Why did God prefer Abel’s offering over Cain’s?

Genesis 4 begins with the story of Cain and Abel. The account is well known as the first murder in human history. Cain and Abel both brought offerings to God. Cain was a farmer and his offering was the fruit of his crops. Abel was a shepherd and his offering was a firstborn from his flock. God looked favorably on Abel’s offering but not on Cain’s. Cain was very angry over his rejection and in the end murdered his brother. What made Abel’s sacrifice acceptable to God?

Genesis says little about why God accepted Abel’s offering. In Genesis 4:7 God tells Cain, “if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door.” God’s assessment of Cain’s sacrifice was that Cain did not do good, but Genesis does not tell us in what way Cain erred.

Hebrews 11 adds a little insight to Abel’s sacrifice. “By faith Abel offered a more excellent sacrifice.” The reason God accepted Abel’s sacrifice was because Abel made his offering “by faith”. The difference between Cain and Abel was faith.

Cain brought an offering to God. He obviously believed in God and believed God should be worshiped. Cain’s lack of faith was something other than doubt about the existence of God. The rest of Hebrews 11 describes faith as believing God’s Word to be true and obeying His commands. In some way Cain did not believe and obey God’s Word.

Hebrews 11:4 says that God spoke well of Abel’s gifts. This may suggest that the kind offering Abel brought was part of what made it acceptable to God. The description of Cain’s offering and Abel’s offering in Genesis 4 seems significant. Cain brought produce, Abel brought a sheep. The pattern of sacrifices found later in the Bible reveals that God required His people to offer animal sacrifices. As Hebrews 9:22 says, “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” While Genesis does not say that God commanded Cain and Abel offer animal sacrifices, maybe Cain’s sacrifice was rejected because he did not obey God’s requirements for sacrifice.

In Genesis 3:15 God promised Adam and Eve He would send a deliverer who would rescue them from the horrors of sin. Maybe Abel was accepted because he believed God’s would send a deliverer and his offering was a reflection of his faith in God’s promise.

Possibly one of these suggestions is the correct answer. Possibly a combination of both. The Bible does not give a definite answer. Some questions cannot be fully answered with all the details we would like. The Bible clearly states that Abel’s sacrifice was accepted because he offered it by faith. Even today faith is required to come to God. “But without faith it is impossible to please Him: for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a reward of them that diligently seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6)

Does Carbon Dating Prove the Book of Genesis Wrong?

A literal reading of the book of Genesis results in the conclusion that God created everything over the course of one week. Using the Biblical record of births and deaths the week of creation has been dated as occurring about 4,000 BC. While there may be some room in the Biblical record for some additional years, most conservative theologians conclude the Bible indicates the age of the universe is less than 10,000 years old.

Scientists have developed multiple methods for determining the age of fossils on earth which show the earth is millions, even billions, of years old. The most familiar of these methods is carbon dating. Carbon dating routinely returns ages for fossils several times older than the Biblical age of the earth. Doesn’t this prove the Bible, and especially the book of Genesis, is wrong about the ancient history of earth?

Carbon dating is the process of measuring the decay of carbon in organic material. All living organisms contain a carbon isotope known as Carbon-14. Carbon-14 is naturally unstable and at death it begins to decay down to Nitrogen-14. This process takes place at a known rate and is calculated in terms of half-life. The half life is the amount of time it takes for half the atoms to decay. The half-life remains constant no matter how many atoms are involved. The half life of Carbon-14 is 5,730 years. If an organism died with ten Carbon-14 atoms in 5,730 years half will remain and 5 Nitrogen-1 atoms will exist in their place. In another 5,730 years, 2 1/2 Carbon-14 atoms (yes, I know you can’t have half a C-14, this is just an illustration) will remain and there will now be 7 1/2 Nitrogen-14 atoms. Scientists measure the amount of C-14 remaining in an object and are able to develop an estimate for when the organism died.

Think of a large hour glass in which it is known exactly how many grains of sand fall from the top to the bottom each second. By counting the grains of sand remaining in the top the observer can tell how long ago the hourglass was turned over.

