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The Forerunner

Lucy Fails Test As Missing Link

By Editorial Staff
Published December 22, 2007

The science of finding and identifying man’s “prehistoric ancestors” runs in a predictable pattern. A press conference is announced, the discovery of an ape-like “ancestor” revealed with an artist’s impression of what the creature looks like, and the discoverer becomes famous, earning money on lecture tours. The actual fossil bones are scanty and the imagination runs wild. Later, when more evidence is found, the “ancestor” turns out to be totally human or totally ape. The Neanderthal man is an example of one find that turns out to be totally human. Once this find is removed as an intermediate form, you can expect another great discovery to save the day. The latest discovery is “Lucy.”

If you are of the impression that there are many intermediate ancestors to man, take notice of the following statement by an expert in the field: “The fossils that decorate our family tree are so scarce that there are still more scientists than specimens. The remarkable fact is that all the physical evidence we have for human evolution can still be placed with room to spare inside a single coffin.“1

This is still an exaggeration since it concedes that various specimens are part of human evolution. Australopithecines, for example, are not considered transitional forms anymore, but a branch of the primate evolutionary tree. True transitional forms are still missing. (“Transitional forms” refer to those creatures which represent intermediate states of development for a supposed ape-like ancestor down to man.)

But what about Lucy? This most recent discovery in Africa is being heralded by many as a true transitional form, typically a replacement for the outmoded australopithecines. Could this be hasty judgment? Let’s examine the evidence. Lucy is a partial fossil skeleton, about the size of a chimpanzee, supposedly female, discovered by paleontologist Dr. Donald Johanson on November 30, 1974, in Hadar, Ethiopia. It is more complete than most fossil finds in that about 40 percent of the bones of the body have been recovered.

The age is “estimated” to be 3.2 million years. The find includes a V-shaped jaw, part of hip and large bones, and other assorted bones with very little skull fragments.2 There were other finds at the same location, other skulls and U-shaped jawbones.

What evidence makes this creature a transitional form? According to Dr. Johanson, she walked upright! Her brain size is still small, ape-like in proportion, and most of the other features are predominantly ape-like. Some say that anatomically it is not different than a modern chimpanzee. The jaw, in particular, is distinct in that it is V-shaped, totally unlike human jaws.

And what evidence supports the idea that this creature walked upright? The angle that the upper leg bone makes with the lower leg bone at the knee. Looking head on, chimpanzee and gorilla legs have an angle of 0 degrees. Humans have an angle of about 9 degrees. If the angle is much greater it gives a “knocked kneed” condition in humans. Lucy and the australophithecines have a larger angle of about 15 degrees.3

Does this make her an upright walker? Present day orangutan and spider monkeys have the same angle as humans yet are extremely adept tree climbers. Some experts argue that the higher angle makes her a better climber.4 This appears to be a knee-jerk reaction rather than clear scientific thinking.

But hold on, the story gets better. Dr. Johanson gave a lecture at the University of Missouri in Kansas City, Nov. 20, 1986, on Lucy and why he thinks she is our ancestor. It included the ideas already mentioned and that Lucy’s femur and pelvis were more robust than most chimps and therefore, “could have” walked upright. After the lecture he opened the meeting for questions. The audience of approximately 800 was quiet so some creationists asked questions. Roy Holt asked; “How far away from Lucy did you find the knee?” (The knee bones were actually discovered about a year earlier than the rest of Lucy). Dr. Johanson answered (reluctantly) about 200 feet lower (!) and two to three kilometers away (about 1.5 miles!). Continuing, Holt asked, “Then why are you sure it belonged to Lucy?” Dr. Johanson: “Anatomical similarity.” (Bears and dogs have anatomical similarities).

After the meeting, the creationists talked with Dr. Johanson and continued the questions. Dr. Johanson argued that homology (particularly DNA homology) is good proof for evolution. Tom Willis responded that “similar structures nearly always have similar plans, (like) similar bridges have similar blue prints.” After more discussion along this line, Dr. Johanson gave this amazing reply: “If you don’t believe homology, then you don’t believe evolution, and evolution is a fact!“5

What about Lucy? Just another partial find of some primate, put together to look like a human ancestor? Could the wide separation of Lucy’s bones (200 feet by 1 mile) better point to a catastrophic scenario – such as a world wide flood?

