Invasion of the Bible Snatchers: Ray Comfort’s ‘Scientific Facts in the Bible’ – Hand Washing and Running Water

“When the one with a discharge is cleansed of his discharge, he shall count seven days for his cleansing: he shall wash his clothes and bathe his body in fresh water, and he shall be clean” (Leviticus 15:13).


To see other posts in this series, please go to the series’ page.

Ray Comfort continues to amaze and astound with his inept reading of biblical texts in his book Scientific Facts in the Bible.1 Quoting Leviticus 15:3 he writes,

The Bible states that when dealing with disease, hands should be washed under running water. Up until the 1800s doctors washed their hands in a basin of still water, leaving invisible germs and resulting in the death of multitudes. We now know that doctors must wash their hands under running water. The Encyclopedia Britannica documents that in 1845, Dr. Ignaz Semmelweis in Vienna was horrified at the terrible death rate of women who gave birth in hospitals. As many as 30 percent died after giving birth. Semmelweis noted that doctors would examine the bodies of patients who had died, then go straight to the next ward and examine expectant mothers. This was their normal practice, because the presence of microscopic diseases was unknown. Semmelweis insisted that doctors wash their hands before examinations, and the death rate immediately dropped to 2 percent.2

Comfort’s recounting of Ignaz Semmelweis is more or less accurate and so there is no need to address it. Instead our focus will be on Comfort’s (mis)understanding of the regulations found in Leviticus 15:13. Comfort’s central claim is that “[t]he Bible states that when dealing with disease, hands should be washed under running water.” Is Comfort correct? Is this evidence of advanced epidemiological knowledge in the Priestly text of Leviticus?

Determining the Context

Leviticus 15 is primarily about what ordinary people are to do when they have some ritual impurity. The text is divided into two basic categories: male genital discharges (15:2b-18) and female genital discharges (15:19-30). These two categories can be further subdivided.

  • Male genital discharges (15:2b-18)
    • Abnormal genital discharges (15:2b-15)
    • Normal genital discharges (15:16-18)
  • Female genital discharges (15:19-30)
    • Normal genital discharges (15:19-24)
    • Abnormal genital discharges (15:25-30)

Regardless of gender, for normal genital discharges there is no sacrifice required. Instead those experiencing such discharges are unclean for a specific period of time: “until the evening” for males and seven days for females. If a man and woman engage in sexual intercourse and the male achieves orgasm then both of them are unclean until the evening.

Things are quite different for abnormal genital discharges. If a woman experiences a “discharge of blood” that is not part of her normal menstrual cycle or if her menstruation lasts longer than it normally does she remains unclean and all she has touched are considered unclean as well. Once her discharge has ceased, she is to count seven days before she can be considered clean. Then on the eighth day she is to take either two turtledoves or two pigeons to the priest at the tabernacle so he can offer up a sin offering and a burnt offering to “make atonement on her behalf before the LORD for her unclean discharge” (15:30).

Similarly, males who experiencing an abnormal genital discharge are considered unclean during the period of discharge. Once the discharge has ceased he is to count seven days, wash his clothes, and “bathe his body in fresh water” before he is considered clean. Then on the eighth day he is to take two turtledoves or two pigeons to the priest at the tabernacle so he can offer up a sin offering and a burnt offering to “make atonement on his behalf before the LORD for his discharge” (15:15).

The role of mayim ḥyym 

As noted earlier, Comfort capitalizes on the phrase rendered in the NKJV as “running water” (mayim ḥyym). Literally, mayim ḥyym is “living waters” with ḥyym functioning adjectivally to mayimTo what is mayim ḥyym referring? The NRSV renders the phrase as “fresh water” which doesn’t truly capture what is being said here. The NKJV is much closer to the Hebrew in this regard. But considering that modern plumbing was not a feature available to ancient Israel, what exactly does running water entail?

