Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Snakes Versus Snake-Handlers

Succumbing to the Lie of the Snake

On Saturday, February 15, 2014 Pastor Jamie Coots was doing what he regularly did at his Full Gospel Tabernacle in Jesus Name Church in Middlesboro, Kentucky - handling snakes. Another preacher, Cody Winn, reported:
“Jamie went across the floor. He had one of the rattlers in his hand, he came over and he was standing beside me. It was plain view, it just turned its head and bit him in the back of the hand … within a second,” (Courier-Journal, Louisville, KY)
The star of National Geographic's reality show Snake Salvation refused the help of ambulance attendants and went home, where he died a short time later.

Jesus casting down Satan
Jesus casting down Satan

Following Biblical Precedent?

So was Coots following the commands of Scripture and simply didn't have enough faith?
The passage snake handlers use is from Mark 16, where we read:
14 Later Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating; he rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after he had risen.
15 He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18 they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands onsick people, and they will get well."
To begin with, this is an often disputed passage, because the earliest, and therefore most reliable, manuscripts do not contain anything after verse 8.
Second, in context, Jesus was talking specifically to His eleven disciples, not all followers throughout history. After Jesus returned to heaven the disciples did heal the sick, drive out demons, raise the dead and speak in tongues. In Acts 28 we see an instance of Paul gathering brush. As he was putting the brush on a fire a viper was driven out by the heat and bit him. When the unbelievers he was with saw that he remained unharmed they decided that he was a god.
In the early days of Christianity, before the New Testament was written, miracles often took place to authenticate the fact that the disciples preaching the Gospel were from God. Once portions of the New Testament were written and future generations began preaching the Gospel, such miracles became less necessary. People could hear and read the Scriptures for themselves Hebrews 4:12 states:
"For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart."
What is most important is the Gospel message itself, not miracles such as surviving snake bites.
Finally, Jesus Himself has told us not to put God to the test, as these serpent-handlers are doing. In Matthew 4 Satan led Jesus to stand on the highest point of the temple, overlooking the city of Jerusalem:
5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. 6 “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:
“‘He will command his angels concerning you,
and they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”
7 Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
It's easy to see this is exactly what the snake-handlers are doing.
So has this incident shown that the Bible is unreliable? Not in the least. Satan knows how to quote Scripture, and, unfortunately, the snake-handlers have been listening to him.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Abortion - The Slaughter of the Innocents

When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled: "A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more." Matthew 2:16-18

People familiar with the Bible will remember the story of Joseph, Mary and Jesus' escape to Egypt. King Herod, concerned that a messiah had been born who would endanger his leadership, ordered the murder of all boys in the area of Bethlehem who were two years of age or younger. This event is commonly referred to as the slaughter of the innocents.
As reprehensible as this act is, the same thing is happening today in our society, in the killing of innocent babies. Since the court decision in Roe vs. Wade in 1973, approximately 55 million children have been slaughtered in and outside of their mother's wombs in the United States, and the worldwide total is estimated at 42 million every year!
Women get abortions for various reasons - they are scared, they can't be bothered taking care of a child, their boyfriends or husbands or parents pressure them into an abortion against their will. Often people will use the reasoning that the child was conceived as a result of a rape, or that the child would be raised in less than ideal circumstances. Are these valid reasons?


Let's look at the question of rape. The reasoning is used that the child will have an unfair advantage in life, will be raised without the advantages of someone brought up under more ideal circumstances. But is that true?
Activist Jesse Jackson was a result of a rape. So were singers Eartha Kitt, Ethel Waters and countless others who have made a success of their life. The fact that someone is the result of a rape doesn't negate their right to live, nor their right to not have someone else determine that they should die. In some cases, yes, life might be more difficult, but that doesn't mean they don't have a right to make the best of a bad situation. Who knows what benefits someone may have brought to the world had they lived?
The woman who is raped will often say that the whole event has been so traumatizing that she can't possibly continue with the pregnancy and be constantly reminded of the event before and after the birth of the baby.
One woman who was the product of a rape wrote the following to Students for Life:
I know it is traumatizing for a girl or woman that is raped to have to carry a child, but it is no more traumatizing than someone who gets shot during a violent attack and has to deal with those wounds. Counseling and therapy can help heal the trauma, but the trauma will be there whether she has the abortion or not, and the abortion could even make it worse. It has caused me so much anxiety over the years to think that many pro-lifers would have approved of my mother’s abortion. By the way, she gave me up for adoption, and my adoptive parents were never able to have children.
Another woman who was raped wrote years later:
Raped by an acquaintance, my first consideration was abortion even though I had spoken out against it all my life… I perused adoption and chose parents to give my baby to. I changed my mind and chose motherhood. I have provided, educated, clothed, fed, nursed, counseled, encouraged, and loved with all my heart the daughter of a man who violated the last virtue I was cherishing, my virginity… “It is the hardest thing in the world to choose what you know is right. Being a single parent is no more easy than living with the haunting memory of aborting your child. No matter how hard you wish, either way your life will never be the same. Both have their pains and their struggles, however, only one choice afforded me a profound peace… Never have we been in want. Never have I regretted my choice. The scars of my experience have been healed.

