Even When We Fall + 5

 

 

 “The man on the street never heard of existentialism, for instance, and couldn’t care less. It’s about time we quit answering questions nobody is asking and spoke to the plain needs of human hearts.”

~ Vance Havner

 

Resting and Rousing

By Vance Havner

 

I will give you rest.
Matthew 11:28

Rise, let us be going.
Matthew 26:46

He rests us and He rouses us. This nervous age keeps going with pills to put it to sleep and pills to keep it awake. From sedative to stimulant our generation lives by shots in the arm. We both rest and rouse our jaded selves artificially.

But all we need for both purposes is found in Jesus. He gives us His peace. “Rest in the Lord” is God’s prescription. “Entered Into Rest” should not be limited to epitaphs on tombstones. We can enter into His rest any time we cease from our own feverish works and rest in His finished work.

And He rouses us. “Be not drunk with win wherein is excess, but be filled with the Spirit.” There you have the world’s false stimulant and the Divine stirring of the Spirit. “Stir up the gift of God” means kindling the Fire within us, although the coals may be covered with ashes. Alas, “there is none that stirreth up himself to take hold of God.”

Whether you need resting or rousing, He does both. But we co-operate as we rest in Him or rouse ourselves to do His bidding.

 

“This is the Way God Made Me”–A Scientific Examination of Homosexuality and the “Gay Gene”

by Dave Miller, Ph.D.
Brad Harrub, Ph.D.

 

The trumpets were left at home and the parades were canceled. The press releases and campaign signs were quietly forgotten. The news was big, but it did not contain what some had hoped for. On April 14, 2003, the International Human Genome Consortium announced the successful completion of the Human Genome Project—two years ahead of schedule. The press report read: “The human genome is complete and the Human Genome Project is over” (see “Human Genome Report…,” 2003, emp. added). Most of the major science journals reported on the progress in the field of genetics, but also speculated on how the information would now be used. The one piece of information that never materialized from the Human Genome Project was the identification of the so-called “gay gene.”

Homosexuality has been practiced for thousands of years. Simply put, homosexuality is defined as sexual relations between like genders (i.e., two males or two females). It was Sigmund Freud who first postulated that parental relationships with a child ultimately determine the youngster’s sexual orientation. But this “nurturing” aspect has effectively given way to the “nature” side of the equation. Can some behaviors (e.g., alcoholism, homosexuality, schizophrenia) be explained by genetics? Are these and other behaviors influenced by nature or by nurture? Are they inborn or learned? Some individuals believed that the answer would be found hiding amidst the chromosomes analyzed in the Human Genome Project.

The human X and Y chromosomes (the two “sex” chromosomes) have been completely sequenced. Thanks to work carried out by labs all across the globe, we know that the X chromosome contains 153 million base pairs, and harbors a total of 1168 genes (see NCBI, 2004). The National Center for Biotechnology Information reports that the Y chromosome—which is much smaller—contains “only” 50 million base pairs, and is estimated to contain a mere 251 genes. Educational institutions such as Baylor University, the Max Planck Institute, the Sanger Institute, Washington University in St. Louis, and others have spent countless hours and millions of research dollars analyzing these unique chromosomes. As the data began to pour in, they allowed scientists to construct gene maps—using actual sequences from the Human Genome Project. And yet, neither the map for the X nor the Y chromosome contains any “gay gene.”

What is the truth regarding homosexuality? Too often, speculation, emotions, and politics play a major role in its assessment. The following is a scientific investigation of human homosexuality.

BEHAVIORAL GENETICS AND CIVIL RIGHTS

In an effort to affect public policy and gain acceptance, the assertion often is made that homosexuals deserve equal rights just as other minority groups—and should not be punished for, or forbidden from, expressing their homosexuality. The fight for the acceptance of homosexuality often is compared to “civil rights” movements of racial minorities. Due to America’s failure to settle fully the civil rights issue (i.e., full and equal citizenship of racial minorities), social liberals, feminists, and homosexual activists were provided with the perfect “coat tail” to ride to advance their agenda. Using this camouflage of innate civil liberties, homosexual activists were able to divert attention away from the behavior, and focus it on the “rights.”

The argument goes like this: “Just as a person cannot help being black, female, or Asian, I cannot help being homosexual. We were all born this way, and as such we should be treated equally.” However, this argument fails to comprehend the true “civil rights” movements. The law already protects the civil rights of everyone—black, white, male, female, homosexual, or heterosexual. Homosexuals enjoy the same civil rights everyone else does. The contention arises when specific laws deprive all citizens of certain behaviors (e.g., sodomy, etc.). We should keep in mind that these laws are the same for all members of society. Because of certain deprivations, homosexuals feel as though “equal” rights have been taken away (i.e., marriage, tax breaks, etc.).

Skin color and other genetic traits can be traced through inheritance patterns and simple Mendelian genetics. Homosexuals are identified not by a trait or a gene, but rather by their actions. Without the action, they would be indistinguishable from all other people. It is only when they alter their behavior that they become a group that is recognized as being different. If we were to assume momentarily that homosexuality was genetic, then the most one could conclude is that those individuals were not morally responsible for being homosexual. However, that does not mean that they are not morally responsible for homosexual actions! Merely having the gene would not force one to carry out the behavior. For instance, if scientists were able to document that a “rape gene” existed, we certainly would not blame an individual for possessing this gene, but neither would we allow him to act upon that rape disposition. Neil Risch and his coworkers admitted:

There is little disagreement that male homosexual orientation is not a Mendelian trait. In fact, a priori, one would expect the role of a major gene in male homosexual orientation to be limited because of the strong selective pressures against such a gene. It is unlikely that a major gene underlying such a common trait could persist over time without an extraordinary counterbalancing mechanism (1993, 262:2064).

Evan S. Balaban, a neurobiologist at the Neurosciences Institute in San Diego, noted that

the search for the biological underpinnings of complex human traits has a sorry history of late. In recent years, researchers and the media have proclaimed the “discovery” of genes linked to alcoholism and mental illness as well as to homosexuality. None of the claims…has been confirmed (as quoted in Horgan, 1995).

Charles Mann agreed, stating: “Time and time again, scientists have claimed that particular genes or chromosomal regions are associated with behavioral traits, only to withdraw their findings when they were not replicated” (1994, 264:1687). It appears that the gay gene will be added to this category of unreplicated claims.

The real issue here is homosexual actions that society has deemed immoral and, in many instances, illegal. Since no study has firmly established an underlying genetic cause for homosexuality, arguments suggesting “equal rights” are both baseless and illogical.

REAL STATISTICS

Anyone who has tuned into prime-time television within the past few years has observed an increasing trend of shows featuring characters who are homosexual—and proud of it. It seems as though modern sitcoms require “token” homosexuals in order to be politically correct. The perception is that these individuals share the same apartment buildings, offices, clubs, etc., with heterosexual people, and that we need to realize just how prevalent homosexuality is. So, exactly what fraction of the population do homosexuals actually represent?

The famous Kinsey Institute report often is cited as evidence that 10% of the population is homosexual. In his book, Is It a Choice?: Answers to 300 of the Most Frequently Asked Questions About Gays and Lesbians, Eric Marcus used the Kinsey studies to demonstrate that one in ten people is homosexual (1993). In truth, Kinsey never reported figures that high. The Kinsey Report clearly stated that: “Only about 4 percent of the men [evaluated] were exclusively homosexual throughout their entire lives…. Only 2 or 3 percent of these women were exclusively homosexual their entire lives” (see Reinisch and Beasley, 1990, p. 140). However, there is good reason to believe that the real percentage is not even this high.

While no one has carried out a door-to-door census, we do have a fairly accurate estimate. Interestingly, these statistics came to light in an amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) brief filed with the U.S. Supreme Court on March 26, 2003, in the Lawrence vs. Texas case (commonly known as the Texas sodomy case). On page 16 of this legal brief, footnote 42 revealed that 31 homosexual and pro-homosexual groups admitted the following:

The most widely accepted study of sexual practices in the United States is the National Health and Social Life Survey (NHSLS). The NHSLS found that 2.8% of the male, and 1.4% of the female population identify themselves as gay, lesbian, or bisexual (Laumann, et al., 1994).

The study also found that only 0.9% of men and 0.4% of women reported having only same-sex partners since age 18—a figure that would represent a total of only 1.4 million Americans as homosexual (based on the last census report, showing roughly 292 million people living in America). The resulting accurate figures demonstrate that significantly less than one percent of the American population claims to be homosexual. The NHSLS results are similar to a survey conducted by the Minnesota Adolescent Health Survey (1986) of public school students. The survey showed that only 0.6% of the boys and 0.2% of the girls identified themselves as “mostly or 100% homosexual.”

The 2000 census sheds even more light on the subject. The overall statistics from the 2000 Census Bureau revealed:

  • The total population of the U.S. is 285,230,516.
  • The total number of households in the U.S. is 106,741,426.
  • The total number of unmarried same-sex households is 601,209.

Thus, out of a population of 106,741,426 households, homosexuals represent 0.42% of those households. That is less than one half of one percent!

But since most people are not mathematicians, we would like to make this point in a way that most individuals will be able to better comprehend. If we were to start a new television sitcom, and wanted to accurately portray homosexual ratios in society, we would need 199 heterosexual actors before we finally introduced one homosexual actor.

And yet modern television casts of three or four often include one or more homosexual actor(s). The statistics from the 2000 census are not figures grabbed from the air and placed on a political sign or Web site to promote a particular agenda. These were census data that were carefully collected from the entire United States population, contrary to the limited scope of studies designed to show a genetic cause for homosexuality.

IS HOMOSEXUALITY GENETIC?

It is one of the most explosive topics in society today. The social and political ramifications affect the very roots of this country. But is the country being told the truth concerning homosexuality? Is there really a genetic basis for homosexuality?

Former democratic presidential candidate and Vermont Governor Howard Dean signed a bill legalizing civil unions for homosexuals in Vermont. In defending his actions, he commented: “The overwhelming evidence is that there is a very significant, substantial genetic component to it. From a religious point of view, if God had thought homosexuality is a sin, he would not have created gay people” (as quoted in VandeHei, 2004). Dean is not alone in such thinking.

Homosexual Population Pie ChartMost people are familiar with the idea that research has been performed that allegedly supports the existence of a gay gene. However, that idea has been a long time in the making. Almost fifty years ago, the landmark Kinsey report was produced using the sexual histories of thousands of Americans. While that report consisted of a diverse sample, it was not a representative sample of the general population (Kinsey, et al., 1948, 1953). In 1994, Richard Friedman and Jennifer Downey published a review on homosexuality in The New England Journal of Medicine. In reviewing Kinsey’s work, they noted:

Kinsey reported that 8 percent of men and 4 percent of women were exclusively homosexual for a period of at least three years during adulthood. Four percent of men and 2 percent of women were exclusively homosexual after adolescence (1994, 331:923).

