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14. Moral, Political and Doctrinal Issues

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Humble Opinions and Constructive Ideas

In this lesson I offer my opinions and suggestions for at least partial solutions regarding a few controversial issues.  Many people either avoid these issues or else mention only their viewpoint, as though that settles the issue, but I attempt to consider both sides of the debate in hope of resolving the disagreement.  

Abortion

The key issue is defining if/when a developing fetus becomes a person with the legal status of right to life that trumps any selfish desire of its mother to terminate it, as though it were merely an appendage of her body.  Observing photographs of a living seven month old prematurely born baby and the same baby in the womb a few moments prior to being born should lead an objective mother and truthseeker to understand that geographical location or mode of nourishment is not a valid basis for defining personhood.  As we consider this matter, we should keep in mind that the negative side of this coin regarding a baby's right to live is deciding when killing it is murder and warrants punishment.  Considerations other than the advent of personhood are irrelevant, unless someone would use the same rationale to justify the killing of post-born children and adults.

The debate regarding abortion includes three sides or distinct positions.  Those who adopt the "conceptionist" viewpoint note that a qualitative change occurs when the chromosomes in the egg and sperm are united, so that physical development of a new human being begins.  (They should mourn the death of a miscarried fetus at any stage of development in the same manner they would memorialize the death of a post-birth baby, in order to practice what they preach or believe.)  Those who adopt the "birthist" opinion naively assume that birth is the qualitative change that marks the beginning of personhood (but note the remark concerning the two photos above.)  While I have greater sympathy with the conceptionists, because I do not want to encourage the practice of abortion as a birth control method, considering how death is determined scientifically leads me to arrive at a "golden mean" position that may be termed "sentientism", which is described next.

The most scientific method doctors employ to determine when an adult person no longer is alive is the cessation or absence of certain brain wave activity in the cortex as detected by an electroencephalo-gram (EEG).  These brain waves are associated with what we call “sentience” or "brain life".  If our best definition of sentient death is the cessation of these cortical brain waves, then it is logical and consistent to view sentient life as beginning at least when these brain waves are detectable.  Thus, I think every open-minded and truth-seeking person on both sides of the abortion debate should agree that the fetus becomes sentient and a legal person at least by that stage of development, which is by the eighth week or end of the second month.  Birthists and conceptionists should become sentientists.  This position allows abortion in order to save the life of the mother, as well as most forms of birth control, and it recognizes that a gray area still exists from conception until cortical brain activity or sentience (the third month), so people may still reasonably disagree about the status of the fetus during this period, which may change as science improves.

 Implementing this solution requires educating every post-pubescent person about fetal development until society develops a new consensus that when a fetus becomes sentient, abortion in the last two trimesters of pregnancy is a type of murder and should be punished appropriately.  Two wrongs do not make a right.


Biomedical Ethics
 

Biomedical ethics includes the issues of genetic engineering, artificial insemination, cloning, euthanasia and assisted suicide.  The danger of genetic engineering is that experimentation might result in the accidental creation of an incurable disease or have other unforeseen negative consequences.  However, until it is probable that misuse would harm humanity, it seems worth the risks for society to permit the right use of learning while outlawing and guarding against its misuse.  (A similar moral dilemma is involved with nuclear power.)  Misuse would include experimentation that murdered sentient fetuses.  (See the preceding discussion of abortion.)

Given the very likely potential that over-population will destroy humanity, a logical argument can be made that the need world-wide is for adoption and sterilization methods rather than for reproductive  ones.  I prefer that these actions be voluntary or encouraged by tax policy.  Passive euthanasia defined as the decision by a person not to use extraordinary means to prolong his/her agony should not be viewed as either murder or suicide.  It is what society once called the natural death that is as inevitable as taxes.  A principle that can be applied to suicide is the injunction by Moses to choose life when offered the choice between life and death (DT 30:19).  This implies that a person who is contemplating suicide because his/her life is miserable should seek counseling (HB 10:25) and comfort (MT 5:4).  We should cope rather than seek escape as long as is humanely possible.

