December 30, 2014

In Their Own Words XXVI: Pale By Comparison




As much as I loved Carl Sagan’s Cosmos miniseries on PBS in 1980, many of the things he said before his death leave me reeling in disbelief at their banality and lack of insight. What is even more disheartening for me is he made mistakes similar to Stephen Hawking and Richard Dawkins when he dared to venture into theological territory to make incorrect theological assumptions. In some cases it was clear he didn’t even know what he was talking about theologically. By doing so he bit off more than he could chew and it was clear from his comments that he was theologically and biblically out of his depth. His comments show sharp discontinuity with the truth of Scripture and its underlying purposes and narratives. The following quote is a perfect example of his ignorance of the Bible.

“Ann Druyan [Sagan’s wife] suggests an experiment: Look back again at the pale blue dot of the preceding chapter. Take a good long look at it. Stare at the dot for any length of time and then try to convince yourself that God created the whole Universe for one of the 10 million or so species of life that inhabit that speck of dust. Now take it a step further: Imagine that everything was made just for a single shade of that species, or gender, or ethnic or religious subdivision. If this doesn’t strike you as unlikely, pick another dot. Imagine it to be inhabited by a different form of intelligent life. They, too, cherish the notion of a God who has created everything for their benefit. How seriously do you take their claim?” ~ Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space

Theologically, this is a fail from the start. Logically, the entirety of the quote is also a fail as it takes in too many assumptions and builds arguments and false dilemmas from them. They, whether it be Carl or his wife Ann are asking us to look back at earth from a physical and emotional distance with man and the Earth as reference points. It then tells us to imagine that this “dot” (a euphemism for Earth) was created for one of 10 million species that inhabit it. This is an incorrect framing of the truth. Although the universe and all within it were created to specifically support our lives and the things within the universe lend themselves to our discovery (dominion)...it was not created for us in actuality. It was created so that we as humans would thrive but that was not the sole purpose for its creation, this is a misunderstanding by Sagan and his wife. They along with others misunderstand the theological purpose of Creation of the heavens, earth and man. The fact of man’s creation is missed entirely in Druyan's statement, probably because the hypothetical scenario is being formulated by an evolutionist.

The correct way to view the creation of the “pale blue dot” and mankind is simple to state but harder to elaborate on. The entire Bible points to the purpose of the Creation being for God’s glory. Here’s the thing. God is brought glory through His Creation, specifically the salvation of man in the Gospel. This is part of the reason Man was created in God’s image. Think about it, images are specifically made to represent the original. Why? It brings attention (glory) to the original. God puts man on Earth so there would be direct images of Him in the world. God allows man to fall in sin so that he could redeem them Himself through His own Son, the God-man Jesus Christ.

Isaiah 43:6-7 ~ “I will say to the north, Give up, and to the south, Do not withhold; bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth, everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.”

The Heavens that Sagan often spoke of were made for the same purpose.

Psalm 19:1 ~ “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.

So when Sagan and his wife paint this image of man's insignificance in the face of such vast odds and an expansive cosmos, they miss the point of the Creation entirely. They are using mankind and mankind’s perspective as a point of reference for scale and meaning but in reality the true measure of man, the Earth and the Universe is in reality...God. So, it is clear why agnostics like Druyan and Sagan would miss this point. They have no desire to glorify an entity that they don't want to believe exists. On the other hand, as any believer knows, next to God, everything in the Creation pales by comparison (see what I did there?). This then changes the importance of man in the big picture. They are instrumental to God's purposes and His will but they are not the primary focus as Sagan and Druyan suggest.

So when people like Carl Sagan or Ann Druyan ask why Earth is the only inhabited planet, why man is the only rational inhabitant in the Cosmos or why there is such a large and empty universe...the answer is actually rather simple. The answer needs to be understood as matched and measured against God Himself. When we have such an unimaginable infinite reference point like God…even the finite universe seems to look a little smaller. Mankind and the Earth are not the correct reference point to understand life and purpose (which was the original premise for the Cosmos series). 

It’s about God, not man. 

We were only created to know Him to our benefit and to love Him as He loves us. The universe in its incomprehensibility and vastness then serves as the grandest and most expansive thing in the Creation by which we can understand God…and even the universe falls short in this endeavor. The scale and the enormity of the Cosmos is only a hint of the infinite nature of God. The irony is that we can barely get our minds around the universe that we can see. God is something else entirely.

If there is something that is pale in this analogy it is the complexion of man when matched against and infinite holy God who greater than the expansiveness of the Creation itself. The prophet Isaiah said it best when the same reality hit him too.

Isaiah 6:1-5 ~ “In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly. And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory. And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke. Then said I, Woe is me for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!

Contrary to Sagan's/Druyan's statement, it is not unlikely that God created the universe or the Earth and mankind in it. What is unlikely is that there is another world inhabited by another species or race as fancied by these two. If this was true it would diminish that which Christ did on the cross to save humanity. 

1 Peter 3:18 ~ “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit…”

Hebrews 9:28 ~ "...so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him."

In my Christian worldview, this is not tenable. There is no second world, there is no second death and Resurrection. It was done once and it was finished. To believe anything else is to deny the truth of Scripture. I am staking my entire worldview on the fact there is no such thing as sentient extraterrestrial life. Sagan and his wife want to believe that there are other worlds with sentient beings like humanity and it is exactly because this would diminish the need for God in their worldview. I on the other hand believe there really is no other inhabited world for the exact reasons I just explained. This isn’t really about the numbers and statistics in relation to mankind. It is about bringing glory to God. The universe was indeed created in an anthropocentric (man-centered) manner. It is in an optimal condition to support human life but it was done so to show that God did it specifically for mankind on Earth so that it would inevitably bring glory to only Him. There are no others. There are no aliens. That is topic for another post and it revolves around preconditioning humanity for accepting the demonic. As much as aliens make for really good science fiction, they don't make for good reality. Demons on the other hand do make for exceptional reality and in the movies it is sometimes called horror.

