Monday, March 31, 2008

Science and the Bible

Now this is really cool.  Scientists have recently translated a Sumerian clay tablet that records a devastating comet—a comet they suspect took outSodom and Gomorrah.  And it is eerie how this event lines up with the biblical account.

Of course the wicked cities were destroyed when God rained down fire and brimstone out of heaven on them.  According to the scientists, this particular comet landed in the Austrian Alps, but before it did, it came in traveling relatively close to the ground losing up to two-thirds of its mass before impact.  Additionally, the comet itself was immediately followed by supersonic shock waves and searing heat.  It literally rained rocks and fire from the sky. 

Calculating the night sky at the time and comparing it to the observations of the tablet, they were able to pinpoint the celestial culprit.  This comet was seen a little before dawn on June 29th, 3123 B.C.  Interestingly enough, the Bible records the destruction occurring in roughly the same time frame.  At dawn the angels became very desperate to get Lot and the family out of the city.  When the sun had risen the fire and brimstone came.  By the time Abraham was up and about “early in the morning,” the destruction was complete and there was nothing left but smoking ashes.

This article also points out that there are a number of myths that could be attached to this or similar meteor impacts.  The example it gives in addition to the story of Sodom and Gomorrah is the tale of Phaeton’s fateful crash after stealing his father’s chariot used to tow the sun across the sky.  It is interesting to note that the record from the Bible sounds much less fantastical, and much more like historical observation than does the Greek myth. 

Josh R.


Friday, March 28, 2008

First The Toronto Blessing. And Now?

I know this is a bit post-Easter, but quite frankly I didn't catch this until five days after the story posted.

At West Hill United Church in Toronto, Canada, the hymn, Jesus Christ Has Risen Today, Hallelujah was brought forth and sung amongst the congregation. Only this time it was delivered after a short dance with the church's editorial board.

The change? The name of Jesus Christ removed, and exchanged for the term "Glorious Hope."

That triumphal barn burner of an Easter hymn, Jesus Christ Has Risen Today – Hallelujah, this morning will rock the walls of Toronto's West Hill United Church as it will in most Christian churches across the country.

But at West Hill on the faith's holiest day, it will be done with a huge difference. The words “Jesus Christ” will be excised from what the congregation sings and replaced with “Glorious hope.”

Thus, it will be hope that is declared to be resurrected – an expression of renewal of optimism and the human spirit – but not Jesus, contrary to Christianity's central tenet about the return to life on Easter morning of the crucified divine son of God.

Generally speaking, no divine anybody makes an appearance in West Hill's Sunday service liturgy.

I distinctly remember when Oxford amassed a consortium to throw the infant out with the briny with their Inclusive New Testament, but I really, really thought such a ridiculous foray would stop at pamphleteering.

Apparently not. At leat we can count on Hollywood to keep Jesus in their script-writing. "Glorious Hope's" chances of becoming the in-vogue workplace, guttural outburst are next to none.


Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Hey. Dad. You. Are. Important.

So it is that the vast majority of the blogosphere is wholly populated with chronic narcissism, wholesale self-aggrandizement, and unnecessary bloviating. Thus it is also refreshing when someone can manage to simultaneously make their own life the center of a blog without ever needing to take center stage to mollify the alignment.

Which is why every man that reads this should check out Todd Wilson's Family Man website.

Uplifiting and inspiring, to say the least.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Do Apostolics Believe in Easter?

Is anyone else as deeply disturbed as I am at how little our Pentecostal churches celebrate Holy Week? Seriously, judging by our actions, do we really believe in the power of Easter?

I checked around many regions of the country and here’s what I heard - almost nothing on Palm Sunday (one church did a special singspiration, several mentioned it in sermons), we don’t even know what Maundy Thursday is, I heard of only three churches doing something special on Good Friday, and are Easter musicals now the exception instead of the rule? (Perhaps they never were the rule?)

I know we don’t want to be bound by extra-biblical Catholic / Orthodox / mainline traditions, but haven’t we now flung ourselves into a weird, almost-anti-Christian opposite? Palm Sunday is not Catholic, it’s Christian and it holds great significance to our faith. Good Friday is not Orthodox, it’s Christian! By celebrating so little, haven’t we trapped ourselves into some type of non-thinking anti-tradition tradition?

