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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Sunspots 267

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

Science:(and religion) The Institute for Creation Research has an article which indicates, with evidence given, that, if anything, the incidence of earthquakes has declined slightly over the last century or so.

(or something) The New York Times reports that some law schools are inflating the grades of their students. In some cases, it's not by allowing professors to award more A's, but by the institution changing grades for classes already finished. The law schools hope this helps their graduates to get jobs.

Wired lets us know why, when so much is wireless, we still have power cords.

Jan has a fine post on "bumper sticker scriptures," that is, scriptures that are often quoted out of context, or reduced to sound bites.

Merissa presents a good object lesson on sponges. (The kind you clean with.)

Image source (public domain)

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Gulf Oil Spill: Southern Baptist reaction

I was pleased to discover that the Southern Baptist Convention, which met this month in Orlando, had passed a resolution condemning the Gulf Oil Spill.

This is a quotation from the resolution, from the Associated Baptist Press report: "Our God-given dominion over the creation is not unlimited, as though we were gods and not creatures, so therefore, all persons and all industries are then accountable to higher standards than to profit alone."

National Public Radio also reported on the matter. I quote from that report:
. . . the Convention called on the government "to act determinatively and with undeterred resolve to end this crisis ... to ensure full corporate accountability for damages, clean-up and restoration ... and to ensure that government and private industry are not again caught without planning for such possibilities."

NPR interviewed the Dean of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, who told the reporter that there was no reason why a true conservative should not call for government to regulate responsibly, and also told the reporter that a believe in sin included a belief in corporate sin. (The Dean was not speaking for the Convention, but for himself, but, no doubt, his views are shared by many Southern Baptists.)

Good for the SBC, which is the largest Christian body in the US, as I understand it, and generally associated with conservative political views.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Science and religion: my principles/assumptions

I believe in four principles, relating to the interaction of science and Christianity.

1) The universe is here because of purpose, or plan, of a supernatural, loving, redeeming, omnipotent and omniscient God. See Genesis 1:1, and other scriptures, such as Colossians 1:15-20.

2) Principle 1 cannot be accepted without faith, as Hebrews 11:3 says.

3) God has revealed Himself to us in a number of ways, the most important being by the revelation of Himself in Jesus Christ. One of those ways is through nature. (Romans 1:20, Psalm 19:1-4) Since that is true, we must take the findings of science seriously. If there seems to be a conflict between the findings of science and what the Bible says, our understanding of what the Bible says may be in error, or we may need more findings, or our understanding of those findings may be in error, but, in principle, scientific findings and God's other forms of revelation should not conflict, and should be complementary.

4) Humans are special. God appeared, in Christ, as a human being. Humans are, in some measure, in God's image. Humans are, in some measure, responsible for the care of other living things. (See Genesis 1:26-28) Caring for other things requires that we know something about them.

There are a number of things that I did not say, on purpose. I didn't say, for one, how old the universe is. I didn't say that there are no other planets with life on them, except the earth. I didn't say how the different types of organisms came to be. I didn't say that our universe is the only one. All these matters, and more, are of interest. I have opinions on them, but they are not as important as the four principles given above. The Bible does not tell us any of these things. It does support the four principles above.

Can I prove these principles? Not to everyone's satisfaction. But I assume them to be true.

Everyone has basic assumptions, things they believe in that can't be proven. The most basic of these is the assumption that our senses are feeding us reasonably accurate information. An atheist probably assumes that miracles are impossible, or that there is no God. These things cannot be proven, any more than my four assumptions can.

Thanks for reading!

*   *   *   *   *

I have previously posted on Hebrews 11:3, here, on "Science and the Bible," here, and on "Scriptural Principles that relate to Science," here.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

John Wesley on the redemption of animals

John Wesley apparently believed that animals would be redeemed, when the effects of the Fall are overthrown by God: May it not answer another end; namely, furnish us with a full answer to a plausible objection against the justice of God, in suffering numberless creatures that never had sinned to be so severely punished? They could not sin, for they were not moral agents. Yet how severely do they suffer! -- yea, many of them, beasts of burden in particular, almost the whole time of their abode on earth; So that they can have no retribution here below. But the objection vanishes away, if we consider that something better remains after death for these poor creatures also; that these, likewise, shall one day be delivered from this bondage of corruption, and shall then receive an ample amends for all their present sufferings. John Wesley, Sermon 60, "The General Deliverance."

