint” which is why some global warming proponents echo the same sentiments as the overpopulationists before them. “Save the earth; don’t give birth” is catchy, but if that was the only possible way we could lower carbon emissions then Christians could, on that basis, conclude there was no need to worry about CO2. Because God tells us children are a blessing, not a curse. Of course there may be other ways to lower carbon emissions. But the more we hear people portraying children as a problem, the more we should recognize there is an element in the global warming movement intent on attacking God’s Truth, rather than taking on any real problem. Conclusion Other passages could be mentioned like Genesis 8:22, Romans 1:25 and Psalm 102:25-26 but this is good for a start. And that’s what this is: a start. My hope here is to encourage an exploration of what Scripture says that’s relevant to the issue of global warming.  The Bible isn’t silent on this topic; we need to look at global warming biblically.

News

Dawkins on eugenics: evil uncloaked

Richard Dawkins has been called one of the “Four horsemen of atheism” and is famed, as well, for being one of Charles Darwin’s most ardent defenders. In February he got himself into trouble for this tweet:

“It’s one thing to deplore eugenics on ideological, political, moral grounds. It’s quite another to conclude that it wouldn’t work in practice. Of course it would. It works for cows, horses, pigs, dogs & roses. Why on earth wouldn’t it work for humans? Facts ignore ideology."

While eugenics – controlled human breeding – has been popular in the past, its best-known proponents were the Nazis, and that’s an association no one wants. That’s why Dawkins’ atheist and evolutionist cohorts didn’t like his endorsement of eugenics’ practical possibilities – it made them all look bad. And they jumped on him. But on what grounds could they attack him? As Dawkins made clear in follow up tweets, he thinks eugenics immoral.

“For those determined to miss the point, I deplore the idea of a eugenic policy. I simply said deploring it doesn’t mean it wouldn’t work. Just as we breed cows to yield more milk, we could breed humans to run faster or jump higher. But heaven forbid that we should do it.”

“A eugenic policy would be bad. I’m combating the illogical step from ‘X would be bad’ to ‘So X is impossible’. It would work in the same sense as it works for cows. Let’s fight it on moral grounds….”

But there is a problem with an atheist evolutionist taking a moral stand against eugenics. As Dawkins highlighted in his 1994 book, River out of Eden: A Darwinian view of life, his worldview doesn’t allow for a wrong and right.

"The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference."

If there really were no good, no evil, and nothing but pitiless indifference, then on what moral basis can we stand against eugenics? One fellow scientist, Dave Curtis, took a different tack, making the case that eugenics wouldn’t practically work, what with human being’s “long generational times and small numbers of offspring.” But this practical objection to eugenics doesn’t make atheist evolutionists look any better. Since when do we object to evil on the basis of how difficult it is to successfully pull off? What would we say of a man who objects to murder on the basis of how hard it is to dispose of the body? While his fellow atheists and evolutionists might not appreciate how Dawkins is sidling up to der Fuhrer, we can be grateful for the illumination he provided. As Discrn.com’s Peter Heck noted:

"It's one thing for Christians like myself to offer hypothetical illustrations to the world showing what happens to human ethics apart from God's moral authority. It is another for Richard Dawkins to actually demonstrate them personally."

Apologetics 101

What is Man?

Three thousand years ago, an ancient sage gazed at the world and asked the most important question anyone could ask about our corporate humanity:

When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,
The moon and the stars, which You have ordained;
What is man that You take thought of him…? (Ps. 8:3–4)

Indeed. What is man? What does it mean to be human? You cannot answer a single question of consequence regarding human beings without answering that question first. Everything vital, meaningful, and moral about us hangs on its answer. It is the quintessential query regarding the nature of human existence.

MANY OTHER QUESTIONS FLOW TOWARDS THIS ONE

Is gender fixed or fluid? Is homosexuality natural or perverse? Is there a right to abortion? What about capital punishment? Or sexual slavery? Or social justice?

The answer to each of these questions depends upon an answer to a prior question: What is man?

There are three ways to respond.

1. NATURALISM: WE ARE NOTHING

Here is the first way, the response of naturalism — the religion currently governing science. According to pop “Science Guy” Bill Nye, “We are just a speck, on a speck, orbiting a speck, in the corner of a speck, in the middle of nowhere.”

