Monthly Archives: March 2017

Dating the Fall, Part Two

As we began our Bible detective work last week, we affirmed that it is crucial to recognize the history given in the Bible as infallibly reliable. We also offered a helpful observation to keep in mind when trying to date the primeval Lapse or other Biblical events, namely that we are not always given an exhaustive chronicle. As an example of that, we considered Christ’s earthly life of approximately thirty three years. The Gospels do not provide a complete biography, but focus primarily on the last three years or so.

Part one concluded with a promise to provide some some clue texts for dating the Fall of Man. Here they are:

1. “Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, and said, “I have acquired a man from the LORD.” Then she bore again, this time his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground.” (Genesis 4:1,2). This text immediately follows the account of our first parents’ being cursed and expelled from Eden.

2. “And Adam knew his wife again, and she bore a son and named him Seth, ‘For God has appointed another seed for me instead of Abel, whom Cain killed.’ ” (Genesis 4:25). So, Seth was born after the murder of Abel by Cain.

3. “And Adam lived one hundred and thirty years, and begot a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth.” (Genesis 5:3). Worthy of noting here and elsewhere in this genealogical chapter, the longevity of Adam and the other antediluvian patriarchs was marked by a reproductive vitality that lasted for centuries.

4. “After he begot Seth, the days of Adam were eight hundred years; and he had sons and daughters.” (Genesis 5:4). This verse tells us that Adam and Eve had other children besides their three named sons. Comparing this statement with the aforementioned reproductive vitality, we can infer that families were extremely large in those days!

(In The Works of Josephus, A.D. 94, that ancient historian asserts that “The number of Adam’s children, as says the old tradition, was 33 sons and 23 daughters.”)

Bringing all this together, we conclude that the second generation of humanity was born after the Lapse. Sin entered the world before Adam and Eve became parents; all their children were born sinners, as Cain’s despicable deed makes clear. Their three named sons and all their unnamed children were conceived in sin, as King David would later affirm that he was per Psalm 51:5.

Since we are told that Seth was begotten in the one hundred and thirtieth year of the world (coinciding with Adam’s age), we cannot date the Fall later than that. And enough time must have passed before Seth was begotten for his older brothers Cain and Abel to have reached maturity, in order for Eve to be able to make that statement about Seth as murdered Abel’s replacement in Genesis 4:25.

(For example, we cannot date the Fall to the one hundred and twenty fifth year of the world. If we hypothesize that Cain was born in that year, and Abel shortly after that, we would have to maintain that the statement about their respective vocations of farmer and shepherd, their acts of worship, and the murder of the younger by the elder all had happened by the time Cain was five years old, and Abel even younger!)

Here is one more clue text: “And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.” (Genesis 3:8)

Evidently, the period during which Adam and Eve were in the garden, naked and unashamed, was long enough for them to have become familiar with a tangible, regular manifestation of God’s presence (a theophany). Perhaps this was a daily time of special communion between them and their God; perhaps the LORD Himself led the first daily household devotional times. How sad, after their sin they had to hide from Him Who is the fountain of all goodness, truth, beauty, and joy!

One other consideration is worthy of mention. When they were created, God told Adam and Eve to “be fruitful and multiply.” Before the Fall, being perfectly obedient to God, they would have begun immediately to obey that command. Yet we have already argued that all procreation was after the Lapse, indicating in turn that this great apostasy occurred very shortly after creation itself. But prudence should ever limit speculation

To conclude, did the Fall occur on the first sabbath itself, on the eighth day of the world, within the first few months or years after creation? How long were the first pair in Eden before they succumbed to temptation and were cast out? We cannot know for certain, but in this writer’s opinion it was very early in history, and could not be later than approximately the one hundredth year of the world.

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That awkward moment when…

Eureka! The light switch is finally found.  No separate switch for a ceiling fan, I muse. A buzz alerts me that there is a fan (of sorts). It comes on along with the admittedly adequate light, but I suspect that it will be inadequate for mist control.

OK, I’ll get my facial stubble softened, get back out of the shower and shave before the bathroom is enveloped in a pea soup fog. Disrobing, I position the postage stamp sized foot towel on the floor and prepare to face the next challenge: operating this particular style of plumbing fixtures.

