Written and posted in November of 2007 about a very specific situation, the post still contains some useful insight in how we should respond in such situations.
Our church has been praying for a young girl (elementary school age) with leukemia for 14 months, primarily for healing and the efficacy of her chemo, along with the strength to endure. This past week we got an answer. She went home to her Lord and ours. As a father of two daughters, I can imagine a little what this must be like to go through. But as Christians, the response of her family and our extended church family is in stark contrast to that usually seen at such times for those without the Christian hope we have. Yes, there is sorrow and grief, and we weep with those who weep. Yet, there is that hope, and a peace that passes understanding, that serve as a grounding foundation. It is best expressed, I think, in the words of the beloved hymn by Horatio Spafford, It is Well with My Soul:
When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.
Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blessed assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.
My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.
I have a difficult time singing this song without tearing up because of the story behind it, and, as I said, I am a father of two daughters. Horatio Spafford was a Presbyterian lawyer with a successful business in Chicago. He had invested hugely in real estate by the shore of Lake Michigan just months before the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. The disaster greatly wiped out his holdings. Adding insult to injury, that same year Spafford had experienced the loss of his only son.
Two years after the fire, Mr. Spafford planned a trip to Europe for him and his family. He wanted a rest for his wife and four daughters, and also to assist Moody and Sankey in one of their evangelistic campaigns in Great Britain. The day in November they were due to depart, Spafford had a last minute business transaction and had to stay behind in Chicago. Nevertheless he sent his wife and four daughters as scheduled on the S.S. Ville du Havre. Given what followed, the potential for self-recrimination to the point of insanity, the "if only" syndrome, hinges on this decision. He was expected to follow in a few days. On November 22, the ship laden with his wife and daughters was struck by the Lockhearn, an English vessel, and both ships sank in a few minutes. Anna Spafford found herself and her four daughters clinging to the flotsam of the wreckage, and then had the exquisite torture of watching her daughters one by one, starting from the youngest and therefore the weakest, sink beneath the icy Atlantic waves as their strength gave out.
After the survivors were finally landed somewhere at Cardiff, Wales, Spafford’s wife cabled her husband with two simple words, "Saved alone." Several weeks later, as Spafford’s own ship passed near the spot where his daughters died, he was inspired to write these words. Knowing his entire family were Christian, he penned this most poignant text so significantly descriptive of his own personal grief – "When sorrows like sea billows roll…" – yet so expressive of life’s true priorities and of the Christian hope – "My sin, not in part but the whole, Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more."
He didn’t sing the blues, bemoan his fate, curse the gods or God, or claim any kind of victimhood. He didn’t try to sue anyone. Likewise, there is no "if only" in his words. Just the glow of a faith tried in the crucible of life shining with a brilliance I challenge any atheist to produce as a function of his belief system.
Reflect on this, that one could experience such personal tragedies and sorrows as did Horatio Spafford, yet, be able to say with such convincing clarity, "It is well with my soul." It is an enormous challenge to embrace the significance of this hymn.
Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The LORD God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds’ feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places.
This post is a slight departure from the usual topics covered here. I want to sit down and share a little with my brothers and sisters in the Lord. This will be a devotional, a meditation, a sermonette, and a Bible study all rolled into one. If you are not in the family yet, you are welcome to sit in. (And if you’d like to become part of the family, let me know.)
“The lips of the righteous feed many, but fools die for lack of wisdom.”
The essence of Hebrew poetry is parallelism of ideas rather than rhyming of words. The book of Proverbs, part of the Hebrew wisdom literature, is one that makes extensive use of this form, with a large number of the proverbs appearing in a two phrase format in which the parallelism is fairly obvious. The parallelism can be a direct comparison, i.e., the same idea expressed differently or expanded, or a contrast of two opposites. (This is not an exhaustive description of Hebrew poetry. Most study Bibles will explain this in greater depth, and I would encourage you to avail yourself of such.)
The first phrase in this proverb, “The lips of the righteous feed many,” is very rich. For one, it states as a matter of fact that a righteous person will interact with others. Isolationism is not a valid lifestyle for a Christian. The cloister/convent model of piety is not a Scriptural one. The righteous will communicate, that’s what “the lips” do. Although verbal communication would be the primary application here, I think written communication would be included as well, especially since this concept has been passed on by the written word. Thus I would link it to blogging per the title I’ve chosen for this post.
The word translated here “to feed” is that used to describe pasturing and caring for livestock, i.e., “to pasture, tend, graze, feed.” The picture is a tender one, indicating both protection and nurture. Thus, the nature of what the lips of the righteous communicate is delimited to, in New Testament terms, that which edifies, or builds up. This calls to mind such verses as:
Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. (Ephesians 4:29)
But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness. (2Timothy 2:16)
See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. (Ephesians 5:15-16)
This latter verse combined with this proverb bring to mind a group of men described for us in 1 Chronicles:
And of the children of Issachar, which were men that had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do…. (1Chronicles 12:32a)
They didn’t get that way by talking about nothing but the weather and how well the Beersheba Bears were doing against the Gaza Gazelles. Is it then a “sin” to talk about things that don’t obviously fit into edification? Are discussions of sports and other “nontheological” pursuits of life disqualified here? I think the answer is, it depends. I’m not trying to be cute or relativistic here. It is a matter of priorities. If all you can talk about is football, then yes, something is wrong. Another proverb two chapters over gives us some insight here:
Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows worthless pursuits lacks sense. (Proverbs 12:11, ESV)
The word translated “follows” means “to hunt, pursue, follow after.” “Worthless pursuits” are literally those things which are “empty and worthless.” If such things are the primary focus of your life, if you spend most of your energy pursuing that which has no eternal value, then something is wrong, and we will say more on this when we consider the second phrase of our Proverb. (Remember, I am talking to those who claim the name of Christ.)
Lastly, who are those thus fed? The many. Not one, and not all, but the many. Your sphere of influence, which should include more than one, will not be the entire world. It does not guarantee that all who hear will agree with you. Nevertheless, there seems to be an exhortation here to willingly share as appropriate for the venue whatever truth God gives you regardless of the outcome.
The second phrase, “…but fools die for lack of wisdom,” is just as instructive. Hebrew actually has five different words for “fool” and a careful examination of the usage reveals that they are five separate categories of fools. This particular kind of fool is what might be called the Angry Fool (‘eviyl). This category despises wisdom and instruction (Prov 1:7; 12:15; 14:1; 15:5; 24:7) in an angry, wrathful way that leads to being quarrelsome and contentious (Prov 12:16; 14:17; 27:3). These attitudes are particularly evident in their overabundant words (Prov 10:8, 10 [look up “prating” if you’re using the KJV]; 10:14; 12:23; 17:28).
