Monday, 22 December 2014

Monday quote

I think one of the most intense dangers to modern Christianity is the assumption that sin is wrong because it harms someone.

Dominic Bnonn Tennant

Monday, 15 December 2014

Monday quote

Many of the leading postmoderist ideas borrow much of their imagery and not a little of their social prestige from scientific notions of relativity, uncertainty, and incommensurability.

Garrett Green, Theology, Hermeneutics, and Imagination.

Monday, 8 December 2014

The sun shines and warms and lights us and we have no curiosity to know why this is so; but we ask the reason of all evil, of pain, and hunger.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882)

Sunday, 7 December 2014

On changing theology after backsliding

People change their theology in large and small ways. This may be due to increased understanding, though it may also be in part relate to where they worship, their Christian friends, and what they read.

There are some who leave the church and then return. Some of these people may blame poor theology as a reason for them to backslide for a time. They leave the church rejecting one belief and return espousing another. Although bad theology is a possible contributor to backsliding I am not inclined to give this claim much weight. We have various people becoming more serious about Christ adhering to opposing theologies: there are Arminians who become Calvinists, and there are there are plenty of "recovering Calvinists"; I read of creationists becoming evolutionists and vice versa; some change denominations.

Granted, not all people significantly changing their theology have had a time of backsliding, and some theological positions are more biblical than others; yet as a reason for turning from Christ I increasingly see theology as a minor issue and rebellion and sin as a much greater issue. The Protestant who leaves God and returns as a Catholic probably was wanting to go his own way when he left the church, and those around him who encouraged him back may have been Catholic. Thus his return has to do with the beliefs of those around him at the time he is repenting. Still better a God-honouring Catholic than a rebellious ex-Protestant. (I say this as a Protestant who believes that Protestantism in general is more theologically accurate than Catholicism).

It is not that I think that truth is unimportant; the truth does set us free. But if your theological struggles coincided with your rebellion perhaps you should consider your former beliefs in greater depth.

Monday, 1 December 2014

Monday quote

“Intersectionality,” the study of “intersections between different disenfranchised groups or groups of minorities.” In other words, it’s a game of one-upmanship to determine who belongs to the largest number of intersecting victim groups and is therefore the most oppressed.

Robert Tracinski.

Monday, 24 November 2014

Monday quote

It is a mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.


Monday, 17 November 2014

Monday quote

Increasingly, I’m coming to the conclusion that a government that doesn’t “Kiss the Son” isn’t supposed to work.

Mark L. Ward.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Freeze fracking

Despite the benefits of cheap fuel from fracking, it requires a lot of water and the waste water subsequently needs to be treated. Research is looking into using liquid nitrogen which is available on site and does not need treatment or disposal after use.
Researchers at the Colorado School of Mines claim they have developed a method to unlock hydrocarbons trapped in shale with using any water at all. They are seeking to perfect Cryogenic fracturing, which replaces water with searing cold liquid nitrogen (or carbon dioxide). Used at temperatures below minus 321 Fahrenheit, it is pumped underground at high pressure. Once it comes into contact with the heated, pressurized shale, a reaction occurs which caused the shale to crack open and creates fissures through which the hydrocarbons can gush out.
Nitrogen liquefies at –196 °C.

Monday, 10 November 2014

Monday quote

Except over a very narrow field of thinking, chiefly touching questions of strictly personal conduct, we Christians in the modern world accept, for the purpose of mental activity, a frame of reference constructed by the secular mind and a set of criteria reflecting secular evaluations.

Mark Noll (1946–), The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind.

Monday, 3 November 2014

Monday quote

It seems to me that you only pardon the sins that you don’t really think sinful. You only forgive criminals when they commit what you don’t regard as crimes, but rather as conventions. You forgive a conventional duel just as you forgive a conventional divorce. You forgive because there isn’t anything to be forgiven.

GK Chesterton, The Secret of Father Brown.

Monday, 27 October 2014

Monday quote

Moral rules that have no ground or justification need not be obeyed. An illustration is helpful here. One evening in the middle of a Scrabble game, you notice the phrase "do not go" formed in the random spray of letter tiles on the table. Is this a command that ought to be obeyed? Of course not. It's not a command at all, just a random collection of letters.

Commands are communications between two minds. Chance might conceivably create the appearance of a moral rule, but there can be no command if no one is speaking. Since this phrase is accidental, it can safely be ignored.

Greg Koukl

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Abiathar or Ahimelech

In Matthew we read how Jesus responded to Pharisees about his disciples eating grain.
At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. But when the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, “Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath.” He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him to eat nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? Or have you not read in the Law how on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath and are guiltless? I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.” (Matthew 12:1-8)
Luke tells us this story though leaves out the comment about the priests profaning the Sabbath.
And Jesus answered them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God and took and ate the bread of the Presence, which is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those with him?” (Luke 6:3-5)
Mark is similar to Luke but includes a comment concerning Abiathar.
And he said to them, “Have you never read what David did, when he was in need and was hungry, he and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God, in the time of Abiathar the high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those who were with him?” (Mark 2:25-26)
Jesus is referring to a passage in Samuel when David is on the run from Saul.
Then David came to Nob to Ahimelech the priest. And Ahimelech came to meet David trembling and said to him, “Why are you alone, and no one with you?” And David said to Ahimelech the priest, “The king has charged me with a matter and said to me, ‘Let no one know anything of the matter about which I send you, and with which I have charged you.’ I have made an appointment with the young men for such and such a place. Now then, what do you have on hand? Give me five loaves of bread, or whatever is here.” And the priest answered David, “I have no common bread on hand, but there is holy bread—if the young men have kept themselves from women.” And David answered the priest, “Truly women have been kept from us as always when I go on an expedition. The vessels of the young men are holy even when it is an ordinary journey. How much more today will their vessels be holy?” So the priest gave him the holy bread, for there was no bread there but the bread of the Presence, which is removed from before the LORD, to be replaced by hot bread on the day it is taken away. (1 Samuel 21:1-6)
This raises the question as to what Jesus means by the time of Abiathar, especially given that the priest mentioned in Samuel was Ahimelech.

In 1950 John Wenham wrote in the Journal of Theological Studies (doi:10.1093/jts/I.2.156-a)
έπι Άβιαθαρ άρχιερεως is usually translated, ‘When Abiathar was high priest’—historically an error. A number of early authorities, e.g. D, W, a, b, e, Sin. Syr. (representing three of the four pre-Byzantine families) and Matthew (12:4) and Luke (6:4), evidently recognize this and omit the phrase. The problem is how to account for the retention of the phrase for so long in the oral tradition when the error was so readily recognized, as the evidence above shows. Might not Mark 12:26 supply the answer? έπι του βατου means ‘at the passage of Scripture concerning (or, entitled) the Bush’. (So also Luke 20:37.) May not έπι Άβιαθαρ άρχιερεως mean ‘at the passage of Scripture concerning (or, entitled) Abiathar the High Priest’, for the passage referred to comes in the chapter (1 Sam. 21) which immediately precedes that recording the first exploits of Abiathar?
What Wenham is saying is that the phrase έπι του βατου appears in Mark
Jesus said to them, “Is this not the reason you are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God? For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. And as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, at the bush [έπι του βατου], how God spoke to him, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living. You are quite wrong.” (Mark 12:24-27)
And that this is translated
have you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the bush
Similarly in the parallel passage in Luke
But that the dead are raised, even Moses showed, at the bush [i.e. the passage of the bush], where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. (Luke 20:37)
If this unusual Greek construction is recognised to refer to a passage or section of Scripture in Mark 12 and Luke 20 when Jesus is referring to the passage in Exodus concerning the burning bush, then the same construction in Mark 2 may indicate a reference to the passage in Samuel that discusses Abiathar. It is referring to a named section of Scripture, it is not referring to the person David was talking to. It seems possible that in the time of Jesus (and earlier) Scripture was referred to (at times) by smaller units than books. Our modern system of chapters and verses was not in effect until centuries after the New Testament was completed.

