License

I have written an e-book, Does the Bible Really Say That?, which is free to anyone. To download that book, in several formats, go here.
Creative Commons License
The posts in this blog are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. In other words, you can copy and use this material, as long as you aren't making money from it, and as long as you give me credit.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Why isn't the Bible easier to understand?

Lets begin by saying that I don't know the answer to the question of the title, anymore than I know why Christ didnt come into the world until hundreds of years after the Israelites, under the judges and the kings, had proved pretty conclusively that humans wont keep the Mosaic law very well, or at all. Im not God. He understands what He is doing. If part of what He has done is to include some passages in the Bible that arent very clear, then He has a reason, whether I understand it or not.

Most anybody can understand the most important thing in the Bible, namely the sin problem, and its solution through Christ’s death, and resurrection. Also, much of the history in the Bible is as understandable as US history is. But everything in the Bible, even some of the history, and some of the theology of redemption, isn
t very clear. Some of the reasons for that that are understandable are given below.

Why hasn’t God made everything that clear? Here are some possible reasons why some parts of the Bible are more difficult to understand. They don’t all apply to all parts of the Bible. Different parts may be different for different reasons.
1) Language differences and translation problems. The King James Bible has done a lot of good, but language has changed since 1769. (Most people don’t know it, but the 1611 version was updated in 1769, mostly to update spelling changes.) Try another version if you don’t understand the one you are using. That applies to modern versions, too. One of them may clarify something that another does not, at least for you.
2) Cultural differences. The Bible was written for us, and speaks to us. But it was also written to speak to people in Biblical times, who were more likely to be engaged in agriculture than we are. They wore different clothes, they ate different foods, their courtship and marriage, and other customs, were different than ours. They were ruled by kings. Women had a subordinate place. Thus, many of the parables of Jesus, and other passages, have nuances that we don’t grasp, without considerable help.
3) There are some things described in the Bible, especially in apocalyptic and prophetic literature, that were impossible for the writers to describe with full accuracy, since the readers (and writers) had experienced nothing that really compared. See Ezekiel 1. In 28 verses, Ezekiel used “like” or “likeness” about 18 times, indicating that he had to make the best comparison that he could. “Like” occurs over 150 times in Isaiah.
4) We may base our interpretation on a single verse or passage, without taking the rest of the Bible into account. If we do that, no wonder if the interpretation doesn't make sense.
5) We aren’t God. Some things are just too difficult for us to understand. If I really understood string theory, or differential equations, (I don’t) no matter how hard I tried, I probably couldn’t explain them to you in a way such that you could understand. Think how many things there are that God understands, and we don’t!
6) We aren’t as spiritually mature as is necessary to understand some things.

7) We may be failing to recognize that at least some Biblical passages were apparently meant, by God, to have more than one meaning. See this post on the first four prophecies about Jesus, in Matthew.
8) We aren’t on God’s side: Matthew 13:10 The disciples came, and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?”
11 He answered them, “To you it is given to know the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven, but it is not given to them. 12 For whoever has, to him will be given, and he will have abundance, but whoever doesn’t have, from him will be taken away even that which he has. 13 Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they don’t see, and hearing, they don’t hear, neither do they understand. 14 In them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled, which says,
‘By hearing you will hear,
and will in no way understand;
Seeing you will see,
and will in no way perceive ... ‘ (World English Bible, public domain)

Christ went on to explain the parables to the disciples.


Thanks for reading! I hope you understand as much of the Bible as God wants you do, and that I do, also.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Sunspots 544

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

The Arts: (I am not making this up) The American Society for Microbiology sponsored an Agar Art Contest. First place went to a depiction of neurons. Some good stuff.

Christianity: Christianity Today reports that a recent Pew Research poll indicates that those who attend church regularly are less likely to believe that science and religion conflict.

In Christianity Today, a pastor tells us why we should sympathize with, and help immigrants to the US.

Relevant reminds us of what real persecution is like.

Speculative Faith reminds us that October 31 is also Reformation Day.

