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June 29, 2015

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This sponsored post was prepared by Dr. Frank Turek.

Stealing from GodWhat if your best reasons to doubt God show that He actually exists? What if atheists, properly understood, are actually unwitting apologists for the God they reject? That’s exactly what I unpack in my new book Stealing from God: Why atheists need God to make their case.

To briefly mention just two examples from the seven in the book, when atheists cite reason and science as providing evidence against God, they are actually stealing from God to argue against Him. That is, reason and science use aspects of reality that wouldn’t exist if atheism were true. Theism can explain them, but atheism cannot.

Atheists claim to be champions of reason. They even organize “reason” rallies and call themselves “free thinkers.” The problem is there is no “free” or thinking going on if atheism is true. If we are just molecules in motion as atheistic materialism asserts, then we are nothing but moist robots whose every thought is the result of the non-rational laws of physics. “Free thinking” can’t exist in such a world. So why should we believe anything the atheist thinks or says, including his thoughts about atheism?

Without an ability to think freely, science is lost too. As C. S. Lewis put it, “Unless human reasoning is valid no science can be true,” which would include the science of prominent atheists, Sam Harris, Lawrence Krauss, Richard Dawkins, and everyone else. Prominent atheist philosopher Thomas Nagel admits this. He writes, “Evolutionary naturalism provides an account of our capacities that undermines their reliability, and in doing so undermines itself.” (That’s why Nagel is personally looking for a more plausible worldview than materialism.)

Atheists try to use immaterial entities—such as the laws of logic and our ability to reason—while claiming nothing immaterial exists. Yet logic and reason are well explained by a theistic God whose very nature is rational—”in the beginning was the Word” (or rationality) as the opening line of John’s gospel declares.

The beginning is also better explained by theism. Atheism cannot account for this fine-tuned universe that burst into existence out of nothing (not a quantum vacuum but literally no-thing). Since space-time and matter had a beginning, then the cause must be beyond space-time and matter. In fact, a spaceless, timeless, immaterial, powerful, and intelligent being seems necessary to create this universe with the exceedingly precise laws and constants it has.

Those fine-tuned natural laws are not only required for the universe to exist, but they are critical to our ability to do science. We couldn’t do science if natural laws weren’t held constant. Why do all physical things change, but not the natural laws that govern them? The best explanation is a rational Law Giver who created and sustains the universe in which we live.

So even if the atheist’s favorite anti-God argument—macroevolution—is true, they still have to rely on God for it. The very process of natural selection requires the existence and persistence of natural laws that are best explained by a Creator and Sustainer.

Now, I’m not saying atheists can’t do science. Obviously they can. What I am saying is that atheists are unwittingly stealing tools from God in order to do science. In fact, since we can do science very well, the atheistic worldview must be false. Thus, the war is not between science and religion, but between science and atheism.

The bottom line is that atheism cannot be shown to be true in principle. It has destroyed all the tools necessary to do the job. In order to construct any valid argument for atheism, the atheist has to steal tools from God’s universe because no such tools exist in the world of atheism. Atheists must steal from the very Being who makes reason and science possible in the first place. 

Click to learn more about Stealing From God.

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June 22, 2015

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WILDThis sponsored post is provided by AccessTruth.

Despite the title, this post and the resources it presents won’t introduce some new, out of control or outrageous way of achieving growth and fruit in the church. It isn’t the latest and greatest addition to the many strategies out there that make such extravagant claims. And although it may not claim to evangelize an entire people group with a mobile app, that doesn’t mean it isn’t exciting.

Where does “WILD” fit in then? Well, it happens to be a helpful acronym for a framework made up of 4 categories:

Word
Identity
Life
Discipleship

This framework is about working alongside God’s Spirit, drawing on the authority of Jesus, unleashing the power of His Word and activating the Body of Christ. And that is nothing short of exhilarating, whatever the challenges may be.

Perhaps you’ve joined the growing chorus of voices these days who are questioning the many models for evangelism and church planting out there that promise broadest reach, quickest results and biggest numbers. Of course, none of us who are serious about God’s purposes want to prematurely dismiss something that claims to “work”. But as we listen to these claims, it’s more than valid for us to respond with, “Okay, you say that it works, but what were you trying to do in the first place…what will we be successful in?”