Addendum: 

I'll leave you with a video of Vangelis' Heaven & Hell - Space Time Continuum, Part I which was one of the songs that played behind the original Cosmos miniseries in 1980. I do so mostly because of the images of the universe it shows which are pretty darn cool.

December 26, 2014

In Their Own Words XXV: Man In A Box

The quote(s) for this post is/are a serious humdinger by any measure.  I have to be honest, I didn’t even know who Alan Sokal was before reading this quote from him. I had no preconceived notions about him nor bias against him. After reading this quote I question his reasoning ability, his grasp of logic and know unquestionably that his understanding of philosophy is surprisingly flawed. So who is he? 

Well, supposedly this man is really really smart by worldly standards. Sokal is a professor of mathematics at University College London and he is also professor of physics at New York University (NYU). He is known for his work in statistical mechanics. He is best known to the wider public for his criticism of postmodernism. Ironically, he also works to counter faulty scientific reasoning. I guess it is this fact that makes this later quote all the more astounding and contrary to his character. It’s hard to believe he made the comment at all. He had to have known he was mixing philosophies of knowledge, reasoning and logic.

He should’ve understood the differences between different types of epistemological knowledge and he should know when he is mixing categorical areas of thought. I suggest that because of his anti-theistic biases his reasoning becomes clouded and he makes the hackneyed atheistic comments like the one below. For such an intelligent man that is usually well-reasoned, this is a real whopper of a quote. I mean…this guy’s reputation is supposedly grounded in is ability to think clearly. 

Sokal is also known for an academic hoax known as "The Sokal Affair" that he pulled on the postmodern journal Social Text published by Duke University Press. In it he purposely flattered the editor’s ideological preconceptions. It essentially was a nonsensical paper showing how Social Text would be better served by intellectual underpinnings based on reason. The journal and the academics involved didn't even know that they were hornswoggled until he revealed the truth of the matter in another academic journal named Lingua Franca.

In other words, Social Text was not reasoning well and illogical in their approach to knowledge. This leads me to believe that the following quote might also be a hoax….but I will approach it as a legitimate statement albeit highly philosophically flawed. I guess there is just something about man’s hate of God that severely clouds their judgment and thinking.

“Each religion makes scores of purportedly factual assertions about everything from the creation of the universe to the afterlife. But on what grounds can believers presume to know that these assertions are true? The reasons they give are various, but the ultimate justification for most religious people’s beliefs is a simple one: we believe what we believe because our holy scriptures say so. But how, then, do we know that our holy scriptures are factually accurate? Because the scriptures themselves say so. Theologians specialize in weaving elaborate webs of verbiage to avoid saying anything quite so bluntly, but this gem of circular reasoning really is the epistemological bottom line on which all 'faith' is grounded. In the words of Pope John Paul II: 'By the authority of his absolute transcendence, God who makes himself known is also the source of the credibility of what he reveals.' It goes without saying that this begs the question of whether the texts at issue really were authored or inspired by God, and on what grounds one knows this. 'Faith' is not in fact a rejection of reason, but simply a lazy acceptance of bad reasons. 'Faith' is the pseudo-justification that some people trot out when they want to make claims without the necessary evidence. ― Alan Sokal

It would appear Alan didn’t read the Bible properly (or at all). He seems to be making the Bible into a Straw man / Red Herring fallacy. I am guessing he misses the hundreds of historical references to real kings and real rulers that validate the time in which the texts of the Bible were written? Caesar Augustus, Governor Quirinius, Herod Agrippa and Herod Antipas to name a few. I am guessing he didn’t do his archeological homework either: Nag Hammadi and Tel Dan (“David”) Stela. Archeology that validates more and more claims as outlined in the documentation of historical events in the Bible? Regardless, we have 29 kings from ten nations including Egypt (Rameses II, Exodus 1–14), Assyria (Tilgath-pileser, 2 Kings 15:29; Shalmaneser, 2 Kings 18:9-12; Sennacherib Isaiah 36:1), Babylon (Nebuchadnezzaar, 2 Kings 24; Belshazzar, Daniel 5-8), etc. whose identities are mentioned not only in the Hebrew Masoretic text (the Old Testament), but are also found on physical monuments of their own time. Therefore, we have physical historical markers with which to cross-reference the Bible’s historical validity. If it is accurate historically, can’t we possibly assume that other aspects of the Bible are also accurate or at least approach the Bible with this presupposition?

He also makes the claim that the believer of the Bible only knows the Bible is accurate because it was revealed by God and can only be accepted in faith. If one actually reads the Bible they would see it is internally consistent when dealing with historical people even when the archeological records have been incomplete or wrong. The Bible has also been consistent when dealing with modern scientific understandings. Has it been detailed scientific knowledge? No, but what it has spoken to it has not been wrong.

Furthermore, Sokal makes an accusation of circular reasoning unjustly. This is an old and often recycled atheist argument that doesn’t hold water in the end. The argument by atheists often goes like this: The ultimate justification for most Christian's beliefs is a simple one: They believe what they believe because their holy scriptures say so. Although this is true for the person that has faith, it is not the sole source for the validity of the Scripture. As I’ve already described above, The Bible and Christianity is a faith that is anchored in history. It specifically references the reigns of kings that were contemporaries of Biblical characters. Furthermore, these biblical characters are backed with archeological proof that they once existed. This is not circular reasoning, it is historical science. Jesus was a real man that entered real time during the reign of real rulers.

Alan continues…

Science relies on publicly reproducible sense experience (that is, experiments and observations) combined with rational reflection on those empirical observations. Religious people acknowledge the validity of that method, but then claim to be in the possession of additional methods for obtaining reliable knowledge of factual matters — methods that go beyond the mere assessment of empirical evidence — such as intuition, revelation, or the reliance on sacred texts.