He also believed that animals are not moral agents, but that they do suffer.

Thanks for reading.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Books on science and religion

I have been blogging here since December, 2004, and I've tried to cover a lot of ground.

One topic that continually interests me, whether it interests any of my readers or not, is the topic of science and religion, in particular, science and Christian faith. I have been reading books on this subject since I was in graduate school, nearly a half a century ago. I was never assigned any such books for a class assignment. I assigned a few such books to myself, and my students, as textbooks, and I read many more because I thought I should. I would guess that I have read at least 75 such books, by many authors, from many viewpoints. Some people, when they see the title of this post, would suppose that "science and religion" has to do with origins, or, if you prefer, evolution. That is a legitimate subset of such books, but the "science and religion" also includes other, more fundamental topics, such as the historical relationship between science and Christianity, the assumptions necessary to do science, and whether or not scientific study is compatible with religious belief at all.

I'd like to do two things in this post. One of them is to post links, for my own benefit, to reviews and discussions of such books that have been published on this blog. More on this below.

The second thing I want to accomplish is to tell you that I have recently finished the best book on science and religion (mainly Christianity, although the author touches on Islam and Judaism somewhat) that I have ever read. That's saying a lot -- I've read some good ones. I wish that I had read Ferguson earlier, and that I had assigned it to some of my classes. That book is The Fire in the Equations: Science, Religion and the Search for God, by Kitty Ferguson. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995) I expect to be posting about that book in the near future, God willing. I had heard of it, and ordered it for the Southern Wesleyan University library, but I had never read it. Shame on me.

Ferguson has a brief article in the Wikipedia, and there is an unofficial Kitty Ferguson web site. (For some reason, it classifies The Fire in the Equations as a "novel," which it certainly is not. The Amazon web page on the book is here, and the Barnes and Noble web page is here.

Books on science and religion that I have reviewed on this blog

The books mentioned below do not include books on environmental or medical ethics, some of which are also about science and religion.

Lest there be any doubt, I do not necessarily agree with everything that each book listed said, and tried to make clear where I did not in my reviews.

I reviewed Lee Strobel's The Case for a Creator. The last of four posts is here. Strobel was really presenting a "Case for Intelligent Design." Although he was well-intentioned, I do not believe that he made a good case, and, in fact, I don't think that such a case can be made. See here for my post on my problems with the Intelligent Design movement. (I have plenty of Christian company in this.)

I reviewed The Language of God, by Francis Collins, who, until recently, was director of the US Human Genome Project, and is a Christian. Collins does a good job of arguing that science and Christianity should be compatible. He also gives his personal testimony. The last post is here.

I reviewed A Biblical Case for an Old Earth, by David Snoke. The last post is here. Snoke is clearly a student of the Bible, and not one to do violence to scripture. He makes some strong arguments that a belief in Scripture is compatible with a belief in an earth much older than a few thousand years, although, of course, everyone is not convinced.

I devoted one post to a review of Michael Shermer's Why Darwin Matters: The Case Against Intelligent Design. Shermer, a well-known atheist, was surprisingly respectful of religion in this book.

I reviewed John F. Haught's Is Nature All There Is? here. Haught argues that it is not possible to explain purpose, or critical intelligence, without going outside of nature, which of course, means that he is arguing for the existence of God.

I reviewed The God Delusion, by Richard Dawkins, probably the most widely known atheist of our time. The last post is here. Dawkins does not believe that there is a God, and argues that case at considerable length. He does not claim that he has disproved God's existence. Dawkins is an excellent popularizer of science, and has solid scientific credentials.

This post, which is not a review, mentions three important authors in the field, namely Stephen Barr, Ian Barbour, and John C. Polkinghorne. Although I have read books by each of these -- several by Polkinghorne -- I read them before I started blogging, and have never reviewed one of their books.

