Tag Archives: science

Psychological Child Abuse: Raising Children as “Theybies”

The latest attempt at normalizing the popular idea of gender fluidity comes from a large group of parents in the U.S. who believe in raising their children as “theybies.” NBC recently published an article documenting what several couples are doing to shield their children from gender stereotypes: concealing their biological sex. These couples represent a growing number of parents who are bringing their children up without gender designation. Children should get to decide their own gender when they get ready, they argue, so the use of pronouns he, she, him, or her, are totally avoided. To ensure kids have complete freedom to decide what gender they want to be, their biological gender is hidden from the children and from everyone else. Parents who propose this are calling their children “theybies,” since they refer to their children using only gender-neutral pronouns such as, “they, them, and their.” Experts say this could prevent a number of problems seen in children (and adults) today, although they admit there is no existing scientific research conducted on the result of raising children this way. The experts claim that this way of raising children could prevent “gender dysphoria,” which is when a person feels that their gender doesn’t align with their assigned sex at birth. It reassures children that there is “more than one way to be a boy or a girl.” These parents readily admit that this approach to parenting is not easy or comfortable “in a gendered world.” Not everyone understands the reasoning behind the decision to keep their children’s biological gender hidden. The couples in the article explain several confrontations which have been awkward and even offending, simply because people do not understand their intentions. Modern-day society has not yet evolved into gender-nonconformity, they say, but they are willing to make whatever sacrifices necessary to defend their children from gender stereotypes for as long as possible. Society is the problem—it hasn’t progressed to the point where it needs to be regarding gender fluidity. Until society does, these parents will raise their children as “theybies,” without gender designation.

This movement and the ideology behind it is detrimental to the upbringing of children and extremely troubling, to say the least. Let’s start at the beginning with the ideology. The idea of gender fluidity is completely subjective, grounded in neither science nor biology—only in personal experience. Scientific or biological proof for gender fluidity is totally nonexistent. When an individual feels they should be a different gender than that which was assigned at birth—that’s all it is—a feeling. Thus, advocating that children should decide their gender on the basis of its fluidity (and because it is a part of the human process, as they argue), is misplaced and flawed from the start. Gender is assigned biologically—you are either male or female. This is something which the Christian worldview affirms (Gen. 1:27; 5:2) and recognizing the immutability of gender is crucial to how we relate to one another and contribute to society. This is especially important for children to understand—the truth should not be concealed from them. They need to understand the way the biological world works, especially given their developing minds.

Moreover, the whole concept of gender fluidity and identity is assuming too much about the mental capability of children. Children don’t make life decisions, much less the decision of what gender they want to be (which apparently happens at age 4, the proponents argue). If children believe that gender is fluid, they are suspect to change their genders multiple times throughout the course of their childhood. As children, how many times did we change our career interest, for example? Some of us wanted to be astronauts or firefighters, later changing our interests to photography or geology. And now the majority of us are pursuing none of those fields. The point is this: children are subject to change frequently throughout the course of their upbringing. Therefore, they do not have the comprehension to make the significant decision of gender identity (regardless of how irrational gender fluidity is).

Additionally, consider the practical inconsistency and the overkill of raising children without gender designation. This approach to parenting is practically inconsistent—parents know that a child’s freedom should be limited. No parent allows their child to decide for themselves what time they will go to bed, and no parent allows their child to eat junk food all day long. If you wouldn’t allow children total freedom in those insignificant areas, why would you allow them freedom in a significant area such as their biology? This proposed solution to preventing gender stereotypes is just plainly overkill—it is extremely disproportional to the problem. Complete annihilation of gender-specific pronouns is taking things too far. There is a plethora of other (and better) ways to ensure that children are not “pigeonholed into gender stereotypes.” Let boys have tea parties with their sisters and take your daughters fishing. But don’t obliterate empirical and biological truth.

This entire ideology and its proposed application is disturbing because, in it, you can see that the ripple effects of the sexual revolution in America have arrived at the most crucial and vulnerable area of human life: child development. As our culture has “progressively” abandoned sexual morality, they have also abandoned sexual reality. All of this arises from the idea of a secular nation—a nation free of objective morality—the morality which comes exclusively from a Christian worldview. Unfortunately, the influence of secularism has made its way to vulnerable children.

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What Does the Bible Say About Being Born Gay?