What about Dr. Johanson’s credibility? To his credit, he does talk about the tentative nature of this type of science. But another evolutionary writer says this about the search for humanlike (homonid) bones; “When it comes to finding a new ‘star’ as our animal ancestor, there is no business like bone business.“6

Tom Willis, the creationist who attended the U. of Missouri lecture puts it this way, “By any reasonable standards, Johanson misrepresented the evidence and he did so for money! A businessman who made claims like those to sell his products would be charged with fraud rather than be paid an honorarium.“7 Regardless of the motives involved for finding our evolutionary “ancestor”, we can be sure that when Lucy is acknowledged as an evolutionary dead end, there will be another press conference with another knee-jerk explanation.


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Your comments are welcome!

This is great info thanks. I am in Critical Thinking class and they are talking about human remains 2 million years older than Lucy found in Ethiopia. Do you have anything on this that will help me? Please. Thank you. :)

Posted by Pinky on 11/03/2008 02:51 PM #

Thank you for writing this, I am having an extremely hard time with my current ninth grade science teacher who is trying to teach us about how Lucy is a human ancestor. It’s driving me insane, I love your points! The funny thing is, is that for science to need so much evidence, scientists sure have big imaginations.

Posted by Kristen on 11/12/2008 10:23 PM #

I find your argument very interesting. You go on about how scientists use imagination instead of facts, however your refuting evidence is based on looking at angles and testing distances. Even if the knees aren’t hers, they are still in existence. I have to thank you, though, for you’ve provided me with a wonderful counterargument for the paper I’m currently writing.

Posted by Zoe on 12/11/2008 01:59 PM #

Thank you for this article! You have shown me that critical thinking cannot stand up to the power of God’s Word.

Posted by Reckoner on 02/01/2009 02:01 PM #

Can we get a link to the papers and transcripts you quote for this article? I have been trying to find a source for the Donald Johanson quote that Lucy’s knee joint was found several kilometers away, because this would discredit his science and his motive, but have been unable to find any record of this claim in print.

Posted by Foose on 02/05/2009 10:43 AM #

I think Reckoner means critical thinking like this should SUPPORT the power of God’s Word.

Posted by Brenda on 02/27/2009 12:28 AM #

Thanks for the article. What confuses me most about Darwinian theory is the belief that all life evolved through a series of random mutations with no intelligent influence. To use just ONE example, I find it VERY difficult to believe that the ability to fly happened “randomly”. Nature just walked around blindly and stumbled upon a system that solved the problems associated with gravity and aerodynamics? It would be hard enough to conceive that just ONE species would hit this astronomically improbable “random mutation lottery”, but thousands of species, all with their own UNIQUE solutions? Where are all the failures? If the process was completely random, then surely our planet would be covered with the remains of all the species who couldn’t mutate all the way to achieve flight. Bear in mind, this is only ONE example. Factor in the mutation “failures” for all other mutation successes and this would be a planet of bones and fossils. Nope….I don’t buy it. To entirely dismiss off-hand the concept of an intelligent order to the Universe is hypocrisy of the highest degree.

Posted by Gary on 04/30/2009 10:07 AM #

Thank you sooo much my school is doing a play called Dig It and we have to study Lucy so thanks for the help you’re a life saver!!!

Posted by Ericka on 05/06/2009 10:56 AM #

People only censor when they are afraid of contra opinions. Look at Hitler, Stalin etc.

Are you afraid of the contra arguments. And you call this critical thinking?

Posted by ldopas on 05/20/2009 08:28 AM #

Come on, you’d take seriously an article that claims Lucy is a recent discovery and then actually states a date over 30 years earlier as its discovery date?

Honestly, more mistakes then facts in one article.

Disappointing.

Posted by James on 05/26/2009 03:57 PM #

I think scientists are at least heading in the right direction by investigating occurrences millions of years ago, trying to trace a logical explanation to our origin.

Most of the comments here seem to think that magic and superpowers are more plausible. They base this upon an incomplete set of books written by relatively unknown men a few thousand years ago.

Please give up the nonsense. Religious people don’t have to bury their heads in the sand. Come back to reality people!

Posted by David on 07/15/2009 08:53 PM #

Lucy was not just a “scanty” find but the most complete skeletal remains of our distant ancestors. There is no need for a missing link, and if you have a problem connecting the dots in our long evolutionary heritage, then that’s your problem. Transitional forms have been found (horses, whales, elephants, and humans) This is an old argument that is fallacious today. Of course, she walked upright. Study a little anthropology in hip girgles, magnom in the skull, etc. You would not know a missing link if it hit you in the head!