Here is a post -- not a full review -- about Stephen Jay Gould's Rocks of Ages, wherein this important popularizer of scientist, who was a geologist at Harvard University, and apparently not a believer, indicated that he believed that religious study and belief were legitimate activity for humans.

I have also read, as I said, many other such books, including Darwin on Trial by Phillip E. Johnson, Darwin's Black Box, by Michael Behe, The Genesis Flood by John Whitcomb and Henry Morris, and Davis A. Young's Christianity and the Age of the Earth. I consider these books to be among the most influential volumes on Christianity and science written between 1961 and 1996. Johnson, a lawyer, argued that Darwinism was based on false logic and unsupported assumptions, and founded the Intelligent Design movement. Behe gave some scientific respectability to that movement. Morris founded the modern young-earth creationism movement, and Young's book refuted The Genesis Flood. I have not, so far, at least, reviewed these books here. (I have here documented statements showing that Young-Earth Creationism and the Intelligent Design movement are not very compatible.)

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Freedom of the press

I'm grateful for freedom of the press. Always? Definitely not. When, for example, "mainstream" TV news devoted hour upon hour to the events surrounding the death of the late Anna Nicole Smith, that didn't make me love that freedom. Where was the coverage of jobs, the economy, etc.? I'm not grateful when news outlets, "mainstream" or not, ride some hobby horse off into the sunset, or consistently cover only one side of a complex issue, or always back one political party. I'm not grateful when TV news programs spend more time on ads than the news, or the newspaper has more ad space than the news space, but I understand why this happens, and, I guess, I'm grateful for the result -- news. I can always mute or switch channels, or turn the page.

There are other dangers to the kind of press that we enjoy (or not) in North America. One of them is that there is such a variety of opinion, or slant, on what's reported that it is all too easy to hear, see, or read only what you agree with, and, sometimes, what I agree with or already believe about something may be wrong. I should get a variety of opinions. I posted on another danger a couple of years ago: "the most important source of the political inspiration of Christians should be the Bible, not media personalities." I am convinced that, a few years ago, illegal immigration, rather than abortion, became the most important political issue for conservative Christians because of the influence of a few political commentators.

But I am grateful that the press can find out things, such as that the current governor of my state was having an affair with an Argentinian, or how badly BP was prepared for anything going wrong, let alone what it actually did, in the Gulf Oil Spill. And I'm especially grateful for news stories about someone doing some unselfish good for someone else, as rare as such stories are. I'm also grateful for opinions, because what intelligent, experienced, thoughtful people say ought to be part of my thinking on particular issues, even though I must carefully make up my own mind based on my understanding of God's will.

Freedom of the press must not be taken for granted. Not everyone has it. Russia (see their position on the Press Freedom Index) and Venezuela, to name just two of many countries, don't have this freedom. Check out parts of the Wikipedia article on Freedom of the Press to see how well we have it in North America.

Thanks for reading, freely, or not reading. That's your choice. I'm glad you have it.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Sunspots 266

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

(or maybe politics) The Google Crisis Team's map of the Gulf Oil Spill.

(or Science) Wired reports that the US military is testing a "pain ray" in the conflict in the Middle East.

Scamorama is a website that displays scam letters (many from Nigeria) and offers assistance in scamming the scammers, with fake phone numbers, etc.

Image source (public domain)

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Manute Bol, rest in peace

Manute Bol, Sudan-born NBA basketball player, recently passed away in a US hospital. Bol was seven feet, seven inches tall, one of only two NBA players in history who were that tall. (No one, so far, has been taller.)

Bol was not only a basketball player, but a humanitarian and philanthropist. He put considerable energy, and quite a bit of his NBA salaries, into trying to help people in war-torn Sudan.

Bol is the only player in NBA history to have more blocks than points during his career. He was a pretty good 3-point shooter, and his coaches sometimes used this to try to draw opposing centers away from the basket to guard Bol. He was too slender to cope well with shorter, but heavier and more muscular players, close to the basket.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Redemption in basketball: Ron Artest

Ron Artest has not been a model citizen, or a model NBA basketball player, throughout his career.