This is an issue that affects all of us whether we like it or not. Born-again believers all over this country have been greatly impacted by the issue of homosexuality on at least three levels: on a cultural level, on an ecclesiastical level, and on a personal level. Culturally, it is not difficult to see its impact. Three years ago this month, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that same-sex marriage be legalized and recognized in all 50 states. With enough liberal pressure, the justices ruled that the fundamental right to marry was guaranteed to same-sex couples. That event was a major milestone for the LGBTQ community, and it only fueled their fervent vigor for equality and acceptance. Although that particular day was of significant impact, it was not the first time the LGBTQ community has made waves. You may recall the Supreme Court case involving Masterpiece Cakeshop, for example. Thankfully the SCOTUS sided with him in that case but nonetheless, the majority of the LGBTQ community rallied against him. There are dozens of other similar examples of this. Although the LGBTQ community is an extreme minority, our culture promotes and accepts their lifestyle and views as though heterosexuality were the minority.

The issue also affects us on an ecclesiastical level. Many contemporary churches have changed their views on the issue and crumbled underneath the weight of liberalism. Countless prominent “Christian” leaders, authors, and musicians have broken with the hard-line position against homosexuality and gay marriage. Several books have been written by “pastors” and “theologians” defending the LGBTQ lifestyle and movement. Additionally, churches have been forced to confront the issue biblically and deal with the consequences.

And finally, the issue affects all of us on a personal level. This issue comes close to home for a lot of us. Most of us know at least one person in the LGBTQ community, whether they are family, friends, or just acquaintances.

The LGBTQ issue affects us all because it has had such great influence. And there are several reasons why the LGBTQ movement has had great influence. But for the sake of time and to prevent distraction, I won’t examine and review all of those reasons right now. But one of the main reasons this sexual revolution has gained such a following and has had powerful influence is due to the belief that your sexual orientation is entirely dependent on your genetic makeup. In other words, if you are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender, you were born that way. All of us have heard that argument before. The argument follows that, if you are born that way, then it cannot be wrong and you cannot help it. If someone can be born gay, then a fair society could not possibly condemn him or her as being unnatural or immoral.

LGBTQ activists, the liberal media, and several scientists and researchers have actively encouraged the idea that sexuality (other than heterosexuality) is genetic, inherited, and therefore unchangeable. This idea has been proposed for many years and people have vehemently sought scientific evidence to back up the idea that one can be born gay. 

Of course, this claim is not biblical in any sense. But it is also logically inconsistent and the scientific “evidence” is incoherent (we will see why in a moment). Additionally, some have sought to counter this claim by saying that you are not born that way, but that it is a choice. Some say that such a lifestyle is a choice and has nothing to do with your birth. Well, that isn’t a sufficient rebuttal. Presenting only those two options in this debate creates the problem of a false dichotomy. Saying, “You are either born that way or it is a choice,” basically says its either/or and it leaves no room for another option which might explain it better. That would be like someone saying to me, “Are you stupid or just ignorant?” That is saying that those are the only two possible options. There is no option available where I could be smart.

But what does the Bible say about being born gay? Does it teach this? Does it teach something else? Is it a choice? Why are people with atypical sexual orientations the way that they are? Well, we will not go through the entire Bible on this subject, we will only focus on the subject of the origin of a such a sexuality. Let’s consider the answer in five parts.

First, what does the Bible say? The Bible says that all persons are born into this world with a natural inclination towards sin (Gen. 8:21; Job 15:14; Psalm 14:2-3; 51:5; 58:3; Prov. 22:15; Eccl. 9:3; Jer. 17:9; Romans 1:24-32; 5:12-14; Eph. 2:1-3). That is, we are bent towards committing sin. From the moment we are born, our desire and appetite is for sin and our hatred is for God. We will always choose evil over good. We are born with this inclination because of the entrance, curse, and corruption of sin since the Fall. Consider the words of Paul about human nature in Romans 1 and 5. In Romans 1, he teaches that our nature has been radically corrupted and we are born into the world with that corrupted nature. In Romans 5, Paul explains how this came to be. He says that through one man’s disobedience we all became sinners. Speaking of Adam, Paul explains that we are Adam’s children when we are born into the world. From birth we act like Adam – we sin like Adam. Over in the Old Testament, David states that it was in sin he was conceived (Psalm 51:5). And in Psalm 58 he states that the wicked are estranged from birth (58:3). There are statements like this in every book of the Bible, statements which describe our corrupted nature as sinners. And the thing about those statements is that they imply we are corrupted since birth. We do not become corrupted post-birth. We are corrupted from the very genesis of our existence!

