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Monday, August 20, 2018

Did 90% of all animal species arise at the same time as humans?

Recent articles on-line have alleged that about 90% of all animal species came to be at the same time as humans. See this post for references to four such articles.

What is this idea based on? This article is the main reason for such an idea. (The link given is to a summary. The summary includes a link to the full technical article it is based on, which is freely accessible.) A technique known as DNA barcoding was used. DNA barcoding usually compares a small amount, about 600 base pairs, of the mitochondrial DNA of different organisms. Mitochondria have DNA which is separate from the DNA in the cell's nucleus. DNA barcoding has been used, for example, to check the identity of fish sold for food -- are cheaper fish being passed off as more expensive ones? In some cases, the answer has been "yes." Mitochondria are passed on by females, as sperm do not have mitochondria. To quote from the summary of the article: 
Several convergent lines of evidence show that mitochondrial diversity in modern humans follows from sequence uniformity followed by the accumulation of largely neutral diversity during a population expansion that began approximately 100,000 years ago. A straightforward hypothesis is that the extant populations of almost all animal species have arrived at a similar result consequent to a similar process of expansion from mitochondrial uniformity within the last one to several hundred thousand years.

If true, this has important implications for origins. Ken Ham's blog has posted as article about this idea, and, not surprisingly, claims that these findings are consistent with his young-earth creation model, with survival of land animals after the flood, and not consistent with mainstream evolutionary thought. Perhaps so. Ham does note that the time for this increase in diversity suggested, 100,000, or more, years ago is not consistent with his model, which claims that all land animals arose about 6,000 years ago. He says that the difference in time is because of wrong evolutionary assumptions by mainstream biologists.

It seems premature to reach any firm conclusions on this matter. There have been some substantive criticisms of the barcoding method being applied to taxonomy. This article, from an important journal, Systematic Biology, strongly argues that taxonomic conclusions should not be drawn from only one type of data, be that DNA barcoding, the fossil record, or something else. The article isn't against young-earth creationism, in fact doesn't mention it, but it is against not using all types of data in developing taxonomic relationships. "Systematic," in this context, has to do with classifying organisms.

The Systematic Biology article also indicates some possible problems with DNA barcoding, and points out that the original article, quoted above: "... never [claims] that most 'species' came into existence within the past 200,000 years. Rather, what has come into existence within that time frame is the genetic variation observed in one gene in the mitochondrial genome."

DNA barcoding results, although interesting, and sometimes useful, should not be taken as overwhelming scientific proof of young-earth creationism, at least not yet. And, if such proof becomes stronger, the "young" of young-earth creationism may need revision to considerably more than six to ten thousand years ago.

I'm not sure how the remaining 10% of animal species are supposed to have originated, if, indeed, about 90% of them originated close to one time.

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

The Art of Divine Contentment: An Exposition of Philippians 4:11 by Thomas Watson. Excerpt 40

Watson continues discussing reasons to be contented, or "contentation," as he puts it.

6th. excellency. Contentment sweetens every condition. Christ turned the water into wine; so contentment turns the waters of Marah into spiritual wine. Have I but little? yet it is more than I can deserve or challenge. This modicum is in mercy; it is the fruit of Christ’s blood, it is the legacy of free grace: a small present sent from a king is highly valued. This little I have is with a good conscience; it is not stolen waters; guilt hath not muddied or poisoned it; it runs pure. This little is a pledge of more: this bit of bread is an earnest of that bread which I shall eat in the kingdom of God; this little water in the cruise is an earnest of that heavenly nectar which shall be distilled from the true vine. Do I meet with some crosses? my comfort is, if they be heavy, I have not far to go; I shall but carry my cross to Golgotha and there I shall leave it; my cross is light in regard of the weight of glory. Hath God taken away my comforts from me? it is well, the Comforter still abides. Thus contentment, as a honey-comb, drops sweetness into every condition. Discontent is a leaven that sours every comfort; it puts aloes and wormwood upon the breast of the creature; it lessens every mercy, it trebles every cross; but the contented spirit sucks sweetness from every flower of providence; it can make a treacle of poison. Contentation is full of consolation.

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, August 17, 2018

"Scripture" in the New Testament

I looked up the word, “Scripture” in the New Testament. A search yielded about 165 occurrences, in 17 of the 27 books of the NT. Below are some of them, using the World English Bible, which is public domain, except where otherwise indicated. I have attempted to give the most important references, and representative ones.

Matthew 4:4 But he answered, “It is written*, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.’” [Deut 8:3] *CEV “The Scriptures say …” Christ responded to Satan this way three times.

John 5:39 “You search the Scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and these are they which testify about me….

