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.
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Monday, December 30, 2013

Are there groups of organisms not mentioned in the Genesis 1 account of creation?

Genesis 1:1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.

9 God said, “Let the waters under the sky be gathered together to one place, and let the dry land appear”; and it was so. 10 God called the dry land “earth”, and the gathering together of the waters he called “seas”. God saw that it was good. 11 God said, “Let the earth yield grass, herbs yielding seeds, and fruit trees bearing fruit after their kind, with their seeds in it, on the earth”; and it was so. 12 The earth yielded grass, herbs yielding seed after their kind, and trees bearing fruit, with their seeds in it, after their kind; and God saw that it was good. 13 There was evening and there was morning, a third day.

20 God said, “Let the waters abound with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth in the open expanse of the sky.” 21 God created the large sea creatures and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarmed, after their kind, and every winged bird after its kind. God saw that it was good. 22 God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” 23 There was evening and there was morning, a fifth day.

24 God said, “Let the earth produce living creatures after their kind, livestock, creeping things, and animals of the earth after their kind”; and it was so. 25 God made the animals of the earth after their kind, and the livestock after their kind, and everything that creeps on the ground after its kind. God saw that it was good.

26 God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the sky, and over the livestock, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 God created man in his own image. In God’s image he created him; male and female he created them. 28 God blessed them. God said to them, “Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it. Have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the sky, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” 29 God said, “Behold, I have given you every herb yielding seed, which is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree, which bears fruit yielding seed. It will be your food. 30 To every animal of the earth, and to every bird of the sky, and to everything that creeps on the earth, in which there is life, I have given every green herb for food;” and it was so.

31 God saw everything that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. There was evening and there was morning, a sixth day.
(World English Bible, public domain. All scriptures quoted are from that version. I omitted days 1, 2, 4 and 7, as there is no indication of the creation of any living things on those days.)

I am assuming, for the purposes of this discussion, that creation took place in six literal, consecutive days. I am well aware that there are problems with that view, and am not convinced of it.

Are there large groups of organisms not mentioned here? Maybe. It depends on how inclusive the creation events described really were, and there is no way of being sure of that, so I'll just muse about these matters.

There is no direct mention of microorganisms, and it would have been amazing if there had been. They weren't discovered until less than 300 years ago. Mentioning them in Genesis 1 would mostly likely have seemed nonsensical to the ancient Israelites, and, presumably, to Moses.

There is no direct mention of underwater plants. Perhaps the Israelites weren't familiar with them.

There is no direct mention of flying insects. It is hard to imagine God's creation being completely good without butterflies, and, especially, bees. There are other kinds of flying insects, too. It is true that all of the flying insects have non-flying larvae, however. Most likely, in some cases, the Israelites and their contemporaries wouldn't have been aware of the connection between grubs, maggots or caterpillars and the adults.

Were mosquitoes and the flies that carry disease part of the original creation, or did they appear only after the Fall?

There are some non-flying birds, such as ostriches, which are mentioned elsewhere in the Old Testament, so the Israelites must have known about them. But they do have wings, although they don't fly much, or any.

There is no direct mention of several mostly non-moving, or at least non-swimming, water animals, including oysters and other shelled molluscs, sea anemones, sponges, and corals. Most likely, the Israelites weren't too familiar with these, anyway, and, besides, they probably wouldn't have been recognized as animals. They probably knew about oysters, or some of them did, since Jesus told a parable about a pearl in Matthew 13.

The scripture quoted at the beginning of this post was, perhaps, not meant to have been inclusive.

Genesis 1 doesn't tell us when, why, or how God created. It doesn't even tell us all of what God created. What it does, and what its main purpose is, is to tell us that there was a Who of creation. (There still is!)

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Does the Bible really say that? Excerpt from my book, 16

5 Must marriage ceremonies be conducted in church?
Most churches treat the marriage ceremony as a sacrament. That is, they believe, and act, as if the marriage ceremony should be religious, as well as secular, and can be specially blessed by God. Many persons desire to be married in a church ceremony. I have read that even in Japan, where most people never attend a Christian church of any type, many of them choose to be married in a church.