WILDWe have all been called - or perhaps more appropriately, sent - to be Christ’s co-workers in his great work of constructing his Building (or Temple), bringing his Body to maturity, and preparing his Bride. This presents the most amazing opportunity, but it also represents an awesome responsibility. That is what Paul was talking about in his 1 Corinthians 3 “expert builder” passage, where he shares about his own careful approach while cautioning other builders to work in a similar way.

So, it’s perfectly valid to ask, “What works?” but it has to be in the light of the Architect’s vision and according to his standards for construction. It has to be about the way he communicates truth as the great Communicator (Word); who he says he is and who we are (Identity); the kind of life that he wants to produce in and through his people (Life); and the intentional relationships his Son calls us into with himself and others (Discipleship). 

The WILD framework is grounded in that perspective. It asks 20 main questions (with another 60 supplementary questions) to help set objectives for any context in which God’s Word is being shared on a consistent basis. It was developed by experienced church planters who have had over a decade of seeing it applied in a range of contexts worldwide, and have continued to hone this tool accordingly.

The framework is designed as a stand-alone resource that can be understood and applied by anyone. It is available as a free download (download here). But, for those who want a more in-depth introduction to the underlying principles and concepts this method encapsulates, a set of 22 tutorials (available in PDF and Video) have been developed. These make up Module 7 of the AccessTruth material that is itself a comprehensive curriculum for Biblical, Communication, Church and Contextual Foundations. This Module, introducing the WILD framework, is proving to be valuable for personal study, missions courses, and churches equipping members for leadership or church planting roles.

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June 15, 2015

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This sponsored post was prepared by Professor Barry York, Dean of Faculty at Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary.

I knew the day would come.

Burning BowlMy life, like yours, is becoming increasingly a digital one. I am moving away from filing papers to storing items electronically. I knew one day those three big, rusting, steel filing cabinets in our basement, sitting there like artifacts in a museum in that they remind you of the past but are rarely visited, would be emptied and removed. Why keep paper files of items already stored on multiple devices and backed up in the cloud?

The past few days it finally happened. A desire to declutter our basement drove me to it. What satisfaction it was to haul those cabinets out to the curb and, literally within minutes, have someone stop by in a pickup truck and take them away to be scrapped.

Yet the joy of being free of the cabinets’ bulkiness turned into unexpected melancholy as I pulled the wagon filled with their contents over to the fire pit. Now it was time to burn these papers, which mostly meant for me watching over two decades of my sermons go up in flames.

My mentor had taught me his sermon writing tips, which I dutifully practiced over the years. Half sheets of paper worked best, as you could tuck them into your Bible. That way, you could carry them securely in place without them sticking out. Once preached, sliding them into 6 x 9 inch manila envelopes made for good storage. So much of my life and ministry were on those pages.

I lit the fire. I watched as the flames first teasingly licked slowly over the files and envelopes, as if not quite sure of the taste. But then they picked up a hungry intensity and began to eat away at the contents. As I threw small bundles of envelopes on the fire, titles of messages caught my attention. Like the bursts of flame, flashes of emotion struck my heart as the titles brought to mind occasions, peoples’ faces, or a particular preaching moment. Sometimes an envelope would burn off and, as if the fire was preaching back to me my own message, one page would be exposed, begin to darken around the edges, then peel off into the flames to reveal the next page.

Dusk came. Ashes floated through the air, the white flakes gently landing around our yard prompting inquiries from my children. When told what they were from, they responded with some of the same sadness I was feeling and then went on with their evening.

As darkness fell, I reflected more on the nature of preaching. Is it not to be a sacrifice by fire, an offering to the Lord that one prays is blessed by the Spirit’s fiery power to touch hearts and lives of the hearers? Are not the opportunities to preach quite limited? Is not the preaching moment itself so fleeting? More melancholy came over me there in the dark by the fire, as I thought of so many failings in sincerity, in urging, in preaching for conversions, in mindfulness of the eternity that every hearer faces, in upholding the greatness of our God who Himself is a consuming fire. Prayers of repentance ascended up with the smoke and flames.

