Maybe the Earth Was Flat After All

One of the first posts on this blog was about an online conversation I had about past belief in a flat earth. Since then I have learned more about ancient middle-eastern cosmology, and how it affected the way things were presented in the Old Testament. I have recently re-read the original post, and while I stand by much of the things I said, there is a need to update it to reflect what I have learned since then.

herman
Thanks to my friend Herman I have looked into this issue from a different perspective and have changed my mind on certain aspects, but not on others. Though I now think that the ancient Hebrews had a flat earth cosmology, I’m not convinced that was the case in the New Testament. After all, Eratosthenes of Cyrene had measured the circumference of the earth rather accurately some 200 years before Christ, and Rome had spread Greek philosophies throughout its empire. I haven’t found anything in the New Testament to suggest otherwise.

In the past year or two I have been studying some of Michael Heiser’s books, podcasts, and YouTube videos. I find some of his work rather far-fetched, though interesting. Since he writes for Logos Bible software I tend trust his Hebrew scholarship. It seems like he has pretty solid credentials for knowing the language, background, and mindset of people at that time and place.

This image, posted by Heiser, shows their cosmology model;

Ancient Hebrew Cosmology

So, it appears that they did believe in a flat earth. Does that mean that we can’t trust anything in the Bible? Since their cosmology was wrong does that mean that we shouldn’t believe their historical writings, or their philosophy, or theology? Since God spoke to them on their level, in a way they could understand, does that mean he didn’t know any better himself?

Let’s assume you answered yes to any or all of these questions. Let’s also apply that reasoning to other aspects of history.

Sir Isaac Newton was one of the greatest minds in history. His work on understanding gravity, the laws of motion, optics and mathematics were revolutionary and advanced science in ways unheard of. Much of modern science can trace its foundation back to his work. Did you know that Newton also studied alchemy? In fact, it is thought he wrote more on that subject than on any other. He spent much effort in attempting to discover the Philosopher’s Stone and the Elixir of Life, things that would get him laughed out of any society of scientists nowadays, but were completely acceptable areas of research in his day. Since we are so much more enlightened today should we dismiss his entire body of work because a good portion of it would be considered fantasy?

Did you know that the death of the father of our country, George Washington, is thought to have been, at least partially, attributed to the practice of bloodletting? That he became ill and insisted on the procedure himself? At that time bloodletting was an accepted way of curing disease. It is likely that Thomas Jefferson, the writer of our Constitution, also accepted the practice. Does that mean that the Declaration of Independence is suspect and should not be trusted, now that we know more about medicine?

Of course not. You judge their work on the merits of the work itself. What does alchemy have to do with gravity? What do leeches have to do with the Constitution? Nothing. On that same standard what does cosmology have to do with the Bible? Is it a book of physics or mathematics? Does it present the scientific method?

The Bible is a collection of books on theology, history, philosophy, wisdom, morality. It teaches about the human condition and our place in the world. It doesn’t teach any particular cosmology, though it does reference common beliefs of the time in order to present other types of truths. If God would have mentioned aspects of quantum mechanics no one at the time would have had the foggiest notion what he was talking about. I actually find it encouraging that we do not have to reach any pinnacle of understanding before God can communicate to us. It is rather arrogant to assume that we have it all figured out now, that we don’t have any false assumptions today. It is comforting that he will meet us where we are in order to teach us what we need to know about him and our purpose.

Advertisements

Evil is No Fairy Tale

There is a report recently making the rounds about a millennial couple, Jay Austin and Lauren Geoghegan, who decided to take time off from their jobs and bike across the world. There were many posts on their joint blog claiming that they didn’t believe in evil, that though people sometimes do bad things, people were overwhelmingly good at heart. They traveled across much of Africa and Europe, enjoying the trip and the people they met, until they approached the Middle East.Jay-Austin-and-Lauren-Geoghegan-8

Their trip, and their lives, ended there.

They found out the hard way that evil is real. Evil ideologies are real. Evil people are real. They were run down, run over, and attacked with knives by an ISIS group.

One of the most disturbing lies that western society has fallen for is the belief that all people are good at heart, that there may be evil people out there, but only because they are mentally deranged or damaged. This is not only wrong, but dangerous. Every one of us has the potential for great evil, the same way every one of us has the potential for great good. They are the two extremes of free will.