Thus Mark would translate like this,
And he said to them, “Have you never read what David did, when he was in need and was hungry, he and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God—in the passage of Abiathar the high priest—and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those who were with him?” (Mark 2:25-26)

Friday, 24 October 2014

Salvation: An Allegory

There once was a king over a large country. An illegitimate slave laid claim to the kingdom and attempted to rule over it. The pretender to the throne deceived many into thinking his claim was legitimate and many followed him.

One day the king made a pronouncement that every man who believed he was the true king was to come to on a certain day to his castle garden. He was to pledge allegiance to the king then his son would give each man a crown and make him a ruler over a district in the kingdom. The invitation was to all and thereafter each man would live under the king's laws and reject the false king.

The king is God, the pledge is faith, and the governorship is salvation.

Let us assume Calvinism. The Calvinist would claim that the king would stir the hearts of every man that the king intended to become a ruler. The desire of these men to receive the crown would ensure that they would come to the garden on the specified day. They would pledge allegiance and the prince would bestow on them a crown. They would not fail to attend nor to pledge because of the desire of their hearts which the king had placed there.

Now let us assume Arminianism. The king would stir the hearts of every man but not all of them would choose to come. Those who came on the wrong day or to the king's gate may be denied entry. Those who came to the garden at the right time because they believed the king was the true king but did not wish to abide by his laws and refused to pledge allegiance are not given a crown. But those who come at the kings request and pledge allegiance are given crowns and a district to rule.

Now Calvinists may claim their interpretation is correct. Arminians claim that theirs is. If we assume the Calvinists are correct the crown is given by the king through the prince and no citizen can rule without the king granting them authority. But if we assume the Arminians are correct it remains the case that no citizen can rule without the king's authority. We can argue whether or not the desire is irresistible but bestowing the crown remains the prince's prerogative and the citizen cannot gain a governorship without it being given to him by the prince.

Monday, 20 October 2014

Monday quote

Many people do not like the idea that time has a beginning, probably because it smacks of divine intervention.

Stephen Hawking, A Brief History of Time.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

The benefits of rural roading

Some months back I wrote about how roading encourages economic development. This month National Geographic has a story on the benefits of rural roads that the author noted in Vietnam back in 1968.
While agricultural extension agents urged farmers in my district to plant the new IR8 rice, engineers were upgrading the rutted, largely impassable farm-to-market road that linked the eight villages. They finished the road through half of the villages.

Everywhere the new road went, farmers began using the new rice with amazing, almost overnight, results.

Farmers could now harvest two crops of IR8 rice per year. Each new crop produced a higher yield than the six-month floating varieties that had been planted for hundreds of years and had provided barely enough grain for subsistence. For the first time, smallholder farmers had a surplus crop and surplus income.

Families could now invest in metal sheeting to improve the roofs on their homes and purchase better clothing and more nutritious food for their children. The children stayed in school longer, thanks to the little "taxis" that carried them from hamlet to hamlet over the new road. Child mortality dropped, as mothers with sick children could get them medical attention early enough for effective intervention.

The most amazing change, however, was the impact that the new upgraded road had on security. Villages once beset by insurgents and underground guerrillas now became safe to travel both day and night. As the new road opened the way for commerce, information, and opportunities, young people no longer were enticed to join political military movements and uprisings.

Where the upgraded road ended, however, so did the planting of IR8. Life in the four villages without the improved road remained mired in poverty and malnutrition, unchanged from decades earlier. Houses were ramshackle, and children were thin, poorly dressed, and not in school. Security remained a constant and even worsening problem.
So the roads helped
  1. Increase income
  2. Improve housing
  3. Clothe children
  4. Feed children
  5. Educate children
  6. Medicate children
  7. Increase security
Seems like infrastructure development is more useful than handing aid money to despots to distribute.

Monday, 13 October 2014

Monday quote

That we ought not believe anything which has been shown to be false does not mean that we ought to believe only what has been demonstrated to be true.

F.A. Hayek

Sunday, 12 October 2014

When did John's ministry begin

Jesus' ministry commenced shortly after John's ministry. The dating of John's ministry is given by Luke.
In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness. (Luke 3:1-2)
We have several persons occupying various offices mentioned here that can specify this date: Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate, Herod, Philip, Lysanias, high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas. They ruled as follows.

Tiberius CaesarEmperorRome(12 or) 14 AD 37 AD
Pontius PilateGovernor Judea 26 AD36 AD
Herod Tetrarch Galilee 1 BC37 AD
Philip TetrarchIturaea and Trachonitis1 BC34 AD
Lysanias TetrarchAbilene
37 AD
Caiaphas High priestIsrael 18 AD36 AD

Annas was deposed as high priest in 15 AD but continued to have some influence.

The dates above confine the beginning of John the Baptist's ministry to between 26 and 34 AD. Tiberius became the emperor in 14 AD. He may have been co-emperor with Augustus from 12 AD. Depending on whether his reign is considered as starting from 12 or 14 AD and depending on whether Luke was using ascension or non-ascension reckoning, John the Baptist's ministry began between 26 and 29 AD.

If Jesus started his ministry when he was about 30 (or about to turn 30) and he was born between 3 and 1 BC then the dates narrow to 27 to 29 AD.

Monday, 6 October 2014

Monday quote

By no means was the West without sin. But so many of the sins uniquely attributed to the West—slavery, imperialism, racism—are universal sins of humanity.

Jonah Goldberg, The Tyranny of Cliches.

Monday, 29 September 2014

Monday quote

It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.

Upton Sinclair

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Genesis: poetry or prose?

Some weeks back I mentioned a comment that Michael Gungor made in an interview,
But now that I am a songwriter, I see this whole thing as absolutely absurd. Genesis is a poem if I’ve ever seen one.
So because he is a songwriter and therefore writes poems to music, he claims this authority for recognising poems including in other languages and culture. The problem is that other poets as well as authorities on Hebrew literature disagree with him.

Hebrew poetry is predominantly marked by parallelism: both synonymous and antithetic parallelism. Phrases are repeated or contrasted for emphasis. A synonymous parallelism from Proverbs 9
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,/
and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.
An antithetical one from Proverbs 20
Love not sleep, lest you come to poverty;/
open your eyes, and you will have plenty of bread.
A more complex parallelism from Psalm 1 using both forms
Blessed is the man/
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,/
nor stands in the way of sinners,/
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;/
but his delight is in the law of the Lord,/
and on his law he meditates day and night.
A second feature is acrostics used in some poems such as Psalms 34, 111, 112, and Lamentations.

A third feature is the predominance of certain verb forms. Stephen Boyd notes that there are 4 finite verbs forms in Hebrew and that narrative uses the preterite verb form as its predominant finite verb form. Classifying narrative and poetry by other features in non-disputed texts shows that on average narrative uses the preterite form for ~50% (range ~20%–80%) of its finite verbs and poetry uses the preterite ~4% (range ~0%–20%).

It is worth mentioning that chiasm is a feature of Hebrew writing. It is an overarching structure somewhat resembling parallelism and is used frequently in narrative.

Genesis as a whole is hardly a poem though it contains poetry. Perhaps Gungor was implying the early chapters of Genesis were poetry (given the context of the interview)? No English translation lays out the whole of Genesis 1–3 as poetry. The New International Version does structure Genesis 1 in list format but it does not use its list format for poetry; rather for inventory in narrative. Other translations use a narrative layout.

Genesis 1–3 does not consist of parallelism thru-out, though it contains short parallelisms in the poetical passages included within, such as
So God created man in his own image,/
in the image of God he created him;/
male and female he created them.
Genesis 1–3 does not use acrostic.

And Genesis 1 uses the preterite form for 66% of its finite verbs.

Lastly, the unstated implication seems to be that poetical statements are not true, or at least that poetry is symbolic or metaphorical and not literal. Even though metaphor is frequently a feature of poetry, poetry can be literal and metaphor can be a feature of prose. The song of Miriam in Exodus 15 relates the delivery of the Israelites from the Egyptians and recounts the earlier narrative; it is supposed to be understood relatively literally. Jotham's fable of the trees in Judges 9 is narrative yet it is supposed to be understood figuratively. The context of the passage and not just the style of writing is important for interpretation.

