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Thursday, November 29, 2007

Happy Birthday, C. S. Lewis!

Clive Staples (Jack) Lewis, was born on this date in 1898, in Belfast, Ireland. He also died in November, on the same day that U. S. President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.

Lewis has had a great deal of influence on me, and, thus, on this blog. I am pleased to thank God for his work. While studying for a graduate science degree at the University of Wisconsin, I stumbled on his Narnia books in the university library -- not in a science section, but in the children's literature section, where I was looking for some good reading -- and have since read almost all of Lewis, much of it several times. In The Silver Chair, by Lewis, Puddleglum says that "There are no accidents." See here for more on that quote, and for some other quotations from Lewis.)

My most recent post about Lewis was about the upcoming movie, The Golden Compass. The author of the book that movie is based on is a severe critic of Lewis. Lewis probably didn't know him, but, as the post indicates, he knew something about his philosophy.

One of the few series I have posted was on Temptations in the Narnia Books.

For those interested in the life of Lewis, I have posted on a biography by his stepson, Douglas Gresham.

A post that has triggered more comments than any other is "On Evangelical Blogging." The most important thing in that post is a long quote from Lewis. Another post that I consider important, and, again, relates to Lewis, is "What must be Christian about a Christian novel?"

Thanks for reading. Read Lewis.

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

In case you were planning to commit a murder, Slate has posted information on how to remove DNA evidence. It isn't easy.

A thoughtful, and relatively brief, discussion of what would and what wouldn't be expected to change in the future. (Writers of fantastic fiction don't always use good sense about this.)

Jeffrey Overstreet has a lot of material on Philip Pullman's The Golden Compass.

Peter Chattaway has published an interview with Pullman. Here's one very interesting statement:
Those who are committed materialists (as I claim to be myself) have to account for the existence of consciousness, or else, like the behaviourists such as Watson and Skinner, deny that it exists at all.

Katherine has a fine alphabetical list (with some letters more than once) of Bible verses relating to what we should be. She's got a similar list about what God does.

This week's Christian Carnival is here. For information on these Carnivals, go here.

Thanks for reading! Keep clicking away.

Image source (public domain)

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Weirdstone of Brisingamen, by Alan Garner

I recently re-read Alan Garner's The Weirdstone of Brisingamen (see here for a brief Wikipedia article on the book). The book I have was published by Ballantine of New York in 1960.

Although the book has two children, perhaps 11 or 12 years old, as two of the main characters, it's not particularly a children's book. I am giving away parts of the plot in the post.

This is Garner's first published novel, and has, I suppose, some faults because of that inexperience. It is fantastic literature. The children, and their guardians, interact with elves, witches, and other fantastic creatures. One fault is that Garner throws in a lot of mythology, and from at least two different sources. (He may have made some of it up, too.) Brisingamen (who does not appear as a character, but, of course, provides part of the title) is from Norse mythology, while Angharad, who appears, is from Celtic lore. Much of the material in the book is Norse in origin. Garner is a native of Cheshire, England, and some of the book is said to be based on local legends. New entities, whatever their source, appear with little or no explanation.

In spite of the legend-dropping, the book is compelling. I wish to mention two features.

One of them is that Garner holds back a relationship between two of the main characters -- they are brothers, perhaps identical twins -- until the end of the book. He writes that one of them, the evil one, became evil because he made a bad choice ". . . in his lust for knowledge he practised the forbidden arts, and black magic made a monster of him." (55-56) In the end, this evil character redeems himself as he dies by helping his good brother, also a wizard.

This theme, of studying things that should not be studied, occurs elsewhere, of course. Saruman is an example. Unfortunately, Saruman, though he had the opportunity in Tolkien's novels, did not redeem himself at all.

The other aspect is an underground journey that gives me chills whenever I read it, and I must have read it at least five times over the years. (I confess -- I have a little claustrophobia) Colin and Susan, brother and sister, travel, with two dwarves, through caves and mines where they don't know whether they are ever going to see the light of day again, and where they have to squeeze, swim under water, and gasp for breath. Garner describes this in enough detail to make it really scary, at least to me. It's the main thing I remember about this book.

