Thursday, December 27, 2007


Eschatology is the study of last things. It is a very important subject, which people rarely study.

I am only going to consider two rival eschatolgies, Christian and materialist/atheist. I'm not going to differentiate between rival Christian theories.

The materialist asserts that nothing exists except what we can observe in the material universe (or that anything outside the universe does not matter). That means the end of humankind is bounded by the end of the universe (probably well before half of all protons degenerate, 10e36 years - most of the stars in our neighborhood will have run down in 1e10 years...). There is no hope here. That's kind of depressing (at least it was to me).

Christians believe that Jesus will come again (because He said He would). At that time, He will restore life to the universe. That is where our hope comes from.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Book Review

"In the Shadow of the Ark" (Anne Provoost) - This is a fictional retelling of the Genesis Flood, from the point of view of a girl outside Noah's family.

I found the theology to be very muddled (not that it claims to be theologically sound), I couldn't tell if it was describing a local or global Flood, or whether God was supposed to be real or not:
  1. It wasn't clear, but it seemed as if all species were preserved on the Ark (Flood scholars hold that only "kinds" [precursors of modern species] were preserved).
  2. It wasn't clear at all if the Flood covered the whole world. But it had "pre-flooding" which was driving people out of their homes.
  3. It makes some bold statements about the morality of Noah and his sons (not that I believe they were perfect, but to make statements this bold, there should be some message).
    1. Noah has some sort of disease, the symptoms resemble a common STD.
    2. Ham has sexual relations with the main character, before he marries another.
    3. Shem and Japheth rape the main character.
    4. One of the sons' wives is an idolater.
    5. Many of the animals on the Ark are killed (for sacrifices to the idols, and in a fire that breaks out).
  4. Noah commissions a large group of people to build the Ark. When the Flood comes, the people are kept off the Ark (with deadly force when necessary). The numbers I've seen show that the Ark would of had plenty of room for people. Noah had 120 years to build the Ark. He likely finished it alone (with the help of his sons, although he may of help early on). People ignored Noah's warnings (Matthew 24:37).
  5. The rain lasts 40 days and 40 nights (one point for the author!). However, the main character is pregnant (by Ham) at the start of the Flood. She gives birth after the landing at Ararat. It may be artistic license. The author does say that there was not enough food on the Ark.
  6. Minor points:
    1. There was rain before the Flood (most Flood scholars interpret Genesis 2:5 to mean that there was no rain at all before the Flood [and no rainbows]).
    2. There were mountains before the Flood (most Flood scholars hold to relatively even terrain before the Flood, to account for enough water to flood the whole earth).
    3. Noah is circumcised, and circumcises the new baby after the Flood (circumcision wasn't given until Abraham).
This does segue nicely into Biblical timelines. If you run the numbers, no patriarch (except Noah, of course) lives from before the Flood until after the Flood. In fact, (by my calculations) the Flood was in 1656 AA (after Adam). Methuselah (oldest person ever) died in 1656 (possibly in the Flood)!

Noah was born in 1056. His father (Lamech) was born in 874. Adam died in 930. Think about that. Adam, who spoke with God, lived for the first sixty years of Noah's father's life. Does first- hand knowledge of God seem so shrouded in mist now?

Finally, Enoch was "taken" into Heaven at the early age of about 300 (most of the partriachs were living 800 years or more). Enoch was one generation before Methusaleh (about 60 years). If he had not been taken, he likely could of lived until the Flood (and died in it). Enoch was (very possibly) the first person saved from the Flood.

Absolute final point, vocabulary. The Ark was sealed (made waterproof) with "pitch" (tar). The Hebrew word translated "pitch" is "kopher". Kopher properly means "covering" (in that tar is used as a covering). The verb "to pitch" is "kaphar", which can also mean "to cover" or "atonement".

Noah and his family were saved by "atonement"! Just as we are! The atonement (covering) of our sins by the righteousness of Jesus Christ!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007


The previous two posts were to emphasize a point, that Jesus is fully God and fully man. At Christmas we celebrate the time when God became a man (stop for a second and consider that! Wow!). Interestingly, it is commonly agreed that Jesus could not of been born in December (the shepherds would not of been in the fields). I have seen compelling evidence for a September date, that would put conception sometime in December...

Sometimes people ask, "Isn't 100% God and 100% man equal to 200%?"

So time for some more code. This using some advanced C++ stuff, so I'll probably need to explain it.

I love the Trinity. It is so basic to proper Christian doctrine. Yet, it is nearly impossible to wrap your brain around. Should we be able to understand an infinite God? At any level?

So God has attributes or properties. In C++, that is a "class":

class God
//God(void); // no constructor, God simply "is"

bool isLove_; // God is love
bool isJust_;

In C++, we say that one thing is a specialized version of some more general thing using "inheritance" (class Specific : public General, for example class Rectangle : public Shape). So:

class Father : public God // the Father is God

class HolySpirit : public God // the Holy Spirit is God

class Jesus : public God, public Man // Jesus is both fully God and fully Man
// Java lacks multiple inheritance, evidence that it is the language of the devil! :)

So far so good. Now how do we resolve conflicts between being God and being a man? For example:

God does not change (Malachi 3:6).
Men do change (and Jesus grew, Luke 1:80)

The programming term is "adapter". A class which resolves one group of calls into other calls.

For example, there is no function God::change().


God is omniscient, but men are not.

return God::isOmniscient();


Saturday, December 22, 2007

Know Your Heresies: Gnosticism

Gnosticism can be hard to pin down to a specific set of beliefs. It tends to be "syncretic" (merging the beliefs of multiple groups). It also is highly dualistic, expressing a sort of battle between the material and immaterial.

The "Gospel" of Judas is believed to be a Gnostic work. It is certainly typical of the beliefs ascribed to Gnosticism. That is, the material world is evil, and the immaterial (or spirit) is good. There is also (usually) an emphasis on the obtaining of knowledge as necessary for salvation (especially secret knowledge). The roots of many modern cults and "new age" fads are in Gnosticism.

The root ideas of Gnosticism were around during the writing of the Bible (and remain today). In 1 John 4:3b, John says "And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God". This is because some would say that Jesus, being God and good, cannot be flesh (which they assume is evil).

Jesus is 100% God, 100% man.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Know Your Heretics: Arius

Arianism in general refers to any teaching that denies that Jesus is (fully, 100%) God.

Arius grappled with the notion of the trinity, a notably difficult doctrine (as is any doctrine dealing with the nature of an infinite God, difficult for our finite minds :).

His false teachings led to the Council of Nicaea (and Nicene Creed, which actually came from the Council of Constantinople). The Nicene Creed remains today the fundamental point of agreement for orthodox Christians.

The notion that Jesus is not God creates several theological problems:
  1. Messianic prophecies attribute to the Messiah God-like properties (Isaiah 9:6)
  2. If Jesus is only a man, how is it He is without sin? (Romans 3:23)
  3. If Jesus is not God, but somehow a truly "good" man; how does His death demonstrate God's love?
  4. Why does Jesus refer to Himself as eternal, and "I AM" (God's name)? (John 8:58)
  5. Why does Jesus take the authority of God to Himself (forgiveness of sins)? (Matthew 9:2, etc.)
There are many attempts to answer these questions, but none that are fully satisfying. I will touch on a few.

"Jesus was specially created" - If Jesus was specially created without sin (but not as God incarnate), why aren't we all?

"Jesus wasn't meant to die like that, it was just a misunderstanding" - This is a really poisonous idea to hold. I know, I used to believe it! (Thanks "Slaughterhouse Five", not!)

"Jesus referred to Himself as God, because we can all be God" - This is really scary. Mostly because it is so prevalent...

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Bad Theology

Growing up, I went to Catholic CCD class most every week. When I went to Catholic school (for six years), I had a religion class every day. But it didn't "take". It just didn't seem real. It didn't seem to make a difference in the lives of my parents or the people I knew. I didn't "get" the theology.

Perhaps the biggest influence on my theology growing up was the "The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever" (Stephen R. Donaldson).

Now, these are not books on theology. They are fantasy adventure books (not unlike "The Lord of the Rings"). The main character (Thomas Covenant) is an average man in our world (kind of a loner/loser, one of the last cases of leprosy in the modern world). But (once per book), he is transported to a fantasy world where he is a hero. He rallies the forces of good to fight an epic struggle against evil.

In one of the books, Thomas meets the "god" of the fantasy world (while in our world), a weak old man. Thomas asks why the fantasy world is so dominated by one particularly powerful evil guy (Lord Foul). The old man tells him that the fantasy world is a prison for Lord Foul. The old man defeated him earlier, and for him to interfere directly now would release Lord Foul to ravage other worlds (ours included).

For some reason this "stuck" with me. I figured our world was a prison for Satan, and God was unable to do much to help us. Not particularly good theology, kind of a recipe for disaster. But there it is.

Note: I had read "The Lord of the Rings" earlier. It wasn't obvious to me that Tolkien was a Christian. I didn't learn that until recently (when the movies came out). I find Tolkien to be a weaker story teller. His is credited with "world building" (creating a compelling fantasy system of peoples) more than writing compelling characterization and plot.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Book Review

"Understanding the Dead Sea Scrolls" (Hershel Shanks ed.) - Whenever people start talking about "copy errors" in the Bible, I'm quick to mention the Isaiah scroll from the Dead Sea.

