Why You’re (Probably) Reading Genesis 1 Wrong

If you made the universe, how would you describe your masterpiece to people? Seriously. Think about it for a second. This blog will be here all day, so I’ll be around when you’re done.

Most of you would probably describe it a bit like a recipe. You’d explain which ingredients you added, what order you added them, and outline how long it took to bring it all together. If you’re more scientific, you describe more about laws and particles. If you’re more of a creative person, you explain your vision of the aesthetic. Regardless, though, we’d all give a play-by-play, because that’s how we think. And, if we’re honest, we would assume that’s exactly what God was going for in Genesis 1.

Now, do me the favor of reading through Genesis 1. Once again, I’ll wait. I know you’ve read it before, but tell me, does it look like a play-by-play to you? If you had phenomenal, cosmic powers, could you do what God did based on His “recipe?” Creation is a miracle and all, so it’s not going to be totally understandable, but God left a lot of things out, and He said some things that don’t make a whole lot of sense to us. How do you make light without a light source (Day 1 vs Day 4), and since when is it possible to make light by separating it from darkness? Isn’t “darkness” the absence of light anyway? Where did the water come from, and what is the water above the “Expanse”? What’s the deal with God resting?

I’m just thinking out loud here, but maybe we’re reading the thing wrong. Maybe we’re unconsciously biased. Maybe the creationism we’ve come to know and love is actually just materialism of a different sort. When we read Genesis 1, we see a list of ingredients needed to make our universe: light, water, plant life, a solar system, galaxies, animals, and- of course- people. We become even more committed to this worldview when faced with the daunting challenge of proclaiming Creationism in the face of the Darwinian establishment. There’s a very real possibility of losing credibility in the public sphere by criticizing evolutionism or claiming a belief in a Creator God. And, perhaps, in becoming so entrenched we’ve lost the real point of Genesis 1-3. Oh, don’t worry, I’m not trying to dredge up some theistic evolution nonsense, and I’m not talking about compromise. I am saying that God didn’t have Moses pen Genesis so we’d have a response to the Richard Dawkins’ of the world.

Think for a moment about who God had Moses write the book of Genesis to. He wrote to recently-freed slaves leaving Egypt for Canaan. They were stubborn and rebellious, given to paganism and pride….and they were God’s chosen people. Like us, they had a rich cultural heritage and identity. They had a worldview, a framework for how they viewed reality. Some of that background was far superior to our own, actually. So how does God introduce Himself in the text to an “unscientific” people surrounded by pagan belief, to a people who need to know Who they were supposed to be trusting? In a way most unexpected to the modern reader, but completely in line with His revealed character.

Rather than dump a bunch of scientific knowledge into the laps of a people unprepared to handle it, God answered the burning questions of the day in Genesis 1. God did not write an account to answer the question: “What is the universe made of, and how does it work?”; rather He answered a question intrinsic to the worldview of the Ancient Near East: “What is the purpose of the universe, and who runs the show?” You see, rather than view the cosmos as a vast machine to be inspected, ancient peoples thought of the universe as a kingdom to be ruled. We wonder what stars are; the Ancients wondered why stars are. So, in Genesis 1, we discover that the heavenly bodies are for orderliness in creation, the good of living things, and- ultimately- the glory of God. We discover that God made land to help plants grow to feed mankind. This theme of God’s creation revealing God’s nature is found throughout the rest of Scripture.

God also lovingly accommodates His people in His description of the universe. Like every other cosmogony (creation account) the Israelites had ever been exposed to, God names, separates, and establishes functionality. This demonstrates His right to rule, and establishes the meaning, purpose, and value of His creation. In Hittite, Egyptian, and Canaanite mythologies, the “gods” began their work by defeating chaos, organizing the world, and establishing their reigns. In the Bible, though, Yahweh is no contender among equal deities. Unlike the gods of pagan cults, Yahweh has no competition. He doesn’t fight off a Chaos Monster, though other Old Testament books allude to the monsters Rahab and Leviathan to highlight God’s might and provision. Chaos in Genesis 1:2 is simply a condition of non-functionality, not a creature to be defeated. Furthermore, Yahweh establishes inanimate Nature as a blessing for living things and further revelation of Himself. Scripture makes clear that there is no pantheon of gods ruling alongside Yahweh. The sun (shemesh) and moon (chodesh) aren’t even named in the account to avoid being mistaken for the names of gods. (Shemesh, at least, is the Akkadian sun god.) Instead, they are merely referred to as the greater and lesser lights. In Genesis 1 the entire pantheon of every pagan cult is reduced to nothingness. God has completely subverted every element of the pagan worldview and given it a new, redeemed significance in light of a genuine creation account. Genesis 1 really just sets the stage for a theology of redemption.

You see, there is a direct connection in Scripture between God’s creative work and His covenants. Consider the words of both Psalmist and Prophet with regard to the Mosaic Covenant:

Yet God my King is from of old,
working salvation in the midst of the earth.
 You divided the sea by your might;
you broke the heads of the sea monsters on the waters.
You crushed the heads of Leviathan;
you gave him as food for the creatures of the wilderness.
You split open springs and brooks;
you dried up ever-flowing streams.
Yours is the day, yours also the night;
you have established the heavenly lights and the sun.
You have fixed all the boundaries of the earth;
you have made summer and winter. (Psalm 74)

Was it not you who cut Rahab in pieces,
who pierced the dragon?
 Was it not you who dried up the sea,
the waters of the great deep,
who made the depths of the sea a way
for the redeemed to pass over?

 You have forgotten the Lord, your Maker,

    who stretched out the heavens
and laid the foundations of the earth,

 I am the Lord your God,
who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar—
the Lord of hosts is his name.
 And I have put my words in your mouth
and covered you in the shadow of my hand,
establishing the heavens
and laying the foundations of the earth,
and saying to Zion, ‘You are my people.’” (Isaiah 51)

So, yes, there is a clear connection between God’s covenant with Israel and God’s creation of the cosmos. The One Who calmed primeval seas to create a universe filled with His purpose had parted the Red Sea to redeem and establish a people for Himself. In Psalm 89, the seas- not just the physical land of Israel- are given to David’s Descendent in the Davidic Covenant. In Isaiah 27, God reveals the consummation of Mosaic, Davidic, and New Covenants by using similar terminology: “In that day the Lord with his hard and great and strong sword will punish Leviathan the fleeing serpent,Leviathan the twisting serpent, and he will slay the dragon that is in the sea…. In days to come Jacob shall take root, Israel shall blossom and put forth shoots and fill the whole world with fruit…. And in that day a great trumpet will be blown, and those who were lost in the land of Assyria and those who were driven out to the land of Egypt will come and worship the Lord on the holy mountain at Jerusalem.”

If the creation of the Cosmos is identified with the covenants, what happens when God’s covenant people- or any people- rebel? De-creation imagery, my friends, and it isn’t pretty. Rather than create the heavens and the earth, God will “shake” the heavens and the earth to bring ruin to pagan nations (Haggai 2). Jeremiah describes Jerusalem’s doom as a de-creation event in Jeremiah 4:

I looked on the earth, and behold, it was without form and void;
and to the heavens, and they had no light.
 I looked on the mountains, and behold, they were quaking,
and all the hills moved to and fro.
I looked, and behold, there was no man,
and all the birds of the air had fled.
 I looked, and behold, the fruitful land was a desert,
and all its cities were laid in ruins
before the Lord, before his fierce anger.

In sharp contrast, the connection between Covenant and Cosmos comes up again in prophecies of the Age to Come. In Isaiah 65, a new heaven and earth are predicted in conjunction with the fulfillment of the Old Testament covenants. This is underscored again by the end of John’s vision in Revelation 21: “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.” The Age to Come is a world of restoration and redemption fulfilled, in which God dwells with mankind, and the sea- the symbol of Chaos for nearly every ancient culture, a chaos and evil personified by serpents and dragons- is no more.

So why did God rest on the 7th day? He wasn’t tired. Moses wasn’t simply saying God stopped making new things, because Moses wasn’t writing to a people concerned with the manufacture of material elements. God finished His creation and moved on to reigning. It’s all about a kingdom, remember? Unlike the pagan gods who dwell in various temples made by man’s hands– gods who are limited in power outside of their own small patches of sacred ground, Yahweh immediately begins ruling and reigning- without contest- His universe. Deity rests in a temple, and the universe is Yahweh’s domain. His kingdom-temple is under His complete control, and He organizes and orchestrates everything in it. Unlike every human kingdom in history and the heavens and earth, which are susceptible to “de-creation”, His  true kingdom remains unshakeable, the writer of Hebrews 12 reminds us. So while our God rests in the temple of His cosmos, reigning in wisdom and goodness and majesty, we can rest– Sabbath– in the knowledge that He has conquered every foe and is working all things perfectly for His glory and our good.

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God in the Gallows

It’s been a full weekend now, and I still can’t tear my eyes away from the screen. The shock, the horror of what happened in a small elementary school in Connecticut. Call it a tragedy. Call it a shooting. Give it any name you please, but our words and labels seem frightfully inadequate. A gunman in his 20s has not only killed his own mother, but he has also shot teachers, administrators, and staff. And then there’s the children. Empty classrooms and empty beds at night. As a teacher and parent myself, I can hardly fathom what must be going through the minds of those who have suffered such horrific loss. There are acts of heroism being reported in spite of it all, and people are rallying to support those in need. But how do you wrap your mind around this sort of evil? And where is God? It’s funny that America- a secularized nation- doesn’t want much to do with God the majority of the time, but now our thoughts turn to Him again. Where is He?

In a way, 9/11 was a simpler event to deal with. Terrorists, we can handle. The death of adults- though tragic- we can cope with to some extent. But senseless tragedy…..what do you do with it? Most Americans think of themselves as decent, incapable of this sort of thing. And so, mercifully, most of us don’t even contemplate massacring five-year-olds. Who shoots children multiple times, besides a monster? We realize, then, to our horror, that monsters are very, very real. They just don’t look anything like the sort of thing children fear. For the most part, they look like us. That’s the chilling truth. They look like us.

But what of God? Can’t He stop evil? If He is loving, why doesn’t He save the innocent victims? If He is all-powerful, why doesn’t He stop the violent? You see, buried in our two beliefs about God (that He is all-loving and all-powerful) are two other unspoken beliefs about God. We believe that because He is all-loving, God will remove us from whatever causes pain. We believe that if God is all-powerful, He will therefore use that power to do what we would do if we had that power. But we are not God. We do not know which events are necessary to the Divine plan (God requires that they happen because they are the plan), which events are incidental to the Divine plan (God can achieve His ultimate ends whether or not they occur), and which events occur in spite of the Divine plan (they are in opposition to God’s will, but He permits them to occur anyway.) Obviously, some events are a combination of these man-made categories.

Here’s my point: we don’t know it all. We don’t see it all. We are limited in knowledge and wisdom, time and space. We aren’t as good or holy as God. He’s the only one capable of knowing what must be, may be, and will be. As a friend once told me, God is not just the every-where God. He is also the every-when God. He is in all times and places at once. It gets better than that, though.

High and lofty as He is, God Himself visited us in the person of Jesus Christ. In Jesus, He experienced every pain and grief imaginable. He barely survived Herod’s massacre shortly after birth, lived for years as an exile in Egypt, grew up in an impoverished village, earned the scorn of the religious and political leaders of His day, experienced hunger and thirst in the wilderness, was betrayed and abandoned by those closest to Him, was beaten, was mocked, was unjustly put to death. God stepped out of His world of light, glory, honor, music, and wonder into our pain and suffering. So many have lost children to wars, disease, and- in recent days- acts of senseless violence. Let us not forget that God has lost one, too.

He didn’t just ordain, permit, or ignore suffering. He experienced it. All of it. We are victims on this earth, but God chose to endure horror itself for our sakes.

I am reminded of Elie Wiesel’s writings of his time as a Jew in prison camps such as Auschwitz. For days, Wiesel was forced to work, to suffer physically and emotionally, to question everything he knew of God. During a particularly brutal period, he and others were forced to watch the hanging of a fellow prisoner. As they watched in horror and despair, someone behind Wiesel mutter, “Where is God?” While Wiesel wrestled with this issue throughout his time in prison camps, a voice within him answered back: “Where is He? Here He is—He is hanging here on this gallows.”

What Wiesel thought in despair, I say to you as an encouragement. Where is God? He is here. It’s Christmas, after all, and now more than ever we need our Immanuel– God with us. He is the Bread of Life. He is the Light of the World. He is the Door. He is the Good Shepherd. He is Way, Truth, and Life. He is the Resurrection. He is the Vine. He is I AM.

Whether we need a God Who reigns from His throne in eternity, or a God Who welcomes kindergarteners into His kingdom; whether we need a God Who speaks the universe into existence, or a God present in the gallows, that’s Who we have…..because that’s where He is.

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The Jubilant Business of Heaven

“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” – Psalm 16:11

This week, I was faced with the bittersweet task of saying “goodbye for now” to a friend. Deb won a battle against cancer by finding ultimate healing at the feet of Christ. She was a wife and mother, a teacher and counselor, and so much more to those who knew her. Even when her health was in decline, she found humor and joy where few could see it. I wasn’t able to attend her funeral, but since learning of her death, I’ve spent a little time reflecting on the life she lived. It’s led me to re-evaluate what it means to be joyful, and- ultimately- what Heaven must be like.

I am by nature more given to seriousness than levity. Folks that know me casually might be surprised by that last sentence, but it’s true. I can be lighthearted and goofy in conversation, and I can make small talk as well as anybody. When I’m not in a social or professional setting, though, I’m a pretty different person. I love the deep, still waters of theology and philosophy. I love that every time I find myself growing in Christ and His Word, I realize that the Lion of Judah seems to have grown larger still. If I’m honest, though, I’m also more serious because life has made me cynical. Living in a fallen world can do that. Hypocrisy and disillusionment with modern Christianity, a lack of honor within the body of Christ, personal and family health issues, a struggling economy, and poor governmental leadership can darken one’s worldview. We aren’t called to a life of cynicism and solemnity, though. We are called to be joyful. Through the Father’s will and Word, Christ’s incarnation and resurrection power, and the Spirit’s ministry, we encounter Someone Who is the Source, not just of comfort, but of mirth.

You heard me right. Mirth. Festivity. Gaiety, even. Joy takes on many forms, of course. It can be a quiet assurance amid turmoil, enjoyment of fellowship between friends, satisfaction at a job well done, or taking pleasure in God’s creation. As Christians, we often leave it at that. “Joy is passive,” we subconsciously think. “It’s serious business, unlike the fun and games and laughter we enjoy when we aren’t ‘on the clock.’ Joy is so much more spiritual than mere enjoyment.” Oh, but how we miss the mark. To be sure, many forms of entertainment and pleasure are mindless and foolish, “carnivals” in the truest sense of the word. Mirth is a very different sort of thing, though. In this active sense, joy can become a celebration or noisy excitement. It can be fierce and intense. It is this active form of joy that is missing in so many lives today. It is this sort of joy that my friend and colleague Deb understood so well. As I’ve said before, when she laughed, it was as if Heaven’s joy had somehow spilled over onto the Earth below. It is this sort of joy we need more of in our Christianity.

We may as well get used to mirth and festivity, anyway. While sacrifice, suffering, and weariness are so prominent in our world today, it will not always be so. If we could see beyond the veil that separates Earth from Heaven, we would see that the shadow is just a passing thing. In Heaven, the permanent thing will be supreme joy. Beauty instead of ashes. Rejoicing instead of sorrow. Dancing instead of drudgery.

Picture for a moment Jesus’ first miracle. There is no wine for the wedding, so Jesus has the servants fill large vessels to the brim with water, and- behold!- the water is turned to wine, a symbol of joy and merriment and blessing in the Bible. The servants are then commanded to dip their pitchers into the large vessels and provide refreshments to the wedding guests. The servants do as they are told, but as they dip the pitchers into the larger vessels, the wine overflows. No matter, though, as there are around 150 gallons remaining for the guests. The wedding’s “master of ceremonies” is surprised by its quality, and modern critical “scholars” are concerned by its quantity. The wine is too good for one, and there is too much of it for the others! It’s an extravagant miracle that seems a bit too over the top for a little wedding in Cana.

Oh, but how perfect the image of the overflowing wine is! The Eternal Kingdom will be a place flooded with joy and merriment and blessing. We will experience intense relief and comfort there, and we will see revelry take its rightful place in our lives, for there the Source of all beauty, and wonder, and goodness sits enthroned. As Lewis puts it in The Last Battle: “The term is over: the holidays have begun. The dream is ended: this is the morning.” Any student (or teacher, for that matter) can tell you the anticipation that surrounds Christmas vacation. One day, we will enjoy Christmas vacation unending. That doesn’t make final exams sound so bad, now does it?

 

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A Few Thoughts on the Election 2012

Going to bed last night, and even waking up this morning, I was struck by the variety of responses to the election results. Fear. Anger. Hopelessness. Vengeance. Sorrow. Frustration. Pride. In trying to process my own emotions and thoughts on the matter as well as put what transpired into focus, my mind turned once again to T. S. Eliot’s “The Hollow Men.” The poem is somewhat vague, filled with symbolism and metaphors that don’t go entirely explained within the poem itself. It’s the fifth section that I was most drawn to. I’ve included a portion of the poem below (it’s set up as Eliot intended, so don’t blast me for how unconventional it is):

Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the Shadow
                                For Thine is the Kingdom

Between the conception
And the creation
Between the emotion
And the response
Falls the Shadow
                                Life is very long

Between the desire
And the spasm
Between the potency
And the existence
Between the essence
And the descent
Falls the Shadow
                                For Thine is the Kingdom

For Thine is
Life is
For Thine is the

This is the way the world ends...
Not with a bang, but a whimper.

Tragic, depressing stuff, but that’s where my mind goes thanks to my time teaching language arts. For whatever reason, things come into focus for me in this way. So, after dabbling in the melancholy, I decided to list, point-by-point, my thoughts on the election.

  • God is still on the throne, no matter who won last night. That is not a consolation, but it is instead a glory to wonder at as well as a blessed assurance. God’s purposes will still be accomplished regardless of man’s struggle for power. He has raised up kings and kingdoms, and He has overthrown them according to His purposes. The heart of our “king” is in His hand, and the entire universe is under His control. God is not dead, nor does He sleep. He can bring about justice, mercy, and provision for His glory no matter who is in the Oval Office or has a seat in Congress.
  • When it comes to the presidential election, we had two choices: a moderate with a questionable voting record on moral issues OR a liberal with a definite bias against moral issues. A two-party system is going to drive everyone to appear moderate during election time. People appear to have preferred the devil they knew.
  • Elections are snapshots of a society. Given the victories for those who champion immoral, anti-religious causes, the snapshots reveal that we are a sick, sick people. The ruling party at the moment supports the murder of unborn infants. Greed has infested our society to the point that the rich invest in politics to protect their wealth, and the poor and middle class vote to take from the wealthy by sheer force. Stories of racially-motivated hatred (white folks and New Black Panthers alike) and unsympathetic comments from a certain Chris Matthews regarding the political effects of Hurricane Sandy flooded the news media. We are a divided and self-destructive society, but I’m not going to dwell here. My point is all too easily made.
  • Between a quick read of Scripture and thumbing through the history books, we discover that the two points above bring us to a logical conclusion: America is at a very important crossroads. God’s purposes will always come to pass, but whole kingdoms may be removed if they don’t follow His commands. This isn’t about theocracy, folks. This is about sovereignty. America does not equal Israel, nor is there such a thing as a truly “Christian” nation. However, God does have demands for all nations. Egypt’s sins were many, so God used the plagues to chasten them. Canaanite cultures were wiped out because their sin was so wretched that God states that the land itself was ready to expel them. Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome were mighty nations which were given power by God providentially, and they all had their power removed by that same Providence when their national sins were too many. They victimized the innocent, the poor, and the faithful alike. They became cruel, prideful, or hateful, so God used nature and nations to move them off the scene. So it may be with America before long. How quickly she rose to greatness, and how quickly she has fallen in power and prosperity within my own lifetime! There may be yet a national rebirth, a renewed conscience in this nation. It has happened before in many other nations, including our own. A single election does not signal our necessary downfall. If not, however, we must trust God to be faithful and good to His people even as He removes America from the world scene at some point in the (hopefully) distant future. He would not be unjust for bringing us far lower than we are at this point or for removing us as a nation entirely. He is “not a tame Lion, but He is good.” The problem is not God’s goodness, but our “badness.” The problem is that we- as a nation- might be weighed in the balance and found wanting.
  • The real issue in America is the Church, not the World. The World is merely doing what it has been doing since the Fall. It forces conformity to pride, lust, and violence. It fuels self-will and seeks to drown out Christ in a sea of brazen rebellion. Nothing has changed since mankind left the Garden. God’s people, on the other hand, have failed miserably. Some Christians are walled gardens of stinkweed and poison ivy. They are content to shut themselves off from the culture in the name of “fundamentalism.” The Salt has refused to leave the Shaker, so the Meal is either bland or rotten. Other Christians have turned Jesus into a political figure, using Him to champion various political causes that have nothing to do with Christ or the Bible. Still others are guilty of idolatry similar to the Statism of our nation as a whole. While not technically replacing God with the Government, they have nonetheless transferred God’s commands to the Church to various government assistance programs. This group has managed to foist a whole new form of legalism upon us, all the while quoting chapter and verse completely out of context. A final group of Christians see fit to just be lazy and ignorant, frankly. They choose to ignore the issues of the day, sit on their hands, and hum a cheesy worship song while posting a single verse from Psalms on Election Day, all the while congratulating themselves that they are concerned with “more important things besides ‘politics’.” Or perhaps they work themselves into a frenzy in the months heading in to the election, but they do nothing the rest of the year to meet the physical and spiritual needs of others. It’s as if they were cramming for a test in college, and the lack of effort shows. If the Church refuses to be salt and light, if we aren’t thinking right and believing right and acting right each and every day of the year, why should we expect to have any influence at all on the direction of the Nation we claim to love so much? What is a nation besides a group of people? If we care nothing for souls and bodies alike, then maybe we are just married to an ideal based on half-learned or biased history lessons.

And so here we are on November 7th, and I am going to bring this post full circle. The Shadow has fallen between idea and reality, motion and act, conception and creation, emotion and response. While we as a Church and a Nation ought to be crying out, “For Thine is the Kingdom!”, we are instead wrapped up in our party, our ideals, our issues, our emotions…..ourselves. And there’s nothing more depressing then ourselves, so instead we find ourselves crying out in our depression and hopelessness (or perhaps unsatisfactory triumph), “Life is very long!” We are wearied and discouraged by life because we are controlled by what we consume. The Shadow falls, paralyzing us, just as T.S. Eliot predicted. The soul of this Nation- and especially the Church- is struggling desperately to shake off the weight of evil and self-delusion. At one moment, she cries out “For Thine is….” but falls silent before ceding authority and kingship. The next she finds herself muttering “Life is…..” while recognizing that there is deeper meaning to be found.

Let us turn our gaze Heavenward. Let us cry out to the only One capable of helping our lips form the words: “For Thine is the Kingdom, Power, and Glory forever.” America desperately needs a revival, an awakening, but this will not come through activism. It will not come through politics. It certainly will not come via the ballot box. It must come when the Church determines that it will glory in Christ and seek only to glorify Him.

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Skipping the Tithe

Nightmares. Fits. Heartburn. That’s what I’m going to give folks in some circles by even posting this thing. For some, what I’m saying is more controversial than accepting the Creation-as-Temple model of Genesis 1-2, than taking a stand for biblical marriage, than telling people that science has the wrong set of tools to even begin to prove (or disprove) the existence of God. This little post- humble though it be- might all but get me blacklisted.

You see, in the very month of my 30th birthday, for the first time EVER….I failed to tithe. Failed. And I don’t think God’s mad at me. The earth didn’t stop moving. My house didn’t burn down (a fact which surprises anyone who’s seen what previous owners have done to this place.)

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m the budget king. My wife hates it when I start balancing checkbooks, creating spreadsheets, and running reports, because the bottom line is that I’m not going to be going to bed on time. It’s just a fact. Oh, and a big deal in my spreadsheet budget is the tithe line. It’s a protected cell that runs a simple little formula for calculating the monthly tithe amount based on every red cent we make. Since my first job in high school, I have always tithed over 10% of my gross earnings. Heck, even when I was in elementary school, my tithe made it into the offering plate. It may have been a whopping quarter that month, but it always happened. It’s a good habit to teach your kids early on, so that’s what I learned.

I grew up hearing about the importance of giving, and missions conferences were always a big deal at my church growing up. These are positives, not negatives, by the way. I’m not trying to cast evangelism, discipleship, or Christian charity in a bad light. At all. However, as an adult, I’ve come to reject a few assumptions I’d made about giving. First off, faith promise giving toward missions is great for churches who want to budget missionary support….if everyone keeps the promise on the envelope. (Good luck with that. Every pastoral class on budgeting in seminary will warn you that church-going folk are tremendous liars with big hearts.) It is, however, not the only method for providing for missionaries. Secondly, and more controversially, I do not believe that tithing is a requirement for New Testament Christians.

Sorry. It’s just the truth. I’ve visited the topic over and over again, yet I see no biblical command for Christians to tithe. Oh, I see commands that involve generosity, compassion, and giving…..just not a tithe. The Church is simply the wrong type of institution and- for the most part- made up of people who are the wrong nationality to be truly tithing. In short, tithing is for Israel, not the Church. More on that some other time.

These are beliefs that I’ve held to for years, but I always still gave 10% or more per month, sometimes out of generosity, sometimes because of the Spirit’s promptings, and sometimes out of either habit or some form of superstition. What if God pulled back the blessings on my life because I wasn’t giving to Him? Giving is, after all, a duty– a responsibility. A duty to be accepted joyfully, but a duty nonetheless. So over the years, my wife and I have given to individuals, groups, churches, and ministries that we felt led to help in some way. (“What?!? You don’t give just in church?!? That’s where tithe’s belong!!!”) We hold to a few key points:

  1. Giving should be planned. We should budget how much to give each month, and we should have guidelines governing who qualifies as a recipient of that money.
  2. Giving should be spontaneous. We determine how much is set aside in the budget, but how it is used is not always planned. Sometimes we wind up giving at unexpected times or in surprising ways.
  3. Giving should be generous and extravagant when the Spirit so leads. In seasons of life where God has blessed us, we have thoroughly enjoyed surprising someone or some group of people God has laid on our hearts with something a little special.
  4. Giving should be sacrificial. Sometimes it’s good to “give ’till it hurts.” I don’t believe in going into debt, but choosing to avoid a personal “want” to meet someone’s need- or a special Church need- is healthy. It helps keep things in focus. I’m not always good at this part- we humans are selfish by nature- but saying “no” to ourselves and “yes” to God is always worth it.

To my four points above, I’ve had to add a fifth point:

5. God doesn’t need my money. Ever.

How will evangelism go on? How will a church ministry survive? What about the poor? What about needs locally? What about the world?

Do you really think what your church, your neighbor, your missionary needs is your money? Even in our giving, we humans can be materialistic. My church doesn’t need my money. It needs the Spirit to move. My neighbor doesn’t need my money. She needs Christ. My favorite mission team doesn’t need my money. They need a the Heavenly Father to do what the flesh cannot. God is capable of providing food in the wilderness and water from rocks. He can dress flowers more beautifully than Solomon. Do we really think that our giving is all that important?

Maybe, if instead of focusing on “my” money, “my” church, “my” neighbor, and “my” missionary…..we chose to focus on a God capable of providing for all those areas and more without a second thought, we’d discover that all of those things– money, church, neighbor, and ministry– aren’t really ours after all. That little possessive pronoun can just go away.

Edit: To respond to a few criticisms I’ve received for a moment, yes- I do believe charity is important. I’ve been the recipient of cash, kind words, time, and meals more times than I can count. There are needy people and worthy causes out there, so do be on the lookout. Just don’t talk yourself into believing that you are the only hope a person or cause has. I’m grateful for those who have been so kind to me and my family over the years, but know that the adoration and worship is properly directed at the Father.

So, no, we haven’t met our percentage goals for giving in the last two months. The day will come, Lord willing, when that will happen again. For the moment, we’re learning contentment instead of financial stress, God-reliance instead of self-reliance, and how to humbly accept blessing rather than feel the burden of trying to selfishly be that blessing all the time. It is more blessed to give than to receive- and I don’t mean this post to de-emphasize the importance of generosity- but it is most blessed of all to simply learn to lean on Jesus.

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Adoption: Some Assembly Required

The night I sat down to write this post, I had just wrapped things up for the evening and shut off the bedroom light, when I heard a thump and a whimper just outside our bedroom door. Moments later, there was the pitter-patter of little feet up to our bed followed by the sounds of our three-year-old scaling the side of our bed to burrow in deeply between my wife and I. For the next hour, we took turns consoling our oldest son, who seemed to be upset for no reason. He wasn’t scared. He wasn’t sad. He wasn’t sick or hurting. He’d sit there and fidget and fuss, wedging himself in as tightly as possible, only to clamber back out and reposition himself a few moments later. After rubbing his back, smoothing his hair, whispering comforting words, and holding him tightly, he finally began to calm when my wife gently reminded him that he was our boy, that he was safe, and that he didn’t have to leave us. He drifted off to sleep at some point before midnight, which is when I finally took him back to his own bed. We slept relatively soundly ourselves until he came back in around 5:00 in the morning.

That was just another night in the life of adoptive parents. It doesn’t happen often, but it does happen regularly. We’ve adopted two children from foster care and are in the process of adopting a third. They’re all toddlers, and anybody who has raised a family knows that toddlers can be a handful no matter what time of day it is. During our days, we deal with fussy, hungry children and our share of tantrums and behavior issues. We also deal with some things that are not-so-standard, though.

Like Much-Afraid in Hind’s Feet in High Places by Hannah Hurnard, our children deal with an unusual amount of fear. Our three-year-old has been with us for three years now (he’s nearly four, actually), but he panics for no apparent reason. That’s what was going on last night. From somewhere deep within his soul, a sense of loneliness and fear of being “taken” welled up within him. He’s seen foster children removed from our home before, and it always results in nightmares– giant hands dropping from the sky, ripping him or a foster sibling away, or tentacled monsters grasping at him from underneath his bed. The nightmares go away in time, but the fearfulness comes and goes. Our two-year-old son has night terrors and phantom pains in his legs, the consequence of a biological parent who broke his legs in four places when he was just two months old.

This fear leads to other behaviors as well. There is anger sometimes, a powerful emotional reaction when they feel like they’re not in control of the situation or not “a part of the moment.”  While our oldest is a very social person with a broad vocabulary, he struggles to connect with new people or peers. He’s a bit hyper, possibly the result of being born exposed to a variety of drugs that his mother took illegally.

Like so many other adopted children, our kids face unique challenges. They can’t be treated like biological children, we’ve learned. Spanking works in many, many homes in America and numerous other cultures around the world and throughout history. It doesn’t work for us, and we don’t use it as a tool in our home. Victims of abuse, neglect, and abandonment don’t understand the “rod of correction” because they subconsciously mistrust the intentions of most adults. They’ve been failed, hurt, and given up on by adults in the past, and some portion of that memory continues with them into the future. Besides, spanking is sometimes used as a fast-an-easy method of getting results rather than a method of instruction. We’re simply not convinced it is as essential as some would have us believe. Another tool that isn’t in our child-rearing toolbox is “time outs.” Getting sent to your room may be a favorite in homes across the USA, but it backfires terribly in adoptive homes. What does a “time out” demonstrate to a victimized child? It makes them feel unloved, unwanted, and alone. They aren’t thinking about what they did wrong. They’ve been driven back to the land of fear and anger.

My point is that adopted kids need to be repaired and rebuilt. Adoptive parents are- in the human sense- called to be surgeons of both psyche and soul. It’s a daunting task, but one my wife and I cherish. As we have come to learn this truth, we’ve also learned some surprising things about God’s love for us. We are- after all- adopted children ourselves. The world, the Flesh, and the Devil have ravaged our souls. We are born into a fallen world, and we at times feel forsaken. Surrounded by addictions, we sometimes fall prey to them ourselves. We have felt the sting of abuse, even if we are our own captor, dwelling in prisons fashioned by our own hands. The memory of the past haunts us long after we have moved on.

Our Heavenly Father knows that He is not simply a Divine Parent, but He is also there to be a Healer. Have you ever wondered how He justifies being so merciful and gracious? I mean, what’s the basis for treating us so lovingly in spite of failings? To be certain, one answer is that His basis for doing so lies within Himself. I don’t mean to take the significance of that away. There’s another answer, though, that is also founded within Himself. He already knows what adoptive parents discover sooner or later. He knows that we are sinful because it is our nature to sin, just as foolishness is bound in the heart of a child. He further knows that we act- and react- because of fear. We get angry and push Him away because that is what the wounded do sometimes. We struggle to trust even Him because we’ve never known what it is like to trust before. Intimacy without fear or shame is a foreign concept. He can afford to be merciful and gracious to us because that’s the only way healing can happen.

So how do we discipline our adopted children? Rather than “time outs”, we have “time ins.” That’s not something new-agey, and it includes a subtle-yet-important difference. Rather than sending our children away for misbehavior, we keep them close. If they misbehave at the dinner table, they sit in a chair close to the table where they can calm down before continuing their meal. Instead of sending them to their rooms, they “get” to help us with a chore or some other task. To be sure, we establish ourselves as the authority, but our home is much more pleasant- and our children are much more obedient- when we do things in this way. Is this not the sort of thing God does for His children? He establishes His authority when necessary, but He also draws us closer to Himself. He disciplines us and matures us by spending time with us, not by sending us away until we’ve learned our lesson. He uses pain as a megaphone to rouse us from slumber, but only when absolutely and perfectly necessary. He has other far more gentle methods to bind up wounds, free from prison, and nurture and admonish His children.

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Paul on Homosexuality

I’d like to briefly deal with the two most often quoted passaged in the New Testament which deal with homosexuality. In listening to various sides on this issue, I realized that there are a lot of folks out there who either don’t understand the truth of what Paul is saying or they have no interest in letting God’s Word transform them. And, Christians, I’m looking at you, here. If an unsaved person entrenched in sin doesn’t at first recognize their sin, that’s completely understandable. A lost person will do what is in their nature. When a blood-washed Christian- someone who has accepted God’s grace- fails to share that grace with others, then something is very wrong. What happened to being fishers of men? To the passages at hand….

Romans 1:26-27

“For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature;  and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.”

These verses are often used by Christians in the context of Romans 1 to identify homosexuals as those with “reprobate minds.” The idea of a reprobate mind is that the person with such a mind has “passed the point of no return” and has utterly rejected God to the point that God will no longer persist in offering them salvation. Not only does this view lack a lot of Scriptural support, but it ignores the reality of what many people who experience same-sex attraction say about themselves. Many, many of them say they experienced this aberrant attraction at a very early age.  I disagree strongly with the interpretation that Romans 1 means that homosexuals are past saving. The overall context of Romans puts Romans 1 as a general description of humanity apart from God. There is a general cause and effect relationship between rejecting God and the sins which God permits humanity to fall into. Humanity as a whole and perhaps specific cultures will spiral downward, away from admitting the authority of Christ…..unless God intervenes. This is the natural tendency of humanity in general, but it is not the experience of everyone who is not a believer, nor is it the path that every person must take to self-identify as a homosexual.

1 Corinthians 6:9-11

“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (ESV)

The ESV takes two terms used to refer to homosexuality in this passage (translated in the KJV as “effeminate” and “abusers of themselves with mankind”) and translates them simply as “men who practice homosexuality.” I can only assume the translators chose to do this to avoid explaining the two terms for some reason. I’ll have to say they wimped out on this one.

There are a few issues in this passage:

  1. Are the people on this list banned from going to Heaven?
  2. Who are the effeminate and the abusers of themselves with mankind?
  3. Does this passage deal primarily with cultic practices, or with all homosexual activity?

I would first point out that “inheriting” and “entering” the Kingdom are two different things in many passages of Scripture. One can enter the Kingdom without inheriting it, but one cannot inherit the Kingdom without entering it first. In other words, I do not think that this passage means that those who commit the sins listed are banned from Heaven. We know from other passages that people who commit sin- even violent or blasphemous sin- can be saved, so clearly Paul’s intent is not to list off reasons why some are banned from ever entering Heaven. So who are these people, anyway?

I am very surprised by the number of writings on this subject which make the Greek language behind this passage so ambiguous. It is true that Paul uses a very unusual word here: “Arsenokoitēs”- literally, “[male] intercourse with a male.” Some would limit the word to only temple prostitution, pedophilia, etc. However, if this is all that Paul meant, there are at least three Greek words that he could have chosen from: paiderastes (“lover of boys”- pedophilia), paidophthoros (“warped by boys [prostitutes]”),  and kinaidos (“effeminate cross-dresser”.) Instead, Paul chooses two very broad terms for homosexuality in general. So what made him choose these two words?

While he was a Jew, Paul would have been well-versed in the Greek language. The Septuagint (a Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament) would have been something he knew well and used frequently when speaking with non-Jews. This unique word in Corinthians comes from the Septuagint’s rendering of Leviticus 18:22: (kai meta arsenos ou koimēthēsē koitēn gunaikos. bdelugma gar estin…. “And you shall not have sexual intercourse with a male as with a female. For it is unclean.”). Paul essentially made up his own Greek word to match the Old Testament commandment. Clearly, Paul believed that commandments against sexual sins were still in effect, regardless of whatever else he believed about the Old Testament Law!

The other word used for a homosexual here is “Malakos”, a term used of male prostitutes in the pagan cults, pederasty (you don’t want to know), and the passive member of a homosexual relationship. Just about every Greek lexicon accepts a broad definition of this term. It is translated as “effeminate” in a more classic sense; as in, a male who assumes the role of a female. This term does not refer to a man whose personality or mannerisms could be taken to be feminine. These are sometimes culturally defined rather than God-given. The bottom line is that Paul chose two unique words with very broad meanings to tell us that all homosexuality- whatever form it takes- is against God’s plan. Whether a lifestyle, a form of prostitution, or pedophilia, it is all wrong.

This brings me to the last verse in this passage: “such were some of you.” Change is possible. There is hope. The Bible does not merely condemn, but offers redemption. However strong the emotions, however ingrained the behavior, healing and change can occur. God offers liberty from sinful lifestyles through the blood of Jesus Christ. The Corinthian church had members of its congregation that were former homosexuals, thieves, and drunks. Christian church, where are your converts from all aspects of society? Perhaps we need to start being fishers of men instead of keepers of the aquarium.

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Jesus on Homosexuality

One of the most frequently-asked questions I got when dealing with issues of human sexuality- including homosexuality- is why I dealt so little with the New Testament. My Christian friends wondered why I barely hinted at Paul’s writings on the subject, and my liberal friends wanted to know why I failed to bring up Jesus. Today I’m going to attempt to answer for myself on both counts.

No doubt my liberal friends perceived a weakness in my logic. Why- if I am a Christian- didn’t I bring up Christ? They suppose that Jesus had nothing to say about homosexuality, and so they believe that they have a good counter-argument. This belief is nonsense, as is the belief held by many Christians that Christianity should have very little interest in the Old Testament. Just a small rant here: but the New Testament is set very firmly in the history and theology of the Old. As I am learning, everything in the Old Testament- while powerful and pertinent in its own context- provided for everything we in the Church believe and know and hold to in the much larger context of the Gospel and God’s unfolding revelation of Himself. In short, you cannot have the Church without Israel first. You cannot have the message of Christ without the Law. “Christ the Savior is born” is of no meaning unless we better understand vicarious atonement, sin, sacrifice, and Law. Grace cannot be divorced from Truth, nor Justice from Mercy, and it is very wrong of us to ignore the larger portion of Scripture. It isn’t just about “Bible stories” in Sunday School, you know…..those narratives are only the beginning of something much, much grander.

So, on to the subject at hand. How exactly does Jesus weigh in on the issue of homosexuality? Consider the following with me for a moment:

  1. Jesus spoke in Matthew 19 of the Genesis account of creation: God created male and female as the model for marriage. That is the only paradigm that Jesus ever uses. He doesn’t even remotely leave the door open on the subject of marriage.
  2. Jesus tells us in John 5:19: “So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Sondoes likewise.” How significant it is, then, that Jesus’ first miracle- His first act as an adult that reveals His true nature-  is at a wedding in Cana. Like the Father, He blesses the wedding. I understand that Jesus helped avoid a serious issue for the bride’s family in performing the miracle, but remember- that was Mary’s concern in running out of wine. Jesus never claimed the miracle occurred to avoid shame and a scandal. I also understand that the water-to-wine miracle had certain theological and Messianic implications. However, we must admit that Jesus’ choice of settings for a first miracle was not insignificant. There were other places and people that would have been just as significant.
  3. In the Matthew 19 passage, Jesus mentions three types of “eunuchs”: born eunuchs, man-made eunuchs, and eunuchs for the Kingdom. There are people who do not marry or at the very least are not fully functional with regard to biological sexuality. There are those who have been made eunuchs for political purposes (the normal sense of the word “eunuch”.) Finally, there are those to whom God has given the gift of celibacy instead of the gift of marriage. Any attempt to make one of these three categories of eunuch inclusive of homosexuals is reading something into the biblical text that simply isn’t there. At the very best case, the third type of eunuch could refer to a person who experiences same-sex attraction but chooses to give up those desires for the purpose of obeying God. This person is forgoing the sexual intimacy they desire for the sake of following Christ. This is an example of taking up the cross for the purpose of discipleship.
  4. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus expands upon the commandment against adultery to include looking on someone to lust after them. Yes, I know it is dealing specifically with a man lusting after a woman, but Jesus is emphasizing the sin of lust, not the gender of the people involved. Reading through the Old Testament Law reveals that this is common practice. So “simple” lust is a sin, not just acting on that desire.
  5. It’s common sense that Points 1 and 4 above create an air-tight case against homosexuality from Jesus’ perspective. IF marriage is to include only male and female and IF lust toward someone outside of marriage is sin, THEN it is impossible for a man or woman to lust after (much less sleep with) someone of the same sex and not sin. Jesus does not have to give special mention to homosexuality because He has emphasized the boundaries for marriage and designated everything outside those boundaries as sinful. Frankly, Jesus doesn’t have to mention pedophilia or bestiality for those same reasons. There is a great wall around marriage, and there is only one door by which we may enter.
  6. My final point is, in many ways, the culmination of the discussion I’ve been having with my readers. We’ve seen the biblical evidence against homosexuality time and time again with respect to the Old Testament. We’ve even demonstrated that the commands against homosexuality have specific implications outside the Mosaic Law. It isn’t just a Jewish theocracy that needed to adhere to a moral code– it’s every person in every nation. Jesus had a few things to say about the Law, though. For starters, His first public message made it very clear that He didn’t intend to destroy it. Jesus didn’t think the Law was wrong or immoral. He is, after all, God in flesh. We call it the “Mosaic Law”- the code of Moses, but it was really God Who had spoken.

Jesus- God in flesh- was the Author and Fulfillment of the Law. Jesus accepted the burden that came with the Law, paid the penalty for atonement demanded by the Law, and offers grace, mercy, and love in many ways because of the Law. He couldn’t do any of that without a proper foundation. The Law is not the enemy of grace; it is its basis. Sin meets its Atoner, Death meets its Conqueror at the Cross only because God had explicitly revealed Death and Life, Sin and Holiness through the Law and the Old Testament narrative. So, yes, Jesus weighed in on homosexuality, but then again He weighed in on a lot of sins. He lifted up the Woman Caught in Adultery and found her free of condemnation, but He was also loving enough to tell her to stop her sin. Believers have redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins…..and reading Paul’s epistles make it very obvious that “believers” can include people who have experienced- and acted upon- same-sex attraction. That’s the whole Gospel, folks- not just the parts we like to hear.

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Returning to Eden

I began this whirlwind tour of God’s plan for human sexuality and marriage in the Garden of Eden, and it is to Eden that we are returning, not by way of Genesis, but by way of Song of Solomon. After all, it is no good to speak of unspoiled beauty and splendor. We’re fallen, and the Garden is lost to us, as is the perfection that we would have found there. And so, here we are. We all crave Eden, whether we realize it or not, because Eden represents what should have been. When we contemplate the unspoiled world, it evokes a sense of longing, a half-whimsical desire to be there. We don’t want to read about it; we want to get there somehow. So it is with Heaven, a place we also cannot get to without a bit of unpleasantness. So then, Eden lies in the past, and Heaven waits in our future. What are we to do in the present? There are many answers to that question, but I am going to offer one for your consideration.