Just because we are born sinners doesn’t make us morally exempt, it doesn’t mean we won’t be held responsible, and it doesn’t make it God’s fault. It also doesn’t mean that people are born with an inclination towards specific sins or immoral lifestyles, either. The Bible doesn’t say that we are born in specific sins, only that we are born in sin. We will inevitably commit specific sins, but we are not bound to one sin over another – we are simply bound to sin (in a general sense). Obviously we will yield ourselves to all sorts of specific sins and immoral lifestyles, but that is not where our problem begins. Our problem begins with having a corrupted and sinful nature. So then, according to Scripture, people are not born gay, people are born sinners. You are not born gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or something else. People are born sinners and because of the internal and external influence of sin, some will be more inclined towards sexual immorality. Even if you were born with tendencies towards sexual immorality, that doesn’t make it right and doesn’t mean you should act on it. A person may have a greater susceptibility to homosexuality because of the internal and external influence of sin. Because of the desires of his corrupted heart, or the influence of his environment, or the temptations of the world.

Second, there are logical problems with the claim that people are born gay. It is logically problematic to claim that you are born gay. Of course, the reason for such a claim is to suggest that one must not be responsible for his or her homosexuality since it was a part of them since birth. There’s a serious problem in the implication of that claim. The implication is that you are morally exempt on the basis of genetics. In other words, it must not be wrong if it’s a part of who you are from birth. But genetics do not trump morality. If I have a genetic tendency to be an alcoholic, that doesn’t make it morally acceptable. Also, no one would consider it morally acceptable for a person to be extremely perverse or violent even if they did have a genetic disposition to do so. Even if you are born with a predisposition towards something, that doesn’t make it right. Genetic makeup does not nullify moral responsibility. If Scripture says it’s wrong, it’s wrong. Even if you were born that way doesn’t change the Bible’s teaching or objective morality.

Furthermore, the claim that you are born gay is also logically inconsistent. If you begin to apply that claim to other areas, it becomes easily recognizable that it doesn’t hold up. For example, if it is true that you are born gay, then how do you explain twins who have different sexual preferences? Their genetics are all the same, so why does one turn out gay and another turn out straight? Since they have identical genetics, they should always share the same sexual preference, according to those who make this claim. In other words, if you are born gay because of your genetics, then those twins should either both be heterosexual or homosexual. There is no room for one to be straight and another to be gay. They either have to both be straight or both be gay if their genetics are identical. And you can easily see that this is a problem. One may turn out heterosexual and the other not.

Another way to see the logical inconsistency of this claim is to apply it to other predispositions. What if a person is born with a genetic disposition towards the hatred of homosexuals? If it is a part of their genetics, it cannot be wrong, based on their claim. If genetics solely determine sexual preference, then there can be no sexuality which is wrong. Being sexually attracted to monkeys, family members, or even children should therefore be just as morally acceptable. Obviously same-sex attraction (or anything other than heterosexuality) is not in the same category as those examples – the point is, when you begin to apply that claim to other sexual desires, it crumbles. And if the claim applies only to same-sex attraction, then it is logically inconsistent and even biased. 

Third, the scientific “proof” is incoherent and inconclusive. No matter how much research you conduct, there is no scientific proof for such a thing as a “gay gene.” There is no genetic evidence that people are born gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender. The studies that have been done are extremely surface-level observations, and not actual chemical-developmental studies. The studies they have done are on adults, who have lived homosexual lifestyles for a long period of time. Researchers think that it is some profound discovery that homosexuals have homosexual desires. The only way to get accurate proof would be to study a developing child in the womb and none have done so (because it’s inhumane and impossible). In one of the most massive studies of gay individuals, the leading researcher admitted that even if such genes were found, they would have a very small effect and being gay would depend largely on environment. How is that conclusive proof? Other researchers state that if one has the so-called “gay gene,” it doesn’t even guarantee he will have homosexual tendencies. If it only increases their chances, but doesn’t guarantee anything, then how is that conclusive proof? The claim that you are born gay also introduces problems for the theory of evolution. For the naturalists conducting these studies, who firmly believe in evolution, how is same-sex attraction beneficial for human survival? If it is part of genetic makeup, it is either a problem from which we have not evolved, or it is something our species has evolved into for its own good. That stings either way you go. If it’s a genetic problem, then it is our duty to find solutions to fix it. If it’s a genetic good, then you would have to explain how non-reproduction helps the survival of the human race. 

