Monday, June 26, 2017

Let's Play A Game: Popular Songs As Summarized by Puritans

This gets worse as you go down the list.

Point 1: While Puritan is often used contemporarily as a derogatory term, it is a historical term that refers to English Reformers specifically, and, since then, conservative protestants specifically. You could be considered a puritan for having a less liberal attitude about what is proper language, behavior, dress, etc than the wider culture. In some sense, all Christians should be puritan.

"In the world, not of the world" - (John 17:14-15) - comes to mind often when I observe contemporary culture through song or television. There is no sign of self-awareness, by content producers,  of the fact that what they project is not affirmed as good by everyone who sees it, and this is very ironic. I often reflect on the significance of language, attitudes or beliefs which are taken for granted, and feel increasingly more isolated from and marginalized by the culture I live in. I suspect many believers can say the same.

For those who do not, I'd like you to consider a few highly popular recent songs that many young people sing along to and enjoy, I suspect uncritically. I wondered how a Puritan might characterize the lyrics if he heard them, and if it would shock some modern listeners, if only because of their numbness to what they're actually singing along to.

In other words, this is how I would describe the songs.

Carly Rae Jepsen -- "Call Me Maybe"
Young girl improperly pursues a man after lusting over him, boasting over how many other suitors she has had.

Adele -- "Hello From the Other Side"
Older woman mourns the dissolution of a past relationship, desperately trying to reconnect with a man she was once intimate with, because she is lonely and afraid of "running out of time."

Ellie Goulding -- "Love Me Like You Do"
A girl so overcome with lust that she spends the whole song begging a man to take advantage of her sexually.

Taylor Swift -- "Wildest Dreams"
A cynical woman holds no hope for a stable relationship, merely wishing that a man she fornicated with will remember her from time to time.

Sia -- "Chandelier"
A girl who is the 'life of the party' admits that she's becoming an alcoholic as a result of how much she drinks to keep from feeling the pain of her raging depression and emptiness.

Tove Lo -- "Habits"
Woman describes how she became a chronic drug user, prostitute, and developed an eating disorder after a break-up with a man she was very emotionally involved with.

Ariana Grande & Nicki Minaj -- "Side to Side"
A profanity-laden song performed on the Dangerous Woman tour which featured a concert that was targeted by a muslim terrorist. Graphically describes a variety of sex acts, encourages pursuing sexual relationships against the protests of one's friends, and is named after a post-coital gait characterizing some young women.

There's a theme here.

Nearly all new songs that chart describe, whether in positive, negative, or ironic ways, unhealthy romantic relationships...if you can even call them romantic.

I could unpack this in a lot of different ways, but let me make a few short points and be done:

1. The lifestyle promoted by these lyrics also describe terrible consequences for mental and physical health, one's sense of identity, the ability to be content, and the ability to form healthy relationships.

2. If you listen to this sort of music un-ironically, you're allowing yourself to be influenced by it. Does it paint a picture of something you wish to emulate? Please be selective about the messages that you listen to. Especially if you're Christian.

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. Philippians 4:8

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Spurgeon on Prayer

     “There are times when solitude is better than society, and silence is wiser than speech. We should be better Christians if we were more alone, waiting upon God, and gathering through meditation on His Word spiritual strength for labour in his service. We ought to muse upon the things of God, because we thus get the real nutriment out of them. . . . Why is it that some Christians, although they hear many sermons, make but slow advances in the divine life? Because they neglect their closets, and do not thoughtfully meditate on God's Word. They love the wheat, but they do not grind it; they would have the corn, but they will not go forth into the fields to gather it; the fruit hangs upon the tree, but they will not pluck it; the water flows at their feet, but they will not stoop to drink it. From such folly deliver us, O Lord. . . .”

    "It is interesting to remark how large a portion of Sacred Writ is occupied with the subject of prayer, either in furnishing examples, enforcing precepts, or pronouncing promises. We scarcely open the Bible before we read, “Then began men to call upon the name of the Lord;” and just as we are about to close the volume, the “Amen” of an earnest supplication meets our ear. Instances are plentiful. Here we find a wrestling Jacob—there a Daniel who prayed three times a day—and a David who with all his heart called upon his God. On the mountain we see Elias; in the dungeon Paul and Silas. We have multitudes of commands, and myriads of promises. What does this teach us, but the sacred importance and necessity of prayer? We may be certain that whatever God has made prominent in his Word, he intended to be conspicuous in our lives. If he has said much about prayer, it is because he knows we have much need of it. So deep are our necessities, that until we are in heaven we must not cease to pray. Dost thou want nothing? Then, I fear thou dost not know thy poverty. Hast thou no mercy to ask of God? Then, may the Lord’s mercy show thee thy misery! A prayerless soul is a Christless soul. Prayer is the lisping of the believing infant, the shout of the fighting believer, the requiem of the dying saint falling asleep in Jesus. It is the breath, the watchword, the comfort, the strength, the honour of a Christian. If thou be a child of God, thou wilt seek thy Father’s face, and live in thy Father’s love."
    ~ C H Spurgeon

