Sometimes you see something and…. SMH (Welcome to the inaugural CRoF rant)

As anyone who has read my blog with any frequency already knows, I like science. However, sometimes I see things that are being done in the name of science and it’s a #facepalm moment. For instance, The US Department of Energy is funding an experiment that is supposed to tell us whether or not we actually exist within a two-dimensional hologram. A TWO DIMENSIONAL HOLOGRAM!! REALLY? C’MON MAN!!

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A Fermilab scientist works on the laser beams at the heart of the Holometer experiment. The Holometer will use twin laser interferometers to test whether the universe is a 2-D hologram.

(click picture for link to article)

Like I said, I’m all about scientific endeavor, but surely this is the most ridiculous experiment ever devised. In the first place, what would lead anyone to think in such nonsensical terms. Now, don’t get me wrong. The actual work being done with the Holometer could lead to some new information about our world and the quantum state of space-time. Okay, sure. Go for it. But seriously, what if the results show that, in their estimation, we are indeed living in a two dimensional hologram?  What are we supposed to do with that information? Why should we take something like that seriously?

In all actuality I blame this fiasco on science writers trying to hype up overblown interest in a fairly straightforward scientific endeavor. Does this really sound like something an actual scientist would write (while being serious and not trying to get a laugh that is)?

Much like characters on a television show would not know that their seemingly 3-D world exists only on a 2-D screen, we could be clueless that our 3-D space is just an illusion. The information about everything in our universe could actually be encoded in tiny packets in two dimensions.

That analogy is flawed in so many places, starting with the fact that “characters on a television show” are actually actors who live in just as much a three dimensional world as the rest of us, and in NO WAY do they exist on or in a “magic box” (AKA television). Is that what they are trying to assert we are? Characters in a television show? If not, then why that analogy? (Because of hype, that’s why.)

At any rate, it will be interesting to learn what was actually discovered by the scientists performing this experiment. I just hope they can deliver the results without resulting to cheesy and inappropriate analogies invented solely for the purpose of hype. Thanks for letting me rant!

I’d love to discuss these things with you. Any questions and comments that are in line with this page’s Commenting Policy will be published and responded to (to the best of my ability).

For more information on how I keep my worldview informed please go to Cross Roads Church.

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Horus and Jesus: Practically Twins! (well, not really….)

As I wrote in my last post, there are many different sources that claim a multitude of similarities between the Egyptian sky god Horus and Jesus of Nazareth. Does closer scrutiny bear out these claims? The devil, as they say, is in the details…

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Jesus? Is that you?

The similarities claimed to exist include ” born on December 25th. His mother was a virgin. His birth was announced by an angel, attended by shepherds and heralded by a star. At 30 years of age he was baptized in a river, and the one who baptized him was later beheaded. He had 12 disciples, performed miracles, exorcized demons, raised someone from the dead, and even walked on water.” According to which site you visit, there may be even more similarities listed. As I discussed in my last post, many other mythological figures have been credited with some of these same similarities, including Mithras, Krishna, Attis, Dionysis, and many others.

Now, as discussed in the last article, if in fact these similarities were to be accurate, that obviously does not preclude the existence of the historical figure, Jesus of Nazareth. In addition, one would actually expect to find at least some similarities when dealing with supernatural deific beings. For instance, one would expect a god to be able to supersede and rule over nature (i.e. perform miracles). A god would be able to rule over death. A god would be mentally superior to men, and seem to be all-knowing. A god who lived among men would draw men (disciples) to him. So we see that these types of similarities, if they existed, would be expected.

On the birthday claim: Nowhere in the Bible is Jesus’s birth date mentioned. The date was chosen by emperor Aurelian in the third century. In fact many believe, because of evidences offered in the Bible surrounding the account of Jesus’s birth, that he was not born in the winter time, but that’s a different subject. The point is, a claim of being born on December 25th (or at the winter solstice) simply seems to be suspiciously convenient, especially once the claims are more closely scrutinized.

When one looks more closely, at books and web sites that are dedicated to scholarship and not tearing down the Christian faith, a different picture emerges. For instance, the “Tour Egypt” website:

We offer scholarly articles on historical as well as contemporary issues and we are always looking to renovate our services to live up to the expectations of our millions of visitors.

Their account of Horus seems to be very different from the ones presented at those other websites that seem to have an agenda. There is no mention of any of those similarities I mentioned above. Indeed, when you read the article offered at the “Tour Egypt” web site, you would be hard pressed to find many similarities at all between the falcon deity Horus and Jesus of Nazareth.