19:36 For these things happened, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, “A bone of him will not be broken.” 37 Again another Scripture says, “They will look on him whom they pierced.” [Ps 34:20; Zech 12:10]

20:9 For as yet they didn’t know the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead. [Psalm 16:10]

Acts 17:11 Now these were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of the mind, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so. [Refers to the Bereans]

Romans 4:3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” [Gen 15:6]

12:19 Don’t seek revenge yourselves, beloved, but give place to God’s wrath. For it is written, “Vengeance belongs to me; I will repay, says the Lord.” [Deut 32:35]

15:4 For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that through patience and through encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

1 Corinthians 10:26 for “the earth is the Lord’s, and its fullness.” [Ps 24:1]

15:3 For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 15:4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, …

James 2:8 However, if you fulfill the royal law, according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you do well. [Lev 19:18]

1 Peter 1:15 but just as he who called you is holy, you yourselves also be holy in all of your behavior; 1:16 because it is written, “You shall be holy; for I am holy.” [Lev 11:44-5]

To the New Testament writers, and readers, "scripture" meant what we now know as the Old Testament. The New Testament mostly, or entirely, had not been written yet, and, if parts of it had been, they may not have received wide distribution yet. It seems clear that the New Testament writers, and Christ, Himself, accepted the Old Testament as authoritative and important.

Thanks for reading! Read the Bible.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

The Most Important Spiritual Disciplines

Spiritual Disciplines are habits, practices, and experiences that are designed to develop, grow, and strengthen a believer's spiritual life. They are things that Christians can, and are, expected to do, for their own benefit, as opposed to Spiritual Gifts, which are meant for the uplifting of a group of believers. Although they are for the individual, doing these will make us more like Christ, and lead us to benefit others in many ways. Two Bible passages which are direct commands to engage in self-initiated exercise toward spiritual growth are 1 Timothy 4:7b (Exercise yourself toward godliness ...) and Philippians 2:12b (work out your own salvation with fear and trembling...).

There is no widely agreed-upon list of Spiritual  Disciplines. The chart below uses four sources which do give lists, and compares them. My own list is derived from these, and is below.

Spiritual Disciplines chart (I attempted to line up the same items across the chart, but Blogger and/or your browser may not line them up properly. Sorry.)
Richard J. Foster,
Celebration of Discipline





Dallas Willard, the Spirit of the Disciplines





Study §

Worship §







Adele Ahlberg, Spiritual Disciplines Handbook





Lord’s Supper

Prayer (at fixed time(s))


*Willard calls these “Disciplines of Abstinence” and §these “Disciplines of Engagement.”

These Disciplines are mentioned in all four sources: Fasting, Prayer, and Study.
These are mentioned in three of these sources: Confession, Service, Solitude, Submission. It would seem, then, that at least these seven Disciplines are important, even essential, for the proper Christian life.
I’m guessing that “Solitude” includes Meditation, and would add that Discipline to the “most important” list. Individual Worship can be combined with Meditation and Solitude. Celebration is one form of Worship. 

There are other things that a Christian normally should do, including Celebration, Evangelism/Witnessing and group Worship, which includes the Lord’s Supper, but these don’t strike me as Disciplines. Neither does Discernment.

Journaling can be part of Study and Meditation. Contemplation and Self-Examination are part of Meditation. Celibacy, Detachment and Secrecy are aspects of Solitude. Stewardship is an aspect of Service. Stewardship often leads to Frugality and Simplicity.

Gratitude may not be a Discipline, in the minds of all. Perhaps they see it as part of Meditation. Celebration is  part of Gratitude, too. However, it seems to me, based on the Bible’s emphasis on it, that Gratitude is so important, and should be engaged in almost continuously, that I’m going to add it to my list of the most important Disciplines.

Adoration – praising God for who and what He is as opposed to Gratitude, thanking God for specific things He has done, is not on any of the lists, but, again, it strikes me as so important that it is included in the list below. There are important Biblical prayers that include Adoration, such as Solomon’s prayer at the dedication of the Temple (“Yahweh, the God of Israel, there is no God like you …”), the prayer of the Disciples in Acts 4 (“O Lord, you are God, who made the heaven, the earth, the sea …”) part of Christ’s High Priestly prayer in John (“17:5 Now, Father, glorify me with your own self with the glory which I had with you before the world existed….”), Psalm 8:1 (“Yahweh, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth, who has set your glory above the heavens!”), Psalm 104 (1 Bless Yahweh, my soul. Yahweh, my God, you are very great. You are clothed with honor and majesty.”). Other passages with adoration are Hebrews 1 (3a His Son is the radiance of his glory, the very image of his substance, and upholding all things by the word of his power …”), the song of the angels at the birth of Christ (Luke 2:14a “Glory to God in the highest …”) and John’s description of the Holy City (Revelation 21:22 I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God, the Almighty, and the Lamb, are its temple. 21:23 The city has no need for the sun, neither of the moon, to shine, for the very glory of God illuminated it, and its lamp is the Lamb.”)

None of the sources list “Bible Reading” as a Discipline. Bible Reading is not necessarily the same thing as Bible Study, however, and I would add that to the list of most important Disciplines, which is meant to include all of those mentioned in the table above, in some way:

Adoration, Bible Reading, Bible Study, Confession, Fasting, Gratitude, Meditation, Prayer, Service, Solitude, Submission.

Thanks for reading! Practice the Spiritual Disciplines.