Far from being some sort of mystical allegory of spiritual truths, I believe- as many others before me- that Song of Solomon is a celebration of all that is good and right about marriage. Its message is that- while we have been exiled from Eden- we can enjoy intimacy and fulfillment as God’s blessing on marriage partially unmakes the curse that sin and Satan have brought into our world. “The marriage bed undefiled” and all that it represents provides a means of returning to Eden, and through a truly blessed romance, we can see the world we were made for. Matrimony is a blessed reprieve, a retreat from the turmoil of the fallen creation. I’m not just speaking hypothetically or poetically, here. I truly believe the Bible points to marriage as a grace given to make life more meaningful and joyous and less of a burden. But you don’t have to take my word for it (cue Reading Rainbow theme and Levar Burton, sans VISOR). Here’s a quote from Jill Munro’s Spikenard and Saffron on Eden and Song of Solomon: “The garden, which in the Genesis story becomes an inaccessible place from which humanity is exiled, in the Song is rediscovered in the woman; it is in union or communion with her that her lover rediscovers the bliss of which the Eden story spoke. As a result, the world around is recreated; it too becomes a garden, a garden of love which the reader too may enter for a time.” Phyllis Trible has also noticed this similarity, as she writes: “Whatever else it may be, Canticles is a commentary on Genesis 2-3. Paradise Lost is Paradise Regained.”

Make no mistake, however. The couple in Song of Solomon is not perfect. There is struggle, hurt, and sorrow, but there is also healing and growth. It is a beautiful example of obedience to the creation order. Song of Solomon creates a picture of what Genesis 1-2 describe, or as near to it as we can get this side of Heaven. It is as if the Author is telling us that we do not just have to read about the Creation Order: somehow, in some way, we can get inside the story itself. Think about it with me for a moment. Without describing the Days of Creation, Solomon and his beloved enjoy all elements of that creation. There is light and water and animals and fruit and forests. There is music and splendor and majesty. There is gold and wealth, joy and gladness. There is a spoken blessing on the marriage, linking the speaker to the Creator: “Eat, friends, drink, and be drunk with love!” What we read about in Genesis 1-2, Solomon and the Shulamite are able to experience.  Consider also their marital experience in relationship to the Created Order. They are heterosexual,  monogamous, and co-equal. It’s one of union and communion. The connection with Genesis is no small one. Adam and Eve are parallel to Solomon and the Shulamite.

Who is this Shulamite woman, anyway? To be honest, no one knows for certain. Some suggest that she is Abishag, the female attendant to David in his old age. They claim that she married Solomon officially due to being in David’s harem, pointing to the fact that she was from Shunem as evidence. I would remind the reader that “Shulamite” and “Shunamite” are not at all the same thing, and that there is no concrete evidence that Shulem was ever a village or town in Israel. I do not think this is a name for her birthplace, nor do I think this is a name at all, at least in the normal sense. You see, in Hebrew, “Shulamite” is simply the feminine form of the masculine name translated….”Solomon.” It is her title, not her name. He is Solomon, and she is the Solomon-ess. These names demonstrate that love and commitment has made them equals, but that is not the focus of the book. The focus in Song of Solomon is on their love and their devotion, and in their romance they enjoy something that their very names reveal as well. The name Solomon/Solomoness means peace.

Not only does the Solomon/Solomoness (“Shulamite”) connection reveal a sense of equality and peace, but it provides another link with the Created Order. He is Solomon, and she is the Solomoness. They are equal, but- far more importantly- they are two halves of the same Whole. This is a “one flesh” relationship. “I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine….”, she says. Later, she adds, “His desire is for me”, a reversal of God’s statement to Eve in the Garden: “Your desire will be to your Husband.” This is the solution to the situation posed by Him at the beginning. Relationships begin fragmenting because of human nature, but they can be mended. The wife has begun by desiring what she cannot always have (she does so twice in the poem), but throughout the poem, they’ve come to desire each other. In this the Fall is partially unmade. Solomon and the Solomoness are mutual, reciprocal partners- fitting helpers for each other. Through their love, commitment, and romance, God has blessed the husband and wife, and they are now experiencing what was described way back in Genesis, something Richard M. Davidson calls “Paradise Love.”

What does this love look like? It is beautiful and sensuous: the Song describes romance using imagery encompassing all five senses. It is an exciting celebration: there is great joy when lovers see each other, and the wedding is one of great splendor. It is a thrilling adventure: the Song is filled with statements such as “Arise my love, and come away with me! Let us make haste!” Davidson notes that the poem describes the exhilaration of springtime, a daring expedition into the rocky clefts, etc. Paradise love is erotic and unashamed, yet blessed of God. It is restrained and in good taste as well. There are jokes alongside passionate romance. It is most of all a mystery, as we see both lovers captivated yet unable to fully explain the power of what they are feeling.

There is much more to say about the significance of Song of Solomon, but I think I’ve made my point for now. There’s nothing worse than spoiling a good poem anyway. Poetry, like romance, must be experienced in order to be understood.

I must thank two people for making this latest post possible. As I hope is obvious, this series of blog posts is the result of a long period of studying and accumulating information on this subject, and I feel I must give credit where credit is due. I’ve read a lot of Scripture, scholarly articles, and books on this subject, but the single most helpful resource on this topic- other than the Bible, of course- has been the work of Richard M. Davidson. His book entitle Flame of Yahweh has put me lightyears ahead of where I would be had I been trying to study the subject on my own. He provides a massive bibliography on human sexuality, and the entire book is a Bible study of sorts. While the previous blog posts have come largely from my own notes on this subject- including notes taken from Flame of Yahweh- this post is largely a summary of the third part of Davidson’s work.

The other person I need to thank is my wife. On August 10th, we will celebrate five years of marriage together. As I’ve said a lot in this post, it is one thing to read and study a subject, but it’s another thing entirely to experience the thing yourself. For Solomon, the Shulamite woman created the loving relationship necessary to experience the romance described in Genesis. For myself, I have been blessed with the love of a woman who has made that possible for me. We have endured tragedy and illness, sorrow and heartache. We’ve also experienced great joy in the adoption of our two boys, and we’ve gazed in wonder at God’s provision in ways we didn’t expect. Laura has provided a loving home for myself and the boys, and she has brought peace to what would have been chaos without her. She calms the storms stirred up by two toddlers running through the house, but she is also one of the few people capable of calming storms within me just by her very presence. She gives unselfishly, even if the cost to herself is great. She is a hard worker, filled with strength and determination. She is loving and compassionate, and her worth is “far above rubies.” She’s a beautiful picture of what Proverbs 31 describes. I can’t wait to see what our future holds together, Laura. I love you.

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Gender Equality: A Sword Between the Sexes

Men are from Mars; women are from Venus. Men are like waffles; women are like spaghetti. Scientists, comedians, poets, musicians, philosophers, doctors, therapists, psychologists, and the religious have spent a lot of time and money trying to tell us what we already instinctively know: men and women are very different from one another. Before the Fall, the differences created wholeness- a blessed duality- that was mutually beneficial to both the Man and the Woman. The Fall changed all of that. As C. S. Lewis observed, “There is a sword, hidden or flaunted, between the sexes until an entire marriage reconciles them.” Of course Lewis was well aware that marriages could destabilize and produce plenty of fighting in their own right.

Lewis also emphasized an additional truth about gender relations: equality is important, but it is not the ideal. One of the most powerful concepts he argues for in his philosophical science fiction novel That Hideous Strength is that no relationship can be founded entirely on equality. There is no focus on equality in a loving, strong relationship, only a focus on pleasing and serving the spouse. The moment any couple begins focusing on their own personal rights, a fight cannot be far behind. This is true in many ways in the broader society. Now, Lewis was not a misogynist. If anything, he had a much higher view of masculinity and femininity than most folks today, but he recognized that both sexes must be seen as inherently valuable in order for relationships and society as a whole to function properly. The moment personal rights and liberties become the whole focus of any group of people, trouble is on the horizon. Lewis reminded us repeatedly: “Equality is medicine, not food.” Food is an inherently good thing; it is the stuff we need to grow and remain strong. Medicine, on the other hand, is not inherently good or necessary. The only time medicine is needful is if there is a problem. Equality, Lewis would say, is like that. The moment rights become an end in themselves, an ideal and the ultimate good, the game is all but lost.

So why do I bring this up now? I’ve discussed the marital ideal in Genesis 1-2 and the sexual distortions of adultery, polygamy, and homosexuality so far this week. I have two reasons for bringing up gender equality at this point. First of all, there are those who believe that Judeo-Christian beliefs and practices are inherently sexist, coming from a strictly patriarchal society in which women are merely property. They use this- propaganda, really, is all it is- to justify atheism, liberal values, and  a host of other silliness with this one seemingly foolproof attack. This leads me to my second point, and that is that Christians think this attack is foolproof because half of them have been led to believe the liberals and the feminists are right. They read the Old Testament (and parts of the New) and take it at face value, not realizing that there’s a host of background and context that sets up this framework. From power-hungry pastors demanding that women be doormats to stay-at-home moms who believe that their opinions don’t matter in the end because they aren’t “the head of the household”, Christians across this nation believe the lie that the biblical perspective somehow favors men. That, dear reader, is the result of bad theology and hundreds of years of warped culture. We will see that a biblical view of human sexuality yields a high value of respect and honor for members of both the sexes.

Wives after the Fall

Genesis 3:16 records God’s proclamation to the woman: “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing;  in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.” This verse has been used by some to claim that women’s desires are now subjugated to their husband’s. I believe that this translation in the ESV clarifies the situation for us: the woman’s desire will be for her husband.  She will desire him, but she will not always have him. God has just told the woman that carrying and birthing a child will now be painful, but I do not believe this clause (“your desire shall be for your husband”) is prescribing a judgment. I believe it is instead describing a new situation that has arisen because of the Fall. Rather than a perfect relationship of harmony and romance, there will be discord. Eve will desire her a good relationship with her husband, but all will not necessarily be well. There will be bumps along the way: circumstances, communication issues, and unfulfilled wants and wishes. God is warning Eve that, just as Adam will now have to work much harder to provide, Eve will have to work much harder to make her relationships work. (And, no, I’m not saying that being a stoic, distant husband and father is therefore biblical. Again, this is a description of what happens, not approval of what happens.)

Some also preach strongly in favor of the husband’s rulership because of this verse, or they reject the nuclear family because of what they see as an authoritarian perspective on marriage. I would point out that being a “lord” in this context does not have anything to do with domination or superiority. If anything, the husband is to be a servant-leader of the marriage, the first among equals. At the absolute most, the husband is designated the functional leader of the family. This would make perfect sense in the ancient world, where the family- not the individual- was the basic unit of society. Fathers/husbands assumed legal responsibility for the entire family. In Israel, for instance, the father was responsible for managing property, marriage contracts for children, and voicing his family’s interest in the broader community. However, this does not in any way demean women or remove them from the spheres of business, government, and other areas of leadership. The same is true for the home. As we will find, if the husband is to be the “lord” of his house, then his wife is to be the “lady.” Both positions are well-respected and vital to family and community life. A patriarchal society, after all, is about the governance of father over children, not the husband’s superiority to the wife. That’s what “patriarch” means.

Women in the Old Testament

Behind every great man there’s a great woman. Or, at least, that’s how the saying goes. It turns out that for the Jewish patriarchs, that is absolutely true. The role of matriarch was vital if the family was to be successful. This isn’t Assyria or Athens, folks. This is Israel- or at least its origins. Things work differently here when it comes to family operations. Other nations (such as those I just mentioned) had patriarchies that were “limiting, harsh, enslaving” (Meyers, Discovering Eve), the servant-leadership (while not by any means perfect) of the Jewish Fathers offered the Jewish Mothers unprecedented freedom, even in our day. A close reading of Scripture reveals that 21st-century America denigrates women more than a Jewish Patriarch would ever consider doing.

Chew on this for a second: if Israeli women felt so oppressed by their culture, where is any indication of a cry for freedom? People don’t change much through the ages in how they handle oppression, yet no woman ever appears to concern herself with liberation, even when she has the upper hand in society. (I’m looking at you, Deborah.) In her book Discovering Eve, Carol Meyers concludes that “there was a functional lack of hierarchy in Israelite gender relations” up until the monarchy was established. Tikva Frymer-Kensky writes in her essay titled “Gender and Its Image”: “In their strengths and weaknesses, in their goals and strategies, the women of the Bible do not differ substantially from that of men.” Though different by design, men and women in Scripture are very much equals.

So let’s look at some case studies, beginning with Sarah. While she did address her husband as “lord” (a term of polite respect, not necessarily indicating a hierarchy), consider the following observation by Janice Nunnally-Cox concerning Sarah:

“She appears to say what she wants, when she wants, and Abraham at times responds in almost meek obedience. He does not command her; she commands him, yet there seems to be an affectionate bond between them. Abraham does not abandon Sarah during her barrenness, nor does he gain other wives while she lives….The two have grown up together and grown old together, and when Sarah dies, Abraham can do nothing but weep. Sarah is a matriarch of the first order: respected by rulers and husbands alike, a spirited woman and a bold companion.”

While Sarah’s death and burial are given much attention in Genesis, the narrative of Abraham effectively ends when she is no more. It is as if to say that Abraham’s story is really Sarah’s story. Hagar- the slave girl- is of no less significance, by the way. In Genesis 16, she is called by the narrator and God Himself by name seven times. God appears for the first time in history as the “angel of the Lord” to this rejected, enslaved woman. God does not abandon her, but instead provides for her and her son. She and her son are blessed in much the same way as Sarah and Isaac are blessed, and this covenant-type promise is the only time such a promise is made exclusively to a woman in Scripture. The prophecies concerning Ishmael and his given name is a standard annunciation formula in Scripture, the first of its kind. Hagar is the only woman- no, the only person- in Scripture to give God a name: “You are El-roi,” the God Who Sees. (Genesis 16:13) While most preaching and teaching considers Hagar a throwaway character (if not a villain), God clearly does not. He sees value where few others can.

The next matriarch in line is Rebekah. She is clearly a beautiful woman, but she also displays independence and hospitality comparable to Abraham. Like Abraham, she leaves her family for a new land, and she has a servant’s heart as well. She is listed in Genesis 22:23 as the only child of Bethuel, even though she had a brother who should have been listed first in a patriarchal society. While some have claimed that arranged marriages meant that the wife-to-be, at least, had no choice, Abraham says in Genesis 24:8, “If the woman is not willing to follow you, then you will be free from this oath of mine.” Rebekah’s marriage to Isaac may have been somewhat arranged, but it was her decision ultimately. She was not mere property, and her father is actually silent, deciding nothing in the narrative. Later, while experiencing labor pains, Rebekah “inquires of the Lord” just as great men in the Bible have, and she does this directly rather than through a husband or male spiritual leader. Genesis 25:24 says: “And her days were fulfilled that she should give birth”, a linguistic formula only used of Elizabeth and Mary in the New Testament. If a sexist, strictly patriarchal society is all that the Bible has to offer, why do we know so much about Rebekah and virtually nothing about Isaac her husband?

The time would fail me to emphasize the strength and authority of Rachel and Leah, the resourcefulness, purity, and faith of Tamar, the boldness of the midwives in Exodus, the compassion of the Egyptian princess who rescued Moses, the wisdom of Jochebed, leadership and musical prowess of the prophetess Miriam, and quick-thinking Zipporah. A quote from Exum’s essay titled “You Shall Let Every Daughter Live” sums up Exodus quite well:

“Exodus begins with a focus on women. Their actions determine the outcome. From its highly positive portrayals of women to its testimony that the courage of women is the beginning of liberation, Exodus 1:8-2:10 presents the interpreter with powerful themes to draw on: women as defiers of oppression, women as givers of life, women as wise and resourceful in situations where a discerning mind and keen practical judgment are essential for a propitious outcome….Without Moses there would be no story, but without the initiative of these women, there would be no Moses!”

In Joshua, Rahab is the means of salvation for the spies, and she is in the great “Hall of Faith” in Hebrews because of her courage. In Judges, a change occurs in the treatment of women. At the beginning, Achsah, the daughter of Caleb is married to a warrior. She reveals herself to be a resourceful woman with an eye for financial success. Later, Deborah arises as the only judge who is the perfect leader in religious, military, and judicial matters. Together with Jael, she routs Sisera and his army, yet we also find in her song that she has a beautiful heart and mind as well- she is an accomplished poet. Ruth and Esther provide materially for themselves and others and are presented as loyal and honorable, and Esther’s wisdom and boldness rescues her people from sure destruction.

Women in the Law

At this point, a skeptical reader may be saying, “Well, all good and well for the women in positions of power, but what about the common woman? There’s a lot in the Old Testament that was sexist!” And so, at first blush, it might appear. Many have characterized women in Israel as “legal nonpersons” or outside the covenant community in some way. Yet this cannot be true, because women did participate in the covenant ceremony in Deuteronomy 29:9-12 and therefore were under equal obligation to the Law. (Deuteronomy 31:12) In the Law, both genders were included when the masculine gender was in use, according to Frank Crusemann’s The Torah: Theology and Social History.

But what about the Numbers 5 passage in which a woman suspected of adultery is put through a trial by ordeal? If her husband suspects she has been unfaithful but can’t prove it, she has to drink water that will cause her to become barren if she has indeed committed adultery. Not only does trial by ordeal sound like some sort of kangaroo court scheme from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, there doesn’t seem to be a similar trial for husbands. What is going on here? First of all, it needs to be said that this the water the woman drank wasn’t magical. It was just water and a few ingredients like paper scrapings and dust- things that don’t cause curses. So how did it happen that a guilty woman’s reproductive organs came flying out in the end? Simple: a miracle. That’s right- this trial by ordeal was presided over by the Almighty Himself. Think about that compared to other cultures in which a suspect woman would be tossed in a lake with some weights on her. In every other culture’s trial by ordeal, no matter what it was, it was a miracle if you survived. In Israel’s trial by ordeal, it was a miracle if you became tragically infertile. Strange as this may sound, this is part of ANE culture, and God has guaranteed that He will protect and defend the innocent. A paranoid husband had no recourse to divorce her when she drank the water and- surprise, surprise- nothing happened. Is it not gracious and just- rather than sexist- that the only people who ever had the privilege of going before a Divine Judge were woman? God protected the innocent and potentially vulnerable from an overly jealous husband or the prejudice of a mob.

We move now to the touchy, touchy issue of Leviticus 12:1-8. This passage says that the time it would take for a mother who has just given birth to be made ritually clean is twice as long for a girl as for a boy. I’ll warn you, guys, this part may make you squeamish. What about childbirth makes a woman unclean? The vaginal bleeding does, not necessarily the child being born. So, what’s the deal with girls? During and after childbirth, it is very common for newborn girls to experience vaginal bleeding. WebMD says so. Rather than require that a newborn girl tough it out for her own purification ritual, the mother vicariously takes the purification upon herself. So, let’s do the math, everyone. Twice the vaginal bleeding = twice the number of days for ritual purification. (On an unrelated note, boys are to be circumcised the 8th day, the only day their prothombin levels are above 100%, allowing them to heal faster. God knows an awful lot about the medical world, it seems.)

This last selected example may make members of both genders a little squeamish. In Deuteronomy 25:11-12, if two men are fighting and one of their wives grabs the other man by the testicles to give her husband the advantage in the fight, her hand is- according to the English translation, anyway- to be cut off. If the translation is accurate, then this is the only example in the entire Law of mandatory mutilation (as opposed to other ancient and modern Middle Eastern cultures, in which the removal of a body part is a common penalty for, say, theft). Given the fact that lex talionis (an eye for an eye) is the standard by which ancient laws were adopted, it seems just a little strange that grabbing testicles results in the removal of a hand. How are they at all the same thing? NOW I’ve got you thinking! They aren’t the same thing. Would it help to go back to the Hebrew? I think so. What if I told you that the word translated “cut” can also mean “shave”, and what if I also told you that the word for “hand” is a very generic term for a “palm of the hand”? There’s a different Hebrew word that refers to the whole hand, by the way, and it isn’t used here. In fact this word for “palm” just refers to any curved surface, such as the business end of a spoon, the cupped hand, or a woman’s pubic region. I- and far more intelligent people- would suggest that lex talionis is adhered to perfectly in this example. The man’s testicles have been touched- a public embarrassment given the fact that this is just a neighborly spat that got out of hand- so the woman is to have a just retribution visited upon her. Both parties are made to feel ashamed in this way. I realize that this is very difficult to comprehend, since we’re modern-day Americans here, but this is how ANE law works. The punishment must always fit the crime. Hand mutilations doesn’t fit the crime, but shaving the genitals does, and neither are permanently damaging….mercifully.

Summary and Practical Application

To be sure, there are examples of men who exploit and denigrate women in Scripture, but they did not do so because they were righteous. They did so because they were evil. By the end of Judges, we find that women have become nameless victims of violence rather than powerful leaders like Achsah and Deborah. This is because Israel as a culture slipped into immorality and idolatry, not because a patriarchal society is inherently demeaning to women. For instance, Samson is an example of a man who is so sexually driven that women are no longer his helper but mere traitors, harlots, and tempters. Israeli monarchs fall quickly into polygamy and other sins of immorality, meaning that women were made more vulnerable than in the patriarchy. The government, not the husband, had the rights and the power. Yet the human authors of the Bible maintained the Edenic ideal; they still wrote of the inherent value of women. Even after Israel was conquered completely by invaders, the Elephantine papyri reveal that women were able to buy and sell, inherit property, and rise from slavery to a role in the temple, becoming scribes and musicians in Ezra and Nehemiah’s day. Myers’ Discovering Eve reveals that the position of women in Israel did not truly degrade until Israel was under the control of the Persians, Greeks, and Romans. The Persians completely objectified women, and the Greco-Roman culture foisted a duality onto everything– body and soul, good and evil, and male and female. Women became associated with the body and evil, while men became associated with good and soul.

Jesus and His followers worked greatly to fix what human religion, philosophy, and pride had created. Christ treated women as valuable, praising them for their hard work and their faith. He healed broken hearts and bodies, and His apostles did the same for many years after His Ascension. It remains for the Church today to  teach the world around us the equal value God has placed on men and women both, to continue the work of restoration Christ began 2000 years ago, a work that will be completed one day when He makes all things new, and the sword between sexes can be beaten into ploughshares at last.

Up Next: Returning to Eden

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Extramarital Sex as a Distortion of God’s Plan for Humanity

Well, let’s recap. So far, I’ve described the marital formula given by God in Genesis 1-2, and I’ve identified homosexuality and polygamy as distortions of God’s plan for human marriage and sex. The marital formula was a necessary foundation– a man leaves his family and cleaves unto his wife. Identifying homosexuality as a distortion is important in our culture because there is an attempt by a very vocal segment of the populace to redefine marriage and family. Identifying polygamy as a distortion is necessary because that same group would like very much to prove that there is no biblical foundation for the nuclear family. We now move on to a very obvious distortion: adultery and premarital sex. Or, perhaps it is not so obvious to some.

I believe emphasizing this distortion is important for two reasons. First of all, those external to Christianity need to realize that Judeo-Christian beliefs are consistent and not biased. It is not homosexuality alone that is wrong; it is any sex outside of biblical marriage. Secondly, it would seem that we within Christianity need to remind ourselves of the danger of falling into sin. Not a week goes by that a religious leader doesn’t make the paper because of immorality. We need to guard our hearts from lust, protect our churches and families from temptations, and walk humbly with God. It does not do us well to attack homosexuality politically and not be clean ourselves from the sins that could lead us astray.

Brief Historical Background (It’s all basically the same.)

Adultery was a capital offense is most Ancient Near Eastern cultures. The Laws of Ur-Nammu condemn a man who sleeps with another man’s wife, a wife who initiates sex with another man, or any man that sleeps with a slave girl he is not married to. The Code of Hammurabi condemns both participants in an adulterous affair, but a husband is able to request that his wife be spared. Middle Assyrian laws absolve a man who unknowingly sleeps with another man’s wife, but otherwise both are put to death. Later Assyrian laws leave the wife’s punishment up to her husband. Ancient Hittite laws permit the husband of an adulterous woman to kill his wife and her co-adulterer if he catches them in the act, however, if he does not catch them in the act, he must either absolve both or neither from guilt.

The Pentateuch, Adultery, and Premarital Sex

As far as the Genesis narrative goes, Joseph is accused by Potiphar’s wife of adultery and is jailed for it. Reuben sleeps with Bilhah, his father’s concubine, and loses his birthright because of it. Abraham tried to trick Pharaoh and Abimelech, king of Gerar into believing Sarah was his sister, and Isaac attempted the same deception. It’s obvious from reading each of these accounts that these pagan cultures all saw adultery as a great sin (Genesis 20:9). Strange as it may seem to us, murder is actually a lesser sin than adultery in these cultures. This is interesting, since some see the violence of the Old Testament as evidence that ancient peoples were somewhat barbaric, but they would look on our cultural with utter revulsion. These narratives also record God’s disapproval of adultery. He sends plagues on Egypt and threatens Abimelech with death. Why did God act so severely?

As I hinted at in my post on polygamy, there is a theological and a practical level to every sin. On the practical level- the earthly level- sins are offenses against those around us or against ourselves. We commit these sins due to our own fleshly desires, thoughts, wills, and wishes. On the second level- the upper, theological level- every sin flies in the face of God’s goodness, mercy, love, justice, and holiness. We worship God with our lips, perhaps, but serve another master with our thoughts and actions. “Against Thee- Thee only- have I sinned,” says David in the Psalms. Years before David’s confession, Joseph replied to Potiphar’s wife’s seductive attempts by simply saying: “How then could I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?”

As for the Mosaic Law, the seventh commandment (“You shall not commit adultery”) is very clear and absolute in its terms, but the tenth commandment prohibits even desiring another man’s wife as well. (Remember that the Ten Commandments are written in the masculine gender for linguistic reasons but are for all of Israel to follow.) Deuteronomy’s expansion on this 10th commandment is interesting in light of the temptation to desire what is not yours. In his “The Structure of the Deuteronomic Law”, Stephen Kaufman points out that the expansion on the 10th commandment in Deuteronomy 25 forbids Jews from owning unjust weights, not simply using them (that would fall under “theft” in the 10 Commandments.) The idea is that Israelites were not permitted to knowingly put themselves in a situation which would cause them to break the 10th Commandment, so incorrect weights could not even be owned or made, lest they tempt someone to steal. In Leviticus 18:20 and 20:10, Israelites and foreigners alike are forbidden to commit adultery, and- like homosexuality- extramarital sex will result in the removal of any nation that practices on a massive scale, according to these passages. Adultery and premarital sex are also abominations in the broad sense. In Leviticus 18, Leviticus 20, and Deuteronomy 22, the punishment for adultery is death.

Why was adultery and premarital sex such a big deal to God? Christopher Wright addresses this question in his essay “The Israelite Household and the Decalogue.” Wright suggests that adultery goes beyond mere personal morality and extends to the social, economic, and theological stability of individuals, families, and nations. The idea here is that God takes any threat to the nuclear family seriously because a stable household was the social basis for continued worship of God. A breakdown in family relationships would result in the breakdown in national Israel’s relationship with God. This is especially true in Israel because it began as a theocracy, and the Jews continue to be God’s chosen people. As Wright observes, “Adultery strikes at the very heart of the household by shattering the sexual integrity of the marriage.” Every adulterous act in Israel was of national- not simply private- concern. In light of Wright’s observations, I would further suggest that- while the United States is not identical to or in any way linked with national Israel- the principle remains the same. Our stability, education, economics, military, government, and- yes- religious devotion is intimately associated with the family unit. If the family unit is destroyed or degraded, a nation cannot maintain its stability. In this way, I would suggest that divorce, adultery, and premarital sex are far more deadly to society than homosexuality privately practiced. Redefining marriage is a completely different issue that I will save for another day due to its implications in American law, but I believe that we should make our priority strengthening and stabilizing heterosexual marriages if we wish to see increased stability in our nation. This will only be done by a return to Judeo-Christian values and- most importantly- the power of the Gospel to transform lives and homes.

The Prophets and Poets on Adultery

The verb “na’ap” (to commit adultery) occurs 24 times in the prophets, primarily in Hosea, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel. Israel’s turning from the Covenant in sin and idolatry was a case of spiritual adultery, breaking the bonds of a covenant relationship. God compares Israel to Hosea’s own adulterous wife, Jeremiah records God saying, “I have seen your abominations, your adulteries and your neighings after lovers!”, and Ezekiel describes Israel to an “adulterous wife, who receives strangers instead of her husband!” What is Israel’s punishment?

“I will judge you as women who commit adultery and shed blood are judged, and bring upon you the blood of wrath and jealousy.They shall bring up a crowd against you, and they shall stone you and cut you to pieces with their swords.” – Ezekiel 16:38, 40

Psalm 50 condemns those who “keep company with adulterers”, and Psalm 51 reveals David’s understanding of his actions as being ultimately against God. Job makes it a point to emphasize his sexual purity in chapter 31. Proverbs 6:25 warns against lusting after a woman, and it portrays the adultress in chapter 7 as impudent, pretending to be religious- she needs to earn money to pay religious vows. She uses flattery and beauty to seduce a man, who is compared to an ox being taken to a slaughterhouse.

Practical Application and Summary

The bottom line in all of this is that death is the end result of adultery in God’s eyes. Adultery and premarital sex destabilize the marital relationship, which in turn destabilize children, businesses, schools, and- in our case- churches. The nuclear family is the building block of society, and no society can stand for long if too many blocks are moved or tilted. We Christians would do well to heed the call of the 10th commandment as well as the 7th- it is not just adultery, but the lust  for a relationship that is not yours to have, that must be avoided. Jesus would remind us that it is the inner man that gives rise to the outer man, and that we are all subject to sinful passions if we are not controlled by the Spirit. No man or woman, no matter how godly they may be, can be unphased or unaffected by such powerful desires. We must beware and be accountable. We must also be wary of people who use religion as justification for sexual impropriety, as the prostitute in Proverbs 7 did.

Yet extramarital sex and lust are indeed rampant in our society. How then shall we live? For starters, even the Mosaic Law implicitly grants that we must be pitiful and compassionate. For sins such as idolatry (Deuteronomy 7:16, 13:9), premeditated murder (Deut 19:11), and malicious false witness (Deuteronomy 19:21), the Israelites are told “your eye shall not pity” or “you shall not spare them.” There was no redemption price to be paid in lieu of capital punishment, unlike many other sins. In cases of immorality, there is no prohibition against having compassion and pity. The implication is that the death penalty for immorality is not absolute, depending on circumstances. This fact is made certain in Proverbs 6:35, when we are told that a husband would not accept the ransom price from a man who had an affair with his wife. The fact that a ransom price was rejected means that such a price could be offered in the first place. There was room for mercy within the Law. After all, Hosea pardoned his wife Gomer (poor woman), and,  iIn the Gospels, Joseph determined to put Mary away privately rather than have her put on trial. David’s prayer for forgiveness in Psalm 51 is perhaps most telling of all. He admits his sin against the Almighty and asks that a clean heart and a right spirit be put within him. David recognizes that only God can cleanse what has been defiled.

Believers must stand firm on the importance of purity and chastity, and they must be wary of being led astray by temptations from without and within. They must guard their hearts diligently and proactively. For those who have fallen, we must restore those who repent in a spirit of meekness. That is not a New Testament concept alone, though justification and cleansing from sin ultimately occurred in the New Testament at the Cross. No, the Law itself allows pity and compassion on the fallen, and we are better for it if we can forgive with God’s help. We can introduce the lost to the One who paid the ransom price for sin Himself, and we can demonstrate true love in our daily lives. In this, we work to fulfill both Law and Grace in our own way.

This post is part of a continuing series on theology and human sexuality. I plan on writing a few more entries on the role of women in Scripture and- finally- the ideal picture of love and romance in Song of Solomon. Stay tuned!

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Polygamy as a Distortion of God’s Plan for Humanity

We’ve talked already about God’s design for human sexuality, and we’ve addressed homosexuality as a distortion of that design. Now I’d like to address the issue of polygamy. Opponents of traditional marriage will often bring up the subject of polygamy in the Bible, noting that not only are there some famous biblical examples, but there are also specific laws concerning concubines within Scripture itself. The obvious purpose in bringing up these “alternative lifestyles” is to demonstrate that multiple versions of “biblical marriage” exist, leaving room to justify a variety of behaviors and weakening the case against same-sex “marriage.” So what do we do with these accusations? Is it true that God has provided for and blessed more forms of marriage than the Edenic model in Genesis 1-2?

One thing that can be said for sure is that the Edenic model is considered the norm throughout Scripture. Genesis 2 and Jesus in Matthew 19 echo the “husband and wife” formula for marriage. Scattered throughout the centuries in between are countless “one man-one woman” marriages mentioned specifically in the Pentateuch. The Mosaic Law always uses the “husband and wife” formula rather than “wives”, Solomon tells his son to “rejoice in the wife [singular]” of his youth in Proverbs 5:18 and again in Ecclesiastes 9:9, and Malachi 2:15 speaks of a man who is not faithful to the “wife of his youth.” While polygamy does occur, it is clearly outside of the biblical norm.

It is interesting to note that, while polygamy was assumed in Sumer, Babylon, Assyria, Egypt, and a variety of other Ancient Near-Eastern cultures, it is relatively rare in Scripture. When it does occur, modern readers of Scripture are often surprised that there is no explicit condemnation of the practice. However, the Author of Scripture clearly expresses Divine disapproval in more subtle, yet more powerful, ways within the narrative itself- even within the grammar and literary structure. We must remember that the Bible isn’t a book of moralizations or simple lessons, like a Christianized “Aesop’s Fables.” It is the revelation of God and His works to man.

Lamech, Abraham, and Jacob as polygamists

The first polygamist in Scripture is Lamech, a man who bragged to his wives that he had murdered a man, inviting God to judge him worse than Cain was judged. The narrative contains no explicit condemnation of Lamech, but he is portrayed as an evil, rebellious man in just a few verses. Lamech’s polygamy is mentioned three times in this passage, underscoring his sin and removing all possibility that God had approved of polygamy prior to the Flood. In the genealogies in Genesis 4-5, it’s also interesting to note that Lamech is the 7th descendent of Adam through Cain’s line, while Enoch- the man who walked with God- is the seventh descendent of Adam through the godly line of Seth. The parallelism between the two men is clear- there is godliness and monogamy contrasting godlessness and polygamy.

The first case of polygamy committed by a believer is, of course, Abraham. Abraham had come from a land of polytheism and polygamy (worship of multiple gods and multiplying of wives go hand-in-hand throughout history.) Believing that God would make good on His covenant promise to provide land, descendants, and blessing through a son he would have with Sarah, Abraham had journeyed to Canaan. In an infamous period of weakness, Abraham agrees with his barren wife that it would be best to impregnate a slave girl named Hagar in order to provide a son. While this practice seems strange to us, it was actually quite common for wealthy people in Abraham’s day, since that would prevent the wife from experiencing the embarrassment of allowing her husband to marry a second woman. “If the marriage proved to be infertile…the wife was able to present one of her slave girls, sometimes specially purchased, to her husband to produce children for their own marriage…The authority over the children resulting from the union belonged not to the slave girl who bore them but to the chief wife,” according to Martin J. Selman’s essay “Comparative Customs and the Patriarchal Age.”

Humanly speaking, Hagar was viewed as Abraham’s wife, however, God did not see her in this way. Not only was she not the wife of the Covenant with Abraham, but Abraham’s relationship with her had broken the marriage paradigm set forth in Genesis 1-2. When God speaks in the narrative, Sarah is called “your wife” while Hagar is called “the slave girl of Sarah.” When Hagar ran away, it is no accident that God tells her to go back to Sarah, not Abraham. In addition to the obvious evidence, we find there is a more subtle hint that Hagar’s relationship with Abraham was not condoned by God. Ray McAllister and Andre Wenin have both pointed out the similarities between Genesis 3 and Genesis 16. Just as Eve took the forbidden fruit and gave it to her husband, Sarah took her slave girl and gave her to Abraham. As Adam “listened to the voice of” Eve, Abraham “listened to the voice of” Sarah. The similarities between the wording of the narratives are not accidental. If nothing else, the Bible underscores the strife and discord between Hagar and Sarah and between Ishmael and Isaac.

Jacob’s polygamy is a second infamous account, but it is used more often than Abraham’s polygamy because the “Children of Israel” (Jacob) are descended from all four wives/concubines. Is Jacob an example of Divine approval of marriages outside the Edenic account? Jacob clearly intended on only marrying Rachel at the beginning, but he was tricked into marrying Leah instead. Jacob continued to work for Rachel, voluntarily agreeing to follow local customs in marrying both women. Bilhah and Ziplah are called concubines in Genesis 35:22 and wives in Genesis 37:2, they seem to have the same rights as wives, and all four women’s children are given equal standing in the family. However, the entire narrative of Jacob’s family is one filled with jealousy, revenge, strife, and lack of self-control. The children of Jacob are filled with all the same sorts of problems as their parents!

Jacob himself goes through a radical transformation, though. At one point, He encounters God Himself and begins a wrestling match with Him. At the culmination of the match- which God permitted to go on for much, much longer than it should have- God hit “the hand of Jacob’s thigh”, creating a permanent limp. Why did God do this? Stanley Gevirtz’s essay “Of Patriarchs and Puns” suggests that it was a graphic Divine rebuke of Jacob’s polygamy, because He struck Jacob in a region associated with the genitals. (“Hand of Jacob’s thigh” would be the curved region of the inner thigh– near enough to the mark without damaging all chances of further reproduction.) A clear behavioral shift occurs afterwards, suggesting Jacob (I mean Israel) got the message. Prior to this encounter, Jacob has sexual relations with all four women. After the event, however, sexual relations are mentioned exclusively with Rachel, and only Rachel gives birth to a child (35:18). While Jacob called both Rachel and Leah his wives in Genesis 30:26 and 31:50, Rachel is his singular wife by Genesis 44:27, and in the genealogy of Genesis 46, Leah, Zilpah, and Bilhah are referred to women who “bore to Jacob” children, but Rachel is called “Jacob’s wife Rachel.” (Genesis 46:15-25) It is clear in Scripture who the recognized wife was, and who the counterfeits were. Jacob began poorly, but ended righteously.

Wives, Concubines, and the Mosaic Law

In Exodus 21:7-11, we read the following:

“When a man sells his daughter as a slave, she shall not go out as the male slaves do. If she does not please her master, who has designated her for himself, then he shall let her be redeemed. He shall have no right to sell her to a foreign people, since he has broken faith with her. If he designates her for his son, he shall deal with her as with a daughter. If he takes another wife to himself, he shall not diminish her food, her clothing, orher marital rights. And if he does not do these three things for her, she shall go out for nothing, without payment of money.”

Does this law support polygamy and concubinage, as claimed by opponents of traditional marriage? Hardly. This is one of many cases in the Old Testament of “case law.” The purpose of case law in the Ancient Near East is to determine what should happen in a given scenario. Case law does not make the scenario legitimate and legal. It only explains what should happen as a result of the given scenario. If case law in Exodus 21:7-11 legitimizes slavery, concubinage, and polygamy simply because it brings up the scenario, then Exodus 21:37 legitimizes theft by simply beginning with the words: “When someone steals an ox or a sheep…”! I would add as an aside that there are three situations in this passage, none of which deal with polygamy in actuality. If the master rejects the girl as a wife, she is to be freed by being bought back by the father. If the master’s son marries her, she is to be treated as a daughter and not a slave. If the master marries a woman other than the girl, the girl is to be assured of all basic necessities including food, clothing, and shelter. In this third scenario “another wife” has the connotation of “a different wife”, meaning this third scenario doesn’t even deal with polygamy in the first place.

Another similar situation is found in Deuteronomy 21:15-17, in which the rights of the first-born son are dealt with:

“If a man has two wives, the one loved and the other unloved, and both the loved and the unloved have borne him children, and if the firstborn son belongs to the unloved, then on the day when he assigns his possessions as an inheritance to his sons, he may not treat the son of the loved as the firstborn in preference to the son of the unloved, who is the firstborn, but he shall acknowledge the firstborn, the son of the unloved, by giving him a double portion of all that he has, for he is the firstfruits of his strength. The right of the firstborn is his.”

While some would argue that this passage assumes polygamy will occur, that interpretation is only valid if the intended meaning is that the man has two wives at the same time. That is by no means a requirement of the language or the context- even the grammar in the original Hebrew avoids requiring polygamy in this context. If, however, this case law does provide for a child of polygamy (as it’s tempting to read the Jacob narrative into the text), it is again an example of case law, not necessarily a text condoning polygamy.

Polygamy in Judges, Samuel, and the Kings

In the book of Judges, Gideon, Jair, Ibzan, and Abdon are all judges who had multiple wives. In Gideon’s case, polygamy is again paired with idolatry, as the two are frequently connected throughout history. Judges 19-21 reveals that polygamy and concubinage were not unusual by the end of Judges. However, the world of Judges is not a pleasant place. A hedonistic and decadent society, the Israel of Judges features such appalling violence as a Levite (of the priestly tribe) and his host sacrificing the Levite’s concubine to avoid homosexual rape. When the concubine is left for dead in the morning (but not necessarily actually dead yet), the Levite butchers the concubine (who had previously been unfaithful to him) and sends pieces of her body throughout Israel. When combined with the commentary in 21:25 “every man did that which was right in his own eyes”, Judges is a powerful condemnation of immoral sexual activities, not evidence of God’s permissiveness on the matter.

The books of Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles also tell a story of further sexual distortion. Elkanah, the father of Samuel, is a polygamist, as are Saul, David, and Solomon. Six of 20 Judean kings have more than one wife, and Ahab of the northern kingdom has multiple wives. This does not mean, however, that God is permissive, approves, or blesses polygamy at this point. Hannah and her rival “sister wife” experience great personal grief and anguish, and polygamous kings dealt with national and personal consequences. With the exception of two incidents, all instances of polygamy are portrayed as disobedience to God. I’d like to take a moment to address these two supposed exceptions to the rule.

David- in spite of polygamy- is called a man after God’s own heart in 1Samuel 13:14. In his book Polygamy in the Bible, Ronald du Preez makes a strong case against this justification of a non-traditional “biblical” marriage. Du Preez points out that David was not called a man after God’s heart while he was married at all- this event takes place while Saul is still on the throne and all the Philistines still look like Philistines underneath their clothing. (Some of you will get that later.) Du Preez further notes a pattern in David’s life: servitude, supplication, salvation, silence, and sin. As this pattern repeats over and over throughout David’s life, his many wives are only brought up while in the “sin” stage, which is also a time of turmoil and judgment in David’s life. This careful placement of references to polygamy are clearly meant to draw the reader’s attention to Divine disapproval- they are not an accident or coincidence.

Besides du Preez’s pattern, we also notice that Nathan’s parable to David after his sin with Bathsheba also expresses disapproval. However, some would have us believe that Nathan’s statements to David constitute a blessing from God on polygamy:

“Nathan said to David, “You are the man! Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you out of the hand of Saul. And I gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your arms and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah. And if this were too little, I would add to you as much more.” – 2Samuel 12:7-8

People who favor the Divine blessing view completely ignore God’s judgment in verse 11 of this same passage. Because of his affair with Bathsheba and murder of her husband, God says that he will give his wives, in turn, to another. This person turns out to be Absalom, David’s own son. It is unthinkable that this act of giving meant that adultery and incest were in turn blest by God, as they are abominations in Leviticus 18:8. Absalom is clearly a villain in Scripture, a hedonistic rebel who dies tragically. God is allowing something to occur in spite of the fact that it is sin. In cases of this type of permissiveness, the language says that God does what He is technically only allowing to take place. Furthermore, if giving David the wives of Saul was meant to be a blessing of polygamy, then David, in turn, would be committing incest by sleeping with Ahinoam, the mother of his wife Michal. If this is the case, David should have been put to death for something God had blessed! Instead, saying “I gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your armsspeaks of possessions, not marriage. David became the keeper of all that was Saul’s. Besides all this, Nathan’s parable hints at monogamy by pointing out that the righteous Uriah had only one “lamb” as opposed to the wealthy “shepherd-turned-thief” David. It seems quite clear that David returned to a monogamous state in 2Samuel 20:3, after God’s judgment had taken place. In this verse, David has retaken the throne from Absalom, but he puts his wives and concubines in a separate estate, providing for them and protecting them. It is stated that he does not “go in unto” them anymore. This means that David is strictly monogamous with Bathsheba, a correction of his previous mistakes.

The second supposed exception to the rule regarding polygamy comes in the form of a King named Jehoash in 2Kings and Joash in 2 Chronicles. Let’s take a look at the two relevant passages.

2Kings 12:1-3: “In the seventh year of Jehu, Jehoash began to reign, and he reigned forty years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Zibiah of Beersheba. And Jehoash did what was right in the eyes of the Lord all his days, because Jehoiada the priest instructed him. Nevertheless, the high places were not taken away; the people continued to sacrifice and make offerings on the high places.”

2Chronicles 24:1-3: “Joash was seven years old when he began to reign, and he reigned forty years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Zibiah of Beersheba. And Joash did what was right in the eyes of the Lord all the days of Jehoiada the priest. Jehoiada got for him two wives, and he had sons and daughters.”

Obviously, it is this second passage that causes those who wish to undermine traditional marriage to sit up and pay attention. Notice above that the structure is the same in each passage, even if the wording is changed. Joash begins reigning when he was 7, and he reigns for 40 years. He did right in the sight of God thanks to the guidance of the priests. In the Kings passage, Joash sinned through idolatrous polytheism, the worship of multiple gods. In the parallel reference, Jehoiada the priest gave him two wives, which we have already stated is connected with idolatry: two negative events are placed in parallel at the end of the writing concerning Joash. It should also be added that in the Hebrew, there’s a word which does not usually get translated in modern versions: the consecutive waw. This word can be translated “and” (“And Jehoiada got for him two wives….”) or it can be translated “but” or “except” (“Except Jehoiada got for him two wives…”) The use of “except” in this passage parallels perfectly the negative “Nevertheless, the high places were not taken away” in the Kings passage. Idolatry and polygamy are portrayed negatively in parallel to each other, exactly as we have seen in other passages throughout Scripture. Clearly, Joash’s polygamy is not the subject of Divine blessing.

