Creation Care

Prairie Dogs – Endangered

Scientists have cataloged about 1.2 million of an estimated 8.7 million species on the earth. Currently around 2,000 new species are discovered every year, while approximately 5,0000 become extinct each year. Christians believe that humans are to be responsible agents for God’s creation and as such, they  should strive to protect God’s creatures in the world around us.

What does the Bible say about creation care?

Genesis 1:26-30 reads:

 26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

27 So God created man in his own image,
    in the image of God he created him;
    male and female he created them.

28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” 29 And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. 30 And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so.

Everything God created was God and he created humanity to care for the plants and animals. We are to be God’s servant caretakers over the rest of his creation. 


Yetti Crab – Discovered 2006

How are humans to care for God’s creation?

Humans are to sustain life, they are to cultivate the plants and animals. They are to ensure the future of God’s other creatures.

What about endangered species?

Christians are to work to prevent creatures from going extinct and they are to stand up for their protection from illegal trappers and other such conditions that lead to the loss of their habitats.

Paedophryne amanuensis – Smallest Frog – Discovered 2012

What about new species?

It is difficult to care for species that we do not know exist, and therefore it is important for Christians (especially those who work as scientists) to seek out new species and to learn how to sustain them.


Brookesia micra – Smallest Chameleon – Discovered 2012


For more info on creation care check out the following site:  
  
http://restoringeden.org/resources/bibleverses

To see what science is doing to sustain and catalog life, check out the Encyclopedia of Life project: 

http://eol.org/

Fore more resources check out the links below:

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2011/08/110824-earths-species-8-7-million-biology-planet-animals-science/ 

http://www.arb-silva.de/projects/living-tree/ 

http://www.christianecology.org/Stewardship.html

Abortion

What is abortion?

Abortion occurs when a potential child in the womb is aborted or caused to end the developmental process leading to birth.

Often times when people get pregnant and decide to abort the child, they feel like they cannot raise the child well, or that people will be ashamed of them for having the child (especially if  the person is not married). Some feel that the ability to have an abortion should be the woman’s choice because it is her body. Others feel that she should not have a choice because it does not take into account the voice of the unborn child. Surprisingly very few arguments revolve around the voice of the father.

What do Christians believe about abortion?

Typically, Christians do not favor the practice of abortion. Christians believe that life comes from God and that when it is created, we have no right to end that life. Christians believe that life begins at the moment of conception.

Jeremiah 1:5 reads, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you.”

Additionally, Psalm 139:13-16 states, “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.”

Texts as early as the Didache (ca. 90 AD), condemn the practice of abortion and infanticide (killing a child after it is born).

Are there ever instances when Christians do support abortion?

Typically Christians do not support aborting a baby unless the mother’s life is in danger (such as an ectopic pregnancy – where the mother will die if the child is not removed). Abortion is a very sensitive issue and should be handled with care. The choice to have an abortion is deeply personal and it is difficult to understand a person’s situation and feelings in those moments. With that being said, here are three things that I believe about the issue:

  1. I believe that even if someone gets pregnant by accident, no human life is an accident.  Life is a gift from God, and all people should be given a chance to live.
  2. No one should be ashamed about having a child, even if the circumstances behind the pregnancy could be considered shameful.
  3. If you were to abort a child, how will living with that knowledge effect you in the future.

Responding to those who have had abortions

Christians can sometimes be quick to condemn those who have had abortions, but they have also been known to be quick to condemn those who get pregnant outside of marriage. I believe the church needs to reach out in love to those who have had abortions and they need to help them in their time of need. Additionally, if someone get’s pregnant outside of marriage, the church needs to embrace the person and love them through the pregnancy. The church should also commit to helping the person raise the child in the church. This of course assumes the person who is pregnant or had an abortion claims to be a Christian.

It is difficult to impose our moral beliefs on non-Christians for the same reasons we hold to them. But abortion is an issue that effects all of society and the future of our country. It is a social issue and Christians should in love point others towards the truth that all life is intrinsically valuable.

What happens to aborted children?

There is still hope that they will be saved. In 2 Samuel, David’s son dies only a few days after it was born. He is sad, but states that he will again be with the child after his death. Since the passage is part of Scripture, we can draw from it that the lives of unborn and infant children are in the hands of God.

2 Samuel 12 22 read:  “He said, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept, for I said, ‘Who knows whether the Lord will be gracious to me, that the child may live?’ 23 But now he is dead. Why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he will not return to me.”

What if I have had an abortion?

If you have had an abortion, you are not the first person to do something out of step with God’s will. We are all sinners and Christ died on the Cross to cover all sins. You may still come to Christ and find forgiveness and new life. When a woman caught in adultery was brought to Jesus in John 8, Jesus challenges the crowd and asks them who is without sin. After this, no one is able to condemn the woman. Jesus says he also does not condemn her and then he challenges her to go and sin no more. In this instance, Jesus is telling her to stop committing adultery.I believe he would say the same about lying, about stealing, about dishonoring one’s parents, about being a gossip, and about having an abortion. He is willing to forgive and therefore, the church too should be willing to forgive someone who has had an abortion.

