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Monday, September 01, 2014

50 years at Southern Wesleyan University

50 years ago, during Labor Day weekend, I arrived at Central Wesleyan College (CWC, now Southern Wesleyan University, SWU). I thank God for how he led me, then, and now. I don't deserve it, and didn't.

I had just finished a doctorate at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. I had become a Wesleyan, and liked working with young people, and really couldn't see myself as a researcher, so I thought I should try to get a position with one of the Wesleyan colleges. One of them wasn't interested. Two others were. I couldn't make up my mind as to where to go. One night, at mid-week service in the Wesleyan church in Madison, founded by the late Floyd and Olive Titus, there was an invitation for prayer requests. I raised my hand, asking God to give me guidance in my choice. He did. When I returned to my residence, I was told that there was a call from Dr. Mullinax, in Central, South Carolina. I returned his call, and he asked if I had made up my mind. I told him that I just had done so, and agreed to begin work at CWC in the fall. I didn't know, but was later told, that Paul Wood and Claude Rickman had gone to Dr. Mullinax, President of CWC, during their mid-week service, and suggested that it might be a good idea to call that fellow LaBar. Mullinax apparently agreed.

CWC, now SWU, doesn't do things so casually anymore. I had never been in South Carolina until I drove to the campus to take the position, and none of the officials at CWC had ever laid eyes on me. I was not interviewed, I just applied, and, as told above, eventually we agreed for me to become part of CWC. Nowadays new faculty visit the campus, are carefully interviewed by several faculty, perhaps also by students and appropriate administrators, and are often asked to give a lecture or other presentation, before a contract is issued to prospective faculty.

It turned out that the other Wesleyan institution that was interested in my services did not last for more than a few years after I came to South Carolina, and merged with another Wesleyan college.

God helped me, during my 50 years at SWU, to find a godly wife, among the student body. (That sort of thing is frowned on, too, now, for understandable reasons.) He helped me in selecting other faculty to join me in the teaching of science of all kinds, and mathematics and computing, all within the Science Division. I recall, for example, when Academic Dean Claude Rickman and I met each other in the hall outside his office. He had received a letter of resignation from our chemistry teacher, and I had received a letter of inquiry about a position in chemistry, on the same mail, and we were going to see each other about what to do about this, with neither of us knowing about the other letter. (The applicant was hired, and taught chemistry well for a few years, then left for personal reasons. She could have continued, if she had chosen to.) My wife graduated at the head of her class, and both our children graduated from other Christian colleges.

I am thankful that many students influenced me for good, and for the wonderful experiences that I had while at CWC/SWU. These included the chapel services. I don't think I ever missed one, unless I was off campus, with one exception. A rabbit died as a result of a treatment, and a couple of students and I decided that it would be a good learning experience to do an autopsy on the animal, which lasted through chapel time. It was a good learning experience. I saw young people genuinely repent, and people receive a genuine call to some sort of ministry, many times. This was a great privilege. I saw, or heard from, students who came to SWU for all sorts of reasons, such as an athletic scholarship or because a friend had come, but who knew little or nothing of the Christian life, become Christian examples, and, sometimes, be called into some special Christian service.

SWU has grown significantly. There were about 200 students when I came, almost all of them living on campus. Now there are about ten times than many, and many of these are adults who live near our extension centers at various points in South Carolina.

I retired at the end of the 2004-5 academic year. However, I have been privileged to teach in summer school, and also to teach in the evening program, on the main campus, and in Greenville and North Charleston, South Carolina, since that time. Last week, I was asked to fill in in one course, for the woman who more than replaced me at SWU. She has a serious health problem, and was unable to function well enough to teach. It was a privilege to attempt to replace her briefly. I pray that she will be able to return to full strength, and do the service that God has called her to do, and that she has been doing, so well, at SWU for nine years.

Thanks for reading..


 

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Does the Bible really say that? Excerpt from my book, 50



New heaven? New body?

A number of Bible scholars, including [N. T.] Wright, believe that heaven, in its final state, does not yet exist. There are some good scriptural reasons for thinking this, such as John 14:2-3, quoted earlier in this chapter, indicating that Christ was going to do some preparatory work on the final resting place of believers. Then there’s Romans:

Romans 8:18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which will be revealed toward us. 19 For the creation waits with eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to vanity, not of its own will, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of decay into the liberty of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groans and travails in pain together until now.