Thanks for reading!

Monday, November 26, 2007

"No more sea" -- is John the Revelator telling the whole story?

John begins his description of the new heavens and new earth with this statement: "And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea." (Revelation 21:1, KJV) This verse has intrigued me for a long time. Is God really going to create a new habitation for humans without the watery environment that covers three-quarters of the earth? If so, why?

I cannot read God's mind, of course. I am also aware that interpreting Revelation is a tricky business. But it sounds as if John meant exactly what he said, and perhaps he did. Possibly there will be no sea, no waves, no tides, no whales, no plankton, no kelp, no sea horses, no sponges in (or around?) the new habitation of mankind with the heavenly beings.

This has always (dare I say it?) disappointed me. I like the ocean, and ocean life. Some have suggested that John wrote this because he was imprisoned on an island, with no escape, surrounded by the sea. But would God allow his Word to be so influenced by the dislike of one man? I doubt it. I just don't know why that verse is in Revelation.

The Old Testament has a couple of passages that seem to modify the picture of a new, sea-less cosmos. One of these is Genesis 1. In verse 10, Genesis says: God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good. (ESV)

In verses 20-23, it says: 20 And God said, “Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the heavens.” 21 So God created the great sea creatures and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its 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 birds multiply on the earth.” 23 And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day. (ESV) The description of the fifth day (whatever a day is, in this context) concludes, also, with the phrase about God seeing what he had created as good. So the sea, and the creatures in it, were originally declared to be good.

I recently found another passage that seems to relate, namely Ezekiel 47:6-12:
6 And he said to me, “Son of man, have you seen this?”
Then he led me back to the bank of the river. 7 As I went back, I saw on the bank of the river very many trees on the one side and on the other. 8 And he said to me, “This water flows toward the eastern region and goes down into the Arabah, and enters the sea;* when the water flows into the sea, the water will become fresh. 9 And wherever the river goes, every living creature that swarms will live, and there will be very many fish. For this water goes there, that the waters of the sea may become fresh; so everything will live where the river goes. 10 Fishermen will stand beside the sea. From Engedi to Eneglaim it will be a place for the spreading of nets. Its fish will be of very many kinds, like the fish of the Great Sea. 11 But its swamps and marshes will not become fresh; they are to be left for salt. 12 And on the banks, on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither, nor their fruit fail, but they will bear fresh fruit every month, because the water for them flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing.” (ESV) *a text note says that the sea in question is the Dead Sea.
So, in this passage, apparently also describing the way things will be after Christ's second coming -- and, also, as prophecy, tricky to interpret -- there will be a sea, with water-dwelling creatures in it.

The Blueletter Bible has commentaries. Two of them bear on this verse. David Guzik says that, to the Hebrews, the sea represented evil, or God's enemies, and cites Psalm 89:9 and Isaiah 57:20 as proof of this. He also says that the sea has already appeared in Revelation, in 13:1, where the beast comes from the sea, and 20:13, as a place holding the dead. A. R. Fausset says this: The sea is the type of perpetual unrest. Hence our Lord rebukes it as an unruly hostile troubler of His people. . . . As the physical corresponds to the spiritual and moral world, so the absence of sea, after the metamorphosis of the earth by fire, answers to the unruffled state of solid peace which shall then prevail.

If I understand them correctly (and they understand Revelation correctly) John was not speaking literally.
Based on the probable symbolic use of the sea by John, on its original goodness, and Ezekiel's statements about the Dead Sea, perhaps there will be some sort of sea in the new heavens and new earth. We'll see, I hope.

Thanks for reading.

* * * *

See this post for more on this topic.

* * * * 
Added February 2, 2015:

In this post, Bible scholar John Walton says, about the Final Kingdom, ". . . there’ll be no sea, which is the place of non-order in the ancient world.

