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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

III. I AM TO CONSIDER THE AGENCIES EMPLOYED IN CARRYING FORWARD A REVIVAL OF RELIGION.
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

II. I AM TO SHOW WHAT A REVIVAL IS.

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

Pomegranate
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.


Monday, October 06, 2014

Apples in the Bible

Apples on tree

A few years ago, I posted on figs, as mentioned in the Bible. A commenter suggested that I do the same for apples.

The Wikipedia says that apples were originally domesticated in what is now Turkey, some thousands of years ago.

I did a search, using the King James Version, and another, using the English Standard Version. A few references, in the KJV, to the apple of one's eye, were not included. The results are given below. The two versions gave the same results, which are given from the World English Bible, which is in the public domain. I thank the commenter.

Genesis does not specify that the forbidden fruit was an apple. Perhaps, perhaps not. Revelation 22:2 mentions fruit trees, in the Final Kingdom, but does not say what kind of fruit these might be.

Song of Solomon 2:3a As the apple tree among the trees of the wood,
so is my beloved among the sons.

Song of Solomon 8:5b Under the apple tree I aroused you.
There your mother conceived you.
There she was in labor and bore you.

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.

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Lectures on Revivals of Religion, by Charles Grandison Finney, 3

There is one fact under the government of God, worthy of universal notice, and of everlasting remembrance; which is, that the most useful and important things are most easily and certainly obtained by the use of the appropriate means. This is evidently a principle in the Divine administration. Hence, all the necessaries of life are obtained with great certainty by the use of the simplest means. The luxuries are more difficult to obtain; the means to procure them are more intricate and less certain in their results; while things absolutely hurtful and poisonous, such as alcohol and the like, are often obtained only by torturing nature, and making use of a kind of infernal sorcery to procure the death-dealing abomination. This principle holds true in moral government, and as spiritual blessings are of surpassing importance, we should expect their attainment to be connected with great certainty with the use of the appropriate means; and such we find to be the fact; and I fully believe that could facts be known, it would be found that when the appointed means have been rightly used, spiritual blessings have been obtained with greater uniformity than temporal ones.

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 04, 2014

Seven themes related to Christianity and science

There’s a recent post on the BioLogos Forum, dealing with the relationship between Christianity and science. There have been lots of those, but this one is especially good. One of the things that make it good is that it considers wisdom literature, especially Job, more than Genesis 1 and 2, which have been covered so many times. Another is that the author, Tom McLeish, who is a physicist in the UK, lists seven themes, related to science, that he says are found in the Bible. This is a paraphrase (and simplification) of those themes:
1) Things change -- the future will be different from the past.
2) Humans are able to learn how nature works, and should do so.
3) Knowledge is not enough -- wisdom is important.
4) “Doing science is hard.”
5) There is both order and chaos in the world.
6) We don't know everything, but can learn by asking questions.
7) We should love nature, and other people.

Well said. Thanks for reading. Read McLeish. There’s an attempt at something similar in a post in this blog.

Appendix: Biblical background to McLeish’s themes:
1) The future will be different from the past:
Job 38:4 “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?
Declare, if you have understanding.
5 Who determined its measures, if you know?
Or who stretched the line on it?
6 Whereupon were its foundations fastened?
Or who laid its cornerstone,
7 when the morning stars sang together,
and all the sons of God shouted for joy?
...”


2) Humans are able to learn how nature works and should do so: 
Job 39:1 “Do you know the time when the mountain goats give birth?
Do you watch when the doe bears fawns?
2 Can you count the months that they fulfill?
Or do you know the time when they give birth?
3 They bow themselves, they bear their young.
They end their labor pains. ...”
(God speaking to Job. This implies that humans could know this, and also, of course, that we understand that young mammals develop in the womb.)

Genesis 1:28b “... Have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the sky, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” Effective environmental stewardship requires knowledge of how the environment works.

3) Knowledge is not enough -- wisdom is important:
Job 42:2 “I know that you can do all things,
and that no purpose of yours can be restrained. ...” 

(Job, speaking of God. One of the most important pieces of wisdom.)
1 Kings 4:34 People of all nations came to hear the wisdom of Solomon, sent by all kings of the earth, who had heard of his wisdom. 

 
4) “Doing science is hard:”
1 Kings 4:32 He spoke three thousand proverbs; and his songs numbered one thousand five. 33 He spoke of trees, from the cedar that is in Lebanon even to the hyssop that grows out of the wall; he also spoke of animals, of birds, of creeping things, and of fish. (This feat of Solomon was considered to be a unique accomplishment, and must have taken considerable effort on his part, and, perhaps effort on the part of his servants.)
 
5) There is both order and chaos in the world:
Job 37:5 God thunders marvelously with his voice.
He does great things, which we can’t comprehend.
6 For he says to the snow, ‘Fall on the earth;’
likewise to the shower of rain,
and to the showers of his mighty rain.


 6) We can learn from asking questions:
Job 42:4 You said, ‘Listen, now, and I will speak;
I will question you, and you will answer me.’
(Job, speaking to God.)


7) We should love nature, and other people:
Job 42:10a Yahweh turned the captivity of Job, when he prayed for his friends. (These supposed friends had been vigorously disagreeing with Job for more than three dozen chapters.)
Psalm 24:1 The earth is Yahweh’s, with its fullness;
the world, and those who dwell therein.


Friday, October 03, 2014

"What's with all the talk about religion? I thought this was a scientific web site?"

The title of this post is taken from a comment posted a day or so ago, on a post on why living things have cells. You can see the comment following that post.

The title poses two fair questions. I attempted a brief answer in my response to that comment, but let me muse further.

Why all the talk about religion?

I believe in a Creator, a powerful God who created the universe, after an amazing divine plan, and who still is involved in the universe today. (Colossians 1:16 For by him all things were created, in the heavens and on the earth, things visible and things invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers; all things have been created through him, and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things are held together. St. Paul used the present tense in verse 17.)

Although it is not possible to prove God's existence scientifically -- see the verse in the graphic at the top of the page, which tells us that we understand God's creative power by faith -- it is not possible to disprove it, either. Prominent atheists, such as Richard Dawkins and Stephen Hawking, have tried, but have not done so, and Dawkins has not claimed to have presented a knock-down proof for God's non-existence. If there is even a possibility that the universe, and we ourselves, are the result of a divine plan of some sort, that possibility must be taken seriously.

Like great scientists of the past (and present) such as Johannes Kepler, Robert Boyle, Francis Collins, and others, lots of them, I believe that all the things scientists can study are present because of a Creator, who initially began the universe, probably with the Big Bang, or just before the Big Bang, and established it with the processes, laws and physical constants that scientists have been finding out about for centuries, and which processes, laws and constants make the earth a place where we can live. I also believe, as indicated in the verses quoted above, that God the Son is presently involved in maintaining the universe. Like those great scientists, responsible for much of the foundations of astronomy, chemistry, and sequencing the human genome, respectively, I believe that God is important, and doing or studying science without acknowledging Him is like building a house without a foundation.

I thought this was a scientific web site?

Well, yes and no. It's a blog, wherein I discuss all sorts of things that have been, or are of interest to me, such as, for example, why living things have cells, or the color green, or whether there are signs that one is, or is not a believer, or the writing of Connie Willis, award-winning science fiction author.

Some of the posts relate to science, some do not.

Thanks for reading.