In an effort to avoid the accusation of cherry-picking web sites that “agree with my agenda”, I will list two more sites that are more scholarly in nature and “agendaless”:

Encyclopedia Mythica: Horus

Ancient Egypt Online: Horus

It seems an honest look at the evidence would lead the unbiased observer to admit that there are not really that many similarities between the Egyptian sky god Horus and Jesus of Nazareth after all. Now, I will be the first to admit that I have not personally tracked down every single claim made about the supposed similarities that exist between Jesus and these other mythological figures. However, I have seen enough evidence on the few I have bothered to check, and read work by others who have done the “heavy lifting” and really run these claims to the ground, that these similarity claims are, to put it in a southern vernacular, hogwash. It almost seems as if these things have been made up purely to discredit the four independent eyewitness testimonies about the life of Jesus of Nazareth contained in the Bible as a case of mythological plagiarism. Surely no one would purposely just make stuff up just to do that though…. would they?

I’d love to discuss these things with you. Any questions and comments that are in line with this page’s Commenting Policy will be published and responded to (to the best of my ability).

For more information on how I keep my worldview informed please go to Cross Roads Church.

Was the Sinking of the Titanic a Copycat Myth?

In 1898 a novella, “Futility, or the Wreck of the Titan”, was published. The story contains many eerie similarities with the actual story of the sinking of the Titanic in 1912, fourteen years later!

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“Futility” was written before the Titanic was even designed, yet the similarities are uncanny. For instance, The names of the ships were synonymous: Titan, Titanic. Both ships sank in April in the North Atlantic. There were not enough lifeboats for all the passengers. The Titan was 800′ long and the Titanic was 882’9″ long. The Titan sailed at a speed of 25 knots, the Titanic 22.5 knots.

And That’s not all! Both ships had three propellers. Both were described as unsinkable. Both carried less than half the amount of lifeboats needed for their passenger and crew capacity. Both hit an iceberg 400 nautical miles from Newfoundland. Both sank, and lost more than half of their passengers: 2200 from the Titanic and 2500 from the Titan. (Source:  Wikipedia )

Now, I’ve said all that to say this: does the fact that a fictional book written before the actual historical account have any bearing on the fact that the actual account happened, regardless of the multitude of similarities between the fictional account and the actual account? The obvious answer is no, of course not, not even a little bit.

Did you know about the amazing similarities between  Abraham Lincoln and John Franklin Kennedy? It boggles the mind, really, that the two men who lived a century apart had so much in common. The question is, do the similarities between the two in any way discount the facts surrounding the life and work of either man? No, of course not.

Let me tell you about someone else. This individual was born on December 25th. His mother was a virgin. His birth was announced by an angel, attended by shepherds and heralded by a star. At 30 years of age he was baptized in a river, and the one who baptized him was later beheaded.  He had 12 disciples, performed miracles, exorcised demons, raised someone from the dead, and even walked on water. I could keep going but you probably know who I am talking about already. That’s right-  Horus!

You thought I was talking about Jesus didn’t you? The linked website, and others, make the claim of these similarities between Horus and Jesus. These claims were also made in the movie “Zeitgeist” (available on the internet) and in a book written by Achyrya S. (D.M. Murdock) called The Christ Conspiracy: The Greatest Story Ever Sold. Similar claims are made of other mythological deities including Dionysus, Krishna, Mithras, and many others.

This article’s purpose is not to contest the claims made about these similarities (that will be addressed in the next blog post). Here’s my point: CS Lewis once famously said, “…you must show that a man is wrong before you start explaining why he is wrong.” In other words, you have to start with the historical figure, Jesus of Nazareth, and show that the historical accounts are false, before you can make the case that the similarities shared by the account of Jesus and these mythological deities have any bearing on the subject. Just as the book Futility, written fourteen years prior, in no way negates the historical fact of the sinking of the Titanic, and the fact that Abraham Lincoln lived 100 years prior to JFK in no way negates the historical fact of the existence and presidency of JFK, the similarities between Jesus of Nazareth and these mythological deities have no bearing on the historical fact of Jesus’s existence.

I’d love to discuss these things with you. Any questions and comments that are in line with this page’s Commenting Policy will be published and responded to (to the best of my ability).

For more information on how I keep my worldview informed please go to Cross Roads Church.

Colorado’s Marijuana Experiment: How’s That Working for You?

Every since Colorado and Washington (state) recently made the recreational use of marijuana legal, I have been keeping an eye out for the ramifications (if any) of these decisions. Admittedly I was skeptical at the time (and still am) of the wisdom of allowing this. From the limited returns of information I have seen so far, my skepticism has been justified, however I admit the jury is still out.

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How does such an ordinary looking plant cause so much strife?

