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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Thursday, January 30, 2014

"Blood Moons" and Christ's return

I don't know when Christ is returning. As I understand the Bible, no one else does, either. Bible scholars do not even agree on a timetable for His return. Some believe that the Biblical signs of His return have all been fulfilled already. Some believe that the indications of His return are for our spiritual warning only. Some believe that there will be a Rapture, with Christians taken away. Some don't. Some Christians believe that there will be a seven-year tribulation. Some don't. See here for a conservative (in the sense that he takes the Bible very seriously) scholar's take on some of these beliefs. Based on prophecies that the Bible, itself, tells us have been already fulfilled, it seems that interpreting prophecy is a difficult job. The Bible says a lot less about End Times than some people seem to think that it does.

Nonetheless, throughout history, there have been many people who have proclaimed that something or other is a sign of Christ's return, and even predicted the date of that return. See here for a recent unfortunate, and well-publicized, example. The result of all these predictions seems to have been that people take the prospect of Christ's return much less seriously than as if those explicit predictions hadn't been made.

Why do we try to predict the future, when Christ, Himself, said that we don't know what it will be? One reason is curiosity. There was clearly some of that, about end times, in the New Testament church, so it's not surprising that there should be some now. It's not up to me to judge the motives of other Christians, so I won't go further to answer the question.

A recent prediction is that, because of the connection between lunar eclipses and the Jewish festivals, great events, most likely the return of Christ, are imminent. This has been proposed by a Mark Biltz, and also by TV preacher John Hagee. Perhaps. If you do a Google search for "Biltz blood moon," as I did, you will find that there are some people who believe Biltz and Hagee on this matter, and some who don't. In fact, the first web site that came up was a site that said it debunked Biltz's theory about the eclipses and End Times.

I looked at Answers in Genesis, a ministry that, whatever its faults, is steadfast in its belief in the Bible as the word of God. A scientist who writes for their web site has an article, casting considerable doubt on the blood moon prediction, and explaining, in terms understandable by lay people, what causes so-called blood moons. I recommend that anyone interested in this subject read that article.

Thanks for reading! I thank one of my introductory biology students for bringing this topic to my attention.

*    *    *    *    *
Added September 23, 2015: Mr. Hagee is predicting that something important is about to happen, involving Israel, associated with the current tetrad of "blood moons." He mentions September 28, in particular. Perhaps he is right, perhaps not.

You may want to look at the most negative reviews of Mr. Hagee's book, Four Blood Moons: Something Is About to Change. (The first review, and the majority of other reviews on Amazon, are very positive, but the rest of them from that link aren't positive at all, citing errors, such as in the book's use of history, and scriptural problems, as well.)

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Sunspots 455

Things I have recently spotted that may be of interest to
someone else:
Computing: Gizmo's Freeware has found a web site that will turn your handwriting into a usable Windows font, for free. Amazing!

Gizmo's has also found a free on-line Office suite.


Science: Wired reports on foot-long invading snails that eat the stucco off of houses, in Florida.

From the blog of the wife of one of my nephews, some stunning photos of the Aurora Borealis, the Northern Lights. (You can right-click on the photos to see a larger version of any or all of them.) She is an assistant to a sled dog racer in Alaska.

It's amazing how much women (and, presumably, men) don't know about how to go about conceiving a child, according to National Public Radio.

Image source (public domain)

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Slow Medicine: Knocking on Heaven's Door

I recently read Knocking on Heaven's Door: The Path to a Better Way of Death by Katy Butler. Here is the Amazon page on the book. I thank one of my brothers for suggesting this book.

Butler, a journalist, gives us a no-holds-barred, yet compassionate, view of death and dying. Her main message is that, as we approach the end of life, health providers act too quickly, with invasive, expensive, and, usually, futile, procedures, and that patients, and especially families, need to watch out for that:
Dying is not an emergency. Emergency rooms, 911 systems, and intensive care units are all primed to prevent natural death. Engage them with caution. The most important sentences in this book  may be, "Can you refer me to hospice?" "I request comfort measures only," and "I am concerned about quality of life." (chapter 20)

Why is this? The reasons are well known, if seldom discussed in our public discourse. The main one, Butler believes, is that there are financial incentives for expensive procedures. Insurance companies, including the government, pay more for them. Specialists, for example the doctors who implant pacemakers, or do coronary bypass surgery, get paid several times more than family doctors or internists, who often give valuable advice, or listen, and care for the spirits of patients and families, supporting them when they need it most. Butler says that doctors may say that they don't make medical decisions based on the amount they, or the entities they work for, will be paid, and, perhaps, they also think that they don't. But, once the money is available, there is a natural, perhaps unconscious, tendency, to go for it. There doesn't seem to be much doubt that hospitals, although they render important services, are money-driven, and they get more from surgery and expensive devices than from comfort care, or going slow, to see if the patient can get better without such measures. Butler does not believe that the situation is going to change, unless the financial incentives are changed, and she is right.

