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Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Sunspots 702

Things I have recently spotted that may be of interest to someone else:

The Arts: (and computing) Scientific American considers the question of whether artificial intelligence can create true art. (Aside: The article doesn't say much about the fundamental question: "can you define true art?")

Christianity: He Lives points out some difficulties in taking all scripture literally.

Health: NPR (and other outlets) report on new guidelines on exercise, from the government.

History: (and humor) Listverse tells us about 10 common traditions, and that they are not really long-standing (most less than a century).

Humor: (sort of) NPR reports that a train, with  no crew (or passengers) on board, went for a 57-mile ride, at a good speed, until it was wrecked by remote control.

Politics: Sojourners reports on a survey. Their summary: "White evangelicals are proving to be far more white than evangelical."

(and science) Gizmodo reports on a CNN meteorologist's response to President Trump's tweet about the causes of the fires in California. National Public Radio also writes about the causes. President Trump is correct that part of the problem is (and has been for a long time) management. Some previous fires should have been allowed to burn, so that less fuel was available, or underbrush should have been cleared out. But climate change is an even larger cause of the increase in frequency and strength of the fires.

Science: Gizmodo reports on genetic studies of ancient humans in the Americas, and on how such studies indicate that humans migrated through the New World.

Gizmodo also reports on tool-making in cockatoos.

NPR reports that the kilogram, worldwide, will no longer be defined by a metal object in France.

The graphic used in these posts is from NASA, hence, I believe, it is public domain.
Thanks for looking!

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Science, the Bible, affirmation, and accomodation to culture

Psalm 104:5 He laid the foundations of the earth,
    that it should not be moved forever.
13b The earth is filled with the fruit of your works.
19 He appointed the moon for seasons.
    The sun knows when to set.
24 Yahweh, how many are your works!
    In wisdom have you made them all.
    The earth is full of your riches. (World English Bible, public domain)

This is from probably the greatest nature poem ever written, Psalm 104. Poetry is often not meant to be taken literally. That doesn’t mean that it is in error. It can speak truth, often in ways that straightforward prose cannot.

The Old Testament accommodated the culture of the day. If David had said, in verse 5, “The earth is in a stable orbit around the sun,” instead of “it shall not be moved forever,” he, nor others of his day, would have understood that. But David accommodated the culture of his day*. The Bible even accommodates the culture of OUR day. The sun really doesn’t set (verse 19). The earth rotates so that the sun appears to set. God knows that, of course, but He didn’t make David write that, and doesn’t correct us if we talk about the sun setting or rising! 

This post owes a lot to one by John Walton,  “Does the Bible Contain Errors?” Walton doesn’t think so, because, to him, an error would be some wrong thing that the Bible affirms.The Bible doesn’t affirm that the earth has four corners. It's not trying to teach geology and astronomy. The Bible just makes poetic statements which had meaning to the culture and beliefs of the time.

Walton writes: “Throughout the Bible, we find constant accommodation to the way that people thought in the ancient world. In the realm of science, the Bible makes no claims that transcend what someone in the ancient world would have thought and believed. They believed in a geocentric universe with a flat earth at the center, and the Bible speaks in those terms; but the Bible does not affirm this particular cosmic geography.”

*Other examples: Isaiah 11:12 and Revelation 11:1 say that the earth has four corners.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

The Art of Divine Contentment: An Exposition of Philippians 4:11 by Thomas Watson. Excerpt 52

Watson continues to point out the evils of being discontented:

(2.) Discontent is evil in its concomitants of it, which are two:
1. Discontent is joined with a sullen melancholy. A Christian of a right temper should be ever cheerful in God: “serve the Lord with gladness;” (Ps. 100. 2) a sign the oil of grace hath been poured into the heart when the oil of gladness shines in the countenance. Cheerfulness credits religion; how can the discontented person be cheerful? Discontent is a dogged, sullen humour; because we have not what we desire God shall not have a good work or look from us; as the bird in the cage, because he is pent up, and cannot fly in the open air, therefore beats herself against the cage, and is ready to kill herself. Thus that peevish prophet; “I do well to be angry even unto death.” (Jon. 4. 9)