The marriage ceremony, in the Bible, was not an especially religious event.

In this chapter, I’m going to point out things that the Bible doesn’t say. There are detailed instructions to the priests, in Leviticus and elsewhere, as to how to prepare and offer sacrifices, how to deal with mold in houses, how to decide if a woman has committed adultery or not, what to do if someone claims to be healed from leprosy, and other matters. But there’s not a single instruction about how to perform a marriage ceremony. Jesus attended a marriage ceremony, but He seems to have attended as a guest, probably as a friend of the family. There is no suggestion that a priest or rabbi performed that, or any other marriage ceremony, in the New Testament. Paul has some instructions as to how to act toward a spouse, and suggestions as to whether or not to get married, but no instructions as to how to perform a marriage ceremony.

In New Testament times, there is no biblical evidence that marriage ceremonies were integrated with the worship of the congregation, and there is no such evidence in the Old Testament, either. Marriage ceremonies were a secular, social, civil event. So how did the marriage ceremony become a sacrament? I’m not sure. But my point remains. If God wanted it to be part of worshiping Him, the Israelites, and the early Christians, didn’t know it, and apparently didn’t expect it. It’s a later development.

The above is an excerpt from my recently published e-book, Does the Bible Really Say That?, which may be obtained free of charge, or purchased from Amazon for $0.99, which is the lowest price Amazon lets an author set. Scripture quotations are from the World English Bible, public domain.

The previous post in this series is here. God willing, the next excerpt will conclude the discussion of this topic.

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Could God have used physical processes and other agencies in Creation?

I recently received this comment on a post in my blog:

Evolustion [sic] supports God created physic laws. Physic laws caused all the living things to come into existence. It turned up that physic laws were the creators since they were those that caused all living things to be created.

Evolution supports that God created physic laws to cause space and time to work together in order to create this universe. God only guided space and time to cause the universe to be in existence. Who were the creators? Space and time were the creators. But not God since He was just the helper to ensure the space and time to work towards the formation of this universe.

I have quoted the comment exactly, so as not to alter the thought of the commenter. Previous communication from the commenter indicates that English is not his first language. I've tried to understand what the commenter wants to know, and will respond accordingly.

What he seems to be disturbed about is the idea that God allowed the physical properties of the universe to carry out some creation processes. I hope I have that right.

I have several comments:

1) I believe that the commenter really means naturalism, not evolution. Evolution, properly, relates to changes in living things. There are no evolutionary explanations, in the sense of Darwinian natural selection, for the origin of the universe, or of the heavenly bodies as they now are, because natural selection is biological, and those phenomena are not. Naturalism, by definition, rejects the very existence of a supernatural God, in the origin of life, and the origin of the universe.

2) I suppose that the commenter didn't mean that first sentence, or didn't mean it as it reads. Naturalists don't believe that God created physical laws.

3) Even for a naturalist, there is no good explanation for the existence of space and time, or for the existence or properties of the four forces of nature, although explanations have been sought for a century or so. A supernaturalist, and I am one such, simply believes that God created space, time, and the four forces, and other properties and constants relating to the universe. A naturalist, of course, does not consider that to be a good explanation. Note Hebrews 11:3 "By faith, we understand that the universe has been framed by the word of God, so that what is seen has not been made out of things which are visible." (World English Bible, public domain. All scripture quotations are from that version.)

4) Just because a naturalist claims that space and time brought about the present universe naturally doesn't mean that they did. It also doesn't rule out the possibility that God could have used space and time.

5) We aren't capable of understanding how God created, except very superficially. If, for example, we believe that light came about instantaneously because God spoke, what words and language did He use? Did He speak aloud? Was "God" God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, or all of them? Was anyone listening? Was light created from something else, or did it just appear? Did it appear throughout the entire universe at the same time? We don't know the answer to these questions, and many others, and aren't going to. If we understood these things fully, we would, in effect, be gods, and we aren't.