The key is what we read in Leviticus 14:5: “The priest shall command that one of the birds be slaughtered over fresh water [mayim ḥyym] in an earthen vessel.” In context, the passage is describing what must be done to declare and make one with a skin disease ṭāhēr – “clean.” Normally such a slaughter would take place at the tent of meeting but because of the nature of skin disease everything happened outside the camp to avoid spreading the infection. As part of the ritual, a priest would take one of two birds that were brought for the ritual and slaughter it over a vessel containing mayim ḥyym. But how can it be considered running water if it is in a container? Well, it depends on how it got to be there. If it came from an underground source like a well (cf. Genesis 26:19) or from a river or stream then it was suitable for use.3 Such water could be stored in a vessel for later use in rituals as it was considered mayim ḥyymIn other words, if the water was taken from a source that was flowing then it was deemed appropriate for use. It did not matter that in a container like the earthen vessel it was no longer flowing.

Let’s return then to Leviticus 15:13. When the texts says that the one with the genital discharge is to “bathe his body in mayim ḥyym” it isn’t saying necessarily that he must wash in water that is currently flowing. Rather, the water must have come from a source that was, i.e. a river or an Artesian well. Water in an earthen vessel as we read in Leviticus 14:5 is still considered mayim ḥyym even though it is no longer flowing.

Another Failure

And so yet again Comfort has misunderstood the biblical text, this time by failing to look at surrounding context and how mayim ḥyym is used.

NOTES

1 Ray Comfort, Scientific Facts in the Bible (Living Waters Publications, 2016).

2 Ibid., 6.

3 John E. Hartley, Leviticus, WBC vol. 4 (Zondervan, 1992), 195.

Featured image: Wikimedia Commons.

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(Re)Considering Christianity: A Skeptic Looks at the Christian Religion – Introduction, part 6

To see more posts in this series, please go to the series’ page.

As the summer of 2002 came to an end it became time for me to head back to Pensacola for my sophomore year. This time instead of flying down my parents, brother, and I took the family RV and made our way from New York to Pensacola. By mid-August we arrived in Pensacola, toured some sights, and then my family dropped me off on campus before returning back to New York.

Scan
Yours truly standing in front of my dorm on the day my family dropped me off before leaving to go home.

Classes my sophomore year included a survey of the Old Testament, an in-depth study of the book of Romans, courses on American history, biology, evangelism, and Koine Greek.

As one might expect from a college like PCC, the biology class was taught from a decidedly young earth creationist vantage point. The first paragraph from the first chapter reads as follows:

Biology, the study of living things, has fascinated mankind since the Creation. The word comes from the Greek root bios, which means “life,” and the Greek suffix -logy, which means “science of” or “study of.” As you think about living things, your mind may picture the larger scope of life such as a pond or a forest, each area thriving with many different plants and animals. As you step outside in your thoughts into the world of nature, you may visualize a field with numerous kinds of plants and small animals, a mountain stream flowing among the trees, or the ocean with its vast number of creatures. This is where man began to study biology. Adam and Eve were given the responsibility by God to subdue the earth and use it for their benefit. From the beginning, man has been naming, using, and studying living things.1

This theme runs throughout the text and there are even two chapters devoted to challenging evolutionary biology.2 Though I agreed wholeheartedly that evolutionary theory was hogwash, the class wasn’t all that exciting and I think I passed it with a low B.

More challenging was BL101 – an introduction to Koine Greek. Our teacher was Mr. Huddleston, a man probably in his late 20s or early 30s, who had a great passion for biblical languages. For extra credit on a quiz he asked us to answer the question “What is your teacher’s favorite biblical language?” Most of us guessed Greek but we didn’t realize it was Hebrew. I needed that extra point. When I took Hebrew the following year I discovered he wrote the textbook for the class! But Mr. Huddleston didn’t write the textbook for BL101. Rather, we used the classic text written by J. Gresham Machen entitled New Testament Greek for Beginnings. Though dated, Machen’s volume is still a valuable resource that I refer to from time to time.

Switching Majors

By the end of the first semester of my sophomore year I began to have second thoughts about majoring in evangelism. It wasn’t because my zeal for becoming an itinerant preacher had diminished; on the contrary, it had only grown. But the major difficulty for me was my experience in the program. The arrogance exhibited by many in the program was disturbing and we were often told in class how much more valuable evangelists were to the church than were pastors. In December, not long after final exams, I decided I would switch my major to history with a minor in biblical languages (i.e. Greek and Hebrew). The way I saw it, I would be an evangelist with a B.A. in history. I could still take Bible classes and speech classes as electives. I just wouldn’t be stuck in the evangelism seminar having to deal with the Dave Young wannabe’s.