For those who aren't familiar with the story, before the Dead Sea scrolls were discovered (in 1947), the oldest copy of Isaiah was from about 800 CE (in other words, after the Catholic Church came to hold substantial political power).

Isaiah is a good book to use, because it contains so many (and so many popular) Messianic prophecies. Skeptics could assert that the Church had changed Isaiah to match the New Testament, and there was no hard proof otherwise.

Until a nearly intact scroll of Isaiah (twenty-two feet long!) was found in the Dead Sea caverns. This copy of Isaiah matched (with only small copy errors) our copy. And is dated to before 70 CE (destruction of the temple in Jerusalem). Nearly 800 years of copying with no (significant) errors!

Given how often I retell this story, I thought it would be interesting to learn more about the Dead Sea scrolls. This book is a collection of articles from the "Biblical Archaeology Review", and covers many aspects of the story; including a lot of the political intrigue of obtaining the scrolls, and infighting among scroll scholars.

For me, the most interesting part was a description of how a new science of scroll reconstruction has been created by the find. In one cave, there were thousands and thousands of tiny pieces of scrolls. A scientist (Hartmut Stegemann) proposed a method for aligning the pieces based on the repetition of (usually damage, but also scribe mark and stitch) patterns through the rolled layers of the scroll. There is a picture of the aligned pieces, with notes showing the water damage or chew marks. It is really quite remarkable!

Perhaps the saddest part has been the pride of the scholars trusted with publishing the scroll information. Forty years had passed (the book is from 1992), and many scrolls were still unpublished. There has been a lot of academic machinations (tenure, attracting students, publishing glory) driving these delays. There is an interesting story about how an early computer was used to convert a (grudgingly) published concordance into a full reconstruction of an unpublished text! Oh, the outrage! :)

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Global Warmingism

Or maybe "Global Climate Changeology" (rhymes with scientology).

I was watching the poster apocalyptic movie for Global Warming recently (not the Al Gore movie, the "Three Weeks before a Month from Now, Minus Five Days" one). I couldn't help but think of Al Gore's Nobel peace prize, and all the clamor over "carbon credits".

I suddenly realized, that the environmental movement of the 60's and 70's was more like modern evangelicalism. You know "sex, drugs, and rock n' roll", freedom, individuality (me-centered) and all that.

But what is modern environmentalism?

It's a lot closer to medieval Catholicism.

You see, the coming global disaster is Purgatory. And carbon credits are indulgences. And Al Gore is the pope of Global Warmingism.

Don't believe me?

Here is a quote from a speech by Tetzel, the villain of Papal Indulgences:
"Don't you hear the voices of your wailing dead parents and others who say, 'Have mercy upon me, have mercy upon me, because we are in severe punishment and pain. From this you could redeem us with a small alms and yet you do not want to do so.' Open your ears as the father says to the son and the mother to the daughter . . ., 'We have created you, fed you, cared for you, and left you our temporal goods. Why then are you so cruel and harsh that you do not want to save us, though it only takes a little? You let us lie in flames so that we only slowly come to the promised glory.'"

Just sed out "dead parents" for "children to come". And "punishment" for rising sea levels, killer hurricanes, drought, flood, famine, etc.

This is an even better marketing scheme! You can remember your parents, and they might not of been likable. But who doesn't want to "think of the children"?

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Book Review

"The Bondage of the Will" (Martin Luther) - You know about Calvin and Arminius. You might remember Augustine and Pelagius. But do you know about Luther and Erasmus? Apparently, Luther was a Calvinist! At least when it comes to double predestination. This book is a (somewhat gruelling) presentation of Luther's argument against the notion of "free will" and in favor of God's sovereignty. Luther tends to repeat himself at length, and is rather sarcastic. But it is a good treatment of the topic. Reading it will either turn you off Calvinism altogether (I felt it, and I am a Calvinist!) or make you pretty solid.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Mitt Romney's Speech

So Mitt Romney has given his speech on his religion. There has been a fair amount of commentary about the content. And even some criticism that such a speech should be necessary.

Are people small-minded and bigoted for thinking twice about supporting a Mormon for president?

Well, I'm certain some small-minded and bigoted people are against Romney. But that is not the same thing...

It's not about Mormon theology. I think a lot of people would be more comfortable if Romney would just come out and say that he believes Mormon theology (and everything it implies) or that he is a "cultural" Mormon. He says "I believe in my Mormon faith", but other things he says are not consistent with that...

It's statements like, "My church's beliefs about Christ may not all be the same as those of other faiths" that makes people worry.

Mormons do not have different beliefs about Christ. They have a different God the Father (and therefore, Christ) altogether. They believe that orthodox (small 'o') Christians are false, and they are the only true Church. They believe that we can be like God, and that God the Father was like us once.

It's these odd statements that try and ignore fundamental, logical differences that makes people uncomfortable.

Update: Mike Huckabee felt he needed to apologize to Romney for saying, "
Don't Mormons believe that Jesus and the devil are brothers?" That is a true statement. Of course, Mormons don't like to say it that way. They say, "all beings were created by God and are his spirit children." If we're all the children of God (including Jesus and Satan), then we are all brothers - including Jesus and Satan. You can wrap it with terms like "Christ, however, was the only begotten in the flesh" (which is Mormon-speak for God the Father having sexual relations with Mary...) but there it is...

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Embyonic Stem Cells

Recently scientists found a way of using adult stem cells for research normally using embryonic stem cells. I mentioned how the scientists destroying human embryos are unfazed by this development ("we are not going to slow down to do that, not at this point").

Rallying cries have started to come out in favor of the destruction of human embryos.

What are the stunning, logical arguments made?
"It's important to remember, though, that we're at square one, uncertain at this early stage whether souped-up skin cells hold the same promise as their embryonic cousins do."
Remind me, again, where we are in the application of embryonic to treating human diseases? Oh yea, there are no treatments of any kind, at any stage. Some scientists have managed to form some heart cells which resemble adult heart cells. Others have used human cells to repair damaged mice skulls.

What noble causes! How our lives are being improved and science advanced!

What other arguments can be made?
"At a time when nearly 60 percent of Americans support human embryonic stem cell research, U.S. stem cell policy runs counter to both scientific and public opinion."
Well! Popular opinion must surely make it right! Well said!

Surely you can say something logical about such a vital line of research!
"Discomfort with the notion of extracting stem cells from embryos is understandable. But many of the life-changing medical advances of recent history, including heart transplantation, have provoked discomfort. Struggling with bioethical questions remains a critical step in any scientific advancement."
Discomfort? I am not uncomfortable. I am outraged that people believe murdering other people for their own good is acceptable. I am outraged that people would accept the murder of the smallest, least able to defend themselves, least spoken for members of our species.

That people would harden their hearts, and deny science and logic, not even for a real cure - for a "promise" of a cure.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

What is Love?

Baby don't hurt me, don't hurt me, no more... duh, duh, duh, deh, dih, duh

Sadly, English is a terrible language. We have one word for "love". Whether it is you love ice cream (mmm, ice cream), lolcats, God, your neighbor, or your wife. We even say "make love" and say its "lovely" (pretty).

Fortunately, the ancient Greeks had three words for "love" - eros, phileo, and agape.

"Eros" is the sexual attraction kind of love. I can't find it in my concordance (It's not used in the Bible). This is a message to all the Christian singers with the songs about how "Jesus is my boyfriend". It's not that type of love. The old time hymn writers had a much better understanding of this, and we play fast and loose with it today...

"Phileo" is the type of love we are most familiar with. It is the sort of feeling for friends and people you like. It is a feeling of good will and "wanting the best". Happiness and warmth from thinking about them and being with them. It is not the kind of love God has for us. (God does not have our picture on His refrigerator).

"Agape" is God's love for us. It is a concept almost entirely foreign to us. It is a love of choice. To choose to love when the object of love does not (necessarily) deserve it. To give sacrificially ("give until it hurts") to the one loved.

How does God show us this love?

The greatest example of God's love is the life and death of Jesus. Without the life and death of Jesus, no one could be saved. It is through Jesus that we come to know the Father.

God also shows love to the unsaved (Matthew 5:45). Instead of striking them dead instantly, He allows them to live. He even allows them to thrive and prosper. This in no way indicates His pleasure with their behavior! It is an expression of His love for those who are not deserving.

What lesson can we learn from God's love?

Some people are in the difficult position where someone they love (be it phileo or agape) is hurtful. I've found the book "Love Must Be Tough" (James Dobson) to be very helpful in this matter.

The Biblical stance must be to leave that situation.

Maybe the person will see the error of their way, maybe not.

But their is a theology lesson here as well. Some day, God will "leave the situation" for every unsaved person.

Friday, November 30, 2007


Is there evidence for God and supporting Christianity? A lot of people say there is no evidence, and that you must have "blind faith". Oddly, people both for and against Christianity often say this...

First we must keep in mind the difference between scientific evidence and historical evidence.

Scientific evidence is subject to logic, and is repeatable. It forms the basis of the "hypothesize and test" methodology.