6) I fail to see how a God who is capable of planning for "space and time" (and whatever else) so that they worked together to bring about the universe as it is now, if that is what happened, diminishes the divinity of God in any way. I don't see how such events would make God into "just a helper." If anything, such planning and creation shows the intelligence and wisdom of the Creator.

7) Consider the deliverance from Egypt. In Exodus 4, and elsewhere, a rod is mentioned as an agent used by Moses and Aaron in performing miracles. (Most or all scriptural references to this rod may be found here.) But was the rod the miracle worker, and God "just a helper?" Hardly. Psalm 78 recaps the story of the deliverance of the Israelites, in a fair amount of detail. The rod is not so much as mentioned. (Neither is Moses!) The rod was not the miracle worker. But God is mentioned, over and over, and He is the one who got the glory from the deliverance from Egypt. God prepared a rod which could be used by Moses and Aaron to carry out His will, but that only shows God's greatness, rather than diminishing it. If space and time worked to carry out God's will, that only shows God's creative ability.

Thanks for reading.

Friday, December 27, 2013

The Bible and astronomy

Psalm 93:1 Yahweh reigns!
He is clothed with majesty!
Yahweh is armed with strength.
The world also is established.
It can’t be moved. (Scripture quotations from the World English Bible, public domain)

Joshua 10:12 Then Joshua spoke to Yahweh in the day when Yahweh delivered up the Amorites before the children of Israel. He said in the sight of Israel, “Sun, stand still on Gibeon! You, moon, stop in the valley of Aijalon!”
13 The sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the nation had avenged themselves of their enemies. Isn’t this written in the book of Jashar? The sun stayed in the middle of the sky, and didn’t hurry to go down about a whole day. 14 There was no day like that before it or after it, that Yahweh listened to the voice of a man; for Yahweh fought for Israel. (I don't know what happened here, other than that it was a miracle.)

Isaiah 11:12 He will set up a banner for the nations, and will assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth.

Jeremiah 49:36 On Elam will I bring the four winds from the four quarters of the sky,and will scatter them toward all those winds.
There will be no nation where the outcasts of Elam will not come. 

Revelation 11:1 After this, I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, so that no wind would blow on the earth, or on the sea, or on any tree.

How can the earth be globe-like if it has four corners, or if the sky has four quarters, or how can the earth be immovable if it is in orbit around the sun? It can’t, of course. But that doesn’t mean that the Bible was actually meant to teach us that the earth is not globe-like, or is fixed in space. The people of Bible times thought that these things were true, and had no good reason for doubting that they were. If the Psalmist had written something like “the earth is in a stable, predictable orbit, and will stay in it” no one would have understood this, including the Psalmist. Isaiah could have said “He will bring back the dispersed Israelites from all over the world,” but, as we do some times, he seems to have used an idiomatic expression. The descriptions given above would have been common to people contemporary with the appearance of the Psalms, Joshua, Isaiah, Jeremiah and Revelation. (By the way, we still say that the sun rises in the east, and sets in the west, when it actually does no such thing – it just appears to, because of the rotation of the earth on its axis.)

The Bible is not an astronomy or geology textbook. It describes the heavenly bodies, and the earth, in terms that would have been familiar to listeners and readers of that day. But the purposes of each of these passages wasn't to teach science, but to teach about God's power. That doesn’t mean that the Bible is in error, unless you have an unreasonable standard for correctness.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Being a Christian and believing in the Bible

I received this comment, on one of my posts, recently:

Can a person consider a true believer if he believes only the modified version of the scripture? Should he consider himself to be a true believer if he believes on the selective part of the scripture? Should he consider himself to be a true believer if he mentions certain part of the Bible is not genuinely from God or is not applicable to him? Should he consider himself to believe in God and Jesus if he changes the God’s words to suit his own intention? If he should not be considered as truly believing in the scripture when he changes the meaning of the scripture to suit his intention, how he could be saved then. Salvation is through our faith in God and Jesus.

