Monday, December 22, 2008

What Is Truth

I have been reading through the Gospel of John, and I am noticing heavy use of the word "truth".

The Greek word is αληθεια (aletheia), the noun for truth. The other Greek word sometimes translated "truth" is the adverb form (translated "of a truth" or "truly").

Aletheia is used once by Matthew, three times in Mark, and twice by Luke (the adverb forms are 1,0,3 respectively).

John uses it twenty-five times in twenty-two verses! (He uses the adverb form twice.)

It is clear this is a word John likes. In his short epistles:
  • 2 John (13 verses total) - 5 times in 4 verses
  • 3 John (14 verses total) - 6 times in 5 verses
Also, it is not used at all in the Revelation to John.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Orthodox Study Bible

(Continuing my review of the Orthodox Study Bible)

It certainly lives up to the middle part of its name, there is a lot to study!

The introduction (14 pages) gives an overview of the Bible and the Orthodox tradition.

Each book of the Bible has an introduction page. This page gives the author, and date it was written. There is a description of the "major theme" and the historical circumstances when the book was written.

As I mentioned before, the footnotes are very extensive. Connections are made from the Old Testament to the New (and back), as well as internal links.

In addition to this, there are full page study notes on select topics (dozens of them).

A special bonus is in the form of full color paintings done in the Orthodox style (most of them done by modern artists). These are found throughout the book, and cover many Biblical events.

Friday, December 12, 2008

A Good Creation

Genesis 1:31:
"And God saw everything that he had made, and, behold, it was very good."
This is on the sixth day, after God has created everything (but before the Fall). Does this creation include viruses?

I'm not sure, but there is growing evidence that most (if not all) viruses deadly to humans originated in animals (and evidence that these viruses jump species through misuse and abuse of animals).

A recent article on Science Daily shows that a virus similar to the common cold (HMPV) originated some two hundred years ago in birds.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

End of Faith

So, I finished Sam Harris' book... I have a lot of notes that I haven't had a chance to post. I may return to them, but probably won't.

I kept looking for Harris' point. He complains a lot. I figured, to complain so much, he must have a really good solution.

Sadly, no.

He just advocates atheistic Buddhism/spiritualism. Really sad.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Anything But God

I am working on an idea, and found an old Science Daily article that fits right in...

The article discusses a discovery that "proteins themselves acted to correct any imbalance imposed on them through artificial mutations and restored the chain to working order". That is, a sort of error correction, or self-governing regulation in proteins (a desirable feature, which requires significant design effort in human artifacts).

The article goes on to make some interesting statements:
"The scientists do not know how the cellular machinery guiding this process may have originated, but they emphatically said it does not buttress the case for intelligent design, a controversial notion that posits the existence of a creator responsible for complexity in nature."
We don't know what it is, but it can't be God!!!!111eleven!!

The article closes with a benediction for the faithful:
"The researchers are continuing their analysis, looking for parallel situations in other biological systems."
Just have faith! Trust in the holy men of science, they will give you all the answers to sooth your burning conscience!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008


Eight is the number of "new-ness".

Creation was finished in six days, and God rested on the seventh. Churches who meet on Sunday recognize this "eighth day" as a day celebrating the new creation in Christ Jesus (and His resurrection on Sunday).

This is also seen in the Old Testament:
"And in the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised." (Leviticus 12:3)
The sign of the Old Covenant (circumcision) was given on the eighth day of life. This symbolized the boys new life, devoted to God. The ceremonial cleansing (Leviticus 14:10) is similar, the sacrifice is offered on the eighth day, the day he is newly clean. And also the feast of tabernacles (Leviticus 23:36).

Monday, December 8, 2008

Church ^ Israel

('^' is from computer programming; it is pronounced "xor" - "ecks or" - it means one or the other, but not both)

In my last post, I started an overview of Christian eschatologies and gave a teaser. What is "pre-millennial dispensationalism"?

Dispensationalism can mean different things to different people. In most definitions, it also includes more than just eschatology. It also covers hermeneutics and the "central interpretive motif".

But on Sunday, my Pastor gave a very concise definition - "the Church != Israel" (does not equal, is not the same as).

If you agree, you are a dispensationalist - and if you disagree, you aren't.

From this simple proposition proceeds a lot of theology and doctrine.

Saturday, December 6, 2008


Eschatology is the study of end times. This is not limited to Christianity or even religions as a whole. It can also refer to study of the ending of the physical universe. Some have also applied it to the study of a time when technology plateaus at an almost magical level, sometimes referred to as "the Singularity" (sometimes referred to as "the Eschaton").

Because eschatology deals with the future, it is difficult to have much certainty. Cosmologists are certain the universe will run down, and Christians are certain Jesus will return. Additionally, the Bible passages which teach on eschatology use a considerable amount of symbolism.

As a result, faithful Christians can, and do, disagree on the particulars of eschatology.

Normally, these issues are minor, and can be overlooked. But sometimes, it does matter.

The greatest difference between orthodox Christian eschatologies would be postmillennialism (post-mil) and premillennialism (pre-mil). Post-mils believe Jesus will return after all the earth has come to faith in Jesus (effectively, achieving "heaven on earth"). Pre-mils believe that Jesus will come suddenly.

The "millennial" refers to the one thousand year reign of Christ (Revelation 20:4).

Some Christians believe this will be a literal thousand year reign. Either on the current earth, or some pre-eternal new earth, or even in heaven (before returning to create the new earth).

After this is "the eternal state". Amillennialists do not believe in a literal thousand year reign. If they are agree with post-mils, then the thousand years refers to the time before Jesus comes (He is reigning "through the Church", then Jesus comes). If they are of a more pre-mil bent, then the thousand years is a metaphor for eternity.

Historically, amillennialism and post-millenialism have been most popular. I lean toward pre-millenial (dispensationalism), which is relatively new (being only one hundred years old).

Friday, December 5, 2008

Five, Again

Last time I just gave some chapter 5, verse 5 references.

While reading the Orthodox Study Bible (which is very big on "spiritual" interpretations [rather than "literal"]), I did appreciate their comments on five.

Five is often associated with the Law (given to Moses). That is because Moses wrote five books (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy) - the Pentateuch.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

End of Faith

(Continuing my review of Sam Harris' book)

Jumping back a little, to page 34:
"texts like the Koran and the Bible must be appreciated, and criticized, for any possible interpretations to which they are susceptible" [emphasis in original]
I'm not sure what Harris' point is here. His hermeneutics seem way off. There is one correct interpretation of any passage in the Bible (and probably the Koran, but I don't really care what the Koran says). People say what their interpretation is, and we can argue who is right. People do this with all sorts of books, without trouble.

A concrete example: Westboro Baptist. These people claim to be interpreting the Bible. And most everything they say is wrong. Most Christians will agree. Is that the Bible's fault, or Fred Phelps' fault? It seems Harris wants to blame the Bible. That is like blaming musicians for crazies who play their records backwards and think they hear messages...

And, briefly, page 34-35:
"Imagine a future in which millions of our descendants murder each other over rival interpretations of Star Wars or Windows 98."
People routinely kill each other during and after sporting matches. Must we do away with sports, or is the problem people?

That is the heart of the matter:

Harris believes people will be good, if we just get the right environment.

The Bible says there is none good. That we will be evil until Jesus remakes the world.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008


I was reviewing an old post on the subject of cessationism. Sadly, my link to Warfield's defense has been taken over by squatters.

Different people will define cessationism differently. Some refer to the end of miracles. However, everything is a miracle - from the point of view that God is behind it. There is, rather, "signs and wonders" sorts of miracles - most cessationists will agree these are included in cessationism.

There are also "sign and wonder (spiritual) gifts". Cessationists will all include "miracles" in the group that ended. Most will include "healing" and, more controversially, "tongues".

For those who wish to deny any sort of cessationism, there is a problem... the gift of apostle (1 Corinthians 12:28, Ephesians 4:11).

The qualifications for an apostle are given in Acts 1:21-22, that is: someone chosen as a representative by Jesus Christ, a witness to the resurrection.

One problem - all the people who witnessed the resurrection are dead. And Jesus doesn't seem to be calling any new people.

So, everyone should be able to agree that the gift of apostle has ceased (also see Ephesians 2:20, the apostles and NT prophets were the foundation - the foundation occurs once in the building, after that are floors and walls).

So, everyone is a cessationist. It's just a matter of to what degree...

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

End of Faith

(Continuing my review of Sam Harris' book)

On page 46, Harris makes an interesting remark:
"the fact that we are no longer killing people for heresy in the West suggests that bad ideas, however sacred, cannot survive the company of good ones forever."
Normally I would let Biblically ignorant remarks like this slide... but let's look deeper, just to see the thought process:
  • Is killing people for heresy good or bad?
It's clear Harris thinks it is bad, although he can't seem to make a logical argument to support his case (he just assumes we agree with him).