Historical evidence is something from the past. It may be nanoseconds or centuries, but by the time you know about it, it's past. As such, it is subject to witness. Until modern times, that witness was largely human. And the most durable witness was the written word (verbal tradition being subject to drift). Human witness is flavored by the individual. Written documents are fragile, and must be copied from the depths of time to be available to us today.

First let us brainstorm some possible sources of evidence for God and Christianity:
  1. The Bible
  2. Miracles
  3. Creation
  4. Changed lives
  5. Religious experiences
These are some quick and easy topics. There may be more...

In my opinion, number 1 is the most convincing evidence. I read a lot. Mostly science fiction. Science fiction covers a wide array of settings (one of the reasons I like it). You'll find mysteries, romance, and adventure stories. Really good sci-fi will create a subtle and intriguing universe by presupposing one or more changes in society (usually technological). It is then up to the author to apply these changes in a consistent manner. The best books will be fairly successful in this attempt. The best of the best will write several books.

What does this have to do with the Bible?

The Bible also presupposes a change from most people's point of view. The idea that there is a God who created everything, and who has interest in what we do (as opposed to a deist notion of God). The Bible contains history of God's interaction with people, and people succeeding and failing in obeying God. The New Testament is a particularly powerful set of stories detailing the life of the God/man - Jesus Christ. And letters circulated in the early church.

Then consider that the Old Testament was written over the period of hundreds of years, and the New Testament over several decades. The total number of authors is in the dozens. Different cultures and languages. Yet one coherent story.

No single book can compare with the Bible (in terms of units sold, interest, secondary material generated, etc.). The closest thing would be to compare a series of books, ideally a series with multiple authors (since the Bible has many authors). Most series just aren't that good. Tolkien's famous Lord of the Rings trilogy is honored for making fantasy popular. It reads like a linguist creating characters and a plot for people to speak his invented language. Rowling's Harry Potter series has managed to come close to rivaling sales of the Bible. We'll see how popular it is in a generation or two...

Those series have a single author. The only series I am familiar with that have multiple authors are the Star Wars and Star Trek franchises (not counting the romance lines). These series are pretty bad. Fans tolerate them because they are hungry for material. The Star Wars books are particularly bad (except for Zahn), because Lucas cares so little about canon. I remember a particular ordeal where a series of comic books made huge impact on the canon. Zahn then had to try and reconcile some of this silliness into his own books. I'll only mention the Star Trek television programs.

These are teams of people working together to create coherent content in a short period of time. When multiple authors are involved, there is at least some communication; and often a "lead architect" or content gatekeeper.

Yet these people can't create a coherent story.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Lost Scripture

John 7:38: "He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water."

What is the scripture passage Jesus is referring to? The exact phrase cannot be found in the Hebrew books we have, nor the Greek Septuagint.

So what happened?
  1. Jesus was summarizing several scriptural ideas
  2. That particular phrase has been lost or mis-copied to not match exactly
Usually, "scripture says" passages will match exactly, so that gives more weight to number two. A miscopy does not invalidate inerrancy. We must look at the impact of this idea, and compare it with the rest of scripture. In short, is this idea consistent with the rest of scripture?

The scriptural support for Jesus' quote is somewhat overwhelming. The references from Matthew Henry alone are: Isaiah 12:3, Exodus 17:6, John 4:14, Jeremiah 2:13, Proverbs 4:23, 1 John 5:10, Proverbs 10:11, Proverbs 5:15-16, Proverbs 1:23, Joel 2:28, Isaiah 44:3, Zechariah 12:10, Isaiah 58:11, (Song of Solomon 4:15 compare John 4:15), Ezekiel 47:1, Zechariah 14:8.

Let's look at a couple. Isaiah 12:3 "Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation." That's pretty close, but the edit distance is probably too far for a mis-copy. Another close one is Ezekiel 47:1b "behold, waters issued out from under the threshold of the house eastward". This is in a description of the new temple. Clearly a reference to how all Christians are now temples of God.

There is also Exodus 17:6b "thou shalt smite the rock, and there shall come water out of it, that the people may drink." The rock in this case is a shadow for Jesus Christ. The interesting thing here is that Jesus is telling us the river will be inside of us, shedding light on the coming of the Holy Spirit. (Compare Numbers 20:8, where we are told to "speak to the rock")

Given this brief overview, it would appear that Jesus was exegeting scripture for us. This is not entirely unheard of. There are cases where Jesus expanded on the meaning of scripture over what was commonly held at the time (passages on divorce, the resurrection, etc.).

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Life Again

Recently researchers announced a major breakthrough in the embryonic stem cell research (ESCR) ethical debate. They found a way to make skin cells behave like these ESC. No longer will these tiny embryos need to be destroyed to enable this research.

What is the reply from ESC researchers?
"we are not going to slow down to do that, not at this point"
(Good thing we have progress, wouldn't want morality to interefere!) Let's apply sed to this ethical dilemma. What is ESCR? It is dissecting a living person to make use of the constituent parts. When we do that to grown people, it's called "vivisection". That would never happen, you say? The Nazis and Japanese did just that to "undesirable" people during World War II.

How do our brave, new researchers justify themselves?
"But these embryos were destined to be destroyed"
Well, in the long term, we're all destined to be destroyed. But, let's step back from that and look at death row inmates. They're destined to be destroyed on a determined schedule. So we have our sed pattern:
sed 's/embryo/inmate/g'
sed 's/ESCR/vivisection/g'
What is the logical, scientific difference between vivisection of inmates and ESCR? Inmates are more developed, but do our rights come from our level of development? The real medicinal uses for vivisection are greater than any shown for ESCR (which has only "potential" uses, all successful "stem cell" treatments use adult stem cells - which includes cord blood/placental sources). Data from World War II atrocities was finally accepted, due to its unusual value. And organs harvested from inmates could save many lives. Embryos don't feel pain, you say? We can anesthetize the inmate, it will be just like going to sleep.

What about morality? Inmates are grown people who know about right and wrong, and who have done wrong. Embryos are unable to tell these things, and haven't done anything to anyone. This fact is used against them to justify their destruction! We destroy the innocent because they are innocent, should we protect the guilty? Make the irony complete?

But I doubt anything will come of this. CNN says that 34% of Floridian Republicans support abortion. No wonder Democrats don't care about pro-life voters. Republicans can't even be made to care. And this is killing people who have developed for several weeks. How much hope can the five day old (after conception) have? (Although there are people pushing for the right to kill newborns...)

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Giving Thanks

Looking at my life, you might think I don't have a lot to give thanks for. But giving thanks isn't something for once a year, it's something for every day.

I'm thankful for:
  • oxygen
  • warmth
  • a roof over my head
  • water
  • food
  • a job
  • friends
  • a good church where God's Word is boldly proclaimed and taught
And most of all, I'm thankful that God gave His Son so that I could be reconciled to Him.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Pat Robertson is not my pope

Pat Robertson has endorsed Rudy Giuliani (his name is so hard to remember how to spell). Fortunately, I don't have to listen to Pat Robertson. He says stupid stuff all the time.

In related news, Roland Martin has a cynical, but appropriate commentary. He says:
"For years I have maintained that the focus of evangelicals was never really principles of the faith but the Republican Party."
This is sad, but all too true. The evangelicals responsible (Pat, I'm looking at you), need to repent of this and change their minds to be more consistent with the Bible.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

More on Life and Personhood

We're hammering a handful of topics here:

Albert Mohler has some telling existence proofs against the notion of removing "personhood" from people.

The first story is recounted in a newspaper article. Imagine facing someone you declared not a person...

This topic was actually covered in Star Trek V (I know, an odd numbered one, but probably the best odd numbered one... not that that is saying much). Bones pulled the plug on his father, when the cure was discovered the next week. He never got over the guilt, and an evil Vulcan terrorist used that guilt to take over the Enterprise to go visit the god at the center of the galaxy! Stop the madness!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Catholic and Protestant Dialogue

The Ignatius Insight blog has had a lot of good stuff lately. Most recently it is an interview with Mark Brumley on differences between Catholicism and Protestantism. It points out that there are real differences in the theories of justification, but that is not the biggest barrier. The biggest differences are the Papacy, Mary, and efficacy of the Sacraments.

Of course, these sorts of differences are fairly minor - on the order of differences between Protestant denominations. For example, Presbyterians and Baptists disagree about infant baptism. Similarly, there are arguments about "real presence" in the Eucharist.

It reminds me that it is not our theology which saves us. We must have enough theology to have the right Jesus (without the right Jesus, you do not have the Father). But we must agree on the major and overlook the minor.

Monday, November 5, 2007

More Abortion

A lot happening in the blogosphere lately concerning abortion:
  • On October 29, Joe Carter at EO (point 5) takes note of the 50 millionth abortion in the US happened this year. I previously ran some of the numbers.
  • Point 19 (from the same post), has some interesting speculation on what an abortion museum might look like. One might hope our ancestors will be so enlightened. The pessimist/cynic ("I prefer the term, artificial person" - err, I mean realist) in me says we might not for some time. If we get a Democratic president in '08, it could be another twenty years before the Supreme Court could swing back around. And what would it take to get a definition of life amendment to the Constitution? And why are there no anti-death Democratic presidential candidates?
  • Point 31 - Begins the talk on the science of abortion.
  • Lot of points for Joe!
  • Then on Nov 4, some dude named Garry Wills mumbled about how abortion is not a theological issue. Wills thinks it is rational question. He's wrong, read Exodus 21:22-23. But I like the rational approach, so I will address that.
  • On Nov 5, Albert Mohler and Carl Olson jumped on Wills. But they didn't address the science of the matter.
Am I the only one surprised that pro-death people, characterized by their lofty rationalism, believe in miracles? And pro-life people, largely made of those "dim", "deluded" religious types want to follow the science?