Genesis 1–3 is historical narrative and is not poetry.

Monday, 22 September 2014

Monday quote

The fact that the Pharisees did not believe in the face of miraculous evidence does not mean that miracles have no authenticating value. It simply means that there are some people whose hearts are so hardened that no matter what kind of evidence they encounter, they will not believe.

Jack Deere, Surprised by the Power of the Spirit.

Monday, 15 September 2014

Monday quote

It is often the case that when someone says, “Thank God!” they actually mean, “Finally, I’m getting what I deserve.” So instead of humble thankfulness, this phrase indicates bitter entitlement.

Scott Jamieson.

Monday, 8 September 2014

Monday quote

If your cause is just and good, argue that it is just and good, not just inevitable.

Michael Brendan Dougherty.

Monday, 1 September 2014

Monday quote

You don't avoid tyranny by putting a king with no bloodlust on the throne. You avoid it by removing the throne's ability to extract blood.

Hans Fiene

Monday, 25 August 2014

Monday quote

The social order always involves trade-offs. Every strategy has pros and cons. For this reason, we can always find some particular problem which remains in, or is exacerbated by, or is even created through any social, economic, or political policy. Thus, driven by my own pet concerns, I am perfectly capable of condemning as a failure (and even as an immoral failure) a system which is wildly successful except for the one thing that concerns me.

Jeff Mirus.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Authors of the New Testament

A significant amount of the New Testament was written by Luke and Paul. This is what I think the best evidence points to concerning authorship, and approximate date.

Author Book Date Comments
The apostle Matthew, also called Levi Matthew 42
(John) Mark, assistant to Barnabas, Paul and Peter Mark 45 Possibly at the behest of Peter
Luke the physician, associate of Paul. Luke 55

Acts 62

Hebrews 67 Possibly the author of Hebrews. If so, likely the scribe. Co-authored, possibly with Paul.
The apostle John John

1 John

2 John

3 John

From Patmos
The apostle Peter 1 Peter

2 Peter 64 Jude possibly the amanuensis
The apostle Paul Romans 57 Tertius amanuensis

1 Corinthians 55

2 Corinthians 56

Galatians 48

Ephesians 60

Philippians 60

Colossians 60

1 Thessalonians 50

2 Thessalonians 50

Philemon 60

1 Timothy 57 Luke possibly the amanuensis

Titus 57 Luke possibly the amanuensis

2 Timothy 60 Luke possibly the amanuensis
James, the brother of Jesus James 44
Jude, the brother of Jesus Jude 64

Monday, 18 August 2014

Monday quote

The merit of any dissent is dependent upon what the dissenter is dissenting from—and why.

Jonah Goldberg, (1969–), The Tyranny of Cliches.

Monday, 11 August 2014

Monday quote

What if I have been a good girl all my life? That doesn’t make me better than anyone else but I am pretty sure it doesn’t make me worse either.

Amy Spiegel

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Michael Gungor and what Christians believe

I have seen a couple of comments about Michael Gungor recently. I have never heard of the guy or his music. He made a comment in his blog earlier this year that is apparently controversial,
I have no more ability to believe, for example, that the first people on earth were a couple named Adam and Eve that lived 6,000 years ago. I have no ability to believe that there was a flood that covered all the highest mountains of the world only 4,000 years ago and that all of the animal species that exist today are here because they were carried on an ark and then somehow walked or flew all around the world from a mountain in the middle east after the water dried up. I have no more ability to believe these things than I do to believe in Santa Clause or to not believe in gravity. But I have a choice on what to do with these unbeliefs. I could either throw out those stories as lies, or I could try to find some value in them as stories.
Now the context is that he doesn't think he can choose his beliefs, which I disagree with, but is important to understand this paragraph.

In places he sounds like someone leaving a hyper-literalist background,
So if up and down aren’t real, then what do we mean by God being “up” in Heaven? And why do so many worship leaders stare at the lights of the sanctuary and reach their hands into the sky as though trying to reach somebody “up” there? Up where? Towards which planet? Which galaxy? Because if it’s in some direction that we are supposed to think about God, that direction would be constantly changing. Sometimes the congregation should be gazing down and to the right or reaching their hands straight out behind them.
Though elsewhere he makes some reasonable comments,
Give me the samaritan. The heretic. The outsider who may have the ‘wrong’ ‘beliefs’ in words and concepts but actually lives out the right beliefs by stopping and helping me. That’s the kind of belief I’m interested in at this point.

There is much that one could comment on in this post, I'll address one: moving away from orthodox belief is often a dangerous sign.

In the orthodoxy-orthopraxy debate the upper-hand probably goes to orthopraxy. God calls us to obedience. As much as I desire and enjoy defending the truth, our faith needs boots. We need to do the things Jesus did and love like he did which means love in action.

And even though his comments are being labelled controversial, many Christians think the world is billions of years older than 6000 years, some of these people even subscribe to the general theory of evolution. Such beliefs (while incorrect) do not keep them outside the kingdom. I know many Christians that hold to one or both of those beliefs and who are more godly than me.

Now that I have defended orthopraxy and acknowledged godly Christians with heterodox beliefs, let me say that any move away from orthodoxy needs to be watched closely. This is partly because Christianity is a centred set: over time we should become more like Christ in our beliefs and behaviour.

It is the case that some abandon true beliefs without abandoning Christianity: some Christian evolutionists become creationists and some creationists become evolutionists yet only one of those positions is correct. Similar could be said about other doctrines such as paedobaptism and credobaptism. But in general, if we are truly following Jesus we should become more and more like him. Thus abandonment of true beliefs may be the beginning of one leaving the kingdom.

Right beliefs over time often lead to right actions. We may not desire such actions, we may do them out of duty and only come to love them with the practice of obedience; nevertheless, believing the truth is more likely to lead to right behaviour than believing falsehood. If we want to do what is right then we tend to do what we think is right. On balance, heterodox belief is more likely to lead to heteropraxy than orthopraxy. So while orthopraxy may be preferable to orthodoxy if one is to choose, when one abandons orthodoxy how long is it before one's behaviour is no longer the orthopraxy that is being lauded? And how long before one is justifying heterodoxy?

Progressive Christians are fond of reminding conservatives to love sinners outside the church. This is indeed true and they are right to do so—though they often are slow to offer such love to those that they disagree with within the church. Note also that addressing heathen sin is not intrinsically hateful. But I often observe that such a pathway that starts with denying orthodoxy and approving heterodoxy—because what matters is right behaviour—ends up approving wrong behaviour.

Gungor finishes with an appeal to James 2,
What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
What we are seeing here is not the man with works addressing the man with faith—orthopraxy versus orthodoxy—rather the man with faith and works addressing the man claiming to have faith. Jesus, after all, did show the Samaritans the living water and Rahab abandoned idolatry to worship the Lord.

But what actually piqued my interest; the statement that I wished to address, was a comment Gungor made in response to all this controversy,
But now that I am a songwriter, I see this whole thing as absolutely absurd. Genesis is a poem if I’ve ever seen one.
Which I will write about anon.

Monday, 4 August 2014

Monday quote

In constructing theological statements, you start first with passages in the scripture which address or involve explicitly the topic under study. You don't start with oblique passages and try to infer aspects about the subject from it, and then use these less-certain constructs to 'constrain' the more-certain and explicit statements in the more germane passages.

Glenn Miller

Monday, 28 July 2014

Monday quote

In a free society the state does not administer the affairs of men. It administers justice among men who conduct their own affairs.

Walter Lippmann (1889–1974), An inquiry into the principles of the Good Society, (1937).

Friday, 25 July 2014

Acting against our convictions

While there are arguments concerning the public and private funding of health, I would like to pick up on the more sinister aspects around recent court rulings that many on the right and some on the left have seen: concerning to corporations funding contraceptives. Note that some oppose contraceptives because they view artificial contraception as immoral, others do not oppose contraception in principle but believe that certain contraceptives destroy embryos and thus destroy human life.

