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Thursday, October 30, 2014

Heresy among evangelicals of our day

First Things reports on a survey done by Christianity Today. The report indicates that many evangelical Christians hold views that the historic church has labeled as heresies. The report also indicates the probable reason for most of this unfortunate situation. That is that many evangelicals interpret the idea of scripture as the basis of belief as meaning "I should interpret scripture entirely for myself," rather than "I should temper my interpretation of scripture with what other Christians believe now, and have believed."

As Peter said, a long time ago, scripture should not be interpreted privately.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Sunspots 493

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

Computing: National Public Radio says that Facebook won't let you have an account, if you are 100 or older, and give your real age.

Humor: (or something) NPR reports on corn-picking contests. No machinery, just the person.

Politics: (sort of) NPR reports on the reluctance to accept that Ebola is not an air-borne virus.

Relevant reports that, if you have $3,650, or more, after debt is figured in, you have more money than half of the people on earth. (That's $10 a day, by the way.)

Science:  NPR reports that we might have been better off living in villages with about 150 people, than living with the type and number of social interactions that most of us have.

Wired reports on new techniques to determine if there really is awareness in a person in a coma, or an apparent persistent vegetative state. Apparently, sometimes, there is.

Sports: from USA Today, and other media: Lauren Hill, college freshman basketball player, hopes to enter her first game on November 2, provided she hasn't been incapacitated completely by an inoperable brain tumor by that time. There are videos of this, from CBS, and ABC.
Image source (public domain)

Monday, October 27, 2014

Can Klingons be saved?

I was amazed to stumble upon an interview in Scientific American, entitled "Did Jesus Save the Klingons?"

The person interviewed clearly is not a friend of Christianity. But so what. Is he right, and, could Jesus save the Klingons, or do Klingons need salvation through Christ?

I have previously posted on the question of religion among extraterrestrials (or not). My conclusions haven't changed. Here they are, re-stated.

First, we do not know, from science or the Bible, whether there are any intelligent races other than humans in the universe. The Bible is silent on the subject, unless Jesus was referring to such when he spoke about other sheep, not of this fold. (John 10:14) I'm not sure what He meant, but perhaps He was referring to the Gentiles. He might have been referring to extraterrestrials. Probably not. There are a lot of planets out there, orbiting other stars, and it is close to certain that there are a lot more that we haven't been able to detect. That doesn't prove that there is intelligent life out there. For that matter, it doesn't prove that there is life of any kind outside the Solar System. It is, however, impossible to disprove the existence of other intelligent beings.

Second, if there were intelligent aliens, would they need salvation? My guess is that they might not. Humans, according Christian doctrine, need salvation because of The Fall, a decision to disobey by our first ancestors, which resulted in sin becoming part of our very natures. Extraterrestrials might never have made such a terrible choice, or, possibly, may never had the opportunity to make such a choice. C. S. Lewis, no less, wrote about not one, but three races of intelligent, unfallen beings in his Out of the Silent Planet. It was fictional, of course. (See here.)

Would unfallen beings would need any sort of redemption? Maybe, maybe not. Fallen beings do.

Third, if there are fallen intelligent beings on other worlds, is it necessary that Christ died for their salvation? Maybe not. His death, once, on earth, might have been adequate for the redemption of the entire creation. Or, on some other planet, it might be that the equivalent of The Fall might require some other sort of atonement -- don't ask me what kind.

If the Bible is true, humans living on this planet need redemption through Christ. See here and here. We did sin, and we do need redemption, and can't provide this for ourselves. It is interesting to speculate about intelligent beings on other planets, but probably not very wise to speculate about it very much, unless and until we know that such beings exist.

It is possible that dolphins, whales, and great apes, and possibly some other animals, might be substituted for the extraterrestrials in the above discussion. But, again, we have no certainty that they can make important moral choices, and communicate about them effectively. Maybe, maybe not.