Posted by Clinton Inman on 08/15/2009 06:58 PM #

As a student of anthropology, I can guarantee you that this article is fraught with blatant errors and circular reasoning. As a Catholic, I have to ask why people find it so comforting to pretend that we spontaneously appeared on this planet. We are a part of the earth, not above it. Hiding from that truth is all this article accomplishes. The creationist myth gives us an excuse to leave our responsibilities to the earth as a species, in blind search of the infathomable concepts of grace and divinity. Creationists abandon their humility when they claim that we are separate from nature. Separation implies that we are above nature. When we forget our place on earth, we are sacrificing the abundant truths of nature for a constructed, prepackaged, manufactured set of ideals and mores (religion). Learn to accept the fact that we are a part of it. Find God for yourself, don’t blindly follow your institutions. And the fact that the vast majority of these responses are made by kids in grade school is terrifying. You have to understand that these arguments are based on man’s interpretation of God’s will, not on God’s will itself. We cannot understand God. The church uses the concept of God to repress change, as it has throughout history. This article is clear evidence—they have fed you factual errors and unfounded logic to make you resist change. Get out there and learn, go outside of your pre-constructed boundaries, and discover your individual beauty as a part of the natural world, and you will find spirituality.

Posted by smf on 12/14/2009 01:20 AM #

In 1987, creationist Tom Willis accused Donald Johanson of fraud, claiming that the skeleton known as “Lucy” consisted of bones that had been found at two sites about 2.5 km (1.5 miles) apart. Willis had actually confused two separate finds which belong to the same species. (This was in spite of the fact that a best-selling book (Johanson and Edey 1981) has photos of both fossils: AL 129-1 is a right knee, while Lucy has a right femur and a left tibia.) This was a spectacular error which could hardly have been made by anyone who had done the most elementary research, but that didn’t stop many other creationists from picking up the claim and repeating it. For a full history of this claim, read the talk.origins knee-joint FAQ file (Lippard 1997).

Do yourselves and the rest of humanity of favor and actually research topics before coming to a conclusion. You may be shocked to find out the indoctrination you went through as an impressionable youth left you with ideas which are tenuous at best. Creationism is a cancer to the human mind and is constantly proven to be on the wrong side of history and always will be.

Posted by Truth on 01/28/2010 09:24 AM #

Response to Truth:
I came here looking for information on Willis’ ‘claim’ that Lucy consisted of bones from widely separated and different skeletons. Your posting refers to this.

Do I misunderstand you when you seem to state that Johanson, himself, declares that Lucy is, in fact, a composite made from two widely scattered skeletons? You seem to rebuke Willis for seeming to expose a cover up when, in fact, none existed? This seems a distinction without a difference if, in fact, Lucy does exist as a composite of separate parts. Therefore, whatever the configuration and geometries of those individual parts may import, the jury-rigged whole bears far less significance.

Lucy seems to exist as a suspiciously convenient composite and cannot be taken seriously in ways an intact skeleton might demand.

A human weakness for conjecture, subjectivism, convenience and self-service all rise to challenge Johanson’s objectivity. Could it be that Johanson as an impressionable youth went through an evolutionary indoctrination that disqualifies him from objective analysis as an adult?

Your dismissal of Creationism bears the marks of cavalier prejudice, itself the result of an impressionable youth’s sad submergence in middle school indoctrination courses. I rejoice that the school children who have written in will now question authority, speak truth to power and make some brainwashed ninth grade biology teachers prove their blithe assumptions.

That’s how we learn. That’s education not indoctrination. Rejoice, too, oh, Truth Seeker.

Posted by SirRuncibleSpoon on 05/29/2010 08:00 PM #

Johanson misunderstood which knee Willis was referring to:

This question was perhaps intended by the questioner to mean “How far away from Lucy did you find Lucy’s knee?”, but was clearly interpreted by Johanson to mean “How far away from Lucy did you find the 1973 knee joint?” Willis does not recognize the confusion in his article, even though the discoveries of both the original knee joint (1973) and Lucy (1974) are described in detail—including the locations of the finds—in Donald C. Johanson and Maitland E. Edey, Lucy: The Beginnings of Humankind (1981) and in the articles in the April 1982 issue of the American Journal of Physical Anthropology. The creationist misunderstanding would never have occurred had either of these sources been consulted. Johanson’s writings have always been clear about the fact that his 1973 knee joint was a separate find from Lucy. All of the bones shown in photographs of Lucy were found at a single location.

Ref: http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/knee-joint.html

This information isn’t exactly new- Why hasn’t this been clarified by the editor. After all we are seeking the truth.

What confuses me about Creationism is that I’ve never seen one point that explains how it could be true… I’ve only seen arguments that the Creationist (most of whom don’t know very much on the subject) can’t possible see how Evolutionism works (such as the random mutations argument used by Gary. Evolutionism never claims that anything close to what Gary describes ever happened/is happening). And since this Creationist can’t see how it could possible work, then it must be true that God created everything. I don’t see the connection, and it seems like quite a big jump. I’d really love to hear an explanation because I am confused.

