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I did a thing…

All of those “Best of” posts that we’ve seen as of late? I have compiled them all into a book, available here.

Enjoy!

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Best of JCM: Demon Locusts Demystified

No Josiah Concept Greatest Hits collection would be complete without mentioning my first viral article, “Demon Locusts of Revelation 9 Demystified.” I guess our culture has a death wish, because apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic stuff just seems to take off like wildfire.

Every time I checked my daily stats, the demon locust article was always #1 viewed, over and above anything I published recently. I could never quite figure out why, but these little guys dominated my blog.

While I kept the original title of this article for some clarity, I have revised my opinion of that article. At the time of the original writing, I had read a book called End Times Delusions: The Rapture, the Antichrist, Israel, and the End of the World by Steve Wohlberg. The book convinced me that the historicist interpretation of Revelation was true, and that the futurist interpretation that currently dominates Evangelical Christianity is wrong. Read the rest of this entry

Best of JCM: There’s Literal, and Then There’s HYPER-Literal

The Atheist Revolution and its author, the anonymous VJack, was the subject of many blog posts here on Josiah Concept. I reacted to his reactions of reading the Bible cover to cover. He had some interesting (and very, very wrong) takes on much of the material he read.

Elsewhere, I’ve decried apologetics in slogans. So, sorry to use one here, but I’ve said before: “Read the Bible, become an atheist. Understand the Bible, become a Christian.” VJack is made my case for me. He read it, but never quite grasped what he was reading. One example among many follows.

VJack reacts to Christian reaction to his Bible thoughts:

When faced with an atheist who is actually reading their bible and still rejects it, the argument becomes one of interpreting things too literally. “You’re missing the point. Christians don’t read their bibles literally like you are doing.” In other words, I am attacking a straw man by unfairly criticizing Christians for believing things they don’t actually believe. (source)

I’ve never said that VJack was reading the Bible too literally, only that he’s not taking everything into consideration.  To read anything–including the Bible–literally is to allow the writer to employ accepted literary devices, such as metaphors and hyperbole.

But, in the portions that VJack has posted so far, he is reading the Bible correctly.  God demanded animal sacrifice.  God declared certain things clean and other things unclean.  Nothing symbolic about those statements.

But, as I’ve pointed out, God has, through Christ, made all things clean.  Now, we are no longer bound to the Jewish ceremonial laws, which are the ones that include animal sacrifices.  There is a better sacrifice, pure and innocent blood poured out for our sins.  That blood was the blood of Christ, which we may use to enter the Holy of Holies pure and blameless before God.

The Old Testament is symbolic of the New Testament.

I should note that there is such a thing as HYPER-literal, but that is a different subject altogether.  People reading the Bible hyper-literally do not allow for any sort of literary device.  They will take obvious metaphors and read them literally.

For example, they take the Bible’s phrase “foundation of the world” (Ps 104:5) to mean that the Bible teaches a flat earth.  Of course that’s ridiculous.  Equally ridiculous is using the poetic phrase “circle of the earth” (Is 40:22) to prove that the Bible was forward thinking enough to teach a round earth.  The Bible isn’t a science text book and is neutral on cosmology.  The phrasing represents the author’s understanding of God’s revelation to him.

VJack is making an attempt–a half-hearted one, it seems–to understand the Bible.  I commend him for that.

Best of JCM: Mass Genocide in the Bible

That God commanded terrible things (like the mass extinction of the Canaanites) is the subject of much debate in philosophy of religion circles. How can God be just and merciful if he has ordered us humans to do immoral things?

Paul Copan covered this in a paper for Philosophi Christi which he later expanded into a book. This is both a summary of his answer and some of my own thoughts.

Although it is rarely taught in Sunday School, there can be no doubt that mass genocide occurs with alarming regularity in the Old Testament. Just crack open a copy of Michael Earl’s self-published wonder Bible Stories Your Parents Never Taught You and read a few chapters. Over and over again, Israel kills not just the soldiers of the territory they invade, but the women and children, too.

All of this takes place at the behest of God himself, who is the one that orders the killings to take place. God very often indicates that he wants no survivors left.

This, according to our most scathing critics, leaves a huge moral dilemma: how can we continue to call the Bible the “Good Book” if it contains more violence than the average video game? Was the bloodshed and violence necessary?

