The Serpent

Some time ago, a man asked: “Pastor Linzey, I am sure you have heard about Eve talking DSCN8248with a snake in the Garden of Eden. Do you really believe that non-sense?”

I’ve been asked that question on numerous occasions, but normally it’s worded a little more kindly.

The Scripture in question is Genesis 3 which starts with (KJV), “Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field.” The narrative continues with Eve carrying on a conversation with this being; then verse fourteen says, “And the LORD God said unto the serpent, because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life.” This story is crucial to understanding the history of mankind, the Bible, and our faith.

Several different Old Testament words are used for serpent and the translations or applications are: serpent, snake, image, dragon, fleeing serpent, whale, sea monster, river monster, dinosaur, fiery serpent, majestic beings, seraphim, afraid, worms, and crawling.  The word for serpent in Genesis 3:1 is nachash and has been rendered serpent; not because it was a snake, but because it hissed. In medieval literature we read that witches hissed. This word hiss means to prognosticate (know the future), whisper a magic spell or an enchantment. Snakes cannot do that, and that is the first clue that the serpent was not an animal.

Another thing to consider is that snakes don’t have vocal chords. That’s the second clue.

Thirdly, Genesis 1:28 says in part, “…Rule over the fish in the sea and over the birds in the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” Therefore, Eve would not take instruction from an animal even if it could talk. But she would take instruction from a god-like being. Hold on to that thought.

Genesis 3 starts out: “Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field….” The fourth clue is that this word “subtil” (subtle) means in part: cunning, crafty, shrewd, clever, intelligent. It also infers being bare, smooth, no fur, and to give bad counsel. The better versions do not say “more subtil than any other beast”; rather, “more subtil than any beast.” Even the wording here sets this serpent apart from the animal kingdom.

The serpent (snake) was considered a type of god in many other cultures around the world, and even in parts of Europe up to the 18th century. For example:

>Ningizzida (supposedly the ancestor of Gilgamesh) was sometimes depicted as a snake with a human head, eventually becoming a god of healing and magic.

>The Cambodian Khmer people are said to be the descendants of the Naga (snake god) – Princess Soma – and her husband.

>Quetzalcoatl (feathered serpent depicted here), was the principal god of the Aztecs.

>Olympias, the mother of Alexander the Great and a princess of the land of Epirus, claimed that the serpent (title for one of the gods) was Alexander’s father. This allowed Alexander to be deified. All involved fully understood that a snake was not being called Alexander’s father.

>The word serpent is of Latin origin (serpens, serpentis), is commonly used in a mythical or religious context, and was often related to deity.

Where am I going with this? Eve was not approached by a snake climbing a tree and eerily hissing or whispering at her. Eve, created in the image of God, would not have been persuaded by a lowly animal – even if it could talk.

It was, also, Lucifer, the fallen arch angel – not a snake – who met with and tempted Jesus in the desert. The Apostle Paul said (2 Corinthians 11:14) that Lucifer can appear as “an angel of light” (knowledge). God created Adam and Eve, and granted them more wisdom and knowledge than any other humans in history. They didn’t have a sin nature so they could not be tempted to sin. But God instilled a free will so they could make their own decisions.

As Lucifer tempted Jesus, he previously tempted Eve. Jesus was not deceived, but Eve was. Adam was not deceived: he disobeyed and made a bad decision.DSCN1638

The phrase “on your belly and dust you shall eat” is an old curse still used in the Middle-East today, and is meant to humiliate someone; but it doesn’t mean that the person will actually grovel in the dirt and eat dirt.

Conclusion: Eve, who had not seen God as Adam did, did not converse with a snake. Lucifer appeared in a form (Angel of Light) that resembled Adam’s description of God. We do not disdain or disparage women because of Eve. She was not ignorant or stupid: Satan tricked her. Eve was the most intelligent and the most knowledgeable woman ever to grace this planet. But Eve did not speak with a snake; rather she spoke with a being who looked like Adam’s description of God.