John 8:11 states, “She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.””

What are the options?

If you are pregnant and you do not want to have an abortion, you can adopt or raise the child on your own. Both options are good and they will give your child a chance to have a wonderful life.

Links for Help and Further Questions:
 

http://www.optionline.org/

http://www.thehelpline.org/

http://www.priestsforlife.org/crisis.html

Sin

What is Sin? 
To begin with, sin is a word that is often considered taboo in today’s society.  The concept of sin is written off to human mistakes, illnesses, and irresponsibility.  It is rarely seen for what it truly is–moral guilt.
 
The Church has several theories concerning sin that encompass at least some of the total Christian doctrine concerning sin.  These ideas are as follows:

  1. Sin is violation or disobedience in relation to the divine commands or Law of God. (This idea stems from the meaning of the word “sin,” “hata” in Hebrew and “hamartanein” in Greek, both terms mean to “miss the mark.”)
  2. Sin is breaking the covenant with God and being unfaithful to Him.  (Many passages, especially in the Hebrew Scriptures discuss the unfaithfulness of Israel, or God’s chosen people.)
  3. Sin is willful, prideful rebellion against God and/or turning away from Him. (The Hebrew term “pesa” is usually translated as “transgression” or “rebellion,” the Greek term “apeitheia,” is translated as “disobedience.”  This idea about sin comes from the Biblical usage of these terms.)
  4. Sin is idolatry or the worship of a creature or created thing rather than the Creator of all. (Scripture often relates idolatry to sin, and it is for that very issue that Israel and Judah were sent into exile as recorded in Kings and Chronicles.)
  5. Sin is unbelief or not believing and trusting in the true God.  (This teaching refers to the “deliberate rejection” of Yahweh in the Hebrew Scriptures and specifically of the person of Christ in the New Testament.)
  6. Sin is selfishness. (James Orr considered this to be the setting up of self-will against God.)
  7. Sin is sloth or apathy in reference to knowing and doing the will of God.  (This idea helps us see sin more as omission.) [Garrett, 526-534]

 
We must remember that sin is unnatural, but that humanity has a propensity towards sinning because we live in a fallen state and our very natures have been corrupted.  God did not make sinners; rather, His creation was good and later it became corrupt. Sin is not always fully deliberate or voluntary, and some people may not know they are sinning in regards to every sin they commit.  Some sins are deliberate; some may be the result of ignorance.  Let it be known that once someone knows that a certain action is sinful, there is no longer room for ignorance when that sin is committed. 

 
Humans are sinful in their natures, thus God is not merely saving us from the things that we do, but He is saving us from who we are.

 
Sin originated with the choice of Satan, who then enticed humans to freely choose to disobey God, and because of the choices of Adam and Eve, man is now inclined to sin and cannot help but to do so. After the Fall, all humans were to be born separated or alienated from God, and would face guilt, suffering, and death.

 
All humans are born as depraved individuals.  John Calvin believed that original sin was a hereditary feature that corrupts all human beings in their souls; it makes all people subject to the wrath of God. Walter T. Conner later described human depravity as not only the ability to sin, but also as the inherent tendency to do so because of man’s moral weakness. It is inevitable that all humans will sin.  Total depravity can be understood as the corruption of every aspect of man’s being; man is unable to deliver himself from the power of sin.  Sinful depravity has corrupted our nature, but it has not caused us to lose our value.  God still values us, and while our image of Him is broken, it is not absent.  

 
Christianity and the Age of Accountability

 
As was already noted above, humans are not always conscious of their sins, but they do become conscious (at least of certain sins) over time.  There is some question as to exactly when this conscious awareness of sin occurs.  Some theologians have argued for an age of accountability.  This idea is generally argued for the purpose of wanting to believe that children who die at a young age may be allowed to enter into God’s presence in the eternal state.  Some see infants and young children as depraved, but not as sinners or as being guilty.  This view is known as the age of accountability view. 

 
Another view is the theory that the redemptive work of Christ is applicable and efficacious to infants and young children who die in infancy or early childhood.  The idea is that these children cannot yet understand the Gospel, and so they must wait to receive it until they are old enough to understand it.  Consequently, children who die before they receive the Gospel and who cannot understand it can still rest in the promise and grace of God. 

 
W. T. Conner espoused a third view which is somewhat of a combination view.  He believed that young children were not sinners or guilty until they reach the age of accountability.  Thus, when young children sin, they are not accountable.

 
The Need for Repentance

 
When someone becomes conscious of sin, that person recognizes his or her willful disobedience and pride.  Niebuhr identified four kinds of pride: (1) powerful pride (relating to the social status of groups and/or individuals), (2) intellectual pride (forgetting that all our knowledge is finite), (3) moral pride (self-righteousness), and (4) spiritual pride (self-deification). Secondly, consciousness of sin is intended to lead to repentance.

Sinners are alienated from God; they are at enmity with Him.  Sinners are in bondage and are not free in the truest sense of the term. 

 
God must, in His divine grace, take the individual from corruption to renewed righteousness.

Humans who are alienated from God will face God’s wrath if repentance is not realized.  The wrath of God results in both physical and spiritual death.  Spiritual death is commonly understood as spending eternity in the Lake of Fire (Hell), where the individual will eternally suffer.