Finally, given the finite resources and extreme expense of extra-ordinary medical care, it is unreasonable for people to feel entitled to such, although perhaps they can afford to purchase it.  Of course, determining the line between ordinary and extraordinary medical care is problematic and mutable, so politicians or holders of the purse strings need to decide where to draw the line fairly so as not to discriminate against the poor in society.

Criminal Justice 

The current system of criminal justice in the United States sometime seems to be more criminal than just.  I suggest reforming the system in the following way.  The key element in my suggestion is for special federal courts to assess a monetary restitution and identify the victim(s) for every felony crime, including murder.  The punishment for people convicted of crimes would be to work at a menial labor type of job (preferably for a private company) for the minimum wage ten hours per day and six days per week.  Their wages would be garnisheed 100% and sent to their victim(s), except for the room and board surcharge and the savings account mentioned below, until the restitution was paid.  Of course, no one could pay the penalty from other funds, so the length of the sentence is determined automatically.

This system eliminates plea-bargaining, parole and death row.  Those who are judged to be guilty and insane would be assigned to special facilities for that type of inmate.  Plea-bargaining is eliminated, because the role of lawyers (both defense and prosecution) is to determine truth (guilt or innocence) and to assign a just penalty/restitution in cooperation with the jury (rather than to hide truth from the jury if necessary in order to win, as is now the case).  Anyone who intentionally withheld information pertinent to establishing the truth and a fair penalty (including lawyers) would be culpable of a crime.  The role of the judge would be to give the jury guidance regarding an appropriate penalty to fit the crime, so that there is not any significant disparity from court to court or from state to state.  Of course, this represents a paradigm shift from the present system.

The intent of this system is to maximize the probability of reforming criminals at affordable cost to society.  The assessed restitution for a first-time offender would be minimal on the assumption that the prisoner would reform until their behavior indicates otherwise.  To the initial restitution would be added a uniform (system-wide) daily surcharge to partially recover the costs involved in rehabilitating a prisoner:  food, lodging, clothing, job training, counseling, supervision, etc.  Also, a uniform percentage of the wages would be put in a savings account, which the prisoner would be able to access when he/she is discharged. The living situation would approximate as closely as practical what the prisoner would need to function as a law-abiding citizen, including a private cell with toilet and wash basin for which the prisoner is responsible.  Prisoners would do their own cooking (heating of packaged meals in a small microwave oven) and laundry (in community washers and dryers).  If a prisoner refused to work, then he/she would not be paid and thus the sentence would be lengthened.

Prisoners who failed to reform but instead damaged property, injured people or committed some other illegal act would have the restitution for that crime added to their original sentence.  They may be viewed as committing suicide by degrees.  When their misbehavior results in a sentence of 100 years, they would be allowed to complete their suicide or be executed after exhausting the amount society is willing to pay for their crimes.  Of course, deciding on a crime’s just restitution for the myriad extenuating circumstances would require the wisdom of Solomon, as it does in the present system.

 Finally, since the purpose of this system is to attain justice that accords with truth, if new hard evidence is discovered, such as DNA or someone's confession, then the law against double jeopardy would not be interpreted as preventing justice or disallowing the case to be reopened and the accused to be either exonerated or convicted, as the jury decides.
 

Economic Assistance 

There are several biblical teachings that apply to this issue.  Jesus once stated that "the poor you will always have with you" (MT 26:11), but He also taught us to "give to the poor" (MT 19:21).  These verses suggest that we should do our reasonable/affordable best to alleviate, if not completely eliminate, the problems related to poverty.  We know that "You shall not steal" (EX 20:15) is the eighth of the Ten Commandments.  Yet, implicit in the command of Jesus is that if the rich share their wealth, then people will not need to steal in order to survive.  The apostle Paul synthesized these two commands in Ephesians 4:28, saying:  "He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need."  Another command (in 2THS 3:10) states:  "If a man will not work, he shall not eat."  Paul also states (in 1TM 5:8):  "If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever."  And again, he wrote: "Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality.” (2CR 8:13)  Equality does not require uniformity or conformity or a communist system, which often has resulted in a smaller pie to share, but rather that every person should have an equal opportunity to earn a living.  Sewing these verses together with spiritual thread, we can discern that the will of God per the New Testament is for people who are able to work to seek employment, so that earning a fair wage will provide at least the basic necessities plus something left over for charity.