What If the Mother's Life is in Danger?

Another reason people will defend abortion is the situation, they say, when the mother's life is in danger. Stand to Reason's Greg Koukl writes:
When the motherʹs life is truly in danger, we must treat both the mother and child as human beings worthy of protection, for that is what they are. I’m aware of only one medical circumstance when abortion is necessary to save the mother’s life: ectopic pregnancy. In an ectopic pregnancy, the newly conceived human being implants on the wall of the fallopian tube (or some other tissue) instead of on the wall of the uterus. As the embryonic human being grows, the fallopian tube will rupture causing severe blood loss and probably death. In these cases, there is no way to save the child’s life. If we do nothing, both human beings will die. Because we believe it is better to save one life than to lose two, we remove the child (causing his death) and save the mother. The death of the child is an unintended, although foreseen, consequence....The childʹs death is unavoidable, so protecting the mother becomes our primary concern.”
There are other conditions that may threaten the mother's life, but in many cases the mother can be treated and the child saved. Some of those conditions include toxemia, placenta previa and plancenta abruption.
The attempt must be made to save both the mother and the child because both lives are of equal value. This isn't necessarily the first concern of those who generally favor abortion, however, as they frequently wish it to be legal without any restrictions.
The question should also be asked, What do you mean by the mother's life being in danger? Suppose she says she'll kill herself rather than have to look after a child or go through a pregnancy? Does that qualify as putting the mother's life in danger? What if she is afraid that the child's biological father will kill her? Is that a valid reason for abortion? If so, then we are saying the mother's life is of more value than the child's life. To say that her life is worth more on the grounds that she has already been born is a false argument.

Is the "Fetus" a Child?

Many people believe that the baby is not a living human being before being born, or before a certain number of weeks. A few decades ago that would have been a difficult thing to determine, but today medical technology as advanced to such a degree that this argument is refuted by science.h
Scientific facts show that 22 days into conception a child's heart begins to beat with that child's own blood. That child's blood type is often different than that of the mother's. At week five eyes, legs and hands begin to develop and at six weeks brain waves are detectable. At seven weeks the baby can kick. At week eleven the baby can grasp objects placed in his/her hand and at twelve weeks the baby can dream (REM) sleep.
Additionally, even if a baby's humanity were still in question, isn't it better, if one is going to err, to err on the side of safety and assume that it is a living child?
Model of a baby at eight weeks in the womb.
Model of a baby at eight weeks in the womb.
Source: Wikipedia Commons

Who Are You to Tell Me What I Can Do With My Body?

One of the most common arguments.I can do what I want with my body.Actually, you can't. This country has numerous laws about what you can do with your body, particularly when it involves harming another human being.
Secondly, that child is not you. The baby has a different DNA, different brain waves, different organs, different reflexes, a different nervous system and frequently a different blood type. Yes, you are nurturing that child until he/she can survive on its own. For that, be proud of what you are doing!


Adoption is a logical step to take for someone who can't raise a child on their own. To be sure, the adoption process may be in need of improvement, but it would be better to concentrate on those efforts than to fight for the right to take away the life of an unborn child. There are many organizations that will help you with the adoption process, or refer you to the right people. Students for Life is one such organization.


Which is better, to take a life or to save a life? Pro-life advocates fight to save lives - the lives of the unborn. How can anyone find this offensive?

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Is There a Christian Argument for Abortion?

Biblical Support for Abortion?

The general consensus by most Christians is that if you are, indeed, a Christian, you must be against abortion. After all, it involves the taking of a human life - in fact it is nothing less than the murder of a child. However, there are professing Christians who not only believe that abortion is okay, but that there is biblical support for holding to a pro-choice stance. Do they have a point? Can abortion be defended? Let's look at some of their arguments.