What is the miracle proposed by the pro-choice crowd?


What do you do when the science says that an embryo is a human being? You can use the term, "clump of cells", but someone might ask, "Whose cells are those?" - certainly not the mother's or the father's. Others may cry, "Why not weep over lost hair or skin?" But your hair and skin are adult, differentiated cells. And they are not all of you, the "clump of cells" killed in an abortion are 100% of some new human being.

Simple solution, declare that rights follow from personhood. What is personhood? There's no scientific measure, so it's up to philosophers. And none of them can really agree, but the trend seems to be towards whatever gives enough flexibility for abortions to continue.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Ray Comfort is my Daddy

The apostle Paul often uses the term "son" for those whom he has brought to faith. To some extent, the person who brings you to saving faith is your spiritual parent (or maybe midwife is a better analogy).

That makes Ray Comfort (and Kirk Cameron) my spiritual father.

As I mentioned earlier, I grew up Catholic. Later, I spent about two years as a false convert (to Christianity - I "asked Jesus into my heart"). While studying the Way of the Master material, I discovered I had never properly heard the Good News.

Ray has a new blog! The man must never sleep! :)

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Book Review

"The Creationists" (Ronald Numbers) - I read a short creationism / evolutionism book back at the end of September. Looking into the notes, I found most of the references came from this book. The book is about two inches thick, so I started just reading parts of it to check the context of some quotes. I found it to be an easy read, and ended up reading the whole book.

Numbers (hmm, that sounds funny, I'll call him Ronald), tells the history of scientific creationism through profiles of people involved in the movement. Interestingly, little thought had been given to the physical evidence of Noah's flood before modern, uniformitarian geology rose up in the 1800's.

The story of scientific creationism is largely a tale of the failure of the church in the second half of the 1800's. Instead of standing behind the Word of God, and separating from wordly thinking, the church tried to be "relevant". Adopting Biblical interpretation to modern theories, they abandoned their foundation. A hundred years later, we see the total collapse of "mainline" Protestant denominations. Without a literal Biblical foundation, they became open to new interpretations with every swing of social thought. Now these churches are without meaning or any claim to truth. The congregation that remains are full of energy for everything except God, and many have abandoned these "churches". Old earth theology was not their only undoing, but it didn't help.

Of course, this is not Ronald's position. He gives his "testimony" on preface page 16: raised a fundamentalist Christian, learned science in college, and lost faith. Ronald manages to keep a fair tone throughout the book. He delivers some jabs, but to both sides (sometimes skeptical or mocking of creationist reasoning; often chiding evolutionist circular reasoning).

For much of the 1900's, creationism was defended by the work of one man - George McCready Price. Price's book, "The New Geology" (1923) and the derivative work "The Genesis Flood" (1961) by Henry Morris and John Whitcomb, were the primary books for most of that century. Price was influenced by Adventist theology, and Morris worked to clean up much of that. Price was skeptical of an ice age, whereas modern scientific creationists claim a single ice age is best explained by the Flood. Price attempted to use the Lewis Overthrust to challenge the assumption of the order of the geologic column. He claimed the order is random. Ronald claims the order is always reversed. A article claims the order is segmented (apparently random, but with a method). I will need to research this more. The Wikipedia article is just a stub...

Creationists attempted to form research organizations throughout the 1900's. All failed (often due to personality conflicts and arguments over theology), until the Creation Research Society of 1963. Until recently, most creationist scientists were biologists (because Christian colleges focused on medicine, and pre-med curriculum). It is only recently that creationist geologists (for example, Steven Austin Ph.D. 1979; and Kurt Wise who Ronald implies graduated in 1989 - pg 280) have started to appear. Hopefully the next fifty or hundred years will produce some impressive creationist research.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

God's Will vs. Free Will

How do we reconcile an all-knowing, all-good, all-powerful God with the evil in the world? How does our free will compete with God's omnipotence?

Some people like to refer to different types of God's will (using words like "decretive", "preceptive", and "permissive"; or "perfect", "providential", and "permissive"). I prefer to talk about "God's will" and "God's plan".

God's will is what God wants. God wants for us to be perfect, just as He is perfect. God also wants to glorify Himself, and that is going to happen. God's will may or may not come to pass (this includes "decretive" [decreed - what God says happens] and part of "preceptive" [precept, commanded]).

God's plan is what happens (The rest of "preceptive" and all of "permissive"). This includes good things (which are in God's will) and bad things (which God permits to happen).

God permits us our free will. Even when it contradicts His will. But God is in control. He can use bad events to bring people to Him. These bad things remind us that the world is fallen. That we need God.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

How Does Jesus' Death Save Us?

(Mmm, soteriology...)

I previously said:
"We are the defendants, and we are guilty.

There must be a price paid (more like our civil court than criminal). That price can only be paid by the blood of Jesus."
God hates sin (and sinners, you cannot easily separate the sin from the sinner). If you doubt this, read Leviticus 10. Sin can take many forms, but fundamentally it is disobeying God's commands.

God is just. Deuteronomy 32:4 is particularly beautiful: "[He is] the Rock, His work [is] perfect: for all His ways [are] judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right [is] he".

God cannot simply forgive people, without punishment. Would a human judge be considered just if he let guilty people go if they said "Sorry"? We call it a "slap on the wrist", and we are outraged (and rightly so).

We cannot pay the punishment ourselves. This is "works righteousness". If we can pay the punishment ourselves, then we can "earn" our salvation. In a sense, God would "owe" us salvation. You don't thank your boss for your paycheck (well, you might say "Thank you" when he hands you the check). It's yours. If he doesn't give it to you, he is a thief. And you don't have gratitude. You worked hard for that check. In some sense, you are equal (in that you deal equitably). He barters for your work, and you barter for pay. That is not how we relate to the creator of the universe.

So God paid the price Himself. He poured out His wrath on His own Son. Jesus' death reveals the magnitude of our crimes against God. It reveals God's love, that He would do that for us. So God is just. And He is love. Merciful. Gracious.

Consider 2 Corinthians 5:20c-21: "be ye reconciled to God. For He hath made Him {Jesus} [to be] sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him."

This is the great exchange. Our sins were assigned to Jesus, and He paid the price for those sins: beaten, and removed from the sight of God (Matthew 27:46). At the same time, Jesus' righteous life is assigned to us (we'll ignore imputed versus infused righteousness for now).

Friday, October 26, 2007

EO and the FRC

Haven't had an election post in a while (I talked about Hillary's faith back in June, and did an initial review of the Republicans in May).

I used to spend a lot of time over at the Evangelical Outpost (Joe Carter's faith blog). Now, not so much. Joe went in big time to the Fred Thompson campaign when it first started. But Fred seems to be fizzling. He failed to show at the "Values Voter" debate.

I went through several of the transcripts from the Family Research Council's "Washington Briefing".

I found Mike Huckabee's speech most compelling. I still like Ron Paul's angle (his avoidance of mumbling about the gold standard has helped).

Mitt Romney comes off a little phony and "too well prepared". He is still worlds better than Giuliani or McCain. I don't buy that his Mormonism could damage our Gospel message (hypocritical Christian candidates are far worse).

Since the FRC debate, Joe has gotten behind Mike Huckabee. I like Mike. I still haven't been able to decide on him versus Ron Paul.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Who is a Bishop?

(not "The Bishop" from Monty Python)
I had the pleasure of attending the ordaining of a new elder in my local church today. So, "Who is a bishop?"

The Bible uses three words for leaders of the local church. These words are presbyter (elder), episkopos (bishop or overseer), and deacon.

The word for deacon means an attendant or "one who waits upon another". This office can first be seen in Acts 6 (although the word deacon is not used). Deacons serve the needs of the church, with little authority.

Interestingly, the words presbyter and episkopos are used interchangeably. In Titus (a key description of the office), Paul starts by reminding Titus to appoint "elders in every city" (of Crete, Titus 1:5). In verse 6, Paul starts to describe the qualities of a candidate. As he continues into verse 7, he switches to the term "overseer" (bishop, episkopos). The words seem to refer to the different roles played by a person.

An "elder" (literally older) is not necessarily older in age, but "more mature in faith". The elders are often spoken of as a group or council, making decisions together for the local church.

A "bishop" (overseer) is literally "one who oversees". A bishop is a shepherd, looking out over the flock. The bishop is looking for threats (wolves), and also seeing to the needs of the local flock.

Besides Titus, there is another good bishop passage in 1 Timothy 3 ("A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife...").

Friday, October 19, 2007

The Tricks of Satan

My previous post talked some about who Satan is. And I commented some on an excellent "He Lives" post on Satan.

How does Satan do what he does? Fortunately, he has a remarkably small bag of tricks. Unfortunately, we don't seem to be evolving very good defenses against them.

Satan's main attack is to question God's Word (for us, the Bible). This may be an outright contradiction, but is often more subtle.