To celebrate the end of the school year, some students in my homiletics class and I arranged to watch a documentary on D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ life and ministry. What moved us most was hearing Lloyd-Jones’ actual voice, as portions of his recorded sermons played as scenes of an empty Westminster Chapel moved across the screen. You could hear in his voice a holy, humble, growing intensity as he proclaimed in simple sincerity God’s Word, and imagined what it would have been like to sit there and be moved by the Spirit speaking through him. The movie’s title, a phrase from Lloyd-Jones’ own concise definition of what true preaching is, was apt: Logic on Fire.

No, we preachers cannot all be a Lloyd-Jones nor should we strive to be. Yet in this short life can we not pray that more of that Spirit that lit him would ignite the hearts of men across the land that step behind our pulpits? Can we not pray that every Lord’s Day and throughout the week true sacrifices by fire would be offered in their preaching? That ministers like the prophets of old would be having such encounters with God that they speak with His fire? As another preacher once said, if we want revival, it needs to be brought to the pulpit.

Learn more about Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary at RPTS.edu.

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June 08, 2015

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Ligonier Ministries is pleased to announce that with every purchase of the Reformation Study Bible (2015 edition) you now have access to more than $400 worth of bonus digital discipleship resources to enhance your study of God’s Word. These resources include:

  • eBook library from Dr. R.C. Sproul and Ligonier Teaching Fellows
  • 50+ hours of video teaching from trusted teachers, including Dr. Sproul’s 57-part overview of the entire Bible
  • 6-month subscription to Tabletalk magazine
  • 3-months access to Ligonier Connect’s growing list of 60+ interactive courses

Learn more about our lifetime of study offer by watching this brief overview:

WondrousTo access this robust digital library simply register your Bible at ReformationStudyBible.com/register. To purchase a Reformation Study Bible or to view the complete list of bonus resources, visit ReformationStudyBible.com. If you already own the 2015 edition, please look for the unique identifier on the back of the included 32-page welcome guide.

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June 01, 2015

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This sponsored post was prepared by Eternity Bible College.

Jesus is Lord—over all of life! Unfortunately, many Christians fail to consider the implications of Jesus’ lordship over anything other than their church life. This is particularly true when it comes to a person’s educational and career choices.

David Kinnaman, in his recent book You Lost Me, explains some startling statistics about the way Christians approach education. Only 16% of Christians report learning how the Bible applies to their field or area of interest. This means that 84% of Christians spend their lives in a career, but have never been taught how their Christian faith should play out in that career!

And the problem begins earlier than a person’s career. Kinnaman also found that only 11% of Christians report receiving helpful input from a pastor or church worker about their education.

The implications? The church is sending young people out to be educated and devote their lives to a career, but we are leaving them clueless as to how their faith informs their education or career. We may be doing a good job of teaching them about church life, but we are not preparing the next generation to take their faith beyond church walls.

We all hear horror stories about our kids losing their faith in college. While it seems these statistics have been exaggerated, this remains a legitimate concern. But perhaps the more disturbing reality is that Christians are entering their education and career without Christian guidance related to their field. This practically guarantees that they will adopt a worldly standard of success in their careers, and sets them up to waste what could be a fruitful mission field.

The solution to these problems is holistic gospel living. We need to see how the gospel shapes all of life: our education, our careers, our church life—all of it!

This is our mission at Eternity Bible College. Because the church needs help in training the next generation to think and live biblically in all of life, our mission is to partner with churches in shaping people into world-changers.

We do this with a war-time mentality. We believe that college should look more like a boot camp than a country club, so we train people to live and die well. Think of Eternity Bible College as a boot camp for life, for college, for your career, for your ministry, for your God-given mission. The cost is low, the academic and spiritual rigor is high, and the result will transform your mind and heart before you enter the mission field in your college or career.

Give us one year before you enter college and we’ll train you to understand the Bible and all of its implications for your major and career.