But what is the Biblical position?

Assuming that heresy is rightly defined (and this will be the key point), the threat of death for heresy may bring about repentance. Also, should the heretic not repent, it will put an end to his malicious teachings (and teaching heresy is malicious). It may also give people pause before following a heretic.

As individuals, this is outside our authority. But, it is not outside government authority (Romans 13:4).

And this brings us to the reason we do not practice this today. The (proper) separation of Church and State.

As human (and thus fallible) Christians, we will disagree on some points of doctrine. Some of these disagreements are strenuous enough that we should not be under the same teaching (although we should be welcome for communion as guests). Some will call these points heresy, although we should restrict that for teachings contrary to salvation.

Also, the majority of people are not (true) Christians ("wide [is] the gate, and broad [is] the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat").

It is not the place for the State to decide these issues (not to mention that a state run by fallen humans will be bent towards manipulation for personal gain).

Thursday, November 27, 2008

I am not a Hyper Calvinist


Over at Pyromaniacs, Phil Johnson is having some trouble with Arminians using his words to call solid brothers "Hyper-Calvinists" (HC). Phil provides a link to his original article. While reading that, I found his excellent article on "supralapsarianism".

I had heard of supralapsarianism before, but never really understood what it is. The third article has an excellent chart showing the continuity between supralapsarianism and Arminianism.

I am a supralapsarian. (All hyper-Calvinists are supralapsarian, but not vice-versa).

Phil argues the key to hyper-Calvinism is the subversion of the Gospel (isn't that always the case with heresy, and HC is heresy). The HC does not preach the whole Gospel, because he does not believe it will have any effect.

To sum up, supralapsarianism and infralapsarianism (both versions of standard Calvinism) are minor disagreements about the order of operations during the eternity before creation. These issues are minor, below the teaching doctrines of a local church.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


Today it seems moral outrage can only be generated over the heinous war crime of "intolerance". That is, the champions of "tolerance" are "intolerant" of anyone who is "intolerant" (and like a White Ward, this effect somehow manages to not cancel itself).

Albert Mohler has an interesting take on the latest intolerant fury of the forces of tolerance.

Of course, any stand for truth requires intolerance (we call it "discernment"). "What communion hath light with darkness?" (2 Corinthians 6:14) In order to protect the truth, we must speak out against what is false.

Saturday, November 22, 2008


Ever since reading Oden ("The Rebirth of Orthodoxy"), I am intrigued by the events leading up to the age of modernism. Oden places the beginning at 1789 (the Bastille), but clearly, a big influence was Darwin's "The Origin of Species" (1859). Then, there is Charles Lyell's "Principles of Geology" (1830-33) which so greatly impacted Darwin...

While Lyell and Darwin were doing their thing in Great Britain, Albert Mohler has found an interesting occurrence in America around the same time...

In 1838 (one hundred and seventy years ago!) Ralph Waldo Emerson (in "The American Scholar") made many of the statements we hear today from postmoderns.

I think the whole thing is summarized in one block:
"To this holy office you propose to devote yourselves. I wish you may feel your call in throbs of desire and hope. The office is the first in the world. It is of that reality that it cannot suffer the deduction of any falsehood. And it is my duty to say to you that the need was never greater of new revelation than now."
Emerson seems to understand what is at stake. Yet, he falls into the classic blunder.

The assumption that the new is better than the old.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Orthodox Study Bible

The Orthodox Study Bible is the first book I have received through the Thomas Nelson review program.

The book is quite beautiful. It is over 1800 pages - each page is very thin (which can add a sense of 'reverent patience required' when turning pages!). The Old Testament is a one of a kind translation of the Septuagint (LXX, Greek Old Testament). The New Testament is standard New King James (NKJV).

I won't comment on the Biblical text, the opportunity to read an English translation of LXX might be a selling point in itself. The advantages and disadvantages of NKJV are fairly well understood.

The Biblical text is two columns, and very easy to read. The pages are packed with information, as the study notes are often one-third or, even, one-half(!) of the page (notes are single column). There isn't a lot of room for notes in the margin, but the line spacing should be enough for under liners (I don't like writing in books, especially not Bibles :).

The notes are reflective of Orthodox (captial 'O') tradition. As a Protestant, I don't agree with everything, but it is good to see the defense of their doctrines. It's also interesting to note the differences with Roman Catholicism (which I am more familiar with). I can certainly see the draw for Evangelicals (tired of the silliness in many megachurches) exploring an older tradition. For those Evangelicals, I will be making note of differences in Orthodox doctrine from classic Reformed theology.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

End of Faith

Last month, I saw Christopher Hitchens. While talking with the atheists at my table, I was told Sam Harris' book "The End of Faith" was the most damning book to come from the new atheists. Of course, my local library (being a endless font of heretics and apostates) had a copy for me...

There is a lot to cover, and I have just started, so I will break the review up over several posts...

Harris starts with a rather bizarre proposition - on page 13 he says:
"criticizing a person's faith is currently taboo in every corner of our culture"
Um, hello, McFly? You just sold a New York Times bestseller criticizing every faith! I regularly criticize people's faith (whether it be in nothing or themselves). I have yet to be stoned or tarred and feathered. I don't even get that many nasty looks :) People are usually very open to talking about faith.

Harris reveals much of his assumptions in a statement on page 22:
"If religion addresses a genuine sphere of understanding and human necessity, then it should be susceptible to progress; its doctrines should become more useful, rather than less." [emphasis in original]
Two points here, one is an evolutionary assumption: everything is changing and getting better all the time. I think I've said enough about that...

The second is that I partially agree with him. Christian doctrine is more useful today - since it is most being ignored! Of course, it is doctrine which has been around for two thousand years...

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Gospel in Three

I'm going to switch from counting words to counting sentences, or at least ideas.

With three, we can start to get a progression to a story (two bad news, one good news):
  1. There is none good, none who seeks after God, all have turned away and become useless (Romans 3:10-12).

  2. God will by no means clear the guilty, an honest judge cannot be bribed, God owns everything, what can we give to Him? (Exodus 34:7)

  3. But God, demonstrates His great love for us, for while we were without strength, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:6,8; Ephesians 2:5)
The law (primarily the ten commandments) shows us our true selves, that we are not good, but rather sinners.

Our good works are actually filthy rags in God's sight, and even if they had some value, what is that to an infinite God who owns everything? And even if they had value, you cannot bribe an honest judge.

At this point, you want to shout John 3:16 or Ephesians 2:5!

Monday, November 17, 2008

God's Test

God tests us:
"When Jesus then lifted up [His] eyes, and saw a great company come unto Him, He saith unto Philip, Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat? And this He said to prove him: for He Himself knew what He would do." (John 6:5-6)
In our society, we are familiar with tests. Standardized tests; SAT/ACT, tests for public school performance; tests in class; driving tests; eye tests.

In these cases, the test is used to verify reality for the test maker. That is, do we meet the standard of the college, or the department of education, motor vehicles, etc.

But that is not why God tests us.

God already knows what we have done, why, and what we will do. He has no need to prove things to Himself.

God gives us tests to reveal our performance to ourselves.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Judgment on America

I've been looking for the results from the most recent election (apart from the presidential results).

I know about Prop 8 (in California), and all I can say is: meh.

I heard that life issues took a beating, but had no data.

Until now.

Mohler says "all three state ballot questions related to abortion were shot down".

This is a sad statement about priorities in America, even (perhaps especially) within the Church. That economic worries could lead to the election of a man with a 100% rating from NARAL, and that a rousing stand could be made about a minor issue like gay marriage, while pro-life issues fail across the board - and, our reaction is anything but sitting in ashes and weeping...

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Donatists Alive and Well

According to CNN, the Catholic church in Brazil has apparently forgotten a hard earned lesson of orthodoxy - Donatism.

I covered this heresy over a year ago. Donatus believed that the effectiveness of sacraments was tied to the individuals performing them. The orthodox position is that it is God who is effective for everything in our lives.

Apparently, some things get forgotten after 1700 years:
"It said couples married by Santos must now seek a 'legitimate priest' to renew their vows."

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Heresy Challenge

I am thankful to have both EWTN (Catholic) and TBN (evangelical) available on TV. It gives me a chance to find something edifying on TV.

Of course, it also requires a lot of discernment.

Sometimes, I like to play a little game I call "The Heresy Challenge".

The rules are kind of fast and loose. Is it based on which teaching is most contradictory to the Bible? or closest? Is the winner doing better or worse? Which makes it a lot of fun!

Yesterday, I turned on TBN at 7 pm (Way of the Master, season 3, oh yea!). Sadly, they were having a fundraiser...