In Genesis 3, we are given a close up view of one of Satan's most effective tacts (it worked on Eve).

Now in Genesis 2:17, God had said מות ת מות. That is, eat the forbidden fruit and "dying, you will die".

Now in Genesis 3, the serpent is trying to trick Eve. And Eve is not fleeing from sin (James 4:7, 2 Timothy 2:22, 1 Timothy 6:11). Here we see that pride comes before sin. Eve is showing off before the crafty serpent. She expands on God's Word, and says, ת מתון. That is, do not eat of it or touch it "lest you die".

Now we see how crafty Satan is. Look at a package of rat poison. It will say something like tetra-hexa-mega-death-o-caine 1%, inert 99%. That is, about one percent poison, ninety-nine percent food. How much poison does it take to kill you? How many lies make you a liar? How much deviation from God's Word brings death?

Satan gives back an interesting mix of what God actually said, and what Eve said: מותת מתון. That is, "dying, you will not surely die".

And that day, Adam and Eve died. And some 900 years later, their bodies died. And Satan told a half-truth. Neither Enoch nor Elijah died, but were taken directly to Heaven (they "did not surely die").

Beware of half-truths, and just a little Scripture. Look to all of God's Word. Flee from sin.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Who Is a Priest?

Carl Olson's blog had an interesting article by Father Benedict Ashley. The question at hand is "Who is a priest?"

In the kingdom of Israel, priests were the sons of Aaron. They were assisted by the Levites (sons of Levi). The Israelites were blessed to have the physical presence of God in the tabernacle, and later in the temple (the Holy of Holies).

Sinners cannot be in the presence of God. Because of this, the high priest (eldest son of Aaron) was permitted access to the Holy of Holies only once per year (on Yom Kippur). During this time, the high priest would offer a sacrifice of atonement for his own sins, and the sins of the people.

This was a shadow (or type) for the true High Priest, Jesus Christ (see most of Hebrews, but particularly 2:17). Jesus (having no sins of His own) offers Himself, the perfect sacrifice, to God as the atonement for our sins (Hebrews 7:27, 9:7-12).

The other great symbol is the completion of work. The Israelite high priest remained standing, a sign of the need for continuing atonement. Jesus, however, after presenting His sacrifice, takes His seat at the right hand of God (Hebrews 10:11-12), signifying that His work is done.

Thus, there is no more need for ceremonial sacrifice. The bread and wine shared by Christians is not a sacrifice. It is a remembrance of what Jesus did for us.

All Christians are priests (Revelation 1:6,20:6; 1 Peter 2:5,9). We are called to follow Jesus, and make ourselves a sacrifice to God (Romans 12:1).

In Olson's article (by Fr. Ashley), Ashley covers similar topics, until the final paragraphs. There he says,
"while the community can testify to the suitability of the candidate for priesthood ..., they cannot make the final decision as to his ordination, ... Only the bishops who have the fullness of the sacrament have the authority from Christ through their predecessors the apostles to confer this sacrament. This conferring of the same apostolic authority that Jesus conferred on the Twelve must be by some public act that makes it clear to the flock who their shepherds are. Otherwise the flock will be scattered by 'savage wolves' (Acts 20:29)."
This logic is flawed. Acts makes it clear that wolves will appear from within the church ("shall grievous wolves enter in among you"), and will have "sheep's clothing" (the outfit of a shepherd or pastor, Matthew 7:15). History has shown that ordination by successors of the apostles is no protection from heresy and apostasy.

The Bible makes it clear how the faithful (sheep) are to discern a wolf from a shepherd. John 10:3 makes it clear that the sheep must know the voice of The Shepherd (Jesus, our pastors are just shadow shepherds).

How do we know God's voice? By studying His Word. By hearing it read and examined, and reading and meditating on it (for those who can read and have Bibles).

Experts in investigating counterfeiting will tell you, "you prepare yourselves to spot a phony by studying the genuine article." So too with the Bible.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Know Your Heretics: Donatus

Donatists (named for Donatus Magnus) believed that the authority of a person was correlated to the works of that person. In this particular case, a wave of persecution in 303 through 305 had led some Christians to deny the faith.

The Donatists were looking to see these people permanently removed from the church, and denied positions where they would be performing the sacraments.

Their theology held that the sacraments were not "effective" when performed by "illegitimate" people.

Although Donatism captured a large population of believers (particularly in Africa, see pg 177-178 in "The Rebirth of Orthodoxy"), it was (rightly) rejected by orthodox believers.

It is important to remember that it is God who is "effective" for everything in our lives. There is nothing special about the leader of your church, you, me, or any other person besides Jesus Christ. It is the Father who chooses us and draws us to Him. It is the Holy Spirit who baptizes us into the body of Christ (see all of 1 Corinthians 12). It is Christ who is the payment for our sin debt.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

On Baptism

Having just been baptized, I have been studying baptism as presented in the Bible. The root Greek word is "bapto", and the derived words are "baptizo", "baptisma", "baptismos", "baptistes".

"Bapto" means to wash fully, to immerse (as in water), or overwhelm. It can also imply "throughout" or "thoroughly". There are several baptisms described in the Bible.

John the Baptist preached baptism for the repentance of sins. This is apparently different than baptism in the name of Jesus (the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit) (see Acts 19:2-5, where people baptized by John needed to be baptized in the name of Jesus to receive the Holy Spirit). It appears to have been transitory, for Old Testament saints at the time of Jesus (the apostles, etc. up to and including Jesus).

There is a mention of "baptism for the dead" (1 Corinthians 15:29). This appears to refer to a pagan ceremony (it seems Paul is saying "they do it", rather than "we do it").

Jesus also refers to a cup and a baptism of suffering that He must endure. This is obviously a reference to the crucifixion.

There is also reference to being baptized into the body of Christ through the Holy Spirit. This is a reference to the moment of salvation. When we are sealed with the Holy Spirit.

So who should be baptized? and why? What does our soteriology say? Is baptism necessary for salvation?

Any soteriology must account for the thief on the cross (next to Jesus). This thief was certainly a criminal, and he may have started off mocking Jesus (Matthew 27:44 KJV uses "thieves", although my Greek skillz are non-existant...). But in the end, Jesus told him "To day shalt thou be with me in paradise". No works, no ceremonies, no Purgatory.

Baptism also does not guarantee salvation. Judas was almost certainly baptized, and he is almost certainly in Hell (Jesus said it would of been better had he not been born, Acts 1:25 says he went to "his own place"). Simon the Sorcerer was baptized, but received some serious rebuking (Acts 8:18-24). And today there are plenty of stories of baptized people becoming atheists.

The pattern in the Bible is (relatively) clear. Repent, believe, and be baptized.

I was baptized as an infant. (My local church is very loving and understanding, they would accept that baptism - if my conscience required it. But they teach that baptism should follow belief. And encourage anyone baptized as an infant to study the issue.)

But a baby cannot repent and believe. It took me some thirty years to reach that point. And so I was recently baptized.

Monday, October 15, 2007


Soteriology is the study of salvation. It is "salvation theory" or the doctrine of salvation. It can be a sore spot of division, but there are some clear Biblical teachings which everyone should be able to agree on.

The first question is "Why is salvation needed?" or "What are we saved from?". This is an important question. It defines what our problem is, and influences what we need to do to solve it.

First off, we are not saved from illness and poverty. There's an excellent quote they play on the Way of the Master radio: "Anyone who says, 'Get saved and live a better life' - has never read the New Testament." (Unfortunately, I cannot identify the speaker). The Bible is clear, get saved and receive tribulation and persecution (John 16:33, the parable of the sower, Acts 14:22, Romans 5:3, Mark 10:30).

We are saved from Hell. But why are we in danger of Hell? For the average person, this seems unreasonable. Ask any 10 people on the street, and probably at least half of the them will say they are good people who deserve Heaven, not Hell.

But the Bible makes it clear: "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). God is perfect, and so must we be perfect. How many murders make you a murderer? How many lies a liar?

"murderers, ... and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone" (Revelation 21:8)

Paul uses the analogy of a courtroom (how many laws do you have to break to end up in court? Is the judge impressed that you usually do not break laws? That you believe he is good? That you won't do it again?).

We are the defendants, and we are guilty.

There must be a price paid (more like our civil court than criminal). That price can only be paid by the blood of Jesus.

When we realize that we are sinners, in need of salvation, and that Jesus has paid our price in full, turn from our sins, and trust in God - we are saved. Our "criminal" record is applied to Jesus, and His perfect life is applied to us.

Another analogy used is that of a slave auction. As sinners, we are owned by sin. Jesus' blood "purchases" us. We receive the seal of the Holy Spirit as evidence of this "down payment" against an inheritance of eternal life with Him.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Book Review

"The Rebirth of Orthodoxy" (Thomas C. Oden) - I liked this book, but it was very slow to read. It doesn't read like a novel, and I think it could be reorganized. That said, it makes a lot of interesting statements and has a lot of insight.

Oden believes the "postmodern" movement is actually the death throes of "modernism". Oden classifies the modern age as 1789 to 1989 (Bastille to Berlin). Modern thought started with a great deal of optimism. It was believed rational thought and logic could eliminate all of mankind's problems. The whole history of modernism can be seen in science fiction (which barely existed before the twentieth century). Starting very optimistic, even utopian, then proceeding to more pessimistic and directionless forms. That is postmodernism. The idea that everyone can believe anything they want, and everyone is right. This idea is attractive to many, but is leading a lot of people to look for more.

