Tuesday, August 23

Justified By Faith or Works?

St. Paul and St. James, first century apostles and two authors of New Testament writings, referred to Abraham - with Paul conveying in Romans 4:2 that he was not justified by works, yet in James 2:21, James appears to say that Abraham was justified by works. Also, this presents the issue: are we justified by works - or by faith? This theological question necessitates a further examination, and indeed appears to present either an alleged contradiction or a conundrum. (Photo credit: Rembrandt - 1606-1669, The Sacrifice of Isaac)

The first text in question - Romans 4:2, says, "If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about - but not before God." Perhaps by understanding the context it may allow the reader to better understand what is said. Romans 4:1-5 says, "What then shall we say that Abraham, the forefather of us Jews, discovered in this matter? If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about - but not before God. What does Scripture say? 'Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness' [Genesis 15:622). Now to anyone who works, their wages are not credited to them as a gift, but as an obligation. However, to anyone who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness."

The text of Genesis 16 is again quoted by St. Paul in Galatians 3:6, which says, "So also Abraham 'believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.'" St. James also quotes from this particular passage in James 2:23-24, "And the Scripture was fulfilled that says, 'Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,' and he was called God's friend. You see that people are justified by what they do and not by faith alone." The apparent issue presented by these texts is that the by taking into consideration the context of Galatians 3, which says that the sons of Abraham are justified by faith and not works of the law (Galatians 3:11), and James 2 says that we are justified by works and not by faith alone. This alleged contradiction has a rather simple explanation.

St. Paul is focusing on the faith of Abraham, whereas St. James is focusing on the works. Paul did not say "faith alone," nor did James say that "works alone" would provide justification. The two New Testament writers approach the topic from two separate perspectives - neither of which are contradictory, but complementary. Without the testing of faith through Abraham's offering of Isaac (which God halted), would Abraham have been justified? Abraham's work - the offering - was also a test of his faith, which demonstrated that Abraham truly trusted the Creator of the Universe, and for believing God, "it was credited to him as righteousness" (Genesis 15:6). No contradiction exists, but a theological misunderstanding.

Furthermore, another alleged contradiction presents itself with James 2:24 and Galatians 2:16. As aforementioned, James 2:24 says, "You see that people are justified by what they do and not by faith alone." However, Galatians 2:16 says, "a person is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ." The two passages from Scripture appear to demonstrate that the theological teachings of Paul and James were quite different, and indeed perhaps an initial reading of the two would make one determine that. This has also led some theologians to question whether or not James belongs in New Testament cannon. An examination first of the term involved would be advisable.

"Justify" in terms of theology refers to declaring one innocence of guiltless - it means to declare righteousness, not make righteous. When we speak of justification, we must understand that there is a difference between justification and salvation. Justification is not salvation. Ephesians 2:8-9 declares, "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast." It is true that faith without works is dead (James 2:26), because it indicates that the lack of works (or deeds) after salvation by grace through faith in Christ is showing an unchanged life, or even a spiritually dead heart. Proverbs 27:19 says, "As water reflects the face, so one's life reflects the heart."

Credit: Rembrandt (1606-1669)
The life of one who has accepted Christ ought to reflect the change that has occurred (and will continue to occur). Whatever justifies also proves that the individual has been made righteous already. In other words, works or deeds are evidence of salvation - not a cause of salvation, but an effect of it. This is what St. James refers to in James 2:14 and 17 when he conveys that faith without works is dead. Jesus (who is God) taught that "every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire" (Matthew 7:17-19).

Also, by examining the context of these New Testament letters, St. Paul was combating legalistic works righteousness, also called "the works of the law," which is an attempt to become righteous apart from Jesus; St. James was combating those who claimed faith but never demonstrated by their works and their life. It is these people to whom John, in 1st John 2:4 wrote, "Those who say, 'I know him,' but do not do what he commands are liars, and the truth is not in them." In other words, those who claim to follow Christ but do not follow His commandments demonstrate their own unrepentant heart by this non-action. This is not to say that true Christians will never disobey or have problems, but that the unrepentant heart is evident from the life and deeds of a person who claims to be saved (or expresses belief in God and His Word) yet does not show it.

James was speaking of works of faith with salvation whereas St. Paul was speaking against the works of law without salvation. No such contradiction exists, nor do theologians need to reconsider James' place in New Testament cannon. Works of the law do not justify a person, but works of faith certainly demonstrate one's belief and heart. 2nd Corinthians 5:17 teaches, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old has gone, the new is here!" In Ezekiel 36:26-27 we read, "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you: I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws." As John 10:26-30 declares, Christ's "sheep" hear his voice and follow him, and the works (fruit) of those who do what he commands are evident in their life (Galatians 5:22).

We hope this entry has proved helpful, useful, and informative. Simply put, no contradiction exists between the previously mentioned passages, but a theological misunderstanding of some. From the outset it may appear as a contradiction, but upon further investigation, it is evident that this is not the case. Thank you for taking the time to read this entry. Feel free to email us at vexx801@yahoo.com or thetruth.ministryweb@gmail.com, visit our facebook page, or visit our ministry website.  If you have any further questions feel free to email us - but we ask that you remain civil. It is the mission of this ministry to "demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ" (2nd Corinthians 10:5). We also understand that many will disagree with our position, our claims and our ministry, and we recognize the individual's right to believe what he or she wills, but it is our hope that you will carefully consider Christianity. Take care, and God bless you reader. Troy Hillman

Wednesday, August 17

Is The Trinity Biblical?

The Trinity is a doctrine taught by many Christians which states that God is one, but exists in what can best be expressed as three persons. Jehovah's Witnesses deny the Trinity, claim that God exists in only one person and that Jesus was once the archangel Michael,[1,2] whereas Mormonism claims that the Trinity is three separate gods, and that the Father himself had a Father.[3] Various other religions, cults and denominations deny the Trinity: that God the Father, God the Son (Jesus) and God the Spirit (The Holy Spirit) exist as one God in three persons. This is also known as the Godhead - three in one. In past entries, we have attempted to establish that Jesus did indeed claim to be God, and have answered common objections concerning the deity of Christ. But is the Trinity biblical, and is it illogical to posit that three can exist in one? (Photo credit: GQ Ministries, Lucas the Elder)

God's Word is clear when it teaches that there is only one God, as shown by Isaiah 44:6 and 8 which says, "...I am the first and the last, apart from me there is no God... Is there any God besides me? No, there is no other rock," (cf. Revelation 22:13) as well as Deuteronomy 6:4 which says, "Hear O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one," along with Deuteronomy 32:39, "See now that I myself am He! There is no god beside me..." The claim that there are other gods and that God had a Father is illogical in that it would follow an infinite regression of gods - there would be no first to begin the cycle of eternal progression taught by the Mormon church. God declared in Isaiah 43:10, "...Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me," eliminating all speculation. Though some claim that 1st Corinthians 8:5-6, which refers to other "gods," supports the idea of more than one god, this is contrary to the plain teaching of both the Old and the New Testament, and it should be noted that St. Paul calls these false gods, "so-called gods" (see also Galatians 4:8). Ephesians 4:6 also teaches that there is one God, as does 1st Corinthians 8:6 (see also James 2:9; Mark 12:29).

