Saturday, 13-May-2017

Every day is a good day to praise God. What about formal worship?

The correct day of worship is always a hot topic among religious people. We have received numerous inquiries into this important area. But, we want to warn everyone of any 'Bible professionals' who want to prefer one day over another according to his or her Bible-based guidelines. One can easily interpret various passages in the Bible to make it look like you are falling short unless you tow the line and worship only on a particular day selected by the 'professional.' Romans 14:5-6 is the passage that neutralizes such strategies.

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Thoughts and words are the currency of the spirit

What makes mankind different from animals? It is our God-given ability to think rationally and communicate verbally. How, then, should we think and speak?

The Gospel

The Bible Gospel message is very simple: God loves you so much that He died for you on a cross, gaining victory over sin and hell on your behalf.

This good news is found throughout the Bible, in both Old and New Testaments. A concise summary appears in I Corinthians 15:3 and 4, the Apostle Paul speaking:

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures

Sometimes human teachers take away from the Gospel saying, for instance, that our sin is not the reason Jesus died. More often they add rules and regulations to it, furthering their own agendas. But the true Gospel is very simple, and believing it brings new life.

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What the Bible says -- concisely.

Wyn asks: The lingering effects of abortion -- I am dating a woman who had an abortion when she was a young girl. We are both divorced now with grown children. She mentions the abortion sometimes. Should I do something? We are getting serious. Do you think the abortion subject will affect us?
Question about Right and Wrong in the Bible: Abortion
Motivation - Guidance: Looking for a solution
Bible view - A religious guide - [question 66, Sunday, 18-Sep-2011]

graph of abortion rate
The US abortion rate hit a maximum of about 1.4 million per year in 1985. Since then the rate has dropped to about 1 million per year (data derived from nrlc.org). About 1 in 5 pregnancies end in abortion.

The United States has condoned abortion for almost forty years. It is a controversial topic. Two camps are firmly dug in on both sides of the issue. This page gives the Bible's perspective on abortion in the context of modern-day America.

I've noticed that everybody that is for abortion has already been born. -- Ronald Reagan

The graph at the right shows the approximate abortion rate in the United States, derived from a right to life web site and adjusted slightly downward to account for possible bias in the data. Adjustments or not, the data is significant, indicating currently one pregnancy in five ends in abortion. Abortion is a part of the American lifestyle. According to the census summary on wikipedia, there were 4.1 million births in 2009. The chart shows 1 million abortions that same year.

We address the abortion issue biblically as follows:

  • Women's rights
  • The beginning of human life
  • The unborn
  • After an abortion

Women's Rights, Selfish Behavior, and the Yetzer Ra

On January 22, 1973, in Roe v. Wade, the United States Supreme Court struck down state laws restrictive on abortion, and held that the Fourteenth Amendment protects against state action the right to privacy, which includes having an abortion. Since then, the Supreme Court has moved toward giving states more rights to control when a mother can have an abortion. Even so, under federal jurisprudence there remains a right to abortion based upon the right to privacy. It is a 'right' that President Obama defends with vigor [emphasis added]:

Today marks the 38th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that protects women's health and reproductive freedom, and affirms a fundamental principle: that government should not intrude on private family matters.

I am committed to protecting this constitutional right. I also remain committed to policies, initiatives, and programs that help prevent unintended pregnancies, support pregnant women and mothers, encourage healthy relationships, and promote adoption.

And on this anniversary, I hope that we will recommit ourselves more broadly to ensuring that our daughters have the same rights, the same freedoms, and the same opportunities as our sons to fulfill their dreams

- David Jackson, Obama recalls Roe v. Wade, backs abortion rights, The Oval - Tracking the Obama Presidency, January 22, 2011

The President's remarks align with one very basic motivation for an abortion, i.e., the convenience of the parents. In other words, the parents (or parent) terminate the pregnancy because to have the child would be expensive or otherwise inconvenient to lifestyle, social standing, career, and the like. The child to be born would affect or prevent fulfillment of dreams

What does the Bible say about the motive of convenience? Such a motive finds its genesis in idolatry of self, that is, selfishness.

Selfishness is acknowledged in the Bible, but it is not explicitly forbidden or condemned. Hence, being selfish is not a sin per se, since there is no commandment in God's law that says 'Thou shalt not be selfish.' However, the tenth commandment (Thou shalt not covet) relates to selfishness, and the exact opposite of selfishness, unconditional love, is encouraged the Old Testament [emphasis added]:

you shall love your neighbor as yourself
- Leviticus 19:18 [NASB]

and in the New Testament [emphasis added]:

love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own
- 1 Corinthians 13:4ff [NASB]

Jewish interpretation (see Judaism 101) acknowledges that humanity was formed with two internal impulses: a good impulse called the yetzer tov and an evil impulse called the yetzer ra. The yetzer tov is the moral conscience, the inner voice that brings the God's law into focus when considering a sinful act, i.e., breaking God's law. The yetzer ra is usually conceived as the selfish nature, the desire to satisfy personal needs without regard for the moral consequences. People have the ability to choose which impulse to follow: the yetzer tov or the yetzer ra.

