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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Sunspots 510

Things I have recently spotted that may be of interest to someone else:
Christianity: A Christianity Today blogger has advised a woman, who is most likely pregnant with a Down syndrome fetus, to keep the baby.
Relevant tells us how to pray when we don't feel like it.
Education: National Public Radio reports that (surprise!) teachers do have favorites, and they get better grades.
FiveThirtyEight tells us that our brains are pre-programmed to draw wrong conclusions, at least some of the time.

Politics: The Jerusalem Post says that the Netanyahus have been accused of lavish household spending, at taxpayer expense. (The possible scandal is called "bottlegate," because a lot of the spending was on alcohol.)
Science: Wired describes some examples of really strange sexual behavior in animals, and considers the question, "Why is there sex?" (Many animals can reproduce without it.)
The Atlantic discusses the precision of clocks, including the idea of the Leap Second.

  Image source (public domain)

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Excerpts from Orthodoxy, by Gilbert K. Chesterton, 10

The creeds and the crusades, the hierarchies and the horrible persecutions were not organized, as is ignorantly said, for the suppression of reason. They were organized for the difficult defence of reason. Man, by a blind instinct, knew that if once things were wildly questioned, reason could be questioned first. The authority of priests to absolve, the authority of popes to define the authority, even of inquisitors to terrify: these were all only dark defences erected round one central authority, more undemonstrable, more supernatural than all—the authority of a man to think. We know now that this is so; we have no excuse for not knowing it. For we can hear skepticism crashing through the old ring of authorities, and at the same moment we can see reason swaying upon her throne. In so far as religion is gone, reason is going. For they are both methods of proof which cannot themselves be proved. And in the act of destroying the idea of Divine authority we have largely destroyed the idea of that human authority by which we do a long-division sum. With a long and sustained tug we have attempted to pull the mitre off pontifical man; and his head has come off with it.
I agree with the pragmatists that apparent objective truth is not the whole matter; that there is an authoritative need to believe the things that are necessary to the human mind. But I say that one of those necessities precisely is a belief in objective truth. The pragmatist tells a man to think what he must think and never mind the Absolute. But precisely one of the things that he must think is the Absolute. This philosophy, indeed, is a kind of verbal paradox. Pragmatism is a matter of human needs; and one of the first of human needs is to be something more than a pragmatist. Extreme pragmatism is just as inhuman as the determinism it so powerfully attacks. The determinist (who, to do him justice, does not pretend to be a human being) makes nonsense of the human sense of actual choice. The pragmatist, who professes to be specially human, makes nonsense of the human sense of actual fact.

Exactly as complete free thought involves the doubting of thought itself, so the acceptation of mere “willing” really paralyzes the will. Mr. Bernard Shaw has not perceived the real difference between the old utilitarian test of pleasure (clumsy, of course, and easily misstated) and that which he propounds. The real difference between the test of happiness and the test of will is simply that the test of happiness is a test and the other isn’t. You can discuss whether a man’s act in jumping over a cliff was directed towards happiness; you cannot discuss whether it was derived from will. Of course it was. You can praise an action by saying that it is calculated to bring pleasure or pain to discover truth or to save the soul. But you cannot praise an action because it shows will; for to say that is merely to say that it is an action. By this praise of will you cannot really choose one course as better than another. And yet choosing one course as better than another is the very definition of the will you are praising.

Orthodoxy, first published in 1908, by G. K. Chesterton, is in the public domain, and available from Project Gutenberg. The previous post in this series is here.  Thanks for reading! Read Chesterton.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Sunspots 509

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

The Arts: National Public Radio reports that seismic shifts were used as a basis for music from the bell tower on the University of California's Berkeley campus. The tower is 100 years old, and Berkeley is in an area that experiences lots of motion in the earth.

(Sort of) Wired warns us not to buy a Smart TV yet, because TV manufacturers have ruined them. Translation -- too many ads, and they aren't talking about the ads in the programs.

Education: NPR on why little kids should play with blocks.
Health: National Public Radio reports that a higher percentage of Tanzanians are vaccinated against measles than the percentage in the US.
NPR also reports that cancer patients don't often understand what their doctors are saying about their survival time.

Politics: The Equal Justice Initiative has released a report on lynchings of African-Americans in the South, which report says that the number of lynchings had been under-reported, and that lynching was a form of terrorism.
NPR reports that less than 1% of the US Federal budget is for foreign aid, and that the most of that is for health.