Summary and Application

So we see from this little trip through the Old Testament that God consistently forbids and disapproves of polygamy in all forms. The attempt made by some to question the concept of “biblical marriage” by introducing these false marital forms falls absolutely flat. God does not bless these lifestyles, and He clearly sees them as adulterous. We’ve also seen that there is a relationship between polytheism (worship of multiple gods) and polygamy, even if Yahweh is among the other gods in the pantheon. Today in modern-day America, lifestyles beyond the boundaries of the biblical marriage format are- at the core- the result of worshipping something or someone besides the God of the Bible. It is in casting down the spiritual high places that we can return to a truly biblical understanding of God’s plan for marriage.

However, let’s not forget that God is merciful to nations and individuals who have not chosen rightly in this area. God gave the world before the Flood 120 years during which His Spirit “strove with man.” God did indeed bless Abraham, Jacob, and David in spite of their polygamy because He is good, gracious, and loving, not because their lifestyle choices were always right. Goodness and mercy are in God Himself, not in us, as is evidenced by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross for us. God tends to the needs of the victims of abusive relationships, just as He tended to poor Hagar, the slave. He met people where they were at in life, such as Jacob, and brought them up to places only He could take them.

This post is part of a continuing series on theology and human sexuality. I plan on writing a few more entries on the role of women in Scripture and the ideal picture of love and romance in Song of Solomon. You can read the next post on adultery by clicking this link.

Categories: Apologetics, Bible, Bible Study, Contemporary Issues, Doctrine, Politics | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Homosexuality as a Distortion of God’s Plan for Humanity

I’ll just give you a warning: this post isn’t exactly going to be family-friendly. Oh, I’ll do my best to be as professional as possible about the whole thing, but the Bible is anything but PG-rated when it comes to the facts of life. We live in a fallen world in which all manner of immorality occurs. The Bible is frank without being vulgar, but there are some things that just aren’t pleasant to have to deal with. So…that’s my warning.

Throughout the entire Old Testament, it is very obvious that heterosexual monogamy is considered the norm. Not that homosexuality or polygamy in a variety of forms didn’t exist, but simply that these were distortions of the real thing. Let me first be very clear on something: the Bible does not castigate a person for their temptations. Jesus Himself experienced temptation by an external Tempter. No, it is not the desire to do wrong that is sin. It is meditating on, lusting after, or acting on those temptations. Whether it is nature or nurture that produces homosexual desires is- in a sense- beside the point. The existence of the temptation is not permission to sin. We would say the same thing of a man desiring a woman on a computer screen or in the next cubicle. However, we need not burden someone beyond what they can bear. God didn’t say “stop being tempted”, He reminded us through the Apostle Paul to “walk in the Spirit” so that we could avoid fulfilling the lust of the flesh. We are told to cast cares upon Him, to abide in Him, to meditate on His Word, and to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. It is not the temptation that defines us; it is our true identity- in Christ or apart from Him- that makes us who we are. The Spirit and the Word have the power to transform despite our own innate failings and weaknesses.

Historical Background

To get started, a little history is in order, because it will better help us understand the context of the Old Testament. There is no clear law concerning homosexuality outside of Israel until the 2nd millennium BC. The Assyrian Law (Mesopotamians were known for being a little on the permissive side) states that if a man is accused of being homosexual in public and the accusation cannot be proven, the slanderer must be given “50 blows with rods; he shall perform the king’s service for one full month; they shall cut off his hair; moreover, he shall pay 3600 shekels of lead.” (“The Middle Assyrian Laws,” translated by Martha Roth)  The same set of Assyrian laws requires that a man who rapes another man should be turned into a eunuch. Because the rapist has robbed a man of masculinity, his masculinity would also be taken from him. Near Eastern Law is big on the concept of “lex talionis” (an eye for an eye), therefore Assyrian law shows that homosexuality was not an acceptable thing to be involved in, as the punishment was itself painful and embarrassing. This concept of lex talionis will be very important later when we talk about the treatment of women in Jewish society. Right now, the point to be made is that homosexuality has been seen as unnatural from our earliest available texts. To even accuse someone of homosexual activity was serious business.

Other Middle Assyrians laws completely forbid homosexual activity, except within the religious cults, where cross-dressing prostitutes also functioned as actors, dancers, and musicians. (This is not to say, by the way, that performing in the Arts is inherently effeminate. There are many very masculine men who have been involved in these areas in history.) These cults had male prostitutes who dressed and acted as women, however, they were not respected by the general population and were considered social pariahs, often referred to as man-women or dog-women. Male prostitutes were thought of as a parody of womanhood, being considered a man who has been turned into a woman by the goddess Ishtar. (Jensen, The Relevance of the Old Testament) Beyond the cults, penalties for homosexuality were generally only levied against those that played the role of the male in a homosexual act. This method of punishment is true of most cultures that criminalized homosexuality.

In contrast, early Egyptian myths and royals seem somewhat favorable toward homosexuality. Imagery and religious texts describe this behavior in sometimes great detail. In the 15th Century, however, attitudes changed. The now-famous Book of the Dead linked homosexuality with pedophilia, and the religious attitudes of the time caused a cultural shift away from permissiveness. According to Gagnon’s The Bible and Homosexual Practice, homosexuality in Egypt was completely outlawed about 300 years before Christ.

Noah and Sodom in Genesis

While there is no secular reference to homosexuality in the cultures surrounding Israel (Canaanites and other Semitic peoples), the Bible itself has something to say on this topic. The first incident that is often brought up is Ham’s viewing of a drunken Noah. I believe this to be a poor example of God’s statements toward homosexuality. We are told that Ham saw Noah naked, but we are not told that he “uncovered his father’s nakedness”- a euphemism in Scripture for sleeping with a man’s wife. We are only told that he “saw” his father’s nakedness. Furthermore, Ham’s two brothers remedied the situation by simply covering their father with their backs to him. If that is the remedy, the problem was not one of sexual activity. No, it would rather seem that Ham was extremely disrespectful toward his father, if not somewhat voyeuristic. Ham’s “seeing” in the Hebrew deals with “looking searchingly” and telling his brothers has overtones of delight. Rather than addressing the issue of homosexuality, I believe that this passage warns against making a mockery of what is private and being too interested or curious in things that are inappropriate. This is certainly a pertinent warning in the age of the Internet.

Perhaps the most well-known account of homosexuality in the Bible is the infamous incident at Sodom in which Sodom is destroyed for its evil just after Lot and most of his family escape. Some have argued that Sodom’s great sin was not homosexuality. They claim that the men of Sodom wanted to “know” the angelic visitors in the sense of hospitality. The problem is that the Hebrew word for know here is used of the case of incest between Lot and his daughters just a few paragraphs later, making hospitality completely a moot point. “Being good neighbors” simply doesn’t fit the context. James DeYoung’s book titled Homosexuality: Contemporary Claims Examined reveals that- in context- only sexual sin can be in view here due to the literary structure of the book of Genesis. Just prior to Isaac’s birth, Abraham intercedes for Sodom and Gomorrah, which are subsequently destroyed. Then, Lot’s daughters get their father drunk and essentially rape him. Following this narrative, there is the issue of Abraham claiming that Sarah is his sister which nearly gets Isaac claimed by the wrong father! In each of these three cases, sexual immorality occurs (or is in danger of occurring), divine judgment falls, and- in a sense- Abraham, his family, and his descendants are in danger. There is a literary coherence here- these three accounts are put together on purpose. It is further claimed, however, that the issue of Sodom is its attempted rape- not simply the act of homosexuality. However, to interpret the Hebrew verb (“yada”- to know) as “rape”  rather than “have sex with” forces some incredible words out of Lot’s mouth: “Don’t rape my visitors. Here are my daughters, both virgins- rape them!” It also requires every single instances of “knowing” someone in the biblical sense to possibly indicate rape. This makes absolutely no sense.

The Mosaic Law

We move now to the Mosaic Law. I will say more about the nature of the Mosaic Law within a theocracy, lex talionis, and case law later. For now suffice it to say that the punishment does fit the crime, but not in the way you might suspect. Leviticus 18:22 says: “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.” Unlike other ANE laws, both men were found guilty and penalized. Strange as it may sound, this is virtually unheard of in the ancient world, according to Gagnon’s The Bible and Homosexual Practice. Normally, only the male/aggressor role is penalized. For those concerned with the issue of lesbianism, remember that there is a certain egalitarianism present in the Old Testament. Men were representative in language, but “what’s good for the goose is good for the gander” in practice. All 10 Commandments, for instance, are written as to a male in the original language, however, God clearly intends for both genders to obey His commandments. Additionally, Louis M. Epstein’s Sex Laws and the Customs in Judaism make it clear that lesbianism was also banned by the Mosaic Law, according to nearly every Rabbinic interpretation.

In Leviticus 18:22, the punishment is being cut off from the people (Israel), while in Leviticus 20:13, the punishment is death. It is not an either/or scenario. They are removed from the drama of Israel’s unfolding history- a tremendous privilege- and their life is also forfeit. Homosexuality- among other sins- is an abomination. While all sexual sins in Leviticus 18 are collectively called abominations, homosexual intercourse is the only sin specifically given this distinction from the entire list. While some things are an abomination because they cause ritual impurity, other actions are called abominable in the sense that they are “utterly incompatible with the will of God and … are viewed by Him with repugnance because of its evil.” (P.J. Harland)

There are those that try to connect the type of homosexuality prohibited in the Old Testament with ritual cultic prostitution. The main evidence given for this line of thinking is the commandment forbidding homosexuality in Leviticus 18, which is preceded immediately by the commandment forbidding sacrificing children to Molech. However, the Leviticus 20 passage refers to homosexuality while also prohibiting incest and bestiality without mentioning idolatry specifically. While it is true that Leviticus is largely concerned with not being like the surrounding Canaanites, there is always a reason for not being like them. God never tells Israel to be unique just for the sake of being different.

Another charge often brought up is that these commandments are part of the Mosaic Law and are therefore not applicable today. The role of the Mosaic Law is a complex one that I won’t spend time on at this point, however, I would like to point out the punishment for homosexuality explained in Leviticus 18:26-29:

“But you shall keep my statutes and my rules and do none of these abominations, either thenative or the stranger who sojourns among you  (for the people of the land, who were before you, did all of these abominations, so that the land became unclean),  lest the land vomit you out when you make it unclean, as it vomited out the nation that was before you.  For everyone who does any of these abominations, the persons who do them shall be cut off from among their people.

It is worth noting that, while the commandment against homosexuality was given to the Jews, these same sexual sins brought judgment upon non-Jewish nations prior to Israel’s arrival. When it comes to sexuality, God holds us all to the same standard. Sin is sin, no matter when or where you live. There is a universal moral law, regardless of whatever else may be true of the Mosaic Law.

What about Ruth and Naomi or David and Jonathan?

Homosexuals will often point to two key relationships in the Old Testament as evidence of God blessing homosexual activity. Ruth and Naomi are the first target, primarily because they kiss each other and weep together, and they live together alone. However, both women were previously married to men. Ruth also expresses incredible Abraham-like faith, throwing in her lot with God’s people rather than returning to paganism, and she is loyal to her mother-in-law against all odds. Naomi plays something of a matchmaker, but she is by no means a lover to Ruth. Their relationship is clearly mother-daughter, and any attempt to see it otherwise is reading into the text something that is simply not there. Ruth is, in fact, a beautiful love story which anticipates the arrival of Boaz at the end. Ruth’s inclusion in the line of David and Christ would be impossible if the Leviticus 18 and 20 prohibitions cutting her off from the people of Israel were followed. Speculation such as this is completely unwarranted.

1Samuel 18 says that “the soul of Jonathan was bound to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul….Then Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own soul.” 1Samuel 19:1 tells us that Jonathan “took great delight” in David. 1Samuel 20 tells us that they swore by their love for each other, kissed each other, wept with each other, etc. When Jonathan dies, David says in 2Samuel 1:26 that Jonathan’s love was better than the love of women. So was David gay, or possibly bisexual?

In short, no. David was certainly not strictly homosexual, and neither was Jonathan, as both men had wives (several, in David’s case) and children. What about “loving David as his own soul”? Would it surprise you to learn that, in Hebrew, this is not the first time that phrase was used of two males? In Genesis 44:30, Judah tells his brother Joseph that their father Jacob’s “life is bound up in the boys’ life.” The two phrases are of different wording in English, but the Hebrew behind them is identical. David and Jonathan share a bond similar to that of Jacob and his son Benjamin. There is a father-son affection between them; Jonathan was David’s mentor and friend. (We forget that Jonathan was old enough to be David’s father, being at least 20 years older.)

What about Jonathan’s love for David? The word for love here (“ahab”) has a variety of meanings. Just a few verses after we find that David and Jonathan loved one another, we are told in 1Samuel 18:16 that all of Israel loved David– the exact same Hebrew word is used. David may have had multiple wives, but frankly, reading sexual love into this verse is quite a stretch! That Jonathan took great delight in David is not unusual, his father King Saul is said to delight in David as well in 1Samuel 18:22. The word for delight simply means to “find favor.” In context, this seems to indicate political favor or professional interest.

As for two men kissing, we need to stop reading the Bible like 21st-century Americans! Other cultures permit kissing between men without reading sexuality into the action. In our own country, men were much more physically affectionate with each other than they are today. Men kiss throughout the books of Samuel with no sexual intent: Samuel kisses David (1Samuel 10), David kisses Absalom (2Samuel 14:33), Absalom kissed the people visiting him in 2Samuel 15, David kissed his friend Barzillai (2Samuel 19:40), and Joab kissed his enemy Amasa (2Samuel 20:9). As for the exchange of clothing and deep commitment expressed in 1 Samuel 18, this passage details the sealing of a covenant between David and Jonathan.In giving David his cloak and armor, Jonathan was symbolically handing David the throne. The David and Jonathan saga is about God’s will being providentially attended to, the power of extreme selflessness, and the importance of mentorship. It has nothing to do with homosexuality, and any attempt to read homosexuality into the text is simply revisionism.

Summary and Practical Application

So what are we to make of all this? Clearly homosexuality is forbidden, lacking any positive example in the Bible. This is not a strictly religious position, as most cultures are historically in opposition to the practice. Is there any grace to be found in a seemingly-severe textual landscape? In a word- yes. It is true that the Canaanites were driven from the land in part because of homosexual activity (see Leviticus 18 and 20). However, Genesis 15:16 reveals that God did not swiftly and immediately destroy the Canaanites, but graciously gave those committing abominations 400 years of probation. In that time, they were given opportunities to learn of  God through national Israel, and many did join with God’s people before those nations were wiped out.

Sodom, too, saw grace of another sort. Abraham rescued Lot and all of the inhabitants of Sodom from a coalition of city-states that had invaded (Genesis 14) before Sodom’s destruction took place. They knew of Abraham and the God he served, and they knew, too, of Lot’s faith- though his heart quickly changed. Had Sodom held ten righteous people, God would have spared that city a second time (Genesis 18:32).

Under theocracy in Israel, and due to the presence of the Tabernacle/Temple and the indwelling Shekinah, judgment of homosexuality seems to us to be severe. Righteous justice may demand the death of the person, but that does not speak to what must be done with a person’s soul. A repentant sinner- no matter what the sin- can be saved and not lost because of God’s grace, mercy, and love. A person struggling with deep-rooted sin need not feel only God’s wrath, but also Divine grace and love. Consider Ezekiel 16:51, in which God reveals that Judah had multiplied abominations more than Sodom, including homosexuality and possibly bestiality. But what does God say in Ezekiel 18:31-32?

“Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed, and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel?   For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord God; so turn, and live.”

He goes on to promise blessings for His people, and promises to put His spirit within them in Ezekiel 36:27. Where sin abounds, grace much more abounds. Christians, we must express disapproval of homosexual practice, but we must do so with an awareness of our own fallenness. We must distinguish between desires, orientation, and the actual homosexual lusts and acts. Homosexual lusts and actions are sins, but there are many, many more sins out there that we all struggle with every day. And God loves us anyway. Let us therefore love others by blending grace and righteousness until they seem to almost merge into the same thing. There are many with sexual wounds and physical illnesses because of this sin- it degrades and harms like all other sin. We should welcome them in the spirit of Truth and Love, and not blast with hate, even if our favorite chicken sandwich is on the line.

Next Post: Polygamy

Categories: Apologetics, Bible, Bible Study, christianity, Contemporary Issues, Doctrine, Politics | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Human Sexuality: A Part of the Created Order

Well, it’s been forever since I’ve written one of these, but the latest cultural clashes have driven me out of the woodwork for a number of reasons. First off, I see lots of angry people. There are Christians who don’t seem to be very good at hating the sin and loving the sinner. There are liberals and homosexuals who have viciously declared (cultural) war on Christians. There are folks who just don’t seem to understand why Chick-fil-A is a big deal. The list just goes on and on. Social media, for all its many virtues, doesn’t really permit a very good discussion, so I’ve turned to the old, dusty blog to flesh out some thoughts. For this first post, I’m going to argue for a very specific view on marriage, based primarily in Genesis 1-2. This is the account not only of the creation, but of the first man and woman. In this account, Adam is made first, and then Eve. While the word “marriage” is never used in these chapters, (as some opponents of the biblical view of marriage have pointed out) it is described in Adam and Eve’s relationship, and the pattern for all future marriage relationships is prescribed by God Himself.

In Scripture, we can glean a few important points very early on. We can know that marriage has a number of characteristics. It is:

  1. Heterosexual- God created humans to be Male and Female, and He commanded that they “be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the earth.” While a heterosexual couple may be physically unable to have biological children due to any number of physical problems, a homosexual pairing is completely incapable of fulfilling this first command, even when both people are in perfect medical condition. Samuel H. Dresner has observed that “heterosexuality is at once proclaimed to be the creation order.” Genesis 1-2 is not merely a descriptive account of the first couple but a prescriptive theology for all time– a man shall leave his father and mother and cleave unto his wife.
  2. Dual- When God saw that it is not “good” for Man to be alone, He created Eve. This was always His intention, not an afterthought. Adam recognized he wasn’t complete without another. By the way, it is very significant that the word “Good” during the period of Creation deals primarily with completion and functionality, not with morality.
  3. Monogamous- A single rib is taken in making a single woman, and man and woman are singular in the first marriage. God has provided only for monogamy within marriage. Though righteous and unrighteous men and women within the Bible narrative have broken this commandment, they are not examples of marriages permitted by God.
  4. Egalitarian- While man and woman are biologically different, there is no indication of a hierarchy. Man is not greater than woman. Eve is not greater than Adam. Both are commanded at the beginning to take up the dominion of the earth. Both are blessed by God. Both are responsible in the act of procreation. The Bible is fundamentally egalitarian with respect to the relationships between the sexes, within marriage and without. Even calling Eve “a help meet for him [Adam]” expresses this equality. Rather than meaning that women take a fundamentally servile role, the word meet means “fit, equal”. The word for help is not one of subjugation. The same Hebrew word describes God as Israel’s helper, and He is by no means subject to them! Of the 21 times the word is used in Hebrew, 16 times it refers to God and 3 times it refers to a military ally. It is a word emphasizing a beneficent power, capable of doing great good. Inferiority is the last thing that the word could possibly mean. If you wanted a wordy translation of the Bible, then you could say that Eve is to be a “counterpart equal to Adam.” This is about being a true soulmate.
  5. Wholistic- It is no mistake that the generic term for humans in Genesis 1-2 is ha adam, and it includes both male and female. You can’t have one without the other, to echo a certain crooner. Both man and woman are made in God’s image, and- this is very significant as well- you cannot have a true view of the image of God in man without both sexes being present. On the marital level, on the communal level, in business and government and churches, God’s image is only expressed by both sexes working in union and communion with each other. The sexes complement each other perfectly. While the sexes are egalitarian in nature- they enjoy equality- that does not mean that they are not functionally and aesthetically different. “Let US create man in OUR own image…male and female created He THEM,” we are told of the Godhead’s creative act. The use of plural- while it may be a hint at the royal Trinity- is also a hint at what makes humans unique: God’s imagine within us corporately.
  6. Exclusive- The male-female marriage relationship is an exclusive one. The sexual relationship within marriage does not permit adultery, additional partners, or any other form of fornication. Jesus’ comments regarding lust, by the way, extend this exclusivity even into the thought life. Leaving and cleaving demands not just the obvious physical exclusivity, but also emotional and mental exclusivity. Priorities, traditions, and influences should be uniquely agreed upon by the couple.
  7. Permanent- Adam’s reference to Eve as “flesh of my flesh and bone of my bones” expresses both exclusivity and permanence. They were uniquely one flesh, and that could not be changed. It was his marriage vow, a formal covenant. It was an expression of “devotion and an unshakeable faith between humans; it connotes a permanent attraction which transcends genital union, to which, nonetheless, it gives union. (Collins, The Bible and Sexuality) Physical sexuality is given meaning by this marriage covenant.
  8. Intimate- Becoming one flesh emphasizes the physical, psychological, emotional, spiritual, and intellectual unity that is unique to the marriage experience. In other words, sexuality and marriage in the Bible is not simply about reproduction, as is so often claimed by some. It is about a oneness and intimacy that- unlike the emotional co-dependency of some heterosexual and all homosexual relationship- unites a couple on every level of human experience. This “become one flesh” scenario is hinted at being a process by the original language, by the way. It is not instantaneous. Transparency may take place slowly in a Fallen world, but Adam and Eve were initially not ashamed before one another.
  9. Procreative- Healthy married couples are commanded to have children. It is an additional blessing not associated with the intimacy of marriage or the communion of being made in God’s image. This is a distinct blessing that does not result from the other gifts of sexuality and marriage.

So we see that from Genesis 1-2, there was a specific requirement behind marriage’s design. It is not that Christians are to hate or fear those who do not follow this template. They should obey the Bible’s command to love those who are in sin or lost. It is not that Christians should deny rights to those who demand them- that is not the intention behind opposing homosexual unions. It is rather that- even if gay marriage is recognized by the government (as it most certainly will be)- it is still not an actual marriage. The command and pattern regarding marriage has already been given, and no individual or government can alter that pattern. “Rights” may be bestowed upon counterfeit marriages, but they are not authentic. Only the genuine article has God’s blessing. A marriage that does not meet these criteria is not a marriage at all. Some marriage- such as one in which there has been an affair- may be mended, but some- such as a homosexual union- cannot be mended because it was never a marriage in the first place. That self-identifying homosexuals are people with genuine, sincere feelings is a fact, but the union cannot be created if the necessary components are not present.

We must love those who do not follow God’s commands, but that is a subject for a different day requiring a whole new post, so I’ll end here for now. In the near future, I will address the Bible’s perspective regarding fornication, the denigration of women, and divorce. I’ll also be addressing the perfect picture of marriage in a fallen world (Song of Solomon) as well as some thoughts on how to address these issues in the culture.

The next post in this series (on homosexuality in the Bible) is now posted, followed by one addressing polygamy as a second biblical form of traditional marriage.

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Lessons from the Least

In a separate post, I’ve written about the significance of the “widows and orphans” motif in the Bible. I’d like to turn our attention, however, to how closely this follows with other ancient near eastern (ANE) societies. It turns out that care for orphans and widows is a very common concern in the ANE. In the April 1962 edition of the Journal of Near Eastern Studies, F. Charles Fensham wrote that the wisdom literature (a form of social protocol) and legal codes of ancient Sumer (as early as the 25th century) venerated any king who was strong enough to care for widows and orphans. Hammurabi himself additionally claimed that the gods had called him “to make justice appear in the land, to destroy the evil and wicked, and so that the strong might not oppress the weak.” In the epilogue to his famous 18th-century code, he says that he has set up these laws “so that the strong might not oppress the weak, to give justice to the orphan and to the widows.” Fensham further points out that the king is required to obey these commands because he is the living representative of Samas, the sun god and lord of justice.

In ancient Egypt, caring for the poor, widow, and orphan is the boast of any strong and benevolent king. Khety III exhorts his son, telling Merikare that a good king does not confiscate an orphan’s property. In the city Ugarit in ancient Syria, the Aqhat Epic tells of King Keret whose son rebukes him, saying: “You did not judge the cause of the widow. You did not adjudicate the case of the wretched. You did not drive out them that preyed upon the poor. You did not feed the orphan before you or the widow behind you.”

So what does this have to do with defending the Christian faith? Well, I actually have three points to make here:

  1. Morality is universal. From ancient times the world over, certain behaviors, attitudes, and actions are seen as good and others as deplorable. People have not always followed their own laws, and sometimes they have created oppressive and violent laws, but the greatest and best of civilization has always been lawful and moral. More on this at a later date, but suffice it to say that things like marriage, sexuality, and life are always seen as important and sacred in a sense.
  2. The writers of the Bible were not barbaric, ignorant nomads. This seems very obvious to most, but I’ve often been surprised to read some of the more antagonistic atheists who write that the Bible should be rejected because its human penmen had neither the intelligence nor the sensibility to make them worthy of believing or following. On the contrary, I believe these secular accounts of care and concern for the weakest and poorest in society inform us that ancient near-eastern (ANE) peoples at least were relatively civil and intelligent. They were able to work past the might-makes-right mentality and see that humans are inherently valuable.
  3. The above two points lead me to also believe that humans may actually be “devolving” intellectually, socially, and spiritually. Ancient social and legal structures were both complex and beautiful in spite of their flaws. The religious systems of their day were equally complex, and they interconnected various aspects of nature and reality as carefully as any Greek philosophical system. They were absolutely wrong in many of their practices and beliefs, of course, but they were at least as sophisticated as any modern worldview- pluralism, atheism, and the like. We can see in just these few references an attempt at a just social and legal code, a world in which honor was more important than money or possessions. This is in stark contrast to the world we live in today. Atheism is a sophomoric (lit. “wise fool”) attempt at a philosophy, and many in America at least have adopted pragmatism unwittingly. Greed and materialism are rampant in the developed world, and many undeveloped nations are either indifferent to or antagonistic toward the weak and helpless. How have the mighty fallen?
If you haven’t done so yet, compare the above quotes to the verses referenced in my other post (link above). I think you’ll see that the motif of orphans and widows is astonishingly similar to the secular references above. This tells us that God has set an absolute morality in our hearts, that the Bible is the product of intelligent peoples, and that it is quite possible that humanity is unraveling rather than unifying and developing its further potential. If you don’t believe me, Google the Dalits of India, check out abortion statistics, or check out the number of kids in foster care near you. If we want to live up to our own past, we have a long way to go.
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An Open Letter to David Cloud

Casting Crowns

Bro. Cloud,

These days, I’m typically way too busy to write in this format, but an article wound up in my email that I find impossible to ignore. This article condemned West Coast Baptist Bible College and its founding church Lancaster Baptist Church. Those who know me best know that I rarely step up to defend Bible colleges, so this is a bit rare for me. In the article, you attacked WCBBC for adapting “CCM” music for its church services. The songs in question are Casting Crowns’ “Prayer for a Friend“, Hillsong’s “Stronger“, and MercyMe’s “Word of God Speak”, and I’ve attached links to websites that print out the lyrics for those who are unfamiliar. I found your article to be a bit all over the map, quite honestly, but I think I can boil down your primary statements to the following three items:

 

1. The style of CCM songs is inherently  sensual, seductive, sentimental, rebellious, and hypnotic.

2. The doctrines espoused by CCM music are unsound due to the connection with the charismatic movement.

3. Involvement in CCM music will lead churches and individuals to apostasy and ecumenism.

 

MercyMe

Let’s look at the first area: style. I am no expert on music theory, so I’m not going to address the specifics regarding chord structures. I do, however, think that I can address the issue of style. Is CCM music sensual and seductive? I assume by using these words, Bro. Cloud, you mean that the music itself is somehow erotic. To be honest, this seems a bit of a stretch when it comes to any of the songs cited. Perhaps historically some musicians masquerading as Christian were guilty of this, but CCM has matured significantly over the years. Furthermore, I would like to know in what way the music can be said to be rebellious. Is rebellion a spirit or an action, or can it be communicated strictly through music? The lyrics of the songs are far from rebellious, so you must mean that the music itself is inherently rebellious. Musically, the mood of the selected songs ranges from melancholy to contemplative to (dare I say it?) worshipful. The music itself is not harsh, grating, loud, or even energetic. Therefore, I must assume that you mean something in the chord structure is inherently rebellious, and yet there is nothing that seems to drive a listener to rebellion against anything.

It seems to me that all music can affect our emotions and thoughts. It can give us energy, make us sad, or fill us with joy. It can excite or calm. There’s nothing wrong with music driving us emotionally; it’s simply cause and effect. But what happens if the shoe is on the other foot? Does your church include an invitational hymn, Bro. Cloud? I sincerely doubt they sing “Onward Christian Soldiers” during that time. No, they probably sing something more like “Is Your All on the Altar?”, a hymn with all the plaintive bleating of a lost lamb. We choose songs that set the tone for what is being communicated, and the marching of the Army of the Lord is not appropriate for saints and sinners responding to the message. I daresay many have felt the call of God as a result of a well-placed hymn, and many a mission’s conference has benefited from a soloist’s rendition of “People Need the Lord”, which was also originally classified as CCM.

What about the doctrine of CCM music? Does the fact that charismatics create worship music mean that CCM music is infected with doctrinal distortions? In a word- no. Sure, there’s some chaff to be driven away, and that will happen in time. But really, Bro. Cloud, can you say much about a song like “Joy Bells”? That’s in most hymnals, and offers a cheesy, whimsical version of Christianity that flies in the face of human experience. What about “Every Day with Jesus”? I submit that every day with Jesus is not sweeter than the day before! Some days with Jesus, you burst into tears between the car and the front door. Some days with Jesus, you cling to Him because you don’t know what to do with what you faced that day. There is a richness in the bitterest moment on earth that- while not joyful or sweet- is still of tremendous value in the Christian walk. My point, Bro. Cloud, is that every style of music in Christian history includes some less-inspired lyrics. In your missions conferences, do you sing “We’ve a Story to Tell to the Nations”? If you do, then you sing a doctrinally-unsound hymn about the Church ushering in the Kingdom of God. Yet this song is in most hymnals. Do you sing “Joy to the World” as a Christmas song? This song refers to the 2nd Coming and has nothing to do with the Nativity and creates doctrinal confusion at the very least.

Fanny Crosby, the Ecumenical Hymn-writer

Now, about the songs mentioned: let’s analyze them. How about “Stronger” by Hillsong, since that is from a Pentecostal/A of G church? The death and resurrection of Christ, salvation and atonement, sinfulness of mankind, deity and eternality of Christ, etc. are all affirmed in this one song. That beats the socks off of some hymns! What the song does not mention in any explicit way is the so-called baptism of the Holy Spirit, speaking in tongues, or “health and wealth” gospel. In other words, it in no way endorses false doctrine and is biblically sound. Therefore, I do not see any reason to avoid the song in a church service.

So what should we do, considering the denominational background of the musicians? Nothing! We Baptists love Fanny Crosby hymns, caring little that she regularly attended Presbyterian, Episcopalian, and Reformed churches, was involved in the holiness movement, and finally settled with the Methodist church. Isaac Watts (the founder of English hymnody) followed after Reformed theology, which most IFBs would deny. John Newton, the author of “Amazing Grace” was Anglican. We accept hymns written by men and women with beliefs contrary to Scripture because the hymns themselves are sound; why treat other Christian music differently? (Incidentally, Isaac Watts desired strongly to break away from the Christian music of his day and write “original songs of Christian experience.” Is CCM categorically any different?)

“Word of God Speak” is by MercyMe, and it contains none of the mysticism it is accused of. Frankly, your accusations here absolutely baffle me. Devoid of any direction to view the “Word of God” as anything other than its normal, straight-forward meaning, we are left to assume that the song is either addressing the Bible or Christ Himself (John 1). Because either could be meant, the phrase probably has a double meaning. It calls the believer to shift his focus from himself to God, listening to Him rather than praying selfishly. It also specifically references the holiness and majesty of God. Do you pray in secret, beyond the “quiet” and “beyond the noise”, Bro. Cloud? I sincerely hope so, for that is where our Father hears us, and it is only by praying there that God will reward us openly. God speaks in a still, small voice, and it is for this voice (metaphorically speaking) that the singer in this song yearns.

Isaac Watts, Nonconformist

Finally, there is “Prayer for a Friend” by Casting Crowns. Lyrically, Casting Crowns is typically the most deep of the three groups mentioned. What is perhaps most disturbing by your accusations, sir, is that we’ve all been right where the writer of this song has been. We’ve all known someone that we cannot help, who must make a decision on their own, and we have no other recourse but to beg God to intervene. The song is not one of hopelessness, but one of recognizing where Hope comes from. This song acknowledges the power of God to move and shape our lives, and I think we can all appreciate that.

The last major accusation that you make, Bro. Cloud, is that this music of this sort is a litmus test for apostasy. You tell your readers that churches which adapt CCM music- much less use it in an unadapted form- will no doubt bend toward liberalism and unorthodox practices and beliefs. I beg to differ. It seems to me that the message you are sending reveals apostasy of a very different sort, much after the mold of the Pharisees. You see, the entire article you wrote, as well as the general contents of your website reveals something: an obsession with sin. And being sin-obsessed is always wrong, whether we call it an “addiction” in which we compulsively, habitually contemplate or perform sinful action, or whether we obsess over avoiding anything that we think might be connected to sin. It’s a sort of asceticism. If you look hard enough, Mr. Cloud, everything is tied to sin somehow. Luther’s “A Mighty Fortress” was used as a theme for the Swedish socialist movement in the 1800s, in the Dungeons and Dragons roleplaying game, and on television shows from HBO’s Deadwood to The Simpsons. Astronomical terms, months, and days of the week are all tied to pagan deities. Christmas and Easter are both tied to pagan holidays. If you look for sin in everything, you will find it. However, not everything about a culture is inherently sinful and may in fact be redeemed from out of that culture. To be sure, the rock movement was birthed in a time of sex, drugs, and rebellion. That doesn’t mean that the style must always be tied to those themes, and it doesn’t mean those themes are present anytime someone uses a guitar and a drum set. Much CCM music is produced by people who aren’t IFB, but then again the IFB’s have never tried. Who can blame them, when Ron Hamilton can’t even escape the penetrating gaze of a Pharisee? If you are going to focus on being biblically sound, sir, you had best be following the whole counsel of God.

Let me close by telling you a bit of my personal experience. I began in a church that taught much as you do. There are wonderful people there, and, in spite of the things that I had to unlearn from that time, they taught me to love God and to appreciate the brilliant and profound depth of the hymns. As I grew older, I went to college and then seminary, discovering a very strong and inconsistent bias against anything that wasn’t IFB approved. The older I got, the more I questioned, and fewer people had good answers. I left the IFB movement in favor of a church on the outside, one that strives to avoid the Phariseeism of the past. But, it does more than simply avoid an error. I learn about God’s Word there outside the paradigm of IFB asceticism and extreme guilt. I’m re-reading my Bible, gaining new insight for the first time in a long time. I’m learning to love to worship God in song, and I’m proud to say we sing hymns, gospel, and modern worship music. It’s Christ-centered through and through. I’m learning compassion for the lost, broken, and hurting in ways that are far more real than I ever thought possible. The church I attend is biblical, and it is filled with Christians from all walks of life who are all on this incredible journey of faith.

In the end I must thank you, Bro. Cloud, for reminding me again of what God has saved me from becoming, and for giving me a chance to express my theology of worship in this very unique setting. Good day.

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Should Christians Celebrate Easter?

About this time every year, a small-yet-vocal segment of the Christian populace gets riled up about Easter. They have several reasons why Easter shouldn’t be celebrated: biblical, historical, and cultural. In the strictly biblical sense, Easter isn’t in the Bible. Oh, don’t get me wrong, the resurrection is the central focus of the gospel message, but the word “Easter” isn’t in the original languages. The Greek word for “Passover” (Πάσχα) is translated “Easter” once in the KJV (Acts 12:4), but this is a rare instance of dynamic equivalency in the translation. In short, Easter isn’t a biblical holiday, nor are we commanded to celebrate “Easter”.

The history behind Easter is a bit of a muddled one. It was never celebrated by the Apostles, but there is evidence that Pascha (from the Greek word for passover mentioned above) was a formalized holy day during the 2nd century. Not all Christians celebrated Easter, however, because Scripture tells us that we are free from following the Old Testament Law and traditions. This controversy continued throughout the centuries, not only because of Pascha’s tie to the OT Law, but also because the actual date of the resurrection (Nissan 14) is based on the lunar calendar (360 day year, with 30 days per month) and not the solar/Gregorian calendar that we use today. In other words, Jesus resurrected on the first day of the Jewish week, which isn’t always Sunday on our calendar.

The Protestant Reformation saw many Christians reject all Church holidays as “Pagan”. They did this because the Catholic church often took pagan or cultural traditions and added a religious significance to them. While some have stated that there is a link between Asherah or Ashteroth (“The Queen of Heaven” in the Bible) and the name Easter, I haven’t found much evidence to back up this position. It’d be a reach to expect a Germanic or English culture to name a holiday after a Middle-Eastern deity. There’s really not much of a linguistic connection either. However, a former deity of the Germanic peoples, Eostre, did manage to get her name assigned to our month of April– Eostur-monath. The Venerable Bede mentions that by the 8th century actual worship of Eostre had died out, and “Eostur-monath” became known as the Paschal month. If Bede is to be believed (and not everyone thinks he is always truthful about paganism), Eostre was a goddess of the light or dawn, however, others suggest she may have been yet another fertility symbol.

This leads us to another issue culturally– rabbits and eggs. The rabbit- or more properly, the hare-  has been related to fertility rites for untold centuries. Eggs were painted and given by Zoroastrians centuries ago, and it has been supposed that their tradition was added to folklore sometime after that. Some Orthodox Christians in Europe painted their eggs red to symbolize the death of Christ on the Cross, but others simply boiled their eggs with flowers to tint them in celebration of spring. Protestant Germans kept the tradition of coloring and eating eggs at Easter to remind their children of the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ, but they also continued this tradition throughout the springtime at least to differentiate themselves from the Catholics, who would not eat eggs during Lent. It was the German Protestants that were responsible- at least in part- for bringing this tradition of colored eggs and the Easter Hare to America in the 1700s.

So, the million-dollar question is: what do we do with this information? Should we abandon Easter due to its connection with Paganism? Well, Romans 14 would have us answer: it’s up to you. You may choose to set certain days aside to commemorate the Resurrection of Christ, or you may choose to recognize the significance of this event throughout the year. However, if I could make a few comments in light of what we have seen…

  1. Celebrating the Resurrection on Sunday rather than Nissan 14 is  not a biblical issue. Christians should be educated regarding Jewish holy days and realize that the calendars don’t line up. This doesn’t mean that Easter as a celebration is a bad idea.
  2. The fact that our word “Easter” is connected to the name of a pagan deity is irrelevant. First of all, I’m not aware of anyone that actually worships Eostre. Secondly, a number of our English words are associated with paganism- days of the week or month, the aurora, the planets, etc.
  3. I’m not aware of anyone who sees a rabbit or a colored egg and thinks about fertility or sexuality. Well, we may say “multiply like rabbits”, but that’s about it. Whether or not we should tell children that the Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, and Santa Claus are real is another issue entirely.
  4. I’m not really bothered by the Catholic or Protestant churches (and, yes, Baptists, I know there’s some pride in that not everyone was a part of the Reformation) taking traditions and using them for their own purposes. Isn’t a big part of Christianity taking that which has no significance apart from God and giving it significance? There is much in a culture that may be redeemed.
  5. Easter Eggs are a creative, interactive way to teach children about the Passion Week and the Resurrection.

 

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God Bless Us: Observations from “A Christmas Carol”

In my humble opinion, you’re virtually a Scrooge if you don’t have a favorite version of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol somewhere in your house, or at least watch one of its many incarnations sometime during the Christmas season. It might be the Owen and Lockhart version from 1939 or the one with Patrick Stewart in 2000. I grew up loving Mickey’s Christmas Carol, but we watched the Flintstones A Christmas Carol today with our son. Even these cartoon versions have some incredible worth. First, a little background.

Dickens originally titled his work A Christmas Carol in Prose, and he titled the five sections of his book “staves” rather than “chapters” to maintain the musical theme of his work. His choice of the word “carol” is pretty interesting in itself, since Christmas carols almost always refer to Christ’s nativity. In fact, one of the oldest carols on record is from the 4th century, written by a bishop named Ambrose:

Come, thou Redeemer of the earth,
Come testify thy virgin birth:
All lands admire, all times applaud:
Such is the birth that fits our God.

Forth from his chamber goeth he,
That royal home of purity,
A giant in twofold substance one,
Rejoicing now his course to run.

From God the Father he proceeds,
To God the Father back he speeds;
Runs out his course to death and hell,
Returns on God’s high throne to dwell.

O Equal to thy Father, thou!
Gird on thy fleshly mantle now;
The weakness of our mortal state
With deathless might invigorate.

All laud, eternal Son, to thee
Whose advent sets thy people free,
Whom with the Father we adore,
And Holy Ghost, for evermore.

Dickens would have thought no differently about what a Christmas carol should proclaim, for carols were almost exclusively about Christ even in his day. Even his choice of names for Scrooge’s employee- Bob Cratchit- is a hint at Dickens’ intention. “Cratchit” comes from an archaic word (crèche), which refers to a nativity scene. However, the thoroughly Christian perspective of Dickens’ writing is much more beautifully woven in the fabric of his prose. Remember those staves I mentioned? Dickens makes a reference to the gospel in each stave:

  • In stave 1, Jacob Marley, Scrooge’s late business partner says: “Why did I walk through crowds of fellow-beings with my eyes turned down, and never raise them to that blessed Star which led the Wise Men to a poor abode!”
  • In stave 2, Scrooge asks the Ghost of Christmas Past what its business is with him, and the Spirit answers him: “Your reclamation”, a word that, according to Webster’s 1828 dictionary, means “to call back from error, wandering, or transgression.”
  • In stave 3, Bob Cratchit says of Tiny Tim: “He told me, coming home, that he hoped the people saw him in the church, because he was a cripple, and it might be pleasant to them to remember upon Christmas Day, Who made lame beggars walk, and blind men see.”
  • In stave 4, young Peter Cratchit reads of Christ’s love for children in Mark 9:36, and Dickens says of Scrooge’s thoughts: “Where had Scrooge heard those words? Why did he not go on?”
  • In stave 5, Dickens said of the now-changed Scrooge: “It was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless Us, Every One!”
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Smell the Color 9

Chris Rice wrote a song with that ridiculous title to explain what it’s like to believe in spite of doubt. The title itself is a nonsense phrase for a very obvious reason: “9” is neither a color nor an odor. You can’t interact with the number 9 at all. You can have 9 pairs of socks, 9 Skittles, 9 chairs, and so forth, but it is impossible to interact with a number in any way. It’s an abstract concept. A necessary one, by the way, but abstract nonetheless.

Which leads me to the point of today’s post. We said last week that, if the universe is matter, energy, and time (at minimum), then whatever caused the universe must be nonphysical and timeless- something or Someone that is truly transcendent. Whoever or whatever existed before and beyond our universe would have to be capable of creating and sustaining a universe intelligently. It would have to be capable of planning the universe and performing actions upon the universe.

Atheists will sometimes say that the universe could be listed among the short lists of things that exist of their own necessity. Numbers have to exist, else the universe would be a place of nonsense. The universe, some would claim, also must exist. The laws of nature exist of their own necessity, perhaps, since our scientific laws are mere descriptions of how matter and energy interacts. But must matter exist? Protons, neutrons, and electrons do not have to be here, nor do they have to exist in their present forms. The scientific laws could have been very different if the subatomic particles that make up our universe were any different at all. Fortunately, most naturalists and atheists don’t resort to this line of thinking, as it’s a very difficult to defend. No, Whoever or whatever created the world must exist of Its own necessity, and It must exist beyond our universe.

Philosophers would point out that only two such categories exist. First, the something: an abstract object, such as numbers. But, as I’ve pointed out, numbers themselves are not capable of interaction, creation, or causation. That’s the entire point of them being abstract rather than concrete. Having ruled out the something (abstract objects/numbers), we are left with Someone. A transcendent Mind that is independent of a physical body is capable of existing outside of, before, and beyond the universe. This is exactly what Christians believe God to be. So in the end, the atheist that uses science as a means to prove God’s irrelevance is using the wrong tool. The answer is not in physics but in metaphysics.