I hope God would save them.

What if God do not treat them to have genuine faith in Jesus, their salvation is questionable.

Good questions, and I'll try to deal with them, although I'm not an expert in such matters. (The questioner's first language is not English, but I believe what he asked is quite understandable. I didn't want to change what he said.)

First, we aren't redeemed by having correct doctrine. No one, including me, is correct on all points. The early church had disagreements about various matters, especially how to treat Gentiles, but, it is generally agreed, most or all of the disputants were, and still are, after their deaths, redeemed. We are redeemed by belief in the sacrifice of Christ, the sinless Son of God, for our sin, and in His resurrection, and acceptance of Christ as Lord. We don't have to have every jot and tittle of doctrine right. Christians who are believers, and part of Christ's Kingdom, disagree about many things, such as church government, eternal security, ordination of women, the mode of baptism, end times, the meaning of communion, speaking in tongues.

Second, it is true that there are limits to how far we can go in our belief, as I understand the Bible. It's up to God to judge, not me, of course, but if our beliefs don't conform to the bold statement in the previous paragraph, we are in spiritual danger. Deliberately changing the meaning of scripture, or leaving part of it out for that reason, or adding to the scripture to suit one's fancy, is a mistake, a sin, and puts one in spiritual danger. It doesn't matter how one "consider[s] himself." How God considers us is what does matter. Followers of Christ should continue to read, pray over, and think about God's revelation in the Bible, and read and listen to the teaching of others. As we do so, some of our peripheral beliefs will probably change.

Third, interpretation of scripture is a tricky business. If you want examples, see my book, Does the Bible Really Say That?, which may be obtained free of charge, or purchased from Amazon for $0.99, which is the lowest price Amazon lets an author set. I'll summarize very briefly. The Bible was written for all time, but it was also written, usually, so that the people of Bible times could understand it, in their culture. For example, Christ wasn't in the tomb for three days, even though the Bible literally says He was -- He was placed in the grave on Friday afternoon or evening, and had arisen by Sunday morning. That culture used an expression for time differently than we do. For another example, the Bible was written with the understanding of science of that day -- bacteria aren't mentioned, and the solar system and the universe are assumed to have a fixed earth at their center. Bacteria weren't known, and it was assumed that the universe was geocentric. We should remain suitably humble about what we personally believe -- we may not be interpreting scripture as God meant for it to be interpreted. It wasn't all meant to be taken literally. See my book for more on this.

Thanks for reading, and thanks to the commenter for the questions.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Let's hear it for stepfathers!

(I'm not a stepfather, and I didn't have a stepfather, either.)

Stepfathers get some bad press. Sometimes they deserve it. There is an effect, known as the Cinderella effect, which has been studied for many years. The effect is that stepparents are more likely to be violent toward unrelated children they are raising, than toward children who share their genes with them. Yes, I know, Cinderella was abused by a stepmother, not her stepfather, but I didn't invent the term.

There are good stepfathers. I've known a few. Some men that I thought were good fathers were, no doubt, good stepfathers. In our time, stepfathers may become such in more than the old-fashioned way, such as if the man's wife had in vitro fertilization, using sperm from another man, so it's even more difficult than it used to be to distinguish stepfathers from the ordinary kind of fathers.

The best stepfather of all time was Joseph.

We don't know much about him, but we know more about Joseph than about any other Israeli carpenter from that time, or, probably, more than about any other Israeli man from that time. And we do know some important things about him. Joseph had a very difficult decision to make -- should he continue his relationship with Mary, who was pregnant, when he wasn't the father? Joseph had sense enough to listen to God. God told him to continue the relationship, and he did. Joseph was obedient. He may have questioned God's in-dream command, but there's no record of it. Joseph also listened when God told him to take his family to Egypt to escape Herod's wrath. That must not have been easy, with a small child, and no definite hope of getting work in a foreign country. But he went. And he listened again when God told him to move to Galilee from Egypt.