Fourth, saying that it is a choice doesn’t exactly resolve the issue. Something else to consider is that being homosexual is not as simple as a decisive conscious choice. There are conscious choices involved, most certainly. But there is clearly not just one decisive choice. There is always a conscious choice involved when you act on your sin, but it is not as though a person decides on a particular date in time that they will become homosexual. There is no decisive moment in a person’s life when they become gay. One simply has a pattern of giving in to the sin of sexual immorality and the longer that pattern continues, that person becomes characterized by the sin they commit. A person who lies compulsively does not make an appointment to become a liar. They become a liar through the continual act of lying. There were conscious choices made in their telling of lies, but there was no one-time decisive choice whereby they became a liar at that very moment.

Fifth and finally, how should Christians approach the issue? We are often mistaken in thinking that heterosexuality is the answer to this issue, but it is not. The gospel of Jesus Christ is the answer because it is the power of God for salvation (Rom. 1:16). We need to be a friend to anyone in the LGBTQ community, and we need to love them. Admittedly, it is far easier to sit in the judge’s bench when it comes to this issue. And it is far more difficult to express sincere love and concern. But we must avoid critical, overbearing, and unloving judgment, and we must pursue loving such individuals. Of course, part of the way we love them is telling them the truth. We must tell them the truth about their spiritual condition, the truth about God’s holiness and wrath, and the truth about Jesus Christ and His accomplished work. We don’t have to try to change them, the gospel will do that (1 Cor. 6:11).

Those who believe they are true Christians while practicing and condoning homosexuality must be evangelized with the gospel as well, since they demonstrate unbelief by their actions (1 John 3:4-10). There’s a difference between struggling with it in order to overcome, and approving, condoning, or proposing it (Rom. 1:32). A person truly saved will make a decisive break with that behavior though he may still struggle with it. On the other hand, a person who is unrepentant is unsaved.

So, what does the Bible say about being born gay? All persons are born with a natural inclination towards sin, but this doesn’t make sin right or God’s fault. And persons are not born into specific sinful lifestyles, and even if they were, it doesn’t make it right. Additionally, there is no scientific evidence to support such a claim.

What Does the Bible Say? is a question and answer series which seeks biblical answers to pressing questions.

26219980_2002699353334045_1898487006197556984_n.jpgBrandon is the founder and main contributor to Brandon’s Desk, the blog with free Christian resources from his ministry. He is proud to be the pastor of the family of believers at Locust Grove Baptist Church in Murray, Kentucky. He and his wife Dakota live there with their dog, Susie.

What Does the Bible Say About Sickness Being a Result of Sin?

You’ve been sick before – I guarantee it. You might be sick right now. I’m sure your loved ones have had their share of sickness as well. You probably have loved ones who have suffered or passed away from sicknesses and disease, or there might be someone you love who is currently sick. But what does the Bible say about sickness? More specifically, what does the Bible say about sickness being a result of sin? Let’s found out.

First, let us define sickness. For the purposes of this post, we will use the word sickness in a general and broad sense to describe any state or instance of being ill. Sickness can mean being in the state or condition of illness. That could be having a cold, the Flu, cancer, HIV/AIDS, or anything else that is abnormal for a healthy human being. But sickness can also mean instances of sudden ailments such as having a stroke, a heart attack, or anything other event that would not be normal for a healthy human being. Sickness is real and both Scripture and experience confirm this. I state that because there is a “Christian” group which has existed for many years who believe and teach that sickness is not real, but an illusion. The proponents and adherents of Christian Science believe such, and that belief is demonstrably false and destructive.¹

Second, in a sense, all sickness is a result of sin. The question concerns whether or not sickness can be a result of sin, and in a sense, all sickness is a result of sin. That is, all sickness is a result of sin’s effect. The reason for the existence of pain, sorrow, ailments, sickness and even death is because of the effect of sin on the universe. When sin entered the world in Genesis 3, the world became cursed and corrupted. Therefore, anytime you have sickness (of any kind), it is because we live in a fallen and corrupted world which is awaiting its renewal (Romans 8:19-21). One day the world will be made new and there won’t be any sickness at all (Rev. 21:4; 22:3), but as long as we live in a world cursed and corrupted by sin, there will be sickness. Most of the sickness we experience is merely a result of sin’s curse, because our bodies are fallen. Sickness occurs most often not because God is punishing or disciplining us, but because of the condition and world in which we live.

Third, some sickness is the direct result of sin. It is a possibility that sickness comes as a result of having committed sin. Unfortunately, there are some old fashioned fundamentalists who believe that every time you get sick is because you’ve sinned against the Lord, but the Scripture simply doesn’t teach this. It does teach that sometimes sickness can be a result of sin in our lives. Sickness can be the result of committed sin in three ways: 1) Sickness can be the following consequence of committed sin, 2) sickness can be the way God disciplines you when sin is committed, or 3) sickness can be what God uses as a means of judgment. Let’s talk about each of these individually.

