Uniformitarianism

One theory that has gained much credence in the past number of years is called Uniformitarianism. This belief states that world as we know it today has always been that way and will always function in the ways that we think it should. Although its popularity has increased in the last number of years, along with the related theory of evolution, it existed in Biblical times:

“Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers walking after their own lusts, and saying where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation” (II 3:3,4).

This, however, is not the case. Let’s look at the weather, for instance. In the beginning, God gave the Garden of Eden a moderate climate with none of the wild fluctuations in temperature we sometimes hear about. There were no tornadoes or hurricanes. There wasn’t even so much as a drop of rain. The only form of precipitation was a mist He used to keep the Garden of Eden fresh. “But there went up a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground”(Genesis 2:6). In Genesis 3, we see that man fell into sin when he ate of the forbidden fruit that grew on the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. It was as a result of this wickedness that God cursed the ground for man’s sake so that weeds would grow and make agriculture difficult for Adam and his descendants. Furthermore, this curse extended to the creation so that the weather would be more tumultuous and stormy. This was especially true after the world-wide flood, an event that’s widely treated as a myth today, although it actually occurred. Many evolutionists, including theistic evolutionists ignore this when trying to figure out why our weather is the way that it is today.

“For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old. and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished”(II Peter 3:5,6).

Another good example of this is disease. Prior to falling into sin, Adam and Eve enjoyed perfect health. There was no sickness in them or in any of the plants and animals in the creation surrounding them. Afterwards, all kinds of illnesses entered into the world. Leprosy, malaria, typhoid fever, cancer and every other sickness under the sun resulted from this fall into sin. In short, things have not always been the same and God will continue to perfect His creation even though it “groaneth and travaileth in pain together till now”(Romans 8:22b). His ultimate purpose in all things that happen in this world is stated in I Peter 3:7. “But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.”  In other words, the tornadoes, hurricanes, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and diseases we experience are God’s way judging man’s sin for the evil that it is. There will come a time, though, when He will no longer need to use these means because all things will be made new and perfect. “Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for a  new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness”(II Peter 3:13) May God work that faith, joy, hope and anticipation in us!

Kevin Rau

The Image of God and Human Dignity

Since this month is black history month and since I’m one of the rare African American voices in the PRCA, I figured it’d be fitting to speak on (mostly critique) an article titled “The Image of God and the African American Experience,”  which you can read here: https://www.raanetwork.org/image-god-african-american-experience-part-3/

When I first saw the title of this article I got a bit excited, it was around the time of the Mike Brown shooting when debates of race where constant and honestly a bit (lot) annoying, and I was hoping this would help bring some theological sanity to the situation. The fact that it was on the image of God also excited me since it’s one of my favorite theological subjects to ponder. Sadly, I was left a tad disappointed, because the image of God theology that was presented in this was one that I’m not too fond of. It follows a formula that I often see when people discuss the Imago Dei (I’m gonna start calling it that now because I don’t feel like typing “image of God” over and over and it sounds cooler). The formula basically goes like this:

  1. Mankind (even reprobate) are the Imago Dei
  2. They therefore have inherent dignity/value
  3. Therefore should be treated as such

Here’s some quotes from the article that correspond to this formula:

  1. “Every person is a jewel in the crown of God’s creation and precious in His sight.”
  2. “The image of God in humanity gives everyone—regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, ability, economic level, or anything else—inherent dignity and value.”
  3. “Every person-regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, ability, language, or any other factor-has teh right to a dignified life.”

The first point usually comes by having a very broad understanding of the Imago Dei. In the article he writes, “It is best to recognize that all elements of humanity in some way speak to being made in the image and likeness of God.”  however, a reformed and more biblical approach narrows the Imago Dei to three things: holiness, righteousness and true knowledge. We get these from Ephesians 4:24 and Colossians 3:10 where it talks about our being made into a new man. If these three things make up the Imago Dei, then what happened at the fall? Instead of being righteous we became unrighteous, instead of being holy we became unholy, instead of a true knowledge we became a slave to the father of lies. The image we once had, was lost.