Oden differentiates Orthodoxy (capital O, like the Eastern Orthodox Church) from orthodoxy (small o), which is what is being reborn. This is seen in churches returning to Biblical foundations, and increasing willingness for churches to take a stand on fundamental differences (for example the Pope reaffirming that the RCC is the only true church).

There is a fair amount here, that I will probably return to later.

Saturday, October 13, 2007


Today is my Baptism. A little googling will reveal I have been posting on Christian topics for three or four years now. And as my testimony says, I got saved just under two years ago. There's a long story to all that, and to why it's taken so long for me to get baptized. I'll probably get to it eventually, among other topics.

But today, I'd like to post some of my testimony:
"Growing up, I figured everything was right between me and God. I didn't steal, curse, smoke, or drink. I went to (a Catholic) church, and when I met my wife, I went to her church, were I was told I needed to get right with God, and I 'asked Jesus into my heart'.

I was told I was born again, but my life didn't change. It was while I was trying to live up to my supposed new life, that I finally came to understand I am not a good person in the eyes of God.

I realized that I was really blaspheming God when I called myself a Christian, but was no different than people in the world. That my evil thoughts and intentions made me just as guilty before God as people who carry out these thoughts. I didn't act out my sin, but it was very real inside me.

I struggled with God for some time. My pride kept me from really trusting Him. But, almost two years ago, I finally got down on my face and put my trust in God. I turned from my sin, and put on Jesus as my savior."

Friday, October 12, 2007

On Abortion

Interesting confluence of events. I was thinking about the upcoming presidential election, and about abortion in America. And wondering how the numbers compare with other countries around the world. Then I read an article on CNN. Where there are just under one million abortions in America (it had been about 1.2, and is now about 800k); there were an estimated 42 million abortions worldwide in 2003 (down from a trend of 46 million per year). I found statistics back to 1995 showing 46 million per year. Estimates range from 527 to 836 million (just 1995-2007 at 40 million per year is 480 million).

Then Joe Carter (from the Evangelical Outpost) had an interesting article concerning the Republicans and abortion.

I don't know what point I'm trying to make. But it does back a lot of info in one spot...

Sunday, October 7, 2007

The Motives of the Evolutionist (part 2)

The last post ended up being on the motives of some creationists and most of the ID crowd. Sonder spends surprisingly little time pondering the motives of evolutionists, but there are some juicy quotes (page 12-13):
"In fact, Darwin himself stated that his main goal in writing On the Origin of the Species was 'to overthrow the dogma of separate creations.'"
And the top of page 12:
"It would take a few generations before scientists could offer any proof for some aspects of Darwin's theories."
Darwin certainly accomplished his goal. The question is, did his goal affect his process? What happened to collecting data and fitting theories to it? This topic is actually covered some in the book The Creationists heavily cited by Sonder.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

The Motives of the Evolutionist

Continuing my review of the book "Evolutionism and Creationism":

Sonder spends a lot of print on the Intelligent Design movement (starting around page 78 through the top of page 95). I haven't followed the ID movement much, except from what shows up on the He Lives blog (David Heddle). From what I've seen there, it seems they haven't done a lot to benefit the spreading of the Gospel...

I agree with Heddle, that ID proponents should just come out and admit they are in favor of teaching creationism by God. It would be most honest. If the politics cannot be made to happen, so be it. The Gospel is more powerful than any evolution curriculum, and there are Christians able to reconcile evolutionary theory with an inerrant Bible (Heddle being an excellent example).

It is because of this, I am hesitant to join in with those who pin all the world's problems on evolution.

As I mentioned earlier, the problem is sin.

That said, evolution does serve to sear the conscience of atheists (who need to have this theory in order to reconcile facts from the world).

Sonder examines the motive of the creationist, through one Judge William Overton (pages 88-90), in the case McLean v. Arkansas Board of Education (1982):
"creationist organizations that supported the bill 'consider the introduction of creation science into the public schools part of their ministry'."
I feel the judge's stance on this subject is biased. I wish I could say it is clearly wrong. But there is some sense that some people feel teaching creation will spread Christianity. But that is simply not Biblical (and thus not true).

It is the parents' responsibility to teach the Law of God to children (Deuteronomy 32:46, among others). Do you want a teacher who is not a Christian (are we going to require all teachers be Christian?) to teach your children creation by God?

It is not creationism that spreads Christianity. It is "Law to the proud, grace to the humble." And most people today are proud. The Law of God is a mirror which reveals to us our true imperfect state before a perfect God.

Every lie we tell defames God as a liar. Every sexual thought and action defames God as an adulterer. Our devotion to ourselves as gods, and to imaginings of our mind as god attempts to remove God from His rightful throne.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Atheism Demands Evolution

Thinking about young earth and old earth, creationism and evolutionism.

Young Earth Old Earth
Evolution Nobody Atheists and Theists
Creation Theists Theists

Modern atheism demands evolution, and evolution demands an old earth. Most forms of ancient atheism relied on the notion of creation always existing. Physicists have tried pretty hard to make that work, but have (mostly) abandoned it, because there is just no way to make it work (please don't start me up on string theory).

Ben Sonder's book ("Evolutionism and Creationism") mentions on page 40:
"If he [George McCready Price - author of Outlines of Modern Christianity and Modern Science] could prove that [sic] modern assumptions about geology wrong, then evolutionary theory would collapse."

This sentence is flagged as "Ronald L. Numbers, The Creationists, New York 1992, page 76". [This book is in the central library near me, so I will check it out.]

Is this not true? Sonder does not offer his opinion. He mentions that mainstream scientists ignore the work of creationists (when not deriding it in public statements...). If the assumptions of uniformitarians are incorrect, if the world is not billions of years old, can evolution be possible?

Are there young earth evolutionists?

Sunday, September 30, 2007

The Problem is Sin

Theology is important. If you believe this world is all there is, then the logical thing is to party like there is no tomorrow (or just kill yourself). If you believe that your sins can only be forgiven by dying while killing unbelievers, you get [radical] Islam...

So what is the problem with the world?
  • Low self-confidence - people act out because they feel oppressed, and just need to feel good about themselves?
  • Economics/class warfare - conflict between the rich and poor; evils of consumerism?
  • Technology - chemicals in the water and air, global monitoring, black helicopters, tinfoil hats?
  • Government - evil dictators, too much Republican control, too little Democrat control, no Libertarians?
The problem is sin.

Pride being number one. All the little sins that make life seem better. I need this. I want that.

Creation screams at us that there is a Creator. Our consciences tell us good from bad. We fear death. We desire justice.

Our response can be:
  1. To sear our conscience. Just like a piece of meat. Burned and charred on the outside. Giving us a tough exterior which allows us to continue to live in sin. Unfortunately, there is usually a hollow space left inside which cannot be filled. Not with alcohol, drugs, or casual sex, or world domination.
  2. Look to the Law of God. Humble ourselves before our perfect Creator. Confess our sins, and turn from them. Turn to God, and trust in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ as payment for our sins. Past, present, and future.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Why I am a Christian Now...

even though I was raised Catholic. And Why I don't Identify Myself as a Catholic now.

iMonk (Michael Spencer) was upset about a post by Catholic apologist Carl Olson. Spencer is very clear about his position on the [Roman] Catholic Church (RCC):

"I’ll never convert to the RCC for any reason I can currently anticipate, and I’ll always consider believers in Jesus who are part of the RCC to be my brothers and sisters in Christ."

I think that sums up my own position pretty well. I think a lot of people get confused between "the church" a.k.a. the "bride of Christ", buildings, and organizations. Jesus established His church, and "the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (Matthew 16:18).

Did Jesus found an organization (He certainly didn't build any buildings)? Or does He gather a group people who belong to Him?

This is a common problem for people who think "our denomination is the only true church". Olson himself, in the comments says:
"If Jesus established a single Church—assuming that He has a monogamous relationship with His Bride (cf., Eph. 5), what was that Church?"

That church is the elect of God. Written in the Book of Life before the foundation of the earth. The wheat among the tares. Scattered around the world in many denominations and many buildings. Baptized by the Holy Spirit into His Body.

Olson's points are worth coming back to and reviewing in detail.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Book Review

"Evolutionism and Creationism" (Ben Sonder) - I picked this book as a quick read in the topic I have been looking into recently. It's just 100 pages, but it packs in a fair amount of stuff to talk about. It does a reasonable job of trying to be impartial. I believe the author favors evolutionism, but I can only be sure from a few quotes:

On theistic evolutionists (pg 25):
"Someone may not believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible, but can still believe in divine influence on the Earth's history."

The "literal interpretation of the Bible" is a common complaint. Except, fundamentalists don't interpret the Bible literally...

John 6:53 "Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you."

We do not literally eat the flesh of Jesus and drink His blood (in contradiction to Catholic dogma). There is a long, involved Biblical basis for that, which I will likely cover later.