There are various verses which proclaim that Jesus is God, whose deity is further defended in prior articles. Consider John 20:28, in which Thomas calls Jesus "My Lord and my God." In Titus 2:13, Jesus is called "our great God and Savior," with 2nd Peter 1:1 also calling Jesus Christ "our God and Savior." In passages such as John 10:30-33, it is clear that Jesus claimed to be God - "I and the Father are one" - affirmed when the crowd picked up rocks to stone Him and said, "We are not stoning you for any good work, but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God" (emphasis mine). This is also evident in other passages through the New Testament, where God claims to be "I AM" (cf. Exodus 3), receives and accepts worship, forgives sin, among other things. John 1, Colossians 1, Philippians 2 and Hebrews 1 also make clear that Jesus is God, equal in nature to the Father, and Jesus is in fact called God by the Father in Hebrews 1:8-9. Jesus is God the Son - meaning that He is equal in nature, not the biological son. Colossians 2:9 also clarifies, "For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form." See also Matthew 4:7, in which Jesus declares, quoting Scripture, "It is written again, 'You shall not tempt the Lord your God.'"

Credit: GQ Ministries
The Holy Spirit is also called God on different occasions. Consider Acts 5:3-4, "Then Peter said, 'Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit... You have not lied just to human beings but to God" (see also 1st Corinthians 3:16). It is clear from other passages such as Acts 13:2 that the Holy Spirit is not some impersonal active force, but a person in the Trinity who can speak. We also see that the Holy Spirit possesses the attributes of God: omniscience (1st Corinthians 2:11), eternal (Hebrews 9:14), truth (John 16:13), omnipresence (Psalm 139:7), and others. The Holy Spirit is also called the Spirit of God, the Spirit of the Lord, and God Himself calls the Holy Spirit, His "Spirit," on several occasions. For example, He is called the "Spirit of God" in Genesis 1:2, God calls Him "My Spirit" in Genesis 6:3, "the Spirit" and "his Spirit" in Numbers 11:25 and 29, respectively.

He is also called the "Spirit of God" in Numbers 24:2, the "Spirit of the Lord" in Judges 3:10, 6:34, 13:25, 14:6 and 19, as well as Judges 15:14. 1st Samuel 10:6 calls Him the "Spirit of the Lord" and 10:10 calls Him the "Spirit of God," as does 11:6, and is called the "Spirit of the Lord" again in 1st Samuel 16:13-14. He appears several times all throughout the Hebrew Bible, such as Nehemiah 9:20, "your good Spirit," and 9:30, "your Spirit," Job 34:14 calls Him, "his spirit," among other references. Psalm 51:11 says, "Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me" (emphasis mine). He is also called "your Spirit" (referring to God) in Psalm 104:30 and 138:7, and "your good Spirit" in Psalm 143:10. Speaking of the coming of Jesus, Isaiah 11:2 says, "The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him - the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the LORD." Isaiah 32:15 calls Him "the Spirit," Isaiah 34:16 calls Him "his Spirit," God calls Him "my Spirit" in Isaiah 42:1, as well as 44:3. He is called the "Spirit of the Sovereign Lord" in Isaiah 61:1,  and "his Holy Spirit" twice in Isaiah 63:10-11.

In Ezekiel 36:27, God calls Him "my Spirit," as well as in Joel 2:28, and Haggai 2:5. The Holy Spirit is mentioned and appears several other times within the Hebrew Bible, too numerous to mention here. Romans 8:9 also calls Him the "Spirit of Christ," making Him equal to both the Father and the Son. The deity of the Father need not be examined, as it is clear that the Hebrew Bible and New Testament teach that the Father is also God (see Galatians 1:1, 3; Ephesians 1:2-3) . Some people liken the Trinity unto a Pyramid: one Pyramid, yet it has three sides, or three corners. Another analogy that has been used involves water: water can exist in three phases of solid, liquid and gas, yet in each case it is still water. Likewise, God is one, yet exists in three distinct (not separate) persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Matthew 28:19 refers to the Trinity, "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." Though it is true that the word "Trinity" (tri-unity) is not found in Scripture, it is a descriptive word used of a concept clearly taught in Scripture.

Ephesians 4:4-6 conveys, "There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all." Jesus is called Lord and God, as is the Father and the Spirit - it is clear that the three exist in one, as there is one Spirit, one Lord, one God, and all three persons are called under the three titles in different instances. 2nd Corinthians 13:14 says, "May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all." The unity of the Trinity can be seen in these passages. With our finite minds, it is impossible to fully comprehend an infinite God, yet He has provided us with sufficient information.


All three persons in the Trinity are presented at the baptism of Jesus in Matthew 3:16-17 which reads, "As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, 'This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.'" John the Baptist confirmed this in his testimony recorded in John 1:29-34. In fact, Genesis 1:1 introduces God as "Elohim," which is plural. We also find in Genesis 1:26, "Then God said, 'Let us make human beings in our image, in our likeness..." (emphasis mine). Nowhere in Scripture does it say that man was made in the image of angels. Who is the "us" and "our" that is then referred to? Evidently, the Father is speaking to the Son and the Spirit. Genesis 3:22 also says, "And the LORD God said, 'The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever'" (emphasis mine). God kept man from eating from the tree of life so that we would not live forever in our sins, but in death through Christ have eternal life, free of sin, in Heaven - if we accept Christ.

