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Sunday, November 30, 2008

Having one ruler versus many

C. S. Lewis, in The Silver Chair (Macmillan, 1953, p. 131), said (through Puddleglum) that "There are no accidents . . ."

My devotional readings included the following, on two consecutive days:

Ezekiel 37:21 then say to them, Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I will take the people of Israel from the nations among which they have gone, and will gather them from all around, and bring them to their own land. 22 And I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel. And one king shall be king over them all, and they shall be no longer two nations, and no longer divided into two kingdoms. (Both quotations from the ESV, with emphasis added.)

Proverbs 28:2 When a land transgresses, it has many rulers,
but with a man of understanding and knowledge,
its stability will long continue.

I guess there's a lesson in there. Our natural tendency is selfish -- making ourselves the ruler of everything and everybody we can. That way lies disaster. The right tendency is submission to Christ, and to those around us.

Or, as James put it, in what I read on the next day:
James 4:1 What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? 2a You desire and do not have, so you murder.

Thanks for reading.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Hugh Ross puts his faith on the line

In his book, Creation as Science: A Testable Model Approach to End the Creation/Evolution Wars (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2006), Hugh Ross says that he tells audiences that he "would let go of my Christian Faith" if he discovered that it did not have a factual foundation. This usually shocks most of his listeners, but, says Ross, a faith based on falsehood is not a faith worth keeping. As he points out, Paul, in 1 Corinthians 15 and elsewhere, went to considerable length to show that Christianity does have a factual foundation. Ross is the founder of Reasons to Believe.

In a previous post, I quoted David Snoke, author of A Biblical Case for an Old Earth (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2006), as saying almost exactly the same thing.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

A few more things that I am thankful for

I'm thankful for diffusion. Without it, Oxygen couldn't get into my bloodstream from my lungs, and a lot of other important things wouldn't take place in my body. I'm also thankful for osmosis, a form of diffusion which allows water to get into my cells.

I'm thankful for Sodium and Potassium ions, which allow my nerve cells to carry messages throughout my body.

I'm thankful for lasers, which, among other things, let me use DVDs and CDs.

I'm thankful for kapok, sweetgum, and Bradford pear trees, which are some of God's many beautiful creations.

I'm thankful for myriorama, a Flickr contact, who is so great at finding organisms that I never see, in her area of South Carolina.

I'm thankful for the Bible, including parts of it that I don't understand, because they remind me that God knows more than I do.

Here's another post about things I am thankful for.

I'm thankful for you, the reader. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Sunspots 187

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

Wired reports on stars with an immensely strong magnetic field.

(or something . . .) A map of what soft drinks/pop/soda are/is called in the US, by county. Fascinating.

(Not on-line, so far as I know.) I watched a little of ESPN's men's college basketball coverage on November 18th. President-elect Barack Obama (by tape) said that he had gotten to play a little against Tyler Hansborough, North Carolina's national player of the year for the previous season, during the campaign, and almost scored against him. Hubert Davis, ESPN commentator, and former UNC player, said that he was there, and watched this in person, and that Hansborough contained Obama pretty much completely. Bobby Knight, former coach, and also ESPN commentator, told Davis that, in a few days, Obama would be in charge of agencies that could make Davis disappear, so he'd better be careful. It was all good fun (I think!)

Bob Jones University has apologized for its past racist policies on admission and inter-racial dating, saying that they were shaped by the culture, rather than by the Scripture.

Jan has been posting on servant leadership, or Christian servanthood. Here's one of her posts. Short and to the point.

Somebody has posted a graphical representation of the cross-referencing between parts of the Bible.

Someone named Anonymous found one of my old posts, (on Abishag) over three years old, a couple of days ago. I thank God that He helped me write it, and that it is still available.

Thanks for reading!

Image source (public domain)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A Biblical Case for an Old Earth, by David Snoke, part 9

I have posted several times on David Snoke's A Biblical Case for an Old Earth (Grand Rapids, Mi: Baker Books, 2006). The most recent post is here.

