Tuesday, December 21, 2010

One Starry-Eyed Astronomer and his "Potential"

It wasn't too long ago that Ben Stein, that master of dead pan, came out with a movie called, Expelled in which he and others claimed that creationist scientists were being thrusted out of academia by atheistic scientists. I am the first to admit that creationists, and especially evangelical folk, can sometimes be a little alarmist in the reporting of the nefarious doings of others. But this time, I think Ben Stein may have a point.

Today, I read an article about an astronomer named C. Martin Gaskell. He currently holds a position at the University of Nebraska and was a leading candidate for the head of an observatory at the University of Kentucky. Gaskell claims that he did not receive the job because of his religious beliefs. He may be right. You can check out the article here, and I hope that you do. The money quote is a snippet of an exchange between staff members at the University of Kentucky concerning Gaskell, "Clearly this man is complex and likely fascinating to talk with, but potentially evangelical." Potentially evangelical?! Oh my! Oh noes! We can't have that kind of guy moving into the neighborhood, that would drive housing prices down for sure!

Okay, atheists and evolutionists think that evangelicals are idiots. We get that. We think that they are foolish. However, and this is a note to atheists, believing in a Supreme Being and that miracles happen hardly puts you outside the mainstream, nor does it hinder serious scientific endeavor. I recommend that Gaskell gets the job, and that everyone on that staff has to read C.S. Lewis' "The Abolition of Man." If only!

HT: @Phil_Johnson_

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Real and Reasonable Darkness in Harry Potter

I am a bit ashamed when Christians get bent out of shape over the magic of Harry Potter. It demonstrates a lack of critical thinking, a Luddite approach to the arts, and a very valuable missed opportunity to engage with culture in a meaningful way. If anyone reads the Harry Potter series and comes away thinking that the main point is spell-casting and the making of witches, then they simply fail to grasp the point of the series. The themes in Harry Potter are much deeper than wand waving and wizardry.

Truly, the heaviest theme in the series is not witchcraft, it is the exploration of death and dying. I would make the argument that death is the central theme of the Harry Potter series. How the main characters deal with death essentially defines who they will be as a person. Death, in one way or another, profoundly shapes Harry Potter, Voldemort, and even Severus Snape. The reason that Voldemort has any followers is that he has promised them immortality. They are the "Death Eaters," the ones who will escape death.

This is precisely why the "darkness" in Harry Potter grows as Harry grows and as the series continues. As a child, Harry is haunted by the murder of his parents. But because he is a child, death still seems a far off notion, the world of the living and the world of magic are what fascinate Harry. Harry is innocent, and though he has had to deal with the spectre of death his entire life, "The Boy Who Lived" is still just a boy at the outset.

As the story progresses, Harry has to cope with more and more death because, as I mentioned before, Voldemort is really, really evil. Harry not only has to deal with the murder of his parents, but by the end of the series he has had to deal with the death of his beloved "adoptive" father Sirius Black, he sees his friend Cedric Diggory murdered before his eyes, Mad-Eye Moody is slain, his pet owl Hedwig is killed, and his faithful servant Dobby the Elf is also killed by an evil witch. All of these deaths are tragic, but noble. Harry's friends my die, but they all do so acting quite bravely, each one dying in defense of Harry himself.

Ghosts first clue us in to this struggle with death. Ghosts are funny things, a sort of darkly humorous side item that appears in the series. "Nearly Headless Nick", who is played by John Cleese in the movies, is especially funny. When Harry's father figure, Sirius Black, is slain in battle with Death Eaters, Harry is hopeful that Sirius will return as a ghost. He speaks to Nearly-Headless Nick about it, but Nick tells him that Sirius will never be a ghost. Ghosts are people who died but were afraid to "cross over." Ghosts, then, are rather pathetic creatures in this light. They are those who are unliving, longing to live as they once did, but unable to embrace the fact that they never will.

Another magnificent scene in the series is when Harry gets into the carriage that takes the students to Hogwarts the year after he sees Cedric Diggory die. Up until that year, Harry, along with most of the students, believes that the carriages are drawn by magic. This time, Harry sees that the carriages are really drawn by red-eyed, leathery winged horse creatures. His friend Luna Lovegood informs him that these are "Thestrals" and that only those who have "seen death" can see Thestrals. This is a wonderful bit of writing. It symbolizes how Harry's eyes are being opened to the reality of death. Harry's battle, in the end, is not really against Voldemort. Voldemort is really more pitiful than a ghost. Harry's battle is with death, and once Harry faces the fear of death, and recognizes the fact that he must indeed die, then he is free from all the threats of Voldemort.

So if one wishes to be critical of Harry Potter, I hope that they will not do it because he waves a wand and shouts Latin"ish" phrases. Be critical because of how the series explores death, friendship, love, and bravery. I believe, if a Christian or anyone else, will judge the books on those merits, Harry Potter will come out a winner every time. The growing darkness of Harry Potter is not due to Mrs. Rowling's turn to the darkside. The growing darkness is because as Harry becomes aware of the reality of evil and death as he matures, so does the reader. It is a natural progression, not an increase of wickedness. Like Thestrals, the darkness was always there, you just couldn't see it before.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A Great Sign of the Apocalypse

When someone mentions the apocalypse, I wonder what pops into your mind? Do you think of the sun growing dark or the moon turning to blood? To you imagine chaos in the streets, rioting, looting, and things burning? Do you imagine war and death and horror? Are these the signs of an apocalypse? Do you imagine a catclysm of epic proportions?

These may be signs of the apocalypse, but I want to say that there is a sign of the apocalypse that is far more familiar and wonderful. We are about to celebrate the dawn of the apocalypse. It did not begin with a great deal of fanfare.

The apocalypse began, and I use the term "began" very loosely, with a silent invasion. It was not a massive army that invaded, but a single subversive. He did not ride in on a war horse, he came as a baby, the son of a poor carpenter of Nazareth named Joseph.

You may have not thought of Jesus as being a sign of the apocalypse. You have probably never thought of Christmas as a time to commemorate the greatest invasion in the history of the world. But he is a sign of the apocalypse. The innocent baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger came to bring a sword, to ultimately slay all of his enemies, and to rule the world with a rod of iron. This baby will celebrate on Christmas will make the mountains quake, he will shake the stars from the heavens, and he will smite the world by the words from his mouth. He is the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End, and the rule of his kingdom will never end.

Simeon knew this. Simeon was a godly man who lived for the day of this king's arrival, this rebel who would overthrow the prince of darkness. Simeon took the baby from the arms of his young mother and said, "Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed" (Luke 2:34). Simeon saw that this baby was the beginning of the end of the world as it was, and that he would usher in the world to come.

I know that many of you that read my blog believe that Jesus is the Messiah, and I know that some of you do not. I beg you all to consider this sign again. When you pass a nativity, even a cheesy nativity, and you look at that scene of the donkey and sheep and doting mother and father, please consider what you see. Consider who this baby is that angels announce his birth. That so many, myself included, swear to their last breath that this little baby is the future King of Earth, the defeater of Death, and the scourge of Satan. Are we Christians all mad? Am I insane? Maybe. Or maybe Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God.

Is it true, or is it not true that this baby would grow up to be crucified and then rise from the dead? Did he come out of the tomb or didn't he? If he didn't, then I am a fool. If he did, then you are a fool if you do not consider what I say. Take heed this Christmas season in the midst of your giving and receiving of gifts. You are celebrating something as old as the fallen world: the promise of an apocalypse. This child has come for judgment, both yours and the world.

My dear friends, I want to wish you all a Merry Christmas. Above all, I want you to see that Jesus Christ is Lord. It is true! The little baby did grow up and conquer sin, death, and hell. Won't you at least consider the possibility? And if you already believe it, I hope that you will believe it enough to tell someone how Jesus brought the sword to your own soul.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Tax Cuts!

I recently posted an article in which I announced my epiphany regarding the great recession. You can check it out here if you like. Since that day of revelation, I have been doing more pondering on the state of the American economy, and what it might mean to me and my family and friends.

First, we must take note that we are currently operating at around a $13 trillion dollar deficit. That, my friends, is a chunk of change. It's a fairy tale chunk of change, really. If you were buried under 13 trillion dollars, and you freed yourself at the rate of a million dollars a day it would take you ten million days to be free. That's around 27,400 years to freedom. Katy bar the door!

So now all the hype in politics is the suggested tax cuts that are about to be voted on. I admit to being undecided on the issue, as I have strong feeling both ways. I will go with the "tax the rich guys!" impulse first, and then work my way back to rational thought from there.

First, I admit that the selfish, fleshly, knee-jerk reaction to tax cuts for rich people is for me to cry, "NO!!!! Stick it to the man!" But alas, emotive jealousy will not serve in the place of proper argument except in Ford vs. Chevy discussions. So, my only real argument for higher taxes on the rich is that, well, they can afford it. And secondly, to those whom much is given, much is required. I am also not very persuaded that a tax cut on the rich necessarily means that they will re-invest that savings back into the economy. That might sit on it, especially if they see financial Armageddon on the horizon in the form of a 13 trillion dollar debt.

I know that there might be other reasons to disproportionally gouge the rich more than the poor, but none of them overcome this other selfish, fleshly, knee-jerk reaction: I hate taxes. I don't hate them like George Washington hated them. This guy went beserk and shot people over a three cent stamp tax. I hate them in a "Hey, get your own money, dude!" type of hate. I understand taxing me for roads, armies, bridges, and even a very limited welfare. However, keeping folks on perpetual unemployment seems to be an abuse of the working man. I am not about wealth redistribution, especially when it is my wealth that is being redistributed.