The Trinity appears to also be present in Genesis 11:7, in which God says, "Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understanding each other" (emphasis mine). The "us" (plural in both Hebrew and English) allows for the Trinity's presence. Isaiah 6:8 says, "Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, 'Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?' And I said, 'Here am I. Send me!'" (emphasis mine). The Trinity also appears in Isaiah 48:16-17, in which all three persons are explicitly mentioned. "There is subordination within the Trinity. Scripture shows that the Holy Spirit is subordinate to the Father and the Son, and the Son is subordinate to the Father. This is an internal relationship and does not deny the deity of any Person of the Trinity. This is simply an area which our finite minds cannot understand concerning the infinite God. Concerning the Son see Luke 22:42, John 5:36, John 20:21, and 1 John 4:14. Concerning the Holy Spirit see John 14:16, 14:26, 15:26, 16:7, and especially John 16:13-14."[4]

"The individual members of the Trinity have different tasks. The Father is the ultimate source or cause of the universe (1 Corinthians 8:6; Revelation 4:11); divine revelation (Revelation 1:1); salvation (John 3:16-17); and Jesus' human works (John 5:17; 14:10). The Father initiates all of these things. The Son is the agent through whom the Father does the following works: the creation and maintenance of the universe (1 Corinthians 8:6; John 1:3; Colossians 1:16-17); divine revelation (John 1:1, 16:12-15; Matthew 11:27; Revelation 1:1); and salvation (2 Corinthians 5:19; Matthew 1:21; John 4:42). The Father does all these things through the Son, who functions as His agent. The Holy Spirit is the means by whom the Father does the following works: creation and maintenance of the universe (Genesis 1:2; Job 26:13; Psalm 104:30); divine revelation (John 16:12-15; Ephesians 3:5; 2 Peter 1:21); salvation (John 3:6; Titus 3:5; 1 Peter 1:2); and Jesus' works (Isaiah 61:1; Acts 10:38). Thus, the Father does all these things by the power of the Holy Spirit."[5]

All three members of the Trinity were involved in the creation of the universe. The Father (Genesis 1:1), the Son (John 1:1 and 3, Colossians 1:16), and the Holy Spirit (Genesis 1:2, Psalm 104:30). All three participated in the Creation of the world, and all three are one as God. The word Trinity, as noted, is used by Christians to express the doctrine of God existing as one in three persons. The word itself came from the Greek word trias, first used by Theophilus (168-183 AD), or from the Latin word, trinitas, which was first used by Tertullian (220 AD).[6] Although the Father, Son and Spirit are equal in divine nature, the Father is placed in a higher position in the hierarchy and authority as the incarnate Son (John 14:28, 13:16; 1st Corinthians 11:3; Philippians 2:6-8). This does not negate the deity of Christ as God, but allows us to better understand the relational status between the Father and the Son, and also provides a good model for children to follow: we ought to be obedient to our parents (though in Christ's case, the Father is not His biological father). What of the Jehovah's Witnesses claim that John 1:1 calls Jesus "a god," rather than "God"?

"The Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that Jesus is not Jehovah God. Instead, they believe that He is a god but not the one and only true God. Jehovah’s Witnesses have their own version of the Bible called the New World Translation. This version translates John 1:1 erroneously. While the inerrant Word of God states, In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God (John 1:1), the New World Translation presents the last phrase of the verse this way: “and the Word was a god” (emphasis added). The article “a” is not in the original Greek. A rule in Greek grammar states that when an anarthrous (no article) predicate nominative is present it is for emphasis. The noun is “Word” and the predicate nominative is “God.” Since no article is present before the predicate nominative, “God,” the verse is testifying that the Word (Jesus) is God. By denying the Trinity and teaching that Jehovah God is supreme and Jesus is an inferior god on the order of Michael the Archangel, the Jehovah’s Witnesses are actually polytheistic—they believe in multiple gods."[7]

Did God perform the greatest act of love? Jesus said in John 15:13, "Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends." Though some commentators argue that Jesus did not say "greatest" but "greater," nevertheless, Jesus, who was God, "appeared in a body, was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory" (1st Timothy 3:16, in which St. Paul says that God manifested in flesh). Jesus performed the greatest act of love by dying on the cross for His creation, contrary to the teachings of cults and other religions. Indeed, 1st Timothy 4:1 says, "The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons."

But what of other religions and the doctrine of the Trinity? According to the Institute for Creation Research, "It is significant that Biblical Christianity is the only Trinitarian religion—and therefore the only true religion—in the world. Most religions (Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, etc.) are pantheistic and humanistic, denying the existence of an omnipotent God who created the space/time cosmos. There are two other major religions, however, that are monotheistic, believing in the God of creation and in the creation record in Genesis—Judaism and Islam. However, these two fail to understand that the Creator must also be the Redeemer, and therefore they also become humanistic, believing that man must achieve salvation by his own efforts. Further, they also fail to acknowledge that God’s objective work of redemption must be made subjective in each person by the indwelling personal presence of the omnipresent Creator/Redeemer."[8] 

Lucas the Elder's portrayal of the Trinity
ICR also conveys, concerning the Triune nature of the universe, "There is an immeasurably and unimaginably huge universe out there (even though the most important part of it appears to be here). The physical universe is "temporal"—its physical characteristics are defined qualitatively and quantitatively in and by time, space, and mass/energy (usually abbreviated as just "matter"). Any effort to determine the cause of the universe is purely hypothetical. No human was there to observe the processes, so any attempt to understand events of pre-history (especially original events) must, therefore, be based on "belief systems," or presuppositions. While the theories and ideas may be many, the presuppositions can only be of two sorts: 1) there is an infinite series of causes, going back into infinite time, with no ultimate Cause; or 2) there exists an uncaused First Cause that was "outside" or transcendent to the universe. Many scientists today conduct their research based on their presupposition or belief that nothing exists beyond the natural world—that which can be seen around us—and thus they do not accept that any ultimate Cause exists."[9]

They conclude, "Scientists at ICR hold to the presupposition that the "uncaused First Cause" is the Creator who exists outside of the physical creation He made. Time is not eternal, but created. To ask what happened in time before time was created is to create a false paradox without meaning. There was no "before" prior to the creation of the triune universe of time, space, and mass/energy. Yet even more amazing (and the universe is amazing) is the historic fact that the Creator-God, after purposefully creating the time-space-matter universe, chose to enter it in the God-human person of Jesus Christ—for the sole purpose of providing a means by which humanity could have a personal relationship with the Creator."[10] Indeed, the universe around us appears to have the triune nature of God projected into it. Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons may deny the essential doctrine of the Trinity, whereas Judaism also denies it - as does Islam. Some claim that the Trinity is illogical, being three-in-one. The Trinity may be fully beyond reason, but it is not against reason. "The Trinity does not entail three gods in one God, or three persons in one person. Such claims would be nonsensical. There is nothing contradictory, however, in affirming three persons in one God (or three whos in one what)."[11] Concerning whether or not the Trinity is a pagan doctrine rooted in ancient Babylon and Assyria as some have claimed, "the Babylonians and Assyrians believed in triads of gods who headed up a pantheon of many other gods. These triads constituted three separate gods (polytheism), which is utterly different from the doctrine of the Trinity that maintains that there is only one God (monotheism) with three persons in one godhead."[12]

There is no perfect way of understanding the Trinity, and the very concept does indeed merit life-long studies. There is no perfect analogy, as they have their flaws, but they do allow us to understand certain aspects of the Trinity a bit better. Consider the brain, an eye and an ear - three distinct parts of my body which perform different functions, all of which are part of one body. St. Patrick of Ireland used the analogy of a shamrock leaf to illustrate that belief in something that is three in one can be found in many places: the shamrock has three leaflets but only one stem. Jesus, who is God the Son, entered into His creation to redeem us. 