By the way, there is a strong parallel to the yetzer tov and yetzer ra in the New Testament. The Apostle Paul notes that Christians are equipped with a yetzer tov amplified by God Himself (the Holy Spirit) to better control the yetzer ra, which Paul calls the flesh:

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please.
- Galatians 5:16ff [NASB]

President Obama, and those in the pro-abortion camp, emerge unscathed by biblical mandates when it comes to the parents view of an unwanted pregnancy and its termination. In modern terms we say Stuff Happens, and the Bible agrees. If you are comfortable being selfish, the Bible does not stand in your way. Instead, the Bible encourages you be loving, not selfish, and reap the benefits of a loving life-style.

For the abortion question, there is something else, or someone else, involved in the termination of an unwanted pregnancy: the unborn child. When President Obama limits the discussion of abortion to the parents only, he is clearly unwilling to address the heart of the matter.

Two People, Not One

It is a gross over-simplification to consider only the mother's rights in the abortion question. Yes, the mother has rights, but so does the unborn child. We discuss the question of 'When Does Human Life Begin?' in the next section. All but the most callous among us would agree that a baby becomes a baby at some point before it is physically born. Whenever that time occurs in the progression of a pregnancy, the moral question shifts from selfishness of the mother to murder of the child, and the Bible has much to say about murder.

abortion forceps
Doctors use many types of tools and instruments to perform an abortion. This one crushes the fetus. The Bible question shifts from selfishness to murder when both the mother and child are considered in the abortion question.

When Does Human Life Begin?

During the Presidential debate at Rick Warren's church, candidate Obama was asked 'At what point does a baby get human rights, in your view?' He replied 'Answering that question with specificity, you know, is above my pay grade.' This is the heart of the abortion matter. If human life begins:

in the womb >abortion is murder
at or after birth >abortion is a straightforward medical procedure

Like the President, the Bible does not answer this question with specificity, but it comes very close. Unlike the President, the Bible gives deep, practical, and meaningful insight into the matter. The closest the Bible comes to answering the question 'When does human life begin?' is found in Psalms 139:16, shown here:

For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother's womb. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth; Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Your book were all written The days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was not one of them.
- Psalms 139:13ff [NASB]

A beautiful and uplifting passage, the writer says explicitly that God saw him in his mother's womb as an unformed substance. The Hebrew word for unformed substance is golem, which comes from the Hebrew word galam which means to wrap together. This wrapping could be of sperm and egg, or it could be of other aspects of microbiology. The Bible is not a science textbook, and it is a mistake to draw scientific conclusions from it. However, there is more to learn about the question of human beginnings from the Bible. More passages shed light on the subject.

The book of Job contains this observation:

or like a miscarriage which is discarded, I would not be, as infants that never saw light. [Job 3:16]

The English words miscarriage and infant are important. They translate Hebrew words that are distinct from golem, specifically nephal or untimely birth, and olel or suckling, respectively. Finally, consider an oft-quoted verse in Exodus:

If men struggle with each other and strike a woman with child so that she gives birth prematurely, yet there is no injury, he shall surely be fined as the woman's husband may demand of him, and he shall pay as the judges decide. [Exodus 21:22]

The woman here is herah, or with child, and she produces yalad, or gives birth. These are two more distinct Hebrew words.

The Hebrew language used by the biblical authors, then, draws distinctions between infants and unborn children. Further, distinctions are drawn within the gestation period. We have laid these out on the chart below, and, quite arbitrarily, assigned time periods to them. The only time that is certain is the time of birth; all other times are reasonable guesses, but no specific times are given in the Bible.

human pregnancy timeline annotated with Hebrew words
Different Hebrew words indicate three distinct periods in a human pregnancy, and a difference between an unborn child and an infant. This does not answer the question 'when does human life begin?', but indicates human life occupies the womb well before birth. Except for the moment of birth, all other times are guesses.

Conclusion - From a Bible perspective, human life begins as a golem (unformed substance) in the mother's womb. There could be a measurable period of time between conception and the appearance of a golem. Alternately, a human golem might be present immediately upon conception. The Bible does not say, so we do not know the answer precisely. This is probably fortunate. If the Bible stated explicitly that 'human life begins at conception' and this statement was codified into law, a young woman could be tried for murder when she takes a morning after pill, and the doctor and pharmacist could be held as accomplices. This seems unreasonable. However, the Bible makes it clear that human life is present in the womb as an unformed substance, and intentional taking of human life is capital murder.