They were using a passage from Kings (I forget where), to say that if you sent in $1000, God would give you whatever you want!

Ok, so, I figured, "we have a winner!" Then flipped it over...

On EWTN, a man was calmly explaining "this is why it is possible for you to lose your salvation"...


How does that guy sleep at night, knowing that in the morning he might not be saved, only to have a heart attack during breakfast and go directly to Hell. Wow.

Hard to pick a winner...

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

New Books

I have been selected to receive books for review by Thomas Nelson! I am looking forward to my first book!

This will be very good, as I am running out of solid books at the library (although, there is a near limitless supply of heretics and apostates!).

Monday, November 10, 2008

Gospel in Two

Continuing the exploration of compact transmissions of the Gospel...

For a two word Gospel, I would say: "Repent! Trust!"

Again, this is straight from the Bible (Mark 1:15):
"And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel."
The Greek word translated "believe" is πιστευετε (pisteuo). This is better translated "trust".

It is when we turn from sin and turn to God (repent) and trust in the atoning death of Jesus that we are saved.

Friday, November 7, 2008

The Tricks of Satan

Last episode, we saw that when Satan quotes the Bible, he often twists the meaning, or leaves out bits.

This should not surprise us, as Peter says:
"they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as [they do] also the other Scriptures, unto their own destruction." (2 Peter 3:16b)
The Greek word translated "wrest" is στρεβλουσιν (strebloo). It has the notion of "turning" or "twisting", as of one being tortured on a rack.

This is an incredible metaphor! It says that people will "torture" God's Word until it gives the false confession they are seeking. We see this today, in the modern prosperity Gospel, among others.

The end of the verse tells us what to make of this. The end result of twisting Scripture is destruction.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Gospel in One

It has been very helpful for me to formalize and continually reprocess the Gospel message. This allows me to rapidly respond to questions people have, and to give a quick and concise message for any situation.

It this spirit, I am going to consider Gospel messages in limited formats. For example, what would you say given a limit of, say, one word!

This one is actually easy, because I pull it straight from the Bible:
"Thus saith the Lord GOD; Repent, and turn [yourselves] from your idols; and turn away your faces from all your abominations." (Ezekiel 14:6)
"Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." (Matthew 3:2, that's John the Baptist)
"From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." (Matthew 4:17)

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


I looked up, Behold! A mountain of skulls. Each skull was small, just one inch cube (about 2 cm).

The pile increased by eight hundred thousand per year, for one generation (twenty years).

The pile was a pyramid, square at the base - the length, width and height were equal.

800,000 x 20 x 2^3 = 1/3 b^3 = 726.85 cm

The pyramid was almost sixteen cubits along each side (almost twenty-four feet), and the same high.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Looking a Horse in the Mouth

Today, I met one of the "four horsemen" of the New Atheism (Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens, and Dennett) - Christopher Hitchens. He was debating Douglas Wilson (of Blog and Mablog fame) at Martin's Tavern in DC.

First impressions: Doug seemed like a very down to earth guy. Hitchens was more aloof, sitting by himself at the bar, and drinking (a lot!). He was drinking before the debate, finished a snifter (brandy? whiskey?) early, and I saw him drinking a glass of wine before the end. Doug got through about a half a pint of beer in the same time...

On the topic, they largely talked past each other. Hitchens brought up the old complaints about "how can any intelligent person believe this stuff", while Wilson hammered away at Hitchens foundations (specifically, the lack thereof). That is, Hitchens has only himself to declare acts good or evil. When someone else (Hitler, Stalin, etc.) uses those same criteria and acts differently, by what authority is Hitchens superior?

I did respond to Hitchens directly at one point. He asked if anyone knew God's truth (or will, I forget the exact phraseology). I raised my hand, and he looked at me. I said, "the Bible". Wilson quipped, "There you have it." (or the equivalent)

I thought the crowd would be about 50/50 (atheist/Christian). It certainly felt stacked in favor of atheists. My table had three atheists and me. I stayed about three hours after, giving a good defense for the faith.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Colin Powell

By now, everyone should of seen that Powell has come out for Obama.

I thought it interesting that he brought out several points:
  1. The economy
  2. The Supreme Court
  3. Palin's experience
  4. William Ayers
  5. McCain's bad campaign
I think the first point is telling. That people could allow a downturn in the economy to change a close race to a clear margin for Obama says a lot about our priorities as a nation (me first, no matter what the sacrifice).

I was surprised to hear him mention the second point. More conservative justices is the only way to overturn Roe right now (Democratic Congress, if you want the single issue voters, address our issue! Pass the Right to Life act or an ammendment!)

I was also surprised to hear the Democratic talking point on Palin's experience. Palin has more executive experience than Obama! Is Alaska no America? Well, was Arkansas? No one said Bill Clinton didn't have experience.

He also mentioned Ayers. He held the party line on this. If Obama wanted to defuse this, he could say something. The fact that he ignores it is more damning, to me. Of course, for McCain to focus on it is silly. The people considering Obama don't care if he is a terrorist. He is promising what they want, they don't care who gets killed.

The last point goes without saying. McCain is not getting a lot of traction, and making mistakes. Of course, you don't have to vote for him. Just make sure Obama loses. I will vote Constitution party, because my state is blue. If your state is close, vote McCain, else go Green or Barr, or whatever. Otherwise, the blood of 800,000 babies per year is on your hands. Figure 20 years (one generation) for a reset of the court. Thats 16 million, or about 1.6 Hitlers.

There, I've said it.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Book Review

"The Sovereign Grace of God In Salvation" (John Roden) - This book was a gift for all the attendees at a recent conference held by my church, along with other local churches. It is an excellent overview of the Gospel, and basic Christian theology. It is suitable for Christians, new or mature, and even unbelievers.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Gay Marriage

It actually bugs me when people connect gay marriage and abortion as "Christian issues". Al Mohler does an excellent job of keeping them separate, but he has taken to a whole series of posts on it...

Abortion is an issue of our right to life. The Constitution, as currently interpreted, has no provision for a right to life. This should be disturbing to anyone who might find themselves "unwanted" by those in power (where are the tinfoil hats?).

Gay marriage is actually a silly idea. As Pastor Wilson points out, defining marriage as between any two people just makes bisexuals feel left out. I'm not sure if Wilson realizes that polygamy and "group marriage" are probably right on the heels of these decisions...

Far more damage has been done to traditional marriage by "no fault" divorce, and Hollywood relationships.

Furthermore, there is no logical reason that our government should care who is married to whom. Christians can be married, and define marriage Biblically, regardless of what society is doing. Society is sinful and worldly, we should expect them to do these sorts of things.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Book Review

"Why I am So Wise" (Friedrich Nietzsche) - I'm struggling to find a word to describe Nietzsche. "Greatest" atheist? "Most devout" atheist? I like what Ravi Zacharias says, Nietzsche followed atheism to its logical conclusion - he died alone and insane.

I was hoping for a short book that would provide talking points for Nietzsche's atheism. He is not comparable to today's "new atheists", who want Christian values (equality, freedom, etc.).

Sadly, this book is not it. It is more of musings on his other writings, and provides little insight into his philosophy.

I did manage to extract some interesting things:
page 21:
"If I wage war on Christianity I have a right to do so, because I have never experienced anything disagreeable or frustrating from that direction"
This, after describing his father as "a preacher in his last years". Interesting.

It's clear Nietzsche never heard the Gospel. This is clear from page 80:
"The most general formula at the basis of every religion and morality is: 'Do this and this, refrain from this and this - and you will be happy! Otherwise ...'"
The Gospel (Good News) is that God has made the way for us to be right with Him. There is Bad News (TM), that we have broken God's Law (think, the Ten Commandments). We are rebels and criminals, and God must uphold justice.

We are commanded to turn from our rebellion (sin), and to trust God. Then, our crimes (sins) are attributed to Jesus (who has paid the price, by dying on the cross). And Jesus' perfect life (attested to by the resurrection) is attributed to us.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

More Prosperity

(sorry for the pun)

I have in the past talked about how the "Prosperity Gospel" burns me up.

Now, the indefatigable Albert Mohler has weighed in on the issue, as it relates to the current mortgage debacle.

I think this quote says it best:
"God caused the bank to ignore my credit score and blessed me with my first house"
Mohler comes right out, guns blazing:
"Prosperity theology is a lie, and a false Gospel."
Yea, Mohler!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008


There is actually some interesting stuff behind thirteen.

In the original twelve tribes of Israel, the tribe of Levi was set apart as priests (Numbers 1:49-50). This included the partition of land. The Levites received no land for themselves, they were supported by tithes on the other tribes.