The process sounds simple enough, especially in a very simplified explanation like this one. Carbon dating, and all similar dating methods, have serious problems. Carbon dating has been repeatedly shown to produce inconsistent results. The same object tested multiple times has resulted in widely different dates. Also, tests of modern artifacts in which the date of the organisms death was known have produced results off tens of by thousands of years.

The biggest problem will all decay based dating methods is the assumptions made. Carbon dating assumes the amount of Carbon-14 present in the organism at death. The amount of Carbon-14 present at the death of a fossilized organism cannot be known for certain because no scientist was there to take an initial measurement. While the assumptions may be very plausible scientists do not know the amount of Carbon-14 present in an organism at its death.

If the imaginary hourglass had less sand in the top than was assumed then the measured time interval be greater because of the error in the initial assumption.

Carbon dating sounds like a very scientific and accurate way of determining when a fossil died. Christians are tempted to believe the organism lived many thousands of years ago because smart men have worked out an ingenious and complex method of measuring time.

Carbon dating does not measure time. Carbon dating is a very accurate way of measuring how much carbon and nitrogen isotopes are contained in a particular specimens at the time of testing. The time measurement is speculation based on certain assumptions whose validity cannot be tested or proven. Don’t let smart sounding words shake your confidence in God’s Word.

What is the cosmological argument for the existence of God?

In classical apologetics two major arguments for the existence of God are based upon observations of the natural world. The teleological argument argues that the evidence of design in the world is evidence of a God who created it all. The cosmological argument argues that because the universe exists it must have a beginning and a Being who brought it into existence.

The longer form of the cosmological argument begins with the statement that the physical universe exists. Everything that exists in the physical realm must have a cause. The cause cannot be the universe itself. The cause must exist outside the universe and have the ability to bring the universe into existence. The cause that brought the universe into existence is God. Because the universe exists, God exists.

This argument finds support in the observations of science. No natural mechanism is known by which something can arise from nothing. The normal arrangement of the world shows the things that exist in the physical world have their source in things with an earlier existence. Everything we observe is contingent upon an ancestor or a creator. The first law of thermodynamics seems to support this argument with its declaration that energy cannot be created or destroyed. Since the physical universe exists and it could not have risen from nothing it must have a source great enough to bring the universe into existence.

Like other arguments from classical apologetics the cosmological argument is primarily a philosophical argument. The proofs offered by this argument are not based upon physical evidences for an act of creation, but upon the logical necessity of a causative agent bringing the universe into existence. This argument is easier to understand and explain than the ontological argument because it is based upon premises which are more familiar to the average person. This line of reasoning may be reflected in Psalm 19, “The heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament sheweth His handywork.” All creation speaks to the necessity of a Creator. Because this universe exists there must be One who brought it into existence. To know the nature of this Creator a person must turn to the Bible. Genesis 1:1 simply states, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” The reality of God can be glimpsed in creation, but the character of God is only found in the Bible. He has revealed Himself clearly through His Word. God’s command to all men is to believe His Word.

Were the pyramids grain silos built by Joseph?

In 1998 Presidential candidate Ben Carson declared during a commencement address that he believed the pyramids were grain storage facilities built by the Joseph of the Old Testament. His statements recently were resurrected and have resulted in some scorn by the media. Mr. Carson does not claim the Bible teaches this, but offers it as his own theory to explain the existence of the pyramids. Is this true? Does the Bible give any evidence that can help us evaluate the validity, or even the plausibility, of this conjecture?

To start with the Biblical background, Joseph was the great-grandson of Abraham. Through a series of tragic events, Joseph ended up a slave in an Egyptian prison. Pharaoh had two very odd dreams. In one dream, seven fat cows were eaten by seven emaciated cows. In the other dream, seven full, healthy stalks of grain were overtaken and consumed by seven withered stalks of grain. Pharaoh demanded to know the meaning of those dreams. When none could interpret the dreams, Joseph was brought before the king. God revealed to Joseph the meaning of the dreams. Egypt would experience seven years of great bounty in which the crops would produce over abundantly followed by seven years of famine.