If there are Klingons, and they need salvation, God must have provided it, somehow.

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Lectures on Revivals of Religion, by Charles Grandison Finney, 6

An individual once went into a manufactory to see the machinery. His mind was solemn, as he had been where there was a revival. The people who labored there all knew him by sight, and knew who he was. A young lady who was at work saw him, and whispered some foolish remark to her companion, and laughed. The person stopped and looked at her with a feeling of grief. She stopped, her thread broke, and she was so much agitated she could not join it. She looked out at the window to compose herself, and then tried again; again and again she strove to recover her self-command. At length she sat down, overcome with her feelings. The person then approached and spoke with her; she soon manifested a deep sense of sin. The feeling spread through the establishment like fire, and in a few hours almost every person employed there was under conviction, so much so, that the owner, though a worldly man, was astounded, and requested to have the works stop and have a prayer meeting; for he said it was a great deal more important to have these people converted than to have the works go on. And in a few days, the owner and nearly every person employed in the establishment were hopefully converted. The eye of this individual, his solemn countenance, his compassionate feeling, rebuked the levity of the young woman, and brought her under conviction of sin: and this whole revival followed, probably in a great measure, from so small an incident.

If Christians have deep feeling on the subject of religion themselves, they will produce deep feeling wherever they go. And if they are cold, or light and trifling, they inevitably destroy all deep feeling, even in awakened sinners

The previous post in this series is here. Charles Grandison Finneyʼs Lectures on Revivals of Religion is in the public domain, as I understand it. It is available here. Thanks for reading. Seek revival. 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

What Todd Wood would like to hear an evolutionary creationist say, and what Dennis Venema would like to hear a young-earth creationist say

That's a long title!

I just found two interesting articles, both quite readable, and neither too long for the average reader who is interested in the subject, and neither requiring special background in science or theology. Both of these articles were written for the Colossian Forum.

Todd Charles Wood is a committed young-earth creationist, and a believer. He has sound scientific credentials. (See here for a summary of the information on him. I'm pretty sure that he is no longer at Bryan College, however. Here's his blog.) I have been reading his blog for a few years. He has written an article on what he would like to hear from an evolutionary creationist. Dennis Venema is a committed evolutionary creationist, and a believer. He has sound scientific credentials. (See here for a summary of the information on him. That link also leads to Venema's writing for the BioLogos Forum.) I have been reading his posts in the BioLogos Forum for a few years. He has written an article on what he would like to hear from a young-earth creationist.

So what do they say? Well you can, and should, read the articles. But I can sum it up simply -- each author admits that "his side" doesn't know everything, and should be properly humble about it, and understand that Christians may differ on some issues and still be Christians, and hopes that the representative of the other side will do the same. In the case of Venema and Wood, they have. Unfortunately, that is not always true, and Christianity is worse off because it isn't true.

We don't know everything about origins. We do know that God was involved. Thanks for reading. Read Wood and Venema.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Some states get a lot more from the Federal Government than they pay in Federal Income Taxes

The Wall Street Journal has analyzed how much money each state gets from the Federal Government, as a ratio of the amount of federal income taxes paid by residents of that state, how many federal employees there are in that state, and the percentage of revenue in the state that is from the Federal Government. My state, South Carolina, gets more return (if you want to put it that way) on income taxes paid than any other state, namely $7.87 received for each dollar of federal income tax paid. The report says: ". . . what the data in the study generally reveal (although not the whole story) is the redistribution of national income from wealthier individuals (states) to lower-income individuals (states) in the form of health and welfare benefits."

The report also indicates that "Red" states receive significantly more from the Federal Government than "Blue" states. (Red states mostly vote Republican, Blue vote Democratic.)

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Lectures on Revivals of Religion, by Charles Grandison Finney, 5

Ordinarily, there are three agents employed in the work of conversion, and one instrument. The agents are God,—some person who brings the truth to bear on the mind,—and the sinner himself. The instrument is the truth. There are always two agents, God and the sinner, employed and active in every case of genuine conversion. 