Julian Sanchez who does not personally oppose contraception or contraceptive abortifacients notes that the ruling (not to fund contraception) is cost neutral for various reasons including that pregnancy cover is more expensive than providing free contraceptives. He shrewdly comments,
In light of this, the outraged reaction to the ruling ought to seem a bit puzzling. If what you are fundamentally concerned about is whether women have access to no-copay contraception, then there’s no obvious reason to invest such deep significance in the precise accounting details of the mechanism by which it is provided. You might even be heartened by a ruling that so centrally turns on the premise that accomodation for religious objectors is required when no women will lack such coverage who would have enjoyed it under a mandate.

The outrage does make sense, of course, if what one fundamentally cares about—or at least, additionally cares about—is the symbolic speech act embedded in the compulsion itself. In other words, if the purpose of the mandate is not merely to achieve a certain practical result, but to declare the qualms of believers with religious objections so utterly underserving [sic] of respect that they may be forced to act against their convictions regardless of whether this makes any real difference to the outcome. And something like that does indeed seem to be lurking just beneath—if not at—the surface of many reactions. The ruling seems to provoke anger, not because it will result in women having to pay more for birth control (as it won’t), but at least in part because it fails to send the appropriate cultural signal. Or, at any rate, because it allows religious employers to continue sending the wrong cultural signal—disapproval of certain forms of contraception—when sending that signal does not impede the achievement of the government’s ends in any way.
He states that opponents contraceptive coverage are undeserving of respect and therefore it is viewed as acceptable to force them to act against their convictions.

In my mind the 2 concepts are not logically associated. One can have no respect for an idea or a person without compelling behaviour. Lacking respect is frequently justified. But my lack of respect (if warranted) means that I can disregard a person's foolish claims, not that I can force him to adopt my preferences. You do not get to force people to act against their convictions because you do not respect them. You do not even get to do that if you are correct and they are mistaken. Making a man act against what he strongly believes is to coerce him into sin. It is making him do something that he believes will offend God. Regardless of whether he discerns the issue rightly or wrongly, to make him offend God is forcing him to blaspheme.

I suspect many people including Christians fail to recognise how diabolical—and I choose that word intentionally—forcing men to blaspheme is. Such a man does not care for the opinion of God for if he did he would not try and make another do something he thinks offends God. It is akin to idolatry, though of the very worst form that tries to make others idolaters as well.

Damon Linker classifies himself as liberal: seemingly in both the modern and classic sense. I am not so certain he fully apprehends the issue, but he gets aspects of it.
On a range of issues, liberals seem not only increasingly incapable of comprehending how or why someone would affirm a more traditional vision of the human good, but inclined to relegate dissenters to the category of moral monsters who deserve to be excommunicated from civilized life — and sometimes coerced into compliance by the government.
And why might this be? Linker suggests,
From the dawn of the modern age, religious thinkers have warned that, strictly speaking, secular politics is impossible — that without the transcendent foundation of Judeo-Christian monotheism to limit the political sphere, ostensibly secular citizens would begin to invest political ideas and ideologies with transcendent, theological meaning.

Put somewhat differently: Human beings will be religious one way or another. Either they will be religious about religious things, or they will be religious about political things. 
Thus secularism (presumably left or right) tends toward idolatry.

Blasphemers often claim their demands are reasonable. Just a little incense to Caesar and you can worship your God the rest of the year.

Requests to affirm Islam (a false God), or provide health (and cover the cost of murder), or just bake a cake (affirming the goodness of sodomy); are all considered by many as competing claims against God. As I have written previously, forcing men to blaspheme is amongst the most grievous of sins. Not only must we avoid such coercion, we must oppose our ideological allies when they support such measures.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Repentance and remorse

Roy Ingle wrote a post on repentance recently that I had been meaning to comment on. He writes,
a mere recognition of sin is not enough to qualify as biblical repentance
and he goes on to list several examples from the Bible: Pharaoh, Balaam, Achan, King Saul, Judas. (I am not certain I agree concerning Ahab.)

This is important because repentance is not just a sense of sorrow, as important as that may be. Repentance means to turn away; to cease sinning and start behaving righteously.

We don't just need worldly sorrow for our actions, we need to repent: we need to cease sinning and instead walk in obedience to God. For the stubborn man rebuked several times will suddenly be destroyed (Proverbs 29:1).

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Defining terms and assuming the argument

I have written on choice of terms in framing a debate previously. Here are 2 further examples.

Calvinists use the term "doctrines of grace" to refer to Calvinism. They may think that they are stronger on grace though I dispute this. Such nomenclature is unhelpful and clouds the argument. This is because although "doctrine of grace" has a specific meaning it sounds like a belief in grace as opposed to, say, works. Yet Christian theology generally is a theology of grace and not works, or at least claims to be. (Others have suggested that a better term may be "doctrines of irresistible grace").

An example from a position I hold may be helpful. I hold to Young Earth Creationism (YEC). This term is a little unwieldy (and 6000 years is hardly young). Young Earth Creationists (YECs) have suggested the term "biblical creationism". Now I happen to think YEC is more biblical than the alternatives but that is kind of beside the point. "Biblical creationism" is needlessly disparaging when trying to debate what the Bible teaches. Non YECs may claim that their position is variably biblical.

Use terms that are moderately accurate, and don't use terms that assume you argument: don't beg the question.

Monday, 21 July 2014

Monday quote

A huge part of intellectual honesty is meaning the same thing when you use a term twice.

Cameron Harwick

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Civilian casualties in the Israeli/ Palestinian conflict

During a previous Israeli/ Palestinian conflict I wrote on civilian deaths in war. One cannot solely tally the number of deaths, one needs to consider intention.
Intention is important. One can argue whether or not an army deliberately targeting civilians is legitimate in war. The West generally condemns this action as morally wrong. While I am in general agreement with this, one could make an argument that it may be dependant on the choices "enemy" civilians make. But if we accept that intentional targeting of civilians is immoral then those who do so carry the guilt even if they are unsuccessful in their intent. That is, if they miss the target or strike the target but it has been evacuated such that no one is killed, the intent and attempt at civilian death is present. They should be thought of and treated similarly to any other group which accomplishes intentional civilian massacre. The lack of achievement of their goals does not remove their culpability.
Addressing civilian deaths in the current conflict,
Both [UN Secretary-General] Ban and the Obama administration took Israel to task for the mounting civilian death toll in Gaza.
This is misguided. This is a superficial approach looking at actual deaths and not intent.

Israel targets Hamas rockets thus minimising civilian death of its own population. It also uses various strategies to decrease Palestinian civilian casualties such as warning to stay out on an area, announcing targets ahead of time, using accurate targeting, agreeing to ceasefires for aid.

Hamas policy is to target civilian areas without warning thus attempting to maximise Israeli civilian death. It has also conducted military action in ways that are likely to increase Palestinian civilian casualties or encourage the use of human shields.

The greater number of Palestinian civilian casualties is due to more effective Israeli defence and their greater firepower. Israel is attempting to minimise civilian casualties on both sides and Hamas is attempting to increase civilian casualties on both sides. Ban and the Obama administration's complaints are directed toward the wrong side.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Chronology of the Flood

Genesis specifies several dates during the year of the Flood. Noah and his family entered the Ark in the 600th year of Noah's life: year 1656 Anno Mundi.

They entered on the 17th day of the second month and the waters prevailed 150 days until the 17th day of the 7th month; thus making 5 months equal to 150 days therefore each month 30 days in length*.

Here is the chronology of the Flood taken from Genesis 7–8.