When I returned to PCC in January of 2003, I was now taking US History courses in addition to Greek (BL102), Reformation History, and more. One class that stands out in my memory is Church History taught by the monotonous Joel Mullenix. Rather than reading any primary source material or learning about Christian history century by century, we were taught from a dispensational perspective wherein the seven churches mentioned in Revelation 2-3 represented the different periods of church history.

  • Ephesus: the apostolic era (30-100 CE)
  • Smyrna: the era of persecution (100-313 CE)
  • Pergamum: the era of Constantine (313-600 CE)
  • Thyatira: the Middle Ages (600-1517 CE)
  • Sardis: the Reformation era (1517-1648 CE)
  • Philadelphia: the era of the missionary movement (1648-1900 CE)
  • Laodicea: the era of apostasy (1900 CE – present)3 

For anyone unfamiliar with the book of Revelation, the church in Laodicea is the last church addressed by Jesus. Consequently, our current age is the final age. Thus dispensationalists are looking for the rapture to happen very soon.

The Freshman Fifteen

My sophomore year was the year I finally gained the infamous “freshman fifteen.” Better late than never, I suppose. But it wasn’t simply due to the all you can eat buffet that we enjoyed for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I had become friends with another sophmore in the dorm room next to mine and we regularly spent time after dinner running the track and playing basketball. So thankfully, some of that fifteen was actually muscle weight. And I most certainly got a good workout as he was not only faster than me but was a far better basketball player.

I also began to tutor another student in my Greek class since he was falling behind and needed the help. Twice a week he would come by my room and we would go over noun declensions, verb conjugations, and vocabulary. But despite my best efforts he couldn’t pass the class and ended up switching his major from Pastoral Ministries (emphasis in youth ministry) to Physical Education. I tried!

Next Time

I had planned to discuss my junior year along with my sophomore year but this post is long enough as it is. So next time we will continue looking at my college journey.

NOTES

1 Gregory Parker, Keith Graham, Delores Shimmin, and George Thompson, Biology: God’s Living Creation, second edition (A Beka Book, 1997), 2.

2 Ibid., 358-407.

3 Thomas Ice, “The Church Age,” in Tim Lahaye and Ed Hindson (eds.), The Popular Encyclopedia of Bible Prophecy (Harvest House Publishers, 2004). C.I. Scofield, one of the foremost popularizers of dispensationalism in 20th century America, claimed that the seven churches in Revelation represented “seven phases of the spiritual history of the church from, say A.D. 96 to the end” (C.I. Scofield, The Scofield Study Bible [Oxford University Press, 1996], 1331).

The Weekly Roundup – 3.1.19

“Israel did not ‘believe’ in dragons anymore than their neighbors did. When Israel says God defeated the dragon, they use this myth in two ways. Most of the time, as in Psalm 74; Isaiah 27:1, where the dragon is named Leviathan just as in the Canaanite myth; and Isaiah 51:9, they are saying, ‘Whatever you Canaanites mean when you say ‘Our god defeated the dragon’–it’s true of our God, not yours. Yahweh, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, is the one who defeated the dragon, whatever that means.’” – Robert Miller II