Categories: atheism, Bible, Philosophical Christianity, science | Tags: , , , , | 5 Comments

God, Math, and Existence

Who or what created numbers? The Big Bang? God? I don’t really know that it matters. Now, before my Christian brethren get ready to lynch me as defecting from Theism or creationism, let me explain myself. When I’m talking about numbers, that is not the same as talking about information. There’s really only one explanation for information, and that is intelligence. Numbers themselves are simple abstract concepts. You can have two cars or chicken wings, for instance, but you cannot possess the number two all by itself. You cannot interact with the concept of “two”. We call objects, matter, energy, and so forth concrete objects. (Not to be confused with concretes, which are a very tasty treat found at Ted Drewes.) Anyway, besides being abstract, numbers also happen to be very necessary to our universe. They have to exist as a logical consequence of things (matter, energy, people, objects, etc) simply existing. They are, in a sense, uncreated. No matter how you think the universe got here, neither God nor a cosmic hiccup intentionally produced numbers. Now all of the things that numbers represent- almost- were created at some point in time. Even naturalism’s strongest adherents accept this as fact. Numbers are different, as is the whole of mathematics itself. Numbers exist because they have to.

Now, most people who are Theists believe in the self-existence of God. We believe that God exists in the same way that mathematics exists. I don’t need to explain how He exists or where He came from, really. Like numbers, the God of the Bible is self-existent. Christians do not believe in a contingent god, one that needs an explanation for how he came to be. Christians believe in a God Who is absolutely necessary for existence to even have meaning. Created gods, as John Lennox has pointed out, are a delusion, and I don’t know anybody who believes in a god who needed reason for being. Who needs to worship a being that is dependent on another being for its existence? Ought we not to worship the greater of the two, as that will be who is really in control? If the cosmos spawned God somehow, ought not we to worship the cosmos? In Christianity, God is- by definition- necessary and uncreated. If God exists, my atheist friends, He exists because of Who He is. It is the nature of His being, so to speak. Before atheists, agnostics, and Christians can hope to discuss beliefs, they must agree on the definition of the terms, and atheists and agnostics must understand what a Christian means when he says the word “God.” After proper definitions are provided, I believe we can actually accomplish something.

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Nobody and Nothing

One of the most memorable parts of Homer’s Odyssey is when Odysseus and his men land on the island where Polyphemus the cyclops lives. They are captured and are doomed to be eaten by Polyphemus, but Polyphemus tells Odysseus he will eat him last if he tells the giant his name. Odysseus tells the cyclops that his name is “Nobody”. Since the cyclops was drinking anyway, he doesn’t think much of the name and falls asleep. Odysseus and his men gouge out the eye of the cyclops, but the cyclops is unable to explain to the other giants what has happened because he keeps shouting “Nobody has hurt me!” While the cyclopes are left believing that Polyphemus is either a fool or drunk, Odysseus and his men escape. Even one-eyed brutes know that nothing cannot do something.

‘If you start asking scientific questions to scientists, you’ll find that they’re loaded with information. A good scientist has a love of knowledge and a virtually insatiable curiosity, well, at least in their field of expertise. They love to find out why something happened, when it happened, and how it happens. I’m very glad that these people are out there finding out the answers to all of these questions. However, I’ve found that many of these folks only have an apparent insatiable curiosity. Let me illustrate…

We’ve developed some pretty good theories about how and why continents, for instance, were formed. We’ve developed theories about how and why our planet was formed. We’ve developed theories for solar systems, stars, clusters of stars, galaxies, and galactic clusters. However, if you try to back it all of the way up to how and why the entire universe was formed, you’ll find a lot of folks reluctant to answer. I’m not talking about simply explaining the Big Bang theory. I’m talking about explaining how we got to a point (no pun intended) of having a singularity that needed to expand. Where did that come from?

“The Big Bang doesn’t have to answer that”, some will say. “It’s only trying to explain what happened to the singularity after it expanded.” Or, if you prefer biology, evolutionists will tell us that life developed through natural selection and random mutation from a “simple” single-celled organism. How that organism came to live originally, however, is a mystery. And there have been no successful explanations, partly because, as many have said, “Evolution doesn’t seek to explain how life was originally created. It only seeks to explain how it has developed since it began.” Every aspect of biological life has an explanation for its existence in terms of purpose and origin, but life itself has no purpose or origin. Everything from subatomic particles to entire galaxies has an explanation for its origin, some role to fill, but the entire universe itself, taken as a unit, has no purpose. Why is that? What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

It’s a logical fallacy to use good, solid science to determine the function and origin of everything in the universe but then turn around and say that the universe as a whole has no function (purpose) or definable origin, or to act as if such an origin does not matter. Yet, I understand why atheists and other naturalists are reluctant to venture a guess into the origin or means by which a singularity came to be. At least when Christians speak of creation ex nihilo there is a God in back of it all to do all of the work. With naturalism, you have to start with nothing. Just try to picture nothing! Even the “void of space” isn’t really a vacuum, isn’t really a void. There’s always a little bit of something there. And there are heavenly bodies, energy, and dimensions to fill up that space. The naturalistic explanation of the universe must not include time, empty space, matter, or energy. You couldn’t even properly imagine it as sheer darkness, for that would require a place for the darkness to exist in. Without space, energy, or time in our description, science can’t even begin to explain what it was like before the universe began. (And I can’t even use the word “before” here in the chronological sense, since there is no time before the universe began. I merely mean it in the descriptive sense.)

Besides all of this, naturalism must assume that the universe is all there is, which means that it is begging the question. Naturalism assumes that observation is the only source of information and that all our observation is accurate and comprehensive, and since nothing beyond our universe can be observed with either instruments or the five senses, then nothing can exist. Of course, the moment something beyond the universe is posed as an explanation for the universe, the naturalist is immediately implying the existence of the supernatural. I suppose you could appeal to the multiverse theory, but you’ve only pushed the problem back a stage or two. Where did the multiverse come from? What created this series or cluster of universes? Then you’re back at the same problem again. If the universe is all matter and energy, then the cause of the universe must be nonphysical and transcendent. That narrows down our options significantly, now doesn’t it?

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Existence is Futile

Every true Trekkie, at least the TNG sort anyway, will tell you that the turning point for Star Trek: TNG came with the introduction of the Borg. Before those cybernetic aliens graced the sci-fi scene, TNG was just….well, blah. We, the viewers, needed a real villain, something to make us feel that the crew of the Enterprise didn’t have to win. And, of course, even non-trekkies can quote the infamous “Resistance is futile” line. That phrase summed up how most story lines when with the Borg. Practically everybody, including  the great Jean-Luc Picard, had felt the sting of defeat before the Borg. It was that line that helped make the series what it was. Resistance is futile.

In last week’s post, I talked about how the absence of God leaves us without ultimate value, morals, or purpose. While I’m writing this week’s ahead of time, I’m guessing that the atheists in my readership might already have a response ready. Namely, they will be very quick to point out that a negative consequence doesn’t make a belief wrong. They’re right about this. Some of us have had to accept the hard facts of a very sad afterlife for those we love, but we do not throw out our entire faith simply because of negative consequences.

What I’d like to challenge atheists to do, though, is to live their lives consistently in light of atheism. Or, actually, let me take that back. Please, atheists, don’t live out your lives in light of the absence of God. The chaos, carnage, and despair would be horrendous. Devorah Hilsenrath, a survivor at Auschwitz said: “”In Auschwitz, the Nazis interpreted the [Ten] Commandments backwards.” In Auschwitz, a swift murder was almost merciful. Starvation and cruelty were commonplace. Dr. Josef Mengele, the so-called “Angel of Death” was especially known for his cruelty, even performing vivisections on pregnant Jewish women.

There isn’t much difference between Nazi Germany and Communist Russia. Consider Richard Wurmbrand‘s experiences at the hands of Russian torturers:

“What the communists have done to Christians surpasses human understanding….I have seen communists whose faces while torturing believers shone with rapturous joy. They cried out while torturing the Christians, ‘We are the devil! There is no God, no hereafter, no punishment for evil. We can do what we wish.’ I heard one torturer say, ‘I thank God in whom I don’t believe, that I have lived to see this hour when I can express all the evil in my heart.’”

In a prison in the USSR, Wurmbrand met men who had seen their children murdered before their eyes, simply for refusing to renounce Christ. Christians were crucified and made to eat and drink excrement and urine in mockery of Communion. But, if atheism is true, none of these snippets of history should really make you cringe. You see, if there is no Divine Lawgiver, there is nothing wrong with what happened to these men and women. This entire planet is Auschwitz. This entire planet is Soviet Russia. Everything is permitted, provided you can get the government to make it legal.

Atheists don’t behave this way, though. In fact, I know plenty of atheists that are very moral people. Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens both have a very strong sense of morality. I once sat in on a talk Hitchens gave about the dangers of Islam in Western countries, and I actually applauded at the end. He recognized the atrocities that come with an Islamic state, and he wants nothing of it for America. The man told of nearly winding up in a concentration camp himself for daring to mark out a Nazi swastika graffiti. He knows right from wrong, but is painfully ignorant of the fact that he has no grounds for condemning the actions of militant Islam. Dawkins is no better, stating that there is no absolute morality, only “pitiless indifference”, only to turn around and condemn religious instruction as child abuse.

This is all rather embarrassing for the thinking atheist. Bertrand Russell was opposed to war and sexual restrictions, but wrote that he could not live as though ethics were a matter of opinion. In light of atheism, he found his moral sense to be incredible, saying “I do not know the solution.” Nietzsche believed in living beyond good and evil, yet he condemned anti-Semitism. In 1991, Dr. L. D. Rue addressed the AAAS on the topic of morality, saying that humanity had only three options. We can turn the world into a madhouse, living only for self. We can turn to benevolent dictators for safety, or we can choose to believe what he called “the Noble Lie.” Rue said that we must believe in respecting human life and rights  in order to trick ourselves into doing good for someone other than ourselves.

In the end, it’s impossible to truly live out atheism in all of its ugliness. While atheists are right in pointing out that a negative result is not proof that a belief or philosophy is wrong, they have a very difficult time living life in light of God’s absence. Christianity is a far superior belief system in terms of morality and rights. It provides us with a God Who reigns and loves us, and a Heaven to belong in when this life is done. I’ll be getting to arguments for Theism a little later, but for now let us at least agree that we’ve identified the implications of either belief system. Existence is either meaningful or futile.

Categories: Apologetics, atheism, Philosophical Christianity | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

God, Math, and Existence

Who or what created numbers? The Big Bang? God? I don’t really know that it matters. Now, before my Christian brethren get ready to lynch me as defecting from Theism or creationism, let me explain myself. When I’m talking about numbers, that is not the same as talking about information. There’s really only one explanation for information, and that is intelligence. Numbers themselves are simple abstract concepts. You can have two cars or chicken wings, for instance, but you cannot possess the number two all by itself. You cannot interact with the concept of “two”. We call objects, matter, energy, and so forth concrete objects. (Not to be confused with concretes, which are a very tasty treat found at Ted Drewes.) Anyway, besides being abstract, numbers also happen to be very necessary to our universe. They have to exist as a logical consequence of things (matter, energy, people, objects, etc) simply existing. They are, in a sense, uncreated. No matter how you think the universe got here, neither God nor a cosmic hiccup intentionally produced numbers. Now all of the things that numbers represent- almost- were created at some point in time. Even naturalism’s strongest adherents accept this as fact. Numbers are different, as is the whole of mathematics itself. Numbers exist because they have to.

Now, most people who are Theists believe in the self-existence of God. We believe that God exists in the same way that mathematics exists. I don’t need to explain how He exists or where He came from, really. Like numbers, the God of the Bible is self-existent. Christians do not believe in a contingent god, one that needs an explanation for how he came to be. Christians believe in a God Who is absolutely necessary for existence to even have meaning. Created gods, as John Lennox has pointed out, are a delusion, and I don’t know anybody who believes in a god who needed reason for being. Who needs to worship a being that is dependent on another being for its existence? Ought we not to worship the greater of the two, as that will be who is really in control? If the cosmos spawned God somehow, ought not we to worship the cosmos? In Christianity, God is- by definition- necessary and uncreated. If God exists, my atheist friends, He exists because of Who He is. It is the nature of His being, so to speak. Before atheists, agnostics, and Christians can hope to discuss beliefs, they must agree on the definition of the terms, and atheists and agnostics must understand what a Christian means when he says the word “God.” After proper definitions are provided, I believe we can actually accomplish something.

Categories: atheism, Doctrine, Philosophical Christianity | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

No God, No Peace

Is there anything more dangerous in the world than bumper sticker theology? Whether it’s the ridiculous “Coexist” bumper stickers or the “God said it, I believe it, that settles it” variety, bumper sticker beliefs just make me want to puke. There’s no context, no reasoning. Just a simple statement that is supposed to speak volumes but really just leaves me wondering what the heck the driver was thinking when he pasted something on the back of his car. Which brings me to the title of this post.

“No God, No Peace”, proclaims the bumper sticker. It’s catchy, sort of. I find this one a little less offensive than some I’ve read, but I really honestly think this bumper sticker stopped too soon. It should’ve kept going. “No God. No Peace. No Purpose. No Meaning. No Values.” Not as trendy or memorable, but it’d make a better point. It’d also make atheists realize the absurdity of what they believe and commit a lemming-esque suicide, so perhaps it’s best if we keep such depressing thoughts off of the road. But I digress….

If there is no God, there isn’t really much to this whole “living” thing. What does it matter if I live one year or one hundred if death is ultimately the end of my very existence? What does it matter what humans achieve as a civilization if all that awaits is ultimately the death of our planet, our galaxy, our universe in fire or ice? If I cease to be when I am dead, does it really matter that I existed in the first place? Oh, I’m sure there are some who will mourn my passing. Every human life certainly has relative significance and value, but if there is no God to say that human beings have inherent worth, then in the end….who really cares how it all turns out? Who cares if we find a cure to AIDS? Who cares about peace in the Middle East? Soon enough, there will be no people to contract HIV or fire a weapon. Give it a while, and there won’t be anyone around to remember what we accomplished. How very, very depressing.

If there is no God, then there are no values whatsoever. Jeffrey Dahmer and Mother Teresa are equally moral, for morality isn’t a real thing. There is no such thing as evil, either. By the way, I think this is interesting, since people often call the “Problem of Evil” a Christian’s dilemma. In reality, we know where evil came from, what it does, and what its ultimate fate is. It is the atheist or agnostic that is left to find an answer to the problem. They’re the ones who are left coming up with a baseless code of ethics. There’s no justice, either. If there is no God, then in the end all of the world’s worst criminals have gotten away with it. As Dostoyevsky has written: “If there is no immortality, then all things are permitted.” It would seem that an atheist such as Richard Dawkins would agree: “We are machines for propagating DNA, and the propagation of DNA is a self-sustaining process. It is every living object’s sole reason for living.” In a universe without God, you and I cannot condemn war, rape, or murder, but we can also not praise self-sacrifice, love, or generosity. They are neither good nor evil in the end. They may have some practical benefits, but they are not good or evil.

If atheism is true, then we are left with Bertrand Russell’s “firm foundation of unyielding despair.” As one man has said, if God is dead, then man is dead too. Dr. William Lane Craig sums it up nicely, I think: “As for man, he’s a freak of nature- a blind product of matter plus time plus chance. If God does not exist, then you are just a miscarriage of nature, thrust into a purposeless universe universe to live a purposeless life.” Sounds great, doesn’t it?

Of course not! But have you ever seen an atheist live like he was really dying? Probably not….

Categories: Apologetics, atheism, christianity, Philosophical Christianity | Tags: , , , | 6 Comments

Existence is Futile

Every true Trekkie, at least the TNG sort anyway, will tell you that the turning point for Star Trek: TNG came with the introduction of the Borg. Before those cybernetic aliens graced the sci-fi scene, TNG was just….well, blah. We, the viewers, needed a real villain, something to make us feel that the crew of the Enterprise didn’t have to win. And, of course, even non-trekkies can quote the infamous “Resistance is futile” line. That phrase summed up how most story lines when with the Borg. Practically everybody, including  the great Jean-Luc Picard, had felt the sting of defeat before the Borg. It was that line that helped make the series what it was. Resistance is futile.

In last week’s post, I talked about how the absence of God leaves us without ultimate value, morals, or purpose. While I’m writing this week’s ahead of time, I’m guessing that the atheists in my readership might already have a response ready. Namely, they will be very quick to point out that a negative consequence doesn’t make a belief wrong. They’re right about this. Some of us have had to accept the hard facts of a very sad afterlife for those we love, but we do not throw out our entire faith simply because of negative consequences.

What I’d like to challenge atheists to do, though, is to live their lives consistently in light of atheism. Or, actually, let me take that back. Please, atheists, don’t live out your lives in light of the absence of God. The chaos, carnage, and despair would be horrendous. Devorah Hilsenrath, a survivor at Auschwitz said: “”In Auschwitz, the Nazis interpreted the [Ten] Commandments backwards.” In Auschwitz, a swift murder was almost merciful. Starvation and cruelty were commonplace. Dr. Josef Mengele, the so-called “Angel of Death” was especially known for his cruelty, even performing vivisections on pregnant Jewish women.

There isn’t much difference between Nazi Germany and Communist Russia. Consider Richard Wurmbrand‘s experiences at the hands of Russian torturers:

“What the communists have done to Christians surpasses human understanding….I have seen communists whose faces while torturing believers shone with rapturous joy. They cried out while torturing the Christians, ‘We are the devil! There is no God, no hereafter, no punishment for evil. We can do what we wish.’ I heard one torturer say, ‘I thank God in whom I don’t believe, that I have lived to see this hour when I can express all the evil in my heart.’”

In a prison in the USSR, Wurmbrand met men who had seen their children murdered before their eyes, simply for refusing to renounce Christ. Christians were crucified and made to eat and drink excrement and urine in mockery of Communion. But, if atheism is true, none of these snippets of history should really make you cringe. You see, if there is no Divine Lawgiver, there is nothing wrong with what happened to these men and women. This entire planet is Auschwitz. This entire planet is Soviet Russia. Everything is permitted, provided you can get the government to make it legal.

Atheists don’t behave this way, though. In fact, I know plenty of atheists that are very moral people. Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens both have a very strong sense of morality. I once sat in on a talk Hitchens gave about the dangers of Islam in Western countries, and I actually applauded at the end. He recognized the atrocities that come with an Islamic state, and he wants nothing of it for America. The man told of nearly winding up in a concentration camp himself for daring to mark out a Nazi swastika graffiti. He knows right from wrong, but is painfully ignorant of the fact that he has no grounds for condemning the actions of militant Islam. Dawkins is no better, stating that there is no absolute morality, only “pitiless indifference”, only to turn around and condemn religious instruction as child abuse.

This is all rather embarrassing for the thinking atheist. Bertrand Russell was opposed to war and sexual restrictions, but wrote that he could not live as though ethics were a matter of opinion. In light of atheism, he found his moral sense to be incredible, saying “I do not know the solution.” Nietzsche believed in living beyond good and evil, yet he condemned anti-Semitism. In 1991, Dr. L. D. Rue addressed the AAAS on the topic of morality, saying that humanity had only three options. We can turn the world into a madhouse, living only for self. We can turn to benevolent dictators for safety, or we can choose to believe what he called “the Noble Lie.” Rue said that we must believe in respecting human life and rights  in order to trick ourselves into doing good for someone other than ourselves.

In the end, it’s impossible to truly live out atheism in all of its ugliness. While atheists are right in pointing out that a negative result is not proof that a belief or philosophy is wrong, they have a very difficult time living life in light of God’s absence. Christianity is a far superior belief system in terms of morality and rights. It provides us with a God Who reigns and loves us, and a Heaven to belong in when this life is done. I’ll be getting to arguments for Theism a little later, but for now let us at least agree that we’ve identified the implications of either belief system. Existence is either meaningful or futile.

Categories: atheism, Philosophical Christianity | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

No Ordinary People

When it comes to evangelism, it seems, everybody has an idea about how to do it. There’s so-called “life-style evangelism” for those who want to be good, do good, and look good without having to share the good news. There’s televangelism, door-to-door soul-winning, missions work, street preaching, evangelistic services, evangelistic meals, tracts, and a host of other things people like to do. We tailor different styles of evangelism to meet the needs of the people around us. I’ve been to Chicago, where street preaching can actually be pretty effective, depending on where you are located. I’ve been to the Florida panhandle, where those same street evangelists are largely ignored. Some folks will listen to you preach on television but never darken the door of a church, and some have to see that you really care before they care at all about what you have to say.

There’s a small- but growing- population of people that I believe apologetics can be an effective witnessing tool towards. I’ve heard people say that the number of folks who could be reached through apologetics is so small, it’s hardly worthwhile. I strongly disagree. “There are no ordinary people,” C. S. Lewis writes. “You have never talked to a mere mortal.” The size of the population most likely influenced by apologetics is small, but influential. These are the people who have retained the ability to think critically, logically, and independently without resorting to skepticism. These are, quite often, doctors, lawyers, and other educated professionals. At the other end of the spectrum, though, there’s a much larger group of people who can be influenced by apologetics: students. Yes, students. If there’s one thing I’ve learned by being a teacher, it’s that students listen when you least expect it. Teenagers and college students the world over often think more deeply than people twice their age. They ask the big questions of life: questions of existence, meaning, and purpose. They are often the amateur philosophers of our day, trying to figure life out in the few brief years before they become just as burdened by life as their parents.

And why should apologetics not be used? Apologetics is largely about facts and logic. It’s about reality! If reality is, as we Christians believe, about a loving, all-powerful Creator Whom we may have a personal relationship with, then apologetics should be welcome to the party! The Bible is filled with facts, and logic is an aspect of the mind of God (John 1:1). When we use apologetics and couple it with Scripture, the Spirit is pleased to move in the life of the lost soul.

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Eat Your Wheaties!

My students will tell you that I’m a huge fan of food illustrations, so here’s one for y’all today. Doing a web search for the phrase “eat your Wheaties” provides a host of advice related to the beloved cereal. It seems there isn’t anything that Wheaties can’t do. Just click the link above to find out what I mean. Of course, Wheaties are usually marketed as a cereal capable of making you stronger or faster, which is probably the only way mothers got their little boys to eat the stuff.

I like to think of apologetics as Wheaties for the Christian mind. Apologetics can give you confidence in sharing your faith with others. I know Muslims and atheists that know more about what the Bible says than most believers. Of course, I also know a number of atheists that wouldn’t know anything about Christianity if it weren’t for the Crusades and a witch hunt or two. Unfortunately, we live in a Christian culture that expects very little mental exertion on the part of believers who are new to the faith or young in years. We need to be explaining to our own what we believe and why (and a simple “God said it, I believe it, that settles it!” doesn’t settle it!) Studying anything is hard work; why would you expect the Christian faith to be any different?

Apologetics can also help a believer with times of doubt and struggle. As I’ve said in other posts, doubt can be a very compelling motivator to bring us deeper into the Christian faith. After all, it really isn’t faith in the end if everything can be totally proved in a scientific sense. We’re human, so we will waver on even the most deeply-held issues. For me personally, doubt was the biggest contributor to my study of the Bible and apologetics. I wanted to know if what I had been taught was true, and so I studied Christianity to see if it made sense to me. I’d be lying if I said that I don’t sometimes still have questions, but happily the instability of youth is behind me. I know how to look for answers, and I know that there are some philosophies and beliefs that simply don’t make sense. If you have struggled with your faith, know that you aren’t alone.

Alarmingly, over 40% of youth today will quit going to church by the time they finish college. If 40% stop attending, how many more experience doubt and remain faithful? Should we not be focused on defending the Truth of Christianity rather than felt needs and entertainment? Believe me, I don’t mean to say that all of church must be serious or that worship is not important, but doesn’t Jesus say that we should worship both in spirit and in truth? Apologetics help us remember that our faith is not based on emotions, but on truth. How wonderful would it be if young people could be taught some reasoned faith to help them through their next bout of loneliness? Heck, how wonderful would it be if we could all have some knowledge of truth the next time God seems distant!

Dr. William Lane Craig also lists a third benefit of studying apologetics. He says that doing so will make you a “deeper and more interesting person”, and I couldn’t agree more! As Dr. Craig observes, our culture is “appallingly superficial, fixated on celebrities, entertainment, sports, and self-indulgence.” Apologetics is part of the cure, as it will lead you to study philosophy, history, and science, among other things. You’ll be able to read, talk, and think about the deeper questions of life such as the existence of God, the “problem” of evil and suffering, and so forth. We in the education realm talk much of developing critical thinking skills, but it is in the realm of Christian apologetics that the Church has the ability to develop these skills apart from worldly philosophies. The world desperately needs thinking believers to answer the shallowness of this age.

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No God, No Peace

Is there anything more dangerous in the world than bumper sticker theology? Whether it’s the ridiculous “Coexist” bumper stickers or the “God said it, I believe it, that settles it” variety, bumper sticker beliefs just make me want to puke. There’s no context, no reasoning. Just a simple statement that is supposed to speak volumes but really just leaves me wondering what the heck the driver was thinking when he pasted something on the back of his car. Which brings me to the title of this post.

“No God, No Peace”, proclaims the bumper sticker. It’s catchy, sort of. I find this one a little less offensive than some I’ve read, but I really honestly think this bumper sticker stopped too soon. It should’ve kept going. “No God. No Peace. No Purpose. No Meaning. No Values.” Not as trendy or memorable, but it’d make a better point. It’d also make atheists realize the absurdity of what they believe and commit a lemming-esque suicide, so perhaps it’s best if we keep such depressing thoughts off of the road. But I digress….

If there is no God, there isn’t really much to this whole “living” thing. What does it matter if I live one year or one hundred if death is ultimately the end of my very existence? What does it matter what humans achieve as a civilization if all that awaits is ultimately the death of our planet, our galaxy, our universe in fire or ice? If I cease to be when I am dead, does it really matter that I existed in the first place? Oh, I’m sure there are some who will mourn my passing. Every human life certainly has relative significance and value, but if there is no God to say that human beings have inherent worth, then in the end….who really cares how it all turns out? Who cares if we find a cure to AIDS? Who cares about peace in the Middle East? Soon enough, there will be no people to contract HIV or fire a weapon. Give it a while, and there won’t be anyone around to remember what we accomplished. How very, very depressing.

If there is no God, then there are no values whatsoever. Jeffrey Dahmer and Mother Teresa are equally moral, for morality isn’t a real thing. There is no such thing as evil, either. By the way, I think this is interesting, since people often call the “Problem of Evil” a Christian’s dilemma. In reality, we know where evil came from, what it does, and what its ultimate fate is. It is the atheist or agnostic that is left to find an answer to the problem. They’re the ones who are left coming up with a baseless code of ethics. There’s no justice, either. If there is no God, then in the end all of the world’s worst criminals have gotten away with it. As Dostoyevsky has written: “If there is no immortality, then all things are permitted.” It would seem that an atheist such as Richard Dawkins would agree: “We are machines for propagating DNA, and the propagation of DNA is a self-sustaining process. It is every living object’s sole reason for living.” In a universe without God, you and I cannot condemn war, rape, or murder, but we can also not praise self-sacrifice, love, or generosity. They are neither good nor evil in the end. They may have some practical benefits, but they are not good or evil.

If atheism is true, then we are left with Bertrand Russell’s “firm foundation of unyielding despair.” As one man has said, if God is dead, then man is dead too. Dr. William Lane Craig sums it up nicely, I think: “As for man, he’s a freak of nature- a blind product of matter plus time plus chance. If God does not exist, then you are just a miscarriage of nature, thrust into a purposeless universe universe to live a purposeless life.” Sounds great, doesn’t it?

Of course not! But have you ever seen an atheist live like he was really dying? Probably not….

Categories: atheism, Philosophical Christianity | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

No Ordinary People

When it comes to evangelism, it seems, everybody has an idea about how to do it. There’s so-called “life-style evangelism” for those who want to be good, do good, and look good without having to share the good news. There’s televangelism, door-to-door soul-winning, missions work, street preaching, evangelistic services, evangelistic meals, tracts, and a host of other things people like to do. We tailor different styles of evangelism to meet the needs of the people around us. I’ve been to Chicago, where street preaching can actually be pretty effective, depending on where you are located. I’ve been to the Florida panhandle, where those same street evangelists are largely ignored. Some folks will listen to you preach on television but never darken the door of a church, and some have to see that you really care before they care at all about what you have to say.

There’s a small- but growing- population of people that I believe apologetics can be an effective witnessing tool towards. I’ve heard people say that the number of folks who could be reached through apologetics is so small, it’s hardly worthwhile. I strongly disagree. “There are no ordinary people,” C. S. Lewis writes. “You have never talked to a mere mortal.” The size of the population most likely influenced by apologetics is small, but influential. These are the people who have retained the ability to think critically, logically, and independently without resorting to skepticism. These are, quite often, doctors, lawyers, and other educated professionals. At the other end of the spectrum, though, there’s a much larger group of people who can be influenced by apologetics: students. Yes, students. If there’s one thing I’ve learned by being a teacher, it’s that students listen when you least expect it. Teenagers and college students the world over often think more deeply than people twice their age. They ask the big questions of life: questions of existence, meaning, and purpose. They are often the amateur philosophers of our day, trying to figure life out in the few brief years before they become just as burdened by life as their parents.

And why should apologetics not be used? Apologetics is largely about facts and logic. It’s about reality! If reality is, as we Christians believe, about a loving, all-powerful Creator Whom we may have a personal relationship with, then apologetics should be welcome to the party! The Bible is filled with facts, and logic is an aspect of the mind of God (John 1:1). When we use apologetics and couple it with Scripture, the Spirit is pleased to move in the life of the lost soul.

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Eat Your Wheaties!

My students will tell you that I’m a huge fan of food illustrations, so here’s one for y’all today. Doing a web search for the phrase “eat your Wheaties” provides a host of advice related to the beloved cereal. It seems there isn’t anything that Wheaties can’t do. Just click the link above to find out what I mean. Of course, Wheaties are usually marketed as a cereal capable of making you stronger or faster, which is probably the only way mothers got their little boys to eat the stuff.

I like to think of apologetics as Wheaties for the Christian mind. Apologetics can give you confidence in sharing your faith with others. I know Muslims and atheists that know more about what the Bible says than most believers. Of course, I also know a number of atheists that wouldn’t know anything about Christianity if it weren’t for the Crusades and a witch hunt or two. Unfortunately, we live in a Christian culture that expects very little mental exertion on the part of believers who are new to the faith or young in years. We need to be explaining to our own what we believe and why (and a simple “God said it, I believe it, that settles it!” doesn’t settle it!) Studying anything is hard work; why would you expect the Christian faith to be any different?

Apologetics can also help a believer with times of doubt and struggle. As I’ve said in other posts, doubt can be a very compelling motivator to bring us deeper into the Christian faith. After all, it really isn’t faith in the end if everything can be totally proved in a scientific sense. We’re human, so we will waver on even the most deeply-held issues. For me personally, doubt was the biggest contributor to my study of the Bible and apologetics. I wanted to know if what I had been taught was true, and so I studied Christianity to see if it made sense to me. I’d be lying if I said that I don’t sometimes still have questions, but happily the instability of youth is behind me. I know how to look for answers, and I know that there are some philosophies and beliefs that simply don’t make sense. If you have struggled with your faith, know that you aren’t alone.

Alarmingly, over 40% of youth today will quit going to church by the time they finish college. If 40% stop attending, how many more experience doubt and remain faithful? Should we not be focused on defending the Truth of Christianity rather than felt needs and entertainment? Believe me, I don’t mean to say that all of church must be serious or that worship is not important, but doesn’t Jesus say that we should worship both in spirit and in truth? Apologetics help us remember that our faith is not based on emotions, but on truth. How wonderful would it be if young people could be taught some reasoned faith to help them through their next bout of loneliness? Heck, how wonderful would it be if we could all have some knowledge of truth the next time God seems distant!

Dr. William Lane Craig also lists a third benefit of studying apologetics. He says that doing so will make you a “deeper and more interesting person”, and I couldn’t agree more! As Dr. Craig observes, our culture is “appallingly superficial, fixated on celebrities, entertainment, sports, and self-indulgence.” Apologetics is part of the cure, as it will lead you to study philosophy, history, and science, among other things. You’ll be able to read, talk, and think about the deeper questions of life such as the existence of God, the “problem” of evil and suffering, and so forth. We in the education realm talk much of developing critical thinking skills, but it is in the realm of Christian apologetics that the Church has the ability to develop these skills apart from worldly philosophies. The world desperately needs thinking believers to answer the shallowness of this age.

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What Physics Class Taught Me

I signed up for physics class in high school not really knowing what to expect. I’d always loved science classes, and I didn’t expect this one to be any different. It was. God help me, it was. Why it didn’t occur to me that physics would be a lot of formulas and math, I will never know. What I do know is that it took every ounce of mental energy I could muster to survive that year, and survive I did. To this day, I’m convinced that God somehow changed my semester grades when my teacher wasn’t looking.

Perhaps the biggest frustration I experienced with physics class wasn’t the amount of work I had to deal with so much as the fact that I felt like very little of what I was learning really applied to real life. (Ok, I know that that is what students say about practically every class they take, but hear me out.) After all, practically every equation I learned had the wonderful little caveat “in a vacuum” somewhere in the description.  We learned about the speed of light in a vacuum, terminal velocity in a vacuum, friction in a vacuum, and so on and so forth. In other words, we learned about how things move and act if there’s no matter to influence it. So nothing work exactly the way an equation said it should because we don’t experience reality in a vacuum. (Happily, I might add, since that would pretty much eradicate life on earth.) This is a great illustration of the point of this particular post: nothing is learned or experienced in isolation.

We’ve discussed already how apologetics is a very biblical concept. Now I want us to focus on why it is so important. It is absolutely true that we are called to be salt and light to a dark and lost world- we should be evangelistic since Christ is the ultimate answer to our world’s problems. It is also absolutely true that God has called us to faith and faithfulness, so our message includes elements of morality and ethics. However, it is also true that we must be aware of the cultural backdrop against which people will hear the Gospel. The Gospel is never heard in isolation, and we must be able to answer the darkness with light. We as Christians must be willing and able to cast down imaginations and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God. That imagination may take the form of the acceptance of sin, the secularist/naturalistic worldview, or belief in false religions. The response by Christians must always be the same. We must be able to give a loving answer concerning the hope that we have.

The sad reality is that Christianity has been relegated to a generic “faith” in our Western culture. It’s just another superstition, something someone believes to make themselves feel good. It’s just a crutch. The goal of apologetics is to answer that perspective. We know that Christianity is not just another generic faith. It’s not the same thing as the New Atheist’s “Flying Spaghetti Monster.” It’s the goal of apologetics to bring Christianity out of the private sphere and into the public sector.

Christians ought to be able to explain their faith in ways that make it an acceptable perspective in academics, law, and courts, regardless of the current perspective on issues such as the “separation of church and state.”  I’m not saying anyone will come to Christ simply from apologetics. I am saying that Christians who understand the tenets of our faith and can explain them reasonably will help to create a culture in which Christianity is a reasonable and acceptable thing. The “Moral Majority” has made a fool of Christianity and has lost its power. It will not be political might that rights the wrongs of society. That is the job of biblical Christian demonstrating and explaining a viable faith in a reasonable way.

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What Physics Class Taught Me

I signed up for physics class in high school not really knowing what to expect. I’d always loved science classes, and I didn’t expect this one to be any different. It was. God help me, it was. Why it didn’t occur to me that physics would be a lot of formulas and math, I will never know. What I do know is that it took every ounce of mental energy I could muster to survive that year, and survive I did. To this day, I’m convinced that God somehow changed my semester grades when my teacher wasn’t looking.

Perhaps the biggest frustration I experienced with physics class wasn’t the amount of work I had to deal with so much as the fact that I felt like very little of what I was learning really applied to real life. (Ok, I know that that is what students say about practically every class they take, but hear me out.) After all, practically every equation I learned had the wonderful little caveat “in a vacuum” somewhere in the description.  We learned about the speed of light in a vacuum, terminal velocity in a vacuum, friction in a vacuum, and so on and so forth. In other words, we learned about how things move and act if there’s no matter to influence it. So nothing work exactly the way an equation said it should because we don’t experience reality in a vacuum. (Happily, I might add, since that would pretty much eradicate life on earth.) This is a great illustration of the point of this particular post: nothing is learned or experienced in isolation.

We’ve discussed already how apologetics is a very biblical concept. Now I want us to focus on why it is so important. It is absolutely true that we are called to be salt and light to a dark and lost world- we should be evangelistic since Christ is the ultimate answer to our world’s problems. It is also absolutely true that God has called us to faith and faithfulness, so our message includes elements of morality and ethics. However, it is also true that we must be aware of the cultural backdrop against which people will hear the Gospel. The Gospel is never heard in isolation, and we must be able to answer the darkness with light. We as Christians must be willing and able to cast down imaginations and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God. That imagination may take the form of the acceptance of sin, the secularist/naturalistic worldview, or belief in false religions. The response by Christians must always be the same. We must be able to give a loving answer concerning the hope that we have.

The sad reality is that Christianity has been relegated to a generic “faith” in our Western culture. It’s just another superstition, something someone believes to make themselves feel good. It’s just a crutch. The goal of apologetics is to answer that perspective. We know that Christianity is not just another generic faith. It’s not the same thing as the New Atheist’s “Flying Spaghetti Monster.” It’s the goal of apologetics to bring Christianity out of the private sphere and into the public sector.

Christians ought to be able to explain their faith in ways that make it an acceptable perspective in academics, law, and courts, regardless of the current perspective on issues such as the “separation of church and state.”  I’m not saying anyone will come to Christ simply from apologetics. I am saying that Christians who understand the tenets of our faith and can explain them reasonably will help to create a culture in which Christianity is a reasonable and acceptable thing. The “Moral Majority” has made a fool of Christianity and has lost its power. It will not be political might that rights the wrongs of society. That is the job of biblical Christian demonstrating and explaining a viable faith in a reasonable way.

Categories: Bible, Doctrine, Philosophical Christianity, Politics, science | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Defend-o-getics!

Last week I explained to a class of teenagers that we would be studying apologetics next year, and a few of them gave me funny looks.

“What’s that supposed to mean?”, one asked. “What are we apologizing for?”

I explained to them that- within Christianity anyway- apologetics refers to a reasoned defense of the faith.

“Why not just call it ‘defend-o-getics’, then?” he asked, and we all laughed.

If you think about it, “defend-o-getics” would probably make it more clear as to what would be going on. How many of us, after all, thought the same thing when we first heard the term? We get our word “apologetics” from the Greek word apologia, which refers to a courtroom defense. Peter uses this word when he tells us to be prepared to give an answer for the hope that lives in us. (1 Peter 3:15) Now let me be clear on this: being defensive or argumentative about our faith isn’t what Peter is talking about, nor is he excusing treating people in a hateful manner. We’re not just responsible for sharing truth; we’re also responsible with how we share that truth. I believe very firmly that apologetics is one of the most important things to teach believers today, but I’ll get to that later.

What we all need to realize is that apologetics is biblical. Now, I’ve heard people disagree with this point. I’ve heard them say that we need only to study the Bible or heed the Spirit and everything will be alright. While I do believe in being sensitive to the Spirit and studying Scripture, I find that there is something wrong with this view. When I read my Bible, I see apologetics everywhere. When I prayerfully consider what the Spirit would have me do, I feel very much led to study apologetics. After all, Jesus was a master at apologetics. In Luke 24:25-27 and John 14:11, for instance, Jesus appealed to miracles and fulfilled prophecy to prove Who He was. The apostles referenced miracles, fulfilled prophecy, and Jesus’ resurrection to make a point. (Acts 2:22-32) In Acts 14:17, Romans 1, and 1 Corinthians 15:3-8, Paul points to nature and eyewitnesses of the resurrected Christ as proof for Christianity’s validity. This is precisely the sort of thing that modern apologetics tries to do. It’s amazing what the Spirit can do with this sort of reasoning!

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Defend-o-getics!

Last week I explained to a class of teenagers that we would be studying apologetics next year, and a few of them gave me funny looks.

“What’s that supposed to mean?”, one asked. “What are we apologizing for?”

I explained to them that- within Christianity anyway- apologetics refers to a reasoned defense of the faith.

“Why not just call it ‘defend-o-getics’, then?” he asked, and we all laughed.

If you think about it, “defend-o-getics” would probably make it more clear as to what would be going on. How many of us, after all, thought the same thing when we first heard the term? We get our word “apologetics” from the Greek word apologia, which refers to a courtroom defense. Peter uses this word when he tells us to be prepared to give an answer for the hope that lives in us. (1 Peter 3:15) Now let me be clear on this: being defensive or argumentative about our faith isn’t what Peter is talking about, nor is he excusing treating people in a hateful manner. We’re not just responsible for sharing truth; we’re also responsible with how we share that truth. I believe very firmly that apologetics is one of the most important things to teach believers today, but I’ll get to that later.

What we all need to realize is that apologetics is biblical. Now, I’ve heard people disagree with this point. I’ve heard them say that we need only to study the Bible or heed the Spirit and everything will be alright. While I do believe in being sensitive to the Spirit and studying Scripture, I find that there is something wrong with this view. When I read my Bible, I see apologetics everywhere. When I prayerfully consider what the Spirit would have me do, I feel very much led to study apologetics. After all, Jesus was a master at apologetics. In Luke 24:25-27 and John 14:11, for instance, Jesus appealed to miracles and fulfilled prophecy to prove Who He was. The apostles referenced miracles, fulfilled prophecy, and Jesus’ resurrection to make a point. (Acts 2:22-32) In Acts 14:17, Romans 1, and 1 Corinthians 15:3-8, Paul points to nature and eyewitnesses of the resurrected Christ as proof for Christianity’s validity. This is precisely the sort of thing that modern apologetics tries to do. It’s amazing what the Spirit can do with this sort of reasoning!

Categories: Bible | Tags: , | 2 Comments

Why I Liked Lost’s Finale- Serious Spoilers

In the hours following the Lost series finale, it became pretty clear to me that it was impossible to remain neutral in your take on how things wrapped up. Some fans absolutely loved the ending, while others felt like they had wasted six years of their collective lives. Some folks just seemed to be happy they had been able to survive the roller coaster that was Lost. I can understand people’s frustration at how Lost ended. We didn’t get nearly as many answers as we would have liked. We barely delved into the series’ mythology it seemed, so we’ll never know for sure who built the temple or the statue of Tawaret, what exactly the Light was, whose bodies were down in the pit with the Light, how people seemed to have insight or could talk to dead people, or what happened to poor Walt. To make matter’s worse, we have very few authoritative characters to help us really believe what we’ve been told is true. Jacob’s “Mother” isn’t exactly believable, having killed Jacob and MiB’s biological mother along with all of the people MiB lived with for years. Jacob seems to have gained some insight, but a lot of what he knows is based on what “Mother” said. We don’t know if there would have been repercussions outside of the Island if the Island had sunk, and we don’t know that MiB could have really done much once off of the Island since the Light would have gone out and he would be mortal.

So, yes, I understand why people are frustrated at the lack of answers. However, I’d like to point out that I think that this particular aspect of Lost makes it far more realistic than most television shows and movies. In real life, we don’t know for certain all of the answers. We don’t have absolute certainty about the big questions of life- meaning and purpose, for instance- or about which choices are the right ones. We are so finite, so impotent when it comes to seeing the future or even the past with accuracy. Lost reflects reality very powerfully here. Without omniscience to make things easy for us, we are left with questions to be answered at some unknown date or to believe based on what evidence we can find. We all believe in something ultimately, just as we’re all left to form our own conclusions about our unanswered questions from Lost.

Lost also never quite gave us a definitive answer when it comes to major philosophical questions- questions you and I wrestle with consciously or subconsciously. Are we at the merciless hands of fate? Which choices have been given to us to make on our own? For the Christian- how is it that God can make these complex plans for the universe and for us personally and yet we are left with the ability to choose to follow His plan? To what extent can we choose to follow Him or not, and which things are we unable to choose? The reality is that Lost made us think without shutting down our thinking at the end by answering all of these complex questions for us. It leaves us to keep thinking until we come up with an answer, based on sources that we can trust. That’s a great gift, I’d say.

It was the ending, though, that got folks the most. To realize that the “flash sideways” wasn’t an alternate timeline at all, that our beloved characters were all already dead, was a shock that few people expected. I think people didn’t like this ending for two reasons. First of all, to those who are not religious, an “afterlife” ending broke their willful suspension of disbelief. That- whether or not right or wrong won out in this lifetime- good will ultimately silence evil’s snarls, well, it’s a hard pill to swallow for someone who is an atheist or believes in naturalism. Western folks just don’t like appeals to religion. It’s personal to them, and Lost put the tenets of religion up for serious debate in the public square. People who followed Lost closely had been talking about religious tenets for over six years without realizing it very much. The end left us unable to brush off the religious- mostly Christian- symbolism that we’d witnessed over the last six seasons.

At first I hated that stained glass window in the church- the one with all of the symbols from a “coexist” bumper sticker- because I hated that it didn’t narrow it all down to Christianity. Well, frankly, it was Christian enough, the entire scope of the series, I mean. And, secondly, this is in keeping with the author’s principles of not being definitive about philosophy. While I do sincerely wish that Christianity had been the faith they had adopted at the end, I respect their desire to give people the liberty to make their own conclusions. They avoided preachiness in this manner, something I think we can all respect.

