The Church for Life

The Church for Life

Monday, May 4, 2015

The Preborn ~ The Scientific, Philosophical & Metaphysical Case for Life


(I gave this presentation at a Students For Life meeting, mostly medical students, at Nova Southeastern University in Davie Florida on March 18, 2015. You may view the PowerPoint slides on Microsoft OneDrive here, including a slides of embryo and fetal development.)

On January 22, 1973, two U. S. Supreme Court decisions, Roe v. Wade and Doe v.  Bolton, legalized the deliberate, premeditated killing of preborn children at anytime during all nine months of pregnancy right up to the very moment of natural child birth for virtually any reason. 

The Court ruled that the preborn are not persons and therefore lie outside the protection of the U.S. Constitution. In other words, the words of the Declaration of Independence, “...that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

These words of our Constitution do not apply to preborn children, therefore the preborn are the property of the mother, the Court having given her the legal “right” to keep or kill her unborn child.

This ruling parallels the 1857 Dred Scott decision of the Supreme Court that ruled Dred Scott, a freed African American slave, was not a person for one reason, his skin color was black. This gave the slave owner the right to keep, sell or in some instances kill the slave. The slave was the property of his owner without the right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

Justice Harry Blackmun, the author of the prevailing opinion of Roe v. Wade recognized the significance of the personhood of the preborn in the courts decision, writing, “The appellee…argue that the fetus is a ‘person’ within the language and meaning of the fourteenth Amendment…If this suggestion of personhood is established, the [abortion rights] case, of course, collapses, for the fetus’ right to life is then guaranteed specifically by the Amendment.”

You see, If the Court were to acknowledge the personhood of the unborn they would have reason to overturn Roe v. Wade. In other words, forty-two years after Roe v. Wade "Is the unborn a human being?" remains the critical question in the abortion debate.

As Prolife apologist Scott Klusendorf writes in his book the Case for Life,
"Is the unborn a member of the human family?...If so, killing him or her to benefit others is a serious moral wrong. It treats the distinct human being, with his or her own inherent moral worth, as nothing more than a disposable instrument. Conversely, if the unborn are not human, elective abortion requires no more justification than having a tooth pulled." (Case for Life, page 27)

In other words, from both a legal and moral perspective, if the unborn are human beings the central issue in the abortion debate is not a matter of  "women’s rights,”a woman's "right to choose," but the human rights, the civil rights of the unborn.

If the unborn are human beings, you cannot extend to a mother the right to kill her unborn child, without denying her child the most basic civil right, the right to life.

Therefore we consider the preborn - the scientific, philosophical and metaphysical case for life. We begin with the scientific case for life.

Scientific evidence indicates that human life begins at conception. Keith L. Moore and T.V.N. Persaud, write the following in their book The Developing Human: Clinically Oriented Embryology,

"A zygote is the beginning of a new human being. Human development begins at fertilization, the process during which a male gamete or sperm...unites with a female gamete or oocyte...to form a single cell called a zygote. This highly specialized, totipotent cell marks the beginning of each of us as a unique individual." (1998, page 2)

Professor Micheline Matthews-Roth, M.D. Harvard University Medical School writes, “…It is scientifically correct to say that an individual human life begins at conception…"

Jerome LeJeune, M.D. Professor of genetics University of Descartes writes, “…after fertilization has taken place a new human being has come into being.” Clearly,  "human life begins at conception: a fact, not a theory."
Douglas Erlandson has written, “When the fertilized egg (or zygote) is first formed, it already possesses its full complement of DNA or genetic information.” He continues, 

"That information never changes. A person’s sex, blood type, hair and skin color, and future height are all determined in that first cell.  From that moment on, unless its life is terminated, it will develop until it becomes an adult human being.” He adds, “It will never become a cat, dog, gorilla, or anything other than a member of the species homo sapiens. From the moment of conception, it is every bit as much a human being as you or I. Nothing radically changes at birth. Birth is simply a change of address one stage on a continuum of life stages.” David McDonald, further explains the science,

"Every human cell has 46 chromosomes (Chr) except the sperm and the egg which have 23 each. At conception they become a unique human with 46 Chr."

Again, Scott Klusendorf, "...the embryo...is different in kind from any cell of its parents....From the start this new entity not only directs its own internal development, it has something completely different from both parents--its own unique chromosomal structure. Later it will bear other distinctions such as a different blood type and different internal organs." (the Case for Life page 37)

In other words there are at least two bodies in every pregnancy: two heads, two set of hands, two set of legs, two beating hearts, two distinctly different DNA, and half the time the presence of male genitalia.

In fetal development we see both the humanity of life in the womb and the biological evidence that the embryo is an entity distinct and separate from its mother. Listen to a description I have compiled, of the development of the unborn in the womb.

At 17 days, the new life has developed its own blood cells; the placenta is a part of the new life and not of the mother. At eighteen days, there is the occasional pulsation of a muscle. This will be he heart. At nineteen days, the eyes start to develop. At twenty days, or almost three weeks the foundation of the entire nervous system has been laid down.