There is a truly amazing video on the Internet that shows pictures of the human fetus with incredible detail. Watch the video and see if you can decipher when an unformed substance is present. The video is called Conception to birth -- visualized. It is truly amazing. There are also reliable and informative references such as Your Pregnancy Week by Week which give the same type of information.

human embryo at 12 weeks
Human embryo at 12 weeks, well after the 'unformed substance' stage.

Is Compromise Possible? Based upon this analysis of the scripture, and based upon medical science, it appears possible to reach a workable compromise on the time human life begins. This would be an imperfect, temporary compromise at best (like the 3/5 compromise for slaves in the US Constitution), and all sides would have to concede something, but somewhere between the time of conception and the time when an embryo feels pain could probably be designated. From the Bible's perspective, it would be sometime prior to, or very early in, the 'unformed substance' stage.

According to Wikipedia about half of all abortions happen before 9 weeks of pregnancy. The other half happens after 9 weeks, with about 4 percent after 14 weeks. In the UK, abortion is illegal after 24 weeks.

A compromise agreement in the US will probably not happen in today's politically charged atmosphere. There is too much money involved with both pro-life and pro-choice camps, and strong leadership is lacking on all sides to hammer out a workable, albeit temporary, compromise. However, individual mothers and fathers can make such a determination in their own minds and hearts. This should be part of the millions of 'abort or adopt' decisions made by young mothers and fathers each year in the United States. The Bible places a tremendously high value on human life, and it always comes out on the side of 'adopt' even for unformed substances.

The Bible and the Unborn Child

In addition to the analysis of the previous section, the Bible makes several references to unborn children. The table below has been adapted from Brand, C., Draper, C., England, A., Bond, S., Clendenen, E. R., Butler, T. C., and Latta, B. (2003). Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (10). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, and Carl Laney, The Abortion Epidemic: America’s Silent Holocost, Vol. 139: Bibliotheca Sacra Volume 139. 1982 (556) (346). Dallas, TX: Dallas Theological Seminary.

Life is a sacred, God-given giftGenesis 1:26-27; 2:7, 33:5, Deuteronomy 30:15-19, Job 1:21, Psalms 8:5, 113:9, 1 Corinthians 15:2
The life of children is important to GodPsalms 127:3-5, Luke 18:15-16
After intercourse, God opens the womb and controls conceptionGenesis 29:33, 30:22, 1 Samuel 1:19
God controls the development of unborn childrenJob 31:15, Psalms 139:13-16, Ecclesiastes 11:5, Isaiah 44:2, 46:3, 49:5, Jeremiah 1:5, Luke 1:15, Galatians 1:15
Unborn children may be conscious to the mother's surroundingsLuke 1:41, 1:44
Being without children cuts off the father's nameDeuteronomy 25:6, Ruth 4:5

Medical evidence, especially sophisticated modern treatment, aligns with the Bible's message. Professor Thomas Schreiner notes:

I think here of the astounding photograph of the twenty-one week old baby, whose hand suddenly emerged from the uterus and touched the hand of the physician, while the doctor was performing in-utero surgery. The perfectly formed little hand confirms again what the scriptures teach and science has verified: babies in the womb are fully human. [Thomas Schreiner, Editorial: The Importance of Ethics, Vol. 4: Southern Baptist Journal of Theology Volume 4. 2000 (1) (3). Lousville, KY: Southern Baptist Theological Seminary]

Turning to the Wikipedia article cited above, the predominant reasons for seeking an abortion are:

  1. Postponement of childbearing
  2. To end childbearing
  3. To remain childless
  4. Prohibitive cost, especially for unemployed
  5. Loss of income
  6. Disruption of work or education
  7. Lack of support or objection of the father
  8. Lack of support or objection of the parents
  9. Focus energies on existing children
  10. Preference for children of a specific sex
  11. Perception that the mother is too young
  12. Rape and incest
  13. Possible health problems in the fetus
  14. Endangerment of the mother

All of these reasons, except the last two, selfishly consider only one person in the equation, the mother, without regard to the other person, the unborn child. The Bible's strong stance for the Sanctity of Human Life renders reason 13 invalid (possible health problems in the fetus). Only when both lives are threatened, as in reason 14 (endangerment of the mother), would the Bible become silent on the specific issue and give only general guidance. In such cases, the Bible provides prayer and seeking God Himself as the only possible answer.

Conclusion - The Bible makes it clear that once the embryo reaches its unformed substance stage, adoption, not abortion, is the proper way to avoid a grevious sin and minimize the effects of an unwanted pregnancy on the baby, the mother, the father, both families, friends, and all people involved. The precise time of unformed substance is not specified in the Bible. It is a time to be worked out between the mother (and hopefully the father) and God. Remember: God is for you. He loves you beyond measure.