Posted by Confused on 09/29/2010 05:02 PM #

The Bible is the only credible source for who we are, why we are here, how we got here and where we are going! We know we can trust the Bible because it predicted the future of the Jewish people, Jesus and other world events. We have scrolls of the bible dated 1000’s of years before many prophecies took place and some prophecies are taking place today. We also know that the Bible was written over more than a 1000 years with one theme based on the history of the Jewish people. Only God could have done this. Search your heart and you will find that the Love and morals in the Bible could only be from God our creator and Father in heaven. The bible is clear; God created man and out of man came woman and out of woman came mankind. While the Bible dosen’t answer all our questions it is clear that man did not evolve from animals no matter how you try to interpret it. The Bible says everything has seed in it and reproduces according to its kind. God Bless!!!

Posted by Jay on 11/09/2010 03:25 AM #

Confused – Don’t know if you’ll check back, but I have come to the conclusion it takes faith to believe in evolution and it takes faith to believe in creation. Faith is developed by observing evidence and applying reason. When evidence cannot fill everything in or when the scientific method is unable to prove a point than you are left with a theory. To me you either have faith that matter was created from nothingness, then inert matter transformed into simple life forms and that those simple life forms evolved into man. Or you believe in the Word of God. I’m going with the latter. Ever look at scum floating on a pond? Why didn’t it want to evolve? Is it happy being scum?

Posted by caseyboy on 12/03/2010 01:54 PM #

The writer of this article has much hate in his heart. After reading this, I now have to re-think my stance, as knowing that what we beleive may have come down from God’s words, but thay had to have been mismanaged in man’s hands; everything is. Even when you seemingly have good intentions, you are just trying to sway, not inform.

Posted by Larry on 03/04/2011 02:58 PM #

A simple answer to any and all questions: God planned and created everything, and everything includes Lucy. What else is there to know or to doubt? We do not need science; only thing we need is religion. However, the Creator is known by many names [Allah, Buddha, God], which name we should be referring too? By the strict and scientific definition of God, as the creator of the entire universe, indeed God maybe seen as the nature itself and created Lucy. However, if God understanding is based on mystical revelation and unquestionable belief, then the scientific dialog about Lucy is not proper, it is not reasonable. Furthermore, some of the posts here deploy the scientific method for disproving statements and spreading doubt, when all that is needed is the acknowledgement of God’s wisdom. Larry proclaims that everything comes from God’s words, he perhaps means the Bible. Factually, the Bible is not directly God’s words, but merely a book inspired by God. Furthermore, much part of the “original” Bible was lost in translations and other documented changes. Oh well, the argument is not intended to resolve anything; the “bona fide” requirement is missing.

Posted by Joseph on 04/05/2011 01:31 AM #

I think that she is the misssing link. The shape of the body an outline of a mini person.

Posted by tee tee on 04/29/2011 03:29 PM #

The pelvic bone is how they determined that Lucy was bipedal.. NOT the angle of whatever you said up there..

Posted by Zack on 05/22/2011 03:12 AM #

You might want to do your research before you go around finding flaws in the theories of highly educated scientists who have spent year studying the original fossils. I find this especially hypocritical when the article itself is so highly flawed. What qualifications does the author have that makes them so knowledgeable in paleoanthropology? I wouldn’t mind so much if this evidence was presented as a possibility or pondering, but the cocky and mocking attitude that comes through in the text is completely unnecessary. There is really no need to put every second word in inverted commas of sarcasm.I am open to all different views on human evolution, but I am not open to those whose minds are closed.

Posted by A on 06/01/2011 07:40 AM #

It is amusing to peruse this thread, as it highlights a common feature to all such creationist discussions on evolution: the utter lack of citation, and the constant failure to provide evidence for claims made, which isn’t that surprising: if your world view is based upon faith, evidence is a dirty word.

if you’ve evr taken antibiotics, you officially embody evolutionary theory. Don’t ask about the appendix, that inconvenient vestigial organ. And above all, do not enjoy an apple, pear, peach or plum. these are the fruits of evil mutations, and cannot be real: one may only partake of the bitter ancestral fruits of the parent species God provided.