Christians may not like the ending for its ecumenicism, and I completely understand that. However, I believe more Christians will have a problem with the end of Lost because they don’t like the heavenly ending that much. Like unbelievers, we struggle with understanding that the ultimate happy ending will not take place on this earth. We want it to all work out here, but that isn’t the way things go usually. We’ve become so earthly minded and self-centered that we want a nice, neat, logical ending to every part of our lives (and become power-mongers in doing so), and we’d like God to slap a nice bow on it, too. In reality, God is ultimately the one in control, and He’s got a much better ending waiting for us.

Incidentally, I rather liked the emotional side of the ending. I liked that everyone spent a moment in shock when this ride we call life is over. I liked that Jack teared up a bit when he realized that he’d died. I liked that he had his father there to greet him, comfort him, and explain how what I’ll call Heaven worked. I liked that others who had loved and fought and died got to see each other again, and I loved the joy and happiness of their reunion. Isn’t this what Heaven will be?

Oh, I know that heaven is contingent upon faith in Christ, so please don’t blast me for leaving that out. I recognize just as fully as any other believer does that a television show left the central part of the gospel out. It’s not a television show put out by people who don’t appear to be Christians to give folks the truth. In fact, usually television tries to tell us lies more than anything else. That Lost left it open-ended is a blessing. I’m choosing to celebrate the depth of a television show, probably for the first time in my entire life. I’m choosing to be content to know what I know, and to spend the next few years arguing with other Losties about details that we didn’t get to find out about. I’m glad that a television show talked people into seriously thinking about eternity for the first time in ages.

And that, my friends, is why I liked Lost’s finale.

Categories: Philosophical Christianity | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why I Liked Lost’s Finale- Serious Spoilers

In the hours following the Lost series finale, it became pretty clear to me that it was impossible to remain neutral in your take on how things wrapped up. Some fans absolutely loved the ending, while others felt like they had wasted six years of their collective lives. Some folks just seemed to be happy they had been able to survive the roller coaster that was Lost. I can understand people’s frustration at how Lost ended. We didn’t get nearly as many answers as we would have liked. We barely delved into the series’ mythology it seemed, so we’ll never know for sure who built the temple or the statue of Tawaret, what exactly the Light was, whose bodies were down in the pit with the Light, how people seemed to have insight or could talk to dead people, or what happened to poor Walt. To make matter’s worse, we have very few authoritative characters to help us really believe what we’ve been told is true. Jacob’s “Mother” isn’t exactly believable, having killed Jacob and MiB’s biological mother along with all of the people MiB lived with for years. Jacob seems to have gained some insight, but a lot of what he knows is based on what “Mother” said. We don’t know if there would have been repercussions outside of the Island if the Island had sunk, and we don’t know that MiB could have really done much once off of the Island since the Light would have gone out and he would be mortal.

So, yes, I understand why people are frustrated at the lack of answers. However, I’d like to point out that I think that this particular aspect of Lost makes it far more realistic than most television shows and movies. In real life, we don’t know for certain all of the answers. We don’t have absolute certainty about the big questions of life- meaning and purpose, for instance- or about which choices are the right ones. We are so finite, so impotent when it comes to seeing the future or even the past with accuracy. Lost reflects reality very powerfully here. Without omniscience to make things easy for us, we are left with questions to be answered at some unknown date or to believe based on what evidence we can find. We all believe in something ultimately, just as we’re all left to form our own conclusions about our unanswered questions from Lost.

Lost also never quite gave us a definitive answer when it comes to major philosophical questions- questions you and I wrestle with consciously or subconsciously. Are we at the merciless hands of fate? Which choices have been given to us to make on our own? For the Christian- how is it that God can make these complex plans for the universe and for us personally and yet we are left with the ability to choose to follow His plan? To what extent can we choose to follow Him or not, and which things are we unable to choose? The reality is that Lost made us think without shutting down our thinking at the end by answering all of these complex questions for us. It leaves us to keep thinking until we come up with an answer, based on sources that we can trust. That’s a great gift, I’d say.

It was the ending, though, that got folks the most. To realize that the “flash sideways” wasn’t an alternate timeline at all, that our beloved characters were all already dead, was a shock that few people expected. I think people didn’t like this ending for two reasons. First of all, to those who are not religious, an “afterlife” ending broke their willful suspension of disbelief. That- whether or not right or wrong won out in this lifetime- good will ultimately silence evil’s snarls, well, it’s a hard pill to swallow for someone who is an atheist or believes in naturalism. Western folks just don’t like appeals to religion. It’s personal to them, and Lost put the tenets of religion up for serious debate in the public square. People who followed Lost closely had been talking about religious tenets for over six years without realizing it very much. The end left us unable to brush off the religious- mostly Christian- symbolism that we’d witnessed over the last six seasons.

At first I hated that stained glass window in the church- the one with all of the symbols from a “coexist” bumper sticker- because I hated that it didn’t narrow it all down to Christianity. Well, frankly, it was Christian enough, the entire scope of the series, I mean. And, secondly, this is in keeping with the author’s principles of not being definitive about philosophy. While I do sincerely wish that Christianity had been the faith they had adopted at the end, I respect their desire to give people the liberty to make their own conclusions. They avoided preachiness in this manner, something I think we can all respect.

Christians may not like the ending for its ecumenicism, and I completely understand that. However, I believe more Christians will have a problem with the end of Lost because they don’t like the heavenly ending that much. Like unbelievers, we struggle with understanding that the ultimate happy ending will not take place on this earth. We want it to all work out here, but that isn’t the way things go usually. We’ve become so earthly minded and self-centered that we want a nice, neat, logical ending to every part of our lives (and become power-mongers in doing so), and we’d like God to slap a nice bow on it, too. In reality, God is ultimately the one in control, and He’s got a much better ending waiting for us.

Incidentally, I rather liked the emotional side of the ending. I liked that everyone spent a moment in shock when this ride we call life is over. I liked that Jack teared up a bit when he realized that he’d died. I liked that he had his father there to greet him, comfort him, and explain how what I’ll call Heaven worked. I liked that others who had loved and fought and died got to see each other again, and I loved the joy and happiness of their reunion. Isn’t this what Heaven will be?

Oh, I know that heaven is contingent upon faith in Christ, so please don’t blast me for leaving that out. I recognize just as fully as any other believer does that a television show left the central part of the gospel out. It’s not a television show put out by people who don’t appear to be Christians to give folks the truth. In fact, usually television tries to tell us lies more than anything else. That Lost left it open-ended is a blessing. I’m choosing to celebrate the depth of a television show, probably for the first time in my entire life. I’m choosing to be content to know what I know, and to spend the next few years arguing with other Losties about details that we didn’t get to find out about. I’m glad that a television show talked people into seriously thinking about eternity for the first time in ages.

And that, my friends, is why I liked Lost’s finale.

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Sphere Sovereignty

Perhaps the single greatest thought I gleaned from Focus on the Family’s The Truth Project was the idea of sphere sovereignty. Sphere sovereignty is the idea that God has ordained and organized aspects of human existence, and that these aspects of existence are distinct and separate from one another. Examples of spheres include Family, the State, Church, Labor/Arts/Education, Economics/Business, and a personal relationship with God. While each sphere relates to the others in a number of ways, they are not to be organized or controlled by the other spheres.

For instance, God has ordained that marriage consist of one man and one woman, and that is all. The State may recognize marriages, and many people get married in Church by a pastor. However, the State does not have the power to extend the definition of marriage beyond the limit set by God. Similarly, the Church does not have the power to forbid to marry, nor can the Church dictate how marriages must operate, beyond what Scripture has already said. The Church has been given a set of rules concerning the roles of men and women in its function, and the Family has a particular set of rules concerning how Husbands and Wives may relate to each other. However, businesses and governments are not necessarily bound to those same rules concerning the roles of men and women.

I think the reason I like the idea of sphere sovereignty so much is that it is a balanced, rational approach to life. Not too long ago, and in some places today, Ecclesiasticism had a powerful hold over the West. The Church was able to dictate what the State should do, and it assumed the role of mediator between God and Man. This was an obvious mistake. However, since the “Enlightenment” (and I do use that word with a hint of disgust), Secularism has swept through and caused disaster after disaster. Secularists believe that Christianity (among other faiths) has no place in the public square. Church and one’s relationship with God are to be completely separate from everything. Secularism accepts and emphasizes sphere sovereignty, yet denies a relationship between spheres. Neutral secularism does not last long because faith is absolutely necessary in humans.

It is impossible to simply not believe in anything greater beyond ourselves, nor can one ever be truly independent. So the State has, in many places, become a monstrosity that has absorbed- or attempted to absorb- all the other spheres. It attempts to dictate what marriage is, what can be taught or preached about certain issues in Church, how faith may be practiced, where Christian works may be practiced, how religion in the sciences and arts are to be handled, and the list goes on and on. The State has, in many minds, taken on the role of a deity. It is a provider. It is a protector. It is what we owe allegiance to, and in return for our worship, we deserve certain things. What a pitiful thing the welfare State quickly becomes!

It is not just the State that has struggled with secularism, though. In the sphere of human labor, Christianity is rarely accepted. Be careful where you share your faith! Naturalism now grips the sciences, and the Arts are often mired in the clay of the revolting, obscene, and perverse. Families lack guidance, and even the Church struggles against anti-intellectualism, moral poverty, and decay of true worship. Among the many needs the western world has, a return to the idea of sphere sovereignty tops my list. Only then can a truly natural order be restored to a society in chaos. Families, businesses, academics, artists, individuals, and churches must return to what God has said in His Word about social order. I am not talking about theocracy here. I’m talking about conforming our ideology to reality.

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Francis Chan- The Middle Road

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The Importance of Prejudice

Prejudice is inescapable, and moreover it is necessary. Oh, I know the word has a very negative connotation these days, and rest assured that I’m not trying to cast a positive light on discrimination or injustice. What I mean here is that there will always be- indeed must be- preconceived notions out there. In fact, the truth is that eradicating one preconceived idea (prejudice) will only result in another preconceived idea gripping a society. Once, it was the prejudice of a society that it was wrong for an unmarried woman to get pregnant. While one might point to various religions and cultures as the basis for such a belief, it could hardly be said that any one institution was responsible. Society has now moved onward to the prejudice that there is nothing wrong with an unmarried woman getting pregnant. Once again, no one institution or belief system can claim responsibility here, because the majority of people in America did not reach this conclusion after a thorough study of the issue. Most people simply assumed that because it wasn’t illegal, it wasn’t their business. Tada! Prejudice! Humans are wired for it! The prejudice some Americans held against minorities is giving way to a prejudice in favor of minorities. Prejudice is universal, so it becomes not a question of whether or not to be prejudiced, but rather which prejudices are appropriate and right.

I’m going to make an assertion that will seem a little harsh to some. I believe- very strongly- that it is absolutely cruel not to instill prejudices in young people. Young people need to be instilled with useful prejudices that will help them throughout life. It is good, right, kind, decent, and sensible to impart wisdom to the next generation. Young people need to know what is right and wrong, what is wise and unwise. They need to be taught principles (literally “first things” ….prejudices) for living life. They need to be taught how to make decisions about friends, love, jobs, colleges, budgeting, and morals. Christianity (and, in fact, most religions, since those with common sense are often the deeply religious) has been an advocate of instilling children with Truth since its very inception.

Yet we live in a world that desires to escape the conventional prejudices that made up a decent society. Yet, escaping the conventional becomes a convention in itself. New prejudices are formed, and everyone is encouraged to accept these “radical” new ideas. Of course, these ideas turn out to be neither new nor radical, but actually detrimental to society. Marriage, love, and family are constantly being redefined, to the detriment of our society. In the end, it turns out that mankind is inclined to the same tired temptations that we have been subject to for millennia. There truly is nothing new under the sun…

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Separation of Church and…..Art?

“The Arts Enrich Us All”, or at least, that’s what one series of public-service announcements proclaim. Some Christians disagree. They are, perhaps, wary of beliefs and philosophies that run contrary to the Bible, and they are right to be concerned. David Puttnam, producer of the film Chariots of Fire, once said, “Cinema is propaganda.” What he means by this is that the Arts often have a didactic purpose. They teach. The question is, what are they teaching? Is the message acceptable? Due to the incredible danger false messages pose to the young in faith or years, some Christians encourage separation from all of the Arts, at least as much as possible. (Now, I must be clear here. When I say “Arts”, I mean all art: painting, sculpture, poetry, novels, theater, movies, popular and classical music, digital works, etc.)

However, is the mere fact that a worldview- and sometimes an incredibly false one- can be portrayed and validated by a piece of art reason enough to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Suppose a piece of art does teach a false worldview. Cannot instruction and information be given (metadata, if you will) to teach a right perspective on a wrong worldview? I would say yes, mainly because I do it all the time. In my senior apologetics class, we frequently view television and movie clips and listen to music to evaluate its worldview by the standard of Philippians 4:8. I tend to think that it is one of the most practical things we do in that class because it teaches students to be wary of the message of the art in question.

However, let us consider for a moment the concept that “non-Christian” and “worldly” are not necessarily the same thing. I mean by this that something may be good and yet not be inherently Christian. Or, a teaching may be biblical without appealing to Scripture. Consider Aesop’s fables. They’re nice little stories for kids to learn moral lessons. This doesn’t make them fit for a worship service, of course, but they do fit in nicely with a foundational Christian worldview. They enhance the teaching of Truth, which is a wonderful thing. A movie, song, or painting may do similar things.

When God created the world, did He make everything “religious”? No, certainly not. He created mountains, stars, the music of birds, the ocean’s waves, and the cool breeze. He created a beautiful world. If we are truly made in His image, what is wrong with creating that which is non-religious? Nothing, I would argue. Christians should not avoid the Arts simply because not everything about the Arts is specifically religious, nor should they endeavor to produce art that is only optimistic and “happy.” Christianity has two themes: Fall and Redemption. So much Christian artwork is both religious and strictly redemption-oriented. This is not biblical. It is romantic. Reality is that we live in a fallen world, and we often have a problem with pain simply because we expect the Christian life to be gumdrops and lollipops. We cannot ignore Truth- all Truth, or else we are left with the stuff that children’s Sunday School material is made of. Biblical art should include both themes.

Ravi Zacharias tells us  that in C. S. Lewis’ Pilgrim’s Regress, Pilgrim has been trapped in the dungeon of The Spirit of the Age. The next morning, he is served cold milk. Pilgrim thanks his captor for his milk, but the villain tells him that he is being foolish, for there is no difference between the secretions of a cow. Cow milk and cow urine are no different. This troubles Pilgrim, for there seems to be some truth to that statement. Why do we make a distinction? Suddenly, Reason comes riding in on a white horse, picks up Pilgrim, and turns to leave. Reason says to the spirit: “Sir, you lie! You have failed to distinguish between that which is nourishment and that which is excrement.”

Let us endeavor to distinguish between nourishment and excrement in the Arts, for they are both present. Let us seek that which brings nourishment to the soul- body, mind, emotions, and spirit.

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Sphere Sovereignty

Perhaps the single greatest thought I gleaned from Focus on the Family’s The Truth Project was the idea of sphere sovereignty. Sphere sovereignty is the idea that God has ordained and organized aspects of human existence, and that these aspects of existence are distinct and separate from one another. Examples of spheres include Family, the State, Church, Labor/Arts/Education, Economics/Business, and a personal relationship with God. While each sphere relates to the others in a number of ways, they are not to be organized or controlled by the other spheres.

For instance, God has ordained that marriage consist of one man and one woman, and that is all. The State may recognize marriages, and many people get married in Church by a pastor. However, the State does not have the power to extend the definition of marriage beyond the limit set by God. Similarly, the Church does not have the power to forbid to marry, nor can the Church dictate how marriages must operate, beyond what Scripture has already said. The Church has been given a set of rules concerning the roles of men and women in its function, and the Family has a particular set of rules concerning how Husbands and Wives may relate to each other. However, businesses and governments are not necessarily bound to those same rules concerning the roles of men and women.

I think the reason I like the idea of sphere sovereignty so much is that it is a balanced, rational approach to life. Not too long ago, and in some places today, Ecclesiasticism had a powerful hold over the West. The Church was able to dictate what the State should do, and it assumed the role of mediator between God and Man. This was an obvious mistake. However, since the “Enlightenment” (and I do use that word with a hint of disgust), Secularism has swept through and caused disaster after disaster. Secularists believe that Christianity (among other faiths) has no place in the public square. Church and one’s relationship with God are to be completely separate from everything. Secularism accepts and emphasizes sphere sovereignty, yet denies a relationship between spheres. Neutral secularism does not last long because faith is absolutely necessary in humans.

It is impossible to simply not believe in anything greater beyond ourselves, nor can one ever be truly independent. So the State has, in many places, become a monstrosity that has absorbed- or attempted to absorb- all the other spheres. It attempts to dictate what marriage is, what can be taught or preached about certain issues in Church, how faith may be practiced, where Christian works may be practiced, how religion in the sciences and arts are to be handled, and the list goes on and on. The State has, in many minds, taken on the role of a deity. It is a provider. It is a protector. It is what we owe allegiance to, and in return for our worship, we deserve certain things. What a pitiful thing the welfare State quickly becomes!

It is not just the State that has struggled with secularism, though. In the sphere of human labor, Christianity is rarely accepted. Be careful where you share your faith! Naturalism now grips the sciences, and the Arts are often mired in the clay of the revolting, obscene, and perverse. Families lack guidance, and even the Church struggles against anti-intellectualism, moral poverty, and decay of true worship. Among the many needs the western world has, a return to the idea of sphere sovereignty tops my list. Only then can a truly natural order be restored to a society in chaos. Families, businesses, academics, artists, individuals, and churches must return to what God has said in His Word about social order. I am not talking about theocracy here. I’m talking about conforming our ideology to reality.

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Oh, For Crying Out Loud!

I got the title of this post from my favorite line from Stargate: SG-1. Jack O’neill always says it when he gets frustrated by people who waste time on stupidity, wrong-headed thinking, or inane political mumbo-jumbo. Frankly, I’ve noticed a lot of Christians that deserve a good “Oh, for crying out loud,” from the Colonel himself, followed by my second favorite line. My reason for this is that it seems like so many Christians have their heads firmly planted in the sand.

I say this because I have met so many Christians who naively think that they are not responsible for what happens in the world around them. Their attitudes and words, they think, do not influence those around them. Their choice of entertainment, they suppose, is entirely a matter of personal preference, devoid of any deeper meaning and incapable of creating unintended consequences. Whether or not they vote or are involved in government and law (one hesitates to use the word “politics”) is of little consequence. Worldview, apologetics, and philosophy have no meaning to them, and they would just as soon have everyone avoid this area of reality altogether. And, oh, the excuses they use to justify these ideas. Some of them even use Bible verses to bolster their position.

Reality check, folks: everything matters. Everything. Your words and attitudes have direct consequences for yourself and those around you. Everything you say either builds up or tears down, and the believer is called to edify. Now, I know this conversation is used to tell people to be polite. Allow me to turn the argument on its head: it is never merciful to allow error to continue unchecked. It is never loving to overlook that which is dangerous. Love cannot bear evil to go unchecked in its object. You are not being nice when you leave sin unaddressed; you are being cruel.
Now that we got that out of the way, I move on to my second frustration: Christians think that what happens in the public sphere is of none of their concern. Imagine that! Christian secularists!!! It will never end well, folks, for us to sit on our hands and wait for the end. “This world is not my home, I’m just’a passing through” was never intended to encourage us to be apathetic- or maybe just pathetic- in our convictions. After all, if songs were supposed to be the foundation of our ideology, whatever happened to “This is my Father’s World”? If we believe abortion is wrong, we must condemn it- and condemn it strongly. If we believe that a sexual union and commitment between two people of the same sex is a perversion of the sacred, then we had better being doing our dead-level best to influence our government.
No, I don’t mean that we should be cruel or unkind. We should always be loving, but, remember what I already said: to permit that which is dangerous and sinful is cruel. If you love this country, it should vex you to see what goes on in it. If you at least care about the people of the country you live in, you ought to want to help them avoid sin. Now, some of you are going to go off the deep end on me. You’re going to say: “What about verses such as Proverbs 21:1, Dan 21:1, and Romans 9:17 that tell us that God is in control of government? Shouldn’t we just let Him do His job while we work on the Great Commission or something?” Well, I have a couple of responses to that:
  1. Involvement in something other than government, law, and other aspects of the public square is not contradictory to concern for evangelism and discipleship. I would also add here that the Great Commission is not the only aspect of Christian responsibility. Otherwise, ditch you family and your job and spend the rest of your (most likely short) life winning folks and getting them into church! Oh, you’d have to revoke your citizenship, too, since that’s a part of human government.
  2. Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Samuel, Nehemiah, Daniel, Esther, and a host of other men and women of God were directly involved in influencing the course of their nation.
  3. God gives everyone talents and responsibilities so that they may work. Work is by default a good thing because God intended for us to work. It’s a part of His creation. God’s idea of “work” is not limited to a job, but to that which creates, repairs, maintains, and produces. In a sense, everything except for recreation is work- even voluntary involvement in government.
  4. We live in a nation that gives us direct access to our leaders. We can vote on the federal and local levels. We can call, email, and write our leaders. Just like Daniel and Esther, you and I have an audience with our leaders. They may not always do what is right, but we are responsible to do our best.
  5. We live in a capitalist society, for the most part. For this reason, your dollar is your vote for the goods that ought to be produced. When you buy a CD or movie, you tell the producers you want more of that kind of product. “What you applaud you encourage, but beware what you celebrate, ” says Ravi Zacharias. What are you telling Hollywood?
  6. Jesus didn’t limit His command for us to be salt and light to strictly evangelism, even though that is how we often portray it. No, He says that we must season the earth and light the world so that people will glorify God in Heaven. This can be done in many ways; naming the name of Christ must be done in even the highest places in the nation.

In fact, the use of the word “world” in Matthew 5 is interesting. “You are the light of the world”, Jesus says. The word “world” is from the Greek word “kosmos”. The Kosmos is defined as “constitution, order, and government”, “the human family”, “the universe and all of reality” and “world affairs”, according to my Greek lexicon. Interesting. We are supposed to be a light to law and government. How can we do so without informing those that work in such areas concerning Truth?

Which brings me to my last point. Truth matters. Either it is sacred and therefore must be protected, proclaimed, and defended, or it is unimportant and may be trampled under foot. For this reason, worldviews matter, for they are how people unintentionally interpret reality and Truth. Philosophy matters, for it is how people intentionally interpret reality and Truth. Apologetics matters, because it treats all Truth as God’s truth. There is no direction you and I can go in reality, no sphere into which we delve, in which God has not spoken. His Truth is everywhere. We can use His Truth, His world, His revelation of Himself through the cosmos to speak truth into people’s lives. If your concern is for evangelism and discipleship, you have no choice but to explore the world of philosophy, worldview, and apologetics.

Too many Christians are picking their one area, retreating into their hand-crafted shells of existence. Whether the world ends with a bang or a whimper, they are only concerned with themselves in the end. They do not want to learn. They do not want to expend energy. They’d rather go to task on only their one thing. We need people like Nehemiah in the Bible. He commanded his people to both defend and build. They took up sword and trowel to accomplish the task God had for them. We need to do the same- or get out of the way so someone else can.

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The Importance of Prejudice

Prejudice is inescapable, and moreover it is necessary. Oh, I know the word has a very negative connotation these days, and rest assured that I’m not trying to cast a positive light on discrimination or injustice. What I mean here is that there will always be- indeed must be- preconceived notions out there. In fact, the truth is that eradicating one preconceived idea (prejudice) will only result in another preconceived idea gripping a society. Once, it was the prejudice of a society that it was wrong for an unmarried woman to get pregnant. While one might point to various religions and cultures as the basis for such a belief, it could hardly be said that any one institution was responsible. Society has now moved onward to the prejudice that there is nothing wrong with an unmarried woman getting pregnant. Once again, no one institution or belief system can claim responsibility here, because the majority of people in America did not reach this conclusion after a thorough study of the issue. Most people simply assumed that because it wasn’t illegal, it wasn’t their business. Tada! Prejudice! Humans are wired for it! The prejudice some Americans held against minorities is giving way to a prejudice in favor of minorities. Prejudice is universal, so it becomes not a question of whether or not to be prejudiced, but rather which prejudices are appropriate and right.

I’m going to make an assertion that will seem a little harsh to some. I believe- very strongly- that it is absolutely cruel not to instill prejudices in young people. Young people need to be instilled with useful prejudices that will help them throughout life. It is good, right, kind, decent, and sensible to impart wisdom to the next generation. Young people need to know what is right and wrong, what is wise and unwise. They need to be taught principles (literally “first things” ….prejudices) for living life. They need to be taught how to make decisions about friends, love, jobs, colleges, budgeting, and morals. Christianity (and, in fact, most religions, since those with common sense are often the deeply religious) has been an advocate of instilling children with Truth since its very inception.

Yet we live in a world that desires to escape the conventional prejudices that made up a decent society. Yet, escaping the conventional becomes a convention in itself. New prejudices are formed, and everyone is encouraged to accept these “radical” new ideas. Of course, these ideas turn out to be neither new nor radical, but actually detrimental to society. Marriage, love, and family are constantly being redefined, to the detriment of our society. In the end, it turns out that mankind is inclined to the same tired temptations that we have been subject to for millennia. There truly is nothing new under the sun…

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I Love Lucy

Lucy, the small australopithecus afarensis, is supposed to be our ancestor. Standing at around three feet tall, she doesn’t look like much. It’s obvious that if we’re supposed to get from a chimp-like creature to our current standing of Homo sapien, there’s going to have to be a lot of changing going on throughout the years. We are supposed to have gone through the Homo habilis stage, followed by Homo erectus, Homo sapiens, and finally Homo sapiens sapiens (that’s not a typo.)

It all sounds so tidy, doesn’t it? Well, it seems that way until one realizes that there is no clear-cut definition of any of these categories, at least not one that is universally accepted by the scientific establishment. There is some degree of consensus, but certainly not the degree one would expect. There’s also little consensus on how long it takes a new species to evolve. Some estimates place it at 250,000 years per new species of human. Lucy is dated at 3 million years. Homo habilis is dated from 2 to 1.5 million years. Homo erectus is dated at 1.6 to .4 million years. Homo sapiens and so forth remain in the present. With so many unknown factors, who can tell what one should believe about evolutionary science? Of course, it gets much more convoluted than that.

The Taung Can No Man Tame

In 1924, Professor Raymond Dart acquired a fossilized skull from the lime works at Taung. He knew it was unique, and determined that it was a young primate which he named Australopithecus africanus. You can see pictures of Taung in many school textbooks due to its fame. Until Lucy was discovered in 1974, Taung was considered to be our oldest evolutionary ancestor, dating around to 2 million to 3 million years old. Then, in 1973, geologist T. C. Partridge rocked the evolutionist’s world. He determined that the cave that the Taung skull came from could not be more than 870,000 years old. Since it could take up to a million years, according to evolutionary theory, for a new species to evolve,  going all the way from africanus to modern-day humans in 870,000 years is out of the question. Plus, even evolutionists date true humans back to 750,000 years. There’s no way for africanus to be an ancestor.

So what is an evolutionist to do? They tried to fit the Taung skull into the line of habilis. Of course, some were honest. Phillip Tobias wrote in response: “Although nearly 50 yr have elapsed since its discovery, it is true to say that the Taung skull has never yet been fully analyzed and described.” I guess it stinks for all the people duped by the scientific establishment all those years! Some have seen fit to remove the Taung skull from the line of humans altogether, classifying it as P. robustus.

Monkeying Around with the Family Tree

Fortunately for evolutionists, Lucy was found the year after Patridge dated the cave. The family tree was revised, and A. afarensis (Lucy) replaced africanus (Taung) as our nonhuman ancestor. Africanus was moved to the australopithecine branch of the tree and became the link between Lucy and P. robustus.

In 1985, the famous “Black Skull” was found. Dating back, according to evolutionists, to 2.5 million years ago, it seems to be a blend of P. robustus and Lucy, leaving Taung as the odd man out. So scientists have begun to move Taung back to the line of humans (again), between Lucy (A. afarensis) and H. habilis. The problem, of course, is that Partridge’s dating of the cave makes that impossible. The dating was based on thermoluminescence analysis of calcite and uranium-series dates of 942,000 years ago and 764,000 years ago on limestone. Richard G. Klein of Stanford University writes: “A date for Taung of 2 million years ago or more may seem most unreasonable, but the argument is obviously circular and the true age remains uncertain.”

What is my point in all of this? My point is that there is nothing solid or certain about the supposed family tree. Dating methods aren’t entirely reliable, but even when they are used, they are often ignored or twisted to make the fossil record say what the evolutionists want it to say. Lucy, Taung, and the rest are being moved haphazardly about the family tree just to make one that works. To place your trust in the soft science of paleoanthropology is a mistake. I love Lucy because she is a reminder that there are far more problems than solutions offered up by a Darwinistic interpretation of the fossil record. It needs to be reinterpreted. That’s where the problem lies. The flaws are not with the fakes (like Piltdown Man), the genuine fossils, etc. The flaws are in the way evidence is interpreted and with the scientific establishment’s mad dash to put something believable together.

Aren’t you glad there are much more firm foundations out there?

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Separation of Church and…..Art?

“The Arts Enrich Us All”, or at least, that’s what one series of public-service announcements proclaim. Some Christians disagree. They are, perhaps, wary of beliefs and philosophies that run contrary to the Bible, and they are right to be concerned. David Puttnam, producer of the film Chariots of Fire, once said, “Cinema is propaganda.” What he means by this is that the Arts often have a didactic purpose. They teach. The question is, what are they teaching? Is the message acceptable? Due to the incredible danger false messages pose to the young in faith or years, some Christians encourage separation from all of the Arts, at least as much as possible. (Now, I must be clear here. When I say “Arts”, I mean all art: painting, sculpture, poetry, novels, theater, movies, popular and classical music, digital works, etc.)

However, is the mere fact that a worldview- and sometimes an incredibly false one- can be portrayed and validated by a piece of art reason enough to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Suppose a piece of art does teach a false worldview. Cannot instruction and information be given (metadata, if you will) to teach a right perspective on a wrong worldview? I would say yes, mainly because I do it all the time. In my senior apologetics class, we frequently view television and movie clips and listen to music to evaluate its worldview by the standard of Philippians 4:8. I tend to think that it is one of the most practical things we do in that class because it teaches students to be wary of the message of the art in question.

However, let us consider for a moment the concept that “non-Christian” and “worldly” are not necessarily the same thing. I mean by this that something may be good and yet not be inherently Christian. Or, a teaching may be biblical without appealing to Scripture. Consider Aesop’s fables. They’re nice little stories for kids to learn moral lessons. This doesn’t make them fit for a worship service, of course, but they do fit in nicely with a foundational Christian worldview. They enhance the teaching of Truth, which is a wonderful thing. A movie, song, or painting may do similar things.

When God created the world, did He make everything “religious”? No, certainly not. He created mountains, stars, the music of birds, the ocean’s waves, and the cool breeze. He created a beautiful world. If we are truly made in His image, what is wrong with creating that which is non-religious? Nothing, I would argue. Christians should not avoid the Arts simply because not everything about the Arts is specifically religious, nor should they endeavor to produce art that is only optimistic and “happy.” Christianity has two themes: Fall and Redemption. So much Christian artwork is both religious and strictly redemption-oriented. This is not biblical. It is romantic. Reality is that we live in a fallen world, and we often have a problem with pain simply because we expect the Christian life to be gumdrops and lollipops. We cannot ignore Truth- all Truth, or else we are left with the stuff that children’s Sunday School material is made of. Biblical art should include both themes.

Ravi Zacharias tells us  that in C. S. Lewis’ Pilgrim’s Regress, Pilgrim has been trapped in the dungeon of The Spirit of the Age. The next morning, he is served cold milk. Pilgrim thanks his captor for his milk, but the villain tells him that he is being foolish, for there is no difference between the secretions of a cow. Cow milk and cow urine are no different. This troubles Pilgrim, for there seems to be some truth to that statement. Why do we make a distinction? Suddenly, Reason comes riding in on a white horse, picks up Pilgrim, and turns to leave. Reason says to the spirit: “Sir, you lie! You have failed to distinguish between that which is nourishment and that which is excrement.”

Let us endeavor to distinguish between nourishment and excrement in the Arts, for they are both present. Let us seek that which brings nourishment to the soul- body, mind, emotions, and spirit.

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The Poetry and Artistry of Evolution

You’d probably assume that a blog post about biological evolution would deal with biology or some other related study. However, that’s not where I’m taking this discussion today. Today, I’ll be looking at the poetic and artistic aspects of the Darwinism movement. To be honest, it makes sense that a believable, coherent theory would have elements of the Arts, because humans have a way of describing anything that matters in with particular eloquence. It’s true, we often tell someone we care about simply “I love you,” but we all know there are much more creative ways of saying those three words. The music industry has blossomed thanks to that creativity.

Darwin’s Day in Court

Andrew Hill has written: “Compared to other sciences, the mythic element is greatest in paleoanthropology.” (in American Scientist, March-April 1984) Speaking sympathetically of that same phenomena in the same article, Ian Tattersall admits: “Paleoanthropologists are fond of telling each other ‘Just-So’ stories; and once in a while a little needling of this kind does no harm at all.” Milford Wolpoff is much less forgiving: ” When the only people who can comment are the discoverers or friends of the discoverers, there is no sense of independent observer. We’re not practicing science. We’re practicing opera.” His reasons for making that statement can be found here.

Two books, written by law professors, may be instructive at this point. Norman Macbeth, a Harvard-trained lawyer and non-creationist studied evolution for years and wrote a book Darwin Retried in which he demonstrated that evolution was a religion and was not of high enough quality to stand up in a court of law. Philip E Johnson, a law professor of the University of California, Berkeley, wrote Darwin on Trial. In his book, he came to four important conclusions about evolution:

  1. Evolution is grounded on naturalism, not scientific fact
  2. A belief that a large body of empirical evidence supports evolution is nothing but an illusion
  3. Evolution is a religion
  4. If evolution had been subjected to a rigorous study of the evidence, it would have been abandoned long ago

In response to Roger Lewin’s description of the Ancestor’s Exhibit in 1984 in which he spoke of the awe and emotion of the experience, Johnson commented:

“Lewin is absolutely correct, and I can’t think of anything more likely to detract from the objectivity of one’s judgment. Descriptions of fossils from people who yearn to cradle their ancestors in their hands ought to be scrutinized as carefully as a letter of recommendation from a job applicant’s mother…. The story of human descent from apes is not merely a scientific hypothesis; it is the secular equivalent of the story of Adam and Eve.”

Raining on Darwin’s Parade

Let’s turn now to Darwinism and graphic media. In the March 1998 edition of Antiquity, David Van Reybrouck, a student of the role of drawings in the propagation of Darwinism has made five observations:

  1. Illustrations always go beyond the archaeological data
  2. Illustrations always involve speculation on the part of the fossil discoverers, who advise the artists
  3. Illustrations involve interpretations that rely heavily on unproven and sometimes doubtful theories
  4. Illustrations are always nonobjective, yet they are trusted in a visual society such as ours
  5. Illustrations are used extensively because they sell evolution effectively.

The most blatant lie ever told to help promote evolution is the “parade” of stages in supposed human evolution that we are all familiar with. The origin of this parade- or should I say charade?- of characters is an illustration in F. Clark Howell’s book Early Man, originally published in 1965. The parade was originally on a 36-inch foldout page within the book. What most people don’t realize that the parade is pure propaganda. It doesn’t exist. The original book makes it clear that the parade doesn’t tell an accurate story, and the author and publishers knew it. Evolutionists knew that the apes and ape-like creatures they had theorized did not walk on their back feet. The book clearly states in the text, but not on the chart: “Although protoapes and apes were quadrupedal, all are shown here standing for purposes of comparison.” Sizes of each proposed ancestor were not to scale, and they were shown walking, not simply standing as the author states. These small details make a world of difference when it comes to the believability of the theory. It’s clear deception. Yet it was- and still is, in some cases- included in advertisements and eventually became its own poster in classrooms around the world.

Holding Out for a Hero

Finally, I’d like to call your attention to Misia Landau’s book Narratives of Human Evolution. In her book, Miss Landau makes an interesting assertion: paleoanthropology is storytelling. She compare folk-stories and epics to Darwin, Huxley, Keith, and Haeckel’s descriptions of human evolution. Here’s some similarities she’s noticed:

  • The Hero’s Origin- The hero is typically leading a safe and untroubled life. He may be smaller or weaker than others. Think “Frodo Baggins.” In the story of evolution, the hero is a nondescript primate, perhaps living in the trees. Like Frodo Baggins heading out from the Shire with the Ring, the primate leaves the safety of the trees to walk on the ground, perhaps because of a larger brain or changes in the availability of food.
  • The Hero Tested- In myths, the Hero is tested by predators, opponents, or his environment. In the Darwinistic myth, similar situations occur. “Indeed, the tests are specifically designed for that purpose: to bring out the human in the hero”, Landau writes.
  • The Hero Transformed- Myths and even modern fantasy always add a sacred or magical object- a Ring of Power, the Master Sword, and Invisibility Cloak- to help a man become more than he was. In evolutionary theory, natural selection or a “magic twist” of genetic mutations (those are the words of Jared Diamond, who wrote an article about the movement of modern humans out of Africa in the May 1989 edition of Discover magazine) bestow upon the hero the intelligence or abilities necessary to become more than his ancestors.
  • The Hero’s Death- The fatal irony of the average hero is that he dies due to pride through success. Most evolution tales include a warning to humans that we could become like our supposed ancestors if we aren’t careful. Richard Leakey devotes an entire book to that subject entitled The Sixth Extinction.

Frankly, I think J. R. R. Tolkien is a much better writer of this sort of material than the Darwinists. Let’s just leave it to the experts, ok, guys?

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Evolution: A Logical Lightweight

At the AAAS convention in San Francisco, Carl Sagan once explained in his lecture “Velikovsky’s Challenge to Science” that science works in this way: “The most fundamental axioms and conclusions may be challenged.” The hypothesis “must survive confrontation with observation. Appeals to authority are impermissible. Experiments must be reproducible.”

That’s a pretty strange statement when you think about it. Evolution isn’t observable. It can’t be challenged in the scientific establishment without some serious ridicule taking place. Evolutionists appeal to the authority of the scientific establishment. There aren’t any experiments that are able to confirm evolution. It’s ironic to me, then, that Sagan would also make a very profound statement in that same lecture: “Not all scientific statements have equal weight.” How right he is. Direct observations of, say, the laws of physics, are far more weightier because of the tremendous amount of data verifying them. Unfortunately, the scientific establishment does not appear to behave this way, and the general public certainly isn’t aware of this concept. What we have are Darwinists acting as the high priests of our society. People- even highly-educated people- believe in Darwinism because scientists can’t be wrong.

How is Darwinism a sort of lesser science? Consider our interest in chimps. We study chimpanzees– their behavior, genetic makeup, and anatomy- because Darwinists believe that we are very closely related to them. Darwinists then use superficial similarities between humans and chimps to prove their assumptions. That is called begging the question in logic. They assume to be true the very thing they are trying to prove. Bereft of anything that Sagan would call a good basis for scientific study, a philosophical assumption has been foisted upon us as science. In reality, such studies on chimps would only attempt to shed light on humanity if evolution had first proven to be a correct assumption. Unlike Darwinism, intelligent design bases its theories on the evidence around us: information provided for our world through physics and DNA as well as the incredible complexity of the universe.

The logical fallacies don’t stop there, however. There’s a difference between historical and scientific evidence. In spite of the fact that scientists have performed numerous experiments on animals in an attempt to prove evolution through mutation, the obvious must be declared: just because mutations can be made to happen or engineered in a lab does not mean that they did happen in the past. That is a logical fallacy. That genetic engineering is possible in the present does not mean that it certainly did happen in the past. Scientists have proven it is possible; they have not proven that it occurred.

Suppose I gave you a pile of hammers and asked you to arrange them in a potential evolutionary sequence. You could start with small ones and work your way to larger ones, arrange them by claw types, group them into families based on what they are made of, etc. You could argue that you showed a pattern from simple to complex. The whole assignment, of course, would be bogus. There was no actual evolutionary relationship between the different hammers. They were designed with a particular function or purpose in mind. Curved and straight claw hammers, sledge hammers, ball pein, mason’s hammers, upholsterer’s hammers, and mallets are different because they are designed that way. Just because scientists can superimpose an evolutionary order on things does not mean that the evolutionary order is fact.

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In the Multitude of Evidence There Is Safety

We should all be very grateful for what science has allowed us to achieve. The medical fields have provided us with the ability to heal many wounds and diseases previously thought to be untreatable. Technology has allowed us to communicate and travel efficiently. Yes, because of scientific principles and dedicated men and women willing to spend years of their lives researching, writing, and peer-reviewing what has already been written, you and I are able to enjoy very different lives from our forbears. We can be confident in scientific discovery because it is based on solid evidence and a desire to “follow the evidence wherever it leads,” as Carl Sagan once famously said. Would it surprise you, then, to learn how little evidence we have of human evolution?

HIDE AND SEEK

Have you ever seen an actual fossil of a human ancestor? Probably not. I haven’t. The vast majority of the authors of textbooks on paleontology haven’t. Curators of the museums of natural history around the world usually haven’t. Only a very, very small handful of people have ever been privileged enough to see such fossils. I’m not saying there’s a conspiracy afoot. I’m saying that, because they are so rare, so valuable, and so fragile, human ancestral fossils are very unlikely to be on display or studied. In fact, most of us have never even seen a picture of an actual fossil. According to Marvin L. Lubenow, whose book Bones of Contention provided many of the “diving in” points for this series of blog posts, the total number of people who have access to ancestral fossils is fewer than the heads of state in the entire world.

William King, the man who declared Homo neanderthalensis to be a different species than modern-day humans in 1864, never saw the actual fossils. He did so after reading a description of them. Darwin never saw a single human fossil. Thomas Huxley never saw original fossils either, but he took great pains to describe them in his 1863 work Man’s Place in Nature.

People publish vast amounts of research with unverified data! Germany built a two-story museum to celebrate the discovery of Steinheim Man in 1933. Visitors never saw the actual fossil though. They viewed plastic replicas. The actual fossil was kept in a safe set into a stone wall in an old military outpost several miles away. In their article in the October 1995 edition of the American Journal of Physical Anthropology, Braun, Hublin, and Boucher note: “While it was never described in great detail, this fossil played a central role in various evolutionary models.”

Of course, there is a good deal of politics in this field as well. Teuku Jacob, former curator of Gadjah Mada University, was known for his jealousy of the Homo erectus fossils from Java in his possession. Swisher, Curtis, and Lewin write:

“These fossils, the prized objects of Jacob’s collection are rarely seen, even by professionals in the fossil-hunting business. Scholars with serious research programs have to apply to Jacob for permission even to see them, let alone touch them, for scientific study. And even those few who succeed in obtaining official permission have to wait for Jacob’s final OK, for he alone is permitted to remove the fossils from the safes.”

Donald Johanson, the discover of Lucy, agrees that “only those in the inner circle get to see the fossils; only those who agree with the particular interpretation of a particular investigator are allowed to see the fossils.”

CIRCLING THE WAGONS

There’s one exception to this almost xenophobic protection of the fossils. In 1984, the American Museum of Natural History in New York sponsored an exhibit in which more than forty of the original fossils were brought together for the first- and probably last- time ever. There were special guards over the fossils and the curators that traveled with the fossils. The fossils were placed in special cases. Work on the subway line beneath the museum was halted to avoid vibrating- and possibly damaging- the fossils.

What prompted this gathering of the fossils? In his book Ancestors: The Hard Evidence, Eric Delson tells us that there were those in the scientific community who were concerned about the rising popularity of creationism. Delson, who was a scientist at the American Museum, tells us that creationism was a “great and growing concern” at the museum. The primary purpose, then, was to show professionals and lay people the evidence for evolution, and they avoided making any statement concerning creationism at the museum so that they would not “dignify…creation science.” Their words, not mine. What are these guys afraid of?

BLIND LEADING THE BLIND

Paleoanthropology is in a strange position. Unlike most- if not all- other areas of science, workers in this field rarely have access to the material their science is based on. They are usually one step or so away from the actual evidence. Too often, creationists have been guilty of downplaying the importance of human ancestral fossils. In reality, they are unique and valuable, but because of their value, an insufficient number of scientists have been able to study them in depth.

What do they work with then? They work with casts and descriptions others have written of the fossils. Casts may be reliable if the molds used are detailed enough and if the materials maintain their intended shape. However, casts can be far from ideal. They lack the detail of the original. Becky A Sigmon of the University of Toronto says that there is a general consensus among paleoanthropologists  that “casts should not be used as resource material for a scientific paper.” (See her collection of papers on the subject for more information.) She has a good reason for saying this. At the American Museum exhibit in 1984, when the original fossils were to be placed into their mounts (which had been based on the casts available), most of them did not fit. Casts simply aren’t substitutes from the originals. Lubenow further complains that “casts of only a small percentage of the total fossil material and less than half of the most important fossil material are available for study.”

Scientists are then forced to turn to description of fossils in scientific literature, which is the most common form of source material for scientific work. How can a field of science continue to function and inform public opinion if there is so little readily-available information? How can we be expected to believe what few have seen? As John Fleagle of the State University of New York, Stony Brook has said: “The big awkwardness right now is when someone announces they have found a specimen that overturns everything we know, but almost no one has seen it.”