Many people believe that Mary was especially good, when God selected her to be Christ's mother. Perhaps so. But, if she was selected, Joseph must have been, too. He probably selected because, like Mary, he would be obedient to God, even under difficult circumstances.

Let's hear it for stepfathers! Especially, let's hear it for Joseph, the best stepfather of all time.

Thanks for reading. Have a blessed Christmas.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Sunspots 450

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

The Arts: A video of Julia Fischer, who is an accomplished violinist and also a very good classical pianist.

Computing: Wired says that the next big change in information appliances, and it's already started, is wearable devices.

Science: The Milky Way (the galaxy we are inside) has been awarded four arms, not the two previously given, according to the Christian Science Monitor.

Perhaps more than you want to know about cockroaches, from the History Channel.

Wired reports on strange structures built by spiders in the Amazon area.

P. S. You may not have noticed, but I have been posting the "Sunspots" on Wednesdays for several years. This time, this one is going up on Tuesday, because Wednesday is Christmas. I know -- we don't know what year or month Christ was born, let alone what day, but December 25th is a day of celebration for Christians, and tomorrow's post is related to that celebration. Thanks for reading.

Image source (public domain)

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Does the Bible really say that? Excerpt from my book, 15

[Concluding a discussion of family headship, as shown in the Bible.]

The stories above, taking place in the male-dominated society of the Hebrews in the Old Testament, tell us that, at times, wives and mothers asserted firm spiritual leadership, even when the husband was a believer. This female leadership resulted in the survival of the infant Moses, and the birth of Samuel, two of the most important spiritual leaders in the history of Israel. God used and blessed this type of leadership, at least occasionally.

I conclude, based on Biblical evidence, that, even if – and that doesn’t seem to be certain – wives are, normally, to submit to their husband’s spiritual leadership, there may be times when a believing wife should exercise such leadership, even in a home where both spouses are believers. I’m not smart enough to give any guidelines as to how to know when a time like this has come!

The above is an excerpt from my recently published e-book, Does the Bible Really Say That?, which may be obtained free of charge, or purchased from Amazon for $0.99, which is the lowest price Amazon lets an author set. Scripture quotations are from the World English Bible, public domain.

The previous post in this series is here. The next post, God willing, will begin a new topic.

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Musing about Duck Dynasty, and Phil Robertson, and free speech

I am not a fan of "reality" shows. I did watch one episode of Duck Dynasty, a few years ago, and was not inclined to watch any more. I walk in Walmarts as my main exercise, and am continually amazed by the quantity, and variety, of Duck Dynasty-themed merchandise available there. Duck Dynasty greeting cards, for one thing. I'm sort of expecting a Duck Dynasty automobile, or dry cereal, or perhaps they are already out, and I have missed them. Becoming an entertainment industry has dangers, for sure.

GQ recently published an article on Phil Robertson, of Duck Dynasty fame. The article was in three sections, which are found here, here and here. It uses language that I would not use -- hardly a surprise, I suppose. I won't repeat it here. My impression, for what it's worth, is that the author was not out to get Robertson, but I could be wrong about that. In the last part of the article, Robertson is described as involved in a Bible study with a woman who is a drug addict, and his faith comes across as genuine, if perhaps a little muddled -- as is mine, and probably yours. The article does say that homosexuality (presumably homosexual sexual activity, rather than being attracted to persons of the same sex) is sinful, and lumps it with other sins. That may be why the A&E network removed Mr. Robertson from Duck Dynasty. (Here is all of the A&E statement that I can find. It may be the only statement the network made.)

The first part of the GQ article includes two amazing things. One of them is that Robertson claims to have never read his "autobiography," a ghost-written book. The other is that Robertson makes a statement about human sexual anatomy that most anyone, including Christians, would find questionable, offensive, or both. I'm not repeating it -- I find it offensive. That statement, by itself, would give me pause about Mr. Robertson, if I were an A&E executive, although it doesn't seem to be the basis of their action. As far as I know, Robertson has not indicated that the GQ reporter misquoted him, but, then, he probably hasn't read the article, or would say that he hasn't.