With this “statistical information” in hand, some sought to change the way homosexuality was viewed by both the public and the medical community. Prior to 1973, homosexuality appeared in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the official reference book used by the American Psychiatric Association for diagnosing mental disorders in America and throughout much of the rest of the world. Homosexuality was considered a sickness that doctors routinely treated. In 1973, however, it was removed as a sexual disorder, based on the claim that it did not fulfill the “distress and social disability” criteria that were used to define a disorder. Today, there is no mention of homosexuality in the DSM-IV (aside from a section describing gender identity disorder), indicating that individuals with this condition are not suitable candidates for therapy (see American Psychiatric Association, 2000).

Physicians treating patients for homosexuality (to bring about a change in sexual orientation) frequently are reported to ethics committees in an attempt to have them cease. Robert Spitzer lamented:

Several authors have argued that clinicians who attempt to help their clients change their homosexual orientation are violating professional ethical codes by providing a “treatment” that is ineffective, often harmful, and reinforces in their clients the false belief that homosexuality is a disorder and needs treatment (2003, 32:403).

Thus, the stage was set for the appearance of a “gay gene.”

SIMON LEVAY—BRAIN DIFFERENCES

The first “significant” published study that indicated a possible biological role for homosexuality came from Simon LeVay, who was then at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in San Diego, California. In 1991, Dr. LeVay reported subtle differences between the brains of homosexual and heterosexual men (1991). LeVay measured a particular region of the brain (the interstitial nuclei of the anterior hypothalamus—INAH) in postmortem tissue of three distinct groups: (1) women; (2) men who were presumed to be heterosexual; (3) and homosexual men.

LeVay’s Reported Findings

LeVay reported that clusters of these neurons (INAH) in homosexual men were the same size as clusters in women, both of which were significantly smaller than clusters in heterosexual men. LeVay reported that the nuclei in INAH 3 were “more than twice as large in the heterosexual men as in the women. It was also, however, more than twice as large in the heterosexual men as in the homosexual men” (1991, 253:1034). This difference was interpreted as strong evidence of a biological link to homosexuality. LeVay’s assumption was that homosexual urges can be biologically based—so long as cluster size is accepted as being genetically determined.

Diagram showing INAH area

Diagram showing INAH area. LifeART images copyright © 2004 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Problems with LeVay’s Study

When looking at the methodology of the LeVay study, one of the key problems is that the study has never been reproduced. As William Byne noted, LeVay’s work

has not been replicated, and human neuroanatomical studies of this kind have a very poor track record for reproducibility. Indeed, procedures similar to those LeVay used to identify nuclei have previously led researchers astray (1994, 270[5]:53, emp. added).

Additionally, of nineteen homosexual subjects used in the study, all had died of complications of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). AIDS has been shown to decrease testosterone levels, so it should be expected that those who suffered from that condition would have smaller INAH. Byne continued his comments on LeVay’s work.

His inclusion of a few brains from heterosexual men with AIDS did not adequately address the fact that at the time of death, virtually all men with AIDS have decreased testosterone levels as the result of the disease itself or the side effects of particular treatments. To date, LeVay has examined the brain of only one gay man who did not die of AIDS (270:53).

Furthermore, in a scientific environment where controls and standards are a necessity, LeVay did not possess a complete medical history of the individuals included in his study. He therefore was forced to assume the sexual orientation of the non-AIDS victims as being heterosexual, when some may not have been. In addition, bear in mind that he had no evidence regarding the sexual orientation of the women whose brains he examined. LeVay has admitted:

It’s important to stress what I didn’t find. I did not prove that homosexuality is genetic, or find a genetic cause for being gay. I didn’t show that gay men are born that way, the most common mistake people make in interpreting my work. Nor did I locate a gay center in the brain (as quoted in Byrd, et al., 2001, emp. added).

Many have argued that what LeVay discovered in the brains of those he examined was only a result of prior behavior, not the cause of it. Mark Breedlove, a researcher at the University of California at Berkeley, has demonstrated that sexual behavior has an effect on the brain. In referring to his own research, Breedlove commented: “These findings give us proof for what we theoretically know to be the case—that sexual experience can alter the structure of the brain, just as genes can alter it…. [I]t is possible that differences in sexual behavior cause (rather than are caused by) differences in the brain” (as quoted in Byrd, et al., parenthetical item in orig.). Considering this type of research, it makes sense that a homosexual lifestyle (and/or the AIDS condition) could alter the size of the nuclei LeVay was measuring.

What exactly did LeVay find? In actuality, not much. He did observe slight differences between the groups—if you accept the method he used for measuring the size of the neuron clusters (and some researchers do not). When each individual was considered by himself, there was not a significant difference; only when the individuals involved in the study were considered in groups of homosexuals vs. heterosexuals did differences result. Hubbard and Wald commented on this lack of difference:

Though, on average, the size of the hypothalamic nucleus LeVay considered significant was indeed smaller in the men he identified as homosexual, his published data show that the range of sizes of the individual samples was virtually the same as for the heterosexual men. That is, the area was larger in some of the homosexuals than in many of the heterosexual men, and smaller in some of the heterosexual men than in many of the homosexuals. This means that, though the groups showed some difference as groups, there was no way to tell anything about an individual’s sexual orientation by looking at his hypothalamus (1997, pp. 95-96, emp. added).

Being homosexual himself, it is no surprise that LeVay observed: “…[P]eople who think that gays and lesbians are born that way are more likely to support gay rights.” In a Newsweek article, LeVay was quoted as saying, “I felt if I didn’t find any [difference in the hypothalamuses], I would give up a scientific career altogether” (as quoted in Gelman, et al., 1992, p. 49). Given how (poorly) twisted LeVay’s data are, and his own personal bias, his abandonment of science may have ultimately been of greater service.

Brain Plasticity—A Fact Acknowledged by All Neuroscientists

Today, scientists are keenly aware of the fact that the brain is not as “hard-wired” or permanently fixed as once thought—an important factor that LeVay failed to acknowledge. One of the properties of plastic is flexibility—many containers are made out of plastic so that they will not shatter when dropped. In a similar manner, the brain was once considered to be rigid, like Ball® jars used for canning—but we now know the brain is “plastic” and flexible, and able to reorganize itself. Research has shown that the brain is able to remodel its connections and grow larger, according to the specific areas that are most frequently utilized. Given that we know today that the brain exhibits plasticity, one must ask if the act of living a homosexual lifestyle itself might be responsible for the difference LeVay noted? Commenting on brain plasticity, Shepherd noted:

The inability to generate new neurons might imply that the adult nervous system is a static, “hard-wired” machine. This is far from the truth. Although new neurons cannot be generated, each neuron retains the ability to form new processes and new synaptic connections (1994).

Interestingly, since Shepherd’s textbook was published, additional research has even documented the ability of neurons to be generated within certain areas of the brain. This information must be considered when examining comparative anatomical experiments such as LeVay’s. These cortical rearrangements that occur are not as simple as unplugging a lamp and plugging it into another socket. The changes observed by researchers indicate that if the brain were represented by a home electrical system, then many of the wires within the walls would be pulled out, rewired to different connections in different rooms, new outlets would appear, and some would even carry different voltages. Due to the colossal connectivity that takes place within the brain, any “rewiring” is, by its very nature, going to have an effect on several areas—such as INAH3. Scientists understand these things, yet LeVay’s work is still mentioned as alleged support for the so-called gay gene.

BAILEY AND PILLARD—
THE FAMOUS “TWINS” STUDY

One of the most frequently cited studies used in promoting the genetics of sexual orientation is a 1952 study by Kallmann. In this famous work, he reported a concordance rate (or genetic association) of 100% for sexual orientation among monozygotic (identical) twins (1952, 115:283). This result, if true, would prove nearly insurmountable for those people who doubt the biological causation of homosexuality. However, Kallmann subsequently conjectured that this perfect concordance was an artifact, possibly due to the fact that his sample was drawn largely from mentally ill and institutionalized men (see Rainer, et al., 1960, 22:259). But Kallmann’s research opened the door to twin studies in regard to sexual orientation.

Michael Bailey and Richard Pillard, researchers at Northwestern University and the Boston University School of Medicine, carried out a similar experiment, examining 56 pairs of identical twins, 54 pairs of fraternal twins, 142 non-twin brothers of twins, and 57 pairs of adoptive brothers (1991, 48:1089-1096). Bailey and Pillard were looking to see if homosexuality was passed on through familial lines, or if one could point to environmental factors as the cause. Their hypothesis: if homosexuality is an inherited trait, then more twin brothers would be expected to have the same orientation than non-twin or non-biological brothers.

Their Reported Findings

  • 52% of identical (monozygotic) twins of homosexual men were homosexual
  • 22% of fraternal (dizygotic) twins were likewise homosexual
  • 11% of adoptive brothers of homosexual men were homosexual
  • 9.2% of non-twin biological siblings reported homosexual orientations (Bailey and Pillard, 1991, “A Genetic Study of Male Sexual Orientation”)
  • 48% of identical twins of homosexual women were likewise homosexual
  • 16% of fraternal (dizygotic) twins were likewise homosexual
  • 6% of adoptive sisters of homosexual women were likewise homosexual (Bailey and Benishay, 1993, “Familial Aggregation of Female Sexual Orientation”)

Problems with Bailey and Pillard’s Study

While the authors acknowledged some of the flaws with their research, they still were quoted in Science News as saying: “Our research shows that male sexual orientation is substantially genetic” (as quoted in Bower, 1992, 141:6). However, the most glaring observation is that clearly not 100% of the identical twins “inherited” homosexuality. If there was, in fact, a “gay gene,” then all of the identical twins should have reported a homosexual orientation. And yet, in nearly half of the twins studied, one brother was not homosexual. In a technical-comment letter in Science, Neil Risch and colleagues pointed out: “The biological brothers and adoptive brothers showed approximately the same rates. This latter observation suggests that there is no genetic component, but rather an environmental component shared in families” (1993, 262:2063). In fact, more adoptive brothers shared homosexuality than non-twin biological brothers. If there was a genetic factor, this result would be counter to the expected trend. Byne and Parsons noted:

However, the concordance rate for homosexuality in nontwin biologic brothers was only 9.2—significantly lower than that required by simple genetic hypothesis, which, on the basis of shared genetic material, would predict similar concordance rates for DZ [dizygotic] twins and nontwin biologic brothers. Furthermore, the fact that the concordance rates were similar for nontwin biologic brothers (9.2%) and genetically unrelated adoptive brothers (11.0%) is at odds with a simple genetic hypothesis, which would predict a higher concordance rate for biological siblings (1993, 50:229).

A more recently published twin study failed to find similar concordance rates. King and McDonald studied 46 homosexual men and women who were twins. The concordance rates that they reported were 10%, or 25% with monozygotic twins—depending on whether or not the bisexuals were included along with the homosexuals. The rates for dizygotic twins were 8% or 12%, again, depending on whether bisexuals were included (King and McDonald, 1992). Byne and Parsons commented: “These rates are significantly lower than those reported by Bailey and Pillard; in comparison of the MZ [monozygotic] concordance rate, including bisexuals (25%), with the comparable figure from Bailey and Pillard (52%)” (p. 230). They went on to observe: “Furthermore, if the concordance rate is similar for MZ and DZ twins, the importance of genetic factors would be considerably less than that suggested by Bailey and Pillard” (p. 230, emp. added).