“We emerged from microbes and muck,” Carl Sagan declared. “We find ourselves in bottomless free fall…lost in a great darkness, and there’s no one to send out a search party.”[i]

And they are right, of course. In a world without God, humans are nothing but cogs in the celestial machine, cosmic junk, the ultimate unplanned pregnancy, left to build our lonely lives on the “unyielding foundation of universal despair,” as atheist Bertrand Russell put it. Nihilism — bleak “nothing-ism.”

2. NEW AGE: WE ARE GOD

There is a more cheerful alternative, though: the New Age answer to the question “What is man?” There is a God, according to Rhonda Byrne, and he is you. In The Secret, her celebration of human divinity, she writes:

You are God in a physical body. You are Spirit in the flesh. You are Eternal Life expressing itself as You…. You are all power. You are all wisdom. You are all intelligence. You are perfection. [ii]

So the secularists have given us two options. Either there is no God, or there is and we are Him. Cosmic debris or divine perfection. In either case, we are alone — solitary nothing or solitary everything. Scylla or Charybdis.

3. A THIRD WAY: NEITHER GODS NOR GARBAGE

Our ancient sage, though, provides a third answer. No, we are not God, but we are not garbage, either. There is another alternative, a path between those two monsters. It is also one that makes complete sense of our deepest intuitions about what it means for us to be human.

THE ODDITY THAT IS EARTH DAY

Something has always confused me about Earth Day celebrations. They seem to be based on a contradiction. Earth Day is a fete enjoyed by naturalists, on the main, who celebrate nature as ultimate and man’s unique moral responsibility to protect it.

There, did you see it? Did you catch the contradiction?

In order to see the misstep, you must see something else first. Worldviews come in packages. They are like puzzles with particular pieces fitting together into a coherent whole. Foundational concerns either fit crisply with other details or foreclose on them.

In a naturalistic worldview, nature is all there is — physical things in motion strictly governed by the deterministic laws of physics and chemistry. In this package, then, there is no place for actual moral obligations of any kind because morality is based on free choices, not on physical determinism.

Further, Darwinism is a strictly materialistic process that produces strictly material goods. No pattern of genetic mutation and natural selection can cause an immaterial moral obligation to pop into existence. [iii] Thus, no living thing can have an obligation to protect another. The locusts take what they can and leave nothing for the hapless boll weevil. Nor should they. May the best bug (the “fittest” critter) win. That’s the program.

Nature’s “balance” is maintained by the corporate tug o’ war for survival that all living things engage in (on this view), not by one species acting responsibly towards another. There are no moral hierarchies in nature since nature has no resources to build them. Thus, the notion that a specific animal, even a human one, has responsibility of stewardship over any other — much less over nature’s entire project — is completely foreign to Darwinism and, thus, to naturalism. In short, there is nothing in an atheistic, naturalistic world that makes sense of man’s obligation towards nature.

That’s the contradiction.

MY FATHER’S WORLD

As I said, it confuses me, and it ought to trouble naturalists, too, but it doesn’t appear to.

There is a reason for this, I think. To them it just seems obvious — regardless of their underlying worldview — that humans are different in a qualitative way, making us responsible as stewards over the world entrusted to us. That’s not the exact language they’d use, of course, but it’s what the intuition driving Earth Day amounts to.

And they are right about this intuition, of course, but certainly not in virtue of naturalism. Naturalists can talk all they want of human obligations, human meaning and purpose, human value, human significance — even human rights — but it’s all chaff in the wind given their foundational understanding of reality.

There is a worldview, though, in which each of these features of human worth makes perfect sense. Ours.

Here is what the Earth Day crowd gets right: Man is different. Humans are special. People are responsible precisely because they are not the same as anything else in nature. And we all know this, which is why the fact continues to stubbornly assert itself even with people whose worldview package cannot justify it.

That’s because this world is not Mother’s world (“Mother Nature”). It is Father’s world.

Here is what Father says about human beings. Humans are beautiful, but they are also broken. They are good, but they are also guilty, and so they are lost. But it hasn’t always been this way, so there is hope for rescue.

These are things we all know, it turns out. They reflect our deepest intuitions about ourselves and the world we live in.