What Sokal is doing here is building a partial list of what Christians rely on to gain factual knowledge. Like way too many other atheists (like Hawking, Dawkins, etc) is he building a false dilemma/dichotomy (black and white thinking). He only is accepting empirical “sense experience” as he terms it. This means he adheres solely to a posteriori evidences to make claims about what truth and facts are. In so doing he is short-circuiting the metaphysical and a priori knowledge and rationalism which also contains the realm of God. He also demeans revelation from a metaphysical source [God] as a valid origin for facts. In other words by assuming there is no metaphysical, he automatically negates Special/General Revelation from a supernatural source (God and Bible). In short, Sokal believes in the totally incompatibility of science and religion and states as much.

He is either being philosophically disingenuous or he is intellectually ill-informed. By ignoring the metaphysical as a valid source of evidence he then just goes on to ignore anything that comes from it as if it doesn’t exist. This is purposefully self-limiting his knowledge sources while simultaneously ridiculing the knowledge source of others he deems intellectually inferior (those that believe in the supermundane….God). I challenge anyone to read this second portion of his statement any other way. He is limiting the sources from which he draws his “facts”. In so doing he totally ignores half of reality just as other arrogant self-limiting atheists are so prone to do. 

Sokal digresses even more…

But the trouble is this: What good reason do we have to believe that such methods work, in the sense of steering us systematically (even if not invariably) towards true beliefs rather than towards false ones? At least in the domains where we have been able to test these methods-astronomy, geology and history, for instance-they have not proven terribly reliable. Why should we expect them to work any better when we apply them to problems that are even more difficult, such as the fundamental nature of the universe?

Above, in this third portion Sokal begins to inconstantly frame what he considers what is “true” and what is “false”. He limits what is a proper measure of these “truths”. He is mixing and matching philosophical truths here: Objective and subjective. He assumes that objective truths of God can be scientifically tested. He is trying to mix epistemological truth sources. He is trying to prove (actually disprove (metaphysical) truths with physical or empirical/naturalistic means. This is like trying to explain light in absolute dark. You cannot epistemologically get there from here. It is an unbridgeable chasm. By trying to force this while limiting what he will consider valid evidence is a fool’s errand. He either doesn’t realize he’s cutting his nose off to spite his face or he is being purposely duplicitous (I can’t tell which). 

In other words, according to empiricism, we can only know things after we have had the relevant experience-this is labeled a posteriori knowledge because posteriori means “after.” According to rationalism, it is possible to know things before we have had experiences-this is known as a priori knowledge because priori means "before". This means everyone is either a rationalist/empiricist or an empiricist only when it comes to their theory of knowledge. There is therefore is no middle ground for the empiricist. 

Atheists tend towards a false dilemma default which requires they only accept empirical means for gaining knowledge. Such is the case with Alan Sokal, Richard Dawkins and Stephen Hawking. They insist that truth-claims be accompanied only by clear and convincing physical evidence which can be studied and tested. Christians on the other hand accept both because the Bible speaks to both in the form of General and Special Revelation. Christians also believe truth can be attained through faith.

Sokal is also trying to define what his reliable evidences and truths. In this way he is doing the same thing David Hume did when he attempted to limit what was acceptable criteria for describing and accepting miracles as legitimate. He is literally a man in an intellectual boxIf people let these naturalists define the rules of engagement, they will always stack the intellectual deck in their favor. We as Christians need to get smarter about this and expose this duplicitousness for what it is….deceptive and demonic double-mindedness and Orwellian “doublespeak”.

Last but not least, these non-empirical methods suffer from an insuperable logical problem: What should we do when different people’s intuitions or revelations conflict? How can we know which of the many purportedly sacred texts — whose assertions frequently contradict one another — are in fact sacred?” 

Sokal concludes his diatribe with an appeal to logic but has soundly violated other philosophies and other logic in his longwinded haranguing against theists. He assumes that all sacred texts should be theologically aligned to one truth. At least that is how he has framed his quote. He assumes that all sacred texts from disparate religions (or within religions) should somehow agree if they are all speaking of truth. He makes the fatal assumption like that of a Universalist that all religions and their sacred texts lead to the same God or same truth (or worse, he's claiming all truth claims are true which violates the Law of Non- contradiction). As said before, he also confuses absolute truths and subjective truths when he speaks of the truths in this long diatribe. The Bible deals in absolute truth, science is purely subjective and relative to the observer and based on the abilities of a flawed observer. The Bible comes from an absolute God with an absolute divine view point separate from subjectivity. The Bible also says that not only should believers not have any other gods before Him, it is clear…there are no other gods. Yes, this is the claim the Christian must make if they are truly Christian and assume inerrancy when it comes to the truth of Scripture.

The Christian Bible appeals to the One True God. What it boils down to is what belief system best explains reality without contradicting itself or misinterpreting reality. The only one that hasn’t to this point is the Christian Bible. Archeology has validated it, not discredited it. Historically, it has been accurate. Sokal and his quotes on the other hand...have not been.

Addendum:

To better understand or be confused by the field of epistemology, differences between different types of knowledge and how we know what we know (or don't)...I recommend the following source material.

Meditations by Rene Descartes
Treatise on Human Nature by David Hume
Critique of Pure Reason by Immanuel Kant
Essay Concerning Human Understanding by John Locke

December 22, 2014

A Scout Is Reverent, Part I: Do My Duty to God and Country


After a two year silencing from God I have been given opportunities to teach and preach again. It was a necessary silencing that needed to take place to teach me. It was a wilderness wandering that had God preaching to me through His Spirit in my life experiences. 

Learn I have. It appears I have often learned the hard way so that others can learn too from my mistakes.

Many of the lessons have been quite painful. Some are still continuing but we all learn to cope as we go along. If we become completely incapacitated due to trials we become useless to the cause of evangelism.

Part of the new opportunities for teaching is instructing the Boy Scout troop which my sons attend about God, the Bible and morals/ethics. The morals and ethics with me as a teacher will of course embody principles gleaned from the Bible. Part of the Scout Oath and the Scout Law grasps a reverence for God. The oath and Law are as follows. Mind you, these are creeds...similar to that of the Christian faith. They are creeds by which the scouts (and their families) live. Yes, these things still matter to a few elect people...

