Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Honor-Shame Cultures and the Gospel Message

In the United States and many other countries, the gospel message is rather straightforward (with some variations, of course). Unfortunately, evangelists tend to leave out Genesis, which has the origin of everything and tells us where sin and death began. Things get more complicated when dealing with people who have honor and shame in their cultures.

When sharing the gospel with people from cultures emphasizing honor and shame, we must learn how they think and show how the gospel meets their needs.
Credit: FreeDigitalPhotos / tawatchai
Honor and shame are closely associated with pride, but in some cultures, it affects the entire family. Also, they want to save face, and even help you or I to do the same so dignity is maintained. People will "accept Jesus" without knowing what that means, and those who believe in many false gods will add the real one into the mix. 

Missionaries have reported false conversions through misunderstandings, but have had far better success when beginning with Genesis. We need to learn about the people we are talking with and to change tack so we can take their mindset into account. We can tell them about the shame and humiliation that Jesus endured, and how God honors us in salvation.
Maintaining honour and avoiding shame are hugely important aspects of life and worldview for the majority of the people of the world, particularly those who live in Asia, the Middle East, Latin America, and Africa. They may be Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, Judaists, animists, polytheists, or atheists, and they have the least access to the Christian Gospel and Christian resources.
. . . 
In these cultures, relationships guide decision making, so the most important identity is the family, rather than each individual, as in the West. The family makes the decisions, and the primary concern of members is to maintain honour and avoid shame (or ‘save face’) for their family, because what a person does brings honour or shame not only upon themselves but upon the whole family—indeed often also upon the entire community. Great respect is usually given to the elderly in the family, and in some cultures this may extend to the honouring of the spirits of dead ancestors by means of food offerings. In such cultures, often the father is the main decision-maker on behalf of the family.
The full article is found at "Preaching the Gospel in honour/shame societies".



Thursday, July 2, 2020

Evolution, Creation, and the Dilemma of Death

Professing Christians who accept the pronouncements of secular scientists about the age of the earth and evolution are faced with several dilemmas regarding death and God's very good creation. We can watch it on television and movies, read about it in books, but death is not entertaining when it happens to those we care about.

When it comes to dealing with death, secular ideas like evolution only cause confusion and offer no hope. The truth is found in God's Word.
Credit: Morguefile / ClarksGirl
Secularists tell us that death has been here all along. God's Word tells us that death is an intruder into creation, an enemy that was defeated at the bodily Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Death was not God's process of creation over long ages, and there will not be there at the restoration. The lie of evolution causes confusion and raises questions, but the truth in the Bible — beginning in the very first verse — gives us answers. You won't get answers or any hope from secularists.
Why is the world filled with death? Why did my friend’s three-month-old son recently die in the ambulance on the way to the hospital? What kind of God would make a world where three-month-old babies die?

. . .

But we don’t just struggle to explain human death. What about the death of so many animals that we find buried in the earth’s fossil-filled rocks? On every continent, thousands of feet of sedimentary rock layers are filled with billions of dead plants and animals. Why are they there? Did God make the world that way?
You can read the full article or download the MP3 at "The Problem of Death". You may also be interested in a related article, "The Fall of Man and Animal Death".



Wednesday, June 24, 2020

The Nephilim and the Sons of God

Moses, under the inspiration (2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV) of God, did not give us many details about the identity of the Nephilim in the sixth chapter of Genesis. There are many speculations and even controversies about them and the "sons of God" circulating for a long time.

An area of controversy is the identities of the sons of God and the Nephilim in Genesis. The linked article discusses this in depth.
Credit: Pixabay / Stefan Keller
Who were these mighty men of renown that perished in the Genesis Flood? There seem to be four major views about them. The article that is linked below is a revised section of the book Alien Intrusion by Gary Bates (my video review is here), showing that each view appears to have biblical support to some extent, but only one seems to make the most sense.
Probably the most often-used and controversial passage of Scripture by pro-ETH (extra-terrestrial hypothesis) UFOlogists is the account of “the sons of God” and their resultant offspring, the Nephilim. 
. . . 
For proponents of the ancient astronaut and astrogenesis theories, the “sons of God” or even the Nephilim refer to extraterrestrial visitors to Earth. Erich von Däniken and Zechariah Sitchin, among others, believe these interfering aliens had sexual union with humans and/or genetically engineered humans or prehuman creatures in an effort to oversee mankind’s evolution. This is a grand assumption based on an interpretation of the text that is clearly incorrect. 
. . .
The text itself readily refutes the ‘primitive authors’ idea. In the first chapter of Genesis, we read that God created mankind fully formed and intelligent. Adam was even given the job of naming all of the land animals (Genesis 2:19–20). In the subsequent chapters, we see Adam’s offspring described as musicians and craftsmen (Genesis 4:21–22), demonstrating they were not primitive. The Scriptures are full of detail to show that, prior to the account in Genesis 6, man was already fully human, vastly intelligent, and engaging in spiritual worship—facts so readily ignored by those looking for the slightest opportunity to squeeze a UFO or two into the Bible. Unlike their rejection of earlier passages in Genesis as being real history, they readily accept that the Nephilim incident in Genesis is based on true events. But their ‘primitive authors and UFO’ interpretation is impossible if we accept that the earlier descriptions in Genesis are also true.
However, even among Christians, the meaning of this passage is sometimes hotly debated. There are probably four major views regarding the expression “the sons of God” in Genesis 6, with some surprising connections to UFOlogy:
The full article is extremely interesting, but it's going to take a while. You can do like I did and use a "send to ebook reader" service, or many browsers have add-ons like Reader View (it is built into recent versions of Firefox) to reduce clutter. Anyway, to get going, click on "Who were the ‘sons of God’ in Genesis 6?".