Benjamin L. Corey says that Christians shouldn't go into hiding on October 31, but acknowledges that there is something sick about a lot of Halloween displays, and suggests how Christians should act on that date.

ComputingWired argues that the notion that what happens on-line is not really real is nonsense, and dangerous nonsense.

Do you know what catfishing is? What astroturfing is? They are both related to on-line reviews of items, ebooks in particular, and unscrupulous people are making lots of money of some of us this way, says National Public Radio.

Food: The New York Times examines nutritional studies, and finds them mostly wanting. To be specific, there is not good evidence that honey is better for you than fructose from corn.

Politics: Benjamin L. Corey argues that US tactics in Iraq and Afghanistan are creating terrorists, faster than we are killing them.

Science: A writer in Wired muses on Avogadro's number, including giving us Avogadro's real name.


Image source (public domain)

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Excerpts from Orthodoxy, by G. K. Chesterton, 44

Is there any answer to the proposition that those who have had the best opportunities will probably be our best guides? Is there any answer to the argument that those who have breathed clean air had better decide for those who have breathed foul? As far as I know, there is only one answer, and that answer is Christianity. Only the Christian Church can offer any rational objection to a complete confidence in the rich. For she has maintained from the beginning that the danger was not in man’s environment, but in man. Further, she has maintained that if we come to talk of a dangerous environment, the most dangerous environment of all is the commodious environment.

I know that the most modern manufacture has been really occupied in trying to produce an abnormally large needle. I know that the most recent biologists have been chiefly anxious to discover a very small camel. But if we diminish the camel to his smallest, or open the eye of the needle to its largest—if, in short, we assume the words of Christ to have meant the very least that they could mean, His words must at the very least mean this—that rich men are not very likely to be morally trustworthy. Christianity even when watered down is hot enough to boil all modern society to rags. The mere minimum of the Church would be a deadly ultimatum to the world. For the whole modern world is absolutely based on the assumption, not that the rich are necessary (which is tenable), but that the rich are trustworthy, which (for a Christian) is not tenable. You will hear everlastingly, in all discussions about newspapers, companies, aristocracies, or party politics, this argument that the rich man cannot be bribed. The fact is, of course, that the rich man is bribed; he has been bribed already. That is why he is a rich man. The whole case for Christianity is that a man who is dependent upon the luxuries of this life is a corrupt man, spiritually corrupt, politically corrupt, financially corrupt. There is one thing that Christ and all the Christian saints have said with a sort of savage monotony. They have said simply that to be rich is to be in peculiar danger of moral wreck. It is not demonstrably un-Christian to kill the rich as violators of definable justice. It is not demonstrably un-Christian to crown the rich as convenient rulers of society. It is not certainly un-Christian to rebel against the rich or to submit to the rich. But it is quite certainly un-Christian to trust the rich, to regard the rich as more morally safe than the poor. A Christian may consistently say, “I respect that man’s rank, although he takes bribes.” But a Christian cannot say, as all modern men are saying at lunch and breakfast, “a man of that rank would not take bribes.” For it is a part of Christian dogma that any man in any rank may take bribes. It is a part of Christian dogma; it also happens by a curious coincidence that it is a part of obvious human history. When people say that man “in that position” would be incorruptible, there is no need to bring Christianity into the discussion. Was Lord Bacon a bootblack? Was the Duke of Marlborough a crossing sweeper? In the best Utopia, I must be prepared for the moral fall of any man in any position at any moment; especially for my fall from my position at this moment.

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, October 23, 2015

"We don't have a single example of a mutation resulting in a net gain of information. Not one" (But we do)

The title of this post quotes Eric Metaxas, and is part of a post, by him, on BreakPoint: "We don't have a single example of a mutation resulting in a net gain of information. Not one."