    I have a personal belief now, developed years ago and after many long nights of prayer, that there is no mystical way in which prayer benefits the Christian in spiritual growth. But I think I can finally understand how Spurgeon could make such a big deal out of it. Since God doesn't audibly talk back to us, the nature of a prayer conversation will begin with thankfulness and supplication, and progress to drawing on memorized Scripture passages (i.e. "meditating on the word") to "talk it out" with God, explaining your reasoning process and in that process coming to discoveries that refine your conduct of speech: you realize that how you were asking could have been wrong/fully motivated, so you alter your requests and acknowledge that He knows best and maybe you oughtn't get what you ask for. You "happenstance" come across new or more profound Theological truths than you had in mind before, simply by thinking about the truths you know. This lets you grow in spiritual wisdom. I think the strength of an active prayer life is an active thought life.


Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Spurgeon: "I thought I was doing it all myself"

Born, as all of us are by nature, an Arminian, I still believed the old things I had heard continually from the pulpit, and did not see the grace of God. When I was coming to Christ, I thought I was doing it all myself, and though I sought the Lord earnestly, I had no idea the Lord was seeking me...I can recall the very day and hour when first I received those truths in my own soul—when they were, as John Bunyan says, burnt into my heart as with a hot iron...

One week-night, when I was sitting in the house of God, I was not thinking much about the preacher's sermon, for I did not believe it. The thought struck me, "How did you come to be a Christian?" I sought the Lord. "But how did you come to seek the Lord?" The truth flashed across my mind in a moment—I should not have sought Him unless there had been some previous influence in my mind to make me seek Him. I prayed, thought I, but then I asked myself, How came I to pray? I was induced to pray by reading the Scriptures. How came I to read the Scriptures? I did read them, but what led me to do so? Then, in a moment, I saw that God was at the bottom of it all, and that He was the Author of my faith, and so the whole doctrine of grace opened up to me, and from that doctrine I have not departed to this day, and I desire to make this my constant confession, "I ascribe my change wholly to God" (AUTOBIOGRAPHY, pp. 164-5).


Monday, June 19, 2017

Spurgeon: "Calvinism is the Gospel"

I loved the short quote in this, the first time I heard it. It encouraged me, because I had been researching Calvinism and was unsure whether it had been believed through history, or was a recent invention. What had "big-name" pastors and preachers of the past said about it? Spurgeon was a name I'd heard mentioned positively in the theological circles I'd been crossing into. So this served to unify my understanding, and conclude that "these guys are on the same team. We are on the same team."

If anyone should ask me what I mean by a Calvinist, I should reply, "He is one who says, Salvation is of the Lord." I cannot find in Scripture any other doctrine than this. It is the essence of the Bible. "He only is my rock and my salvation." Tell me anything contrary to this truth, and it will be a heresy; tell me a heresy, and I shall find its essence here, that it has departed from this great, this fundamental, this rock-truth, "God is my rock and my salvation." What is the heresy of Rome, but the addition of something to the perfect merits of Jesus Christ—the bringing in of the works of the flesh, to assist in our justification? And what is the heresy of Arminianism but the addition of something to the work of the Redeemer? Every heresy, if brought to the touchstone, will discover itself here. I have my own private opinion that there is no such thing as preaching Christ and Him crucified, unless we preach what nowadays is called Calvinism. It is a nickname to call it Calvinism; Calvinism is the gospel, and nothing else. I do not believe we can preach the gospel, if we do not preach justification by faith, without works; nor unless we preach the sovereignty of God in His dispensation of grace; nor unless we exalt the electing, unchangeable, eternal, immutable, conquering love of Jehovah; nor do I think we can preach the gospel, unless we base it upon the special and particular redemption of His elect and chosen people which Christ wrought out upon the cross; nor can I comprehend a gospel which lets saints fall away after they are called, and suffers the children of God to be burned in the fires of damnation after having once believed in Jesus. Such a gospel I abhor.

The website I chose to use for the source text is Please read the whole sermon, called "In Defense of Calvinism."