Is Man Changing the Earth into a Greenhouse?

“How many “ice ages” occurred? How long ago did the last one take place? Why is mankind allowed to continue generating a “greenhouse” effect?”

Based on the nature of his questions, the person asking them had already concluded that there had been several ice ages and that the earth is becoming a greenhouse. I tried to discuss the topic with him, but having a prejudicial viewpoint, he refused any attempt at open bilateral discussion. Maybe he was hesitant to talk with someone with a scientific background – I don’t know.

Some geologists tell us that the earth is about 4.57 billion years old; and if we don’t include the “snowball earth” hypothesis, the earliest ice age (called the Huronian glaciation) took place over two billion years ago. Some tell us that our earth has endured at least five major ice ages with the ice age cycle lasting from 44,000 – 110,000 years. We read “The precise causes of historical Ice Ages are unknown, but likely emerged due to a variety of factors…When the right variables are in place, an Ice Age begins….” I wonder how he came to that amazing conclusion.

Those statements and the accompanying rationale are vague and rather shallow. And their hypotheses on how the ice ages killed the animals do not stand up under scrutiny – especially in light of the current knowledge we have regarding frozen mammoths and mastadons that have been discovered.

According to the uniformitarian’s concept of ice ages, the earth starts getting colder; and it takes a few years to freeze large sections of fauna, flora, and the earth. Many smaller animals would freeze rapidly and in the oscillation of the daily temperatures they would thaw and be eaten by predators, or rot. And without thinking it through, many folk infer that the larger animals could also freeze solid at glacial temperatures without decomposition setting in. However, the larger animals would die at a slower rate, and because of the body mass and internal heat they would begin decomposing before they completely froze.

We have found many mastodons (4-6 tons) and mammoths (6-8 tons), many of which had undigested food in their mouths and stomachs. The evolutionary thought is that they became extinct in the last ice age – about 12,000 years ago. In that event, the mammoths would have died out at the end of the last ice age that supposedly started about 110,000 years ago. Isn’t it amazing, if that were true, that these animals could continue to live and have young throughout the ice age when there was almost no food – if any at all – then die out at the conclusion of the multi-thousand-year event? That is neither logical nor possible.

When I worked for the Frigidaire Company in the early 1970s, I came across research about how cold the home freezer should be. (By the way, it should be set between 0o F to +5o F.) In that research we found that in order to freeze a 2 ton elephant and prevent the food in its mouth and stomach from digesting, the beast needs to freeze solid within 30-45 minutes; and to achieve that goal we need a temperature of 150o below zero Fahrenheit. And to freeze a 6-8 ton beast within 30-45 minutes requires a temperature of -250o F (minus 157o C).  However, the coldest temperature ever recorded on earth is -128.6o F. That’s -89.2 C. Obviously, the evolutionary or uniformitarian ice age theories are not scientifically adequate to explain what we find in real life. But the Bible gives us hints as to what happened.

Thinking back on the young man’s questions above, it amazes me that many of the same people who give us the improbable (or impossible) story that huge animals froze solid quickly in a relatively warm ice age (-30 to -130o F) are the same who tell us that mankind is causing the assumed greenhouse effect now. My questions are: 1) If the technology of modern man is the cause of warming the earth now, what caused the warm-up between the mythical ice ages in the millennia gone by? Or 2) If the assumed warm-up events in millennia gone by happened due to natural causes (man wasn’t here to cause them), why blame mankind now? According to the evolutionists’ own hypotheses, we read “Around 130,000-110,000 years ago (the Eemian interglacial), the Earth’s climates were generally much like those of today, though somewhat warmer and moister in many regions.” (Emphasis mine.)

And they accuse mankind of causing a greenhouse effect? Incredible. Obviously there is more to life than what we are teaching in most of our schools – both public and private. I believe we need to study reality more closely and teach our students more objectively.

