Archives for posts with tag: religion

My son asked me about Romans 9. Here is what I came up with. I’ll appreciate any comments anyone cares to make.

1I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit—Here, Paul is saying he is his speaking for himself. He is emphasizing the passion of his heart and his conviction in his assertion. He sometimes says he is speaking from the Lord, but here he emphasizes the personal nature of his words. 2that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. He is crushed that Israel doesn’t accept Jesus as Messiah. 3For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers,a my kinsmen according to the flesh. Again, Paul is expressing his grief and passion. He loves his nation and would give anything for them if it were possible and if it would help. We add too much if we suppose Paul wanted to add to the divine redemption. He was simply asserting his readiness to sacrifice all for his people. 4They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. 5To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen. Here Paul speaks as a true believer and legitimate nationalist for Israel. Not all theologians, not even all Jewish scholars, are willing to say all Paul says here. It is essentially true, but the passion and conviction could be argued to be overwrought.

6But it is not as though the word of God has failed. Here, he wants to take God’s promises to Israel as absolute, but he can’t because not all of Israel accepts. He justifies by looking at the heart. While certainly not literalist, nor inerrantist, Paul is correct. Being of God is a matter of heart, not birth; spirit, not flesh. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, 7and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” 8This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring. 9For this is what the promise said: “About this time next year I will return, and Sarah shall have a son.” 10And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, 11though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— 12she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” 13As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” Hardness. These verses are simply a matter for one’s own heart. Paul rather blatantly decrees God sets fate. It is typical to invoke omniscience, transcendence, and God being eternal and timeless. God does see the end from the beginning, and there is no before, no after, only the eternal now. These points are biblical and orthodox. Of course, if one is fated, well, can one thwart fate? It isn’t like Jacob and Esau either one did rightly, earning honestly all that befell. Truly, too often, “deserve’s got nothin’ to do with it.” It is the nature of nature. All things are unwinding, and much of it simply will not go according to plan, nor fairness, nor just deserts. Why the extreme of Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated? As the bible tells it, things worked well for Esau, too. Overall, the two brothers were good brothers through most of their lives. It seems as accurate an interpretation as one might hope to say God held agape, god-like charity and devotion, toward Jacob, but how does God hating Esau work? The word is ἐμίσησα, a form of miseo, which literally means to hate or detest. It would generally be used comparatively, subjectively, rather than as an absolute, but here there is no comparison except love versus hate. Pretty solid. It is clear and affords us little room for interpretation and nuance. We have Jesus saying, Luke 14:26: “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate (3404 /miséō) his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple”. Jesus obviously isn’t telling us to hate everything, including ourselves; He is comparing. He must hold an unrivaled position in our hearts, or we won’t be His. It is solid interpretation to apply this principle to Jacob and Esau, but one cannot simply dismiss the words. They are strong. Paul goes on to address that strength.

14What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! 15For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” Paul here simply invokes the deity. It is no different than saying whatever God decrees is the highest possible good and most honorable, but no normal person will accept blatant injustice as good simply on the assertion of the divine. We all know malice is evil, and God being malicious would be no less evil. Thus, we must understand that God cannot be malicious, and I deem that to be Paul’s point. Paul is saying God does what is right, even if we cannot tell it is right and just. In the end, we will see that it is. 16So then it depends not on human will or exertion,bbut on God, who has mercy. Here, Paul essentially says that anything God does for us is mercy because we deserve harsh judgment. The mere fact of our existence must be admitted as God’s mercy. True enough. 17For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. Ouch! God raising up this man to power just to show His own power doesn’t seem right. We should not argue it is. Keep in mind that Pharaoh was still his own. His heart was his own, and someone would have been the leader with all the power. The point may very well be that this particular individual with his particular personality, his particular strengths and quirks of will, set it all in motion, a plan of God that Pharaoh just happened to suit, rather than him being tailored for it. Also, the assertion is hard to construe any other way than Paul asserting God as capricious. We’ll have to reach into much of the rest of the scriptures and much of Paul’s other writing to establish for ourselves that capriciousness isn’t what Paul meant. It is a notion we must reject. Simply, He that comes to God must believe that He is, and must believe He is a rewarder of all who seek Him. Mercy and Justice cry out. Both demand to be satisfied. Only a perfect, divine judge can do so, and He will. But, how do we deal with this statement of Pharaoh? It essentially says God set Pharaoh up just to knock him down. Honestly, we really don’t have to worry this one. We know within ourselves exactly what it means within ourselves. We know our own hearts. We know the pride. We know we must be humbled. We know we cannot effectively humble ourselves, even though that is our fundamental task. We must rely on divine enablement. Merely being lazy about our self-humility fails. Deliberately asserting ourselves as the center of our own universe cannot be looked upon differently from the statement of Pharaoh. Not actively working at humility results in actively hardening ourselves, and divine interest in us and our potential will work to cut us down. We can never be free if we hold ourselves as the center. Micah 6:8.