The word translated “wisdom” here and “sense” in 12:11, and sometimes as “understanding,” is literally “heart,” the word used for the complete inner man. The critical nature of this facility is proclaimed in Proverbs 4:23, “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” So Angry Fools die for lack of heart. They don’t guard, protect, or nurture their heart with the right things, but follow worthless and vain things…to their ultimate destruction. Given Jesus’ exhortations about seeking first the kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33), where does that put you in the various activities that fill your day? Are you engaged in the spiritual disciplines (e.g., Bible study, prayer, fellowship, sitting under sound Bible preaching and teaching, memorizing and meditating on God’s Word) defined in the Bible for your spiritual growth? If not, what have we just read that tells you about what fruit you can expect in your life? (These are some hard questions. Let me remind you that every time you think I’m pointing the finger at you, there will be three fingers pointing back at me. I’m asking these questions here because God’s Spirit has already asked them of me.)
Here is where the parallelism of Hebrew poetry comes in. The righteous are contrasted to the angry foolish. The righteous have life, and spread life around them. The angry fools have worthless sand that leads to death. Into which category do you fit? Into which category do you want to fit?
Having established the context of our discussion and pontifications in the two installments of our prologue (see “first installment” and “previous installment” at the end of this post), we will now turn to the meat of the evidence. As we start out, let it be noted explicitly that we are not going to engage in circular reasoning, asserting the Bible is the Word of God because it says it is the Word of God. The question is, what evidence is there that it is the Word of God? Or, as Sproul, et al. put it:
Just as going in a circle is no significant motion, so reasoning in a circle is no significant reasoning. Many Christians today are chasing their theological tails – reasoning in circles. This form of appeal clearly reduces to subjectivism, making the final court of appeal for attesting the Spirit a mere inner subjective feeling.1
So how are we going to argue linearly and objectively? First, we will examine the reliability of transmission of the biblical text and thus the reliability of its content using standard methodology and data from archaeology and textual criticism (note: textual criticism is an objective method to reconstruct the original text; it is not higher criticism which seeks to remove the supernatural from the content of the text based on a priori assumptions). If once we see that what can be tested shows the biblical documents to be historically reliable, we can examine the text to determine if there is anything in the content that would lead to a conclusion of supernatural origins of the text itself. In other words, if we can show that the text is verifiable in what we can test, we have no reason to doubt its record of what we can’t test as long as that is consistent with the overall gestalt of the work. We are not making any a priori assumptions beyond the minimal, necessitarian assumptions of methodology already described. And we will not allow opponents to make any either. You may not like the conclusions, but deal with the facts and data, not your subjective response to the final conclusion. If we are successful, then the actual message of the document needs to be seriously considered and incorporated into your worldview.
Please note that we will now be making extensive use of Josh McDowell’s work, The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict 2 in most of the following presentations. However, he in turn provides extensive references to the work of others, and it is the primary references that I will provide here.
The Reliability of the Old Testament Manuscripts
We will treat the Old and New Testaments in separate posts as the evidence and the considerations are somewhat different between the two. The Old Testament has been shown to be reliable in at least three major ways: (1) textual transmission (the accuracy of the copying process down through history), (2) the confirmation of the Old Testament by hard evidence uncovered through archeology, and (3) documentary evidence also uncovered through archeology.
As with other literature of antiquity, we don’t have the original documents, therefore, the reliability of transmission is of critical importance. How do the Hebrew copyists fare against other such literature?
Gleason Archer tells us:
It should be clearly understood that in this respect [to transmission], the Old Testament differs from all other pre-Christian works of literature of which we have any knowledge. To be sure, we do not possess so many different manuscripts of pagan productions, coming from such widely separated eras, as we do in the case of the Old Testament. But where we do, for example, in the Egyptian Book of the Dead, the variations are of a far more extensive and serious nature. Quite startling differences appear, for example, between chapter 15 contained in the Papyrus of Ani (written in the Eighteenth Dynasty) and the Turin Papyrus (from the Twenty-sixth Dynasty or later). Whole clauses are inserted or left out, and the sense in corresponding columns of text is in some cases altogether different. Apart from divine superintendence of the transmission of the Hebrew text, there is no particular reason why the same phenomenon of divergence and change would not appear between Hebrew manuscripts produced centuries apart. For example, even though the two copies of Isaiah discovered in Qumran Cave 1 near the Dead Sea in 1947 were a thousand years earlier than the oldest dated manuscript previously known (A.D. 980), they proved to be word for word identical with our standard Hebrew Bible in more than 95 percent of the text. The 5 percent of variation consisted chiefly of obvious slips of the pen and variations in spelling. They do not affect the message of revelation in the slightest.3
Robert Wilson’s extensive evaluation of the veracity of the Old Testament text includes the following observations:
The Hebrew Scriptures contain the names of 26 or more foreign kings whose names have been found on documents contemporary with the kings. The names of most of these kings are found to be spelled on their own monuments, or in documents from the time in which they reigned in the same manner that they are spelled in the documents of the Old Testament. The changes in spelling of others are in accordance with the laws of phonetic change as those laws were in operation at the time when the Hebrew documents claim to have been written.4
In 144 cases of transliteration from Egyptian, Assyrian, Babylonian and Moabite into Hebrew and in 40 cases of the opposite, or 184 in all, the evidence shows that for 2300 to 3900 years the text of the proper names in the Hebrew Bible has been transmitted with the most minute accuracy. That the original scribes should have written them with such close conformity to correct philological principles is a wonderful proof of their thorough care and scholarship; further, that the Hebrew text should have been transmitted by copyists through so many centuries is a phenomenon unequaled in the history of literature.5
Dr. Wilson is a man who should know. As Professor of Semitic Philology at pre-apostate Princeton Theological Seminary, he was conversant with 26 languages, had a reading knowledge of at least 45 languages & dialects, and had read most of the available manuscripts in their original languages. Why is the accuracy of the transmission of foreign names good evidence for the reliability of the text? Because it happens so infrequently. For example, Dr. Wilson continues with his observations by noting:
For neither the assailants nor the defenders of the Biblical text should assume for one moment that either this accurate rendition or this correct transmission of proper names is an easy or usual thing. And as some of my readers may not have experience in investigating such matters, attention may be called to the names of kings of Egypt as given in Manetho and on the Egyptian monuments. Manetho was a high priest of the idol-temples in Egypt in the time of Ptolemy Philadelphus, i.e., about 280 B.C. He wrote a work on the dynasties of Egyptian kings, of which fragments have been preserved in the works of Josephus, Eusebius, and others. Of the kings of the 31 dynasties, he gives 40 names from 22 dynasties. Of these, 49 appear on the monuments in a form in which every consonant of Manetho’s spelling may possibly be recognized, and 28 more may be recognized in part. The other 63 are unrecognizable in any single syllable. If it be true that Manetho himself copied these lists from the original records – and the fact that he is substantially correct in 49 cases corroborates the supposition that he did – the hundreds of variations and corruptions in the 50 or more unrecognizable names must be due either to his fault in copying or to the mistakes of the transmitters of his text.6
In a footnote, Wilson computes the probability that the Hebrew manuscripts successfully transmitted the list of 40 kings living from 2000 B.C. to 400 B.C., which are found in accurate chronological order, by chance: “Mathematically, it is one chance in 750,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 that this accuracy is mere circumstance.”7
The conclusion of this and a rather large body of evidence is well stated by William Green when he says, “it may safely be said that no other work of antiquity has been so accurately transmitted.”8
Old Testament Archaeology
Here we want to start by noting that archaeology cannot “prove the Bible” if by that you mean that it proves the Bible to be inspired and revealed by God. The nature of the discipline combined with the fragmentary nature of the evidence make this impossible. However, it does enhance our knowledge of the economic, cultural, social, and political background of the biblical text. In some cases, it can vindicate the biblical record by demonstrating the accuracy of the contents thereof. Sometimes this vindication is specific to exact people, places, and events, and other times it is in the confirmation of the general background of the text. Relative to the issue of how to interpret the archaeological findings, Joseph Free has makes some solid points in Archaeology and Higher Criticism:
According to this view, a given archaeological discovery means one thing to a supernaturalist, and something different to a nonsupernaturalist, and therefore archaeology has only an incidental bearing on the whole matter of apologetics.