The Washington Post has posted maps of the most gerrymandered congressional districts in the US. Some really strange shapes. (Gerrymandered districts are designed to put a lot of people who vote for your opponents together, making it more likely that you will win in non-gerrymandered districts. It has been practiced by both parties.)

Image source (public domain)

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Excerpts from Orthodoxy, by Gilbert K. Chesterton, 9

At any street corner we may meet a man who utters the frantic and blasphemous statement that he may be wrong. Every day one comes across somebody who says that of course his view may not be the right one. Of course his view must be the right one, or it is not his view. We are on the road to producing a race of men too mentally modest to believe in the multiplication table. We are in danger of seeing philosophers who doubt the law of gravity as being a mere fancy of their own. Scoffers of old time were too proud to be convinced; but these are too humble to be convinced. The meek do inherit the earth; but the modern skeptics are too meek even to claim their inheritance. It is exactly this intellectual helplessness which is our second problem. The last chapter has been concerned only with a fact of observation: that what peril of morbidity there is for man comes rather from his reason than his imagination. It was not meant to attack the authority of reason; rather it is the ultimate purpose to defend it. For it needs defence. The whole modern world is at war with reason; and the tower already reels.
Religious authority has often, doubtless, been oppressive or unreasonable; just as every legal system (and especially our present one) has been callous and full of a cruel apathy. It is rational to attack the police; nay, it is glorious. But the modern critics of religious authority are like men who should attack the police without ever having heard of burglars. For there is a great and possible peril to the human mind: a peril as practical as burglary. Against it religious authority was reared, rightly or wrongly, as a barrier. And against it something certainly must be reared as a barrier, if our race is to avoid ruin. That peril is that the human intellect is free to destroy itself. Just as one generation could prevent the very existence of the next generation, by all entering a monastery or jumping into the sea, so one set of thinkers can in some degree prevent further thinking by teaching the next generation that there is no validity in any human thought. It is idle to talk always of the alternative of reason and faith. Reason is itself a matter of faith. It is an act of faith to assert that our thoughts have any relation to reality at all. If you are merely a sceptic, you must sooner or later ask yourself the question, “Why should anything go right; even observation and deduction? Why should not good logic be as misleading as bad logic? They are both movements in the brain of a bewildered ape?” The young sceptic says, “I have a right to think for myself.” But the old sceptic, the complete sceptic, says, “I have no right to think for myself. I have no right to think at all.”

Orthodoxy, first published in 1908, by G. K. Chesterton, is in the public domain, and available from Project Gutenberg. The previous post in this series is here.  Thanks for reading! Read Chesterton.

Friday, February 13, 2015

I just READ Genesis 1 - but you INTERPRET it!

There are many different views of origins. None of them are without flaws. Young-earth creationism (YEC) is a popular view, and it may be correct. But some YECers say, of other Christians with different views: "I just read the first part of Genesis. But you interpret it."

Let's examine that idea.

Unless you are reading Genesis in Hebrew, you are reading a Bible which is the result of interpretation by translators. That's true of all English versions of the Bible.

Here's some of the first part of Genesis, in the King James version: (The King James is not perfect, but it is public domain, so it can be used this way; at least the first verse is familiar to most people; and some YECers prefer it).

Gen 1:1 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. 2 And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. 3 And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. 4 And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. 5 And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.
6 And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. 7 And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so. 8 And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.
9 And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so. 10 And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good. 11 And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so.
12 And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good. 13 And the evening and the morning were the third day.
14 And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years: 15 And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth: and it was so. 16 And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also.
17 And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth, 18 And to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness: and God saw that it was good. 19 And the evening and the morning were the fourth day.
20 And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven. 21 And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good. 22 And God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let fowl multiply in the earth. 23 And the evening and the morning were the fifth day.
24 And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so. 25 And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good.
26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. 28 And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.
29 And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat. 30 And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so. 31 And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.

Genesis 2:1 Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. 2 And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. 3 And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.
4 These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens, 5 And every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew: for the LORD God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was not a man to till the ground. 6 But there went up a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground. 7 And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.
19 And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof. 20And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him.
21 And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; 22 And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. 23 And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.
24 Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh. 25 And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.

