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Feedback archiveFeedback 2005

The times are changing and so should we?

21 August 2005

To whom it may concern,

Stepping outside religious belief, there is historical evidence to suggest the existence of a prominent figure who walked the earth around 2000 years ago by the name of Jesus, from Nazareth. For the sake of argument, I will assume that what was written in the New Testament about this man and his works is true. From what is written, therefore, it can be concluded that Jesus was a very smart man, he had many followers, and was an eloquent speaker. He was also a radical — his teachings did not sit well with some of the prominent theologians and religious figures in Judaism (he was undoubtedly raised a Jew) at the time. What Jesus says in the New Testament clearly has a different tone than what is in the Old Testament, and arguably goes against some of the topics preached by the Old Testament. For example, where the Old Testament preached of the wrath of God, Jesus preached of the love and mercy of God. The Old Testament taught that there were offenses against the laws of God that could be punishable by death; Jesus taught that we should forgive our neighbor not seven, but seventy seven (symbolic for infinitely many) times. It can be assumed that Jesus’ teachings differed from the Old Testament because times had changed. What was of dire importance to the Hebrews in the Old Testament no longer applied to Jews living at the time of Jesus, they were no longer in exile, they were under the control of another governing body, and different issues had different relevance. Many books of the Old Testament had been written hundreds, if not thousands of years before Jesus’ time, and times had changed. With that said, it has been nearly 2000 years since the Gospels were written, and thousands more since the books in the Old Testanment were written. The respective writers of all the books in both Testaments lived in a very, very different time than we do now. Science was completely unknown to these people, and it was through no fault of their own, they simply happened to live before the discipline developed. We have the tools of science available to us now, and they have helped us advance greatly in medicine, comfort, and the spread of ideas. I think it would suffice to say that an intelligent, progressive thinker such as Jesus would endorse scientific thought if he were physically alive now. Here’s why: It is the consensus of the majority of the scientific community that Darwinism (descent with modification, natural selection, evolution, whatever you wish to call it) is in fact the process in which life as we know it became to be. While this does not agree literally with Genesis, it does agree on a higher level, and if nothing else points strongly to the existence of a higher being. Modern scientific thought would state that the universe is a rather chaotic place, with supernovas, toxic gases, black holes, and nuclear fusion going on. On our blue planet, however, a bunch of chemicals arranged themselves in a such a way that they formed a rudimentary cell able to replicate itself. By Darwin’s theory, through environmental stresses and success in the reproduction of this rudimentary cell, organisms evolved and differentiated. The gentle force of evolution guided them in a way that they could succeed in living and reproducing. Said gentle force is what led to eventual evolution of humans — bundles of chemicals that are able to live, reproduce, and discern between right and wrong. For something so complex to come out of such disorder while following a specific principle does seem to point to the existence of a higher being. In fact, it is much better evidence for the existence of such a being than simple belief in what someone wrote in a book several thousand years ago. The Book of Genesis was written for ancient peoples as an explanation for the existence of the universe and the humans that lived within it. It was meant to show them that there was a purpose and order to it all. We now know there is a better example of how life is ordered, and how it came to be, it follows scientific methods and can be tested. Just because Darwinism disagrees with Genesis on literal terms, does not mean it should be ignored. Again, times have changed. I would like to know what your response to this is. Also, Sir, I implore of you, please stop teaching this fundamentalism. It is supressing progress, and God’s greatest gift, free thought. I do not think it out of character to assume that if Jesus were alive today, he would use the examples of order seen by Darwinian evolution to support the existence of the divine.

Tim Norris
USA


To whom it may concern,

Stepping outside religious belief, there is historical evidence to suggest the existence of a prominent figure who walked the earth around 2000 years ago by the name of Jesus, from Nazareth. For the sake of argument, I will assume that what was written in the New Testament about this man and his works is true. From what is written, therefore, it can be concluded that Jesus was a very smart man, he had many followers, and was an eloquent speaker.

Your agreement to assume ‘what was written in the New Testament about this man and his works is true’ should, therefore, result in other logical conclusions. From what is written, Jesus claimed to be God. Since you evidently don’t believe His claim, how can you then conclude He ‘was a very smart man’? Jesus did not give us the option of believing that He was simply a great moral teacher because this sort of claim is the height of absurdity if false. Can you see the trilemma you are in? But if he was telling the truth, so that He really is God, then we know that Jesus is not a liar (cf. Titus 1:2, Hebrews 6:18). This is an important point to remember as we continue.

He was also a radical — his teachings did not sit well with some of the prominent theologians and religious figures in Judaism (he was undoubtedly raised a Jew) at the time. What Jesus says in the New Testament clearly has a different tone than what is in the Old Testament, and arguably goes against some of the topics preached by the Old Testament.

No, Jesus never once criticized the written Law of the Old Testament, but rather said ‘Scripture cannot be broken’ (John 10:35; see also Jesus Christ on the infallibility of Scripture and The authority of Scripture). Conversely, Jesus often disagreed with the Pharisaic oral traditions, ‘traditions of men’ (Mark 7:1–13). Jesus made a big distinction between ‘you have heard … but’ and ‘it is written …’ which settled the matter at hand.

For example, where the Old Testament preached of the wrath of God, Jesus preached of the love and mercy of God. The Old Testament taught that there were offenses against the laws of God that could be punishable by death;

And note that Jesus endorsed this (Matthew 15:4), as pointed out in the response to this theistic evolutionist.

Jesus taught that we should forgive our neighbor not seven, but seventy seven (symbolic for infinitely many) times.

It is important to differentiate between dealings between individuals and the duty of the government, which has authority to punish wrongdoers (Romans 13:1–8).

It can be assumed that Jesus’ teachings differed from the Old Testament because times had changed.

We explain the role of the Mosaic Law in Answer to philosophy/religion professor on biblical exegesis and the problem of evil. It is a mistake to fail to recognize that the Old Testament (OT) lays the foundation for the New Testament (NT). Not only does Christ extensively use OT Scripture in the NT for emphasis, teaching, and illustration of prophetic fulfillment, but Christ also stated that it was incorrect to ‘think that [He] came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; [He] did not come to abolish but to fulfill’ (Matthew 5:17).

Thank you so much for who you are, for the excellence and integrity you demonstrate in your ministry. I will be teaching a biology lab in my home for some homeschoolers this year. I am going to develop some ‘scavenger hunts’ using your website. The students will be required to come to your site and locate answers to questions I will pose to them. I will try to require answers from many places on your site to familiarize them with it and to make them aware of the wealth of information available to them (and hopefully to their parents.) I just wanted to let you know how one teacher is using your site!

Thank you again!

Sue Wilhelm
USA

The differences in commands applicable today have nothing to do with times changing, i.e. due to factors external to the Bible. Rather, they are due to the fulfillment of God’s Messianic program through history—i.e. the changes were in God’s plan. And the Bible says precisely that. Jesus’ death and Resurrection meant that the OT sacrifices were no longer appropriate (Hebrews 7:27, 9:26, 10:12). And since Christ broke down the ‘wall of separation’ between Jews and Gentiles, there is no longer any need for the laws that kept Jews separate (Ephesians 2:14).

Conversely, there is no evidence for any change in God’s dealing with His people in modern times. This is because there has been no new phase to His Messianic program since Jesus ascended to Heaven and the New Testament canon was closed.

To answer your examples, Christ taught about love and mercy, but He also continued the teachings of God’s wrath as well:

Woe to those who are with child and to those who nurse babes in those days; for there will be great distress upon the land, and wrath to this people, and they will fall by the edge of the sword, and will be led captive into all the nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled under foot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled. And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and upon the earth dismay among nations, in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves, men fainting from fear and the expectation of the things which are coming upon the world; for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. But when these things begin to take place, straighten up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near’ (Luke 21:23–28).

And note that Jesus spoke more about Hell than about Heaven. And He made plenty of strong comments against His opponents, following the challenge-riposte method.

Conversely, there are many statements in the OT about God’s love, patience and mercy. For example:

  • God gave mankind 120 years to repent before sending the Flood (Genesis 6:3), while Noah preached righteousness to them (2 Peter 2:5).

  • God gave the Amorites 400 years to repent (Genesis 15:16).

  • God would have spared Sodom if there were only 10 righteous people in it (Genesis 18:32).

  • Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked,’ declares the Lord GOD, ‘and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?’ (Ezekiel 18:23).

  • God spared Nineveh after they repented because of Jonah’s warning. Then Jonah was upset that they had been spared, so God told him, ‘And should not I pity Nineveh?’ (Jonah 3:10, 4:11).

  • Note also, Jesus’ two greatest commandments (Matthew 22:35–40):

    1. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.
    2. You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

    were quotes from the Old Testament passages Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18 respectively.