I don’t follow this issue closely, but when I see articles about it I check them out as a matter of interest. The first article I noticed was a month or so ago, and I reported on it in one of my News Roundups. “Welfare Cash for Weed in Colorado.” This bothered me on a fundamental level, because I am vehemently opposed to being forced to pay for someone else’s recreational choices. Here’s an analogy. Let’s say I represent the government, and I am bigger and stronger than you, the regular citizen. I come up to you, take your wallet, and remove enough money for Bob to go to the movies, because he can’t afford to, and give that money to Bob. You are an avowed atheist, and Bob chooses to go see the movie God’s Not Dead, with what was formerly your money. Would this be okay with you? (Apparently it’s okay with some of the lawmakers in Colorado.)

Now there are more reports and studies coming out that we can use to see what impact the new laws in Colorado have upon the citizens of that state. Over at “The Daily Signal” there is a report that “Traffic Fatalities of Marijuana-Positive Drivers On Rise In Colorado.” Here are some of the findings, according to a peer-reviewed study, looking at Colorado highway fatalities since they legalized medical marijuana in 2009.

  • An increase in marijuana-related traffic fatalities in Colorado since 2009
  • An increase in marijuana-related traffic fatalities in Colorado compared to non-“medical marijuana” states since 2009
  • Alcohol-related fatalities remained the same

Related studies show that overall, highway fatalities have decreased in Colorado during that time, however, as you can see, fatalities related to marijuana usage have increased. Keep in mind, these results are only from a period between 2009-2011, after the state legalized medical marijuana. It will be interesting to see the results following the state’s legalization of recreational use in 2012. Here are the study’s results:

In Colorado, since mid-2009 when medical marijuana became commercially available and prevalent, the trend became positive in the proportion of drivers in a fatal motor vehicle crash who were marijuana-positive (change in trend, 2.16 (0.45), p<0.0001); in contrast, no significant changes were seen in NMMS [Non-medical marijuana states]. For both Colorado and NMMS, no significant changes were seen in the proportion of drivers in a fatal motor vehicle crash who were alcohol-impaired. [emphasis mine]

The Legalization of Marijuana in Colorado: The Impact” is a comprehensive study of the impact of marijuana usage in Colorado during a period of time before 2009 (early medical marijuana era), 2009 to present (medical marijuana expansion era) and 2012 to present (recreational marijuana era). Anyone interested in the subject should take a look at this study to see the trends in several different areas. One of the implications of this study is the rise of the usage of marijuana by under-aged teenagers. They report that:

In 2012, 10.47 percent of Colorado youth ages 12 to 17 were considered current marijuana users compared to 7.55 percent nationally. Colorado ranked fourth in the nation, and was 39 percent higher than the national average.

It seems to me that overall the trends aren’t looking good for the experiment of legalizing pot in Colorado. It may be that the citizens of that state will have to pay a heavy price for being “guinea pigs.” However, I am willing to admit that it is still early and additional data needs to be gathered before we have a better understanding of the implications. It seems to me however that according to the early trends, it ain’t lookin’ so hot.

I’d love to discuss these things with you. Any questions and comments that are in line with this page’s Commenting Policy will be published and responded to (to the best of my ability).

For more information on how I keep my worldview informed please go to Cross Roads Church.

H/T: Wintery Knight

More resources:

Marijuana: science, not hype, will clear the haze

Marijuana Is Harmful: Debunking 7 Myths Arguing It’s Fine

7 Harmful Side Effects Pot Legalization Has Caused in Colorado

Answering Quotes and Memes

Sometimes people post what they consider to be clever quotes that attack or question worldviews with which they don’t agree. (Sometimes these quotes are encapsulated in an image for a more impactful visual effect; this is commonly called a meme).

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This one’s pretty good!

Over at the blog “hessianwithteeth” there is a good example of this practice. In their article entitled “My Thoughts on a Few Quotes” they have delineated several examples of quotes that seem to inveigh against the Christian worldview, but they are eminently answerable. Because the Christian worldview is consistent with reality and internally coherent, these questions and those like them pose little challenge if one is willing to apply some careful thought.

Instead of trying to tackle each quote within the article, I will pick one and give simple and consistent answers.

“If he is infinitely good, what reason should we have to fear him? If he is infinitely wise, why should we have doubts concerning the future? If he knows all, why warn him of our needs and fatigue him with prayers? If he is everywhere, why erect temples to him? Percy Bysshe Shelley

[HWT’s commentary] I like this quote because it asks some good questions. The Old Testament says many times that God should be feared, but many people believe in a benevolent God. If God has ultimate wisdom, then shouldn’t the future be set? Shouldn’t we know for sure if and when everything is going to end? Though I like the temple bit best. Are religious buildings necessary? If they aren’t, why treat them with any sort of deference?

Let’s take these one by one shall we?

Q: If he is infinitely good, what reason should we have to fear him?

A: An infinitely good God is infinitely just. We all have a sense of wrongdoing in our lives. We fear an infinetly good and just God because we realize we deserve punishment.

Q: If he is infinitely wise, why should we have doubts concerning the future?