Actually, this is not the whole picture. To illustrate: in the nineteenth century, the Biblical critic could hold with good reason that there never was a Sargon, that the Hittites either did not exist or were insignificant, that the patriarchal accounts had a late background, that the sevenfold lampstand of the tabernacle was a late concept, that the Davidic Empire was not as extensive as the Bible implied, that Belshazzar never existed, and that a host of other supposed errors and impossibilities existed in the Biblical record.
Archaeological discoveries showed, on the contrary, that Sargon existed and lived in a palatial dwelling some twelve miles north of Nineveh, that the Hittites not only existed but were a significant people, that the background of the patriarchs fits the time indicated in the Bible, that the concept of a sevenfold lamp existed in the Early Iron Age, that a significant city given in the record of David’s Empire lies far to the north, that Belshazzar existed and ruled over Babylon, and that a host of other supposed errors and contradictions are not errors at all.
It is of course true that in certain peripheral areas, one’s theology will have a bearing on his interpretation of a given fact or a particular archaeological discovery. But in the broad outline as well as in a host of small details, facts are facts whether discovered by a supernaturalist or nonsupernaturalist. The writer knows of no nonsupernaturalist who still argues that Sargon never existed, that there never were Hittites, or that Belshazzar is still a legend. There are many points on which all candid scholars can agree, regardless of their theology. There are certain areas, however where the liberal has not taken the evidence, archaeological or otherwise, sufficiently into account. This is true, we believe, in the realm of the documentary theory and in the question of authorship, date, and integrity of the books of the Bible.9
The above citation notes several specific archaeological findings that have provided corroboration for the historical accuracy and reliability of the Old Testament texts. Another of my favorite ones has to do with Jericho. Most are familiar with this story, and many, I believe, place it in the category of “nice children’s story but not really true.” The archaeologists who excavated the city of Jericho (1930-1936), however, have a different story to tell, one so out of the ordinary that Garstang and the two other members of his team prepared and signed a statement describing what was found (not standard archaeological procedure).
As to the main fact, then, there remains no doubt: the walls fell outwards so completely that the attackers would be able to clamber up and over their ruins into the city. Why so unusual? Because the walls of cities do not fall outwards, they fall inwards. And yet in Joshua 6:20 we read, ‘The wall fell down flat. Then the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they took the city.’ The walls were made to fall outward.10
An additional list of archaeological evidence that confirms the biblical narrative is provided by Bryant Wood writing for Biblical Archaeology Review:
1. The city was strongly fortified (Josh 2:5, 7, 15; 6:5, 20).
2. The attack occurred just after harvest time in the spring (Josh 2:1; 3:15; 5:16).
3. The inhabitants had no opportunity to flee with their foodsheds (Josh 6:1).
4. The siege was short (Josh 6:15).
5. The walls were leveled, possibly by an earthquake (Josh 6:20).
6. The city was not plundered (Josh 6:17, 18).
7. The city was burned (Josh 6:24).11
Let’s look at another favorite biblical children’s story, that of David and Goliath. Specifically, how did David manage to bring down the giant with just a sling? I mean, c’mon, a sling? Well, it turns out that not only was the sling a perfect weapon for David, it had and has had a very respectable history of use in ancient warfare, in some respects more effective than the bow and arrow (cf. slinging.org)!
Writing in Scientific American,12 German archaeologist Dr. Manfred Korfmann notes that the sling was used in Europe and the Near East from the Bronze Age until about the 17th century. It was a major part of the fighting force of the day, held in high regard by armies such as those of Mesopotamia, Persia, Greece, and Rome.
In addition to the record of David’s conquest of Goliath in 1 Samuel 17:48-51, Judges 20:16 tells us of 700 chosen men of Benjamin who could all sling accurately “to the width of a hair.” 2 Kings 3:25 notes that Hebrew slingers played a decisive role in the war against the Moabites, and in 1 Chronicles 12:2 mentions King David’s special ambidextrous sling corps. Finally, 2 Chronicles 26:14 notes among the armament King Uzziah prepared for his army the presence of slings, presumably with their ammunition.
Is the sling really able to hit with the accuracy David would have needed, or was it a “lucky” shot? Well, according to Livy, the Roman historian, the Aegean slingers were the most accurate of slingers in their time, and they could not only hit an enemy in the face at will, they could choose (and hit) any particular part of the face! Balearic slingers were also renowned for their slinging abilities which were nurtured from an early age. Their mothers were wont to put their bread on the top of a pole and forbid them to eat anything until they knocked it off the pole with their sling (and you thought your Mom was strict!).
Lastly, Dr. Korfmann notes that a missile leaving a sling could easily attain a velocity of 100 km/hr (~62 mph), or about 28 m/sec (92 ft/sec), allowing penetration of an unprotected body easily up to a range of about 100 meters (328 feet).
The bottomline: Goliath never stood a chance! One almost feels sorry for him.
Lastly, we have recently [recent relative to the original posting of this entry] been treated with the announcement of another archaeological find that supports the biblical record, again dealing with a name.13 “This is a fantastic discovery, a world-class find,” Dr Finkel, a British Museum expert, said yesterday. “If Nebo-Sarsekim existed, which other lesser figures in the Old Testament existed? A throwaway detail in the Old Testament turns out to be accurate and true. I think that it means that the whole of the narrative [of Jeremiah] takes on a new kind of power.”