Talk about blind faith! My point is this: if we are to believe that humans evolved in the manner most Darwinists claim, there must be more evidence. Right now, there’s just not enough out there for me to buy into.

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Oh, For Crying Out Loud!

I got the title of this post from my favorite line from Stargate: SG-1. Jack O’neill always says it when he gets frustrated by people who waste time on stupidity, wrong-headed thinking, or inane political mumbo-jumbo. Frankly, I’ve noticed a lot of Christians that deserve a good “Oh, for crying out loud,” from the Colonel himself, followed by my second favorite line. My reason for this is that it seems like so many Christians have their heads firmly planted in the sand.

I say this because I have met so many Christians who naively think that they are not responsible for what happens in the world around them. Their attitudes and words, they think, do not influence those around them. Their choice of entertainment, they suppose, is entirely a matter of personal preference, devoid of any deeper meaning and incapable of creating unintended consequences. Whether or not they vote or are involved in government and law (one hesitates to use the word “politics”) is of little consequence. Worldview, apologetics, and philosophy have no meaning to them, and they would just as soon have everyone avoid this area of reality altogether. And, oh, the excuses they use to justify these ideas. Some of them even use Bible verses to bolster their position.

Reality check, folks: everything matters. Everything. Your words and attitudes have direct consequences for yourself and those around you. Everything you say either builds up or tears down, and the believer is called to edify. Now, I know this conversation is used to tell people to be polite. Allow me to turn the argument on its head: it is never merciful to allow error to continue unchecked. It is never loving to overlook that which is dangerous. Love cannot bear evil to go unchecked in its object. You are not being nice when you leave sin unaddressed; you are being cruel.
Now that we got that out of the way, I move on to my second frustration: Christians think that what happens in the public sphere is of none of their concern. Imagine that! Christian secularists!!! It will never end well, folks, for us to sit on our hands and wait for the end. “This world is not my home, I’m just’a passing through” was never intended to encourage us to be apathetic- or maybe just pathetic- in our convictions. After all, if songs were supposed to be the foundation of our ideology, whatever happened to “This is my Father’s World”? If we believe abortion is wrong, we must condemn it- and condemn it strongly. If we believe that a sexual union and commitment between two people of the same sex is a perversion of the sacred, then we had better being doing our dead-level best to influence our government.
No, I don’t mean that we should be cruel or unkind. We should always be loving, but, remember what I already said: to permit that which is dangerous and sinful is cruel. If you love this country, it should vex you to see what goes on in it. If you at least care about the people of the country you live in, you ought to want to help them avoid sin. Now, some of you are going to go off the deep end on me. You’re going to say: “What about verses such as Proverbs 21:1, Dan 21:1, and Romans 9:17 that tell us that God is in control of government? Shouldn’t we just let Him do His job while we work on the Great Commission or something?” Well, I have a couple of responses to that:
  1. Involvement in something other than government, law, and other aspects of the public square is not contradictory to concern for evangelism and discipleship. I would also add here that the Great Commission is not the only aspect of Christian responsibility. Otherwise, ditch you family and your job and spend the rest of your (most likely short) life winning folks and getting them into church! Oh, you’d have to revoke your citizenship, too, since that’s a part of human government.
  2. Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Samuel, Nehemiah, Daniel, Esther, and a host of other men and women of God were directly involved in influencing the course of their nation.
  3. God gives everyone talents and responsibilities so that they may work. Work is by default a good thing because God intended for us to work. It’s a part of His creation. God’s idea of “work” is not limited to a job, but to that which creates, repairs, maintains, and produces. In a sense, everything except for recreation is work- even voluntary involvement in government.
  4. We live in a nation that gives us direct access to our leaders. We can vote on the federal and local levels. We can call, email, and write our leaders. Just like Daniel and Esther, you and I have an audience with our leaders. They may not always do what is right, but we are responsible to do our best.
  5. We live in a capitalist society, for the most part. For this reason, your dollar is your vote for the goods that ought to be produced. When you buy a CD or movie, you tell the producers you want more of that kind of product. “What you applaud you encourage, but beware what you celebrate, ” says Ravi Zacharias. What are you telling Hollywood?
  6. Jesus didn’t limit His command for us to be salt and light to strictly evangelism, even though that is how we often portray it. No, He says that we must season the earth and light the world so that people will glorify God in Heaven. This can be done in many ways; naming the name of Christ must be done in even the highest places in the nation.

In fact, the use of the word “world” in Matthew 5 is interesting. “You are the light of the world”, Jesus says. The word “world” is from the Greek word “kosmos”. The Kosmos is defined as “constitution, order, and government”, “the human family”, “the universe and all of reality” and “world affairs”, according to my Greek lexicon. Interesting. We are supposed to be a light to law and government. How can we do so without informing those that work in such areas concerning Truth?

Which brings me to my last point. Truth matters. Either it is sacred and therefore must be protected, proclaimed, and defended, or it is unimportant and may be trampled under foot. For this reason, worldviews matter, for they are how people unintentionally interpret reality and Truth. Philosophy matters, for it is how people intentionally interpret reality and Truth. Apologetics matters, because it treats all Truth as God’s truth. There is no direction you and I can go in reality, no sphere into which we delve, in which God has not spoken. His Truth is everywhere. We can use His Truth, His world, His revelation of Himself through the cosmos to speak truth into people’s lives. If your concern is for evangelism and discipleship, you have no choice but to explore the world of philosophy, worldview, and apologetics.

Too many Christians are picking their one area, retreating into their hand-crafted shells of existence. Whether the world ends with a bang or a whimper, they are only concerned with themselves in the end. They do not want to learn. They do not want to expend energy. They’d rather go to task on only their one thing. We need people like Nehemiah in the Bible. He commanded his people to both defend and build. They took up sword and trowel to accomplish the task God had for them. We need to do the same- or get out of the way so someone else can.

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Your Own Historical Jesus- Writings

We’ve seen how biblical creeds and archeological finds are both types of proof for the Gospel message. In this last section,  we turn to ancient writings by secular historians and their Christian counterparts. This will reveal the most clear details of early Christian belief and also provide further evidence for the historicity of Jesus Christ. The Roman historian Tacitus, who wrote of the reign of Nero and the infamous fire that burned Rome during his reign, records the following in his Annals, written in AD 115:

“Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome.” (Tacitus, 15.44)

From this we can confirm the biblical message that Christians were named after Christ, who was sentenced to death under Pilate during the reign of emperor Tiberius. The execution ended the “superstition” of belief in Him for awhile, but the claims of Christ and His followers reasserted themselves shortly thereafter. This agrees completely with Matthew through Acts in the Bible. Gaius Suetonius Tranquillas, another Roman historian who was also the chief secretary of Emperor Hadrian with access to imperial records, writes that Emperor Claudius expelled the Jews from Rome because they “caused continuous disturbances at the instigation of Christus.” (Suetonius, Claudius, 25) Of Nero’s time in power, Tranquillas wrote: “Punishments were also inflicted on the Christians, a sect professing a new and mischievous religious belief.” (Nero, 16)

Josephus mentions James “the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ” in his Antiquities. Many are also familiar with a much-debated passage in Josephus’ Antiquities which seems to state that Jesus resurrected the third day and appeared to many. In this passage, Josephus makes use of quite a bit of Christian language, which is unusual since Josephus, a Jew, was stated to not be a believer by the church father Origen. While as a Christian I would love to believe Josephus actually wrote these words, I have to look at things as they are. Most likely this is a Christian interpolation, as there are translations of the Antiquities into other ancient languages that do not include the subject of the resurrection. However, even after removing the interpolation and evaluating the remaining words for grammatical and historical consistencies, one can look at Professor Schlomo Pines’ translation and commentary on an ancient Arabic edition of the Antiquities which reads:

“At this time there was a wise man who was called Jesus. His conduct was good and he was known to be virtuous. And many people from among the Jews and other nations became his disciples. Pilate condemned him to be crucified and to die. But those who had become disciples did not abandon his discipleship. They reported that he had appeared to them three days after his crucifixion, and that he was alive; accordingly he was perhaps the Messiah, concerning whom the prophets have recounted wonders.” (Quoted in Charlesworth’s Jesus Within Judaism, p 95)

Not too bad, Joe! We can turn also to Julius Africanus’ mention of Thallus’ writings concerning (super)natural events surrounding Christ’s crucifixion. Thallus wrote around AD 50, before the New Testament had been penned. Africanus tells us:

“On the whole world there pressed a most fearful darkness; and the rocks were rent by an earthquake, and many places in Judea and other districts were thrown down. This darkness Thallus, in the third book of his History, calls, as appears to me without reason, an eclipse of the sun.”

Africanus accepts Thallus’ history, but rejects his rationale that the darkness was caused by the sun. It’s interesting that secular history can provide so much verification for the Scriptures. In my last post on this subject, I’ll look at what Christian historians have said.

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Charles Wesley’s Original Lyrics to “Hark the Herald Angels Sing”

Personally, I prefer Wesley’s original lyrics to the version currently in our hymnals:

Hark, how all the welkin rings,
“Glory to the King of kings;
Peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled!”

Joyful, all ye nations, rise,
Join the triumph of the skies;
Universal nature say,
“Christ the Lord is born to-day!”

Christ, by highest Heaven ador’d,
Christ, the everlasting Lord:
Late in time behold him come,
Offspring of a Virgin’s womb!

Veiled in flesh, the Godhead see,
Hail the incarnate deity!
Pleased as man with men to dwell,
Jesus! Our Immanuel!

Hail, the heavenly Prince of Peace!
Hail, the Sun of Righteousness!
Light and life to all he brings,
Risen with healing in his wings.

Mild He lays his glory by,
Born that man no more may die;
Born to raise the sons of earth;
Born to give them second birth.

Come, Desire of nations, come,
Fix in us thy humble home;
Rise, the woman’s conquering seed,
Bruise in us the serpent’s head.

Now display thy saving power,
Ruined nature now restore;
Now in mystic union join
Thine to ours, and ours to thine.

Adam’s likeness, Lord, efface;
Stamp Thy image in its place.
Second Adam from above,
Reinstate us in thy love.

Let us Thee, though lost, regain,
Thee, the life, the inner Man:
O! to all thyself impart,
Form’d in each believing heart.

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Your Own Historical Jesus- Archeology

In the last post, we talked about the historical church creeds recorded in the Bible. Now we turn to further evidence for the historical Jesus. First, let’s take a look at the birth of Christ. Luke gives  us a historical account of Jesus’ birth, and he includes a number of clues that are helpful in approximating when the first Christmas took place. In Luke 2:1-5 we read:

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.”

Did people really return to their hometown to be taxed? Was Cyrenius (also spelled “Quirinius”) really govern in Syria during a taxation in Israel? We’ll have to look to historians and archeology for some of these answers. It turns out that the Titulus Venetus, an ancient Latin inscription, explains that a census did in fact take place in Israel and Syria around AD 5-6, and that it was fairly normal for such censuses to take place during the reign of Augustus up until the third century. In his book Christian Origins, Bruce notes that a papyrus dating to around AD 104 records that people were required to return to their hometown for the purposes of taxation and census-taking. What about the subject of Cyrenius? Did he govern Syria when a census took place? It turns out Cyrenius did govern Syria at two separate times. In his book Tells, Tombs, and Treasure, Robert Boyd gives evidence that he governed during an early taxation in 10-4 BC, and he also governed in Syria around AD 6. So we now have a few dates that could legitimately be chosen for the year of Christ’s birth. Historically speaking, Luke builds a very solid foundation for acceptance of the details of Christ’s birth.

Next, let us turn to the subject of Jesus’ crucifixion. Can we establish Pilate’s reign in Israel? Are the details of the crucifixion consistent with what we know from archeology? Is there anything in archeology to indicate that Rome had to deal with the rumors of a resurrection? Boyd’s book notes that coins have been discovered which were minted to commemorate the inception of Pilate’s rule around AD 31. Outside of the Bible, Tacitus and Josephus both record Pilate’s involvement in the crucifixion of Christ. Of course, biblically speaking, the question of who killed Jesus is much more complex.

At this point, I’d like to introduce you to Yohanan Ben Ha’galgol. Well, I would introduce you to him, but, sadly, he is quite dead. His skeleton was found in a stone ossuary about a mile from the Damascus Gate in 1968. Archeologists believe he was killed in AD 70 during the Jewish uprising against Rome. It’s the manner of his death that interests us today, though. According to Dr. N. Haas, a pathologists at Hebrew University, Yohanan (whose name was inscribed on his ossuary) was crucified. He still had a seven-inch-long nail pierced though his heel bones, since apparently Roman soldiers twisted a prisoner’s legs to nail them to the cross. Small pieces of olive wood from the cross were still attached to the nail, which was bent backward to keep the victim in place. Nails had also been driven between the radius and ulna bones in the lower arm. The radius bone was scratched and worn smooth at this point due to the Yohanan’s repeated attempts to pull himself upward to breathe. His lower leg bones were broken, the tibia and fibula bones crushed by a common blow. This sounds stunningly familiar, does it not?

I want to turn to one final piece of evidence which I will risk speculating on. In 1878, a marble slab was discovered in Nazareth. It was an ordinance of Caesar which scholars generally agree was issued by Claudius around AD 41-54. It is translated in its entirety in P. Maier’s First Easter:

Ordinance of Caesar. It is my pleasure that graves and tombs remain perpetually undisturbed for those who have made them for the cults of their ancestors or children or members of their house. If, however, anyone charges that another has either demolished them, or has in any other way extracted the buried, or has maliciously transferred them to other places in order to wrong them, or has displaced the sealing on other stones, against such a one I order that a trial be instituted, as in respect of the gods, so in regard to the cult of mortals. For it shall be much more obligatory to honor the buried. Let it be absolutely forbidden for anyone to disturb them. In case of violation I desire that the offender be sentenced to capital punishment on charges of violation of sepulchre.” (emphasis mine)

Maier notes that all previous Roman indictments against grave-robbing prescribe only a fine. Why the sudden jump to capital punishment? In AD 49, he expelled the Jews from Rome, and Suetonius remarks that the reason behind the expulsion was because of Christ (see Suetonius’ Claudius for more information, and cross-reference with Acts 17-18, for example.) If Claudius had indeed investigated the beliefs of Christians, he would have quickly discovered the Christian belief in Jesus’ resurrection due to the tomb being empty in spite of it being sealed. Jewish leaders, of course, tried to explain the event by saying that Jesus’ disciples had stolen the body, an event Claudius would have no doubt also uncovered.

So we’ve given a few examples of archeological evidence for the trustworthiness of the Gospels. Do secular historians provide corroborating evidence?

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I Love Lucy

Lucy, the small australopithecus afarensis, is supposed to be our ancestor. Standing at around three feet tall, she doesn’t look like much. It’s obvious that if we’re supposed to get from a chimp-like creature to our current standing of Homo sapien, there’s going to have to be a lot of changing going on throughout the years. We are supposed to have gone through the Homo habilis stage, followed by Homo erectus, Homo sapiens, and finally Homo sapiens sapiens (that’s not a typo.)

It all sounds so tidy, doesn’t it? Well, it seems that way until one realizes that there is no clear-cut definition of any of these categories, at least not one that is universally accepted by the scientific establishment. There is some degree of consensus, but certainly not the degree one would expect. There’s also little consensus on how long it takes a new species to evolve. Some estimates place it at 250,000 years per new species of human. Lucy is dated at 3 million years. Homo habilis is dated from 2 to 1.5 million years. Homo erectus is dated at 1.6 to .4 million years. Homo sapiens and so forth remain in the present. With so many unknown factors, who can tell what one should believe about evolutionary science? Of course, it gets much more convoluted than that.

The Taung Can No Man Tame

In 1924, Professor Raymond Dart acquired a fossilized skull from the lime works at Taung. He knew it was unique, and determined that it was a young primate which he named Australopithecus africanus. You can see pictures of Taung in many school textbooks due to its fame. Until Lucy was discovered in 1974, Taung was considered to be our oldest evolutionary ancestor, dating around to 2 million to 3 million years old. Then, in 1973, geologist T. C. Partridge rocked the evolutionist’s world. He determined that the cave that the Taung skull came from could not be more than 870,000 years old. Since it could take up to a million years, according to evolutionary theory, for a new species to evolve,  going all the way from africanus to modern-day humans in 870,000 years is out of the question. Plus, even evolutionists date true humans back to 750,000 years. There’s no way for africanus to be an ancestor.

So what is an evolutionist to do? They tried to fit the Taung skull into the line of habilis. Of course, some were honest. Phillip Tobias wrote in response: “Although nearly 50 yr have elapsed since its discovery, it is true to say that the Taung skull has never yet been fully analyzed and described.” I guess it stinks for all the people duped by the scientific establishment all those years! Some have seen fit to remove the Taung skull from the line of humans altogether, classifying it as P. robustus.

Monkeying Around with the Family Tree

Fortunately for evolutionists, Lucy was found the year after Patridge dated the cave. The family tree was revised, and A. afarensis (Lucy) replaced africanus (Taung) as our nonhuman ancestor. Africanus was moved to the australopithecine branch of the tree and became the link between Lucy and P. robustus.

In 1985, the famous “Black Skull” was found. Dating back, according to evolutionists, to 2.5 million years ago, it seems to be a blend of P. robustus and Lucy, leaving Taung as the odd man out. So scientists have begun to move Taung back to the line of humans (again), between Lucy (A. afarensis) and H. habilis. The problem, of course, is that Partridge’s dating of the cave makes that impossible. The dating was based on thermoluminescence analysis of calcite and uranium-series dates of 942,000 years ago and 764,000 years ago on limestone. Richard G. Klein of Stanford University writes: “A date for Taung of 2 million years ago or more may seem most unreasonable, but the argument is obviously circular and the true age remains uncertain.”

What is my point in all of this? My point is that there is nothing solid or certain about the supposed family tree. Dating methods aren’t entirely reliable, but even when they are used, they are often ignored or twisted to make the fossil record say what the evolutionists want it to say. Lucy, Taung, and the rest are being moved haphazardly about the family tree just to make one that works. To place your trust in the soft science of paleoanthropology is a mistake. I love Lucy because she is a reminder that there are far more problems than solutions offered up by a Darwinistic interpretation of the fossil record. It needs to be reinterpreted. That’s where the problem lies. The flaws are not with the fakes (like Piltdown Man), the genuine fossils, etc. The flaws are in the way evidence is interpreted and with the scientific establishment’s mad dash to put something believable together.

Aren’t you glad there are much more firm foundations out there?

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Your Own Historical Jesus

You’ve probably run across someone who challenged your belief in Jesus Christ on the grounds that He is a made-up figure in a religious text. If they’ve been mildly open-minded, they may have asked you for some historical proof that He was real. That’s not easy for believers to do when we’re used to trusting in the Bible as our sole authority for faith and practice. Hmmmm…..where have I heard that before: “sole authority for faith and practice”? Well, there’s no singular answer since that statement is found in numerous statements of faith, confessions, and…..creeds. Let’s check out a few of those creeds.

How about “Jesus Christ is come in the flesh“? Sound familiar? Oscar Cullmann, author of a classic on early creeds entitled The Earliest Christian Confessions, identifies this statement as a concise creed on the subject of Christ’s deity and nature. That’s what most creeds were about, happily. It is creeds, therefore, that offer us some of the best evidence for the existence of Christ. The reason for this is that even though they are included in the New Testament, creeds like the one I just mentioned existed before the books of the New Testament were written. The various human penmen of the New Testament quoted these creeds on occasion to summarize doctrine, but they didn’t create them.

Here’s another creed that may sound familiar, though it is somewhat more complex.

“Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

This creed should found familiar to most believers, since it is written out for us in Philippians 2. It is identified as a creed not only by Cullmann, but also Bultmann, Neufeld, and Fuller. Ironically, these scholars, who are not exactly conservative, point out this creed in particular as proof to a very early belief in Christ. If Christ’s death and resurrection did take place around AD 33, and the various books of the Bible did not begin to be written until AD 50 or so, then the creeds became standardized less than 17 years after the events actually happened. Obviously, this is significant because that means the very people who popularized the creeds were those who had witnessed events in the life of Christ. They know of Whom they spoke!

Another early confessional creed is found in 1 Timothy 3:16:

“And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness:

God was manifest in the flesh,

Justified in the Spirit, seen of angels,

Preached unto the Gentiles,

Believed on in the world,

Received up into glory.”

Moule points out that the early date of this creed (before Paul’s ministry) plus the rhyme-pattern that is made clear through a study of Greek literature are evidence of this creed’s use in pre-Pauline hymns. When we read this passage, we are given a glimpse of ancient Christian worship!

The two passages most clearly identified as creeds by the majority of New Testament scholars are 1 Corinthians 11:23-24 and 1 Corinthians 15:3-7. Paul essentially declares them to be creedal in nature by using the terms “delivered” and “received”, both of which are technical terms for the passing on of Scripture in the rabbinical tradition. Do a quick word search of the New Testament. They aren’t used by Paul or anyone to describe simple communication. Paul is passing along information from another source, a source which uses parallelism through the “and that” of Hebrew narrative tradition and Peter’s Aramaic name (“Cephas”) in the place of his Greek name. We can therefore easily surmise at this point that this creed originates in Israel. This is significant since this means that the people who created the creed were very near the events of the gospels in terms of time (less than two decades) and space (Israel as opposed to somewhere else in the Roman Empire.) Because of this we must take the following statements, at least, to be factual:

  1. Jesus died by crucifixion
  2. Jesus was buried
  3. Jesus’ death caused despair on the part of His disciples
  4. Jesus’ tomb was found empty
  5. The disciples believed they had seen Him alive and well
  6. The disciples were transformed from faithless doubters to bold witnesses
  7. This message was the center of the early church, which was founded in Jerusalem
  8. The early church was born and grew
  9. James, who had been a skeptic, converted
  10. Paul, another skeptic, also was converted

That’s the minimum any thinking skeptic would have to accept. A number of creeds believed by hundreds, perhaps thousands, so geographically and chronologically close to the events of the Gospels make it hard to believe that at least these items are not true. Whatever else your conclusion, you have to deal with all of these items somehow. Hopefully an honest skeptic will realize that there is something else going on here and eventually embrace the full message of the Gospel by faith grounded in reason.

But is there more evidence from other sources? Glad you asked….

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The Poetry and Artistry of Evolution

You’d probably assume that a blog post about biological evolution would deal with biology or some other related study. However, that’s not where I’m taking this discussion today. Today, I’ll be looking at the poetic and artistic aspects of the Darwinism movement. To be honest, it makes sense that a believable, coherent theory would have elements of the Arts, because humans have a way of describing anything that matters in with particular eloquence. It’s true, we often tell someone we care about simply “I love you,” but we all know there are much more creative ways of saying those three words. The music industry has blossomed thanks to that creativity.

Darwin’s Day in Court

Andrew Hill has written: “Compared to other sciences, the mythic element is greatest in paleoanthropology.” (in American Scientist, March-April 1984) Speaking sympathetically of that same phenomena in the same article, Ian Tattersall admits: “Paleoanthropologists are fond of telling each other ‘Just-So’ stories; and once in a while a little needling of this kind does no harm at all.” Milford Wolpoff is much less forgiving: ” When the only people who can comment are the discoverers or friends of the discoverers, there is no sense of independent observer. We’re not practicing science. We’re practicing opera.” His reasons for making that statement can be found here.

Two books, written by law professors, may be instructive at this point. Norman Macbeth, a Harvard-trained lawyer and non-creationist studied evolution for years and wrote a book Darwin Retried in which he demonstrated that evolution was a religion and was not of high enough quality to stand up in a court of law. Philip E Johnson, a law professor of the University of California, Berkeley, wrote Darwin on Trial. In his book, he came to four important conclusions about evolution:

  1. Evolution is grounded on naturalism, not scientific fact
  2. A belief that a large body of empirical evidence supports evolution is nothing but an illusion
  3. Evolution is a religion
  4. If evolution had been subjected to a rigorous study of the evidence, it would have been abandoned long ago

In response to Roger Lewin’s description of the Ancestor’s Exhibit in 1984 in which he spoke of the awe and emotion of the experience, Johnson commented:

“Lewin is absolutely correct, and I can’t think of anything more likely to detract from the objectivity of one’s judgment. Descriptions of fossils from people who yearn to cradle their ancestors in their hands ought to be scrutinized as carefully as a letter of recommendation from a job applicant’s mother…. The story of human descent from apes is not merely a scientific hypothesis; it is the secular equivalent of the story of Adam and Eve.”

Raining on Darwin’s Parade

Let’s turn now to Darwinism and graphic media. In the March 1998 edition of Antiquity, David Van Reybrouck, a student of the role of drawings in the propagation of Darwinism has made five observations:

  1. Illustrations always go beyond the archaeological data
  2. Illustrations always involve speculation on the part of the fossil discoverers, who advise the artists
  3. Illustrations involve interpretations that rely heavily on unproven and sometimes doubtful theories
  4. Illustrations are always nonobjective, yet they are trusted in a visual society such as ours
  5. Illustrations are used extensively because they sell evolution effectively.

The most blatant lie ever told to help promote evolution is the “parade” of stages in supposed human evolution that we are all familiar with. The origin of this parade- or should I say charade?- of characters is an illustration in F. Clark Howell’s book Early Man, originally published in 1965. The parade was originally on a 36-inch foldout page within the book. What most people don’t realize that the parade is pure propaganda. It doesn’t exist. The original book makes it clear that the parade doesn’t tell an accurate story, and the author and publishers knew it. Evolutionists knew that the apes and ape-like creatures they had theorized did not walk on their back feet. The book clearly states in the text, but not on the chart: “Although protoapes and apes were quadrupedal, all are shown here standing for purposes of comparison.” Sizes of each proposed ancestor were not to scale, and they were shown walking, not simply standing as the author states. These small details make a world of difference when it comes to the believability of the theory. It’s clear deception. Yet it was- and still is, in some cases- included in advertisements and eventually became its own poster in classrooms around the world.

Holding Out for a Hero

Finally, I’d like to call your attention to Misia Landau’s book Narratives of Human Evolution. In her book, Miss Landau makes an interesting assertion: paleoanthropology is storytelling. She compare folk-stories and epics to Darwin, Huxley, Keith, and Haeckel’s descriptions of human evolution. Here’s some similarities she’s noticed:

  • The Hero’s Origin- The hero is typically leading a safe and untroubled life. He may be smaller or weaker than others. Think “Frodo Baggins.” In the story of evolution, the hero is a nondescript primate, perhaps living in the trees. Like Frodo Baggins heading out from the Shire with the Ring, the primate leaves the safety of the trees to walk on the ground, perhaps because of a larger brain or changes in the availability of food.
  • The Hero Tested- In myths, the Hero is tested by predators, opponents, or his environment. In the Darwinistic myth, similar situations occur. “Indeed, the tests are specifically designed for that purpose: to bring out the human in the hero”, Landau writes.
  • The Hero Transformed- Myths and even modern fantasy always add a sacred or magical object- a Ring of Power, the Master Sword, and Invisibility Cloak- to help a man become more than he was. In evolutionary theory, natural selection or a “magic twist” of genetic mutations (those are the words of Jared Diamond, who wrote an article about the movement of modern humans out of Africa in the May 1989 edition of Discover magazine) bestow upon the hero the intelligence or abilities necessary to become more than his ancestors.
  • The Hero’s Death- The fatal irony of the average hero is that he dies due to pride through success. Most evolution tales include a warning to humans that we could become like our supposed ancestors if we aren’t careful. Richard Leakey devotes an entire book to that subject entitled The Sixth Extinction.

Frankly, I think J. R. R. Tolkien is a much better writer of this sort of material than the Darwinists. Let’s just leave it to the experts, ok, guys?

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Evolution: A Logical Lightweight

At the AAAS convention in San Francisco, Carl Sagan once explained in his lecture “Velikovsky’s Challenge to Science” that science works in this way: “The most fundamental axioms and conclusions may be challenged.” The hypothesis “must survive confrontation with observation. Appeals to authority are impermissible. Experiments must be reproducible.”

That’s a pretty strange statement when you think about it. Evolution isn’t observable. It can’t be challenged in the scientific establishment without some serious ridicule taking place. Evolutionists appeal to the authority of the scientific establishment. There aren’t any experiments that are able to confirm evolution. It’s ironic to me, then, that Sagan would also make a very profound statement in that same lecture: “Not all scientific statements have equal weight.” How right he is. Direct observations of, say, the laws of physics, are far more weightier because of the tremendous amount of data verifying them. Unfortunately, the scientific establishment does not appear to behave this way, and the general public certainly isn’t aware of this concept. What we have are Darwinists acting as the high priests of our society. People- even highly-educated people- believe in Darwinism because scientists can’t be wrong.

How is Darwinism a sort of lesser science? Consider our interest in chimps. We study chimpanzees– their behavior, genetic makeup, and anatomy- because Darwinists believe that we are very closely related to them. Darwinists then use superficial similarities between humans and chimps to prove their assumptions. That is called begging the question in logic. They assume to be true the very thing they are trying to prove. Bereft of anything that Sagan would call a good basis for scientific study, a philosophical assumption has been foisted upon us as science. In reality, such studies on chimps would only attempt to shed light on humanity if evolution had first proven to be a correct assumption. Unlike Darwinism, intelligent design bases its theories on the evidence around us: information provided for our world through physics and DNA as well as the incredible complexity of the universe.

The logical fallacies don’t stop there, however. There’s a difference between historical and scientific evidence. In spite of the fact that scientists have performed numerous experiments on animals in an attempt to prove evolution through mutation, the obvious must be declared: just because mutations can be made to happen or engineered in a lab does not mean that they did happen in the past. That is a logical fallacy. That genetic engineering is possible in the present does not mean that it certainly did happen in the past. Scientists have proven it is possible; they have not proven that it occurred.

Suppose I gave you a pile of hammers and asked you to arrange them in a potential evolutionary sequence. You could start with small ones and work your way to larger ones, arrange them by claw types, group them into families based on what they are made of, etc. You could argue that you showed a pattern from simple to complex. The whole assignment, of course, would be bogus. There was no actual evolutionary relationship between the different hammers. They were designed with a particular function or purpose in mind. Curved and straight claw hammers, sledge hammers, ball pein, mason’s hammers, upholsterer’s hammers, and mallets are different because they are designed that way. Just because scientists can superimpose an evolutionary order on things does not mean that the evolutionary order is fact.

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A Sticky Situation

Having established that the creation of the universe and subsequent formation of the galaxies are all but impossible to have occurred by chance, we now turn our attention to the formation of the planets themselves. It turns out that getting planets to form naturally isn’t very easy after all. There was a time when planets were supposed to have blasted out of the Sun as the result of another passing star, but anything blasted or sucked off of the Sun would have fallen back into the Sun as soon as the other star passed. That’s gravity again for you; always making a mess of things! So scientists turned to “cold accretion”, postulating that planets could form as dust from a forming solar system began to stick together, form dust bunnies, then “planetesimals”, then eventually establish their own gravity which began pulling more planetesimals together until eventually a whole planet was formed. This is supposedly how the inner planets of our solar system formed.

Oh, but there’s a problem here, and it’s a whopper! How do you get that much dust to stick together? How does that dust turn into the the rock and iron of modern planetesimals? Why don’t cosmic “dust bunnies” form in space today? The answer is that space dust doesn’t turn into dust bunnies, and planetesimals don’t play nice when they meet each other. These meteorites and their kin cruise around the solar system at a cool 100,000 miles per hour, and, when they hit each other, they either bounce off or shatter each other. No planets. No us.

But, one may argue, could not their speed relative to each other be much slower, such as the rubble that makes up the rings of Saturn? That’s a great question, but the rubble around Saturn is not collecting; the chunks of rock and dust around Saturn simply bounce off of each other.

Well, what of the gas giants and ice planets then? Surely we can come up with a way for them to work out? Not a chance. If dust has a hard time sticking together, how do you think gas molecules will handle things? Not very well, as you can most likely imagine, since gasses simply do not “stick” to anything. I know there have been simulations demonstrating the formation of gas giants, but those simulations begin with a “gravitational instability.” The simulation was designed to create planets, something evolutionists don’t believe in. The ice planets are supposed to have formed as ice crystals sticking together, but there’s not as much matter out there and no model can bring about their existence so quickly. Other models assume they formed closer to the sun and then moved further away, but you still run into that pesky problem of getting things to stick together. Back to the drawing board!

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In the Multitude of Evidence there is Safety

We should all be very grateful for what science has allowed us to achieve. The medical fields have provided us with the ability to heal many wounds and diseases previously thought to be untreatable. Technology has allowed us to communicate and travel efficiently. Yes, because of scientific principles and dedicated men and women willing to spend years of their lives researching, writing, and peer-reviewing what has already been written, you and I are able to enjoy very different lives from our forbears. We can be confident in scientific discovery because it is based on solid evidence and a desire to “follow the evidence wherever it leads,” as Carl Sagan once famously said. Would it surprise you, then, to learn how little evidence we have of human evolution?

HIDE AND SEEK

Have you ever seen an actual fossil of a human ancestor? Probably not. I haven’t. The vast majority of the authors of textbooks on paleontology haven’t. Curators of the museums of natural history around the world usually haven’t. Only a very, very small handful of people have ever been privileged enough to see such fossils. I’m not saying there’s a conspiracy afoot. I’m saying that, because they are so rare, so valuable, and so fragile, human ancestral fossils are very unlikely to be on display or studied. In fact, most of us have never even seen a picture of an actual fossil. According to Marvin L. Lubenow, whose book Bones of Contention provided many of the “diving in” points for this series of blog posts, the total number of people who have access to ancestral fossils is fewer than the heads of state in the entire world.

William King, the man who declared Homo neanderthalensis to be a different species than modern-day humans in 1864, never saw the actual fossils. He did so after reading a description of them. Darwin never saw a single human fossil. Thomas Huxley never saw original fossils either, but he took great pains to describe them in his 1863 work Man’s Place in Nature.

People publish vast amounts of research with unverified data! Germany built a two-story museum to celebrate the discovery of Steinheim Man in 1933. Visitors never saw the actual fossil though. They viewed plastic replicas. The actual fossil was kept in a safe set into a stone wall in an old military outpost several miles away. In their article in the October 1995 edition of the American Journal of Physical Anthropology, Braun, Hublin, and Boucher note: “While it was never described in great detail, this fossil played a central role in various evolutionary models.”

Of course, there is a good deal of politics in this field as well. Teuku Jacob, former curator of Gadjah Mada University, was known for his jealousy of the Homo erectus fossils from Java in his possession. Swisher, Curtis, and Lewin write:

“These fossils, the prized objects of Jacob’s collection are rarely seen, even by professionals in the fossil-hunting business. Scholars with serious research programs have to apply to Jacob for permission even to see them, let alone touch them, for scientific study. And even those few who succeed in obtaining official permission have to wait for Jacob’s final OK, for he alone is permitted to remove the fossils from the safes.”

Donald Johanson, the discover of Lucy, agrees that “only those in the inner circle get to see the fossils; only those who agree with the particular interpretation of a particular investigator are allowed to see the fossils.”

CIRCLING THE WAGONS

There’s one exception to this almost xenophobic protection of the fossils. In 1984, the American Museum of Natural History in New York sponsored an exhibit in which more than forty of the original fossils were brought together for the first- and probably last- time ever. There were special guards over the fossils and the curators that traveled with the fossils. The fossils were placed in special cases. Work on the subway line beneath the museum was halted to avoid vibrating- and possibly damaging- the fossils.

What prompted this gathering of the fossils? In his book Ancestors: The Hard Evidence, Eric Delson tells us that there were those in the scientific community who were concerned about the rising popularity of creationism. Delson, who was a scientist at the American Museum, tells us that creationism was a “great and growing concern” at the museum. The primary purpose, then, was to show professionals and lay people the evidence for evolution, and they avoided making any statement concerning creationism at the museum so that they would not “dignify…creation science.” Their words, not mine. What are these guys afraid of?

BLIND LEADING THE BLIND

Paleoanthropology is in a strange position. Unlike most- if not all- other areas of science, workers in this field rarely have access to the material their science is based on. They are usually one step or so away from the actual evidence. Too often, creationists have been guilty of downplaying the importance of human ancestral fossils. In reality, they are unique and valuable, but because of their value, an insufficient number of scientists have been able to study them in depth.

What do they work with then? They work with casts and descriptions others have written of the fossils. Casts may be reliable if the molds used are detailed enough and if the materials maintain their intended shape. However, casts can be far from ideal. They lack the detail of the original. Becky A Sigmon of the University of Toronto says that there is a general consensus among paleoanthropologists  that “casts should not be used as resource material for a scientific paper.” (See her collection of papers on the subject for more information.) She has a good reason for saying this. At the American Museum exhibit in 1984, when the original fossils were to be placed into their mounts (which had been based on the casts available), most of them did not fit. Casts simply aren’t substitutes from the originals. Lubenow further complains that “casts of only a small percentage of the total fossil material and less than half of the most important fossil material are available for study.”

Scientists are then forced to turn to description of fossils in scientific literature, which is the most common form of source material for scientific work. How can a field of science continue to function and inform public opinion if there is so little readily-available information? How can we be expected to believe what few have seen? As John Fleagle of the State University of New York, Stony Brook has said: “The big awkwardness right now is when someone announces they have found a specimen that overturns everything we know, but almost no one has seen it.”

Talk about blind faith! My point is this: if we are to believe that humans evolved in the manner most Darwinists claim, there must be more evidence. Right now, there’s just not enough out there for me to buy into.

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Bedtime Stories About the Beginning

So we’ve already talked about the singularity pseudoscience. What happens after that? Well, I’m glad you asked that, because now the story gets even better! By the time we’re through talking about galaxy and star formation, stories about wolves eating grandmothers only to be killed by friendly woodsmen will seem tragically commonplace and dull. Now, where was I….. Oh,yes! The singularity had just finished causing the strangely uniform inflation to expand the universe and produce antimatter-free matter, when it turned to its next task: the creation of galaxies and stars….

The question is, once the gas particles in the universe begin expanding, how do you get them to start collapsing all over the universe without creating a bunch of black holes? In other words, assuming you can get the expansion to stop and the collapsing to start, how do you keep galaxies from collapsing completely? Galaxies won’t form naturally unless the matter begins to collect, and the only thing strong enough to collect the matter is gravity, which shouldn’t be able to work thanks to the supposedly uniform inflation I had mentioned in the last post.  Of course, once galaxies begin to form courtesy of gravity, they ought to just keep collapsing in on themselves. What has to step in to keep the galaxies from just shrinking into really big black holes? The plot thickens……

Steven Hawking, in his book The Universe in a Nutshell postulated that dark matter did it. Not just any dark matter, though. His very special brand of magical dark matter formed on a brane world parallel to our own. And I thought I had a big imagination! So far, brane worlds and dark matter (at least dark matter on the order Hawking is talking about) is purely theoretical. No science here so far!

Maybe that’s why Hawking has put galaxy formation on his list of unexplained mysteries in his books published in 1988, 2001, and 2002. J. Trefil wrote in his The Dark Side of the Universe: “There shouldn’t be galaxies out there at all, and even if there are galaxies, they shouldn’t be grouped together the way they are….It is one of the thorniest problems in cosmology.” Marcus Chown, in his article “Let there Be Light” (February 1998 edition of New Scientist) quoted NASA scientists as saying: “We have no direct evidence of how galaxies were formed or how galaxies evolved, whether they formed from aggregations of smaller units or from subdivisions of large ones.” Their problem is that, at best, the Big Bang theory gives us a mass of expanding gas, and that is all.

Of course, then there’s the formation of stars, where we have the same problem with gravity producing more black holes and homogenous gas not wanting to collapse at all. But wait! There’s more! Stars are supposed to have formed, at least in one theory, in hot gaseous clouds vaguely referred to as “star-forming regions.” The problem? Hot gas clouds are more likely to disperse than collapse, so I have a hard time believing that anything like what we see today is actually capable of producing stars. Sure, there are stars in those regions, but that doesn’t mean the stars formed there. They aren’t necessarily new stars. Who honestly cares if stars currently surrounded by vast gas and dust clouds are sucking those clouds in? Any star would suck gas and dust into itself because of gravity. For all we know the stars are old! Lada and Shu wrote and article for Science in 1990, saying: “We have not yet been able to unambiguously detect the collapse of a molecular cloud core or the infall of circumstellar material onto an embryonic star.” No proof there, guys.

This is the second part in a series on the Big Bang. Millions and billions of years have gone by in this little bedtime story, and yet I don’t see any reason for believing a word of it. There’s not one shred of proof, and the objections are virtually insurmountable. I’d rather believe that the cow jumped over the moon than believe this rot, because my “willful suspension of disbelief” has its limits. Just ask my wife about how I felt about “robot heaven” in Transformers 2.

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Crowder on Gitmo

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Your Own Historical Jesus- Writings

We’ve seen how biblical creeds and archeological finds are both types of proof for the Gospel message. In this last section,  we turn to ancient writings by secular historians and their Christian counterparts. This will reveal the most clear details of early Christian belief and also provide further evidence for the historicity of Jesus Christ. The Roman historian Tacitus, who wrote of the reign of Nero and the infamous fire that burned Rome during his reign, records the following in his Annals, written in AD 115:

“Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome.” (Tacitus, 15.44)

From this we can confirm the biblical message that Christians were named after Christ, who was sentenced to death under Pilate during the reign of emperor Tiberius. The execution ended the “superstition” of belief in Him for awhile, but the claims of Christ and His followers reasserted themselves shortly thereafter. This agrees completely with Matthew through Acts in the Bible. Gaius Suetonius Tranquillas, another Roman historian who was also the chief secretary of Emperor Hadrian with access to imperial records, writes that Emperor Claudius expelled the Jews from Rome because they “caused continuous disturbances at the instigation of Christus.” (Suetonius, Claudius, 25) Of Nero’s time in power, Tranquillas wrote: “Punishments were also inflicted on the Christians, a sect professing a new and mischievous religious belief.” (Nero, 16)

Josephus mentions James “the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ” in his Antiquities. Many are also familiar with a much-debated passage in Josephus’ Antiquities which seems to state that Jesus resurrected the third day and appeared to many. In this passage, Josephus makes use of quite a bit of Christian language, which is unusual since Josephus, a Jew, was stated to not be a believer by the church father Origen. While as a Christian I would love to believe Josephus actually wrote these words, I have to look at things as they are. Most likely this is a Christian interpolation, as there are translations of the Antiquities into other ancient languages that do not include the subject of the resurrection. However, even after removing the interpolation and evaluating the remaining words for grammatical and historical consistencies, one can look at Professor Schlomo Pines’ translation and commentary on an ancient Arabic edition of the Antiquities which reads:

“At this time there was a wise man who was called Jesus. His conduct was good and he was known to be virtuous. And many people from among the Jews and other nations became his disciples. Pilate condemned him to be crucified and to die. But those who had become disciples did not abandon his discipleship. They reported that he had appeared to them three days after his crucifixion, and that he was alive; accordingly he was perhaps the Messiah, concerning whom the prophets have recounted wonders.” (Quoted in Charlesworth’s Jesus Within Judaism, p 95)

Not too bad, Joe! We can turn also to Julius Africanus’ mention of Thallus’ writings concerning (super)natural events surrounding Christ’s crucifixion. Thallus wrote around AD 50, before the New Testament had been penned. Africanus tells us:

“On the whole world there pressed a most fearful darkness; and the rocks were rent by an earthquake, and many places in Judea and other districts were thrown down. This darkness Thallus, in the third book of his History, calls, as appears to me without reason, an eclipse of the sun.”

Africanus accepts Thallus’ history, but rejects his rationale that the darkness was caused by the sun. It’s interesting that secular history can provide so much verification for the Scriptures. In my last post on this subject, I’ll look at what Christian historians have said.

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Your Own Historical Jesus- Archeology

In the last post, we talked about the historical church creeds recorded in the Bible. Now we turn to further evidence for the historical Jesus. First, let’s take a look at the birth of Christ. Luke gives  us a historical account of Jesus’ birth, and he includes a number of clues that are helpful in approximating when the first Christmas took place. In Luke 2:1-5 we read:

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.”

Did people really return to their hometown to be taxed? Was Cyrenius (also spelled “Quirinius”) really govern in Syria during a taxation in Israel? We’ll have to look to historians and archeology for some of these answers. It turns out that the Titulus Venetus, an ancient Latin inscription, explains that a census did in fact take place in Israel and Syria around AD 5-6, and that it was fairly normal for such censuses to take place during the reign of Augustus up until the third century. In his book Christian Origins, Bruce notes that a papyrus dating to around AD 104 records that people were required to return to their hometown for the purposes of taxation and census-taking. What about the subject of Cyrenius? Did he govern Syria when a census took place? It turns out Cyrenius did govern Syria at two separate times. In his book Tells, Tombs, and Treasure, Robert Boyd gives evidence that he governed during an early taxation in 10-4 BC, and he also governed in Syria around AD 6. So we now have a few dates that could legitimately be chosen for the year of Christ’s birth. Historically speaking, Luke builds a very solid foundation for acceptance of the details of Christ’s birth.