Event Month Day Day count

Exclusive Inclusive
Enter the Ark 2 17 0 1
1 month 3 17 30 31
Rain ceases (inclusive) 3 26
Rain ceases (exclusive) 3 27 40
2 months 4 17 60 61
3 months 5 17 90 91
4 months 6 17 120 121
Ark rests 7 17 150 151
6 months 8 17 180 181
7 months 9 17 210 211
Mountains visible 10 1 224 225
8 months 10 17 240 241
Send raven 11 11 264 265
9 months 11 17 270 271
10 months 12 17 300 301
Waters dried up 1 1 314 315
11 months 1 17 330 331
12 months 2 17 360 361
Earth dry, leave Ark 2 27 370 371

It seems that the Bible more frequently uses inclusive reckoning, either way they spend 371 days inside the Ark. While I have known of this number for some years, I noticed it coincided with the duration of a solar year based on a 30-day month with an altered earth spin as per my previous calculations. This seems a little more than coincidental. If this were the case perhaps the Noadhic calendar was a lunar-solar calendar similar to the Hebrew calendar and various other calendars.

A lunar-solar calendar aligns the months with the moon (new moon to new moon) and has a variable number a months to keep the seasons aligned. That is 12 months each year with an extra month approximately every 3 years (both antediluvian and postdiluvian solar years have a surplus of ~11 days over the lunar year).

The antediluvian lunar-solar calendar would have 12 30-day months for a 360-day year. The postdiluvian lunar-solar calendar has ~29.5-day months, thus alternating between 29- and 30-day months, but depending on when the new moon appears, for a 354-day year.

*This seems to be the most likely interpretation but the weather may have precluded accurate visualisation of the moon and 30-day months may have been used until adequate moon sighting allowed resetting of the calendar. The second option raises the question as to why not use alternating 29 and 30 day months until the calendar could be corrected.

Monday, 14 July 2014

Monday quote

The way to crush the bourgeoisie is to grind them between the millstones of taxation and inflation.

Vladimir Lenin (1870–1924).

Sunday, 13 July 2014

The length of the antediluvian month and year

If the earth's spin increases then the days in a year increases. The year—as measured in a stable time metric, such as atomic-seconds—is unchanged because it is dependant on the distance from the sun, but the year as measured in days does change because the length of the day is dependant on the spin. The same can be said about the month.

If we define the year length to be y in unchanging units; the day to be da for the antediluvian day and dp for the postdiluvian day; na is number of days in an antediluvian year and np the number of days in a postdiluvian year; then

da × na = y = dp × np

da = dp × np/na

dp/da = na/np

Many ancient calendars use 360 days for a year. Perhaps these are stylised, especially as these calendars are postdiluvian; but what if they were based on memory of an antediluvian year of such a length? In such a case the length of an antediluvian day would have been

da = 24 hours × 365.25/360 = 24 hours 21 minutes.

We will define a month to be m in unchanging units and the number of days in an antediluvian month ka; then

da × ka = m = dp × kp

ka = kp × dp/da = kp × na/np

dp/da = ka/kp = na/np

If a (synodic) month is now 29.53 days (new moon to new moon)

dp = 24 hours, kp = 29.53 days

then the antediluvian month (assuming a 360-day year) was

ka = 29.5 days × 360/365.25 = 29.1 days

Now consider instead if the antediluvian month was 30 days in length

ka = 30 days, kp = 29.53 days

then the antediluvian day was

da = dp × kp/ka = 24 × 29.53/30 = 23 hours 38 minutes

and the antediluvian year was

na = np × ka/kp = 365 × 30/29.53 = 371 days

These calculations assume no change in distance from the earth to the sun or the moon.

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Sinking mantle

Some years back Stripe recommended the video series by Calvary Chapel on earthquakes. 2 sermons about an hour each in 6 or 7 parts. Part 2 is more interesting. Kevin Lea defends Walt Brown's Hydroplate Theory.

The theory as it applies to the Flood is that the earth had significant water below the crust which was released through the crust along the midatlantic ridge (and around the earth) causing flooding and a contra-spherical depression which became the pacific basin. Importantly the model specifies that the continents moved over the mantle due to gravity until they struck opposition which led to upfaulting (mountains) and downfaulting (trenches). The model does not claim that some plates are subducting over or under other plates, though these regions represent real faults. Thus the Hydroplate Theory is distinct from Baumgardner's Catastrophic Plate Tectonic Model.

The relationship to earthquakes is the theory's claim that the inside of the earth consisted of a solid mantle but no core prior to the flood. As a result of stresses within the mantle, rock melts then rises or sinks depending on the surrounding pressure and resultant density. Lower pressure shallow mantle expands and decreases density when it melts therefore rises; high pressure deep mantle shrinks and increases density when it melts therefore sinks. The depth at which mantle changes from expanding to shrinking is called the transition zone. These changes in density and volume mean that other mantle surrounding it moves and the transmitted movement is felt as an earthquake. Rising melted mantle also surfaces in volcanic eruptions.

There is more detail than this; I have not read Brown's book, this is what I gleaned from the video.

Of interest is that because mantle melts and shrinks at certain depths, it must sink and cannot rise. So it will form a core. A liquid core with (the relatively) lower pressures and resolidifying to form a solid core with higher pressures. This results in an inner solid core and outer liquid core which can only grow as mantle continues to melt, shrink, and then sink to the core. Because it has shrunk (increased density) the volume of the earth must decrease. This seems to be the case concerning the mantle regardless of whether the hydroplate model is correct: every time mantle rock melts below the transition zone it sinks to the core never to rise again.

On hearing this my first thought was if the volume of the earth shrinks then its spin will increase (assuming no change in mass) due to conservation of angular momentum. The speaker subsequently discussed this same issue.

If there were significant changes at the time of the Flood this could alter the measured duration of the year and month. More on this to come.

Monday, 7 July 2014

Monday quote

For bad people to do good things—that takes religion [Christianity].

Dinesh D'Souza.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Infrastructure aid

The Campaign for Boring Development makes the case that development does not always make for exciting stories. In their words, It doesn't photograph well.

They have 5 principles in their manifesto,
  1. Development Does Not Photograph Well
  2. “Making the Lives of the Poor Better” is not the same thing as ”Fighting Poverty”
  3. Sustainable, but not sustained
  4. Development Bloat is the Imperialism of the 21st Century
  5. Why Income?
Item 2 is interesting in that they distinguish Humanitarian Aid and Development Aid. The former makes the life of the poor easier but does not grow their wealth (significantly), the latter leads to increased wealth. It seems that some aid is sold as development aid but is in fact humanitarian aid. They give the example of microfinance.
In Banerjee’s analysis, the problem is that the familiar narrative about the bottom billion as entrepreneurial but capital-starved just isn’t borne out by the evidence. Framing the poor as “natural entrepreneurs” obscures the much more mundane reality that, for the most part, very poor people in very poor countries use very small loans very much in the same way middle class people in rich countries use bank loans: to finance big ticket items that massively improve their lives but cost multiples of their monthly income.

If you earn the median U.S. worker’s income, you can’t shell out $20,000 in cash for a nice car next month. That’s six months’ income! It might take you 5 or 6 years to save up that much cash. But that doesn’t mean you have to walk to work every day for the next six years while you save up to buy a car. You get a loan and pay for it while you’re driving it it. Does that loan increase your income and transform your life chances? No. Does it massively improve your quality of life? You betcha.

If you’re in the bottom billion, you can’t shell out $200 in cash to finally fix the damn roof that’s been leaking on you for the last two years. That’s like six months’ income! It might take you 5 or 6 years to save up that much cash. But that doesn’t mean that you have to keep getting rained on for six years while you save up for your roof. You get a loan and pay for it while you’re using it. Does that loan increase your income and transform your life chances? No. Does it massively improve your quality of life? You betcha.
They are not critical of helping the poor in their poverty, but they wish to distinguish this from lifting them out of poverty. Now any endeavour may have aspects of both, but development probably needs to be predominant for it to be called Development Aid.

The main reason to link to this story is that I find the topics they discuss anything but boring. Developing infrastructure such as water supply and roading is very important; possibly under-appreciated (at least roading), and
Road building is hard, dusty, unglamorous work. It photographs horribly. I mean, seriously, try hitting up donors with that image. It just doesn’t work.

Road Building, in other words, is the original Boring Development agenda: the
stuff development agencies used to do back in a halcyon age back before the bloat agenda hobbled pragmatic interventions proven to work.