Or give us one year after you graduate from college and we’ll train you to understand the Bible and all of its implications for your field.

The Bible is extremely relevant to everything you want to do in life. Your interests, your studies, and your career are essential to the mission that God has given you to accomplish in this world. We simply cannot afford to send out well-intentioned Christians who have no clue how their faith relates to their life’s work. We all spend years preparing ourselves for our professional careers. But how much time have you given to preparing yourself for your primary calling of making disciples through your life and career?

Invest a year into our Certificate in Transformational Leadership program. Enroll in spiritual boot camp. Ensure that the years you invest in your education and career are gospel-saturated and effective for the sake of God’s kingdom. Learn more here.

Eternity

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May 25, 2015

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This sponsored post was prepared by E. Ray Clendenen.

Not everyone is excited by terms such as “textual variants,” “eclectic text,” and “Alexandrian text-type”—and that’s ok. But we all need to poke our heads up occasionally out of our neat little worlds and get smacked in the face with reality, which is usually a lot messier than we would like. Most people are aware that English Bibles are translations from another language and that different translations are possible (and exist). But many are not aware that the underlying Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek text is uncertain in places, since some translations give little or no information about this. 

However, about 25,000 ancient manuscripts of the New Testament exist, almost 6,000 of those being in Greek. The rest are manuscripts of early translations. Our Old Testaments are based on about 15,000 manuscripts, 11,000 of which are in Hebrew. No two manuscripts are alike. The individual differences are known as “variants.” Our Old Testaments are largely translated from the Leningrad Codex, the oldest complete manuscript of the Hebrew Bible (AD 1008). Translators waver from that codex, however, in many places and follow variants from the other manuscripts. Our New Testaments, on the other hand, translate a Greek text that is a scholarly recreation based on a comparative analysis of the various manuscripts. This recreation does not match entirely any existing manuscript.

This situation should not alarm or discourage a Bible student. In the first place, about 90 percent of the Bible is the same in all manuscripts (B. K. Waltke, “Old Testament Textual Criticism,” Foundations for Biblical Interpretation, B&H, 1994, 157). In the second place most of the variants do not concern significant differences. Douglas Stuart wrote, “It is fair to say that the verses, chapters, and books of the Bible would read largely the same, and would leave the same impression with the reader, even if one adopted virtually every possible alternative reading to those now serving as the basis for current English translations” (“Inerrancy and Textual Criticism,” in Innerrancy and Common Sense, ed. R. R. Nicole and J. R. Michaels, Baker, 1980, 98). 

Nevertheless, the “serious” Bible student should be aware that some significant variants do exist and should know how to find out where they are. Although several resources exist for scholars, most Bible students are at the mercy of their Bibles to tell them. Unfortunately, some translations are not much help with this. The King James Bible, for example, cites no variants. For modern translations, a comparison of the textual information in Acts makes an interesting study. Acts is noted for the number of textual variants. Bruce Metzger’s Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament lists more than 500 text-critically significant passages in Acts, whereas it lists less than 200 for Matthew. Not all these passages have significance for the average Christian, so no translation marks them all. Here is a chart that shows the number of textual variants that are noted in Acts by several translations:

New Jerusalem Bible (NJB) 4
New Century Version (NCV) 5
God’s Word (GW) 5
New American Bible (NAB) 8
New International Version (NIV) 10
New Living Translation (NLT) 13
English Standard Version (ESV) 17
Revised Standard Version (RSV) 18
New English Translation (NET) 32
New American Standard Bible (NASB) 32
New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) 39
Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB) 77

The rationale for choosing one variant over another can be found in the more scholarly Bible commentaries (the NET also gives some of that information). The variant believed to be original by the particular Bible translators will be the one followed in the text, and the rejected variant will be the one in the footnote. Not everyone who reads and studies the Bible is interested in this information, and since it is found in the Bible footnotes it can easily be ignored. But for those who are interested, it is helpful to know where it can be found. The chart above demonstrates another of the advantages of using the HCSB.

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May 18, 2015

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This sponsored post was prepared by Dr. George Scipione, Director of the Biblical Counseling Institute at the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary.