At Pharaoh’s command, Joseph was elevated to the second highest position in Egypt. He was given the responsibility to collect a sufficient store of food during the seven good years and then distribute the stored grain to the nation during the seven years of famine. To store up enough grain to feed for seven years a nation of nearly seven million people would require massive storage facilities. To accommodate the need of increased storage space Joseph probably would have ordered the construction of new grain silos.

What does the Bible tell us about these storage sites? Genesis 41 says Joseph went through the entire nation and gathered grain during the seven years of plenty. Verse 48 says, “The food of the field, which was round about every city, laid he up in the same.” Every city stored grain grown from the surrounding areas. Each city was the central storage site for the regions around. If the pyramids were used as storage facilities, then one would naturally expect a pyramid to be located in or near every major city of ancient Egypt. Archeology has discovered pyramids in and around the different ancient capital cities, but it do not seem that every city of Joseph’s era is associated with a pyramid.

This is not a matter of great importance, but it does help illustrate how to think through claims made about the Bible. The Bible does not make the claim that pyramids were used as storage facilities. The Bible does not tell us what kind of storage facilities were used. All that Genesis says about the matter is that Joseph established storage sites in every city. The silence of the Bible leaves a lot of room for speculation (which is what Ben Carson was doing). What is said does not seem to support the claim that the pyramids were ever used as storage warehouses, but no definitive statement can be made based upon Scriptures.

What would happen to Christianity if alien life is discovered?

Assume for a moment that life is discovered somewhere else in the universe. How does extraterrestrial life fit into a Biblical framework? If alien life is found, would it completely undermine the reliability of the Bible? A proper answer to that question would depend in part on the kind of life discovered. Before beginning to answer the question it is important to remember this is all hypothetical. No life of any kind, no matter how tiny, has ever been found anywhere else in our solar system. Some claims of evidences of life or the existence of materials necessary for life have been made, but those claims are notoriously difficult to test and verify. At this point no evidence exists that could reasonably lead one ot conclude there is life out there.

Popular science fiction focuses on alien life that intelligent or semi-intelligent. Of course, a movie about alien bacteria floating around in alien pond scum growing, dividing and floating around some more is about as entertaining as an elementary school biology film about the habits of earth bacteria. Science fiction entertainment requires alien life that is intelligent enough to produce conflict and drama. Intelligent life is not the only kind of life on earth. Consequently, to answer questions about alien life and the Bible one must consider the many different kinds of life.

From a Biblical perspective, alien life is not necessary. The purpose of God in creation is the revelation of His own glory. Life on other planets or in distant galaxies is not strictly necessary for the accomplishment of God’s eternal purpose. Of course, one could argue that life in the bottom of caves, under the Arctic ice and in the darkest depths of the ocean is not strictly necessary for the revelation of God’s glory. Regardless, from a Biblical perspective alien life is not neccessary to understand what God has revealed or for the accomplishment of what God has promised.

If life were to be discovered in the universe, it seems to me that microbial life is the most probable. The tiny bacteria that breakdown and recycle the elements of this earth might be found somewhere else fulfilling the same basic role they fulfill on the earth. Such a discovery would offer no proof of evolution, would not contradict any teachings of the Bible nor would it undermine any Biblical principles. The discovery of microbial life outside of earth would have no real impact on the Bible, creation or a Biblical worldview.

The discovery of a slightly higher order of life, like plants and animals, does not seem to be that likely, but granting the possibility for the sake of discussion what impact would such a discovery have on the Bible and Christians? Imagine in some future generation scientists develop a space ship capable of making the journey between the stars. During one an exploratory trip astronauts find a jungle planet, teeming with animal life. What impact would such a discovery have on Bible believers? As with microbial life, the presence of lower orders of alien life does nothing to undermine or destroy the teachings of the Bible. Life on another planet offers no more conclusive proof for evolution than does life on this planet. All such a discovery would mean is that God created other planets teeming with life that show off His power, majesty and eternal Deity.

Unfortunately, space has run out for this answer, so we’ll have to take up the matter one more time in the next article and consider a Biblical theology of intelligent alien life.