  • @StudyofChrist’s video on the identity of Immanuel in Isaiah 7 is superb. He analyzes the text, draws from commentaries, and shows that at least in the context of Isaiah the reference is to a child born in the 8th century BCE and not Jesus. The video is longer than usual but it is well worth the twenty minutes it would take to watch it.
  • Back in October of 2018 Robert Miller II wrote a short piece for ANE Today on “Dragons in the Bible and Beyond.” He notes that dragon myths typically involve a conflict between the dragon and a storm deity. In the Baal Cycle the Litan is the creature Baal defeats, a beast who is depicted as a “fleeing serpent” (cf. Isaiah 27:1). Considering how often dragons appear in some form or fashion in prophetic literature, this is an excellent introductory article. Miller has also written a book on the topic entitled The Dragon, the Mountain, and the Nations: An Old Testament Myth, Its Origins, and Its Afterlives
  • New Testament scholar Michael Bird has a brief review of Donald Hagner’s latest book How New is the New Testament: First Century Judaism and the Emergence of Christianity. I have benefited from Hagner’s commentary on the Gospel of Matthew and will hopefully get my hands on this volume in the near future. Bird notes that this volume is based on lectures Hagner gave in the Philippines and that in their written form the author suggests that Christianity is not something other than Judaism but is rather “the fulfillment of Judaism.” Perhaps, but I would be interested in seeing how my Jewish friends might view such a position.
  • Phil Long over at Reading Acts posted a short piece on whether Saul’s encounter with Jesus in Acts 9 constitutes a call or a conversion. He writes, “Using modern Christian categories like “conversion” and “call” to describe Paul’s experience is a mistake. Paul’s experience in Acts 9 is quite unique in salvation history.” He also notes that while some have tried to place Paul’s theology within the spectrum of Judaism, this misses the radical nature of some of Paul’s teachings.
  • A couple of years ago Pete Enns wrote a brief post over on his website on how the biblical genealogies were not intended to convey “history” but rather something else. He writes, “The biblical writers were not ‘historians’ writing ‘accounts’ of the past. They were storytellers accessing past tradition to say something about their present. That includes genealogies.” Amen.

Featured image: Wikimedia Commons.

Invasion of the Bible Snatchers: Ray Comfort’s ‘Scientific Facts in the Bible’ – The Life of the Flesh

“If anyone of the house of Israel or of the aliens who reside among them eats any blood, I will set my face against that person who eats blood, and will cut that person off from the people. For the life of the flesh is in the blood; and I have given it to you for making atonement for your lives on the altar; for, as life, it is the blood that makes atonement” (Leviticus 17:11).


To see other posts in this series, please go to the series’ page.

We have already seen how spectacularly weak Comfort’s approach to the biblical texts tends to be. And not only does he routinely misunderstand the Bible, he also exhibits a less than rudimentary knowledge of science. In the twenty-first century, both are without excuse. Biblical scholarship and science are clicks away on the Internet and so for Comfort to make the errors that he does reveals either one who argues in bad faith or one who simply wishes to remain in his cognitive bubble. Comfort may somehow fall into both camps.

The next claim Comfort makes in Scientific Facts in the Bible is that Levitical law revealed that

blood is the source of life. Up until 200 years ago, sick people were “bled,” and many died because of the practice. We now know that blood is the source of life. If you lose your blood, you will lose your life.1

As support for this, Comfort quotes Leviticus 17:11 – “For the life of the flesh is in the blood.” But does this text support Comfort’s claim? And is it really a sign that the Bible contains advanced scientific knowledge?

The Importance of Blood 

Human blood is actually a mixture of a variety of organic structures including plasma, white blood cells, and red blood cells. Red blood cells are what give blood its color as the hemoglobin on them binds with iron which then binds with oxygen which causes oxidation. And this brings us to the primary purpose of blood: oxygenation. When you breathe in oxygen, the blood pumping through your body absorbs it in the lungs and transports it to all the cells in your body via capillaries. The oxygen in turn is processed by the cells’ mitochondria which turn that oxygen into energy for those cells. If you are deprived of oxygen you die because your cells’ mitochondria are not provided with what they need to produce energy to keep those cells alive.2 

But ancient people had no idea what red blood cells were, let alone things like oxygen molecules or mitochondria. But they did know that if you slit the throat of a sacrificial animal or stabbed your enemy in the chest with your sword that the resultant loss of blood invariably meant the loss of life. Humanity quickly learned that blood was vital to the life of an organism. The reason for this was because it was how the gods had created humanity. The Babylonian creation epic Enuma Elish describes how Marduk, the one who defeated Tiamat, plans to create humanity telling the gods, “Let me put blood together, and make bones too. Let me set up primeval man: Man shall be his name.”3 Then at the prompting of the Igigi (i.e. the great gods), Marduk uses the blood of Qingu, a warrior of Tiamat, to create mankind.4

Blood Eating in Priestly Literature

The association between blood and life is strongly correlated by the biblical authors. In the original creation envisioned by the Priestly author (i.e. Genesis 1:1-2:4a), humanity and the animal kingdom were not permitted to consume meat (Genesis 1:29-30). But this changed as humanity became more corrupt and the earth became “filled with violence” (Genesis 7:12), causing God to destroy the world with a Flood save for Noah and his family. This reset on the creative order brings with it new rules and regulations that in some ways parallel those of the original order. One key difference between the original and the reset is that humanity was now allowed to consume meat (Genesis 9:3) but comes with a prohibition: “Only, you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood” (Genesis 9:4).