 
God intends for humans to act justly towards one another in love.  The opposite of this is to act unjustly towards one another out of hatred. Sin causes people to become hardhearted, and ultimately it leads to disaster.  Pharaoh in the Hebrew Scriptures may be one of the most illustrated examples of this.  As his heart became harder, it ultimately led to the death of his firstborn child.  Beyond this, he had eternal consequences to pay as well.

 
What now?

 
I want to encourage you to spend some time in prayer asking God to reveal to you attitudes and actions in your life that need to change.  Think of things you can do to make those changes, and remember that apart from the strength of the Holy Spirit in your life, you cannot do anything.  Do not let your heart become hardened to the conviction of God’s Spirit, but instead allow Him to conform you to the person He wants you to be.

Being Human

What does it mean to be a human?

The Bible teaches us that God created humans to be his representatives on earth. This world belongs to God and we are to care for it. But what separates us from other creatures? Why is being human special?

Ten things about humanity:

  1. Humanity is a direct creation of God, not descended from any other being.
  2. Humanity is created out of the earth (at death, our corrupted bodies return to it).
  3. Humanity is created in the image of God. This means that humans are like God in any and every way that humans can be seen to be like God. 
  4. Humans are the only rational beings capable of making moral judgments.
  5. Humans are the only creatures created with a will or volition. 
  6. Humans were created as holy beings before the fall.  Humans were created absent of any kind of evil and remained that way until the fall.
  7. Humans are the only creatures who were created with immortality.  Humans were created to live for eternity.
  8. God made humanity lord over all creatures in Genesis 1: 26.  The Earth was created for humanity’s enjoyment and for humanity’s use. 
  9. Humanity has been created as both a physical and spiritual being (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). Humans have a body and a soul. 2 Corinthians 5:10 teaches that the body is the partner to the soul. If we do not relate to God as physical beings, we do not relate to God at all. To think about God, we must use our mind, which includes our brain, which is both spiritual and physical. We always relate to God in physical ways, we praise Him with our tongues and lips, we long to know Him in the seat of our emotions, we link this to our hearts, and we want to see Him with our eyes. [Only Christ can separate the soul and the spirit (Hebrews 4:12). The word “soul” is used in Scripture in relation to the things of the world. The word “spirit” is used in Scripture in relation to the things of God. There will be a reuniting of the soul and the body at the resurrection. To say the body is the whole of what makes someone human is not Scriptural. To say that the spirit is the whole of what makes someone a human is also not Scriptural. The Bible teaches that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord, 2 Corinthians 5:8. However, we will not again be fully human until our bodies are restored in the eternal state.]
  10. The body and soul are transmitted through natural birth, and humans are born into sin at conception.[It is not Scriptural to say that our souls pre-existed. To say that God creates the soul at the moment of conception and that He places the immaterial part of man in the body at conception is also not Scriptural.]

Community

To be human, we must have three distinct relationships, one with God, one with other humans, and one with the earth. We cannot separate our relationship with other humans from our relationship with God. If we are at odds with another person, in worship we must leave our gifts at the altar and first be reconciled to that individual. God loves other believers as much as He loves you, and you cannot love God without feeling the same way about those around you. God created humans for the purpose of worshiping Him (John 4: 23) and for the purpose of living eternally with Him in fellowship (Revelations 21:3).

Humanity is fundamentally a community. Genesis 1:26-27 teaches that God created people, and it uses plural pronouns, such as “them” and “us.” This does not teach individualism; man needed woman. Even when Adam walked with God in the Garden, God said to Adam, “It is not good for man to be alone.” Humans were not made to be in private relationships with God alone, isolated from others, but they were to have relationships with God through and with each other. Some of the most meaningful times in worship are in the midst of the community worshiping as the community. God is a communal being, and He has sovereignly chosen to create us in His image as communal beings.

Humans should also have relationships with other creatures, but that should not kill or replace our relationships with other humans (Ephesians 2:11-16).  We are to love God’s creation and care for it as if we are caring for God’s own possessions.  After all, the earth is the Lord’s, and all that is in it belongs to Him.

Humans are also created to have a relationship with the earth. We were created for the earth, it is our home, and we are to subdue it, care for it, and rule over it. We are to multiply and fill it.

The Fall of Humanity

The Fall is a real historical event. The first temptation was to cast doubt on the veracity of the word of God and it promised something God had already given.  The second was to question the goodness of God. When Adam chose to disobey God, God placed a curse on natural creation.  Instead of humans being at peace with creation and ruling over it, the Fall caused humanity to be at war with creation. Another result of the Fall was human mortality, making people subject to physical death (Hebrews 9:27). This also caused spiritual death, or separation in the relationship between man and God. If nothing is done in this time, it leads to the second death (Ephesians 2:1; Revelation 20:14). If someone is only born once, that person will die twice.  Today, all humans are born spiritually dead.  Our nature is inclined towards sin, and we are totally depraved.  Additionally, as a result of the Fall of man, a curse was placed upon creation, but that curse will be lifted at the coming of the New Heavens and the New Earth (Romans 8:19-21; 2 Peter 3:13).