Having considered the main arguments for young-earth creationism, and seriously weakened or demolished them, using the Bible itself, Snoke considers the question of the relationship between science and Christianity. Although he does not mention Ian Barbour (and perhaps is unaware of him) Barbour has been the most prominent voice arguing for Integration of science and Christianity. (As opposed to supposing that they are necessarily in conflict, or that they have nothing to say to each other.) Snoke uses the term, Concordist science. For what it's worth, I agree whole-heartedly. Scientific facts are one part of God's revelation to us, and, although not as important as the Bible, or, especially as God's revelation in Jesus Christ, the different ways in which God has revealed Himself to us should agree, or at least work together, provided, of course, that we understand them well enough.

So why do some Christians, who take the Bible seriously, take the position that science and Biblical revelation are opposed?

Many Christians seem to be afraid to make any predictions based on the Bible that could be falsified, for fear that people will reject all of Christianity if it is attached to a particular scientific theory. This, in my experience, lies at the root of much of the objection to concordantist science. Many Christians want to seal off their Christian belief from any possible contradiction with science, so that it is an impregnable fortress against all attack.
I call this basic mind-set of so many Christians, both conservative and liberal, the "two-worlds" view. . . . This view says, in essence, that science and real-world experience lie in one world and that the Bible and theology lie in another world, completely distinct from the first. The two worlds do not contradict each other because they cannot; no overlap exists so one world does not have implications in the other. The Bible has authority in matters of faith, but not at all in matters of science, because faith and science have nothing to say about each other. . . . This two-worlds mind-set reflects an essentially defensive posture. Having survived a long tradition of attack on Christianity in the name of science, many Christians assume that if the two worlds did overlap, then science would surely contradict Christian faith. Even if science does not presently appear to contradict our faith, the possibility always exists that it will. (pp. 117-8)

Well, says Snoke, so what if there is that possibility? He goes on to make a strong statement:
We must face the facts: if the Bible is wrong, utterly wrong, about the history of our origins, then we should dump it. We cannot avoid this risky aspect of our faith. If we protect the Bible by attacking modern science, or if we protect it by making it speak only about matters of morality and personal faith, we have cut it off from the real world and made it far less than it claims to be. (p. 121)

Wow! But I think he is exactly right about that.

Thanks for reading. Read Snoke.

Monday, November 24, 2008

A Biblical Case for an Old Earth, by David Snoke, part 8

I continue my posts on David Snoke's A Biblical Case for an Old Earth (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2006). The most recent post is here. In that post, I considered some of Snoke's biblical evidence that the days of Genesis 1, and of Genesis 2:1-3, were not necessarily consecutive 24-hour days.

Snoke has more evidence. On page 141, he points out that Genesis 2:4, which, of course, comes right after Genesis 2:3, uses "day" to refer to a period of time that clearly is not a 24-hour day:

Genesis 2:4 These are the generations
of the heavens and the earth when they were created,
in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens. (ESV, emphasis added. All scripture quotations from this version.)

(Not all versions of the Bible use "day" here -- the NIV and the NLT do not, but at least the KJV, the NKJV, the NASB and the RSV, as well as the ESV, use "day." I checked the Hebrew -- I do not know Hebrew, but can look it up, using an option in the Blueletter Bible -- and the Hebrew word used in Genesis 1 and in Genesis 2:4 is the same word, as far as I can tell.)

Mr. Snoke says, correctly, that young-earth proponents often recognize that "day" is used in the Bible for periods longer than a 24-hour period, but say that when "evening" and "morning" are used with "day," it always means a literal day. Not so, he says, citing Psalm 90, which is usually attributed to Moses, who apparently wrote Genesis:

You return man to dust

and say, “Return, O children of man!”
4 For a thousand years in your sight
are but as yesterday when it is past,
or as a watch in the night.

5 You sweep them away as with a flood; they are like a dream,
like grass that is renewed in the morning:
6 in the morning it flourishes and is renewed;
in the evening it fades and withers.

A day, yesterday, is said to be like a thousand years, and evening and morning are used in the same passage. The Hebrew word for yesterday is not the same as the Hebrew word for day, used in the passages above, and doesn't even seem to have been derived from it, which weakens Snoke's argument. Snoke mentions other passages which use evening and morning in a non-literal sense, namely Psalm 30:4-5, Psalm 49:14, and Psalm 90:10, 13-14, but they don't use a word for "day," or even "yesterday."

