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).