A: We have doubts because although God is infinitely wise, we are not. We can not see the end of the next minute much less the end of all time. Some of these answers are given through His revelation, but in general our lives are lived day to day in ignorance of what is coming next. We trust in Him to be with us through the trials and we fear because we lack perfect trust as a result of our fallen nature.

Q: If he knows all, why warn him of our needs and fatigue him with prayers?

A: First of all, God can not be fatigued, with prayers or otherwise. He desires our prayers, not because he does not know what we stand in need of, but because when we pray to Him it reminds us of where and how our needs are met. His answers to our prayers often differ from what we have asked for, and is always better for us. We don’t pray to change His mind but to change our own.

Q: If he is everywhere, why erect temples to him?

A: In the Old Testament under the Mosaic Law there was ONE tabernacle and then ONE temple, not “temples.” It was a physical place where the Israelites were told to go to make sacrifices to and worship God. This was part of setting Israel aside as a “peculiar people.” Under the New Testament, those old things have passed away. God dwells within the hearts His people in the form of the Holy Spirit, and our bodies are His temple. We serve Him through the way we live our lives and serve others. We meet in physical buildings as part of the church (the called out body of people) but the buildings have nothing to do with the actual worship service other than to provide physical shelter and comfort to those doing the worshiping.

HWT:  The Old Testament says many times that God should be feared, but many people believe in a benevolent God.

A: The covenant between Israel and God was contingent on their obedience to the Mosaic Law. God was clear with them about the blessings that they would receive for their obedience. and about the consequences of disobedience. Look at it this way: If you are driving down the freeway and are obeying the traffic laws and speed limit, and you see a police officer, you have respect for their authority but are not fearful of punishment. However when you are exceeding the speed limit and weaving in and out of traffic, you fearfully look out for the same officer because you know you are in the wrong.

HWT:  If God has ultimate wisdom, then shouldn’t the future be set? Shouldn’t we know for sure if and when everything is going to end?

A: He does, and it is. However He has not shared that information with us, so no, we shouldn’t know.

HWT: Though I like the temple bit best. Are religious buildings necessary? If they aren’t, why treat them with any sort of deference?

A. No, they are not necessary, except as used by the church as a place to meet. We should treat them with the same deference, for instance, as one would expect others to treat their home, because they are privately owned buildings and are another’s property.

I’d love to discuss these things with you. Any questions and comments that are in line with this page’s Commenting Policy will be published and responded to (to the best of my ability).

For more information on how I keep my worldview informed please go to Cross Roads Church.

For another example of this tactic and a thoughtful response you can go to Andrew Crigler’s article entitled BILLY GOES BOOM- BECAUSE GOD KILLS THE INNOCENT (RIGHT?) He has other good articles on dealing with these types of situations as well.

Christians and Tattoos: Peanut Butter and Jelly, or Oil and Water? (Part Two)

In my first article on the subject, I looked at tattoos and the reasons to get (or not to get) them in a general sense. In this article I would like to drill down and talk specifically about Christians and tattoos.

oil-and-water1

Some things just don’t mix well…

It seems to me that there are two kinds of tattoos, broadly speaking, that a Christian might get. These would be, simply, those that are religious in nature, that a Christian might feel pertains to their faith, or those that fall outside this category. For those that would fall outside the religious category, please refer to my first article which speaks on the subject of getting tattoos in general. Then come back to find out about some ways Christians can think “Christianly” about the subject.

Historically speaking, religious tattoos have represented an outward and visible sign of a spiritual relationship with the object of worship. Many times the tattoos are meant as symbols of protection, to ward off evil spirits and the like, or to curry favor with a particular spirit or diety.

Of course, as Christians we understand that these things are not necessary. “The Lord knoweth them that are His” and we are “preserved in Jesus Christ” regardless of our possession of or lack of tattoos, religious in nature or not.

What do we say to the Christian who wants to get a religious tattoo? Since the Bible is our authority (as God’s word) that should be our first stop for information. What does the Bible have to say about tattoos? Relatively little, it turns out. Leviticus 19:28 says “Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the Lord.” There are other similar passages. Of course we know that this is a part of the Jewish Law, the Mosaic Covenant handed down by God to the people of Isreal. We understand that under the New Covenant we are not subject to that code of laws, in the sense that they were civilly enforced laws with legal ramifications if broken.

After all, today we eat shellfish and pork, which were both forbidden in the Mosaic Covenant. Does this give Christians the “green light” to get tattoos? Or should we try to look at the underlying principles behind the laws? In the same chapter, verse 14 tells us “Thou shalt not curse the deaf, nor put a stumblingblock before the blind, but shall fear thy God: I am the Lord.” Is it okay to make fun of deaf people when they can’t hear you, or to trip blind people for fun? (I hope to go into this in more depth in a future article, but for now I will leave these questions open-ended.)