Also, I abhor estate taxes. I nearly hate them as bad as George Washington hated stamp taxes or like Ben Franklin hated tea taxes. Unless I am wrong, majorly and happily wrong, no one is going to leave me anywhere near the $5 million dollar allowable before tax. (Dad, you can correct me if I'm wrong, gloriously and shockingly wrong.) But it gripes me to think that a guy works hard, pays his rich guy tax bracket, amasses a tidy fortune, only to have it get ravaged to the tune of 45% upon his death. That's like spitting on a grave, if you ask me. Plus, when that wealth is applied to land, it really gets ugly. Some farmers might be land rich but money poor. That means that they have to sell the farm to pay the inheritance tax. Ben Franklin, where are you now?

But let me attempt to shine a small ray of hope into all this deficit talk and tax bracket wrangling. The deficit is actually an estimate, right? The government can only guess how much the American people will make this year and how much tax revenue there will be. So here's what we do: Let's all make an extra $120,000 this year in gross income and pay off Uncle Sam's debt that greedy bankers and home owners saddled us with. Or maybe, we could find another 100 guys as rich as Bill Gates and just steal all their money. Of course, that would ulitmately mean that everyone who worked at Microsoft multiplied by 100 would suddenly be unemployed. *sigh* This thing is more complicated than it looks.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

The Story of Christmas, from the Beginning

Once upon a time, and this is a true story, a man named Adam and a woman named Eve lived in a garden paradise. There was no death in that place. The animals were obedient to the man and woman. Every tree in that garden was good for food, except one. That one was not to be eaten from. It was the tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil, and the man and the woman were to avoid it.

The most wonderful thing about this garden was that God visited it. He came to walk in it, and He came to fellowship with Adam and Eve. God loved the man and the woman, and He made everything: the sun, the moon, the stars, the trees, the water, and the world, so that they might have life and enjoy it and Him. But they betrayed God. They listened to that great enemy of man, Satan, as he slandered the motives of God for withholding from them that one tree. They disobeyed God and ate from it. For their crime, they were cast out of paradise. Death entered the world of men. Labor became intense and less fruitful. Child-bearing became an agony. And worst of all, God no longer walked with men as He once had.

But He still loved them, but his people were changed and twisted. Hate had taken root in their hearts. They no longer trusted God or each other. The man that God had lovingly made from the dust, the woman whom He had made from the man, they were now incapable of love. They had fallen far and were broken things, as hideous and twisted as the serpent who assailed them.

God would not leave his children, broken as they were, without hope. Adam and Eve heard the serpent's doom, "Hatred shall be between her seed and your seed. You shall bruise his heel, but he shall bruise your head!" So Adam and Eve went away from God and they had children. Their first were Cain and Abel. Perhaps one of them would be the one to crush the serpent? Alas! The bitterness of death and sin! Cain rose up and crushed his own brother, not the head of the serpent. Abel lay murdered by the hand of his own brother. The earth drank his blood and mourned. Even the earth was in agony over the paradise that was lost.

And so Adam and Eve grieved, but all was not lost. God gave them another son, and they named him Seth. Eve exclaimed, "God has appointed for me another seed in the place of Abel, for Cain murdered him!" Perhaps Seth would be the one to crush the head of the serpent.

But no, God's plan lay far into the future. Adam and Eve grew old and died, as did Seth, and Cain, and all the children of men. As each one died, his body, ravaged by death, would be put into the ground like a grain of wheat at planting, hoping that one day it may rise again. Men were not made for dying.

The men of earth turned their backs ever more away from God. The garden was like a dream. The bright skies of paradise were replaced by the fog of death. The trees, once fruitful, became useless for food save only a few. The fertile fields that once volunteered grain in abundance now made weeds and bramble. Men accepted this world. They ceased to long for paradise and the good God who made it. They murdered. They coveted. They sought paradise in their own pride and name. God looked and was grieved.

These people were made in God's image, and they were made to love one another. Every robbery, every murder, every wicked deed was an assault against that remnant of beauty that God had implanted. The key to paradise, the door to heaven, was unlocked with unselfish love. But instead of loving each other and serving one another, they used and abused one another. God was sorry that He had made them at all.

So the Lord determined to start all over. He decided to kill them all and be rid of them, for they were very wicked and even spent all their time plotting evil. Yet, God still loved them, and a descendant of Seth was especially beloved. His name was Noah. God spared Noah from his wrath. He kept Noah safe in an ark while the world perished around him in a cleansing wash from heaven.

Noah lived and had sons. One of them was named Shem. God loved Shem and blessed him, and he had many sons himself. The world grew evil once again in the days of Shem, and God cursed them to wander separated. Perhaps if they were apart, they could invent less evil.

What of the serpent? He continued to whisper lies into the ears of men, who were only too willing to listen. He lied and led them astray. He taught them new evils and schemes and always told them that they were gods. He piled up judgment for himself as he wrecked the world out of selfishness and spite. The serpent wanted to be God as well. He coveted the Lord's throne and beauty. He was a rebel and a liar from the beginning, and he ruled as a usurper over the sons of men.

But God had not forgotten his words. And so, from out of the sons of men he chose a man named Abram, another descendant of Seth, and a descendant of Shem. He called to Abram and said, "Abram! Come out of that land in which you are living and bring your wife Sarah. I will bring you into a land you have never seen before. I will give you many children, but most of all, the seed of promise will come from you. Through you and your seed, Abram, I will bless the world." And so Abram went out as God said, and God loved Abram and was his friend.

Abram had a difficult time. Sarah never had a baby of her own, and Abram grew frustrated. In the land which God had promised, Abram owned nothing. He had no children, and all that he owned would pass to a servant born in his house. One day, when Abram was near despair, God visited his friend and said, "Do not worry, Abram. I am your reward and I am your shield." Abram scoffed and said, "Lord, you have given me no children!" The Lord said, "I will surely give you a child through Sarah your wife. You will have more children than there are stars in the sky, my friend. Count them, if you are able, so shall your offspring be." And Abram believed God, and God declared him righteous. God saw this loyalty, this faith, and He said, "Abram! I'm changing your name! No longer will you be called Abram, you will be called Abraham, because you shall be the father of many!" (Abraham means Father of Many.) So it came to pass that Sarah had a son in her old age, and they named him Isaac, which means "Laughter", for this boy gave laughter that drove away the darkness of despair.

In the course of time, the baby became a young boy, and Abraham loved his son. One day, God appeared to his friend Abraham and said, "Abraham, take your son, your only son whom you love, and go and sacrifice him to me on the mountain I will show you." Abraham saddled up and left with Isaac and a few servants, fully intending to sacrifice his son. For Abraham trusted God with his most beloved things; Abraham believed that if he obeyed, God would raise Isaac from the dead. God saw this and rejoiced. He stopped Abraham and said, "I will surely bless you! I will surely bring the seed of promise through you! You have obeyed me even in this, surely your seed shall bless the world!"

And so Isaac was spared. Isaac himself had sons, one of them was named Jacob. Jacob was a bit of a scoundrel, but God loved him. Jacob had an older twin brother named Esau. Jacob plotted and swindled Esau out of his birthright and his inheritance. Esau was so angry that he vowed to murder Jacob. Jacob fled for his life, and God saved him out of all his troubles. After many years, Jacob was to return home and face Esau. The angel of the Lord appeared to Jacob, and they wrestled. Jacob wrestled with the Lord all night, and the Lord wrenched Jacob's hip out of socket, yet Jacob still would not let go. He cried, "Bless me! Bless me! I will not let you go until you bless me!" The Lord said, "I will bless you! No longer will you be Jacob, but Israel! Surely, the seed of promise will come from you, for you have wrestled with man and with God, and you have prevailed!"

Israel had twelve sons. One of these sons was named Judah. Judah was a proud man, and his pride led to him plotting to sell his younger brother Joseph into slavery. It also led to him nearly unjustly murdering his daughter-in-law. But God was with Judah, and he led him to do what was right. In the end, he put the interests of his family ahead of his own, and he was willing to live his live as a slave if it meant setting his youngest brother Benjamin free. God moved Israel to bless Judah saying, "Judah! To you belongs the promise! Your seed shall have the obedience of the nations! The rule of the world will never depart from him!"

And so time passed. Satan, that old serpent, went about murdering and lying, and men went on sinning. The children of Abraham became slaves to Egypt, but God delivered them. He eventually brought them back to the land promised to Abraham, and they grew and multiplied. The sons of Judah were many, and one of them was destined to rule. Out of Judah sprang up a young man who loved God with all of his heart. His name was David.

David was born the son of a sheep herder, and he himself was a shepherd. But God knew his heart, and He meant David to watch over more than sheep. He wanted to David to watch over Israel, and so God made him king. One day, while David was worshipping and thanking God for His kindness toward him, God came to David and said, "David! I will bless you! Your seed shall sit upon the throne forever! Through him, I will bless the world!" David saw that his son would not only sit on the throne of Israel, but that his son would deliver them into a new kingdom. One like the long-lost paradise of old. David saw that his son would take away the original sin of his people, and David rejoiced.