Saturday, June 17, 2017

The Relevance of Plato's Forms to Interpreting Human Emotion

My personality preference per the Myers-Briggs personality test (one of the only useful things ever produced by secular psychology) strongly favors 'intuitive thinking,' which is to say that I don't identify with my emotions. I wouldn't say that I'm "not emotional" or that I "don't feel emotion." On the contrary, in some ways I'm much more sensitive to / aware of my own emotional state because I relate to emotion as something that happens to me. It is not me; therefore, I have to first interpret what I am feeling, and then consciously choose how to act on it. It is very perplexing to me to see others behave according to a philosophy of "I feel like I should do x, therefore I will do x."

Most upsetting is when I have had opportunities to observe young men express a tendency to be turned on by the 'challenge' of seducing a woman who is already in a romantic relationship with someone else. Rather than respecting the people in the existing relationship, such adolescents are even more interested in "taken" women than those who are single. This evidently transcends gender, because it takes two to cheat.

But suppose you don't find pursuing things that are 'off limits' acceptable.

Whether you operate emotionally like the example above, or are more like me, let me offer, for your consideration, a different way of thinking about it. 

I found myself, once, contemplating the meaning of the good feeling I had when I had the opportunity to observe a Christian couple interacting with each other. The following is based on those thoughts:

Rather than focus on the obvious downside (“bummer, one less fish in the sea”), seeing a happy couple in a good relationship should give you encouragement because they, by their very existence, demonstrate that a committed relationship between young Christians can work. The obvious extrapolation of this observation is that "if it works for them, it can work for me." Instead of being disappointed when you see a beautiful woman who’s “taken,” the Spirit enables you to draw enjoyment from their enjoyment by being glad that God is strengthening their bond and using them as a lamp for His glory, and look forward to the day when you can experience the same joy, personally.

I want to make clear that what one might like about a young Christian couple ought to be the fact of their relationship itself and not an attraction to the woman (or man) in the relationship—getting these two confused can lead to catastrophe, and I think that inappropriate approaches to people in relationships, both by Christians and nonchristians, is one of the root causes for a lot of strange relationship problems that exist. I acknowledge that you, as a typical man, might initially recognize the woman as an attractive person. Sin is when that becomes lust—the desire to have HER for yourself. What your Spirit-led emotions [should, of you're growing in holiness] find to be attractive about seeing her, happy, in a loving bond, is not her but the fact that she is happy, the fact that someone like her can be happy, and the fact that there can be such a loving bond that can generate such happiness.
Let me briefly explain Plato’s forms. Plato used his brain of brains to wonder about things like definitions—what makes a thing the thing that it is? Is it arbitrary convention or is there an abstract concept that defines it? Let’s give an example: a chair. What makes a chair a chair? Is it that it has four legs, or three, or five? Is it its shape or its material that it’s made of, or its size? Why do we recognize every new chair that we see as a chair, and not as a completely new thing, since not all chairs are exactly alike? Plato would hold that there is a form called chair that defines “chair-ness,” and describes what it means to be a chair. Chairs are destructible and material but forms are eternally existent and immutable. Every chair possesses the form of “chair-ness,” and that’s what enables us to recognize it as a chair.  This is all a complicated way of getting to my point, which is this: I am attracted to the form of marriage. It is recognizable only in actual examples of marriage, but each actual marriage possesses some quality of “marriage-ness” that points to the form marriage, which is what I’m attracted to and desire.
When I see a happy marriage between two Christians, it is not THEIR marriage that I desire. But there is something in their marriage that points to, that “reminds” me of some quality of the ideal of marriage, and it is THAT that I want. So when I see something in this ideal of marriage displayed in an actual marriage, it gives me hope because it shows that it’s not just an unreachable abstract idea, but a concrete reality that isn’t impossible to achieve—they did, and that means that you can have it too. That’s why I can be turned off to a particular woman upon realizing that she’s in a relationship (this is true. I would almost consider it a spiritual gift, but I suspect it’s just biology or psychology), yet turned on to/by something more abstract about her that isn’t HER, but a quality that she possesses that I yearn for in my own life. I don’t want their relationship. I want a relationship like theirs. And what that really means, in Christian theology, is that I want an earthly relationship with a woman that as closely mirrors the heavenly relationship, that God has with His Church, as possible.

So, young person, when you 'feel something' upon seeing or speaking with other attractive people, do you automatically assume that that's "desire" (for them), and wish to 'follow your heart?' Or do you assume you are experiencing lust, and this produces internal turmoil or a difficulty interacting with other people in the Body of Christ?

Or have I persuaded you of the wisdom of questioning what it is you think you're feeling, and, regardless of conclusion, determining to guide your emotions to focus them, productively, on pure and noble goals, such as motivating you to pursue (or patiently wait for) a beautiful marriage of your own?


Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Good and Righteous. Bible Study to Define Terms

If you've ever wondered why these two words would be, curiously, given distinct meanings in places like Romans 5 (below), you're not alone. I have wondered, too, and therefore, I think my study to figure it out may help you understand the purpose of the Author of Scripture in using this peculiar language.

Righteousness and Goodness: A Biblical Word Study

The way I think of these words now is probably very different from the way a typical person uses them, because I think of them in Biblical terms. Without getting too technical, let me spell out the distinction between them, and then give some verses to back up my point.

Righteousness is one of two things: godly behavior (what we would usually think of) OR the positional righteousness that saints have because of the Cross--namely, that God considers us to be perfect like Jesus even though we're not, because we've traded places with Him so that our sins could be dealt with separately from us.

Goodness in the Bible can be something we do as humans, indicated by Galatians 5, but it is appropriate to translate the word 'good' as perfection, which is consistent because goodness as a fruit of the Spirit is something that we don't manufacture on our own, but it comes from God.

Here's my super-simplified idea: No one is good, but some are righteous. Lemme show you my proof-text:
Romans 5:6-8
For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodlyFor scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 
This verse used to make no sense to me. What is the distinction between righteous and good? And why is righteous seemingly placed below good on an apparent grading-scale of holiness?
The verses arrange it like so: ungodly-->righteous-->good. If righteous and good aren't the same thing, then what do they mean? And here's the answer:

Good Means Perfect
Mark 10:17-18
17 Now as He was going out on the road, one came running, knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?”
18 So Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. 19
Jesus isn't saying that He's undeserving of being called good. On the contrary, He's subtly implying that since the 'rich young man' of this passage recognized Him as good, that He IS God. This is yet another example of Jesus' sense of humor, as I see it. But notice what He says--no one is good except God. And God is perfect. So this passage identifies the Biblical word "good" as equivalent to our modern English definition of the word "perfect." Consider this, and we'll look at another example of the same.
Genesis 1:31
31 Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good. So the evening and the morning were the sixth day.
Logically, since there was yet no sin in the creation, everything was still sinless, and thus perfect. So the use of 'very good' at the conclusion of the creation account is to be understood as 'totally perfect.' If I understand the scholarship, the word translated 'very' in the Hebrew signifies completeness, lacking nothing.

Of interest, since I now have the conclusion that good = perfect in Biblical terminology, I wondered if this would hold up concerning Galatians 5 where one of the fruits of the Spirit in believers listed is 'goodness.' I looked up the word in GotQuestions and cross-checked the word in the Mark 10:18 passage with the Greek interlineary provided by BibleHub and verified that the exact same Greek word was used. Agathosune is the Koine Greek for 'goodness' as read in the New King James Version (the one I prefer to use on BibleGateway because it's less cluttered with hyperlinks), in both locations, and is understood to mean selfless acts for the benefit of others.

What really nailed it down for me was the James 1:17 passage that GQ included which said that "every good and perfect thing comes from God above" (paraphrased the ending), which affirms that goodness doesn't come from us but God, since God, being the only perfect being, is the only One who can cause goodness to be done in the earth. 

Out of curiosity, I searched the BibleHub database for the Greek word translated as 'perfect' in that passage, and it is teleion, which appears to be the Greek counterpart in this passage to the Genesis 1 Hebrew word "very." Look at the 7 uses in the New Testament listed and see if you agree. I think a safe definition for teleion would be "completeness." Don't you?

Righteousness Means You're Not Righteous

I'm just being cheeky, here. But when you consider that righteousness is a word that comes with certain qualifications, you realize it's not a word that confers any opportunity for pride to a person. Not in itself, at least. The word "self-righteous" means that you think you are righteous in and of yourself, and this is wrong. The correct way is to be "God-righteous," to be considered righteous by God's standards. So how can we do this?
Isaiah 64:6
"all our righteousnesses [not even our sins!] are like filthy rags."
Titus 3:5
we were not saved because of any righteous acts we did.
Romans 3:21-26
21 But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, 26 to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”
I highlighted the key part. Do you see that God, when He justifies the repentant sinner, GIVES His righteousness to them, through Christ? This means that God considers us righteous, but it's not our righteousness that we have, it's HIS righteousness. So that's why it's called 'positional righteousness.' We are righteous by virtue of our relationship to God, and not by any special ability to be good that we inherently have which other people do not. In fact, the whole point is that we don't have the ability to be righteous by ourselves, that's why God has to give us His righteousness. Otherwise we couldn't be saved. That's why the doctrine of substitution is so important.
2 Corinthians 5:21
-- "He made Him, who knew no sin, sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him."