I appreciate Mr. Metaxas. I have read a couple of excellent books by him, and have previously posted about his writing, here and here. However, Mr. Metaxas, who has many gifts, and has done a great deal of good, is not an expert in genetics. He seems to be repeating a statement that he has heard from the Discovery Institute, an organization which argues that mutations did not bring about new functions in organisms. Please note that it is always possible to argue that any difference, however small, between two organisms is the result of God's specific miraculous intervention, and this cannot be experimentally disproved. (It has not been proved, either, and probably couldn't be, even if true.) But it can be doubted, and alternative mechanisms for the rise of new genetic information have been found.The Discovery Institute promotes the idea that God has, indeed, caused all changes in the DNA of two related species, because random changes cannot produce new functions. However, most scientists, Christian and otherwise, believe that most, or all, of such differences have come about through random mutation, followed by selection. Many Christian scientists believe that God has allowed random mutation and selection to exist, as a means of bringing about the diversity of organisms present on earth.

I'm not completely clear as to what Mr. Metaxas means by information. That is a complex subject, and different experts define it in different ways. But it seems clear that he is claiming that living things have never added a function as a result of a mutation. Sorry, but we do have such examples.

The first comment on Mr. Metaxas's post proposes that frameshift mutations have been a common means for the arrival of new functions, and provides a URL, which leads to this article, which is quite technical. The article claims that searching the genome of mice and humans has led to the discovery of several hundred genes that must have arisen by this type of mutation. The first two sentences of this article (after the abstract) are as follows:
"Several mechanisms, such as exon shuffling and alternative splicing, are responsible for novel gene functions, but they generate homologous domains and do not usually lead to drastic innovation. Major novelties can potentially be introduced by frameshift mutations and this idea can explain the creation of novel proteins."
The authors, then, believe that there are "several" mechanisms for the origin of novel gene functioning, including frameshift mutations.

The matter of the rise of new information has been discussed, in six posts in the BioLogos forum, by Dennis Venema. I briefly summarize these posts:
In the first, Venema discusses the position of the Discovery Institute, and the Intelligent Design Movement, and is related to the second paragraph of this post.
He says: "... describing how specified information can arise through natural means does not in any way imply God’s absence from the process. After all, natural processes are equally a manifestation of God’s activity as what one would call supernatural events."

In the second post, Venema describes the Long-Term Evolution Experiment. During this experiment, a colony of sexually reproducing bacteria experienced a mutation which allowed them to use citrate as an energy source, when, prior to that mutation, or series of mutations, they had not been able to do so.

In the third post, Venema discusses evidence that genes for hormone receptor proteins developed, in vertebrates, from duplication, and subsequent alteration, of an ancestral gene.

The fourth post argues, with evidence, that even the DNA responsible for complexly folded proteins may change so that a new function comes about, and that this has happened many times.

In his fifth post, Venema summarizes evidence that the entire vertebrate genome was duplicated, in an ancestor in the distant past, and that some of the "extra" copies of the genes thus formed have gone on to be responsible for new functions in vertebrates:
"This evidence is a strong indication that the modern vertebrate genome went through two rounds of [Whole Genome Duplication] early in its evolution, and that these events provided substantial 'raw material' for the acquisition of new information through gene divergence and neofunctionalization."

In his sixth, and last, post, Venema discusses the differences between the genes of humans and our closest relatives, the chimpanzees.

Thanks for reading. Mr. Venema, nor I, doubt that God is able to create, and change His creations, by any way He sees fit, including the miraculous. However we, and many other Christian scientists, believe that God designed the world so that random mutations, of various types, and natural selection, have given rise to much of the variety that is found in God's good creation. The assertion by Mr. Metaxas that forms the title of this post does not stand up the the evidence.

Added April 8, 2016: A later post on this blog refers to two other examples of recently arising functional genes.
describing how specified information can arise through natural means does not in any way imply God’s absence from the process. After all, natural processes are equally a manifestation of God’s activity as what one would call supernatural events. - See more at: https://biologos.org/blogs/dennis-venema-letters-to-the-duchess/evolution-and-the-origin-of-biological-information-part-1-intelligent-design#sthash.baHk5Eyt.dpuf
describing how specified information can arise through natural means does not in any way imply God’s absence from the process. After all, natural processes are equally a manifestation of God’s activity as what one would call supernatural events. - See more at: https://biologos.org/blogs/dennis-venema-letters-to-the-duchess/evolution-and-the-origin-of-biological-information-part-1-intelligent-design#sthash.baHk5Eyt.dpuf

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Sunspots 543

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

The Arts: An article in Relevant that says that true art points to God.