What about Aliens?

It seems that every few months there is another announcement of evidence of water on extra terrestrial bodies. The most recent one being the discovery of what appears to be an ancient lake bed on Mars. This announcement has more or less coincided with the release of a major movie about an astronaut stranded on Mars. The prospect of life somewhere besides earth is tantalizing. Astronomers spend huge amounts of time looking for evidence of life on other planets. Since water is key to life on this planet the search for life similar to that found on earth starts with the search for water. Many hope we will find life out there somewhere, many are convinced life exists elsewhere in the universe and a few believe extra terrestrial life has found us.

With the widespread allure of alien life, what is a Biblical framework from which to think about life originating somewhere other than earth? The Bible’s creation account must still guide the Christian’s life and thinking. Many who accept evolutionary explanations of life think there must be life elsewhere. The sheer magnitude of the universe and vast number of stars has convinced some that extra terrestrial life is a certainty. The Biblical perspective is silent about any physical life outside of earth. The Bible is not silent about the origin of all life. The creation of all life happened because of the decree of God. Any life in the universe exists because it was created by God during the six days of creation. All Biblical references to the creation of life only describe the creation of life on earth. Admittedly, this is not conclusive that God did not create any kind of life anywhere else, but the only creation of life that God reveals to man is that of life on earth.

The Bible also declares the entire universe has been cursed by man’s sin. Romans 8 says “For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.” This means that any life found in the universe is going to be suffering under the curse of sin. Utopia and the salvation of civilization will never be found off planet. This also means that man has a very unique position in the whole of creation. Genesis 1 and 2 announce this with the declaration that man was created in the image of God and given dominion over the earth. Romans 8 shows just how far that uniqueness extends. Because of man’s sin, all 32 billion light years of the universe are cursed. If there is life elsewhere, it labors under the curse of sin and longs for the time when Christ will make all things new. If there is life elsewhere, man still has a unique position among all creation. In the next article we’ll consider some questions of what effect the discovery of alien life would have have on this Biblical world view.

Why is Creation so Important?

Biblical creationism is important because of the effect a wrong understanding of Genesis has on the whole of Scripture. The devastation of misunderstanding Geneis is most catastrophic when it comes to Jesus and His death on the cross for salvation. When one treats the accounts of creation as spiritual, symbolic or allegorical he leaves no rational basis on which to conclude Jesus’ death and resurrection for salvation from sin is anything but spiritual, symbolic or allegorical. While many view Genesis as an allegory and Jesus’ death for sin as a historical reality, their affirming the truth about Jesus is not a result of the symbolic understanding of Genesis but contrary to it.

Why make such a strong statement? Multiple places in the New Testament draw a direct link between Jesus as the creator of Genesis and Jesus as the Savior of men. One of the reasons the Bible gives for Jesus’ ability and authority to redeem a people to Himself is that He is the creator of all. John 1 draws a clear line between the Creator and the Savior. The gospel of John intentionally copies the opening of Genesis, “In the beginning.” From the beginning of creation, John moves to discuss the one who is life, light and salvation. In the first chapter of his gospel, John introduces Jesus as the Creator who came into the world to give eternal life. In Colossians 1 Paul follows the same logical course John did. He introduces Jesus as the creator of all who took the sin of creation upon Himself on the cross. Hebrews 1 describes Jesus as God the creator who made all things and upholds all things. This same Jesus who is God the creator and God the sustainer cleansed men of sin by His death on the cross. These passages draw a significant theological and practical connection between Jesus as the Creator and Jesus as the Savior.

Some may object that these passages do not repeat the Genesis depiction of creation. One can affirm Jesus as creator through evolutionary means without undermining the truth of Jesus as Savior. This is simply not the case. In Colossians and Hebrews both passages refer to the historical events of creation, without describing the details, and to the historical events of redemption, also without describing the details. The authors clearly expected the readers to have a Biblical, historical understanding of the events to which they referred. The absence of specific details about the creation week does not mean they are up for debate, unless one is also willing to leave the details of Jesus death and resurrection open for debate. How hopeless it would be if man had nothing but a metaphorical Savior who erases metaphorical sins and promises a metaphorical heaven! If the Savior and His salvation are concrete realities, the creative work must be as well. To re-interpret those first passages which tell us of the creation and the God who created is to leave one open for reinterpretation the later work of the Creator God to redeem His creation.