We, also, need to teach the truth found in the Holy Bible. You might be surprised at the information – geological, geographical, climatological, and much more – that you can find there; and you start with Genesis 1:1-2. We find that the earth was totally covered with water – not with ice, but water.

Next hint is from geology: we find frozen equatorial vegetation buried in the frozen tundra of Canada and Siberia.

Another hint is in Genesis 2:5 – It didn’t rain before the great flood but the earth was watered by dew and artesian springs.

And one more hint before we quit: Genesis chapter 6 starts the world-wide flood story. Whatever caused the flood also generated other catastrophic geological events – such as the earth being suddenly encumbered with ice. If we stop to think things through logically, we find that the Biblical account makes total sense, even in the scientific areas.

In the Beginning …

Why do some people believe that the universe has always existed while others believe that it had a beginning? Why do some folk believe that the entire cosmos was created about 6,000 years ago while others believe it is over 4.54 billion years old? Why do some folk believe it started with “And God said” and others believe it started with a “big bang”?

There is only one answer, and it is wrapped up in the word “believe” because there is no empirical, over-riding proof on which to base our conclusions. We have the Bible which is the true Word of God, and is the basis for our Judeo-Christian faith. But it’s still a basis for FAITH – it isn’t empirical proof for the non-believing world.

Leon Lederman said in his book, The God Particle:

“In the very beginning, there was a void, a curious form of vacuum, a nothingness containing no space, no time, no matter, no light, no sound. A story logically begins at the beginning, but this story is about the universe and unfortunately there are no data for the very beginnings – none, zero. When you read or hear anything about the birth of the universe, someone is making it up–we are in the realm of philosophy. Only God knows what happened at the very beginning.”

I add to Lederman’s statement: “We are also in the realm of religion, and the Bible gives information about creation.”

However, even though Genesis chapters one and two give an overview of what God did in the beginning, there is still much speculation within Judeo-Christianity simply because God did not give us a definitive narrative of exactly what He did and exactly how He did it. For example, Genesis 1:1 says “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” We know that the word “heavens” means atmosphere. But does the phrase “In the beginning” apply to earth with atmosphere, our solar system, or to the entire cosmos? The Bible doesn’t specify, so we speculate (guess, reason, surmise, deduce, BELIEVE).

Another question: “If the entire cosmos was created and completed about 6,000 years ago, and if God has been here for AN EXTREMELY LONG FOREVER, did He do absolutely nothing until 6,000 years ago, or was He continuously a creator? The Bible doesn’t say, so we speculate. To clarify: postulating whether He continuously created for millions of years or didn’t create anything until 6,000 years ago is speculation and belief..

But the Bible does say: Jesus was born, died, rose from the dead [that has been verified historically], and returned to heaven in order to redeem man on this planet from sin. That means the Bible applies to mankind on this planet. But we cannot expect the Bible to address every question we might raise about the universe. However, speculation increases because mankind demands answers.

Arthur Eddington, who experimentally confirmed Einstein’s general theory of relativity in 1919, stated: “Philosophically, the notion of a beginning to the present order is repugnant to me and I should like to find a genuine loophole.” Eddington didn’t believe in “a beginning” because that infers a creator – God; and he rejected the concept of God to avoid accountability to God.

Albert Einstein eventually gave grudging acceptance to what he called “the necessity for a beginning” and to “the presence of a superior reasoning power.” But we don’t know if he actually accepted the reality of a personal God.

Jeffrey Burbidge, formerly an astrophysicist at the University of California at San Diego, favored the steady-state (the universe always existed) hypothesis and admitted that his view supported Hinduism, not Christianity. A steady-state universe, were it true, would support the endless-life-cycle belief taught by Hinduism; which means the steady-state hypothesis is a religious belief. Therefore, also a matter of faith.