  1. Sickness can be the consequence of having committed sin. By this I mean that some people get sick as a consequence of their actions. It doesn’t necessarily mean the Lord is punishing or disciplining them, it’s just reality taking place. Someone who gets blackout drunk cannot expect to be healthy and well the next morning! Or if you constantly eat junk food you’re not going to be healthy. If you don’t take care of your body, you will succumb to sickness more often. Sometimes sickness is merely eating the fruit of your deeds. Fruit is a result of what is sown, and what kind of fruit you eat depends on what deeds you have sown. When you commit certain sins which will inevitably affect your health, you are the reason why sickness was brought upon you.
  2. Sickness can be the discipline of the Lord. Sickness is one of the most severe forms of God’s discipline of His children. Sometimes it’s the only thing that will get our attention. We have an example of this in Paul’s instructions about the Lord’s Supper in 1 Corinthians 11. The Corinthians were misunderstanding and abusing the Lord’s Supper, namely, observing it in an “unworthy manner” (v. 27). Because they wouldn’t stop doing so, Paul says, “That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died” (v. 30). God disciplined the believers there through weakness, illness, and even death. Another example of this is found in Psalm 6, where David prays a prayer of repentance. Apparently, he had committed sin. He doesn’t say specifically what it was, but it was obvious he was suffering from it. And one of the ways he was suffering was physically. He expresses in the psalm symptoms of an illness, which he appears to say is the Lord’s discipline. In v. 1 he acknowledges that God is disciplining him, and he notes that his “bones are greatly troubled” (v. 2), and that he is “weary” and “weak” (vv. 6-7). Although he doesn’t specifically say that he was physically ill, he certainly was not physically well. As a form of discipline, God allowed for him to experience great pain and it was probably some form of illness. Clearly, God can use sickness as a severe form of discipline upon His children. For determining whether or not your sickness is God’s discipline, look to see if you have unrepentant sin in your life or a pattern of serious sin. The reason I say that is because sickness is usually one of the most severe forms of God’s discipline. If He’s already tried to get your attention through other means and you still haven’t repented, He may resort to a more severe method of discipline – sickness.
  3. Sickness can be the means of the judgment of God. Finally, sometimes sickness can be the way God executes judgment upon an individual or individuals. Let me clarify at this point: the words judgment and discipline are not the same. Judgment refers to God’s punishment of sinners, discipline refers to God’s fatherly discipline of His children. And sometimes God will use sickness as manifestation of His judgment on the nonbeliever. There are several examples of this in the Bible. One example is in Exodus, where God caused a plague of “festering boils” to come upon the Egyptians in an effort to free His people from slavery (Exodus 9:9). Granted, boils aren’t an illness like a cold or the Flu, but they are in the category of physical ailments like illness. Another example is in Daniel, where God smote king Nebuchadnezzar with mental illness, changing his mind into “the mind of an animal” (Daniel 4:16). The king completely lost his mind and began acting like an animal (v. 33). When God deems it necessary, He will use sickness and other physical ailments as means of judgment.

Sickness is real and it exists because of sin’s effect on the world. It may or may not be the result of committed sin. Sometimes sickness is circumstantial because of the world we live in. Sometimes it is consequential – the direct result of your actions. Sometimes it is God’s discipline, meant for your repentance. And sometimes it is the means which God chooses to use to execute His judgment.

There are two more important matters I want to note in passing. The first is a pressing question often asked when talking about the subject of sickness: why are some people healed of sickness and others are not? The overarching answer is simply this: it either was or wasn’t the will of God. If God wills something, it will occur. If God doesn’t will something, it will not occur. And whatever God wills will always be for His glory. So, healing may or may not be God’s will for an individual who is sick. Why sometimes it is His will and other times not, we cannot know for sure. It is certainly not because an individual didn’t have enough faith. Some proponents of the health, wealth, and prosperity “gospel,” say that the reason why Christians don’t experience healing is because they didn’t have enough faith – their faith was the reason God didn’t heal them. Such a teaching is man-centered, non-biblical, and false. For believers who are sick, there is great hope even if they don’t receive healing. God uses physical ailments for His glory (see the story of the blind man in John 9), and believers can cling to the promise that “for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). Those who do not believe cannot hope in that promise, for they are not those who “love God,” and they are not “called according to his purpose.” The second thing worth noting here is the obligation that Christians have to care for those who are sick. Scripture tells us that we should visit the sick (Matthew 25:36) and pray for them (James 5:14). It reveals much about our love for the Lord and for the brethren when we fulfill those responsibilities.