2. Discontent is accompanied with unthankfulness; because we have not all we desire, we never mind the mercies which we have. We deal with God as the widow of Sarepta did with the prophet: the prophet Elijah had been a means to keep her alive in the famine, for it was for his sake, that her meal in the barrel, and her oil in the cruise failed not; but as soon as ever her son dies, she falls into a passion, and begins to quarrel with the prophet: “what have I to do with thee, O thou man of God? Art thou come to call my sin to rememberance, and slay my son?” (1 Ki. 17. 18) So ungratefully do we deal with God: we can be content to receive mercies from God, but if he doth cross us in the least thing, then, through discontent, we grow touchy and impatient, and are ready to fly upon God; thus God loseth all his mercies.

Thomas Watson lived from 1620-1686, in England. He wrote several books which survive. This blog, God willing, will post excerpts from his The Art of Divine Contentment: An Exposition of Philippians 4:11, over a number of weeks, on Sundays.

My source for the text is here, and I thank the Christian Classics Ethereal Library for making this text (and many others) available. The previous excerpt is here.
Philippians 4:11 Not that I speak because of lack, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content in it. (World English Bible, public domain.)

Friday, November 09, 2018

The use of the word, "world," in John 17

“World” occurs 19 times in John 17 (World English Bible, public domain), where Jesus prayed for His disciples, and for His followers which came after them. There are 59 occurrences in John, which is about 1/3 of the occurrences in the entire New Testament, and more than the entire OT. Apparently, the New Testament writers, and Christ Himself, were more conscious of the idea of the world, the doings of people on our planet, than the OT writers were. Greek: κόσμος, kosmos. See here for more on the use of this Greek word in the NT. Perhaps the first use of world, and the next to last one, in John 17, refer to the world as a planet, rather than as the doings of humans on the planet, but the other 17 occurrences all seem to relate to the doings of fallen humans.
John 17:1 Jesus said these things, and lifting up his eyes to heaven, he said, “Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may also glorify you; 17:2 even as you gave him authority over all flesh, he will give eternal life to all whom you have given him. 17:3 This is eternal life, that they should know you, the only true God, and him whom you sent, Jesus Christ. 17:4 I glorified you on the earth.* I have accomplished the work which you have given me to do. 17:5 Now, Father, glorify me with your own self with the glory which I had with you before the world existed. 17:6 I revealed your name to the people whom you have given me out of the world. They were yours, and you have given them to me. They have kept your word. 17:7 Now they have known that all things whatever you have given me are from you, 17:8 for the words which you have given me I have given to them, and they received them, and knew for sure that I came forth from you, and they have believed that you sent me. 17:9 I pray for them. I don’t pray for the world, but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. 17:10 All things that are mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. 17:11 I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them through your name which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are. 17:12 While I was with them in the world, I kept them in your name. Those whom you have given me I have kept. None of them is lost, except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. 17:13 But now I come to you, and I say these things in the world, that they may have my joy made full in themselves. 17:14 I have given them your word. The world hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. 17:15 I pray not that you would take them from the world, but that you would keep them from the evil one. 17:16 They are not of the world even as I am not of the world. 17:17 Sanctify them in your truth. Your word is truth.* 17:18 As you sent me into the world, even so I have sent them into the world. 17:19 For their sakes I sanctify myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth. 17:20 Not for these only do I pray, but for those also who believe in me through their word, 17:21 that they may all be one; even as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be one in us; that the world may believe that you sent me. 17:22 The glory which you have given me, I have given to them; that they may be one, even as we are one; 17:23 I in them, and you in me, that they may be perfected into one; that the world may know that you sent me, and loved them, even as you loved me. 17:24 Father, I desire that they also whom you have given me be with me where I am, that they may see my glory, which you have given me, for you loved me before the foundation of the world. 17:25 Righteous Father, the world hasn’t known you, but I knew you; and these knew that you sent me. 17:26 I made known to them your name, and will make it known; that the love with which you loved me may be in them, and I in them.”