Transcript of the above video

The Greatest Gospel verse in the Bible, 2 Corinthians 5:21:

"He made Him, Who knew no sin, sin for us,
that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him."

Lemme unpack those 15 Greek words.
He, God, made Jesus sin.
'Whattya mean He made Jesus sin?' Only in one sense:

He treated Him as if He had committed every sin ever committed by every person who would ever believe,
though in fact He committed none of them.
Hanging on the Cross He was holy, harmless, undefiled,
Hanging on the Cross He was a spotless lamb.
He was never for a split second a sinner.
He is Holy God on the Cross.

But God is treating Him -- I'll put it more practically -- as if He lived my life.
God punished Jesus for my sin, turns right around and treats me as if I lived His life.
That's the great Doctrine of Substitution, and on that doctrine turned the whole Reformation of the Church; that is the heart of the Gospel.

And what you get is complete forgiveness, covered by the righteousness of Jesus Christ.

When He looks at the Cross He sees you, when He looks at you He sees Christ.


None of us are good. The good we do is by the power of God.

None of us are truly righteous. Those of us whom God considers righteous have the righteousness of Jesus Christ credited to us, we have no inherent righteousness of our own.

Good to know, huh? :) I hope this was an interesting and informative read. And now you'll know what I mean in future posts if I refuse to use the words good or righteous to refer to someone...or on the other hand, what I would mean if I do use those words.


Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Repost: "Closer to Truth" (PBS). What Is It Like For God to be God?

From about 3-4 years ago.

The guy Robert Lawrence Kuhn who does the docu-show Closer to Truth on PBS-2 at 9:30 am weekdays was devoting this episode to asking the question, 'what does it feel like to be God?' I find the episodes where he asks philosophical questions of theologians to be by far the most interesting, because it actually gives the interviewees an opportunity to set the record straight. I like newscasts that choose to interview experts for their take on stories for the same reason -- they are free to give their unrestrained opinion and so you're much more likely to get the truth straight from them rather than the host of the show--if only for the reason that the host is trying not to be biased.

Here were the interesting points, (I took brief notes) and I'm sorry if I misspell any of these names:

Brian Leftow was first, and made two points:
1. God is not temporal--he doesn't experience time like us, and He doesn't exist within His own time-continuum outside of ours. But logically, God does have something that is like temporality, in the sense that certain aspects of His knowledge are prior to/precede others. Leftowe referenced mathematical theorems as the example, where the axioms are logically precedent to the conclusions derived from those axioms. In this sense, some of God's thoughts must be "after" others in a sequence, but this continuum is not time, but possibly 'time-like.'
2. God does experience negative things -- the idea that a perfect being cannot experience grief, for example, is not necessary to believe -- just as He experiences positive things, but these don't cancel out. The negative is mitigated by His knowledge of its purpose in context--the end for which those negative (emotions, let's call them) are felt, by Him.
John Polkinghorne pointed out that the accessibility of Christianity lies in that we can -- uniquely among all faiths -- know what God is like in the person of Jesus Christ. I was pleased at this. Unfortunately, Mr. Polkinghorne accepts evolutionary history, but the point he made about trade-offs can still be applied to many questions of good versus evil. He said that the requirement for natural selection (he used the term evolution) to occur, mutations in germ line cells, necessitates mutational mechanisms, which as a consequence can cause errors in somatic (body) cells, which lead to cancer. Prior to this (explaining natural evil) he had mentioned the tried-and-true answer for the reason we have free will -- that moral evil is a necessary outcome when beings are free to choose what they will do. Freedom is necessary for love, and freedom guarantees the possibility that love will be rejected, and a refusal to love God is by its very definition sin. So freedom results in sin. In explaining why there is good and evil, the answer is that God decided that a world where people can love and in which there is evil is better than a world which does everything God tells it to, yet in which there is no such thing as, no capacity for love.

Gregory Ganza made a very interesting proposition, and that was to address the question of whether God, knowing everything, would get bored. I think, personally, this is probably the heart of the question when people have trouble fathoming an infinite mind that knows everything there is to know. It's the same problem I have with it--not a problem of belief but one of understanding. I have a hard time imagining what enjoyment I could get if I was incapable of learning because I had learned everything there was to learn, and the only thing left was to repeat what I had already done. But Ganza (Ganzell?) changed the direction of the answer--instead of talking about God's knowledge, he addressed the emotional enjoyment of God, something (that is, emotion) that is easy for me to overlook, being someone who tends toward using thought as my prior way of approaching things, rather than how I feel about them. But Ganza used marriage as a model: that he continually learns more about his wife, as a temporal person, BUT then there's an aspect in which he gets enjoyment from just dwelling on what he already knows about her, in just cherishing their relationship as it is. And for God, that enjoyment is infinite. So would He get bored? Not if you can imagine a man in love getting bored thinking about the woman he loves. And since God refers to Himself as a husband and His faithful followers as His bride, I think I can now gain a fuller appreciation, being a man, of how it may be for God to experience existence. Only that my piece of understanding is infinitesimally smaller than the whole sum of God's reality.