19You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” 20But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” 21Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? 22What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— 24even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles? Again, Paul shows forth as an honest true believer. He asserts the divine, the transcendent, and rejects our ability to comprehend; our ability is too trivial to consider. Again, true enough, but normal people will not accept that fiat argument. If we are arguing the divine and transcendent, we cannot claim it as basis for itself. We must acknowledge our limitations, and we must hold forth that our finite cannot comprehend the infinite, our nature cannot grasp the supernature; yet, we still know that we do in some sense. We get it, but, as Paul say elsewhere, we see as through a fogged-glass, darkly. We honor the divine within each of us when we honor one another in true love, in simple honor of our individuality. We recognize each other as innately children of God. We cannot accept that we are merely a pot made for refuse when we inephably grasp our potential and its ultimate transcendence. We know we are more than a lump of clay on a potter’s wheel, even though we know just as well it is an apt analogy. It is a hard thing, and years of study and contemplation are likely to only scratch the surface in understanding it. Again, Micah 6:8. It boils down to a matter of trust. It is a matter of trusting the Judge. I assert true free will. I hold that no meaning can exist without it. I acknowledge it all as dependent upon God, upon the divine transcendence, but it is real, and it is mine, or it all comes to nothing in the end. That is, without transcendence, without true meaning derived from actual freedom of choice with legitimate consequences resulting directly from the free choices, in 100 years, I will be as I was 100 years ago. Further, all will be, a trillion-trillion years hence as it was a trillion-trillion years before space-time came to be, and we cannot even know that it is, nor was. Free will is the reality and essence of reason or there is no reason at all. 25As indeed he says in Hosea,

Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’
and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.’”
26“And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’
there they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’”

27And Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: “Though the number of the sons of Israelc be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will be saved, 28for the Lord will carry out his sentence upon the earth fully and without delay.” 29And as Isaiah predicted,

If the Lord of hosts had not left us offspring,
we would have been like Sodom
and become like Gomorrah.”

Paul is clearly pointing out God’s justice and mercy and the key and essential factor of the choices and deeds of the individuals. God is responding by rejecting those who reject Him and by loving those who love Him. Paul didn’t just make his own argument here; he used scripture.

Israel’s Unbelief

30What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith; 31but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousnessd did not succeed in reaching that law. 32Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone, 33as it is written,

Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense;
and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”


I’m not seeing need for explaining anything here. Paul is very straightforward with “by faith.” Faith is a matter of the heart that works itself out in actions and deeds. One must hold with James and show faith by deed, but works and rules lead only to bondage. Rules held wisely can be useful, and routine is freeing, but hypocrites typically hang by their own hallows, judged by their own rules.

I agree with the notion that for the most part, we simply take up our cross and follow Him. We aim for the good. We learn of Christ and emulate. We learn of truth, and we commit to it. We hold to what is right even if it means losing all because we know the arc of history bends slowly but it bends toward the truth, it bends toward freedom, it bends inexorably toward the higher realm. The more of us who do our actual best (or at least try), the closer we all get to the ultimate good, no matter what the ultimate is.

I’ve seen my share of references, so I assume you’ve seen the headlines too.

Pope Francis is reported to have said those who refuse God eventually disappear. Official sources clarify that the report is exactly that, a report, not a quote. Given the Pope’s penchant for unorthodox views, I wouldn’t put it past him, but this ancient reporter seems likely to have added his own slant. I’m not sure why the Pope would interview with someone who is known for overt agenda, but oh well.

Apparently, it wasn’t supposed to be an interview at all. “A recent meeting between Pope Francis and Italian journalist Eugenio Scalfari, 93, was a “private meeting for the occasion of Easter, however without giving him any interview,”” … “Scalfari, a self-proclaimed atheist…”

I pulled from the Catholic News Agency, CNA news report here.

Regardless of what the Pope may think, Jesus had a few things to say about hell, and folks talk about translation and context, which is certainly needful, but Jesus didn’t pull any punches here: http://biblehub.com/matthew/18-8.htm What might he have meant by fire that endures the ages if not a fairly conventional definition of hell?

There are limitations to the information we have, and there is even more limitation to our potential to understand. Our understanding is truly finite and limited.

What a conundrum we have when we consider time.

If we exist, there is time. It exists as sure as anything.

Time is hardly more than the running down of our universe. Sure, we can complicate, and when we must consider the things that time affects, we must be more precise, but I consider here time of itself, moreover, eternity.