First understand where I’m coming from. All authority comes from God first. That leaves God as the ultimate authority in this universe. This means that there is no higher court of appeals. Any authority we exercise is a microcosmic reflection of the authority that God has granted us.

Second, the Bible is clear that the penalty for sin is death (see Gen 2:15-17 and Rom 6:14). Now that we have God as established as the ultimate authority and the penalty for sin established as death, let’s look at who is actually innocent before God.

According to Paul, no one is innocent before God. He establishes that the Gentiles are guilty in Romans 1, then tells the Jewish people that they are no better in Romans 2. Then he establishes that, while the Jews are under the Law, the Gentiles are a Law unto themselves, and both Jew and Gentile fail to live up to either the Mosaic Law or the natural order. That is where he makes the concluding proclamation that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” in Romans 3:23.

So, if the Jews fail to follow the Mosaic Law, and the Gentiles fail to follow the natural order of things, and Paul can confidently declare that we all fall short of God’s glory, what follows? Most people don’t like to admit this, but the only conclusion one can possibly draw from this data is that we all deserve to die.

Whether that death comes to us peacefully at the end of a long and fulfilling life, suddenly in a car crash, or at the end of an Israelite’s sword because we occupied the Promised Land, we all deserve it. That’s all of us–combatants, women, children, and even infants. No one is innocent in the sight of God, we have all sinned and fall short of his glory.

But wait–it hardly seems fair, does it? Especially to the infant who has no chance to repent of his nature yet. But this life is no guarantee. Any of us could die at anytime. Death comes to us all–it is absolutely unavoidable. What we need to keep in mind, at this point in our history, is that we thank God not because he is fair, but because he is merciful. We’ll return to that point in a minute.

I want to spend a minute on this point because it seems to stick in the minds of so many critics of Christianity.  How can an infant deserve death?

Since the vast majority (probably over 90%) of these critics are pro-choice (that is, in favor of abortion), it’s hypocritical to even raise this sort of objection.  It’s okay when a mother ends her own child’s life in utero, but it’s not okay for God to order the death of an infant?  God is sovereign over the lives of humans and is justified in ordering the end of any life because he can give it back.  No mortal can do that.

Somehow, I am accused of having twisted morals to accept God’s decree that even the infants shall die in the divinely commanded genocides, but the people who believe strongly in abortion are perfectly moral in believing that a mother can choose to end her own child’s life for any reason.

It’s tempting to argue that sometimes abortions happen because the pregnancy is a danger to the life of the mother.  I’m fine with that.  Sometimes incest is involved.  I’m shakier on that, but I can still accept it (however begrudgingly).  In the case of rape, adoption is the more merciful solution.  We can’t just focus on the woman who was raped here, we also have to determine what is best for the child as well.  Both parties have a right to life, and if the woman would prefer not to raise a child of rape, then give the child to someone who will love him/her.  That said, I would not stand in the way of a rape victim who went that route–neither would I judge her–but I would strongly discourage her.

I’m not a black-and-white pro-life activist.  I think there are cases where abortion should be an available option.

But let’s cut the crap.  We all know that most abortions are not in the cases of life-or-death, incest, or rape.  Those are the ultra-rare exceptions.  Most abortions are for convenience.  Most abortions happen because the mother or father either don’t want to raise a child, they wanted the opposite sex of what the ultrasound is showing, or the baby tested positive for a genetic abnormality that means he will burden the parents for longer than they want.  This is not a valid objection.

Leaving the hypocrisy aside, let’s move from abstract philosophy into actual history.  These genocides didn’t happen.  There were three commanded genocides: Midianites (Num 31), Canaanites (starting in Josh 10), and the Amalekites (1 Sam 15).  In each case, we clearly see that in later historical books, the culture and the people exist and are in tact.  The Midianites opposed Gideon in Judges 6-7, the Amalekites later in 1 Samuel (28), and  Jesus healed a Canaanite woman in Matthew 15!

God commanding the Israelite army in the way that he did is similar to the head coach of a football team pumping up his players for a tough game.  God is trying to inspire them, to invigorate them.  They didn’t take this command at face value, since clearly the cultures still existed long after the supposed genocides took place.

Even so, this does not contradict a God of mercy because mercy by its very nature is selective.  God has chosen to mercy his elect, and calls them according to his purpose.

To address the lingering question of  why God ordered the deaths of so many people, I reiterate that these people were not innocent before God. This was God’s judgment upon them for their sins. Their sin was worshiping other deities and not seeking after the One True God.