That brings to mind, the cosmological argument: (a) Everything that exists must have a cause; (b) The universe does exist; therefore (c) The universe has a cause. And you can see the obvious conclusion of this concept: there is a Creator – God.

Why? To create something that does not exist, the creator must exist separately from the proposed creation; and the Bible tells us God created everything. Therefore, God existed prior to the creation episodes.

We have the privilege of believing what the Bible says because it has a proven historical track-record. Of course, some folk claim the Bible is very detailed and specific about creation while others say it is not. But rather than fighting about our interpretations or understandings, we should be encouraging each other to actively study the Bible.

Don’t fight or argue with non-Christians; it won’t prove anything. But discuss in a friendly manner. Don’t fight other Christians: that gives the world opportunity to blaspheme the Lord and defame the Church. After all, only God really knows when He created anything. Instead, agree where you can, build each other up in the faith, exalt the name of our Savior, Jesus Christ. And employ a maxim attributed to Saint Francis but probably originated by Marco Antonio de Dominis: In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.

Did God Create Evil?

When was the last time you heard that question? What was your answer? Or did you have a deer-in-the-headlights look on your face? The question is normally NOT asked in search of information, but either to strengthen the emotional barrier that blocks God out of a person’s life, or to hide some deep-seated hurts he is bearing. And he asks the question, knowing that he can shoot down most answers that people usually give. He’s done it many times and is good at it.

So, what IS the answer? You probably already know, but I’ll put it in a way that you can get a better handle on it. For starters, the following is a real interaction I heard back in California.

Challenger: “Did God make everything?” Christian: “Yes.”

Challenger: “That means God also made evil?” Christian: “No.”

Challenger: “Then God didn’t make everything?” Christian: “Well, uh …”

And the challenger was happy that he, once again, defeated a hapless Christian in a worthy debate.

But allow me to give you food for thought. I’ll ask several questions, but will also provide the answers since you’re not here to answer them for me.

Is there such a thing as cold? No, there is not. But we do have the concept of temperature where:

1) Absolute zero (absolutely no heat) is 459.67 degrees below zero F., minus 273.15 Celsius, and 0 on the Kelvin scale.

2) Fresh water freezes at sea level at 32 F, 0 C, and 273.15 Kelvin;

3) The average human temperature is around 98.6 F, 37 C, and 310.15 K;

4) 78 F in the house is 25.55 C, and 298.71 K.

So we cannot turn the cold up or down – we remove or add heat. And for the record, outer space (far away from stars and planets) is around 3 degrees Kelvin. If that makes you feel cold, put on a sweater or a jacket.

Is there such a thing as dark? Again, no. But we do have various intensities of light. Partial darkness (if it can be called that) is a reduction of the intensity of light, and total darkness is the total absence of light. The closest I have ever come to being in total darkness was in the big room of the Carlsbad Caverns – 700 feet below ground. They could not turn on the dark, but they did off the lights. And it was DARK!

Now we ask: Is there such a thing as evil? The answer once again is, no. Where cold is a reference to the reduction of heat, and dark is the reduction or absence of light, evil is the absence of or the rejection of the holiness of God. Evil is not a thing or a cause: evil is a result.

You may ask, “What about murder, rape, robbery, sexual deviancy, hatred, etc.?” I can tell you, on authority of Scripture, that none of that is in heaven where the pure holiness of God prevails.

The lower we set the temperature, the colder it gets. The lower the light setting, the darker it gets. So the lower the level of Godliness in our lives and in society, the higher will be the intensity of evil – murder, rape, sexual deviancy, drug abuse, etc.

Billy Graham never said, “If you will just stop living like you are, if you will just stop your sinning, you will become holy!” But he often said: “If you will come to Jesus and ask Jesus to forgive you for your sins, if you ask Jesus to come into your life, you can become a new person and learn to live for the Lord!”

We do not stop doing evil to become holy; but we come to Jesus and become holy and the result is that we stop doing evil. But learning to live for the Lord is a process: we do not become a mature Christian overnight.