After an Abortion

Wyn's question is not about abortion, per se. He already knows that abortion is questionable at best, a heinous sin at worst, and he is wondering what to do about the lingering effects of an abortion later in life. Wyn's girlfriend had an abortion at an early age. Now, much later, it still nags at her conscience.

The paragraphs above show that if a pregnancy is terminated during its later stages, the unborn child has been brutally murdered by the abortion doctor, with the consent of the mother, and perhaps the consent of the father. In a word, the abortion was sin, i.e., the breaking of God's law 'Thou shalt not murder' [Exodus 20:3]. Sin always has detrimental effects on a person's life. There is no place in the scripture where sin does not cause trouble. It is a sure thing.

Wyn and his girlfriend can expect trouble in their future due to sin. They are like everyone else. They have fallen short of God's standard of holy behavior, and difficult times should come as no surprise. Theologians call it the fallen condition of man, a universal condition which affects Wyn, his girlfriend, and everyone else on the planet:

For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God
- Romans 3:23(b) [NASB]

Jesus Himself told us that we would have trouble because of sin, but He adds a wonderful promise:

In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.
- John 16:33 [NASB]

God has provided a solution to the sin problem. His name is Jesus Christ. Seek Him. He will not let you down.
by Paul Richards

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Chuck M asks: Where do we go when we die? When I went to a Catholic grade school many years ago, the Sisters taught us that when we die, we go to purgatory. I don't see anything about purgatory in the Bible.
Question about A General Question: Meaning of a passage
Motivation - Curiosity: Sincere curiosity
Bible view - The Word of God - [question 248, Sunday, 26-Mar-2017]

Hi Chuck -- That's a KEY question, isn't it? All religions have an answer for it. Many religions teach that we are re-incarnated, i.e., brought back to life in a different body. Some say we become infused into the cosmos in an mysterious, enlightened state. Others say we simply cease to exist. Since you believe the Bible, the important answer is the one from the Bible.

First, the Bible teaches that mankind is fundamentally different than the animals. Man is made 'in the image of God' (Genesis 1:26) and animals are not. There are many distinct differences between man and animals. Attributes such as wisdom, compassion, truthfulness, faithfulness, love, abstract reasoning, mercy, acting counter to instinct, use of tools, written communication, pursuit of happiness, righteousness, creativity, burying of dead, wrath, free will, art, music, humor, morality, rationality, trade, and a sense of beauty are 'supernatural' attributes that do not occur in animals, only in mankind. We call the supernatural part of of man or woman his or her 'spirit,' which is distinct from his or her body.

The Bible says that when we die, our body rots away, but our spirit continues to live. The most understandable passage about what happens when we die is found in 2 Corinthians:

We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord. - 2 Corinthians 5:8

This scripture says that when our spirit is not with the body, it is with the Lord, in His presence. What is not clear in this passage, or any other passage, is the precise timing of the event.

Most Protestants say that the absent-then-present event happens immediately, and there are scriptures which support this view. Most Catholics say that there in an intermediate state between absence and presence, known as Purgatory, and there are scriptures which support this view. There is no sure-fire way to tell which is correct, because the Bible does not have a sure-fire answer.

I am a Protestant. I respect my Catholic brothers and sisters in Christ, and I know personally many Catholics who demonstrate their love for Jesus more than I do. Therefore I will not completely dismiss Catholic doctrine. But I will tell you why I believe the doctrine of Purgatory is faulty.

The Catholic doctrine of Purgatory stems from the Catholic doctrine of venial and mortal sin. Venial sins are ones that are not so bad, and these can be cleansed during a stay in Purgatory. The idea of a sin that does not fully condemn immediately, or is not fully cleansed by Jesus' sacrifice on the cross, is foreign to the Bible. Sin is breaking God's Law, and God's Law is a unit. If you break it at one point, you break it at all points:

For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. - James 2:10

Hence, to my way of thinking, Purgatory does not exist. But there are many Christian people who subscribe to the idea.

Seeking Bible truth is a good thing. But arguing over religious doctrines holds questionable value. Better is demonstrating love for God and love for others, for

Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. - Matthew 22:37ff

Does the Bible prohibit collecting interest on loans?

Is it ok to charge interest on commercial loans? The Bible says 'yes.'

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If your wife is angry and domineering, it may be her fault. But it's probably you, her, and Jezebel.

If you are living with a contentious spouse, we have several steps you can take:

  1. Understand what is going on spiritually
  2. Enlist professional help
  3. Seek God about this specific issue

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Does the Trinity doctrine stand up to reason?

How can anyone explain the essential nature of God? The God of the Bible is unlike anything else in human experience.

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