Does the Bible ever advocate altering your body as a sign of your fidelity to God? In fact it does. Abraham, and later the Jewish nation, was commanded to be circumcised as a symbol of their covenant with God. However, we see specifically in the New Testament what this signified exactly, and why we are no longer required to participate in the act of physical circumcision as religious commandment. By comparison, the nature of circumcision (unlike tattoos, in general) should ensure that only the parents, the individual, and the individual’s wife would ever know the individual was circumcised under normal circumstances.

It seems that if God were going to allow tattoos, an excellent opportunity to do so would have been in Deutoronomy chapter six: “And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates. (Deuteronomy 6:6-9)” However He does not. He tells us to post His commandments in prominent places, but he does not tell us to write them in our flesh.

In the New Testament, Christianity is taught as a change to the heart of an inward man, and not to the appearance. In the sermon on the mount, Jesus clearly teaches against making your offerings, prayer and fasting public events. We are also taught that we do not own our own bodies. “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s. (1Co 6:19-20)” This also would seem to argue against Christians getting “religious” tattoos.

This principle was taught in the Old Testament as well. The whole purpose of the Mosaic Covenant was to separate Isreal as a peculiar people from the rest of the world, not by the way they looked, but by the way they acted. Some of the Biblical prophets were asked to behave in what might seem bizarre manners by God, but they weren’t asked to permanently alter their appearance. For instance, John the Baptist wore camel hair and ate insects. Ezekiel had to cook his food over dung. Elijah ate only food carried by ravens—nasty carrion birds. God has set us aside as a peculiar people: “For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God, and the LORD hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth.” (Deu 14:2) and “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.” (1Pe 2:9-10) Our peculiarity isn’t of ourselves, but is because we are chosen in God. It shouldn’t be manifest in our outward appearance, but in the way we follow God and his commandments.

If your purpose in getting a tattoo that is religious in nature is to draw the attention of others, what are you really communicating? In essence you are inviting others to look closely at your body in order to discern whatever message it is you are trying to convey. Is this how the Biblical saints carried out their faith? What is the Biblical precedent for this type of behavior? Are we, as Christians, supposed to call attention to ourselves, or are we supposed to point others to Christ? In addition, as we discussed in the previous article, whether right or wrong people judge others based on appearance. Is it possible to damage your Christian witness by getting tattoos? Even if there do not seem to be hard and fast answers to these questions, is it worth the risk to get tattoos?

Finally, how is it that you want to be perceived by your peers inside and outside the church? Do you want to be considered “cool” by them, or serious, thoughtful and virtuous? How will a tattoo help you to be perceived the way you want to be perceived?

To close, a note to those who may disagree with my tone, those who already have tattoos, and/or those who think I am displaying a “holier than thou” attitude. I am only trying to introduce ways of thinking about the matter, and especially trying to get straight in my own mind what I think about this particular subject, since it seems to be becoming more and more prevalent. My advice to any Christian seeking to get a tattoo is to search out these things in God’s word for yourself, and to seek counsel from those in the church whom you respect.

I have made many mistakes myself, and admittedly some more serious than getting a tattoo that I might regret getting later. The tattoo represents a physical mark on your skin that can be erased with personal monetary expense, but some of my mistakes have hurt others who I care about deeply, and imprinted my soul with indelible blots that I must continually remind myself can only be washed away by the blood of Jesus Christ.

I’d love to discuss these things with you. Any questions and comments that are in line with this page’s Commenting Policy will be published and responded to (to the best of my ability).

For more information on how I keep my worldview informed please go to Cross Roads Church.

This is a follow up post to Tattoos: Why? (Part One)

(09–7-14 edit) For further reading – Is Getting a Tattoo a Sin?

Tattoos: Why? (Part One)

“Getting inked.” “Tatted up.” In today’s culture it has become quite the “fashion statement” to get a tattoo, and in many cases more than one. Tattoo parlors are springing up seemingly on every corner. These days, all the cool kids are doing it. But, have all the people who have gotten tattoos thought seriously about it, both for the short-term and especially the long-term ramifications?

[I typically put a picture here, but I know better than to try and do an image search on this subject. What does that tell you?]

I will state upfront that I generally believe getting tattoos is not a wise decision. However, instead of trying to convey why I hold this belief, I will attempt to show by series of questions along differing lines of reasoning, and offering some thoughts on possible alternatives to tattoos, why this is the case.

The first question I would ask someone who came to me with thoughts of getting a tattoo is “why?” I would try to ascertain as nearly as possible the following information: what is it that you are wanting to depict on your body? What is it about this particular thing or thought that you think is worth permanently marking your body to represent? Where are you planning to place this marking, and why have you chosen that particular location?