If I trip and drop my coffee cup, I would not create a broken cup. Rather, the broken cup would be a result of my carelessness. Likewise, evil is not a thing or something created; rather, evil is the result of rejecting God – a lack of Godliness.

Our holy God did not create the devil, nor did he create evil. He created the angel Lucifer. But Lucifer – of his own free will – disobeyed, and evil is the result. Likewise, God did not create all the mess of humanity in this world. The mess is the result of rejecting a holy God.

If you want to see a reduction of evil, turn to the Lord and begin living for Him.

Origin, Meaning, Morality, Destiny

Where did we come from? Why are we here? What do we believe? Where are we going? There are many hypotheses, some theories, and a few facts that try to explain why and how humanity came into existence.

  1. Let’s begin with the first law of thermodynamics – well-accepted by the scientific community – which informs us that matter can be neither created nor destroyed. Matter can change shape, form, or state (ice, water, vapor, plasma), but matter cannot be made out of nothing or annihilated into nothing. That invalidates any Big Bang hypothesis – scientific or not.

To believe that something can be made out of nothing is either absurd, or is a manifestation of faith. Therefore, logically and scientifically, the mere presence of matter is a miracle and that requires a Creator. That takes us back to the Bible and answers the first question of our origin: God created us.

  1. Next, what is the meaning of life – of your life? Why are we here? If humanity and all the cosmos were merely a statistically impossible happenstance of nature, and if creatures such as the Spotted Owl, rare New Mexico Jumping Mouse, Northern Hairy-Nosed Wombat, or a kitten were more important than mankind, why do so many well-meaning people who don’t believe in mankind’s importance endorse expensive self-improvement, image-enhancing, and self-esteem seminars? Those would be a waste of time; but negating mankind’s importance does explain their obsession of infanticide by fetal abortion.

The fact that humans are self-aware supports the fact that there was planning and purpose for our existence, and that we were made in the image of our Creator. Those who accept that fact might understand the dynamic meaning for our existence. So, why are we here? God created us to fulfill HIS purposes. However, we must study the Holy Bible and ask God to reveal His specific purpose for our individual life.

  1. What about morality? Through the years I’ve read about many religions, andhave been surprised at their moral contradictions. Many who believe in being
    good, kind, etc., give no basis for doing so. Their standard is to “be good for goodness’ sake”. (Sounds like Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer.) However, there must be a reason for being good, or goodness means nothing. There must be a standard by which to measure goodness, otherwise no one knows if they are being good or not.

Many today claim that there is no absolute truth, and that we all must make our own path. My questions are, Who made up the law that murder is wrong? And if there is no absolute right and wrong, Who decided that slandering your integrity is wrong? Where did we learn that stealing is wrong?

Surprise! There is a standard – the Holy Bible – and God put moral laws in place for our good and to accomplish His purposes. God placed His law in our consciences which gave us the capability of being self-aware and of knowing Him (Genesis 1:26-27, Romans 2:13-16). This defines mankind as special and separates us from the animal kingdom.

  1. So, what is your destiny? Think about it. Since God created us, God gave us meaning, and God established morality, then our destiny will dynamically involve God. Keep in mind that your and my beliefs neither eradicate nor establish truth. Truth stands on its own foundation and we either accept or reject it. A group of people can sit in a circle for as long as they desire and think world peace as intently as they know how. But judge for yourself: Is it working? Of course not, because the world rejects the Prince of Peace – Jesus. If you don’t believe me, look at the Middle-East today.

Well, you don’t have to look that far: look at our own government.