BEAUTIFUL…

Carl Sagan says we are cousins of apes.[iv] That is Mother’s assessment, of course. Father says different:

God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. (Gen. 1:27)

This is the starting point for the answer to our question, “What is man?” At the core of our being lies a mark, an imprint of God Himself — not on us, as if foreign and attached, but in us, as a natural feature built into our natures. This mark is part of what makes us what we are, who we are. We would not be humans without it, but only creatures. Because of this mark, we are not kin to apes. We are kin to the God who made us for Himself.

I do not want you to miss the significance of this simple statement, “God created man in His own image,” the very first thing said about humans at the outset of God’s Story. It means that anyone reading these words — indeed, every person who has ever lived or died or hoped or dreamed anywhere on this planet at any time in history — bears something beautiful at their core, a beauty that can never be lost and cannot be taken from them.

No, we are not gods, but we are like God in an important way. God’s image in us is what makes abortion a homicide and sexual slavery a travesty. It is the reason we are not free to treat each other like animals. It is why certain “inalienable” rights belong uniquely to us. It is also the basis for our friendship with God. We are like Him so we can be near Him in an extraordinary, intimate way.

In a very real sense, then, you have never met an “ordinary” person.[v] Because of the mark of God within our souls, we are each extraordinary in a way that no disfigurement — physical or moral — can ever change, no circumstance can ever alter, no thief can ever steal. It is God’s forever gift to humanity, His image on our being.

Thus, we are precious to Him as nothing else is. Jesus said, “Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows” (Matt. 10:29–31).

Notice something else about Father’s world. God says He made us “male and female.” God made gender binary, not “fluid.” There are two and only two, not a vast array. This is a good thing — one made to match the other, each designed to fit the other physically for reproduction (obviously) and soulishly for oneness when paired together in lifelong relationship. The two make one, each “fearfully and wonderfully” made, man for woman, woman for man — the one as the other’s proper, lifelong complement and companion.[vi]

There is another reason for our binary sexuality. Only in the combination of those unique characteristics germane to each gender is the image of God fully manifest. Though in God’s essential nature He is Father, God is neither male nor female, strictly speaking, but shares and manifests the magnificent glories of both genders.

Note one thing more. God said to them:

Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth. (Gen. 1:28)

This is the accurate insight of the Earth Day crowd. We are both masters and stewards; regents on earth, yet servants of the Most High God.

But there is a problem. Something went south.

…BUT BROKEN

I want to tell you another thing everyone knows. Something has gone terribly wrong. We call it “the problem of evil,” and it prompts us to ask, “Why is there so much badness in the world?” There is a wrinkle to this concern, though, another detail each of us also already knows.

The world is broken, true enough. But we are broken, too, and our brokenness is a huge part of what is wrong with the world. The world is broken because we are broken. Though man has inherent dignity, he is also cruel. The evil is “out there,” as it were, but it is also “in here” — in us.

Things did not start out that way, though. At the very end of the very beginning, once God had set everything in its proper place, we find this summary of all He had done: “God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good” (Gen. 1:31).

All was as it was supposed to be, just as God intended, everything working according to its purpose, man and woman one with each other and the world, resting in their friendship with God.

In that peaceful paradise, though, there was a lone prohibition — a test of fidelity to a Friend, of love to a Father, of loyalty to a King. There was also a tempter who told a terrible lie and a devastating disobedience that changed everything.

When our first parents chose to follow the deceiver rather than their Sovereign, they broke fellowship with their Father, they broke communion with each other, and they broke harmony with the earth they’d been entrusted with. Indeed, when Adam and Eve sinned, they broke the whole world. Human badness made the world go bad.

Because our parents became broken, each of us is now broken like them since they reproduced children just like themselves, and their children have done likewise, one broken generation cascading down to the next.

Each of us is still beautiful, to be sure. God’s image cannot be erased. However, it can be defaced and disfigured, sullied and spoiled. And that is what has happened. Where there was freedom, there is now slavery and struggle. Where there was spiritual life, there is now spiritual death and decay. Where there was friendship with God, there is now enmity and strife.

This is the second part of our answer to the question, “What is man?” Yes, man is beautiful, but man is terribly broken. And it gets worse.

GUILTY

To say we are broken is accurate, but it is also easily misunderstood since it does not go far enough. We are not machines that are malfunctioning. We are not bodies that are ailing. We are subjects who revolted, rebels who are now morally corrupted. We are guilty, and for this we must answer.