Genesis 4:8 And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him.
9 And the LORD said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not: Am I my brother's keeper? 10 And he said, What hast thou done? the voice of thy brother's blood crieth unto me from the ground. 11 And now art thou cursed from the earth, which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother's blood from thy hand; 12 When thou tillest the ground, it shall not henceforth yield unto thee her strength; a fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou be in the earth. 13 And Cain said unto the LORD, My punishment is greater than I can bear. 

14 Behold, thou hast driven me out this day from the face of the earth; and from thy face shall I be hid; and I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond in the earth; and it shall come to pass, that every one that findeth me shall slay me. 15 And the LORD said unto him, Therefore whosoever slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold. And the LORD set a mark upon Cain, lest any finding him should kill him.
16 And Cain went out from the presence of the LORD, and dwelt in the land of Nod, on the east of Eden. 17 And Cain knew his wife; and she conceived, and bare Enoch*: and he builded a city, and called the name of the city, after the name of his son, Enoch.
25 And Adam knew his wife again; and she bare a son, and called his name Seth: For God, said she, hath appointed me another seed instead of Abel, whom Cain slew.
*Note - according to the Bible, this is not the same Enoch as the one mentioned in Genesis 5:18-24

Genesis 7:11 In the six hundredth year of Noah's life, in the second month, the seventeenth day of the month, the same day were all the fountains of the great deep broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened.
24 And the waters prevailed upon the earth an hundred and fifty days.

Genesis 9:3 Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things.

A response to the statement of the title comes from reading YEC literature. In Six Days of Creation, (Institute for Creation Research, 2013) by Henry Morris, III, a prominent YECer, there is this sentence: "The biblical record indicates that God separated the light from the darkness." Fair enough. That seems to be reading, not interpreting. But the next sentence says this: "This most likely indicates that the earth of Day One was shaped into a sphere (by the Holy Spirit 'energizing' it)." If that isn't interpreting -- going beyond what the Bible actually says -- I don't know what is.

In The New Answers Book 1, (Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2006. Ken Ham, probably the most prominent of today's YECers, is listed as author on the title page, and as general editor on the cover.) In one chapter, written by Terry Mortenson, presumably with Ham's blessing, we read "The Hebrew words translated 'the fountains of the great deep burst open' (Genesis 7:11) clearly point to tectonic rupturing of the earth's surface in many places for 150 days, resulting in volcanoes, earthquakes, and tsunamis." "Clearly" is an interpretation, and so are the volcanoes, earthquakes and tsunamis.

I don't know the writings of Morris, or Ham (or Ham's assistants), other than superficially. I'm not aware that any of them have ever said "I just read the first part of Genesis. But you interpret it." But some of their followers do make such claims, when, logically, they should not. Interpreting, as Morris and Mortenson have done, can be part of legitimate Biblical scholarship.

As another response to the statement, consider some questions about the text quoted from Genesis:
1) How could there have been morning and evening before the sun appeared?
2) Where did the light come from before the sun appeared?
3) Did the lesser light really rule the night? Currently, about half of the time, while the sun is visible, the moon and the sun are both in the sky at once. About half of the time, while the sun is not visible, the moon is not, either, so the moon does not seem to rule all the nights. Did the arrangement of the sun, moon, and earth change, somehow, after the original creation?
4) When did water plants (Such as algae of all kinds, which are part of the plant kingdom, in older classifications) appear? They are not mentioned.
5) When did flying insects, such as bees, flies and butterflies, appear? Are they part of the "fowl" in day 5? Part of the "creeping things" in day 6? Just not mentioned at all?
6) When did bacteria and fungi appear? Were they part of the plants mentioned in day 3? (Most likely, the Hebrews had no conception of bacteria at all, so it isn't surprising that they aren't mentioned.)
Here's a post related to questions 4, 5 and 6. 
7) Did animals we now consider to be predators, like tigers and hawks, actually eat only plants -- not animals -- before the living things in the Ark came out? If they did, what changes took place in their behavior and anatomy, to make them predatory? Would these changes have made the names Adam used to name them invalid? (In most of the Old Testament, including Genesis, the names of people were chosen carefully, and matched the person's perceived character. Adam may have done that in naming the animals.)
8) What does "after their kind" mean?
9) What is the "image of God"?
10) Adam is said to have been made of the dust of the ground, but Eve from Adam's rib. Were they, therefore, of the same substance?
11) Why does Genesis 2:4, in the KJV, say "day"? Didn't the creation take six days, not one?
12) Does Genesis 2:5 mean that plants hadn't appeared completely yet, until Adam did? How can that be reconciled with Genesis 1, which puts plants on the third day?
13) What is the relationship between Genesis 1 and 2:4-25? Is 2:4-25 a re-telling of Genesis 1, or is it an expansion of the sixth day, or is it something else? Genesis 2 leaves out some important things which were given in the description of the six days of  creation in Genesis 1. Why?
14) Were there marine bodies of water, as well as fresh water, before the Flood? If so, how did marine organisms survive the increase in fresh water? If not, when did marine and freshwater animals become separated?
15) Where did Cain get his wife? What other people was he afraid of? Did he marry and have offspring before the birth of Seth? If not, why does the mention of Seth's birth come after the story of Cain?