In Lennart Nilsson’s famous Life magazine photo essay, "Drama of Life Before Birth,” April 30, 1965, he writes of the unborn at three and a half weeks,

“This embryo is so tiny - about a tenth of an inch long that the mother may not even know she is pregnant. Yet there is already impressive internal development, though not visible here. This embryo has the beginnings of eyes, spinal cord, nervous system, thyroid gland, lungs, stomach, kidney and intestines. Its primitive heart, which began beating haltingly on the 18th day, is now pumping more confidently. On the bulge of the
chest, the tiny buds of arms-not yet visible are forming.” At twenty eight days forty pairs of muscles are developing along the trunk of the new life; arms and legs forming. At thirty days, regular blood flows within the vascular system; the ears and nasal development have begun.

By the forty to forty third day the brain registers waves on an electro encephalogram and the heart energy output is reported to be almost 20% of an adult. By the forty second day the skeleton is complete and reflexes are present and movement of the baby in the womb may begin. By the eighth week or fifty sixth day you have a perfectly formed baby with hands, fingers, including distinctive fingerprints feet and toes. All vital organs are present and functioning. The baby responds to touch.

By the ninth week the baby is the size of your thumb and will respond to pain, can grasp an object and make a fist. In the eleventh week (about 3 1/2 months) all bodily systems work. The baby swallows, tastes, sleeps, wakes, responds to light and darkness, warmth and cold.

In the eleventh and twelfth weeks, the arms and legs move, the baby sucks its thumb, inhales and exhales amniotic fluid and nails begin to appear. By four months, or sixteen weeks, the fetus is five and a half inches long. The genital organs are clearly differentiated. The baby swims, kicks and turns somersaults. The baby cries, hears voices, has rapid eye movement, eyebrows and eyelashes.

This is Baby Walter Joshua Fretz, born premature at nineteen weeks surviving for only moments. At five months the baby can learn and remember, is well coordinated and kicks are being felt by the mother. A photo of a six month old preborn child.  This slide helps us visualize the implications of science and embryology,

"It is wrong to kill this person, [the preborn] for the same reason it is wrong to kill this person." [the newborn] (see PP slide)

Secondly, note the philosophical case for life. On The Case for Life.com, this question is posed: "Do all human beings have an equal right to life or do humans come to be at one point, but only become valuable later in virtue of some acquired characteristic?"              

This is the philosophical and moral dilemma faced by those who, despite the evidence for the personhood of the unborn insist that they are disposable .Scott Klusendorf, in his book, Stand for Life, co-authored with John Ensor writes,

"As philosophy professor Stephen Schwartz points out, there is no morally significant difference between the embryo you once were and the adult that you are today that would justify killing you at the early stage of development." He continues,
"Differences of size, level of development, environment, and degree of dependency are not relevant such that we can say that you had no rights as an embryo but you do have rights today."(Stand For Life, page 9)

Philosopher Stephen Schwartz uses the acronym SLED to help us remember these nonessential differences. Please note the four nonessential differences between the preborn and human life outside the womb.

Size: While it is true that an embryo or fetus is smaller than an adult size does not determine their value. They are not of lesser value because they are smaller in size. Most men are larger than women. Are they more human because they are bigger in size? Larger men do not have more rights than smaller women. Size does not determine one's value.

Level of development: There is no question that a fetus is less developed than a twenty one year old, just as a toddler is less developed than a teenager. But the value we place on a human being is not determined by their level of development.

Environment: Does where you are, determine who you are? Does your value change when you get out of bed or walk outdoors? Does the value of the preborn change because it moves six inches down the birth canal? Can we kill the preborn but not the newborn simply because of a six inch change in their location?

Degree of dependency: Viability does not determine value. Diabetics depend on insulin and those with kidney failure on dialysis. Are they therefore less valuable? A two year old is more dependent on parental care than an eighteen year old. Does that determine their value? Can we kill the unborn because of their heightened degree of dependency while in the womb of their mother?

Again, "...there is no morally significant difference between the embryo you once were and the adult that you are today that would justify killing you at the early stage of development." (Scott Klusendorf)
                                                                                                          
This brings us to, the metaphysical and the case for life. The following words were posted on the progressive online magazine solon.com by Mary Elizabeth Williams in January 2013. The title of the article was, "So What if abortion Ends a Life" The subtitle: "I believe that life starts at conception. And it's never stopped me from being pro-choice." She writes,

"While opponents of abortion eagerly describe themselves as 'pro-life,' the rest of us have had to scramble around with not nearly as big-ticket words like 'choice' and reproductive freedom.' The 'life' conversation is often too thorny to even broach. Yet I know that throughout my own pregnancies, I never wavered for a moment in the belief that I was carrying a human life inside of me. I believe that’s what a fetus is: a human life. And that doesn’t make me one iota less solidly pro-choice." She goes on to explain,

"Here’s the complicated reality in which we live: All life is not equal. That’s a difficult thing for liberals like me to talk about, lest we wind up looking like death-panel-loving, kill-your-grandma-and-your-precious-baby storm troopers. Yet a fetus can be a human life without having the same rights as the woman in whose body it resides. She’s the boss. Her life and what is right for her circumstances and her health should automatically trump the rights of the non-autonomous entity inside of her. Always."

An astounding admission. She continues, "I can say anecdotally that I’m a mom who loved the lives she incubated...If by some random fluke I learned today I was pregnant, you bet your [expletive] I’d have an abortion. I’d have the World’s Greatest Abortion."