If time exists, eternity must. Time began with the universe. Time is a property of the universe, the space-time continuum, we correctly call it.

Eternity is without time; there is eternity; eternity is.

See? Eternity is not a long time. Eternity has nothing to do with time. Time is what you have when you do not have eternity, or rather, when you are limited and expiring.

Can we accept eternity as a foundational, fundamental, encompassing premise? I assert we must. We know time is finite, at least as it pertains to our existence, our reality. If time is finite, must there not be more, something beyond time, something that has nothing to do with time, something for time to happen in? How can we be reasonable if we reject the notion.

How can we reason at all if we assume that all that exists is finite? Accepting nothing beyond the finite defies meaning as a premise. It reduces all to fundamental happenstance with no intent, no direction, no meaning, no reason. I hold it unreasonable to assert there is no reason. I hold it meaningless to assert there is no meaning. As has been rightly observed, we act as though we believe in reason and meaning. We act as though we mean something when we say it, as though we are reasoning when we suppose something.

Let us agree on eternity as a foundational premise.

Now, is eternity divine?

That is a question that seems certain to have two, and only two, possible answers, yes or no.

A religious view would probably shun the notion of eternity as the divinity, but can it not be fundamentally divine? Yes, it can. It is also possible that it is not. If not, we are looking again at utter happenstance with no possibility of meaning.

Still, blatant finitude, absolute meaninglessness, is a possibility we cannot disprove. Yet, if there is infinity, eternity, and it is divine, we end up assuming some divinity, some ultimate divine, eternally existent, infinite (not finite in any way) being. Well, hold up. Not necessarily a being. Still, something ultimate, infinite, unlimited, unbounded.

Shifting from the external and ultimate, let us look within. We do not, and perhaps cannot, understand consciousness. We have working models—workable, useful tools, but no understanding. We act as though we have a soul, but we explicitly denounce the soul as unknowable, unverifiable. We treat each other as sovereign souls (at least ideally–we know we should), as entities embodying the divine, the image of God, be that defined as it may. We, at least ideally, act as if it is so. If we act as though we have a soul while discounting it, what can we surmise as basis? Can we suppose that there must be something divine, eternal, within? Is there some attribute and capacity of ourselves, our consciousnesses, that is actually and truly eternal? It seems a reasonable assumption, a justifiable premise.

If we accept eternity, and we assume we are, at least in some way, part of it, then ultimately, we will exist long after the universe, long after world’s-end. (There I go assuming time again.) Fundamentally, the worthwhile possibilities for consideration are only two: With the divine in eternal existence, or without the divine in eternal existence. Unbounded existence with God, or without God. Regarding this latter, what more definition of hell might one propose?

I find it an undeniable possibility that there be no heaven, but if there is heaven, there most certainly is hell.

Micah 6:8

 

It seems to me, Islam is quite capable of working itself out and peacefully meeting the needs of its adherents without conflict against other faiths. However, governments (Kings and tyrants in some cases) meddle. Governments in Islamic communities are pushing and skewing, and even funding and enabling radicals who support the preferred views.

Our nation, our government, needs to get out and leave the people alone.

If our nation can work with the rest of the world to free religion from government completely, at all levels, I’m confident all faiths can fulfill the need we have.

Fundamentally, government is the problem. Ronaldus Maximus was correct.

We need to address the correct problem.

The civil authority and the religious authority need to be completely separate, and the civil authority needs to be limited, strictly limited.

I’ve grown up in theology and philosophical thinking. I’ve argued most topics over and over for more than four decades. I’ve never encountered universalism much. It has always been too shallow to consider. However, it has come up again and again for some years now, and lately, it has been put right in my lap, virtually, at least. I’m not really working much at what follows. So, I’m sure it will be even more rambling than normal for me, and less cohesive. Again, it isn’t something I’ve ever taken seriously. It is too silly to do so. It is wishful thinking, pie-in-the-sky thinking. Since so many would seem to end up eternally separated from us, we pine. We rationalize. We pretend it will all eventually be alright. Some day that evil, heinous monster of a relative who hurt everyone he ever came in contact with will be made right, repentant, and redeemed, because as bad as he was, eternal torture is just too unconscionable to bear. Blood is thicker than water, and all that.

However, the bible is quite clear that many will spend eternity separated from God.

Jesus was quite clear that many will be cast out, even tormented for eternity. He said so while on earth before his death and resurrection, and he said so after in the revelation to John. There is no doubt. No room for speculation.

The goats and the sheep are about as clear as is possible.

In Revelation 3:4, they walked with him, clothed in white, because they were worthy.

One cannot become worthy by spending a moment in hell-fire. Penance isn’t biblical. Christ paid the price. The punishment has been met. There is no sin problem. There is only a heart problem, and those who choose not to submit their hearts will spend eternity separated from God.