Thank you for taking the time to read this entry of "The Truth," dear reader. Feel free to email us at vexx801@yahoo.com or thetruth.ministryweb@gmail.com, visit our facebook page, or visit our ministry website.  If you have any further questions on the deity of Jesus, His historicity and the Trinity in general, feel free to email us - but we ask that you remain civil. It is the mission of this ministry to "demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ" (2nd Corinthians 10:5). We also understand that many will disagree with our position, our claims and our ministry, and we recognize the individual's right to believe what he or she wills, but it is our hope that you will carefully consider Christianity. Take care, and God bless you reader. Troy Hillman

Sources:
[1] Let God be True. p.100-101. Print.
[2] Make Sure of All Things. p.386. Print.
[3] Talmage, James. Journal of Discourses, Vol.6, p.5. Print.
[4] "What does the Bible teach about the Trinity?." Got Questions.org. Got Questions Network, n.d. Web. 16 Aug 2011. < http://thetruth-blog.blogspot.com/2011/05/does-god-exist-part-one.html >.
[5] Ibid.
[6] "Trinity." WebBible Encyclopedia. Christian Answers Network, n.d. Web. 15 Aug 2011. < http://www.christiananswers.net/dictionary/trinity.html >.
[7] Martin, Jobe. "Is the Trinity Three Different Gods?." Answers In Genesis. Answers In Genesis, 19 July 2011. Web. 15 Aug 2011. < http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/2011/07/19/trinity-three-different-gods >.
[8] Morris, Ph.D., Henry M. "The Trinity In The Old Testament." ICR. Institute for Creation Research, n.d. Web. 15 Aug 2011. < http://www.icr.org/article/21595/ >.
[9] "Time, Space, and Matter." ICR. Institute for Creation Research, n.d. Web. 16 Aug 2011. < http://www.icr.org/first-cause/ >.
[10] Ibid.
[11] Rhodes, Dr. Ron. The New Answers Book 2 (Chapter 19: Is Jesus God?). 5th ed. 2. Green Forest, Arkansas: Master Books, 2009. 192. Print.
[12] Ibid, p.193.

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Monday, August 15

Does the Bible Teach a Flat Earth?

Skeptics of the Bible often make the claim that the Bible portrays a flat earth - and not an oblate spheroid as we know it to be. However, this demonstrates that the skeptic has chosen from the beginning to examine the Bible with an outright rejection of its veracity before researching its claims. But does the Bible actually teach a flat earth, or is a more reasonable explanation in order, rather than jumping to conclusions based upon the individual's presuppositions? In his book The Discovers, Daniel J. Boorstin writes, "A Europe-wide phenomenon of scholarly amnesia … afflicted the continent from AD 300 to at least 1300. During those centuries Christian faith and dogma suppressed the useful image of the world that had been so slowly, so painfully, and so scrupulously drawn by ancient geographers."[1] The flat earth position was never a mainstream view held by the church, but by a select few scholars who claimed to represent the whole of the church. African Lactantius, who lived from 245-325 AD, is the earliest recorded flat earth advocate in the Christian church. Lactantius rejected the Greek philosophers, and in turn, a spherical earth. The church considered his work unorthodox, and rejected his idea of a flat earth. Lactantius' work was later revived by a few groups during the Renaissance.[2] (Photo credit: NASA)

Cosmas Indicopleustes, a sixth century Greek Christian, claimed that the Earth was flat and laid beneath the heavens, which consisted of a rectangular vaulted arch. In an attempt to discredit Christianity, many secular historians have cited Indicopleustes view as the mainstream position held by the church - when in fact the opposite is true. The church rejected his ideas, and in fact most church father were either silent on the shape of the earth or held the spherical earth position. Washington Irving, in 1828, wrote The Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus, and essentially stated that Columbus did not believe in a spherical earth, but that the Council of Salamanca was about the distance between Europe and Japan. However, the work was a mixture of fact and fiction, with Irving admitted that he was "apt to indulge in the imagination."[3]

Credit: NASA
"In 1834, the anti-Christian Letronne falsely claimed that most of the Church Fathers, including Augustine, Ambrose and Basil, held to a flat Earth. His work has been repeatedly cited as ‘reputable’ ever since. In the late nineteenth century, the writings of John William Draper and Andrew Dickson White were responsible for promoting the myth that the church taught a flat Earth. Both had Christian backgrounds, but rejected these early in life. Englishman Draper convinced himself that with the downfall of the Roman Empire the ‘affairs of men fell into the hands of ignorant and infuriated ecclesiastics, parasites, eunuchs and slaves’ — these were the ‘Dark Ages’. Draper’s work, History of the Conflict between Religion and Science (1874), was directed particularly against the Roman Church, and was a best seller. Meanwhile White (who founded Cornell University as the first explicitly secular university in the United States), published the two-volume scholarly work History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom, in 1896."[4]

Both Draper and White incorrectly portrayed the issue. Concerning Columbus, however, The New Encyclopedia Britannica (1985), Colliers Encyclopedia (1984), The Encyclopedia Americana (1987) and The World Book for Children (1989) now present the correct account of Christopher Columbus.[5] R. Schadewald claimed that "The creationist and flat-earth movements have similar foundations and histories, and both have used similar strategies to propagate their beliefs. Indeed, both believe they are battling the same behind-the-scenes opponent,"[6] further claiming that no "flat-earther" would object to the Creation Research Society's statement of belief - without himself citing any empirical evidence to back up this claim. Contrary to these claims among many others, "supposed Dark and Medieval consensus for a flat earth—is entirely mythological."[7] It is claimed that up until the 1500's, Christians accepted the flat earth view - an unfounded claim not based on facts. By 150 AD, the Greek astronomer Eratosthenes of Alexandria had measured the 25,000-mile circumference of the earth, stating that he had measured "within 50 miles of the present estimate."[8] The ancients were heavily interested in astronomy, as evidenced by the Greeks, Egyptians, and others.