Here it is best to quote two of the foremost authorities regarding their conclusions based on the data they have accumulated. William F. Albright, known as one of the great archaeologists, states bluntly: “There can be no doubt that archaeology has confirmed the substantial historicity of Old Testament tradition.”14 Millar Burrows of Yale writes:
To see the situation clearly we must distinguish two kinds of confirmation, general and specific. General confirmation is a matter of compatibility without definite corroboration of particular points. Much of what has already been discussed as explanation and illustration may be regarded also as general confirmation. The picture fits the frame; the melody and the accompaniment are harmonious. The force of such evidence is cumulative. The more we find that items in the picture of the past presented by the Bible, even though not directly attested, are compatible with what we know from archaeology, the stronger is our impression of general authenticity. Mere legend or fiction would inevitably betray itself by anachronisms and incongruities.15
Based just on the citations in Josh McDowell’s book, I could continue on for a much longer post. Get the book(s), do the homework, and see how reliable the Old Testament manuscripts are without any presuppositions. Each individual case may not, in and of itself, prove compelling, but proper inductive technique requires that you consider them all in making any final conclusions. If you want to doubt the Old Testament’s historicity because it contains accounts of the miraculous, know that you do so based on your own personal philosophical bias, not because the data supports you. There is no reason to question the accuracy or reliability of the Old Testament content other than your own personal objection to the claims found in that content, to wit, that there is a Creator-God to whom you owe obedience.
Oh, and all those “contradictions” your Sunday School teacher once told you about? NOT! (Which is not to say that everything is transparently clear and easy….)
In our next post, we will turn to the New Testament to evaluate the data regarding these manuscripts.
. Sproul, R. C., John Gerstner, and Arthur Lindsley. Classical Apologetics – A Rational Defense of the Christian Faith and a Critique of Presuppositional Apologetics, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984, page 141.
. McDowell, Josh, The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict, Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1999.
. Archer, Gleason L., Jr. A Survey of Old Testament Introduction. Chicago: Moody PRess, 1964, 1974, pages 23-25.
. Wilson, Robert. A Scientific Investigation of the Old Testament. London: Marshall Brothers Limited, 1926, page 64.
. Ibid., 71.
. Ibid., 71-72.
. Ibid., 74-75.
. Green, William Henry. General Introduction to the Old Testament – The Text. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1899, page 81.
. Free, Joseph P. “Archaeology and Higher Criticism.” Bibliotheca Sacra 114. January 1957, pages 30-31.
. Garstang, John. The Foundations of Bible History; Joshua, Judges. New York: R. R. Smith, Inc., 1931, page 146.
. Wood, Bryant G. “Did the Israelites Conquer Jericho?” Biblical Archaeology Review. March/April 1990, pages 44-59.
. Korfmann, Manfred. “The Sling as a weapon.” Scientific American 229(4). October 1973, pages 34-42.
. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2007/07/11/ntablet111.xml, accessed 10/9/2007
. Albright, W. F. Archeology and the Religion of Israel. Baltimore: John Hopkins Press, 1942, page 176.
. Burrows, Millar. What Mean These Stones? New York: Meridian Books, 1957, page 278.
I have reposted this multiple times in the past around the 9/11 anniversary, so the timing of my reposting of this particular essay from my “Best of…” series is very apropos.
In 1923, the world was still reeling to recover from the horrors of the trench warfare of World War I as the seeds of ideological conflict were being sown in the fertile soils of this country. The Bolshevik Revolution had just gotten a foothold in Russia, so the future focal point of liberal socialism/communism was still in its infancy. Part of the liberal vanguard here consisted of the theologians, whose slow but steady progress into the minds and hearts of the new preachers of the day eventually overcame the efforts of the likes of J. Gresham Machen and his cohorts at Princeton, much to the detriment of our present culture. However, in his book Christianity and Liberalism, (Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, MI, 1923), this godly man made an astute observation that is most relevant for today (emphases added):
At this point is detected one of the most obvious lines of cleavage between Christianity and the liberal Church. The older evangelism, says the modern liberal preacher, sought to rescue individuals, while the newer evangelism seeks to transform the whole organism of society: the older evangelism was individual; the newer evangelism is social.
This formulation of the issue is not entirely correct, but it contains an element of truth. It is true that historic Christianity is in conflict at many points with the collectivism of the present day; it does emphasize, against the claims of society, the worth of the individual soul. It provides for the individual a refuge from all the fluctuating currents of human opinion, a secret place of meditation where a man can come alone into the presence of God. It does give a man courage to stand, if need be, against the world; it resolutely refuses to make of the individual a mere means to an end, a mere element in the composition of society. It rejects altogether any means of salvation which deals with men in a mass; it brings the individual face to face with his God. In that sense, it is true that Christianity is individualistic and not social.
But though Christianity is individualistic, it is not only individualistic. It provides fully for the social needs of man." (page 152-153)
Dr. Machen then goes on to explain briefly how Christianity provides for the social needs of man, showing conclusively that Christianity addresses both the individual and the group. While not ignoring the group, it is this value placed upon the individual that separates true applied Christianity from the cultural ideologies of the day that, though claiming to meet the needs of the individual, do so through the individual’s association with the group to the exclusion of considerations of the individuals that comprise the group.
This is not God’s way. God expresses His concern, oversight, and omniscient care over His creatures in a multitude of ways through Scripture. Let me suggest one such.
Concerning the divisions of the porters: Of the Korhites was Meshelemiah the son of Kore, of the sons of Asaph. And the sons of Meshelemiah were, Zechariah the firstborn, Jediael the second, Zebadiah the third, Jathniel the fourth, Elam the fifth, Jehohanan the sixth, Elioenai the seventh. Moreover the sons of Obededom were, Shemaiah the firstborn, Jehozabad the second, Joah the third, and Sacar the fourth, and Nethaneel the fifth, Ammiel the sixth, Issachar the seventh, Peulthai the eighth: for God blessed him. Also unto Shemaiah his son were sons born, that ruled throughout the house of their father: for they were mighty men of valour. The sons of Shemaiah; Othni, and Rephael, and Obed, Elzabad, whose brethren were strong men, Elihu, and Semachiah. All these of the sons of Obededom: they and their sons and their brethren, able men for strength for the service, were threescore and two of Obededom. (1 Chronicles 26:1-8)
Chances are you’ve never heard of any of these men before. Why, you ask, did I just bore you with this obviously obscure passage of Scripture? There are many such passages listing names in the Old Testament. Those are the ones you usually speed read, or skip over entirely. Yet, if all Scripture is profitable (2 Timothy 3:16-17) and written for our admonition (1 Corinthians 10:11), what is God trying to communicate with these lists of names? Let me suggest that at least one reason these are included is because He knows each one of these people as individuals. He knows them by name and, in His omniscience, He knows all about them (just as He knows all about you, dear reader), their strengths and weaknesses, their joys and fears. God truly cares for the individual, and so should we.