The 25th chapter of Matthew shows clearly that Jesus knew that many would reject him eternally. http://biblehub.com/esv/matthew/25.htm

The Final Judgment

31“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. 34Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

41“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ 45Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

Verse 41 can be translated, “Get away from me, I cursed you!”

He told them to go to eternal fire forever.

http://biblehub.com/greek/4442.htm
The word for fire means fire, but it often carries connotations of eternal fire. The word forever is “age-during” or aeon, but it clearly carries permanence in the meaning as used. “αἰώνιον” [αἰώνιος, ία, ιον]
http://biblehub.com/greek/166.htm

It is ridiculous to consider the meaning as a-long-time. No, it is the same context as the eternal life (same word) of the believer, the redeemed. Moreover, Jesus clarifies that this is the fire prepared for the adversary and all his demons. It is simply ridiculous to suppose this fire as other than truly eternal in the simple sense of forever and ever!

Then http://biblehub.com/interlinear/matthew/25-46.htm

These into just, fitting, punishment age-during! Indeed, the righteous into life age-during!
Same word: αἰώνιον and αἰώνιον
Same context, same meaning. Choose whatever meaning you like, because you will anyway. The New Testament consistently states we, the redeemed, have life age-during. This word,  αἰώνιον, cannot be construed to mean some length of time. It is timeless, beyond all ages, forever. Peter states that Christ’s glory is age-during. Same word.

Jesus, in the same story, in the same sentence, said κόλασιν (just, fitting, punishment) αἰώνιον  (age-during) AND ζωὴν (life, existence) αἰώνιον (age-during). There can be no doubt that Jesus intended the same meaning for the two phrases. Everlasting punishment for the selfish and everlasting life for the righteous givers.

Matthew 7, 21“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

Jesus specifically said not everyone will get into heaven. Plainly! Jesus said he knows who are his, and he clearly says that he never knew these lawless ones. Never knew them, never.

Revelation 20: 11Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. 12And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. 13And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. 14Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

I mean, come on! Duh! Second death can mean nothing other than eternal separation from God. Forever! Even θάνατος and ᾅδης are thrown in there. If the people thrown in come out, shouldn’t we expect death and hades too?

In verse 10, just before, the lake of fire is described as being for the age of the ages. It is not possible to state eternity more clearly or forcefully. Forever and ever amen.

Backing up to Revelation 14:9And another angel, a third, followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, 10he also will drink the wine of God’s wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger, and he will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. 11And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night, these worshipers of the beast and its image, and whoever receives the mark of its name.”

Tortured and tormented, and the smoke of the torment to the ages of the ages, forever.

In 19:3 the smoke of Babylon goes up to the ages of the ages, forever.

These words are harsh, hard, cruel.

How do we square it? It is hard. It seems John went out of his way to say it was all just, justified. I would suppose he had a problem with it too.

There it is.

It is silly, superficial, and wishful to suppose God uses time after this earth, after our cosmos. We have our time. Time is a gift of love and grace. Without time there’d be no time to change, time to be tried, humbled and broken, time to hear the words of love spoken. And then, it is gone. New heaven and new earth–eternity.

God is timeless. Eternity is incomprehensible. To suppose that eventually God gets through to everyone is to suppose that God is bound by time. Not so. Not so.

There is so much more to it. So much more than we can even comprehend. It is literally not possible to know all. It is not even possible to study everything in the natural cosmos, much less in the spirit, in religion from the immediate and practical to the ultimate and eternal. We cannot know it all, not even collectively, not even with a trillion years to grow, expand, and try. And it is unreasonable to suppose our universe, the cosmos will remain that long.

We cannot know it all. We cannot understand God. We cannot reconcile all the bible says. We cannot reconcile all we see and do know.

Our experience exceeds our abilities continuously. We simply cannot figure it all out.

It does help a little to recognize that most of the things we consider bad are just part of life. The only true evil is when one harms, coerces, or defrauds another.

To suppose that God will coerce souls through some trial of torment is ridiculous. It is evil to suppose it. Time is pointless. As I’ve stated, God is timeless, but what is time in eternity? How long would someone suggest for punishment?

Again, Jesus met the punishment. Paying the penalty, paying the debt to society (in the heavenly-kingdom sense) isn’t the point. The point is you get to be with God or you get to be separated from God. Jesus stated a truth we know, there is no greater love than to lay down ones life. God loves us. Jesus showed us in a way we knew.

Accept it or reject it. I believe in the just and merciful judge. I believe that judgement comes to one and all and mercy and justice are satisfied. At some point, for each and every soul, that judgement is handed down. It is set at that point. Nothing can change it. Justice demands it. Mercy approves it. It is forever and ever.