*The word, earth, here, is translated from a different Greek word than the word which is translated as world

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

Sunspots 701

Things I have recently spotted that may be of interest to
someone else: 

Christianity Today asks if the United Methodist Church has a case against Jeff Sessions, Attorney General.

Education: Grammarphobia on how (mostly English) families got their names.

Ethics: Remember Scott Pruitt, Trump's first head of the Environmental Protection Agency, who was removed after several ethical clouds? Ryan Zinke, Secretary of the Interior is probably going, for similar reasons, according to UnDark. Unfortunately, both of their replacements, or likely replacements, are likely to be more efficient, if that's the right word, at removing environmental protections, than the original appointees.

Food: Relevant reports on how long candy should be stored before discarding it.

NPR reports that immigrating to the US probably causes changes in the gut bacteria, and that this, in turn, may lead to obesity. (The study involved Southeast Asian immigrants.)

Health: Relevant reports on a study that found that over 8,000 children are hospitalized because of gunshots, each year. (More are killed, or are not brought to a hospital.)

Humor: The man who inspired the appearance, and name, of Super Mario, of video game fame, has died, according to NPR.

Politics: The Supreme Court is allowing a lawsuit, by some young people (one is 11), against the Federal Government, saying that federal actions and/or inactions related to climate change are depriving them of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Listverse describes nine Senate filibusters, and one in the Texas State Senate.

Politico reports that most Americans want stricter gun laws. That is true of Republicans, too.
White supremacy groups are using video game participation as a recruiting tool, says NPR.

Science: Earther shows us some newly discovered sea slugs. Fabulous photographs!

Gizmodo considers how much dead human skin cell material we take into our bodies.

Sports: Greg Popovich, coach of the San Antonio Spurs, has been with the team for a long time. Every other NBA team has changed coaches during his tenure, usually several times.

The graphic used in these posts is from NASA, hence, I believe, it is public domain.

Thanks for looking!

Sunday, November 04, 2018

The Art of Divine Contentment: An Exposition of Philippians 4:11 by Thomas Watson. Excerpt 51

Watson continues to consider the evil of being discontented.

Evil 2nd. Consider the sinfulness of it; which appears in three things; the causes, the concomitants, the consequences of it.
(1.) It is sinful in the causes; such as pride. He that thinks highly of his deserts, usually esteems meanly of his condition: a discontented man is a proud man, he thinks himself better than others, therefore finds fault with the wisdom of God that he is not above others. Thus the things formed saith to him that formed it, “why hast thou made me thus?” (Ro. 9. 20) why am I not higher? Discontents are nothing else but the estuations, and boilings over of pride.

The second cause of discontent is, envy, which Augustine calls the sin of the devil. Satan envied Adam the glory of paradise, and the robe of innocency: he that envies what his neighbour hath, is never contented with that portion which God’s providence doth parcel out to him. As envy stirs up strife, (this made the Plebeian faction so strong among the Romans) so it creates discontent: the envious man looks so much upon the blessings which another enjoys, that he cannot see his own mercies, and so doth continually vex and torture himself. Cain envied that his brother’s sacrifice was accepted, and his rejected; hereupon he was discontented, and presently murderous thoughts began to arise in his heart.