The Ideology of Group
In contrast to this, the observations of Dr. Fred C. Schwarz in his book, You Can Trust the Communists (To Be Communists), regarding the historic fruit of the Marxist/Leninist ideology that is the basis of what we call liberalism today are stark (emphases added):
The record of Communism is one of recurrent fratricide and genocide. Their contempt for individual human life has known no bounds. Whether the life to be sacrificed was that of friend or foe appears to have been immaterial. The Communist Party of Russia devoured its own creators. Stalin put to death a majority of the original Bolsheviks. The Communists destroyed not only landlords and Capitalists, but peasants and workers, Kalmucks and Balts with equal ferocity. In spite of knowing this, the allegiance of many educated, apparently cultured American Communists has not been shattered. Many people are amazed that they do not turn from Communism in loathing and repulsion when confronted with its unutterable barbarism, brutality, and intellectual prostitution.
To the dedicated Communist, however, these are but the temporary necessary sacrifices which the glorious future demands. To wipe out the residual Capitalist debris is not murder but social science. Since any individual man is a mere historic accident, an undergraduate beast, it is stupid to regard him as of infinite value. It is the species and the class that are important. The Capitalist class has been rejected of history and must be destroyed.
Here is a fundamental reason why Christianity remains diametrically opposed to so much of the leftist policies that are being foisted upon Americans today by the liberals who have been allowed to permeate our country and culture. It is the value of the individual that, as a basic principle of biblical Christianity, forms the bedrock of our very government. The founding fathers constructed a government that has granted the maximum amount of freedom for individuals while acknowledging the need for associations of individuals into groups and seeking to provide appropriate boundaries for both while maximizing the potential for the prosperity of both. It was a monumental task that, amazingly enough, has succeeded to date. Our country has been one of the most free and prosperous nations on the face of the planet since history began.
And returning to Dr. Machen:
Only – and here emerges the enormous difference of opinion – the Christian man believes that there can be no applied Christianity unless there be “a Christianity to apply.” That is where the Christian man differs from the modern liberal. The liberal believes that applied Christianity is all there is of Christianity, Christianity being merely a way of life; the Christian man believes that applied Christianity is the result of an initial act of God. (page 155)
The Ideology of God
The Judeo-Christian ethic places not just a high value on the individual, but also on individual responsibility, and asserts that principle throughout the Bible. Responsibility goes hand in hand with privilege. Privilege in God’s sight does not lead to coddling. Each individual is responsible for his own choices, and will be held accountable for them by a holy God. Here we see a two-fold basis for the opposition of the liberal to biblical Christianity. Not only do they not like the emphasis on individual responsibility, let alone the individual himself, but individual accountability to a transcendent Being is not to be tolerated. The herd is much more impersonal, and gives him so many others to blame for his actions.
But this herd mentality causes a dependency on the group that is unhealthy and irresponsible, so that when disaster strikes, paralysis ensues, multiplying the death and destruction. Since no one is responsible, everybody assumes somebody else is responsible, and nothing gets done. The clearest example in more recent history is the stark contrast between the school buses under water in New Orleans compared to those bussing people out of Texas during the Katrina debacle.
Machen makes another interesting observation regarding the social institutions established in biblical Christianity:
The most important of such institutions, according to Christian teaching, is the family. And that institution is being pushed more and more into the background. It is being pushed into the background by undue encroachments of the community and of the state. Modern life is tending more and more toward the contraction of the sphere of parental control and parental influence. (page 154)
These ideas of the individual and the family group are connected, because it is in the family that the individual receives the best nurture as an individual that will fit him for the social. Dysfunctional families produce dysfunctional individuals which significantly diminish the society in which they participate. This is why God tells His people, “And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.” (Deuternomy 6:6-7)
Thus, an ideology that would diminish the individual and promote the group must attack the family, and that is one of the battlefields of the culture wars today. It really does not take a village to raise a child, just the complementary input of a mother and a father, but liberals really don’t believe that, and don’t want you to do so either.
Why 9/11 Has Had Such a Visceral Impact
This Judeo-Christian ideology/anthropology of the individual provides us some insight into why 9/11 has had such a diverse impact on the psyche of this country. I would submit that it revolves around which side of the individual versus the group concept you embrace. The Islamofascists see themselves as a group, and their victims as the opposing group. Compassion for individuals is completely foreign to their mindset. Leftists in this respect are the same. They see the victims as a group (especially a group they can exploit, but that is another post) and thus we can hear outrageously hateful and hurtful tripe comparing the people who were in the Twin Towers to “little Eichmanns” simply because they worked there.
But the majority of Americans, whether they are Christians or not, still have the Judeo-Christian value system in their practical daily living, and do not see those who lost their lives as a collective to be pitied or used, but a set of individuals to be known and mourned and avenged. Each body that hurtled through the air to avoid a fiery death, or that was crushed in the tons of rubble, was a unique human being created in the image of God and had an intrinsic value all their own.
And that is why we must remember 9/11. That is why we should see those horrific images on a regular basis. Until the ideology of hate that engendered that and so many other barbarisms in the world is ground into the dust bin of history, we must not forget these individuals, nor those fighting to protect us all from further such atrocities. Until those individuals who embrace this ideology of hate are reformed by truth or exterminated by force, they will not relent, and neither can we.
We must not forget. God won’t, and neither should we.
In Part 1 of the Prologue to this series, we considered in some detail the relationship of faith to fact, and we found that Christianity and facts are integrated to an extent that they are inseparable. As Dr. Machen says in Christianity and Liberalism (emphasis added),
Christianity is an historical phenomenon, like the Roman Empire, or the Kingdom of Prussia, or the United States of America. And as an historical phenomenon it must be investigated on the basis of historical evidence. (page 20)
But if any one fact is clear, on the basis of this evidence, it is that the Christian movement at its inception was not just a way of life in the modern sense, but a way of life founded upon a message. It was based, not upon mere feeling, not upon a mere program of work, but upon an account of facts. (page 21)
From the beginning, the Christian gospel, as indeed the name ‘gospel’ or ‘good news’ implies, consisted in an account of something that had happened. And from the beginning, the meaning of the happening was set forth; and when the meaning of the happening was set forth then there was Christian doctrine. ‘Christ died’ – that is history; ‘Christ died for our sins’ – that is doctrine. Without these two elements, joined in an absolutely indissoluble union, there is no Christianity. (page 27)
From there we asserted four functions or roles for apologetics, 1. pre-evangelism (and sometimes evangelism), 2. the restraint of evil, 3. the support and encouragement of believers, and 4. the provision of commonplace benefits. Intimately associated with the first function is the question to which we now turn, that of the existence of common ground on which to hold meaningful discourse between the Christian and the nonChristian.