Hmm…rotating, single handle main control…but what is that little toggle lever below it?  I’ll worry about that momentarily. First, I must crane my neck downward and squint. OK, it looks like hot is left and cold is right as usual. Wait! You know sometimes these things get installed backwards! Careful…

Pushing the shower head as far back toward the wall as possible, I notice another lever on it. I’ll deal with that after figuring out the toggle lever below the main handle, which I now gingerly rotate counter clockwise. Whew, good! The water is coming out of the tub spout, not the shower head. Strangely, it remains  quite cold although by now I have moved the handle ninety degrees, hoping for a tepid water temperature which I can “fine tune.”

A minute…two minutes elapse. OK, the hot water must be traveling from somewhere deep in the bowels of the hotel, be patient. A couple more minutes go by. The title lyrics of Foreigner’s pop oldie pop into my head. “You’re as cold as ice!”

Yep, the hot/cold indicators must be wrong! Hot must be on the right! I rotate the handle accordingly. See the last three sentences of the preceding paragraph…

As the frigid incoming water reaches ankle depth, I reject the impulse to abandon shower. No, I will not wildly twist every visible control, including the one which I assume is for the drain. I’ll deal with that after I address the lever on the shower head and the one just below the main handle. Think, man! THINK!

Got it! Let’s try turning the main handle counter clockwise again, passing that ninety degree point! What’s this? A hint of warmth? Quickly I turn the handle as far in that same direction as it will go. Immediately I become thankful for the temp of the now upper ankle depth water. It prevents my feet getting first degree burns from the scalding torrent now emerging from the tub spout.

OK, easing the main handle back clockwise I reach that aaah…just right point. But now I must change plans for addressing the other controls. I flip the one I assumed is for the drain. Hmm…no discernible decrease in the water level, but it does not seem to be increasing either. Let that alone for now.

OK, this lever below the main handle must redirect the incoming water from the tub spout to the shower head. Yes! Yes!  But why is the now just right temp water not coming therefrom in a way conducive to good hygiene? How can I wash here and there with this throbbing dribble? No, the shower head does not detach. Must figure out how to get the water stream just right as well.

Throbbing dribble becomes useless sprinkle. Useless sprinkle becomes piercing miniature fire hose. Finally, the right setting. But wait! I need a reasonably clear mirror to shave! Now knowing how to control the water temperature, I bravely increase it and hold my stubbly face in the stream as long as I can stand it.

Confident that I can remember the expertise I have just learned by trial and error, I turn the water off, step out onto the postage stamp sized foot towel and look at the mirror. OK, dimmed but I think I can still see well enough to shave.

Then I realize that the width of sink counter is far greater than that to which I am accustomed at home. Will this extra challenge to myopic vision result in an accidental incursion into my beard or ‘stache? Will I leave some miscellaneous growth on one cheek? Maybe I can put on my glasses…no! They are hopelessly fogged up.

Meanwhile, I’m losing the heat induced softness of what I must peremptorily scrape off of my face at my wife’s request, despite my forlorn idea that vacation time is NO SHAVING time. Just slap on the shaving cream, go for it and hope for the best…

OK, back into the stall. Fear not, this account does not include a fall. That happened a few days ago walking outside, and is a story for another day. Like a past master, I am quickly under the just right temp and just rightly streaming water in moments. Scrub a dub…rinse…voila! Showered!

Uh-oh. What about the now over ankle depth water in the tub? Still one more control to vanquish. I look closely right above the drain. What’s this? It appears to be a diminutive funnel. More lyrics to muse. “There’s a hole, there’s a hole, there’s a hole in the bottom of the sea…”

Will I get all the way to flea on the fly on the nose on the frog on the bump on the log before the tub is empty? Let’s try turning the drain lever the other way. The funnel vanishes. OK, evidently it’s just slow. Get out, dry off, dress and check that out later.

I’m about to make that investigation…just before five A.M. on Friday March 24th here at a motel in southern Virginia. But before I do so, I must remind myself and any reading this who have had a similar experience.

To this day for many people on Earth, the idea of running water located steps away from one’s comfortable bed is a far fetched one. That the water could be hot and cold or a mixture of the two would make them even more incredulous. Let us consider this, be thankful, and live as those who have received much. Luke 12:48.

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Dating the Fall, Part One

When did the Fall occur? A shout is heard from the sidelines: “Right after Summer!”

[ standard punchline “rim shot” sound here.]

Ha, ha, but no! To rephrase the question, when did the most horrific tragedy of all time take place – that sudden descent of Adam with all his posterity (except one Man) from primeval uprightness into a sinful state of guilt and corruption?