Did Robertson have the right to say what he said? Certainly. Does A&E have the right to take Phil Robertson off the show? Of course. However, free speech, or unregulated business decisions, do not guarantee that the person making the speech, or the company, are immune from the consequences of what they say, or do. (It's possible that this whole thing is a gimmick to boost ratings, or to sell more merchandise.)

Christians have gone to jail, even been executed, for what they have said. Saying that the Bible says that homosexual activity is sinful should be allowed -- it says that. The Bible mentions homosexuality several times, and all of them are negative. We seem to be near a time, in the United States, when saying that the Bible says that homosexual activity is sinful, in response to a question about the subject, will be called hate speech, and made a crime, however wrong-headed such a law may be. If so, Christians should be willing to go to jail for answering questions about what they believe.

I wish homosexuality wasn't such an issue in our time. Christ didn't say anything about it. The Ten Commandments indicate that adultery is a more important sin than homosexuality. But we live in 2013, and it has become an important issue. God help Christians to be loving and kind toward homosexuals, and those who disagree with them about the issue. That's what the world needs. Thanks for reading.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Methodological Naturalism and Robert Boyle - does God create a vacuum, or is it a natural phenomenon?

Naturalism is, more or less, the idea that there is no supernatural, or, if there is, it doesn't do anything. It's what most people are upset about if they are upset about evolution.

Methodological naturalism is, more or less, the idea that we shouldn't look for supernatural explanations for ordinary events, including long-term events, or a long series of events. Some scientists who practice methodological naturalism are atheists. Some are not, claiming that God has created the universe such that certain processes occur without any further intervention being necessary. (I'll not discuss miracles, except to say that, by definition, they require supernatural intervention, and are mostly, or entirely, one-of-a-kind events.)

If there's a way to experimentally differentiate between natural causes and supernatural causes for, say, ice melting, I don't know what it is. It's always possible to claim that God was specifically at work in such a process, hence it was not natural, or not only natural.

Intelligent Design is the idea that, more or less, natural selection can't have been responsible for the development of living things, and the various processes within them, because natural selection is not capable of creating such processes or organisms by selection of random events. There are people who believe in Intelligent Design who believe that the earth is only a few thousand years old, and people who agree about Intelligent Design who believe that the earth is much older than that. (Intelligent Design is also a political movement, attempting to have ideas about God's creative power included in public school science classes. Not everyone who believes in Intelligent Design wants to do that.)

Michael Behe is the most prominent scientist claiming that God has acted many times, so as to produce intricate systems in living things. Most, or all, of Behe's examples of irreducible complexity have been refuted, as scientists have shown that his examples have a chain of natural selection events which could have produced them. This doesn't mean that Behe is entirely wrong, but the scientific evidence for Intelligent Design is slim, at best, according to Behe, himself.

Lest there be any doubt, I believe in a God who designed the universe, and either acts in many small ways, in nature, all the time, or made nature the way it is, so that change and complex phenomena could be possible. I also believe that the scientific evidence to prove, or disprove, God's activity is lacking, and that either conclusion requires faith. See Hebrews 11:3.
A recent post by the BioLogos Forum indicates that the question of whether a Christian scientist can be a methodological naturalist is pretty old. Robert Boyle -- the one Boyle's Law is named for -- died in 1691. The post, which is quite readable, and by a historian of science, indicates that Boyle believed that a vacuum could occur naturally, without supernatural intervention, but a contemporary begged to differ. Boyle was not only an important scientist, but definitely a Christian.

Read the post. Thanks for reading this!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Sunspots 449

Things I have recently spotted that may be of interest to
someone else:
The Arts: (as in Architecture, or Housing): photos of 11 different -- some really different -- tiny houses.
Politics: Apparently, Republicans and Democrats look at the faces of the same candidates differently. Hmmm.
Science: An unusual planet, in another solar system, has recently been discovered, according to the Wikipedia. It seems to violate predictions about the relationships between stars and their planets.
There are scientists who hope that many of us will start searching for new antibiotics, according to a report from National Public Radio.

