(First published in April 2005)
Atheists argue that according to the “myth” of the Garden of Eden, evil had too innocent a beginning to be the root from which all the wickedness on this earth could possibly have grown. Adam and Eve merely ate some forbidden fruit—an act hardly worth getting upset about. “Eve talked me into it, Lord, and I did it to share with her, but I only took one bite.”…“But the serpent deceived me, Lord; I thought it would make me wise…and it was delicious and nutritious.”
How could such a simple act bring the horror of selfishness, jealousy, lust, hatred, rage, revenge, crime, war, disease, suffering, and death that has plagued mankind ever since? The biblical claim seems absurd! For this one tiny mistake, God was so upset that He threw them out of the Garden and sentenced them to death? Why couldn’t God have just forgiven them—given them another chance? Wouldn’t that have been reasonable?
The answer to that question is what the Bible is all about. The question itself reflects an easy-going attitude toward sin and a lack of respect for authority that permeates our society and has even penetrated evangelical churches. “Give me one more chance” became the mantra of the human race, repeated endlessly by everyone from disobedient children to the worst criminals pleading with the judge. God knew that “one more chance” would only encourage evil-doers. But parents, schools, courts, parole boards, psychologists, and well-meaning do-gooders are still honoring this lame excuse—and with devastating results.
A raging epidemic of what the Bible calls “sin” has ravaged mankind. The courage to face that truth, however, is sadly missing from most of today’s pulpits. Few dare call it rebellion against our Creator for which we need to repent. God’s judgment and the coming day of reckoning are much too negative to hold the interest of modern congregations. Talk about God must be positive, uplifting, reassuring. None of this “separated from God by sin” talk will do. The “unchurched” are not going to be attracted to church if they are confronted with suggestions of guilt. Sermons should inspire listeners to feel comfortable about God and about themselves. And they must be short, entertaining, and related to the “good life” the world dreams of attaining.
Yet the “good life” isn’t life at all but a plastic bubble defined by sit-coms and TV commercials sold to us by a whole industry of denial and designed specifically to insulate us from the awful truth of which the Spirit of truth would convict us: “of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment” (Jn:16:8). The game is to glorify sin, mock the family, and pretend that suffering, sorrow, and death aren’t part of “our world,” or at least to push them into another compartment that doesn’t have to be dealt with just yet.
The real world is inhabited by self-centered descendants of the original pair who rebelled against God under the leadership of the serpent. What popular pulpits must avoid at all cost, however, is the horrible truth that man has been the devil’s
follower and in his service from the very beginning. We’ll solve our problems with technology, another committee, another day in court, another peace conference, more catchy slogans, positive self-affirmations, and a little religion of whatever brand seems appealing at the moment.
God had spoken in wisdom and love, His creatures had rebelled—and “rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft” (1 Sam:15:23
). This has been the history of mankind. The world is getting worse, not better, and God’s judgment is soon going to fall. But unlike Adam and Eve, who were ashamed and tried to hide from God, their descendants openly defy Him and flaunt their mutiny in His face. They have thrown God off this earth and would tear Him from His throne in heaven if they could.
The trees of the Garden behind which Adam and Eve sought to hide have metamorphosed into an asphalt jungle of high-rise apartments and office buildings, with every monument to human achievement crowded with inhabitants who desperately need to repent and return to God on His terms through faith in the One who died for their sins. Scattered throughout the jungle have always been the mushrooms of religion, some more poisonous than others. And now something new has appeared—giant mushrooms spreading everywhere: mega-churches filled with congregants who are being taught a “positive” way to hide from God. He is praised with the lips, but there is no repentance toward Him or real faith in Christ as the Savior of sinners.
Instead of exposing modern culture’s contempt for God and righteousness and its glorification of sin, the church embraces its decadence as a packaging that will make the “gospel” acceptable to those who don’t know they need it. Our needing Christ as a shelter from the storm of God’s wrath against our sins is not mentioned. The appeal is not to come to Christ to obtain forgiveness and to be rescued from eternity in the Lake of Fire—but to become happier on earth. Christianity is packaged as “spirituality,” a popular commodity today, and sold as a good deal that anyone who wants to be “blessed” would accept. The real issue, however, is sin, not self-esteem, self-love, self-image, etc.—but as we mention in the Q&A, not only the world but the church, too, is peddling the snake oil of self-enhancement as the cure-all.
Nor is this self-centered message confined to today’s “seeker-sensitive” churches. Much of the evangelical church in America is preoccupied with “growth,” while millions suffering for Christ in much of the world are forgotten. The hundreds of thousands who are being slaughtered by Muslims in southern Sudan, in northern Nigeria, in Indonesia, and Christians suffering in other Muslim countries would be aghast if they knew that a major concern of Christians in America is how to feel good about themselves—and that when they don’t, they have the comforting option of therapy from Christian psychologists!
Genesis chapter 6 presents an astonishing picture: not many generations after the creation of Adam and Eve, their descendants (to whom they surely had passed along the story of their expulsion from the Garden) are so evil that God is ready to destroy them all. And He would have done so but for one man: “but Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD” (Gen:6:8). Only one man out of millions obtained grace from God!
How can that be? Does God reserve His grace for a select company? No, God’s grace is freely offered to all; it cannot be earned or merited or it would not be grace. So why was it only Noah who “found grace”? To find, one must seek (Mat:7:7; Lk 11:9). Noah was the only one who sought God’s grace! Noah knew that he was a sinner and needed God’s grace—and he alone sought and found it.
Hundreds of times in the Old Testament this same Hebrew word (matsa), which is here translated “found,” is given the same clear meaning: “Seek ye the LORD while he may be found (matsa), call ye upon him while he is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon” (Isa:55:6-7); “And ye shall seek me, and find (matsa) me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart” (Jer:29:13).