That real, historical rebellion of Adam, standing as the representative of all humanity, is also called the Lapse. It is recorded in Genesis 3. It is manifested by the behavior of even godly people throughout both Testaments. It is articulated as a doctrine by that one sinless Man our Lord Jesus Christ, and those called to be His apostles, in passages such as Matthew 7:11, John 3:18-20, and Romans 5:12-21.

Sadly, many doubt the absolute veracity of God’s infallible and inerrant word the holy Bible. This is so especially when it comes to the account of creation and the world’s earliest history provided by our Creator in the book of Genesis. Many claim to find myth in passages recounting actual events. They are willing to impute a kind of invincible ignorance to Holy Spirit inspired Moses, the human author of that holy book, though that holy man was given surpassing knowledge and wisdom by direct revelation from the God with whom Moses communed for forty days and nights in a cloud of glory on Mount Sinai.

Hopefully those willing to be wishy-washy on this matter will be brought face to face with their incoherence by this question: If the Fall is myth, how do we account for the origin of sin? If they want to play loosy-goosy with the orthodox doctrine of creation, but retain the orthodox doctrine of the origin of death (that it came into the world by one man’s sin, Romans 5:12) the incoherence is multiplied.

Even those committed to the orthodox doctrine of creation, including the plain truth that almighty God brought into being the entire cosmos in the space of six days of ordinary length, admit that the moment when disaster struck in Eden is hard to pinpoint. However, we can make at least one helpful observation, and we have have several “clue texts.”

The helpful observation is that although Scripture always gives us accurate history, it does not always give us a “sacred diary,” so to speak. For example, a good deal is recorded about Jesus’ birth and infancy. Scripture is silent about His later youth except for one glimpse of the Boy Jesus at twelve years of age (Luke 2:40-42). As far as the next two decades of the Nazarene’s life we know only that He worked as a carpenter with His stepdad Joseph and that He had half siblings, Matthew 13:55, Mark 6:3. The holy record then skips to about His thirtieth year (Luke 3:23) and provides a partial account of His public ministry (John 21:25), with significant detail about His crucifixion, burial, and resurrection at its conclusion.

So it is with Genesis. The first seven days of history are recorded in gapless, sequential fashion. Genesis 1 is indeed a diary style narrative by the only eyewitness to creation, the Creator Himself! After the seventh day (the first sabbath), dating Biblical events takes some diligent sleuthing. Moses does not write under the Holy Spirit’s inspiration, “and there was evening and morning, the eighth day…the ninth day…the one hundredth day,” and so on down to the exodus.

Which brings us to those clue texts. Lord willing, they will be provided along with a brief recap of what we have discussed so far when part two of this article is published one week hence, D.V…

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Choose Your Creed

The Apostles’ Creed was not written by the apostles of Christ, but it summarizes their teaching on the basics of the Christian faith. It likely originated as a baptismal confession in the second century, and developed into its present form thereafter. It is still in common use by Christians today; by it we publicly confess our confidence in God’s absolute truth which we cherish. Here it is:

“I believe in God the Father almighty, Creator of heaven and earth

I believe in Jesus Christ His only begotten Son, our Lord,
Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
And born of the virgin Mary.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate
was crucified, died, and was buried;
He descended into hell.
The third day He rose again from the dead.
He ascended into heaven and is seated
at the right hand of God the Father almighty.
From there He will come to judge the living and the dead

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic* church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen!”

Some would suggest that it’s time for a major update, perhaps something like this:

“I believe in a higher power which I call god. This being is the universal parent of us all. It/she/he was the superintendent of the big bang which generated the galaxies billions of years ago.

I believe that it/he/she he was the overseer of hundreds of millions of years of death in the form of violent predation and meaningless extinction.

I believe this process, called evolution, eventuated in life as we know it today on this relatively insignificant planet which orbits a relatively insignificant star.

I recognize Jesus as one of many good teachers who have appeared on the stage of human history. He was only a man, but he gave us a fine example of how to live a good life and handle hatred even to the point of death. I believe that the virgin birth and all the stories of how he walked on water and performed other miracles are helpful myths which expressed the primitive Christian community’s high esteem of Jesus.

Of course, I do not believe that hell or anything like it exists!

I believe Jesus rose from the dead metaphorically speaking. In other words, through his teachings and example, his spirit lives on in his true followers, whose motto is “what would Jesus do?”

This is what is meant by the holy spirit. I believe in that.

I like my inclusive, weekly (optional) gathering, in a judgment free environment, of people  who can believe whatever they want so long as it does not include the narrow, extremist idea that an outdated religious text which is subject to diverse interpretations and full of scientific errors, once known as the holy bible, has any actual authority over me and my lifestyle.