According to Romans 6:6, the inclination to sin can be controlled by believers now but it will eventually be removed entirely (Revelation 21:27).  Christ forgives our personal sins and allows us to survive the Fall through the faith we place in Him (Ephesians 1:7).  The “old man” is the person you used to be; therefore, these passages refer to the old lifestyle as being what no longer exists in us because with salvation we may now live for Christ.

The Restoration of Humanity

God’s salvation in Christ has taken care of the effects of the Fall (2 Peter 3:13; Isaiah 11:1-10).  In salvation, mortality will be swallowed in immortality (1 Corinthians 15:51-57).  No one will even be subject to death in the resurrected state (1 Corinthians 15:23).  There will be reconciliation and regeneration but no second death for those in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1).

The Lord’s Name

Exodus 20:7 states, “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.”

What does it mean to take the name of the Lord in vain?

Mark Driscoll has noted that the idea of taking God’s name in vain has to do with using it in an inconsequential, or trivial manner. Such a use would show disrespect or dishonor.

There are several ways this can be done.

Perhaps you have heard someone say “I swear to God” and then later the person does not do what he or she said. This is akin to making a promise on the name of the Lord, and then not keeping it. It is a disrespectful way to use God’s name.

Similarly, when someone chooses to speak for God but the message does not actually come from God, it is an act of taking his name in vain. It is equivalent to making God out to be a liar, because words are being attributed to him that are not his own. In this case someone might say, “But God told me to tell you…” if in reality God did not give the person that message.

It is also wrong to use God’s name for our own benefit. This occurs when someone attempts to do something for his or her own glory or ego, but then says it is being done for the Lord.

Finally, when we tale his name lightly such as saying OMG, or using it in a curse. This disrespects the name of the Lord and it should be avoided.

Our God is the most powerful being in existence. His name is the “Name Above All Names” and as Christians we should treat with respect both God himself and his name.

When you use God’s name…let it be for his glory…not your shame.
 

Gambling

Gambling is the act of taking a risk with the hope of receiving a desired result. Some forms of gambling are mandated. For example, car insurance is a gamble, the driver bets they will have an accident and need assistance while the insurance company bets they will not. Other forms of gambling such as playing the lottery are left to the discretion of those wishing to play the game.

What does the Bible say about gambling?

1 Timothy 6:10 reads, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.”

While this verse does not deal directly with gambling, it does suggest that we are not to love money. Consequently, many who become addicted to gambling have an unhealthy view on seeking wealth.

Proverbs 16:33 states, “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.”

From this verse we see that the Lord controls where the lot falls. In other words, what we often deem as chance, is actually controlled by God.

Should Christians gamble?

One major question that many have asked is whether or not it is acceptable for Christians to gamble?  As a result of what gambling has done to some people, many Christians have decided to not partake in gambling at all.

The way I see it, gambling can be very dangerous, but it does not have to be.  Like many other issues, I think it is better to practice moderation when it comes to gambling.  Gambling could potentially destroy a family, put someone in more debt than can ever be repaid, cause someone to lose his or her home, and it can lead to many physical health problems if it prevents the person from eating or makes him or her worry too much.  

But if someone sets aside a certain portion of their money and does not spend more than he or she has allotted, then it is really no different than having a budget to go to the movies or out to eat every month.

If you struggle with self-control and keeping yourself in moderation, than you should not gamble, if you do not struggle with self-control, then it might be acceptable for you.  The final question you have to ask is whether or not the thing your gambling on is moral.  You should not cheat, and you should not bet on anything that is immoral.

Getting Help:

If you have a struggle with gambling or need help with a gambling addiction, here are two good resources:

http://www.gamblersanonymous.org/ga/ 

and

http://www.helpguide.org/mental/gambling_addiction.php

Creation

Hopetoun Falls, Australia

The book of Genesis teaches that God created in seven days.  The first two chapters of this book explain how God created, as do many other passages of Scripture.  From the Bible we can learn that creation is dependent upon God (Isaiah 40:6-8), that He created from his own free will (Revelation 4:11), God created by His spoken word (Genesis 1:1-2), God’s creation was good (Genesis 1:31), and creation is the background of redemption because the Creator is also the Redeemer (Colossians 1:13-17) [Garrett].

Additionally, creation is something that took place in history and one reason God created was for His glory (Isaiah 43:7).

Scripture also teaches us that the Trinity worked in the creation as Father, Son, and Spirit.  In Genesis, we see a special emphasis placed on the Son as it teaches that the Word of God created different things; John in his Gospel tells us that Jesus is the Word (John 1:1).  God spoke creation into existence, and later, the spoken Word of God became incarnate to redeem the creation that was originally fashioned as something good.

The Creation of Earth

Today, there are at least ten explanations concerning the creation of the earth and the Genesis account of Scripture.