Christianity: Relevant tells us that we, who can read this, are rich, and indicates how rich we are.

An essay on the virtues of old hymns, by a worship leader who used to disrespect them.

Ken Schenck finishes a series on the sacraments. He affirms the usefulness of several sacraments, and suggests some other activity that may bring some people closer to God. "But God can use anything to transform us."

Computing:  Wired tells us how a young mother was one of the most important pioneers in computer programming, and in the US Space Program.

Gizmo's Freeware has published a list of the best free Android apps.

Gizmo's Freeware has also noted a free utility for clearing the Windows print cache, without having to re-boot, etc.

Politics: Benjamin L. Corey says that the Bible commands us to bless Muslims, as well as Israel, and gives Biblical evidence.

Science: (sort of) NPR reports on how astronauts use the toilet, with a video (you won't see anything that you shouldn't) to explain what happens.

Sports: A video of an amazing football reception.


Image source (public domain)

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Excerpts from Orthodoxy, by G. K. Chesterton, 43

This startling swiftness with which popular systems turn oppressive is the third fact for which we shall ask our perfect theory of progress to allow. It must always be on the look out for every privilege being abused, for every working right becoming a wrong. In this matter I am entirely on the side of the revolutionists. They are really right to be always suspecting human institutions; they are right not to put their trust in princes nor in any child of man. The chieftain chosen to be the friend of the people becomes the enemy of the people; the newspaper started to tell the truth now exists to prevent the truth being told. Here, I say, I felt that I was really at last on the side of the revolutionary. And then I caught my breath again: for I remembered that I was once again on the side of the orthodox.
Christianity spoke again and said: “I have always maintained that men were naturally backsliders; that human virtue tended of its own nature to rust or to rot; I have always said that human beings as such go wrong, especially happy human beings, especially proud and prosperous human beings. This eternal revolution, this suspicion sustained through centuries, you (being a vague modern) call the doctrine of progress. If you were a philosopher you would call it, as I do, the doctrine of original sin. You may call it the cosmic advance as much as you like; I call it what it is—the Fall.”


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.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

A century of General Relativity, proposed by Einstein

November, 2015, is the 100th anniversary of Albert Einstein's presentation of his General Theory of Relativity. This theory gave impetus to other ideas, including an expanding universe, black holes. As the Wikipedia says, this theory is still the best current description of how gravity works, 100 years after its proposal. (However, most of us, including some scientists, don't talk about gravity that way. We speak of it as if Isaac Newton had explained it. He was almost right.)

New Scientist has a timeline of the most important events related to this theory, since that time. We are not yet certain about what is going on with dark matter, and we have no "theory of everything" relating General Relativity with sub-atomic structure, but some amazing discoveries have occurred, in the century following 2015. The Atlantic also celebrates, pointing out that GPS satellites wouldn't work correctly if they weren't corrected for the effects of General Relativity.

See this post on the Big Bang, which is by no means necessarily a disproof of God's creativity.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Tenses in the book of Revelation

Revelation 1:4 John, to the seven assemblies that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from God, who is and who was and who is to come; and from the seven Spirits who are before his throne;
 

1:7 Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, including those who pierced him. All the tribes of the earth will mourn over him. Even so, Amen.
 

3:11a I am coming quickly!
 

3:15 “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were cold or hot. 16  So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will vomit you out of my mouth.
 

4:1 After these things I looked and saw a door opened in heaven, and the first voice that I heard, like a trumpet speaking with me, was one saying, “Come up here, and I will show you the things which must happen after this.”
 
4:8 The four living creatures, each one of them having six wings, are full of eyes around and within. They have no rest day and night, saying, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty, who was and who is and who is to come!”
9 When the living creatures give glory, honor, and thanks to him who sits on the throne, to him who lives forever and ever, 10a the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne, and worship him who lives forever and ever...


