The View From 1776
Monday, January 05, 2009
The Enduring Word of God
Earthly things wither and die, but the Word of God prevails forever.
Pastor Dan Gardner preached the sermon Sunday at the Cohocton (New York) Assembly of God Church. His text was Isaiah 40:1-8:
Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the LORD’s hand double for all her sins.
A voice of one calling: “In the desert prepare the way for the LORD; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain.
“And the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it. For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”
A voice says, “Cry out.” And I said, “What shall I cry?” “All men are like grass, ?and all their glory is like the flowers of the field. The grass withers and the flowers fall, because the breath of the LORD blows on them. Surely the people are grass.
The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever.
The following is the gist of Pastor Gardner’s sermon, with my interpolations and extrapolations. Any misrepresentations are mine, not his.
As far back as 2200 BC, 4,200 years ago, those who were to become the people of Israel, were devoutly aware that their universe owed its existence to a God whose almighty name was so awe inspiring that it could not be spoken.
As Pastor Gardner noted, our Western world has turned its back on the Word of God, but the Word of God remains there. God’s Word is creation itself. Our world was formed by the Word of God.
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. (Genesis 1:1-3)
In a more philosophical vein, around AD 60, the disciple whom Jesus loved wrote:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (John 1:1)
The Word of God, the ground of being itself preceding the creation of our universe, was, is, and will be there, completely outside our world, yet regulating it with His laws of nature. Those laws uniquely gave humans the power of a fully rational mind coupled with free will. We humans can be led to the wisdom of age-old experience, but God does not compel each individual to follow that wisdom. It’s up to us to seek Jesus and to believe in the Word of God.
In today’s sermon, Pastor Gardner noted that there are three scholarly approaches to validating the Word of God: internal evidence in the Scriptures, external evidence, and bibliographical evidence. Pastor Gardner focused today upon the first of these.
Within the Bible we find an abundance of internal evidence attesting that every word in the Bible is Divinely inspired.
The word “inspired” is rich in symbolic significance. Inspiration literally means “breathed in.”
...the LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. (Genesis 2:7)
Thus we can speak of the living, revealed Word of God inspired by the Holy Spirit in human rationality.
No student of the physical sciences, no atheist or agnostic, despite continual efforts, has ever been able to fathom how God created life on earth. Instead they posit some incredibly silly hypotheses about coagulating mud crystals, becoming by random chance, the progenitors of DNA, or else they shrug their shoulders and assume that the world had no beginning, that it has always been as it is.
What internal evidence in the Bible is our basis for believing it to be the Truth?
First, Pastor Gardner related, the Old and New Testaments contain at least 668 prophesies of future events, prophesies often made decades or even hundreds of years before their fulfillment.
The prophet Daniel, for example, almost 250 years before the events, foretold conquest of Persia by Alexander the Great and the subsequent split of his empire among four generals. (Daniel 8:15-26)
The prophet Isaiah, more than 150 years in advance, foretold that the Israelites would be released from their Babylonian captivity by Persian king Cyrus:
...who says of Cyrus, ‘He is my shepherd and will accomplish all that I please; he will say of Jerusalem, “Let it be rebuilt,” and of the temple, “Let its foundations be laid.” (Isaiah 44:28), and
I will raise up Cyrus in my righteousness: I will make all his ways straight. He will rebuild my city and set my exiles free, but not for a price or reward, says the LORD Almighty. (Isaiah 45:13)
C. S. Lewis, the celebrated convert from agnosticism in adulthood, was a specialist in mythology. He tells us that nowhere in mythology is there the wealth of specific detail about every-day things that characterizes the Old and the New Testaments.
Biblical accounts are not myths made up by men. Particularly so the four Gospels. They were written, within 30 to 50 years of Jesus’s crucifixion and resurrection, by eyewitnesses, men who were living with Jesus every day during his roughly three year ministry.
As Lewis also said, nobody willingly subjects himself to the abuse, physical punishment, and the martyrs’ deaths of these men just to defend a myth. A typical eyewitness account is that of the disciple John:
Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:30-31)
The apostle Paul, transformed by his experience on the road to Damascus, writes in 2 Timothy 3:16-17:
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1:21)
In the first of Paul’s epistles to the Thessalonians:
And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is at work in you who believe. (1 Thessalonians 2:13)
For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)
Your word, O LORD, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens. (Psalms 119:89)
Since the middle of the 18th century, Westerners have increasingly turned away from God and have sought counsel among false prophets who tell us that their modern religious gnosticism can, through the secular political state, perfect humanity and human society here on earth.
This is the legacy of the French so-called Enlightenment (not to be confused with the earlier English, Scottish, and American Enlightenments).
French intellectual contributors to the Encyclopedia, from the 1750s onward, poisoned the world with their secular, philosophical materialism and the post-Revolution doctrines of Auguste Comte’s positivism.
Comte’s Religion of Humanity denied the existence of God and hubristically declared that the proper object of worship was humanity itself. We were to worship ourselves, because the prophets of secularism, Saint-Simon and Comte, later Marx and Lenin, claimed to have discovered ineluctable laws of history that decreed the evolution of society beyond the Word of God and into a new scientific age, in which intellectuals would lead us to perfection.
The sermon topic was why should one believe the Holy Scriptures? A parallel question is why should any intelligent person place his faith in liberal-progressive-socialism?
Rather than world peace, anticipated by 19th century liberal-progressive-socialists, their moral relativism, secularity, and philosophical materialism inflicted bloodshed and tyranny on a scale unprecedented in history: the French Revolution’s Reign of Terror (in which more than 70,000 French citizens were slaughtered in the name of Liberty, Equality, and Brotherhood); two devastating world wars; Hitler’s National Socialist (Nazi) regime (that perpetrated the Holocaust and also slaughtered a few million Poles, Czechs, and Russians); the Russian Revolution of 1917 (which slaughtered, at a minimum, more than ten million people); Mao’s Communist China, which liquidated a similar number of millions of people; down to recent and current repression in Cuba under Castro, in Nicaragua under the Sandinistas, and in Venezuela under Hugo Chavez.
Reverence for life, especially for that of each human being, including the unborn, is a bed-rock principle of Christianity and of our Judeo-Christian heritage. Liberal-progressive-socialists, despite their claims of “caring” about the masses, have been unperturbed by the liquidation of many tens of millions of their fellows by socialist political states in the name of perfecting humanity. And they have eagerly embraced the murder of millions of babies via abortion.
Why did liberal-progressive-socialists ignore the Word of God and remain apologists for these barbaric actions?
The answer is that intellectual brilliance seldom is accompanied by wisdom and judgment. Without guidance from the Holy Spirit and the self-restraint that comes from acknowledging God as the Creator of the universe, it’s too easy for intellectuals to fall victim to self-worship. Denying God, they believe that their superior intellects can master nature (witness Al Gore and the power-trip myth of man-made global warming).
Liberal-progressive-socialists, who scathingly ridicule Christianity and our Judeo-Christian moral heritage, look into the mirror every day and see the god whom they worship: themselves.
And now this admonition is for you, O priests. If you do not listen, and if you do not set your heart to honor my name,” says the LORD Almighty, “I will send a curse upon you, and I will curse your blessings. Yes, I have already cursed them, because you have not set your heart to honor me…
For the lips of a priest ought to preserve knowledge, and from his mouth men should seek instruction