On page 144-5, Snoke says, again correctly, that some young-earth advocates agree that "day," and "morning and evening" can refer to non-literal periods of time, but say that if days are numbered, they must be literal 24-hour days. Snoke's response is that Genesis 1 is the only occasion where the Bible uses numbers with days, in this way, so there is no way to check this claim. He mentions Numbers 29, but says that the construction is quite different.

Snoke discusses Genesis 2:5-7:
5 When no bush of the field was yet in the land and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up—for the Lord God had not caused it to rain on the land, and there was no man to work the ground, 6 and a mist was going up from the land and was watering the whole face of the ground— 7 then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.

I have posted on this passage previously, and, in that post, link to two other, more important authors, both of whom argue, as Snoke does, that this passage is difficult, or impossible, to reconcile with Genesis 1, if Genesis 1 is taken to mean consecutive 24-hour periods when it uses "day."

To quote A Biblical Case for an Old Earth: Note that if the land had emerged from the waters just three days earlier (assuming that these events [of Genesis 2:5-7] happen on Day 6, and the land appeared from under the waters on Day 3, in the young-earth view), then it hardly makes sense that the land would be dry and unfertile. For that matter, giving any discussion of causation for the lack of vegetation seems out of place, if the land had only just appeared. The sense of the text is that the land had been around a long time, so long that it had dried out. (p. 153) The young-earth view is that the events happened on day 6.

Snoke also writes about the rivers mentioned in Genesis 2. He says that the Pishon river (no river now existing is named that) was most likely a river that flowed across the Arabian peninsula in the past. (The other rivers, the Gihon, Tigris, and Euphrates, still exist.) He cites Carol Hill (See here for her paper -- Snoke mistakenly calls her "Caroline.") as evidence for this claim.

As Snoke says, these rivers present a serious problem for young-earth creationism:
. . . this river lies on top of sedimentary geological layers that young-earth creationists would say were deposited in the flood of Noah. So do the Euphrates and Tigris rivers. To accept this convincing case for the historicity of Genesis, Bible scholars must either accept an old-earth view or believe that God created sedimentary rock at the beginning, before the fall and the flood. (p. 155. "this river" is the Pishon.)

It seems to me that Snoke has assembled evidence, as presented here and in the previous posts, that makes it difficult to sustain an argument for young-earth creationism.

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Is Israel back in its homeland yet?

Ezekiel 11:17 Therefore say, ‘Thus says the Lord God: I will gather you from the peoples and assemble you out of the countries where you have been scattered, and I will give you the land of Israel.’ 18 And when they come there, they will remove from it all its detestable things and all its abominations. 19 And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, 20 that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God. (ESV, emphasis added)

Many people claim that the establishment of the nation of Israel in 1948 fulfills prophecy, and is one of the signs of Christ's imminent return. Perhaps they are right. Many people claim that the Jews should control the same boundaries that they did in, say, David's time, in fulfillment of prophecy. Perhaps they are right. But I wonder. The current Jews may be in Israel as a result of human effort, not God's end-time action, just as they tried to enter the land before they were supposed to, in the time of Moses. They don't seem to have "one heart," and a "new spirit." They seem to be divided, with many current Israelites not believing in God at all, and most of them rejecting Christ as Messiah. They seem to have an "old spirit."

Here's more from Ezekiel:
28:25 “Thus says the Lord God: When I gather the house of Israel from the peoples among whom they are scattered, and manifest my holiness in them in the sight of the nations, then they shall dwell in their own land that I gave to my servant Jacob. 26 And they shall dwell securely in it, and they shall build houses and plant vineyards. They shall dwell securely, when I execute judgments upon all their neighbors who have treated them with contempt. Then they will know that I am the Lord their God.” (ESV, emphasis added) Israelis don't seem to feel very secure now. Perhaps it's because God didn't gather them back yet.

For more on this topic, see a post from Ken Schenck, Bible scholar, who says "The long and short of all these things is that it would be perilous to make contemporary political decisions in relation to the nation of Israel and the Middle East on the basis of supposed biblical prophecy."

God help them, and help us.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

A Biblical Case for an Old Earth, by David Snoke, part 7

I return to my posts on David Snoke's A Biblical Case for an Old Earth. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2006) The previous posts have considered what Snoke has to say about death before the Fall. (Here's the last one.) Snoke argues strongly, using Biblical evidence, that there was, indeed, animal death before the Fall, hence demolishing, in my opinion, one of the major arguments of young-earth creationism.