Most notoriously, he was a major contributor to the downfall of the Indiana Pacers, by going into the stands after a fan in a notorious (and rare) many-person brawl in a game with the Detroit Pistons. Artest was handed a long suspension, and lost millions of dollars. He was, at least publicly, supported by the Pacers organization, but he demanded to be traded, and was so traded. The Pacers have not been much of a team since. This year, Artest was acquired by the Los Angeles Lakers, principally for his defensive tenacity, which has been his outstanding characteristic. However, in the final game of this year's championship series, Artest also proved that he can score, pretty much keeping the Lakers in the game until help arrived, and the Lakers eked out a win, and the championship.

Artest not only showed poise and good sense on the court, but he used the after-game interview to apologize to the Pacers organization, and to individuals from that organization, for his behavior, and he thanked God for the opportunity he had been given.

I've never been a big Ron Artest fan, but that changed, at least for now, even though I was pulling for the Celtics. Redeeming an individual is more important than a team championship.

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Fathers in the Bible: Some failings

There are a lot of fathers mentioned in the Bible. About all we know about a lot of them is, in the words of the King James Version, that "so and so begat such and such." Which means, of course, that so and so was a sperm contributor. The Bible doesn't usually tell us much else about how good, or how bad, such fathers were.

We know more about some fathers, and their failings. Here's a quick list.

Isaac and Jacob both had favorite sons. This, of course, is not a way to make the non-favored offspring happy. The result was a split family, in each case.

Eli, Samuel, and David didn't discipline their children very well. There were bad consequences, in each case, including some deaths in at the case of Eli's and David's families, and maybe Samuel's.

Omri was a bad man who set a bad example. Two of his children, Athaliah and Ahab, followed him. Athaliah ordered her own grandchildren killed, so that she could be ruler. Ahab let his wife, Jezebel, lead him around, and did, or allowed her to do, some very wicked things. The whole family worshiped abominable idols, although Ahab at least acknowledged God.

Zachariah doubted that God would use his son, John the Baptist, as God told him that he would.

*   *   *   *   *

On the other hand, perhaps the Bible is like today's local TV news. Good things are seldom reported! We are not told much about Joshua's father, Nun, David's father, Jesse, or Samuel's father, Elkanah, Moses's father, Amram, or Zebedee, the father of James and John. There's nothing, or next to nothing, about the fathers of Deborah, Job, Jeremiah, Daniel, Ezekiel, Martha, Mary and Lazarus, Dorcas, Ruth or Rahab. We are told little about Joseph, the stepfather of Jesus. But it's a good guess that at least some of these men did a good job, judging by their offspring. But I'm not sure that is true. Children can be better (or worse) than their parents. The only father I can think of, where there is some description of the good example they set, is Mordecai, Esther's stepfather, or adoptive father.

If fatherhood has ever been easy -- which is very doubtful -- it isn't easy  now. God, help the fathers of today to avoid the flaws of the fathers discussed in the first part of this post, and to emulate good fathers, like Mordecai, and, probably, Jesse, Amram, Zebedee and millions of other unsung fathers, in the Bible and later, who have never run for office, been CEO of a big company, or written a book, but whose legacy is good children.

Thanks for reading. I'm thankful for a good father. I'm thankful for children who have made me look good.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Resurrection: Re-assembling the body. John Wesley's thoughts

From John Wesley's sermon 137, "On the Resurrection of the Dead." (1872, Public Domain):