Israel waxed wicked after the death of David, and many of David's sons rebelled against God. It got so bad that many of God's people despaired, and so God sent prophets to encourage the faithful and to warn the unruly. One of his prophets was named Isaiah, and Isaiah said, "I can see what it will be like when the Son of David comes! The wolves and lambs will lie down in peace! The lion will eat grass like an ox! People will not die anymore, and no one will murder or kill or make war! And David's Son will sit on the throne! And look! Look! The Son of David is not just an ordinary man, he is God's own Son! He will come and take away our sins! God will lay on him all our wickedness, and David's son will pay for them. We will call him Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and the Prince of Peace! His kingdom will never cease to grow! It will fill the earth! He will reign in justice and righteousness forever!" Many of God's people rejoiced, but many did wickedly. God told Isaiah that when His Son came, most of his people would reject him and despise him, just as they despised God himself. The people turned on Isaiah because of his message, and under the orders of the King Manasseh, he was sawn in half.

As the years went on, Israel grew evil, as evil as the time when God destroyed the world by water, and so God scattered Israel and made them be the servants of other nations. The House of David fell into reproach and poverty. Everyone forgot the former glory, except for God. He watched over the house of David. God saw and loved a poor son of David named Joseph. Joseph was a righteous man, and he was engaged to a girl named Mary. Mary was also righteous and her heart was devoted to God. The Lord said, "Ah! At last! These two shall raise my son! These two shall hold the son of promise and the hope of the world!"

And so the Lord God sent an angel named Gabriel to Mary, and the angel told her that the savior of Adam, the Hope of Eve, the seed of Abraham, the pride of Judah, and the heir of King David would be conceived in her womb. Mary was overwhelmed and cried, "My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name!..He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our father, to Abraham and to his seed forever!"

At last! At last! It came to pass that the one who would crush Satan was coming! He would be born the son of a virgin from the House of Israel, and his father would be a son of David named Joseph. Caeser decreed that all should go to the city of their fathers to be taxed, and so Joseph went with Mary to his ancestral city called Bethlehem, and there the future King was born. He was wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a feeding trough because the inns were full. They named the little boy "Jesus", for He would save his people from their sins. (Jesus means "Savior".)

And so it was that the promise of God and the prophecies of his servants were fulfilled that night in Bethlehem. As it is written, "And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel."

So the boy Jesus grew in stature before both God and man. He was just and kind, and the Holy Spirit of God was upon Him. But the people were wicked still, and because they hated God and could not endure loving anything but themselves, they could not love Jesus.

To be continued at Easter....

Monday, December 06, 2010

The Promise of Christmas Part 1

I often feel that Christians handle prophecy rather poorly. Normally, when someone hears someone speak about prophecy, we think of visions of apocalyptic doom. I get a little bit squirmy when most people talk about prophecy, and if a prophecy lecture were like a bus-ride, I try and get off the bus at about the point where folks begin to talk about scorpions being helicopters, China being Magog, and speculating that if President Ahmadinejad puts on a purple turban then he is indeed the anti-Christ. I can, however, stomach charts which have up and down arrows representing the time of the "rapture."

Fortunately, prophecies are easier than all that silliness that usually passes for prophetic interpretation, and they are aspects of it that are far more important than speculating on the identity of the country who is Gog. I am speaking of the prophecies concerning the Immanuel, whose birthday we are about to celebrate. Are the prophecies concerning the advent of the Messiah clear or not? I believe that they are clear; I just don't think the average Christian has given them much thought. This is tragic both to personal faith and for credibility towards those who are looking from the outside in. It is, for example, far more important to understand what the Old Testament has to say about the Messiah than it is to get the greeter at Wal-Mart to say "Merry Christmas!" instead of "Happy Holidays!" Yet we see where many invest the majority of their energies. Indignation is easier than study.

So I thought that we might start at the very first Christmas prophecy, Genesis 3:15. The scenario is bleak. Satan, that old serpent, has just talked Adam and Eve into a vain power grab. Satan told them that God had withheld the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil because God knew that if they ate it they would become like God themselves. They coveted God's authority, power, beauty, and Being, and so they ate. Ironically, they did come to know good and evil. They now knew good as a memory, for everything good that they had ever known had come from being in right fellowship with the good God who made them. They knew evil as their reality; evil is being alienated from God.

Into this predicament steps God Himself. He seeks out the man and woman, and He curses them for their own good*. He also has these words for that old serpent Satan, He says:
Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.

Two things, two very important things are foretold here by God. He says that the serpent will "eat dust" all his life as he "crawls on his belly." This does not simply mean that, as a serpent, he suddenly became legless. It means that the serpent, who is the devil, will suffer continual defeat forever. He will never triumph. He will always eat dirt. In the prophecy of Isaiah, Isaiah sees a day when, "The wolf and the lamb shall graze together; the lion shall eat straw like the ox, and dust shall be the serpent's food" (Isaiah 65:25). You see that, even in the restoration of all things when all manner of beasts live in harmony, the serpent is still eating dust. The enemy of men, the devil, will still live in abject defeat when God restores all things.

The second important prophecy is how this ultimate defeat is going to come about. It will happen through a battle with the "seed" of the woman. This person will be bruised by this seed in the battle. His heel will be bruised, indicating a crippling, but not life-threatening wound. The serpent, however, will have his head bruised, indicating a mortal wound. (It can be translated "crushed in both instances instead of bruised. It indicates more than a superficial wound.)

The rest of the Old Testament develops this idea of who this seed will be. Is it Cain? Abel? Seth? We must wait to find out the answer to that as the Biblical narrative unfolds. Who will crush the head of Satan? Who will usher in the time when the wolf shall graze with the lamb?

I'll take a look at how the story is revealed as Christmas approaches, and I hope that you will see that it all leads to a manger in Bethlehem and a cross in Jerusalem.


*That God designed the curse for our good may sound ridiculous, but I very much believe that it is true. Going into all those details will require another post all its own.

Friday, December 03, 2010

I Think I'm Starting to Understand the Recession

I'm not a financial guru. I do know a few things about not being foolish with my money. I know, for example, that credit card debt is like being pirated by permission, so I do not have any credit card debt. I also know that cars are about the best way to throw away money that you can think of due to depreciation. So I have resolved to buy used cars until I have money to throw away. I also know that, over the long haul, the stock market is not a bad investment if you put your money into reputable companies and diversify. I also know that, as a Christian, it is my duty to be a good steward of the resources that I have.

Recently, I have been thinking of buying a small farm. I would like to have a few acres to grow some watermelons, some sweet corn, and some peas and beans. Not a large scale operation, just a place where my children can grow up outdoors and win prizes for goats at 4-H. I have some money saved up, interest rates are low, and so I decided the time is right for such a venture.

As I was shopping for a loan, I was pleasantly surprised, at first, to find that the government will back a farm loan through an entity called the FSA for up to 90%. That is, if I borrow the money and default, the bank is guaranteed to get back 90% of the investment from the government. I was perplexed to find, however, that the bank required 15% down for the land purchase. I asked why they would do this if they have a 90% guarantee, and they replied that they felt it was best if I "had some skin" in the investment. I responded by saying, "Here's my skin: 10% down. Where is your skin? You are making money day one because of the guarantee, right?"

Much to my amazement, I found that home loans have a similar backing by the FDIC (I believe). The government backs home loans, and correct me if you are in the know, up to 80%. That means if a bank loans $200,000 on a house, they are guaranteed a $160,000 payback on default by the government. If they require a 10% down payment, they are only risking $20,000 on the first day. That's a pretty safe risk on a 30 year mortgage with a person of good credit.

After finding these things out, I nodded at first and thought that this is a pretty good way to stimulate the economy. You lower the risk for banks so that they will not be afraid to loan money to people. People will then buy houses and open businesses, generating commerce. As I was having this happy thought, I began to think about how awesome it would be to open a bank if all those loans were practically guaranteed and risk free....

And then my happy thought went away. I suddenly realized that if banks had very little risk, they might just get greedy and make lots and lots of loans, knowing that the government would have to bail them out if people defaulted. They might even go from the standard 10% down to something like a 0% percent down to get people to buy. If you couple this with low-interest, front end, ballooning loans, you might just make a bunch of money. Unless, of course, lots and lots of people started defaulting and you starting bleeding those 10-20% losses all over the place.

Oh my! Is that why the economy tanked? And here I thought it was all George Bush's fault! Or that some Wall Street broker goon did it. Could it have been that a policy designed to help people was twisted by greed and used corruptly, not by one person, but by thousands of people trying to grab too much too fast?

I don't know. This is my own little personal conspiracy theory. If I am totally wrong about this, I'd appreciate the correction.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Some Reflections on Harry Potter

I want to do a littel mini-series in review of Harry Potter, so I will get going with this one and explore a few themes and characters as I go. Hope you enjoy.

The more I think about the Harry Potter series, the more marvelous they become to me. Indeed, I am convinced that the series is magical in every sense of the word, and I find it a pity that many of my brethren have been unable to enjoy it because of their superstitious fear of Harry's magic. This series is not about magic. Magic is a prop, just as lightsaber's are a prop in Star Wars. Truthfully, the use of the Force in Star Wars is far more theologically problematic than the use of magic in Harry Potter. I will leave that statement for now, I can pick it up later if anyone would like.

I believe that the Harry Potter series has suffered from being classified incorrectly. I suspect that this has as much to do with marketing as it does with Mrs. Rowling's intent. Harry Potter was marketed as a children's book, and in some ways it is a children's book, but it is far more than that. This is a series about death, life, loyalty, friendship, courage, and love. These themes grow as the series progresses, and as they grow, the content seems to grow darker and darker. This is on purpose, for such is the nature of life.