What Does the Bible Say? is a question and answer series which seeks biblical answers to pressing questions.

  1. George Shaw Cook, “The Remedy for Illusion,” Christian Science Sentinel. www.sentinel.christianscience.com/shared/view/50tfglv60w (accessed June 16, 2018).

26219980_2002699353334045_1898487006197556984_n.jpgBrandon is the founder and main contributor to Brandon’s Desk, the blog with free Christian resources from his ministry. He is proud to be the pastor of the family of believers at Locust Grove Baptist Church in Murray, Kentucky. He and his wife, Dakota live there with their dog, Susie.

Jonah: Something Fishy (1:3-17)

Jonah: Something Fishy (1:13-17)

The Text

“13 Nevertheless, the men rowed hard to get back to dry land, but they could not, for the sea grew more and more tempestuous against them. 14 Therefore they called out to the LORD, “O LORD, let us not perish for this man’s life, and lay not on us innocent blood, for you, O LORD, have done as it pleased you.” 15 So they picked up Jonah and hurled him into the sea, and the sea ceased from its raging. 16 Then the men feared the LORD exceedingly, and they offered a sacrifice to the LORD and made vows. 17 And the LORD appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights” (Jonah 1:13-17, ESV).

Out of Options

We now read about what these sailors do as a result of their deadly situation. Even though Jonah asks them to throw him overboard (1:12), they do not want to kill God’s prophet so they attempt to get back to dry land. “Nevertheless, the men rowed hard to get back to dry land, but they could not, for the sea grew more and more tempestuous against them” (v. 13). They know Jonah is a serious problem, but they do not want to be held responsible for killing the prophet of such a powerful God (1:14). Dry land is where they want to be, and you can visualize the back-breaking, vein-pumping rowing of the sailors as they try to fight against God’s storm. But does that work? No because, “the sea grew more and more tempestuous against them.” This storm was growing more violent, more dangerous, and more terrifying. So what happens next?

“Therefore they called out to the LORD, “O LORD, let us not perish for this man’s life, and lay not on us innocent blood, for you, O LORD have done as it pleased you” (v. 14). They do not want to die simply because they have taken on a passenger with a pursuing God. They have run out of other options. They have tried calling on other gods and lightening the ship (1:5), asking Jonah to pray (1:6), casting lots (1:7), interrogating Jonah (1:8), and rowing (v. 13). Their fear is that they will die for doing something they really don’t want to do: participating in God’s judgment on Jonah.

Realizing that they are out of options, they reluctantly proceed with Jonah’s request: “So they picked up Jonah and hurled him into the sea, and the sea ceased from its raging” (v. 15). You can picture it, about three or four strong-armed sailors picking up the prophet and throwing him into sharp waves—and after that, hearing sigh of relief as they see that the waters are now calm. And in v. 16 we read an amazing statement: “Then the men feared the LORD exceedingly, and they offered a sacrifice to the LORD and made vows” (v. 16). They fear God exceedingly. These men aren’t terrified of dying like before (1:5), they are no longer afraid of a God they don’t know (1:10). This is a different type of fear. Because this fear results in that they “offered a sacrifice to the LORD and made vows.” This fear was a reverence for a sovereign God that resulted in their changed lives. Now this text does not tell us whether this new appreciation for the Lord of heaven, land and sea is lasting (whether they keep their “vows”). Nonetheless, this passage describes something new for the sailors in relationship to Yahweh, Jonah’s God. They fear God because they have witnessed His power over creation and because He has honored their prayer for deliverance. Even in Jonah’s disobedience, God has made him effective in his calling as a prophet: bringing people to faith in God.

Readiness to Receive

These sailors provide us an excellent example by their readiness to acknowledge their helplessness, hear Jonah’s witness, act on it , and worship the true God. They hear Jonah’s witness to Yahweh and believe his witness. They, like Jonah, run from the difficult action required of them (throwing Jonah overboard) but realize the futility of rowing against God’s storm. They surrender, believing a seemingly impossible word from God, that God’s appointed man will actually die for their salvation. They believe and worship God.

When we acknowledge that we are helpless without God (Rom. 5:6), hear the gospel witness (Eph. 1:13), and act on that gospel witness—our lives will be changed forever. But will we? Apart from the grace of God we won’t, according the the Bible. The Scriptures teach that our rebellion against God is total, and we are unable to submit to God and do good to His honor. “The mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (Rom. 8:7-8). We have deceitful hearts (Jer. 17:9), and “we are going to follow our own plans, and each of us will act according to the stubbornness of [our] evil heart[s]” (Jer. 18:12).