Full employment at a livable wage is a wonderful goal; the problem is how to achieve it.  On one side of the debate are those who seem to believe that government can solve the problem of poverty by giving people welfare in one form or another.  On the other side of the issue are those who stress that every able-bodied adult should work and support themselves without charity (sometimes called workfare).  The "welfarists" criticize the "workfarists" for an apparent lack of sympathy for the poor, while the "workfarists" say the "welfarists" create permanent dependency by the poor.  The area of agreement by both sides surely includes the fact that people sometimes experience financial misfortunes beyond their control and need help.  Perhaps most people would agree that the need for help often exceeds the capabilities of many families and private agencies, so there is a need for government to do something, but what should wise governments do to encourage industry and discourage laziness?

            It seems reasonable that governments should encourage employers to pay workers at least a "minimum wage" that will provide at least a subsistence or "poverty level" living (including food, clothes and shelter) plus perhaps ten percent (a "tithe") for a family of four people.  Parents should not procreate more children than they can afford to support.  It seems reasonable for a typical work week to be no more six days per week (then a "Sabbath"), and for a typical work day to be no more than ten hours(although MT 20:1-8 speaks of sunrise to sunset), so that workers have enough time to rest and be with their families.

My idea about how governments might help people find jobs utilizes the concept of indentured employment is as followsEvery county seat and large town would have a job assistance office, and all of these would be connected by a nationwide computer system.  People could apply for a job anywhere in the country, and the federal government and hiring business would split the costs of relocation and training for those below a qualifying amount of assets.  In return the employee would have to commit to some minimum time of employment (similar to the contract rules of the National Football League).  During the term of the contract, the employee's income that is above subsistence level would be garnisheed until the hiring costs were reimbursed up to some limit that corresponded to the length of the contract.  The federal government would insure the contract and reimburse employers if an indentured employee wanted to quit before the costs associated with their hiring were recouped.  Quitters would not be eligible for welfare; they would have to accept another job, unless they could support themselves some other legal way.  The amount of hiring costs owed from their previous job would be added to the new contract.  Ideally, this program would be self-supporting, but it may need to be subsidized by the federal budget, so that the minimum wage and cost of living would be equivalent for everyone in the country.  Surely the cost of helping people become productive workers should be much less than that of welfare. 

This program would only guarantee job opportunities for legal citizen independent adults.  It would provide tax incentives that reward companies who have profit-sharing (and loss-sharing for CEOs), healthcare, retirement plans, and other benefits such as those mentioned previously.

 

Migration and Population 

Several of the principles discussed with regard to economic assistance also are relevant to this topic, because a major motivation for migration is seeking work/a job.  Those who possess an over-abundance of land should not hoard it or harbor feelings of superiority, but rather they should be compassionate toward the poor and people of a different nationality or skin tone.  We should strive for unity (EPH 4:3) or fellowship.  However, selfishness by some does not justify stealing by others.  Two wrongs do not make a right.  A problem is determining whether a person who was first to inhabit an area or who is wealthy enough to purchase a large area is entitled to prevent others from entering the area.

Let us envision/imagine heaven on earth:  First, there would be no poverty.  All would work at enjoyable jobs, taxes would be progressive and corruption would be shameful, so there would be no obscene wealth gap.  Second, economic growth would be rational, so it would not deplete resources or destroy the environment.  Families would have only one or two children so as not to deplete natural resources.  Third, there would be open borders. Good governors and employers would legislate opportunity and pay fairly.  Good stewards of the planet would not over-populate and pollute.  I know that it seems we are rather helpless to bring about heaven on earth, but I believe it is our responsibility to try to learn the truth and to have the right opinion, thereby being ready to serve God as we have the opportunity (1PT 3:15). 

Pollution
 

Pollution refers to contamination of our environment by the activities of humans that are harmful to their health.  The Bible does not comment on environmental issues directly, but I find three passages that contain implications for this subject.  First, when God created the earth, it was good and free of pollution (GN 1:31).  Second, when God assigned mankind the task of stewardship over the earth, He did not command them to over-populate and pollute it (GN 1:28-30).  Third, I view the injunctions of Paul against prostitution (in 1CR 6:12-13) as applying also to pollution.  Burning fossil fuels and depleting species of food is “permissible” or legal, but it is not thereby “beneficial” or moral.  Our corporate body, the human race, is not meant for raping the resources God has entrusted to our care, and God will allow unfaithful and foolish stewards to destroy themselves (MT 25:14-30).