Anyone answering any of these questions must do some interpreting. For example, related to questions 1 and 2, it is possible that the sun was not visible on earth, because of a cloud cover, which would have meant that there was light, and also morning and evening, before the sun could be seen through that cloud cover. But the Bible doesn't say any of this explicitly. 

YECs interpret Genesis 1 and 2 to mean that the earth and the living things on it, and other features, were created in six 24 hour days. Perhaps they are right. But there other ways to interpret Genesis, held by Bible-believing scholars who understand Hebrew and the culture of the people of Bible times, that may also be correct. Some important Christians of the distant past held such views.

My conclusion is that anyone saying, about the first part of Genesis, or any other part of the Bible, "I just read it. but you interpret it," should reconsider. We have to interpret it into our own language, and recognize that it was written by people in a different culture. The church of the past often drew conclusions that aren't explicitly stated in scripture, but that most Christians of today consider to be valid, for example on the nature of Christ. May God help us to interpret correctly.

Thanks for reading. I added question 15, and the quotations from Genesis 4, on February 21, 2015. I added links to the material from YEC literature on February 26, 2015.

January 27, 2016: I'm adding a link to a relevant conversation on how to interpret Genesis 1, and a link to a relevant interview with John Walton, an influential Old Testament scholar, in Christianity Today. His views on how to interpret Genesis 1 and 2 are important, and influential. Here is one part of a series, examining Walton's views, as set forth in his The Lost World of Genesis One, in the BioLogos blog.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

What's wrong with the political left/with the political right in the US

Before getting into the problems of the left and right, heres the biggest problem, for all of us:
We forget that the Good News of the Gospel is far more important than any current news that we can hear, see, or read about.

Who won the game, which celebrity or politician got caught doing what, who got shot, who got elected, what laws were passed, what natural and man-made disasters occurred, what acts of terrorism happened, are insignificant beside that Good News!

But there are other problems with the two most widely held political viewpoints in our country:

Problems with the Left
The Left:
seems to ignore Biblical teachings on sex and marriage;

tends to treat any lack of acceptance of homosexual activity, or of people who practice such, as hatred (See here for more on homosexuality); 

seems to believe that no one who is receiving welfare is in that position because they have made bad choices; 

tends to want to weaken property rights;

believes government action is the solution for almost any problem, although government is often inefficient, costs lots of money, and may not respond as it is supposed to.

The Left also: 

Often acts as if it believes that businesses and manufacturers are intrinsically evil;
Often acts as if it believes that labor unions are right, and have always been right;

often dismisses concerns about jobs and living space, in order to protect endangered species that are probably doomed to extinction, no matter what we might do;

favors government-run healthcare, even though there are problems with it, in other countries;

usually believes that it is wrong to interfere with a woman’s right (under Roe v. Wade) to have an abortion, and that abortions should be publicly funded, even though abortion may be murder, and some abortions are for frivolous reasons – the fetus is the wrong sex, or the woman wants to go on a ski vacation. (For more on abortion, see here.);

tends to be suspicious of police and other law enforcement bodies;

sometimes acts as if Christianity wasn't a special religion, the only one offering an effective cure for sin, and a relationship with the King of the Universe.

sometimes seems to ignore the rights of Christians, and favor other groups. 