"Although the flat-earth myth was effectively debunked in 1991 by Russell’s scholarly study, the flat-earth myth is still used to claim that Christianity has a long history of persecuting scientists.7 For example, Youngson claimed Bruno was burned at the stake for espousing scientific ideas, including denying the belief espoused by the Church ‘that the earth was flat and was supported on pillars.’ Historian of astronomy John North concluded that the flat-earth still ‘is a common myth—perpetuated, as is seems, by most teachers of young children—that Columbus discovered that the Earth is round.’"[9] The round shape of the earth could be understood by watching ships disappearing over the horizon as well as observing the shadows given by eclipses, information which was likely known to New Testament writers - and evidently by Christopher Columbus.

Revelation 7:1 is often cited by skeptics who claim that the Bible teaches a flat earth. It says, "After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth to prevent any wind from blowing on the land or on the sea or on any tree." Similar terminology, however, is utilized today when referring to the rising and setting of the sun even though we know it is the earth which orbits around the sun, the stars "coming out," and the like. The "four corners" is not a scientific statement claiming that the earth is flat, but what is called the "language of appearance": it refers to the four cardinal directions of north, south, east and west. What does the Bible actually teach about the shape of the earth?

Job 26:7 says, "He spreads out the northern skies over empty space; He suspends the earth over nothing," with the apparent comparison being the spherical shape of the sun and the moon. Job 26:7 demonstrates that, though it was written in poetic form, it appears to suggest that the earth floats in space, and with today's astronomical knowledge, we know that it indeed floats in space. Pictures from NASA and similar space programs have captured a vast amount of images and footage to show that the earth is spherical - an oblate spheroid - and that it floats in space, or rather that the earth hangs upon nothing just as the Bible suggests. To note, (this is a generalization, evidently not applying to all members) Hindus believe that the earth is supported on the back of four elephants, which in turn stand upon a gigantic tortoise which floats on the surface of the world's waters.[10] The Vedic priests taught that the earth was set upon twelve solid pillars, with the upper portion being the only side that was habitable.[11]

The Altaics from Northern Siberia believe that their Ulgen created the earth on the waters and proceeded to place under it three giant fish to support it, with the Taratrs along with several other Eurasian tribes believing that the earth is supported by a great bull.[12] A literal translation of Job 26:10 says, "He described a circle upon the face of the waters, until the day and night come to an end" (emphasis mine). Isaiah 40:22 conveys, "He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers. He stretches out the heavens like a canopy, and spreads them out like a tent to live in" (emphasis mine). Significantly, the Bible declares on sixteen occasions that God "stretches out the heavens," which we now know to be true - the universe is expanding. The Hebrew word used for "circle," חוג—chuwg, can also mean "sphere," or "round."

"The Earth a Sphere—Certain astronomical relations were recognized very early. The stars appear as if attached to a globe rotating round the earth once in 24 hours, and this appearance was clearly familiar to the author of the Book of Job, and indeed long before the time of Abraham, since the formation of the constellations could not have been effected without such recognition. But the spherical form of the heavens almost involves a similar form for the earth, and their apparent diurnal rotation certainly means that they are not rigidly connected with the earth, but surround it on all sides at some distance from it. The earth therefore must be freely suspended in space, and so the Book of Job describes it: ‘He stretcheth out the north over empty space, and hangeth the earth upon nothing’ (Job 26:7)."[13] Psalm 75:3 says, "When the earth and all its people quake, it is I who hold its pillars firm."

"Blue Marble" from NASA
The reference in Psalm 75:3 is written in a poetic form. Instead of referring to literal pillars, this is representative of God holding up the Earth's stability, even in a moral sense: even when it seems as though all of mankind's morals are gone, God will not withdraw his sustaining power over the earth and mankind. It is clear that the Scriptures seem to speak of a spherical earth, not a flat earth. This is significant in that the Hebrew record is the oldest, with many Biblical scholars believing that Job was written by Moses in the 1400's BC, centuries before the Greeks "discovered" the shape of the earth, such as Pythagoras in the sixth century BC who suggested a spherical earth. Greeks identified areas as poles, the equator, and tropics, as well as drawing meridians and parallels. However, the Romans drew the earth as a flat disc with oceans surrounding it.[14]

"This is further supported by Proverbs 8:27 (NKJV), which speaks of God drawing a circle on the face of the deep. From a 'bird’s-eye view' of the ocean, the horizon is seen as a circle. Such an observation indicates that where light terminates, darkness begins, describing the reality of day and night on a spherical earth. The round-earth idea is further supported by Jesus in Luke 17:31, 34: 'In that day, he who is on the housetop, and his goods are in the house, let him not come down to take them away. And likewise the one who is in the field, let him not turn back...I tell you, in that night there will be two people in one bed: the one will be taken and the other will be left.' This would seem to indicate the phenomenon of day on one side of the globe while darkness abides on the other."[15] When Job 26:10 that the where light terminates, darkness begins, the text indicates a spherical earth.

From space, the earth appears as a circle since the earth is round - which certainly agrees with the Bible. The boundary between light and darkness taught in Job is where evening and morning occur - a boundary which is a circle, since the earth is round. It is fallacious to suggest that all Christians in antiquity taught a flat earth due to the passages such as Revelation 7:1, when in fact passages such as Isaiah 40:22, Job 26:7 and 10, as well as Proverbs 8:27 and Luke 17:31 and 34 indicate that the Earth is spherical in shape. Though a minority of Christians may have taught (and may continue to teach) that the earth is flat, this is in opposition to what the mainstream Church has taught, scientific data and what has been seen through human eyes - by those who have traversed to space and back, one of mankind's biggest achievements. The "four corners" are merely the four cardinal directions, and it is evident that Scripture teaches a spherical - not a flat - earth.

Sources:
[1] Boorstin, Daniel. The Discoverers. 1985. Print.
[2] "Who Invented the Flat Earth?." Answers In Genesis. Answers In Genesis, 1 March 1994. Web. 15 Aug 2011. < http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/cm/v16/n2/flat-earth>.
[3] Irving, Washington. The Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus. 1828. Print.
[4] Ibid, [2].
[5] Ibid.
[6] Ibid, p.42.
[7] Gould, S., Chapter 4: The late birth of a flat earth in Dinosaur in a Haystack, Harmony Books, New York, p. 41, 1995.
[8] Encyclopedia Brittanica.
[9] Bergman, Jerry. "The flat-earth myth and creationism." CMI. Creation Ministries International, n.d. Web. 15 Aug 2011. .
[10] Lisle, Dr. Jason. The New Answers Book 2. 5th ed. 2. Green Forest, Arkansas: Master Books, 2005. 96. Print.
[11] Ibid.
[12] Ibid.
[13] International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
[14] Dr. Joan Sloat Morton, Ph.D. (Biology and related scientific studies), Science in the Bible (Chicago: Moody Press, 1978), p. 13
[15] "Does the Bible teach that the earth is flat?." Got Questions.org. Got Questions Network, n.d. Web. 15 Aug 2011.