Other P literature reiterates this prohibition. In Leviticus 3 we read of the “sacrifice of well-being” (Hebrew, zebaḥ šĕlāmîm) wherein an Israelite offers an unblemished animal at the tent of meeting. The Aaronid priests take the blood of the animal and dash it on the sides of the altar and then the animal is burned such that its fat and blood are wholly consumed. After going through the protocols for various kinds of animals, P says this, “It shall be a perpetual statute throughout your generations, in all your settlements: you must not eat any fat or any blood” (Leviticus 3:17). Why? Because P knows the prohibition given by God to Noah: “Only, you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood” (Genesis 9:4). The zebaḥ šĕlāmîm was not intended to be one of expiation but rather was meant to be a way to provide consumable meat to the Israelites.5

Further instructions for the zebaḥ šĕlāmîm are given in Leviticus 7. There we again read a prohibition against consuming blood. But this time is comes with a warning “You must not eat any blood whatever, either of bird or of animal, in any of your settlements. Any one of you who eats any blood shall be cut off from your kind” (Leviticus 7:26-27). The penalty for consuming blood is to be “cut off” (Hebrew, krt), that is, die prematurely.6 

Blood Eating in the Holiness Code

Having observed certain differences in themes and vocabulary between Leviticus 17-26 and the rest of the book, many scholars have dubbed that section as deriving from a separate source and call it “the Holiness Code” (H).7 Within it are a variety of regulations that were intended to set Israel apart from its neighbors, to make them qōdeš (“holy”).8

“The LORD spoke to Moses saying: Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them: You shall be holy [qĕdōšîm], for I the LORD your God am holy [qādôš]” (19:2; cf. 20:7, 20:26).

It is within the first chapter of H that we see the text at the center of our inquiry in this post. Let’s briefly consider the context of the words of Leviticus 17:11.

If we were to outline Leviticus 17 we would notice a pattern.9

  • Introduction (17:1-2)
    • Prohibition (17:3-7)
      • Animals eligible for sacrifice must be sacrificed at the tent of meeting (17:3-4) so that Israel might stop offering sacrifices to goat-demons (17:5-7).
      • Both Israelites and resident aliens must not sacrifice to anyone but Yahweh at the tent of meeting (17:8-9)
        • Central Prohibition (17:10-12)
          • The blood of all animals is not to be consumed (17:10) because the blood is functions as a ransom for human life in sacrifice (17:11-12).
      • Reiteration of Central Prohibition (17:13-14)
        • The blood of game is not to be consumed because blood is life (17:13-14).
    • Regulating governing consuming carcasses (17:15-16)
      • The regulation (17:15)
      • Consequences for disobedience (17:16)

As the outline suggests, 17:10-12

is…the axis upon which the chapter revolves. 

The merest glance at the content leads to the same conclusion: all five paragraphs [of Leviticus 17] deal with the legitimate and correct manner of disposing of the blood of those animals which may be eaten. The first two speak of sacrificeable animals – which, in the view of this chapter, must indeed be sacrificed – and the last two speak of animals which, though they may be eaten, may not be sacrificed. At the center, between the first two and the last two, stands the axiom upon which all four depend: that partaking of blood is prohibited. The first two lead to this axiom and provide its rationale; the last two derive from this axiom and implement it.10 

And the rationale for the central prohibition of 17:10-12 is this: “For the life of the flesh is in the blood; and I have given it to you for making atonement for your lives on the altar; for, as life, it is the blood that makes atonement” (17:11).

So why does the Levitical law prohibit the consuming of blood? Because blood was not intended for consumption but for the making of atonement. To eat blood is to use it in an inordinate way.  That’s what lies behind the prohibition. It has absolutely nothing to do with any advanced scientific revelation that blood is the body’s oxygen transport system. It had to do with the observation that 1) the loss of blood leads to death and 2) the claim of the Priestly author that blood in animals is that which atones for sin. In other words, the claim is religious, having to do with the sacrificial cult and not scientific, having to do with the composition of blood and its biological function.