Problems with the Right
The Right:
often ignores the problems of the less privileged, and wants to cut or eliminate government help for them (See Psalm 72 and Jeremiah 22 for evidence that government has an obligation to help the poor. A post here gives statistics on how much Christians are giving to the poor, and argues that being for government help makes sense, since the church is doing so little.) Often acts as if being less privileged is the fault of the poor, even though many poor people are children, or disabled;

often acts as if all resident non-citizens are here illegally, and are a grave economic, or social, threat to our way of life, or are out to murder us, seemingly forgetting that most of us are the offspring of immigrants, that many illegal immigrants are doing work that citizens wont do, and that many of them live lives that are consistent with family values. (Note Leviticus 19:33 “‘If a stranger lives as a foreigner with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. 34 The stranger who lives as a foreigner with you shall be to you as the native-born among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you lived as foreigners in the land of Egypt. I am Yahweh your God.... Heres the result of a search for stranger in the ESV Bible. Some of those verses also seem to be relevant.);

forgets that Jesus didn’t say “stand your ground!,” (with a gun) but did say “turn the other cheek.” (See here for more scripture, in a post by John Piper, who responded to a speech by the President of Liberty University, Jerry Falwell, jr., who had advocated the threat of use of privately held guns by Christians.);

believes that armed might is the solution for many problems, of all sorts, even though wars always kill or ruin the lives of innocent people, destroy property, harm the environment, and separate the families of those in the military (Some wars may have been, or be, just and, therefore worth the cost. The Second World War, and perhaps other recent conflicts seem to have qualified. For more on just war theory, see here.);

tends to believe that the police should not be questioned, even when it is likely that they have acted illegally, or that they have violated police procedures;

may confuse not getting special treatment with persecution -- as in the so-called "War on Christmas." When some person, or some store, uses "Happy Holidays," rather than "Merry Christmas," that's not persecution;

may want to advance Christian beliefs by force of legal action, rather than by gentle persuasion and example. Example -- wanting official Christian prayer in public schools, when there may be non-Christians affected, when doing so might open the door for Muslims, Wiccans, and others to demand that their prayers be offered, and when some of the teachers who would be expected to lead prayer might not be Christians. (Currently, according to US law, student groups can pray, adults can teach Christian doctrine to students whose guardians want them to receive such teaching, in the schools, and individuals can pray privately, or bring a Bible to school, at any time.)
The Right also:
claims to get its ideas from scripture, when some of them come from Rush Limbaugh, Fox News, etc., and some of those ideas ignore, or contradict, the Bible;

acts as if it believes that labor unions are, and always have been, detrimental to the public good;

doesn't seem to understand that there are millions of people who work every day, but don't earn enough money from their jobs to pay for housing, clothes, food, transportation and healthcare for themselves, let alone for their families;

often dismisses the plight of millions of people, including many who work, who have no health insurance, and claims that our health system is the best in the world, in spite of the evidence;

believes that free enterprise can solve all problems, in spite of the evidence (the BP Gulf Oil spill, the economic collapse of 2008, the widening gap between the well off and those who are not, etc.);

often does not protect the environment, when we have a Biblical duty to do so;

tends to treat homosexual tendency as if it were homosexual activity (which, according to the Bible, is sinful) and to view homosexual sin as especially evil more so than adultery (which is condemned in the Ten Commandments, while homosexual behavior is not), and to deny the possibility that homosexual tendency is influenced by heredity and home environment;

dismisses accepted scientific claims, including global climate change, (see also here), and that the earth is very old;

wants to cut taxes, preferably to zero, and wants to eliminate government drastically, or entirely, in spite of Biblical support for taxes, and for governments; (For a cautionary tale on the dangers of cutting taxes too much, see here.)

sometimes acts as if Muslims not only have a different faith than Christians, but as if all Muslims are terrorists who want to destroy those who don't agree with them. (Michael Gerson discusses such claims, and defends Presidents Obama and G. W. Bush, although he thinks President Obama's response to terrorism has not been serious enough. An article in Christianity Today is similar.)