A couple of years ago seeing a decorative plaque that said “Follow Your Heart” prompted a family discussion on whether that advise was good or bad. I asked my girls “Since two of my favorite things to eat are chocolate and bacon, what would happen if I followed my heart and only ate those two things?” They understood my point right away and it was easy for them to come up with their own examples. We looked into the Bible and found that;

“The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” –Jeremiah 17:9

In July of 1961 a famous study was conducted at Yale University, named the Stanley Migram Experiment. Volunteers were put in charge of administering electrical shocks to subjects when they failed to remember and repeat word-pair combinations correctly. They were told to increase the voltage as they went, eventually raising the intensity to levels clearly marked as dangerous. Unknown to them the subjects were actors who were not receiving actual shocks, just feigning more and more anguish as the experiment progressed. The experts were shocked (ha ha) to discover a full 65% of normal, everyday New England residents continued to give increasingly powerful shocks, up to lethal levels, just because someone in authority was telling them to. It was thought that only 1-3% of people tested would be so easily coerced into causing harm to others. After all, people were basically good at heart, weren’t they?

Romans 1:18-32, suggests that one way God displays wrath is to give us over to our own desires, to let us be as bad as we can be. He doesn’t have to actively punish us, He just steps back and lets us destroy ourselves. Some people have called this the most chilling passage in the Bible. This suggests that though we are able to be good without believing in God, we cannot be without his presence or influence, the common grace that we all enjoy.

Richard Wurmbrand, a Romanian Christian minister, observed this first-hand as he was tortured for practicing his faith by the Communist regime of Romania, He observed;

“The cruelty of atheism is hard to believe when man has no faith in the reward of good or the punishment of evil. There is no reason to be human. There is no restraint from the depths of evil which is in man. The Communist torturers often said, “There is no God, no hereafter, no punishment for evil. We can do what we wish.” I have heard one torturer even say, “I thank God, in whom I don’t believe, that I have lived to this hour when I can express all the evil in my heart.” He expressed it in unbelievable brutality and torture inflicted on prisoners.”

Contrast that with Jay Austin’s thoughts before he was murdered;

“You read the papers and you’re led to believe that the world is a big, scary place. People, the narrative goes, are not to be trusted. People are bad. People are evil. I don’t buy it. Evil is a make-believe concept we’ve invented to deal with the complexities of fellow humans holding values and beliefs and perspectives different than our own… By and large, humans are kind. Self-interested sometimes, myopic sometimes, but kind. Generous and wonderful and kind.”

By and large most of the people these naïve, unfortunate millennials encountered on their trip were kind and generous. It only took an encounter with a few that were driven by an evil ideology to show then their error in brutal fashion.

If your worldview does not include real, objective evil, then your worldview is not only fundamentally flawed, but dangerous.

 

It’s Good to be Blog – Resistance is Counterproductive

Granting the assumption argued in the previous post, that we were built for groups, what does that mean for the introvert?

It means I might have been gypped.

At first glance that might seem to be counter-intuitive, to wish to be part of a group as an introvert. If you are in introvert why in the world would you want to be forced into collectivism by some cultural conditioning? If you are asking that question you are most likely an extrovert. Though introverts need their time alone they still need interaction with other people.

The reason that I think the old middle-eastern way of defining your identity may have been better is that it might be easier for introverts. If everyone in your culture knew that the most natural way to exist was to be part of a group, then introverts would have been accepted more readily. There wouldn’t have been as much pressure on the introvert to act like an extrovert in order to fit in. If you had skills not found in others of a group you would have made the group stronger. There would have been much less “schmoozing” in order to be accepted.

Paul writes to the Church in Corinth, explaining the danger of homogeneousness in the church;

 “For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.
The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.” – 1 Corinthians 12:14-26

this, and other passages, seems to say that no matter what kind of person you were, you had a place and a purpose. There was no need to conform to some kind of group standard, except for the one standard, belonging to Christ. Individualism was actually more encouraged within the group than it is now. An introvert wouldn’t have been expected to act like everyone else. Earlier in that same chapter Paul talks about how everyone have been given certain gifts, and that it is God who determines what those are. Their strengths and weaknesses would have been recognized and taken advantage of to support the group. It would have been easier to fit in without being expected to change who you are.

That may be something that is missing in American churches today.

My family and I stated attending a new church a few months ago, but the only people who have approached us are a couple of people we already knew before attending. No one else has even asked our names. It’s not that we feel unwelcome, we would not have attended this long if that were the case, it’s that we feel invisible.

I know, I know, I should reach out more. I should make more of an effort. I should be more of an extrovert. If we decide to keep attending I will make more of effort to reach out, since they are not making the move. I’m not above doing that, it can just seem so forced sometimes. Like most introverts I am terrible at small talk, so my best bet may be trying to join a study group or small class. I just wish someone would invite me. The Pastor is always talking about how they need to reach out to the community more, but I’m right there in the midst of them, being ignored.

Please don’t think I am picking on this church. This isn’t an isolated occurrence. Over the last couple of decades I have been searching for a home church and have always seen this same pattern. Even after attending for years it has still been awkward. If you can’t small talk, you don’t fit in. I can’t supply small talk, but I have lots to contribute to real conversation.