Next, let us turn to the subject of Jesus’ crucifixion. Can we establish Pilate’s reign in Israel? Are the details of the crucifixion consistent with what we know from archeology? Is there anything in archeology to indicate that Rome had to deal with the rumors of a resurrection? Boyd’s book notes that coins have been discovered which were minted to commemorate the inception of Pilate’s rule around AD 31. Outside of the Bible, Tacitus and Josephus both record Pilate’s involvement in the crucifixion of Christ. Of course, biblically speaking, the question of who killed Jesus is much more complex.

At this point, I’d like to introduce you to Yohanan Ben Ha’galgol. Well, I would introduce you to him, but, sadly, he is quite dead. His skeleton was found in a stone ossuary about a mile from the Damascus Gate in 1968. Archeologists believe he was killed in AD 70 during the Jewish uprising against Rome. It’s the manner of his death that interests us today, though. According to Dr. N. Haas, a pathologists at Hebrew University, Yohanan (whose name was inscribed on his ossuary) was crucified. He still had a seven-inch-long nail pierced though his heel bones, since apparently Roman soldiers twisted a prisoner’s legs to nail them to the cross. Small pieces of olive wood from the cross were still attached to the nail, which was bent backward to keep the victim in place. Nails had also been driven between the radius and ulna bones in the lower arm. The radius bone was scratched and worn smooth at this point due to the Yohanan’s repeated attempts to pull himself upward to breathe. His lower leg bones were broken, the tibia and fibula bones crushed by a common blow. This sounds stunningly familiar, does it not?

I want to turn to one final piece of evidence which I will risk speculating on. In 1878, a marble slab was discovered in Nazareth. It was an ordinance of Caesar which scholars generally agree was issued by Claudius around AD 41-54. It is translated in its entirety in P. Maier’s First Easter:

Ordinance of Caesar. It is my pleasure that graves and tombs remain perpetually undisturbed for those who have made them for the cults of their ancestors or children or members of their house. If, however, anyone charges that another has either demolished them, or has in any other way extracted the buried, or has maliciously transferred them to other places in order to wrong them, or has displaced the sealing on other stones, against such a one I order that a trial be instituted, as in respect of the gods, so in regard to the cult of mortals. For it shall be much more obligatory to honor the buried. Let it be absolutely forbidden for anyone to disturb them. In case of violation I desire that the offender be sentenced to capital punishment on charges of violation of sepulchre.” (emphasis mine)

Maier notes that all previous Roman indictments against grave-robbing prescribe only a fine. Why the sudden jump to capital punishment? In AD 49, he expelled the Jews from Rome, and Suetonius remarks that the reason behind the expulsion was because of Christ (see Suetonius’ Claudius for more information, and cross-reference with Acts 17-18, for example.) If Claudius had indeed investigated the beliefs of Christians, he would have quickly discovered the Christian belief in Jesus’ resurrection due to the tomb being empty in spite of it being sealed. Jewish leaders, of course, tried to explain the event by saying that Jesus’ disciples had stolen the body, an event Claudius would have no doubt also uncovered.

So we’ve given a few examples of archeological evidence for the trustworthiness of the Gospels. Do secular historians provide corroborating evidence?

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Of Singularities and Pseudosciences

In the beginning there was a singularity. Fortunately for all of us, it expanded (or exploded, depending on who you ask), and our universe is the result. Well, that’s how things would work if the evolutionists had their way. Oh, I know they prefer to use much more scientific terms, but I sometimes have to question why. The things they try so hard to prove using science actually have some very distinct scientific problems.

First of all, there’s the very existence of a singularity from which everything came from. Professor Steven Hawking writes the following in his work A Brief History of Time: “At the singularity, general relativity and all other physical laws would break down: one couldn’t predict what will come out of the singularity….This means that one might as well cut the big bang, and any events before it, out of the theory, because they can have no effect on what we observe.” Thanks, Doc. I’ll just set my bag o’ tools (the laws of physics) aside now because they won’t work in the Big Bang scenario. So what exactly makes this different from a miracle? Once one throws out physics, one is left with metaphysics, in which God is permitted.

The existence of a singularity isn’t the only miracle, however. There’s another great one that big bang cosmologists keep in their bag o’ tricks (since the bag o’ tools known as the “laws of physics” can’t help much here). There’s also inflation, which appears to have properties as varied and mysterious as pixie dust. You see, if inflation didn’t happen, the universe would have collapsed back into a singularity again thanks to a tool of ours known as gravitation. Fortunately, inflation was around to accelerate the expansion of the universe by a thousand billion billion billion times, all very smoothly of course. The Big Bang scenario also predicts the existence of magnetic monopoles, which have never been found, and a non-uniform cosmic microwave background radiation instead of the observed uniform CMBR we see today. Fortunately, we just sprinkle more of the pixie dust inflation and- presto!- the problem goes away. Well, sort of. Inflation is an ad hoc theory in that there is no evidence for its existence, and the inflation rate itself must have been very uniform and fine tuned in order for it to not have looked a lot like a really big, very destructive explosion. I wish I had that kind of faith, my evolutionary comrades.

Then there’s that pesky thing Einstein came up with, what was it? Oh, yeah. E=mc2 (which actually looks squared when I type it even though it just looks like a “2” when I post) . That’s mass-energy equivalence, meaning that matter and energy are interchangeable. Enough energy can produce matter, and matter can be converted into energy. When particles are created from energy, they are always created in matter/antimatter pairs. Electrons are created alongside anti-electrons (positrons), protons are created alongside anti-protons, neutrinos are created alongside anti-neutrinos, etc. Of course, when matter meets antimatter, the process is reversed. Matter and antimatter annihilate each other and you get a lot of energy. This means that if the Big Bang occurred, the matter formed from the energy of the Big Bang would have very quickly annihilated itself. No galaxies. No stars. No planets. No us. Fortunately, all observable matter in the universe is ordinary, boring ol’ matter. No antimatter galaxies, stars, planets, or people. Big Bang cosmologists try to get around this by saying that- by chance– a small amount (like the mass of the universe) of matter was still left over after the universe nearly annihilated itself, but that seems impossible based on everything we know. What mechanism was in place that skewed the laws of physics and gave existence a chance? None that we know of. It’s all based on assumptions and guesses.

I’d like to come back to the CMBR again. Predictions of the level of background radiation in the universe were way off. It was nearly uniformly 3 degrees kelvin, thanks to the constancy of starlight. I say it was nearly uniform because in 2003, WMAP discovered real variations in the CMBR. I say “real” here because its predecessor, COBE, discovered some years earlier that just turned out to be “white noise.” The problem is, the variations discovered work very nicely in a creationist cosmology, not a big bang cosmology. The Big Bang model predicts that the universe should be uniform, boundless, with no center. Instead, the variations indicated the existence of a cosmic “north and south pole”, and a cosmic “equator” of sorts. Creationists can easily explain this in a model involving the Milky Way positioned near the center of the universe, but such galactocentrism is unpleasant for evolutionists who assume that mankind is not special. Oops again!

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Your Own Historical Jesus- Creeds

You’ve probably run across someone who challenged your belief in Jesus Christ on the grounds that He is a made-up figure in a religious text. If they’ve been mildly open-minded, they may have asked you for some historical proof that He was real. That’s not easy for believers to do when we’re used to trusting in the Bible as our sole authority for faith and practice. Hmmmm…..where have I heard that before: “sole authority for faith and practice”? Well, there’s no singular answer since that statement is found in numerous statements of faith, confessions, and…..creeds. Let’s check out a few of those creeds.

How about “Jesus Christ is come in the flesh“? Sound familiar? Oscar Cullmann, author of a classic on early creeds entitled The Earliest Christian Confessions, identifies this statement as a concise creed on the subject of Christ’s deity and nature. That’s what most creeds were about, happily. It is creeds, therefore, that offer us some of the best evidence for the existence of Christ. The reason for this is that even though they are included in the New Testament, creeds like the one I just mentioned existed before the books of the New Testament were written. The various human penmen of the New Testament quoted these creeds on occasion to summarize doctrine, but they didn’t create them.

Here’s another creed that may sound familiar, though it is somewhat more complex.

“Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

This creed should found familiar to most believers, since it is written out for us in Philippians 2. It is identified as a creed not only by Cullmann, but also Bultmann, Neufeld, and Fuller. Ironically, these scholars, who are not exactly conservative, point out this creed in particular as proof to a very early belief in Christ. If Christ’s death and resurrection did take place around AD 33, and the various books of the Bible did not begin to be written until AD 50 or so, then the creeds became standardized less than 17 years after the events actually happened. Obviously, this is significant because that means the very people who popularized the creeds were those who had witnessed events in the life of Christ. They know of Whom they spoke!

Another early confessional creed is found in 1 Timothy 3:16:

“And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness:

God was manifest in the flesh,

Justified in the Spirit, seen of angels,

Preached unto the Gentiles,

Believed on in the world,

Received up into glory.”

Moule points out that the early date of this creed (before Paul’s ministry) plus the rhyme-pattern that is made clear through a study of Greek literature are evidence of this creed’s use in pre-Pauline hymns. When we read this passage, we are given a glimpse of ancient Christian worship!

The two passages most clearly identified as creeds by the majority of New Testament scholars are 1 Corinthians 11:23-24 and 1 Corinthians 15:3-7. Paul essentially declares them to be creedal in nature by using the terms “delivered” and “received”, both of which are technical terms for the passing on of Scripture in the rabbinical tradition. Do a quick word search of the New Testament. They aren’t used by Paul or anyone to describe simple communication. Paul is passing along information from another source, a source which uses parallelism through the “and that” of Hebrew narrative tradition and Peter’s Aramaic name (“Cephas”) in the place of his Greek name. We can therefore easily surmise at this point that this creed originates in Israel. This is significant since this means that the people who created the creed were very near the events of the gospels in terms of time (less than two decades) and space (Israel as opposed to somewhere else in the Roman Empire.) Because of this we must take the following statements, at least, to be factual:

  1. Jesus died by crucifixion
  2. Jesus was buried
  3. Jesus’ death caused despair on the part of His disciples
  4. Jesus’ tomb was found empty
  5. The disciples believed they had seen Him alive and well
  6. The disciples were transformed from faithless doubters to bold witnesses
  7. This message was the center of the early church, which was founded in Jerusalem
  8. The early church was born and grew
  9. James, who had been a skeptic, converted
  10. Paul, another skeptic, also was converted

That’s the minimum any thinking skeptic would have to accept. A number of creeds believed by hundreds, perhaps thousands, so geographically and chronologically close to the events of the Gospels make it hard to believe that at least these items are not true. Whatever else your conclusion, you have to deal with all of these items somehow. Hopefully an honest skeptic will realize that there is something else going on here and eventually embrace the full message of the Gospel by faith grounded in reason.

But is there more evidence from other sources? Glad you asked….

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A Sticking Situation

Having established that the creation of the universe and subsequent formation of the galaxies are all but impossible to have occurred by chance, we now turn our attention to the formation of the planets themselves. It turns out that getting planets to form naturally isn’t very easy after all. There was a time when planets were supposed to have blasted out of the Sun as the result of another passing star, but anything blasted or sucked off of the Sun would have fallen back into the Sun as soon as the other star passed. That’s gravity again for you; always making a mess of things! So scientists turned to “cold accretion”, postulating that planets could form as dust from a forming solar system began to stick together, form dust bunnies, then “planetesimals”, then eventually establish their own gravity which began pulling more planetesimals together until eventually a whole planet was formed. This is supposedly how the inner planets of our solar system formed.

Oh, but there’s a problem here, and it’s a whopper! How do you get that much dust to stick together? How does that dust turn into the the rock and iron of modern planetesimals? Why don’t cosmic “dust bunnies” form in space today? The answer is that space dust doesn’t turn into dust bunnies, and planetesimals don’t play nice when they meet each other. These meteorites and their kin cruise around the solar system at a cool 100,000 miles per hour, and, when they hit each other, they either bounce off or shatter each other. No planets. No us.

But, one may argue, could not their speed relative to each other be much slower, such as the rubble that makes up the rings of Saturn? That’s a great question, but the rubble around Saturn is not collecting; the chunks of rock and dust around Saturn simply bounce off of each other.

Well, what of the gas giants and ice planets then? Surely we can come up with a way for them to work out? Not a chance. If dust has a hard time sticking together, how do you think gas molecules will handle things? Not very well, as you can most likely imagine, since gasses simply do not “stick” to anything. I know there have been simulations demonstrating the formation of gas giants, but those simulations begin with a “gravitational instability.” The simulation was designed to create planets, something evolutionists don’t believe in. The ice planets are supposed to have formed as ice crystals sticking together, but there’s not as much matter out there and no model can bring about their existence so quickly. Other models assume they formed closer to the sun and then moved further away, but you still run into that pesky problem of getting things to stick together. Back to the drawing board!

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Bedtime Stories About the Beginning

So we’ve already talked about the singularity pseudoscience. What happens after that? Well, I’m glad you asked that, because now the story gets even better! By the time we’re through talking about galaxy and star formation, stories about wolves eating grandmothers only to be killed by friendly woodsmen will seem tragically commonplace and dull. Now, where was I….. Oh,yes! The singularity had just finished causing the strangely uniform inflation to expand the universe and produce antimatter-free matter, when it turned to its next task: the creation of galaxies and stars….

The question is, once the gas particles in the universe begin expanding, how do you get them to start collapsing all over the universe without creating a bunch of black holes? In other words, assuming you can get the expansion to stop and the collapsing to start, how do you keep galaxies from collapsing completely? Galaxies won’t form naturally unless the matter begins to collect, and the only thing strong enough to collect the matter is gravity, which shouldn’t be able to work thanks to the supposedly uniform inflation I had mentioned in the last post.  Of course, once galaxies begin to form courtesy of gravity, they ought to just keep collapsing in on themselves. What has to step in to keep the galaxies from just shrinking into really big black holes? The plot thickens……

Steven Hawking, in his book The Universe in a Nutshell postulated that dark matter did it. Not just any dark matter, though. His very special brand of magical dark matter formed on a brane world parallel to our own. And I thought I had a big imagination! So far, brane worlds and dark matter (at least dark matter on the order Hawking is talking about) is purely theoretical. No science here so far!

Maybe that’s why Hawking has put galaxy formation on his list of unexplained mysteries in his books published in 1988, 2001, and 2002. J. Trefil wrote in his The Dark Side of the Universe: “There shouldn’t be galaxies out there at all, and even if there are galaxies, they shouldn’t be grouped together the way they are….It is one of the thorniest problems in cosmology.” Marcus Chown, in his article “Let there Be Light” (February 1998 edition of New Scientist) quoted NASA scientists as saying: “We have no direct evidence of how galaxies were formed or how galaxies evolved, whether they formed from aggregations of smaller units or from subdivisions of large ones.” Their problem is that, at best, the Big Bang theory gives us a mass of expanding gas, and that is all.

Of course, then there’s the formation of stars, where we have the same problem with gravity producing more black holes and homogenous gas not wanting to collapse at all. But wait! There’s more! Stars are supposed to have formed, at least in one theory, in hot gaseous clouds vaguely referred to as “star-forming regions.” The problem? Hot gas clouds are more likely to disperse than collapse, so I have a hard time believing that anything like what we see today is actually capable of producing stars. Sure, there are stars in those regions, but that doesn’t mean the stars formed there. They aren’t necessarily new stars. Who honestly cares if stars currently surrounded by vast gas and dust clouds are sucking those clouds in? Any star would suck gas and dust into itself because of gravity. For all we know the stars are old! Lada and Shu wrote and article for Science in 1990, saying: “We have not yet been able to unambiguously detect the collapse of a molecular cloud core or the infall of circumstellar material onto an embryonic star.” No proof there, guys.

This is the second part in a series on the Big Bang. Millions and billions of years have gone by in this little bedtime story, and yet I don’t see any reason for believing a word of it. There’s not one shred of proof, and the objections are virtually insurmountable. I’d rather believe that the cow jumped over the moon than believe this rot, because my “willful suspension of disbelief” has its limits. Just ask my wife about how I felt about “robot heaven” in Transformers 2.

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The Rape of Chance

Perhaps the most abused factor in evolutionary theory is chance. It is invoked in nearly every aspect of big bang cosmology and Darwinian evolution, even though the average textbook doesn’t actually use the word. Oh, I know that they like to use phrases like “natural selection” and “genetic drift” when dealing with Darwinism, but there’s nothing else out there for the evolutionists to appeal to except for physics when it comes to Big Bang cosmology. It is necessary, of course, because there is no divine mover behind events, and everything that was, is, and will be is the result of Dawkins’ “Blind Watchmaker“. In the most extreme cases, evolutionists assert that anything is possible, even if “anything” is highly unlikely and may have had to occur or exist in one of the many universes they assume to exist. Since the universe (or multiverse) is so vast, everything has likely already occurred somewhere along the line. Hence, however unlikely it is that the universe we see came about on its own, it has obviously done so thanks to the wonders of sheer chance. To the minds of many, this is just one universe out of the infinite universes that are out there (wherever “there” is), and this may be just one iteration of an infinite progression of universes. We just happened to exist in a universe capable of supporting life. The scenario, however, is false. Anything and everything is not possible. Chance cannot, for instance, violate the laws of physics. That severely limits the potentialities of the wonderful world of chance. Therefore, evolutionists prefer to blend together chance and necessity. An object or process is determined to be necessary, and chance is used to fill in the gaps. How did life begin? Well, we know it exists, and we think we know how early earth would have looked, so just identify what is necessary for life to exist, throw in some “chance”, and add a dash of scientific jargon, and you’ve got yourself a working theory! Williams and Hartnett analyze this use of chance in their book Dismantling the Big Bang.

Williams and Hartnett point out that, for starters, chance is not a force. At all. Things may appear to happen randomly, but there are actually a complex set of forces at work. Anything above the quantum level moves according to Newtonian laws of motion. In a sense, “chance” and “necessity” are really describing the same thing: Physics. Necessity is limited to the certain results of the laws of physics. Chance refers to the possible results of the laws of physics. In this way, chance adds nothing to the party at all. One might question why anybody even invited it in the first place.

Secondly, Chance is dualistic in nature. Whenever you measure the probability something will occur, you must also measure the probability that it will not occur. I suppose there is technically a chance that the water vapor rising from my stove will concentrate into a point and burn a hole through my chest. However, there is a much, much greater chance that such an event will never occur. The chance it will not occur is so significant, no one is even concerned about this event taking place. So it ought to be when discussing chance and origins, because the numbers are no where near being in favor of evolution.

Thirdly, chance does not mean that every possibility is equally likely. Even if the universe is vast and has been around for billions of years, it is most certainly not truly infinite, else the Big Bang would be not necessary. Therefore, there are limits. All interaction in the real world will use up space and time. All interaction in the real world will use up energy. Actually, long periods of time going by will actually decrease the likelihood that anything will happen at all, thanks to our dear friend Entropy. It’s a gamble evolutionists try to take, but the odds always favor the house. Just as spending more money at a casino makes it more difficult to win, “spending” more energy early on in the game of existence makes it more difficult to bring our universe into the state it is in today. The universe would have to had scored an “early win”, which is again unlikely, even by evolutionist standards. Somehow, everything turned out just right for us, something skewed nature. And chance doesn’t really help us figure out what that something is.

Finally, Williams and Hartnett point out that chance can only be applied to events that can happen. Chance never makes things happen when they are physically impossible. Consider the “rogue gas” scenario above that burned a whole in my chest. It isn’t just unlikely. It’s impossible because gas molecules operate according to the aforementioned laws of motion. The actually probability of the event I described is therefore a whopping Zero. Chance cannot make impossible events possible.

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Worship Songs Aren’t for “Blokey Blokes”

Here’s an interesting video interviewing Matt Redman about the feminization of modern worship. The discussion is interesting to me in light of posts that I and others have written on the subject. Have a listen at this, and then check out my devotional blog, Genesis6, for more on the subject of the “wussification” of Christianity…

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Of Singularities and Pseudosciences

In the beginning there was a singularity. Fortunately for all of us, it expanded (or exploded, depending on who you ask), and our universe is the result. Well, that’s how things would work if the evolutionists had their way. Oh, I know they prefer to use much more scientific terms, but I sometimes have to question why. The things they try so hard to prove using science actually have some very distinct scientific problems.

First of all, there’s the very existence of a singularity from which everything came from. Professor Steven Hawking writes the following in his work A Brief History of Time: “At the singularity, general relativity and all other physical laws would break down: one couldn’t predict what will come out of the singularity….This means that one might as well cut the big bang, and any events before it, out of the theory, because they can have no effect on what we observe.” Thanks, Doc. I’ll just set my bag o’ tools (the laws of physics) aside now because they won’t work in the Big Bang scenario. So what exactly makes this different from a miracle? Once one throws out physics, one is left with metaphysics, in which God is permitted.

The existence of a singularity isn’t the only miracle, however. There’s another great one that big bang cosmologists keep in their bag o’ tricks (since the bag o’ tools known as the “laws of physics” can’t help much here). There’s also inflation, which appears to have properties as varied and mysterious as pixie dust. You see, if inflation didn’t happen, the universe would have collapsed back into a singularity again thanks to a tool of ours known as gravitation. Fortunately, inflation was around to accelerate the expansion of the universe by a thousand billion billion billion times, all very smoothly of course. The Big Bang scenario also predicts the existence of magnetic monopoles, which have never been found, and a non-uniform cosmic microwave background radiation instead of the observed uniform CMBR we see today. Fortunately, we just sprinkle more of the pixie dust inflation and- presto!- the problem goes away. Well, sort of. Inflation is an ad hoc theory in that there is no evidence for its existence, and the inflation rate itself must have been very uniform and fine tuned in order for it to not have looked a lot like a really big, very destructive explosion. I wish I had that kind of faith, my evolutionary comrades.

Then there’s that pesky thing Einstein came up with, what was it? Oh, yeah. E=mc2 (which actually looks squared when I type it even though it just looks like a “2” when I post) . That’s mass-energy equivalence, meaning that matter and energy are interchangeable. Enough energy can produce matter, and matter can be converted into energy. When particles are created from energy, they are always created in matter/antimatter pairs. Electrons are created alongside anti-electrons (positrons), protons are created alongside anti-protons, neutrinos are created alongside anti-neutrinos, etc. Of course, when matter meets antimatter, the process is reversed. Matter and antimatter annihilate each other and you get a lot of energy. This means that if the Big Bang occurred, the matter formed from the energy of the Big Bang would have very quickly annihilated itself. No galaxies. No stars. No planets. No us. Fortunately, all observable matter in the universe is ordinary, boring ol’ matter. No antimatter galaxies, stars, planets, or people. Big Bang cosmologists try to get around this by saying that- by chance– a small amount (like the mass of the universe) of matter was still left over after the universe nearly annihilated itself, but that seems impossible based on everything we know. What mechanism was in place that skewed the laws of physics and gave existence a chance? None that we know of. It’s all based on assumptions and guesses.

I’d like to come back to the CMBR again. Predictions of the level of background radiation in the universe were way off. It was nearly uniformly 3 degrees kelvin, thanks to the constancy of starlight. I say it was nearly uniform because in 2003, WMAP discovered real variations in the CMBR. I say “real” here because its predecessor, COBE, discovered some years earlier that just turned out to be “white noise.” The problem is, the variations discovered work very nicely in a creationist cosmology, not a big bang cosmology. The Big Bang model predicts that the universe should be uniform, boundless, with no center. Instead, the variations indicated the existence of a cosmic “north and south pole”, and a cosmic “equator” of sorts. Creationists can easily explain this in a model involving the Milky Way positioned near the center of the universe, but such galactocentrism is unpleasant for evolutionists who assume that mankind is not special. Oops again!

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The Rape of Chance

Perhaps the most abused factor in evolutionary theory is chance. It is invoked in nearly every aspect of big bang cosmology and Darwinian evolution, even though the average textbook doesn’t actually use the word. Oh, I know that they like to use phrases like “natural selection” and “genetic drift” when dealing with Darwinism, but there’s nothing else out there for the evolutionists to appeal to except for physics when it comes to Big Bang cosmology. It is necessary, of course, because there is no divine mover behind events, and everything that was, is, and will be is the result of Dawkins’ “Blind Watchmaker“. In the most extreme cases, evolutionists assert that anything is possible, even if “anything” is highly unlikely and may have had to occur or exist in one of the many universes they assume to exist. Since the universe (or multiverse) is so vast, everything has likely already occurred somewhere along the line. Hence, however unlikely it is that the universe we see came about on its own, it has obviously done so thanks to the wonders of sheer chance. To the minds of many, this is just one universe out of the infinite universes that are out there (wherever “there” is), and this may be just one iteration of an infinite progression of universes. We just happened to exist in a universe capable of supporting life. The scenario, however, is false. Anything and everything is not possible. Chance cannot, for instance, violate the laws of physics. That severely limits the potentialities of the wonderful world of chance. Therefore, evolutionists prefer to blend together chance and necessity. An object or process is determined to be necessary, and chance is used to fill in the gaps. How did life begin? Well, we know it exists, and we think we know how early earth would have looked, so just identify what is necessary for life to exist, throw in some “chance”, and add a dash of scientific jargon, and you’ve got yourself a working theory! Williams and Hartnett analyze this use of chance in their book Dismantling the Big Bang.

Williams and Hartnett point out that, for starters, chance is not a force. At all. Things may appear to happen randomly, but there are actually a complex set of forces at work. Anything above the quantum level moves according to Newtonian laws of motion. In a sense, “chance” and “necessity” are really describing the same thing: Physics. Necessity is limited to the certain results of the laws of physics. Chance refers to the possible results of the laws of physics. In this way, chance adds nothing to the party at all. One might question why anybody even invited it in the first place.

Secondly, Chance is dualistic in nature. Whenever you measure the probability something will occur, you must also measure the probability that it will not occur. I suppose there is technically a chance that the water vapor rising from my stove will concentrate into a point and burn a hole through my chest. However, there is a much, much greater chance that such an event will never occur. The chance it will not occur is so significant, no one is even concerned about this event taking place. So it ought to be when discussing chance and origins, because the numbers are no where near being in favor of evolution.

Thirdly, chance does not mean that every possibility is equally likely. Even if the universe is vast and has been around for billions of years, it is most certainly not truly infinite, else the Big Bang would be not necessary. Therefore, there are limits. All interaction in the real world will use up space and time. All interaction in the real world will use up energy. Actually, long periods of time going by will actually decrease the likelihood that anything will happen at all, thanks to our dear friend Entropy. It’s a gamble evolutionists try to take, but the odds always favor the house. Just as spending more money at a casino makes it more difficult to win, “spending” more energy early on in the game of existence makes it more difficult to bring our universe into the state it is in today. The universe would have to had scored an “early win”, which is again unlikely, even by evolutionist standards. Somehow, everything turned out just right for us, something skewed nature. And chance doesn’t really help us figure out what that something is.

Finally, Williams and Hartnett point out that chance can only be applied to events that can happen. Chance never makes things happen when they are physically impossible. Consider the “rogue gas” scenario above that burned a whole in my chest. It isn’t just unlikely. It’s impossible because gas molecules operate according to the aforementioned laws of motion. The actually probability of the event I described is therefore a whopping Zero. Chance cannot make impossible events possible.

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Faith of our (Founding) Fathers

As I said in my previous post, America was once a very different nation. It was a nation founded on Christianity, a fact which has been denied and covered up by historical revisionists. Here’s some quotes and statistics that have been buried by some:

  • The most popular book in colonial America (after the Bible) was The New England Primer. According to Daniel S. Burt’s The Chronology of American Literature, it sold nearly 5 million copies, an astounding accomplishment when you consider that there were roughly 4 million people living in the USA in 1776. It taught Christianity in conjunction with English and morality. Here’s some examples:

  • Harvard University began just a sixteen years after the landing of the Pilgrims, and included the following statements in its original Rules and Precepts. “Let every Student be plainly instructed, and earnestly pressed to consider well, the main end of his life and studies is, to know God and Jesus Christ which is eternal life, John 17:3 and therefore to lay Christ in the bottom, as the only foundation of all sound knowledge and Learning. And seeing the Lord only giveth wisdom, Let every one seriously set himself by prayer in secret to seek it of him, Proverbs 2,3.”
  • Gouveneur Morris, the penman of the Constitution wrote: “”Religion is the only solid basis of good morals;
    therefore, education should teach the precepts of religion, and the duties of man towards God.”
  • Benjamin Rush, the youngest signer of the Constitution wrote: “The only means of establishing and perpetuating our republican forms of government…is the universal education of our youth in the principles of Christianity by means of the Bible.”
  • “It is religion and morality alone which can establish the principles upon which freedom can securely stand. The only foundation of a free constitution is pure virtue.”- John Adams
  • “Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.”- George Washington, 1796
  • “Without morals a republic cannot subsist any length of time; they therefore who are decrying the Christian religion, whose morality is so sublime and pure (and) which insures to the good eternal happiness, are undermining the solid foundation of morals, the best security for the duration of free governments.” – Charles Carroll, signer of the Declaration of Independence
  • “Righteousness alone can exalt America as a nation…The great pillars of all government and social life [are] virtue, morality, and religion. This is the armor, my friend, and this alone, that renders us invincible.”- Patrick Henry
  • “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”- John Adams
  • “To preserve the government we must also preserve morals. Morality rests on religion; if you destroy the foundation, the superstructure must fall. When the public mind becomes vitiated and corrupt, laws are a nullity and constitutions are waste paper.”- Daniel Webster
  • Then there’s the oath of office from the original Delaware Constitution: “I, _____ do profess faith in God the Father, and in Jesus Christ His only Son, and in the Holy Ghost, one God, blessed for evermore; and I do acknowledge the holy scriptures of the Old and New Testament to be given by divine inspiration.”
  • “Whereas we all came into these parts of America with one and the same end and aim, namely, to advance the Kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ and to enjoy the liberties of the Gospel in purity with peace; and whereas in our settling (by a wise providence of God) we are further dispersed upon the sea coasts and rivers than was at first intended, so that we can not according to our desire with convenience communicate in one government and jurisdiction; and whereas we live encompassed with people of several nations and strange languages which hereafter may prove injurious to us or our posterity.”- The Articles of Confederation
  • “I therefore beg leave to move — that henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessings on our deliberations, be held in this Assembly every morning before we proceed to business.”- Benjamin Franklin (He doesn’t sound to much like a deist or agnostic here, now does he?)
  • “It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians, not on religions but on the gospel of Jesus Christ.” -Patrick Henry
  • “The Christian religion, in its purity, is the basis and the source of all genuine freedom in government….I am persuaded that no civil government of a republican form can exist and be durable, in which the principles of Christianity have not a controlling influence.”  -James Madison

Where will we wind up if we continue on our course away from God? What will happen to us if we completely destroy our foundations? I talked about Rome in the last post. Alexander Solzhenitsyn has another, more recent answer for us, and his analysis is frightening:

“More than half a century ago, while I was still a child, I recall hearing a number of older people offer the following explanation for the great disasters that had befallen Russia: Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.

Since then I have spent well-nigh fifty years working on the history of our Revolution; in the process I have read hundreds of books, collected hundreds of personal testimonies, and have already contributed eight volumes of my own toward the effort of clearing away the rubble left by that upheaval. But if I were asked today to formulate as concisely as possible the main cause of the ruinous Revolution that swallowed up some sixty million of our people, I could not put it more accurately than to repeat: Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.”

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What Does a Christian Nation Look Like?

I cheated. I recently ordered Focus on the Family‘s The Truth Project for small groups in churches and schools. It’s an exciting program, but I didn’t wait for training or go through a small group myself to watch the DVDs. I watched them. All of them. In less than twenty-four hours. Dr. Del Tackett is an amazing teacher, but, far more importantly, he accurately describes and defines faith in a God that is far more amazing. I won’t spoil the series for you, because I think that it is much more powerful in a group setting, but I will use one of the lessons as a jumping-in point for today’s posting.

Ever since President Barack Obama told the world that the United States is not a Christian nation, there’s been a lot of questioning about whether or not he was right in doing so. Perhaps it is better to first ask ourselves what it takes to be a Christian nation. Can you simply slap a label on a country and call it Christian? Can you deny it that label if you so choose? What would a truly Christian nation look like?

A Christian nation would begin with the understanding that God has set up a number of distinct realms in society that are dependent on each other. The Truth Project materials list these realms: Family, Labor, State, Community, Relationships with God, and Church. Each sphere is sovereign in nature. Families operate in a distinct way from churches, and one does not replace the other. One has the duty to create because we are made in God’s image, but work should not encroach upon or replace your relationship with God. Sovereignty, however, does not eliminate an appropriate relationship between spheres. Families ought to go to church. Going to church ought to bolster our relationship with God. A strong relationship with God should provide meaning to work. Work should support and enhance community and government. Government and community should find its principles for functionality from a proper view of Scripture. There is a distinction between Church and State, but the two cannot completely separate themselves from each other. God has ordained the State (Romans 13:1) for a number of reasons. When a nation forgets God, however, horrible things may happen.

In the absence of a belief in God, the State may come to believe that it has the authority to determine what is right and what is wrong. We’ve seen the results of such a government. According to R. J. Rummel’s work Death by Government, Stalin killed 42 million, Mao Zedong killed nearly 38 million, Adolf Hitler killed 21 million, and on and on and on it goes. The State-that-would-be-God is a terrible monstrosity. Unfortunately, there are those who have no problem with this mentality.  G. W. F. Hegel wrote:

“The Universal is to be found in the State. The State is the Divine Idea as it exists on earth. We must therefore worship the State as the manifestation of the Divine on earth, and consider that, if it is difficult to comprehend Nature, it is harder to grasp the Essence of the State. That State is the march of God through the world.”

What madness is this? The State would absorb family, labor, church, education, and community. And so it has in many Western nations.

In modern-day America, the State gets to determine what marriage is, how a parent may discipline, what should be done to the rich, how the poor must be helped, how a child should be educated, what a church may and may not do in the community, and how a community must function. From the cradle to the grave. What hideous thing mankind has created that now has us slouching toward Gomorrah! What have we done to God’s established order, this wondrous system that should have been a reflection of God’s divine attributes? Where will the West wind up if we continue in this direction? Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire portray the Roman Empire as self-destructing due to the following, among other things:

  1. A mounting love of show and luxury
  2. An obsession with sex
  3. Freakishness in the Arts
  4. An increased desire to live off the State

This path will not end any better for us than it did for Rome. It wasn’t always this way, for America at least.

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Faith of our (Founding) Fathers

As I said in my previous post, America was once a very different nation. It was a nation founded on Christianity, a fact which has been denied and covered up by historical revisionists. Here’s some quotes and statistics that have been buried by some:

  • The most popular book in colonial America (after the Bible) was The New England Primer. According to Daniel S. Burt’s The Chronology of American Literature, it sold nearly 5 million copies, an astounding accomplishment when you consider that there were roughly 4 million people living in the USA in 1776. It taught Christianity in conjunction with English and morality. Here’s some examples:

  • Harvard University began just a sixteen years after the landing of the Pilgrims, and included the following statements in its original Rules and Precepts. “Let every Student be plainly instructed, and earnestly pressed to consider well, the main end of his life and studies is, to know God and Jesus Christ which is eternal life, John 17:3 and therefore to lay Christ in the bottom, as the only foundation of all sound knowledge and Learning. And seeing the Lord only giveth wisdom, Let every one seriously set himself by prayer in secret to seek it of him, Proverbs 2,3.”
  • Gouveneur Morris, the penman of the Constitution wrote: “”Religion is the only solid basis of good morals;
    therefore, education should teach the precepts of religion, and the duties of man towards God.”
  • Benjamin Rush, the youngest signer of the Constitution wrote: “The only means of establishing and perpetuating our republican forms of government…is the universal education of our youth in the principles of Christianity by means of the Bible.”
  • “It is religion and morality alone which can establish the principles upon which freedom can securely stand. The only foundation of a free constitution is pure virtue.”- John Adams
  • “Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.”- George Washington, 1796
  • “Without morals a republic cannot subsist any length of time; they therefore who are decrying the Christian religion, whose morality is so sublime and pure (and) which insures to the good eternal happiness, are undermining the solid foundation of morals, the best security for the duration of free governments.” – Charles Carroll, signer of the Declaration of Independence
  • “Righteousness alone can exalt America as a nation…The great pillars of all government and social life [are] virtue, morality, and religion. This is the armor, my friend, and this alone, that renders us invincible.”- Patrick Henry
  • “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”- John Adams
  • “To preserve the government we must also preserve morals. Morality rests on religion; if you destroy the foundation, the superstructure must fall. When the public mind becomes vitiated and corrupt, laws are a nullity and constitutions are waste paper.”- Daniel Webster
  • Then there’s the oath of office from the original Delaware Constitution: “I, _____ do profess faith in God the Father, and in Jesus Christ His only Son, and in the Holy Ghost, one God, blessed for evermore; and I do acknowledge the holy scriptures of the Old and New Testament to be given by divine inspiration.”
  • “Whereas we all came into these parts of America with one and the same end and aim, namely, to advance the Kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ and to enjoy the liberties of the Gospel in purity with peace; and whereas in our settling (by a wise providence of God) we are further dispersed upon the sea coasts and rivers than was at first intended, so that we can not according to our desire with convenience communicate in one government and jurisdiction; and whereas we live encompassed with people of several nations and strange languages which hereafter may prove injurious to us or our posterity.”- The Articles of Confederation
  • “I therefore beg leave to move — that henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessings on our deliberations, be held in this Assembly every morning before we proceed to business.”- Benjamin Franklin (He doesn’t sound to much like a deist or agnostic here, now does he?)
  • “It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians, not on religions but on the gospel of Jesus Christ.” -Patrick Henry
  • “The Christian religion, in its purity, is the basis and the source of all genuine freedom in government….I am persuaded that no civil government of a republican form can exist and be durable, in which the principles of Christianity have not a controlling influence.”  -James Madison

Where will we wind up if we continue on our course away from God? What will happen to us if we completely destroy our foundations? I talked about Rome in the last post. Alexander Solzhenitsyn has another, more recent answer for us, and his analysis is frightening:

“More than half a century ago, while I was still a child, I recall hearing a number of older people offer the following explanation for the great disasters that had befallen Russia: Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.

Since then I have spent well-nigh fifty years working on the history of our Revolution; in the process I have read hundreds of books, collected hundreds of personal testimonies, and have already contributed eight volumes of my own toward the effort of clearing away the rubble left by that upheaval. But if I were asked today to formulate as concisely as possible the main cause of the ruinous Revolution that swallowed up some sixty million of our people, I could not put it more accurately than to repeat: Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.”

Categories: Bible, Philosophical Christianity, Politics | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

What Does a Christian Nation Look Like?

I cheated. I recently ordered Focus on the Family‘s The Truth Project for small groups in churches and schools. It’s an exciting program, but I didn’t wait for training or go through a small group myself to watch the DVDs. I watched them. All of them. In less than twenty-four hours. Dr. Del Tackett is an amazing teacher, but, far more importantly, he accurately describes and defines faith in a God that is far more amazing. I won’t spoil the series for you, because I think that it is much more powerful in a group setting, but I will use one of the lessons as a jumping-in point for today’s posting.

Ever since President Barack Obama told the world that the United States is not a Christian nation, there’s been a lot of questioning about whether or not he was right in doing so. Perhaps it is better to first ask ourselves what it takes to be a Christian nation. Can you simply slap a label on a country and call it Christian? Can you deny it that label if you so choose? What would a truly Christian nation look like?

A Christian nation would begin with the understanding that God has set up a number of distinct realms in society that are dependent on each other. The Truth Project materials list these realms: Family, Labor, State, Community, Relationships with God, and Church. Each sphere is sovereign in nature. Families operate in a distinct way from churches, and one does not replace the other. One has the duty to create because we are made in God’s image, but work should not encroach upon or replace your relationship with God. Sovereignty, however, does not eliminate an appropriate relationship between spheres. Families ought to go to church. Going to church ought to bolster our relationship with God. A strong relationship with God should provide meaning to work. Work should support and enhance community and government. Government and community should find its principles for functionality from a proper view of Scripture. There is a distinction between Church and State, but the two cannot completely separate themselves from each other. God has ordained the State (Romans 13:1) for a number of reasons. When a nation forgets God, however, horrible things may happen.

In the absence of a belief in God, the State may come to believe that it has the authority to determine what is right and what is wrong. We’ve seen the results of such a government. According to R. J. Rummel’s work Death by Government, Stalin killed 42 million, Mao Zedong killed nearly 38 million, Adolf Hitler killed 21 million, and on and on and on it goes. The State-that-would-be-God is a terrible monstrosity. Unfortunately, there are those who have no problem with this mentality.  G. W. F. Hegel wrote:

“The Universal is to be found in the State. The State is the Divine Idea as it exists on earth. We must therefore worship the State as the manifestation of the Divine on earth, and consider that, if it is difficult to comprehend Nature, it is harder to grasp the Essence of the State. That State is the march of God through the world.”

What madness is this? The State would absorb family, labor, church, education, and community. And so it has in many Western nations.

In modern-day America, the State gets to determine what marriage is, how a parent may discipline, what should be done to the rich, how the poor must be helped, how a child should be educated, what a church may and may not do in the community, and how a community must function. From the cradle to the grave. What hideous thing mankind has created that now has us slouching toward Gomorrah! What have we done to God’s established order, this wondrous system that should have been a reflection of God’s divine attributes? Where will the West wind up if we continue in this direction? Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire portray the Roman Empire as self-destructing due to the following, among other things:

  1. A mounting love of show and luxury
  2. An obsession with sex
  3. Freakishness in the Arts
  4. An increased desire to live off the State

This path will not end any better for us than it did for Rome. It wasn’t always this way, for America at least.

Categories: Bible, Politics | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Starlight, Time, and the New Physics, Part 3

Hartnett assumes that part of the first day of creation included forming the Earth primarily from water, that Genesis 1:1-2 is a literal part of the creation narrative and not just an introductory statement. Frankly, I have no problem with that even though some Christians might. Since water- and a lot of it- is essentially the only thing around, God’s creation of light doesn’t refer to stars or the sun. When God created light, He created gravitational and electromagnetic energy, the potential for light. This caused the Earth “which was without form and void” to form into a sphere under its own gravitation. Therefore, the first day of creation included light through electromagnetic energy as well as time, the laws of nature, and three-dimensional space.

On the fourth day the sun, moon, and stars were created as the Bible states. Then, in Hartnett’s theory, God expanded space itself (“stretched out the heavens”) as Psalms and Isaiah state. The size of the universe was rapidly increased, and galaxies were pulled along for the ride, they receded from earth. This event caused the galaxies to recede and spawn quasars. A particularly interesting view Hartnett holds is that quasars are the direct result of God’s stretching the heavens out. If this is true, when we are viewing quasars, we are watching the immediate result of God’s creative act on the fourth day. So how did the starlight reach earth by the time Adam was created?

When God stretched out space, this caused a time-dilation event on earth. Hartnett states that time would have slowed significantly on earth but remained flowing at the “normal” speed throughout most of the universe. However, Hartnett also states that God accelerated the stretching of the universe only during the creation week (since God’s “stretching” act is referred to only in the past tense). In his view, the universe might not be really expanding anymore or at least the expansion is not accelerating. We are only seeing the after-effects of the universe being stretched. Therefore, we observe redshift in the heavens and not blueshift. We are not still in a dilation field (since it was caused by the acceleration of the expansion) so blueshift is no longer observed, but the light we see that has traveled more than 6,000 light years or so has been redshifted by past expansion.

In summary, Hartnett’s theory dovetails nicely with the Genesis 1 creation account. God creates the universe in literally six earth days (plus one day to “rest”- leave off creating). Though the “evening and the morning” only lasted a day on earth, God stretched out the heavens for roughly 1-3 days, during which time itself moved more slowly on earth than elsewhere in the universe. The result is that billions of years occurred elsewhere while only a total of six days passed on earth. In that time, light traveled from distant galaxies to earth, but it is now redshifted as a result of the initial acceleration of the universe. This theory agrees with the Bible and observable data, and it explains how light could travel so far in such a short time.

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Starlight, Time, and the New Physics, Part 3

Hartnett assumes that part of the first day of creation included forming the Earth primarily from water, that Genesis 1:1-2 is a literal part of the creation narrative and not just an introductory statement. Frankly, I have no problem with that even though some Christians might. Since water- and a lot of it- is essentially the only thing around, God’s creation of light doesn’t refer to stars or the sun. When God created light, He created gravitational and electromagnetic energy, the potential for light. This caused the Earth “which was without form and void” to form into a sphere under its own gravitation. Therefore, the first day of creation included light through electromagnetic energy as well as time, the laws of nature, and three-dimensional space.

On the fourth day the sun, moon, and stars were created as the Bible states. Then, in Hartnett’s theory, God expanded space itself (“stretched out the heavens”) as Psalms and Isaiah state. The size of the universe was rapidly increased, and galaxies were pulled along for the ride, they receded from earth. This event caused the galaxies to recede and spawn quasars. A particularly interesting view Hartnett holds is that quasars are the direct result of God’s stretching the heavens out. If this is true, when we are viewing quasars, we are watching the immediate result of God’s creative act on the fourth day. So how did the starlight reach earth by the time Adam was created?