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

The Fall of Man and Animal Death

It has been a month ago today that we had to make that awful trip to the vet and put an end to the suffering of Basement Cat, but I still get misty. When the box with her ashes arrived, I was upset all over again. When I was drifting off to sleep that night, I "heard" her meow like she often did at bedtime. When did animal death enter God's very good creation?

We miss Basement Cat. Some professing Christians say that animal death is a part of creation, but that is contrary to Scripture and the nature of God.

Animals suffer and die, and it hurts those of us who love them so much. Biblical creationists maintain that death entered the picture with the Fall of Man. After all, God does not approve of the mistreatment of animals (Prov. 12:10), and he even providing for birds (Matt. 6:26). For some reason, professing Christians who insist on exegeting huge amounts of time into the Bible concoct weird interpretations of Scripture — some even say that death is a good thing! Also, suffering and death are, to some owlhoots, a part of God's creative process through evolution. Such absurdities are inconsistent with God, our loving Father. At the restoration at the end of all things, there will be no death or suffering.
Did animals die before the fall? The short answer is “no,” but let’s unpack that answer. There are several reasons we believe animals did not die before the fall.

For one, God created the world “very good,” and a very good world would not include animal death. It is obvious from God's statement in Genesis 1:31 (at the end of day 6 of creation), which would mean no sin, no death, and no carnivory. Satan almost certainly rebelled after day 7 as well. God created everything perfect, but it didn’t stay that way for long. In Genesis 1:31 the Hebrew term translated as “very good” is טוֹב מְאֹד (tôb meōd). The word tôb refers to things that are pleasant, qualitatively good, morally good, or that has good character, while meōd serves as an intensifying adjective in this verse. Thus, Scripture did not merely say that all that God made was good—it declared that it was exceedingly good. This verse describes the Lord’s assessment of his creation, so we need to keep his character at the forefront when discerning what “very good” means. Since God is perfect, anything short of perfection could not accurately be identified as “very good.” Would the perfectly holy and morally pure Creator call a world full of death, suffering, and disease “very good”?
You can finish reading at "Animal Death Before the Fall?" A related article on animal death and God's character is "Animal death before the Fall — Cruelty to animals is contrary to God’s nature".


Wednesday, June 10, 2020

The Happiness of Unbelievers?

Whether knowingly or unknowingly, people are in rebellion against God. Some simply do not care about spiritual matters, other have a nominal religion with religious trappings but no commitment, others mask their hatred of God by claiming they "lack belief". How do they attain happiness?


People who reject God may have some degree of happiness, but that is based on circumstances and things that are fleeting. What happens when things get really rough?
Credit: FreeDigitalPhotos / alexisdc
According to surveys, there has been an increase in people who say they are unaffiliated with certain religions. I don't know if that means specific denominations, but this does not necessarily mean an increase in atheism. A person can be a Bible-believing Christian and yet not identify as Baptist, Presbyterian, etc. Atheism is irrational and incoherent, and impossible to live it consistently.

When atheists spend their time angrily ridiculing Christians and misrepresenting biblical creationists — indeed, seeking their identities in unbelief — it is exceptionally difficult to believe them when they say they are happy. Sure, people can have some amount of fulfillment in wealth, political activism, social status, sex, drugs, alcohol, prestige in employment, marriage, and so on. Some say they believe in science and gain their purpose in evolution. But where can they turn when things come crashing down?
Yes, agnostics can find contentment, and many describe themselves as happy. But do they derive their happiness from their beliefs?
Valerie van Mulukom, a Cognitive Scientist at Coventry University, decided to find out if unbelievers find solace in life in times of crisis. In her piece at The Conversation, she presents what she found. Her opening sentences, though, suggest a bias toward asserting that one doesn’t have to believe in God to be a happy, fulfilled person.
The saying “There are no atheists in foxholes” suggests that in stressful times people inevitably turn to God (or indeed gods). In fact, non-believers have their own set of secular worldviews which can provide them with solace in difficult times, just as religious beliefs do for the spiritually-minded.
The aim of my research for the Understanding Unbelief programme was to investigate the worldviews of non-believers, since little is known about the diversity of these non-religious beliefs, and what psychological functions they serve. I wanted to explore the idea that while non-believers may not hold religious beliefs, they still hold distinct ontological, epistemological and ethical beliefs about reality, and the idea that these secular beliefs and worldviews provide the non-religious with equivalent sources of meaning, or similar coping mechanisms, as the supernatural beliefs of religious individuals.
In this opening, Mulukom asserts equivalence between religious contentment and non-religious contentment, leading one to believe that it’s simply a matter of individual choice. The results are the same; take your pick. Her intimation fits well with today’s post-truth mentality that individual happiness is more to be desired than truth.
To read the rest of this first article, click on "Can Unbelievers Really Be Happy?", but by all means, come back for the conclusion.