Gambling
 

Those who look for moral guidance in the Bible will find that it is does not teach about gambling directly, even though it was a common activity, which indicates that it is not necessarily or always wrong.  However, the Bible does speak against greed (LK 12:15, CL 3:5, etc.), laziness (MT 25:26, TIT 1:12, etc.) irresponsibility (1TM 5:8), and addiction (EPH 5:18), which means the amount spent on gambling should be no greater than what a person would spend on other affordable, occasional, recreational activities, such as bowling, camping or going to a movie, even if this would put "sin cities" out of business.
 

Gender Roles and Rights
 

The biological differences between males and females logically differentiate the roles of fathers and mothers at least through the end of breast feeding children.  The Bible (GN 1:27) states that males and females are equally in God’s image, and the New Testament teaches (in GL 3:28, etc.) that cultural, economic and sexual discrimination are wrong.  Thus, men and women (as well as all ethnicities) should have equal political rights and job opportunities, and any roles not dictated by anatomical differences should be permitted to be performed by either gender.
 

Homosexuality

            I think the following viewpoint is the best compromise on this issue, where it is impossible not to impose one's beliefs on someone else.  It is loving toward both homo- and hetero-sexuals.  I also think we should keep in mind that although sexuality is a good thing when expressing love appropriately, often people exaggerate its importance to the point of making it an idol to be worshipped.  The Bible condemns both heterosexual and homosexual sins (in MT 19:4-5, GN 1:27 & 2:24, RM 1:24&26-27, 1CR 6:9&15-18, 10:8, GL 5:19, EPH 5:31, CL 3:5, 1THS 4:3, HB 12:13, 13:4) as shameful lusts, unnatural relations and indecent acts, but without appeal to Scripture, the anatomical differences between male and female bodies indicate heterosexual intercourse is the natural mode.  The design of gender specific parts implies the appropriate use of those parts.  The reader will note that the unnatural mode is so repulsive to common sense that those who naively equate homosexual and heterosexual marriage never mention how it is consummated.

A key question is whether homosexuality is due to choice or to heredity.   Some people advocate homosexuality as a “viable alternative lifestyle”, implying that heterosexuals ought to consider freely choosing to try it.  However, in cases where it is genetically caused, it may be compared to congenital deafness or blindness, and hopefully science will find a cure.  If the cause of homosexuality is environmental during the formative years of life, then therapy should help.  Until such cures are discovered, it seems advisable to encourage monogamous marriage by means of tax policy rather than to criminalize consensual sex by adults.  Perhaps we should note that biblical teachings do not prevent platonic civil unions.  In fact, in heaven we will all be one big, happy family which expresses love just that way.

What rights and privileges should be accorded either heterosexual marriages of homosexual civil unions is debatable, and it is up to each governmental entity to decide such.  (I advocate de-incentivizing having more than two children by eliminating tax benefits, and perhaps assessing a tax for having more than three children, if necessary to prevent an exponential overpopulation rate and consequent depletion of natural resources that would endanger humanity.) 


 

Pornography
 

Pornography is any media (audio, visual or oral) that promotes, encourages or recommends fornication (extra-marital sexual intercourse).  While it is true that morality cannot be legislated without losing desirable freedoms, most people think there is a need for some degree of censorship in an effort to prevent children from becoming perverted.  The problem is arriving at a consensus on what is pornographic and how it should be restricted.  Most people would probably agree that nudity is not necessarily bad, since our bodies are divinely created, but that its badness depends on the context, custom and motive.  For example, wearing a swimsuit is acceptable at the beach, but why do people risk getting skin cancer by over-exposing themselves?  Modeling longerie in a fashion magazine may be acceptable, but being fully clothed in a magazine that advocates extra-marital sex is definitely pornographic.  (See TOJ #24.)