Harry's adventure begins with an invitation to Hogwarts' school of wizardry, which if I remember correctly, Harry receives on his twelfth birthday. Hogwarts is a welcomed escape for Harry, for Harry lives with an abusive Uncle and Aunt. Harry's foster parents are over-the-top belligerent. They threaten Harry constantly, but it is evident from the outset that they are simply full of bluster. This does not lessen their cruelty by much, but it will serve as a tremendous contrast to the type of evil we will see in Voldemort.

Ah Voldemort! The man whose very name brings a curse on those who speak it. He is the perfect villain. I confess that I have hardly ever read a more sinister character. He is a nearly souless, pitiless, murdering, self-loving, others-loathing fiend. There are no redeeming qualities in Voldemort. If you want a peek at what the devil is like, then Voldemorte is a good place to start.

Early in the series, the scariest, most evil characters we meet are Harry's Aunt and Uncle. As I mentioned, they are simply full of bluster. The other evil characters we meet are the Malfoys. They are cronies of Voldemort. Draco is a classmate of Harry. He is arrogant and annoying, and he serves as a proper rival and foil to Harry, but he poses no real danger beyond rivalry. Lucius, Draco's father, is a far more imposing figure. He hints and threatens that he could do harm to Harry, but he is mostly harmless. By the end of the series, the Malfoys are cowering in fear in their own home, terrified of their own master. It is striking that Lucius, so feared in the early books, is reduced in our eyes to a powerless toady, so impotent that he willingly gives up his own son, his own house, and his own wand. Lucius is evil because Lucius is a coward.

And so it is in the world of Harry Potter. Things that seem terrible to a lad of twelve are going to pale in comparison to what he will know as a man of eighteen. Harry has to grow up fast due to the horror that is Voldemort.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Old Testament Law as Martial Law

One way I like to think about the Old Testament law is to view it as a sort of divine martial law. It is interesting that even the Ten Commandments do not make their debut until Exodus chapter 20, that means we have fifty chapters of Genesis and twenty chapters of Exodus before we have much law at all. Why is it, then, that discussions of the Old Testament are dominated by law? Is there another point to the narrative of the Old Testament besides the "Thou shalts" and "Thou shalt nots"?

The law makes it debut only after Israel's rescue from the captivity of Egypt. Specifically, the law begins to pile up on the nearly salvaged nation after each transgression of the law only recently given. God rescues Israel, gathers them at the foot of Mt. Sinai, calls Moses up the mountain to receive the Ten Commandments, and Israel throws a party and makes an idol before Moses can get back. You've all seen the movie, probably, of Charlton "Moses" Heston breaking the commandments and having to go back for more, right?

The Apostle Paul tells us why God gave the Law to Israel. He writes:
This is what I mean: the law, which came 430 years afterward, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to make the promise void. For if the inheritance comes by the law, it no longer comes by promise; but God gave it to Abraham by a promise. Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made" (Galatians 3:17-21).

Paul says that the law came 430 years after the promise was made to Abraham that all nations would be blessed through his "seed" or his "offspring." Paul interprets this Messianically, meaning that the "seed" through whom the world would be blessed is the Messiah, whom Paul professed to be Jesus of Nazareth. Paul's explanation of the law is rather simple. Israel was so obstinate in the wilderness and so unfaithful to God, that God had to issue a sort of "divine martial law" to keep Israel in check until the Messiah came to redeem them and establish a New Covenant with them.

Martial law is established in a country that has become chaotic, often during a rebellion or riotous protests against a government. This is what we see in the Old Testament. The sinful people of God rebelled against him time after time in their wilderness travel. So God clamped down on them through the enforcement of divine martial law. He told them what to eat, how to shave, what to wear, when to take a holiday, when to work, and when not to work. All of this so that their rebellion would not utterly destroy them before the time of redemption.

Since Jesus is the promised Messiah, the offspring of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Judah, and David, and since he has instituted the New Covenant by his own death and resurrection, martial law has been lifted. That isn't to say that the divine martial law was wicked. It all, every rule, jot, and tittle, flowed from the two commandments of loving God with all one's heart, mind, soul, and strength, and loving one's neighbor as oneself.

So it isn't moral relativism to insist in one epoch the abstaining from shellfish and then to eat it in another. It is simply a different circumstance. It is a good thing for a government to institute curfews during a period of martial law so that order can be maintained. This is the purpose that the law serves: to restrain wickedness. It serves, spiritually speaking, to keep the spiritual looters and rioters from harming the people of God.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Djembe

I've never given a thought to percussion. I have dabbled in the piano, the guitar, and learned to sing harmony in the choir, but for some reason the thought of percussion being part of the "music" had escaped me. That is, I hadn't until I heard a guy sit and play the djembe. It blew me away, and I instantly wanted to learn to play that instrument. Only three or so things stood in my way:

1) My perceived inherent lack of serious rythmn.
2) The "Africanness" of the djembe: I didn't want to look like a poseur.
3) I didn't own a djembe nor know anyone who did.

I finally swallowed my excuses, bought a djembe, and even though I may be a rhythmnless white dude from rural America, I love it. I can, sort of, keep 4/4, 3/4, and 6/8 time now. I'm still working on really playing, which means hearing and replicating cool "grooves.".

Anyway, I thought I'd include a video for your enjoyment of what a skilled djembe player can make it do. It's marvelous. Her name is Adjoa Skinner, and I think that this is a combination of three African folk songs which means "For all that you have done for me, I thank you everyday, I thank you all my life." I suspect that it is a sort of folk worship song.

And no, I can't play this well. Not even close. And I can't smile that pretty, either.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Uncomfortable Old Testament Laws

My friend Alvin brought up a few salient in the comment section about Old Testament laws and the effect that Jesus had upon the Law through his life and ministry. Did Jesus abrogate the laws of the Old Testament? Did God change them because they were flawed? Should they be a source of embarrassment for Christians? These are good questions, and they have to be answered if a Christian expects anyone to take his faith seriously.

So, let me put forward a few propositions that should make my position on the matter clear, and then I will deal with one of the verses in particular:

1) It is just to put adulterers to death.
2) It is just to put a son to death who beats his parents.
3) The bond of marriage is sacred.
4) Evil is to be resisted to the death.

Now, the obvious come back to this is that we do not put adulterers to death, and Jesus let an adulterous woman go. So, are we, and more importantly is Jesus, acting in a morally relative manner?

I will say that being merciful necessarily means that justice has not been served. If it were just to be merciful, then mercy would be meaningless. If Jesus lets the adulterous woman go, it does not mean that she did not deserve death. It simply means that Jesus demonstrated mercy. Christians believe that this woman will meet Jesus one day as judge, and in that day she will give an account for her deeds. Until then, she has been blanketed with grace by the King himself.

Because the Lord Jesus has extended this mercy, it is now acceptable for us to live by his example. This does not mean that new laws giving the death penalty for adultery would be unjust. Nor does it mean that Christians no longer believe that adultery is a crime against our neighbor and against God. We believe that hell awaits the unrepentant, and that is far worse than death by stoning.

Now, let me deal with what I think is the most difficult of the OT passages mentioned:

Deuteronomy 22:28-29: If a man is caught in the act of raping a young woman who is not engaged, he must pay fifty pieces of silver to her father. Then he must marry the young woman because he violated her, and he will never be allowed to divorce her.

This sounds horrible, if we understand "seize" in this passage to mean rape. The NIV certainly translates it that way, and I think that is a mistake. The verb used here in the Hebrew is a different verb used in verse 25. In verse 25, the verb definitely means "to prevail over, to strengthen against." Here in verse 28, it means, "to grab, to seize, to lay hold of." I believe it is significant that the verb is changed. Further, we have an almost exact parallel to this passage in Exodus 22:15-16. I understand Deut. 22:28-29 to describe a consensual scenario as is paralleled in Exodus 22:15-16. The verb "to grab" is used here to underscore the passion of the moment and the violation that occurs in intercourse outside of marriage, not that it is forced on the woman.

I also have an explanation as to why it is okay to eat shellfish and catfish now that Jesus has been crucified and resurrected, and it has nothing to do with moral relativism either. Hopefully that is enough to get the discussion going for those who are interested.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Vocation and Education

I have a few regrets about my college years. The most keen regret that I feel is that I was a poor student for most of my time in college. I had no understanding of what an opportunity for enrichment education truly is, nor did I realize that education is far more than the learning of facts or learning a trade.

I fear that the notion I had about education is endemic to our culture. When children are very small, we begin to ask them "what they want to be when they grow up." It is an interesting question or else we would not ask it, and I believe that it is an important question because it gives us a little peek into their souls if we are wise.

If you ask a child what he wants to be when he grows up, especially a little boy, he may tell you that he wants to be an astronaut, a fireman, a garbage man, or a police officer. Surely, no adult is under the illusion that the child has the slightest idea of what it means to be an astronaut or what it takes to become one. Children just like the idea of going into outerspace, and that is a fine thing for a child to want to do.

When a child says that he wants to be a garbage man, what he is really saying is that he wants to ride on the back of a great big truck all day and explore the town. (Alas, garbage men no longer get to do this in my town.) When a child says that he wants to be a fireman, he really means that he'd like to be someone's hero. When a child says that he wants to be a police officer, he really means that he would like to capture bad guys and carry a gun. It is the budding virtues that ought to be encouraged in a child, and that is precisely the foundation for all good education: the teaching of virtue.