In this day of religious freedom and pluralism, it seems totally barbaric that God would destroy people for simply not believing that he is the True God. After all, have we not the right to choose our own religion? In the United States, we do. But in God’s mind, we have no right to choose our religion. He is to be worshiped, and him alone. He created us and endowed us with the responsibility to seek his will and worship him.

It seems foreign to our sensibilities, but it isn’t.  Even in the progressive, enlightened United States, it is a crime punishable by death to betray the State.  It’s called treason.  This is exactly how to view not seeking the True God.  By not putting God in his proper place–first among all things–and instead seeking nature the way that many scientists do or other gods the way many religions do, we are committing treason.

The objection of geographically inherited religion creeps in here.  True, most people learn the religion of their parents and then move on with their lives.  But that fact doesn’t absolve us of a duty to find out the truth.  That few people do is hardly an argument against God.

The fact is we neither worship nor seek God, as the apostle Paul has already noted in the first three chapters of Romans. Since I’ve already established that it is sinful not to seek God and that none of us seek God, I can conclude easily that we all deserve the penalty for that sin. What is the penalty for sin? Death.

If God were fair, then all of us should die in our sins and that would be that. Fortunately for us, God has created a path by which we can be saved from our sins. God isn’t being fair; he’s being merciful. The path which he created is Jesus Christ. Repent and follow Christ, and God will have mercy on your soul. You won’t get you deserve; you’ll instead get what you don’t deserve–eternal life in heaven.

What does that mean for the mass genocides recorded in the Bible? Unfortunately for those poor souls, God was being fair rather than merciful. They got the punishment that they deserved for the sins they committed. Remember, “poor” does not mean “innocent.” No one is innocent before God.

This is part of the gospel message–that you are a sinner in need of being saved. That many churches fail to teach this is alarming. But it is a symptom of our highly individualistic culture. People believe that they are basically good, and that they deserve heaven. They think that they start with an “A” in life and that the bad things that they do take points away from their final grade from God. This is the reason that people read a story like the slaughter of the Midianites and think that those “poor souls” didn’t deserve to die.

The truth is that everyone starts with an F. Only faith in Christ can earn you a better grade.

Best of JCM: Is God the Author of Sin in Calvinism?

I was shown that this is an error in Calvinist thought. I decided to leave it up anyway, and it proved to be a fairly popular post. It serves as a thought experiment: even if we are cosmic puppets and God pulls our strings, he still isn’t the reason for sin.

Frequently, we hear the charge leveled against Calvinism and its insistence on meticulous divine sovereignty that makes God the author of sin. The typical argument goes something like this:

  1. God foreordained all that happens in the world.
  2. Sin is part of this foreordained world.
  3. Therefore, God foreordained sin.
  4. Therefore, God is the author of sin.

Does this argument hold? I don’t think so. Read the rest of this entry

Best of JCM: I HATE Cutesy Christian Slogans

I used to get on atheists for trying to make their cases with bumper stickers. Christians, we must be held accountable for that, too. I can’t stand platitudes like “Heaven gained another angel” when someone dies.

Not that long ago, I was driving by a local church and the marquee, appallingly, told passers-by to pray for whatever they wanted, and God would provide it for them. It said this in a cutsey, easy-to-remember slogan. Ironically, I can’t remember the slogan. I had meant not only to blog about it, but to send the pastor a protest letter explaining why that was a bad slogan, and why such propaganda may draw people in for the short term but is very damaging for the long term. Read the rest of this entry

Best of JCM: 5 Truths I Learned in Science Class that are Now WRONG!

I mostly wrote this as a humorous piece to satirize the perspective called “scientism,” an extreme branch of the philosophy of logical positivism. The latter holds that only beliefs supported by empirical evidence are valid; scientism holds that science is the only source of truth and nothing can be believed that is gleaned apart from it.

Meaning that mathematics, philosophy, art, and many other disciplines cannot be trusted.

Obviously, this is not a position that philosophers take very seriously. It doesn’t pass its own tests, since it is impossible to scientifically prove that only science yields truth.

As a tongue-in-cheek dig at scientism, I wrote a piece that shows many things once taught as scientific fact are now considered untrue. Truth is true, or it wouldn’t be true, so science can’t be the beacon of truth since the conclusions of it are always being challenged and revised.