Another factor that may have had a drastic affect on the results of this study (and other similar studies) centers on methodology. Bailey and Pillard did not study a random sample of homosexuals. Instead, the subjects were recruited through advertisements placed in homosexual publications. This method can be deemed questionable because it is highly dependent on the readership of those publications and on the motives of those who respond. Thus, it may lead to skewed results—for example, inflated rates of concordance in identical twins owing to preferential participation (see Baron, 1993). Hubbard and Wald observed:

The fact that fraternal twins of gay men were roughly twice as likely to be gay as other biological brothers shows that environmental factors are involved, since fraternal twins are no more similar biologically than are other biological brothers. If being a fraternal twin exerts an environmental influence, it does not seem surprising that this should be even truer for identical twins, who the world thinks of as “the same” and treats accordingly, and who often share those feelings of sameness (1997, p. 97).

In summarizing their findings, Byne and Parsons stated: “Critical review shows the evidence favoring a biologic theory to be lacking” (50:228). Commenting on Bailey and Pillard’s report, researchers Billings and Beckwith wrote:

While the authors interpreted their findings as evidence for a genetic basis for homosexuality, we think that the data in fact provide strong evidence for the influence of the environment (1993, p. 60).

When evaluated scientifically, twin studies fail to provide any valid support for the longed-for “gay gene.”

DEAN HAMER—THE GAY GENE
ON THE X CHROMOSOME

Two years after Simon LeVay’s report, a group led by Dean H. Hamer of the National Cancer Institute allegedly linked male homosexuality to a gene on the X chromosome. His team investigated 114 families of homosexual men. Hamer and his colleagues collected family history information from 76 gay male individuals and 40 gay brother pairs as they searched for incidences of homosexuality among relatives of gay men.

In many families, gay men had gay relatives through maternal lines. Thus, they concluded that a gene for homosexuality might be found on the X chromosome, which is passed from the mother alone. They then used DNA linkage analysis in an effort to find a correlation between inheritance and homosexual orientation.

Their Reported Findings

Because many of the families with a prevalence of homosexual relatives had a common set of DNA markers on the X chromosome, Hamer’s group assumed a genetic etiology. Of the 40 pairs of homosexual brothers he analyzed, Hamer found that 33 exhibited a matching DNA region called q28—a gene located at the tip of the long arm of the X chromosome. In summarizing their findings, Hamer and colleagues noted: “Our experiments suggest that a locus (or loci) related to sexual orientation lies within approximately 4 million base pairs of DNA on the tip of the long arm of the X chromosome” (1993, 261:326, parenthetical item in orig.). This discovery prompted Hamer and his colleagues to speculate:

The linkage to markers on Xq28, the subtelomeric region of the long arm of the sex chromosome, had a multipoint lod score of 4.0, indicating a statistical confidence level of more than 99 percent that at least one subtype of male sexual orientation is genetically influenced (261:321, emp. added).

It is important to note that Hamer did not claim to have found a “gay gene,” or even the set of genes, that might contribute to a propensity for homosexuality. According to Chicago Tribune staff writer, John Crewdson, what Hamer claimed to have found was “statistical evidence that such genes exist” (1995).

Problems with Hamer’s Study

One of the most significant problems with Hamer’s approach is that he and his colleagues did not feel that it was necessary to check whether any of the heterosexual men in these families shared the marker in question! Would it not be useful to know whether or not this “gay gene” is found in heterosexuals? Even if only a few of them possess the gene, it calls into question what the gene or the self-identification signifies. Additionally, Hamer never explained why the other seven pairs of brothers did not display the same genetic marker. If this is “the gene” for homosexuality, then one must assume all homosexual individuals would possess that particular marker—and yet that was not the case in Hamer’s study.

In a letter to Science, Anne Fausto-Sterling and Evan Balaban pointed out some of the additional problems with Hamer’s study. They noted:

Despite our praise for aspects of Hamer, et al.’s work, we feel it is also important to recognize some of its weaknesses. The most obvious of these is the lack of an adequate control group. Their study demonstrates cosegregation of a trait (which Hamer, et al. have labeled “homosexuality”) with X chromosome markers and the trait’s concordance in homosexual brothers. This cosegregation is potentially meaningful if the mother is heterozygous for the trait. In this case, segregating chromosomes without the markers should show up in nonhomosexual brothers, but Hamer, et al. present no data to that effect (1993, 261:1257, emp. added).

Fausto-Sterling and Balaban continued:

This sensitivity to assumptions about background levels makes Hamer, et al.’s data less robust than the summary in their abstract indicates…. Finally we wish to emphasize a point with which we are sure Hamer, et al. would agree: correlation does not necessarily indicate causation (261:1257).

In other words, Hamer’s methodology leaves something to be desired. One also should keep in mind that Hamer’s sampling was not random, and, as a result, his data may not reflect the real population.

George Rice and his colleagues from Canada looked intently at the gene Xq28. They then observed: “Allele and halotype sharing for these markers was not increased over expectation. These results do not support an X-linked gene underlying male homosexuality” (1999, 284:665, emp. added). Rice, et al., included 182 families in their study. They noted:

It is unclear why our results are so discrepant from Hamer’s original study. Because our study was larger than that of Hamer et al., we certainly had adequate power to detect a genetic effect as large as was reported in that study. Nonetheless, our data do not support the presence of a gene of large effect influencing sexual orientation at position Xq28 (284:667).

That is a tactful way of saying that any claims of having found a “gay gene” were overblown, if not outright false, and that Hamer’s results are dubious at best. Commenting on the study of Rice and his colleagues, Ingrid Wickelgren remarked: “…the Ontario team found that gay brothers were no more likely to share the Xq28 markers than would be expected by chance…. Ebers interprets all these results to mean that the X linkage is all but dead” (1999, 284:571, emp. added).

In June of 1998, University of Chicago psychiatrist Alan Sanders reported at the meeting of the American Psychiatric Association that he, too, had been unable to verify Hamer’s results. Looking for an increase in Xq28 linkage, Sanders’ team studied 54 pairs of gay brothers. As Wickelgren indicated, Sanders’ team had found “only a weak hint—that wasn’t statistically significant—of an Xq28 linkage among 54 gay brother pairs” (284:571). Commenting on the validity of Hamer’s study, Wickelgren quoted George Rice: “Taken together, Rice says, the results ‘suggest that if there is a linkage it’s so weak it’s not important’” (1999, emp. added). Two independent labs failed to reproduce anything even remotely resembling Hamer’s results.

CHANGEABILITY OF HOMOSEXUALS—
EVIDENCE AGAINST GENETICS

An individual born with diabetes has no hope of changing that condition. Likewise, a child born with Down’s syndrome will carry that chromosomal abnormality throughout his or her life. These individuals are a product of the genes they inherited from their parents. Homosexuality appears to be vastly different. Many people have been able to successfully change their sexual orientation. [Truth be told, some individuals experiment with a variety of sexual partners—male/female—often, going back and forth. One might inquire if the bisexuality denotes the existence of a “bisexual gene?”] Ironically, however, the removal of homosexuality as a designation from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Psychiatric Disorders by the American Psychiatric Association has kept many physicians from attempting to provide reparative therapy to homosexuals.

Robert Spitzer conducted a study on 200 self-selected individuals (143 males, 57 females) in an effort to see if participants could change their sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual (2003, 32:403-417). He reported some minimal change from homosexual to heterosexual orientation that lasted at least five years (p. 403). Spitzer observed:

The majority of participants gave reports of change from a predominantly or exclusively homosexual orientation before therapy to a predominantly or exclusively heterosexual orientation in the past year (p. 403).

In summarizing his findings, Spitzer declared: “Thus, there is evidence that change in sexual orientation following some form of reparative therapy does occur in some gay men and lesbians.” He thus concluded: “This study provides evidence that some gay men and lesbians are able to also change the core features of sexual orientation” (p. 415).

Six years earlier, the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) released the results of a two-year study stating:

Before treatment, 68 percent of the respondents perceived themselves as exclusively or almost entirely homosexual, with another 22 percent stating that they were more homosexual than heterosexual. After treatment, only 13 percent perceived themselves as exclusively or almost entirely homosexual, while 33 percent described themselves as either exclusively or almost entirely heterosexual (see Nicolosi, 2000, 86:1071).

The study also reported:

Although 83 percent of respondents indicated that they entered therapy primarily because of homosexuality, 99 percent of those who participated in the survey said they now believe treatment to change homosexuality can be effective and valuable (p. 1071).

These data are consistent with the ongoing research project of Rob Goetze, who has identified 84 articles or books that contain some relevance to the possibility of sexual orientation change (2004). Of the data reported, 31 of the 84 studies showed a quantitative outcome of individuals able to change sexual orientation. These are not studies that merely speculate on the ability to change; they actually have the numbers to back it up! All of these data come on the heels of warnings from the Surgeon General, The American Academy of Pediatrics, and all of the major mental health associations, which have issued position statements warning of possible harm from such therapy, and have asserted that there is no evidence that such therapy can change a person’s sexual orientation. For instance, the 1998 American Psychiatric Association Position Statement on Psychiatric Treatment and Sexual Orientation noted:

…there is no published scientific evidence supporting the efficacy of reparative therapy as a treatment to change one’s sexual orientation…. The potential risks of reparative therapy are great, including depression, anxiety, and self-destructive behavior (see American Psychiatric Association, 1999, p. 1131).

Thus, physicians are caught in a quandary of a double standard. On the one hand, they are told that it is “unethical” for a clinician to provide reparative therapy because homosexuality is not a diagnosable disorder, and thus one should not seek to change. Yet, they contend that not enough studies have been conducted to determine the effectiveness of reparative therapy. The message is loud and clear: “Do not do this because it is unethical to ask a homosexual person to change. However, truth be told, we have not collected enough data to know if a person can safely change his or her sexual orientation.”

In situations where sexual orientation is being measured, studies face serious methodological problems (i.e., follow-up assessment, possible bias, no detailed sexual history, random sampling, etc.). But even given these serious shortcomings from behavioral studies such as these, there are sufficient data to indicate that an individual can change his or her sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual—something that would be an impossibility if homosexuality were caused by genetics.

CONCLUSION

Consider the obvious problem of survival for individuals who allegedly possess a gay gene: individuals who have partners of the same sex are biologically unable to reproduce (without resorting to artificial means). Therefore, if an alleged “gay gene” did exist, the homosexual population eventually would disappear altogether. We now know that it is not scientifically accurate to refer to a “gay gene” as the causative agent in homosexuality. The available evidence clearly establishes that no such gene has been identified. Additionally, evidence exists which documents that homosexuals can change their sexual orientation. Future decisions regarding policies about, and/or treatment of, homosexuals should reflect this knowledge.

REFERENCES

American Psychiatric Association (2000), Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, (Washington D.C.: American Psychiatric Association), fourth edition, text revision.