Again, each of us knows this deep down inside. Years back, I lectured to a sold-out crowd at the University of California at Berkeley. I made the case against moral relativism simply by observing how frequently we object to evil deeds done by others.

This tendency, I pointed out, explains something about ourselves, too, since we are the “others” doing those evil deeds we object to. And we know it. Deep inside of us is a gnawing awareness of our own badness, producing a feeling we universally recognize. That feeling has a name. I asked them what it was. All over the auditorium I heard their response. “Guilt,” they said, one by one.

Yes, we all feel guilty, don’t we? At some point or another, if we are honest with ourselves, we feel the pain of our own brokenness. “But why?” I asked. “Why do we feel guilty? How about this,” I suggested. “Maybe we feel guilty,” I said, “because we are guilty. Is that in the running?” This, of course, is exactly what the Story tells us:

There is none righteous, not even one;
There is none who understands,
There is none who seeks for God;
All have turned aside, together they have become useless;
There is none who does good,
There is not even one. (Rom. 3:10–12)

Humans are beautiful, yes. But humans are also broken. And in our moral wretchedness we are also profoundly guilty. We owe. We are in debt, not to a standard, not to a rule, not to a law, but to a Person — to the One we have offended with our disobedience. And this is not good news, since our guilt has severe consequences.

LOST

At the end of the Story we find a dark passage.[vii] It tells of the final event of history as we know it, a great trial on a great plain where a great multitude of the accused — the guilty ones — stand before a Judge. The books of death are opened, each of our moral lives laid bare for all mankind to see — the record in the books the basis for a final reckoning, a last judgment.

Nothing is missed or overlooked. From massive acts of evil to minor moral missteps, no sullied deed passes. “There is nothing concealed that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known,” Jesus warned (Matt. 10:26). “Every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment,” He said (Matt. 12:36). It is not a pretty picture.

Before the Judge stand all the beautiful, broken, guilty ones, each shut up under sin.[viii] Every mouth is also shut, each voice muted, silenced from any defensive appeal or any excuse, all the world accountable to Him with whom we have to do.[ix] The record in the books speaks for itself.

Here is Sagan’s “bottomless free fall” — mankind “lost in a great darkness.” He is right about that, since we are all guilty, and no judge owes a pardon. Atonement must be made. The debt must be paid. Justice must be perfect.

There is one more detail to the Story, though. I did not leave the students at Berkeley in despair, abandoned under the weight of their own guilt — culpability that we all shoulder, blame that we all share.

“The answer to guilt is not denial,” I told them. “That’s relativism. The answer to guilt,” I said, “is forgiveness. And this is where Jesus comes in.”

Sagan is right when he says we are lost. But he is wrong when he says, “There’s no one to send out a search party.” Clearly, man needs rescuing, and he cannot rescue himself. Help must come from the outside. From outside of ourselves. From outside of Sagan’s closed cosmos. From outside of this world.

And the search party has arrived. The Rescuer has come:

Therefore, when [Jesus] comes into the world, He says, “Sacrifice and offering You have not desired, but a body You have prepared for Me; in whole burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin You have taken no pleasure. Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come…to do Your will, O God.’” (Heb. 10:5–7)

Because our souls bear God’s own image, we are wonderful. Because we have rebelled against the God who gave us our beauty, we are broken, guilty, and ultimately lost. “For the wages of sin is death…” the Story tells us (Rom. 6:23). In the darkness, though, there is hope, because it then adds, “…but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

He is the One who calls to us:

Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest…for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (Matt. 11:28–29)

END NOTES

[i] Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space (New York: Random house, 1994), 6, 51.
[ii] Rhonda Bryne, The Secret (New York: Atria Books, 2006), 164.
[iii] In a previous issue of Solid Ground, I explain why Darwinism as a system is completely incapable of generating actual, objective moral obligations. See “God, Evolution, and Morality,” parts 1 and 2, at str.org.
[iv] Sagan, ibid.
[v] I owe this insight to C.S. Lewis.
[vi] Note Jesus’ comment in Matt. 19:4–6.
[vii] Rev. 20.
[viii] Gal. 3:22.
[ix] Rom. 3:19.

Greg Koukl is the author of Tactics, an apologetics primer, and The Story of Reality, which is a lot like this article. He is the founder and president of Stand to Reason, an organization that seeks to equip Christians to be knowledgeable, wise, and godly ambassadors of Christ. This article is reprinted with permission.


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