I have actually had this discussion with a few people. The typical answers I get are along these lines: because I think this particular image or phrase is cool. I like it and I want a tattoo anyway so that’s what I picked out. I’m putting it [here] because I [want/don’t want] certain people to see it.

Here’s a suggestion. Before you permanently mark your body with an image or phrase, make a picture/copy of that image and place it in several prominent places around your home, such as your bathroom mirror, on your refrigerator, etc. for an extended length of time. Do you still notice it after a few weeks or months? Do you still think it’s as cool as you did before? Has any of the coolness rubbed off with familiarity? If it has, imagine how much more that will be amplified once you’ve had the tattoo for several years and the colors have begun to fade, and age takes its toll on the skin upon which the tattoo resides. Will it still be as cool and captivating as it was when you first came up with the idea?

Another reason commonly given for getting a tattoo is as a memorial, to either another person or even pets. Sometimes the object of these types of tattoos is still living, and sometimes they have passed from this life. My question at this point is this: is getting a tattoo the best way you can think of to honor this particular person or pet? Perhaps you could dedicate yourself to serving them, if they are still living, or to championing causes they believed in, if they have passed on. In the case of a pet, take some pictures. Make an album. Hang them on your wall. All of these actions seem more reasonable than permanently marking your body in honor of an animal.

One thing I have brought up in these conversations is the permanence of the tattoo and the possibility that the person might regret it later. This idea is invariably met with dialogue along the lines of “well I’ve given this a lot of thought and I don’t think I’ll change my mind.” However, if this is the case, I wonder why one hears so many stories of those who have gotten tattoos in the past and now regret getting them. It’s a fact that people’s tastes generally change and evolve as they grow in age and experience. What seemed “cool” years ago now seems foolish. If you don’t believe me, just look at the people of my generation, who spent their teen years in the 1980’s wearing parachute pants and “big hair.” How many of them do you see doing the same thing today? (The “one hit wonder” bands doing reunion tours don’t count!)

Here are some more general thoughts/questions. As I stated in the beginning of this article, tattoos are very popular right now. Is the person considering getting a tattoo bowing to peer pressure? Do they have friends who have tattoos, and who are encouraging them to do the same? Are they looking for acceptance within certain peer groups?

However, it may be that getting tattoos has moved beyond the “fad” stage and is becoming inculcated as a part of our culture. How does this change things? What if it’s not just a fad anymore but simply a part of today’s culture? Does that change any of the answers to the questions that have been asked? How and why?

Tattoos are expensive, and many of the people I know with tattoos complain about a lack of money. Is a tattoo so important that you are willing to allocate the funds you have worked so hard for to purchase, especially when you could pay down some debt with that same money? Maybe you could invest that money into a retirement fund, or into your child’s education. Pay extra on your car note or house note, or do some needed maintenance on the same. It seems that there are much more productive uses for the money than “getting ink.”

There are additional considerations for those contemplating tattoos. People, fairly or unfairly (that’s a different discussion), judge others based on their appearance. Will getting a tattoo potentially hinder you in your chosen profession? Is it really a risk worth taking?

Serious people, those who tend to be the decision makers at various places of employment, do not generally seek attention except for serious purposes. People who draw attention to themselves via unconventional hairstyle, clothing, or otherwise altering their appearance (including excessive piercing and tattoos), or by their actions and mannerisms, are not generally considered to be serious people. Do you want to be considered serious by potential employers?

I have tried to ask questions about the practice of getting tattoos in order to get people considering doing so to think it through. Also, I am trying to give others who may know people considering getting tattoos some discussion points to review with them. At the end of the day, to put it bluntly, people are going to do what they want to do.

In closing, I would encourage us all to avoid making rash judgments based on outward appearances as much as possible, but to base our opinions on peoples’ words and actions.

I’d love to discuss these things with you. Any questions and comments that are in line with this page’s Commenting Policy will be published and responded to (to the best of my ability).

For more information on how I keep my worldview informed please go to Cross Roads Church.

Answering Questions from the Blog “hessianwithteeth”: Genesis Part Two

One of the blogs I have begun following, entitled “hessianwithteeth” (HWT), has posted a series of articles entitled “Why I Can’t Agree with the Bible“. These articles basically list questions that the author has as she reads through the Bible, starting with Genesis. I will now attempt to answer some of the questions she has from the book of Genesis, using the criteria set forth in my introductory article.

genesis-bible-book-of-moses

Questions are only natural.

Who are the sons of God? Are they angels? Demi-gods? Holy people? If they’re gods, then the Bible isn’t monotheistic, and angels are commonly thought to be creations like humans, not children of God. But if they are holy men, how do you explain the implication that, while Enoch was a man of God, the rest of the people weren’t? And how do you explain the later claim that all people only ever have evil in their hearts? And why would they marry human women?