So certain counts have eleven tribes (because Levi is set apart). Sometimes, there are twelve (not counting Levi).

This is because Joseph took a wife from Egypt, and had two sons: Manasseh and Ephraim (Genesis 46:20). These are sometimes referred to as "half-tribes". Sometimes the two half-tribes are counted with the other ten.

So sometimes, there are 11, sometimes 12, sometimes 13.

We see a similar occurrence with the apostles. There were twelve apostles, minus Judas. Judas was replaced by Matthias. But, Paul was also a replacement. So, sometimes 11, sometimes 12, sometimes 13.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Breaking News!

I'm a liberal!
asked 128 socially active churchgoers this question: What if there were no God?

Liberals, on the other hand, envision a world without God as barren, lifeless, devoid of color and reasons to live.

“Liberals see their faith as something that fills them up and, without it, they conjure up metaphors of emptiness, depletion and scarcity”
I don't know if "fear" and "conjure" are the right words (could you imagine more deprecating terms?). I'd say, "if there is no God, the world is empty, doomed to be lifeless, and devoid of reasons to live." That should be obvious. It logically follows.

Of course, they continue to misunderstand "religion":
'liberals worry about a world without deep feelings and intense experiences"
True Biblical faith is not about feelings and experiences. I'm going to keep saying that...

I'm not sure who the conservatives were that they found, probably post-mils (apologies to my post-mil brothers... although, quit it!)
"Political conservatives envision a world without God in which baser human impulses go unchecked, social institutions (marriage, government, family) fall apart and chaos ensues"
That's not a world without God, that's the world! Right now! A world that has rejected God, yes, but that is our natural state... Maybe our rebellion was a little more muted in the past, maybe. But, in some ways, I prefer our rebellion out in the open. False Christians are the hardest people to reach...

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Movie Command

(Normally I like to preserve the arrow of time on this blog, I queue up posts one day at a time, and often release them in batches, as I am able to re-read and edit them... But this cannot wait!)

Go and see Fireproof! Right now! Do not wait! Go now! Invite your unsaved friends! If you are an atheist, go!

You'll laugh, you'll cry. You'll get a two-hour blast of God's love and the Gospel.

We now return to our regular programming...

Thursday, September 25, 2008


Twelve is the number of foundation.

Jacob had twelve sons. These sons became the heads of the twelve tribes of Israel. The foundation of God's chosen nation.

Jesus chose twelve apostles. This reflects back on the twelve tribes, but these apostles are the foundation of the church (Ephesians 2:20).

Monday, September 22, 2008

Book Review

"Why God Won't Go Away" (Andrew Newberg, Eugene D'Aquili, Vince Rause) - This book is an introduction to the functional divisions within the brain. When the authors stick to that domain, it is really very good. The problem comes when they drift into theology, and theorizing how religious beliefs began.

I'll take a few points in order as they appear:
Page 96 (also 115):
"The power of ritual lies in its ability to provide believers with experiential evidence that seems to 'prove' that the guarantees made in myth and scripture are true."
This is part of a discussion on the changes in the brain made by repetitive and rhythmic activities.

Actually, this is a good argument against these sorts of activities... They shut off the thinking portion of the brain.

Solid theology cannot rely on feelings, it must be based in logic and consideration of truth received from God (the Bible). How often do these activities produce clear thinking on doctrine? Never that I know of. How often do these activities produce heresies of all sorts? Almost all the time (the rest are harmless).

Why rationalism failed to destroy religion - page 129:
"We believe, in fact, that the remarkable tenacity of religion is rooted in something deeper, simpler, and healthier than weak-minded denial or sheer psychological dependence."
I appreciate the attempt, but this feels like a back-handed compliment. "You're not holding to a useless, hopeless delusion because you're weak-minded; you just can't help being weak-minded". Thanks, but no thanks.

They also talk about the health benefits of religious activity. But again, the issue is truth (assuming you haven't rejected the notion of truth). No lie is worth believing, regardless of the benefits. It's really an application of "two wrongs don't make a right" (which is not in the Bible...).

Sadly, they close with a move from bad theology to outright heresy: page 159:
"God is by his nature unknowable. He is not an objective fact, or an actual being"
If we start from the assumption that we can know God (or anything, really) from a foundation of ourselves as judge of truth, we will come to the conclusion of (effective) atheism.

This is actually a good result. We can be confident there is no truth to be found in mysticism, mindless meditation, or repetitive/hypnotic rituals.

Monday, September 15, 2008

The Tricks of Satan

In the last entry, I started on the theme of "twisting Scripture" (in that case, I stressed the importance of word-for-word exegesis).

Probably the most powerful case of this is in the temptation of Jesus in the desert. There are accounts of this in Matthew 4:1-11 and Luke 4:1-13. Luke uses a different order for the last two events, not sure why. Matthew has a subset of the portion corresponding to Psalm 91:11, I will use Luke for completeness.

The first challenge is (Matthew 4:3, c.f. Luke 4:3):
"And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread."
This seems a simple one, putting physical needs before spiritual needs (the need to do God's will).

The second challenge is the one I wish to focus on (Matthew 4:6, c.f. Luke 4:10-11):
"And saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in [their] hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone."
Here we can see Satan quoting from Psalm 91:11-12. The original Psalm is in Hebrew, while the New Testament is in Greek, so an exact comparison is difficult. However, the NT writers often quote the LXX, which is Greek.

Psalm 91:11 (LXX):
ὅτι τοῖς ἀγγέλοις αὐτοῦ ἐντελεῖται περὶ σοῦ τοῦ διαφυλάξαι σε ἐν πάσαις ταῖς ὁδοῖς σου·
(verse 12 matches Luke 4:11 [after the first two words], and Matthew 4:6c)

Luke 4:10 (and first two words of 4:11):
οτι τοις αγγελοις αυτου εντελειται περι σου του διαφυλαξαι σε και οτι
while Matthew 4:6b is:
οτι τοις αγγελοις αυτου εντελειται περι σου και
The change is at the end:
ἐν πάσαις ταῖς ὁδοῖς σου· ("in all your ways")
σε και οτι ("you and that")
The original Psalm is saying "Because angels themselves are commanded to protect you in all of your ways". Satan has left off the portion "in all your ways". We should remember that we are told to make God's Way our way. Clearly, Satan didn't want any part of that...

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


I'm not sure what is up with ten.

First, most human cultures use "base 10", counting groups of ten, tens of tens, etc. So, "ten fold" becomes a measure of estimation (a small group - 10, a big group - 100, etc.).

Then we have the Ten Commandments. Maybe it's a 7+3 thing (the ultimate, complete law of God). There are also ten horns on Daniel's fourth beast (horns are the symbol of power, particularly, worldly power; there are also ten horn references in the Revelation to John).

Friday, September 5, 2008

Comparative Theology

I came across an interesting article.

They make an interesting statement:
"The study found that white and African-American adolescents generally had fewer symptoms of depressive at high levels of religious participation. But for some Latino and Asian-American adolescents, attending church more often was actually affecting their mood in a negative way."
The article uses "religious participation" and "church [attendance]" interchangeably, and the religion (Christian by denomination, Jewish, Muslim, Wicca, etc.) is not specified.

Based on the quotes from Richard Petts, I assume the authors are atheists; so I don't expect them to understand the notion of true and false religion, doctrine, etc.

As an extreme example, if "religious participation" included human sacrifice, it's understandable that the participants might be prone to depression... Of course, the notion that participation in true religion (rather than hopeless, false religion) would divide into ethnic groups is just silly.

But I am not trying to analyze this study point-by-point. I am looking for a more general trend among atheist scholars. And that trend is, "religion is a boolean - you have religion or not, and they are all interchangeable" and "we must examine religions based on the results provided to their adherents". The first is supported by my first part. For the second:
"The study shows that we need to consider the broader social aspects of institutions such as religion on an individual’s well being, both good and bad."
For the atheist, religion is a social structure to be considered and chosen based on the effects (or rejected outright). The notion of true or false is ignored (or often, assumed false).

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Book Review

"The Birth of Christianity" (John Dominic Crossan) - This is a big book, 586 pages - plus appendices. All of it, winding mumblings overturned by its own statement:

Pages 110-111: "Mark was used by Matthew and Luke as the first of their major consecutive sources... Wrong there, wrong thereafter."

Furthermore, Crossan uses absurdly late dates for all canonical books (Mark at 70, and the other Gospels all later).

The absurdity builds, as he uses early dates for Gnostic texts (the "Gospel" of Thomas).

I did learn more about the so-called "Q Gospel", which has always given me a sense of unease (why does John Macarthur never discuss this thing?).