One of the fundamental propositions under which this blog operates is the authority and inspiration of the Bible as understood by the historic orthodox Christian faith. This understanding is grounded in the Reformation with its principle of sola Scriptura and subsequent developments in the various areas of human endeavor have not required a rejection of that conclusion, although the battle has been waged quite heavily, and unfortunately, quite successfully in the hearts and minds of some.
It is a further operational principle here that the Christian faith is eminently reasonable and rational, affirming the primacy of the mind without denying the importance of the heart. In keeping with the principle of sola Scriptura, it is also affirmed that this conviction has its basis in the Scriptures themselves. So, in response to some favorable comments in an earlier post, I am initiating a series on basic Christian apologetics with this prologue. (You asked for it!)
Before diving into the data, however, we need to lay a foundation: just what is the relationship of faith to facts? What function does apologetics serve? Isn’t it a lost cause because there is no common ground from which both the believer and the unbeliever can start? And doesn’t the Bible just assume the existence of God without offering any evidence or argumentation? Or, in other words, is there a Biblical mandate for apologetics (since I’ve already said that we operate under the principle of sola Scriptura, where are the Scriptures backing up the primary proposition here?)?
The answers to these questions will lay the foundation for an examination in some detail of evidences in several areas, moving from weaker to stronger, so that, in the end, we will be able to say that here is evidence that the foundations on which this blog are established are not sinking sand but solid rock.
There are two books that will form the basis for the content of this series, and I recommend them highly to anyone who wants more information, or a still more detailed discussion of the topics into which we will be immersing ourselves in this series. I do not want to reproduce what has already been so aptly done, and I want to give credit where credit is due. Both of these books I’ve mentioned here before.
The first is Classical Apologetics – A Rational Defense of the Christian Faith and a Critique of Presuppositional Apologetics, by R. C. Sproul, John Gerstner, and Arthur Lindsley, Zondervan Publishing House, 1984 (ISBN: 0310-44951-0). For those of you with a more philosophical bent (some might say, warp), this is the book for you. It will inform this prologue primarily.
The second book is the revised and updated classic by Josh McDowell, The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict, Thomas Nelson, 1999 (ISBN: 0-785-24219-8). This is a unique book in that it is written as a resource for papers and in an outline form rather than prose. But the content is very extensive. Your worldview must account for this data. If you ignore it, it is not Christianity that is being irrational. Note that Josh McDowell started out to disprove Christianity by determining he would show the resurrection to be a fraud. By the way, this is the correct approach (1 Corinthians 15:13-19). The weight of the evidence for the resurrection as a fact of history led him in the opposite direction.
One last resource is a concise essay by R. C. Sproul that I previously posted entitled An Apology for Apologetics. I will be expanding somewhat on his effort in this post, but he covers many of the same points there.
The Elements of Faith
In describing and defining saving faith, Reformation scholars dissected out three elements. These elements help delineate the relationship of faith to facts. The first is notitia, the data or content of the Christian faith. One does not, and indeed, cannot, worship a God with his heart if he has no prior mental awareness of Him. Or, in other words, saving faith is not some mushy emotion of feel-good warmth and trust. This first and primary aspect of faith is cognitive. We believe in something, and thus there is factual content to our faith, whether or not there is a basis for those data, and whether or not you personally recognize it as such. The second element of saving faith is assensus, the assent of the intellect to the truth of the data of one’s faith. The heart cannot truly and fully embrace what the mind repudiates no matter how one tries to rationalize it. In addition, a vital point that Sproul, Gertsner, and Lindsley make with some eloquence:
It is possible to have a lucid understanding of the data (notitia) and even give intellectual assent (assensus) to its truth without having saving faith. James verifies this in his caustic statement, “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe – and shudder” (James 2:19). To achieve notitia and assensus gives us no more qualifications than devils. Yet these two elements are integral ingredients of the full measure of redemptive faith and are not dispensable. In and of themselves they are insufficient, but redemptive faith does not flow without them. (page 21)
It is the third element that cements the redemptive value of faith, and it is this element that can only be applied by the operation of God’s Holy Spirit, that of fiducia, a personal trust in Christ and His saving work alone for redemption, i.e., the achieving of a right standing before an holy and righteous God. Although the mind is engaged in fiducia, it goes beyond the intellect to encompass the heart, the will, the affections – in short, the whole man. Thus, the first and greatest commandment is “And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.” (Mark 12:30)
For a biblical example of these three elements in the drama of human experience, read the story in John chapter nine of the man blind from birth healed by Jesus. The Pharisees have trouble determining and accepting the notitia and never get beyond a reluctant assensus (John 9:18). The man who was healed goes through all three stages, ending with the fiducia statement of “Lord, I believe” and worship (John 9:38).
So, faith and fact are intimately associated. If you place your faith in a falsehood, your faith is at best worthless, and more likely eternally suicidal.
The Value (Role) of Apologetics
In the Sproul article cited above, he gives us four “vital tasks” of apologetics. The first is in preevangelism, in assisting the mind as it acquires notitia and comes to a conclusion of assensus. I would also argue that God the Spirit sometimes uses the weight of the apologetic evidence to bring some of His elect to fiducia as well, to a true saving knowledge of Christ, as was noted above for Mr. McDowell. Granted, one must be careful in using this approach, for unregenerate sinners love to get you entangled in their smoke screens of argumentation just to prevent a serious consideration of the claims of Christ upon their own lives. Nor am I saying that we can argue people into the kingdom of heaven. What I am saying is many are the tools of evangelism, including simple gospel presentations, preaching, and the giving of one’s personal testimony, and God can use any or all, as He sees fit, to accomplish His purposes and to call His elect. However, if no reason is given for why one should believe, we leave the sinner with “an out” that allows him to say that since you didn’t answer his question(s) (granted, many of which will be absurd in the extreme), he won’t listen to you, period. Thus, as a responsible workman, we need to know how to use as many tools as possible. More on this when we look at the biblical mandate for apologetics.
