Saturday, February 12, 2011

On the Origin of Respectability

In the beginning God created the heauen and the earth. And the earth was without forme and voide, and darkenesse was vpon the deepe, and the Spirit of God moued vpon ye waters. Then God saide, Let there be light: And there was light. And God sawe the light that it was good, and God separated the light from the darkenes. And God called the light, Day, and the darkenes, he called Night. So the euening and the morning were the first day.
Genesis 1.1-5 (Geneva)

Or, to say it another way: בְּרֵאשִׁית בָּרָא אֱלֹהִים אֵת הַשָּׁמַיִם וְאֵת הָאָֽרֶץ׃ וְהָאָרֶץ הָיְתָה תֹהוּ וָבֹהוּ וְחֹשֶׁךְ עַל־פְּנֵי תְהֹום וְרוּחַ אֱלֹהִים מְרַחֶפֶת עַל־פְּנֵי הַמָּֽיִם׃ וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹהִים יְהִי אֹור וַֽיְהִי־אֹֽור׃ וַיַּרְא אֱלֹהִים אֶת־הָאֹור כִּי־טֹוב וַיַּבְדֵּל אֱלֹהִים בֵּין הָאֹור וּבֵין הַחֹֽשֶׁךְ׃ וַיִּקְרָא אֱלֹהִים ׀ לָאֹור יֹום וְלַחֹשֶׁךְ קָרָא לָיְלָה וַֽיְהִי־עֶרֶב וַֽיְהִי־בֹקֶר יֹום אֶחָֽד׃ פ (WLC, but someone with real knowledge of Hebrew will have to tell me if this copied and pasted correctly.)

Today is 12 February, 2011. It is failed theology student Charles Darwin's birthday. On February 13, many churches will disgrace themselves by promoting evolutionism from the pulpit.

Since the primary thrust of this Weblog is theological and not scientific, I will let you check some resources on your own. But I will give you some suggestions: Answers in Genesis, Institute for Creation Research, Creation Ministries International. If those are not enough, I have many more apologetics links here. What, you're bothered because I am not giving equal time to evolution? We are constantly exposed to biases, skewed reports, tendentious interpretations of the facts and outright ridicule of our viewpoints. This is equal time!

There are church people who simply do not believe that the Bible is true (including having historical value), so they have no problem giving the appearance of scientific respectability to their churches. Some people believe in "theistic evolution", where God used evolution to cause his creation. Or they have God start the whole works and then he stepped back and let nature take its course.

Naturally, there are compromisers who do not want to take a stand or who have not bothered to examine the evidence for Creation. Nor have they examined the implications of their compromise with evolution. However, there are honest, intelligent people who have looked at some of the evidence and insist that the Earth is ancient, disagreeing with Creationism. 

I want to give you a few things to think about, from the perspective of someone who believes that the Bible is true, evidence for an ancient Earth is dubious, and that evolution is a lie:
  • Which of the gradually evolving primates was Adam, and which was Eve?
  • When did Adam and Eve sin?
  • If they are simply stories or archetypes, we are being lied to throughout the Bible because Adam is spoken of as a real man. This becomes much worse because Adam is in the lineage of Jesus (Luke 3.28), Jesus referred to Adam and Eve as real created people (Matt. 19.4). Paul refers to Adam as a literal person, by whom sin entered the world (Rom. 5.12-14). Paul also referred to Jesus as "the last Adam" (1 Cor. 15.45). Jude referred to Enoch and Adam as real people (Jude 1.14).
  • As I have said before, the word יוֹם translated "day" means "indefinite period of time" (as well as assorted other meanings, like part of a day, the darkness part of a day and so on), or as an indefinite period of time, but Genesis has strong qualifiers to make it a literal day: "Evening and morning, the (number) day". Also, this is the way it works throughout the Old Testament. Why should the early chapters of Genesis be the exceptions?
  • People will refer to Psalm 90.4 and 2 Peter 3.8, taking "one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day" to support their belief that the days of Genesis were not literal. How about a logical extension, then? “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. You shall labor six days, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to Yahweh your God. You shall not do any work in it, you, nor your son, nor your daughter, your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your livestock, nor your stranger who is within your gates; for in six days Yahweh made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day; therefore Yahweh blessed the Sabbath day, and made it holy." (Exodus 20:8-11, WEB) Look at the text again. God worked for six days and rested for one day as an example for us to follow in the Fourth Commandment. Those who compromise with the Bible have two problems here: Did God work for six thousand years and then rest for one thousand years? Or did he work for six indefinite periods of time and rest for an indefinite period of time?
  • If God used evolution, then why do we need God at all?
As for me, I am not willing to let science interpret Scripture. After all, science is man-made. God's Word is eternal (Isaiah 40.8 NASB). If we changed our understanding of God and the Bible with every scientific "discovery", we would be a mess and Christianity itself would have collapsed long ago.
I am not going to go the other way, however, and say that we must believe no matter what science says. Perhaps our understandings of Scripture need to be adjusted on occasion. But carefully, with the bigger picture in mind.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Sgian Dubh