Scout Oath
On my honor I will do my best  to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law; to help other people at all times; to keep myself physically strong,  mentally awake, and morally straight.
Scout Law
A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.
I consider this a tremendous opportunity to gently spread the word of God not only to the children but also to their parents that might not have heard the Good News. Earlier in the summer the council for the Southeast region or Pennsylvania had a Jamboree and on the Sunday and they were intending to have an ecumenical interfaith service for the entire camp. Of course a few packs were holding the biblical line and opted out. 

Exodus 20:3 “You shall have no other gods before Me.”

When some found out I was a preacher of the Gospel they came to our camp and I preached for about 15 minutes to both the boys and their parents. I suspect because I was loyal to God in that instance he bestowed more work for the Gospel in the form of the pack's religious badge this year. 

I was also given and opportunity to teach a class on morals and ethics and because I have a biblical Christian background, I have inserted some principles into the class. In the next post I have included an outline of the intended class coming in December. As I have the classes prepared for the religious badge I will post them under this series.

As long as my sons remain in the scouting program and I am allowed to teach my sons and others with the permission of their parents, I will be oriented towards God and country. Towards honor, loyalty, love, charity, mercy and grace. Towards faith and the founding principles of this once great American nation. I will stay the course for these children. This is because I believe the characteristics like love, loyalty, godly instruction, self-reliance based in proper training and in mastery of moral awareness skills we best embody an image of the Lord that we pray to.

As long as I am given the opportunity to teach the precepts will still be anchored in the cornerstone of...One nation under One God. No heavy-handed legal tactics by the ACLU or godless culture will dissuade me from that purpose.

[Continued In:  "A Scout Is Reverent, Part II: Morals and Ethics of A Scout

December 19, 2014

A Smart-Mouth or Smart Mouths

 
Smart-mouth (noun): An ability or tendency to make impertinent retorts; impudence.
Smart (adj.): Good at learning about things. Shows intelligence or good judgment.
Mouth (noun): The oral opening or cavity considered as the source of vocal utterance.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 

The Proverbs in Proverbs, Chapter 10 has a multitude of statements about people’s mouths, talking or words. All of these point back to a heart and brain condition. The contrast between the righteous and wicked mouth is shown in these verses. They are called antithetical parallels.

Proverbs 10:6 ~Blessings are on the head of the righteous, but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence.

Proverbs 10:11 ~ The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life, but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence.

Violence comes from a wicked mouth. In both verses 6 and 11 the righteous are associated with blessing and life, the wicked with violence that cuts life short. It is interesting to note that essentially the same verse is repeated 5 verses apart. In between we see two other verses about people that talk too much. It appears to bookend the wicked and their chattiness. It also appears to be a chiastic ("x" shape) for emphasis. There is a mirroring of not only text but harsh reality mindlessly jabbering people.

Proverbs 10:8 ~ The wise of heart will receive commandments, but a babbling fool will come to ruin.

Proverbs 10:10 ~ Whoever winks the eye causes trouble, and a babbling fool will come to ruin.

Regardless, the structure draws our attention to the importance of speech. There is life in proper speech. This is especially true when it comes to the word of the Bible and the Gospel itself. Verse 8 is the contrast between the “wise of heart” and the “babbling fool” or literally “fool’s lips” in Hebrew. There is the attitude of speaking and listening here. The wise remain silent and absorb a situation. They are clinical and exact in word use without an excess of wordage. A fool rambles on about nothing, but the wise heart listens and learns. A wise heart is open to being taught but a fool remains a fool because he refuses to listen to learn anything.

Proverbs 10:13 ~ On the lips of him who has understanding, wisdom is found, but a rod is for the back of him who lacks sense.

Proverbs 10:14 ~ The wise lay up knowledge, but the mouth of a fool brings ruin near.

Verses 13 and 14 tells us of people who benefit from wisdom and consequences for the idiotic chatterbox. A person of discernment has wisdom to give from a heart that has stored up knowledge. The person who’s lacking in heart has nothing to give but only receives punishment and ruin. Perhaps the contrast also means to show that the wise understand sound speech while fools only understand punishment which is often the end result of their own stubbornness and stupidity.

Proverbs 10:18 ~ The one who conceals hatred has lying lips, and whoever utters slander is a fool.

Proverbs 10:19 ~ When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.

Proverbs 10:20 ~ The tongue of the righteous is choice silver; the heart of the wicked is of little worth.

Proverbs 10:21 ~ The lips of the righteous feed many, but fools die for lack of sense.


Every verse from Proverbs 10:18 to 10:21 have to do with correct or righteous speaking. What do they tell us? Verse 18 says that the difference between hiding hatred and spreading it through slander is an issue of action, not intent. Both are forms of deceit that have the potential to be equally destructive. Concealed hatred is deadly but slander or murder of someone’s character…is still murder. The first scenario murders the one who contains the vitriol of hatred and the other assassinates the personality of a person through words.

Verse 19 warns against the dangers of slander from another angle. The second line literally reads, “The one who restrains lips” It appears connected with “lying lips” in verse 18. This points to a time when concealing or holding back speech can be a good thing. It is a comparison/contrast. Words are like sheep; the more there are, the better the chances that some will go rogue.

Verse 20 compares the wicked and the righteous mouth with a monetary value. Verse 21 speaks of feeding people with words.  It is an image of the person who can feed his family and his animals and this is placed in contrasted with the fool who cannot even feed himself. It is as if righteous speech gives a two-fold blessing. The same theme we see throughout the entire chapter 10 and all its mentions and contrast between the speech of the wise and the babbling of the foolish.

Finally at the end of chapter 10 we see verse 32.

Proverbs 10:32 ~ The lips of the righteous know what is acceptable, but the mouth of the wicked, what is perverse.