Ms. Williams acknowledged that "a fetus is: a human life" but goes on to declare, "Yet a fetus can be a human life without having the same rights as the woman in whose body it resides." Because the mother is "the boss. "While she acknowledges the scientific case for life of the preborn, acknowledging they are human beings, she denies their right to live  for a metaphysical reason. Metaphysics literally means "beyond the physical" In other words, it explores the nature of reality. Merriam Webster, "the part of philosophy that is concerned with basic causes and nature of things."

Scott Klusendorf writes, "...although the pro-life view is implicitly religious, it is no more religious than alternative explanations about human value and human rights. Everyone is asking the same exact question: what makes humans valuable in the first place?" He continues, "Science can't answer that question because science deals only with things we can measure empirically through the senses. If you want an answer, you'll have to do metaphysics." (The Case for Life, page 57)

Ms. Williams has answered that question. She defends the right of a mother to take the life of another human being, her own child, for a metaphysical reason, because all human beings in the world in which she lives, do not have the same rights. In the case of a mother, she's the boss, with the power and ability to end the life of the baby for her own personal reasons. It sounds like the survival of the fittest, doesn't it?

Let me see if I can explain how Ms. Williams could come to that conclusion and then give you an alternative metaphysical paradigm for determining the value to human life. 

The Apostle Paul in Romans one points out that there are essentially only two worldviews that govern our metaphysical decisions. Verse twenty five, "they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen."

You can either acknowledge God the Creator and worship Him or you can deny the Creator and worship the creature, the latter being the premise of humanism which inevitably leads to moral relativism. Dr. Francis Schaeffer over thirty years ago in his book, A Christian Manifesto wrote,

"The term humanism...means Man beginning from himself, with no knowledge except what he himself can discover and no standard outside of himself. In this view Man is the measure of all things, as the Enlightenment expressed it." (page 24)

When you deny God the Creator, when you repudiate any notion of transcendent truth, there is only one inevitable alternative, man becomes the center of his own universe. He puts himself in charge, and is therefore accountable to no one but himself! It is the self-deification of man. This is the premise of Darwinian evolution.

And here is the devastating result. Again Dr. Schaeffer, "Those who hold the material-energy, chance concept of reality...not only do not know the truth of the final reality, God, they do not know who Man is...They have reduced Man to even less than his natural finiteness by seeing him only as a complex arrangement of molecules, made complex by blind chance. Instead of seeing him as something great who is significant even in his sinning, they see Man in his essence only as an intrinsically competitive animal, that has no other basic operating principle than natural selection brought about by the strongest, the fittest, ending on top. And they see Man as acting in this way both individually and collectively as society."  (CM pages 25-26)

Therein lies the explanation for Ms. Williams defense of abortion. But as the Apostle Paul wrote, there is an alternative worldview: the acknowledgment and worship of the Creator. We look to transcendent truth to answer the question "what makes humans valuable in the first place?" We begin at the beginning.

Notice first of all man was created By God. God said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness..." (Genesis 1:26a ESV) "...then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature." (Genesis 2:7 ESV) 

The Biblical record indicates that man was not the product of a meaningless, random  evolutionary process over billions of years,  rising to he top of the evolutionary chain having succeeded in the survival of the fittest.

Man was not the result of a cosmic accident, not the product of random chance. How is this relevant to the abortion debate? As already noted, the Founding Fathers recognized that man was endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, including the right to life. Endowed by their Creator, not the federal government, not the Supreme Court not the state of Florida but their Crestor! You see, the Founding Fathers understood Genesis one. They looked to creation to answer the metaphysical question "What makes humans valuable?"

Secondly notice that, man was created in God’s image and likeness. The inherent value of human life shouts from this transcendent truth. "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created them." (Genesis 1:27 ESV) Pediatrician, Dr. John Rendle-Short in his book, Godlike Qualities Man Shares with God, identifies some of the Godlike qualities man shares with God.

Language - Humans can communicate. My dog Maggie can bark, whine, and growl, but I have never heard her utter a single word, no less speak a sentence. 

Intelligence – man can think. Not only can he think as a rational being, he can think in the abstract. He can compute complex mathematical, chemical and engineering problems and formulas.

Creativity – he can create sophisticated products. Think of the technology of our modern scientific, medical, engineering and construction industries, just to name a few. He can send a man to the moon and back, and communicate instantly around the world from i-phones and the internet.

Love - relationships, fellowship, community. Man is a social creature with the ability to love and be loved, to care for and nurture its young, and live in enduring committed relationships like marriage and family.

Holiness – man has a moral conscience, the ability to tell right from wrong.

Immortality - he is eternal. Unlike the rest of the animal world, he will live forever.

Freedom – he can make choices. This is “because he is human, made in the image of God.” (Man: The image of God, John Rendle-Short, M.D.)

What a huge statement this makes about man’s capacity to relate to God. You see,
the fact that God created man in His image and likeness speaks of God’s intention and purpose in creating a unique creature having the capacity to live in relationship with His Creator. Here is where creation and the gospel intersect. As Marcus Dods wrote years ago,

“Man is dear to God because he is like Him...-Man, alone among God’s works, can enter into and approve of God’s purpose in the world and can intelligently  fulfill it....Man is incommensurable with the rest of the universe. He is of a different kind and by his moral nature is more akin to God than to his works.”