DiscipleshipPastoral work is a lot like combat. You are never truly prepared for battle just by theory or classroom instruction. In combat, physical and spiritual, you need hands-on training in the field. Training for pastoral work must include hands-on training in the art of discipleship.

Jesus gave His church the job of making disciples of the nations (Matt 28:10-18). This starts by evangelism resulting in baptized members of the Church. Then it is completed by teaching these disciples everything that Jesus taught so that they will be like Jesus and the Father through the Spirit’s resurrection power. Jesus did this with the twelve Apostles. Jesus did this with Paul. Paul did this with Timothy, Titus and others. Timothy did this with faithful men as Paul instructed him to do. This is the true apostolic succession. This is mandated for officers (2 Tim 2:2) and others in the body (Eph 4:1-16) (Titus 2:3-5). 

Pastoral work includes public preaching, private instruction, and personal pastoral contact. Today, the third aspect is what most would call counseling. The apostle Paul models this for us. In his address to the Ephesian elders at Miletus (Acts 20), Paul summarized his three years in Asia Minor as a pastor of that church. The gospel of repentance towards God and faith in Jesus Christ was central to each of these three pastoral tasks. The Word of God is the tool for each of these tasks (2 Tim 3:15-17). Paul’s personal pastoral contact was poignantly filled with tears. His was a ministry of passionate personal care, not a corporate or medical model. Paul did not dwell in his study, only leaving to make small steps into the pulpit and back. In this, Paul was like His Master. You will do well to follow in the footsteps of the Good Shepherd and His special under-shepherd, Paul. You need personal skills in working with the flock and much wisdom in applying God’s Word to their lives, especially their struggles. How will you gain these skills?

Most seminaries emphasize preaching as the primary task of the pastor. Preaching must never be neglected. However, expository preaching in the pulpit was only one small aspect of Christ’s and the apostles’ preaching ministries. Expository preaching was in the synagogues. The bulk of their preaching was done outside of buildings and formal worship. The private teaching was from house to house and was interactive. The personal pastoral care most likely happened in homes and other private places. Many seminaries only tip their hats at this private pastoral care and this is a major mistake. New pastors are confronted with serious sin and barely comprehend what to do. Many new shepherds have not developed abilities in working with people, preferring to stay in the comfort and safety of their study. Don’t do this and don’t call a pastor to minister in your church who does this.

Praise God there are many fine options to get training now rather than the paucity that existed in the late 1960’s when I went to seminary. The Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary (RPTS) is one of your best options. I was on the ground floor at the beginning of the Biblical counseling movement and have had the honor of helping to train counselors in the first three generations of Biblical counseling both domestically and on five continents. RPTS has small class sizes and personal pastoral training that is on a par with any institution in the English speaking world. We have a global student population and a diverse American student body. The pastoral atmosphere at RPTS will expose you to the best of the past in Biblical counseling, the best of the present Biblical counseling movement, and prepare you practically and theologically for the future. Our professors are pastors and academicians committed to the infallible, inerrant, and all sufficient Word. Visit our website, www.rpts.edu. Come visit us. Better yet, come and study with us. Study under pastors and become more like your Master who is the Wonderful Counselor (Isa 9:6).

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May 11, 2015

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Dear Church Leader, 

YOUR CHURCH NEEDS A GREAT WEBSITE

Your site is your new front door and church lobby. Newcomers will visit website before showing up in person in order to help them feel oriented to your congregation. They will form a first impression that will cause them to visit, or to move on. 

What impression are you sending about your church community through your current site? 

Your church has a great opportunity to send a clear message and accurate first impression about your community to potential guests around the clock. 

YOU NEED TO HIRE THE PROFESSIONALS

Do you have the time and expertise necessary? Unless a congregation is blessed with a great Web strategist and designer who also has development talent and the ability to donate their time (that confluence is exceedingly rare), a small church ends up missing out on this great opportunity by having a counter-productive Web site. 

Most church websites are counterproductive.

Through lack of design and communications expertise, or lack of acknowledgement of a need for help, you will drive potential guests away by failing to accurately communicate who your congregation is, and the welcoming community that you are. 