The word used for “acceptable” (raṣon) is typically used for favor, particularly the favor of God. Please note the contrast of favor and perversity— the latter on the nature of the speech, the former on the response it brings. This final verse puts profound stress on using words that bear fruit as opposed to words that bring destruction.

So what do all these verse really mean at their core? Well, for starters they tell us that talking and words are powerful things. Our words and mouth have the power of life and death. They can also be used to bring glory to God or shame. There are prices to pay for idle words…so a prudent man picks and chooses his words carefully. There are some pretty profound character mirrors in these verses too. The themes are laziness versus diligence, shame versus honor, poverty versus wealth, wise speech versus destructive speech and righteousness versus wickedness that underlie all the others.

These Proverbs scattered throughout the chapter show that the wise man knows how to use the gift of communication for the benefit of others, not just himself. In truth, wise speaking is accompanied with wise thinking. Wise thinking is accompanied with a wise heart. Wise thinking and wise heart lead to wise actions that benefit everyone.

December 17, 2014

December 16, 2014

In Their Own Words XXIV: Wisdom Tooth



As I’ve written this series it has morphed and taken on different shapes and characteristics. At first it was intended to point out the absurd religious comments of godless men. It was originally to be an ongoing series of posts of quotes from atheists, skeptics, naturalists, methodological naturalists, empiricists and ungodly existentialists. It was to show the flawed end to their logic when they made anti-theistic comments. It was also to show the obvious disdain in their anti-biblical vitriol that spewed forth from their thinking. 

As I have written this blog my walk has become closer with God. I am now trying to see more of the positives in people. This series is changing in accordance with that shift and has now grown to include exceptionally profound quotes from men and women that had it right all along because they kept their faith, and thinking rooted in the Bible. The theme for the series expanded because some of the insightful and profound things that come out of believer’s mouths are hard to ignore and sometimes warrant mentioning more than once. With this precept in mind I present William Jennings Bryan, a Christian and former Democratic presidential candidate of the United States in 1896, 1900 and 1908. 

Why, these men would destroy the Bible on evidence that would not convict a habitual criminal of a misdemeanor. They found a tooth in a sand pit in Nebraska with no other bones about it, and from that one tooth decided that it was the remains of the missing link. They have queer ideas about age too. They find a fossil and when they are asked how old it is they say they can't tell without knowing what rock it was in, and when they are asked how old the rock is they say they can't tell unless they know how old the fossil is. ~ William Jennings Bryan

It should be noted right from the beginning that William Jennings Bryan was a leading American politician from the 1890s until his death in 1925. He was a dominant force in the Democratic Party until his death. He was an opponent of Darwinism on religious and humanitarian grounds. He was known for his avid opposition to the theory of evolution and was the key prosecution witness speaking against it at the Scopes Monkey Trial which pretty much set the stage for permanently putting evolution in schools and precluding Creationism from society as a valid explanation of human beginnings. What we also see in the Scopes Monkey Trial is the US court system being used to undermine the validity of the Scriptures and biblical inerrancy by arrogant godless men.

William Jennings Bryan of course is referring above to the infamous tooth in the Nebraska Man debacle by evolutionists back in the 1920’s. A single solitary tooth was described by Henry Fairfield Osborn in 1922, on the basis of a tooth that rancher and geologist Harold Cook found in Nebraska in 1917. An entire transitional species was created based on the existence of this single tooth. It turns out the tooth was misidentified as anthropoid (a higher primate) by Osborn, who over-zealously proposed the idea of a transitional Nebraska Man in 1922. This tooth was soon found to be that of a peccary more commonly known as a feral pig when further bones were found. A retraction was made necessary by 1927 to correct the scientific blunder. From this one little tooth we gained quite a bit of wisdom and insight into the scientific method of the time and perhaps even now. We see that, like other science theories and methods, they are not immune to error.

His comment above is interesting because of the irony it presents about science, the draconian measures by which evolution was instituted in the American educational system and the Machiavellian manipulative effects it has on our government and cultural systems. All were dangers Bryan was well aware of and that is exactly why he opposed them at the turn of the 20th century. He makes these statements about the fossil record used to support evolution and how sporadic and riddled with lack of evidence it is. It virtually has no leg to stand on to support its argument because it is nearly empty of transitional lifeforms or transitions between species. He makes a further dig at the evidence by making another valid statement. The evidence science uses to support its evolutionary claims is subject to interpretation and often, the interpretation is victim to horrendous error and mistakes as in the case of Nebraska Man. If this was the case with Nebraska Man, how many other theories or ideas based on weakly-supported theories has modern science (therefore society) fallen victim to?

So, although Nebraska Man was not a deliberate hoax, the classification proved to be a rather substantial mistake. It exposed a gaping hole in the scientific method/process. How many so-called scientific evidences passed off as fact are in actuality, merely misinterpreted data or misunderstood information? This further begs the following question: How many of modern theories and identification sciences are prone to serious flaw and error due to presupposition and interpretation errors? 

Based on this one incident alone it should be considered highly probable that all hastily arrived at theories and scientific decisions should be looked at with a jaundiced eye. When we add to this blunder things like the study of Phrenology, Eugenics, Social Darwinism, Darwin’s notions of heredity, Einstein's cosmological constant, Linus Pauling’s Triple Helix and finally Piltdown man, we see that things can quickly get ugly…even for people that are held in high esteem at the pinnacle of science. As a matter of fact, there is now evidence to possibly prove that things do indeed travel faster than the speed of light.

Sadly, since the time of Nebraska Man and the Scopes Monkey Trial, science as a know-all and tell-all for man’s origins and truth as gained a death grip on our educational system, our government and society at large. So much so that modern society has no room for any form of Creationism, God or the Bible except as an afterthought or worn-out overused myth.

After the Scopes Monkey Trial, Bryan would end up writing a summation he had intended to use. As an excellent biblical and moral thinker he would hit on further valid points that should sound a bell in the head of believers but will ring hollow in a modern non-believer. Bryan realizing that science and faith can exist side-by-side did not malign science outright but rather painted them as awkward but viable companions.