It's totally made up! It's based on the assumption that Matthew and Luke are late and copied from Mark (and ignoring the power of the Holy Spirit). But, they contain common material not in Mark, so some have supposed another shared source for Matthew and Luke - "Q". There is not one physical artifact supporting Q! It is an interpolation backwards from Matthew and Luke (assuming a copied source, an earlier source).

Crossan compounds his error by comparing Thomas to Q, inferring a new text (the "Sayings Tradition"). This is like trying to form a uniform story by combining a history of the Skunkworks with the ramblings of Roswell conspiracy theorists! (Worse, an interpolation of two independent histories of the Skunkworks, by an author inclined towards alien conspiracies)

Of course, there is a motive behind his twisting of Scripture - to override the plain reading. Crossan's angle is "social justice", all the rage in liberal circles. That is, don't preach sin and wrath and repentance. Instead, preach about the evils of the current government, in favor of the government that you would like in power.

An excellent example of this is on page 372: "as Christianity moved more and more into the public and governmental sphere, men had actively to retake such control from women. Women as Luke 10:38-42 put it, should passively listen like Mary rather than actively administer like Martha." (italics in original)

This is wrong is so many ways! Here is the text from Luke:
"Now it came to pass, as they went, that He entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received Him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus' feet, and heard His word. But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to Him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me. And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her."
This passage is contrasting distracted busyness with Godly dedication! There is no mention of men and women. That is, it applies equally to men.

Over and over, it is clear that Crossan has rejected the doctrine of the Bible as the Word of God. His theology (effective atheism) is corrupting his interpretation and application. He says it himself (page 524) in an exchange with a questioner at a book reading:
Questioner: "You said that the Barabbas story was created by Mark because, as he saw it, the Jerusalem crowd had picked the wrong savior, namely the brigand-rebels, in the war against Rome that started in 66 CE?"
Myself: "Yes."
Questioner: "Mark himself made it up? ... It's not true?"
Myself: "Yes."
Questioner: "Then why can't you just call it what it is: a lie?"
Crossan is unable to recall his immediate reply. But he justifies himself in the book:
"I have emphasized gospel as updated good news ... They are not straight history, straight biography, straight journalism." (italics in original)
So, lying is ok if you're writing a gospel. Convenient position for a gospel scholar, it allows you to pick and choose - because it's all lies anyways.

Thursday, August 21, 2008


Seven is the number of completion. The creation was completed in seven days (including the day of rest).

Revelation 4:5 speaks of the "seven Spirits of God", and "seven churches". These are references to the completeness and holiness of God and the whole church being present before Him.

The final judgments on the earth are a set of three sevens. Complete and ultimate judgment. These take place during seven "days" (probably prophetic days, that is, years), the complete time allocated for this judgment. This is the completion of the shadow seen before the Flood (the first judgment) - Genesis 7:4 "For yet seven days, and I will cause it to rain upon the earth forty days and forty nights; and every living substance that I have made will I destroy from off the face of the earth."

Monday, August 18, 2008

Obama on Life

I didn't watch the Rick Warren "debate" (double interview), but I have seen select parts, and I found the transcript. For me, the most telling exchange for Obama was:

Warren: [A]t what point does a baby get human rights, in your view?

Obama: Well, you know, I think that whether you’re looking at it from a theological perspective or a scientific perspective, answering that question with specificity, you know, is above my pay grade.
First thing, I think McCain looked better at this event (which most everyone agrees) because he was willing to just state what he believes. On nearly every question, Obama looks like he is squirming. He uses a lot of weasel words, and looks like he is dodging.

Second, Obama is a Senator, the highest level of lawmaker in the country. He is applying for President, the highest level of the executive. He would likely be responsible for appointing several Supreme Court justices, the very ones who will decide this issue.

There is no higher "pay grade" to defer to! (I don't think Obama actually logically thought this out, again, just weasel words).

Third, scientifically, we cannot answer a question of rights. Science can tell us when life begins, and that is at conception. Logic can tell us the meaning of our decisions. That is, under the current interpretation, our rights are not inherent in who we are. The are gifted to us, by the state, upon our "good works" to please the state (in the current case, being born).

That is a dangerous position, and one contrary to the Declaration of Independence (which states our rights come from "the Creator").

Fourth, the Biblical (theological) perspective is that our rights come from our being created in the image of God, from conception. Nowhere to hide there.

Obama then goes on to spout the myth of "legal but rare". I addressed this over a year ago. If abortion is a moral evil, it should be illegal. If it is morally acceptable, then we shouldn't care how frequent it is.

Thursday, August 14, 2008


Six is the number of man. It is noticeably one short of the number of God (7).

Man was created on the sixth day (Genesis 1:24).

Also, the Babylonians (often the model of human centered society) were facinated with 6, and 60's, and 600's. Our system for time is influenced by them (60 second minutes, minutes in hours, 360 (6 x 60) + some days per year, 360 degrees, etc.)

As, I mentioned earlier, the number of the ultimate (final) man is 666 (Revelation 13:18).

Saturday, August 9, 2008

New Link

I am adding a new link to the "Handy Links" section. Hopefully this will help me check over there more often.

Paul Apple is an excellent teacher, and devoted Bible student (which is an essential part of being a Bible teacher).

Thursday, August 7, 2008


There is no particular theme attached to five. Instead, I have selected a few verses (chapters 5, verses 5), and there contexts:
  • "And all the days that Adam lived were nine hundred and thirty years: and he died." (Genesis)
  • "In the same hour came forth fingers of a man's hand, and wrote over against the candlestick upon the plaister of the wall of the king's palace: and the king saw the part of the hand that wrote." (Daniel) One of the three instances of God writing with His finger. The other two are in Exodus 31:18 (the Ten Commandments) and John 8:6 (Jesus writing in the sand)
  • "Blessed [are] the meek: for they shall inherit the earth." (Matthew)
  • "And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all them that heard these things." (Acts) Don't doubt that a single sin is not worthy of punishment. Adam and Eve were cast out of Eden for one sin. Ananias and his wife died for a single lie.
  • "For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God." (Ephesians)
  • "And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof." (Revelation) Referring to Jesus, set to open the title deed to the universe, and bring about the final judgment.
  • "For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith." (Galatians)

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Story versus Clock

Pastor Wilson is ripping up a book "The Doors of the Sea", by Hart. Hart has a problem with Calvinism, and Wilson is (rightly) showing how there is little Biblical alternative to Calvinism. But one of his statements reminded me of a recent point I made (in "Miracles").
"If the world and all its heartache and resident evils were a clock, then the only sane conclusion would have to be that the clock is broken... But the world is not a clock. The world is a story." (italics in original)
Wilson is far more eloquent than me. If you doubt Calvinism, it is worth reading this post, and the others in its series.

Monday, August 4, 2008


Evolution is a long and brittle chain. For the atheist, every link must be strong and true - else the "God of the gaps" will leak in. Not that I am a fan of the "God of the gaps". But, it should help some atheists to see the futility of their problem. Thousands of smart people looking for decardes for some way to deny God (some ignorant, but many are intentionally searching for an alternative to God). But this is the best they have...

I have discussed the problem of the as-yet unknown atheistic explanation of the origins of life. I have also ridiculed the notions of macro-evolution (the assumptions of common descent and the transmutation of species).

But there is also the problem of "stellar evolution". This is the process by which clouds of hydrogen (the initial product of the Big Bang) becomes the first generation of stars. These stars are believed to have been short lived, and formed the heavier elements which make our sun more stable (and thus, longer lived).

Only one problem. There is no model by which hydrogen will form a star! (without the magic of dark matter)

This is a subject which is rather interesting to me, so I will continue to investigate. There is a apparently a "Millennium Simulation Project" which has a lot of relevant data.

Sunday, August 3, 2008


I had an interesting witnessing encounter. A person identified themself as "Concerned Christian Now Liberated" (not the shortest handle on the planet). They seemed vaguely Christian, although doctrinely weak.

Finally, he said he was "Crossanized". I've never heard that particular label. Nor have I read anything by Crossan. I have seen a couple of his books at the library (you know, the storehouse of apostates and heretics). I will have to read one of these books.

Thursday, July 31, 2008


Four is not a particularly special number. There is a sequence in Proverbs 30, of "three, yes 4", which have four points each (verses 15, 18, 21, 24, and 29). There is often a punctuating statement at the end ("The eye [that] mocketh at [his] father, and despiseth to obey [his] mother, the ravens of the valley shall pick it out, and the young eagles shall eat it." - verse 17 after the verse 15-16 list).

In Amos, there are several "three and four" statements. But these have seven parts. Pastor Wilson did an excellent exposition on them.

Finally, John describes four living creatures before God's throne (Revelation 4:6). They are:
  • Lion - king of the wild animals
  • Calf - probably representative of the ox (the Greek is "young bull"), strongest of the tame animals
  • Man
  • Eagle - highest flying of the birds
These beings seem to represent all of creation worshiping God.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Theology Matters

Are you prepared to die for your theology?