Added November 18, 2015:

In this post, Tim Reddish writes about disorder and order (he agrees with Walton) in the ancient world, and claims that God left chaos in the created world on purpose.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

"Head of Thy Church, Whose Spirit Fills," by Charles Wesley

This year is the 300th anniversary of Charles Wesley's birth. Wesley wrote many hymns. One that I have never heard is "Head of Thy Church, Whose Spirit Fills." These are the words, as posted by the Cyberhymnal:

Head of Thy church, whose Spirit fills
And flows through every faithful soul,
Unites in mystic love, and seals
Them one, and sanctifies the whole;

“Come, Lord,” Thy glorious Spirit cries,
And souls beneath the altar groan;
“Come, Lord,” the bride on earth replies,
“And perfect all our souls in one.”

Pour out the promised gift on all,
Answer the universal “Come!”
The fullness of the Gentiles call,
And take thine ancient people home.

To Thee let all the nations flow,
Let all obey the Gospel word;
Let all their bleeding Savior know,
Filled with the glory of the Lord.

O for Thy truth and mercy’s sake
The purchase of Thy passion claim!
Thine heritage the Gentiles take,
And cause the world to know Thy Name.

These words were published in 1749, hence are public domain.

Thanks for reading.

Friday, November 23, 2007

I'm thankful for vibration

I'm thankful for vibration. Why?

Here's why. Vibration makes it possible for waves to exist. Something vibrates up and down, or back and forth, or around and round, and a wave is created. So who cares?

Waves are really important. If you live near the ocean, or any other large body of water, waves can kill you, or help transport you, or bring things to you, or give you occasion for recreation. That's one sort of wave, and it is, I believe, not nearly as important as some other kinds of waves.

The most important kind of wave is electromagnetic. I have posted on this type of wave in the past, and tried to indicate why I (and you) should be grateful for its existence. Let me just indicate some reasons why I'm thankful for electromagnetic waves, in brief. Without them, there would be no light, and we couldn't see. Our appreciation of beauty would be much diminished. Without them, I wouldn't be able to listen to a radio, or watch television, or connect, through our wireless router, to the Internet, or through our cell phone, to other people. Without them the sun's energy would not reach the earth, and power photosynthesis, the water cycle, and keep us from freezing solid.

Another kind of wave is sound waves. (Many of the principles that apply to electromagnetic waves also apply to sound and other mechanical waves, but there are significant differences.) Without sound, I couldn't hear voices or music or various kinds of signals and warnings. I love to hear music and other sounds. God must, too. In Job 38:4-7, Job is told that, at the creation of the earth, heavenly beings shouted and sung! In Revelation 5:6-14, we are told that, when Christ is honored in heaven, heavenly beings, and humans, will shout and sing! I recognize that it is possible, perhaps even likely, that neither of these passages are meant to be taken absolutely literally. But they mean something. I believe that God likes sound, including music. After all, He designed the universe so that mechanical waves would make them possible.

I have posted about other things I am thankful for, probably including vibrations, at other times. See here and here for links to these posts.

I'm also grateful for readers like you. Thanks!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Sunspots 136

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

I have recently found "Quintessence of Dust," a blog by a Christian and a scientist. Two excellent (but long) posts are "They selected teosinte. . .and got corn," and "How to evolve a protein in (about) 8 easy steps."

Wired says that there is growing evidence that we are nearing the end of the oil supply, and that alternatives aren't sufficient, so far, at least.

Nature News reports on why small mammals, such as chipmunks, seem reluctant to cross roads.

Nature News also reports on advances in stem cell research, including an apparent important breakthrough, namely the production of human cells that are like embryonic stem cells by reprogramming adult human skin cells. This may (and may not) mean that there is no longer a research reason for taking stem cells from human embryos. The article indicates some of the questions about this technique, including the possibility that these reprogrammed cells might cause cancer.

In Christianity Today: "Answering the Atheists: A Reader's Digest version of why I am a Christian."

This week's Christian Carnival is here. For information on these Carnivals, go here.

Thanks for reading! Keep clicking away.

Image source (public domain)

Monday, November 19, 2007

"The Golden Compass:" more on Pullman

The Golden Compass is a film scheduled to open in theaters on December 7th. There are Christians who are up in arms about Pullman's militant atheism. I'm not for atheism, either, but there are some dangers in campaigns like this.