Bailey, Michael J., and Richard C. Pillard (1991), “A Genetic Study of Male Sexual Orientation,” Archives of General Psychiatry, 48:1089-1096, December.

Bailey, Michael J. and D.S. Benishay (1993), “Familial Aggregation of Female Sexual Orientation,” American Journal of Psychiatry, 150[2]:272-277.

Baron M. (1993), “Genetics and Human Sexual Orientation [Editorial],” Biological Psychiatry, 33:759-761.

Billings, P. and J. Beckwith (1993), Technology Review, July, p. 60.

Bower, B. (1992), “Gene Influence Tied to Sexual Orientation,” Science News, 141[1]:6, January 4.

Byne, William (1994), “The Biological Evidence Challenged,” Scientific American, 270[5]:50-55, May.

Byne, William and Bruce Parsons (1993), “Human Sexual Orientation,” Archives of General Psychiatry, 50:228-239, March.

Byrd, A. Dean, Shirley E. Cox, and Jeffrey W. Robinson (2001), “Homosexuality: The Innate-Immutability Argument Finds No Basis in Science,” The Salt Lake Tribune, [On-line] URL: http://www.sltrib.com/2001/may/05272001/commenta/100523.htm.

Crewdson, John (1995), “Dean Hamer’s Argument for the Existence of ‘Gay Genes,’ ” Chicago Tribune, News Section, p. 11, June 25.

Fausto-Sterling, Anne and Evan Balaban (1993), “Genetics and Male Sexual Orientation,” [technical-comment letter to the editor], Science, 261:1257, September 3.

Friedman, Richard C. and Jennifer I. Downey (1994), “Homosexuality,” The New England Journal of Medicine, 331[14]:923-930, October 6.

Gelman, David, with Donna Foote, Todd Barrett, and Mary Talbot (1992), “Born or Bred?,” Newsweek, pp. 46-53, February 24.

Goetze, Rob (2004), “Homosexuality and the Possibility of Change: An Ongoing Research Project,” [On-line], URL: http://www.newdirection.ca/research/index.html.

Hamer, Dean H., Stella Hu, Victoria L. Magnuson, Nan Hu, and Angela M.L. Pattatucci (1993), “A Linkage Between DNA Markers on the X Chromosome and Male Sexual Orientation,” Science, 261:321-327, July 16.

Horgan, John (1995), “Gay Genes, Revisited,” Scientific American, 273[5]:26, November.

Howe, Richard (1994), “Homosexuality in America: Exposing the Myths,” American Family Association, [On-line], URL: http://www.afa.net/homosexual_agenda/homosexuality.pdf.

Hubbard, Ruth and Elijah Wald (1997), Exploding the Gene Myth (Boston: Beacon Press).

“Human Genome Report Press Release” (2003), International Consortium Completes Human Genome Project, [On-line], URL: http://www.ornl.gov/TechResources/Human_Genome/project/50yr.html.

Kallmann, F.J. (1952), “Comparative Twin Study on the Genetic Aspects of Male Homosexuality,” Journal of Nervous and Mental Diseases, 115:283-298.

King, M. and E. McDonald (1992), “Homosexuals Who are Twins: A Study of 46 Probands,” The British Journal of Psychiatry, 160: 407-409.

Kinsey, A.C. W.B. Pomeroy, C.E. Martin (1948), Sexual Behavior in the Human Male (Philadelphia, PA: W.B. Saunders).

Kinsey, A.C. W.B. Pomeroy, C.E. Martin, P. H. Gebhard (1953), Sexual Behavior in the Human Female (Philadelphia, PA: W.B. Saunders).

Laumann, Edward O., John H. Gagnon, Robert T. Michael, and Stuart Michaels (1994), The Social Organization of Sexuality: Sexual Practices in the United States (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press).

LeVay, Simon (1991), “A Difference in Hypothalamic Structure Between Heterosexual and Homosexual Men,” Science, 253:1034-1037, August 30.

Mann, Charles (1994), “Behavioral Genetics in Transition,” Science, 264:1686-1689, June 17.

Marcus, Eric (1993), Is It a Choice? (San Francisco, CA: Harper).

NCBI (2004), “Human Genome Resources,” [On-line], URL: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/genome/guide/human/.

Nicolosi, Joseph, A. Dean Byrd, and Richard Potts (2000), “Retrospective Self-reports of Changes in Homosexual Orientation: A Consumer Survey of Conversion Therapy Clients,” Psychological Reports, 86:1071-1088, June.

Rainer, J.D., A. Mesnikoff, LC. Kolb, and A. Carr (1960), “Homosexuality and Heterosexuality in Identical Twins,” Psychosomatic Medicine, 22:251-259.

Reinisch, June M. and Ruth Beasley (1990) The Kinsey Institute New Report on Sex (New York: St. Martin’s Press).

Rice, George, Carol Anderson, Neil Risch, and George Ebers (1999), “Male Homosexuality: Absence of Linkage to Microsatellite Markers at Xq28,” Science, 284:665-667, April 23.

Risch, Neil, Elizabeth Squires-Wheeler, and Bronya J.B. Keats (1993), “Male Sexual Orientation and Genetic Evidence,” Science, 262:2063-2064, December 24.

Shepherd, Gordon M. (1994) Neurobiology (Oxford: Oxford University Press), third edition.

Spitzer, Robert L. (2003), “Can Some Gay Men and Lesbians Change Their Sexual Orientation?,” Archives of Sexual Behavior, 32[5]:403-417, October 5.

VandeHei, Jim (2004), “Dean Says Faith Swayed Decision on Gay Unions,” The Washington Post, p. A-1, January 8.

Wickelgren, Ingrid (1999), “Discovery of ‘Gay Gene’ Questioned,” Science, 284:571, April 23.

 



Copyright © 2004 Apologetics Press, Inc. All rights reserved.

We are happy to grant permission for items in the “America’s Culture War” section to be reproduced in their entirety, as long as the following stipulations are observed: (1) Apologetics Press must be designated as the original publisher; (2) the specific Apologetics Press Web site URL must be noted; (3) the author’s name must remain attached to the materials; (4) any references, footnotes, or endnotes that accompany the article must be included with any written reproduction of the article; (5) alterations of any kind are strictly forbidden (e.g., photographs, charts, graphics, quotations, etc. must be reproduced exactly as they appear in the original); (6) serialization of written material (e.g., running an article in several parts) is permitted, as long as the whole of the material is made available, without editing, in a reasonable length of time; (7) articles, in whole or in part, may not be offered for sale or included in items offered for sale; and (8) articles may be reproduced in electronic form for posting on Web sites pending they are not edited or altered from their original content and that credit is given to Apologetics Press, including the web location from which the articles were taken.

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Our Great Commission

by Pastor Cornelius R. Stam

 

Much is said of the “great commission” which our Lord gave to His apostles just before His ascension. We wonder whether our readers have ever examined the various records of this commission carefully.

This “great commission” does not say one word about “the preaching of the cross” or “the gospel of the grace of God”. The “gospel” which they were sent to preach was very evidently the same “gospel” they had been preaching — the Gospel of the Kingdom — only they could now declare, as Peter did at Pentecost, that the King had risen from the dead and would still some day occupy the throne of David.

The “great commission” demanded faith and baptism for the remission of sins (Mark 16:15,16); it included the power to heal the sick and work miracles (16:17,18), but it did not include the glad message that “Christ died for our sins” (I Corinthians 15:1-3). At Pentecost, when Peter began to carry out this commission, he rather blamed his hearers for the death of Christ and when, convicted of their sins, they asked: “What shall we do?” he did not say: “Believe on Christ who died for your sins.” He rather commanded them to “repent and be baptized every one…for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38).

But after Christ and His Kingdom were again rejected, God interrupted the prophetic program and sent Paul forth to proclaim “the preaching of the cross” and “the gospel of the grace of God”. In II Corinthians 5: 14-21 this apostle proclaims “the love of Christ” who “died for all” and instructs us as to our“great commission”:

“And all things are of [provided by] God, who hath reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ, AND HATH GIVEN TO US THE MINISTRY OF RECONCILIATION;

“To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself… AND HATH COMMITTED UNTO US THE WORD OF RECONCILIATION” (II Corinthians 5:18,19).

 

Christians, Gambling, and the Lottery

by Dave Miller, Ph.D.
Kyle Butt, M.A.

 

Playing the state lottery, and frequenting casinos, have become prominent pastimes for millions of Americans. More and more people are participating, in the hope of becoming millionaires. While there have been a few exceptions and isolated cases in American history, it is really only recently that gambling has come to be considered socially acceptable. Though times have arisen when gambling became more widespread, overall public sentiment has frowned upon the practice. Gambling generally has been illegal in our society, and the word “gamble” was a slang term of reproach. People in polite society, who held virtuous and moral convictions, viewed gambling as an unacceptable, inappropriate, even sinful vice. Those who engaged in such practices were seen as the degraded elements in society who served only to weaken social sensibilities.

The first modern state lottery was established in New Hampshire in 1964, while Nevada legalized the nation’s first casino in 1931 (“Indiana…,” 1998). The extensive opportunity of gambling activities did not capture the American public’s attention until the 1970s and 1980s. Now, however, horse and dog racetracks and casinos have sprung up all over the country. Several state governments now sponsor lotteries, complete with massive advertising campaigns. In 1988, the Federal Indian Regulatory Act opened the door to widespread casino development throughout the country. By 1993, riverboat gambling had been established in six states, and land-based casinos were legalized in several additional states. Gambling has become normalized across the nation, and various gambling activities are legal in all states except Hawaii and Utah. In 1995, more than $500 billion was legally wagered in the United States—a dramatic increase from the estimated $17 billion wagered in 1979, less than two decades earlier (“Indiana…”).

In Matthew 7:15-20, Jesus Christ laid down a test by which every activity or philosophy could be assayed, and its true value assessed. He said, quite simply, that “every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.” Jesus’ statement was addressed specifically to false teachers, but it certainly can be applied to various philosophies and activities of life (such as gambling). What kind of fruit does gambling produce? When legalized gambling arrives in a new community, does it raise the moral standards of that community? Does it help to lessen the hardships of families in that community? Or, is the opposite the case? Does legalized gambling place a burden on the communities by an appreciable lowering of the moral standard and an increase in the financial burden for those who already are working with a poverty-level budget? Let’s take a walk down the gambling produce aisle and see what it has to offer.

The social effects of gambling have been substantial. Current data indicate that more than 80% of Americans participate in some form of gambling (Lesieur, 1993). Johns Hopkins University researchers reported that the social cost of excessive gambling “ranks among the most expensive illnesses afflicting society, though it is among the least expensive to treat” (Politzer, et al., 1985). In the late 1980s, the National Council on Compulsive Gambling estimated that between four and six million gamblers are suffering from an addictive disorder that threatens their lives and the lives of their loved ones (Chamberlain, 1988, p. 37). Now, gambling researchers say that at least eight million Americans are compulsive gamblers, with one million of these being teenagers (Chavira, 1991, p. 78). A survey of 500 Gamblers Anonymous members reported that 21% of the participants stated that they had never thought of suicide, 48% said they had thought about suicide, and 13% had attempted suicide (Frank, et. al., 1991). According to the Charter Hospital of Las Vegas, the suicide rate among active gamblers (especially women) is the highest of all illnesses (see Charter Hospital, n.d.). Would anyone classify a highly addictive activity that often results in the participant’s contemplation of (or attempt at) suicide as a beneficial fruit that is good for society? On the contrary, such can easily be recognized as a rotten fruit that would suggest that the activity itself is not above reproach.

Furthermore, experts have expressed alarm at the rising numbers of teenagers who are gambling. They refer to gambling as “the growing addiction,” and predict that it will cause teens more problems during the next decade than illegal drugs (McCabe, 1990, p. 7-D). In the first ten days of the Texas Lottery, counselors operating the hotline of the Texas Council on Problem and Compulsive Gambling reported alarming stories about teenage gambling:

An 18-year-old employee of a convenience store called on the second day of the lottery reporting he had scratched off hundreds of tickets belonging to the store, saying, “I thought it was a sure thing I would win enough not only to pay the store for the cost of the tickets but would have a bunch left over.”

An affluent 16-year-old male from an upscale suburban neighborhood reported he had lost “a considerable sum of money” on the lottery. Realizing he was under the legal age to buy tickets, he had asked older friends to purchase tickets for him. He admitted to heavy gambling in school restrooms.

A father of a 19-year-old from a rural town in East Texas was distressed because his son was gambling on cards and dice and had spent his weekly paycheck on the lottery (“Teenage…,” n.d.).

The director of the National Center for Pathological Gambling made this apropos observation: “You have state governments promoting lotteries. The message they’re conveying is that gambling is not a vice but a normal form of entertainment” (Chavira, p. 78). Just the fact that there is a “National Center for Pathological Gambling” should clue every legislator into the fact that there is something wrong with this type of activity.

In 1957, Gamblers Anonymous was formed, and has since grown to more than 800 chapters in the U.S., and more than 1,400 meetings worldwide. The experts are comparing compulsive gambling to alcohol and drug addiction. The official position of Gamblers Anonymous is the promotion of abstinence from gambling as essential to a person’s recovery. As one might expect, their strongest and most active group is in Las Vegas.

David A. Korn, in an article titled “Expansion of Gambling in Canada: Implications for Health and Social Policy” in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, noted that gambling often affects the lower-income families more dramatically than those of higher income, due to the fact that lower-income families spend almost four times as much on gambling (in proportion to their income). Korn wrote: “These data suggest that gambling expenditures may be regarded as a voluntary regressive tax that has a proportionately greater impact on people with lower incomes.” He further noted: “Several populations are vulnerable to the impacts of gambling, in addition to lower socioeconomic groups. The cost to families in terms of dysfunctional relationships, violence and abuse, financial pressure, and disruption of growth and development of children can be great.” In concluding his article, Korn commented: “The rapid expansion of gambling represents a significant public health concern that challenges our values, quality of life and public priorities” (Korn, 2000).

What then, could one conclude from even a cursory glance at the “fruits” of gambling? Gambling is addictive, it preys on those with lower incomes, it dramatically affects teens, and it often leads to dysfunctional family relationships and abuse. Surely these would classify as “bad fruits.”

FROM A CHRISTIAN PERSPECTIVE

A dramatic change in the social order of American culture has taken place. As the moral fiber of American civilization deteriorates and biblical values are jettisoned, activities that once were perceived to be harmful to society are now becoming acceptable. Many people no longer care what God thinks or what the Bible teaches. Nevertheless, there is a God in heaven who has given His written Word. That revelation is designed to govern human behavior. One principle that runs throughout the Bible is that of stewardship. The Bible repeatedly and consistently paints the picture that God is the ultimate owner of all earthly possessions. The psalmist observed that the Lord owns the cattle on a thousand hills (Psalm 50:10). James wrote that every good and perfect gift comes from God (James 1:17). Jesus referred to humans as stewards—those who are entrusted to take care of another’s property (Luke 12:42). And He declared that every person has the moral responsibility to be a faithful steward of the money that has been entrusted to him (Luke 16:10-11). Yet, each year people shell out billions of dollars gambling away the money that has been entrusted to them by God. Imagine the good, wholesome projects that could be supported annually by such enormous stores of cash—children could be fed, the Gospel could be preached, houses could be built, and the list goes on. Instead of such worthwhile projects, however, these billions of dollars are pumped into a system that leads to addiction and abuse. It would be difficult, indeed, to conclude that gambling is good stewardship of the money with which God has entrusted a person. In reality, to pour one’s money into a system that mathematically and statistically has been proven, time and again, to benefit the “house,” and take from the gambler, certainly would fall into the category of unfaithful stewardship. Concerning unfaithful stewardship, Christ said: “Therefore if you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon [money or riches], who will commit to your trust the true riches” (Luke 16:11)? To stand before the throne of Christ, having squandered the money God entrusted to you on an idle and degenerative activity like gambling, would be a frightening thought indeed.

Furthermore, imagine the potential negative influence of a Christian who participates in gambling. For one thing, many people, who are not even affiliated with the Lord’s church, view gambling as a sinful vice that respectable people should avoid. Looking over the fruits of gambling, it is not difficult to see why they would think such. If they saw a Christian in a casino, or buying a lottery ticket, what would that do to their opinion of that individual and the congregation of the Lord’s body of which that individual is a member? Would it not drastically reduce the chances of that Christian having a positive impact on the one who saw him gambling? Certainly, the Christian is responsible for the image he or she portrays, and for how “those who are without” view his or her actions. Paul told Timothy, for example, that a bishop (elder) “must have a good testimony among those who are outside” the body of Christ (1 Timothy 3:7). If many people outside the Lord’s church view gambling as a morally reprehensible activity, and a Christian participates in that activity, he or she would have a difficult time explaining how such could be good for his or her reputation.

Furthermore, as Colossians 3:17 notes, “whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to god the Father through Him.” It is not enough for a person to ask, “What is wrong with an activity?” Instead, the question actually should be phrased: “What is right with this activity?” The burden of proof falls on each individual to show that what he is doing has a positive, encouraging effect on himself and on others. One would be hard pressed to find any evidence that would classify gambling as something that could be done “in the name of the Lord Jesus.” In fact, when Christ returns, what person would want the Lord to find him in a casino?

CONCLUSION

Gambling is first and foremost a moral issue. There was a time in American society when the majority of people considered such things as lewd dancing, drunkenness, cursing, and gambling to be wrong. Obviously, times, circumstances, and culture have changed. But God and His Word have not. His Word warns that those who do not respect His will, and who choose to live life according to fleshly desires, will spend eternity in the fires of hell (Revelation 21:8). A genuine Christian is the one who eliminates from daily life the vice and immorality that is characteristic of a society that continually desires to abandon God’s will. Instead of “going along” with such a society, he or she studies the Bible in order to learn how God would have people to live. Only then can one eagerly look forward to the joys of heaven.

REFERENCES

Chamberlain, R. Edwin (1988), “Gambling: New Treatment Ideas for an Old Addiction,” Professional Counselor, November/December.

Charter Hospital of Las Vegas (no date), (Las Vegas, NV: Charter Hospital).

Chavira, Richard (1991), “The Rise of Teenage Gambling,” Time, February 25.

Frank, M.L., D. Lester, and A. Wexler (1991), “Suicidal Behavior Among Members of Gamblers Anonymous,” Journal of Gambling Studies, 7:249-254.

“Indiana Problem Gambling Prevention Plan” (1998), [On-line], URL: http://www.in.gov/fssa/servicemental/gambling/problems.html.

Korn, David A. “Expansion of gambling in Canada: implications for health and social policy” (2000), eCMAJ, [On-line], URL: http://www.cmaj.ca/cgi/content/full/163/1/61. Originally printed in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, July 11, 2000;163(1):61-4.

Lesieur, H.R. (1993), Understanding Compulsive Gambling (Center City, MN: Hazelden).

McCabe, George (1990), “Too Young to Gamble,” Las Vegas Review-Journal, p. 7-D, June 14.

Politzer, R.M., J.S. Morrow, and R. Leavey (1985), “Report on the Cost Benefit/Effectiveness of Treatment at the John Hopkins Center for Pathological Gambling,” Journal of Gambling Behavior, [1]:131-142.

“Teenage Gambling Addiction” (no date), Texas Council on Problem and Compulsive Gambling (Dallas, TX).

 



Copyright © 2003 Apologetics Press, Inc. All rights reserved.

We are happy to grant permission for items in the “America’s Culture War” section to be reproduced in their entirety, as long as the following stipulations are observed: (1) Apologetics Press must be designated as the original publisher; (2) the specific Apologetics Press Web site URL must be noted; (3) the author’s name must remain attached to the materials; (4) any references, footnotes, or endnotes that accompany the article must be included with any written reproduction of the article; (5) alterations of any kind are strictly forbidden (e.g., photographs, charts, graphics, quotations, etc. must be reproduced exactly as they appear in the original); (6) serialization of written material (e.g., running an article in several parts) is permitted, as long as the whole of the material is made available, without editing, in a reasonable length of time; (7) articles, in whole or in part, may not be offered for sale or included in items offered for sale; and (8) articles may be reproduced in electronic form for posting on Web sites pending they are not edited or altered from their original content and that credit is given to Apologetics Press, including the web location from which the articles were taken.

For catalog, samples, or further information, contact:

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http://www.apologeticspress.org

 

Evolution, Environmentalism, and the Deification of Nature—EXTENDED VERSION

by Dave Miller, Ph.D.


The year was 1970. It was the year of the Kent State shootings, Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” Apollo 13, the disbanding of the Beatles, the X-rated movie Midnight Cowboy winning the Best Picture Oscar, the drug-related deaths of Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin, as well as the death of Scopes Monkey Trial defendant John T. Scopes. That year also marked the birth of the modern environmental movement, with the observance of the first Earth Day on April 22 (see “1970,” 2000). By July, the Environmental Protection Agency was formed. Various pieces of federal legislation designed to protect the environment quickly followed, including the Clean Air Act (1970), the Clean Water Act (1972), and the Endangered Species Act (1973) [see “Major Environmental Laws,” 2003]. Since 1970, it is safe to say, the American way of life has been altered drastically. The environmental movement has changed forever the way Americans view the world around them. Even the otherwise environmentally insensitive citizen now possesses heightened consciousness about littering, recycling, global warming, and “going green.” But things have gotten out of hand.

It was one thing for young people who embraced this perspective to march in the streets in the 1960s and promote their offbeat, fanatical ideas. But now that they have moved into powerful political positions, their ideas permeate policy and literally wreak havoc on people’s lives. Fringe environmentalist groups, in collusion with liberal politicians, Hollywood celebrities, and the mainstream media, have conspired to unleash a flood of environmental propaganda and eco-myths. First it was the “deadly” ozone-depleting hairspray aerosols. Then it was the evil internal combustion engine. They have inundated the public with their alarmist claims that global pollution, ozone depletion, and environmental contamination due to technological progress and American affluence mean that life on Earth is facing inevitable and imminent extinction. They insist that humans are inflicting widespread damage on the environment, destroying the forests, and causing the extinction of animal and plant species. Friends of the Earth International insists: “[T]he Earth is a creation to be honored and respected as our Mother” (see “Friends of the Earth…,” 2007, emp. added).