This seems to be talking about the redemption of fallen earth, during the End Times. And, somehow, the redeemed creation, the rocks, plants, and mountains, maybe even the planets and the stars, are to be delivered, and, somehow, this deliverance is connected to glory “revealed toward us.” Or, as John put it in Revelation:

Revelation 21:1 I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth have passed away, and the sea is no more. 2 I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared like a bride adorned for her husband. 3 I heard a loud voice out of heaven saying, “Behold, God’s dwelling is with people, and he will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away from them every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; neither will there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain, any more. The first things have passed away.”
5a He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”

(For some musings about “the sea is no more,” see here.)

This is apocalyptic and visionary literature, of course. But it does mention a new heaven and a new earth, suggesting that there will be a physical existence inhabited by believers.

Not only Paul, and John, but Peter also had something to say about this matter:

2 Peter 3:13 But, according to his promise, we look for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.

Also, Genesis tells us that all of God’s creation was originally good, in Genesis 1:31a, which says that “God saw everything that he had made, and, behold, it was very good.” God could, of course, discard or destroy His original good creation, but indications are that, instead, He wishes to redeem and renew it.


The above material is an excerpt from my self-published e-book, Does the Bible Really Say That?, which may be obtained free of charge, or purchased from Amazon for $0.99, which is the lowest price Amazon lets an author set. Scripture quotations are from the World English Bible, which is in the public domain.

The previous post in this series, on the topic of the idea of going to heaven, is here. God willing, the next post in this series will continue with a related topic. Thanks for reading.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Biblical evidence for a physical body after death

The Bible teaches that there will be a physical body for the redeemed, at some point after death. Here is some of the evidence. All quotations are from the World English Bible, public domain:

Job 19:25 But as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives.
In the end, he will stand upon the earth.
26 After my skin is destroyed,
then in my flesh shall I see God,


Christ had a physical body after His resurrection:
Luke 24:1 But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they and some others came to the tomb, bringing the spices which they had prepared. 2 They found the stone rolled away from the tomb. 3 They entered in, and didn’t find the Lord Jesus’ body. (Presumably because His body had been transformed, and He was still inhabiting it, and had left the area.)

Luke 24:38 He said to them, “Why are you troubled? Why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39  See my hands and my feet, that it is truly me. Touch me and see, for a spirit doesn’t have flesh and bones, as you see that I have.” 40 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41 While they still didn’t believe for joy, and wondered, he said to them, “Do you have anything here to eat?”
42 They gave him a piece of a broiled fish and some honeycomb. 43 He took them, and ate in front of them.


John 20:17 Jesus said to her, “Don’t hold me*, for I haven’t yet ascended to my Father; but go to my brothers, and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”  *A number of translations say “Don’t cling to me,” or “Don’t touch me,” which would have not been possible, if Christ was only a spirit.

John 20:24 But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, wasn’t with them when Jesus came. 25 The other disciples therefore said to him, “We have seen the Lord!”
But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails, put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
26 After eight days again his disciples were inside, and Thomas was with them. Jesus came, the doors being locked, and stood in the middle, and said, “Peace be to you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Reach here your finger, and see my hands. Reach here your hand, and put it into my side. Don’t be unbelieving, but believing.”
 


We will be like Christ
John indicates that we will be like the risen Christ, indicating that we, too, will have a glorified body:
1 John 3: 2 Beloved, now we are children of God, and it is not yet revealed what we will be. But we know that when he is revealed, we will be like him; for we will see him just as he is.

Romans 8:18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which will be revealed toward us. 19 For the creation waits with eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to vanity, not of its own will, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of decay into the liberty of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groans and travails in pain together until now. 23 Not only so, but ourselves also, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for adoption, the redemption of our body.

1 Corinthians 15:51 Behold, I tell you a mystery. We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we will be changed. 53 For this perishable body must become imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54 But when this perishable body will have become imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then what is written will happen: “Death is swallowed up in victory.”

Revelation 7:9 After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude, which no man could count, out of every nation and of all tribes, peoples, and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, dressed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands. Revelation uses figurative language, and it is clear that much of it was not meant to be taken literally. The redeemed presumably would not be able to hold palm branches in their hands, or wear robes, without a body.