It is also true that medical schools don't give much training aimed at backing off, and letting someone die in peace. EMS workers don't get much training of that type, either. Doctors and EMS workers try to save lives, as quickly as possible, and that's usually a good thing, but not always. It is often true that they bring people back from the brink of death who didn't want that, and had even specifically requested that they not be so "rescued." (Operations on the aged, unfortunately, often cause dementia that wasn't detectable before the operation.)

As Butler said:
"It did not once occur to us to say: 'You want to do major heart surgery on an eighty-four-year-old woman showing progressive dementia? What are you, nuts?
'" (quoting journalist Michael Wolff, about his mother. chapter 18)

Butler is an advocate for "Slow Medicine," taking a slower approach to doing things that may damage quality of life significantly. (Here's a review of another important book advocating Slow Medicine.)

Butler's own experience involved her father, living in New England, while she lived in the West, and her mother's care for her father, who had had a stroke, and suffered from dementia. One complication was that her father's pacemaker kept him going when he would otherwise have passed away, but it was nearly impossible to get anyone to turn it off.

She also points out that people who care for the dying at home don't get paid a lot, which is unfair. Butler suspects that part of the reason is that such caregivers are usually women. She has nothing but praise for such people. My own limited experience with them agrees. We probably didn't pay enough, and they were wonderful.

Butler is not a Christian. If anything, she is a Buddhist. But she understands that the circumstances surrounding death have changed, and gone away from the way things used to be:
After the mid-1950s, the attitudes of many doctors and patients shifted from faith in God and acceptance of death to faith in medicine and resistance of death. There was always something, no matter how ultimately futile, that a doctor or nurse could do. (Chapter 5) She points out that Christians, dying in the recent past, were most concerned about their relationship with God, and with other people, not about being kept alive, sort of, for another day or two.

A fine book, and it certainly made me think.

I have written on death-related subjects previously:

Here is a review of a book about the death of a Christian woman in the 1800's, Mrs. Hunter's Happy Death.

Here is a meditation on sudden dying, occasioned by the accidental death of a child in our small town.

Here is an essay on why sickness and death bother us so much.

Finally, here is an essay, in which I argue that God does not like human death.

Monday, January 27, 2014

My essay published

An essay, "New Testament Motivation for Environmental Stewardship," by me, has been published in God and Nature, an on-line publication of the American Scientific Affiliation.

Thanks for reading! Here is my most important post on caring for the environment.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Does the Bible really say that? Excerpt from my book, 20

[The previous two posts quoted all of the seven passages from the Bible that mention homosexuality, all of which condemn it. Jesus didn't mention homosexuality, as far as we know.]

A stronger Biblical argument against homosexuality is that, throughout the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, marriage between a man and a woman is presented as God’s ideal. In Genesis, it says that the two will be one, and in Revelation, the church is the bride of Christ. There’s an entire book on love between a man and a woman, the Song of Solomon, and another book, Ruth, which is mostly about how a couple met, fell in love, married, and had a child. There are allusions to God’s plan for heterosexual marriage, and to his displeasure when that plan is violated, in many other places throughout the Bible. For example, See Ezekiel 16, or the Book of Hosea.

What about people who are born with homosexual tendencies, or who are raised by their parents in such a way that they have homosexual tendencies? Isn’t it unfair to prohibit homosexual activity for these people? God is not ever unfair. He may demand more of some than others, in certain aspects of their lives. All of us are born with tendencies that we must control in order to live Christian lives. It isn’t just homosexuals that are called to life-long celibacy -- some heterosexuals are. All heterosexuals are, until they are married. And there are non-sexual tendencies. For example, some people have more of a natural tendency to deceive than others. They have to work and pray harder to keep this tendency under control than some others do.

What about church membership for homosexuals?

Let me stipulate that a church member is someone that a congregation, or its leaders, believes is a converted Christian, and who is in agreement with basic Bible doctrine, and Christian practice, as understood by that church. Also, to be a member, the person must want to become a member of that congregation. (There are other ways of defining church membership.) 1 Corinthians 5 speaks to having fellowship with practicing sinners who claim to be believers:

1 Corinthians 5:9 I wrote to you in my letter to have no company with sexual sinners; 10 yet not at all meaning with the sexual sinners of this world, or with the covetous and extortionists, or with idolaters; for then you would have to leave the world. 11 But as it is, I wrote to you not to associate with anyone who is called a brother who is a sexual sinner, or covetous, or an idolater, or a slanderer, or a drunkard, or an extortionist. Don’t even eat with such a person.

I don’t see any reason to deny membership to a person with homosexual tendencies, as indicated in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 (see above). Persons engaged in homosexual activity should not be taken into membership, any more than active adulterers, idol worshipers or unrepentant murderers should be. The good news is that the same passage states that some of the current members of the Corinthian church used to do some of these things, but had been redeemed from such activities, presumably including homosexuality.