What do you think I should do? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

We are Blog – Resistance is Futile

I suppose the best place to start this reboot is with my own experiences. Write what you know, right? Instead of trying to create some sort of scholarly paper, since I am not a scholar, it may be more appropriate to write about applying apologetic principles to my own life. After all, I am a firm believer that God puts you where He wants you, and you are supposed to “bloom where you are planted” as Greg Koukl says.

So here goes.


 

At the moment I have one issue that is causing me the most trouble at this point in my life. The church is by definition a group, while as an introvert I am much more comfortable by myself. There are different kinds of introverts, some more outgoing and gregarious than others. I happen to be of the shy variety, which makes some of the common parts of any worship service akin to mild psychological torture.

So should I keep trying?

Isn’t it OK to be a Christian and not go to church?

Not really. The Bible has many passages that speak about the need to be part of a body of believers, such as Hebrews 10:24-25, Colossians 3:16, Ephesians 4:11-16, Acts 2:42. In fact, the idea of being without a group was a foreign concept in the times and locations of the Bible.

I didn’t realize the depth of that attitude until recently learning about the principle of hermeneutics. This gave me a great tool for getting more of the original meaning from scripture. Although the Bible is written for us, it is not written too us. To get the most understanding from a particular passage you need to understand the audience it was written to; where and when they lived, gentile or jew, educated or not, cultural teachings and traditions, their people’s history, political circumstances, on and on and on. You can get usually get the general meaning without doing this, but you will always miss the nuances, and sometimes you can miss the full meaning.

A book called “Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes” was very… well… eye-opening. In the mind of a westerner the whole foundation of identity is based on the individual. We never think of how that affects our conclusions and biases. It is almost instinctual. In the world of the Bible the group was everything. If you didn’t belong to a strong group you were nothing.

Take for instance the account of Korah and his rebellion in Numbers 16. In it the ground opens up and swallows an entire family and all of their possessions, completely wiping them from the earth. I used to think it was unfair for the women and children to suffer this, after all, wasn’t it a strong patriarchy? Weren’t they just following the orders from the man in the house?

Not that simple.

Korah’s family members weren’t there just because they were ordered to be. They were standing as a group, presenting a united front for this rebellion. It’s not that they couldn’t think for themselves, it was a wholly different mindset. No one would act on the matter until there was a consensus among the group members, and once that consensus was reached everyone in the group would openly support it. It wasn’t so much of a rule they followed, it was how they thought.

That’s so different than how we think. When have you ever actually seen a group acting this way? We have a lot of tribalism in America, from churches to sports fans to politics, but we rarely see the type of cohesion that would have been commonplace among the ancient easterners.

As we have seen the Bible does give some instruction on the importance of being connected to a body of believers, but does not spend a large amount of time on it, in large part because it was not only common knowledge but common nature at the time.

We are designed for groups. This seems to be a truth about human nature you can observe in the Bible. Unlike the governmental laws or holiness codes that so many are fond of making fun of, this is something that is about how we are built, a source of strength for all people at all times.

I can see more aspects of this thought already, especially how it relates to introverts. I will try to explore this topic more in future posts. Maybe I can turn this into some sort of series. We’ll see.


 

As for now, thanks for sitting through this with me. I welcome comments and suggestions, as long as they aren’t from the “zombie Jewish carpenter” camp.

 

Where am I wrong? What did I miss? Let me know.

I’m back, maybe

A few months ago I removed the FaceBook app from my phone. This was at the height of the media blitz about security issues associated with the company, but that is not why I did it. I was well aware that they were in the business of selling info that they gleaned from my online activity ever since I first signed up for an account. I understand that you trade privacy for convenience in this new digital age. In order to take advantage of the power of the system you have to accept a measure of transparency. I understood that from the start and was not surprised at the reports coming out. I was only surprised at the public outrage, that everyone else didn’t understand that as well.

I decided to take a break from FB for another reason, a reason that I dubbed “social masturbation”.

No, get that image out of your head.

What I mean is that I had the illusion of being social without any actually being social. I spent several hours a day reading, sharing and posting, but was no longer getting any feedback. I used to get many comments on my posts, some from people not on my friends list and without any friends in common. I would get into some interesting conversations. I am quite introverted and this was a great way for me to interact without many of the pressures of face-to-face contact. Slowly I began to realize that was changing.

I started getting likes and shares from a smaller and smaller group. It seemed like they were the same handful of people all of the time. When I would follow the shares I would see that they had plenty of comments, and would sometimes interact on their pages instead of my own. After asking around I found that my posts were rarely showing up on my friends feeds anymore. I looked at my profile information and found out that I had been tagged as “very conservative”. Looks like I had been shadow-banned.

I was not very surprised. Many of the things I shared were news reports of things that I did not see on my own feed. Some of the things did not even show up on a search. I thought that I was exposing people to interesting things not seen elsewhere on FB, but in reality it looks like I was mostly talking to myself. I was only getting the illusion of social interaction.