Posted by Digger on 07/17/2011 03:03 PM #

The reason scientests have such a hard time proving evolutionary theory, is that it is impossible to occur. It's very hard to find evidence for something that did not happen. DNA study and research prove more about the origin of species than Darwin could ever imagine. “Highly educated scientists” show their ignorance and foolishness, when they claim as a fact, something that was only first postulated as a theory. The composition of our Sun, the distribution and orientation of the planets and their moons, our own moon, even something as insignificant as blood coagulation, which is highly complex, language abilities, and several more facts (not theory) all point to a young earth, and intelligent design. There are only four possibilities of how the earth and the universe and all that is in it got here. Three of these are logically and even philosophically impossible. If you are the type that has spent any time researching any of the studies of origins, you would know these four scenarios. Why is it so hard to believe what God said about how he did it? Because you dont trust the word of men, as some purport the Bible to be authored by? But you trust the words of mere men who say otherwise?

Posted by beyondz on 08/21/2011 09:56 PM #

I a follower of Jesus and while the above post is just a little on the caustic side:) I do have to agree with parts of what was written. Any kind of responsible journalism must include sources! It is commen sense to me that this commentary should not have been written without it. God is not afraid of the scientific community’s search for truth and from what I have seen he isn’t opposed to providing a little evidence to go with it. I would caution the writer above to be more careful when he uses the word “all” in a sentence unless he can provide a little evidence that the use of such a word reflects the truth. Don’t be afraid to look and listen, see what others who do provide all the citations and evidence you could possible want, have to say, then check that out too. Gravity doesnt need to prove itself, it is a truth that stands.

Posted by LikeATreePlanted on 08/24/2011 04:32 AM #

The use of the ever-shrinking list of vestigial organs is evidence that they are not keeping up with the research. See here for the current information concerning vestigial organs: http://www.creationstudies.org/Education/vestigal_organs.html.

Additionally, adaptation is evidence of Intelligent design and creationism, not the molecules-to-men Theory of Evolution. These minor horizontal changes in organisms (microevolution) do not translate into the vertical changes required for macroevolution. That is a major bait and switch tactic and it is not an honest presentation of the data.

Posted by SteveRowitt on 10/26/2011 02:35 PM #

I can’t believe they are still touting Lucy as the missing link. She was proved false in the 70’s. The Readers Digest had a story on how it was all faked for fame and fortune.

Posted by Betty Van Snepson on 11/28/2011 12:50 PM #

“However, the Creator is known by many names [Allah, Buddha, God], which name we should be referring too?”

Sorry Joseph, but you’re wrong. The Creator God, our Father, is not Buddha, and is most certainly NOT Allah, who is a pagan moon god.

Posted by Jayce on 04/29/2012 04:39 PM #

Do you have a link to real research done by creation “scientists”? I have my doubts. Such “scientists” are renowned for their inability to actually address real science with science.

Posted by Avery on 05/20/2012 06:58 PM #

If I as a believer in creationism am wrong about my belief, what have I lost? But if the evolutionist is wrong in their belief, what do they lose? Think about it…

Posted by bendoverazpetergozinya on 08/03/2012 10:59 PM #

Did a twelve year old with a thesaurus write this article? Yes, Lucy is said to be in our “evolutionary tree”, but what about homo erectus, homo habilis, australopithecus afarensis, ardipithecus ramidus, and countless other finds to go with it. You don’t suppose one of these archaeological finds possibly gave rise to more evidence on this topic. Use a holistic approach when writting a paper and use all of your sources. I’m positive that you’d be very insulted if I based my misbelief of the Bible on one fact alone such as a talking burning bush and wouldn’t consider learning about anything else.

-hrab

Posted by biology champ on 10/04/2012 12:20 AM #

Lucy has been proven false, get over it please.

Posted by Jabari Smith on 11/10/2012 11:23 PM #

There are a lot of anomalous finds that don’t fit into the nice Darwinian package that are suppressed or shunned. Truth is truth, we should be open to accepting it no matter where it leads.

Posted by Alternative History Video on 11/24/2012 04:13 PM #

In the 70’s I was able to hear Dr. Leaky Jr. lecture on Lucy at UCLA. He did not believe it was a complete fossil- that the head and torso were found “quite a distance” from the legs”. In fact in discussion afterwards, admitted that the whole study of the human tree was dubious at best, with teams of “scientists” competing for Government funding”. The Next “find” determined who got the money! An Insane way to do the Empirical Method!

Posted by Spencer Deal on 01/14/2013 06:06 AM #

Darwinian evolution was the most widely believed form of evolution in its time, but now evolutionists will agree with or say anything to keep evolution alive. This is just one of the many false examples they come up with. Most scientists admit they only believe in evolution because the only other possibility is a divine creator (for those of you that need me to spell it out, that’s God) and they don’t want to be responsible to God because we are selfish selfserving beings.

Posted by katie croy on 03/24/2013 09:38 PM #

Thank you for the info on Lucy. I go to a public school and this is very useful for arguments with some people.

Posted by jesse on 05/09/2013 07:00 PM #

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