Adam and Eve walked in fellowship with God in the Garden because they wee made in His image and likeness. In other words, they had the capacity to know God. Sin broke that relationship, but God in His love for man went to extraordinary lengths to redeem sinful man through the incarnation. God became a human being in the person of Jesus Christ so He could die a substitutionary death on the cross paying the penalty of man's sin, thereby offering him forgiveness and eternal life by faith in His Son Jesus Christ. That act of love is in itself one of the greatest statements as to the intrinsic value God places on human life. 

Thirdly, the personhood of the unborn.  We see personhood in God’s relationship to the unborn. It was written of John the Baptist: “He will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb.”  Luke 1:15 (ESV)

The prophet Isaiah’s testimony. “Before I was born the Lord called me; from my birth he has made mention of my name.”  Isaiah 49:1b

The Apostle Paul, “But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace.”  Galatians 1:15  (ESV)

God said of the he prophet Jeremiah, "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” Jeremiah 1:5  (ESV)

Listen to this incredible incident. These words were spoken by Elizabeth who was six months pregnant with John the Baptist when her cousin Mary, just days pregnant with Jesus Christ, came to visit her. Luke 1:41-42,

"When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears,the baby in my womb leaped for joy.’

Do you realize what took place here? The text says that John the Baptist six months old, leaped for joy in his mother's womb when he came into the presence of Jesus Christ, God incarnate who was but days old in the womb of his mother Mary.

This is the first recorded worship of the Messiah, and it took place in the womb. The Psalmist wrote, "For you created my inmost being, you knit me together in my mother's womb...“Your eyes say my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” (139:13,16 NIV)  Do you see the personhood of the unborn in these historical narratives?

Pastor John Piper, “Psalm 139 emphasize(s) God as the primary workman - nurturer, fashioner, knitter, Creator --in this time of gestation. Why is this important? It’s important because God is the only One who can create personhood. Mothers and fathers can contribute some impersonal egg and some impersonal sperm, but only God creates independent personhood.” (Brothers We Are Not Professionals, p. 219-220)  

What is God’s View of human life in the womb? Douglas Erlandson has written,

“God deals with the lives [of man] from conception to adulthood. The Bible does not appear to recognize a special change in God’s dealings with man at birth. God values each of the above men while he is still in the womb – knows him, chooses him, shapes him.” (Abortion: Answering the Arguments)

The Bible gives an answer to the metaphysical question that everyone is asking, "What makes human beings valuable in the first place? The unborn are created by God and for God. They are created in His image and likeness and are recognized by God as distinct and unique persons from the moment of conception. So valuable to Him that He sent His Son to die on the cross so they could be reconciled to their Creator.

What is propelling the worldwide abortion crisis? The Biblical evidence would indicate  that abortion is a Satanic enterprise. The stage was set thousands of years ago as recorded in Genesis 3:15 (NIV).  After Satan deceived Adam and Eve and man was plunged into sin. God said to Satan, "...I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel." And with that, the epoch struggle between good and evil began. And Satan has been involved in an unrelenting attempt to kill the offspring of Eve ever since.

Jesus, Himself, said as much. John chapter 8 records an encounter between Jesus and the religious leaders. In that exchange Jesus said this about the devil, "The devil…was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of all lies." John 8:44  (NIV) With those words Jesus identified two roles of Satan: a murderer from the beginning and a liar and the father of lies.

The devil is 'a murderer.' It is estimated that between 40 and 50 million babies are killed by abortion worldwide each year. About one in five pregnancies end in abortion worldwide. (Alan Guttmacher Institute, “In Brief”, October 2007)

It is estimated there have been 1.72 BILLION abortions worldwide in the first 40 years after 1973. That is an average of 117,800 abortions per day for 40 years. (Dr. Brian Clowes, director of education and research at Human Life International Lifenews.com 04-01-13)

In America, almost 58 million preborn children have been aborted in the last 42 years. Over 72,000 Florida in 2014

In John 10:10, Jesus said, "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. The Devil has been very successful in carrying out his agenda.

Satan is a liar and the father of all lies. Deception proliferates in the abortion industry. Deception characterizes the abortion industry. Deception involves lies. The words of an abortion counselor: 

"Although the test is positive, you shouldn't consider yourself pregnant," she explained. "It's really just cells dividing at this point. We can take care of the problem quickly and easily, and you'll never have to think about it again.”

She made four statements. Every statement was of was a lie. Deception involves withholding the truth. This study showed that, “Even though the majority felt rushed and uncertain, 67% received no counseling; 79% were not told about alternatives to abortion.” ( VM Rue et. al.,  Medical Science Monitor)

You see, deception Leads to Moral Schizophrenia. Randy Alcorn, “In America it is illegal to harm your pre-born child, but it is perfectly legal to kill him.”

The Devil is “a murderer...a liar and father of all lies.” These two “attributes” expose him as the Architect of Abortion.

The ancient worship of the fertility god Molech involved child sacrifice. God said, “And you took your sons and daughters whom you bore to me and sacrificed them as food to the idols… You slaughtered my children and sacrificed them to the idols.”