Science is a magnificent force, but it is not a teacher of morals. It can perfect machinery, but it adds no moral restraints to protect society from the misuse of the machine. It can also build gigantic intellectual ships, but it constructs no moral rudders for the control of storm tossed human vessel. It not only fails to supply the spiritual element needed but some of its unproven hypotheses rob the ship of its compass and thus endangers its cargo. ~ William Jennings Bryan

Very well said Mr. Bryan, very well said.

December 15, 2014

The Dark Side Has Cookies, So Should We



Yes, Christianity has the truth but the other side has cookies.

Yes, Christianity has an inerrant holy book but the other side has cookies.

Yes, Christianity says that they have a heart for the true God but the other side has cookies.

Yes, Christianity has doctrine and dogma…but the other side has visitors with cookies and good conversation.

Yes, Christianity can be logically and rationally explained, but the adherents of other beliefs bake you cookies and visit you in the old-age home. How many Christians do that? Many Christians expect you to visit them at their church. Some don't but many do expect it.

Yes, many Christians have money that they are willing to tithe or give to the poor...as long as they don't have to see them first-hand or actually get emotionally involved with those suffering. The other side does. 

Even secular humanitarian efforts do as much. How often do you see affluent Christians hitting the slums, crime infested or drug infested areas of the local towns and cities? Christians will give the money to buy the cookies but rarely will they actually bake them and hand deliver them to people that they'll need to learn the names of. 

We have money, they have cookies.

Yes, Christianity has the ideals and principles of Christ but if they are not practiced we have a cold heartless religion.

The other side has warm cookies, kind words and smiles.

The people of the world suspect that Christians know the truth and know God…but they don’t know that you care about them. They don't know until you show them you do. The world usually does not connect the dots to realize that loving God means loving them too, unless you show them you love them. Talk is cheap but cookies are usually free.

You might say you care but the other side shows the world they care. How often can we say we've done that?

We have the truth but they have cookies in gift baskets.

Oven-fresh chocolate chip cookies. We need to have cookies for those we visit too. Visits that we make to show the hurting and the downtrodden that we care enough to bake them cookies, not just care enough to spout religious platitudes and trite clichés at them.

We talk at people about what we believe, the other side talks to them and convinces them through conversation (and cookies). The other side’s compassion and bedside manners show that their ideas are better.

It isn’t what we’re saying to people that causes the effect, it’s how we’re saying it. It isn’t what we’re doing, it’s how we’re doing it. The Gospel needs to be given in a Gospel manner. This means in love, humility and understanding. Cookies never hurt either.

Other religions and worldviews have religions of works but Christianity should be showcased as a relationship whose main fruit is humility, charity and love. Doing little or nothing shows none of these. Our belief is not a religion of works so much as it is a relationship whose main outworking is righteous deeds.

Everyone that wants something from someone knows how to show people love. To actually love someone is another thing altogether. Love is more than lip-service…it is first, a friendly visit with fresh cookies. Then it is prayer, Bible and commitment.

I like chocolate chip cookies, don’t you?

[Take this post for what it is, a tongue-in-cheek look at some painful truths about the Evangelical church that at times, forgets to show its human side. In so doing, false religions and even atheists end up showing their human side better than we do. True faith shows actions to those in need.]

December 13, 2014

A Genealogy of Blockheads

Jesus' ancestry was definitely a lineage of blockheads. When we talk about the birth of Christ at Christmas it is usually good to start with the Genealogies of Matthew or Luke. When we see how great a treasure comes from the lineage of broken and sinful people we should sit back in reverential awe. The lineage of Jesus stretches the limits of imagination and shows once again that God works through the low things of life over long periods of time to make those in lofty places appear foolish.

Abraham was the father of Isaac: The father of the multitude. The first Hebrew patriarch and the primary example of the Jewish faith. Originally known as Abram (father is exalted) but changes to Abraham in Genesis 17:5. His unbelief and unfaithfulness sires Ishmael, his faithfulness and belief sires Isaac.

Isaac the father of Jacob: His name means laughter (Sarah's). The only son of Abraham and Sarah. He is a child of promise born when Abraham is 100 and Sarah 90. Isaac marries Rebekah who bore twins, Esau and Jacob. Isaac is deceived into giving birthright to Jacob over Esau.

Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers: Jacob is the original ancestor of the nation of Israel. His sons are the 12 ancestors of the 12 tribes of Israel. Jacob's earlier conniving and manipulation revisits him in the form of mostly petulant sons, minus Benjamin and Joseph.

Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar: The fourth son of Jacob and progenitor of the tribe of Judah. His mother was Leah. Although his narrative often takes a backseat in Genesis 28 we see the seduction of Judah by his daughter-in-law Tamar. Their union results in the birth of Perez and Zerah. Perez born of an illicit affair is the father of Hezron who is the father of Ram. Ram is the father of Amminadab who is the father of Nahshon the father of Salmon who is the father of Boaz the kinsman-redeemer who marries Ruth a woman that is actually a Moabite which is the line of descendants that came from the incestuous affair between Lot and his daughters.

Boaz the father of Obed the father of Jesse who was the father of the the famous and infamous King David the anointed king of God after Saul failed to live in accordance with the Lord, goes mad and eventually fall on his swords after loosing his sons in battle. David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife. Uriah who was killed by David to cover his sin with Bathsheba. Solomon on the other hand is basically given immense wealth and wisdom but it all comes to not because of the 700 wives that eventually lead him astray into idolatry and he lives the remainder of his days in self-made apostasy regretting many of his poor choices.