Friday, August 12

God And The Flying Spaghetti Monster

Pastafarianism (also known as Flying Spaghetti Monsterism) is a  parody religion which was created by Bobby Henderson, and first appeared in a letter of Henderson's to protest the decision from the Kansas State Board of Education (2005), which permitted the teaching of intelligent design as an alternative to evolution in school. This is where the phrase "Flying Spaghetti Monster" first appeared. Essentially, Henderson created the Flying Spaghetti Monster and called for equal time to be given to it, since he claimed it was no different than intelligent design. Henderson wrote the "Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster" in 2006 and continues to make Pastafarian beliefs satires of Creationism. But can it really be claimed that Pastafarianism is no different than intelligent design, and how is belief in the God of Christianity any different? (Photo credit: GoodMenProject)

Henderson's reasoning appears to be that he believes there is no evidence for the God of Christianity, there is no evidence for the Flying Spaghetti Monster, therefore, the God of Christianity and the Flying Spaghetti Monster are equal beliefs with no evidence. There are numerous problems with the first premise of there being "no evidence for the God of Christianity." As we have explored in past entries, there is an abundance of evidence, it is that the evidence has been rejected, Henderson has not accepted (or perhaps even considered) the evidence for God. In fact, the very statement "there is no evidence for the God of Christianity" is a priori in nature (rejection before even considering), and Henderson offers no evidence to the contrary, nor does he attempt to refute or give a rebuttal of the evidence for the God of Christianity. 

Thomas Edison and Sir Isaac Newton's combined statements on the knowledge of mankind demonstrate that we do not know a full 1% of everything there is to know in the universe - in that 99%, the skeptic must concede that there is a possibility that God can exist. Since we do not have all of the knowledge in the universe, one cannot truly make the absolute statement, "God does not exist." To deny the existence of God, an individual must first sort through the arguments for the existence of God, such as the Moral Argument, the Ontological Argument, the Teleological Argument, the Cosmological Argument, the Standards of Beauty Argument, and many others. Concerning the God of Christianity, one must also examine each of the theories for the resurrection, and careful scrutinize each one. 

The Truth Ministries engaged in this activity, examining the different theories such as the ones which postulate hallucinations, stealing the body, resurrection simply a myth, Jesus fainted and did not die, disciples going to the wrong tomb, and others. At the end of this examination, we concluded that the only possible explanation left, having demonstrated that the others did not stand up to scrutiny, leaving us with the explanation that Jesus Christ, who is God, actually physically rose from the dead three days after His crucifixion under Roman law (For more on these theories, see here). One must also deal with the reliability of Scripture - its continual confirmation and given credence by archaeological discoveries, its preservation through the centuries, among many other details. To outright reject God, one must explain away all of this among many other things.

Contrast to the God of Christianity, the Flying Spaghetti Monster is known to be a fictional story formulated by Henderson beginning in 2005. Got Questions Ministries points out the following comparison for God and the Flying Spaghetti Monster:

"Belief in God
(1) Prevalent among all peoples of all times. Atheism is very rare; even atheists admit this.
(2) There are many sophisticated philosophical arguments for God’s existence.
(3) The Christian God is a coherent explanation of why something exists rather than nothing, why logic is prescriptive and universal, why morality is objective, and why religion is ubiquitous.
(4) Belief in God is rationally satisfying.

Belief in Flying Spaghetti Monsterism
(1) Believed by no one. Even the so-called advocates of the FSM do not really believe that it exists.
(2) There are no technical philosophical arguments for the FSM. Actually, there are no technical arguments of any kind for the FSM.
(3) Even those who sarcastically espouse that the FSM exists don’t really believe that the FSM exists, nor do they think that the FSM is a coherent explanation for finite contingent being, logic, morality, beauty, etc.
(4) No one really believes in the FSM, but even if they did, it would not be rationally satisfying."[1]

The Truth Ministries is in contact with several people who popularize Pastafarianism, and these agree that they do not actually accept it as truth, understanding it be a created concept used as a satire, essentially, and do not actually believe that the Flying Spaghetti Monster truly exists. Books such as The God Delusion attempt to tear down weak and unfinished arguments for the existence of God, which is a rather dishonest intellectual venue of doing so, since the fully reasoned arguments are not tackled, but the weak and unfinished arguments. Belief in a god (specifically in the God of Christianity) is rational, reasonable, and logical, and there are a vast number of different arguments for His existence, whereas belief in the Flying Spaghetti Monster is irrational, unreasonable, and illogical, unsupported by any philosophical arguments, and certainly not fitting the attributes of a Creator.

It is difficult to dismiss Christianity as nothing more than myths and fairly tales once the evidence is examined at face value rather than through the a prior lens, once the resurrection, the arguments for the existence of God, the archaeological confirmations of Biblical events, people and places, the preservation of Scripture, among other things. But what of intelligent design? As shown in the entry, "Is The Intelligent Design Movement A Form Of Creationism?", the ID movement's scientific research attempts to demonstrate that the Universe necessitates a Creator, but it does not specify the Creator. Some ID adherents accept the intelligent design arguments as evidence for Allah, the gods of Hinduism (such as Ganesh), for the God of Baha'i, for African or Native American gods, for Ancient Aliens, the like.

Consider the following: C.W. Eddy, in his book The Power of I Will, writes, "Our eyes have 137 million light-receptive pixels in their retinas. The cone receptors in our eyes have chemicals sensitive to different wavelengths of light that our brain represents to us as colors. Even color is a God-given representation to us in our brains. The only scientific differences in light are the measure of its wavelength. The chemicals in the cones stimulate an electrochemical response that is transmitted over the optic nerve to our brains. This information is transmitted at least thirty times per second. In the brain, the information is reconstructed into a three-dimensional hologram of our surroundings replete with depth, color, brightness, and texture."[2] It is difficult to imagine that the human eye could be the product of time plus chance plus matter, and it appears more rational to believe that the human eye was the product of an intelligent designer. 

Pastafarians state that their reason for promoting and advocating the parody religion is to show that if Intelligent Design should be taught as an alternative in schools, then every other possible alternative - including the Flying Spaghetti Monster - should be taught as well. The issue at its core is this: the very premise of the Flying Spaghetti Monster is false. The assumption is made that Intelligent Design is the same as Biblical Creationism, and as shown in the aforementioned entry, it is certainly not the same thing. There are those who utilize Intelligent Design and attempt to force Biblical Creationism into the classroom under the ID tag, but at its very core, that is not what the Intelligent Design movement is. 

"The Intelligent Design Theory—that the vast majority of its advocates are trying to get into the science classrooms—is the idea that biological life exhibits such extraordinary complexity that it could not have come to be entirely in a naturalistic vacuum. The more that science advances, the more obvious it becomes that the universe and the life that is within it could not be the result of completely random, unguided, and non-designed chance. This understanding of the Intelligent Design Theory is clearly not the same as literal biblical creationism. In fact, Intelligent Design is no more an argument for biblical creationism than it is an argument for theistic evolution."[3] Indeed, though the ID arguments may be useful to show that belief in a Creator is reasonable, Intelligent Design is not the same as Young Earth Creationism, Theistic Evolution, or other positions. 

Interestingly, the YEC organization Answers In Genesis points out, "Ironically enough, the 'members' of the church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster (known as 'Pastafarians'), in addition to mocking God himself, are lampooning the Intelligent Design Movement for not identifying a specific deity—that is, leaving open the possibility that a spaghetti monster could be the intelligent designer. Yet much of the motivation behind the Intelligent Design Movement is that by not identifying a creator (or creators), the movement remains free of specific religious content and (so the argument goes) does not violate the First Amendment. Thus, the satire is possible because the Intelligent Design Movement hasn’t affiliated with a particular religion, exactly the opposite of what its other critics claim! This puts the Intelligent Design Movement in a double bind of sorts: if they name a designer, they are accused of being merely a religious theory; if they name no designer, their opponents lambaste their ideas for theoretically allowing pasta monsters as deities."[4] The Flying Spaghetti Monster fails to account for or explain away the arguments of the Intelligent Design Theory. ID ought to be raised as an issue in the classroom since the naturalistic arguments that students are taught fails to demonstrate how the universe as well as the life contained within it came into existence - something from nothing - without an Intelligent Designer. Intelligent Design does not answer the who or the why, merely that there was a who.

Pastafarianism represents the growing opinion toward religion and God, and the sarcastic, sardonic and unwarranted intolerance of Christianity. To claim that Christians themselves are intolerant and yet the one making the claim also claims to be tolerant actually demonstrates that the individual claiming to be tolerant is intolerant, specifically of Christianity. This mood or view is growing more and more each year, and if Christians cannot show that belief in God, His Word, and the accounts described within that Word are not rationally defensible, more and more people will continue to give no heed to Christianity as a defensible religion, and instead continue to claim that it is unreasonable and advocated by those who cannot think for themselves. On the contrary, Christians can think rational - it is rational to believe in God, and as Christians, we ought to be able to defend what we believe, to show others that what we believe is rational, logical, and reasonable - and not a Flying Spaghetti Monster.

Troy Hillman

Sources
[1] "How is belief in God any different from Flying Spaghetti Monsterism?." Got Questions.org. Got Questions Network, n.d. Web. 9 Aug 2011. < http://www.gotquestions.org/flying-spaghetti-monsterism.html >.
[2] Eddy, C.W. The Power of I Will. 1st ed. New York: Pilgrim-Way, 2011. 11. Print.
[3] "How is Intelligent Design any different from belief in a Flying Spaghetti Monster?." Got Questions.org. Got Questions Network, n.d. Web. 9 Aug 2011. < http://www.gotquestions.org/flying-spaghetti-monster.html >.
[4] Galling, Peter. "The Flying Spaghetti Monster." Answers In Genesis. Answers In Genesis, 22 Jan 2008. Web. 12 Aug 2011.

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Saturday, August 6

Does God Condone Polygamy?

Throughout the Hebrew Bible, we find instances wherein the men married more than one wife, usually referred to as polygamy. The word "polygamy" actually refers to multiple spouses, whereas "polygyny" would be one man with multiple wives, while "polyandry" refers to one woman with multiple husbands ("Bigamy" can also be used of having more than one spouse).[1] Abraham, Jacob, King David, King Solomon, and several others engaged in polygamy, marrying more than one wife - to which the skeptic raises the objection, "this shows that God condones polygamy." But does God actually condone it? Was there a purpose for specific instances in the Hebrew Bible, and what can we learn from it all? (Photo credit: VP; Joseph Smith's family - Utah Quarterly Journal 73(3): 212)

Understand that none of these: polygamy, bigamy, polyandry, and polygyny - were part of God's original design for marriage. God's original design is revealed in Genesis 2:24, "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, [not wives] and they will become one flesh [not many]." When Jesus is asked about marriage, He confirms this understanding of the original plan in Mark 10:1-12, along with Matthew 19:1-12. Speaking on divorce, Jesus noted that it was not part of the plan for marriage, but because of the hardness of man's heart. It appears evident that God promoted monogamy, not polygamy. Simply because we find polygamous relationships in Scripture does not mean that God condones it or agrees with it. In fact, we find recorded cases of lying, murder, as well as rape, but God certainly does not condone those.

Add caption
The first recorded instance of polygamy is found in Genesis 4:19, "Lamech married two women, one named Adah and the other Zillah." Lamech was great, great, great, great grandson of Adam and Eve, and part of Cain's bloodline.  Lamech, in Genesis 4:23-24, brags to his wives that he had killed someone, and neither the murder he committed nor his polygamous relationship is condoned by God. Polygamy was practiced by many, it was legislated in the Mosaic Law, and was practiced until the the Captivity, after which we find no recorded instances. Consider King Solomon, for example. 1st Kings 11:1-3 says, "King Solomon, however, loved many foreign women besides Pharaoh's daughter - Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians and Hittites. They were from nations about which the Lord had told the Israelites, 'You must not intermarry with them, because they will surely turn your hearts after their gods.' Nevertheless, Solomon held fast to them in love. He had seven hundred wives of royal birth and three hundred concubines, and his wives led him astray."

To note, skeptics often claim that it is unlikely that Solomon could have a thousand wives. Yet Egyptian Pharaoh Amenhotep III is known to have accumulated more than a thousand wives in his harem. Having this understanding that it was rare to have that many wives but not limited to King Solomon, and the understanding that God had warned against it, why did Solomon marry so many wives? Solomon married so many wives because when someone of royalty married with royalty from another empire, the two would become linked, and alliances would be formed. In doing this, Solomon secured his empire, sealing many treaties and engaging in many political alliances. However, by doing this, Solomon engaged in disobedience toward the direct commands of our Creator, worshiping false idols and violating God's plan of monogamy, favoring instead polygamy.