Randy Alcorn writes, “As the devil loved the sacrifice of children in the ancient heathen cultures, so he loves the sacrifice of children in our modern culture. Whether children are sacrificed to a heathen god called Molech or to the god of our own convenience, he does not care.”

“Whether these children are born or unborn does not matter  to God’s enemies, for each of them is equally created in the image of God, and by killing them Satan comes as close as he can to striking out at God Himself. In killing those created in God’s image, Satan kills God in effigy.”

In Luke chapter ten Jesus helped a lawyer understand what it meant to love his neighbor. He was evidently hung up on exactly what that looked like so he asked Jesus, "Who his my neighbor?" Jesus then tells him the story of a man on his way to Jericho from Jerusalem who was robbed and beaten and left half dead alongside the road.

Three different individuals had the opportunity to come to his rescue, in all likelihood to save his life. Two of the three did not respond to the needs of the man bleeding by the side of the road. Those two were the church leaders of that day a priest and a Levite, responsible for the spiritual care of their nation.

And Jesus points out that not only did they fail to respond but, they "passed by on the other side." In other words they distanced themselves from the needs of the man dying by the side of the road.

Jesus then pointed out that the one who proved to be the neighbor to the dying man was the one who showed mercy to the badly beaten traveller. He then said, "Go and do likewise."

John Ensor, in his book Innocent Life, defines "Samaritan compassion " this way,

"Doing right in the sight of the Lord means acting to stop the shedding of innocent blood. The only person in Jesus’ parable who is pro-life according to the demands of love is the Samaritan. Only he was willing to make the nearly dead man’s problem his own. Only he was willing to see the victim’s suffering as his own. Only he was willing to act according to what he would cry out for if their positions had been reversed."

May I suggest to you that according to Jesus' parable, our salvation has a moral imperative built into it with regards to the needs of those around us, our neighbors.

Last year (2014) in Broward County 12,359 unborn children lost their lives to abortion. That's an average of 35 children every day. They were your neighbors.

Children will die unless someone intervenes on their behalf. In other words, we have an opportunity to "go and do likewise!"

Again, John Ensor, "Loving my neighbor will occasionally arrest me, and maybe even require me to help prevent someone from being murdered." The writer of Proverbs said something very similar. "Rescue those who are unjustly sentenced to death; Don’t stand back and let them die. Don’t try to avoid responsibility by saying you didn’t know about it."


© James P McGarvey All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The Most Valuable Book in the World

2 Timothy 3:14-17; Hebrews 4:12-13

(I gave the message at Pines Baptist Church, Pembroke Pines Florida on February 8, 2015. You may view the PowerPoint slides here.)

The 2000 Baptist Faith and Message says the following about the Scriptures:

"The Holy Bible was written by men divinely inspired and is God's revelation of Himself to man. It is a perfect treasure of divine instruction. It has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter. Therefore, all Scripture is totally true and trustworthy. It reveals the principles by which God judges us, and therefore is, and will remain to the end of the world, the true center of Christian union, and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions should be tried. All Scripture is a testimony to Christ, who is Himself the focus of divine revelation."

That is the doctrinal statement of this church with regards to the Bible. You can read it on the Pines Baptist Church website. Most evangelical denominations and churches adhere to a similar high view of Scripture.

However, what is disconcerting is the fact that, as Jeremy Weber reported a little over two years ago, "In a fresh study of 'Bible engagement' ...Life Way Research surveyed more than 2,900 Protestant
churchgoers and found that while 90 percent 'desire to please and honor Jesus in all I do,' only 19 percent personally read the Bible every day." According to the survey another 25% read the Bible a few times a week, 14% once a week, 22% once or twice a month and 18% rarely/never. (Study: Bible Engagement in Churchgoers' Hearts, Not Always Practiced by Russ Rankin 09-06-12)

Dr. Albert Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, the flagship school of the Southern Baptist Convention, in an article entitled, "The Scandal of Biblical Illiteracy: It's Our Problem," writes the following:

"While America's evangelical Christians are rightly concerned about the secular worldview's rejection of biblical Christianity, we ought to give some urgent attention to a problem much closer to home--biblical illiteracy in the church. This scandalous problem is our own, and it's up to us to fix it.... Secularized Americans should not be expected to be knowledgeable about the Bible. As the nation's civic conversation is stripped of all biblical references and content, Americans increasingly live in a Scripture-free public space. Confusion and ignorance of the Bible's content should be assumed in post-Christian America."

He continues, "The larger scandal is biblical ignorance among Christians. Choose whichever statistic or survey you like, the general pattern is the same. America's Christians know less and less about the Bible. It shows."

Let me be clear from the outset. I am not trying to lay a guilt trip on any of us. I cite these facts because if these surveys are even remotely accurate we are at risk as individuals, as families and as a church. At worse, at risk of sooner or later being overwhelmed by false doctrine if not apostasy, and at best, a failure to walk in the fullness of our salvation found in Jesus Christ and His Word. As Dr. Mohler warns, "We will not believe more than we know, and we will not live higher than our beliefs."

I believe, from personal experience and the teaching of Scripture that our personal knowledge and intimacy with God grows in direct proportion to our knowledge and intimacy with His Word.

That is one reason why the Bible is the most valuable book in the world. Why is that the case? To answer that question, I am going to cover three things about the Bible this morning: its origin, its nature and its purpose.