God can distinguish and keep unmixed from all other bodies the particular dust into which our several bodies are dissolved, and can gather it together and join it again, how far soever dispersed asunder. God is infinite both in knowledge and power. He knoweth the number of the stars, and calleth them all by their names; he can tell the number of the sands on the sea-shore: And is it at all incredible, that He should distinctly know the several particles of dust into which the bodies of men are mouldered, and plainly discern to whom they belong, and the various changes they have undergone? Why should it be thought strange, that He, who at the first formed us, whose eyes saw our substance yet being imperfect, from whom we were not hid when we were made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth, should know every part of our bodies, and every particle of dust whereof we were composed? The artist knows every part of the watch which he frames; and if it should fall in pieces, and the various parts of it lie in the greatest disorder and confusion, yet he can soon gather them together, and as easily distinguish one from another, as if every one had its particular mark. He knows the use of each, and can readily give it its proper place, and put them all exactly in the same figure and order they were before. And can we think that the Almighty Builder of the world, whose workmanship we are, does not know whereof we are made, or is not acquainted with the several parts of which this earthly tabernacle is composed? All these lay in one vast heap at the creation, till he separated them one from another, and framed them into those distinct bodies whereof this beautiful world consists. And why may not the same Power collect the ruins of our corrupted bodies, and restore them to their former condition?

Wesley didn't know much, or anything, about atoms, those almost indestructible particles that molecules are made of, that can, in some cases, be part of the air one moment, and part of a plant the next, then eaten by a human. Atoms that I am continually giving off as I breathe, sweat, and excrete. He didn't know that some of the Carbon atoms in my body may have also found, for a while, in Moses, or in Jezebel, or in the bodies of countless other people from all parts of the earth, and from all of human history, or prehistory.

But the usual indivisibility of atoms, and their almost infinite ability to substitute for other like atoms, don't negate Wesley's argument. But perhaps it could use some modernization.

One thing Wesley didn't seem to consider is that our bodies are changing. I now have cells, and atoms, that I didn't have 30 years ago, and many of the cells and atoms I had then are gone. I've been a moving target for re-assembly all my life. So have you. God must have some way of determining what sort of body I will have when resurrected. Will I be a mature person? A teenager? Something intermediate, or transcending all human stages? I don't know. But, whatever it is, as Wesley said, an omnipotent and omniscient God should have no trouble in figuring out how to resurrect me.

Then there's the matter of the migration of atoms from one person to another. One way of updating Wesley's assertion about "particular dust" is to point out that, as far as we know, all Carbon 12 atoms are alike. Exactly and precisely alike. They are made of the same particles, be those neutrons, quarks, or something else. So, if my resurrection body contains Carbon 12, God doesn't necessarily have to bother with keeping track of which particular Carbon 12 atoms were in my body at some particular time. He just has to use the same number of Carbon atoms in the same way, since they are all identical.

Another way of updating Wesley's assertion is to say that, for all we know, God does differentiate between particular atoms of Carbon 12 (and, of course, other atoms, as well) even though we can't. If that's the case, and one of my Nitrogen 14 atoms was also part of, say, Dorcas, an omnipotent and omniscient God should have no trouble in making a new one, and in giving both of us an identical Nitrogen 14 atom.

Aren't you glad that how we are resurrected is up to God? Please, God, may I experience that.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Sunspots 265

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

(or dead serious) Wired reports on how to catch a wedding bouquet, with a diagram.

Science:NPR reports that not all scientists believe that oil-soaked birds can really recover. Some do believe it.

Politics:(or something) NPR reports that returning military personnel returning to Fort Bliss, in Texas, are not getting the treatment they need for brain injuries.

An article in the BioLogos forum asks whether or not God changes His mind.

Image source (public domain)

Monday, June 14, 2010

Shameless Self-promotion

I received my copies of Care of Creation: Christian Voices on God, Humanity, and the Environment, a book published by the Wesleyan Publishing House, today. I was one of several authors, all having some connection to The Wesleyan Church or closely related bodies. I co-authored a chapter on "Endangered Species and Habitats."

The book is available from the publisher for $14.99, and from Amazon and Barnes and Noble for less.

To see some of my thinking on these matters, go here. That post, which I consider one of my most important, sets forth what the Bible says about these matters. Very little of that post, although it's a good summary, has not been said by others. During the writing of the book, I also wrote this post, on two new (to me, anyway) reasons for preserving nature around us. As far as I know, no one else has ever discussed these two reasons.

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Tests and Temptations

Last Sunday, my pastor cleared up something for me. I have long wondered why the Bible distinguishes between being tested and being tempted, when, to someone who is going through either, they would seem to appear the same. The distinction given is that God doesn't tempt people, but the devil does. God tests.