Snoke also deals with the question of the Sabbath, and the matter of whether or not the days of Genesis 1 were literal. Besides Genesis, itself, Exodus 20:8-11 also seems to say that God's creative actions were confined to seven literal days.

Snoke disagrees. First, he (as others have done) says that there was so much that was supposed to have happened after the creation of Adam that it couldn't have fitted into a single day. But his main argument is more direct:

To me, however, the best argument for equating the days of creation with ages comes from the precedent of God taught by the Sabbath law. I ask, "What did God do on the eighth day?" Does God work a six-day work week, taking every Saturday or Sunday off? After his Sabbath rest, did God pick up his tools and go back to work, taking another Sabbath seven days later? If God's activity is to be taken as an exact model for us, then this conclusion seems inescapable. Yet the rest of scripture does not support this. God's activity appears as a single continuity. (p. 102)

Snoke cites John 5:17, which says: But Jesus answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.” (all Bible quotations from the ESV) He also uses Hebrews 4:3-4, which, says Snoke, "clearly states that God's Sabbath rest did not end -- it continues up to this day." (p. 103)

Snoke argues, therefore, that scripture does not clearly teach that the days of Genesis 1 were literal 24-hour days.

I hope to post more on this book later.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Gray versus Black and White

Gray versus Black and White
Christians disagree over many things, such as:
1) Whether women should be pastors.
2) Whether or not there will be a rapture, and, if so, whether it will be before, during, or after the tribulation.
3) Whether a person who is truly a redeemed believer can lose their salvation or not.
4) Whether or not Christians should expect to speak in tongues, and, if so, whether such utterance is or is not really a language.
5) Whether the days of Genesis 1 were literal consecutive 24-hour days or not.
Some of us like to see things in black and white. We want to know the answers -- the right answers. Some of us don't feel this need, or don't think there is enough evidence to make up our minds. We see things in gray.
Generally, that would be me.

There are real dangers in being a black and white person.
1) Most obviously, you might be wrong.* The main reason being wrong is a problem is that if you are hard-nosed enough about your wrong belief, you may turn non-believers away from Christ.**
2) Vehement disagreements between believers will turn away non-believers.
3) God never commanded that we understand exactly what the book of Revelation predicts, for example. We can spend more of our time on such issues than we should, just as we can spend too much time watching TV. Christ has other plans for us.
4) You might disrespect a gray fellow Christian, because she hasn't made up her mind on something that you have. You might disrespect a black and white believer, because he doesn't agree with you. You might be proud of your own firmness.

There are also dangers in being gray:
1) You may be ignoring things that God wants you to know and act on, or you may doubt things that you should believe.
2) God commands that we take the scripture seriously.
3) You may not be spending enough of your thought life on God, lazily saying about whatever issue, "Well, we can't know, so why think about it?"
4) If we don't take our beliefs seriously enough, unbelievers will not consider believing as we do.5) You might disrespect a black and white believer as simple-minded, or be proud of the fact that you haven't made up your mind.

So, my friends, I submit to you that, generally, we should be intermediate between black and whiteness and grayness. I don't know what color that is.
*As Henry Neufeld recently said, there is a sort of unacknowledged doctrine that you have to be doctrinally correct to be eternally saved, but that is one thing we should be black and white about -- you don't have to have all your theological jots and tittles in a row to be redeemed, thanks be to God! (Neufeld's entire essay is splendid.)That's no excuse for not listening to pastors, not studying Sunday School lessons or the equivalent, not reading the Bible, or for ignoring other sources of light.

**For instance, if you say that the Bible says that Christ is returning before you die, and He doesn't, people who don't know much about the Bible, except what you say, will come to the conclusion that they can ignore it.
For another instance, non believing geologists are not likely to respond, if you tell them that the Bible says that they need to repent and believe, if you have also told them that the Bible teaches unequivocally that almost all geological phenomena are the result of Noah's flood.
I thank my wife for constructive criticism. Thanks for reading.

This essay was subject to serious editing on November 22, 2008, without changing the meaning significantly from that posted on the original date.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

On the similarity between humans and chimpanzees

I have recently come across a paper by a committed young-earth creationist, who deals honestly and forthrightly with one of the biggest problems with young-earth creationism, namely the similarities between organisms. His article gets right to the heart of the problem -- how to explain the similarities between humans and chimpanzees.