Why is Creation so important?

On the last two Sundays of March the Everlasting Truths broadcast team aired two hours of discussion about Biblical creationism. Biblical creationism is the belief that the account of creation found in Genesis 1 and 2 is an accurate record of historical events that occurred as described in those two chapters. To some, this may seem to be a lot of time invested in something that is, at most, of secondary importance. If science has discovered life evolved as a product of chance mutations occurring over millions of years, why should Christians get in a lather and say that science is wrong? At first glance creation may seem to be unimportant in view of larger message of the Bible. In reality, the creation account of Genesis is vital to the rest of the Bible. A misunderstanding at the beginning threatens a correct understanding of the rest of the Bible.

A misunderstanding of the account of creation has profound impact on how views the Bible (and how one views the Bible has a profound impacton how one interprets the creation passages) and how one thinks about Jesus. Not that everyone who misunderstands Genesis will have a wrong understanding about Jesus and the Bible, but the logically consistent result of a rejected or wrongly understood Genesis is a wrong understanding of the Bible. Genesis is foundational to the rest of the Bible’s teachings. A wrong understanding of Genesis leaves the Christian with a weak foundation on which to build a Biblical theology. Without a sound Genesis foundation the Christian is forced to construct extra-Biblical buttresses and supports to uphold certain other doctrines.

Despite some arguments to the contrary, no grammatical or contextual reasons exist to conclude Genesis 1 and 2 are intended to be anything but historical fact. The words chosen and the structure of the verses show an obvious intent to declare a historical event. The later chapters of Genesis continue to communicate historical realities with the purpose of connecting the events of thousands of years ago to present day readers. The book of Genesis was written to provide the historical background of sin and the people of God. The book of Genesis was written as part of the basic foundational information needed for a right understanding of God and His plan to deliver men.

The events of Genesis 1 and 2 have an intentional connection to the rest of the history of Genesis. To doubt the creation accounts historical accuracy or to reframe it as an allegory leaves no rational basis for concluding any of the rest of Genesis is not also allegorical. If creation did not occur as described, did man sin as described? What about the flood of Noah, did that happen or is it an allegory for something else? How about the events at the Tower of Babel? Did the world rebel against God (again) and suffer God’s punishment of confusing language and dispersing the family groups, or is it a symbol of something else? If Babel in Genesis 11 is allegory, is Abraham in Genesis 12 also allegory? What about Isaac and Jacob? Is all the history of Genesis, the first 50 chapters of the Bible, just a massive picture of some other reality?

This same question also affects the rest of the Bible. When the Bible describes impossible historical events, are those just allegorical accounts that do not communicate genuine facts? If the plain language of Genesis 1 and 2 can be discarded because it is difficult, conflicts with prevailing scientific knowledge and is scorned by most of the American elite, then what reasonable basis does anyone have to keep any of the other difficult, unpopular truths of the Bible. It is no exaggeration to say that a rejection of Biblical creationism leaves one without the sound foundation necessary to accept the rest of the Bible as true. At best, the reader’s acceptance becomes an arbitrary decision based upon the individual’s subjective conclusion of the importance of a Biblical feature.

Do you have to believe in Biblical creation to be saved?

Biblical creationism is a very important subject. A wrong understanding of the opening chapters of Genesis can have significant impact on how one understands the rest of the Bible. Often the impact of rejecting or reinterpreting the Bible’s creation account is far greater than one realizes. Creation is a foundational issue that influences many core Biblical teachings. As important as Biblical creation is, does one have to accept Genesis 1-3 as literal and historical truth to be be saved?

The Bible speaks in very clear terms about those things that are most important. When it comes to the matter of salvation, the Bible states exactly the principle truths that must be professed as part of the gospel. The Bible describes in no uncertain terms what must be confessed and believed to be saved.