5:3 No one in heaven above, or on the earth, or under the earth, was able to open the book or to look in it. 4 Then I wept much, because no one was found worthy to open the book or to look in it. 5 One of the elders said to me, “Don’t weep. Behold, the Lion who is of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has overcome: he who opens the book and its seven seals.” 6a I saw in the middle of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the middle of the elders, a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain ...


6:1 I saw that the Lamb opened one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures saying, as with a voice of thunder, “Come and see!”
 

7:13 One of the elders answered, saying to me, “These who are arrayed in the white robes, who are they, and where did they come from?”
14 I told him, “My lord, you know.”
He said to me, “These are those who came out of the great tribulation. They washed their robes, and made them white in the Lamb’s blood. 15a Therefore they are before the throne of God, they serve him day and night in his temple. 

 

11:3 I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy one thousand two hundred sixty days, clothed in sackcloth.” 4 These are the two olive trees and the two lamp stands, standing before the Lord of the earth. 5 If anyone desires to harm them, fire proceeds out of their mouth and devours their enemies. If anyone desires to harm them, he must be killed in this way. 6 These have the power to shut up the sky, that it may not rain during the days of their prophecy. They have power over the waters, to turn them into blood, and to strike the earth with every plague, as often as they desire. 7 When they have finished their testimony, the beast that comes up out of the abyss will make war with them, and overcome them, and kill them. 8 Their dead bodies will be in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified. 9 From among the peoples, tribes, languages, and nations, people will look at their dead bodies for three and a half days, and will not allow their dead bodies to be laid in a tomb. 10 Those who dwell on the earth rejoice over them, and they will be glad. They will give gifts to one another, because these two prophets tormented those who dwell on the earth. 11 After the three and a half days, the breath of life from God entered into them, and they stood on their feet. Great fear fell on those who saw them.
 

14:17 Another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven. He also had a sharp sickle. 18 Another angel came out from the altar, he who has power over fire, and he called with a great voice to him who had the sharp sickle, saying, “Send your sharp sickle, and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth, for the earth’s grapes are fully ripe!” 19 The angel thrust his sickle into the earth, and gathered the vintage of the earth, and threw it into the great wine press of the wrath of God. 20 The wine press was trodden outside of the city, and blood came out of the wine press, even to the bridles of the horses, as far as one thousand six hundred stadia.

Revelation 17:8 The beast that you saw was, and is not; and is about to come up out of the abyss and to go into destruction. Those who dwell on the earth and whose names have not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world will marvel when they see that the beast was, and is not, and shall be present.
 

20:7 And after the thousand years, Satan will be released from his prison, 8 and he will come out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to the war; the number of whom is as the sand of the sea. 9 They went up over the width of the earth, and surrounded the camp of the saints, and the beloved city. Fire came down out of heaven from God and devoured them. 10 The devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet are also. They will be tormented day and night forever and ever. 

21:1 I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth have passed away, and the sea is no more. 2 I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared like a bride adorned for her husband.


21:5 He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” He said, “Write, for these words of God are faithful and true.” 6 He said to me, “I have become the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give freely to him who is thirsty from the spring of the water of life. 7  He who overcomes, I will give him these things. I will be his God, and he will be my son.
 

22:12 “Behold, I come quickly. My reward is with me, to repay to each man according to his work. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.

All Bible quotations above, from Revelation, are from the World English Bible, public domain. I am grateful. Emphasis added. These quotations are among many which have some indication of tense -- whether things have already happened, or will happen in the future. There are many other such passages in Revelation. I make no claim to be an expert on Revelation, which is, to say the least, a difficult book to understand, and have seldom posted on that book. (But see here.)

One thing that Revelation indicates is that Christ is eternal, as in 1:4, 21:6, and 22:12-13. He was, and is, and will be. Another truth is that He is returning in triumph. See the first three quotations above, and the last one, and many others throughout the book. Whatever the beast of Revelation 17 represents, is almost eternal -- was, is not, and is again, long enough to be destroyed.

Chapters 2 and 3 are, apparently, messages to seven churches. (They are probably also meant as messages to subsequent readers, including us.) Verses 3:15-16 are an example that seems to say that Christ is going to judge these churches, in the future, perhaps in the near future.

4:1 introduces us to the rest of the book, which is apocalyptic and prophetic, and, based on that verse, is about things which are to come.

4:8-10 reiterate that the triumphant Christ is eternal -- He was victorious before the earth appeared, and will be victorious for eternity.

John's narrative is not entirely linear. There are some cases where he says something like "xyz is going to happen," then describes the results of xyz, after it has happened. 5:3-6 may be an example of this. It starts out by saying that no one can open the book (or scroll, in some versions) then we are told that the Lamb is honored as one who "opens the book." But 6:1 describes what happened, as if John had just seen it, when one of the seals is, in fact, opened.

11:3-11 is a better example of the "xyz phenomenon". The beast will kill the two witnesses, but then John tells us that they have already been killed, and have been resurrected. 14:17-20 is another example. An angel is told to act, then John writes as if the action had already taken place. 20:7-10 is an especially good example. We are told that Satan will be released from prison, then John tells us what happened when he was released. 21:5-7 may be another example. God is making all things new, but the rewards will come later, as if He hasn't done so yet.

21:1-2 seem to be about after the Final Kingdom is established, which, to us at least, is some time in the future, and was also even further into John's future. But John describes it as if he has seen it. 7:13-15 seem to be about what happened in the Great Tribulation, but also about the reward for those who went through it, after Christ's triumph.

Conclusion? God is outside of our time. To him, the past, the present, and the future are all accessible. John was given a vision of the present and the future, and did his best to describe it, but it was probably impossible for him to explain what he experienced in such a way that we can fully understand it.

What is the message of Revelation? There are at least two messages for us, related ones. "Be faithful" is one such, especially in the second and third chapters. "Christ is triumphant" is another one. These messages are more important than having a bullet-proof timetable for future events, events that are in our past, our present, and our future.

Thanks for reading!












Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Sunspots 542

Things I have recently spotted that may be of interest to someone else: 
 
Christianity: Ken Schenck says that the Bible is "inspired, infallible and inerrant," and discusses the meaning of those three terms. 

  Food: Here's the difference between cilantro and Italian parsley.


Health: The New York Times reports on scientific studies on the health benefits of drinking tea.
 
National Public Radio reports that (surprise!) we are sitting down too much for our health.

 
Humor:
(or something) Wired on what happens to buildings abandoned by Pizza Hut.

  Literature: Wired reports that Tolkien sketched a lot (maps, and other things) while writing his masterpiece.


Politics: Benjamin L. Corey on why the gun lobby loves a mass shooting.
Image source (public domain)

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Excerpts from Orthodoxy, by G. K. Chesterton, 42

This, then, is our second requirement for the ideal of progress. First, it must be fixed; second, it must be composite. It must not (if it is to satisfy our souls) be the mere victory of some one thing swallowing up everything else, love or pride or peace or adventure; it must be a definite picture composed of these elements in their best proportion and relation. I am not concerned at this moment to deny that some such good culmination may be, by the constitution of things, reserved for the human race. I only point out that if this composite happiness is fixed for us it must be fixed by some mind; for only a mind can place the exact proportions of a composite happiness. If the beatification of the world is a mere work of nature, then it must be as simple as the freezing of the world, or the burning up of the world. But if the beatification of the world is not a work of nature but a work of art, then it involves an artist. And here again my contemplation was cloven by the ancient voice which said, “I could have told you all this a long time ago. If there is any certain progress it can only be my kind of progress, the progress towards a complete city of virtues and dominations where righteousness and peace contrive to kiss each other. An impersonal force might be leading you to a wilderness of perfect flatness or a peak of perfect height. But only a personal God can possibly be leading you (if, indeed, you are being led) to a city with just streets and architectural proportions, a city in which each of you can contribute exactly the right amount of your own colour to the many coloured coat of Joseph.” Twice again, therefore, Christianity had come in with the exact answer that I required. I had said, “The ideal must be fixed,” and the Church had answered, “Mine is literally fixed, for it existed before anything else.” I said secondly, “It must be artistically combined, like a picture”; and the Church answered, “Mine is quite literally a picture, for I know who painted it.” Then I went on to the third thing, which, as it seemed to me, was needed for an Utopia or goal of progress. And of all the three it is infinitely the hardest to express. Perhaps it might be put thus: that we need watchfulness even in Utopia, lest we fall from Utopia as we fell from Eden.