While donors dither, African governments – who need little reminding how important roads are to development – are taking the lead. Africa is on a road-building frenzy to expand its existing, woefully inadequate primary road network tenfold by 2040.
New Zealand needs more roads and it is a high-income developed country; how much more does Africa.

Monday, 30 June 2014

Monday quote

I dread government in the name of science. That is how tyrannies come in. In every age the men who want us under their thumb, if they have any sense, will put forward the particular pretension which the hopes and fears of that age render most potent. They 'cash in'. It has been magic, it has been Christianity. Now it will certainly be science.

CS Lewis, "Willing Slaves of the Welfare State."

Sunday, 29 June 2014

The difference between the old and new covenant

Christianity sees itself as a continuation of what God was doing with the Jewish people. Christianity started due to Christ. Although it is seen this way, it did not start at the time of the incarnation or resurrection of Christ. We are the descendants of Abraham by faith. Christianity in a sense is at least as old as Abraham and therefore as old as Judaism. Further we see God's plan for a redeemer in Genesis 3 so the plan of Christianity dates from at least the Fall, and an argument can be made for the time of creation.

So how does the new covenant we have in Christ differ from the old covenant of Moses?

We live in the age of grace and not the age of the law, but this is not the difference. Paul states that the law was given to show the transgression. The Israelites were unable to keep it.
Now the law came in to increase the trespass (Romans 5:20)
Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made (Galatians 3:19)
We live post resurrection but this is not the difference. We are saved thru the blood of Christ, but then so were the patriarchs. All men are saved thru Jesus, even those who lived before his death and resurrection. The blood of bulls and goats was unable to atone for sin (Hebrews 10:4). Jesus blood however can atone for any man:
For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. (Hebrews 10:14)
We live by faith but this is not the difference. Abraham was justified by faith and this before the Mosaic Law. Habakkuk tells us that the just shall live by faith (Habakkuk 2:4). Faith was the criteria for salvation even under the Mosaic Law. Of course since the time of Christ we are aware of who our salvation is thru.

The change is power. We have been given the Holy Spirit who gives us the ability to follow God. Both Jeremiah and Ezekiel spoke of this during the age of Law.
But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more." (Jeremiah 31:33)
And they shall be my people, and I will be their God. I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear me forever, for their own good and the good of their children after them. I will make with them an everlasting covenant, that I will not turn away from doing good to them. And I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me. (Jeremiah 32:38-40)
And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God. (Ezekiel 11:19-20; see also 36:26-27).
Hebrews confirms this
This is the covenant that I will make with them
after those days, declares the Lord:
I will put my laws on their hearts,
and write them on their minds (Hebrews 10:16).

The new covenant is marked in time by the death and resurrection of Jesus. And this event is imperative to our salvation: both before and after the incarnation. This is the central event of the Christian faith. But the change in covenant is not the age of grace, nor the fact that salvation is thru Jesus, nor the necessity of faith: these were and continue to be fundamental to salvation. The new covenant is a new heart, an ability to know and live these things by the power of God's Spirit whom he gives without limit (John 3:34).

Monday, 23 June 2014

Monday quote

We must look for the intentions of nature in things which retain their nature, and not in things which are corrupted.

Aristotle, Politics, 1.5.

Monday, 16 June 2014

Monday quote

The closer we look at things that man has made, the more we see the flaws. However when you examine what God has made, the closer you look the better it seems.

David A. DeWitt, Unraveling the Origins Controversy, p. 202.

Monday, 9 June 2014

Monday quote

The search for happiness is one of the chief sources of unhappiness.

Eric Hopper

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Did Adam name all the animals in 1 day?

An argument against God creating the universe in 6 six days revolves around the creation of man on the 6th day and the tasks assigned to him. Here is an example I came across some time ago, though similar arguments have been made countless times.

Andrews itemises 12 events which he thinks would take too long to accomplish in a mere 24 hours; though it should really be in 12 hours.
  1. God creates the various living creatures along with wild animals and animals that become domesticated [nephesh/soulish creatures] (Genesis 1:24-25).
  2. God creates Adam in the divine image (Genesis 1:26-27; 2:7).
  3. God gives Adam a mandate of dominion over creation (Genesis 1:28).
  4. God makes the plants available as a food source for man (Genesis 1:29-30).
  5. God plants a garden and puts the man in it (Genesis 2:8).
  6. God gives Adam instruction concerning obedience to God’s specific commands (Genesis 2:9, 16-17).
  7. God commissions Adam to cultivate the garden (Genesis 2:15).
  8. God commissions Adam to name or classify the animals (Genesis 2:19-20).
  9. God declares Adam’s need for a suitable helper (Gen. 2:18, 20).
  10. God induces sleep and performs surgery on Adam (Genesis 2:21).
  11. God creates Eve (Genesis 2:22).
  12. God ordains that Adam and Eve enter into a divinely constituted marriage relationship (Genesis 2:23-25).
Adequate responses are given in the comments. I would like to reiterate them and add some further perspectives.

These tasks can be categorised three-fold: God's activities; God's interaction with man; and Adam's tasks. Using the above roughly chronological scheme we can group the items
  • God: #1, #2, #4, #5, #10, #11.
  • God and man: #3, #6, #7, #9, #12.
  • Adam: #8.
One could quibble over the grouping, is #9 God or God and man?, but they are generally correct.

The reason for my grouping them is that the various activities are limited by man and not God. So all the items that God did alone, half of the 12, could take less than a second combined. That said, I have no problem with God sculpting Adam from clay then Eve from Adam over a short period of time.

God's interactions with man take time because man is finite. The 5 items listed would take a measurable amount of time, but as they are all commands they need not take much time at all: a few minutes. And #3, #6, and #7 (along with #8) may be all part of one conversation.

Thus, despite a list of 12 items it really boils down to one: Adam naming the animals.

Before addressing Adam's task I would like to identify a concern in Andrews' modification of the text. For item #1 he writes about the animals that become domesticated. Now it is true that animals have become domesticated since creation (dogs) and James 3:7 confirms this, however Genesis does not say this. Domestic livestock were created that way
And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds—livestock and creeping things and beasts of the earth according to their kinds.” And it was so. And God made the beasts of the earth according to their kinds and the livestock according to their kinds, and everything that creeps on the ground according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. (Genesis 1:24-25)
See also when God creates man he gives them dominion over the livestock (Genesis 1:26).

For item #8 Adam is supposedly told to name or classify the animals. Genesis does not say that Adam is to classify the animals (which has connotations of taxonomy), Adam is told to name the animals; the same way that Adam names the woman (Genesis 2) and God names the day, the sky, the land, etc (Genesis 1).
Now out of the ground the Lord God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call (qara') them. And whatever the man called (qara') every living creature, that was its name (shem). The man gave names (shem) to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field.

...Then the man said,

“This at last is bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called (qara') Woman,
because she was taken out of Man.” (Genesis 2:19-20, 23)
Domestic animals (livestock) existed from creation and Adam is told to name, not classify, the animals.

Is this task feasible in a day? Most certainly. The naming of the animals is closely tied to the dominion mandate. Humans are made in the image of God which includes rulership.
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.

And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Genesis 1:26-28)
God brought the animals to Adam and we are told he names 3 categories of animals (Genesis 2:20):
  1. Livestock
  2. Birds of the heavens
  3. Beasts of the field
This is a highly restricted set of the earth's fauna.

Andrews points to Whitcomb and Morris stating in The Genesis Flood that there were 30,000 species of land animals at the time of the Noadic Deluge. I make no claims for the accuracy of that particular figure, but it is only partially relevant. Speciation between creation and the flood expanded those numbers significantly. Even so, Adam was naming a limited number of land animals. He wasn't naming the animals that creep on the ground, a category that exceeds the livestock, birds, and beasts combined. Returnig to speciation: Adam was naming cats, not all the types of cats we now have that descended from these first animals such as lions, tigers and lynx; and bears, not polar bears, brown bears, and black bears; and oxen, not bison, water buffalo, and yak.