Because you will - everyone dies.

Theology, in general, is the study of God. For individuals, it is our personal god. Christians endeavor to conform their notions to the true God, as revealed in the Bible.

On Sunday, July 27, 2008, a man with very evil and twisted beliefs killed people at a Unitarian Universalist (UU) church in Tenessee.

This is a sad and tragic story, which I want to handle with sensitivity and tact...

But, this is what the UU church believes (from their website):
"WE BELIEVE in the authority of reason and conscience. The ultimate arbiter in religion is not a church, nor a document, nor an official, but the personal choice and decision of the individual."
This is what that man believes (from the affidavit at Wikipedia):
"he had targeted the church because of its liberal teachings and his belief that all liberals should be killed because ...[no good reason]"
Personal choices can be wrong. Evil people will justify themselves, and do evil. This man believed he should kill people with sufficient vigor to actually do it.

There must be a standard of good and evil. That standard is outside of our personal choices and decisions. For Christians, that is the Bible. The church is a group of people meeting together and agreeing on how to teach from the Bible. The officials in that church are approved (and, I'm pretty sure, appointed) by their members to be teaching them.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Book Review

"In My Place Condemned He Stood" (J. I. Packer and Mark Dever) - This is a collection of essays concerning substitutionary atonement, the doctrine that Jesus' death on the cross was in place of the just punishment we deserved - and His death satisfied God's wrath at our sin, permitting us to enjoy eternal life with God.

The essays are:
The Heart of the Gospel - J.I. Packer (1973)

What Did the Cross Achieve? The Logic of Penal Substitution - J.I. Packer (1973)

Nothing But the Blood - Mark Dever (2006)

Saved By His Own Precious Blood: An Introduction to John Owen's The Death of Death in the Death of Christ - J.I. Packer (1959)

The last section is an overview and recommendation of the work of John Owen, who apparently wrote a lot of excellent material on this subject.

After becoming a Christian, substitutionary atonement has never been a problem for me. But it is a topic always worthy of study. These articles are excellent, both as polemic against alternative proposals, and apologetics for the orthodox doctrine.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Paul's Gospel

If First John is my favorite book, then Romans would probably be the one book I would choose if I could only have one book to take with me. That is because it is a rich source of theology.

First of all, it contains a well-developed presentation of the Gospel:
  • Overview (chapter 1, verses 2-6)
  • God's Judgment (chapter 2)
  • How the Law cannot save us (end of chapter 2, and chapter 3)
  • Salvation is by faith (end of chapter 3, and chapter 4)
  • Some of the consequences of salvation (chapters 5 and 6)
  • Paul develops this theology in chapters 7-13
  • Chapter 14 gives vital insight for how Christians are to bear with one another
Romans 1:16
"For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek."

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


Three is the number of the ideal or ultimate.

The holy of holies (in God's temple) was a cube (three dimensional square), 20 cubits on a side (1 Kings 6:20). Some say the huge cube in Revelation 21:16 is a reference to this cube (others say it is not actually a cube).

The ultimate man is given by the number 666 (six is the number of man, coming up!).

It is believable, then, that God should be three persons in one (although this is not sufficient). We can know that God is multiple persons; because God is love (1 John 4:8), and love is a relationship. The proof is related to the number of witness (2):
"For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one." - 1 John 5:7
Any two members of the Trinity can bear witness to the third. I mentioned the baptism of Jesus. In addition, we come to know God (the Father) through the preaching (Romans 10:14) of the Word (Jesus), and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (John 15:26-27). This passage in John also describes (among others) how Jesus and the Father send us the Comforter (the Holy Spirit).

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

How Do You Know?

I will continue to challenge the foundations of atheistic arguments. Most will argue that we can only know what we perceive through our senses. In that light, I found an interesting article on tactile illusions.

This describes an experiment on touch, modeled after the visual illusion where our eye interprets motion backwards and forwards (somewhat like the wheel caps on a car appear to move forward at low speed, but backward at high speed).
"When volunteer subjects were given the diagonally alternating [tactile] stimuli, they perceived them as moving smoothly back and forth--and just as with the visual illusion, the direction of apparent motion flipped back and forth from vertical to horizontal, on average about twice per minute, even though there was no change in the stimulus itself."
That covers vision and touch. I will have to dig up an analysis of "phantom sounds" (common for cell phone uses). Then there will just be smell and taste!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Tricks of Satan

In previous entries, I have touched on Satan's twisting of Scripture (leading us to doubt God's Word). I touched on Genesis 3, where Eve was deceived about the nature of death. Let us roll back a little, and look at the Serpent's opening remarks:
תאכלו מכל עץ הגן
Literally, "eat all trees garden" (that is, has God not said "Eat from all trees in the garden" - note that Satan here refers to God as Elohim, where the original text [Genesis 2:16] refers to God as Jehovah Elohim)

Here is the Hebrew of the what God actually said:
מכל עץ הגן אכל תאכל
Literally, "all trees garden eat eat" (Of every tree in the garden thou mayest freely eat).

Here we can see the importance of word for word analysis, and observation of the original languages. God placed eat last in the sentence, and emphasized it. While Satan places it first, and does not.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 "All scripture [is] given by inspiration of God, and [is] profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works."

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


My local church is doing a class on evangelism this quarter. The material is from the "Two Ways to Live" ministry.

Part of the class is two forty minute presentations on the theology behind their method (which is all very solid).

One point they made has me really thinking.

Deists believe the universe is like a big machine, which God built and set running, and then ignores. Many Christians have a similiar view.

That is, they view the universe as running itself, with God only tinkering here and there - a miracle!

But that is not what the Bible teaches.
"God ... hath in these last days spoken unto us by [His] Son, ... by whom also He made the worlds; Who being the brightness of [His] glory, and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power" Hebrews 1:1-3a
This passage is referring to the creation of all things through Jesus, and the continual operation of the universe by the power of God's Word.

The reason Fg = GMm / r2 (formula for computing the force of gravity); all the time, is because God is a God of order.

A miracle is a change from what we expect. But the universe exists for God's pleasure, and it will always do that.

Monday, July 14, 2008


Two is the number of witness. For major events, two witnesses were required:
"At the mouth of two witnesses, or three witnesses, shall he that is worthy of death be put to death; [but] at the mouth of one witness he shall not be put to death." Deuteronomy 17:6
Jesus, describing the process for church discipline, said:
"But if he will not hear [thee, then] take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established."
This principle of witness also plays a role in the trinity, which I will discuss more at 3.

Matthew 3:16-17:
"And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased."

At Jesus' baptism, the Holy Spirit and the Father bore witness to the veracity of His message.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Prosperity Again

I've previously spoken about my personal motivation to examine the "Prosperity Gospel". I'm on the Kenneth Copeland mailing list (long story). Looking back through the archives, I found this interesting gem (an article by Vinson Synan, and endorsed by Copeland).

I was never 100% happy (or unhappy) with Ken, but I guess he wants to align himself with the worst aspects of this movement...

This is a long and rambling article, let me extract the key points:

A Parable of the Three Sermons on the Mount: "one a traditional Christian teacher, one a social gospel teacher and the other a Pentecostal preacher with a salvation, healing and prosperity gospel"

I think this section spells it all out. I find it interesting that the "traditional" Christian teacher failed to mention sin. But, I guess that is Copeland's idea of orthodoxy - with that view, I'd look for an "upgrade" too...

Synan mocks the orthodox statements, "
Take comfort in your faith. Suffering builds character, and the Lord suffered, too. He will comfort you." Probably a reference to James 1 (which is always good for times of trouble): "Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted: But the rich, in that he is made low: because as the flower of the grass he shall pass away."

That brings up a good point. Jesus often talked about how blessed are the poor, and woe to the rich. Why would these preachers wish their congregants the temptation of worldly riches?

The next to last paragraph summarizes it well:
"Some critics think the prosperity message offers a mirage of false hope for the masses of the poor by saying, "If it does not wash in Bangladesh it will not wash in America." Yet it seems to be the poor are the most attracted to the message. To many poor people this teaching offers a ray of hope for better things through trusting God. Others seem to be influenced by the American lifestyle they see in American movies made in Hollywood."
This is the wrong foundation for evangelism. We cannot look at results. Paul was often rejected (or stoned!), but he did not alter the Gospel message. Our duty is to deliver the Gospel, in whole, with patience and even sensitivity. But it is God who calls, God who changes people.