So, I deleted it.

I didn’t close my account. I still check up on it every week or two on my desktop. It is the only way I have to stay connected with some of my friends and organizations. It took a little time to become accustomed to not checking my notifications dozens of times a day, but not as much time as I would have thought. I don’t miss it now and, looking back, am astonished at how much time each day I used to spend on it.

All of this is to say that I am going to try to start posting on this blog again. The biggest difference between expressing myself here vs on FB is the audience size, but at least I know how limited it is here and hopefully will not encounter the censoring on other social media sites.  I welcome comments and look forward to any interactions that might happen. At the very least I will be able to organize my thoughts by writing them down. Since nothing ever disappears from the internet I may be able to still influence my kids or grandkids long after I am gone.

Here goes nothing…

Erwin Schroedinger Quote

schroedinger-seriously (2)

My latest meme of people way smarter than me attesting to the concept that science is understandable because of God, not in spite of Him. If we are made in His image, then the way he designed everything should make sense to us.

To the best of my knowledge the picture this meme is based on is in the public domain. If I am infringing on anyone’s copyright I will be happy to remove it if you send me proof of ownership.

Feel free to use this meme without giving me any credit or recognition.

Thanks so much to Tihomir Dimitrov for the great anthology of quotes that he compiled. Find his free eBook at nobelists.net.

via The 2 Cent Apologist | Putting in my 2 cents on the important stuff.

Joseph H Taylor Quote

joseph_taylor-discovery

My latest meme of people way smarter than me attesting to the concept that science is understandable because of God, not in spite of Him. If we are made in His image, then the way he designed everything should make sense to us.

To the best of my knowledge the picture this meme is based on is in the public domain. If I am infringing on anyone’s copyright I will be happy to remove it if you send me proof of ownership.

Feel free to use this meme without giving me any credit or recognition.

Thanks so much to Tihomir Dimitrov for the great anthology of quotes that he compiled. Find his free eBook at nobelists.net.

Galileo Galilei Quote

galileo-intelligence

Ran across some interesting stats;

According to 100 Years of Nobel Prize (2005) a review of Nobel prizes award between 1901 and 2000 reveals that (65.4%) of Nobel Prizes Laureates, have identified Christianity as their religious preference (423 prize). Overall, Christians have won a total of 78.3% of all the Nobel Prizes in Peace, 72.5% in Chemistry, 65.3% in Physics, 62% in Medicine, 4% in Economics and 49.5% of all Literature awards.
To the best of my knowledge the picture this meme is based on is in the public domain. If I am infringing on anyone’s copyright I will be happy to remove it if you send me proof of ownership.

Feel free to use this meme without giving me any credit or recognition.

Thanks so much to Tihomir Dimitrov for the great anthology of quotes that he compiled. Find his free eBook at nobelists.net.

Sir Michael Faraday Quote

faraday-book

My latest meme of people way smarter than me attesting to the concept that science is understandable because of God, not in spite of Him. If we are made in His image, then the way he designed everything should make sense to us.

To the best of my knowledge the picture this meme is based on is in the public domain. If I am infringing on anyone’s copyright I will be happy to remove it if you send me proof of ownership.

Feel free to use this meme without giving me any credit or recognition.

Thanks so much to Tihomir Dimitrov for the great anthology of quotes that he compiled. Find his free eBook at nobelists.net.

Rene Descartes Quote

Descartes-knowledge

My latest meme of people way smarter than me attesting to the concept that science is understandable because of God, not in spite of Him. If we are made in His image, then the way he designed everything should make sense to us.

To the best of my knowledge the picture this meme is based on is in the public domain. If I am infringing on anyone’s copyright I will be happy to remove it if you send me proof of ownership.

Feel free to use this meme without giving me any credit or recognition.

Thanks so much to Tihomir Dimitrov for the great anthology of quotes that he compiled. Find his free eBook at nobelists.net.

Salvation Through Jesus

Putting in my 2 cents on the important stuff

diigo.com

Putting in my 2 cents on the important stuff

Tough Questions Answered

A Christian Apologetics Blog

Deeper Waters

Diving into the ocean of truth.

The Poached Egg Christian Worldview and Apologetics Network

Putting in my 2 cents on the important stuff

Christian Apologetics Alliance

answering seekers, equipping Christians, and demonstrating the truth of the Christian worldview

Stand to Reason

Putting in my 2 cents on the important stuff

Cold Case Christianity

by J. Warner Wallace - Coming Soon

Saints and Sceptics

For Saints with Doubts and Sceptics with Questions

Pastor Matt

Christian Worldview & Apologetics

Jesus & Dawkins

What do pop culture, Christianity, science, and atheism have in common? This blog.