I am having difficulties in including the URL of the article, but here's an abstract, and the abstract includes a link to a .PDF file of the entire article. The article, by Todd Charles Wood of Bryan College, is 18 pages of scientific discussion, graphs, etc., hence, although written well, not for the casual reader. But it's an important topic, and Wood is not remiss in pointing out difficulties, and in pointing out some of the unfortunate attempts to dismiss such similarity as unimportant by other young-earth creationists. Wood writes: "If the fixed nucleotide mismatches between the chimpanzee and human genomes are 1.06%, then the original nucleotide identity could be as high as 99%. At that high level of similarity, perhaps it is not impossible to believe that God created humans and chimpanzees with identical genomes." A remarkable statement. He goes on to say that the main difference between the two is not the 1.06% of DNA, but the fact that humans are created in the image of God.

Similarity between humans and chimpanzees does not prove, beyond all possible doubt, that the two share a common ancestor -- we can postulate that God simply created two species that are very much alike -- but it is very good evidence that they do. I commend Wood for tackling this issue, for his thoughts on the matter, and his presentation.

Here's a post on what Billy Graham had to say about a closely related matter.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Update on prayer request

I posted a prayer request a little over a week ago, concerning pain in my leg, and an MRI test I was to take. Thanks to anyone who may have prayed.

The MRI went fine, in spite of my claustrophobia. I was prescribed my first ever tranquilizer, and I took some, but I believe that having a towel/something over my eyes did the trick. So did prayer, no doubt.

I saw my doctor today, to hear about the results of the MRI. It indicates that I have a disk problem in my lower back, which is impinging on a nerve to my leg. I am to see a neurosurgeon soon. We'll see what he or she says. I don't look forward to surgery on my back any more than any normal person would, but it may be indicated. God help me. As always, I'm in His hands.

Thanks for your prayers and concern.

Sunspots 186

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

I'm not sure quite where to put this. Jan has a good short post on crying.

It's possible that a man has been cured of AIDS by a bone transplant, Wired reports.

National Public Radio reports that we have photographed large planets from other solar systems.

(or something) Wired on why we have five time zones in North America. (China has only one, I believe.)

A Slate writer discusses a politically conservative environmentalist agenda. (And says that that is not an oxymoron!)

CBS News points out that, for teenagers, the dangers of driving drunk are much greater than those of on-line predators.

Ken Schenck on the Tribulation: "But Paul knows nothing of a seven year tribulation."

Schenck also reviewed a book on women's roles, by a Christian author. He says that the author argues that the so-called traditional family, with the woman at home, is a post-industrial revolution development. ". . . before the industrial revolution everyone was at home and everyone worked at home."

Image source (public domain)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Recent Internet publications on the Second Law and origins

In a recent Panda's Thumb article, P. Z. Myers dissects a statement by the late Henry Morris, founder of the modern Creation-Science movement, who argued, incorrectly, that the Second Law of Thermodynamics makes evolution impossible.

Myers refers to another article, by Jason Rodenhouse, on the same subject, but demolishing a different writer, not Morris, and without equations.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, November 17, 2008

On the second law of Thermodynamics

If anyone is up for some fairly heavy, but important, reading, how about the Second Law of Thermodynamics? As that famous authority, Martin LaBar, said in his excellent web page, attempting to explain what that law is, and why it's important, scientifically, philosophically, and theologically, "If there are any scientific laws that have universal acceptance, and universal applicability, they are the laws of thermodynamics." (See here for the Wikipedia article on those laws.)

OK, forget the author's qualifications. However, that page was written and re-written over many years, and used as an introduction to the subject for non-science college students, and I think it's pretty good. I thank God that I was able to write it.

One reason that that Law is often invoked, wrongly, is that, every now and then, someone says that evolution is impossible, because it would violate the Second Law. By the same argument, namely that the Law prohibits complex entities coming from simple ones, you could prove that whoever wrote it is equally a violation, because he/she is a complex entity, made of trillions of cells, but coming from a relatively simple fertilized egg. The Second Law does not rule out the possibility of evolution.