The second task of apologetics is the restraint of evil. Sproul notes Calvin’s argument that one value of apologetics was to “stop the mouths of the obstreperous.” The idea is that apologetics, though not able to convert the infidel, can restrain the unbeliever from unbridled assault against the faith. The laws of the land being based on Old Testament law, we should all agree that we are better off individually and collectively when murder, theft, and lying are considered wrong, evil, and otherwise deserving of punishment. Yes, I know there are some who want to make victims out of the perpetrators, but that makes my point. The very existence of civilization suffers when the biblical ideals are rejected and we embrace the evil: “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!” (Isaiah 5:20-21)
The support and encouragement of believers is the third task of apologetics. I don’t mean to be offensive, but we Christians are repeatedly called “sheep” in the Scriptures (e.g., Psalm 100:3), and sheep are not always the brightest bulbs in the pack. As such, particularly newborn Christians can be easily intimidated by the pseudo-intellectual attacks upon their faith. Moreover, we are told that we wrestle not against flesh and blood (Ephesians 6:12), and the enemy of our soul loves to raise one doubt after another; it was his primary attack upon Eve all the way back in the garden (Genesis 3). Even John the Baptist, when he was in prison, finally sent messengers to Jesus asking whether or not He was the Messiah, a question fraught with doubt (Luke 7:19-23). And can you blame him? He’s now locked away in prison for preaching righteousness and prisoners in those days had to compete with the rats in their cells for their food. They didn’t have the ACLU (or whatever bleeding hearts are responsible; and no, I’m not saying prisoners should be treated like animals, though some certainly deserve it, but neither should they be treated like honored guests) to get them the amenities we provide in prisons today. Instructive is how Jesus answers John. He does not exhort him to greater faith, or deliver any feel-good psychological ploys, nor does He berate him for his doubt. Instead, “Then Jesus answering said unto them, Go your way, and tell John what things ye have seen and heard; how that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, to the poor the gospel is preached.” What Jesus has done is provided John, through his disciples, with objective empirical evidence grounded in prophecy, and told him to reason logically from effect to cause. In the same way, Christians may be encouraged that their faith is not an illogical blind leap of faith that will end in eternal catastrophe.
Lastly, Sproul suggests a fourth task that is very close to the second, that of providing commonplace benefits. By this he means the beneficial influence of Christianity on the cultural climate of a civilization by informing the institutions that shape that culture. As Sproul et al. note, “Man’s general welfare is enhanced by a cultural consensus in which Christianity and its values are deemed credible.” And please, don’t regurgitate the tripe about Christianity is the cause of all wars and all kinds of evil in the world. Don’t reveal your own ignorance of history and shallowness of analysis so profoundly.
In Part 2 of this Prologue (I promise there will only be two parts, and then we get to go have fun with data), we will venture into the questions of the existence of common ground for the believer and unbeliever, and finally the biblical mandate for apologetics. Forging ever onward….
This brief essay came to my attention back in 2006 and I’ve found and reposted it here. The recent deal with Iran demonstrates rather conclusively that the liberal left has the mindset of sheep, and unfortunately, they have been voted into leadership by the other sheep of this nation. (Emphases added.)
By LTC (RET) Dave Grossman, author of "On Killing."
Honor never grows old, and honor rejoices the heart of age. It does so because honor is, finally, about defending those noble and worthy things that deserve defending, even if it comes at a high cost. In our time, that may mean social disapproval, public scorn, hardship, persecution, or as always,even death itself. The question remains: What is worth defending? What is worth dying for? What is worth living for?
– William J. Bennett – in a lecture to the United States Naval Academy November 24, 1997
One Vietnam veteran, an old retired colonel, once said this to me:
"Most of the people in our society are sheep. They are kind, gentle, productive creatures who can only hurt one another by accident." This is true. Remember, the murder rate is six per 100,000 per year, and the aggravated assault rate is four per 1,000 per year. What this means is that the vast majority of Americans are not inclined to hurt one another. Some estimates say that two million Americans are victims of violent crimes every year, a tragic, staggering number, perhaps an all-time record rate of violent crime. But there are almost 300 million Americans, which means that the odds of being a victim of violent crime is considerably less than one in a hundred on any given year. Furthermore, since many violent crimes are committed by repeat offenders, the actual number of violent citizens is considerably less than two million.
Thus there is a paradox, and we must grasp both ends of the situation: We may well be in the most violent times in history, but violence is still remarkably rare. This is because most citizens are kind, decent people who are not capable of hurting each other, except by accident or under extreme provocation. They are sheep.
I mean nothing negative by calling them sheep. To me it is like the pretty, blue robin’s egg. Inside it is soft and gooey but someday it will grow into something wonderful. But the egg cannot survive without its hard blue shell. Police officers, soldiers, and other warriors are like that shell, and someday the civilization they protect will grow into something wonderful. For now, though, they need warriors to protect them from the predators.
"Then there are the wolves," the old war veteran said, "and the wolves feed on the sheep without mercy." Do you believe there are wolves out there who will feed on the flock without mercy? You better believe it. There are evil men in this world and they are capable of evil deeds. The moment you forget that or pretend it is not so, you become a sheep. There is no safety in denial.
"Then there are sheepdogs," he went on, "and I’m a sheepdog. I live to protect the flock and confront the wolf."
If you have no capacity for violence then you are a healthy productive citizen, a sheep. If you have a capacity for violence and no empathy for your fellow citizens, then you have defined an aggressive sociopath, a wolf. But what if you have a capacity for violence, and a deep love for your fellow citizens? What do you have then? A sheepdog, a warrior, someone who is walking the hero’s path. Someone who can walk into the heart of darkness, into the universal human phobia, and walk out unscathed.
Let me expand on this old soldier’s excellent model of the sheep, wolves, and sheepdogs. We know that the sheep live in denial, that is what makes them sheep. They do not want to believe that there is evil in the world. They can accept the fact that fires can happen, which is why they want fire extinguishers, fire sprinklers, fire alarms and fire exits throughout their kids’ schools.
But many of them are outraged at the idea of putting an armed police officer in their kid’s school. Our children are thousands of times more likely to be killed or seriously injured by school violence than fire, but the sheep’s only response to the possibility of violence is denial. The idea of someone coming to kill or harm their child is just too hard, and so they chose the path of denial.
The sheep generally do not like the sheepdog. He looks a lot like the wolf. He has fangs and the capacity for violence. The difference, though, is that the sheepdog must not, can not and will not ever harm the sheep. Any sheep dog who intentionally harms the lowliest little lamb will be punished and removed. The world cannot work any other way, at least not in a representative democracy or a republic such as ours.
Still, the sheepdog disturbs the sheep. He is a constant reminder that there are wolves in the land. They would prefer that he didn’t tell them where to go, or give them traffic tickets, or stand at the ready in our airports in camouflage fatigues holding an M-16. The sheep would much rather have the sheepdog cash in his fangs, spray paint himself white, and go, "Baa."
Until the wolf shows up. Then the entire flock tries desperately to hide behind one lonely sheepdog.
The students, the victims, at Columbine High School were big, tough high school students, and under ordinary circumstances they would not have had the time of day for a police officer. They were not bad kids; they just had nothing to say to a cop. When the school was under attack, however, and SWAT teams were clearing the rooms and hallways, the officers had to physically peel those clinging, sobbing kids off of them. This is how the little lambs feel about their sheepdog when the wolf is at the door.