Thursday, July 10, 2008


"Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God [is] one LORD" (Deuteronomy 6:4)
"One" is related to the prefix 'uni-', which we see in "universe", "unity", "union", etc.
"Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. [There is] one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who [is] above all, and through all, and in you all. But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ." (Ephesians 4:3-7)

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

New Series - Numbers

I am going to run a series of small posts on numbers (math, not the book of the Bible). I'll reflect them back into the Bible, but I'm not endorsing numerology :)

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Christians for Obama

Interesting story at CNN.

I heard a very insightful speaker say that many evangelicals are ripe fruit for exploitation, because of their lack of doctrine: (Ephesians 4:14)
"That we [henceforth] be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, [and] cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive"
Without the teaching of sound doctrine, you are vulnerable to every "new" idea that comes along.

For example (given in the CNN story), the Matthew 25 Network: "I tell you the truth, as you did to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me." Matthew 25:40

That's an interesting choice of verses. The implication is that the proper behavior for Christians is to support a government which takes people's money and gives it to the poor (</sarcasm>).

Of course, it overlooks the most obvious interpretation. Who is less than an unborn baby, and what can you do that is worse than murder them in the womb?

Monday, July 7, 2008

Sin and Sinners

This cannot be said often enough. We are not sinners because we sin, we sin because we are sinners.

We are not good people, who occasionally "mess up", and who are tagged forever as sinners because of one mistake.

We are sinners, all of us. Some of us have our sin under some control (usually, just the external manifestations, the internal rages away).

We become quite adept at rationalizing our sin. I need it. Everyone else does it. It's not really that bad. As long as no one gets hurt. Etc.

This process hardens our hearts. It is the "hard path" and "rocky soil" spoken of in the Parable of the Sower (Luke 8:4, Matthew 13:3). We become immune to understanding the things of God.

The solution is the application of God's Word; sharper than any two edged sword. The Ten Commandment have been compared to a sturdy shovel, breaking up the rocky soil and preparing it to receive the seed of the Good News.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Presuppositions 2

Isn't there proof (or at least evidence) for evolution?

What we have are facts (either first hand or retold). Some bones found in a certain place, in a certain rock formation. If retold, then all we really have is our faith (trust) in the truthfulness of the one reporting.

This is a real problem. Piltdown man was hailed as evidence of evolution for over forty years, until it was determined to have been a hoax.

The real issue is that evidence is often interpreted from the basis of our presuppositions. Let us return to a previous article:
"But recently biologists have suggested that females could benefit from mating with many men"
Evolutionary theory failed to produce a unified prediction. Some biologists thought women would favor casual sex, some thought the opposite. When the data arrived, some were found to be right, some wrong. But that is not solidifying your theory, that is a flexible story which adapts to facts.

From Biblical presuppositions, I don't think I could make a prediction. All humans are sinners, and comparing a propensity to sin is a hard problem. But there is an interesting insight from Romans 1:26, "For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature".

The Bible teaches that the male was created directly from the earth (Adam comes from the word for the color of mud). The female was one step removed from the earth (being created from the man's rib).

In some way, the corruption of women is a sign that society has completely turned from God (and God gives us over to the consequences of our rebellion).

So, we should worry, because women in our society are showing the signs that Paul speaks of. But, on the positive side, there is still some remnant of conscience (as this study shows).

Thursday, July 3, 2008


The term "apologetics" comes from the Greek word apologia. It is translated 'answer' in 1 Peter 3:15: "But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and [be] ready always to [give] an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear".

This "answer" is a logical and reasoned response to justify our trust in God. We are reasonable and logical, because we are created in God's image, and God is reasonable and logical (Isaiah 1:18 "Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD").

There are two main approaches to apologetics: "evidential" and "presuppositional".

Evidential apologetics focuses on archaeological and documented evidence that supports the Bible.

Presuppositional apologetics simply says, "What is your foundation?" The atheist (or humanist) stands on his own support - "I am the judge of truth". The theist says, "I am insufficient to determine truth, God is the giver of truth".

That's it.

Isn't this circular?

Yes it is, both are circular...

The humanist says:
  • I am the sole judge of truth
  • I do not need God
  • Therefore, there is no God
The theist says:
  • I need God to determine truth (special revelation: the Bible)
  • The Bible describes God, and declares that it is God's truth
  • God is as described in the Bible
You can have a circle centered on fallible, limited, lying self; or a circle centered on the all knowing, infallible God.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008


I've been told that evolution is science because it is falsifiable. What would it take to falsify evolution?

The bulk of evolutionary theory is based on "morphology", the study of physical forms. For extinct species, it is the only basis.

DNA analysis tells us what is really going on inside a living organism (whether or not we assume common descent).

So what happens when DNA analysis overturns an entire branch of the "evolutionary tree"?
"With this study, we learned two major things. First, appearances can be deceiving. Birds that look or act similar are not necessarily related. Second, much of bird classification and conventional wisdom on the evolutionary relationships of birds is wrong."
(Note that this analysis is based on comparison of just 8,000 bits of DNA)

Similar mistakes are made on the human scale. Some people attempt to justify casual sex through an appeal to biology. A recent article notes:
"Indeed, during the ovulatory phase (between days 10 to 18 of their cycle), women report increased sexual desire and arousal, with a preference for short-term partners."
When biology informs us what is right and wrong, we get "If it feels right, just do it" (Ironically, many who call themselves Christians believe the same thing, and blame it on the Holy Spirit).
"It seemed obvious that if our female ancestors really were adapted to short–term relationships they ought to enjoy them, just like men do."
Of course, when biology then makes us feel guilty...
"Overall women’s feelings were more negative than men’s. Eighty per cent of men had overall positive feelings about the experience compared to 54 per cent of women."
It's evolution! The title of the article, "Women Have Not Adapted To Casual Sex". (Note, this is not a reference to recent "adaptation", but long term "evolutionary" adaptation).

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The Bootstrap Problem

The first computers were hardwired, that is, the program was built into the computer. Turn it on, and the program just runs. Reprogramming required turning it off, and rearranging lots of cables and switches.

The development of fully programmable computers introduced a new problem - the "bootstrap" problem (from an old story about lifting yourself up by pulling on your shoelaces [boostraps]).

The problem:
  • A fully programmable computer has no set program.
  • When the computer turns on, it needs to find the program to run
  • The computer needs a program to tell it what program to run
There is a similar problem in biology:
  • DNA is the "program" for organisms (it directs their construction, including reproduction)
  • DNA breaks down outside of the cell environment (primarily the cell wall)
  • The cell wall is constructed by instructions in DNA (it will not form naturally)
When Darwin formulated his theory, there was no understanding of cell biology. He even lacked an understanding of heredity (the ground breaking research was occurring about the same time, but there was no communication).

During my time developing computers, I was part of a small team which uncovered a problem in the boot process of a new computer system.
  • The boot code lived in a chip called the "BIOS"
  • This chip was connected off another chip called the "Southbridge" (through a "bus")
  • The Southbridge powered up in a state which required a certain bit to be set in order to enable that bus
  • The code to set that bit was in the BIOS code
This one minor problem survived the inspection of dozens of smart people over scores of hours of review. And it would have stopped the system dead.

The simplest DNA code (a bacterium) is 150,000 bits long - human DNA is 7,500,000,000 bits. The most complex computer programs are about 1/10 of that (and DNA codes proteins which are far more powerful than the instructions in a computer).

Monday, June 30, 2008

Knowledge and Values

There was a recent article which I find informative on the current "debate" on the ethics of embryonic stem cell research (ESCR).

They start with:
"But will that [more] knowledge necessarily help build support for the science?"
That's an interesting statement. It's reflective of an underlying attitude: that science, any science, is good; and that anyone who is intelligent will support more science. That only the ignorant (religious folk) would question science.

Then there is:
"It is not about providing religious audiences with more scientific information. In fact, many of them are already highly informed about stem cell research, so more information makes little difference in terms of influencing public support. And that's not good or bad. That's just what the data show."
Well, how kind to acknowledge that some ignorant, religious folk are actually highly informed. And then to follow it up with the non-statement that this is neither"good or bad".

If ESCR is ethical (i.e. killing human beings in their earliest stage of development will be permitted by society), then opposing it is contrary to society's value (which is the only definition of "bad" the atheist has).

If ESCR is unethical, then opposing it is good.

I'm just surprised that we needed a study to determine that more knowledge will not make one lose one's values...

It did provide a final thought:
"The attitudes of individuals who are deferential to science - who tend to trust scientists and their work - are influenced by their level of scientific understanding."
Those who reject trust in God (who trust in men) are supportive of their rebel gods! Again, shouldn't need a study for that.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Book Review

"Introduction to Christianity" (Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger) - This book was written in 1968, in German. I think something was lost in translation of the title. A better title would be, "The Epistemological Foundations of Christianity". Because, I don't think an "Introduction" should use big words and arguments based on philosophical first principles :)

That said, this book was solid, if a bit heavy and a little slow. The first section is on presuppositionalism, and was fairly well done. It was while reading this that I came to a better appreciation of how understanding is a gift, to be received.