Multiple examples demonstrate the absurd extent to which environmentalists are willing to go. A 400-page United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization report has identified rapidly growing herds of cattle as the greatest threat to the environment (Lean, 2006). We are told that the 1.5 billion cattle on Earth are responsible for 18% of the greenhouse gases that cause global warming—more than cars, planes, and all other forms of transportation combined. More than a third of the greenhouse gas, methane (which warms the world 20 times faster than carbon dioxide), is emitted by cows and their manure. And it is not just methane, since cattle also produce more than 100 other polluting gases, including more than two-thirds of the world’s emissions of ammonia—one of the main causes of acid rain (Lean, 2006). That’s right, gaseous expulsions by cows damage the planet more than emissions from cars. Environmentalists are beside themselves.

Researchers at Norway’s technical university claim that their national animal, the moose, is harming the climate by emitting over 2,000 kilos of carbon dioxide per year—equivalent to the CO2 produced by an 8,000 mile car trip (“Norway’s Moose…,” 2007). [Poor Bullwinkle now is politically incorrect.] Yet, Australian scientists are delighted with the discovery that flatulent kangaroos produce almost no greenhouse gas methane due to their peculiar digestive flora (bacteria)—which researchers hope can be transplanted into cows and sheep to prevent their contributions to global warming (“Flatulent Kangaroos…,” 2007). Meanwhile, to minimize the “deadly” effects of bovine belching, UK scientists at the University of Aberystwyth (Wales) are attempting to develop new varieties of plants which are easier for cows to digest (“Changing Cows’ Diet…,” 2007).

But it doesn’t stop there. Scientists from Austria and Germany recently reported that, though we humans are but one of the millions of species on Earth, we use up almost one-fourth of the sun’s energy captured by plants—the most of any species. More than half of the use is due to the harvesting of crops and other plants (Leung, 2007). You read that right. It is bad enough that we humans are soaking up more than our fair share of the Sun’s rays simply by being outdoors; but we are exploiting poor, defenseless green plants by greedily harvesting and consuming their bounty, thereby stealing from them the benefit they derived from the Sun.

To top such nonsense off, while it is common for environmentalists to blame mankind as the prime perpetrator of environmental destruction, now some environmentalists insist that, more specifically, children are significant culprits in the human assault on the natural order. One environmentalist emphatically insists, “Having children is selfish,” and gave as her reason for having an abortion, “it would have been immoral to give birth to a child that I felt strongly would only be a burden to the world” (Courtenay-Smith and Turner, 2007). Another environmentalist maintains that “a baby would pollute the planet” and “never having a child was the most environmentally friendly thing I could do” (Courtenay-Smith and Turner, 2007). Still another asserts, “That’s why I had a vasectomy. It would be morally wrong for me to add to climate change and the destruction of the Earth…. [W]e are doing out bit to save our precious planet” (Courtenay-Smith and Turner, 2007). Parents, we are told, should limit their offspring to no more than two children (one in China) in order to reduce carbon dioxide output. A report published by the environmentalist group, Optimum Population Trust, insists that the greatest thing one could do to help the future of the planet would be to have one less child (Templeton, 2007).

Let’s get this straight. Cows cause global warming, so we need to reduce the cow population. If we kill cows, we will upset the animal rights people. If we eat cows, we will offend the vegetarians. If we allow the present population of cows to live to old age and die naturally, we could arrest the growth of the cow population by performing partial birth abortions on all cows that get pregnant. But that, too, likely would upset the animal rights people (who probably would have no problem doing the same to pre-born humans—especially since kids contribute to the CO2 problem). Since harvesting crops and other green plants is stealing solar energy, we need to cease consuming plants—to the further dismay of the vegetarians. Any of this making sense to you?

ASSUMPTIONS OF ENVIRONMENTALISM

Radical environmentalists and animal rights activists share many of the same philosophical presuppositions held by atheists, evolutionists, Buddhists, Hindus, New Age mystics, and other forms of humanism, animism, and paganism from antiquity to the present. Their perspective is embodied in pantheism. To them, the material realm is all that exists. There are no metaphysical realities. The Universe is here because of accidental, non-purposive, non-intelligent happenstances. “Deity” resides in all natural phenomena—from inorganic rocks and dirt, to plants, animals, and humans. “God” is not the personal, Supreme Being of the Bible, Who is self-existent and transcendent of the Universe. Rather “god” is an impersonal force embedded in nature, in the physical realm, and in all life forms (cf. “The Force” in the Star Wars series).

The fundamental fallacy of the modern environmental movement is this inherent denial of supernaturalism and metaphysical reality. Rather than acknowledging that the entire Universe was created miraculously by the transcendent God of the Bible, Who both prepared and perpetuates the Earth for human habitation (Genesis 1:1-2:19; 8:22; Hebrews 11:3), the environmental movement posits the absence of supernatural origins and the necessity of an eternal Universe. Hence, the physical environment must be protected and preserved by humans in order for life to continue. The future of the Earth is viewed as dependent on mankind. If man damages the fragile environment, he is hastening its imminent demise.

Renowned Cornell University astronomer Carl Sagan held this view: “I believe we have an obligation to fight for life on Earth—not just for ourselves, but for all those, humans and others, who came before us, and to whom we are beholden, and for all those who, if we are wise enough, will come after” (1997, p. 75, emp. added). He also insisted that “[o]ur capacity to cause harm is great” (p. 97). In other words, the future of the planet—and all life on it—lies completely in the hands of humanity. Are we humans really so arrogant as to think that the future of the planet rests with us? Are we really so foolish as to think that the digestive tract of cows are defective—the result of mindless evolution rather than the all-knowing Creator—and that it falls to us to correct it?

If environmentalists believe that human beings are the product of the chance, mechanistic forces of nature working over millions of years through non-intelligent, evolutionary accidents, one can understand why they might think that we must preserve the planet at all costs—even at the expense of humans. To them, human beings are simply one more rung on the evolutionary ladder, with each prior life form being of comparable value. From this perspective, the environment in which evolution occurs is far more important than any one species that may happen to arise within that environment. The comparative worth of one species is based upon how large a danger that species poses to other species. Since humans have greater capability to harm the environment and to destroy lesser species, humans constitute the greatest threat to the well-being of the planet. To the environmentalist, humans are the natural enemy of nature. [NOTE: Though scientists disagree as to the cause, most admit that global warming is also occurring on Mars (Ravilious, 2007; “Mars Emerging…,” 2003; Britt, 2001; “Global Warming…,” 2001). Perhaps humans are hiding there and emitting deadly carbon dioxide.]

Sagan also stated: “There is no cause more urgent, no dedication more fitting than to protect the future of our species…. No social convention, no political system, no economic hypothesis, no religious dogma is more important” (1997, p. 75, emp. added). Such statements betray a purely materialistic outlook on life. Religious and spiritual concerns are secondary—or altogether nonexistent. The “number one concern,” according to Sagan and the environmentalists, is the preservation of the physical realm. Though Sagan and his fellow evolutionists disavow any allegiance to religion—Christian or otherwise—the dedication and devotion to the environment that they enjoin bears a striking resemblance to the devotion advocated by those who profess religious belief. The only difference is the object of the religious devotion. While manifesting hostility toward the Christian religion, it is apparent that environmentalists have their own religion: the worship of nature and the environment (see Houts, 2007, 27[11]:81-87). This explains why Sagan would write: “The Earth is a tiny and fragile world. It needs to be cherished” (1980, p. 103, emp. added). To say that the Earth needs to be “cherished,” i.e., loved, suggests distorted sensibilities that are unaided by divine insight. God has instructed humans to love Him, each other, His law, and truth. But He never has told us to love rocks, dirt, plants, and animals—or to hug trees.

Those who embrace this belief system are passionate—even militant—in their advocacy of the preservation of the environment. After all, if there is no Supreme Governor of the Universe and no afterlife, it is up to humans to protect the Earth so that physical life forms may be preserved as long as possible. Hence, they refer repeatedly to the “vulnerable planet Earth” and “our fragile atmosphere” (Sagan, 1997, p. 97, emp. added). To summarize, several assumptions inhere in radical environmentalism: the Creator depicted in the Bible does not exist; the Universe is eternal; the created order has no planned, overriding purpose; man is the ultimate offending culprit in his ability to destroy the planet; and the survival of the planet’s features (plants, animals, atmosphere, etc.) depends on man—not on any higher power.

THE BIBLICAL PERSPECTIVE

In stark contrast, the Bible affirms two crucial principles that should shape our understanding of the environment. First, God created the Earth for a specific purpose: to provide human beings with the appropriate environment in which to decide their eternal destiny. God created humans to be free moral agents, to experience earthly life as their one and only probationary period, with their fate in eternity being determined by their response to God during this earthly life. Hence, the Earth is as good (for the purpose God had in creating it) as any possible world, in that it was created to be a “vale of soul-making” for human beings (Warren, 1972, p. 19; cf. Genesis 1:31; Psalm 65:9; 104:24; Ecclesiastes 12:13).

God created the planet to be inhabited (Isaiah 45:18). He declared His intention that human beings were to rule and have domination over the Earth’s resources. Referring to humans, He stated: “[L]et them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth” (Genesis 1:26, emp. added). He instructed humans to “fill the earth and subdue it” (Genesis 1:28, emp. added). The Hebrew term for “subdue” (kah-vash) means to bring into submission by force (Oswalt, 1980, 1:430). The psalmist echoed these very directives when he praised God by saying, “You [God—DM] have made him [man—DM] to have dominion over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet” (Psalm 8:6, emp. added). God stressed human domination in even stronger terms after the Flood: “[T]he fear of you [humans—DM] and the dread of you shall be on every beast of the earth, on every bird of the air, on all that moves on the earth, and on all the fish of the sea. They are given into your hand. Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. I have given you all things, even as the green herbs” (Genesis 9:2-3, emp. added). God obviously intended for humans to make use of Earth’s natural resources, including animals and plants, in order to live, survive, develop, and progress—all in preparation for eternity.

Second, not only did God initially set up the environment to fulfill its divinely designated purpose, placing within it all necessary variables for sustaining it until He decides to terminate the physical realm, but He also continues to sustain and maintain it. The Bible has a great deal to say about the role that Jesus played at the Creation (e.g., John 1:3; Hebrews 1:2). He continues to have a relationship with the physical Universe by ensuring that it remains intact and functional. Paul referred to the “one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and through whom we live” (1 Corinthians 8:6, emp. added). Paul also stated: “For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth…. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist” (Colossians 1:16-17, emp. added). The psalmist insisted that when God spoke the physical Universe into existence, the constituent elements of the created order “stood fast” and “were established,” God having “made a decree” with them (33:9; 148:5-6, emp. added). The Hebrews writer claimed that Jesus is “upholding all things by the word of His power” (1:3, emp. added). Peter said that “the heavens and the earth which now exist are kept in store by the same word” (2 Peter 3:7, emp. added). The terms in these verses connote the idea of preserving, governing, regulating, and superintending the created order (Nicoll, 1900, 4:251-252; Thayer, 1901, p. 650; Weiss, 1974, 9:59). In other words, deity continues to maintain the order, harmony, and well-being of the whole creation—the vast Universe as well as planet Earth (Barnes, 2005, p. 27; Milligan, 1950, p. 55). After all, with God is “the fountain of life” (Psalm 36:9). “He gives to all life, breath, and all things” (Acts 17:25). “[F]or in Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). We can be assured: the environment will remain intact and suitable for life for as long as God intends. He is the great Sustainer.