Solomon is the father of Rehoboam who decides foolishly to reign with and iron fist and oppress his people mercilessly. These actions inevitably divides the kingdom in two between himself and Jeroboam (in the Northern Kingdom (Israel). Rehobaom fathers Abijah who follows in the sins of his father. Abijah the father of Asa who unlike his father is actually a pious man and is one of the few good kings in the Southern Kingdom. He removes foreign Gods and is succeeded by his son Jehoshaphat who in most cases was a faithful follower of Yahweh but is foolish and makes one disastrous decision: An alliance with the evil king Ahab of Israel (Northern Kingdom). His son Jehoram marries the daughter of Ahab, the Evil Queen Athaliah and her influence in Judah is horrific. Jehoram's son Uzziah comes to the throne when he is 16 rather than have King Joash installed as a puppet king who is the infant son of Ahaziah who survived the bloodbath perpetrated by Queen Athaliah.

Uzziah the father of Jotham reigns for 16 years until he contracts leprosy and could not fulfill the needs of his office as royalty. Although he was an effective ruler his rule is taken over by Ahaz who was an extremely evil king and participated in some of the most idolatrous and monstrous practices of Judah/Southern Kingdom. Because of these abominable acts he never gets buried in the royal tombs due to atrocious behavior. Ahaz in turn produces one of the most devout and obedient kings Hezekiah.

Hezekiah the father of Manasseh brought religious reform to Judah, and refused to court favor with Assyrian Kings. He destroyed the bronze serpent of Moses so the people would not worship it. Due to Hezekiah's faithfulness, Sennacherib of Assyria did not prevail against Judah when it was nearly a foregone conclusion that he would.

Manasseh was the longest reigning king of Judah, unfortunately a long and unfaithful reign. The blame for Judah's ultimate destruction and exile is placed on his shoulders (2 Kings 21). Manasseh fathered Amon who followed in his father's footsteps of idolatry and was killed in a palace revolt. Good King Josiah succeeded to his throne at age 8 and at 18 the "Book of the Law" is discovered while doing repairs to the Temple. Josiah's goodness assured God's destruction of Judah would not come during his reign but after Josiah, the Southern Kingdom of Judah does a long slow burn to utter annihilation.

Josiah fathered Jeconiah and his brothers at the time of the exile to Babylon. After the exile to Babylon: Jeconiah was the father of Shealtiel, Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel the grandson of King Jehoiachin taken to Babylon in the first exile. Daruis the Persian emperor granted the right for the Jews to start rebuilding the temple during this time and then disappears from the Bible but not before fathering Abihud. We then have a long succession of generations without much information: Abihud fathers Eliakim who fathers Azor who fathers Zadok father of Akim who is the father of Elihud father of Eleazar. Eleazar the father of Matthan and Matthan the father of Jacob who is none other than the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary. Mary is a woman who, by the worldly standards of her time, had conceived under shadowy and mysterious circumstances. From God's and a believer's point of view she conceived in shining and miraculous circumstances. Mary...the mother of Jesus Christ who is called the Messiah. Savior of the World.

Not a very vainglorious family tree to say the least but a perfect example of how God can use the foolish things of the world to shame those that are too high on their horse. All this leads to a child in a stable that probably stank and was filled with flies in the town of Bethlehem two millennium ago. From humble and nearly invisible beginnings we see the birth of the Son of God who would save mankind from their sin and change the course of history forever. Amazing.

"So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them. And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” ~Luke 2:4-14

It just goes to show that no matter what the condition of humanity, God can overcome the sin and the negatives of humanityThis family tree literally looks like a Charlie Brown Christmas tree. It is only love and the crowning at the top of the tree in Jesus that salvages this thing, otherwise the entire tree is a lost cause. 

Come to think of it...it is only Jesus Christ that salvages us all. Right before we think we are any better than those in Christ's genealogy we need to remember that we too are relatives or coheir in Christ and were purchased for a price so that we could become part of the family and therefore part of the kingdom. It wasn't anything we did to earn it. It was his righteousness that overcame our sins. In terms of sin, we are exactly the same as Jesus' ancestors...we're all sinful blockheads. There is nothing we can do to get ourselves extricated from our sin except to turn to Christ. As Linus would say: 

"That is what Christmas was really all about Charlie Brown."

December 11, 2014

A Settling Mist


Wanderer Above The Sea of Fog
Caspar David Friedrich
(1818)
"True eloquence does not consist ... in saying great things in a sublime style, but in a simple style; for there is, properly speaking, no such thing as a sublime style, the sublimity lies only in the things; and when they are not so, the language may be turgid, affected, metaphorical, but not affecting." ~Oliver Goldsmith-Of Eloquence, 1759

So I’ve begun to look at one of the gifts the Lord has given me that was not fully there previous to my conversion. I've zeroed in on one in particular and am using it now. It is a gift that I have been told I have by not only people that know me personally but even by those that are complete strangers. Even those that have not liked me or have been enemies have acknowledged something peculiar when it comes to this gift.

It revolves around an ability to communicate exact intent and it has steered me towards other gifts clearly outlined in the Bible. I have been told I have an eloquence with words. At times I have overused this linguistic gift most times by using 10 dollar words where 5 dollar ones work fine but usually I get my point across well enough. I am a careful chooser of words because there is the power of life and death in the spoken and written word.

Ecclesiastes 5:2 ~ “Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few.”

Proverbs 10:19 ~ “When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise.”

This ability allows me to convey ideas succinctly. When I haven't done this it has been detrimental for myself or others. It has been a case of the proverbial, "Loose lips, sink ships." Conversely, with a few carefully chosen words I can pass on ideas that otherwise would’ve remained in the realm of silence or memory alone. This of course makes what one says interesting. In other words, specific carefully chosen words aid in teaching principles, expounding on philosophies and dictating doctrines. In a subtler way it delivers beliefs and expresses attitudes. I do not bring this up to blow my own horn but rather to take a closer look at the artistic use of words like the careful use of colors and hues on a painters palette. Subtleties in hues change images, and changed images change or affect minds. Sometimes it is not a matter what is said, but rather how it is said.