The third cause is covetousness. This is a radical sin. Whence are vexing law-suits, but from discontent? and whence is discontent, but from covetousness? Covetousness and contentedness cannot dwell in the same heart. Avarice is an helluo1, that is never satisfied. The covetous man is like Behemoth, “behold he drinketh up a river, he trusteth that he can draw up Jordan into his mouth.” (Job 40. 23) “There are four things (saith Solomon) that say not, it is enough.” I may add a fifth, the heart of a covetous man; he is still craving. Covetousness is like a wolf in the breast, which is ever feeding; and because a man is not satisfied, he is never content. The fourth cause of discontent is, jealousy, which is sometimes occasioned through melancholy, and sometimes misapprehension. The spirit of jealousy causeth the evil spirit. “Jealousy is the rage of a man.” (Pr. 6. 34) And oft this is nothing but suspicion and fancy: yet such as creates real discontent. the fifth cause of discontent is distrust, which is a great degree of Atheism. The discontented person is ever distrustful. The bill of provision grows low; I am in these straits of exigencies, can God help me? “can he prepare a table in the wilderness?” sure he cannot. My estate is exhausted, can God recruit me? my friends are gone, can God raise me up more? sure the arm of his power is shrunk. I am like the dry fleece, can any water come upon this fleece? “If the Lord would make windows in heaven, might this thing be?” (2 Ki. 7. 2) Thus the anchor of hope, and the shield of faith, being cast away, the soul goes pining up and down. Discontent is nothing else but the echo of unbelief: and remember, distrust is worse than distress.

Thomas Watson lived from 1620-1686, in England. He wrote several books which survive. This blog, God willing, will post excerpts from his The Art of Divine Contentment: An Exposition of Philippians 4:11, over a number of weeks, on Sundays.

My source for the text is here, and I thank the Christian Classics Ethereal Library for making this text (and many others) available. The previous excerpt is here.
Philippians 4:11 Not that I speak because of lack, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content in it. (World English Bible, public domain.)

Friday, November 02, 2018

References to the Holy Spirit, occasions before Pentecost

The passages quoted or referenced below are the only ones referring unambiguously to the Holy Spirit, before Acts 2, when Pentecost occurred. There are a number of references to the Holy Spirit's work in Acts, in Paul's epistles, in Hebrews, and elsewhere in the New Testament, besides in the Gospels. I used the search function of The Bible Gateway, searching in the World English Bible, which is public domain.

Isaiah 63:10 But they rebelled, and grieved his holy Spirit. Therefore he turned and became their enemy, and he himself fought against them.

Isaiah 11 Then he remembered the days of old, Moses and his people, saying, “Where is he who brought them up out of the sea with the shepherds of his flock? Where is he who put his Holy Spirit among them?”

Matthew 1, Luke 1:35 refer to Mary’s pregnancy as being brought about by the Holy Spirit.

Luke 1:15 says that John the Baptist will be filled with the Holy Spirit, from before his birth.

Luke 1:41 and 67 say that both Zacharias and Elizabeth were filled with the Holy Spirit.

Luke 2:25 Behold, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.

Matthew 3:11, Mark 1:8, 3:16 John the Baptist says that Jesus will baptize with the Holy Spirit.

Matthew 12:32, Mark 3:29, Luke 12:10 warn against blaspheming against the Holy Spirit.

Luke 3:22 John 1:33 The Holy Spirit, in the form of a dove, descended upon Jesus.

Luke 4:1 Jesus was full of the Holy Spirit after he returned from the Jordan.

Matthew 28:19 Go, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

Mark 12:36 [Jesus speaking] For David himself said in the Holy Spirit, ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies the footstool of your feet.”’

Acts 1:16 “Brothers, it was necessary that this Scripture should be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke before by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who was guide to those who took Jesus.

Mark 13:11 When they lead you away and deliver you up, don’t be anxious beforehand, or premeditate what you will say, but say whatever will be given you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit.

Luke 10:21 In that same hour Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Spirit, and said, “I thank you, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for so it was well-pleasing in your sight.”

Luke 11:13 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?”

Luke 12:12 for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that same hour what you must say.”

John 7:39 But he said this about the Spirit, which those believing in him were to receive. For the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus wasn’t yet glorified. [The Holy Spirit had appeared, and, at least temporarily, anointed several people, as indicated in the previously quoted passages.]

John 14:26 But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and will remind you of all that I said to you.

John 20:22 When he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit!

Acts 1:2 until the day in which he was received up, after he had given commandment through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen.

Acts 1:5 For John indeed baptized in water, but you will be baptized in the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

Acts 1:8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you. You will be witnesses to me in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the uttermost parts of the earth.”

Thanks for reading!