1 Corinthians 15 defines the gospel, “Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:” These things must be proclaimed when giving the gospel and must be believed to be saved. In Romans 10:9 Paul also describes the things which must be believed to be saved. “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.”

The things which must be believed for salvation are: Jesus is God. Jesus is God who died for our sins. Jesus’ death occurred just as the Old Testament said it would and the New Testament said it did. Jesus died, was buried and restored to life by God, just as the Bible says. To be saved one must admit his own guilt, acknowledge Jesus’ deity, accept Jesus death in place of the sinner and affirm Jesus is living now and forever.

Notice these verse do not mention anything about Jesus’ creation. Though creation is inextricably linked to the message of salvation and the work of Jesus, the Bible does not anywhere require that someone accept a literal reading of the creation account in order to be saved. This does not mean creation is a non-issue. One can be saved despite a wrong understanding of creation, but a wrong understanding of Genesis will be a serious detriment to faith, knowledge of the Bible and growth in Christ.

Does the fossil record disprove Biblical creation?

The fossil record is one of the most common objections raised against the belief in Biblical creation. The existence of countless creatures mineralized in the rock beneath our feet raises many questions. Those who believe the earth is billions of years old believe the fossils are evidence of a long progression of creatures dying out one at a time over epochs of earths’ history. A very small percentage of those animals were buried in mud and eventually became fossils.

The fossil record is used to raise two major objections against Biblical creation. The first objection is the existence of fossils in such great volume. If God created everything in six days less than ten thousand years ago, where did all the dead animals come from to form all the fossils being found today. Today the chance of something becoming a fossil is very, very small. The conditions required for fossilization don’t happen every time an animal dies. Many assume that because the conditions to form fossils are rare today, they have always been rare. Thus a very small number of the animals that have died have become fossils. The conclusion reached then is for there to be so many fossils in the earth, many animals had to die over a period of millions of years.

The second objection is the arrangement of fossils in the layers of rock. Though the classic geologic column taught in science classes can not be found as a single unit anywhere in the world, certain kinds of fossils are usually found in similar positions throughout the rock layers. Small sea creatures tend to at the bottom of the fossil layer, with fish and amphibians above them. Farther up are reptiles and mammals. At the very top are birds and hominids.

Rock layers are often believed to have bee formed over very long periods of time as the upper layer of ground is slowly covered over and compressed downward. The formation of a new upper layer of ground is thought to happen by catastrophic dust storms, volcanic eruptions or the long process of plants and animals dying and decaying. Because the process often takes a very long time, those fossils in the lower layers are believed to be much older than those in the upper layers. This general arrangement within the strata (rock layers) leads many to conclude that the deepest fossils are the most primitive because they had less time to evolve. The increase of complex creatures as the rock layers climb upward is seen as proof of animals advancing in complexity.

Once again space does not allow for a full answer on these issues, but the Bible gives sufficient evidence to offer legitimate and reasonable alternatives to the speculations of evolutionary science. Popular conception believes God because created one man and one woman and He also only created one male and female pair of every kind of animal. The Bible does not teach God only created two of each kind of animal. Genesis 1 indicates that God filled the earth with plants and animals. He filled the earth with vast numbers of animals.

The flood of Noah provides a powerful explanation for the many things found in the fossil record today. Because the flood began with the catastrophic opening of the fountains of the great deep, it is reasonable to assume those animals living in deep waters would be affected first. As the flood waters rose, those animals least able to escape would be affected next and then the more mobile until the most mobile and able were destroyed last. The sudden deluge of water that covered the earth would have created massive landslides, mud flows and currents filled with sediment and debris. The massive movement of dirt in the flood would have provided optimal conditions for the rapid formation of many layers of rock and many thousands of fossils.

The fossil record does not disprove creation. All the fossil record reveals is many thousands of dead things are buried in the layers of rock across the world. How one interprets the fossils depends on what one believes. God’s Word gives us sufficient information to explain the fossils without the need for millions of years, an increase of animal complexity or Darwin’s speculations.