I have previously posted on this topic, arguing that there are influences from the media that are considerably more insidious, hence more dangerous, than blatant atheism. I stand by that conclusion. I would also point out that campaigns of this type sometimes backfire. There is a possibility that people will see The Golden Compass just to see what the fuss is about, who might not have seen it otherwise. Since the first of the books is considerably less blatant than the next two, there is also the danger of looking ridiculous.

I'd like to provide two links that indicate Pullman's anti-Christian attitude. It's real.

The first link is to an article written by Pullman, about the Narnia books. The article is more anti-C. S. Lewis than anti-Christian, to be sure, and, as much as I admire the writing of the late Lewis, I must admit that Pullman presents some valid and pertinent criticisms, most of which have previously been made by Christian critics. However, his militant atheism comes through loud and clear, when he says that the revelation, to the main human characters in The Last Battle, that they have died, and that they are now in an infinitely better world, is "propaganda in the service of a life-hating ideology." That ideology is Christianity.

The second link is an interview with Pullman, about his beliefs, and where they came from. He expresses his anti-Christianity quite clearly.

I originally had a second part, indicating that Pullman has undercut his own anti-Christian case or, perhaps better put, the cases of some other atheists. However, on December 4, 2007, I decided to remove that portion of the post, and change the title accordingly, based on comments by George (see those comments below) who says that the evidence I presented did not support the claim that I had originally made. That being the case, I removed the claim. This will have the effect of removing any links anyone might have made to the original post.

Dare I say it? I'm thankful for carbohydrates

I'm thankful for carbohydrates! I know, carbohydrates have gotten a rather bad reputation. There have been fashionable diets that tried to eliminate them. In fact, this Wikipedia article on carbohydrates says that they are not absolutely needed in our diet -- we can get the energy and nutrients we need entirely from other sources. So why be thankful for carbohydrates?

Well, for one thing, I like sugar and sweet things. Sugars are carbohydrates. So are starches, which are complex molecules made from many sugars. Starches are broken down into sugars as part of digestion. Some of that digestion takes place in the mouth, and mouth-digested starchy foods can taste sweet.

For another, much more important reason, carbohydrates are the first usable food products of the processes that make up photosynthesis, the amazing, and absolutely essential activity that turns water, carbon dioxide, and light into food. Carbohydrates are also turned into almost every other organic molecule in living things, by metabolism. The D in DNA stands for deoxyribose, a sugar. Amino acids, which make up protein, are synthesized, directly or indirectly, from molecules produced in making or breaking down sugars in our cells, or the cells of other organisms. Vitamins, steroids, and other critical cell components are made from carbohydrate raw materials. Plants use cellulose, a carbohydrate, for much of the structure of their cell walls. Lignin, synthesized from carbohydrates, makes up most of the rest. Without cell walls, plants wouldn't have the essential structures that they do, such as roots, stems, flowers and leaves. (Cell walls are also a major constituent of cotton and other natural fibers, and of paper.) In other words, without carbohydrates, life as we know it would be impossible.

Jesus said, in the Lord's prayer, "Give us our daily bread." Bread was an essential part of the diet of people of Bible times. David brought loaves of bread to the army. Bread was put out as a sort of offering in the Tabernacle. Bread contains carbohydrate. However, it also has protein, fiber, important minerals, and other things we ought to take in.

Sure, I can eat too many carbohydrates, and be a sugar glutton, but, all in all, I'm thankful to God for carbohydrates. Thanks for reading.

This post was expanded on November 24, 2018.

I have posted about other things I am thankful for, probably including carbohydrates, at other times. See here and here for links to these posts.

I'm also thankful to you, my reader!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

"Depth of Mercy, Can There Be," by Charles Wesley

This year is the 300th anniversary of Charles Wesley's birth. Wesley wrote many hymns. One that I have never heard is "Depth of Mercy, Can There Be." These are the words, as posted by the Cyberhymnal:

Depth of mercy! Can there be
Mercy still reserved for me?
Can my God His wrath forbear,
Me, the chief of sinners, spare?