How can we create our own eternal destiny? The simple answer is: we cannot. If we break our nation’s laws, the choices are set before us. Many times we are penalized in some way (pay a fine or lose privileges) or we go to jail. In like manner, when we break God’s laws the choices are set before us in Scripture – with our eternal destiny at stake. We cannot create our destiny, but we can choose one of the two options. God wants us to choose Door #1 and that is eternity in heaven with Him. But that requires us to put our faith in Jesus Christ for this option. The only other option, Door #2, is eternal separation from God. So, where are you going? John 3:16 – God so loved the world – that includes you and me – that He gave His only begotten son – Jesus, who died for us – that whosoever believes on Him will not suffer eternal death, but will live eternally in heaven with Him.

God Said What?

God said “Let us make man in our image.” And when I say “God,” I mean Jehovah, YHWH, the Creator, Jesus, the Supreme God in the Bible. So, if we’re made in His image, what does God look like? Has anyone seen Him?

Not lately, but Abraham might have, Moses saw God’s afterglow, and Adam conversed with God daily – for a while.

The Scriptures tell us: “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; PICT0617male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27). God is a spiritual being, and we are spiritual beings – inside human bodies. Mankind was the high point of God’s creative work here on earth. God created us as an entirely new species, quite different from animals. And to emphasize this distinction, God placed man over the animals. In Genesis 1:28 God told Adam, “Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” Animals can’t do that.

How else are we different from critters? Mankind is capable of conscious, meditative, cognitivePICT0608 interaction. Evolutionist Julian Huxley noted that “Only humans possess true language, conceptual thought, art, humor, science and religion.” And only humans can record and direct the course of history. Humans can express themselves analytically. And it is obvious that only humans have the ability to communicate through complex, multi-lingual skills. All this sets mankind apart from the animal kingdom.

Marriage is another example of how we’re made in the image of God. Adam and Eve’s union was much more significant than two beings openly mating in the jungle like monkeys or dogs. Marriage was specifically one male with one female (a homosexual union goes against nature and against God’s plan. Romans 1:21-28). Marriage is a compassionate, loving, fruitful, spiritual and social union.

As humans who are made in the image and likeness of God, we reflect many attributes of our heavenly Father. These spiritual and moral attributes allow us to commune and fellowship with people and with God. Attributes like love, mercy, and justice are only three examples of Godly qualities available to mankind if we accept them. God created us to enjoy relationships so that we can spend time with Him, talk with Him, and fellowship with Him. This is not the nature of animals.

Some people say that mankind is no greater than the animal kingdom, and is why man should limit his population growth while protecting the animal species. I suppose they haven’t noticed several animal traits that civilized humanity does not endorse, such as: Some animals eat their own kind – but we do not condone cannibalism. Some animals kill and eat their offspring – but we do not condone infanticide or eating our babies. (Correction: humans do commit infanticide in the form of abortion. Even today, legislatures are debating whether or not doctors can kill babies who were born alive.) Animals do not care for the elderly – but because of Godly compassion, DSCN3768humans do care for the elderly. Animals do not have the intellectual,DSC02812.B emotional, and relational mentality, or the skill or ability to interact and build an enhanced society; but man has been to the moon and back. Instead, animals have continued their lives without change for the past recorded 6,000 years. When you hear or read some scientist say that 98% of our genes are shared with some animals, don’t get excited about it. They also say we share about 50% of our genes with bananas. So the statistics are meaningless.

Most importantly, only humans can experience faith. We alone, of all earthly creation, can worship and trust our Creator and enter into a relationship with Him. Humans have the ability to choose to worship God or not; to acknowledge Almighty God as sovereign or claim another personage (human, spirit – created, or imaginary – as either a sovereign or co-existent deity), tree, rock, or any other created thing as a god. Humans gather for the purpose of worshiping corporately. Animals cannot do any of this.

God is a communicator Who cares for us and guides those who listen to Him. He made us to help others in like manner. And He defeated sin and death for us through His death on the cross and subsequent resurrection so that we can be with Him and enjoy our relationship with Him forever.

What did God say? “Let us make man in our image.” And He did. If we purposely live for God and honor Him, we can be part of His eternal plan. You’ll be glad you did because the benefits will be out of this world!