Reading the Bible is like reading any other book. I didn't read this book and think, "Hmm, this is actually a metaphor for how Sonder is admitting to killing Jimmy Hoffa and burying the body in his back yard." I guess, from his point of view, I read his book literally. I interpreted it within the context of itself and the culture it was written in and targeted at. When I read science-fiction, I often find myself flipping back to the copyright page to check when it was written. Science-fiction has gone through many different phases and attitudes, and I am also interesting in tracking developments. I guess I read that literally too :)

Of course, old earthers (like the He Lives blog) insist that their interpretation is truest to a proper ("literal") interpretation of the Bible. So it is not a question of "relying" on the Bible or not, but which interpretation is correct.

The other quote is between pages 4 and 5:
"By 'creation', the minister meant the belief that life on Earth was created just as it appears today by God, in only six days and just a few thousand years ago, as recounted in the Book of Genesis in the Bible."

This gets said often enough that I don't know where it comes from. The world as it is today is different than the world as God created it. The main difference being the presence of sin, and the curse of the Fall. Also, the Flood has clearly had significant impact on the topology of the Earth, and some people believe there was another catastrophe around the time Peleg ("Peleg; for in his days was the earth divided" Genesis 10:25 - the name "Peleg" is similar to the Hebrew word for earthquake).

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Sacrfice in Iraq

Way of the Master radio for Monday mentions an article in USA Today ("In Iraq, coping after a hero dies saving you"). Powerful stuff.

Think about someone you love -- a spouse, child, parent, or friend. Would you die to save that person? What about people you hardly know? What about an enemy?

John 15:13 "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends".

But in our original, unsaved lives, we are the enemies of God. We oppose God and hate Him; loving ourselves or gods created in our minds.

Jesus laid down His life for His enemies.

Romans 5:10a "For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son".

What will our response be? Will we be caught up trying to be "good enough" to pay back what He did? Will we disregard His sacrifice by denying it ever happened or continuing on with life as usual?

Or will we die to sin. Turn our back on our old lives, and trust in God.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

More on Satan

The He Lives blog has a very timely review on the theology of Satan. As always, very well done.

It makes an excellent point about neither over- or under- estimating Satan. Satan is real, but not all powerful. Also, Satan is not in a "battle for souls". Hell is the punishment for sin (breaking God's laws), not part of any "deal with the devil" or "victory for Satan".

Which reminds me that I saw the new television show "Reaper". I found it pretty well done. There was good humor and some interesting plot. The premise is the main character's (a 21 year old) parents sold his soul to the devil (where did this meme come from? Faust?). Now the devil wants him to go around recapturing souls that have escaped from Hell. He has some super powers to help him out. I give it a big zero for Christian theology :) It also contains some course language (not counting the word Hell, which apparently earns my site a PG-13 rating :).

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Evolution and Creation

I've noticed lately more confrontation between creationists and evolutionists. Richard Dawkins has been rather rash in his declaiming of God and religion. And the folks at Answers in Genesis have been celebrating their new museum. There has been lots of heat in the blogosphere, and I found a whole blog dedicated to the debate (or discussion for you emerging guys :)

I learned evolution in my Catholic high school biology class. But since coming to know Christ, I have found my "faith" in evolution damaged. The primary reason being that the "debate" so far has been primarily rhetoric and argument from assumptions on both sides.

For example (for evolutionists): What is the most convincing evidence you have seen for evolution?

I haven't seen any evidence. I was told that evolution is true. And it was on a test. I memorized it for the test, and promptly started to assert it. This forms the core of the debate for most people. The remainder is mostly to march out a group of skulls and put them in a line, and say evolution! That's not evolution, that's quicksort().

In the interests of joining the discussion, I have read an article that is supposed to boost my "faith" in evolution. It address some common points:

Science is Falsifiability

Yeah, falsifiability is nice. But I'm an electrical engineer, I prefer predict and measure. Kirchhoff's Current Law and Kirchhoff's Voltage Law. Draw a circuit on paper, run the numbers, build it in the lab, measure it on the scope. That's science to me.

With just falsifiability, it's too easy to propose stuff that is always mutating and dodging the falsification. For example: based on current observations, hemoglobin (the red cells in blood) was assumed to break down after many thousand years (maybe as much as 100,000). Until a T-Rex was discovered with intact hemoglobin. Well, everyone knows T-Rex is 65 to 130 million years old, so now we assume hemoglobin can naturally survive that long. If you've got 65 millions years to wait around, we can verify this prediction...

Macro-Evolution is Lots of Micro-Evolution

This utilizes a concept known as induction. Induction says given a base case, show the progression from a set of size N to one of size N+1. Then you have then shown the idea for all N. For example, "All People Are Bald". The base case is this guy, Billy. He is bald. So given that any set of N people are all bald, show that N+1 people are all bald. Well, consider the case where N=10. The first 9 people are all bald. And the last 9 people are all bald. And the two sets overlap, so all 10 people are bald. Therefore, all people are bald!

Is induction an invalid way of proving things? No. But it does show you have to be careful in your reasoning. And you should be able to show some proof.
"Major evolutionary change requires too much time for direct observation on the scale of recorded human history."
That makes evolution not repeatable, and therefore not "hard" science. I want to see a fruit fly produce beetles or wasps or something not a fruit fly. Or even just have a single celled organism produce a multi-celled organism - or even a colonial organism (like a sponge). Or turn an amoeba (asexual reproducer) into a paramecium (single cell sexual reproducer). I'm also trying to find publications which references the results of Ernst Mayr's fruit fly mutation experiments.

Common Structures
"Why should a rat run, a bat fly, a porpoise swim, and I type this essay with structures built of the same bones unless we all inherited them from a common ancestor?"
An interesting question, but not evidence. This just shows that the Designer (if any) enjoys code reuse. You can argue for or against a Designer who reuses code, but then you are arguing the properties of a Designer you do not know and cannot understand.

Analogies Between Memetic Evolution and Biological Evolution
"When we recognize the etymology of September, October, November, and December (seventh, eighth, ninth, and tenth), we know that the year once started in March, or that two additional months must have been added to an original calendar of ten months."
The calendar (and any other abstract human concept - like government or culture) is a bad example for evolutionists. - because these things were designed (by people).

Well, that wasn't very satisfying. I will have to tackle another article later...

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Anglican/Episcopal church Problems

It seems the Anglican (England) and Episcopal (rest of the world) church is having some difficulties. Albert Mohler has an interesting update on current events.

There is a great quote, "American is now seen as a nation in need of Christian missionaries from Africa".

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Who is Satan?

One of my (in)famous statements as a cultural Christian was, "I'm not a big Satanist." But the Bible clearly teaches their is an angel named Satan.

The Hebrew word is "Satan" or "Shaitan". It can mean any adversary or opponent, but also is used in the context of "The Adversary". The Greek uses a word clearly derived from it, "Satanes".
It often has a legal sense, portraying Satan as a sort of prosecuting attorney in God's court.

The word is used eighteen times in the Old Testament. Fourteen of these are in Job. But a lot of insight can be gained from comparing 1 Chronicles 21:1 "And Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel" and 2 Samuel 24:1 "And again the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he moved David against them to say, Go, number Israel and Judah".

Skeptics use this as an example of a contradiction in the Bible. Which was it? God or Satan? Now if you assume that Satan is an independent agent (out of God's control, perhaps even rivaling in power), this is quite confusing.

But this shows that God is control of everything, even Satan. God was moved against David, and He allowed Satan to influence him.

So is Satan just following orders? No. Satan has a will which is contrary to God's purposes (just like our will can be contrary to God's purposes). But God is all-knowing and all-powerful. He is working all things (even bad things) to the benefit of His children (Romans 8:28). [Note: not everyone is a child of God, if you have not repented of your sins and trusted in Jesus as Savior, you are a child of wrath (John 3:36, yeah twenty verses after the famous John 3:16).]

Another insightful reference is Luke 22:31 "And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired [to have] you, that he may sift [you] as wheat". Satan desires the destruction of us all. But God does not permit it.

And 1 Corinthians 5:5 "To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus". This is a command from Paul to turn a person living in sin out of the church at Corinth. The intention here is to let the person feel the full brunt of the consequences of their sin (so they might repent and be saved). It seems those living continually in sin may be turned over to Satan for his purposes (kind of scary - ok, a lot scary).

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The "Prosperity Gospel" Burns Me Up

Internet Monk has an excellent post on what the prosperity gospel is. This teaching offends me for a number of reasons. The main one being it is not the true Gospel, and it is endangering people's salvation (if you don't have the right God and Jesus, you are worshiping an idol).

First a metaphor:
True salvation is like a certificate for an endless buffet. Acknowledge you have fallen short of the glory of God; worse, your lying is an abomination, your angry/hateful thoughts are like murder in God's eyes, your sexual thoughts about people not your spouse are adultery to Him. Agree with God on these matters, and turn from these behaviors. Trust in Jesus to have paid the price, and to keep you from now on. And receive your certificate.

The prosperity gospel says, "Yea, we've got a similar certificate. It looks a little different, but it's good. Plus a bonus! You can have health and wealth here on Earth!" I like to call it the "Believe in Jesus and get a new car" gospel.

But everything they promise is like a little crumb broken off the edge of a cracker compared to the endless feast of true salvation.

And what happens to people when Peter is at the pearly gates inspecting certificates? And the seal is no good? Those people are going into the lake of fire. Is that crumb worth it? Not at all.