I have long withstood His grace,
Long provoked Him to His face,
Would not hearken to His calls,
Grieved Him by a thousand falls.

I have spilt His precious blood,
Trampled on the Son of God,
Filled with pangs unspeakable,
I, who yet am not in hell!

I my Master have denied,
I afresh have crucified,
And profaned His hallowed Name,
Put Him to an open shame.

Whence to me this waste of love?
Ask my Advocate above!
See the cause in Jesus’ face,
Now before the throne of grace.

Jesus, answer from above,
Is not all Thy nature love?
Wilt Thou not the wrong forget,
Permit me to kiss Thy feet?

If I rightly read Thy heart,
If Thou all compassion art,
Bow Thine ear, in mercy bow,
Pardon and accept me now.

Jesus speaks, and pleads His blood!
He disarms the wrath of God;
Now my Father’s mercies move,
Justice lingers into love.

Kindled His relentings are,
Me He now delights to spare,
Cries, “How shall I give thee up?”
Lets the lifted thunder drop.

Lo! I still walk on the ground:
Lo! an Advocate is found:
“Hasten not to cut Him down,
Let this barren soul alone.”

There for me the Savior stands,
Shows His wounds and spreads His hands.
God is love! I know, I feel;
Jesus weeps and loves me still.

Pity from Thine eye let fall,
By a look my soul recall;
Now the stone to flesh convert,
Cast a look, and break my heart.

Now incline me to repent,
Let me now my sins lament,
Now my foul revolt deplore,
Weep, believe, and sin no more.

These words were published in 1740, hence are public domain. That's more verses than hardly any church would sing, in 2007, but I'm glad that the Cyberhymnal posted them, and that Wesley wrote them. This is a tune, hence can be sung to "Jesus Loves Me," by William B. Bradbury, or other tunes written in that meter. the Cyberhymnal includes a tune for each song. You'll probably be tired of hearing the one that goes with this song, by the time you have read the 13th verse!

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Sunspots 134

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

Humor: The Onion tells us that Fall has been cancelled.

Politics: Joe Carter has been posting on waterboarding (which he opposes except under very restricted circumstances) and has gotten lots of comments.

Christianity: Jan wonders what would happen if Christians really lived like the Bible says we are supposed to.

A book review of Joel Osteen's latest book, pointing out what is so wrong about Osteen's message.

This week's Christian Carnival is here. For information on these Carnivals, go here.

Thanks for reading! Keep clicking away.

Image source (public domain)

Sunday, November 11, 2007

What Shall I Do, My God to Love? by Charles Wesley

This year is the 300th anniversary of Charles Wesley's birth. Wesley wrote many hymns. One that I have seldom heard is "What Shall I Do, My God to Love?" These are the words, as posted by the Cyberhymnal:

What shall I do, my God to love,
My loving God to praise!
The length, and breadth, and height to prove
And depth of sovereign grace?

Thy sovereign grace to all extends,
Immense and unconfined;
From age to age it never ends,
It reaches all mankind.

Throughout the world its breadth is known,
Wide as infinity,
So wide it never passed by one;
Or it had passed by me.

Come quickly, then, my Lord, and take
Possession of Thine own;
My longing heart vouchsafe to make
Thine everlasting throne.

Assert Thy claim, receive Thy right,
Come quickly from above,
And sink me to perfection’s height,
The depth of humble love.

These words were published in 1742, hence are public domain.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Sunspots 133

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

This amazing statement: I also don’t think that there is really a theory of intelligent design at the present time to propose as a comparable alternative to the Darwinian theory, which is, whatever errors it might contain, a fully worked out scheme. There is no intelligent design theory that’s comparable. Working out a positive theory is the job of the scientific people that we have affiliated with the movement. Some of them are quite convinced that it’s doable, but that’s for them to prove…No product is ready for competition in the educational world. Interview with Philip Johnson, 2006, Berkeley Science Review. Johnson is, more than anyone else, the founder of the Intelligent Design movement. He is, I believe, retired from the Berkeley law faculty.