In fact, the Bible is consistent in presenting God as holy, with attributes of mercy and justice. Therefore, we understand that God has to show wrath for sin; just punishment for the crime. However, we also have to recognize that God, in His love and mercy, sent His Son so that we might be forgiven for those sins. Forgiveness follows belief in Him and repentance. Likewise, showing mercy, forgiving your neighbor ‘seventy times seven’, follows repentance by the neighbor. Remember that ‘seventy times seven’ was the answer to the question that Peter asked about forgiving his brother. This immediately follows Matthew 18:15–17, where Jesus outlined when someone was to be forgiven and remain a brother to the injured party:

And if your brother sins, go and reprove him in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed. And if he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax-gatherer.

The brother continues to be forgiven ‘seventy times seven’ because he continues to be a brother, someone who repented and remains in fellowship. This command is because we all sin, and those who repent before God are forgiven each time (‘seventy times seven’), and believers are to forgive their brothers in kind. However, the person who refuses to repent, even after the witnesses and the church have agreed that they must do so, is no longer viewed as a brother, but as a ‘Gentile and a tax-gatherer’ (understood to mean that they are to be ostracized). This has been misused by some, but as we see from verse 14 that precedes that section, it is ‘not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones perish’. God became man, coming to save all mankind, and we need only open our hearts and believe in Him.

What was of dire importance to the Hebrews in the Old Testament no longer applied to Jews living at the time of Jesus, they were no longer in exile, they were under the control of another governing body, and different issues had different relevance. Many books of the Old Testament had been written hundreds, if not thousands of years before Jesus’ time, and times had changed.

Your assertion is really esoteric philosophy. While it is applicable to the fact, for example, that we have computers and the internet with which we can communicate, it does not apply to the fact that the earth is still corrupt with mankind’s sinful nature; therefore, as the scholar said, in Ecclesiastes 1:9, ‘there is nothing new under the sun’.

With that said, it has been nearly 2000 years since the Gospels were written, and thousands more since the books in the Old Testament were written. The respective writers of all the books in both Testaments lived in a very, very different time than we do now. Science was completely unknown to these people, and it was through no fault of their own, they simply happened to live before the discipline developed.

The popularity of the canard that ancient men were somehow less intelligent and needed more simplistic teachings has been outmoded by evidence to the contrary (see, for example, Living (and eating) like a caveman?), and by the very words that you agreed to ‘assume … [are] true’. God, who inspired all Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16), exists before time (cf. Genesis 1:1,4), is eternal (Hebrews 13:8, 1 Timothy 1:17, & Psalm 90:1–2from everlasting to everlasting’), and His words are not (and will not become) outdated (Matthew 24:35Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away’).

We have the tools of science available to us now, and they have helped us advance greatly in medicine, comfort, and the spread of ideas.

We agree! Jesus probably would ‘endorse scientific thought’. However, the advances you mention are born from operational science, not historical (origins) science (see ‘It’s not science).

I think it would suffice to say that an intelligent, progressive thinker such as Jesus would endorse scientific thought if he were physically alive now. Here’s why: It is the consensus of the majority of the scientific community that Darwinism (descent with modification, natural selection, evolution, whatever you wish to call it) is in fact the process in which life as we know it became to be.

Fortunately, neither consensus nor vote of a majority determines fact. To assert otherwise causes one to fall into the logical fallacy called ‘Appeal to Popularity’, or ‘Bandwagon Fallacy’. This is erroneous because facts are not subjective. I must also point out that that it is illogical to imply (‘Here’s why:’) that Jesus would endorse Darwinism along with ‘the consensus of the majority of the scientific community’ after stating earlier that ‘He [Jesus] was also a radical’. A ‘radical’ is someone who advocates change from majority consensus, not someone who blindly follows the crowd. Jesus often opposed the majority consensus of the Pharisees or Sadducees. But He never disagreed with Scripture; rather, He affirmed even the parts that were under implicit attack then, and which are most scoffed at today.

However, the Bereans were commended for fact-checking with Scripture (Acts 17:11), rather than blind acceptance, and Jesus often pointed the Pharisees back to Scripture (‘have you not read ... ?’). As mentioned before, however, Jesus would not (cannot) lie, and that would include not proffering ambiguous definitions to cause confusion.

Creation scientists agree that natural selection (which removes information, making organisms more specialized) and mutation (which corrupts information) are facts. But we point out that they go in the opposite direction from goo-to-you evolution—see the following articles:

The problem is that terms like ‘descent with modification’ and ‘evolution’ have become wishy-washy terms with fuzzy definitions, i.e. equivocation.

While this does not agree literally with Genesis, it does agree on a higher level, and if nothing else points strongly to the existence of a higher being.

This is incorrect. The whole point of evolution is to explain life without a Creator—see Darwin’s real message: have you missed it?

