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.
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.
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
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 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.
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.
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.
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 follows. Every
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).
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).
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.
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.
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 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.)
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.
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
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,
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.
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.
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).
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
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
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!