Some oddities, page 245:
"For the salvation of the mere individual there would be no need of either a Church or a history of salvation, an Incarnation or Passion of God in this world."
I think this point reveals a difference of opinion in soteriology and the meaning of "church"... As well as judgment, page 324:
"judgment of all men 'according to their works'... Perhaps in the last analysis it is impossible to escape a paradox whose logic is completely disclosed only to an experience of a life based on faith."
Protestant soteriology breaks this paradox. We are saved from judgment as a gift of grace, in faith - turning (repenting) from sin, and trusting in Jesus. This enables truly good works, which will be judged for the awarding of "crowns" (heavenly rewards). Of course, the ability to do these works are, in themselves, gifts from God, and we return these crowns to God (Rev 4:10) - to glorify Him.

Although there is a good presentation on the state of human (works) righteousness, page 258:
"all human righteousness is dismissed as inadequate."
As well as proper exegesis of the Sermon on the Mount as a provoking of the conscience.

I think the most striking aspect of this book was how it seemed to speak to the current mindset of people, despite having been written forty years ago! Truly, an accurate analysis of where thinking at that time would lead us.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Book Review

"Surprised by Hope" (N. T. Wright) - I found this book rather frustrating to read. Wright is targeting a group of Christians I am not too familiar with. These are dispensationalists who focus more on the intermediate heavenly state, than on the final united new heaven and earth.

I'm not certain how important this distinction is. The Bible makes it clear that the heavens and earth will be destroyed, and God will reside with us in the new earth (no separate heaven). Beyond this, the peculiars of timing are non-essential.

I had assumed Wright's eschatology was post-mil. He seems to be backing off of this (if he ever fully was). But, his motivation is still post-mil. That is, the Church must act to make the world a better place.

This leads to his oddest statement in the book. He is almost obsessed with third world debt. He says (page 216):
"As far as I can see, the major task that faces us in our generation, corresponding to the issue of slavery two centuries ago, is that of the massive economic imbalance of the world"
On the face of it, this is boldly absurd. The exploitation of the poor by the rich is a constant factor in history since the invention of money (and is not going away until the abolition of personal wealth). Pastor Wilson has an excellent in-depth analysis of Wright's "solution".

But, I'm curious how Wright can overlook abortion. I will be generous, and assume he means "the major task, after the abomination that is abortion and the assault on the right to life"...

Monday, May 26, 2008

Free Will Again

I am reminded of Martin Luther's book, "The Bondage of the Will". The unconverted person has free will, but only in the selection of what sin they will commit next. Everything they do is in rebellion against God. Even "good" acts are carried out for the wrong motive (fame, reputation, guilt, etc.). When it comes to the important act, coming to salvation, their will is completely constrained (in bondage).

That is, until they hear the Gospel proclaimed - Romans 10:14:
"How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?"
Once you have heard the Gospel proclaimed (anyone who proclaims the Gospel is a "preacher" in this sense), you must respond rightly. The right response is to repent (turn from sin) and trust in the perfect life of Jesus and His death which paid the price of sin - and His resurrection which showed Him approved of God, and which proves we can have new life.

This response is not a "work". There is nothing exceptional about us that makes us respond rightly. It would seem their is a certain amount of humility required, but every unconverted person has a large amount of pride. The logical thing to do is rightly respond, but more logical folk are no more likely to respond; that is, my right response is in no way due to the fact that I am smarter than anyone else.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Hardness of Heart

I've been invited to a Bible study (on the Revelation to John) held by a local Seventh Day Adventist church. I didn't know much about Adventists until the last year or so. I did gain respect for them after reading Ronald Numbers' book.

Their theology is basically post-trib/pre-mil Baptist. And they are very dedicated to Saturday worship.

Occasionally, the 30,000 denomination statistic comes up (a number which, I believe, counts independent and non-denominational churches each as their own denomination...). I am reminded of something Todd Friel says. Jesus (Matthew 19:8, etc.) said that God allowed divorce because of the hardness of people's hearts. Does God allow denominationalism because of the hardness of our hearts?

I've been reading repeatedly through the book of Romans. And every time I hit chapter 14, I am reminded of this again. Solid Christians must restrict their freedom on the behalf of those who are weaker. The weak and the strong in faith should not judge one another. Let everyone keep these minor issues private to himself.

Hold fast to the essentials, give grace otherwise.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

The Cold, Distant Father

I was invited to a local Muslim open house today. It's the first time I've gotten to proclaim the Gospel in question form (during the Q&A):

"What is sin?" (breaking God's law)

"Is God just? That is, does God demand payment for sin?"

"What can we give God?" (how can we make the payment)

"Have you heard, that Jesus Christ died to pay the price for our sins?"

Any time the Gospel is proclaimed, that is a good day. I also gained an interesting insight into Muslim theology:

"Does the Koran say 'God is love'?" No, but we love each other in the way God would desire, and in that -- and our good deeds -- hope to win his approval.

And there it is.

Allah, the cold and distant father. Who shows no love. And the hard working, unloved children -- desperately laboring to win his approval, some sign of love.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Witness Report

Today there was a festival in a nearby town. Our church rented a stall, and set up what we call the "Discover Hope" table. We offer a selection of tracts and Christian pamphlets for free to all passers by.

It started out raining, and we were worried we would have to cancel. But, praise God, the rain broke and we had a good day overall.

We gave out a lot of tracts to passers-by, and had many people come up to the table. We also had an argumentative older man debate with us for several minutes.

Interesting passer-by for the day, "Is this one of those 'end of the world' things?" Me: "No, well, you have to be ready..." "It's your world coming to an end!! Not mine!!" Ok, then...

I also got a chance to visit some of the other booths and have some good conversations. I talked with some very friendly Muslims. I was surprised at the candor they had when I asked them "Do you have assurance [of eternal life when you die]?". "No" was their answer!

I also talked for a while with a group of pro-choice activists. They were, uh, "angry".

My last conversation was with two Mormons. There is something strange going on with the Mormons. They are pushing more on their image as "regular Christians". When I asked about all the usual Mormon heresies, they denied them. They claimed salvation by faith alone, without works. They attested to the eternality of Jesus. Very odd. I didn't know what to say. I guess if their prophet tells them to adopt orthodox Christian doctrines, they will become Christians. I am hopeful, but still wary...

Monday, May 5, 2008

Orthodoxy and Orthopraxy

Catching up on my Blog and Mablog reading, I saw this gem:
"Don't pin his words to a poster board like a row of
dead but orthodox butterflies."
Not being a "covenanter", I don't understand all the issues in this "Auburn Avenue" business. But I am thankful my church is non-denominational.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

God and Religion -- Conclusion

(Concluding the series of posts on Bertrand Russell's "God and Religion")

Overall, I didn't learn much from this book. Russell's logic is pretty solid, but I disagree with his base assumptions ("there is no God").

Reading the portions on Russell's personal life, I couldn't help but think of Ephesians 6:4 "And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord." Russell's parents died when he was young, and he was raised by his legalistic grandparents.

There is also an element of arrogance in Russell's writing. A kind of "if only people were as smart as me, things would be better". I can understand this feeling, because I've felt it myself (and it is a sin).

There is also an element of sadness to it. A feeling of loneliness. "Is there no one who thinks as I do?"

Saturday, April 19, 2008

God and Religion

(Continuing Bertrand Russell's "God and Religion")

Chapter 19 "Ideas that Have Helped Mankind". I figured Russell would take considerable pride in how much smarter "modern" humans are than ancients. I was glad to see him take a more cynical (I prefer the term "realistic" :) view.

Page 306 "we have certainly become progressively less like animals". My presuppositions hold that we never were, so no progress there...

"As to happiness, ... I am not convinced that there has been any progress at all." I'm glad to hear Russell fess up to that fact. Now, let's see if he can use induction properly.

Sadly, on page 320, Russell presents his vision of a rationalistic future: "all the great achievements of mankind will quickly lead to an era of happiness and well-being, [etc.]". Russell was writing in 1946, and his projections are not out of line with the Utopian thinking of that era. You'd find similar projections in science fiction.

And our technology has made impressive improvements, but has this brought about utopia? One roll-up of statistics shows that use of anti-depressants has tripled in the twelve years from 1988 to 2000 (10% of women and 4% of men). Our governments declare "never again" will they allow genocide, which apparently means "every ten years or so". Productivity is up, but people are working just as long (if not longer).

Chapter 20, "Mahatma Gandhi".
Chapter 21, "The Theologians Nightmare". Meh.