The Law has to do with the resurrection, too. If you wish to, read the web page. More on this later, God willing.

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

One thought about government from the Old Testament

In a recent post, I quoted some verses from the New Testament on the attitude the Christian should take toward government.

Here's a text with a similar point from the Old Testament:

Ecclesiastes 10:20 Even in your thoughts, do not curse the king,
nor in your bedroom curse the rich,
for a bird of the air will carry your voice,
or some winged creature tell the matter. (ESV)

The New Testament verses, however, seem to emphasize having a right attitude toward the ruler(s) because it is the right thing to do. This points out that there may be earthly punishment for disobeying, too.

I thank Grace for Women for pointing this verse out.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Shack by William P. Young

Let's put it this way. No less than 1,811 people have written reviews of William P. Young's The Shack: A Novel (Windblown, 1997) for, as of November 13, 2008. It has been a New York Times best-seller, and probably still is. In a sentence, the book is about a hurting man's dialogue with God. The book has its own web site. There is, of course, a Wikipedia article about the book. So, in spite of the topic, or because of it, it's obviously pretty popular. Why? Is the popularity deserved?

The Amazon review page does something helpful, namely it shows the most critical, and the most laudatory reviews at the top, so you can read them, if you wish.

My own take is this: Even though the book is highly theological, for a novel, if you go to a novel for definitive guidance on theology, you will get what you deserve. It's a story! A fictional story. I believe that this particular story contains quite a bit of truth, useful truth, but it is fiction. For guidance in theology, go to the Bible, and the historic teachings of the church.

The theological topic that I found most often in the book is the doctrine of the Trinity. God is one being, but also three beings. I don't understand this. I doubt if William P. Young understands it completely. I doubt if humans can understand this doctrine more than superficially. I believe it, because the Bible teaches it, and because it is certainly one of the most fundamental and historic Christian doctrines. See here for my post on "What Christians Believe," which includes the text of the Nicene Creed. That Creed sets forth a belief in the Trinity, without exactly clarifying it.

Even if Young doesn't set forth a clear, explicit theology of the Trinity, I did find the book helpful. How? The Shack portrays the three persons of the Godhead as individual, yet in unselfish love with each other, and in agreement with each other. In other words, they have a relationship. They love each other, they communicate, they share. The book implies that this relationship between the persons of the Godhead is meant to show us what relationships should be like, and give us guidance about what our relationship with God should be:
"The Bible doesn't teach you to follow rules. It is a picture of Jesus. While words may tell you what God is like and even what he may want from you, you cannot do any of it on your own. Life and living is in him and in no other. My goodness, you didn't think you could live the righteousness of God on your own, did you?
. . . "It is true that relationships are a lot messier than rules, but rules will never give you answers to the deep questions of the heart and they will never love you."
. . . "Mackenzie, religion is about having the right answers, and some of the answers are right. But I am about the process that takes you to the living answer and once you get to him, he will change you from inside." (197-8)

There is more in the book, and, of course, there are things that aren't in it. My wife asked me (She is in the process of reading it) if it mentions the Bible at all. No, it doesn't.

I don't intend to give away the plot, other than to say (which is obvious pretty early on) that most of it is a dream, or a vision. But I will say that another matter which may give some readers pause is that two of the three persons of the Trinity (not Christ) are presented as females. Well, why not? God has, indeed, historically and Biblically been presented as male. That means something, for sure. But I don't see any problem with presenting God as female in fiction. I would guess (many others have also done so) that God is not exactly sexual. He transcends sexuality in ways we cannot understand. The question of God's appearance as female, in part, is discussed in the book.

There are other topics, such as a discussion of God's creation, and science as the way of learning about that, and a discussion of free will, which I found interesting. I may post a bit on those topics later. There is a lot implied about faith and trust in God.

Much of the book is conversation. If that turns you off, you'd better not read this one.

I found the book to be well-written, and well worth reading, and thank the individual who asked me my opinion of it, which led to that reading.

Thank you for reading this.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Dignity versus autonomy

The August/September issue of First Things has a thought-provoking editorial on autonomy versus dignity as important concepts in medical ethics, or in the ethics of how we treat various categories of humans. The editorial was provoked by an essay by Steven Pinker, in The New Republic.

