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December 23, 2012

In this issue: Mocking God by David King | Test All Things by Steven F. Deaton | Christian Morality Versus Atheist Morality by Donald R. Fox

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Mocking God

Those who ridicule the Bible as an outdated source of instruction see themselves as too sophisticated for such children’s literature. But in the end, it is they who are the biggest losers.

“Whom will he teach knowledge? And whom will he make to understand the message? Those just weaned from milk? Those just drawn from the breasts? For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept, line upon line, line upon line, here a little, there a little” (Isa. 28:9-10).

The closing lines of this passage are often used to illustrate the gradual revelation of God’s word to humanity. God revealed His word in bits and pieces (“here a little, there a little”) over a long span of time, until we finally got the completed Bible. The language certainly fits the idea, but study the context and it’s apparent that Isaiah is describing something entirely different.

In fact, these words are not those of God or His prophet, but of the drunken priests and prophets whom Isaiah is rebuking (v. 7-8). Their response is to challenge Isaiah’s right to criticize them: Does he think we are little children who must be instructed by his simplistic moralizing?

The “precept upon precept, line upon line” language is actually a mockery of Isaiah’s teaching, mimicking a teacher trying to communicate with little children. The NIV renders this verse, “Do and do, do and do, rule on rule, rule on rule; a little here, a little there." It’s the priests and prophets’ way of letting Isaiah know that they are much too sophisticated for his brand of teaching.

Isaiah responds to their mockery with a promise of retribution. The day will come, he warns, when a nation of “stammering lips and another tongue” will order God’s people around (v. 11). In that day, their mockery will be turned against them by their oppressors, “that they might go and fall backward, and be broken and snared and caught” (v. 13).

They would not listen to God’s word when Isaiah spoke to them; therefore, they will receive God’s message delivered by a rampaging enemy.

This entire scenario is highly relevant to our modern age. Our society has moved beyond God altogether, convinced that they no longer need religion as a crutch to help navigate through life. Consequently, our efforts at preaching God’s truth to this generation are often not just ignored, but ridiculed as backward, outdated, primitive. Like the drunken priests and prophets of Isaiah’s day, our fellow citizens are too sophisticated — and too intoxicated by pleasure — to be bothered with the words of the Bible.

People are free to mock God’s word today; but a day will come when the consequences of their choice will crash upon them in an unavoidable catastrophe. It may come in the form of a personal tragedy, or a widespread collapse of social order. It may not happen until the final judgment. But whatever form it takes, it will come. “God is not mocked,” Paul once wrote (Gal. 6:7), and those who choose to play that game will someday find out who it is they are mocking. God is not to be trifled with, and one way or the other, all of us will learn that lesson.

Isaiah’s critics mocked his teaching as suited for little children. Ironically, the path of true wisdom requires that we humble ourselves as little children in order to get the most out of life (Matt. 18:4). It is those who cannot do so who stand to lose the most. ~

David King

Test All Things

"Test all things; hold fast what is good" (1 Thess. 5:21).

Christianity is not a religion for the gullible. It appeals to man's intellect and ability to understand right from wrong. God never has expected man to accept any statement at face value. From the beginning, He confirmed His superiority and the truth of His word with signs, wonders, and miracles (cf. Ex. 3:1-6; 4:19; Heb. 2:3-4). Thus, we know the Bible to be true.

Paul commands us to "test all things." We are not to receive the words of others without discernment. We must examine that which is presented to us. In reference to teachers, John said, "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world" (1 Jn. 4:1). No man or group of men is above examination (cf. 1 Pet. 3:15). It matters not how long a belief has been held, how pious a man appears, or with what vehemence a thing is declared. What matters is whether or not it agrees with God's word, the truth (Jn. 17:17).

Further, we are to "hold fast what is good." That which does not agree with the gospel is to be rejected, along with the teacher who promotes it (Gal. 1:6-9; 2 Jn. 9-11). This is true regardless of the popularity of the doctrine or man. On the other hand, all things in agreement with God's word are to be received. In fact, it is the obligation of each man to accept the truth. Honesty demands it, even if we must give our life.

Some professed believers in Christ are too lazy to "test all things," and too irresolute to "hold fast what is good." Others are worried about the "trouble" testing will cause, or the dogmatism with which they will be accused by holding fast. Instead of being concerned with honoring God and knowing the truth, they are concerned about offending man. All such men are a shame to the Lord and His church. When enough people adopt these attitudes, truth suffers and souls are lost. Therefore, let us not be of that number.

Do you test all things? Do you compare what your preacher says with what the Bible teaches (Acts 17:11)? If not, why not? Do you hold fast what is good? Are you willing to cling to the truth no matter what others may say or do? If not, why not?

Friend, do not be gullible or lazy. "Test all things; hold fast what is good." Accept truth and reject error, lest you be condemned by God. ~

Steven F. Deaton

Christian Morality Versus Atheist Morality

by Donald R. Fox

One of the most interesting formal discussions between an atheist and a Christian was the Oliphant-Smith Debate, conducted in Shawnee, Oklahoma, August 15-16, 1929. W. L. Oliphant was a preacher from the Oak Cliff Church of Christ, Dallas, Texas. Charles Smith was the President of the American Association of the Advancement of Atheism, New York City. Since I purchased the debate book in 1972, I have read and browsed through its pages with great interest.

On the afternoon, August 16, 1929, Mr. Smith affirmed the proposition: "Atheism is Beneficial to the Race, and is Most Conducive to Morality of any Theory Known to Man." I am amazed that Mr. Smith signed an agreement to defend this proposition. Following is an extraction that is modified to assist in reading clarity, from the end of Mr. Oliphant's first negative speech on the proposition.

“I want you people to remember that, though Mr. Smith is supposed to be affirming that atheism is conducive to good morals, he has not said one word in defense of the morality of atheism. He has done nothing but attack Christianity. This method of debating is in harmony with the whole program of atheism; it is entirely destructive. In the few minutes I have left, I shall introduce a few of the principles of morality taught in the New Testament.”

The religion of Jesus Christ teaches:

With this list of positive moral teaching, Oliphant challenged Smith to find fault with the Golden Rule (Matthew 7:12). Oliphant stated in conclusion of his first negative speech, "I am willing to risk the whole proposition on this challenge: I challenge Mr. Smith to name any principle of morality that I cannot read in the Bible. Let him mention any virtue he may think of, and I will read it in this Book — the Christian's standard of life." In his following speech, Smith said, "Perhaps I cannot; you can prove most anything by the Bible." A feeble answer to Oliphant's challenge.

[All quotations can be found on pages 80-83, Oliphant-Smith Debate, 1929 By F. L. Rowe, Gospel Advocate Company, Owner, Nashville, Tennessee.] ~

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