Racial Prejudice
 

It is amazing that the Bible does not ever speak of human beings in terms of race.  Paul wrote, "From one man he [God] made every nation of men . . ." (ACTS 17:26a)  We are all one human race (either as descendants of Adam and Eve or of Noah and his wife according to the Genesis accounts), so that racial prejudice and discrimination are wrong.  Jesus said, "For God so loved the world . . ." (JN 3:16) or all humanity, and Paul wrote, "There is niether Jew nor Greek, slave nor free . . ." (GL 3:28).  In other words, all people are one and have equal rights in Christ.
 
 

Separation of Church and State
 

The Bible does not address this issue specifically except as it relates to taxation, about which Jesus said (in MT 22:21), “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”  Similarly, Jesus stated (in MT 17:27) to pay a tax “so that we may not offend”.  This fact indicates that it is proper to maintain a distinction between secular government and religious worship, and that both realms can coexist or even cooperate.

Recently in the U.S., this issue has become controversial in the form of the propriety of prayer in school or the mention of God in the pledge of allegiance.  I agree with the current stance of the federal courts:  that public prayer must accommodate the individual’s freedom of speech without impinging on another individual’s freedom of religion by becoming coercive rather than spontaneous and voluntary, and that the slogans in the pledge or on money can be viewed as a majority’s right to express a cultural value that does not coerce atheists to agree with it.

 

Vulgarity 

The apostle Paul taught about cursing in three epistles.  He stated (in RM 12:14), “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.”  He wrote (in EPH 4:29), “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths . . .” and (EPH 5:4) “Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking . . .”.  Also, he commanded (in CL 3:8), “But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these:  anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.”
 

I do not find that these statements need clarification; clearly it is wrong to talk hatefully to someone and say something like, “May God d--- you to hell!”  It is also wrong to use cuss words in a friendly manner, such as “D--- it, Charlie, how the f--- are you, s---head?”

However, is it wrong to use words like “darn”, “fudge”, and “shoot”, since they may be euphemisms for cuss words?  Each person has to answer this question for him/herself, but let us be willing to draw the line somewhere so our psychological environment will not be ruined with verbal pollution.  Instead of alluding to hell, fornication and excrement, let us talk about heaven, true love and good things (JM 3:9-10).

War and Capital Punishment

The Bible does not condemn any occupation specifically other than prostitution, and both Jesus and Paul spoke of soldiering without condemning it.  Such silence speaks volumes and leaves us with the freedom and consequent responsibility to evaluate vocations including soldiering.  The most relevant scriptural references are RM 13:1-5 and 1PT 2:13-14.  Pacifists cite Jesus’ command to turn the other cheek (in MT 5:39) and Paul’s instruction to overcome evil with good rather than seek revenge (in RM 12:17-21) as implying that policing and soldiering are wrong, but these passages refer to personal relationships rather than to governmental enforcement of criminal laws.

In the Romans passage, verses 3&4 are the key ones:  “Rulers hold no terror [imprisonment or execution—a very contemporary term!] for those who do right, but for those who do wrong… the one in authority… is God’s servant to do you good [this eliminates rulers such as Hitler, Stalin and Saddam Hussein].  But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword [means to kill] for nothing.  He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer [murderer, terrorist].”  (By the way, “God’s servant” is what the word “Muslim” means.)

Similarly, 1PT 2:14 says that governors “are sent by [God] to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right.”  This truth applies not only to police forces in cities and states but also to soldiers in national governments, implying that (more godly, though imperfect) nations should punish evil tyrants and terrorists.

Thus, soldiers who serve God’s will to fight in righteous or justified wars to defeat murderers are agents of His wrath (Muslims).  Let us note that wrath does not mean a hateful fit of rage, but rather the loving action of righteous anger, such as that displayed by Jesus when he cleared the temple of money-changers (in MT 21:12-13).  God’s wrath metes out the just or appropriate consequence for those who choose to behave evilly and hatefully.  Thus, any killing or other violent actions we do should be motivated by love:  love for God, for divine justice and for the victims of demonic injustice.  On a corporate level, we must cooperate and enforce just laws, so that murderers are not allowed to destroy more righteous, though imperfect, people (EX 21:12, 21:23).  Because the Bible contains detailed instructions regarding the punishment of crimes such as murder, it is logical to assume that it would contain a commandment and specific teachings against war if pacifism were correct, but it does not.  The OT principle of “life for life” (EX 21:24) indicates that murder is the capital crime for which execution is just, although the NT teaching about forgiveness for minor crimes (TOJ #29 & #36) implies that a society may grant even violent criminals a chance to repent and be rehabilitated.  Some say that capital punishment risks unjust executions, but this concern needs to be balanced with ensuring that a penal system does not encourage unjust murders.  (See the essay on Criminal Justice.)