Heard on NPR on October 30th: John Feinstein, commentator, on the National Basketball Season, in response to a remark by the anchor that "The NBA season begins tonight" responded "And it ends in two or three years." (I confess -- I watched part of a game that night. But they always do seem like long seasons, even to fans.)

An interesting post at The Lost Genre Guild, by Grace Bridges, explaining the origin and literal meaning of the word, author.

Henry Neufeld on theological arguments against evolution, namely sin and death.

Henry Neufeld (again) on views of the Fall , and related topics.

"Repetition, in Hebrew, performs the work of our highlighter. A tool of emphasis. God, proclaims the six-winged angels, is not holy. He is not holy, holy. He is holy, holy, holy." (Max Lucado, It's Not About Me. Nashville, TN: Integrity, 2004, p. 38)

This week's Christian Carnival is here. For information on these Carnivals, go here.

Thanks for reading! Keep clicking away.

Image source (public domain)

Monday, November 05, 2007

More on The Golden Compass

I recently posted about The Golden Compass, an upcoming movie based on a book by Philip Pullman. It's not out yet, but there's some buzz about it.

A post at Speculative Faith, a blog on Christianity and fantastic literature, by Rebecca Luella Miller, explores the possible impact of this movie further, and suggests that the impact might be good, on balance. Although Miller doesn't seem to have read the book, I believe her essay is on target.

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Thou God of Glorious Majesty, by Charles Wesley

This year is the 300th anniversary of Charles Wesley's birth. Wesley wrote many hymns. One that I have never heard is "Thou God of Glorious Majesty." These are the words, as posted by the Cyberhymnal:

Thou God of glorious majesty,
To Thee, against myself, to Thee,
A worm of earth, I cry;
A half-awakened child of man;
An heir of endless bliss or pain;
A sinner born to die!

Lo! on a narrow neck of land,
’Twixt two unbounded seas I stand,
Secure, insensible;
A point of time, a moment’s space,
Removes me to that heavenly place,
Or shuts me up in hell.

O God, mine inmost soul convert!
And deeply on my thoughtful heart
Eternal things impress:
Give me to feel their solemn weight,
And tremble on the brink of fate,
And wake to righteousness.

Before me place, in dread array,
The pomp of that tremendous day,
When Thou with clouds shalt come,
To judge the nations at Thy bar;
And tell me, Lord, shall I be there
To meet a joyful doom?

Be this my one great business here,
With serious industry and fear
Eternal bliss to ensure;
Thine utmost counsel to fulfill,
And suffer all Thy righteous will,
And to the end endure.

Then, Savior, then my soul receive,
Transported from this vale to live
And reign with Thee above;
Where faith is sweetly lost in sight,
And hope in full supreme delight,
And everlasting love.

These words were published in 1749, hence are public domain.

Thanks for reading.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

What influences the political choices of Christians? Immigration as an issue

A recent poll of likely Republican voters in South Carolina, my state, indicated that illegal immigration is the most important issue to such people. (To Democrats, it's the war in Iraq, and health care. I heard about this poll on the radio this week, but can't document it.) I wish I were surprised by this emphasis on immigration. What happened to the importance of abortion as an issue?

I'm not suggesting that the Republican party is the Christian party. (I don't think either major party is a Christian party. Both of them have Christian members, and also non-Christians.) However, my experience is that many Republican adherents among my friends and neighbors talk as if they believe that it is.

If, as many people used to say, abortion is a life-and-death issue, and opposition to abortion is based on the Bible, what happened to change the importance of the issue? I'm afraid that I know the answer, and that much of it is due to the influence of national commentators, such as Lou Dobbs of CNN. I'm also afraid that the sudden popularity of opposition to illegal immigration is motivated, at least in part, by prejudice, perhaps even hatred, toward those who are different. Another influence is that at least one of the leading Republican candidates is pro-choice, and some Republicans who used to claim to be strongly anti-abortion would rather forget about that issue than lose to a Democrat.