As to the time Adam took to name them, he need not take much time at all: a few seconds, if that. The point of naming relates to the dominion mandate not to obtain a degree in taxonomy. Adam (and Eve and their descendants) were to rule over the world including its fauna, that is the point of Adam naming them. In bringing the animals to Adam it also appears that God wished Adam to note that the animals had companions but Adam did not. The activity of naming served to consolidate Adam's dominion mandate and his aloneness.

There was plenty of time for the activities of the 6th day of creation. The only activity that took significant time was the naming of the animals. A close reading of the text reveals this to be a limited number of animals for a specific reason that need not have taken much time at all.

Monday, 2 June 2014

Monday quote

If I ever reach heaven, I expect to find three wonders there: first, to meet some I would not have expected to be there; second, to miss some I would have expected to be there; third, the greatest wonder of all—to find myself there! 

John Newton, 1725–1807.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Obedience as a path to truth

A.J. Jacobs is a agnostic, secular Jew and the author of The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible. I have not read the book. He gave a talk in 2007 on how the experience of trying to follow every law in the Bible changed him. It is a mildly amusing talk. Though he makes several errors in his conclusions it seems as if he made some positive progress. Of his insights I think this is one of the more profound, and I am not certain most Christians grasp the significance of this.
I couldn't believe how much my behaviour changed my thoughts. This was one of the huge lessons of the year is that I almost pretended to be a better person and I became a little bit of a better person. So it's that I had always thought you change your mind and you change your behaviour but its often the other way around, you change your behaviour and you change your mind. [6:20]
Rosaria Butterfield noted something similar during her conversion
But God's promises rolled in like sets of waves into my world. One Lord's Day, Ken preached on John 7:17: "If anyone wills to do [God's] will, he shall know concerning the doctrine" (NKJV). This verse exposed the quicksand in which my feet were stuck. I was a thinker. I was paid to read books and write about them. I expected that in all areas of life, understanding came before obedience. And I wanted God to show me, on my terms, why homosexuality was a sin. I wanted to be the judge, not one being judged.

But the verse promised understanding after obedience. I wrestled with the question: Did I really want to understand homosexuality from God's point of view, or did I just want to argue with him? I prayed that night that God would give me the willingness to obey before I understood. 
Elizabeth Goudge writes in her excellent (albeit slow) novel The Bird in the Tree,
Creative love meant building up by quantities of small actions a habit of service that might become at last a habit of mind and feeling as well as of body.  I tried, and I found it did work out like that. Feeling can be compelled by action not quite as easily as action by feeling, but far more lastingly.
While we need to renew our minds (Romans 12:2), obedience (when the pathway is clear) in the face of uncertain feelings eventually convinces us of the truth we have accented to.

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Short answer Bible quiz

This is a sample quiz that Kevin DeYoung gives at his church after a 12 week course for aspiring deacons and elders. It is the knowledge part of the quiz. This is my attempt without checking my Bible. I will put my answers after the break in case readers wish to have a go. My answers may be incorrect so feel free to correct me.

A. Who did the following?
1.    Wrote the book of Acts?
2.    Appeared with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration?
3.    Directed the rebuilding of the wall of Jerusalem?
4.    Killed a thousand Philistines with a donkey’s jawbone?
5.    Led the Israelites into the promised land?
6.    Was exiled to the island of Patmos where he wrote Revelation?
7.    Was going to curse Israel, but had to bless them?
8.    Became the first King of the 10 tribes that broke away?
9.    Rescued David from her foolish husband Nabal?
10.    Was rebuked by Paul for refusing to eat with Gentiles?

B. Where geographically did the following events take place?
11.    God gave Moses the Ten Commandments?
12.    A silversmith caused a riot?
13.    Elijah had a confrontation with the prophets of Baal?
14.    Believers were first called “Christians”?
15.    The river Jesus was baptized in?
16.    The walls of the city collapsed after the Israelites marched around it?
17.    Jesus walked on water?
18.    The place where Jonah was supposed to be going when he fled to Tarshish?
19.    The place where Paul was heading when he was blinded on the road?
20.    The river Ezekiel was at with the exiles when he received a vision from God?

C. In which book of the Bible do you find the following?
21.    Peter visits Cornelius where he learns that God accepts Jews and Gentiles?
22.    Paul asks a runaway slave to be welcomed back?
23.    Israel worships a golden calf made by Aaron?
24.    The story of Joseph and he brothers?
25.    Twelve men explore the land of Canaan, but only two trust God to give it to them?
26.    God’s judgment on Israel is pictured by a prophet as horde of locusts?
27.    A description of the armor of God
28.    The words “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” in the Old Testament?
29.    A prophet marries a prostitute?
30.    The Magi visiting the Christ child?

D. In which book and chapter(s) do you find the following?
31.    God first speaks the Ten Commandments?
32.    The call of Abram?
33.    The Sermon on the Mount?
34.    The Great Commission?
35.    The Holy Spirit coming upon the disciples in wind, fire, and tongues?
36.    Just as Adam was the head of the old humanity, Christ is the head of the new: “Just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous”?
37.    ”But these three remain: faith, hope, and love.  And the greatest of these is love”?
38.    A religious leader hears “Unless a man is born again he cannot enter the kingdom of heaven”?
39.    Satan bound for a thousand years?
40.    The three Hebrews saved from the fiery furnace?

E. Give the main topic or event of the following Bible chapters
41.    Genesis 3
42.    Isaiah 53
43.    Romans 4
44.    Psalm 119
45.    Hebrews 11
46.    Acts 15
47.    John 17
48.    Revelation 21-22
49.    Luke 15
50.    Exodus 3

F. Who said the following?
51.    If I perish, I perish.
52.    What is truth?
53.    After I am worn out and my master is old, will I now have this pleasure?…Will I really have a child, now that I am old?
54.    O Jerusalem, Jerusalem…how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.
55.    Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in the kingdom.
56.    The fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?
57.    He must increase; I must decrease.
58.    Am I dog that you come at me with sticks?
59.    I know my Redeemer lives and that in the end he will stand upon the earth?
60.    Give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong.

G. If you encountered the following error, to which book would you turn for help?  Choose the book that best addresses the error.  Use each  of the listed books only once: Genesis, Job, Song of Songs, Amos, John, 1 Corinthians, Galatians, 1 Timothy, James, Revelation.
61.    ”As long as you believe the right things, it doesn’t matter how you live your life.”
62.    ”I’m sure I don’t have any spiritual gifts.  Only special people do.”
63.    ”We are saved by Jesus, but we also have to do our part by obeying the law of the Old Testament.”
64.    ”If you are sick, you must have sin in your life.  Good people don’t suffer.”
65.    ”God doesn’t care about the poor and oppressed.  That’s the social gospel.”
66.    ”I know God promises to bless me, but I can’t really trust him through the hard things in life, like famine, barrenness, and imprisonment.”
67.    ”In the end it won’t make any difference who we followed or what we did with our lives.  Jesus will treat everybody the same when he comes back.”
68.    ”There’s nothing special about Jesus.  He’s just one way among many, just another prophet or good moral teacher.”
69.    ”The best way to pick your elders is by looking at how successful they are in the business world.  Next, consider how many degrees they have.  After that, popularity matters most.  Finally, if you still can’t decide, go by good looks.”
70.    ”The Bible doesn’t say anything about intimacy between a man and a woman.  That’s  too fleshly for God to care about.”