1. The agency of God is two-fold; by his Providence and by his Spirit.
(1.) By his providential government, he so arranges events as to bring the sinner’s mind and the truth in contact. He brings the sinner where the truth reaches his ears or his eyes. It is often interesting to trace the manner in which God arranges events so as to bring this about, and how he sometimes makes every thing seem to favor a revival. The state of the weather, and of the public health, and other circumstances concur to make every thing just right to favor the application of truth with the greatest possible efficacy. How he sometimes sends a minister along, just at the time he is wanted! How he brings out a particular truth, just at the particular time when the individual it is fitted to reach is in the way to hear! 

(2.) God’s special agency by his Holy Spirit. Having direct access to the mind, and knowing infinitely well the whole history and state of each individual sinner, he employs that truth which is best adapted to his particular case, and then sets it home with Divine power. He gives it such vividness, strength, and power, that the sinner quails, and throws down his weapons of rebellion, and turns to the Lord. Under his influence, the truth burns and cuts its way like fire. He makes the truth stand out in such aspects, that it crushes the proudest man down with the weight of a mountain. If men were disposed to obey God, the truth is given with sufficient clearness 17in the Bible; and from preaching they could learn all that is necessary for them to know. But because they are wholly disinclined to obey it, God clears it up before their minds, and pours in a blaze of convincing light upon their souls, which they cannot withstand, and they yield to it, and obey God, and are saved. 

2. The agency of men is commonly employed. Men are not mere instruments in the hands of God. Truth is the instrument. The preacher is a moral agent in the work; he acts; he is not a mere passive instrument; he is voluntary in promoting the conversion of sinners. 

3. The agency of the sinner himself. The conversion of a sinner consists in his obeying the truth. It is therefore impossible it should take place without his agency, for it consists in his acting right. He is influenced to this by the agency of God, and by the agency of men. Men act on their fellow-men, not only by language, but by their looks, their tears, their daily deportment. See that impenitent man there, who has a pious wife. Her very looks, her tenderness, her solemn, compassionate dignity, softened and moulded into the image of Christ are a sermon to him all the time. He has to turn his mind away, because it is such a reproach to him. He feels a sermon ringing in his ears all day long.
Mankind are accustomed to read the countenances of their neighbors. Sinners often read the state of a Christian’s mind in his eyes. If his eyes are full of levity, or worldly anxiety and contrivance, sinners read it. If they are full of the Spirit of God, sinners read it; and they are often led to conviction by barely seeing the countenance of Christians.

The previous post in this series is here. Charles Grandison Finneyʼs Lectures on Revivals of Religion is in the public domain, as I understand it. It is available here. Thanks for reading. Seek revival. 

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Parallels between Jesus and Isaac

No one compares fully with Christ, by a long shot. But there are some similarities between Christ, born to Mary, and Isaac, the son of Abraham and Sarah:

The birth of both was prophesied. Although there were several prophecies about Christ's coming to earth in the Old Testament, and, of course, none about Isaac, since there don't seem to have been any prophets then, God spoke to both of the earthly fathers about the coming of the sons they would be responsible for. (He also spoke to Mary, and Sarah.)

The conception of both was miraculous. Sarah, was too old to have a child when Isaac was conceived. Mary couldn't conceive normally, because she was a virgin.

Both of them, as specially valued sons, were put in a position of being sacrificed, because of God's plan. Isaac was not sacrificed, but the Bible doesn't indicate that he struggled against Abraham's preparations to sacrifice him. Christ didn't want to go to the cross, but He prayed that God's will be done.