Look at what happened after September 11, 2001 when the wolf pounded hard on the door. Remember how America, more than ever before, felt differently about their law enforcement officers and military personnel? Remember how many times you heard the word hero?
Understand that there is nothing morally superior about being a sheepdog; it is just what you choose to be. Also understand that a sheepdog is a funny critter: He is always sniffing around out on the perimeter, checking the breeze, barking at things that go bump in the night, and yearning for a righteous battle. That is, the young sheepdogs yearn for a righteous battle. The old sheepdogs are a little older and wiser, but they move to the sound of the guns when needed right along with the young ones.
Here is how the sheep and the sheepdog think differently. The sheep pretend the wolf will never come, but the sheepdog lives for that day. After the attacks on September 11, 2001, most of the sheep, that is, most citizens in America said, "Thank God I wasn’t on one of those planes." The sheepdogs, the warriors, said, "Dear God, I wish I could have been on one of those planes. Maybe I could have made a difference." When you are truly transformed into a warrior and have truly invested yourself into warriorhood, you want to be there. You want to be able to make a difference.
There is nothing morally superior about the sheepdog, the warrior, but he does have one real advantage. Only one. And that is that he is able to survive and thrive in an environment that destroys 98 percent of the population. There was research conducted a few years ago with individuals convicted of violent crimes. These cons were in prison for serious, predatory crimes of violence: assaults, murders and killing law enforcement officers. The vast majority said that they specifically targeted victims by body language: slumped walk, passive behavior and lack of awareness. They chose their victims like big cats do in Africa, when they select one out of the herd that is least able to protect itself.
Some people may be destined to be sheep and others might be genetically primed to be wolves or sheepdogs. But I believe that most people can choose which one they want to be, and I’m proud to say that more and more Americans are choosing to become sheepdogs.
Seven months after the attack on September 11, 2001, Todd Beamer was honored in his hometown of Cranbury, New Jersey. Todd, as you recall, was the man on Flight 93 over Pennsylvania who called on his cell phone to alert an operator from United Airlines about the hijacking. When he learned of the other three passenger planes that had been used as weapons, Todd dropped his phone and uttered the words, "Let’s roll," which authorities believe was a signal to the other passengers to confront the terrorist hijackers. In one hour, a transformation occurred among the passengers – athletes, business people and parents. — from sheep to sheepdogs and together they fought the wolves, ultimately saving an unknown number of lives on the ground.
There is no safety for honest men except by believing all possible evil of evil men. – Edmund Burke
Here is the point I like to emphasize, especially to the thousands of police officers and soldiers I speak to each year. In nature the sheep, real sheep, are born as sheep. Sheepdogs are born that way, and so are wolves. They didn’t have a choice. But you are not a critter. As a human being, you can be whatever you want to be. It is a conscious, moral decision.
If you want to be a sheep, then you can be a sheep and that is okay, but you must understand the price you pay. When the wolf comes, you and your loved ones are going to die if there is not a sheepdog there to protect you. If you want to be a wolf, you can be one, but the sheepdogs are going to hunt you down and you will never have rest, safety, trust or love. But if you want to be a sheepdog and walk the warrior’s path, then you must make a conscious and moral decision every day to dedicate, equip and prepare yourself to thrive in that toxic, corrosive moment when the wolf comes knocking at the door.
For example, many officers carry their weapons in church.? They are well concealed in ankle holsters, shoulder holsters or inside-the-belt holsters tucked into the small of their backs.? Anytime you go to some form of religious service, there is a very good chance that a police officer in your congregation is carrying. You will never know if there is such an individual in your place of worship, until the wolf appears to massacre you and your loved ones.
I was training a group of police officers in Texas, and during the break, one officer asked his friend if he carried his weapon in church. The other cop replied, "I will never be caught without my gun in church." I asked why he felt so strongly about this, and he told me about a cop he knew who was at a church massacre in Ft. Worth, Texas in 1999. In that incident, a mentally deranged individual came into the church and opened fire, gunning down fourteen people. He said that officer believed he could have saved every life that day if he had been carrying his gun. His own son was shot, and all he could do was throw himself on the boy’s body and wait to die. That cop looked me in the eye and said, "Do you have any idea how hard it would be to live with yourself after that?"
Some individuals would be horrified if they knew this police officer was carrying a weapon in church. They might call him paranoid and would probably scorn him. Yet these same individuals would be enraged and would call for "heads to roll" if they found out that the airbags in their cars were defective, or that the fire extinguisher and fire sprinklers in their kids’ school did not work. They can accept the fact that fires and traffic accidents can happen and that there must be safeguards against them.
Their only response to the wolf, though, is denial, and all too often their response to the sheepdog is scorn and disdain. But the sheepdog quietly asks himself, "Do you have and idea how hard it would be to live with yourself if your loved ones attacked and killed, and you had to stand there helplessly because you were unprepared for that day?"
It is denial that turns people into sheep. Sheep are psychologically destroyed by combat because their only defense is denial, which is counterproductive and destructive, resulting in fear, helplessness and horror when the wolf shows up.
Denial kills you twice. It kills you once, at your moment of truth when you are not physically prepared: you didn’t bring your gun, you didn’t train. Your only defense was wishful thinking. Hope is not a strategy. Denial kills you a second time because even if you do physically survive, you are psychologically shattered by your fear helplessness and horror at your moment of truth.
Gavin de Becker puts it like this in Fear Less, his superb post-9/11 book, which should be required reading for anyone trying to come to terms with our current world situation:
…denial can be seductive, but it has an insidious side effect. For all the peace of mind deniers think they get by saying it isn’t so, the fall they take when faced with new violence is all the more unsettling.
Denial is a save-now-pay-later scheme, a contract written entirely in small print, for in the long run, the denying person knows the truth on some level.
And so the warrior must strive to confront denial in all aspects of his life, and prepare himself for the day when evil comes. If you are warrior who is legally authorized to carry a weapon and you step outside without that weapon, then you become a sheep, pretending that the bad man will not come today. No one can be "on" 24/7, for a lifetime. Everyone needs down time. But if you are authorized to carry a weapon, and you walk outside without it, just take a deep breath, and say this to yourself…
This business of being a sheep or a sheep dog is not a yes-no dichotomy. It is not an all-or-nothing, either-or choice. It is a matter of degrees, a continuum. On one end is an abject, head-in-the-sand-sheep and on the other end is the ultimate warrior. Few people exist completely on one end or the other. Most of us live somewhere in between. Since 9-11 almost everyone in America took a step up that continuum, away from denial. The sheep took a few steps toward accepting and appreciating their warriors, and the warriors started taking their job more seriously. The degree to which you move up that continuum, away from sheephood and denial, is the degree to which you and your loved ones will survive, physically and psychologically at your moment of truth.