  • Literal Day Theory – God created the world in six successive 24-hour days.
  • Religious Language Theory – Genesis is a theological account and says nothing about science.
  • Flood Theory – This theory teaches that the Flood made it difficult to know the true age of the earth. (This theory also attempts to account for animal and plant life in the earth’s strata, but most geologists do not recognize this theory as valid.)
  • Successive Catastrophes – This view is similar to the flood theory, but proponents hold to the idea that there were a series of floods and catastrophes and then new creations.
  • Six-Day Theory – This theory teaches that the creation was limited to a small area in Mesopotamia where God just rehabilitated a small portion of the earth.
  • Gap Theory – This theory teaches that there was a long interval of time between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2. This theory is not supported by the Hebrew language of these passages.
  • The Day-Age Theory - This theory teaches that each day of creation was actually a longer period of time.
  • Literal but not Successive Days – This theory teaches that God created the world in six literal days, but that they were not one right after the other.
  • Open Day Theory – This theory states that the creation was not limited to the six days, so that if a creature was created on a certain day, it could have also been in the process of creation on a later day.
  • Revelatory Day Theory – Theory that God revealed the creation to Moses on six days.  Thus, the days are not related to the age of the earth. The days are more topical than chronological.  Each day is seen as an allegory according to this view.

Each of these theories has strengths and weaknesses; however, some of these theories are really just slight variations of one another.  The major theories include the Literal Day Theory, the Revelatory Day Theory, the Day-Age Theory, and the Gap Theory.

The Age of the Earth

The Revelatory Day Theory, the Day-Age Theory, and the Gap Theory all argue that the earth can in fact be as old as it appears to be. These views argue for an old earth. The Literal Day Theory argues for a younger earth.

The Recent Creation Theory or Scientific Creationism states that science is in error, that the earth and the universe were not created billions of years ago, and that they only came into existence several thousand years ago. This theory does not try to establish a set date.

Proponents of this view argue for the Appearance of Age. They claim that the apparent age of anything in Genesis was created by God ready to be used by him in a mature state. One biblical example of this is that of the new wine in John 2, which the people believed had aged for many years.

If you had presented Adam to scientists and told them that he was only a few hours old, they would have assumed a thousand reasons why Adam should have been an adult male. For those who have no belief in the supernatural, they will always find supernatural events unimaginable and impossible when it comes to the subject of Genesis, but the entirety of the data from science reinforces the supernatural power of God.

The debate between creation and evolution is not a matter of evidence; it is a matter of presuppositions. Neither of these two views can be proven, just as it cannot be proven that there is no God, and it cannot be proven that there is a God.

The Bible is a book of miracles. It starts in Genesis 1 with God creating the world out of nothing. From there it just keeps on going. If someone has a problem with supernatural miracles, then he or she might as well close the Bible. When any person observes the Bible, he or she will find that miraculous things will be found continuously from the very first page.

Views on the creation of the universe and the origin of life are philosophical, not scientific; science is observed. In order to prove anything about the origin of life, someone must observe it. Since no person living today was present when the earth was created, discussion of the topic is not rightly classified as scientific.

Humanity

Just as different theories concern the creation of the earth and the universe, different theories also concern the special creation of man.  This has been the case ever since the publication of The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin in 1859.

Three basic theories concern the creation of humanity.  The first view is Instantaneous Creation.  This view is held by Henry Morris (1918-2006) and teaches that humanity was created instantly. Proponents of this view usually hold to the Literal Day Theory of Genesis. 

The second view is Theistic Evolution.  This view holds to the idea of evolution, while at the same time, teaches that God was intricately involved in the work and even imparted the spiritual nature of Adam to him at a specific point.  This is similar to Augustine’s beliefs about creation, although Augustine made more of a distinction between creation in actuality and possibility.  He argued that first God created man in possibility (as a concept) and later in actuality. 

The third view is known as Progressive Creation.  This view teaches that God was active in initiating the process of evolution and was also active at bringing forth new life forms at different stages in the process of evolution.  Augustine also held similar ideas to this view when he taught that God guided the seeds of creation.

It is clear that there are a number of ideas and interpretations about the special creation of man, but one thing that each view shares is the belief that God had a special plan for humanity.  This plan involved God’s providence, sovereignty, and nature.

According to Wayne Grudem, providence may be defined as “the doctrine that God is continually involved with all created things in such a way that he (1) keeps them existing and maintaining the properties with which he created them; (2) cooperates with created things in every action, directing their distinctive properties to cause them to act as they do; and (3) directs them to fulfill his purposes.” 

If we are to accept Grudem’s definition, then we must agree that God creates, sustains, and directs all things.  This is a very good definition. God’s providence shows the goodness and the love of God, even in the midst of suffering.  God lovingly rules over His creation, sustaining and directing it, and sharing with it His good nature. Not only has God created and sustained humanity, but He has specifically created humanity to bear His image.

So what do Christians believe about creation?