First of all, the origin of the Bible. It is inspired by God - this answers these questions "Where did the Bible come from?" "Who authored it?" or "Who wrote it?"

The Bible makes the unambiguous claim that it is inspired by God. Therefore, we rightly refer to the Bible as "God's Word." The Bible teaches that the Scriptures are inspired by God. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (ESV) "All Scripture is breathed out by God and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work."

 When Paul said that Scripture was "breathed out by God" he is referring to its origin. The word translated "breathed" is the same word translated "spirit." So the breathing out of the Scriptures describes the work of the Holy Spirit in the writing of the Bible. The apostle Peter further clarifies this truth. 2 Peter 1:21 (ESV) "For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit."

There are many examples in the Bible that illustrate this truth. For example, in Hebrews chapter one, the writer in verse five says, "For to which of the angels did God ever say, then he quotes from Psalm two, "'You are my son, today I have begotten you?'" In other words, Psalm two represents what God said. He goes on to quote from Psalm 45 and 104 in the same way attributing them to be words from God. Similarly in chapter 3:7, the writer to the Hebrews attributes Psalm 95 to the work of the Holy Spirit saying, "Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says," then quoting from Psalm 95, "'Today, if you hear his voice do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness." In other words, the writer to the Hebrews is acknowledging the Scripture he quotes to be the words of the Holy Spirit.

We see the role of the Holy Spirit in the writing of the New Testament. Jesus said to his disciples, John 14:26, (ESV) "But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to you remembrance all that I have said to you."

Dr. Merrill C. Tenney writes, "The continuity of revelation is likewise guaranteed by the Holy Spirit." (John, the Gospel of Belief, pg. 224) Dr. R. V. G. Tasker further explains, "The very existence of this Gospel of John, and indeed of the entire New Testament, would have been impossible apart from this aspect of the Holy Spirit's work." (The Gospel According to St. John, pg. 168)

The Apostle Paul made a similar claim of the gospel he proclaimed. As he wrote the church at Galatia, warning them about deserting the message he had proclaimed to them, he speaks of the origin of his gospel message. Galatians 1:11-12, "For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man's gospel. For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ."

Dr. John R.W. Stott writes, "His gospel...was neither an invention (as if his own brain had fabricated it), not a tradition (as if the church had handed it down to him), but a revelation (for God had made it known to him).  (Only One Way, pg. 30)

Notice that Peter makes it clear that God used men as the instruments in writing the Scripture. He writes, "but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit." The term "carried along" is a maritime term used of the sailing ships of that day as they were carried along by the wind. (Acts 27:15,17) To use the metaphor here, the prophets "raised their sails," as it were, and were carried along by the Holy Spirit writing under His inspiration and direction.

 You see God used men to write the Bible, men of varied backgrounds and different experiences. Men with different personalities who wrote in various literary styles. But they were all men who wrote the words and the message under the sovereign control of the Holy Spirit, without by passing their unique individuality in the process. Dr. Kenneth Kantzer, one of my theology professors in seminary, has written of this human element that is so apparent in the writing of the Scriptures.

"...the full complete humanity of the Bible shouts at us from every page. The biblical writers used their own language. They wrote from the context of their own culture. Their style was their own. Their themes were those dear to their hearts. Moses differs from Isaiah, John from Matthew, Paul from James. No literary genre that is appropriate for good human literature is necessarily inappropriate for the biblical authors. From first to last, the entire Bible is a human book and can only be understood and righty interpreted as a thoroughly human book."

He is saying that the imprint of men is undeniable in the Scriptures even though each of them wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Donald Campbell writes, "...God superintended the human authors so that, using their own individual personalities, they composed and recorded, without error, His [God's] revelation to man." (Kindred Spirits)

So, first of all the origin of the Bible, it is inspired by God. Notice, secondly the nature of the Bible. First of all I want us to see that the Bible is inerrant. Again, the doctrinal statement of this church, the Bible, "...has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter. Therefore, all Scripture is totally true and trustworthy."

We refer to this as the "inerrancy" of Scripture. The word "inerrant" means to be without error. If God is the author of Scripture as we have seen, what does the Bible say about the veracity or truthfulness of God? Two examples: Titus 1:2 - "God, who never lies." Hebrews 6:18 - "it is impossible for God to lie." The Bible is without error because of the impossibility of its author to lie. Dr. Norman Geisler, "We dare not agree, therefore, with those who would make inerrancy a minor or even trivial matter. Whether or not the Bible has errors in it is as important as whether or not God can err." (Evangelical Beacon, pg. 5, 01-16-79) In Matthew 5:17-18, Jesus said,

"Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished."

Jesus taught the infallibility of the  Scriptures. They would be fulfilled. In other words, they are incapable of error.

Do you know what an "iota" is? The KJV translates it 'jot." It is thought to be the "yod," the smallest letter of the Hebrew alphabet. So the New International Version translates it "the smallest letter." It's about the size of an apostrophe in the English language. See on this Hebrew alphabet chart [PowerPoint] it is on the second row, the last letter on the far right. It is the first and smallest letter, the "Yah," in the Hebrew word for Lord - Yahweh. Remember Hebrew, unlike English, is read from right to left.