This is why there is often a disconnect between education and vocation. A boy who wants to be a police officer does not understand the point of studying Shakespeare. A girl whose greatest ambition is to be a nurse may not see the point in studying Western Civilization. But police officers ought to be schooled in Shakespeare, at least, they ought to be taught why he is relevant to non-barbarians.

Shakespeare is important to police work because Shakespeare wrote about criminals. MacBeth was a criminal. He was a murderer and a usurper. He struggled with his decision. MacBeth struggled with his criminal impulse. He said, "We but teach
bloody instructions, which being taught return to plague the inventor." Ah, you see, MacBeth knew that murder was a bloody schoolmaster, and that murderers tended themselves to be murdered. Murder is unwise, MacBeth says. Think of it, MacBeth was murdering the king in order to be the king. If king's are subject to such betrayal, then what will stop the next opportunist from killing MacBeth? If everyone behaved as MacBeth, then the society could not function.

MacBeth is filled with the idea of morality, criminal activity, and the consequences thereof. So is Hamlet. All the classics of literature grapple with these great questions and help to shape our moral thinking. History is a grand drama in itself, greater than anything that Shakespeare imagined. I say that because he pulled his stories from the common experience of mankind. He echoed in his fiction what was wrought in the reality of the world. This is why nurses ought to study history and firemen should study literature. This is why we do not go to college to simply learn engineering or accounting. This way, when an officer is offered a bribe, he will be prepared to refuse it because all the greatest sages have warned him of the consequences of corruption.

I should like it very much if, instead of bending down to little toddlers and asking them what they would like to be when they grow up, if we would also ask of their parents, "What would you like for your child to be when he grows up?" This would probably stump most parents. They might say something like, "Whatever he would like to be." I would say, "And what if he would like to be a criminal?" I imagine no parent wants that for their child. For myself, I wish for my children to be people of virtue and character. I do not care if he is a ditch-digger, a landscape architect, or a medical doctor. I want my children to be, above all, godly. My endeavor is to instill in them wisdom, virtue, and moral character. After that, they can do whatever they like.

I wonder, is that how we look at education? Do we agree with this from Solomon? "How much better to get wisdom than gold! To get understanding is to be chosen rather than silver" and "The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight" (Proverbs 16:16, 4:7).

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Another Reason to Believe

There are a number of reasons that I find to believe in the veracity of the gospels and the New Testament. One that always sticks out in my mind is the brutal honesty with which the followers of Jesus are depicted, and even the way in which the ministry of Jesus itself is depicted.

The first and most obviously interesting thing about the gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, is that they were not written by Jesus. They were written by his immediate disciples. Either Matthew or Mark were written first, depending on who you believe, with John being the latest. Luke composed his gospel account based on eyewitness reporting (Luke 1:1-4). Mark, according to tradition, composed his gospel account under the watchful eye of Peter himself.

Most of the time, when someone writes a book that is a bit of an autobiography, you expect that person to appear in a somewhat favorable light. This is not the case in the gospels. There, we find the disciples being a group of near bunglers. They are constantly misunderstanding Jesus, apparently clueless as to his teaching, and seem to bicker incessantly about who is the best disciple (Matt. 16:10-12; John 12:12-16; Luke 9:46, 22:44). They are not, to say the least, portrayed in a very flattering light.

Imagine if you were Peter, the great leader of the early church, would you be especially keen on including that episode where Jesus called you Satan? (Mark 8:33). Or, would you want to include that part where you denied Jesus three times out of fear being identified with Jesus? (Mark 14:66-72). That took some serious humility to include that, something almost unprecidented in the history of autobiography.

And what are we to make of John's gospel account? By the time John wrote, many of the other disciples were already dead. Yet, he doesn't even name himself in his own book. He only refers to himself as "The One Whom Jesus Loved," which might also be translated, "The One Whom Jesus Kept Loving." What sort of men are these who write about themselves in such a manner?

So imagine these men, these great men, Peter, Matthew, and John. All three of them are followers of Jesus from the beginning. They all had the chance to write down the greatest adventures of their lives, and instead of their books being about them, they chose to write themselves a bit part in order to introduce the world to Jesus. We would not even know of Peter's raising Tabitha from the dead if it weren't for Luke's account in Acts.

I can understand writing a biography about a great man. I can even imagine the disciples wanting to write a great book on the things that Jesus did. I understand seeing greatness and wishing to share that greatness with others. Jesus, since so many books have been written about him, must be great indeed. Yet, here is what I do not so often see. I do not often see a man that is so great that he not only compels men to write books about himself, but that he is so great that he compels men to write truth about themselves. That is the marvelous thing about Jesus, and that is why I believe his disciples. They tell the truth, not only about Jesus, but also about themselves.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Cam Newton: This is Beyond Football

I need to make a few disclaimers before I write this piece so that my biases, if any, are clear to the reader who may stop by. I'm an Alabama fan. I spent four years of my life on that campus, actually received a diploma from that distinguished University, and I will be making a trip down on Thursday to introduce my son to Alabama football, tailgating, and Denny Chimes. I also want to confess that this controversy has put me in the uncomfortable position of being proud of an Auburn football coach for defending his player. It seems obvious to me that Coach Chizik is not simply concerned about his career or his program, but that he is genuinely interested in protecting Cam Newton as an individual. I say good on him. I tip my hat to you, sir. I will never call him Coach Cheesedip or Coach Cheezit again, and that privilege is a right to every Alabama fan that I give up willingly for his manful defense of his player.

This business with Cam Newton has horrified me. It has brought me zero joy as a fan of Alabama football and the sworn enemy of all things orange and blue. It has horrified me as an American, and it has horrified me as a Christian. This isn't funny. Nothing about this is funny. To me, this is dead serious.

Let me deliver a few more disclaimers, if I may. I have no doubt that Cam Newton or his daddy is capable of taking a bribe. I believe that I am capable of taking a bribe. I believe in the falleness of humanity, the power of greed, curfews, and not letting my daughter date until she is 20, and even then I want to vet every candidate. The reason I believe in these things is because I believe in the sinfulness of humanity. All this to say that every Alabama football player could be taking bribes and it would not ruffle my worldview in the least. As G.K. Chesterton rightly notes, "It is a part of Christian dogma that any man in any rank may take bribes. It is a part of Christian dogma; it also happens by a curious coincidence that it is a part of obvious human history...In the best Utopia, I must be prepared for the moral fall of any man in any position at any moment; especially for my fall from my position at this moment." Indeed and amen. Since Cam Newton and his family are human, it is no trouble at all for me to imagine them being attracted to the prospect of a $180,000 signing bonus to a top-tier University.

Our wise forefathers recognized this tendency toward reprobation in the best of men, and therefore they designed a system of law that declared every man innocent until proven guilty. That, at the outset, may appear counter-intuitive. Actually, it might be one of the greatest strokes of genius in the history of the world. We must assume every man innocent precisely because we are prone to believe, as history and the Bible inevitably teach us, that all men are capable of the most heinous crimes. The catch is that sometimes men are innocent. Sometimes they refuse bribes. Sometimes they behave altruistically. Sometimes, men are not scoundrels. Better to set ten scoundrels free than impugn the beauty of the one man who said no to wickedness.

Therein lies my revulsion at what has occurred in the media. Cam Newton, a young man of undeniably superior talent, has been the victim of slanderous accusations with no recourse whatsoever. He has not had his day in court. Records which are protected by Federal Law have been unsealed for the world to mock. His rights as a citizen have been violated. Irrelevant charges have been brought forward to besmirch his reputation. True or false, these are matters for investigative committees who have the authority to look into such things. So that, if these charges are spurious, they may pass by without the character of an individual being assassinated. These are basic human rights over which we go to war and shoot and kill and die. This is beyond football. This is beyond rivalry. We are talking about due process and the rights of a fellow citizen, not just whether or not a young man ought to play football next week or win the Heisman trophy.

There are many things that I would like to see happen in the weeks to come. One is that I would love to see Alabama take Auburn to the woodshed. I want this to be an honorable and fair context where the best team wins. I want sportsmanship to prevail throughout the contest. I would also like to see every lawyer that graduated from the University of Alabama prepared to defend the civil rights of Cam Newton and the lofty ideal of due process. Let the man have his day in court, and let him have his privacy as well.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Jesus Said That

I always find it curious when someone who is not a Christian proceeds to tell Christians that they are not good Christians. Usually, the phrases that get used are something like, "Judge not that you be not judged!" or "God loves everyone just the way that they are." Usually, this comes about when a Christian has voiced his or her opinion about some type of behavior being sinful.

Now, the first thing that a Christian must keep in mind is that this sort of argument is not to be taken personally. Secondly, they must remember not to get angry about this because it is patently silly. Silly things should not make us angry or defensive. If my buddy Matt tells me that he is the Queen of Sheba, anger should not be my first impulse.

Once these first two impulses are squashed, the third imperative can follow. That is, we must remember that the main issue is always Jesus. Who is Jesus? What did Jesus teach? Did Jesus really rise from the dead? This is far more important than debating marriage laws, polygamy, homosexuality, or whether or not someone should vote Republican.