We can learn several specific things from the creation account in Genesis and from other passages in the Bible. Regardless of the position someone holds as to the age of the earth, all Christians can agree on the following eight things:

  1. God created the Heavens and the Earth and all things visible and invisible which fill them (Genesis 1, Colossians 1:16; Acts 17:24; John 1).
  2. God created by His word (Genesis 1, Psalm 33).
  3. God created through His Son (Hebrews 1; John 1; Colossians 1).
  4. God created in six days, whether they were twenty-four hours or not. God created progressively.  This is also how God works with His creatures; sanctification is a progressive process (Genesis 1).
  5. God values His creation; all He created is good (Genesis 1).
  6. All things are created for the glory of God (Revelation 4; Colossians 1).
  7. We are never more advanced in our concept of God than when we worship Him as Creator. Salvation is God saving what He created; His creatures should worship Him as Creator (Revelation 4). We worship through obedience.
  8.  God the Father created through the Son by the Spirit.

My Views:

I hold to the literal view that God created in 6 twenty-four hour days. However, I also believe that the earth is older than some Creationists suggests. I think it is at least 25,000 years old. I believe God created in a mature state and that as a result things appear to be older than they are. This was not an attempt by God to deceive humanity, but rather so that He could begin to bless his creation more quickly. When Jesus healed the lame, they did not have to learn to walk as an infant does, and I believe the same is true with the account of creation.

I believe that God sustains his creation and that humans have a responsibility to do the same. We were created as his caretakers of this world. In the garden Adam was to attend to the animals and today we should do the same. I believe that when animals go extinct (about 5,000 a year) we are not doing our job well to care for God’s creation. I also believe that over time God has introduced new species to the world through micro-evolution. We discover about 2,000 new species every year.

Finally, I do not believe dinosaurs became extinct millions of years ago. I believe that they died out over time and that they did in fact co-exist with humans. By co-exist I mean that humans and dinosaurs were on the earth at the same time, but that does not mean humans were keeping them around as pets. There is evidence to support this in Scripture, but also in history.

Below is a video series that sheds some light on these ideas:

and

 
I don’t agree with everything in these videos, but they both bring up some interesting evidence and raise some good questions.

Resources:

James Leo Garrett, Systematic Theology: Biblical, Historical, and Evangelical, v. 1, 2d., (North Richland Hills: BIBAL Press, 2000), 347-367.

Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 1252.

The Church

(Riverside New York)

The Church is made up of all believers past, present, and future. It is not restricted to any one denomination or building. It is made up of believers from all over the world. To know if any group of people claiming to be Christian is actually part of the Church, one must look at the doctrines which that group of worshipers holds as true. For example, if the church affirms the Trinity, claims that all men are sinners, that Christ is the savior, and that He sends the Holy Spirit to indwell believers, then it is true Church. If the church adds to these doctrines or denies any of the basic tenets of the faith, then the church is a false church. 

The Tasks and Practices of the Church

The Church is to do three specific tasks in this world:

  1. The Church is to focus ministry on God through the act of worship (Ephesians 1:12, 5:16-19; Colossians 3:16). 
  2. The Church is to focus on ministry to believers (Colossians 1:28; Ephesians 4:12-13). This involves nurturing other believers through caring for widows, helping the orphans, giving money or goods to those in need, fellowshipping with one another, praying for one another, and teaching one another in the faith. 
  3. The Church is to focus on its ministry to the world (Matthew 28:19; Acts 11:29; 1 John 3:17). This involves, again, helping the orphans, widows, and those in need, as well as evangelizing.

Wayne Grudem notes twelve characteristics of a pure church:

  1. Biblical Doctrine (correct preaching of the Word)
  2. Proper Use of the Sacraments or Ordinances (Lord’s Supper, Baptism, etc.).
  3. Right Use of Church Discipline
  4. Genuine Worship
  5. Effective Prayer
  6. Effective Witness
  7. Effective Fellowship
  8. Biblical Church Government
  9. Spiritual Power in Ministry
  10. Personal Holiness of Life Among the Church Members
  11. Care for the Poor
  12. Love for Christ (Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994], 874.)

No local church will accurately and clearly display all of these features, at least not all of the time. That is because the Universal Church is made up of sinners saved by grace, but sinners nonetheless. The Holy Spirit leads us into truth, but we have not reached the eternal state yet, and, as a result, we have not yet been made perfect. We, however, should strive to have all of these characteristics in our own churches. Our churches should also strive for unity with one another. We are not to be in competition; rather, we are to work together for the good of God’s Kingdom.

Millard J. Erickson has come up with several guidelines for knowing when churches should and should not work together; they are as follows:

  1. The Church of Jesus Christ is one Church.
  2. Spiritual unity should be expressed in fellowship and love for each other.
  3. Christians of all types should work together whenever possible.
  4. Churches should carefully distinguish doctrinal bases and objectives for fellowship with any organizations or other churches.
  5. Churches should guard against any union that would hinder the spiritual vitality of the church.
  6. Churches should not be too quick to split off from their parent denomination.
  7. Separations between churches should be the result of genuine convictions and principles, not personal conflicts or selfish ambitions.
  8. When churches disagree, they must do so in love, never as a result of hatred. (Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology, 2d [Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1998], 1137-1140.)

The Power of the Church

The Church has the power and the calling to perform three tasks in this world. First, the Church has the power and calling to engage in spiritual warfare (Ephesians 6:10-18). Second, the Church has the power and calling to proclaim and spread the Gospel [this is to be done through peaceful means as God’s kingdom is a kingdom peace] (Matthew 28:19-20). Third, the Church has the power and calling to exercise Church discipline. The purpose of exercising Church discipline is so that it will lead to reconciliation and restoration of the person being disciplined. The purpose of discipline is not so that believers can show that they are holier than the one being cast out, and discipline is never meant to be a permanent casting out (1 Corinthians 5).