 

I’m innately optimistic. I’m naturally joyful and not prone to melancholy. Yet, for our time, pessimism weighs upon me.

I truly believe MLK Jr. was right when he said that the arc of history bends slowly, but it bends toward justice. We will see freedoms increase. We will see more justice and more opportunity, and less imposition by state and political forces. The various other PTBs that people worry about will diminish over the generations. That is a long time for us mere mortals.

I see the signs for a cycle, as oft repeated in history, of evil times before more good times.

I hope I’m wrong. I doubt that I am.

Regardless, those of us who claim faith, especially those of us who follow Jesus, we must remain faithful.

Who among us will bow before Nebuchadnezzar’s golden statue? No one? What about the POTUS or SCOTUS? What about Apple or Facebook? What about Hollywood or regular old peer pressure?

What about the biblical mammon?

I happened to watch Pale Rider again. That mammon thing, it just won’t work.

Every person has to stand for what is right.

Every person must walk in love, and love in this sense has nothing to do with sex.

The story goes that the three Hebrew children refused to bow.

“…But if you do not worship, you shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?”

16Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. 17If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king.d 18But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”

The book of Daniel tells us they received a miracle. Miracles are by definition exceptional, rare.

Are we ready to stand anyway?

Are we ready to stand with Job and say, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust Him.“?

I truly doubt that we or our near descendents will every face most of the persecutions of history, but we see today the executions, the beheadings. It isn’t just Christians being killed, and we must never forget.

The saying is “going to hell in a handbasket.”

Recent SCOTUS decisions have made the world a harder place to live for all. Persecutions of churches and ministers will increase. Activism is not sated. The activisms of our era are like the grave, never saying enough. Accomplishing goals is no longer an objective, but destroying all who may oppose or disagree. That is where harm lies, and only blood and suffering will reset. (Again, I hope I’m wrong.)

More worrying to me is the state of science. Science in its several forms are no longer seen as a set of tools, but as ends. The tendency is Scientism, and that is one sad and gruesome religion.

The saddest of all, though, is the apparent willingness of the Pope, the leader of so many faithful believers, to step back to earth-reverence and sacrifice.

Cardinal George’s words may yet prove prophetic:

“I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison and his successor will die a martyr in the public square. His successor will pick up the shards of a ruined society and slowly help rebuild civilization, as the church has done so often in human history.”

 

http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2012/1021/cardinal.aspx

http://www.kiplingsociety.co.uk/poems_copybook.htm

And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins,
As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn,
The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!

 

 


Yes, biodiversity is a problem for any young-earth supposition.

The simple fact of extensive extinction is a horrible problem for YEC. The population estimates are absolutely impossible in the time frame of only several hundred years. It is impossible to reconcile the stated basis of YEC claims with the reality of only 1 in 1000 species surviving on earth to modern times. (The ark was supposed to save them all. Why let 99.9% die off shortly thereafter?)

Not only are the South American ungulate species problematic for YEC all by themselves, there is the further fact that the majority of ungulate species are clean. Accordingly, there were not just a single pair of each of these different ungulates on the ark, but seven pairs, making it that much more remarkable that they all died out. (Seven mating pairs gives much better odds of surviving than only a single pair.)

Note, contrary to YEC assumptions and rationalizations, the bible explicitly defines kinds in Leviticus 11 (and elsewhere). Kinds of ravens; kinds of hawks; at least three locust/grasshoppers, each specified after its kinds, and beetles after their kinds (though the word might have been another set of locust type insects). Kinds is not genera or family, but species, or from Leviticus (and the bird list is reiterated in Deuteronomy), we must allow subspecies, by the modern definition. By the way, what bird or insect of any kind goes about on four feet? (Four, not six, not two–four. Leviticus 11:20, אַרְבַּ֑ע, not to mention bats listed with the birds.) Using the biblical definition of “kinds”, there would have been many thousands of clean ungulates on Noah’s ark.

Further, you mention the birds. The bible doesn’t delineate what birds are clean, but rather gives an explicit (though hard to define) list of unclean birds. Accordingly, it is reasonable to assume from the express statements in the bible all the extinct birds were clean, including the enormous flightless birds. Thousands of those too on the ark.

A side note on clean: given the many generations Noah preceded Moses, what’s up with “clean” anyway?

Naturalis Historia

Life is incredibly diverse.  Millions of species fill the seas, land and skies of our little planet.  It seems as if there is no end to the discovery of new animals, plants and other life forms.  As a biologist who teaches a class about plant diversity, I can always count on discovering a new group of plants that I have never seen before which is always exciting.  But what blows my mind even more is the thought that what I see living around me today is but a tiny fraction of the diversity of life that has lived on this Earth.