Pinker argued that dignity is a fuzzy and meaningless concept, but one which is invoked by Christians and others who are concerned, for example, about the production of embryos for the development of stem cells.

The First Things editorial basically agrees, but argues that Pinker's attempt to substitute autonomy for dignity is misguided. Autonomy, says the author, is also fuzzy, and should not be used to justify things that should not be justified.

Pinker makes some disparaging remarks about the predictive power of Huxley's Brave New World. The First Things editorial, on the contrary, says that fantastic stories, such as Ishiguro's Never Let me Go, may be giving us valid warnings. I have posted about Ishiguro's book, here.

Interesting reading. Thanks for reading.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

I recently read Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. (There is a Wikipedia article on the book, and one on the author.) As you probably know, I generally post about various kinds of fantastic literature. I'm not quite sure how to characterize this book. Let's put it this way -- the same author also wrote The Remains of the Day.

Never Let Me Go is about a fictional time, perhaps the late 20th century, perhaps the early 21st, when clones are produced, for the purpose of serving as the source of transplant parts for others. I think -- I'm not absolutely sure, even though I've read the book. It's much more about the interactions of adolescents growing up to be young adults, with a cloud hanging over them, than the details of cloning or transplantation. I'm not an expert on that sort of book, but it struck me as very good on the relationships and thoughts -- subtle and detailed, but good.

As to the cloning, the word isn't used until about halfway through the book. There's no discussion as to how a clone can serve as a transplant source for someone they were not cloned from. It's not about scientific or medical details, or did I say that already? Two interesting aspects of the book are that the clones serve as "carers," apparently meaning that they take care of other clones after they are used as sources of transplants, before they act as such sources themselves, and that there are those "normal" people who, while not crusading to stop this whole practice, at least try to make the lives of these children and young people decent and meaningful -- give them an education, and, with artwork they produce, arguing that they have souls.

It was a good read, but not my usual science fictional fare. I'm glad I read the book.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Sunspots 185

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

I am not making this up! Wired reports that the French (who else?) have constructed an artifical mouth, to assist them in food consumption research.

There's air pollution in many large cities in the US. Also in China. But Cairo, Egypt, has some , too.

Slate says that a then-college student is largely responsible for Sarah Palin's nomination as Vice-President. Apparently his blog got read a few times.

Bonnie on what we really vote for .

G. K. Chesterton's Orthodoxy is 100 years old.

Henry Neufeld on defining Christianity.

Image source (public domain)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Prayer request

I've been having some trouble with a leg -- nothing serious, probably, but I'm having trouble walking for exercise, for one thing. The doctor thinks it may be a nerve problem, and he's probably right. I'm to have an MRI in a couple of days, and I have trouble with claustrophobia, as I mentioned in my review of a book some months ago.

Thanks for reading, and praying.

P. S. We don't walk in malls much anymore. For one thing, we are home more than we used to be. For another, there is a town nearby with a good indoor track. So we use it, walk around the neighborhood, here at home, or in California, or -- dare I say it? -- walk in a Wal-Mart.

Photos from Antarctica

The Boston Globe has posted 32 spectacular photos from Antarctica, which are well worth seeing.

As of today, at least, no password or special software is needed to see these.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, November 10, 2008

NASA's Phoenix Lander

NASA has announced that the Phoenix Lander has stopped communication with earth, at least for the time being, and perhaps for good. The mission, near a pole, took the lander to a position where there is little sunlight for part of the year, and the lander's batteries re-charge, using solar energy.

The mission was, as I understand it, principally to explore the possibility of life on Mars. So far, results are inconclusive.

Suppose life was discovered on Mars? I see nothing in the Bible that would rule out that possibility, or that predicts it, and no threat to my faith, whether life is discovered on Mars (or anywhere else but Earth) or not.

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

What the New Testament says about government, including taxes

Matthew 22:15 Then the Pharisees went and plotted how to entangle him in his words. 16 And they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are true and teach the way of God truthfully, and you do not care about anyone's opinion, for you are not swayed by appearances. 17 Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” 18 But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why put me to the test, you hypocrites? 19 Show me the coin for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. 20 And Jesus said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” 21 They said, “Caesar's.” Then he said to them, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's.”

13:1 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 4 for he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God's wrath but also for the sake of conscience. 6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. 7 Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.