Church discipline should be exercised biblically, and those exercising it must remember that they are to do more good than harm. This makes a healthy degree of tolerance an acceptable thing (Romans 14:1-23). Church discipline should be carried out in order to protect other believers within the body and the purity of the Church (1 Corinthians 5:1-2). It should also be carried out in order to keep the sin from spreading throughout the body (Hebrews 12:15). There are several other reasons why Church discipline should be carried out: when someone is being divisive in the body (Titus 3:10), incest (1 Corinthians 5), when someone is lazy and refusing to help with any of the Church’s work (2 Thessalonians 3:6-10), and when someone disobeys the teachings of the Apostles (2 Thessalonians 3:15-16).

When Church discipline is carried out, it first needs to be done in a way that keeps the knowledge of the sin to the smallest group possible (Matthew 18:15-17). One should go to the person sinning. If the person refuses to listen, then a couple of others in the Church should go back to the person. If this does not work, then the sin should finally be brought before the congregation. If a Church leader sins, it should be brought before the Church so that it does not appear like a cover-up or conspiracy at a later date (1 Timothy 5:19-20).

It is also worth noting that discipline is for those within the church, not those who are not part of it.

Church Government

Different churches exercise leadership in different ways. In Scripture we see that there is a need for Church elders and for deacons. Today, there are offices in our churches that do not appear in Scripture, but they seem to still be valid offices. These offices include youth ministers, music ministers, administrators, etc. Regardless of the way that any one church sets up its leadership, it is clear that the people chosen for leadership positions within the Church should be mature Christians, they should exemplify moral behavior, they should be Christ-like in character, and they should affirm the basic tenets of the Christian faith. In 1 Timothy 3:2, it states that an elder/bishop/pastor (the terms elder and bishop are used somewhat synonymously in the New Testament) should be the husband of one wife. This is a statement to refute the idea of polygamy; it is not a statement claiming that a leader could have never had a divorce. This is not to say that it is acceptable for pastors to get divorces, but there should be room for forgiveness here, especially if the elder or other Church leader was the innocent party in the situation.

Disease and Cancer

In your lifetime, you have probably known at least one person who has struggled with disease or cancer.  I just want to encourage you to love anyone who may be having a bout and do your best to serve and help them in this time.  This always leads to the question of human suffering, and why do we suffer, especially when there is no apparent reason.

Sometimes we do not know the reason, and sometimes we do, but regardless, we can trust that God is still in control of the situation.  He may be teaching us, or those around us something as a result of the struggle.  It may be that the suffering is a consequence of living in a world tainted by sin.  But either way, the person who is suffering still needs love and hope, and we need to give them as much as we can through our prayers, words, and testimonies.

Some cancers are curable, others are not. Both kinds are scary. I have known people who have beaten cancer, and I have known people who have lost the battle.

What does the Bible say about disease and cancer?

2 Corinthians 4:16-18 reads, “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”

The Bible itself does not actually say much about cancer, but it recognizes the frail state of our existence. It focuses on the reality that our bodies become week and that we will eventually die. Despite our physical ailments, the Bible teaches that God renews and refreshes our souls.

Revelation 21:4 states, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

Christians believe that after Christ returns, we will all be given new bodies that will never again be subject to disease, cancer, decay, or death.

How can we help those who are struggling with diseases or cancer?
 
We can pray for those who are going through a battle with cancer, we can also provide for them a listening ear. We can help with things they are not able to do on their own while in treatment, such as cleaning their homes, providing meals, walking their dogs, etc. We can also do normal things with them like watch a movie or play a video game. These kinds of things might give them a break from thinking about the medical condition that is currently controlling their lives. We can raise funds for them to help offset their medical costs as well.

How does God walk with those who are suffering?

Psalm 138:3 reads, “On the day I called, you answered me;  my strength of soul you increased.”

God hears the prayers of all who are willing to call out to him.

Psalm 33:20-22, states “Our soul waits for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name. Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us, even as we hope in you.”

We can trust God to provide us with spiritual strength and we can be reminded that he is walking with us through our suffering.

Philippians 4:6-7 reads, “
do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

God will guard our hearts and give us peace, even when the outcomes of our situations do not look hopeful.

Isaiah 41:10 states, “fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

I recently learned that a friend of mine growing up lost the battle to cancer a couple of years ago when he was 26 years old. It was about 2 years after the last time I saw him. He was in Dallas and we met downtown to have dinner at a restaurant. I did not know then that it would be the last time we would see each other. But I am hopeful that we will see each other again, when the Lord returns. 

Helpful links:

http://www.cancer.org/treatment/index

Salvation

Son of God (2014)

Christians often talk about being saved. The term salvation carries with it a great deal of baggage. What exactly do Christians mean when they say they have been saved? What does salvation entail? Below are the basic Christian beliefs about salvation.