Modern scientific thought would state that the universe is a rather chaotic place, with supernovas, toxic gases, black holes, and nuclear fusion going on.

How does this contradict the Bible? Indeed, see how supernova remnants point to a young earth.

On our blue planet, however, a bunch of chemicals arranged themselves in a such a way that they formed a rudimentary cell able to replicate itself.

How do you propose this happened, when even secular scientists have been unable to prove this theory? Please see some of the many problems with chemical evolution, such as:

By Darwin’s theory, through environmental stresses and success in the reproduction of this rudimentary cell, organisms evolved and differentiated. The gentle force of evolution guided them in a way that they could succeed in living and reproducing.

Gentle force? It’s hard to believe you’re serious. ‘Survival of the fittest’ or the death of the unfit does not sound at all like ‘the meek shall inherit the earth’. And we have also pointed out that the atheistic Nobel Laureate Jacques Monod said

‘[Natural] selection is the blindest, and most cruel way of evolving new species, and more and more complex and refined organisms … The struggle for life and elimination of the weakest is a horrible process, against which our whole modern ethics revolts. An ideal society is a non-selective society, one where the weak is protected; which is exactly the reverse of the so-called natural law. I am surprised that a Christian would defend the idea that this is the process which God more or less set up in order to have evolution’ [The Secret of Life, broadcast interview, 10 June 1978].

Said gentle force is what led to eventual evolution of humans — bundles of chemicals that are able to live, reproduce, and discern between right and wrong.

How are ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ defined if we are just rearranged pond scum? See my explanation to another inquirer.

For something so complex to come out of such disorder while following a specific principle does seem to point to the existence of a higher being.

But what sort of being? The god of an old earth is not the God of the Bible. See also Is evolution ‘anti-religion’? It depends.

In fact, it is much better evidence for the existence of such a being than simple belief in what someone wrote in a book several thousand years ago. The Book of Genesis was written for ancient peoples as an explanation for the existence of the universe and the humans that lived within it.

Jesus never treated it that way. Rather, He treated it as Scripture that cannot be broken. Also, God could easily have taught long ages or evolution in simple Hebrew if that is what He had intended to teach. See How long were the days of Genesis 1? and Genesis according to evolution.

It was meant to show them that there was a purpose and order to it all. We now know there is a better example of how life is ordered, and how it came to be, it follows scientific methods and can be tested. Just because Darwinism disagrees with Genesis on literal terms, does not mean it should be ignored. Again, times have changed. I would like to know what your response to this is.

See above, and Some questions for theistic evolutionists (which you should have read before asking, according to our feedback rules). 

Also, Sir, I implore of you, please stop teaching this fundamentalism.

I suggest that you need to define your terms rather than resorting to what has become a ‘religious swear word’. Fundamentalism at one time meant adherence to the fundamentals of the faith. But now it often has a derogatory usage denoting rigid adherence to beliefs that the user disagrees with (many critics are happy to equivocate and exploit this ambiguity). Yet you ask us to adhere to rigid principles of Darwinism, emphasizing your bias towards humanism—which makes this an ironic petition.

It is suppressing progress, and God’s greatest gift, free thought.

God’s greatest gift was His only begotten Son (John 3:16). We are, in fact, told to take ‘every thought captive to the obedience of Christ’ (2 Corinthians 10:5) and not to ‘lean on [our] own understanding’ (Proverbs 3:5) but instead ‘be transformed by the renewal of your mind’ (Romans 12:2). See also Loving God with all your mind: logic and creation—the important thing is to think from the right axioms.

You are mistaken that progress is being suppressed, because modern science was born on the back of Christianity (see The Christian origin of modern science).

Finally, you might like to think about how there could be free thought at all if we are really rearranged pond scum. If so, then our thoughts are merely the products of the fixed laws of chemistry (see this answer to a critic)!

I do not think it out of character to assume that if Jesus were alive today, he would use the examples of order seen by Darwinian evolution to support the existence of the divine.

Tim Norris
USA

You would be wrong, as Jesus is the Creator of the world (cf. John 1:1–3, Colossians 1:15–17, Hebrews 1:3), and His Word expressly teaches us that:

‘… since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God, or give thanks; but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, that their bodies might be dishonored among them. For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever’ (Romans 1:20–25).

As the leading evolutionist and antitheist Richard Dawkins claims, Darwinian evolution allows ‘intellectually fulfilled atheists’. This is because it removes the Creator from the equation and serves the creation.

Jonathan Sarfati, Ph.D.
Brisbane, Australia


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