1 Timothy 2:1 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. 3 This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

1 Peter 2:13 Be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, 14 or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. 15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. 16 Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. 17 Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.

(All scripture quoted from the ESV)

So. We should pray for our government, pay taxes, and submit to governmental authority, even honor it. No doubt there may be exceptions -- Paul sometimes stood up to governmental authority, and perhaps there is room to question unjust or excessive taxes -- but generally, we should pray for our government and those in authority, submit to them, honor them, obey the laws, and pay our taxes.

Remember that the government referred to here was the Roman empire, a mostly pagan dictatorship, which had conquered many nations, including the Jewish homeland, and was hardly a friend to Christianity. It was Roman soldiers who put Christ to death.

Thanks for reading.

* * * *

Added December 4th, 2008: Another blogger posted on a related statement in the Old Testament, which I then posted about, here (including giving credit to the other blogger).

Added May 5, 2012: I posted a reaction to a number of persons who consider themselves Christians, and they most likely are, who seem to feel free to not only criticize, but mock, current President Obama.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Obituary for the Religious Right

Cal Thomas, himself a committed evangelical Christian, has written an obituary for the Religious Right. His point, which he makes very well, is that, for thirty years or more, many evangelical Christians, some with national TV or radio pulpits, have been trying to change the US through the ballot box.

It hasn't worked. It won't work. It shouldn't work.

Thomas suggests another way. He's not the first.

The way to change the US is through -- radical thought! -- being like Christ, to those around us.


Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Sunspots 184

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

(and relationships) "Seduction Instructions for the Flirt-Challenged" presents some good, even Biblical, advice for singles. How did I find the article? I am not making this up -- I had read an article on football, and saw this as a link from the page.

Wired has some photos of Mercury (the planet).

Wired reports that the Firefox browser (which I use) has achieved 20% share among Internet users.

Henry Neufeld on God speaking to us.

Image source (public domain)

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

The first president of the US who is . . .

I don't know who is going to win this election for President of the U. S. I'm not sure who should. But, whoever wins, I'm glad that I live in a country where I have a chance to vote.

I know, if McCain wins, we'll have the first female Vice-President. If Obama wins, we'll have the first African-American President. (Here's a list of the Presidents.) But there's more.

No President's last name ever begun with O. No Vice-President's name has ever begun with P. (Here's a list of the Vice-Presidents.)

In January, if all goes as planned after the election, we'll have the first President not named Bush or Clinton since January 1989. We'll also have the first Senator, or former Senator, elected President since Richard Nixon was elected in 1968. (Nixon did not serve his full term, but resigned, and Gerald Ford, who had served in the House of Representatives, took his place.)

No matter who wins, the Vice-President-elect will have a last name with 5 letters, and that name will end in N. We have done that before. Richard Nixon was such a Vice-President. There have been four Vice-Presidents whose last name began with B, the last being George H. W. Bush.

Senator Obama and Governor Palin both have small children. How would I go about telling such a child that I had lost an election? I have no idea, and I'm glad I haven't had to do that. There will be hundreds, maybe thousands of other candidates, for all sorts of offices, who have the same situation. Some good people will be out of jobs, have to change careers, and have to move, and their children will have to change schools in the middle of the school year, because of this election, as incumbents in all sorts of offices will be voted out, and their staff members will no longer be employed.

We often vilify politicians, and, like the rest of us, they have their faults, and some individual politicians have a lot of faults beyond that. But there are some good, hard-working, unselfish politicians, and we should be grateful for them all, even if we disagree with the ideas of some of them.

God's best to President-elect Obama, or President-elect McCain. He'll need our prayers.

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

What I was like

Titus 3:3 For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. 4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (ESV)

Thank God! I hope "were once" is true of me. I'm afraid it's "is now."

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Sevens in the Book of Revelation

Below is a chart of most of the occurrences of the number, seven, in the book of Revelation. My church is using lessons on this book in our Sunday School classes, and I decided that I wanted to see where and how the number was used in the book. I have no expertise in the question of why seven is used so much. One popular opinion, perhaps correct, is that seven represents perfection. However, I note that some of the numbers relate to evil entities, not good ones.

Seven occurs elsewhere in the Bible, of course, starting with the seven days in the first chapter of Genesis.

Thanks for reading, and looking.