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, October 07, 2015

Sunspots 541

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

The Arts: (or maybe humor) National Public Radio examines the history of blurbs -- you know, those complimentary phrases from other authors, used to promote books -- and their usefulness.

Christianity: A video, about 4.5 minutes long, from a survivor of a World War II concentration camp, on an act of generosity, and the it's result.


Literature: (or something) Wired interviews a man who has created more languages than anyone else (except possibly Tolkien.)

(or something) The History Blog reports on a clay tablet that adds to our knowledge of the Epic of Gilgamesh, which is often referred to as the oldest known literature, in any language.
 
Politics: The Atlantic on the mostly un-remembered history of gun rights.

(or something) Wired has an essay saying that car crashes and hitting pedestrians should not be called "accidents." That implies that the driver did nothing wrong, when, usually, he/she did.




Image source (public domain)

Monday, October 05, 2015

When does human life begin?

Even if abortion had never existed, the question of when human life begins would be interesting. We are humans, after all. I submit that the answer to that question is religious, political, legal and cultural, and that science can't answer it. The main reason is that "human life" means different things to different people. Different legitimately. Abortion does exist, of course, and that brings up the obvious question as to whether it is murder or not.

Wired, definitely not a religious periodical, has published an essay on when life begins, featuring the views of an expert on human embryology, who says that we can't determine when human life begins scientifically, and gives some reasons for that.

My most important post on the question of abortion, from a Christian viewpoint, is here. This essay includes a discussion of Exodus 21:22-3, and other verses that may bear on the Biblical view of abortion. I have previously posted on the question of when life begins, here and here

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, October 04, 2015

Excerpts from Orthodoxy, by G. K. Chesterton, 41

Is it not quite clear that what we really hope for is one particular management and proposition of these two things; a certain amount of restraint and respect, a certain amount of energy and mastery? If our life is ever really as beautiful as a fairy-tale, we shall have to remember that all the beauty of a fairy-tale lies in this: that the prince has a wonder which just stops short of being fear. If he is afraid of the giant, there is an end of him; but also if he is not astonished at the giant, there is an end of the fairy-tale. The whole point depends upon his being at once humble enough to wonder, and haughty enough to defy. So our attitude to the giant of the world must not merely be increasing delicacy or increasing contempt: it must be one particular proportion of the two—which is exactly right. We must have in us enough reverence for all things outside us to make us tread fearfully on the grass. We must also have enough disdain for all things outside us, to make us, on due occasion, spit at the stars. Yet these two things (if we are to be good or happy) must be combined, not in any combination, but in one particular combination. The perfect happiness of men on the earth (if it ever comes) will not be a flat and solid thing, like the satisfaction of animals. It will be an exact and perilous balance; like that of a desperate romance. Man must have just enough faith in himself to have adventures, and just enough doubt of himself to enjoy them.

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.

Saturday, October 03, 2015

Augustine on God's goodness


Going on hiatus - Augustine on the goodness of God 
The graphic above is my attempt to illustrate a simple, but profound truth from Augustine, in his Confessions, Book VII. His statement is "For never soul was, nor shall be, able to conceive any thing which may be better than You, who are the sovereign and the best good."

I used a triangle to represent the Trinity, and the apex is colored gold for God's royalty and sovereignty. The apex is also the point furthest from the dark area at the bottom. Don't take the graphic, with its symbolism as anything but a feeble attempt to represent something -- the symbols are imperfect, and imperfectly arranged.

Mark has a related passage: 10:17 As he was going out into the way, one ran to him, knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?”
18 Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except one—God. ..." I'm not sure why Jesus seemed to leave Himself, God in flesh, out of the goodness group.


Thanks for looking!