Most that know me from back in the day know I was not a verbal or rhetorical gymnast. As a matter of fact, I was rather vulgar and crude in my use of foul language. To this day I occasionally have my foul outbursts that I later regret and loathe the behavior because I know God has created me for better. So I can only attribute any positive change to the Holy Spirit. It has been the first signs of the Spirit beginning to reshape my life. Things like patience and kindness on the other hand have been another tiresome chore all-together. Sadly because of my sinful nature, those are a topic for another post that will show my haphazard journey towards God and holiness.

So what makes communication just words and what makes communication eloquent? It is clear right from the get-go that eloquence is a matter of aesthetics and perception. It is art as much as science. It is taste down to the nuance of flavor and color and down to variation in hues. I believe part of the understanding of regular communication and eloquent communication is to understand that words bubble from the wellspring of the heart and the soul of people. Words condition the souls of others too. Therefore the words are not what makes the eloquence eloquent, it is the motive and inspiration behind the words. On the other end, the receiver’s heart plays a role to complete the cycle.

I as a speaker or writer can only convey ideas at a given point in time. Are the hearts and souls of others conducive to receiving the words I’ve projected? It is at this point that I realize that God is present in the clear communication, or absent when confusion reigns. It is here I realize that even the gift of putting the words out there is not enough. There is a gift in receiving them to. God might be the impetus behind a person's ability and gift with words but at the same time, for people to understand or recognize the “eloquence” in the communication takes a gift of comprehension. To then also see the beauty or aesthetics of it….takes an ability or grace of God. At the root of beauty lies the grace of others.

All beauty, holistic structure, organization and unity of disparate thought is an ability to comprehend what comes from God. Letters which are merely symbols make words. Words are symbols of things in reality (or not). What these words or symbols represent conjure pictures in our heads that form ideas. What makes these ideas aesthetically pleasing is in the mind of the sender and then in the mind of the receiver.

So eloquence boils down to not only the gift of the communicator but also the abilities given to the receiving party. God used words in the Bible to convey ideas. The Bible to most is just a book with words. It isn’t until the reader of the Bible or the expositor of words from the Bible airs these words and ideas that the Gospel and the power of the Gospel becomes evident. 

Then it hits me again. 

The reason some people have been given this particular gift of words to be able to exposit the words long written down in the pages of Scripture. The word itself is already eloquent but it takes a people trained or able to see this quality in it and use it to teach others. Concerning the eloquence of certain portions of Scripture, John Calvin was once noted for having said…
“Let us pay attention to the style of Isaiah which is not only pure and elegant, but also is ornamented with high art—from which we may learn that eloquence may be of great service to faith.”
In addition the Calvin’s statement we also have this from poet John Donne...
“The Holy Ghost in penning the Scriptures delights himself, not only with a propriety, but with a delicacy, and harmony, and melody of language; with height of Metaphors, and other figures, which may work greater impressions upon the Readers.”

In other words, Donne is saying that there is a beauty and eloquence in the language of Scripture. Because of this there is a residual effect on readers. What makes the words of the Bible so eloquent and effective? It is Christ in the Word itself. It is the very thing that also makes the Gospel offensive to the non-believing reader and listener. It is Christ in the Gospel. These words if taken to heart...change hearts  and therefore lives permanently.

So, although I can communicate in the modern language, vernaculars, colloquialisms, euphemism, similes and metaphors, at the base level I as a human being was constructed to air-out the truth of Scripture. My gift therefore is merely to be a conduit for the broadcast of words. I am a supplier of symbols that represent ideas. Because I have immersed myself in the Word of God in Scripture for so long, it's divine eloquence has become part of me. I take no credit whatsoever for it.

Proverbs 16:23 ~ “A wise man’s heart guides his mouth, and his lips promote instruction”

How many of those ideas remain righteous and of God depends solely on my relationship with God and how much time I marinate and simmer in the God’s word. It is indicative of the time I spend in direct communication with God in prayer. Therefore, those that don’t pray much, really shouldn’t have much to say. Those that don’t base their thoughts in the Scriptures are therefore thinkers of dangerous ideas. It is like making a choice between marinating in bitter herbs or the sweetness of honey.

Eloquence, ideas and the words used to convey ideas are like morning fog. Depending on the density and heaviness of the ideas and words, the rate of absorption varies. Heavy and dense fog often takes very little time to soak into or sink into a receptive cloth or sponge. When words carry more weight, they tend to hit us with a more dramatic impact. They leave a lasting impression. They cover us more completely. They leave a mark. Eloquence with words does the same thing and causes a similar impact but it does it in a gentler manner. A light and unobtrusive fog may often take quite a bit of time to saturate the cloth that lies on the ground but even an elegant and inconspicuous fog can thoroughly saturate and pervade even the thickest cloth if it dwells long enough over the thing that absorbs it. So too the eloquent and ethereal words of Scripture that hang in the air and the minds of attentive listeners during teaching and preaching of God's truth and the Gospel.

[The use of Caspar David Friedrich’s painting is very intentional. I chose this painting of the wanderer because it is as if the painting suggests that the wanderer holds a mastery over a landscape and simultaneously is an insignificant individual within it. This is how I feel when expositing Scripture. Many may see me as an expert when expounding the Word o God but I myself see my role solely as a supporting secondary role. Since no one can see the face (or the heart) of the man except God, it's impossible to know whether the young man is exhilarated, or terrified, or both. This too is the effect on the teacher and preacher o God's word. There is an exhilaration of being given the righteous task of teaching God's word...but it comes at a cost and it is a mighty responsibility few will fully understand. I am usually exhausted days after preaching as it takes a lot out of me. 

Only God therefore is capable of properly conveying the true intent of the man's heart. It is the same way I feel when I think about the gift of words I have been given and the use to which they’ve are being used. I am merely a conduit of words and ideas. I am speaker of biblical truths. I am merely the vessel God chooses to use to expound on his words and principles. The calling has made me what I am, I have added nothing to the calling that God hasn’t already given me. It is both exhilarating...and terrifying.]
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