A video of a fox, hunting for mice under a few feet of snow.

The Washington Post, and other outlets, report that the Food and Drug Administration is suggesting that antibacterial hand soaps (the ones with triclosan, or related material, as the active ingredient) are not effective, and may lead to more dangerous microbes.

Image source (public domain)

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Harold Camping, Rest in Peace

The Washington Post, and other outlets, report that Harold Camping, who predicted that Christ would return on May 21, 2011, and, thank God, later apologized for that prediction, has passed away.

There are two things we can be confident about, concerning end times:
1) Christ will return, and we should be ready for that.
2) We don't know when this will be.

Many Christians apparently have a strong desire to know more than that. We shouldn't succumb to that temptation. The previous paragraph tells us what Christ, Himself, told us, and that should be sufficient.

Some more food for thought, related to what some people want us to believe about Christ's return:
The word, "rapture," does not occur in the Bible.
The word, "anti-Christ" does not occur in Revelation.
The phrase, "seven years" does not occur in Revelation, either, even though the number seven occurs a few dozen times.
The nation of Israel, re-founded in 1948, may be related to Bible prophecy, (or may not) but the government discourages conversion to Christianity, and, in order to be classified as a Jew, a person does not have to so much as believe in God.

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Does the Bible really say that? Excerpt from my book, 14

[Continuing the topic of family headship, as shown in the Bible.]
The Woman of Shunem
2 Kings 4:8 One day Elisha went to Shunem, where there was a prominent woman; and she persuaded him to eat bread. So it was, that as often as he passed by, he turned in there to eat bread. 9 She said to her husband, “See now, I perceive that this is a holy man of God who passes by us continually. 10 Please let us make a little room on the roof. Let us set for him there a bed, a table, a chair, and a lamp stand. When he comes to us, he can stay there.”
11 One day he came there, and he went to the room and lay there. 12 He said to Gehazi his servant, “Call this Shunammite.” When he had called her, she stood before him. 13 He said to him, “Say now to her, ‘Behold, you have cared for us with all this care. What is to be done for you? Would you like to be spoken for to the king, or to the captain of the army?’”
She answered, “I dwell among my own people.”
14 He said, “What then is to be done for her?”
Gehazi answered, “Most certainly she has no son, and her husband is old.”
15 He said, “Call her.” When he had called her, she stood in the door. 16 He said, “At this season, when the time comes around, you will embrace a son.”
She said, “No, my lord, you man of God, do not lie to your servant.”
17 The woman conceived, and bore a son at that season, when the time came around, as Elisha had said to her. 18 When the child was grown, one day he went out to his father to the reapers. 19 He said to his father, “My head! My head!”
He said to his servant, “Carry him to his mother.”
20 When he had taken him, and brought him to his mother, he sat on her knees until noon, and then died. 21 She went up and laid him on the man of God’s bed, and shut the door on him, and went out. 22 She called to her husband, and said, “Please send me one of the servants, and one of the donkeys, that I may run to the man of God, and come again.”
23 He said, “Why would you want go to him today? It is not a new moon or a Sabbath.”
She said, “It’s alright.”
24 Then she saddled a donkey, and said to her servant, “Drive, and go forward! Don’t slow down for me, unless I ask you to.”
25 So she went, and came to the man of God to Mount Carmel. When the man of God saw her afar off, he said to Gehazi his servant, “Behold, there is the Shunammite. 26 Please run now to meet her, and ask her, ‘Is it well with you? Is it well with your husband? Is it well with your child?’”
She answered, “It is well.”
27 When she came to the man of God to the hill, she caught hold of his feet. Gehazi came near to thrust her away; but the man of God said, “Leave her alone; for her soul is troubled within her; and Yahweh has hidden it from me, and has not told me.”
28 Then she said, “Did I ask you for a son, my lord? Didn’t I say, ‘Do not deceive me’?”
29 Then he said to Gehazi, “Tuck your cloak into your belt, take my staff in your hand, and go your way. If you meet any man, don’t greet him; and if anyone greets you, don’t answer him again. Then lay my staff on the child’s face.”
30 The child’s mother said, “As Yahweh lives, and as your soul lives, I will not leave you.”
So he arose, and followed her.
31 Gehazi went ahead of them, and laid the staff on the child’s face; but there was no voice and or hearing. Therefore he returned to meet him, and told him, “The child has not awakened.”
32 When Elisha had come into the house, behold, the child was dead, and lying on his bed. 33 He went in therefore, and shut the door on them both, and prayed to Yahweh. 34 He went up, and lay on the child, and put his mouth on his mouth, and his eyes on his eyes, and his hands on his hands. He stretched himself on him; and the child’s flesh grew warm. 35 Then he returned, and walked in the house once back and forth; and went up, and stretched himself out on him. Then the child sneezed seven times, and the child opened his eyes. 36 He called Gehazi, and said, “Call this Shunammite!” So he called her.
When she had come in to him, he said, “Take up your son.”
37 Then she went in, fell at his feet, and bowed herself to the ground; then she picked up her son, and went out.