Truth corresponds to reality.  This means that truth doesn’t change.  If it was true in 4000 b.c., it is still true now.

Atheists frequently insist that only science can discover the truth.

If truth is truth, then that means if a truth is uncovered by science, then it’s always true, right?

Nope. Read the rest of this entry

Best of JCM: Top 10 Reasons Religion is a Negative Force, part 2

This is actually the eight most popular post, but I have elected to consider this one together with its predecessor. For some unknown reason, people seemed more inclined to read this one than its parent, and that’s backwards. Typically, in a series, part 2 sees less traffic than part 1. Attention spans are getting shorter and shorter. You’re still with me, right?

Kieth Murphy, a user in the ThinkAtheist Forums, posted his Top Ten reasons why religion is a negative force in the world.

Not surprisingly, every single reason is a non-starter.  I covered the bottom reasons, now let’s continue where we left off — #5:

There have been cases in the United States and some other country where person’s have lost their jobs due to lack of faith or alternative faiths and sometimes on the bases of sexual orientation (which is thought to be justified because of certain beliefs)

There are also cases of people who have lost jobs because of their faith.  In the United States right now, some of the provisions of ObamaCare require a person to provide health services against their conscience. Read the rest of this entry

Best of JCM: Top 10 Reasons Religion is a Negative Force, part 1

This really isn’t the eighth most popular post. That honor belongs to the sequel to this post. Instead of separating the two, I have decided to consider them as one.

Kieth Murphy, a user in the ThinkAtheist Forums, posted his Top Ten reasons why religion is a negative force in the world.  Not surprisingly, every single reason is a non-starter.  Let’s dive in with #10: Read the rest of this entry

Best of JCM: Comment Section Facepalm

I have decided to put a quarter in the Wayback Machine and revisit my top 10 most viewed posts of all time. This considers only posts and excludes blog pages.

First up, the current most-viewed post is a reply to Matthew Bellasario, the self-proclaimed “Catholic Champion.” It highlights one of the starkest differences from the blog’s early years to now. When I first started it, I was staunchly anti-Catholic. As time wore on, I became much more neutral toward my former faith. And now? I’ve reclaimed most of it, my kids go to Catholic school, and I’ve even started praying rosaries.

I still agree with the points I make below about ad hominem arguments. Mr. Bellasario and his crowd of commenters can’t have their cake and eat it, too. If Protestantism is devoid of correct theology due to its leadership, then so is Catholicism because there’s been quite a bit of moral problems in the handling of many major scandals.

Comment Section FacepalmReading the comment section of this post from the Catholic Champion blog, the only appropriate response is a resounding facepalm.

The main problem I had with the post is how misleading it is.  The headline implies that more Protestant denominations are caving on homosexuality (a sin, to be sure).  The linked article shows the opposite: the United Methodist Church is not caving on homosexuality; but a large number of former bishops are pressuring it to do so.  The article is applauding the denomination for being one of the few mainline Protestant denominations for standing on biblical ground when it comes to this sin.

That aside, I come to an interesting comment from a user called scotju.  It was in reply to the following comment from Neil Parille:

I don’t think this is a very good argument against protestantism. The protestant reformers (and in this case Wesley) opposed homosexuality. So I don’t find it any more significant than some catholic priest or bishop dissenting from church teaching.

And the catholic church has become pretty liberal on some issues. The current pope doesn’t believe the opening chapters of Genesis are historical and one member of the PBC compared Gen. 1-11 to Little Red Riding Hood.

Personally, I don’t like using the arguments of specific personages because then scotju is free to make this (facepalm-worthy) reply:

Neil, Protestantism was started by men who were sexually immoral or who winked at sexual immorality. Luther, the founder of the tribe, ‘had’ to marry Katherine Von Bora to shut the mouths of his critics who were claiming he and Cathy were getting it on. Lther later endorsed a bigamous marriage for Philip of Hesse. That scandal left a permanent black mark on his reptation. Calvin, according to some authorities sch as St. Alphons Ligouri, was a vicious sodomite. Zwinghi lived with a mistress, and while a Catholic priest, had the gall to ask his bishop for permission to marry his live-in! The sexal immorality of the ‘reformers’ is pretty good proof God never used them to renew the church. Rather, it’s merely proof that they were heretics behaving as it was to be expected of such men.

But this reply strikes out. Read the rest of this entry