So if I say, "I believe that 'gay marriage' is as ridiculous as a squared circle," and someone retorts that I'm being a judgmental bigot who is unworthy to call myself a human being, much less a Christian, because Jesus would never say such a preposterous thing, I need to think, "Heeeey...this person doesn't know about Jesus very well" not "Heeeey...he just called me a BIGOT!"

Here is something that Jesus actually said, "He whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure. The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him" (John 3:34-36). Jesus makes some pretty big claims in this passage.

First, Jesus claims that God sent him. Next, Jesus claims that when he is speaking, he is uttering the very words of God. Then, Jesus claims to be the rightful ruler of all things because God gave him everything. Finally, Jesus says that whoever does not obey him will perish under the wrath of Almighty God. Jesus made it abundantly clear throughout the gospels that he believed himself to be the only way to get to God (John 14:6). He also defined marriage, and a great list of other things whilst he was here, including affirmations of the Old Testament.

This is how the Christian can deal with name-calling and misunderstanding. Jesus said, "It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household" (Matthew 10:25). Basically, if someone objects to the teaching of Jesus, even though it is a hapless Christian merely parroting the words of the Great Teacher, the one who is objecting falls under the condemnation of which Jesus spoke. In reality then, it could be Jesus who is the judgmental bigot who is unfit to be a human being, or he could be the King of the Universe who gets to make the rules for the creation that he himself helped make and currently sustains.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Straight Couple Wants a Civil Union

Despite having a terribly misleading title,this AP article is interesting to me on several levels. There is a straight couple living in Britain who would like to form a civil union instead of a marriage. Their reasoning, and I quote from the article here, is that "In our day-to-day life we feel like civil partners — we don't feel like husband and wife, and we want the government to recognize that."

My problem is that I cannot understand that statement at all. Forget the controversy about "gay" marriage and "civil unions" for a minute. I'm having trouble following simple language of late.

I know that I said to forget the controversy, and I hope that you can because my point here is more subtle. For all of known history, the very definition of marriage has been a union between a man and a woman. I don't think that this is seriously disputed by anyone. What some would like to do is to change that definition to include homosexual unions. I don't know what that definition change might be. It's going to have to be more complicated than it used to be. I know that for certain. Somehow, you have to define it so that we can put the whammy on polygamy, beastiality, child marriage, and the appearance of incest. (Yes, there are adult people out there who do all of these things, I've seen them on Jerry Springer. There is even a polygamist with his own show now.)

My problem today is when people start using words, words that are well defined, as if they weren't well-defined. Or, at the very least, using words as if they cannot be bothered to look them up in a dictionary. Figuring that it must be me who is the dim-wit, I took the time to look up "Civil Union" in the encyclopedia. Here's what it said, "legal recognition of the committed, marriagelike partnership of two individuals." Underscore "marriagelike" in your brain and look at the reasoning behind the straight couple's desire to have a civil union. I wonder what part of their relationship isn't marriage-like? The vowing part? The forsaking all others part?

As if this didn't cause me enough confusion, I saw that "gay activists" are supporting this couple's bid for a civil union. This didn't surprise me, and at the very least I am glad that they are being consistent. But look at their reasoning behind backing this couple, "They are being backed by gay rights activists, who hope a ruling that allows straight couples the right to a civil partnership would mean, in turn, that gay couples have the right to wed." You see that? They are hoping that this will allow them to wed.

So, let me try to sort this all out here for my sanity's sake. Remember, this is about definitions here, not just marriage controversy. The straight couple does not want to be "married" because they don't feel particularly husband or wife-like, but they still want to be recognized in a legally binding union that is legally equivalent to marriage. This gives them what they want because they can be united under law, before their peers, and get tax breaks without them having to feel like husband and wife. The gay people, on the other hand, want to get married because they want to feel like husbands and wives. Even though it has previously been impossible for one to be a husband unless one actually had a wife. They want the state to legally bind them together in a way that benefits them with taxes, gives them equal rights, and etc., which they already have in civil unions, only they want to be "wed."

I think that this is marvelous in our mad, mad world. The only thing standing in either the gay activists or this straight couple's path is this nonsense of definition and meaning. And perhaps, common sense.

But what do I know? I'm a dinosaur who believes in objective truth and www.dictionary.com.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

What is Truth?

Pontius Pilate, in his fascinating conversation with Jesus of Nazareth, asked Jesus if he were a king. Jesus said, "For this purpose i was born and for this purpose I have come into the world--to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice." Pilate said to him, "What is truth?" (John 18:37-38).

This conversation stops me in my tracks. Pilate asked a great question, and interestingly enough, John does not give Jesus' reply. He leaves the question dangling in the air, echoing down the millennia until it reaches us. I can still hear Pilate ask it. He was so close to truth that it was literally staring him in the face.

For several centuries, Christianity has enjoyed a hegemony on truth in the West. Western civilization was shaped by the Bible, Christendom enforced the Bible onto the populace to the point where unbelievers and deviants were persecuted. For good and for ill, the Bible was used and abused to force conformity amongst the Western populace.

That is, until the rise of the Anabaptists and Mennonites and others like them. They rebelled against the "church-state" paradigm. They believed that conversion could not come by the government or the sword, but only by grace through faith in the gospel. Eventually, persecution led many of them to the New World. There, Baptists would eventually be instrumental in insuring the separation of Church and State and the freedom of religion for all people, even freedom to worship the devil.

Believe it or not, that grand and great dream laid down by the early American Republic has had a major impact upon truth. As the early Baptists suspected, if given the chance to freely worship the devil, some people would. And some would be Buddhists, and some would be Hindus, and some would be Moonies, and some would be atheists altogether. Being a Baptist myself, I am altogether delighted that they have the freedom to be as wrong as they please.

For the first couple of centuries, the people of the United States spoke Bible, as did their ancestors in Europe. I do not mean that all the people in the United States were Christian; I would never argue that. However, it is apparent that they all filtered their understanding of life, predominantly, through a Biblically colored lens.

Take Thomas Jefferson as an example. He was, from what I can tell, a Christian heretic par excellence. He famously cut out the miraculous parts of the Bible, leaving in all the laws and the moral code and the ethical teachings of Jesus. It seems that he admired the teachings of Jesus. Such would have been the attitude of many in that day: the default lens for interpreting right from wrong was a Biblical one. One can hardly read a novel or or thinker who wrote from the beginning of the republic until the early 1950's who wasn't profoundly aware of Biblical traditions of right and wrong, and even the moral stories* that the Bible contains.

Now, things are on different. Christianity does not enjoy the hegemony it once did. That's not to say that its influence isn't strong and felt. It surely is. However, there is a much greater competition of ideas out there in the market. Some are compltely foreign to a Biblical worldview. Jefferson did away with the miracles. Post-Modern America has ditched most of the Christian ethic.

This brings me back around to Pilate and his question to Jesus: What is truth? I think for many, Pilate's original question may even assume too much. Instead, the question of the day might be, "Is there such a thing as Truth?"

I believe that there is Truth that is objective, real, and unchanging. I believe that Truth is embodied in the person of Jesus Christ. The challenge for Christians is now, as it has always been, is to take the gospel, the story and teachings of Jesus, and put them into the market place of ideas. The gospel is a narrative without parallel. The beauty of Jesus is without rival. He is a teacher without equal. If Christians would just see that He is the message, we could be a far more winsome and compelling people.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Does This Make Me the Bully?

Many of you will remember the very recent tragedy of the young man who committed suicide at Rutgers because his roommate recorded him in an "encounter" with another male. The young man's name was Tyler Clementi. You can read the story here. Tyler's suicide prompted a nation-wide call to end the bullying of people based upon their sexual preference. This was a call echoed by many Christians as well, myself included.

I firmly believe that no one ought to be bullied. I find it reprehensible that Tyler's roommate recorded his tryst and put it up on the internet. I can only imagine the shame that could have been mine if any of my roommates had a well-placed camera hidden in my room back in the day. Perish the thought! How awful!

Today, I saw this article about Kye Allums. Kye is a female who believes that she is male. Upon graduation, Kye wants to undergo surgery and hormone therapy to become a man. Until that time, she wants to be recognized as a man on the women's basketball team. George Washington University has honored her request and now recognizes her as a man on the women's basketball team.

You really should go and read the article. I want to give you a quote from it here for consideration, "At a time when many college athletes feel uncomfortable publicly revealing that they are gay or lesbian for fear or backlash or repercussions, Allums should be lauded, cheered, propped up and respected for being brave enough to announce his differences without shame." First, notice that Kye is always referred to as a "he" throughout the article. Secondly, notice that Kye is to be lauded, cheered, and propped up for her decision to be recognized as a man, even though she is still biologically a woman. She feels like she is man, therefore she is a man.

I find myself in a dilemma. Upon reading this article, the utter insanity of Kye's request, the fact that it was granted by George Washington University, and the fact that this decision is to be lauded initially made me check to make sure I wasn't reading the Onion. When I found out this was a real story, I immediately realized, to my horror, that if I said out loud that I thought this was absurd that people would immediately call me a bully on par with Tyler's roommates.

Is this situation absurd? Is Kye's request that she be recognized as a man because she feels like a man absurd? Is my pointing out the absurdity of the request evil and mean-spirited? Let the reader judge, but let me first give a goofy scenario that is actually true.

