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).