ENVIRONMENTALISM’S INCONSISTENCIES

The environmentalist viewpoint is fraught with self-contradiction. We are being told that due to human interference, global warming and the “greenhouse effect” are occurring, and that the Earth’s temperature is increasing (e.g., Sagan, 1997, pp. 105ff.). A recent National Geographic article sounds the typical alarmist cry:

The planet is heating up—and fast. Glaciers are melting, sea levels are rising, cloud forests are drying, and wildlife is scrambling to keep pace. It’s becoming clear that humans have caused most of the past century’s warming by releasing heat-trapping gases as we power our modern lives. Called greenhouse gases, their levels are higher now than in the last 650,000 years…. What will we do to slow this warming? How will we cope with the changes we’ve already set into motion? While we struggle to figure it all out, the face of the Earth as we know it…hangs in the balance (“What Is…?” n.d., emp. added).

Yet we also have been terrorized with the idea that our actions are “lowering the surface temperature of our planet” (Sagan, 1980, p. 103). Ironically, a 1974 TIME magazine article reported a three-decade-long cooling of atmospheric temperatures and other “weather aberrations” that “may be the harbinger of another ice age” (“Another Ice Age?”). Insisting that “telltale signs are everywhere,” as expected, one of the culprits responsible for the threat was identified as man, since “dust and other particles released into the atmosphere as a result of farming and fuel burning may be blocking more and more sunlight from reaching and heating the surface of the earth” (“Another Ice Age?”). [NOTE: Since the ozone will soon be gone, exposing humans to deadly UV rays, perhaps we should do more farming and fuel burning in order to block those rays?] The 1974 article concluded: “Whatever the cause of the cooling trend, its effects could be extremely serious, if not catastrophic. Scientists figure that only a 1% decrease in the amount of sunlight hitting the earth’s surface could tip the climate balance, and cool the planet enough to send it sliding down the road to another ice age within only a few hundred years” (“Another Ice Age?,” emp. added). So which is it? Ice age or global warming? Since yesterday’s science is today’s superstition, how wary ought we to be regarding the bold claims of today’s “science”?

We have been harangued with the notion that Western man’s technological advancements are responsible for depleting resources and damaging the environment, and that we should return to the “environmentally sensitive and harmonious” ways of primitive peoples. Yet, evidence exists to suggest that our predecessors did not live “in harmony with nature” as we supposed. Primitive cultures and poor nations also have damaged the environment. For example, farming techniques of many primitive societies caused extensive land erosion—unlike the modern American farming techniques that are responsible for greatly increasing the world’s food supply.

Nature vs. Itself

The absurdity of the environmentalists’ claim—that humans are harsh and insensitive in their treatment of the environment—becomes especially apparent, even whimsical, when one simply observes nature’s treatment of itself. For example, the Katmai National Park is home to the world’s largest grizzly bears, commonly referred to as Alaskan Brown Bears. Because of their rich salmon diet, these bears grow to over 1,000 pounds in weight, making them the world’s largest land predators. Philip Greenspun gave the following eyewitness report of the bears’ eating ritual in the Brooks River:

Dominant bears occupy prime positions on top of the part of the falls where salmon jump every few seconds. When the salmon are running well, every five minutes a bear will catch a fish in his teeth and hold it firmly enough that blood begins to flow as the fish flops around. If there are plenty of salmon, the bear goes after only the fatty skin, brain, and roe, removing these parts during a gruesome minute or so. The salmon may remain alive for much or all of its consumption. Why do you think they call them animals? (1993).

Notice the carnage, the waste, the brutality, the selfish competition between bears, and the flagrant insensitivity to both the salmon and the environment. But this one example is typical of the phenomena inherent throughout the animal kingdom.

The planet, itself, is equally destructive. The largest volcanic eruption in recorded history occurred in 1815 in Tambora, Indonesia, killing an estimated 92,000 people, thousands of species of wildlife, and spewing (as far as 800 miles) 150 times more ash than the 1980 eruption of Mt. St. Helens (“Tambora, Sumbawa…,” n.d.). Hot, pyroclastic flows poured into the ocean, scalding sea life and causing additional explosions. Man and animal suffered cataclysmic devastation—due to starvation, disease, and hunger—earning the designation the “Year without a Summer.” Daily minimum temperatures were abnormally low in the Northern Hemisphere from late spring to early autumn. Famine was widespread because of crop failures (“Tambora, Sumbawa…”). The renowned volcano Krakatau (frequently misstated as Krakatoa) caused more than 36,000 fatalities, as devastating tsunamis inundated the coastlines of Sumatra and Java (“Krakatau, Sunda…,” n.d.). These are only two of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of volcanic eruptions that have unleashed massive environmental destruction through the centuries.

Consider the damage inflicted on the environment by the earthquake that killed 830,000 people in Shensi, China in 1556 (“Most Destructive Known…,” 2007). Only three years ago (December 26, 2004) the earthquake that generated the great Indian Ocean tsunami is estimated to have released the energy of 23,000 Hiroshima-type atomic bombs (“The Deadliest Tsunami…?,” 2005). More than a quarter million people were killed and millions more in 11 countries were displaced from their homes in South Asia and East Africa (“Most Destructive Known…”). The violent movement of sections of the Earth’s crust (the tectonic plates) created a rupture which the U.S. Geological Survey estimates was more than 600 miles long, displacing the seafloor above the rupture by perhaps 10 yards horizontally and several yards vertically. The displacement of such an enormous amount of water sent powerful shock waves in every direction, moving trillions of tons of rock along hundreds of miles, causing the planet to shudder, destroying thousands of miles of coastline and submerging entire islands permanently (“The Deadliest Tsunami…?,” 2005). Here was catastrophic environmental damage to plant, animal, marine, and human life.

The natural positioning of the Huang He (Yellow) River in China has caused it to overflow its banks many times in history, resulting in massive environmental damage (“The World’s Worst Floods,” n.d.). The human death toll of one such occurrence in 1931 was estimated to be from 1 to 3.7 million. Another in 1887 killed between 900,000 and two million (“The World’s Worst Floods”). The impact on plant and animal life was enormous. Hurricanes are no less destructive to the environment. On November 13, 1970, East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) experienced the deadliest hurricane on record, flooding low lying areas and killing at least half a million people—with some estimates rising as high as one million (“The Ten Worst…,” n.d.).

On March 18, 1925, the deadliest tornado in U.S. history began in southeastern Missouri, crossed through southern Illinois, and then turned into southwestern Indiana, killing 625 people and injuring more than 2,000 others. Property damage was assessed at $16.5 million—$1.7 billion in today’s dollars. The tornado left a 219 mile track—the longest ever recorded (“The Deadliest U.S…,” n.d.). Once again, havoc was wreaked on plant and animal life.

Volcanoes, hurricanes, tornados, floods, earthquakes, tsunamis—the list goes on and on. The powerful energy, awesome force, and mind-boggling destruction that nature has inflicted on itself and Earth’s inhabitants has been ongoing—a perpetual pattern of catastrophe. Yet, as God planned, life goes on—until the day He decides to call the human population to account before His judgment seat.

Humans vs. Nature

Have humans tampered with nature and caused unnecessary harm to the environment? Certainly. Instances are legion. In 1876, the introduction of Kudzu, a fast-growing vine from Japan, ultimately led to the destruction of valuable forests by blocking sunlight from trees. The vine, which can grow 60 feet each year, and has blanketed the South, is virtually impervious to herbicides. Yet, many positive benefits have emerged, including remarkable soil erosion control, a nutritious food source for Angora goats, the creation of products such as baskets, paper, jelly, syrup, and hay bales, and even progress on the development of new medicines (see “The Amazing Story…,” 2002). In 1859, Thomas Austin brought 24 rabbits from England to Australia, where they multiplied uncontrollably, causing considerable ecological ramifications (see Kellett, 2006; “Environmental Damage…,” 2001). Many other non-native plants and animals have been introduced into non-indigenous habitats, with a variety of consequences (see “Non-Native Species,” 2002).

No one knows how many plant and animal species have gone extinct since the beginning of Creation. No doubt, the number would be staggering. The obliteration of the dinosaur population alone would account for the eradication of large numbers. It is estimated that, just in the past 2,000 years, more than a hundred kinds of birds and more than a hundred kinds of mammals have disappeared from the Earth (see “Extinct and Near-Extinct…,” 1966). Included are the Dodo Bird of the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius, the Tasmanian Tiger Wolf of mainland Australia, and New Zealand’s giant, flightless bird, the Moa (see “Endangered Species,” 2003; “Extinct Animals,” 2001). These estimates do not include the extinction of species of reptiles, fish, and insects. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service maintains the Threatened and Endangered Species System (TESS) for both plants and animals. Presently, within the United States alone, 388 animal species and 598 plant species are listed as “endangered” (see “Threatened…,” 2003). While humans sometimes are blamed for causing certain species to diminish, no one knows in every case of animal or plant extinction whether humans or nature’s own agents were responsible. One fact is clear: the extinction of plants and animals through the centuries has not upset the realm of nature and the environment to the extent that the human race has been endangered or threatened with extinction itself—we’re still here! (Interestingly, many new species of both plants and animals have come into existence by humans implementing ingenious breeding procedures.)

On March 24, 1989, the oil tanker Exxon Valdez ran aground on a reef in Prince William Sound, Alaska, spilling an estimated 11 million gallons of oil, which impacted 1,300 miles of shoreline. Exxon claims to have spent $2.1 billion on a cleanup effort that included 10,000 workers, about 1,000 boats, and 100 airplanes and helicopters. Though the reparative response to the crisis was massive, entailing exorbitant expenditures, “many believe that wave action from winter storms did more to clean the beaches than all of the human effort involved” (see “Frequently Asked Questions…,” n.d.). In fact, human efforts had to be adjusted when it was determined that spraying hot water on the oil-laden beaches using high-pressure hoses was cooking bacteria and other microscopic organisms, killing both plants and animals, thereby slowing the recovery that might otherwise have been achieved by nature itself (see Piper, 1993, pp. 61ff.). In 1992, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) studied the diffusion of the oil and concluded that “the great majority of the oil either evaporated, dispersed into the water column or degraded naturally” (“Lingering…,” 2003). In fact, years ago the National Marine Fisheries Services reported that “the vast majority of the spill area now appears to have recovered” (“NMFS Office…,” 2002). Though touted by environmentalists at the time as an ecological disaster of catastrophic proportions, the Valdez spill does not even rank in the top 50 internationally.