The Liberal Christian Perspective

The Rev. William (Scotty) McLennan, a Unitarian Universalist minister (and self-professed liberal Christian) has written an article defending abortion. Before looking at his defense, one must point out that, by definition, a liberal Christian is an oxymoron. If someone is going to call themselves a Christian, then they must embrace the beliefs that define a Christian. To deny the deity of Christ or salvation by grace through faith, or to hold that the Bible is a book of fairy tales, and, at the same time claim to be a Christian, is like claiming to be a Buddhist while denying the existence of Buddha and rejecting all of his teachings. Such is the situation of a Unitarian, a denomination recognized not just as liberal, but as a cult as well, a counterfeit Christian organization.
Putting the above aside for the moment, what arguments does he present to support abortion?
McLennan appeals to Luke 1 when the angel visits Mary and explains that the Child she is about to give birth to was conceived by the Holy Spirit. McLennan writes:
After she questions the angel Gabriel when he firsts visits to tell her of her favor with God, and after some soul-searching, Mary makes a voluntary decision, as the Gospel of Luke puts it, to allow the Holy Spirit to come upon her, to have the power of the Most High overshadow her. Mary says: “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”
The way he phrases this it sounds like the Scriptures tell us that Mary agreed to allow the Baby to live and be born rather than get an abortion, but McLennan is reading his own interpretation into this text. Mary simply acknowledges that the word Gabriel gave Mary should be fulfilled. Nothing more.
He then goes on to admit that he doesn't believe that a fetus in the womb is fully a human being.
Yet fetus as “person” or “human being” has never been a settled question within Christianity or Judaism. There are large segments of the Judeo-Christian world that, historically and currently, see the embryo or fetus as potential human life, but not as fully human until birth or until some stage in fetal development well past conception.
First of all, the scientific world would disagree with McLennan. With the development of modern technology it has become clearer and clearer that a "fetus" is fully human.
Secondly, even if there were doubt, shouldn't the Christian demand, if there is going to be an element of doubt, that if someone is going to err on the issue, it should be on the side of safety? Why take the chance that by aborting a fetus you're killing a child?
McLennan appeals biblically to Exodus 21:20 to show that abortion is no big deal.
“When people who are fighting injure a pregnant woman so that there is a miscarriage, and yet no further harm follows, the one responsible shall be fined what the woman’s husband demands, paying as much as the judges determine.”
Sounds convincing, doesn't it? However, McLennan is sneaky about this quote. First of all, he uses the New Revised Standard Version, which is the only version that translates it this way. Secondly, he doesn't include the next verse, which makes clear what "miscarriage" in this context, means. Here is the NIV version:
“If people are fighting and hit a pregnant woman and she gives birth prematurely but there is no serious injury, the offender must be fined whatever the woman’s husband demands and the court allows.But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot,
Other versions translate the passage the same way. In fact, the original Hebrew reads "and hit a pregnant woman so that her child(ren) come forth, and no harm follows, the one who hurt her shall be fined." So in context, if there is a fight and as a result the woman gives birth prematurely without serious injury, there is a fine, but if there IS serious injury - or death - then the punishment is to be the same as the injury. McLennan's argument falls apart at this point because it is obvious that God places high value on a child in the womb if the death penalty is warranted if the child dies!
McLennan also appeals to Genesis 2: 7, connecting breath and human life:
“The Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being.”
Note, however, that this was the birth of a fully adult man called Adam, not a child who was forming and maturing in his or her mother's womb. The situation is entirely different.
McLennan also appeals to the views throughout history of rabbis and other church leaders. However, their views are irrelevant in determining truth. It is to Scripture that we must turn to in determining the biblical view on life and abortion.
These are the only Scriptures McLennan can find in his defense of abortion, and none of them support his position.

More "Biblical Support" From Beliefnet

Beliefnet, has also delved into the issue of abortion and, of course,come out with support for the practice, based on solid biblical proof. Here are their biblical verses:
The Book of Exodus clearly indicates that the fetus does not have the same legal status as a person (Chapter 21:22-23). That verse indicates that if a man pushes a pregnant woman and she then miscarries, he is required only to pay a fine. If the fetus were considered a full person, he would be punished more severely as though he had taken a life.
It would appear that Marjorie Brahms Signer, the Beliefnet defender of abortion, is also equally misleading in her appeal to Exodus 21. See above section for an explanation of this passage.
This writer would continue on with Beliefnet's biblical support for abortion, but ran into a little snag - they had no other biblical support!

Biblical Support Is Lacking

Those who profess to be Christians need to take heed that if they consider Scripture to be the final word on whether they should support abortion or be against it, then support for abortion is completely lacking. This writer searched for other articles that appealed to the Bible to defend the practice of abortion but kept running into the same two or three Scriptures dealt with above.
If those same Christians want to appeal to scientific evidence that the fetus isn't a living human being, then the scientific evidence is against them as well.
Biblical support and scientific support for abortion simply doesn't exist. Scripture DOES say the following, however:
Psalm 139:13-14
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
Luke 1:41
When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.