My grandfather's name was Nokomis Williams. My great-grandfather's name was Powhatan Williams. My father wanted to name me Powhatan but my mother refused. I got the interesting name of John Williams instead. The fact is that I have enough Native American heritage to apply for, and perhaps receive, a tribal card and Native American status. I could have gotten money for college and received the benefits of a minority. I felt at the time that this was taking advantage of the system since I am at least 4/5's white dude, live in middle-class suburbia, and I have no immediate relations to a single indian. Would I have been an abuser if I had insisted on being called an Iroquois? Perhaps not.

But what if I decided I was an African american? I have no black ancestry. But, I have always felt African American. I like their clothing. I'm a good dancer. I'm more attracted to black folks than white folks. Therefore, I insist that everyone treat me as black, give me full status as an African American, and after college I intend on dying my sin darker and take hormone treatments to look more African American.

I imagine I would get bullied. People would think that this is ridiculous. African Americans would probably be offended. Would it be wrong if people said I was being ridiculous?

Or am I just being a bully?

Election Day is Over

It is good to be a citizen of the United States of America. This morning, we awake again to a peaceful transition of power in the House of Representatives. It may not seem peaceful with all the rhetoric and accusations that fly about during election cycles, but it is. I am so very thankful that even my political enemies will ascend to Capitol Hill with mud-stained and not blood-stained vestments.

For the Christian "non-statesman", it is time to get back to the work that God has called us to do. That is, we are to "be subject to the governing authorities." And, we are to remember that "There is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment" (Romans 13:1-2). And again Paul says, "Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed" (Rom. 13:7). If Paul wrote this concerning a regime that would eventually chop off his head, surely Christians can pray for Barbara Boxer and Harry Reid.

It is true that some government officials are immoral rascals. It is imminently true that all government officials are capable of the most heinous crimes, even our darling favorites. G.K. Chesterton puts it nicely: "It is a part of Christian dogma that any man in any rank may take bribes. It is a part of Christian dogma; it also happens by a curious coincidence that it is a part of obvious human history...In the best Utopia, I must be prepared for the moral fall of any man in any position at any moment; especially for my fall from my position at this moment."

This is why it is the duty of Christians everywhere to pray for and to support those who rule over them. We are to encourage our officials; we are to help our officials. This does not mean we are not to speak the truth to them, or that we are not allowed to disagree, or that we should not give our opinions. These things are all helpful to our leaders. We must, however, always conduct ourselves with a posture of submission, humility, and respect. We are never to speak slanderously of our rulers, and we are never to debase them by name-calling. Such things ought never to happen amongst Christians, yet it does and the faith suffers.

So Christian, pray for your leaders today. Remember that your hope rests in the kingdom that is coming. King Jesus will be here soon enough. Until he appears, obey him by submitting to the leaders he has appointed.

Friday, October 29, 2010

She Kissed His Feet (Lk. 7:36-50)

Simon was a religious man. He understood morality; he understood right from wrong. He knew what things a good person should do and what things a good person should avoid. Mostly, I would guess that Simon and I would probably cast similar votes on election day. I would guess that he and I would avoid the same places, habits, and people. One day, Simon had the privilege of having Jesus over to his house for dinner.

During the course of that meal, a very unusual thing happened. A woman who was a known "sinner" came over and began to kiss Jesus' feet. She kissed his feet. She was crying as she did this, and she was wiping off his feet with her hair. How awkward for Simon. How awkward this is for me to watch, you might say, as I read this story. I am a by-stander, these many years later, to a very intimate, and potentially humiliating moment.

I am not really concerned with Simon. I don't need to analyze his thinking. I understand him well enough because I'm like him. I relate to Simon. I think most people I know are probably like Simon.

I have also known a few women like the one in this story. That is, I have known some sinful women. I have known some, what others call, "loose" women. I only mention this to say that I know some folks like her; who do and have done the things she did. She is hardly an unusual character.

I do not understand Jesus. I do not know anyone like him. He is the odd thing in this story for me, and the one that I most want to be like. I can relate to Simon because I am Simon. And really, I think he is the most common, if not the most easily despised character in the story. I can understand the immoral woman. I cannot understand Jesus, and yet I must.

I know that the main point of this story is that the immoral woman loved Jesus more than Simon. I get that part of the story. I amen that part of the story. I love it that Jesus rebukes Simon's, and therefore my, pettiness. I need more than that.

I want to know how Jesus did it. How did he gain this woman's love, real love. She was a woman of "ill repute." She knew what it was for men to desire her. She knew what it was to enjoy a man. So, I have to wonder, how was her encounter so different with Jesus? He obviously did not pursue her as an object of lust. I want to know what he said to her. I want to know where he met her. I want to know how his kindness to her and his love for her as an individual was made so obvious to her that it broke her heart and healed it at the same time. I want to know what he did or said that was so powerful that it would overcome her probable dislike of Simon so much that she would break taboo to go into Simon's house and kiss Jesus' feet! How did he do that? I say with those gathered, "Who is this, who even forgives sins?" I say this and I know who he is. He amazes me.

There are plenty of Simons in my town, and there are plenty of people of ill-repute. I want the church to be like Jesus, who was able to sit with both, who was able to amaze both. Oh that God would help the church to be amazing again like his Son is! For myself, today I must be contented to watch Jesus as the woman kisses his feet while Simon scowls, and the guests shift nervously in their seats.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Go Outside and Play

Oh yes, this is nerd pwnage at it's glorious height. This is what every WoW gamer dreams of doing to all the grand poobahs on Q&A panels. This would be the pasotral equivalent of flummoxing John Piper with a question on propitiation.

Red Shirt guy, FTW!! Oh yes, and in general it is bad form to wear a red shirt to a sci fi convention, unless you want to die before the away mission is over.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A Tale of Fat Man and Skinny Man

In a common town, in an unremarkable state, there were born on the same day two boys; one was Skinny man and the other was Fat Man. The boys grew up in the same town, and they both had an average childhood. Both of them went off to school, got happily married, and fathered a few lovely children.

When Skinny Man hit middle age, he began to notice that his fondness for donuts and cake and sweets of all sorts had begun to take a toll. Because he loved his family, and because he enjoyed playing with his children, Skinny decided to discipline himself. He began to excercise three times a week, and he rarely ate the sweets that he so enjoyed. Over a short period of time, Skinny was a pretty fit man.

When Fat Man hit middle age, he began to notice a little bulge around the middle as well. His love of cakes and goodies and sitting about had led to a tipping of the scales. Because he loved his sweets and leisure, Fatty did not change his life style. Over time, Fatty got fatter.

Skinny was an active fellow. Though he missed his sweets and sloth, he did not miss his children's baseball games, soccer games, or events of any kind due to fatigue or illness. He took his children on hikes in the mountains. He played ball with them in the yard.

Fatty liked to watch television. He loved his children, but his knees always hurt so he couldn't participate in their games. He could go to their games and watch, but sitting in those bleachers was hard on his back. He didn't go hiking much; his feet would swell. But he loved his pastries, and he ate all he wanted.

Skinny also enjoyed his grandchildren. Because he was fit, he got to enjoy with them the same things he enjoyed with his children. He could still run and play. He had more energy than most younger men. He went to all his grandchildren's games. He and his wife would take them on vacations to beautiful and fascinating places. They explored both the woods and the city.

Fatty enjoyed his grandchildren as well, but he mostly kept to his recliner in his older years. His back gave him serious problems, and he had already had a few surgeries on his knees. He didn't get to many games; he couldn't take sitting on the bleachers anymore at all. He didn't get to take his wife on many of the vacations that they had dreamed of in retirement; he simply was not able to go and enjoy it. But he did get his sweets, and he watched plenty of television.

It came to pass, as fate would have it, that both Skinny and Fatty died on the same day. Skinny had a stroke. Fatty had a massive heart attack. Skinny's self-discipline did not give him a single day of life advantage over Fatty. Could it be that all that exercise was a waste of time?

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Philosophy of a Young Earth

I want to be clear that I do not think someone who believes in an "old earth" is a heretic deserving of anathemas. I do, however, think that science has hi-jacked the plain reading of Genesis chapter one, and more importantly, science has sneaked into the mind to play the part of philosopher instead of fact finder. Science is an awesome explorer and discoverer, she is a lousy theologian and philosopher.

Most people who hold to an extremely old universe do so because it looks old. We have stars that are billions of light years away. If the universe is young, then we should not be seeing them yet. There are many examples such as this in the natural world that would indicate the ancientness of the universe. Yet, stubborn man that I am, I still believe that this place may be fairly new. I do not believe it because of science. I believe it first because of the Bible, and secondly because the idea of a young earth and universe is as philosophically possible as an old one.

Let's deal today with philosophy and earth age. I want to contend that science cannot, no matter how hard she tries, she cannot tell us how old the universe is. To age something, we have to have a definite starting date. How, I wonder, will science provide this? When did the universe begin? Most scientists, I suspect, believe in a starting point in something like the Big Bang. There may be other competeing theories, but this is the most popular. Think about the Big Bang theory. The Big Bang theory presupposes the eternity of matter. That is, before the Big Bang, there was this massive, massive ball of everything that is that exploded into chunks of what we see now. That explosion starts the clock. That is a reasonable theory.

It is precisely at this point that I think many theologians and Christian philosophers go awry. After hearing the Big Bang theory, they then try to beat the scientist at his own game by exploring whether or not the Big Bang could work. I don't think that is the best way to go about it. I want to deal with the most glaring problem: how did that massive ball of everything begin to exist in the first place? What made it explode? Science cannot answer this for us. At best, science could tell us that it is possible that such a big ball of everything existed. Also, and let this sink in, when science tells us how "old" the universe is, it is really only telling us how long it has been since the Big Bang. The actual age of the universe would have to be infinite. It would have to be eternal. The universe, in this closed, miracleless system, has simply always been. This assertion boggles the mind theologically, philosophically, and yes, even scientifically.