I'm not arguing that Christians (or anyone else) should be for illegal immigration, or that opposition to abortion should be the most important issue for Christians. I am arguing that the most important source of the political inspiration of Christians should be the Bible, not media personalities. For the Christian, there should be sympathy for immigrants, illegal or not, and concern for their spiritual and economic welfare. The Old Testament speaks about being kind to strangers. So does the New. Here's Leviticus 19:
33 “When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. 34 You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God. . . ." (ESV)

Thanks for reading. I know -- I'm supposed to be on hiatus, but it's my blog . . .

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Travel hiatus coming

God willing, we will be traveling soon. I don't expect to post much, except, perhaps, a Sunspots or two, and another hymn of Charles Wesley, for the next several days.

The origin of humans (and a little about the meanings of "evolution")

I have recently discovered a pretty good attempt to differentiate among the meanings of evolution, by Steve Martin, of "An Evangelical Dialogue on Evolution," and I commend it to you. I also have a web page that tries to do this. We say some of the same things, but there are differences. I have recently updated this web page, which has been on-line, with occasional updates, for a few years.

The main reason that I have updated, is because I decided that I didn't say enough about the origin of human beings. (Steve Martin doesn't deal with this much, either) If human beings came from some other type of organism through an evolutionary process, there is no good reason to suppose that there was anything special about this, any more than, say, the apparent descent of zebras and horses from a common ancestor would have been by a unique process, so there's a good reason for leaving it out of a discussion of the types of evolution -- it's not a unique type, if it happened. But the response of many Christians to the suggestion that humans may have evolved from some pre-human animal requires some discussion, in my view.

Why is there so often a response to the possibility that humans have evolved? There seem to be several answers, the most obvious being that we are human, and may not want to know anything "bad" about our origins, just as we might not want to know that we had an axe murderer in our family tree. (I don't see that origin from some non-human type, if it really occurred as God's way of producing us, should be considered a bad thing.)

Another answer is that the Bible indicates that the origin of humans was special. Genesis 1 and 2 do not describe the origin of any other species in detail, but the origin of humans is detailed. The process is described in such a way that, if it was meant to be taken literally, it leaves no room for an evolutionary process in human origin. The origin of humans is not only described, but we are also the only beings described as being in God's image, whatever that means, and as having some sort of control and responsibility for other living things.

It is also true, of course, that the Bible tells us that Christ came as a human, miraculously becoming a God-man. This, too, indicates that humans are special.

So it is no wonder that many Christians have a very hard time believing that humans came from some non-human species.

I'm not sure how to take Genesis on the origin of humans. I don't know enough of the original language. There are those who do know it, and believe that the Bible is God's word, divinely inspired, but disagree with one another about how literally to take the first part of Genesis. It doesn't seem likely that I can determine this issue in this life.

The Bible doesn't seem to allow for any doubt that God was involved in the origin of humans, however and whenever it came about. We are here because of God's purposes.

It is, of course, possible that other organisms came to be as they are through evolutionary processes, but that humans were specially created, as described in Genesis.

However humans came about, it seems clear that they have changed ("evolved," if you please, in one meaning of the word) since the first humans. Taken literally, Genesis teaches that the various races of humans all sprang from Noah's family, and there are differences between races. (These differences are insignificant, compared to the similarities!) Even to a young-earth creationist, who might be supposed to doubt that humans have been subject to evolutionary processes more than others, these differences must have come about in the few thousand years since Noah's flood. I have never read a scientifically informed young-earth creationist who doubted that natural selection, Darwin's main mechanism, works, or that it has worked in humans, at least since the flood. A person who believes that the earth, and humans, are more than a few thousand years old, will also accept that humans have changed since Homo sapiens first appeared.

Some Christians believe that the first part of Genesis was not meant to be taken strictly literally, and some of these Christians are willing to believe that God used some sort of evolutionary process to bring about the existence of humans here on earth. Billy Graham, for one, is on record as saying that this may have been true. Note that he doesn't say that it is true, but that it might be. I'll give Graham the last word:
". . . whichever way God did it makes no difference as to what man is and man's relationship to God."

Thanks for reading!