The justification of capital punishment can be applied on an international scale.  Godly or civilized nations must cooperate and enforce just laws so that demonic souls like Hitler and Stalin are not allowed to conquer or destroy more righteous, though imperfect, governments.  (See TOJ #30.)  We have a responsibility as ministers of God and disciples of Christ to share the gospel with people in all nations (MT 28:19) and thereby help them to acquire their God-given rights to life (JN 10:10), liberty (JN 8:32&36) and the pursuit of happiness (JN 15:11).   To the extent we are able, we should prevent murder and stop murderous dictators from killing and enslaving people (JM 4:17).  As the world’s super-power, may God grant our leaders the courage to use this power with wisdom to show divine love (RM 5:8) for the poor and enslaved by defeating ungodly regimes (TOJ #45&129, RM 14:19).

As we contemplate the deaths of our soldiers and the sorrow of their families during times of military war, may it remind us of the great sacrifices that have been made by those who have gone before us in order to preserve the blessings of freedom for our country and humanity.  And may their sacrifice remind us of the sacrifice of Christ (PHP 2:8), whose death one day will free us from the sinful nature that does evil and necessitates war against extremely evildoers, so that there will be “no more death or mourning or crying or pain” (RV 21:4).  This recreation of the world is the meaning of Easter, and indeed the reason for the creation of the present universe in the beginning of time.  May it begin in our hearts and be evidenced by our lives, to the glory of God.

One way to show divine love is by forgiving people who do wrong (MT 5:39).  Another way is by teaching people not to do wrong (HB 12:5-6&11).  And a third way is by imposing just consequences for doing wrong.  For those who hurt people, confinement may be necessary, and for murderers execution is deserved (RM 13:4), although a society may decide that circumstances warrant extended confinement instead or even efforts to reform them.  The problem is deciding which type of love to apply to various situations, because we should have learned from the attempts by European nations to appease Hitler in the 1930s that war may become necessary, so resisting evil sooner may be less tragic and destructive of life than waiting until it becomes more widespread.  By the grace of God the United States was able to acquire the atom bomb before Germany and Japan, but it may not have been necessary to lose so many lives in the invasion of Normandy and in the bombing of Japan if Europe had stopped Hitler before he became powerful and allied with Japan.

The lesson of Hitler’s Holocaust against the Jews and Christians is that evil is real, and that we all have the potential to be as horrible as Hitler, although we may battle the tendency toward hatred and selfishness in our own souls (RM 7:22-23).  The death of relatively innocent people who are killed by terrorists continues to remind us of our mortality and our need for God’s goodness and resurrection power as well as of the vital responsibility that comes with our human moral capacity and free will.  Paul wrote that we should “make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification” (RM 14:19, cf. EPH 4:29).  Edification means constructing moral character in those who want to be servants of God (“Muslims”).  Thus, we should embrace rather than reject the opportunity of nation building to the extent it is practical or affordable.

 

I now turn from moral-political to doctrinal and biblical issues. 

 

 

The Beginning

           An issue that is continuing to be debated in our society is how the scientific theory of the beginning of the world jibes with the biblical story in the first eleven chapters of Genesis.  The Big Bang theory says that all matter in the universe at the beginning was compacted into a "singularity" before it exploded and began an expansion that apparently will continue for eternity.  The Genesis account says God spoke the world into existence.  Evolution theory says that life evolved from nonliving ingredients that became the various species over billions of years, whereas Genesis says God created the species in seven “days” without describing how or really specifying how long.  In 2 Peter 3:8, it says “With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day”, so presumably “billion” could be substituted for “thousand” in that verse.  Thus, there is no scriptural reason to insist that the "days" in GN 1 must refer to literal 24-hour periods.
 