In fact, in Deuteronomy 17:17, the kings were commanded not to "take many wives": "He must not take many wives, or his heart will be led astray. He must not accumulate large amounts of silver and gold." Solomon violated both of these commands, the results of which are seen in 1st Kings 11:4-9, "As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the LORD his God, as the heart of David his father has been. He followed Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and Molek the detestable god of the Ammonites. So Solomon did evil in the eyes of the Lord; he did not follow the Lord completely, as David his father had done. On a hill east of Jerusalem, Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the detestable god of Moab, and for Molek the detestable god of the Ammonites. He did the same for all his foreign wives, who burned incense and offered sacrifices to their gods. The LORD became angry with Solomon because his heart had turned away from the LORD, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice."

As we read on, we find that God tells Solomon that due to his continued sins, the kingdom would be taken away from him and given to his subordinates, but for David's sake, he would not do it in Solomon's lifetime, but in his son's - and not the whole kingdom, but that one tribe would be given for his kingdom. In Ecclesiastes 2:8 we find, "I amassed silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and provinces. I acquired male and female singers, and a harem as well - the delights of a man's heart." Ecclesiastes is usually attributed to Solomon (this will be explored in a later entry), and he goes on to say in Ecclesiastes 2:17, "So I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me. All of it is meaningless, a chasing after the wind." Ecclesiastes was the results of a lifetime spent trying to obtain happiness apart from God, with no luck. Solomon notes that "I undertook great projects: I built houses for myself and planted vineyards. I made gardens and parks and planted all kinds of fruit trees in them. I made reservoirs to water groves of flourishing trees" (Ecclesiastes 2:4-6). Yet apart from God, even having so many wives, to Solomon "life was meaningless" (without God).

God had distinctly commanded that polygamous relationships among the kings were not condoned, why would He condone these relationships for anyone else? "Many Jewish leaders and patriarchs, including kings, were recorded to have polygamous relationships. However, these relationships brought about judgment and hardship. David was punished for his relationship with Bathsheba; Abraham's relationship with Hagar brought strife into the family; and other examples would also bear out this point. Some may argue that Jacob's polygamous lifestyle was blessed by God, but just because God used a sinful relationship to fulfill His plan does not mean that that action was right. Likewise, Jesus' lineage can be traced back to Bathsheba."[2] This bears out what we read in Romans 8:28, "...in all things God works for the good of those who love him..." and Proverbs 16:4, "The LORD works out everything to its proper end."

In the New Testament, St. Paul is clear on marriage. 1st Timothy 3:2 and 12 as well as Titus 1:6 record that church leaders must be the "husband on one wife" - not many. This is not to say that if their wife passes away and they remarry that it is unbiblical, but that they can only be married to one wife at a time. In 1st Corinthians 7:1-16, Paul writes to the church at Corinth about marriage, within the context of the passage, Paul utilized a pattern of a single husband and wife - this is echoed by other New Testament writers. St. Paul also explains the relationship between Christ and the Church in Ephesians 5:25-33, referring back to Genesis 2:24. In Ephesians 5:33, Paul writes, "However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband." Evidently, if polygamy were permissible, the analogy of the relationship between Jesus and the Church falls apart - Paul was speaking in the singular, not the plural.

The "positive" aspect of polygamy regarding Biblical times would be that polygamy would allow for the husband to provide a home and food for the wives, essentially providing and protecting for those women. That does not, however, make polygamy part of God's original plan. Today, in most cultures, women are able to provide and protect themselves, thus eliminating the "positive" aspect of polygamous relationships. In fact, most countries have outlawed polygamy, and as Romans 13:1-7 demonstrates, we are to submit to our authorities - unless it disagrees with God's Word (see Acts 5:29). God allowed for polygamy in certain instances, but there is no record of God commanding polygamy. God's design of "one flesh" in marriage - one man and one woman, not polygamy, is vividly clear.

In cases where Abraham and others were allowed to engage in such relationships, we find the results were strife, turmoil, jealousy, problems. David's inner turmoil can be seen in specific Psalms as well as in books such as 2nd Samuel. We find polygamy permitted, however, in many other religions - yet not all. Consider Sura 4:3 in the Qu'ran, "And if you fear that you cannot act equitably towards orphans, then marry such women as seem good to you, two and three and four; but if you fear that you will not do justice (between them), then (marry) only one or what your right hands possess; this is more proper, that you may not deviate from the right course." From a reading of Sura 33, we also find that Muhammad was allowed many wives, and indeed history provides that he was married to several women. 

Polygamy was also heavily practiced by the early Mormon church (established by Joseph Smith in the early 1800's), the founder included.The Book of Mormon had originally, in Jacob 2:23-28 and 3:5-8, condemned polygamy. In Doctrine and Covenants 42:22, also written by Joseph Smith, we find that it is stated that a man should only have one wife. However, later writings of Smith - such as Doctrine and Covenants 132:51-66 provide that a man can have more than one wife. Polygamy was practiced by the Mormon church in secret from the 1830's to the 1850's, when the church publicly announced its practice, despite many previous denials.
Members of Joseph Smith's family

"Eventually, they were pressured into denouncing polygamy after it was vigorously prosecuted by the federal government. From the 1870s on, many LDS leaders encouraged rebellion against the laws, but in 1890, LDS president Wilford Woodruff encouraged members to obey the laws. This caused a large split in the church, and new organizations were formed by those who continued the practice of polygamy and considered themselves as faithfully adhering to the commands of God over man’s laws. Some secretly practiced polygamy while others abstained. What has become the mainline LDS Church currently denounces polygamy and claims that anyone who practices it is not a true Mormon."[3]

Though polygamy was prominent in many religions and cultures, but it was not condoned by God, nor was it commanded. Though it was allowed, it was not commanded, and indeed the various consequences of these polygamous relationships can be seen with Abraham, King Solomon, King David, Jacob, and others. Though God works out everything to its proper end even when we cannot understand how, polygamy is not part of God's design for marriage - monogamy, or "one flesh." Simply because the Jewish people of the Hebrew Bible tolerated polygamy does not mean that God condones it. Murder was allowed throughout history, but it does not mean it should be legal, especially since the 6th Commandment forbids murder (not killing in self-defense). Despite the fact that the Qu'ran and the Book of Mormon claim to be additional revelations from God, the Bible is clear when it speaks of marriage. 

Troy Hillman

Sources:
[1] Patterson, Roger. "What About Polygamy in the Bible?." Answers In Genesis. Answers In Genesis, 24 May 2011. Web. 3 Aug 2011. < http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/2011/05/24/polygamy-in-the-bible >.
[2] Ken Ham, et al. Demolishing Supposed Bible Contradictions. 2nd ed. 1. Green Forest, Arkansas: Master Books, 2011. 75-76. Print.
[3] Ibid, [1].