The comeback I get is we celebrate Christmas with children’s musicals and the like. I would argue one huge reason we celebrate Christmas is due to our over-commercialized Christmas gift-buying culture more than because of its importance. (Think about it: the death and resurrection is infinitely more important than the virgin birth.) Is it the Christmas advertising that creates our Christmas outreach?

I asked my Sunday school class last weekend, “Doe anyone know what we’re celebrating today?” “St. Patrick’s Day” was the most common answer. (The correct answer: Palm Sunday.) Is a major reason we don’t highlight Holy Week because corporations don’t advertise it for us? Will next week be just another Sunday service, or will there be any reference to the continuing power of Easter? What creates our priorities: corporate America, mainline Christianity, Pentecostal anti-tradition, or the Bible?

Is anyone else as deeply disturbed as I am at how little our Pentecostal churches celebrate Holy Week?

Thursday, March 20, 2008

SHOCKER: Religious People Happier Than Atheists

This kind of story falls under what I call the "turtle firefighter finally makes it to the conflagration" umbrella: A European study in Britain has illuminated an apparently jolting revelation: that those who have attached their hopes and ultimate fates to a purpose above and beyond the terra-firma seem to have a compartmentalized mechanism with which to deal with cataclysmic life events with greater ease.

One would think these conclusions could be gained by anecdotal observation. Apparently not. I'd be willing to hold out hope that one day, "glaring and prima facie reflections of a grand designer" will be found in the universe, its origins and the human genome as well.


Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Signs Of The Times

One would expect that the issue of "assisted suicide" would arise again, and not suprisingly during an election cycle. Nothing really prohibitive came of the incarceration of the infamous "Dr. Death," a.k.a. Jack Kevorkian. It just so happened that the law managed to lock up a man who managed to not only have a monolithic devotion to dispatching the depressed and infirm, but seemed to have a latent per-capita quota lurking in the glove compartment of his van.

Although, the fact that the recently-freed Kevorkian is considering seeking public office may have some impact on the international coverage of the following:

ABC News has this very, very sad case of a French woman, suffering from a horribly-disfiguring cancer of of the olfactory channels. (Warning: if you click on the slide show accompanying this story, you'll see exactly how pungent her disfigurement is). Her request to be medically terminated was--suprisingly--declined by a French court.

I can only pray for her healing, and her soul. I know one thing--granting her wish would have helped neither.


Thursday, March 13, 2008

Technology Gets Weirder, No Reason Cited

Just saw this today. Play the video, then, as it's playing, click your mouse over the video, and try to "drag." The effect is something I'd only relegated to still photography.


Wednesday, March 12, 2008

ABC News Has A "Sudden Modesty" Epiphany

What do you get when you mix one part anti-Bush, ideological derangement with one part journalistic timidity?

You get a sudden and unforseen infatuation with clothing the world's women with a suffocating, opaque body tent (click here to see slide show).

It should be noted that the accompanying text to photo number one didn't even raise a single eyebrow over there at ABC:

The burqa is the wardrobe of choice for many Muslim women. It is worn over a woman's daily clothing, usually covering her from head to toe. Today, the burqa has gone designer, popping up on fashion runways in the West, like at this show by Norwegian designers Marked Moskva in Norway earlier this month. Here, a burqa evokes traditional Norwegian dress. The designers reportedly say they are aiming their collection at Muslims and non-Muslims.

Of Course, the implication that an "choice" is involved in the matter for Muslim women is barely a workable truth. Beyond that, the last sentence should contain the phrase "soon to be compulsory" right before the word "collection."

And I won't even comment as to why the Europeans are doing this in the first place. Shotting fish in a barrel is a waste of time and ammunition.

Just saying. One wonders whether or not ABC would've done a three-part series on the "convenient and cost saving choppy haircut and abbreviated moustache combo" during World war II, had the media been mature enough to contain it.


Southern Baptists Go Green

No doubt inspired by my previous post about theVatican’s new sins, the Southern Baptist Convention has decided to update their position on climate change.  They are calling their previous lack of action regarding the environment “too timid.”  Now they are calling for more action among Southern Baptists to prevent climate change.  They are also asking their preachers to make the environment a more frequent topic of sermons.  Acknowledging that the science isn’t fully convincing to everyone, they expressed their concern that their previous caution may have been “seen by the world as uncaring, reckless, and ill-informed.”  Jonathan Merritt, spokesman for the Southern Baptist Environment and Climate Initiative, pointed out that God reveals himself both through Scripture and through his creation.  “…and when we destroy God’s creation,” he said, “it’s similar to ripping pages from the Bible.”