What must someone do in order to be saved?  What does the Scripture say about how someone appropriates the benefits of Christ’s death?  The Scriptures teach us very plainly what it means for someone to be saved and what someone must do to become saved.

  • Acts 16:30-31: One must believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.
  • Acts 2:38: One must repent and be baptized.
  • Romans 10:9-10: One must confess that Jesus is Lord and believe that in his or her heart.
  • Romans 10:13: One must call upon the name of the Lord.
  • Romans 15:12: One must hope or trust in the Lord (the root of Jesse–NIV).
  • Matthew 28:19-20: One becomes a disciple and is then told to go and make disciples.
  • Matthew 16:24: One must deny him or herself, take up his or her cross, and follow Christ.
  • Acts 3:19: One must repent and be converted.

In summary, to be saved, one must believe, repent and be converted, confess sins, call on the name of Jesus, hope and trust in Him, become a disciple, make disciples, deny self, and take up the cross.  Most of the steps listed above are somewhat synonymous.  Repent, believe, hope, and trust overlap in their definitions.  Today, we even use different expressions when we give alter calls in our worship services.  One week the pastor may say, “If anyone would like to give his or her life to Christ,” and the next week he might say, “If anyone would like to accept Christ as Savior.”  The expressions are different, but the idea behind them is very much the same.  The bottom line is that salvation is receiving the gift of God through Jesus Christ.  All Christians are saved by God’s grace as they place their faith in Christ.

By confessing our sins, we are agreeing with God that our sinful actions and nature are wrong.  We are admitting to God that our sins separate us from Him because He is Holy.  We are confessing that we are in the wrong and that we do not want to be separated from Him or be out of fellowship with Him.  When we confess that Jesus is Lord, we are stating that we believe Jesus Christ is exactly who He claimed to be: the second person of the Trinity.  We are told in 1 John 1:9 that we are to confess our sins and here we see that this idea goes hand in hand with the concept of repentance.  It is impossible to confess without repenting because repentance is a changing of heart and mind. If confessing is admitting our wrong and being reconciled to God, then repentance is a necessary step in our confession.  Confessing and repenting also go hand in hand with believing.  If we believe in Christ, we will confess His Lordship over our lives, and we will repent of the things we have done in disobedience to Him.

The verses above mention believing in the Lord, but we must ask, exactly what it is one needs to believe to accurately receive salvation?

  • To be saved, one must have a Trinitarian concept of God, because if God is not seen in a Triune way, then the god being seen is not the God of Christianity.
  • One must also believe in the full deity and humanity of Christ; if Christ did not become human he could not have made the sacrifice to redeem us.
  • One must believe that humans are utterly lost physically and spiritually. If we are not lost, there is no sin.  If there is no sin, Christ had nothing to redeem us from.

Finally, to be saved, someone must believe in the Penal Substitutionary Atonement and bodily resurrection of Christ.  The Penal Substitutionary Atonement is the idea that Christ died to pay the penalty for our sins as a substitute in our place. If Christ did not die as a substitute for the sins of all of mankind, then His death was in vain. If Christ did not rise from the dead, then God did not accept His sacrifice and all of us are condemned to Hell.

A few things about our need for salvation:

  • Christians believe that all people have sinned (Romans 3:23).
  • Christians believe that God must punish sin, and therefore people deserve spiritual death (Romans 6:23).
  • Jesus dies to pay for our sins and through belief in him, anyone can be saved from spiritual death (Romans 5:8).

A few things about Christ’s death related to our salvation:

  • Christ redeems us or delivers us from sin (Romans 7:14).
  • Christ took our punishment for our sin on the cross and now allows us to receive grace from God (1 John 2:2).
  • Christ died as a substitute for us on the cross (1 Peter 2:24).
  • Christ reconciles us to God bringing us back into fellowship with the Creator (Romans 5:10).

A few things about receiving salvation:

  • Salvation results in regeneration, or the act of receiving new spiritual life (Ezekiel 36:26-27).
  • Christians must be willing to receive Jesus for salvation (John 1:12). To receive Jesus is to depend on him for salvation.
  • Salvation leads to repentance. Repentance is renouncing the things that do not glorify God and living in obedience to his word, the Bible.
  • Salvation results in justification. Justification means that God no longer holds our sins against us and that he views us as righteous (without sin) in his sight (Romans 3:20).
  • Salvation results in adoption. When we receive Christ, we are adopted into the family of God (John 1:12).
  • Salvation begins the process of sanctification. Sanctification is the process of growing in the faith and becoming more like Christ in how we act and think. This process continues throughout our life. As we grow in the faith and become more like Christ, we become more free from sin and virtue becomes more apparent in our lives (Romans 6:11-13).
  • When Christians receive salvation, the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in their hearts helping them to lead a life of obedience to God (1 Corinthians 3:16).
  • The end result of salvation is receiving a new incorruptible body that will no longer suffer or face decay. Christians will live in this new body for eternity in the presence of God in the new heavens and the new earth where there will no longer be any sin (1 Corinthians 15:51-52, Romans 8:19-23)

The following site also has a nice write-up on salvation: http://christthetruth.net/2013/09/11/ten-thoughts-on-salvation/