When God stretched out space, this caused a time-dilation event on earth. Hartnett states that time would have slowed significantly on earth but remained flowing at the “normal” speed throughout most of the universe. However, Hartnett also states that God accelerated the stretching of the universe only during the creation week (since God’s “stretching” act is referred to only in the past tense). In his view, the universe might not be really expanding anymore or at least the expansion is not accelerating. We are only seeing the after-effects of the universe being stretched. Therefore, we observe redshift in the heavens and not blueshift. We are not still in a dilation field (since it was caused by the acceleration of the expansion) so blueshift is no longer observed, but the light we see that has traveled more than 6,000 light years or so has been redshifted by past expansion.

In summary, Hartnett’s theory dovetails nicely with the Genesis 1 creation account. God creates the universe in literally six earth days (plus one day to “rest”- leave off creating). Though the “evening and the morning” only lasted a day on earth, God stretched out the heavens for roughly 1-3 days, during which time itself moved more slowly on earth than elsewhere in the universe. The result is that billions of years occurred elsewhere while only a total of six days passed on earth. In that time, light traveled from distant galaxies to earth, but it is now redshifted as a result of the initial acceleration of the universe. This theory agrees with the Bible and observable data, and it explains how light could travel so far in such a short time.

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Starlight, Time, and the New Physics, Part 2

In the previous post, I had explained a little bit about Dr. John Hartnett’s problems with Big Bang cosmology. However, it’s not like Creationists are problem-free in their claims either. For instance, how did starlight that is millions of light years away make it to earth in around 7,000 years? That’s a problem, for sure. Now, Creationists have come up with some interesting solutions to the problem in the past, but I’ve not been thrilled with any of them.

  1. Light is slowing down- When God made the world, He made light to travel faster than it is today. As my friend Josh pointed out to me, we’d have a hard time proving that one, and it has some theological implications since God’s emblem in Scripture is light. If light changes in such a fundamental way, then God may change too.

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Creationist Cosmology: Starlight, Time, and the New Physics

Recently I’ve been reading a book entitled Starlight, Time, and the New Physics, which was published in 2007 by Dr. John Hartnett, a professor from the University of West Australia. He has earned a Ph.D. in Physics, and he has published over 120 papers in scientific journals and holds two patents. Shockingly, Hartnett is also a young-earth creationist. The way Darwinists talk, Christians and physicists could never play nice, especially when it came to cosmology and the origin of the universe. What’s funny is that Hartnett has a scientific problem with the Big Bang Theory. Well, actually he has several.

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Starlight, Time, and the New Physics, Part 2

In the previous post, I had explained a little bit about Dr. John Hartnett’s problems with Big Bang cosmology. However, it’s not like Creationists are problem-free in their claims either. For instance, how did starlight that is millions of light years away make it to earth in around 7,000 years? That’s a problem, for sure. Now, Creationists have come up with some interesting solutions to the problem in the past, but I’ve not been thrilled with any of them.

  1. Light is slowing down- When God made the world, He made light to travel faster than it is today. As my friend Josh pointed out to me, we’d have a hard time proving that one, and it has some theological implications since God’s emblem in Scripture is light. If light changes in such a fundamental way, then God may change too.
  2. God made light “en route” to Earth during the creation week- So then God lies, right? Because light is information, Josh would also remind us, and God would have to “make up” information that wasn’t real or true. In other words, when we see a star go supernova that was millions of light years away, the star never went supernova in the first place. It’s all a lie. That doesn’t sound like God to me.
  3. White hole cosmology- Russell Humphreys strikes nearer to the truth with this theory, but it is problematic. For Humphreys, God used a white hole to create the universe. Instead of drawing matter in like a black hole, a white hole would push matter and energy out. Humphreys’ theory states that Earth is at the bottom of a massive gravity well, which results in time passing slower on Earth during the creation week than elsewhere in the universe. The problem with this theory is that the light we see from distant space ought to be blueshifted, not redshifted. As I said, this cosmology is on the right track, but has problems. Humphreys does deserve credit for looking outside the standard Creationist box, though.

The Big Bang cosmology expected that the universe would be unbounded, infinite, and lack a center (homogenous). It would look the same in all directions. However, scientists are discovering that, judging from the Galaxy Redshift Survey, the universe does have a center, and we are strangely near it. It looks the same in all directions (isotropic), but it is far from homogenous. In the aforementioned survey, a pattern emerged, which you can see above.  There are more galaxies closer to earth, and they are in an intricate pattern. Interestingly enough, we’re in the center of it. This makes us question whether or not it is unbounded and infinite as well.

Creationist cosmology such as Hartnett’s would predict a universe that is bounded and finite, that God placed the Earth at the center of it, and that it would look the same in all directions (have a variety of stellar and planetary objects) because of God’s wisdom and creativity. As far as we can tell, that’s exactly what we have. But what about the starlight traveling all those light years?

Dr. Hartnett’s solution in Starlight, Time, and the New Physics is to agree with the Bible that the Earth is less than 7,000 years old. However, Dr. Hartnett invokes Einstein’s theories of relativity and asks the question: “By which clocks?” Genesis obviously states the length of time on Earth for each day of creation as being a literal, twenty-four hour period. The Hebrew “evening and morning” formula leaves only one possible conclusion. The days are literal, yet the starlight has traveled much further than we would think possible. Hartnett turned to Scripture and cosmological relativity, and discovered an interesting answer. In Psalm 104:2, Isaiah 40:22, Isaiah 42:5, and Isaiah 44:24, the Bible specifically states that God stretched out the Heavens. What does that mean, though? Hartnett’s answer coming up next week….

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Creationist Cosmology: Starlight, Time, and the New Physics

Recently I’ve been reading a book entitled Starlight, Time, and the New Physics, which was published in 2007 by Dr. John Hartnett, a professor from the University of West Australia. He has earned a Ph.D. in Physics, and he has published over 120 papers in scientific journals and holds two patents. Shockingly, Hartnett is also a young-earth creationist. The way Darwinists talk, Christians and physicists could never play nice, especially when it came to cosmology and the origin of the universe. What’s funny is that Hartnett has a scientific problem with the Big Bang Theory. Well, actually he has several.

  1. Uniformity of Background Radiation- If the universe began 13.7 billion years ago courtesy of the Big Bang, why is the background radiation (the “temperature” of empty space) virtually the same in all directions? Unless Earth really is the center of the universe, or at least very close to it, the temperature of space in one direction of the universe shouldn’t be the same as in the opposite direction. The radiation from each end of the universe hasn’t had time to “blend” or balance each other out, since it should take twice as long (at least) as the universe has existed according to the Big Bang theory for radiation from one end of the universe to make it to the other.
  2. Galactic Recession- No, I’m not talking about the results of Obama’s stimulus package. To the surprise of most scientists, a survey of the galaxies shows that they are all receding (moving away from) our own Milky Way. It shouldn’t be true that all galaxies are receding unless the Milky Way really is very near the center of the universe. Of course, this idea is unpalatable to Darwinists, since it would make our home planet seem too “special.”
  3. Dark matter- Galaxies shouldn’t be able to hold themselves together without more mass, so scientists have assumed that unobservable “dark matter” must exist. Therefore, of all the matter and energy in the universe, scientists assume that roughly 21% of the matter in the universe is “dark.” This is compared to the 4% of visible matter that can be observed in the universe. Since dark matter is not visible, its existence has been strictly inferred. Some scientists include brown dwarf stars, which are far too rare to account for all the “missing” matter. Others include theoretical supermassive black holes and axions.
  4. Dark energy- In 1998, scientists discovered that, contrary to popularly-held belief, the expansion of the universe was accelerating rather than decelerating. In order to explain why gravity wasn’t slowing the rate of expansion, scientists theorized that a phenomenon known as “dark energy” was acting on the universe to increase the rate of expansion. This dark energy is also inferred.
  5. Quasars- Quasars are star-like phenomena thought to exist near the edges of the visible universe. The reason scientists believe that they come from near the edges of the visible universe is because of redshift. According to scientists, redshift occurs when light is “stretched” as it travels through an expanding universe, or due to galactic recession. Quasars are extremely red-shifted, which means that- according to the Darwinistic scientists- they came from very far away. That theory hit a brick wall a few years ago when scientists discovered a quasar in the heart of a galaxy only 300 million light years away. That’s way too close for comfort! How can the redshift be so high if the quasar is so close?

These problems- and others- could potentially have been resolved by Dr. Hartnett’s new creationist cosmology. His theory is based on Dr. Moshe Carmeli’s work on cosmological relativity. This theory is an expansion of Albert Einstein’s theories of general and special relativity. The difference between Einstein’s relativity and Carmeli’s relativity is that in Carmeli’s equations, cosmic time (t) replaces velocity (v) as the critical quantity, and observed time (13.7 billion years) replaces the speed of light (c) as a constant. You’ll have to go to the link above on cosmological relativity to see some of the equations, however, here’s the basic idea. Carmeli realized that it is possible that the galaxies aren’t merely moving away from us, but that space itself was moving away from us and the galaxies were essentially along for the ride. Carmeli’s equations treat the velocity of this expansion as another dimension of the cosmos. For him, the three dimensions of space, as well as time and velocity, are all dimensions that have to be taken into account when dealing with cosmological origins- 5D. In his equations, there is no need for dark energy or dark matter; this “stretching” of space would account for galactic mass and motion. His book includes a number of appendices explaining his equations in detail, but I’ve just decided to explain in practical terms what Hartnett and Carmeli are describing. This explanation will take a few posts to cover, but I think the possibility of a Creationist cosmology that resolves the problems with Big Bang cosmology and respects the Biblical Genesis narrative will be well worth the wait!

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But They’re SCIENTISTS (A Rant)

So what? They may have advanced degrees in every “ology” on the planet. They may use words that baffle the everyday American citizen. They may even have won a nobel prize or published numerous books and peer-reviewed articles on some obscure area of scientific knowledge. In no way, however, does that make them authoritative when it comes to Christianity. A scientist’s thoughts on Christianity carry about as much weight as my predictions on the next big golf tournament. (Which, since I hate golf passionately and am admittedly ignorant of the sport, doesn’t count for much.) I’m not saying you have to be an expert on theology to make a call as to whether or not God exists, but I am saying that if the Scientific American decides to talk about why God doesn’t exist, I’m not going to question my faith. Skill in one area doesn’t mean a person is skilled or intelligent in another field of study. Scientists are humans, and humans are biased. Even scientists.

Dawkins is free to write a book about religion, but he’s out of his league. His book doesn’t carry weight simply because he’s a scientists. If Dawkins chooses atheism, that is not his scientific conclusion about the world. That is his opinion. We need to search for truth beyond opinion. Either God exists or He doesn’t, but we cannot discover Him through scientific means. As I said before in an earlier posting (which is also admittedly a rant), science is the wrong tool for the job of discovering spiritual truth. Scientific truth may dovetail with spiritual truth, but scientific searching alone does not lead us to Him, nor can it rule out his existence.

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The Right Tool for the Job

The New Atheists would have us believe that Religion and Science are at odds with each other. Why? Well, that’s a complicated question. Christopher Hitchen believes that religion is really about power, and the currency of life is knowledge. Richard Dawkins basically agrees, but he seems to think that religion is about reveling in mystery, not power. “Mystics exult in mystery and want it to stay mysterious,” he writes. (The God Delusion, 126) Hitchens makes his feelings quite clear when he says that medicine only had a chance to advance after “the priests had been elbowed aside.” (God is not Great, 90) Ironically, Hitchens goes on to extol the glories of Louis Pasteur’s medical research with no mention of the fact that Pasteur was a devout Catholic!

Strangely, empirical sciences did not develop in other societies that should have encouraged them. China had a well-developed society, India was a strong philosophical center, and Japan excelled in craftmanship. Why did they not develop an understanding of empirical knowledge? It was in the Christian West that developed empirical science, because the Christian worldview expects that the outside world would be understandable and orderly because it was the handiwork of the Creator. Under Christianity, science flourishes. As the West turns from Christianity, science will cease to flourish. After all, only naturalistic worldviews require scientists to fabricate myths like dark matter and dark energy. Dark matter and dark energy only need to exist if the Big Bang actually occurred. Creationist cosmologies explain the universe without the need for these virtually unprovable theories.

To the point, though. Christianity supports science; it does not inhibit it. Though I’m not a Catholic, the Vatican has done more to support science (especially astronomy) financially over the past six centuries or so than any other institution. As Christianity has traditionally supported the Arts, so it has also supported the sciences. Hitchens and Dawkins seem willfully ignorant of the scientists who were also Christians throughout history. Newton, Pasteur, Kepler, Copernicus, Galileo, Faraday, Bernard, and Heisenberg were all Christians, and the list doesn’t stop there. Apparently they found no conflict between faith and science.

You see, when it comes down to it, faith and science are not opposites nor are they in tension with each other. They are different tools for different jobs. Science does not hold a monopoly on knowledge. Religion merely deals with a completely different form of knowledge. I can know that God is in His Heaven and all is right with the world just as surely as I know empirically that the laws of gravity are still in effect. Philosophy also offers a different sort of knowledge that is neither wholly scientific nor wholly religious. Just as I wouldn’t use a hammer to play a bass drum, science is not able to tell us why we are here or if God exists. It’s the wrong tool for the job. I’m not talking about “non-overlapping magisteria” here. I’m talking about using a tool where it is beneficial. When science is beneficial, use it, and don’t let it be hindered. When religion is beneficial (as it most certainly is when that religion is Christianity), then don’t keep it from the public sphere. Politics, law, education, business, and the home could benefit from Christianity’s influence if anti-religious bigots would simply get out of the way. In this way, the tools will complement each other. After all, how would the bass drum be fashioned if the hammer hadn’t been there first?

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God, Probability, and Statistics

As confident as the so-called New Atheists are that God does not exist, you would have thought that science had disproven His existence. In fact, they try to whittle God down to a manageable size by- instead of dealing with Him as a Person- label Him as the “God Hypothesis.” Hypotheses are easy to dismiss. God isn’t.

Richard Dawkins is my favorite of the New Atheists because he is quite reckless at this. Consider his book The God Delusion. Dawkins is a scientist, yet he writes a book on religion and pretends that it is science. In it he writes: “The presence or absence of a creative super-intelligence is univocally a scientific question.” So,  of course, because Dawkins is a materialist, Dawkins rules out all non-material existence or personhood. Therefore, in The Wonderful World of Dawkins, God must obey all laws of physics. You would have thought Dawkins were talking about gravity!

In the end, Dawkins decides that God is not a probable Being. I found this to be a bit odd, since Dawkins’ probability and statistics assumed that God was a contingent Being in a universe that forces Him (HIM!) to conform to its unalterable laws. Christianity, on the other hand, proclaims the existence of a God that is necessary, not contingent. Furthermore, probability deals more with the possibility that an event will occur. It measures the ratio of actual occurences and possible occurences of an event. God doesn’t “happen.” He is (hence the name “I AM.”) Dawkins and Christians still aren’t talking about the same Person!

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Suffer the Children

If Richard Dawkins had his way, that phrase would have a whole new meaning today. In Dawkins’ view (mentioned in The God Delusion as well as on his website, religious education is no different than acts of pedophilia. Such a belief is astounding to me. Hitchens is no different when he writes about children who have “had their psychological and physical lives irreparably maimed by the compulsory education of faith.” Seriously, guys? Christian education should be illegal? This sort of thing is absolutely outrageous to me.

It’s bad enough that Dawkins and Hitchens want to make it illegal to train a child in the Christian faith. It’s much worse that they are leaving us with only government schools, since parents apparently can’t be trusted. Perhaps they should check out the wonders of the schools in the Soviet Union sometime. They could even look at a lot of the government schools in America and realize that state-run isn’t a very good idea. Things just don’t go well. American freedom must not be allowed to erode any more than it already has, and that includes a parent’s freedom to educate their child as they see fit.

Finally, what does calling religious education “abuse” do to the subject of real abuse? It’s an insult to those who have experienced it. Broken bones, damaged psyches, sexual assaults, and battered bodies are the results of real abuse. Being raised to believe in a kind and loving God “in the nuture and admonition of the Lord” is not. Let’s not forget what the title of this post really means in context. “Suffer the children to come unto me, and forbid them not, for of such is the Kingdom of Heaven.” It seems to me that being raised in a household of faith is as far removed from abuse as I could possibly imagine.

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Bloody Religion

“Religion kills,” says Christopher Hitchens. In fact, he writes a whole chapter on that topic in his book. Which religion, Mr. Hitchens? True, Islam has been a bloodbath since it was invented, but there are plenty of religions out there that are much less violent. Now, obviously, I’m here to defend Christianity more than anything else, but let’s think about this. How often do you hear on the news that someone killed someone else for religious reasons? “Arminians shoot Calvinist. Must have been his time.” “Southern Baptists in church bus plow over family at Disney World. Claim they were trying to reinforce yet another boycott.” “Catholic priests drown Lutheran in holy water.” It just doesn’t happen.

Christianity doesn’t condone violence. It condones self-defense and national defense, but not crimes of passion. And that’s what it all boils down to, doesn’t it? Passion. People are passionate about their revenge or pride or lust or rage or materialism. They cross lines at the urging of that passion. Christianity isn’t immune to the passions of humans. Sometimes people do try to take by force what God would have us do by His Spirit. The Bible doesn’t condone such actions, nor does God say that He will reward them.

More often than not, religion is used to reinforce some passionate bias, such as race. Just because religion can be used as a tool in the hands of evil or foolish men doesn’t mean that religion itself is the problem. If that were the case, fields such as medicine or science would have a rough time. How many people died throughout history due to crackpot ideas about health and disease? How many have died because science has given us instruments of war? It seems to me that if we applied Hitchens’ litmus test throughout history in an equal way, every scientist and doctor ought to be made to publicly apologize for the sins of their forebears. After all, it isn’t religion alone that is bloody…

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Southerners Have Reptilian Brains

That’s what Richard Dawkins says. If you don’t believe me, go ahead and check out his article on his personal website. Don’t worry, I’ll still be here when you’re finished. One quick word of advice before you go, though. You might want to make sure you’ve taken your heart meds before you read the whole thing. He’s got quite a few things to say about those of us from the Bible belt. Then there’s Sam Harris in his Letter to a Christian Nation, where he writes: “Our country now appears, as at no other time in her history, like a lumbering, bellicose, dim-witted giant.” Do us a favor, Sam. Don’t play it again.

It’s funny that while our squeaking atheist wheels scream for more grease, they are blind to the fact that no one has the corner market on idiots. Just search for atheists on Youtube. Dumb ones are a dime a dozen. That, by the way, is true of just about every cause or faith. People are people. Some are uneducated or lack common sense. It happens.

But, rather than focus on pandemic stupidity, I’d rather focus on the topic of intelligence. There are intelligent people in every walk of life. There are intelligent scientists, historians, teachers, pastors, writers, doctors, and homemakers. I would honestly take an honest, hardworking man or woman over a self-important “intellectual” any day. And another thing: there have been Christians from practically every walk of life. I don’t see how Christianity is antagonistic to intelligence, since plenty of people were both intelligent and men and women of faith.

I leave you with a quote by Alexis de Tocqueville, who said: “Liberty cannot be established without morality, nor morality without faith.” de Tocqueville was smarter than most folks today, but he saw the link between liberty, morality, and faith.

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Short: What’s My Motivation?

We’ve already talked about how difficult it is to prove you are living a good life without God. Now I want to turn your attention to the motivation behind goodness. Again, I’m not arguing that atheists can’t be moral people. What I am arguing is that Christianity is by default a superior belief system because it motivates people to be good. Atheism does nothing of the sort. Show me one person who can honestly say: “My atheism was what caused me to live a moral, honest, and upright life.” It doesn’t happen.

What you will see is people who gain a sense of purpose, a drive from their Christian faith to do wonderful things for those around them. It’s true, not every believer is morally upright all the time, but most people are better for their faith. Christianity offers an example of true morality in Christ, a confidence and trust that God will complete the work of righteousness He started within, and instruction to love God and our fellow man. What does atheism have that compares to this?

That’s what I thought.

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God-in-a-Box?

I’m sure most of you played with a jack-in-the-box when you were a kid. I couldn’t honestly say that I enjoyed those contraptions. They were pretty basic: turn the handle, listen to the song, out comes the….doll? Basic but dependable, that’s Jack. Unfortunately, some people seem to think that God is that way.

For some people, I should be able to pray this prayer and “pow!” out leaps God from wherever He spends most of His time, and grants my wish….I mean prayer. Christians sometimes get that attitude. They start to have an attitude of , as one pastor put it, “Gimme, gimme; my name’s Jimmy!”

Of course, atheists also treat God that way. Richard Dawkins wants to analyze God scientifically in his The God Delusion. He tells his readers how God “should” behave since He would be bound to the laws of physics. Why should God have to follow the physical laws of the universe? He made them, so why should He be put under them?

Dawkins then turns to the subject of prayer, and discusses the number of prayers that get “answered.” Not surprisingly, Dawkins finds that God doesn’t seem to answer every prayer by saying “Yes, absolutely, I’ll get right on it, sir!”

Who says God has to behave in a way that Dawkins or anyone thinks He should?  If God isn’t the Force from Star Wars, can’t He do things in a personal and- dare I say it- subjective way? He claims to be a Person, and for my part I believe Him. Oh, but He does answer. “No” is an answer. “Wait” is an answer. Sometimes silence is even an answer. “Yes” is an answer too, but Dawkins tends to chalk that up to chance.

Christianity doesn’t teach that God is a children’s toy that should follow a basic set of rules. God is a Person, and a very complex Person at that. Christianity doesn’t portray God as a genii or jack-in-the-box. To borrow from C. S. Lewis, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah is NOT a tame lion. Prayer, then, is more than just asking and receiving. It’s about asking and embracing God Himself.

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Faith and our Fathers

Last week, I wrote about the reasons why so many men refuse to go to church. I want to follow up on that train of thought a little bit and talk about the relationship between faith in God and having a father-figure. Dr. Paul C. Vitz of New York University’s Psychology department published an article in 1999 that appears to also be the subject of an upcoming book entitled Defective Fathers: Psychological Origins of Atheism. In his study, Vitz noted that many famous atheists had been neglected or abused by their fathers. Some fathers had simply been not nearly so strong in character or personality as they desired.

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Faith and our Fathers

Last week, I wrote about the reasons why so many men refuse to go to church. I want to follow up on that train of thought a little bit and talk about the relationship between faith in God and having a father-figure. Dr. Paul C. Vitz of New York University’s Psychology department published an article in 1999 that appears to also be the subject of an upcoming book entitled Defective Fathers: Psychological Origins of Atheism.

In his study, Vitz noted that many famous atheists had been neglected or abused by their fathers. Some fathers had simply been not nearly so strong in character or personality as they desired. Consider the words of H. G. Wells, who said: “My father was always at cricket, and I think [mum] realised more and more acutely as the years dragged on without material alleviation, that Our Father and Our Lord, on whom to begin with she had perhaps counted unduly, were also away – playing perhaps at their own sort of cricket in some remote quarter of the starry universe.” By studying atheists and a group of Christians, Vitz theorized that the atheists’ disdain for God began as a disdain for their own human fathers.

In contrast, Vitz found that Christians tend to be considered psychologically healthy. This flies in the face of Christopher Hitchens’ book, which states quite plainly that religion is grounded on wish-thinking. To Hitchens, God exists in believers’ mind simply because we want Him to be there. Our deepest longings for something- Someone- beyond ourselves cause us to create a God to believe in.

Hitchens proves nothing by noting that we long for God. There are, after all, many people who have  a good reason to long for God to be absent from the picture. They may not want Him to tell them what to do. They may not like taking ultimate responsibility. I’d say an atheist has at least as strong of a reason to disbelieve in God as a believer has for belief in God. Inner motivation has nothing to do with proving or disproving God’s existence.

No doubt, there is something within most people that does long for the Eternal. That longing doesn’t mean I fabricated God to be the object of that longing. I longed for food today, and I enjoyed some beef stew for lunch and some marinated chicken for dinner that I’m quite sure were real. I longed for fellowship, and I was able to enjoy talking to friends and family. But you may say to me: “Yes, but I can perceive the food and the friends with my senses. Those aren’t the same as God, who cannot be seen.” That’s true, but think about it a little more. Before I knew Him, I knew that I longed for something. It was only after I came to faith that I knew what my longings were all about. A child may long for food or companionship but not know what to call it. Also, hunger and loneliness are concepts, not objects to be perceived, just like a longing for the Eternal God. The desire is intangible, but the object is not.

PS- Apologetics 315 has a link to a free MP3 of Vitz if you care to listen…

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Religulous? Really?

You may remember last year’s Bill Maher film Religulous, a satire which drew its name from a portmanteau of “religious” and “ridiculous.” The obvious implication being that religion in general is ridiculous, and believers in those religions are essentially fools. It would seem that Bill Maher’s film takes the comedic route to the same destination as Christopher Hitchens’ God is Not Great. In his book, Hitchens says that religion is “violent, irrational, intolerant, allied to racism and tribalism and bigotry, invested in ignorance and hostile to free inquiry, contemptuous of women and coercive toward children.” (see pages 56 and 36)

In the thin world of these men, organized religion (whatever that is) is the chief ill of society, which needs to be eradicated or reduced to an impotent form. And, of course, they are more than willing to bring out examples. Hitler, in their view, was religious- maybe even a Christian. David Berkowitz, the infamous serial killer, was also deeply religious, they remind us. After all, he joined a cult that the Son of Sam himself referred to as “the twenty-two disciples of hell.” Or maybe they could even invoke a mystic like Grigori Rasputin.

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Religulous? Really?

You may remember last year’s Bill Maher film Religulous, a satire which drew its name from a portmanteau of “religious” and “ridiculous.” The obvious implication being that religion in general is ridiculous, and believers in those religions are essentially fools. It would seem that Bill Maher’s film takes the comedic route to the same destination as Christopher Hitchens’ God is Not Great. In his book, Hitchens says that religion is “violent, irrational, intolerant, allied to racism and tribalism and bigotry, invested in ignorance and hostile to free inquiry, contemptuous of women and coercive toward children.” (see pages 56 and 36)

In the thin world of these men, organized religion (whatever that is) is the chief ill of society, which needs to be eradicated or reduced to an impotent form. And, of course, they are more than willing to bring out examples. Hitler, in their view, was religious- maybe even a Christian. David Berkowitz, the infamous serial killer, was also deeply religious, they remind us. After all, he joined a cult that the Son of Sam himself referred to as “the twenty-two disciples of hell.” Or maybe they could even invoke a mystic like Grigori Rasputin.

The reality, though, is that, while there are religious people out there that do terrible things, that doesn’t mean that we can lump all religious people- or all religions- together. What about people who do good things in the name of religion? What about William Carey, David Livingston, Teresa, Damien of Molokai, John Huss, the Venerable Bede, Desiderius Erasmus, Copernicus, William Booth, Harriet Tubman, Brother Lawrence, John Eliot, Amy Carmichael, Oswald Chambers, C. H. Spurgeon, William Gladstone, Sojournor Truth, Hudson Taylor, and Elizabeth Fry? Are we supposed to believe that they count for nothing? Look them up sometime and see what such men and women did for the world because of their faith. In reality, Hitler, Carey, Berkowitz, and Spurgeon had nothing in common except for (perhaps) a belief in the supernatural.

If I were to write a book called The Love Delusion (as opposed to Dawkins’ The God Delusion) because I had examples of how love had led people down a wrong path or ended in a messy divorce, would I be justified in doing so? Just because there are some who use the word “love” to justify something illogical or immoral doesn’t mean that real love in its proper context is a delusion. While some love is a delusion, other love is quite real.

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The Neutered Church

This Father’s Day article is going to address a huge problem in the American Church: the lack of male attendance in congregations. I’ve read a number of articles and even a book or two on the subject, and I’ll be pointing you in the direction of a few good online articles and books if you’re interested.

A while ago, I wrote an article entitled “Jesus Isn’t ‘Nice’” about how we have altered our perception of God Himself to fit our culture. Because we have made that change in perception about God, we have feminized (I prefer the term “neutered”, since it brings to mind the stallion and the gelding) churches and our portrayal of the “godly man.” The effect on our congregations has been profound.

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The Neutered Church

This Father’s Day article is going to address a huge problem in the American Church: the lack of male attendance in congregations. I’ve read a number of articles and even a book or two on the subject, and I’ll be pointing you in the direction of a few good online articles and books if you’re interested.

A while ago, I wrote an article entitled “Jesus Isn’t ‘Nice’” about how we have altered our perception of God Himself to fit our culture. Because we have made that change in perception about God, we have feminized (I prefer the term “neutered”, since it brings to mind the stallion and the gelding) churches and our portrayal of the “godly man.” The effect on our congregations has been profound.

Consider the following statistics listed on the “Church for Men” website:

  • American churches on average display an incredible gender gap- 69% women and 31% men. That translates to about 13 million more women attending than men.
  • 1 in 4 “churched” women will attend the Sunday service without their husbands, while 80% of attendees at the midweek services are women.
  • Over 70% of boys raised in church will drop out by the end of their college years.
  • At Christian colleges, the ratio of female to male students is 2 to 1.

These statistics, verified from a number of researchers, are astounding to me. Besides the obvious problem of men abandoning or rejecting faith in Christ, think of the incredible symbiotic relationship between men and Christianity!

  • Churchgoers are more likely to be satisfied with their lives, marriages, and themselves.
  • Churchgoers are less likely to remain poor or depressed.
  • Men who attend church are more likely to be engaged with their spouse and children, and teens with churchgoing fathers are more likely to admire and enjoy spending time with their fathers.
  • The presence of men in a congregation is statistically related to whether or not the church grows or declines.

Who is being reached by the Gospel today? Women. There are women’s conferences, fellowships, Bible studies, and retreats. That’s fantastic and needed. Men, on the other hand, are fortunate if they get a monthly pancake breakfast and an annual retreat. The early church was a magnet for men seeking for something, but today’s church repels men.

The question must be asked: Why are men abandoning church in record numbers if many men believe in God, claim to be saved, and want to be good husbands and fathers? The answer is quite simple: churches have followed the trend of American culture and have become more effeminate. The average church, quite frankly, has been neutered.

Paul Coughlin at Crosswalk.com says that men have been encouraged to be harmless as doves, but not to become wise (shrewd) like serpents. Wisdom and cunning are extremely important, but men are told that shrewdness in everything from political and religious arguments to business deals is bad. That goes right along with the feminizing of Jesus and preaching “feel good” sermons. Sermons today are often geared to deal with supposedly practical issues and not deeper, more penetrating, or more intellectual issues. What’s so terrible to me about that last point is that I think this is insulting to many women as well as men!

Coughlin also points out that preaching and teaching today commonly instructs men to avoid anger. The problem is that anger is the primary emotional response for many men and some women! It’s a simple reaction that can’t be controlled! Of course, how anger is dealt with can be controlled, but anger is to some men what crying is to some women. Can you imagine a pastor telling the women in his congregation to not cry when they get upset? No one would do such a thing, because everyone knows that crying is sometimes a natural response to situations for some people. The same thing stands for anger. Good luck building a biblical case against anger, by the way. You’ll find the Bible speaks often of controlling and dealing with anger, being angry and not sinning, God’s own anger, and being meek. What you won’t find is an instruction to never be angry. You also won’t find God banning masculine qualities.

Christian men are encouraged to be “nice” in the name of Christian testimony. Sometimes you just have to call a spade a spade though. To be sure, there are times when testimony is important, but that isn’t all the time. Imagine telling Moses, David, Elijah, Daniel, John the Baptist,  and Paul to back down in the name of testimony. Personally, I’d like to see more men in church that exhibit more of the qualities of these godly men. If the righteous are bold as lions (Proverbs 28), then our churches are sadly lacking in righteous men.

Churches today are extremely relational, and seek to meet emotional needs, according to writer Nancy Pearcey. They deal with sharing feelings, soft singing, and comforting members. Praise songs describe Jesus almost as a lover, while songs such as “Onward Christian Soldiers” are avoided at all cost. As Pearcey says: “So, as long as Christianity appeals to the emotional, therapeutic, interpersonal, relational areas, it’s not going to appeal to men as much as to women.” Where is the church triumphant in all of this?

The answer is that the church today isn’t too concerned with being triumphant. As my fellow blogger Wintery Knight observes:

“All of the outward facing disciplines within Christianity, such as apologetics, theology, ethics, etc. are de-emphasized, censored or resisted in feminized churches. There is no place for rationality, moral judgments and boundaries, debates and disagreement, confrontations and persuasion, or other manly Christian practices.

Christianity is evangelical, and evangelism takes study and preparation, which culminates in confrontations and discussions. The object of these discussions is not to win the argument. It is to win the person over to your side. So facts and arguments play a huge role in  evangelism, but there has to be gentleness too, if you actually want to win. And this is what Christian men are supposed to do.”

Men seem to enjoy theology, philosophy, politics, ethics, and science more than women do. They love debate, contest, competition, adventure, challenges, danger, risk, and achievement in a unique way. It isn’t that these are “men’s areas”, but there is something different in how men are wired that gives them an affinity for these things. As John Eldridge’s book Wild at Heart observes, our self-worth is intimately connected to these things. Men don’t feel complete unless they are accomplishing, building, and standing on something larger than themselves. As Christian comedian Jeff Allen has said, men need something worth dying for to make them truly come to life.

So what’s a church to do? Jesus founded His church on men, and it only seems fitting that churches can only thrive when there is a core of both men and women willing to serve Him. Remember that the pastor of any given church probably isn’t to blame for who attends- or doesn’t attend- his church. The congregation wields great control in this area, so it is up to us- the laity- to make the changes. Christianity must be presented as more than the solution to fears and failures if men are to return to church. It must be presented as the wild journey, the incredible quest, the “Pilgrim’s Progress” that it is. There must be more preaching and teaching on being “a soldier of the cross”, of putting on the armor of light, and of rejecting spiritual milk for meat. Only then will there be a resurgence of men to the church pew.

For more information check out Why Men Hate Going to Church by David Murrow and The Church Impotent: The Feminization of Christianity by Leon J. Podles. Personal enrichment books on the same topic are The Silence of Adam by Larry Crabb and No More Christian Nice Guy by Paul T. Coughlin.

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A Room with a View

As I said in a previous post, I’ve been reading a fascinating book by Hugh Ross entitled Why the Universe is the Way it Is. Dr. Ross has a Ph.D. from the University of Toronto and is the president of Reason to Believe ministries. He’s spoken at over 300 colleges and universities. While Ross’ book is by no means exhaustive, it does an excellent job of helping the reader realize how very, very, VERY unlikely it is for us to exist without a Creator. A disclaimer: Ross does seem to believe in some form of theistic evolution, at least to the extent that God allowed the universe to evolve and then stepped in to make humans several billion years later. I prefer to believe that God either created the entire universe with the appearance of age (since He did so with Adam and the rest of life on earth) or that- thanks to general relativity– God’s act of creation actually did some really cool things to the flow of time. I tend to go with the second option, but I’m not going to explain the whole theory in detail at this time. I also see some value in studying whether or not light itself could be slowing down.

Below you’ll see a few reasons why the earth is not only uniquely designed to support life, but also to allow mankind to view the heavens. God wanted us to discover His universe. (Article continues here)

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A Room with a View

As I said in a previous post, I’ve been reading a fascinating book by Hugh Ross entitled Why the Universe is the Way it Is. Dr. Ross has a Ph.D. from the University of Toronto and is the president of Reason to Believe ministries. He’s spoken at over 300 colleges and universities. While Ross’ book is by no means exhaustive, it does an excellent job of helping the reader realize how very, very, VERY unlikely it is for us to exist without a Creator. A disclaimer: Ross does seem to believe in some form of theistic evolution, at least to the extent that God allowed the universe to evolve and then stepped in to make humans several billion years later. I prefer to believe that God either created the entire universe with the appearance of age (since He did so with Adam and the rest of life on earth) or that- thanks to general relativity– God’s act of creation actually did some really cool things to the flow of time. I tend to go with the second option, but I’m not going to explain the whole theory in detail at this time. I also see some value in studying whether or not light itself could be slowing down.

Below you’ll see a few reasons why the earth is not only uniquely designed to support life, but also to allow mankind to view the heavens. God wanted us to discover His universe.

  • For starters, there’s the atmosphere. It’s clear. If you read up on the atmospheres of other planets, you’ll notice that very few of them have clear atmospheres. If it weren’t clear but still breathable, we’d have no idea what space looked like.
  • Then there’s the moon.Where else in the solar system can you witness a complete solar eclipse? Where else can the sun’s corona become viewable to scientists thanks to a perfectly round moon that regularly eclipses the sun? Earth is the only place this is possible because the distance between earth, moon, and sun, as well as the size and shape of all three bodies, is exactly right!
  • In spite of how bright it appears, the moon actually only reflects 7% of the light the sun’s light. By comparison, the earth reflects 39%, Jupiter and Saturn’s moons reflect 60-90%, and Neptune reflects 73%. If the moon reflected more light than it did, we would have a hard time seeing much of the universe for most of the year!
  • In a similar vein, the other planets are just so positioned that they don’t hinder our view of the night sky. Mars only comes close to earth once every 26 months and reflects only 15% of its light. Venus reflects 65% of its light, but because it lies between the earth and sun, we see very little of its light. If Mars and Venus were switched, Venus would be ten times brighter all night long, and we’d have a hard time seeing anything near its position in the sky. Switch Mars with Jupiter, and viewing distant galaxies would be impossible.
  • The dust cloud from the galactic spiral arms that- as  I mentioned in the previous post- shield our solar system from lethal levels of radiation also block out much of the light from the rest of the galaxy. Other galaxies are made visible to us.
  • Nebulae in our galaxy are relatively dark and very far from us. Things could have been very different. The Orion Nebula (located in Orion’s sword) is the closest “star nursery” to earth, and it blocks out a patch of sky the diameter of two moons. If, however, the Orion Nebula were switched, say, with the Tarantula Nebula, a full quarter of the night sky would be blocked out, and the nebula would be bright enough to cast shadows! We’d have a hard time seeing much in that case!
  • Our galactic cluster is small and spread out, ensuring our ability to see many light years beyond our own galaxy.

As I hope you’re beginning to see, God not only cared about our ability to survive on our home planet, but He also wanted us to be able to witness creation. Of course, if you don’t believe that God made it all, all you’re left to say is: “What a wonder that we dwell in a galaxy in which we can see all its wonders!” But who believes in us getting this lucky?

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Life Support: It’s all about location

Recently I’ve been reading Hugh Ross‘ book Why the Universe is the Way it Is, and it has certainly opened up my eyes to the incredible fine-tuning of our universe. Dr. Ross has a Ph.D. from the University of Toronto and is the president of Reason to Believe ministries. He’s spoken at over 300 colleges and universities. While Ross’ book is by no means exhaustive, it does an excellent job of helping the reader realize how very, very, VERY unlikely it is for us to exist without a Creator. A disclaimer: Ross does seem to believe in some form of theistic evolution, at least to the extent that God allowed the universe to evolve and then stepped in to make humans several billion years later. I prefer to believe that God either created the entire universe with the appearance of age (since He did so with Adam and the rest of life on earth) or that- thanks to general relativity- God’s act of creation actually did some really cool things to the flow of time. I tend to go with the second option, but I’m not going to explain the whole theory in detail at this time. I also see some value in studying whether or not time or light itself could be slowing down. Below you’ll see a list of facts to support the anthropic principle, the belief that the universe exists specifically to support complex life forms:

Click here to read the rest of the article at our new site!

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Life Support: It’s All About Location

Recently I’ve been reading Hugh Ross‘ book Why the Universe is the Way it Is, and it has certainly opened up my eyes to the incredible fine-tuning of our universe. Dr. Ross has a Ph.D. from the University of Toronto and is the president of Reason to Believe ministries. He’s spoken at over 300 colleges and universities. While Ross’ book is by no means exhaustive, it does an excellent job of helping the reader realize how very, very, VERY unlikely it is for us to exist without a Creator. A disclaimer: Ross does seem to believe in some form of theistic evolution, at least to the extent that God allowed the universe to evolve and then stepped in to make humans several billion years later. I prefer to believe that God either created the entire universe with the appearance of age (since He did so with Adam and the rest of life on earth) or that- thanks to general relativity– God’s act of creation actually did some really cool things to the flow of time. I tend to go with the second option, but I’m not going to explain the whole theory in detail at this time. I also see some value in studying whether or not time or light itself could be slowing down.

Below you’ll see a list of facts to support the anthropic principle, the belief that the universe exists specifically to support complex life forms:

  • If the protons and neutrons (parts of an atom) were packed less densely in our universe, nuclear fusion would take place much more slowly or perhaps not at all. Anything heavier than helium- carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, sodium, potassium- wouldn’t form. If they were more densely packed, all of the hydrogen in the universe would fuse into elements at least as heavy as iron. The elements necessary for life wouldn’t exist.
  • The center of the Milky Way Galaxy- or any galaxy for that matter- is the home a massive black hole and countless supernova remnants that spew forth lethal levels of radiation. Additionally, gravity from other stars would disturb the orbit of any planet significantly. Nothing could survive within 20,000 light years of the galactic center. On the other hand, if we were much further from the center of the galaxy, our planet wouldn’t have any of the heavy elements needed for life. I guess we’re “lucky” we live on a planet that orbits a star at just the right distance from the center of the galaxy.
  • Even Earth’s location- 26,000 light years from the center– is not free from radiation from the rest of the galaxy. Only by virtue of the fact that our planet exists on the galactic plane between two spiral arms are we shielded from radiation. Furthermore, unlike most stars, our sun doesn’t “bounce” up and down on the galactic plane, so we won’t ever move above or below the spiral arms.
  • In spite of what the picture above shows, the solar system is not within a spiral arm of the galaxy. We are actually between two spiral arms, which is fortunate for us since the stars and dense clouds of space emit more radiation and could unleash a severe dust storm, which would be sure to ruin our time on earth.
  • Most of the time, anything lying between the spiral arms of the galaxy are eventually overtaken by another spiral arm. Our solar system lies very close to the co-rotation distance. At this distance, our solar system rotates around the center of the galaxy at almost exactly the same rate as the arms on either side. Fortunately for us, we aren’t exactly at the co-rotation distance. If we were, we would be buffeted by gravitational resonance and flung out of our sanctuary in the universe. Not a good experience!
  • Of course, we’re also fortunate that the area of our galaxy that makes life possible also overlaps the co-rotation distance. I don’t think that’s a coincidence either!
  • Most clusters of galaxies contain 10,000 or more closely-packed galaxies. Ours has only around forty. Little is a good thing, since galaxies tend to collide. We haven’t had a collision with another galaxy (something that can’t be said for our neighboring Andromeda Galaxy), and unlike most other galaxies, we don’t have any giant or supergiant galaxies for neighbors. If we did, we’d get blasted with deadly radiation fairly regularly.
  • Our own galactic neighbors do help contribute to the stability of our galaxy. The Milky Way is fed gas and dust by a number of nearby dwarf galaxies. This gas and dust keeps star formation high, which helps reinforce the spiral arm structure. Without it, the spiral structure would collapse.
  • If the earth had no moon (click link to hear Patrick Stewart [Jean-Luke Picard] narrate), our axis- and therefore our climate-  wouldn’t be stable. Our rotation would be faster, making weather patterns less even. You think global warming is bad! Tides wouldn’t exist, meaning that coastal toxins wouldn’t be removed and nutrients wouldn’t be brought in. Click here to check out a book on this subject.
  • The four outer gas giants in our solar system- Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune- act as a defensive team to shield the earth from collisions with comets and asteroids, since their gravitational pull deflects or absorbs impacts. On the other hand, the other inner planets nearest to earth work to break up gravitational resonances from the gas giants to keep earth from changing orbit.

Truly the heavens declare the glory of God.

Next: A Room with a View!

Categories: atheism, Bible, science | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Rob Bell’s Fractured Fairy Tales

On at least two occasions that I am aware of, Rob Bell has made some very telling blunders when dealing with history.

In the first case, he often interprets what Jesus says in light of the rabbinical writings known as the Talmud and the Mishna. The problem with this is that neither set of writings were codified until around 200 years after Jesus’ birth. In other words, Jesus didn’t say anything in light of either set of writings, and the attitude of the rabbis had most likely changed significantly after the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. Moreover, neither document is known for being historically accurate concerning the 1st century or the Old Testament. Bell’s misunderstanding of history taints his understanding of Scripture, which is dangerous.

Secondly, and perhaps more seriously, Bell twists the facts….


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Don’t Fence Me In

My grandparents and parents both listened to old cowboy songs when I was a kid, and while I didn’t really like most of them, this one really stuck out to me. It’s about not wanting boundaries, a concept I think most of us can appreciate. Of course, there are some boundaries that are good. We live our lives safely because of them. Unfortunately, some postmodern believers are of the opinion that fences aren’t very good for faith. In other words, some of those Bible teachings aren’t as big of a deal as we make them out to be.

Rob Bell makes it obvious that he’s of this persuasion in Velvet Elvis, where he makes the following assertion:

“What if tomorrow someone digs up definitive proof that Jesus had a real, earthly, biological father named Larry, and archeologists find Larry’s tomb and do DNA samples and prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the virgin birth was really just a bit of mythologizing the Gospel writers threw in to appeal to the followers of the Mithra and Dionysian religious cults that were hugely popular at the time of Jesus, whose gods had virgin births?….”

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