Some would say that the Imago Dei is something that’s so essential to what it means to be human, that to say that man has lost the Imago Dei is to deny man’s humanity. This is where the genius of Herman Hoeksema comes in to play. He makes a distinction between the image in a material sense and in a formal sense. By material sense what is meant is holiness, righteousness and true knowledge. He explains the formal sense this way, “By the formal sense is meant the fact that man’s nature is adapted to bear the image of God. Not every creature is capable of bearing God’s image and of showing forth the reflection of God’s own ethical perfections of knowledge, righteousness and holiness. It is evident that it requires a rational, moral nature to bear that image of God” (Reformed Dogmatics, 296).

Thus, though we lose the image in the material sense, we are still creatures that are capable of bearing God’s image. Some may look at the fact that we retain this formal sense as something that gives man inherent dignity and value. Professor Hanko,  in the book For Thy Truth’s Sake,  had this to say when speaking on that formal sense we retain. “In fact, his retention of rationality and morality only makes matters worse, because now, still a rational and moral being, but having lost the image of God, he has become an image-bearer of Satan. The wicked are children of their father, the devil. They look like him in that they do his works (John 8:44)” (For Thy Truth’s Sake, 347).

This may sound so dark and bleak for man to be considered the image of Satan. But it’s this truth that makes the gospel message so much more powerful and beautiful. We are redeemed from being an image of Satan to being conformed into the image of Christ who is the true image of God (2 Corinthians 4:4, Hebrews 1:3).

It’s for these reasons that I do not feel comfortable saying that (reprobate) man has this inherent dignity and value. It may be true, and many intelligent, godly, reformed men would agree with it. However, as I believe that the image of God in man is not just simply “damaged” but utterly destroyed,  I don’t know how to reconcile that. It is for this reason that I always try to look for alternatives to using that line of reasoning.

Many who believe in this inherent dignity within man, use this fact as the basis for all ethics. As this article tries to argue, racism is wrong because it defaces the image of God. Yet it’s not necessary to appeal to the image of God in man in order to argue for the sinfulness of racism. This is because the true basis for all ethics is found in the righteous character of God which is explained to us in His commandments. “Thus saith the Lord” is all that’s necessary for me to know the sinfulness of any sin.

Therefore in my next post, I’ll take an alternative approach in my use of the image of God to explain racism and then show that racism is a denial of the gospel.

Mike Murrell

 

Plagiarism

Recently Eerdmans Publishing Company discovered that a commentary on Ephesians and another commentary on Philippians by the same author contained a considerable amount of material that was not written by the author. [1] The trouble was not that author made use of the work of other authors to make his book better. Rather, the problem is that he didn’t properly acknowledge his sources and give credit where credit was due. This is known as plagiarism. Plagiarism happens in high schools and colleges across this country. It turns up in research papers, books, magazine articles and online materials. Sometimes this happens accidentally because someone is tired or pressed for time and doesn’t take the time to make sure that quotations from another authors’ work are accurately and properly acknowledged. Other times people plagiarize deliberately. They steal material written by others, perhaps so that they can appear more intelligent and sophisticated, or perhaps to save themselves from doing the hard work it takes to do it oneself.

Regardless of the motive plagiarism is wrong. The trouble with plagiarism is that it’s theft and it’s condemned by the 8th commandment. “Thou shalt not steal” (Ex. 20:15). Plagiarism is also condemned by the 9th commandment “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor” (Ex. 20:16). Purposely presenting someone else’s materials as your own is deception. “Lie not to one another, seeing ye have put off the old man and his deeds” (Col. 3:9). Authors who deliberately  (or inadvertently) plagiarize someone else’s work can lose their jobs, lucrative book contracts, or professorships at colleges and universities. As for students, you can get kicked out of college for doing this. God has given us minds to write books, articles, and blog posts, and to deliver speeches. Making use of the work of others is not wrong and can be very profitable. However, Christian honesty demands that the sources we use in our work always be acknowledged. When we borrow from the work of others, we must properly give credit where credit is due. Where such acknowledgement is inadvertently omitted, it should be corrected immediately. This is a good reminder. Those of us who are students must be honest and must not engage in this kind dishonest intellectual theft. Even when we are in a pinch and deadlines are pressing down on us, sinfully stealing others work is never the solution. Those who intentionally present another’s work as their own need to repent of this sin and seek forgiveness. May God help us be honest Christian witnesses in all our research and school work!

Kevin Rau

[1] http://www.eerdmans.com/Pages/Item/59043/Commentary-Statement.aspx