My pastor said something like this: The devil tempts us because he wants us to fail. God tests us because He knows we'll succeed.

I will cite three well-known Biblical examples of tests briefly.

The first things we hear of Joseph are not promising. He was, apparently, a spoiled brat. But God must have seen something in him. Joseph was allowed to be tested by Potiphar's wife, and also by the actions of his brothers. He triumphed, even though he was put in jail as a result of the first test, and sold into slavery as a result of the second. God knew what Joseph would do, but Joseph didn't. The biggest triumph was not his ascension to high office in Egypt. It was that he was able to forgive his brothers.

God allowed Job to be tested by the devil. Job triumphed. He didn't lose his faith in God, even though he lost almost everything else, except his wife, who tried to get him to renounce God.

As far as I know, the Bible doesn't specifically say that God was testing Job, or Joseph.

The most famous case (except for Christ, Himself) is that of Abraham. God tested him. Would he be willing to kill and sacrifice his only son? God knew what Abraham would do, but Abraham didn't.

There's another case that I would like to consider. That is the case of Ruth. Ruth could have stayed in Moab, but chose to leave, going to a place she had never seen, where she probably wasn't expecting much of a welcome, or worse, and all because she wanted to stay with Naomi, and have Naomi's God as her own. Why? It wasn't because Naomi had prospered. It must have been because Naomi, herself, stood a test, staying true to her faith when her husband and sons died, in a foreign land, leaving her as a defenseless widow. Ruth must have seen something attractive in her mother-in-law's life.

Ruth stood the test. She followed Naomi. She did what Naomi said she should. She didn't flirt with the Jewish young men around her (Boaz said that). She just picked up the grain left behind. As a result, she became one of the ancestors of the Jewish kings, and of Christ, Himself. God knew all this, but Ruth certainly didn't, when she decided to leave her home and set off with her mother-in-law.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Judgment on Louisiana?

The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico may be the worst man-caused environmental disaster in human history. Coming just a few years after Hurricane Katrina did extensive damage in the same area, it makes us think. Is God punishing Louisiana, or New Orleans? (or Haiti?)

Maybe. But maybe not.

Here's what Jesus said in Luke 13:

13:1 Now there were some present at the same time who told him about the Galileans, whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices.  2 Jesus answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered such things?  3 I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all perish in the same way.  4 Or those eighteen, on whom the tower in Siloam fell, and killed them; do you think that they were worse offenders than all the men who dwell in Jerusalem?  5 I tell you, no, but, unless you repent, you will all perish in the same way.” (From the World English Bible, which is Public Domain, so I can quote from it freely. It is also more easily understandable than the King James. Other versions, including the KJV, say essentially the same thing in this passage.)

Jesus explicitly said, for both a man-caused disaster, and a gravity-caused one, that the people who died were no worse than the rest of us.

I have no doubt that there was evil in Haiti, or New Orleans. But there is evil in my own state, too. God doesn't like any of it. I have been to Las Vegas once (that was enough). I found flyers, advertising the services of "entertainers" (prostitutes) openly everywhere, including being shoved under our motel room's door. The portion of the Yellow Pages taken up by "entertainers" was as large as any other section of the phone book. Apparently, they were classified, by age, race, and, perhaps, by other attributes. And, I understand, this sort of thing has been going on in Las Vegas for years. God didn't strike them with any disasters that made the news back 5 to 25 years ago. And prostitution wasn't the only wide-spread sin problem in Las Vegas.

Besides, the blame for the Gulf Oil Spill should be spread around pretty thickly. BP is from the United Kingdom. Their previous planning for problems was, well, a disaster. The branch of the US government that was supposed to regulate their activity didn't do what they should have done. And we, most of us, anyway, are using energy like there was no tomorrow and were no consequences. I am partly responsible for the Gulf Oil Spill. You probably are, too.

Thank God, God is merciful, when we deserve justice. My own town, my own family, I, myself, deserve to be eternally punished for my sin. God provided a sacrifice for that sin. Whether we live in New Orleans, Moscow, or Walla Walla, God could justly send a disaster. He could also allow a disaster. But He usually doesn't.