Here is the second thing to think about in this debate: miracles. Do I believe that the universe is governed by unalterable natural laws? No, I do not. I allow for miracles, as do most people I imagine. Once you allow for that, and this is a big point, then there is no reason to reject a young universe creation. If I believe in wizardry, then it should not surprise me if a wizard can conjure a rabbit out of a hat, or a fireball from thin air, or a mouse from his hand. It would be silly of me to try and use science to figure out how old a newly conjured bird would be. It simply will not work. That does not mean that the wizard is being deceptive.

Imagine this, a wizard conjures a rabbit and brings it over to my house and he says, "Look what I made." I say, "OOooo...that is the oldest rabbit I've ever seen! Let me get my tools." So, I begin a scientific medical exam to check out the rabbit and age it. The wizard says, "What are you doing?" I say, "I'm trying to figure out how old this rabbit is." The wizard laughs and says, "Friend, I just conjured him on the way here." And I say, "Well, that is not what my findings are telling me. This rabbit is ten years old at least! Besides, if this rabbit isn't really old, then you deceive me by making it look so old! Why would you make an old rabbit?" I can only imagine that the wizard might respond, "Deceiving you? I just told you I made while on the way. And I made it old because I like rabbits that look like this one. What does old even mean, friend?"

Here are a couple of problems:

1) If you do not believe in wizardry, you will never take the wizard's word for it.
2) If you believe that science explains everything, you won't even bother looking at the wizard's explanation anyway.

So it is the modern presuppositions that get in the way of a young universe. We presuppose it to be old because it looks that way. We also believe that science can explain everything for us. It simply can't. Finally, we also have a hard time swallowing that a book, nearly as old as the world, could possibly be correct on the age of the earth. We don't believe much in miracles or wizards. Besides, those rubes didn't have science. How could they have possibly known how old the universe is? Or why it was made?

Unless, of course, the Maker told them.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Science Cannot Be God for Us

My good buddy Alvin sent me an interesting link on Facebook the other day. You can check it out here. It's an interesting interview with Sam Harris, one of the "new atheists" as a promotion for his new book The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values.

Let me give the positive spin first. I am glad that Sam Harris wants there to be absolute truth. I am glad that he thinks moral relativism is untenable for sanity. I agree to all of these things.

However, there are some things that I do not like very much at all. I find this quotation, from an interview on the John Stewart show I think, very amusing. He says:

We have a problem. The only people on the planet at this moment who think that there are truly right answers to moral questions are religious demagogues who think the universe is 6,000 years old. Everyone else seems to think that there’s something suspect about the concept of moral truth.

Yes indeed. We have a problem! Luddites, like myself of course, are the only people who think there are real answers to moral questions. I suppose the problem is that morality has been left to imbeciles and this needs correcting. There is a great post on Sam Harris over here at the First Things blog by Tom Gilson.

Insults aside, the real reason why I find this so frustrating is the seemingly obvious error being made by Harris. That is, you simply cannot construct morality from science. Science is about fact finding. You can determine, scientifically, that a child has life at conception. However, can you then use science to say whether or not the child has an equal right to life as an adult?

Gilson puts it like this, "There is, after all, a reason most people don’t think science can deliver us moral truth: it can’t. Not unless Harris has come up with something utterly earthshaking in the history of philosophical reflection." That's an amen comment for me. By that, I mean the problem is that we are scientifically smart these days, but we are philosohically dumb. I do not doubt that Harris is a stellar scientist, but he is certainly no philosopher. Think about this: why is it that science is mandated for primary and high schools and philosophy isn't? It used to be that philosophy was an essential component to an education. Isn't learning to use reason and logic as important as knowing the innards of an earthworm?

Science cannot answer everything. It can only give us facts, or at least, it can tell us how things look. But to reason from facts to morality is the job of philosophy, and dare I say it, theology.

Monday, October 18, 2010

On Being a Young Earther Luddite

I know that it is all the rage today to think that the universe is ancient beyond comprehension and that men are evolved from bacteria. It can hardly go unnoticed that the stars are really, really far off and that there are dinosaur bones scattered just about everywhere across the planet. When you add that together with Cro-magnon skull fragments, petrified wood, and carbon-14 steady rate decay, it appears as if the old age of the universe and earth is a slam dunk.

I confess that it is a slam dunk for a natural law type of person. By that, I mean the man who believes that all there is can be explained by the scientific method, by natural law, and if need be, genetics. This is the type of man who thinks that religion is a coping mechanism to keep us from realizing that when we die, we go into the void of nothingness. In order to avoid this inconvenient fact, our genes invented religion so we wouldn't turn into non-breeding gothic kids who put off marriage and procreation in favor of black attire and melancholy. In their universe, love is merely a swirling concoction of hormones and genetic pre-disposition for symmetrical faces. There is, in fact, nothing mystical about love, hate, or zealotry over our favorite college team. It's in the genes. And, most abhorrently, the true miracle of the "immaculate reception" is no miracle at all. It is a closed, cold universe headed to the void of nothingness without the faintest wisp of the comfort of metaphysics.

I am not that type of person. I do confess, however, that I have the appalling tendency to want to be liked by men. More specifically, I hate to be thought of as an idiot. So I know that my inclination that the world may be only 10,000 years old or so marks me immediately as bordering on being an imbecile. I have tried, very hard, to harmonize my young earth mentality with the ancient appearance of the universe. Toward this end, I moved back my original calculation all the way from 6,000 years to 10,000. This, for me, was a large compromise, but it will satisfy none of my critics I'm sure.

So how could it come to pass that a man with a liberal arts degree should be so foolish? Alas, I believe in magic. At least, I believe in an omnipotent Creator-God who can, with mere words, make something out of nothing. To use the words of the academy, I believe that everything we see was created ex nihilo. That is akin to Harry Potter conjuring a mouse from thin air, I suppose, to the naturalist. I came to the startling realization that if God Almighty spoke something out of nothing, it is simply absurd to then go and try to age it. Unless, of course, we surmise that when He made it, He made it look "new." This sounds altogether reasonable until we try to compare it to what an old universe might look like. Since there had never been a universe before, we must come to the only logical conclusion that this new universe God made looked just like a new universe, no matter how old we might think it looks. There is, actually, no other universe to compare it to. I guess this means that we are aging it through time as a man would age, by seconds and years back to a time when it was young.

Sometimes, people think I am old because my hair has turned gray. That is a reasonable assumption since gray hair belongs on old men. However, by a cruel twist of genetics, my hair turned gray at the tender age of thirty. If I were to color my hair more brown, and then allow these same fellows to watch me run a half-marathon next Tuesday, they might think I am doing better than one foot in the grave after all. So, just because my hair is gray does not mean I've gotten old. If you are scratching your head as to what this has to do with the age of the universe, just leave this point aside. I simply wanted to feel less old than I appear.

So, oddly, I find myself in the predicament of believing that God spoke in the Bible, that He spoke plainly, and that He has said that He made the world out of nothing. And, He has also said that He put a man on this planet, and that He made one woman out of that man's rib. I believe all of that patent nonsense. I also believe in talking snakes and damning fruit. To the naturalist, I am practically mad and particularly dangerous to a thinking society. If my philosophy were not so repulsive, I could be studied as an odd throw-back to a more primitive day. Instead, I think ridicule is the chosen attack against rubes like myself.

I am glad to have this off of my chest. I hold a sad set of presuppostions that put me at odds with the modern man. I believe in God, and miracles, and I believe in the Bible. Apparently, clinging to this sort of hocus-pocus entails the denial of medication and all scientific advancement. I believe this to be a merely childish insult. I like ibuprofen very much. I am also very fond of the idea that my son and daughter have powerful angels watching over them who obey the every whim of an omnipotent God.

So there you have it, dear reader. I am a young earther Luddite of the highest order. I am not even ashamed of it on good days. You can pray for me, if you like. Or at least, you can blame it on an unfortunate idea one of my ancestor's genes had to give me this wretched coping mechanism.

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Parable of the Miners

I have to confess that I have been glued to the trapped Chilean miner story. I prayed for their deliverance, and I have prayed for them after their rescue as well. I think one of the miner's had both his girlfriend and his wife show up for the rescue party. That guy really needs our prayers.

Their ordeal made me think: Could I survive down there without going mad? And as I thought on it, I began to realize that their situation was a great parable, which I will now share. Here it is, the parable of the miners:

There was once a group of miners in the country of Chile. They labored, day after day, in a mine that was over a half-mile deep in the earth. One day, the mine collapsed, burying the miners under 700,000 tons of earth. Though they were not crushed in the collapse, they had with them only 48 hours worth of food and water.

Those family and friends on the surface were filled with grief at the collapse of the mine, and they set about drilling to determine the fate of their loved ones. It took them seventeen days to drill a small hole to where the miners were at the time of the collapse. To their great joy and surprise, all of the miners were still alive. They had survived for seventeen days in a dark pit with only forty-eight hours of rations.

So think about this: how did they survive 17 days on 48 hours of rations, and what does this have to do with you?

If there is anyone around to discuss, we will. If there isn't, I'll just answer my own question tomorrow.