These questions are from the sixth chapter of Genesis, which is an account of the state of humanity leading up to the flood.

And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them, That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose. (Gen 6:1-2, emphasis mine)

This passage has created quite a stir in Christianity, unnecessarily in my opinion, because the answer that best fits the criteria I have set forth and that is also the most parsimonious is actually rather dull, especially compared to some of the more outlandish answers that some have given. “Who are the sons of God [mentioned in Genesis 6:2]?” They are simply the men who called upon the name of the Lord.

And to Seth, to him also there was born a son; and he called his name Enos: then began men to call upon the name of the LORD. (Gen 4:26)

Often we find that the Bible is its own best interpreter. When a term or phrase is confusing, sometimes we can get a better grasp on it by finding other examples of the term or phrase in other areas of scripture. In this case, our phrase is defined for us in the book of Romans.

For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. (Rom 8:14, emphasis mine)

So we see that the simplest reading of the text, and the one that fits the criteria for internal coherence with the rest of the narrative, points to the sons of God merely being men who were serving God the best way they knew how with the light they had at the time. HWT asked “But if they are holy men, how do you explain the implication that, while Enoch was a man of God, the rest of the people weren’t?” First, I’m not sure “holy men” is the right description. I try to serve God as well, but I in no way consider myself a “holy man.”  Also, I’m not sure I see that particular implication. There is no doubt that for whatever reason Enoch was special in God’s sight, and God “took him.” However the text doesn’t indicate that the rest of the people in Enoch’s time were “ungodly.”

And how do you explain the later claim that all people only ever have evil in their hearts?

There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown. And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.
(Gen 6:4-5)

This is a result of the sons of God becoming “unequally yoked” (2 Corinthians 6:14) with the daughters of men. Today’s equivalent would be a Christian marrying a Buddhist, Muslim or atheist. This type of marriage is typically detrimental to the Christian’s walk with God. In the days of Noah, there were no governments or laws such as we have in this day, and the evil in their hearts was unrestrained by the societal norms we have in this day. The men who were unequally yoked were turned from serving God by their wives, and/or their children were not taught to serve God by their mothers. Because of this their fallen and selfish natures were unrestrained by neither religion nor society. I imagine that it was a pretty dangerous time to live in.

My interpretation of “the sons of God” may be considered somewhat controversial by some, however it seems to be the answer that makes the most sense. The phrase is used in one instance (Job 38:7) where I struggle to make this interpretation make sense, but every other time it appears in the Bible, this interpretation fits nicely. To view the phrase as representing angels, as some have, just adds an additional level of complication to the narrative, much like the positing of the special creation of wives for the sons of Adam and Eve, complications which are never “worked out” subsequently in the narrative. In addition, the things that we do know about angels and biology through Biblical revelation seem to inveigh against angel/human marriage and reproduction.

I’d love to discuss these things with you. Any questions and comments that are in line with this page’s Commenting Policy will be published and responded to (to the best of my ability).

For more information on how I keep my worldview informed please go to Cross Roads Church.

Previous articles in this series:

Answering Questions from the Blog “hessianwithteeth”: Genesis Part One

Answering Questions from the Blog “hessianwithteeth”: Introduction

 

Why I am a Christian (Part Three): Fine Tuning (or, Design of the Cosmos)

In my previous article about the evidence I see in nature of a creator God, (Why I Am a Christian (Part Two): Because There Is Stuff) I talked about the beginning of the universe and how a beginning requires a beginner. It turns out that not only does the scientific evidence seem to indicate an absolute beginning to the universe, but that the universe itself has been finely tuned in order to allow life to exist. Taken further, the conditions of our little corner of space (the planet earth) seem to be tuned in order to allow intelligent observers (us).

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This universe is juuust riiight…

Scientists have observed that the properties of the universe seem to be uniquely “fine tuned” in order to make life possible. Sir Fred Hoyle, an English astronomer and the person credited with the term “Big Bang”, famously said

Some super-calculating intellect must have designed the properties of the carbon atom, otherwise the chance of my finding such an atom through the blind forces of nature would be utterly minuscule. A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a superintellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as with chemistry and biology, and that there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature. The numbers one calculates from the facts seem to me so overwhelming as to put this conclusion almost beyond question. [Emphasis mine]

And this is just regarding the formation of the carbon atom (which, incidentally, is an absolute necessity for carbon based life)! Some other examples of fine tuning (there are many) include the strong and weak nuclear forces (that determine what kind of atoms are possible), gravitational forces (too much and everything collapses, too little and everything flies apart), spectrum of light (our sun provides just the right wavelength), distance of planet from sun (the earth is just the right distance)… the list goes on and on. Because of these “just right” conditions, some have said that the earth is located in a ” Goldilocks” zone.