H. Arrange the following events in proper chronological order.
a.    The giving of the Law
b.    The atoning death of Christ
c.    Malachi prophesies
d.    The promise to Abraham
e.    Creation and fall
f.    Pentecost
g.    Exile in Babylon
h.    David is King over Israel
i.    Paul is shipwrecked
j.    The Judges rule over Israel

I. Match the verse with the doctrine it best supports.  Each doctrine from the list will be used only once: providence, atonement, election, justification, immutability, sanctification, inspiration, deity of Christ, Trinity, total depravity
81.    Just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do. 1 Peter 1:15
82.    God demonstrated his love for us in this, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8
83.    What you meant for evil, God meant for good.  Genesis 50:20
84.    He chose us in him before the foundation of the world. Ephesians 1:4
85.    I the Lord do not change.  Malachi 3:6
86.    Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will not count against him. Romans 4:8
87.    In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. John 1:1.
88.    Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Matthew 28:19
89.    For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.  2 Peter 1:21
90.    There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God.  Romans 3:10-11

J. In which Old Testament book would you find the following Messianic prophecies?  Books may be used more than once.
91.    The Messiah would be born in Bethlehem.
92.    He would crush the head of the serpent.
93.    He would come riding on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
94.    Born of a virgin.
95.    Came to preach good news to the poor, bind up the brokenhearted, proclaim freedom for the captives, release the prisoners from darkness, proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and comfort all who mourn.
96.    Would be a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek.
97.    Would be like a sun of righteousness rising with healing in its wings.
98.    ”They divided my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.”
99.    Buried with the rich in his death.
100.    Like a lion’s cub of the tribe of Judah.

Monday, 26 May 2014

Monday quote

I take a very low view of 'climates of opinion'. In his own subject every man knows that all discoveries are made and all errors corrected by those who ignore the 'climate of opinion'.

CS Lewis (1898–1963), The Problem of Pain.

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Responses to Austin Fischer's book

Austin Fischer has written a book about how he left Calvinism. It is not a treatise on Calvinist and non-Calvinist theology, rather his story and focus an a few Calvinist beliefs he wishes to push home and get a response to. Kevin DeYoung wrote a review; Austin responded to the review; and Steve of Triablogue responded to his response. There may be posts elsewhere, these are just what I have come across (Hat tip: Arminian Perspectives).

I wished to comment on a few things that were mentioned in these posts.
Kevin: Fischer suggests that Calvinists believe that when people are raped, maimed, murdered, and tortured that God ultimately did those things to them (21). What’s missing here is an awareness of the distinction between remote and primary causes. No Calvinists I know would say God rapes people. God is never the doer of evil. Arminians may not find the distinction compelling, but Reformed theologians have always made clear there is a difference between God ordaining what comes to pass and the role of human agency in actually and voluntarily performing the ordained action.
The point is that while Arminians acknowledge that Calvinists point to remote causes and deny the distinction is meaningful, Austin was a Calvinist. He was aware of such distinctions (he acknowledges in his response) as a Calvinist but eventually found the position lacking.
Kevin: Fischer makes much of the fact that in Jesus we see a desire to love at all costs, not a desire to glorify himself at all costs (58), as if the high priestly prayer in John 17 was not chiefly concerned with the glory of the Father and the Son.  
The key term is "at all costs." John 17 emphasises glory, but it not glory at all costs; and how is that glory manifested? Thru love. Which is the point: that love is a higher focus than glory. Jesus left glory for the sake of love, not to maximise glory.
Kevin: No doubt, Paul is trying to explain in Romans 9 how the promises to Israel have not failed. But to make his point, he argues that not everyone descended from Israel belongs to Israel (9:6), which leads him into an explanation of election and reprobation. And Paul’s thinking must include the idea of individual predestination, for he uses the example of twins who were set apart for different purposes by the plan of God (9:9-13). The point in “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated” is that God has mercy on whom he will have mercy and hardens whomever he wills (9:14-18). Fischer’s comments on Romans 9, like his comments on most passages, are true enough in broad strokes, but fail to engage the particularities of the text. To settle for the exploration of big themes at the expense of verse-by-verse exegetical work is to enjoy the wonders of the forest and ignore all the trees.
Except that quoting "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated" from Malachi Paul is referencing nations and not individuals. The Calvinist insistence on words and verses taking precedence over paragraphs and books means that they have constructed a tree out of Romans 9:20 that does appear to have any place in the forest of the Bible.
Austin: I do think God causes suffering. I think the Bible teaches me that God does, often for purposes such as discipline (Hebrews 12:4-11). But I find it very difficult to look at the way Jesus interacts with suffering in the Gospels and then sit comfortably with the doctrines of Calvinism where God ordains the most terrible suffering imaginable on the majority of humanity.
A helpful comment here would have been to note the difference between suffering and evil. There is no problem in God ordaining suffering; if may be in the context of needed consequences, or punishment. The problem is when God is described as an author of evil.
Austin: I don’t think that if salvation is by grace, through faith, and faith itself is a gift from God, and yet I have to respond to this gift in some way, this means I was the decisive factor in my salvation (of course lots of this hinges on what is meant by “decisive”). That math will never add up for me. So if the math of salvation has to equal 1, with no room for human boasting, then I’m just fine saying the equation I see in the Bible is 1 (God) + 0 (Me) = 1, and that while my 0 contributes nothing, it is still necessary. I think this tends to be the way the Bible handles this, admittedly, mysterious issue of divine grace and human repentance/discipleship/faith.
I am not certain that faith is a gift. Faith is what we have. As to the boasting complaint, this is a non-starter. Calvinists are simply wrong. Nor is it usually helpful to appeal to mystery. This was a complaint by Kevin: that Austin replaces Calvinist mysteries with Ariminian mysteries. Mysteries reflect a lack of knowledge (due to incomplete revelation by God) and to limitations of our reasoning. But that we reason incompletely does not mean we reason incorrectly. We can know what we know.
Steve: Then there's his simplistic claim that God wanted "evil and sin and hell to exist." But, of course, that doesn't mean God wanted them to exist for their own sake, as if that's good in itself. Rather, they serve a purpose. Keep in mind that the Arminian God wanted "evil and sin and hell to exist" more than he wanted them not to exist, for it was within his power to prevent it. God "permitted" them because that's offset by the compensatory goods. So the Arminian must also resort to a greater good defense.
It depends on what the greater "good" is. For God to create hell and men to be placed in that hell to maximise his eternal glory may not be so "good." God doesn't want evil and sin to exist at all. He permits them if that is a risk in love. And he does not permit hell, he created it.
Steve: He doesn't say what "euphemisms" he has in mind. But while we're on the subject of euphemisms, about about the Arminian's euphemistic appeal to divine "permission"
Permission is not a euphemism. Parents understand the concept. It may seem a euphemism if one is trying to understand Arminianism on Calvinist terms, but not on its own terms.
Steve: The Bible in general has many "hard edges" and "hard doctrines." There's something in Scripture to offend everyone. Since Fischer thinks people ought to be consistent, why doesn't he become an atheist? 
This is a problem that Austin identifies with Calvinism. It does not disprove Calvinism, nor is it universal, but the arrogance among the young Calvinists is frequent enough that they form a distinct category even alarmingly noted by other Calvinists. Really, should a Christ follower tell a fellow traveller to become an atheist? Even if we ignore the fact that atheism is not consistent. Perhaps this is some sort of Galatian-type response to Judaisers: Austin is a false teacher. Consistency is hardly a false gospel. It does not cause men to abandon Christ. Or does Steve see Calvinism synonymous with salvation excluding Catholics, Orthodox, and large portions of Protestantism including Pentecostals? One is always going to be in relationship with Christians that have different beliefs than oneself. This is not a good thing, but it is and will remain. One should be saddened if someone who once held to orthodoxy becomes heterodox yet,
Steve: The moral of the story is that intellectually lightweight ex-Calvinists like Fischer make the best Arminians. 
And in the comments we read,
Steve: Since I don't think Fischer is a loss to Calvinism, I don't feel "bitter" about his defection from Calvinism.
I want all people to believe the truth, intellectual lightweights included. I am pleased when anyone renews his mind and thinks more like Christ, and saddened when he abandons the truths of the Bible. Moreover, the kingdom is full on people who the world considers nobodies. It is this arrogance which I think is dangerous in Calvinism. We don't read: Speak the truth to God's glory whoever may be damned; rather we are to speak the truth in love. Words of rebuke are appropriate for false teachers to protect the sheep, especially if the person is a wolf (which means that they are not a sheep and not in God's kingdom). Nevertheless, we should desire that all join the kingdom and be saddened if any leave.


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