Do you know what a "dot" is? KJV "tittle." It is the extension or swirl that often differentiates one Hebrew letter from another. For example, the difference between a Resh" and a "Dalet." Do you see [PowerPoint] the slight extension at the top right corner of the Dalet? In other words, Jesus is teaching that even the smallest part of the Law will not pass away. It will be fulfilled. It is incapable of being wrong or mistaken. This is a very strong statement regarding the infallibility of the Scriptures.

As D.A Carson writes, "...Jesus here upholds the authority of the Old Testament Scriptures right down to the 'least stroke of a pen.' His is the highest possible view of the OT." (The  Expositor's Bible Commentary, pg. 145) Jesus said, John 10:35, "the Scripture cannot be broken."

The Bible also teaches the "plenary" inspiration of the Scriptures. That is, Scripture in its entirety is inerrant. You cannot limit the inerrancy of the Bible as some attempt to do. For example, some claim that the Bible is not trustworthy or infallible when it comes to some scientific or historical statements. In Matthew 19:6 Jesus answered an ethical question about divorce, by making a historical and scientific statement regarding human sexuality. On another occasion Jesus affirmed the historicity of Noah and the flood, Matthew 24, (37-39) and the prophet Jonah, Matthew 12. (40ff).

You cannot deny the inerrancy or infallibility of the Bible when it speaks of history or
science without impugning the testimony of Jesus Christ regarding the trustworthiness of Scripture. As Dr. John R. Walvoord has written, "Those who attack the written Word of God also attack the incarnate Word of God, Jesus Christ. If the Bible is in error, then Christ is in error, too. The two stand of fall together."

Dr. Norman Geisler, "...inerrancy is not a matter of scholarship; it is a matter of Lordship. If Jesus is Lord, then Scripture is inerrant, and the Lordship of Christ is not an insignificant matter." (The Evangelical Beacon, 01-16-79)

The Word of God is also permanent. Peter quoting Isaiah 40:6,8, "...all flesh is like grass
and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but word of the Lord remains forever." 1 Peter 1:24-25 (ESV) And the Psalmist David wrote, "Forever, O Lord, your word is firmly fixed in the heavens." (119:89 ESV)

The authority of the Bible is timeless. It speaks to men in every age and time. To those in the 21st century, as it did in the first century, as it will in the centuries to come if the  Lord tarries.

So, as to the nature of the Bible, first, it is inerrant. Secondly, the Bible is dynamic. In other words, it is a living Word, alive with the power of God. Jesus said, "It is the Spirit who gives life, the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life." John 6:63 (ESV)

Hebrews 4:12-13 (ESV) "For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-   edged sword piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account."

Friends, if you are a believer this morning; if you have been born again by the Spirit of  God, it is because the Word of God living and active like a two edged sword pierced your heart, exposing your sin, causing you to cry out in repentance, and receive by faith the forgiveness only Jesus Christ can offer. And the living and active word birthed new spiritual life into your soul as you received the gift of eternal life through faith in the atoning death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Peter described it this way, "since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God." (1 Peter 1:23 ESV)

F. B. Meyer writes, "...when the Word of God enters the heart, it is not as a piece of furniture or lumber. It asserts itself and strives for mastery, and compels men to give up sin; to make up long-standing feuds; to restore ill-gotten gains; to strive to enter into the strait gate. (The Way Into the Holiest, pg. 90)

If on the other hand, you are not a believer this morning. If your sin has never been forgiven, covered by the shed blood of Christ, this morning receive the Word of God. It is what God uses to discern the thoughts and intentions of your heart. Before His Word, Hebrews says we "are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account."

Again, F. B. Meyer, "We must expect to have our most secret thoughts, relations, and purposes questioned, criticized, and measured by the Word of God. No court of inquiry was ever presided over by a more exact inquisitor than this. The corpses of the dead past are exhumed; the old lumber-rooms with their padlocked boxes are explored; the accounts of bygone years are audited and taxed. God is critic of all the secrets of the heart. As each thought or intention passes to and fro, he searches it. He is constantly weighing in the balance our thoughts and aims, though they be light as air." (The Way Into the Holiest, pg. 91-92)

You see the Holy Spirit takes the Word of God and reveals our sin to us. We see ourselves as God sees us. That is the place from which we can call out to Him for forgiveness and salvation. If you have never done so, today can be your day of salvation. Call out to God in repentance and faith and He will save you!

We have seen the origin of the Bible. It is inspired by God. We have seen the nature of the Bible, it is inerrant and dynamic. Notice lastly, the purpose of the Bible. Back to 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (ESV) "All
Sripture is breathed out by God and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work."

The Scriptures are profitable says Paul, with regard to what we believe and how we live,  or to put it another way, our creed and our conduct. And of course, you probably recognize that the two always go together. What you believe will always shape how you live.

In dealing with what we believe and how we live, Paul gives us both a positive and a negative. Paul begins with what we believe, our creed. Scripture "is profitable for teaching,' verse sixteen. In other words the Bible tells us what to believe. It defines our doctrine. But it is also profitable for "reproof." In other words, the Scriptures will help us to refute error. It will help us to realize when we have embraced false teaching, when we are being led astray. The New English Bible says Scripture is profitable "for teaching the truth and refuting error."