Ok, so is this worse than Islam and other religions with their billions of adherents? I admit I have personal experience with this one. Some people in my family have way too much exposure to this garbage. And this bad theology makes my life a nightmare. Because it has many side effects:
  1. It inoculates people against the true Gospel. They think, "Yea, I'm a Christian. I'm believing in a better life for myself. I don't need to go to a Church where they read the Bible, I'd rather listen to rock music and hear a sermon on how to get rich and have a good sex life."
  2. (The preachers never say this, but people will naturally think it) - If faith makes you prosperous and healthy, then if you are poor or sick - it's your fault. "You don't have enough faith!" "All your talk about the family being off budget is blocking God from making us rich!" "I'm trusting in God to bless me [with wealth], what does it matter to me if we have no savings!"
  3. These preachers invariably leave sin out of their messages. Obviously, because they don't want to make anyone uncomfortable. The side effect from this, is that people are content in their pride and self-righteousness. "It's your sin that is the problem. Your sin is cursing the family." And what of your sin? "I don't have any sin in my life."
  4. The saddest thing is when they use this to manipulate people's hope for their own benefit. A large church near me preaches a lot of this message. It has a huge campus in a urban area. The congregation consists of many poor people. These people are encouraged to give until it hurts. "Tithe against the salary you want to have!" Sow a seed [of money] that God will return ten-, thirty-, seventy-, a hundred-fold. The irony is the leadership of the church has been afflicted with numerous health problems (including death).

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Book Review

"Kingdom Principles" (Myles Munroe) - This is the second book by Dr. Munroe that I have read since becoming truly and soundly saved. And this book has stirred me. I don't know his personal state, but I can see his teachings are not helping people, and are perhaps leading people astray.

Munroe claims the message of the Bible is the initial giving, loss, and restoration of "God's Kingdom".

As an extended metaphor, yea I could see it. Jesus is king of kings. So, maybe we are "little kings". And Jesus has plenty to say about the Kingdom of Heaven.

But metaphors break down at certain points. And that's what Munroe overlooks. He says things like "Real wealth is in the land... If you want to help ensure prosperity for yourself as well as future generations, focus on acquiring real estate." (Page 123) What!?!?

I wish that were an isolated statement taken out of context. He repeats the point several more times that chapter. At one point, I was heartened to have him say that the Gospel is not about prosperity. But it gets worse; he says the Gospel is that you are a king, and prosperity naturally follows from that! Statements like, "The wealthier the king, the greater his power" and "Giving requires a response from the king" (Page 207).

We are called to give as we are able, and as we are moved to (that may be more or less than the 10% 'tithe'). And we give out of joy and thankfulness; because it is the right thing to do. God is in no way obligated to us for doing the right thing. Does the president send you a thank you card for paying your taxes? Does the mayor of your city send out cards thanking people for not murdering or jay walking for the year?

Where do these teaching come from? Why is this so hard? I think the main reason can be found on page 158 - "Knowledge of the Word of God is important, but insufficient". He is proposing Sola Scriptura + Secret Knowledge. Sola Fide + Kingdom Principles.

I'll keep Grace alone, Faith alone, Scripture alone, Christ alone - all for the Glory of God alone.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

What is Faith (Part 2)?

For some people, "faith" means unreasonable belief (or at least belief apart from logic, for example, the book I just read).

The word "faith" is used twice ("faithful" or "faithfully" are also used a lot) in the Old Testament (KJV). The Hebrew word is "emuwn" (ay-moon) or "emuwnah". It implies "established", "trustworthiness", "security", "fidelity", or "firmness".

The word in the New Testament is "pistis" (and is used more times than I care to count, over 200 - although it is sometimes "little faith"). Pistis implies "reliance", "constancy", "assurance", "conviction", or "trust".

Ok, so there is me and God involved in this faith. Which one of us is "trustworthy", "reliable" or "constant"?

Not me.

So, our faith is in the trustworthiness, constancy, and fidelity of God.

If our faith is lacking, there are elements of us accusing God of lacking these attributes. So either we are blaspheming God (demeaning His nature) or we are creating an idol (a god without the true attributes of God).

Now we are engaged in an internal conflict with sin (Galatians 5:17). So, it is not unusual that we will sometimes stumble (1 John 1:8). But if we are continuing in sin, we are not saved (1 John 1:6).

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Book Review

"The Probability of God" (Stephen Unwin) - This book is largely a gentle introduction to Bayesian probability math. It is also surprisingly funny (there is a good comparison between the anthropic principle and the "You are here" sign in a mall). I have never been a fan of Bayesian probability (I'm a Lotfian fuzzy logic fan). This book did more damage to my faith in Bayesian math than it boosted my faith in God :).

He does make an interesting proposition:
Belief(P) = Computed_Probability(P) + Faith(P)

Belief(P) < 100% (because if Belief == 100%, then Faith(P) = 1 - Probability(P), therefore Faith = Logical_amount_of_doubt, so Faith is unreasonable).

Unwin should stick to math. He goes on to argue that there is no basis for religious disagreement. That is because some statements must be taken on faith. His example:

P1 = Jesus is the Son of God

If someone does not have faith in this statement, it does not mean that they have faith that Jesus is not the Son of God at 100%.

True, at that level. But I would argue that you do not need to take each statement from the Bible on faith. All you need is:
1. Genesis 1:1 (therefore God exists)
2. Psalm 33:4 (God's Word is right and He works in truth)

There are other fortifying statements, but these make a good foundation. The rest of the Bible then logically follows.

Similarly, I would assume that a Muslim would only need take a few core statements from the Koran, and the rest should follow. So the Koran says (Sura 19.88-89):
"And they say: The Beneficent God has taken (to Himself) a son. Certainly you have made an abominable assertion"

Hmm. That seems kind of contrary. I mean, only one of us can be right, right? Either God has a Son or He doesn't.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Book Review

"The Exemplary Husband" (Stuart Scott) - This is an excellent book for any man who wants to be a Godly husband. It starts with a Gospel presentation for the unsaved, and should be very convicting for any false converts. It then proceeds into very convicting Biblical arguments for how a husband should serve God. Scott provides counsel for husbands of both saved and unsaved wives.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Was Mother Terea Saved?

Only God knows.

Ok, having got that out of the way, Internet Monk has an excellent post reflecting on how God can seem distant sometimes. In that post, he references a review of the new book revealing Mother Teresa's own spiritual troubles.

These letters are highly personal, and selected from times of confession and vulnerability. So we can't form an opinion from them.

But they can serve as an example for when we "Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith" (2 Corinthians 13:5a). If someone I knew, claiming to be a Christian, said these things to me, what would I think?

She says some disconcerting things, "I spoke as if my very heart was in love with God — tender, personal love," she remarks to an adviser. "If you were [there], you would have said, 'What hypocrisy.'" She claimed to have heard Jesus talking to her.

The question is, did she do what she did out of gratitude for what God had done for her? Or did she do what she did in order to try to earn God's favor (or some burden of debt)?

A similar question is, why does the world respect her? Because of her dedication to God? Or because she was "better" than anyone else at doing good works?

What is the example of her life? Is she someone to idolize? (while seeing her standard as impossible to reach, so we don't even try?)

Sunday, August 19, 2007

The Law

My last post might seem to come down pretty hard on God's law. I have actually been summarizing Paul's comments. So let me move to Galatians 3:21a, "[Is] the law then against the promises of God? God forbid".

So what is the purpose of the Law? It is not (directly) for our salvation. This is the misunderstanding of the legalist.

Psalm 19:7 "The law of the LORD [is] perfect, converting the soul". Galatians 3:24, "Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster [to bring us] unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith." And there it is.

The Law has been compared to a mirror, which shows us our true selves. Our self-image is one of self-righteousness. "I am a good person." "I am much better than most people." "I'm not a murderer." "I try to live a good life." "Of course God loves me, I'm great!"

But when we look into the Law, we discover we are not good in God's sight. God sees everything we've done, and all our thoughts. Jesus said it is our thoughts which make us unclean, even more than deeds. Because our thoughts determine who we are.

Romans 3:12b "there is none that doeth good, no, not one."

If we agree with God that we are not good, we see our need for a savior. If we humble ourselves, cry out to God for what we have done, turn our backs on our old lives, and trust in Jesus to save us -- we can be saved.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Legalism vs. Antimonialism

Antimonialism is an old word you don't hear very often. Literally, it is "against the law". It is characterized by people who believe they do not need to change their lives as a Christian. These people deny the transforming power of the Holy Spirit and live in sin, contradicting their statements of faith.

Legalism is the opposite extreme. A legalist raises our works (actions) to the point of salvation. In other words, "follow our rules or you're not saved". We are all born under the crushing weight of the Law. A burden which we cannot carry, which ultimately leads to death. When we are saved, we are released from this burden. The legalist returns to this burden.

The Bible makes it clear the proper course is through the middle. Our lives are too complicated to be governed by a set of rules. As Christians, we have freedom. But not everything is good for us. And we must not use our freedom to cause others to stumble or to keep people from hearing the Good News. At the same time, we must place God's will first. We know His will by being steeped in His Word, and applying Biblical principles. We should not be breaking the Ten Commandments. We should be loving others.