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 continue  discussion of a this topic.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Sunspots 454

Things I have recently spotted that may be of interest to
someone else:
The Arts: An elegant gown, constructed, according to the site, from the covers of discarded Golden Books. I remember Golden Books from my childhood. I think they are still being published.
Computing: Windows Secrets has published a good guide for routine computer maintenance.
Wired reports on a phone that's supposed to deliver scents to the person on the other end of the line. Really.
Humor: (And child-rearing) A stay-at-home dad leaves post-it notes.
A great Guy Noir segment (audio) from A Prairie Home Companion.

Science: USA Today reports on why birds fly in a V formation.
National Public Radio reports that old trees grow faster than young ones, and, therefore, remove more Carbon Dioxide from the atmosphere.

Sports: Sports Illustrated, and many others, reported on the heat wave in Australia, during the Australian Open.

Image source (public domain)

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Does the Bible really say that? Excerpt from my book, 19

Continuing from last Sunday's post on the topic of whether homosexuality is the worst of sins, and continuing a list of all the scripture on homosexuality:

2) Leviticus 18:22 “‘You shall not lie with a man, as with a woman. That is detestable.

3) Leviticus 20:13 “‘If a man lies with a male, as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.
The two statements from Leviticus are both in the middle of a list of forbidden unions, such as not having sex with a man’s neighbor’s wife. There are eighteen forbidden sexual acts in Leviticus 18, and eleven in Leviticus 20. Clearly, homosexual sin is not being highlighted in Leviticus. The two lists are similar. I don’t know why there are two lists.

4) Deuteronomy 23:17 There shall be no prostitute of the daughters of Israel, neither shall there be a sodomite of the sons of Israel. 18 You shall not bring the hire of a prostitute, or the wages of a male prostitute, into the house of Yahweh your God for any vow; for both of these are an abomination to Yahweh your God.

(Some other versions of the Bible are not so definite about this, and reading them may leave some doubt as to whether this refers to male homosexual prostitution. However, the World English Bible is used throughout this book, unless there’s a good reason to use another version, in which case the other version is named. And, besides, sodomite implies male homosexuality.)

5) Romans 1:22 Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, 23 and traded the glory of the incorruptible God for the likeness of an image of corruptible man, and of birds, and four-footed animals, and creeping things. 24 Therefore God also gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to uncleanness, that their bodies should be dishonored among themselves, 25 who exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.
26 For this reason, God gave them up to vile passions. For their women changed the natural function into that which is against nature. 27 Likewise also the men, leaving the natural function of the woman, burned in their lust toward one another, men doing what is inappropriate with men, and receiving in themselves the due penalty of their error.

Note that the fundamental sin here is unbelief, or idolatry, not homosexuality.

6) 1 Corinthians 6:9b Neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor male prostitutes, nor homosexuals, 10 nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor slanderers, nor extortionists, will inherit God’s Kingdom. 11 Such were some of you, but you were washed. But you were sanctified. But you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and in the Spirit of our God. 12 “All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are expedient. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be brought under the power of anything. 13 “Foods for the belly, and the belly for foods,” but God will bring to nothing both it and them. But the body is not for sexual immorality, but for the Lord; and the Lord for the body.

Notice three interesting things about the above quote. First, “homosexuals” is fifth on the list, with “sexually immoral” being first. Second, verse 11 clearly indicates that redemption is possible, for homosexuals and other types of sinners listed. Third, slander, saying something bad about someone that isn’t true, is on the same list, although it’s at the end of it. A search using the New International Version showed that slander is condemned more often in the New Testament than homosexuality is.

7) 1 Timothy 1:9 as knowing this, that law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for man slayers, 10 for the sexually immoral, for homosexuals, for slave-traders, for liars, for perjurers, and for any other thing contrary to the sound doctrine;

There are, then, only seven passages that condemn homosexuality in the entire Bible. Jesus said nothing specifically about it. The brevity of this list indicates that homosexuality is not high on the list of sins.

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 continue  discussion of a this topic.

Thanks for reading!

Friday, January 17, 2014

Debate: Bill Nye (The Science Guy) vs. Ken Ham

The BioLogos forum has a post on the upcoming debate between Bill Nye (The Science Guy, of TV fame) and Ken Ham, of Answers in Genesis.

As the post points out, the debate is apparently going to assume that the Bible and science are diametrically opposed alternatives, and you have to choose one or the other. This unfortunately puts aside what Christians should really be, and are, opposed to -- naturalism, not evolution. (All Christians that I know of believe in at least some evolution.) The idea that the Bible and science are exclusive alternatives also puts aside the fact that Christians have different views of origins. And it puts aside scripture that indicates that God reveals Himself, in part, through what we can learn about nature. I don't know a lot about Bill Nye, and not much more about Ken Ham, but, whether Ham is right or wrong, he's going to get a lot more publicity, and a lot more contributions, if he claims that scientists are nothing but a bunch of God-hating atheists, than if he were to take a less strident tone. Some scientists are rabid atheists, of course, but most of them aren't.

Thanks for reading.