New heaven and new earth
God promises a new creation, apparently physical as well as spiritual. (See also the Romans 8 passage, above.) Presumably a new creation with physical structure will be inhabited by believers who are physically resurrected. Revelation 20:1 I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth have passed away, and the sea is no more.

For more on the matter of "the sea no more" see here.

The Apostle's Creed is not scripture, but was a concise statement of what the church believes. It includes this:  
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
    the holy Christian Church,
        the communion of saints,
    the forgiveness of sins,
    the resurrection of the body,
    and the life everlasting. Amen.
(This is the version used in the Lutheran Service Book. All the versions I saw use the phrase "resurrection of the body.")


It is not clear, at least to me, as to when we will assume this glorified body, but, in comparison to eternity, whether it is assumed immediately upon death, or after the Final Kingdom, with its new heaven and new earth, is established, or somewhere between these points, doesn't matter much.

The best fictional portrayal of the bodily resurrection is in The Silver Chair, by C. S. Lewis, when King Caspian is transformed, after his death, but only because of the blood of Aslan, the lion.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Sunspots 485

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

Christianity: A post in Relevant says that complaining is a spiritual problem.

Education: National Public Radio reports on Turnitin, a service that checks the papers submitted by college students, for plagiarism.
Health: An amazing 3-minute video on what we look like to an ultraviolet camera. The video also shows graphic evidence that we should use sun-screen, aka sunblock, and that glass blocks UV waves. See here for a report on the video, in Slate.
Humor: (Or something) Coffee is now being made from coffee beans eaten, then passed through the gut, of elephants. Really, says National Public Radio.
Science:  Wired reports that city spiders grow bigger than spiders not in urban areas.
NPR reports on using people with Down syndrome as subjects for research into Alzheimer's. It turns out that, if they live long enough, all people with Down syndrome develop Alzheimer's.

Wired also reports on fungi that control the behavior of ants.

Image source (public domain)

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Does the Bible really say that? Excerpt from my book, 49



The phrase, “Kingdom of Heaven,” occurs 31 times in Matthew. (It doesn’t occur anywhere else in the Bible.) The natural tendency is to suppose that Jesus was talking about life after death.

Actually, says [N. T.] Wright, Jesus was talking about this life. This phrase is related to another common one: Matthew 6:10 “Let your Kingdom come. Let your will be done, as in heaven, so on earth.” (This is part of the Lord’s Prayer.)

The Wikipedia has an article on the Kingdom of God, and it says that Matthew uses Kingdom of Heaven instead of Kingdom of God, but that they are equivalent. As to the meaning of the phrase, this is what the Wikipedia says:

No overall agreement on the theological interpretation of "Kingdom of God" has emerged among scholars. . . . Some scholars have interpreted it as a Christian lifestyle, some as a method of world evangelization, some as the rediscovery of charismatic gifts, others relate it to no present or future situation, but the world to come, often based on the theological leanings of the scholar in question

Mark 9:1 He said to them, “Most certainly I tell you, there are some standing here who will in no way taste death until they see God’s Kingdom come with power.”

That uses a phrase close to “Kingdom of Heaven,” or “Kingdom of God.” It is possible that Jesus was deceived, or knowingly made a false statement, here. It is also possible that He was talking about the resurrection. But a literal reading agrees with Wright – He was talking about His Kingdom on earth, which He established, and which Kingdom was strengthened, and placed on a firm foundation, when the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost. Except for Judas, all of the Twelve saw the arrival of God’s Kingdom, in this way, with power. So did many others.


The above material is an excerpt from my self-published e-book, Does the Bible Really Say That?, which may be obtained free of charge, or purchased from Amazon for $0.99, which is the lowest price Amazon lets an author set. Scripture quotations are from the World English Bible, which is in the public domain.

The previous post in this series, on the topic of the idea of going to heaven, is here. God willing, the next post in this series will continue with a related topic. Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Sunspots 484

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

Computing:
A Wired reporter liked everything he saw on Facebook, and tells what happened, as a result. Scary.





Thanks to Commenter FancyHorse, I'm adding a link to another article, from an author who stopped liking anything on Facebook, and recommends that habit to us Facebook users.
 

Wired also reports on why we don't catch our own typos.