Sorry, Ray. You’re wrong again.

NOTES

1 Ray Comfort, Scientific Facts in the Bible (Living Waters Publications, 2016), 5.

2 For an excellent overview of blood, see Chris Cooper, Blood: A Very Short Introduction, e-book (OUP, 2016), 68-113.

3 The Epic of Creation, Tablet VI, in Stephanie Dalley (translator), Myths from Mesopotamia: Creation, the Flood, Gilgamesh, and Others (OUP, 1989), 260.

4 Ibid., 261.

5 Jacob Milgrom, Leviticus 1-16: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary (Doubleday, 1991), 222.

6 Gordon J. Wenham, The Book of Leviticus, NICOT, e-book (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1979), 42.

7 See Henry T. C. Sun, “Holiness Code,” in David N. Freedman (editor), Anchor Bible Dictionary (Doubleday, 1992), 3:256-257.

8 See H. P. Müller, “קדש qdš holy,” in Ernst Jenni and Claus Westermann (editors) and Mark E. Biddle (translator), Theological Lexicon of the Old Testament (Hendrickson Publishers, 1997), 3:1103-1118.

9 Adapted from Milgrom, Leviticus 17-22: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary, The Anchor Bible (Doubleday, 2000), 1449.

10 Baruch J. Schwartz, “The Prohibitions Concerning the ‘Eating’ of Blood in Leviticus 17,” in Gary A. Anderson and Saul M. Olyan, Priesthood and Cult in Ancient Israel (Sheffield Academic Press, 1991), 43.

Featured image: Wikimedia Commons.

The Weekly Roundup – 2.22.19

“The stories of the ancestors of the Israelites do not come from any one period but developed over time. It is best to see the ancestors as composite characters.” – John McDermott

  • Bart Ehrman asks and answers the question “Why does it matter if Mark’s Gospel was written first?” What it boils down to is that once we realize Mark’s Gospel was in all likelihood the first of the Synoptics to have been written we then have a framework with which to interpret Matthew’s and Luke’s Gospels. They must have edited Mark’s Gospel for some reason. If we can deduce what those reasons were then we “have some purchase on the question of what [their] ultimate concerns and objectives were.”
  • Related to Ehrman’s piece, a post over at Broken Oracles discusses the redaction of Mark 14:47 in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. Both try to resolve Markan ambiguity about the moral nature of the violent action undertaken by the anonymous disciple with particular additions. It is an interesting example of Markan priority at work.
  • Over a decade and a half ago John McDermott’s Reading the Pentateuch was published and its first chapter laid out the case for why it cannot be read as “strict history.” Some of that first chapter is available online. McDermott discusses the historical Abraham, the Exodus, and more.
  • Bradley Bowen at Secular Outpost wrote an introduction to a series making the case for atheism. In that post he briefly discusses strong vs. weak theism as well as type 1 atheism vs. type 2. As he defines it, atheism is at its core a rejection of theism and there may be a variety of reasons for which a person rejects theism.
  • Scholars have long observed that the Gospel of John appears to have gone through different stages of redaction. Back in 2015, Paul D. on his blog Is That in the Biblepublished a post examining the reasons why scholars think this. His discussion centers on two kinds of aporia or contradictory texts: geographical and chronological. This piece provides an excellent summary for the evidence of Johannine redaction.

Featured image: Wikimedia Commons.

(Re)Considering Christiany: A Skeptic Looks at the Christian Religion – Introduction, part 5

The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers (Ephesians 4:11)


To see more posts in this series, please go to the series’ page.

I took a variety of classes my freshman year at Pensacola Christian College covering topics like world history, the New Testament, speech, pastoral ministry, and more. World History 101 and 102 were taught by Dr. John Reese, an engaging and knowledgeable professor who served as a consultant for the classes’ textbook titled World History and Cultures: A Christian Perspective.1 The opening chapter of that textbook asserts that the creation of the universe took place in 4000 BCE, that evolution and humanism are destructive and rebellious ideas, and that human diversity stems from what happened at the Tower of Babel. It closes by saying,

History is primarily the account of God’s dealings, in blessing or judgment, with men and nations. It is a written record of what man has done with the time God has given him. The dispersion of mankind complicates history, but as we study the facts of history alongside the revealed truth in the Bible, we can see God’s providential hand guiding all events, helping us to better understand the past. By focusing on God’s plan, we will see how history leads to Jesus Christ.2 

This view of history permeated the lectures delivered by Reese who held a teleological view of human history: the goal of history is Jesus Christ.