The unnamed woman in this story was called “prominent.” Almost all of the decision-making described in this passage was done by her. (She did ask her husband about making a chamber for Elisha, but it was apparently her idea.) She didn’t even tell her husband what had happened when her son died. This case is not as clear as some of the others, because there is nothing said about her husband’s spiritual state. But nothing is said of hers, either.

The above is an excerpt from my recently published e-book, Does the Bible Really Say That?, which may be obtained free of charge, or purchased from Amazon for $0.99, which is the lowest price Amazon lets an author set. Scripture quotations are from the World English Bible, public domain.

The previous post in this series is here. The next post, God willing, will conclude the topic of the last several posts.

Thanks for reading!

Friday, December 13, 2013

he ... shall save his people from their sins

Matthew 1 21 Palatino 
This is my Christmas blog post, at least for now. The colors were chosen deliberately -- Jesus in white, for purity, red for Christ's sacrifice, and black for sin. Thanks for looking. The graphic also serves as a link to a larger version of this. Have a blessed Christmas!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

I'm thankful for sex

I’m thankful for sex. Without it, I wouldn’t be here, and neither would you. Yes, there are problems with sexual behavior in our society, and sexual behavior can be terribly warped. We should watch out for sexually oriented temptations. We should shun pornography of all types, exploitation of sex, treating others as sex objects, sexual slavery, adultery, and fornication. If you, or I, have sinned sexually, we can be forgiven for that, and, with God’s help, even be able to minimize some of the awful consequences of sexual sin on families.

We have a tendency to think of sexual sin as the only sin. It’s not. One of the other important sins is pride, including pride that we haven’t sinned sexually, or at least that we haven’t been caught, or pride in believing that sexual sins we are committing are above God’s moral law. Slander is another sin. Often it is spreading things we shouldn’t about the sexual behavior of others.

God’s plan, reinforced through the entire Bible, from the story of Adam and Eve to the portrayal of the church as the bride of Christ, is that sex, one of God’s good gifts to us, should be between a man and woman who are deeply committed to each other, and to Him.
Sex is one of the ways – not the only one – that binds spouses together. It helps to provide family stability for raising children.

Sexual reproduction causes our genes to be reshuffled each time someone is conceived. I have three legitimate full brothers, and we are all different, and the world is better off for it. Without sex, all people would have only one parent, and each of us would be knock-offs of that parent, much more predictable in appearance and behavior, as well as more prone to diseases, than the way we are. Humans would be less likely to produce the unexpected geniuses, often from humble beginnings, that help us all, in all sorts of ways. 

Sex is part of God’s plan for the world, and, treated correctly, it’s a blessing.

Thanks for reading!