Who can surrender to such difficult demands in faith? Indeed, we cannot. But God in His mercy calls us by His Spirit. Martin Luther writes, “I believe that I cannot, by my own understanding or effort, believe in Jesus Christ my Lord or come to him. But the Holy Spirit has called be by the gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith. . .” Similarly Basil of Caesarea says, “You have not known God by reason of your righteousness, but God has known you by reason of His goodness.”

The Great Fish

The pagan sailors have experienced salvation under difficult demands and this is great for the sailors, but we are left asking, what happens to Jonah? Is this the end of the story for God’s prophet? In v. 17, the author concludes this chapter and says, “And the LORD appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.” Jonah was in the sea, and God saved him from death by appointing a great fish to swallow him. Was it a whale? Probably, but we cannot be dogmatic and say that it was, even if a large sperm whale would’ve had no struggle swallowing a man of Jonah’s size. The point here is that God appointed it to happen and it was a miracle.

Was Jonah Really Swallowed by a Great Fish?

There are many skeptics who say that this story is fictional because that could never happen. Some people conclude, then, that the account of Jonah isn’t really historically true. Some say that this event wasn’t literal. That’s what I want to examine briefly. Can this event be logically true?

First, many just do not believe that miracles happen. Some reject all supernatural claims and so when they read an account like this, they feel justified in thinking that the story of Jonah is a made-up story. Don’t be surprised when you encounter people who are naturalists and reject all supernatural.

Secondly, miracles are not common things. We shouldn’t expect to find too many other people (if any) surviving being fish food. But just because something happens rarely or only once in history is not reason to reject that it ever happened. After all, how many times was Abraham Lincoln assassinated? Exactly as many times as we know of people being swallowed by a fish and surviving.

Thirdly, 2 Kings 14:25, which is clearly a history book, mentions Jonah as a prophet who really existed. Since there are no reasons to think 2 Kings mixes real history with characters from fanciful tales, we have good reason to think Jonah was a real person.

Finally, the best reason for believing that Jonah’s being swallowed was actual history is because Jesus believed it to be true. In Matthew 12:39-41, Jesus used Jonah’s entombment in the fish as a way of verifying His own authority and teaching. “For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (v. 40, ESV). If Jesus’ genuine bodily resurrection is to be understood in light of Jonah, then Jonah’s experience must have also been genuinely historical. If Jonah’s story is not real history, then Jesus’ reference to it makes no sense. Of course, those who reject Jonah as real history most likely reject the bodily resurrection of Jesus for the same anti-supernatural reasons. But the evidence for Jesus’ bodily resurrection powerfully supports it as real history. So for Jesus’ parallel work, Jonah’s experience must also be real history.

Also, Jesus said that the men of Nineveh, who repented at Jonah’s message, would stand up and judge the current generation for not repenting at Jesus’ proclamation (Luke 11:32). This is an empty threat unless the people of Nineveh did in fact repent. Here again, the non-historical view falls apart. So we have good reasons to accept Jonah being swallowed by a “great fish” as real history. The rejection of this account as history is the real fish story (for further scientific study see Jonah and the Great Fish)

Don’t Get Distracted

The focus however, should not be on Jonah’s miraculous residence inside the fish. The focus of the author here is on the fact that God delivered Jonah from death in this way. God rescued Jonah from drowning. Through the agency of this big fish, Jonah is forgiven and saved (Jonah 2). Also, the storm is stilled and the sailors worship the true God, and eventually the Ninevites receive the message from Jonah, repent, and are saved. In this way the bigness of the “unbelievable” fish is finally about God’s saving way in the world. The great fish makes a specific point of God’s extravagant, unrelenting, pursuing, and saving love.

Conclusion: God’s Mercy

The storm is God’s severe mercy for Jonah and the sailors; it is necessary in order to deliver them from their own lives. I say that God’s mercy here is severe because God will wreck your plans when he sees that your plans are about to wreck you. And that is for your good and for His glory. God does not let Jonah go or leave him to wallow in his rebellion, but He quickly brings him to repentance. He pursues him through the storm and gives him an opportunity to fulfill his prophetic calling before the sailors, to good effect. God assigns a fish to rescue Jonah from drowning, saving both Jonah and his aborted mission.

You’ve Got Questions: Does God Exist?

You’ve Got Questions: Does God Exist?