Monday, June 12, 2017

What Made the Red Planet Red? A Theory of Planetary Colonization and What Could Have Been

I have an idea about the possible explanation for how distant, habitable, yet lifeless planets fit into a Biblically Christian framework of cosmic history. It’s based on the three points I mentioned already—the distance, the habitability, and the lack of any evidence of other sentient life among them. I’ll unpack them. First, why should there be any planets that could be habitable by humans, other than Earth, if humans were only planted on Earth initially? It seems like a simple conclusion that, given enough time, we were expected to live on them as well. Otherwise there would be no point in them being habitable, from a purposeful-universe-by-design perspective. But why should they be so far away? Well, the universe itself is vast, so if there were no habitable planets in distant reaches of the universe, then large parts of it would by definition be uninhabitable. And how then could mankind fulfill its role of exercising dominion over all creation?—assuming, with reason, that the Dominion Mandate would be extended from just the Earth to encompassing all of the universe, at some point. It does appear to be the intention that humanity would have,upon fully developing the Earth, have been given dominion over the stars as well, and told to spread out to distant planets so as to govern the entire universe that God created. But something prevented this from happening.

The reason that other planets don’t have life is very simple. It’s not just that we haven’t found it, or that it’s sparse throughout the universe, but that it isn’t there. There are very good reasons for believing that no intelligent aliens exist, or life of any kind beyond the Earth for that matter. Here are a few:

  • Sentient aliens would either have spirits or not. If they did not, they would have no hope of life after death. Why would God create self-reflective beings like humans but make them otherwise just like an animal, denying them eternity? And if they did have a spirit, then are they perfectly sinless or sinful? If they are sinless, then they suffer from the Curse which is over all creation, which is unjust to them—what did they have to do with Adam’s sin? And if they are sinful, then they are also fallen, and according to the developed concept of a kinsman-redeemer, needed God the Son to be born as one of them, live a perfect life on their behalf, and die in their place for their sin. So Jesus would suffer and die an untold amount of times for an untold amount of aliens. But the Bible said He died once for all. Is this reasonable? Alternatively, if the Bible doesn’t only restrict the Atonement to humans, (though none of the language implies this to be true), then how would aliens learn about it so as to believe and be saved? And why should humanity have been the one place where Jesus came to be incarnated, and not one of the multitudes of other alien races? These are all important questions to consider before accepting that alien life can coexist, even as a concept, with orthodox Biblical Christianity.

 Continued after the break...

Friday, June 9, 2017

Usage of the term Glorious

God is glorious, we know that. But the word 'glorious' is often used for such things as a beautiful sunset or other thing that causes us to be amazed. I wondered, linguistically, what the connection is. Because if 'glorious' means 'possessing glory,' it would definitely apply to God, but I'm uncertain that it would be a wise thing to say of material things or human events. On the other hand, if 'glorious' means 'revealing the glory of God,' then it can both apply to God and things. And more than in the former case, the word must necessarily refer to everything, because everything in creation reveals the glory of God (Psalm 19:1-4, Romans 1:18-20).

I like that. An unbeliever may certainly use the word 'glorious' with different intention, but for me, since everywhere I look I can see God's glory revealed, I can happily declare that the sunrise, the stars, and even "mundane" things like a cold shower or a political victory, are glorious, because they all point back to God, for the one paying attention.

Recently, I heard a theologian describe the word this way: that there is God's shekina glory, the physical manifestation of His holy presence in the material world -- that kind of glory strikes us sinners dead unless it is veiled (such as in a cloud, or behind the temple's curtain, or in Jesus' human flesh)
Veiled in flesh, the Godhead see
Hail incarnate deity
(Hark the Herald Angels Sing, by Charles Wesley)
And the kind of glory I'm talking about was described by this person as the ascribed glory of God. (Psalm 29:2). In fact, it was probably Steven Lawson, since he's the author of this article which was the top hit in Google. Upon reading the short article, I'm not persuaded the terms are exactly parallel, but he does support my distinction. Humans can 'glorify God,' but that is not to add to His intrinsic glory, it is merely to acknowledge the intrinsic glory that God has revealed.