You Know It's Going Bad For You When . . .

. . . even your erstwhile supporters think you're kooky. Seems the whole, Code Pink vs. the US Marines in Berkley thing had to be addressed--by none other than the funny and preeminent galvanizing source of American values: The Daily Show:

I have a feeling that somewhere in the backrooms of political thinking, someone finally noticed that they might want to distance the mainstream of the party from these people before John McCain accidentally saddles them with a casual relationship at the general convention.

The "man on the street" section about halfway through is where it gets good.


Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Sloganeering: A Reflex Of Angst

I live in California. I home school my children.

We are, therefore, affected (at least in theory for now) by the recent ruling by virtue of judicial senility referenced below. In short, a single judge is grasping for the brass ring of secular fame by assuming he has single-handedly put a fork in the R-4-affidavit-filing home school movement.

This being what it is, has engendered more than a few responses in the forums to which I belong--including an ad hoc bumper sticker campaign.

Not to be outdone, I've taken a few of my own shots at not only the philosophical hypocrisy of the ruling, but how a secular world so obsessed with making sure Barry Bonds isn't drinking a Red Bull before he bats can miss the following:

I'm off to taint my children with notions of "Intelligent Design."



Monday, March 10, 2008

The New Commandments



In the interest of maintaining relevance in a changing world, the UPCI recently adopted a change in its bylaws to allow ministers to appear on television.  TheVatican is speaking out against embryonic stem cell research and drug trafficking, placing them on a list of “modern sins .”  Of course the Bible doesn’t cover everything.  That’s why we have the Spirit of Truth to lead us and guide us into truth.  Still, the Bible gives us principles by which to lead our lives, and these principles, along with the leading of the Spirit, help us to live right in any era.


But according to the principles of the Bible, how do these new sins line up?  Well, some are very biblical—such as speaking out against social and economic injustice—even though they haven’t been at the forefront of American Evangelicalism.  Read pretty much anything between Song of Solomon and Matthew and you’ll some of God’s thoughts on these topics.  Other sins, such as human cloning, are simply not addressed at all in the Scriptures, either directly or in principle.


But many of these “sins” based on biblical principles depend heavily on how one interprets the Bible (not to mention science).  Pollution, genetic manipulation, and climate change may be dangerous playgrounds, but the Bible may not support the label of sin.  Many will say these are clearly always wrong, while many others will say they are sometimes ok.  In these kinds of areas we must always remember the advice of Paul to the Romans—let everyone be fully convinced in their own mind, do everything to honor God, and don’t pass judgment on those Christians who believe differently than you.


Just For Fun:

If you could write your own list of “modern sins,” what would be at the top?




Friday, March 07, 2008

On a Lighter Note...

Recently in Florida there was a funeral procession traveling from the funeral home to the cemetery.  A long line of grievers strung out behind the hearse were being escorted by motorcycle police.  The police, as usual, would drive ahead, block off the intersection and allow the procession to pass safely through.  They get to the cemetery, proceed with the burial, and everything is fine.  That is until about a month later… when everyone in the procession gets traffic citations!  Some areas in Florida have cameras set up on traffic lights designed to catch people who run red lights.  These cameras record the plate numbers of people who run the lights, computers then look up the addresses of the vehicle owners, and mail them the tickets.  This time it caught a long line of people under police escort.






Home Schooling Under Fire

It is not enough that government schools teach such ideas as evolution and “cultural sensitivity” while making Christian students feel like second class citizens.  Now, courts in California are making it more difficult for parents to home school their children as well.


California’s 2nd District Court of Appeals recently ruled that parents can no longer home school children unless they have teaching credentials.  Doing so could now lead to a criminal complaint.  While requirements for teaching credentials vary within the state they often include earning a bachelor’s degree and passing teaching exams.


“Parents do not have a constitutional right to home school their children” wrote Justice H. Walter Croskey.  It seems in California , you cannot raise your children as you see fit unless the Constitution gives you the right or the state gives you permission.




