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! :)