Education: National Public Radio reports on college rapes. 5-10% of men seem to believe that it's OK to get a girl drunk and rape her, and have done so, with approval from a peer group. Here's a related story.

Humor: Wired reports on the fantastic creatures that North American lumberjacks imagined (with pictures).

Science:
Relevant has an article on a two-headed dolphin, washed up on a beach.


Image source (public domain)



Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Red or blue? Right or left? They're both wrong.

Ecclesiastes 12:10 The Preacher sought to find out acceptable words, and that which was written blamelessly, words of truth. 11 The words of the wise are like goads; and like nails well fastened are words from the masters of assemblies, which are given from one shepherd. (Scripture quotations from the World English Bible, public domain)

It's dangerous to read too much into a Bible passage, but this one seems to be saying that there is really only one source of truth, one shepherd. Others may speak, or write, but what they say should be measured against Christ's character and His teachings.

It is unfortunately true that one of the results of the multiplication of media outlets is that people can pick some that match their biases and predispositions, or their religion or race, and never even see or hear from other sources that may disagree. This was illustrated by a recent report in Wired. The author decided to "like" everything he saw in Facebook, including things that he definitely didn't like, to see what would happen. He reports "As day one rolled into day two, I began dreading going to Facebook. It had become a temple of provocation. Just as my News Feed had drifted further and further right, so too did it drift further and further left." In other words, what he saw matched what Facebook thought he really did like. In this case, the author was seeing bias in both directions, but most Facebook users, perhaps unconsciously, have their information and opinion sources tilted in only one direction. We tend to watch, read and listen to news sources that agree with our previous opinions.

So who is right? Whoops! Who is correct?

Both the right and the left, the red and the blue, are wrong.

A few years ago, this blog noted that abortion seemed to have suddenly ceased being the most important political issue for conservative Christians, and had been replaced by immigration concerns. Why? The influence of Lou Dobbs and other TV commentators. But the most important source of the political inspiration of Christians should be the Bible, not media personalities.

Both the left and the right, the red and the blue, are wrong. How?

* The right tends to ignore the plight of the poor, minorities, and otherwise less powerful people, including immigrants. For the Christian, there should be sympathy for immigrants, illegal or not, and concern for their spiritual and economic welfare. The Old Testament speaks about being kind to strangers. So does the New. Leviticus 19:33 "If a stranger lives as a foreigner with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. 34 The stranger who lives as a foreigner with you shall be to you as the native-born among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you lived as foreigners in the land of Egypt. I am Yahweh your God." Injustice and racism are wrong. Psalm 72 speaks of the role of government (in that case, King David, who was the government) in helping and protecting the poor.
* The right tends to believe that the way to solve many problems is to send in troops, or to use bombs, or to use, sell or give away more weapons and ammunition. It seems to forget that Christ didn't say "stand your ground," but "turn the other cheek." How much violence in other countries would never have happened without US military aid? How many repressive dictatorships has such aid propped up? Too many.
* The right believes that the most important political and economic solutions are to cut taxes, if possible to zero, and to let the free enterprise system have unregulated license to act in the best interests of the stockholders. The free enterprise system has its place, but it has led to pollution and other problems. It bears at least some of the blame for the recent recession, where the US economy declined by about a third in the space of a year of so. Taxes are needed for roads and other infrastructure, for funding regulatory agencies, for public schools, for paying police, firefighters, and troops, (and politicians -- including those who want to cut taxes!) and for other things.

* The left seems to want to ignore Biblical teachings on sex and marriage. Homosexual activity is wrong. (See here). Many Christians, and others, believe that abortion is murder. (See here.)
* The left seems to want to ignore property rights. Although the New Testament says very little about property, the Old Testament indicates that it was very important to the Jews, and taking someone's property without just compensation is just as wrong as denying someone a job because of their ethnic background.
* The left seems to believe that the most important political and economic solutions are to increase government size and the amount of government regulation. Government agencies have their place -- I'm grateful for the Social Security Administration, for example -- but they also tend to get mired down in red tape, and submit to the wishes of special interests, rather than doing what they were originally supposed to do. And government does cost money, lots of it.

God help me to take a Biblical position, if I need to take a political position at all. The left and right are both partly wrong, in serious ways. Thanks for reading.