A slide from a recent presentation I made on the discovery of deep time illustrating the mind-boggling estimates of number of species that have lived on earth versus the number alive right now. The images are of extinct marine reptiles on the left and cetacean alive today on the right. Image: Joel Duff the mind-boggling estimates of number of species that have lived on earth versus the number alive right now. Extinct marine reptiles on the left and cetacean alive today on the right. Image: Joel Duff

When you begin to look at fossils, the animals alive today can suddenly seem a bit mundane. And…

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Things matter, or nothing matters.

I choose to suppose that things matter. That supposition leads me to believe God is. (Either God is, or God is not. That is about the same statement. Further, there is a reason, or there is no reason. Again, pretty much the same statement, and I just don’t think it is reasonable to assert there is no reason.)

Now, if any of these words mean anything, then I find that it follows that I freely choose. I can change my mind, but I am determined to find truth as I may and adhere to facts and reality as well as I can perceive.

I chose to write just now. It is not a mechanistic, chance confluence of quantum effects at the subatomic level with electromagnetic and chemical effects at the atomic level. I happen to be more than a machine.

There are issues we may need to address if we manage to create machines that can rationally choose as well, but that is not yet and a subject-heading for another day.

Dr. David Bentley Hart penned a retelling of a conversation he had with his dog. He wrote at First Things, http://www.firstthings.com/article/2015/02/roland-on-free-will. (First Things is an excellent source of insights on many subjects.)

Dr. Hart supposes the event was a dream, but Roland is obviously one smart pooch.

Roland says, “…and the rational freedom of the spirit, which is always striving to subdue the brute. Oh, what’s that lovely line from Yeats about the soul? ‘Fastened to a dying animal?’ Anyway, there’s something truly free there, something that isn’t the creature of an unhappy childhood or a frustrated hunger—it’s spirit, nous, Geist—something that can convert the countervailing tempests of physiological urges into the elations of reason set free. Well . . . this is something dogs understand very well.””

Excellent observation. Likewise, “Every aspiring young materialist dreams of growing up to be a robot.” Which is so simple minded, even silly. Yet, it seems so true of so many.

The saddest part of reductionist materialism is the ultimate hopelessness. It really does suppose there is nothing real, that there will be absolutely nothing in the long run.

The bottom line for me is that it is all real, and I really do have freedom, and I really am responsible for myself.

I posted this on my Facebook then decided I needed to record it here.

(And http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ecclesiastes )

Uhm,

The preacher said:
“Humans and animals have the same destiny. One dies just like the other. All of them have the same breath [of life]. Humans have no advantage over animals. All [of life] is pointless.”
See several translations (especially Young’s) of this one verse here: http://biblehub.com/ecclesiastes/3-19.htm And, note the commentary, and note the, shall we say, backpedaling.

Click a translation you like to read the whole chapter.

I’ll say at minimum this establishes that death is simply part of the definition of living.

Go a little deeper with the tools. Such as:
http://biblehub.com/interlinear/ecclesiastes/3-19.htm

It is not wise to ignore the hard things.

BioLogos has reposted this article by Denis Alexander which I must have missed last year. Dr. Alexander has several articles at BioLogos, and in this one he discusses why religion and philosophy are so important to science and facts.

While our genetics determine much about us, our genes do NOT determine who we are. Our choices are much more important to who we are and who we become. We are free moral agents, and we always have the ability to choose to do what is right.

Enjoy Dr. Alexander’s article: http://biologos.org/blog/made-in-the-image-of-god-human-values-and-genomics2

For millennia it was uniquely the pharaoh or the king who was seen as being in the “image of a god” in the polytheistic political systems of ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. Adad-shum-ussur, a court astrologer and cultic official in the seventh century B.C. royal court of Nineveh, made clear that the Assyrian king Esarhaddon is the very image of Bel (Marduk), the top god of that era:

A (free) man is as the shadow of god, the slave is as the shadow of a (free) man; but the king, he is like unto the (very) image of god.

That understanding is very significant. The ancient perception is still among us. We really do not see ourselves as truly free. We do not see ourselves created in the image of God, but in some shadow form that exists mostly as a slave. No, it is not just the king, not just the emperor, not even the President. It is all of you. We are all created like God, knowing both good and evil. Each, always, with the ability to do good, or to not. Each with the ability to realize our own destiny.

This whole last bit of the article is worth repeating:

Then God said, “Let us make adam [humankind] in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” So God created adam in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. [Genesis 1:26-27].