It might be hard to hear, but it’s usually pride that fails to admit this lack of expertise and need at the root of many counterproductive church Web sites. 

YOU NEED TO HIRE MERECHURCH

We know your world.

The MereChurch team is led by Matt Heerema, a co-pastor at a very average local church (~300 in attendance). Matt understands the economic realities and needs of a small congregation. We have also done work for mega-churches and international ministries, so we understand the technical challenges and needs of ministry at every scale. 

We are an expert team who have handled many world-class projects. And we can work with you at a budget that is feasible for a small congregation. 

Let MereChurch build your new church website

Thank you for the opportunity.

-Matt Heerema
Pastor, Web Consultant, Musician, Husband, and Father of 4. 

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April 27, 2015

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This sponsored post was prepared by Dustin Willis

A solitary faith is not a Christian faith. 

Lose the Lone-Ranger Mentality

While our culture may place high value on independence and individualism, the truth of the matter is that we need one another to carry out the mission of God. A foundational truth for everyday missionaries is understanding their biblical calling to be anchored to group of believers to whom they confess, with whom they repent, celebrate, live in faith, and are daily sent out on mission. 

Often it’s difficult for some to understand the necessity of community. “Why can’t it just be me and Jesus?” we think, dreaming of toting our Bible and riding off into the sunset on some “lone-ranger” mission to save the world.

The problem is, we can’t choose Jesus and not choose the church. They’re a package deal. That’s because God never intended for us to live out the Christian life alone.

Church = A Family United in Heart and Purpose

The church is designed as a place for God’s children to function as a family, united in heart and purpose. 

For many, that means meeting once a week to sing songs and listen to a sermon surrounded by people they don’t really know. Yes, meeting as a body is certainly one of the valid expressions of church and one that we should be consistently involved in, but going to a service once a week is not walking in biblical community. 

Biblical community is the group of believers with whom we walk through the good, the bad, and the ugly of life while digging deeper into the gospel together. It is built upon committed, authentic, and caring relationships that urge one another toward Jesus and His mission. 

It’s where we can be honest and transparent about our struggles with sin. (see James 5:16)

It’s where we gracefully confront sin in other believers and humbly accept correction brought by others. (see Gal. 6:1-2)

It’s where we willingly sacrifice in order to help others carry their burdens. (see Gal. 6:2)

It’s where we celebrate and see the value of God’s unique giftedness and life experiences within each individual. (see Rom. 12: 6-8)

It’s where we practice hospitality that nurtures relationships. (see Heb. 13:2)

Making Room For Others 

Perhaps the best thing about biblical community is the way God designed it to stretch and increase, always making room for those seeking a place to join and grow alongside other believers. 

When my wife, Renie and I moved to Atlanta we soon realized what an incredible mission field our neighborhood represented. We began to regularly invite our neighbors, plus families in our church community group to cook-outs in our front yard. 

It’s turned out to be a blessing for several reasons. First, it encourages members of our biblical community to engage with their neighbors. Secondly, it facilitates connection between our neighbors and our community group that might not ordinarily happen. Finally—and most importantly, it gives our community group an opportunity to put the gospel on display. Our intentionality in loving one another through biblical community plays a vital part in living out our everyday mission.

Strengthening Your Commitment to Biblical Community

Walking in community together helps us grow in our understanding of the cross and that is where unity is made possible and where biblical community can truly flourish.

Take a few minutes to list the people you are or should be living out the gospel with. Then, spend some time praying about the next steps you should take in strengthening your commitment to biblical community.

Life on mission is simply an overflow of living a cross-centered (gospel-centered) life, and living in biblical community is foundational to growing in the gospel.

This article is adapted from Life on Mission: Joining the Everyday Mission of God, by Dustin Willis and Aaron Coe (Moody Publishers). Learn more about or purchase their book, Life on Mission.

Dustin Willis is the co-author of Life on Mission: Joining the Everyday Mission of God. A resident of metro Atlanta, he currently serves as the Coordinator of the Send Network and the Send North America Conference. A popular speaker across North America, Dustin is a regular contributor at sendnetwork.com, and blogs at dustinwillis.com. His new book, Life in Community: Joining Together to Display the Gospel (Moody Publishers) will be available on August 4, 2015. 