I'm a categorical thinker, so I (simplistically) connect the terms glory and worship in this way:
  • God is glorified when anything in creation demonstrates some aspect of His greatness, by reflecting, or else contrasting, His attributes. Beautiful things imply that God is beautiful. Evil in the world suggests that God is better than the world and causes us to long for Him rather than what He's created, desiring the Giver more than the Gift.
  • God is worshiped when those who are in a right relationship with Him accurately recognize that which glorifies God and in turn voluntarily attribute this to Him, and in turn, exalt His Name by thanking Him for revealing to us the truth about who He is.

Every blasphemous sinner on earth glorifies God, just in more roundabout ways, and usually as a 'hostile witness.' But those whom God has predestined for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:5) have the privilege of not just glorifying God, but doing so willingly, out of love, and thus worshiping Him in spirit and truth (John 4:24).


Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Knowing How Your Enemy Thinks Prevents Surprises

One of the greatest 'fringe benefits' of saving faith in Christ is that our minds, now Bible-informed, have amazing insights into psychology, if only by virtue of admitting what our true nature is. Because every Christian has confessed his own sinfulness to God, he isn't prone to attempt to justify his own view of himself as a great guy with only minor flaws. He can honestly address the fact that there is a "war in his members" (Romans 7:23) without excusing it, because he's already been given perfect forgiveness and doesn't have to fear the consequence of acknowledging his own evil. 

This enables him to honestly address his own mental state and to work more effectively at pursuing obedience to God and victory over sin, because he's not numb to the reality of the struggle.

Non-Christians don't have forgiveness and so their psychology tends toward one of two faults:

  1. Fail to acknowledge the evil in man. Rationalize that man is generally good, or that his flaws aren't really that bad--diminishing them as minor imperfections, and thus refusing to address them as problems needing to be solved.
  2. Acknowledge the evil -- but deny that it is evil, or is a problem in need of solving. This can lead to a fatalistic resignation to the fact that man is corrupt, OR a denial which necessarily leads to a celebration of the evil. Ultimately either one of these alternatives, for different reasons, reaches the same outcome: affirming or encouraging the indulgence in evil behavior. Examples include justifying promiscuity as a product of evolution (celebration), or being ambivalent in the face of having no way to justify arguing against pedophilia (fatalistic resignation), despite one's discomfort with it.

Without a Biblical worldview, your assessment of human nature will be wrong. Therefore, your conclusions about what man ought to do in order to fix his problems will be wrong. Therefore, you will not solve the problems, but potentially exacerbate them.

And that brings me to this repost of a treatise on the subject pertaining to the secular failure to correctly diagnose and treat the issue of Islamic terrorism. This is from years ago when I was in college the first time.

I'm a biology major, but because I need[ed] to round out my degree with 45 "upper-level" (that is, in the 300 and 400 range) courses in order to graduate, [I chose to] take Dynamics of the Arab-Israeli Conflict because I'd rather have something interesting than something guaranteed to be easy. As it is, it [was] one of my more enjoyable classes, when it comes to the workload.

In class [one day], I briefly spoke with another student on the topic of the final paper. The professor [wanted] each of us to choose a situation in recent history where there has been an ongoing rivalry between a sovereign state and a terrorist state or pseudo-state entity -- examples include Al Qaeda, the IRA, Pakistan-India, North Korea-USA, Hezbollah, Hamas, the PLO, etc, but not terrorist groups that are too amorphous to easily finger, such as the Muslim Brotherhood or the Weather Underground.

We [had] to write a paper on our selected rivalry and address, among other questions, whether the defensive state has successfully employed a deterrence method against terrorism by the other group, by making the latter "learn from their mistakes" and decide not to challenge the sovereign state again in the same way.

The other student I spoke to made a comment, in passing, that Hamas "isn't learning," that is, learning to stop challenging Israel lest it get 'punished' again and again. I challenged his assertion by saying that the assumption that every terrorist organization actually cares about self-preservation or other selfish things like power, money, influence, etc, is fundamentally flawed. In my view, Hamas is ideologically motivated by the political-religious system of Islam, and that this ideology supersedes what Western, humanist mindsets would consider "rational self interest."

The other student disagreed, responding that we can't assume that the other group is irrational. But he misunderstood me. I didn't mean that Hamas was irrational. Hamas is very rational, if its goals are indeed the destruction of the State of Israel at all costs, as its charter declares. If Hamas is just using religion as a means to an end, and doesn't actually care about ideology, then none of what it's doing makes any sense. If it wanted to exact concessions out of Israel, it wouldn't sabotage the latter's attempts to bargain with it by initiating new hostilities whenever possible. But if it is truly driven by not much more than an insane bloodlust for Jews, then its relentless animosity is perfectly well explained.