God help the people of the Gulf area, and all of us, in all the ways He wants to.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Sunspots 264

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

Science:NPR reports that Einstein's brain, which was removed surreptitiously when he died, has, sort of, helped us learn how the brain really works.

NPR also reports on an archaeological burial site. Most likely, those buried there were Roman gladiators.

A report in Business Week indicates that acupuncture may really help deal with pain, and gives a possible method by which it does so.

Image source (public domain)

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Three different kinds of Old Testament Law

I confess. I have a Facebook account, and most days, I post a verse or two from my daily Bible reading.

Recently, I posted Proverbs 16:8 Better is a little with righteousness
than great revenues with injustice. (ESV)

A commenter asked me which injustices the Bible was talking about in Deuteronomy 22.

I attempted an answer, thus:
Thanks, . . .

As I understand it, the Old Testament has three kinds of law, and they generally are not identified as such, namely Civic (such as how to divide the land between the tribes), Ceremonial (such as how to offer sacrifices) and Moral (such as the Ten Commandments, which are, I believe, all reaffirmed in some way in the New Testament. Civic and Ceremonial laws are not required of Christians, according to several parts of the New Testament. The Moral law is.

The first part of Deuteronomy 22 strikes me as mostly Civic -- how to get along with your neighbors, although it might be considered to be applications of the Golden Rule of Matthew 7:12, which seems to me to be a moral requirement for Christians. (It's sometimes hard to apply, because we don't always know what would be good for our neighbors, or for us.) I doubt if you were referring to the first part.

The second part of Deuteronomy 22 is various sexual prohibitions. They strike me as applications of the moral commandment of God to avoid sexual immorality.

As I see it, most of Deuteronomy 22 is not about injustices. Justice is important to God, therefore to us, but purity, integrity, and uprightness are also important -- in other words, living a life that pleases God. Although there are some injustices in Deuteronomy 22, such as raping a young woman in a field, much of that chapter is about living a life that pleases God. In other words, that one verse that I quoted doesn't cover all of what God wants us to be.

We can't live a life that pleases God without strongly desiring to do so, and we also can't do that without God's help. We cannot do this in our own strength.

I hope that answers your question. Others might have a better answer.

*    *    *    *

Actually, it turns out that the commenter was accusing God of injustice, but that's another story.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

John Wooden, great college basketball coach, has died

The media are reporting that John Wooden, retired coach of the UCLA Bruins men's basketball team, which won 10 national championships, has passed away, at age 99. Here's the NPR report.

According to a Wooden quotation given in Wikiquote, Wooden believed that talent is God-given. He also believed that success took more than talent.

The Wikipedia article on Wooden tells us that he was a practicing, and believing, Christian, and that he was the first person (and, so far, one of only three) inducted into the basketball Hall of Fame for his accomplishments as a basketball player, and also as a basketball coach.

God rest his soul. Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Sunspots 263

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

Science:National Public Radio reports (with a picture comparing before and after) that Jupiter has lost one of the large bands around its Southern half. This has happened before.

(or Economics, or Christianity) Ken Schenck, religion professor, tells us why he believes in capitalism.

The Arts:
National Public Radio reports that Emily Dickinson (Wikipedia article here) was best known for her gardening, among her neighbors. (Photos here.)

Heart, Mind, Soul and Strength continues her posts on controversies among Christians. In this one, she considers John 14:28, which says that the Father is greater than the Son, and it's implications for understanding (if that's possible!) of the Trinity.

Image source (public domain)

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Thanks for a good camera

Gerbera daisy with raindrops, peach color, contrast enhanced 

A couple of days ago, our latest digital camera recorded its 10,000th photo (or video). It's not the greatest camera in the world, nor are we the best photographers, but it's been good enough. I'm grateful to God for the camera, and for what it's done to me in helping me to see God's creation better.

Here's a previous musing on photography. If you want to see some of the best of our Flickr photos, use the photo above as a link. No password is needed to view our on-line photos.

Thanks for looking.