Again as the Pines Baptist doctrinal statement reads, the Bible is "...the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions should be tried."

Just a few verses later, Paul warned Timothy of the danger of false teachers. In chapter 4:2-4, Paul wrote, "...preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths."  (ESV)

In his first letter to Timothy he wrote a similar warning. 1Timothy 4:1 (ESV), "Now the
Holy Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teaching of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared."

These are sobering warnings. It matters what you believe. Doctrine does matter! I have never seen a time in my lifetime when our doctrine, what we believe, what we embrace as truth, is more important than it is today. Our greatest safeguard against false doctrine and teaching is to personally know the Scriptures. To be familiar with what the Bible teaches. I don't want to minimize the public preaching or teaching of the Bible as we are doing right now. That is my calling. But there is no substitute for each of us giving  ourselves to the personal reading and study of the Scriptures. Remember Paul's commendation of the Jews in Berea? Upon their arrival in that city Paul and Silas entered the synagogue to preach the gospel. In Acts 17:11  (ESV) Luke writes, "Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so." These Jews to whom Paul and Silas preached the gospel got their Bibles out and checked out Paul's message! We would do well to follow their example today.

The purpose of the Bible. It tells us what to believe, our doctrine. Secondly, the Bible tells us how to live. Scripture is profitable, Paul writes, "for correction, and for training in righteousness," verse sixteen. Again a negative and a positive. This time Paul gives the negative first, "correction." This refers to the Scriptures correcting our conduct. The Bible is given to us to help us live right. And when we get out of line it will correct our behavior if we read it, meditate on it, apply it and obey it.

Just this week, as many times before, in my personal Bible reading the Scriptures spoke clearly to me about an area of my life that needed attention. Not doctrine, but a heart issue. The word was clear and timely, something I needed to hear that very day. I don't know about you, but I am the kind of person that most every day needs to give the Lord the opportunity to take that two-edged sword and divide my soul and spirit, discerning the thoughts and intentions of my heart. I desperately need that more regularly than I want to admit, so that I can know what is in my heart, treat people right, make right decisions, walk in the Spirit and be conformed into the image of Christ.

So, the Bible will correct our behavior. Then the positive, "and for training in righteousness." "Training" refers to "upbringing" or "child training." The Word of God trains us how to live and act. Again the New English Bible, the Scriptures are profitable "for reformation of manners, and discipline in right living."

The purpose of the Bible, first it tells us what to believe, our doctrine. Second it tells us how to live. Thirdly notice, the Bible equips us for a life of ministry, verse seventeen. The Bible tells us what to believe and how to live in order, "that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work."

As with many of you, there have been many times in my Bible reading that the Lord has spoken so clearly through His Word, not just words of correction but a word of encouragement, a faith building promise, confirmation or direction regarding a course of action, discernment regarding an issue, speaking to me right when I needed it. This is so we may be prepared and equipped for every good work. Bible reading trains us for living a life of good works.

There is a great message for parents and grandparents here, the greatest ministry we can have is to our children and grandchildren. In chapter one of 2 Timothy 1:5, Paul writes this about Timothy's grandmother and mother. "I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure dwells in you as well."

Then in 2 Timothy 3:14,15 (ESV) the Apostle Paul writes of the role Scripture played in Timothy's upbringing, "...continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus."  

That was Timothy's heritage. From childhood the Scriptures had been poured into his life. It is never too early to begin reading the Bible to your children. It is never too early to make your children familiar with God's Word. Timothy became acquainted with the Scriptures in his childhood, the text says. My guess is, this led him to faith in Jesus at an early age.

Remember the Baptist statement read, "The Holy bible...has God for its author, salvation for its end" Then the last sentence reads, "All Scripture is a testimony to Christ, who is Himself the focus of divine revelation." The greatest purpose of the Bible is to reveal God's love for our world in sending His Son to die for our sins. In that sense, it's God's love letter to us.

I close with this illustration. This past week a Facebook friend posted these words. I will not use their real names.  A mother writes of her seven year old son Tom.

"I had the privilege of watching Tom's presentation to his class. Every week they have to get in front of their class and present something, show and tell or a small speech, to work on their public speaking skills.... Tom had chosen something to speak about and put it in his backpack that morning. He wouldn’t tell me what it was. It was a 'surprise' he said. When it was his turn he pulled his beloved Bible out of his backpack. My sweet boy who finds whatever quiet moment he can to read his Bible, who is always using my goBible to listen to chapters while he falls asleep or does his chores and who loves the time we spend reading it together, has such a love for the scriptures at only seven.

On Wednesday he sat down in front of his class and read several verses in Matthew and then proceeded to give a little 'sermon' or explanation about what the verses meant. He wanted to read more but he ran out of time. He has told us often that he feels the Lord is calling him to preach and has many times shared the gospel with strangers when we are out and about. He began preaching to us at two years old from his high chair. His boldness in faith is such an example to us and such an incredible gift. It is such a privilege to be his mommy. I often say that he is God’s grace to me. I wish I could have gotten a video but my phone ran out of room. Still, I will treasure this memory always."

A Mom's tribute to her seven-year old son who evidently believes the Bible is "The Most Valuable Book In the World." How valuable is it to you?

© James P McGarvey All Rights Reserved