My peer wasn't having it. He was insistent that political organizations like these are not truly ideological, but only pretend to be religious. They, like atheist totalitarians of years past, merely use religious rhetoric as a means to an end, to justify its acts or drum up support among the masses. But I believe this is a severe mistake on his part. He, as an atheist, is unaware of his own biases. Not recognizing the insidious arrogance of his own view, he is projecting his own philosophy on others. Because all religion is man-made for the purpose of controlling people, surely then that must be the only use that Islamic terrorists have for religion as well. His inability to recognize that other people are not like him is unfortunate. It must also be recognized that the prevailing philosophies taught in American public education are some of the root causes of this lack of critical thinking ability.

Contrary to the misconception of my fellow student, religion plays a much larger role than just a means to an end, in many cases. For many people, it is not a means, but the end in itself. So failing to see that as even a possibility is a tremendous weakness in the atheist's analysis, and it hinders him from correctly interpreting world events. Even if the atheist is right and all religion is false, his hubris numbs him to being able to understand that others who take religion very seriously simply can't compromise on their ideological positions, even if it might seem more rational in that it would offer them more power, money, influence, or even personal safety.

The atheist fallacy is the subtle assumption that all other people in the world are really atheists at heart. It isn't explicitly spoken, but it shows itself when the atheist can't fathom how religious convictions can trump selfishness--because he foolishly sees the former as an outgrowth of the latter.

That is why foreign policies built on an atheist framework -- the West's, in general -- will never adequately understand the Middle East, and will never correctly predict the consequences of present and future meddling. In more than one way, then, for a proper foreign policy to develop, religion is the answer.


Friday, June 2, 2017

How Did the Suffragettes View Abortion?

Did, not would. It's not some new-fangled thing. Killing the unborn or infant for personal reasons is not a new concept; the Israelites were judged by God for burning their newborn babies alive in human sacrifices.

Leviticus 18:21
You shall not give any of your children to offer them to Molech, and so profane the name of your God: I am the Lord.

Deuteronomy 12:31
You shall not worship the Lord your God in that way, for every abominable thing that the Lord hates they have done for their gods, for they even burn their sons and their daughters in the fire to their gods.

Deuteronomy 18:10-12
There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer or a charmer or a medium or a necromancer or one who inquires of the dead, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord. And because of these abominations the Lord your God is driving them out before you.

1 Kings 11:4,7
For when Solomon was old his wives turned away his heart after other gods, and his heart was not wholly true to the Lord his God, as was the heart of David his father.... Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, and for Molech the abomination of the Ammonites, on the mountain east of Jerusalem.

2 Chronicles 33:6
And he (Manasseh) burned his sons as an offering in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, and used fortune-telling and omens and sorcery, and dealt with mediums and with necromancers. He did much evil in the sight of the Lord, provoking him to anger.

Jeremiah 32:35
They built the high places of Baal in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, to offer up their sons and daughters to Molech, though I did not command them, nor did it enter into my mind, that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin.

Leviticus and Deuteronomy were written by Moses c. 1400 BC, Jeremiah in the early 500s BC.

In other words, the details of how it is done have changed, but the practice has continued with regularity throughout millennia.

So, how did the foremothers of the feminist movement view the practice?

The following is adapted from a recent article from Creation Ministries International:

Modern Feminism (called 'second or third wave') promotes abortion as the pinnacle of women's rights and women's equality. This feminism has been in play since the '60s and '80s, respectively. But what about the original feminism? The feminism of the mid-1800s that championed women's suffrage (right to vote) and sought to criminalize domestic violence, among other things that very obviously were intended to protect women?

1. The Revolution, the newsletter of Susan B. Anthony (1820–1906), described abortion as ‘child murder’, ‘infanticide’ and ‘foeticide’.

2. "Every woman knows that if she were free, she would never bear an unwished-for child, nor think of murdering one before its birth." ~ Victoria Woodhull (1838–1927), the first female US presidential candidate

3. Abortion is a ‘disgusting and degrading crime,' and

4. "When you consider that women have been treated as property, it is degrading to women that we should treat our children as property to be disposed of as we see fit." ~ Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815–1902), who organized the first women’s rights convention in Seneca Falls, NY (1848)

5. The mother of the feminist movement, Mary Wollstonecraft (1759–1797) had earlier written, A Vindication of the Rights of Women, where she condemned those who would ‘either destroy the embryo in the womb, or cast it off when born.

Early feminists were against abortion. Modern "feminism" isn't feminism. It's violence against women and degrading to both women and men.

If that rubs you the wrong way, try your hand at reading the article and see if you still disagree: