The Doctrine of Creation (part 21)January 17, 2009 Time: 00:38:26
SummaryAngels and Demons continued.
Well, this past week has been further turmoil and chaos in the Middle East as it looks like we are on the verge of a ground war in southern Lebanon. I heard one commentator this week make some interesting remarks on this head that I thought were well taken, and I thought I’d pass it along to you. He was remarking on the inappropriateness of the expression “war on terror.” We are often told that we are engaged in a war on terror. He pointed out that “terror” is not itself an enemy. Terror is a tactic. It is a way, a strategy, for waging war. For example, other tactics or strategies might be aerial bombardment such as the US used in Kosovo, or ground invasion such as we used in Iraq. Terror would be an alternative strategy that people would employ in order to wage war.
Well, you don’t have a war on a strategy. You don’t declare war on aerial bombardment for example. You declare war on those who are using this strategy – those who are using the terror. In particular he said it is clear who the enemy is in this case. It is basically Islamic fascists, only that is rather politically incorrect to say in our day. But when you think about it, it seems to me that really is the truth. It is Islamic fascism that is employing terror as a strategy for waging war. Just as fascism in the Second World War was connected with the ideology in Germany, for example, of national socialism or Nazism, so today we have a fascism that is ideologically connected and driven by this radical fundamentalist Islam. This is the real clash of civilizations that we are seeing going on in the Middle East today and right now in southern Lebanon and northern Israel. You have those who would champion the cause of Islamic fascism coming head-to-head with forces of democratic Western political styles of government. I think it is very important that we do understand exactly who the enemy is in this case lest we be deceived as to what is at stake.
In Islam, as I’ve explained other times in this class, there is no such thing as separation of church and state. That is a Western idea that church and state are separate. In Islam, everything including the state is brought into submission to Islamic law and practice. That is why the Mullahs, for example, control what is happening in Iran. It is the religious authorities who govern everything ultimately in Islam. Islam means “submission” and every aspect of human affairs in society is to be brought into submission to Allah. Therefore, you don’t have this kind of separation of church and state where you could have a democratic style of government existing along side of a sort of Islamic church. That would be a betrayal of the very nature of Islam. You have a religion here which is committed to a kind of religious autocracy, and it is running smack into the face of democratic values in the West.
That is what really is being waged right now. It is a war on this Islamic fascism who is employing terror as a means of trying to win the day and let their ideology be victorious. Let’s just be clear-sighted as we understand what is at stake in these conflicts and pray that those who would propound this sort of fascist doctrine will not be ultimately successful.
But the thing that really struck me this week that I thought was important was rather eclipsed by what’s happening in the Middle East right now. And that was the first presidential veto issued by George Bush during his two terms. For almost six years now he has served as President and has not vetoed anything sent to him by the Congress. This past week he issued his first veto. What was it? It was a congressional bill authorizing federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. President Bush consistently, with his expressed convictions and behavior in the past, vetoed this bill. This is the line in the sand that he drew that could not be crossed, and he vetoed this congressional legislation. I, for one, was so proud of President Bush to have this kind of moral backbone in the face of this kind of congressional pressure.
The issue that is involved in embryonic stem cell research, just so we are clear on it, is exactly the same issue that is involved in abortion on demand. The embryos that are used in this research are fertilized embryos. They are the combination of an egg which has been fertilized by a sperm and is therefore now a genetically complete human being in the earliest stages of its development, and if left alone in the proper environment in the uterus will grow into an adult human being. So it is improper to say that these fertilized cells are potential human beings or that they might become human beings. They are human beings. They are human beings in the earliest stages of their development. There is a continual process of growth and maturation of this embryo up until it becomes an adult. To say that a fertilized human embryo is not a human being because it is not, say, a baby is like saying that a baby isn’t a human being because it is not an adolescent, or that an adolescent isn’t a human being because it is not an adult. All of those are different stages in the development of a human being which begins at conception then goes until adulthood and death. What they do in this embryonic stem cell research is suck out the genetic material out of this embryo and then replace it with other material, and then they can clone it to make other sorts of things than a human being. It is the destruction of human life. It is a form of homicide. It is killing human beings.
What struck me about the rhetoric that we heard in the press with respect to President Bush’s veto is, again, all the rhetoric that he is impeding the progress of science, that he is impeding all of the wonderful cures that might be wrought for Parkinson’s disease and other forms of illness by not funding this embryonic stem cell research. This is frankly just a myth if not a lie. There are different kinds of stem cell research. One is placental stem cell research. These placental cells are taken from the umbilical cord of a baby that has been born and delivered. It is the afterbirth as it were after a baby has been born. These placental cells can be harvested and used. It is just refuse basically. But it is a rich source of stem cells. By contrast you have these embryonic cells which are fertilized eggs which are human beings in the earliest stages of their development.
Now, medical science has been very successful in finding successful medical applications from placental stem cells. I just read on the Internet there are around eighty successful medical applications of research on placental stem cells to cure diseases. Do you know how many successful medical applications there are from embryonic stem cell research even though it has been carried on for years? Zero. There are no medical successful applications of this kind of stem cell research. So in terms of effectiveness, in terms of cost, and in terms of the ethical difference, it is clear were the emphasis in our funding ought to lie. It is a culture of death that is obsessed with abortion on demand that wants to prefer the destruction of human embryos in order to carry out this kind of research rather than using cells from placenta which are abundant and cheap. This is simply a myth that in order to arrive at these successful medical cures we need to destroy these embryos.
There is a more fundamental point here, though, that I think needs to be made. And that is this: those who reason in this way (even if they were right that there are all these wonderful medical cures that could result in stem cell research) are basically saying that the end justifies the means – that if the end is good then the means are justified to do it no matter what they are. If it involves destroying human life, well, look how wonderful the ends are – curing all these diseases. That, I would submit, is just ethically absurd. That is unconscionable. The ends don’t justify the means. If you think the end justifies the means then there is a much easier way to get all these organs that we need. All you do is just pick some socially unacceptable segment of society and use their organs. In Nazi Germany, they chose the Jews and began to eliminate Jews. That could be done. Now if you are offended at that idea, well then pick some other more socially unaccepted segment of society, say, the homeless or illegal immigrants. We’ll just harvest their organs and use them for medical science. If the ends justify the means, you not only get the good end there of curing these diseases but you also solve the problem of homelessness and illegal immigration! What great ends you get! Yet, I think it is clear that that would be absurd. No one would suggest such a thing. The means are not justified just by good ends. You have to weigh the ethical permissibility of the means in order to get to certain ends.
So the issue comes back again: are these human beings? Are you destroying human life? That is the issue that you have to get back to. That is not a religious question. That is a biological, biomedical question. There I think it is clear what the answer is. These are human embryos. They are not feline. They are not canine. They are not bovine. They are human embryos that are genetically complete organisms that will grow into an adult member of the species if you permit them to continue in utero. We mustn’t allow ourselves to be suck into debating over whether the ends are acceptable or not. The ends don’t justify the means. You need to deal with this question of whether or not these means are ethical and permissible even if they should lead to very good and laudable ends.
I noticed in the Atlanta Journal Constitution this past week an editorial that showed how stunted morally and ethically the thinking of that editorial staff is compared to President Bush. The headline on the editorial was “Bush’s hypocrisy in vetoing this bill.” I thought, hypocrisy? This seems to be very consistent with what President Bush has always said. So I was interested to read the editorial. The hypocrisy they discerned was that President Bush allowed initially, originally when he made this decision, stem cell research to be carried on on lines of embryos which had already been destroyed. The genetic material had already been sucked out of them. He said you can go ahead and continue to use federal funding to experiment on those, but you can’t destroy anymore. The Journal Constitution said this is absurd. This is hypocrisy. How can you allow that? Well, I thought, good-night! How stupid can they be? What Bush’s decision is like saying is that if you already have some cadavers on your hand, you can go ahead and dissect the cadavers and perform experiments and things like that on the cadavers, but you can’t kill any more people. Right? Now, what is illogical or hypocritical about that? It seems to me that is perfectly consistent and logical. What is nutty is the Atlanta Journal Constitution’s position that would equate the moral status of cadavers with living human persons! That is what’s hypocritical and bizarre. So it seemed to me that President Bush has once again exhibited a degree of moral insight and sophistication that his critics so sorely lack. I, for one, was very proud of our President in taking a strong pro-life stand this past week.
Dr. Craig: So is the embryonic stem cell. It is just not federally funded.
Dr. Craig: Actually, they are still continuing to experiment on those lines that are already killed. Those are funded.
Dr. Craig: Let me say with respect to the first question, I would recommend you get some literature on the abortion question because it is really the same issue. I’ve got some books at home if you want to borrow them. I think one of them is called The Least of These, which is a very good book that lays out both the biblical material – and there is a surprising amount of it. You wouldn’t think the Bible would have anything to say about life in utero but it actually does have quite a bit to say about that as well as other issues. Almost any Christian book on the abortion issue will have this kind of material in it. But one of the books that I have at home is called The Least of These which I think is a very good book.
With respect to the second question. This really has puzzled me, too. I was reading in First Things, and it had an article where they asked the same question. At least what they said is the biomedical companies and others that are pushing this are, in a sense, allied with the whole abortion industry. It is because if this is permitted it just reinforces abortion on demand because ethically it is the same issue that is at stake. There are many in this country with Planned Parenthood, the National Organization of Women, and so forth who are just obsessed with abortion on demand. It is almost the essence of their political position. I think that helps to drive the interest in using these embryonic stem cells as opposed to more readily available placental cells.
Dr. Craig: That is a good question. I am not expert on this. What I was reading most recently did suggest that the placental cells exhibited the same sort of malleability and flexibility to morph into different kinds of cells that in fact they did. In that sense they were better than adult stem cells which is yet another source of stem cells. Even hair follicles have these. But with the placental cells, because they are so early, they do have this kind of flexibility and malleability that would allow them to be used.
Dr. Craig: You are raising now a broader ethical issue that is really . . . this is huge what she is raising now. She is saying this whole process of manufacturing these embryos and freezing them and then using some for implantation in a way to help infertile couples and so forth raise the whole problem of what do you do with all of these frozen embryos that are left over? Because these are human beings, and we are manufacturing them like Frankensteins. I think it calls into question the whole ethics of this practice. When President Bush vetoed this bill you may have noticed that he had with him families with little children who are called snowflake babies because these little children were once frozen embryos which were supposed to be discarded and they chose not to discard them. Now they are beautiful little children. They’ve grown up. The question is: should will kill someone because we know that this person is going to die anyway? Well, again, when you put it in those terms, ethically that is nuts. You wouldn’t say that because somebody, say, is on death row and is going to be executed that therefore it is ethical to come in and harvest his organs against his will. Because somebody else is going to destroy human life doesn’t mean you are justified in taking it sooner. That is this ends-justifies-the-means mentality again that we’ve really got to challenge and undercut because it is just not true that a good end justifies the means. Again, I wouldn’t be deceived by saying these embryos are going to be discarded anyway so it is alright to kill them.
Dr. Craig: I am very disturbed by it. When I hear that these are being discarded like trash I think it is very, very disturbing. To me that is not an ethical call to say, “OK, kill them earlier.” To me that is an ethical call to say, “We need to put some brakes on this kind of experimentation. This needs to be somehow constrained.” Moral values are not found in a test tube. Moral values, ethical values lie outside the sphere of science, the epistemology of science, if you will. You can’t determine right or wrong scientifically. So we cannot leave it up to scientists to simply do whatever technology allows them to do because science is morally indifferent. It can be used for great goods, but it can be used for horrible ends or horrible means even if in the name of good ends. We must not allow technology just because something is possible to go forward without ethical constraints on it. That leads to just nightmarish situations in which we already are, frankly. The nightmare has come true.
Dr. Craig: It really is. It is just frightening. All these congressional advocates will say we are against human cloning. But that is assuming that these embryos are not human beings. Really, it is manufacturing human beings for the purpose of destroying them to get organs and things from them.
Dr. Craig: If you are a young couple here today that maybe have wanted to have children and haven’t been able to, this would be one option for you that would be a wonderful life-saving alternative.
We are going to talk today about demons. Rob Bowman told me that he has a book coming out on this subject called Sense and Nonsense About Angels and Demons. I just wanted to alert you to that resource. That will be out with Zondervan probably in the next few months. That would be a book if you are interested in following up that you might want to look at.
If you have your Bible with you this morning we are going to be reading a lot of verses. I invite you to get that out. We want to look first at various names given to Satan in the Scriptures – Satan being the chief of these demonic creatures. John 8:44 refers to him as a liar. Jesus is speaking to his opponents in the Jewish authorities and says,
You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.
Satan, the devil, is called there a liar as well as a murderer.
Ephesians 2:2. Satan is referred to as the prince of the power of the air. Paul refers to the way you once lived as nonbelievers, as non-Christians “following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience.” He is called there the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is at work in unbelievers. In 1 Peter 5:8 he is called your adversary, the devil. It says, “Be sober, be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking some one to devour.” He is called your adversary and the devil.
In the book of Revelation 20:2, he is referred to as “the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the Devil and Satan and bound him for a thousand years.” There he is called that dragon, that ancient serpent – probably referring to the serpent in the Garden of Eden who tempted Adam and Eve who is the Devil and Satan.
Genesis 3:4, let’s look back to that passage in the opening book of the Bible. This is where it uses the word “serpent” - “But the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not die. For God knows when you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God knowing good and evil.’” There we have the devil appearing in the form of a snake or serpent and he is later referred to in that way in Revelation 20:2.
John 14:30-31 refers to him as the ruler of this world. Jesus says, “I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no power over me, but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us go hence.” Here Satan is referred to as the ruler of this world, which is a sobering epithet to reflect upon. You would normally think of God as the ruler of this world, wouldn’t you? But here Satan is referred to as the ruler of this world – the world is under the authority of Satan.
In Matthew 12:24 he is called the prince of demons. “But when the Pharisees heard it [that of this healing that Jesus had performed] they said, ‘It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this man casts out demons.’” There they referred to Satan, or Beelzebul, as the prince of demons. He is the leader of the demonic hordes.
In 2 Corinthians 4:4 we have a similar description to what Jesus said about Satan in John 14. It also refers to him as the “god of this world.” Talking about the unbelieving Jews, he says, “In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the likeness of God.” Satan is described here as the god (little ‘g’) of this world. This world is under his authority. He is the ruler of this world. He is the god of this world.
1 Thessalonians 3:5 refers to Satan as the tempter. Paul says, “For this reason, when I could bear it no longer, I sent that I might know your faith, for fear that somehow the tempter had tempted you and that our labor would be in vain.” Satan here is the tempter of persons to get them to do wrong.
These are just some of the names used of Satan in the Scriptures and gives us a clue as to what kind of a person and creature this being is.
Dr. Craig: Beelzebul. This is very interesting. Beelzebul (or Beelzebub) is literally translated “the lord of the flies” which is really interesting. Those of you who read William Golding’s magnificent novel by that name, The Lord of the Flies, remember that in that story a group of English schoolboys is marooned on an island, an uninhabited island. They begin to worship a boar’s head on a stake that is covered with flies as being the sort of talisman or symbol that will be the center of their cult. What happens is these proper well-mannered English schoolboys degenerate into savages where at the very end they are about to kill one of their own little compatriots. If you’ve seen the movie, the black and white movie is magnificent because they are chasing this little boy screaming “kill the pig, bash him in!” and this little boy is scrambling and crawling and is about to be killed. Then all of a sudden he collapses at the pristine white feet of a naval officer in white knee socks and white shorts and uniform. It is like an angelic appearance in the film. The startling contrast between the savagery of these children and then this whitely clad naval officer on the scene is devastating when you seen it. What Golding there is talking about is the original sin that is within man that is in the heart of every person. The war that is going on externally is simply a manifestation of a deeper internal war that is in the heart of every man and that comes out when these children are no longer in the constraints of civilization but allowed to revert to a kind of brutish state of nature in which the lord of the flies (the title of the novel), Satan in essence, becomes the king, becomes the ruler. That is what Beezelbul actually means. It has to do with early Baal worship and Canaanite deities prior to Israel.
Dr. Craig: I am going to say something about that when we get to the origin of Satan. Let me hang on to that until we get to the next point.
Dr. Craig: She says the word Satan in the Hebrew means “adversary.” I have to confess, I’ll take your word for it because I’ve not looked it up.
Dr. Craig: The verse I looked at was of course in the New Testament, 1 Peter 5:8, which is Greek. I know from Greek it is just a proper name, Satanas.
Dr. Craig: These proper names, descriptive names, that are given to Satan tell us something about his work and character – tempter, adversary, liar, and so forth. It all reveals something to us about his nature and work, which we’ll talk about when we get to the third point.
Dr. Craig: When we get to the next letter on the outline, the origin of Satan, I am going to look at both the Ezekiel 28 passage as well as the one that someone earlier referred to in Isaiah 14 that are sometimes used as texts telling us about the origin of Satan. But I am going to express some reservations about that use of those texts. We will hold off until we get to that point. I think that is probably what we will do next week.
Dr. Craig: This is Job 1. “The sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them.” This will have to do with the origin of Satan. Many people think that Satan and demons are actually fallen angels and in that sense are sons of God. They were part of this realm of spiritual beings that God created for the good purpose of serving him and mediating to creation, but they fell away. In that sense Satan could still be classed as being among these beings. In one sense one would say, yes, demons are angels, but they are evil or they are fallen angels. We will say more about that next time when we talk about the origins of these beings. I keep deferring to that, but that is OK because we are out of time anyway.
What we will do next time is we will ask ourselves, “Demons? Where did these things come from? If God is good and God has made everything there is, then how is it that there is this realm of spiritual creatures that are so unspeakably evil and opposed to God?” Is the Judeo-Christian faith committed to some kind of dualism – good and evil, light and darkness in opposition to each other? That sounds like Gnosticism or Manichaeism. How are we going to reconcile that? We will talk a little bit about the origin of demons and look at these passages. I am going to, in the interest of time, cut it off there so we end on time. We’ll look forward to seeing you next week.
 Total Running Time: 38:26 (Copyright © 2009 William Lane Craig)