In its historical context, the implications were revolutionary: the kingly and priestly male roles previously allocated to the privileged few by a pantheon of gods were now being delegated instead by the one creator God to the whole of humanity, male and female. In a stroke the entire ruling and priestly structure of Mesopotamian society was delegitimized. The Imago Dei was being democratized and it was now humankind who were to be the significant players in the arena of earthly life, the mandate to rule underlying their new responsibilities. Above all, humanity was set free by the one true God to determine their own destiny, no longer under the yoke of all-powerful dictators, nor under the baleful astrological control of the moon and stars.

Yet, ever since, humans have become experts at re-enslaving themselves, refusing the responsibilities that come with free-choice and submitting instead to narratives of fate and destiny. It seems ironic that today it is not the creation myths of ancient Babylon but the ideological interpretations of biology that provide the narratives of fate, in which genes “pull” humans toward certain political views and people cannot change their minds because their convictions are “rooted in their physiology.”

“It’s in his or her DNA” is a new phrase becoming increasingly embedded in our language, referring to something that cannot apparently be changed. On Sept. 8, 2012, Brad Pitt was quoted by the Daily Mail as saying that “America is a country founded on guns. It’s in our DNA. It’s very strange but I feel better having a gun.” No it’s not in our DNA, Mr. Pitt, either literally or metaphorically. People have choices — they are the prisoners neither of their genetics, nor of their physiology, nor indeed of their environments. Human beings made in the image of God are free to chart their own destiny in a way that preserves human value and dignity. On that we can leave the last word to Abraham Lincoln: “…nothing stamped with the Divine image and likeness was sent into the world to be trodden on, and degraded, and imbruted by its fellows” (Aug. 17, 1858).

I must emphasize Lincoln: “…nothing stamped with the Divine image and likeness was sent into the world to be trodden on, and degraded, and imbruted by its fellows.

It really isn’t that hard. We are each free. I stand before God the same as all others. I answer for myself, myself alone, to Him, to Him alone.

http://biblehub.com/esv/romans/14.htm

4Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own mastera that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand. http://biblehub.com/romans/14-4.htm (The individual verses include the selected commentary notes.)

If we recognize each person individually, if we see each of us “stamped with the Divine image and likeness”, then we cannot treat each other wrongly. We cannot try to rule over or coerce. We will walk in freedom and responsibility, and we will acknowledge, “Life is tough, but it’s tougher if you’re stupid.” If we remember that we all suffer and we all die young, it is a little easier to keep things in perspective.

Just remember, He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?

The title comes from the words of our Lord. Note, Jesus added “mind” to the quote from the Jewish Law. Mark tells us Jesus said it, adding mind, and the lawyer answered back wisely that we must love God with our whole understanding. It is clear that part of our service to, and love for, God includes our thinking and knowledge. That is science and philosophy. It is unwise, according to the scripture, to hold that there is animosity between science and faith. In fact, I hold that there cannot be one without the other.

Shannon Medisky wrote an article for BioLogos, http://biologos.org/blog/soul-strength-and-mind-how-biologos-brought-me-out-of-hiding, explaining how she felt shunned by her fellow Christians for accepting science without twisting it to certain dogma. I’ll add that the dogma in question is not even orthodox.

Ms. Medisky explains how she grew up as excited about Jesus as she was about science, but she soon realized that most Christians won’t stand for that. She closeted herself.

She correctly states:

We’re called to love God with all our soul, strength and mind. My scientific pursuits and interests were an important part of the latter. Learning more about the world—including how we got here—was simply another facet of honoring God. And to do anything less than wonder, question and learn would be to deny a very important part of the potential God so graciously gave us all.

That is how I have always felt. Like her, I’ve always stayed quiet about my acceptance of science, especially after I lost all reservations regarding biological evolution, but I’ve never been one to back down or equivocate. If you ask, I’m going to answer, and I’ll be as honest as I know how to be.

She wrote for BioLogos. It makes sense that she praised them highly. While she felt alone, I learned long ago there were plenty of Christians like me who accepted science as simply part of God’s creation. Still, BioLogos is a comfort to me too, and it is an excellent resource. If you want to learn, BioLogos is an excellent place to start.

Of course, if you’d rather just be fundamentalist, go ahead and take the indoctrination and talking points of the young-earth creationists, and be confrontational and sure of yourself. However, I strongly recommend following the words of the prophet Micah, “He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” Yes, this is what the Lord requires of each of us.

Andrew Wollitzer, Pastor of Berkeley Covenant Church, provides the following sermon regarding science and religion. He mostly tells his own story.

He titles it, “Why Should We Care?”.

http://www.scientistsincongregations.org/media/2012_07_08_Why_Should_I_Caremp3.mp3

Consider taking three-quarters of an hour and be edified. He addresses well why science matters to Christians. The above is from Scientists in Congregations:

http://www.scientistsincongregations.org/resources/audio-recordings/

And the Berkeley church website is here:

http://www.berkeleycov.org/

Here is the link to the sermon from their site. http://www.berkeleycov.org/audio/sermonMP3s/2012_07_08_Why_Should_I_Care.mp3

Never lie to your children. Not in the least. Not in any way.