Isaac became an ancestor of all of the Jews, through his son Jacob, aka Israel. Christ became the founder of all of the believers who follow the New Testament.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Jeremiah on environmental stewardship

God owns the earth, and gives control over it to us:

Jeremiah 27:5 ‘I have made the earth, the men, and the animals that are on the surface of the earth by my great power and by my outstretched arm. I give it to whom it seems right to me. 6 Now I have given all these lands into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, my servant. I have also given the animals of the field to him to serve him. (World English Bible, public domain)

My main post on environmental stewardship is here. It has received over 5,000 view, and was supposed to have covered the ground thoroughly. But it somehow overlooked the passage above. The Bible is like that -- full of surprises! I have added that scripture to the main post.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Abraham's faith, an example for us

The "faith chapter" of Hebrews gives Abraham more space than any other character. (His wife, Sarah, is also mentioned there.) Abraham is mentioned in other places in the New Testament, as an example of faith. See here for the results of a search, using the English Standard Version of the Bible.

So how was Abraham faithful? In at least these ways:
He took God as his God.
He left home and culture.
He made a covenant with God. (Gen. 15)

He believed that God would spare Sodom for 10 righteous people.
He was willing to sacrifice Isaac.

He made arrangements for to get a wife for Isaac from his relatives, who were a long way away, and believed that it could be accomplished. (It was.)

Unfortunately, Abraham didn't always live by faith. He had at least these moral lapses:
In Genesis 12:11-20, we are told that he lied to Pharaoh about his wife, because he was afraid he would be killed by Pharaoh, who might want to possess her for himself.
In Genesis 16, he agreed to father Ishmael, by Hagar.
In Genesis 17:15-18, he doubted God’s promise of a child through Sarah.
In Genesis 20, he lied to Abimelech about his wife, for reasons similar to those in Genesis 12.

Abraham wasn't perfect, and didn't always believe God. But, when it counted, he did. What an example!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Sunspots 492

Things I have recently spotted that may be of interest to someone else:
Christianity: A post in Relevant magazine, on how many Christians do not accept the End Times view that the Left Behind movie is based on.
Also in Relevant, a post on why Christians should have Muslim friends, real ones.

And, also from Relevant, a great post on the uses and misuses of anger.

In Christianity Today, an article about the first Protestant missionary to India (you've never heard of him).

Computing: Gizmo's Freeware has a free anti-virus utility that they rate highly.
Science:  In Wired, video of an Icelandic volcano, erupting, taken with a drone.
From the BBC, a good article on keeping very accurate time. (A second is no longer a fraction of a day, by the way.) Thanks to one of my brothers for the link.

NPR interviews an expert on teenage brain development, who has some radical suggestions for high school (and later) education.

Image source (public domain)

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Lectures on Revivals of Religion, by Charles Grandison Finney, 4


It is the renewal of the first love of Christians, resulting in the awakening and conversion of sinners to God. In the popular sense, a revival of religion in a community is the arousing, quickening, and reclaiming of the more or less backslidden church and the more or less general awakening of all classes, and insuring attention to the claims of God. 

It presupposes that the church is sunk down in a backslidden state, and a revival consists in the return of a church from her backslidings, and in the conversion of sinners. 

1. A revival always includes conviction of sin on the part of the church. Backslidden professors* cannot wake up and begin right away in the service of God, without deep searchings of heart. The fountains of sin need to be broken up. In a true revival, Christians are always brought under such convictions; they see their sins in such a light, that often they find it impossible to maintain a hope of their acceptance with God. It does not always go to that extent; but there are always, in a genuine revival, deep convictions of sin, and often cases of abandoning all hope.

2. Backslidden Christians will be brought to repentance. A revival is nothing else than a new beginning of obedience to God. Just as in the case of a converted sinner, the first step is a deep repentance, a breaking down of heart, a getting down into the dust before God, with deep humility, and forsaking of sin.