It’s the most significant question of all time: Is there a God, or isn’t there? How can we believe in Christianity if we don’t even know whether God exists? There are many arguments for the existence of God and these arguments attempt to analyze the evidence, especially the evidence from nature, in extremely careful and logically precise ways, in order to persuade people that it is irrational to reject the idea of God’s existence. It is “the fool” who says in his heart, “There is no God” (Psalm 14:1). Belief in God’s existence is not based on some blind hope apart from any evidence, but it is based on an overwhelming amount of evidence from both the Bible and Creation. These evidences can be seen as valid proofs for the existence of God, even though some still reject them. Why should you believe in God?

Cause and Effect

Proving God’s existence by observing the world around us begins with affirming what is most obvious in all reality: things exist. There is no rational argument that can deny that things exist. Also, there is no rational argument that can deny that the universe exists. If the universe exists, then it must have had a beginning. The universe had a beginning; therefore, the universe had a cause. This is the Law of Cause and Effect, every effect must have a cause. In other words, everything that happens has a catalyst; everything that came into being has something that caused it. Things don’t just happen by themselves. So, when you consider the fact that every known thing in the universe has a cause, you are left asking, “Who or what caused the universe?”

That cause, being outside the whole universe, is God. Many argue that some things are caused by other things, but this does not solve the problem. This is because those other things had to have causes, too, and this cannot go on forever. For example, all trees began to exist at some point (for they have not always existed). Each tree had its beginning in a seed (the “cause” of the tree). But every seed had its beginning (“cause”) in another tree. There cannot be an infinite series of tree-seed-tree-seed, because no series is infinite—it cannot go on forever. All series have two endings at the end and at the beginning. So in relation to the cause of the universe, something that does not need to be given existence must exist to give everything else existence. This something would have to always exist, have no cause, have no beginning, have no limit, be outside of time, and be infinite. That something is God. This affirms the foundational verse for the entire Bible, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1).

Created With Purpose

We already know that the universe requires a Creator, but what about the design, harmony, and order of the universe? The orderly world in which we live clearly demonstrates that a great mind was behind its arrangement. The Bible identifies God as that great intelligence. So, the existence of God is also proven by the order and useful arrangement in the universe. When we are walking on a beach and find a wristwatch, we do not assume that time and random chance produced the watch from blowing sand. Why? Because it has the clear marks of design—it has a purpose, it conveys information, it is specifically complex. No scientific field considers design to be spontaneous; it always implies a designer. With all the design evident in our universe, it’s no wonder Job says, “But ask the beasts, and they will teach you; the birds of the heavens, and they will tell you; or the bushes of the earth, and they will teach you; and the fish of the sea will declare to you. Who among all these does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this? In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind” (Job 12:7-10 ESV).

We know that every life form in Earth’s history has been highly complex. For example, the amount of information in the 3 billion base pairs in the DNA of every human cell is equivalent to that in 1,000 books of encyclopedia size. Similarly, the human brain has approximately 10 billion gigabytes of capacity. Besides living things here on Earth, the whole universe seems designed for life. There are literally hundreds of conditions necessary for life on Earth—everything from the mass density of the universe down to earthquake activity must be fine-tuned in order for life to survive. The random chance of all of these things occurring is literally beyond imagination. Wayne Grudem writes, “Since the universe appears to be designed with purpose, there must be an intelligent and purposeful God who created it to function this way.” (1)

The Lawgiver

Human beings are unique among God’s creation in that we are moral creatures. That’s one of the many things that separate us from the animals—we have a distinctive knowledge of right and wrong, and so for example, we set up court systems with punishment for wrongdoing. So, we need to face the fact that all people recognize some moral code—that some things are right, and some things are wrong. In fact, every time we argue over right and wrong, we appeal to a higher law that we assume everyone is aware of, holds to, and is not free to arbitrarily change. If right and wrong imply a higher standard or law, then that law requires a lawgiver. There must be a God who is the source of right and wrong and who will someday mete our justice to all people. We see that even the most remote tribes who have been cut off from the rest of civilization observe a moral code similar to everyone else’s.

Differences certainly exist in civil matters, but things bravery and loyalty, greed and cowardice, are universal. If man were responsible for inventing this code of morality, then it would differ as much as every other thing that man has invented. Romans 2:14-15 says, “For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness. . .” (emphasis mine). Paul is saying here that the Gentiles’ consciences attest to what is right and what is wrong in their behavior. Paul isn’t saying that the testimony of human conscience is always a perfect moral guide, but the very existence of this testimony is sufficient to render people accountable to God. Without God there would be no objective basis for morality, no life, and no reason to live it. Yet all these things do exist, and so does God.