IMG_1219
An article from World History and Cultures.3

New Testament

World History was a required course at PCC as was New Testament 101 and 102. Both NT101 and NT102 were taught by Dell Johnson, a diminutive man with a rather shrill voice who would pace the floor when he taught.

screen shot 2019-01-23 at 10.15.54 am
A picture of Dell Johnson from the Spring 1999 issue of PCC Update.4

Johnson was a fairly popular teacher and for good reason. He was always very animated and would help us learn information through songs. I learned the names of the twelve disciples easily thanks to a catchy tune he taught us. During one lecture Johnson dressed up as the Lukan character Zacchaeus and acted out the story of Luke 19:1-10. He told us he did it to teach us how to make the Bible come alive for children but I think he just enjoyed dressing in first-century CE garb.

Evangelism

Whereas NT101 and 102 were required classes for all students regardless of major or gender, the weekly Evangelism Seminar was required only for Evangelism majors like myself and female students were not allowed. During this class we would learn about famous evangelists of the past like George Whitefield or Charles Finney and often we would have guest speakers who would teach us evangelistic technique or the meaning of “revival.” At times one of the juniors or seniors in the class would be invited to speak during a class period to get some practice. But as I listened to my peers speak I noticed that they all sounded similar both in style and in cadence. I soon figured out why.

IMG_1217
Binder for PCC’s Evangelism Seminar.

One of the frequent guest speakers at PCC’s chapel services was an evangelist by the name of Dave Young. Young was an alumnus of PCC and upon graduation became an itinerant evangelist with his organization the Dave Young Evangelistic Association. Young had a very distinctive pattern of speaking5 and because he was also a frequent guest speaker in our evangelism class that pattern ended up one picked up on by students in the Evangelism program. The program was churning out clones of Dave Young.

IMG_1218
Notes from Chuck Cofty, a former marine turned evangelist. Note the not so subtle misogyny.

Summer 2002

As my freshman year was ending I learned that my home church back in NY had hired a youth pastor. I can remember feeling a bit hurt by that decision for a couple of reasons. First, when we started the youth group we had done so in a way that allowed the students to lead while adults acted as chaperones. Hiring a youth pastor felt like a usurption of our vision. Second, I felt like I was being replaced.

Admittedly, feeling hurt because they had hired a youth pastor was completely irrational. Not only was I not there to lead the youth group since I was away at college, I wasn’t even in the youth group anymore! Nevertheless, when I came home in May of 2002 I wanted nothing to do with the youth pastor. And when he was also given oversight of the newly formed “college and career” group I decided that I wanted nothing to do with that either. There was also some degree of jealousy. The youth pastor was an intelligent, charismatic, and very likeable guy who was also the son of a prominent KJV Only evangelist that I admired. I felt like I just couldn’t compete and that my time in the spotlight, as it were, was fading. Who needed me when they had him? My personal insecurities led me to be a real jerk and I greatly regret my response.

Yet this experience taught me something invaluable: I am replaceable. To learn that the world could go on without my presence was at once humbling and infuriating. What I failed to appreciate is that I helped lay the foundation of something greater than myself but as a nineteen year old know-it-all with a theological chip on his shoulder I just couldn’t fathom it.

Next Time

In the next post we will go over the next two years of my college career and look at some of the classes I took. And soon we will do an overview of my time as a youth pastor and my move from evangelical Christianity to atheism.

NOTES

George Thompson and Jerry Combee, World History and Cultures: A Christian Perspective, second edition (A Beka Book, 1997).

Ibid., 8.

Ibid., 4.

4 “An Idea That Came from God: PCC History from 1989-1998,” PCC Update (Spring 1999), 4.

Here is a short video of Dave Young speaking. Watch it and then imagine nearly every single person in your class speaking in the same exact manner.