"The sword of the Spirit,
which is the Word of God..."
— Ephesians 6.17

If you have no objections, I am going to indulge in some speculative fiction. (If you do have objections, it will be here if you change your mind.)

My eschatological beliefs are pretty much the most common view, where Jesus will come back at any moment for his people in what is commonly referred to as the "Rapture", followed by the rise of the Antichrist, the seven-year Tribulation period (you definitely do not want to be left behind at the Rapture — are you sure you're ready?), the triumphal Second Coming of Christ and his people and so on. But I will not defend or debate my position, I am just letting you know what I think the Bible teaches on the subject.
So, this speculative fiction, which could be considered "science fiction", as it has future-based elements, involves those left behind to face the Tribulation and deal with the Antichrist. (If I have believed the wrong teachers, Christians will endure all or part of the Tribulation. Or you can skip the Tribulation aspect and insert some sort of persecuting, totalitarian government.) Are you with me on this? It will be a time of unprecedented intense persecution for people who become followers of Jesus after the Rapture. Anyone who has read accounts of the persecution of Christians in former Soviet-controlled countries, as well as what is happening even now, will know that persecution is relentless. Add to this some of the end times Tribulation movies ("Left Behind" series, "A Thief in the Night" et al) and you can get a good mental picture of what will probably be coming along.

Also, secrecy is essential. People are skilled at hiding things all through history, but even more so in this electronic age. Obviously, Bibles will be confiscated. Where can you hide yours if you're still here? Hiding methods are good (check a "spy supplies" catalog sometime), but so are search methods.

As you know, I am rather excited about theWord Bible Software. One of the features that grabbed my attention is that you can put theWord, with all of its Bibles, dictionaries, commentaries, maps and books onto a flash drive. And some of those flash drives are very small.
"What's the funny title, Cowboy Bob?"
It's Gaelic, pronounced skeen doo. It means "black knife". Not always because of the color, but because of the use. A kilted Scot puts it into the top of his stocking... I remember an episode of "Doctor Who" where Jamie McCrimmon was held from behind in a choke hold. He reached down into his stocking, pulled out the sgian dubh, and knifed his attacker in the knee.

So anyway, this comes from the Ministry of Dreadful Analogies. Putting the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, onto a flash drive, SD card, memory stick or whatever. What would you call a very small sword? A dagger. Daggers can be hidden for later use. Our electronic daggers can be stashed carefully to be retrieved later by us or by someone the Lord directs to it after the Rapture.

In a more practical sense, not only can these Bibles get smuggled easier (especially on an SD card or memory stick), but having theWord on a flash drive could be a very interesting gift or evangelism tool. Depending on your intentions, you may want to spend more money on a durable flash drive. But always look for reviews before you spend a great deal of money.

Consider putting a foreign language Bible on the flash drive if invading soldiers find it. I selected Chinese.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Giving Good Service Part 2

"For at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light(for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord."
Ephesians 5.8-10 ESV

This article is a sequel of sorts to "Giving Good Service", but this one is not about our employment. In that article, I discussed how followers of Jesus should be bringing him honor by remembering that he is the one we are ultimately working for and not just Mr. Greedyfingers that signs our paychecks. So, we should do our best in our jobs to bring glory to God.

One additional note that may have belonged in that original article is that some Christians wear it on their sleeves, so to speak. They get showy and announce, "Hey, you're going to be glad you hired me, I'm a Christian!", and then they proceed to do lousy work. In some cases, the employer begins to wonder if it is a bad idea to hire Christians! If we consistently gave good work, then it would be true, the employer could very well become glad to hire Christians. Unfortunately, it is not the case.

It is not just in employment that believers are lacking. So often, Christian products and services leave a great deal to be desired. Recently, I gave a CD of Christian music to a friend. She was hesitant, because she had heard Christian music before, and the quality was absent. Well, that was true in many cases of early "Contemporary Christian Music", which had good intentions and enthusiasm but not very many skilled producers and engineers; secular experts were often needed. Today, yes, there is definitely quality in the field.