Wednesday, March 05, 2008

High On the Mountain

When Moses brought the Law from Mt. Sinai to the Children of Israel everyone was high.  At least that is the suggestion of Hebrew University Professor Benny Shanon.  Apparently, two plants growing in the area possibly contain the same kind of hallucinogenic properties as plants used in the Amazon to induce altered states of consciousness.  In these altered states of consciousness “…one often feels that in seeing the light, one is encountering the ground of all being… many identify this power as God.”  According to Shanon, this is probably what was going on when the Bible describes thunder, lightning and a trumpet blast.  Shanon is qualified to speak about such things because he has personally experienced the hallucinogenic effects of these drugs several times.


So wait… we’re supposed to take the word of a drug-addled college professor over the best-attested historical document ever written?!   Hmmm…

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Israeli Scientist Finally Explains How God Spoke To Moses On Mt. Sinai: He Was Popping Acid

I had literally thought that the Marianna-Trench-rivaling depths of desperate scientific straw-grasping had been reached. And I thought it ended with the pallid explanation of the parting of the Red Sea, in which historians and scientists alike say that God's syntax error misappropriates trillions of gallons of water, and that the Children of Israel actually crossed the "Reed Sea," in ankle-deep marsh water (although there is a certain logical chaudenfreude to be had from a theory that then has to explain how pharaoh's army was lung-bubbled in the kiddie-end of the pool. So far, no takers).

And today, thanks to alert reader and behind-the scenes news-feeder of yours truly, Steve, I see that I am wrong, wrong, and wrong again. It seems yet another alumnus of "Team Satan" has weighed in with his own research, and has apparently de-mystified for us the conversational roots of the Ten Commandments:

JERUSALEM (AFP) - High on Mount Sinai, Moses was on psychedelic drugs when he heard God deliver the Ten Commandments, an Israeli researcher claimed in a study published this week.

Such mind-altering substances formed an integral part of the religious rites of Israelites in biblical times, Benny Shanon, a professor of cognitive psychology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem wrote in the Time and Mind journal of philosophy.

Wow. Maybe, it's just an "enhancement theory." Maybe the good Dr. Shanon's pharmacologically-based assertions are the needed "bridge" to get him over the theological hump here. Let's keep reading:

As far Moses on Mount Sinai is concerned, it was either a supernatural cosmic event, which I don't believe, or a legend, which I don't believe either, or finally, and this is very probable, an event that joined Moses and the people of Israel under the effect of narcotics," Shanon told Israeli public radio on Tuesday.
Nope. I held out hope for two paragraphs. The erstwhile teetotaler Shanon managed to get his digs in elsewhere, too, and most likely did not remove his shoes to do so, either:

Moses was probably also on drugs when he saw the "burning bush," suggested Shanon, who said he himself has dabbled with such substances.

"The Bible says people see sounds, and that is a classic phenomenon," he said citing the example of religious ceremonies in the Amazon in which drugs are used that induce people to "see music."

Now I at least understand the feverish and stupid mathematical contortions used to scare my kids into saving the rainforest. Cut it down and no more Ralph Waldo Emerson epiphanies:
He mentioned his own experience when he used ayahuasca, a powerful psychotropic plant, during a religious ceremony in Brazil's Amazon forest in 1991. "I experienced visions that had spiritual-religious connotations," Shanon said.

And lastly:
He said the psychedelic effects of ayahuasca were comparable to those produced by concoctions based on bark of the acacia tree, that is frequently mentioned in the Bible.

Sure, sure. Coherent, six-thousand-year-old prophecies with ever-synergizing historical merit always emanate from Haight-Ashbury love-ins and the side effects of Lysergic Acid Diethylamide. What if it were true? We'd be arguing the constitutional viability of Madeline Murray O’Hare’s throwing of Electric Light Orchestra retrospectives out of the public school classroom, and listening to the street preacher extol the scriptural mandate to imbibe Mickey Mouse stamps during communion.

Really, Dr. Shanon should answer the following question. Which came first, the drug, or the drug-induced scientific theory?


Monday, March 03, 2008

Blogging Issues

We had some technical issues taken care of on the server-side of 90&9, but apparently some disconnects have been created in the process.

This is affecting both blog posts and comments on the other blogs. Please be patient as we attempt to fix this issue.