I do not believe in a future judgment day nor in a literal, physical resurrection of the body. I believe that at death, everybody rests in peace, no matter what they did in life. Some of us believe that there is nothing after death but oblivion. Okay?”

Which creed better expresses what you believe?

* The term “catholic” refers to the organic unity of the one church of Christ, not to any particular denomination

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Mrs. Owen’s Tears

Does the adjective poignant do justice to that powerfully tender spectacle we beheld on the evening of February 28, A.D. 2017?

With the eyes of America focused upon Carryn Owens, she stood tall in the Hall of the House of Representatives. With her own eyes focused heavenward, their tears streamed down her cheeks. Though consumed with sorrow, she quietly expressed her love for her departed husband, Navy SEAL William “Ryan” Owens, killed in action…heroic action in the midst of that bloody violence known as war.

As President Trump remarked, the interruption to his first address to a joint session of Congress caused by sustained applause for Mrs. Owens probably broke a record for duration. Here was standing ovation unity, however fleeting. In an attempt to render due honor to Senior Chief Owens and his widow, most of our elected legislators and most of the leaders from the other two branches of our federal government came together, if only for a moment.

Who can sufficiently describe the horror and tragedy of war in all its hideous forms and effects? This writer’s purpose is neither to attempt to do so, nor to morbidly dwell upon it. Rather it is to offer the only compelling explanation for its very existence, and to proclaim the remedy for it.

And don’t be disappointed by that bold claim, for it is not a remedy which originates in diplomacy or any other human wisdom. Among the many astounding truth claims of the holy Bible, this is one which is readily demonstrable. The adjective alleged surely does justice to the sincerity of any claim to skepticism about this truth.

The race which produced Louis Pasteur and the tools by which we successfully treat diseases caused by microscopic invaders into our bodies cannot prevent its members from savagely invading one another…why? The race which put its footprints on the dusty surface of the moon cannot keep off its own necks the vicious lacerations caused by combat boots…why? Humanity has never eradicated war, hatred, greed, selfishness and other evils which we all claim to loathe…why?

The answer is what the Bible calls sin. Wicked depravity in all the parts of our being is our natural condition from conception onward. We are not born with a “clean slate.” We are not like the holy angels, but are creatures fallen from the original wholesome purity with which our first parents were created. From the darkness of our innermost beings we constantly reject our Creator and His just and good law, a law designed for our greatest happiness. Let’s face it, we are fiends.

One place among many where the Scriptures teach about this tragic and universal human estate and assert that warfare flows from it is James 4:1,2. “Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask.”

At what time and place in all of human history is this not readily observable? We can trace the historical circumstances of the origins of wars, but does not the Bible’s assessment of our basic human condition get to the root problem of every case? The Bible charges all of us as sinners: rebels, ingrates, selfish brutes.

The LORD looks down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there are any who understand, who seek God. They have all turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is none who does good, no, not one. (Psalm 14:2,3)

For there is not a just man on earth who does good and does not sin. (Ecclesiastes 7:20)

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23)

Thankfully, that’s not the end of the story. Thankfully, God did not leave us all to perish. Thankfully, there is a Savior, the only Man Who IS sinless and Who is also more than a man…the Son of God, uniquely capable and almighty to save. He took upon Himself the divine punishment due to sinners, that they might be reconciled to God in a just way.

TODAY is the day of salvation, NOW is the time to call upon JESUS. A peace with God which begets peacemakers among men can be had during this time of grace…this time while God is exercising amazing forbearance toward and patience with His enemies. Seek Him before He brings all things to the glorious renewal He has in store. Hear him before He ushers in the consummation of history, destroying unrepentant sinners, warfare, and all other ugly consequences of sin forever.

America, let widow Carryn’s tears be an emblematic irrigation to soften the ground which is the hardness of our wicked hearts. Let those dead to God receive, by His life giving grace, His free remedy for the bellicose passion and its rotten fruit which is our common lot and which leads to that second, irremediable death called hell. Be reconciled to Him Who says:

Ho! Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat. Yes, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. (Isaiah 55:1)

“O God, as the seed of the Gospel of Your Son is sown abroad by Your mighty Spirit, let it bear enduring fruit. As we pray ‘Your kingdom come’ we look with expectancy to the final and glorious coming of the Prince of Peace Who then will render perfect justice and wipe away every tear from the eyes of those who trust in Him and have longed for His appearing.

And the Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely! (Revelation 22:17)

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