When I read reviews of Christian movies, many of them are panned because the acting, the writing and the production values are lackluster at best. (However, some of the critics are atheists who want to bring down the total scores by giving one-star reviews, so watch out for the extremes, which are suspect.) Some of the criticisms are justified, others are from people who have preconceptions of what comprises a "good" movie. I can tell you of several that I have seen that seemed to be a good ideas at the time, but had poor execution.

The first two examples, music and movies, involve having the money to make a good product in the first place. Sometimes, you just have to do the best with what you have, including a low budget. Some movies are genuinely good, despite bad reviews. Other times, you want to ask, "Did you seek God's will before you made that dreadful product?"

I listen to radio shows that are podcast. Some of them are very badly done. I know that they exist to spread their message and not dazzle me with entertainment, but how about a bit of basic radio engineering skill? One microphone is too hot and distorted, the other is too low. Things like that.

Christians are sloppy in business practices, especially in dealing with the public. There are major ministries that I have corresponded with, and they failed miserably. One had a discussion board, and the "unsubscribe" button did not work. Someone promised to fix it for me, but instead, I had to block it from my e-mail account! Another one replied to my e-mail, said they would forward my question to someone else — and I never heard about it again. But I did get an appeal for money. In other instances, I have asked questions or given information, but received no reply. What would have happened with someone who was not a well-grounded believer, or a seeker? That opportunity may have been lost because of carelessness, and the person may have felt pushed away.

What about "us regular people"? We should be giving excellence in all areas. I have received too much garbage from well-meaning religious people in my e-mail that is nothing more than making wishes on fairies, angels and "saints" (I put that in quotes because all Christians are saints according to the Bible). Also, I have had some gullible things sent to me, such as the "atheist professor drops chalk that does not break" tale and so on. (Readers of my other Weblog know how I feel about forwarded e-mail that contains sentiment and sensationalistic rubbish.)

In crusades against the evils of rock music, I have heard some rather startling things: Ozzy Osbourne insisted that people stomp puppies to death (but not real ones), he bit the head off a dove (no, it was a bat, and he thought it was one of his rubber props), Black Sabbath did Satanic altar calls &c. Listen, if you want to talk about the evils of rock music, get the facts and not the rumors or urban legends. There is plenty of documented evidence from the raunchy lifestyles of the performers. More importantly, simply use the lyrics. While you're at it, add to your anti-rock lecture something about the alcoholic promiscuity of country music lyrics. But those have cleaned up and become substantially better in recent years, I must admit.

One problem I see with the enthusiasm for spreading the sensational in an effort to shock people into getting right with God is that many Christians seem credulous. We should take a cue from the "skeptics": Pause and say, "Substantiate this assertion" instead of spreading rumors.

By the way, this may seem out of place, but it has to be said: Christians can be downright cheap. For people who claim to love the Lord, we sure to like to hang onto our money (Matt. 6.24). Waiters and waitresses complain that they do not like to wait on church groups because they work very hard but get very little by way of a tip. We're driving people away by our selfishness (Luke 6.9)! I waited on tables for a while, and I believe that I only received one tract. And that was in lieu of a tip, if I recall correctly.

I could go on with examples, but I want to say that we need to use discernment. Pay attention, check your facts, don't run off at the mouth with something "big" unless you can back it up. Avoid stinginess, and trust God to meet your needs so you do not tightly cling to your money. Do your work wholeheartedly. Some people believe in "lifestyle evangelism", where people will see how different we are and come up to us and ask, "What must I do to be saved?" It does not happen to me much, I hate to admit. OK, it does not happen to me at all. I know full well that the things I am writing to you are written to me as well.

Remember 2 Peter 3.15? I like the NET Bible's wording: "But set Christ apart as Lord in your hearts and always be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks about the hope you possess." While I think this verse is a foundational verse for apologists (remember, "give an answer" is based on apologia, apologetic, a reasoned defense), this part had to be pointed out to me: " anyone who asks about the hope you possess." Here is your lifestyle evangelism, Horatio! Be a sensible, discerning, generous, knowledgeable Christian. Be strong in the Word and prayer and full of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5.22-23 NASB), then maybe people will come up to you and ask what is different about you.

But since Jesus said to go (Matt. 28.18-20 NASB), we need to be presenting more than we need to be waiting.