There have been several different approaches by science to avoid what they see as “the problem of fine tuning“. One of the answers that has been proposed goes along the lines of “The only reason we can question these things is because we are here to observe them.” That is correct, as far as it goes, but given the overwhelming odds that all of these values are what they are, and that if any one of them had been off by the smallest fraction life and indeed the universe as we know it would not exist, we are entirely justified in asking “Why?”!

Another attempt to avoid this problem is the “multiverse hypothesis”, which I have addressed in “Patch” articles  here and here. Briefly, the argument goes that if there is an infinity of universes created at random, then it comes as no surprise that our particular universe has the parameters we find in it. This hypothesis, however, also fails to totally avoid the issue for both scientific and philosophical reasons. Scientifically, a multiverse generating mechanism must itself be “fine tuned.” Philosophically, God is still the most plausible explanation for the origination of the multiverse.

The “problem” of fine tuning remains. The universe and our planet give the strong appearance of having been designed to support life. Now those who have been following my blog can probably anticipate my next thought: fine tuning requires a “tuner”, and of course design implies a designer. If your view is that of a materialist (the physical is all there is) then these things may present a “problem.” For the Christian, it is another “evidence of things not seen.” We also see that taken together, the evidence we have for the beginning of the universe coupled with the evidence for fine tuning begin to build a more solid foundation for the reasonableness of God’s existence.

I’d love to discuss these things with you. Any questions and comments that are in line with this page’s Commenting Policy will be published and responded to (to the best of my ability).

For more information on how I keep my worldview informed please go to Cross Roads Church.

Previous articles in this series:

Why I Am a Christian (Part One)

Why I Am a Christian (Part Two): Because There Is Stuff

Answering Questions from the Blog “hessianwithteeth”: Genesis Part One

One of the blogs I have begun following, entitled “hessianwithteeth” (HWT), has posted a series of articles entitled “Why I Can’t Agree with the Bible“. These articles basically list questions that the author has as she reads through the Bible, starting with Genesis. I will now attempt to answer some of the questions she has from the book of Genesis, using the criteria set forth in my introductory article.

genesis-bible-book-of-moses

Questions are only natural.

And if Adam and Eve [A&E] were the first people, and Cain, Abel, and Seth were their only children and all sons, where did their wives come from? Did God create other people but they weren’t allowed inside Eden? Did God create them for Cain and Seth?

It’s funny, but I can remember asking these same questions the first time I read Genesis as well. In fact, it would seem that these questions would naturally pop into anyone’s mind as they read the text, considering the information given. In addition to the criteria I detailed in my introductory post, I would like to take a moment to talk about the methods I try to use in my hermaneutics. First, I try to be parsimonious when trying to answer questions like these, meaning that I try to come up with the simplest answer I can come up with. (This could also be known as employing Occam’s Razor.) This doesn’t always yield the right answer, or one that meets my self-imposed criteria, but it is usually a good start. And now- to the answers!

First, remember that by the time A&E had children they had already fallen (sinned), and they had been kicked out of Eden. My position is that God most likely did not specially create wives for A&E’s sons, although certainly He was able to if He so willed. My reasoning behind this is two-fold: first, it is not in the text. Second, if it were so, it would create a dilemma. When Adam sinned against God, he separated the entire human race (his descendants) from relationship with God. This is the doctrine of original sin, or the fall. (Go here for a fuller explanation.) If God specially created mates for A&E’s sons, they would be un-fallen (sinless) and hence immortal (because death is caused by sin). There are texts throughout the Bible that specifically address the fallen nature of all mankind without exception, and these hypothetical wives would be an exception. Because we don’t have any reason to posit this hypothesis of special creation, and because of the additional problems it would cause to the coherence of the narrative that were never addressed, and finally because this is not the most parsimonious (or simplest) possibility, my considered opinion is that God did not specially create wives for A&E’s sons.

There are other possibilities that I have seen posited in different places, but for the sake of brevity I will simply share my position: Cain married his sister (or possibly a niece). The narrative mentions that A&E first had Cain, and then Abel. Genesis 4:3 begins with “in the process of time”… meaning that after an indeterminate amount of time had passed. It is plausible that during the passage of this indeterminate amount of time that A&E had a daughter, or more than one. Cain took one of his sisters to wife, seeing as how at the time there were no other options. (Or, Abel did, and produced a daughter which Cain then married. This seems less likely, however.)

This position is actually fairly non-controversial among mainstream theologians. I’m not afraid to “go against the grain” when I feel I have good reason to, but I am content to stick with the consensus on this subject. HWT, I invite you to respond to this post in the manner you feel best, whether in the comment box here, or a separate article on your blog. I look forward to reading your thoughts about my answers to your questions. Thank you for your willingness to engage in conversation on these matters.

 

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