Biblical Inspiration

Those who view the biblical canon as inspired by God disagree about what this means.  Some people speak as though God dictated every word of the Bible to the human writers, which causes many atheists to be confused and think that if they find even one error in the extant Bible, the entirety must be untrustworthy, because they do not realize that the dictation theory has several caveats, such as that it refers to the original manuscripts (which we do not have) correctly interpreted or harmonized.  The key to correct interpretation is NOT viewing the Bible as a modern science or history textbook, but rather as concerned with communicating God's will to humanity regarding His requirement for salvation:  THAT is what must be trustworthy!

The salvationist view of inspiration seems more logical than the dictationist view according to the following train of thought:  Suppose God Himself wrote the inerrant message to humanity: “Thou shalt not lie, steal, murder or fornicate.”  Suppose the first manuscript copier accidentally left out the comma between lie and steal.  Would that invalidate God’s commandment?  No, but it is still a mistake and no longer perfectly inerrant.  Now suppose an evil copier intentionally changed the word fornicate to fumigate.  Would that invalidate God’s commandment?  Not all of it; only the changed word.  How could we know which word or words were correct and not changed?  We would need to compare the commandment with other statements purported to be inspired by God in order to see what is the overall or consistent message, so that we can acquire sufficient evidence to have reasonable belief that the word fumigate should be discounted.

Finally, suppose that no one changed God’s original commandment.  How could we know absolutely or infallibly that it was inerrant?  We could not; we walk by faith.  We would still need to compare it with the totality of truth in order to discover whether there were any inconsistencies.  Thus, a completely inerrant Bible is not needed, as long as there is sufficient consistency in God’s messages to humanity via the creation (TOJ #4), the scriptures (TOJ #3), the incarnate word (TOJ #186) and logic (TOJ #182) for souls to discern God’s requirement for salvation.

Inspiration is like a river:  God determines its banks so that the overall revelation each generation along its banks has in its hands truth sufficient regarding salvation (kerygma), but God allows the river of revelation to have eddies or discrepancies or minor errors that do not prevent God's purpose from being accomplished (IS 55:10f, 1PT 1:10-12, HB 11:2-12:2).



Hell

Scriptures relevant to the doctrine of hell are cited below.

Those which speak of destruction, which could mean annihilation:

MT 10:28, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”

JN 17:12, “None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled.”

RM 9:22, “What if God, although choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction?”

1CR 15:26, “The last enemy to be destroyed is death.”

PHP 3:19a, “Their destiny is destruction.”

2THS 1:9, “They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord.”

2PT 3:7, “By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.”

RV 7:8, “The beast, which you saw, once was, now is not, and yet will come up out of the Abyss and go to its destruction.”

Those which speak of eternal torment, which might mean for each individual:

MT 25:46 (and parallel passages), “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

RV 20:10, “And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.”

I find “torment ending in annihilation” to be a harmonization of these Scriptures as well as more logical and just.





Miracles

           A person might think that God should prove His existence and cause everyone to cooperate with His plan by working undeniable miracles, as He is reported in the Bible to have done through the agency of Moses and Jesus and a few other prophets and apostles.  However, Jesus said (in MT 24:24) that we should beware being deceived by miracle-workers, and Paul taught (in 2CR 5:7) that "we live by faith [in God's Word/Gospel] rather than by sight" (or seeing miracles).  We also must admit that undeniable miracles are not currently reported by credible people.  In order to harmonize this data, it seems most logical to me to view the references by Jesus affirming belief in miracles (in MK 16:17-18 and JN 10:38) as meaning only those God worked in order to acomplish His pln of salvation and certify that Jesus is Messiah. 

 

Then the question becomes, "Why does God not work miracles daily?"  The logical answer must be that miracles are not necessary for motivating saving faith, but rather they actually tend to interfere with it.  Why?  Because manifesting His power so undeniably would be coercive, and coercion cannot cause genuine love.  Love must be evoked or freely and cheerfully given (2CR 9:7).  Love cannot be forced by fear of punishment (1JN 4:18), as was discussed in Lesson 2.  In order to evoke love, God works through humans who cooperate with His Spirit in manifesting love for all including enemies (MT 5:44).  This life is a test, which is graded only after our answers are collected.  Don't flunk it!