Similarly, the release of oil into the Pacific Ocean by damaged and sunken battleships and aircraft carriers during the great naval battles of World War II was considerable. Nazi U-boats disrupted Allied activities in the Atlantic Ocean by sinking large numbers of tankers and supply ships, causing large quantities of oil and hazardous substances to be spilled, creating slicks and coating Caribbean beaches. No cleanup crews, with their hard hats and bright yellow HAZMAT suits blasting coastlines with high-pressure hoses and detergent guns, were mobilized to rectify the mess. Yet the Caribbean beaches today essentially are pristine. What happened to all that oil—with no environmentalists to come to the rescue?

REALITY CHECK

Salmon-grabbing bears, forest-gobbling vines, grassland-grubbing rabbits, oil-glutting humans—destruction by animals, destruction by plants, destruction by weather and nature’s own inanimate forces, destruction by man. Where will it all end? Should we not view our world and the environment as being in a state of crisis? Please consider carefully: God created the Earth to be self-sustaining until it has served its purpose. It is self-healing. It is resilient and restorative. It actually rejuvenates itself. The fact is that the greenhouse effect is a natural phenomenon God set into place. God designed gases in the atmosphere, like carbon dioxide and water vapor, to remain in balance and warm the Earth, creating a stable climate for the support of plant, animal, and human life. Without these gases, Earth would be 40o to 60o colder—essentially a frigid desert (cf. Climate Change…, 1990, p. xxxvii). [NOTE: Have we forgotten what we learned in our elementary school science class—that the CO2 expelled by animals and humans is necessary for green plants to produce oxygen? Far from being an indication of man’s need to “regulate” the release of carbon dioxide, such environmental symbiosis points to divine design.]

The Earth is not “fragile” when it comes to human interference. Humans cannot destroy the Earth (let alone the Universe). Humans cannot eliminate the ozone layer. Humans cannot cause permanent, life-threatening global warming. Human ability to pollute, contaminate, and destroy the environment cannot begin to compare with the destructive forces of nature itself: volcanoes, tornados, hurricanes, drought, typhoons, earthquakes, and floods. The 1991 volcanic eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in the Philippines introduced 20 to 30 megatons of sulfur dioxide and aerosols into the Earth’s atmosphere, with those materials completely encircling the Earth in some three months (Sagan, 1997, p. 107). Satellite data collected indicated that, as a result, “the ozone levels had depleted by about 15 percent” (Rickman, 1997). In fact, as a direct result of the large amounts of stratospheric sulfate particles from the Mount Pinatubo eruption, “record low global ozone levels were recorded in 1992 and 1993” (“Environmental Indicators…,” n.d., emp. added). NASA concluded: “Stratospheric aerosols such as those produced by major volcanic eruptions are thought to be important catalysts in the chemical processes leading to the observed ozone losses” (“NASA’s Ozone Studies,” n.d.; cf. “Incomplete Recovery…,” 2006). Humans cannot begin to compete with nature’s impact on itself. We have an inflated sense of our own importance if we think that we determine whether the world goes on after we are gone.

The Ultimate Environmental Damage

The evidence indicates that God, Himself, has inflicted vengeance upon wicked civilizations in the past—to the point of wreaking complete destruction and devastation on the land itself. The reader is urged to read the following passages from the Bible: Genesis 13:10; 19:24-25; Deuteronomy 29:22-24; Psalm 107:33-34; Isaiah 34:8-15; Jeremiah 19:8; Ezekiel 30:7; Zephaniah 2:13-14. God has not chosen to reveal to us all of His dealings with the civilizations of history. We likely would know nothing about the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah if Abraham’s nephew had not moved there (Genesis 13:12; 19). Could humans possibly inflict as much damage on the Earth as God did when He flooded the entire planet to a depth higher than the highest mountains of that day (Genesis 7:19-20)? The history of humanity and planet Earth has been one of catastrophism—not evolutionary uniformitarianism or gradualism. Yet the Earth is still here, the environment is intact, and life continues!

Make no mistake. The Bible certainly teaches the principle of stewardship and wisdom in the use of resources allotted by God (Matthew 25:14-30; 1 Corinthians 4:2). God, Himself, provides care for His nonhuman creatures (Job 38:41; Psalm 147:9; Matthew 10:29). He included animals in His injunction to the Israelites to rest one day per week (Exodus 20:10; cf. Leviticus 22:27-28; Deuteronomy 22:6-7,10). He instructed the Israelites to allow their farmland to lie uncultivated every seventh year (Leviticus 25:1-7). We ought not to be wasteful, greedy, cruel, or reckless in our handling of Earth’s resources. Christians will not go out of their way to inflict damage or harm. However, from a biblical perspective, the environment must not take precedence or preference over humans. A balanced and proper perspective realizes that the environment is purely physical and temporary. Plants, animals, air, water, and the rest of “mother nature” are not human, and are not to be regarded as such. Animals, like the rest of the created order, render divinely mandated services to humans as sources of food and clothing, as well as transportation and other work-related performance (e.g., Genesis 3:21; Proverbs 26:3; Mark 1:6; 11:7; 1 Timothy 4:3-5).

People who think that humans are the enemies of Earth, and invariably destructive to the environment, who think that animals deserve to be protected and preserved more than people, who think that humans are above other life forms due to an unfortunate Darwinian accident—since humans are carnivorous, wasteful, and harmful to the lesser species—have an incorrect view of reality and a devalued view of human life. They feel that humans possess no inherent value and worth that surpasses the rest of the created order (cf. Matthew 10:31; Luke 12:24). But this passion to preserve the Earth and animal life is essentially the same idolatry that has plagued humanity throughout most of history. In fact, this propensity sounds distinctly familiar in light of Paul’s summary of the long-standing human rejection of the Creator:

Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds, and four-footed beasts and creeping things. Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen” (Romans 1:22-25, emp. added).

Our nation’s forefathers—and most Americans until about 50 years ago—would be shocked and appalled that right now in America, billions of dollars are being spent frivolously serving the creature!

CONCLUSION

The environmentalist possesses enormous arrogance if he thinks he can control the forces of nature by his paltry tinkering with the created order—as if he even had the knowledge or wisdom, let alone power, to do so. Ultimately, this feeble, faltering faux pas manifests willful ignorance and a lack of faith in the Creator. The environmentalists need a healthy dose of spiritual reality—the same one Job received when he thought it necessary to question God’s unfathomable superintendence of the Universe:

Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Now gird up your loins like a man, and I will ask you, and you instruct Me! Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding, who set its measurements, since you know?…. You know, for you were born then, and the number of your days is great!…. Will the faultfinder contend with the Almighty? Let him who reproves God answer it…. Then I will also confess to you, that your own right hand can save you (Job 38:2-5,21; 40:2,14, emp. added).

If there is no God and evolution is true, then humans are no more valuable than rocks, cockroaches—and, yes, cows. So if we really want to get serious about saving the planet, simply kill all the cows, crops, kids, and adults. When humans eliminate God from their thinking and jettison the biblical worldview, insanity begins to sound sensible. There’s the real “inconvenient truth.”

The facts of the matter are that humans are incapable of destroying the environment on any sort of large scale. The vast majority of the decline of the environment that we see is due to the normal operations of the laws of thermodynamics which mandate depletion, breakdown, dissolution, and the ultimate demise of the Earth and the Universe (see Miller, 2007, 27[4]:25-31). That is how God set it up! The material, physical realm was intended to be temporary—by divine design. Quoting the psalmist, the writer of Hebrews explained:

You, Lord, in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of Your hands. They will perish, but You remain; and they will all grow old like a garment; like a cloak You will fold them up (1:10-12, emp. added).

In the meantime, God will see to it that our environment remains intact until it has served the purpose for which He created it. Then, He Himself, will bring not only the Earth, but the entire Universe, to its grand and climactic conclusion by means of cosmic meltdown and dissolution (2 Peter 3:7,10-12). Contrasting the occasion on which God manifested His presence at Mt. Sinai (Exodus 19) with what lies ahead when God manifests Himself at the end of time, the inspired writer cautioned:

See that you do not refuse Him who speaks. For if they did not escape who refused Him who spoke on earth, much more shall we not escape if we turn away from Him who speaks from heaven, whose voice then shook the earth; but now He has promised, saying, “Yet once more I shake not only the earth, but also heaven.” Now this, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of those things that are being shaken, as of things that are made, that the things which cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. For our God is a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:25-29, emp. added).

Rather than devoting one’s energies and resources to preserving the temporal environment and saving “Mother Earth,” we would do better to devote ourselves to saving our souls by cultivating the necessary spiritual attributes for eternal life with God: “Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth [i.e., the non-physical realm of heaven—DM] in which righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:13).


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Even When We Fall

April 27, 2015

In this way he will make atonement for the Most Holy Place because of the uncleanness and rebellion of the Israelites, whatever their sins have been. He is to do the same for the tent of meeting, which is among them in the midst of their uncleanness.” — Leviticus 16:16

The Torah portion for this week is a double reading, Acharei Mot-Kedoshim, from Leviticus 16:1—20:27. Acharei Mot means death, and Kedoshim means holy. The Haftorah is from Amos 9:7–15.

One of the most tried and true methods of Satan or in Hebrew, the yetzer hara, the evil inclination is to first tempt a person to sin, and then once he or she sins, to thrust that person into depression. The yetzer hara gets us to sin and then makes us feel so bad about our sin that we think that we can never repair the damage that we have done. The ultimate goal of the yetzer hara is to distance us from God – or at least to make us believe that God has cast us off. However, as our Torah portion reveals, God is always by our side, even when we sin.

In Leviticus 16 we read, “In this way he will make atonement for the Most Holy . . . He is to do the same for the tent of meeting, which is among them in the midst of their uncleanness.” This verse teaches us that God’s glory rested in the midst of the people even when they were in a state of uncleanness, tainted by their sins. No matter what kind of mess the people would get themselves into, God would still be among them, waiting for them to reach out and repent.

The only way to fathom this unwavering commitment and love is to compare it to the relationship between a mother and her baby. Even when the baby is a complete mess, she never abandons him. He may stink, he may be dirty, and he may be screaming unpleasantly, but the mother will hold her child lovingly and clean him up. This is how God relates to us. We can be completely soiled, and yet God will “Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow” (Psalm 51:7).

So many people fall into the spiritual pitfall of thinking that God is mad at them and that the relationship is permanently damaged. In these cases, we distance ourselves from God and not the other way around. While God may hold us accountable, and even punish us at times, God always loves us and is always close to us. In fact, God especially loves those that He holds accountable. As we read in Proverbs 3:12, “the LORD disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.”

I want to encourage us all that when we fail, not to fall for the trick of the yetzer hara. Don’t think even for a moment that God has abandoned you because of your sin. God is with us, loving us, and ready to cleanse us; it’s up to us to turn to Him. He’s there waiting.

With prayers for shalom, peace,

Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein

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