 

I availed myself of an opportunity to see Ray Comfort’s video. It was worse than I could imagine. What bothered me most was that while he shoved microphones up people’s noses and badgered and bullied them, the Christians watching tended to cheer. So sad.

I suppose that many in that room felt they had been bullied, either for their antievolutionary views, or more generically for just being Christian, but when you can make PZ Myers look like a generally good guy, better than you make yourself look, you have failed.

We teach our children not to bully. We teach them not to cheer on the perpetrator when someone pays back the bully or other generally bad children. We teach our children to repay good for evil, as our Lord taught us. We teach our children to walk in love and to go the extra mile, even to turn the other cheek. The adults in the room watching Ray Comfort badger and bully people seemed to have forgotten that, or that it should apply doubly to them as teachers, those to whom much has been entrusted.

I viewed the video as an utter failure in all regards. It seems impossible, but I assume Comfort thought he was doing something akin to evangelism in the making of the film and the derogatory treatment of his victims both in person and in the cutting room.

One can only guess how many people simply walked away when approached by Comfort, being treated so rudely. One can only wonder how many people gave more cogent answers, or how many became obviously terrified. How many people were interviewed who did not give answers that fit the narrative Comfort cobbled together?

There was no truth, no honesty, and no compassion in the video. Are those who condone the video simply saying all is fair in love and war? If so, they got the war part right. The interviews were essentially hit and run warfare on the unsuspecting people attacked in the video. Perhaps they assert they are making war on us, so we must make war on them. However, I again remember our Lord telling us to love those who persecute us.

I tried to Google search for anyone else calling Comfort a bully. I’m disappointed that I couldn’t find any.

I agree with this article.

http://www.godofevolution.com/evolution-vs-god-denigrates-science-using-technology-that-science-makes-possible/

I really think it wise to recall a song from one of the legends of country music, Marijohn Wilkin, and her song God is Love.

http://www.valentinemusic.co.uk/home/music/marijohn-wilkin-buckhorn-music/marijohn-wilkin-buckhorn-music-tracks (scroll down a bit)

The opening lines are the point. The fire-and-brimstone preacher seems to always forget that God is Love!

1If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned,a but have not love, I gain nothing.

4Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;b 6it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth7Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

I don’t think I find any of this in Comfort’s video, especially what I underlined.

I came across an InterVarsity blog, and Andy Walsh wrote an article I find particularly interesting. http://blog.emergingscholars.org/2014/03/science-in-review-the-art-of-public-science-communication/

He makes some very insightful comments regarding the new Cosmos and the first three episodes aired so far. I agree with him. It seems that at least part of the point in Cosmos is to confront religion.

I like his points about communication, and I especially like his comments regarding vaccines. The comments to the article are worthwhile too.

Vaccines are God’s gift for human health. I thank God that our doctors and researchers have figured out how make them and keep them effective.

Progressivism is against the human soul.

It is hard to argue with leftists. There are always reasonings and rationalizations that allow progressives to argue for the collective and against the freedom of the individual.

I don’t suppose any of the Star Trek writers and creators involved with the introduction and development of the Borg realized they were portraying the ultimate perfect progressive society, but they did, and to describe it as “pure evil” is quite correct.

The progressives preach diversity, but only within the framework of the collective. The progressives preach freedom and self actualization, realization of the full potential of the individual, but only within the bounds of the good of the whole group.

Dr. Michael Farris fought for the Romeike family, stood with them throughout, shoulder to shoulder with them against the oppressors from beginning to end. While Dr. Farris celebrates this victory, he essentially argues the war is, nonetheless, being lost. The progressives gave up this battle to distract us from the gains they are making everywhere else. (Common Core State Standards, for instance.)

Parentalrights.org is a great website with lots of information, and Dr. Farris wrote this there:

http://www.parentalrights.org/index.asp?SEC=%7B8D1023AC-5DEB-4520-B283-F063F7500949%7D

It is obvious that Dr. Farris is a lawyer, one who argues before the highest courts of our land. The short version is that our government is sanctioning religious persecution in other countries. The same here is inevitable. Further, our government asserts that parents do not have a fundamental right to choose the education their children receive. Our government asserts that it can dictate limits on our choices in order to enforce their definition of diversity.

We are not Borg. We will not service the “us” of big government. Resistance is not futile. Resist.

As Dr. Farris says,

“These freedoms are threatened by our own government. But only our silence and inaction will actually defeat us.

Stand up. Speak up. Show up.”

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