We must recognize our guilt in the face of God’s holy perfection, and come to Him in deep repentance seeking His grace, not to earn or merit it, but to obtain mercy at His throne of grace (Heb:4:16
). Instead, the church offers God’s favor to achieve happiness, success, and earthly blessings. We don’t really appreciate God’s grace until we realize that His righteous judgment is hanging over this present world as it was in Noah’s day. “Seek ye the LORD, all ye meek of the earth…it may be ye shall be hid in the day of the LORD’s anger” (Zep:2:3
We desperately need to understand something of the magnitude of sin, of evil, and of gross wickedness in this world if we are to appreciate our redemption. God’s love, grace, and mercy shine all the brighter against the awful reality of evil. Indeed, the very existence of evil is a powerful proof of God’s existence and holiness. God says, “I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil…” (Isa:45:7). God creates evil? Yes, the same way that light exposes darkness.
A person who was born, lived, and died in total darkness in a cave deep beneath the earth would not know that he lived in the dark until someone came into the cave with a light and the darkness was revealed. In the same way, God’s goodness, perfect holiness, and righteousness reveal evil for what it is. Without God and the conscience that He has given us we would not recognize evil. Indeed, evil makes good shine all the brighter—and this world is full of evil.
I wrote a book titled, Judgment Day: Islam, Israel and the Nations. It is a shocking exposé of evil beyond one’s wildest imagination manifest especially as anti-Semitism and hatred of Israel on the part of Islam and all nations—including Israel’s frequent betrayal by even the United States. God’s judgment is coming upon the entire world for its mistreatment of His chosen people. He declares, “I will also gather all nations [that includes America], and will…plead with [punish] them…for my heritage Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations, and parted my land [as every ‘peace proposal’ has done and Bush’s ‘road map to peace’ intended]” (Joel:3:2).
Evil is at its worst when it poses as good and justifies itself with lies. For example, consider the full-page, truth-defying diatribe against Israel, masquerading as a special news report in the National Catholic Reporter (4/26/96), which justified Islam’s murder and mayhem and blamed Israel for mistreating “Palestinians” in the city of Hebron. (This is where Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and their wives were buried, but not one Arab or Muslim. Yet Muslims have taken control and built a mosque there.) It says trouble started when Jews “began moving into Hebron 20 years ago.” In fact, though chased out periodically by invaders, Jews have been there for 3,000 years. Arabs only arrived after the seventh-century Muslim conquest and immediately began to brutalize the Jewish residents for failing to convert to Islam. That mistreatment has continued for more than 1,300 years. In the vicious pogrom in Hebron of 1929 (one of many), synagogues were desecrated, 67 Jews were murdered, and the rest forced to flee. Jews were slaughtered all over “Palestine.” Typical of what happened was the following report from the British police chief of Hebron: On hearing screams…I went up a sort of tunnel passage and saw an Arab in the act of cutting off a child’s head with a sword. Seeing me, he tried to aim the stroke at me but missed…. I shot him…. Behind him was a Jewish woman smothered in blood, with a man I recognized as an Arab police constable named Issa Sheril from Jaffa…standing over the woman with a dagger in his hand. He saw me and bolted into a room close by and tried to shut me out—shouting in Arabic, “Your Honor, I am a policeman.” I got into the room and shot him (Cited in Peters, From Time Immemorial, p. 315).
Years later, cautiously and fearfully, some Jews began moving back into one of their most sacred cities, a city where their patriarchs are buried. In 1948, Israel was attacked by six Arab nations. Jordan captured the West Bank and with it, Hebron. All Jewish residents were summarily expelled, synagogues destroyed. Only when Israel retook Hebron in 1967 could Jews return—and the National Catholic Reporter castigates them for doing so and blames the 400 Jewish residents under siege from 120,000 Muslims for causing trouble! Evil is praised as good—and seeker-friendly sermons don’t even acknowledge its existence!
The persecution of Jews in Roman Catholic Europe was mild compared with what Christians and Jews endured for 1,300 years in Muslim countries. The slaughter included more than 1 million Armenians in the last decades of the nineteenth and first of the twentieth centuries—at times with the tacit approval of Western powers. In the great 1915 massacre, “Turkish women were given the dagger to give the final stab to dying Armenians in order to gain credit [with] Allah for having killed a Christian.”
In Ataturk’s destruction of Smyrna (leaving nothing but the Turkish suburb) in September of 1922, about 200,000 Armenian and Greek inhabitants were massacred while English, American, Italian and French warships anchored in the harbor repelled fleeing victims who swam out to them for help. The Western powers didn’t want to offend Muslim Turkey! In his must-read book, The Blight of Asia, George Horton, US Consul in that doomed city and eye-witness to the unspeakable cruelty of Islam, writes, “One of the keenest impressions which I brought away with me from Smyrna was a feeling of shame that I belonged to the human race.” Shades of Genesis 6!
In its foreword, James W. Gerard, former US Ambassador to Germany, describes Horton’s book as “the whole story of the savage extermination of Christian civilization [by Muslims] throughout the length and breadth of the old Byzantine Empire….” Horton himself writes, “This process of extermination was carried on over a considerable period of time, with fixed purpose, with system, and with painstaking minute details; and it was accomplished with unspeakable cruelties….”
Sin is a horrible fact, in spite of the aversion that popular preachers have for facing its reality. The “positive” sermons in today’s mega churches make a mockery of the judgment that God will shortly unleash upon this wicked world. To lull sinners into thinking that all is well is to fatally deceive those for whom Christ died and to keep them from repenting and finding refuge in Christ from the wrath to come.