Problems of both the Left and the Right:
using the Bible to find excuses for their beliefs, rather than following Biblical principles because they are right;

confusing their political and cultural beliefs with Christianity;

not seeking guidance, on issues that are controversial, from the Bible; (An article on immigration says that only about 10% of evangelical Christians say that the Bible has been the main influence on their position on immigration, for example.)

refusing to consider that their position might be wrong, or to believe that another side may have some valid reasons for disagreeing (This is often because they pay attention to only one
side in getting their news and opinions about the world. See here for the effect of this on Congress.);

forgetting that those in power, even those you fully supported during an election, are going to make mistakes, or perhaps even deliberately do wrong things. (They, like the rest of us, are sinful, fallible, humans.);

not praying for those in power, especially if they dont agree with their positions. (The Bible says that we should, and this was written when pagan emperors, and Roman invaders, were in power.);

distorting the truth, or just plain ignoring it, or passing on distorted truth, lies, or slander about politicians and political positions not agreed with. (For instance, most political ads, if you can stand them, and a great deal that is passed on through Facebook.);

not respecting leaders, and those seeking high office, even mocking and ridiculing those in authority:
Exodus 22:28 You shall not blaspheme God, nor curse a ruler of your people.
Ecclesiastes 10:20a Don’t curse the king, no, not in your thoughts
Romans 13:1 Let every soul be in subjection to the higher authorities, for there is no authority except from God, and those who exist are ordained by God. 2a Therefore he who resists the authority, withstands the ordinance of God
2 Peter 2:13 Therefore subject yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether to the king, as supreme; 14a or to governors 17 Honor all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king. (Quotations from the World English Bible, public domain. In Peter
s time, the king, or emperor, was a pagan, who probably encouraged worship of himself by his subjects. But Peter said that he was still to be honored.)
President Obama has been the butt of all sorts of disrespectful mockery and ridicule on the Internet, on Facebook and elsewhere. President Bush was, when he was President, and, to some extent, he still is.
Does the Bible say that we have to agree with our elected leaders on all points? No. See here, and here. But disagreement should be honest, and respectful.

Most of us, whether strongly left- or right-oriented, or somewhere in the middle, agree on at least a few goals, such as:

Our troops should be cared for promptly and effectively, when they return;

Something must be done to make the Social Security program more financially stable, or to replace it;

The tax code should be simplified.

But our elected leaders, Congress and Presidents, don’t seem to be willing to really talk about these issues with each other, and with us, or to make serious proposals, constructively criticize, compromise, and fix these problems. (There are, of course, many other issues make your own list where disagreement between Left and Right means that it is difficult to even decide on worthwhile goals. Thats another problem.);

Most elected officials seem to be more concerned with getting re-elected than they are with acting on principle;
Reminder: the biggest problem of all, for all of us:

We forget that the Good News of the Gospel is far more important than any current news that we can hear, see, or read about.

Thanks for reading! Pray for our leaders:
1 Timothy 2:1 I exhort therefore, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and givings of thanks, be made for all men: 2 for kings and all who are in high places; that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and reverence.

Cal Thomas, a Bible-believing Christian, and politically right-oriented columnist, warns against supposing that a Bible-believing politician will do much to change public morals. He cites scripture (Psalm 146:3 Don’t put your trust in princes, each a son of man in whom there is no help.) to back this up. He also proposes a Christian platform, namely James 1:27 (Pure religion and undefiled before our God and Father is this: to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained by the world), but doubts that anyone would run on it, or win if they did.

Thanks for reading! This is a post revised from the original, which appeared in January 2015. Slightly revised on August 25, 2015, December 7, 2015, December 24, 2015, and February 8, 2016.

December 30, 2015: Ken Schenck, Bible scholar, has posted on how the different portrayals of Jesus in the Gospels seem to support various political agendas. 

In this post, I have tried to quote all of the Bible passages that relate to politics in general.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Sunspots 508

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

Computing: Gizmo's Freeware tells us how to configure Adblock Plus (an add-in for major browsers) so that it does a better job of blocking ads.

Relevant warns of some dangers of social media. They aren't all the same ones you've already heard about.

Politics: Michael Gerson, columnist for The Washington Post, does not think President Obama's response to terrorism has been serious enough. But, he says, the President, nor the one before him, should or could have spoken against Muslims in the way that some people think that they should have.

Science:  Wired reports that the Hubble Space Telescope has captured three of Jupiter's moons, moving in front of the planet's surface. Eclipsing, in other words.

Wired also tells us that the hydra, a common, but nearly-microscopic animal, is potentially immortal.

Wired also tells us how it is possible for a baby to have three parents, in the sense that she gets genetic material from all three of them.

Sports: USA Today, ESPN, and many other outlets tell us that Dean Smith, great men's basketball coach, and greater man, has passed away.

Image source (public domain)