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April 20, 2015

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Pets

This sponsored post was prepared by C.J. Williams of Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary.

When Adam found that among the creatures there was not one suitable for him as a partner (Gen 2:20), it is not as though he (or God) first thought that there might indeed be an animal that would match him as a companion. The creation of Eve was not a “plan B” or a second attempt at finding partnership.  The point of this failed search for a partner for Adam in the animal kingdom was to demonstrate the lesser status of the non-spiritual creatures, and how they cannot provide true companionship for a man with a soul who is made in God’s image.  Only another human would do.  Adam was not to find partnership with the lesser creatures; he was to have dominion over them (Gen 1:26).  In spite of the old saying, a dog cannot be, nor were dogs designed to be, man’s best friend.

A curious trend in our culture wants to make them so, and go even beyond the old saying, by making dogs and other pets full-fledged kindred.  Dog and cat food commercials tout their brands as being the healthiest choice for our little “family members,” and not a few pet owners casually refer to their pets as children.  Some of this is lighthearted, and nobody denies that there is an enjoyment in pet ownership, but at what point are we supposed to suspect that our culture is purposefully turning the gift of dominion on its head by embracing the lesser creatures as equals?        

We read in the Bible and know from archaeological evidence that ancient people groups often worshipped certain animals or idols of animals, which is basically a role reversal from the Biblical idea of dominion.  Did you ever wonder why a golden calf, and not a golden … something else (Exodus 32)?  Many would regard this phenomenon as a primitive impulse of the ancient world, but there is a corresponding spirit to the modern animal rights movement, which places animal life on par with, or even above, the value of human life.  Extremists always stand out for what they are, just like those who worshipped the golden calf.  I am more alarmed by the subtle shift of mainstream cultural attitudes that increasingly embrace the non-spiritual creatures as family and friends.  One can only wonder where this is all headed, but it is not hard to track its progress.     

With the advent of Disney movies, a generation of impressionable minds has been left thinking that wild animals are just little people in fur coats.  When it first came out, the movie “Bambi” made it suddenly matter whether a hamburger was made from a deer or a cow, the latter animal garnering much less sympathy.  Now, the debate has become whether it is moral to eat meat at all.  When Mitt Romney strapped his dog carrier to the roof of his car to go on vacation in the 1970s, he was doing what every family did.  Today, it is scandalous.  The point is that the popular attitude toward human-animal relations has been shifting for some time.  Today, we regularly humanize animals for entertainment and companionship, and proponents of vegetarianism are now moralists rather than nutritionists.  While sexual bestiality is still taboo (for now), the current cultural norm can best be described as social bestiality.  It is increasingly common to accept animals as our social equals. 

Two things are at stake.  The first is the unique nature of people as spiritual beings created in the image of God.  Our relationships are the proving ground of faith and love, with our unity and companionship based on the high and holy purpose of glorifying God and enjoying Him.  These things cannot be shared with lesser creatures that have only brute instinct to guide them.  To blur the line between humans and animals is to allow the presupposition of evolution (which may be the root of social bestiality).

The second thing is the gift of dominion, and yes, it is a gift.  Our authority over the creatures, in which we are allowed to use them wisely and humanely for our benefit, is one way in which we bear the image of God.  Just as marriage reflects the love of Christ for His church (Ephesians 5), human dominion over the animals reflects the divine dominion over all.  These two creation ordinances, marriage and dominion, are simultaneously under attack in our culture, but they are both essential for the reflection of God’s wisdom in the created order.

Owning a pet is a small enjoyment that many people innocently indulge (including me), but the apostle warned that the idolatrous heart has the tendency to “worship and serve the creature rather than the Creator” (Rom. 1:25).  The trend of social bestiality may not amount to creature worship yet, but there is great reason for God’s people to faithfully bear witness to the Creator in the midst of this rising trend.

This sponsored post was prepared by C.J. Williams of Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary.

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