3. Christians will have their faith renewed. While they are in their backslidden state they are blind to the state of sinners. Their hearts are as hard as marble. The truths of the Bible only appear like a dream. They admit it to be all true; their conscience and their judgment assent to it; but their faith does not see it standing out in bold relief, in all the burning realities of eternity. But when they enter into a revival, they no longer see men as trees walking, but they see things in that strong light which will renew the love of God in their hearts. This will lead them to labor zealously to bring others to him. They will feel grieved that others do not love God, when they love him so much. And they will set themselves feelingly to persuade their neighbors to give him their hearts. So their love to men will be renewed. They will be filled with a tender and burning love for souls. They will have a longing desire for the salvation of the whole world. They will be in an agony for individuals whom they want to have saved—their friends, relations, enemies. They will not only be urging them to give their hearts to God, but they will carry them to God in the arms of faith, and with strong crying and tears beseech God to have mercy on them, and save their souls from endless burnings.

4. A revival breaks the power of the world and of sin over Christians. It brings them to such vantage ground that they get a fresh impulse towards heaven. They have a new foretaste of heaven, and new desires after union with God; and the charm of the world is broken, and the power of sin overcome. 

*professors - professors of being redeemed; those who claim that they are redeemed, i. e., profess to being in such a state.

The previous post in this series is here. Charles Grandison Finneyʼs Lectures on Revivals of Religion is in the public domain, as I understand it. It is available here. Thanks for reading. Seek revival. 

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Sunspots 491

Things I have recently spotted that may be of interest to someone else:
Christianity: Weekend Fisher tells us how to love someone.

Humor: (or something) Wired, on how people used to believe that beavers bit off their own testicles.
Politics: Rachel Lu, writing in The Federalist, says that pro-abortion advocates are now telling stories in defense of abortion. Lu has a sensitive and thoughtful reply, and anyone, whatever her position on abortion, should be made to think.
Science: Wired has an interesting article, with this title: "If Someone Secretly Controlled What You Say, Would Anyone Notice?" The answer, probably not. The article uses the intriguing term, cyranoid.
Wired also reports on why it's so difficult to lose an accent.

National Public radio reports that there are a lot of microbes in New York City's Central Park, including about 2,000 that hadn't been known before.

Image source (public domain)

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Pomegranates in the Bible

A few years ago, I did a post on places in the Bible where figs were mentioned. A commenter suggested that I also do one on apples. I did so recently. One of the passages included also mentioned pomegranates, so I am also doing a post on pomegranates, as mentioned in the Bible. I used a search in the King James Version, and also one in the English Standard Version. The searches gave the same results.

Pomegranates are native to what is now Iran, and have been cultivated since the Bronze Age, according to the Wikipedia.

 Here are the references that I found, given in the World English Bible, which is public domain:

Exodus 28:31 “You shall make the robe of the ephod all of blue. 32 It shall have a hole for the head in the middle of it. It shall have a binding of woven work around its hole, as it were the hole of a coat of mail, that it not be torn. 33 On its hem you shall make pomegranates of blue, and of purple, and of scarlet, around its hem; and bells of gold between and around them: 34 a golden bell and a pomegranate, a golden bell and a pomegranate, around the hem of the robe. (Exodus 28 has a similar passage.)

1 Samuel 14:2 Saul stayed in the uttermost part of Gibeah under the pomegranate tree which is in Migron: and the people who were with him were about six hundred men;

Song of Solomon  4:3 Your lips are like scarlet thread.
Your mouth is lovely.
Your temples are like a piece of a pomegranate behind your veil. (Song of Solomon 6:7 is similar.)

Song of Solomon 8:2 I would lead you, bringing you into my mother’s house,
who would instruct me.
I would have you drink spiced wine,
of the juice of my pomegranate.

Joel 1:12 The vine has dried up, and the fig tree withered;
the pomegranate tree, the palm tree also, and the apple tree,
even all of the trees of the field are withered;
for joy has withered away from the sons of men.

Haggai “‘... 2:19  Is the seed yet in the barn? Yes, the vine, the fig tree, the pomegranate, and the olive tree haven’t produced. From today I will bless you.’”

Thanks for reading.