People who have their worldviews rooted in naturalism are inconsistent because science is impossible without God. For that matter, numbers and mathematics are not tangible. Nor is morality or love. Misotheists actually are standing on the biblical worldview, beginning with creation.
The previous entry described coping mechanisms used by unbelievers to deal with ‘uncreatedness’ and crisis. Let’s think about them.
Earlier today, we analyzed the article by Valerie van Mulukom at The Conversation, “How non-religious worldviews provide solace in times of crisis.” We summarized responses of unbelievers to crisis (atheists, agnostics and ‘nones’) into a list 13 coping mechanisms for dealing with what Francis Schaeffer called ‘uncreatedness’ – a perceived uncaring universe, autonomous to itself. Here’s the list again:
I highly recommend that you read the rest of this article. That can be found at "Can Unbelievers Really Be Happy? – Commentary".



Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Hominids and the Bible

Quite a few Christians are buffaloed by the claims of Darwinists who tell us that the parade of hominid ancestors is an accurate representation of evolution. Some Christians have tenuous faith and want the claims of evolutionists refuted. There are some very basic things that everyone should know.

Christians are buffaloed by the claims of evolutionists, some even thinking that scientists have disproved the Bible. We must stop and think for a few moments.

That parade is strictly imaginary. While anthropologists have assembled images from bones and such, they have mostly conjecture about the appearance of the apes and ancient humans — nor did they have any scientific reason to presume that our alleged ancestors became white Europeans to rule the world. The links are missing, but evolutionists use apes, imaginary creatures, and humans. Our faith is in the Word of God, not the atheistic interpretations based on naturalism.
A recent survey showed that the most persuasive argument for evolution comes from the iconic drawing of the apes-to-man parade. This popular picture illustrates ape-like animals evolving into a human. If this image reflects actual history, then the history in Genesis is wrong. If we came from apes, then we didn’t come from Adam and Eve. That also casts doubt on the other Scriptures—and their human authors—that refer to Adam as our real ancestor. Do certain fossils demand we take scissors to our Bibles?
To finish reading, click on "How Do Hominids Fit with the Bible?"


Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Appearances of Jesus in Genesis?

The Bible tells us that no one has seen God (John 1:18). Moses wanted to but was told in no uncertain terms that it was not possible (Exodus 33:20). However, there are statements in Scripture about seeing God (such as the rasslin' match between Jacob and God in Genesis 32:24-30 or Isaiah's terrified exclamation in Isaiah 6:5). How do we reconcile these things?

People saw God before the Son became a man. These were most likely pre-incarnate manifestations.
The appearance of the angels to Abraham, Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, 1728
Specifically, no human can see God the Father face-to-face and live. The reference in Isaiah and other places were visions, yet certain people experienced the divine. God has been involved with humanity from the beginning, which includes visitations from angels. Now we come to an interesting aspect.

In Genesis and other places we read about "the angel of the Lord". When you read those accounts, this angel is distinct from other angels that God sends to people. Although theologians disagree on this, most seem to believe that this was Jesus, God the Son, before he took human form as we read in the Gospels and later. Except for assorted cults and heretics, professing Christians know that Jesus is God, and therefore the Creator. Even Satan knows this fact.
When unbelievers think of Jesus, many strictly think of a man who lived about 2,000 years ago. Sadly, many Christians in the church pews adopt this same thinking. But when we do, we unwittingly devalue who Jesus really is.
. . .
The point is that Jesus Christ has been actively involved in the world from the very beginning. So the question arises, “Do we see Jesus anywhere in Genesis?” Yes! These pre-incarnate appearances of Christ are called theophanies (from two Greek words meaning “appearance [phaneia] of God [theos]”), or more specifically Christophanies. They are generally believed to be appearances of the Son of God prior to His coming “in the flesh” two thousand years ago (1 John 4:2).
You can read all of this short article by clicking on "Appearances of Christ . . . In Early Genesis?"


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