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Monthly Archives: December 2011

2011 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Syndey Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 25,000 times in 2011. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 9 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Scripture Saturday: The Christmas Story (Lk 2:1-20)

No lesson this week, just a long reading:

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration whenQuirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them.But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

Merry Christmas!

Contradiction Tuesday: Who is the Father of Joseph?

Jesus’ earthly father, Joseph, has a curious genealogical quirk.

And Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ. (Mt 1:16)

versus

And Jesus himself began to be about thirty years of age, being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph, which was the son of Heli. (Lk 3:32)

Unassailable contradiction?  Nope:

Scripture Saturday: Why Some View God as a Moral Monster (Prv 28:5)

So far, I’ve been on time with Contradiction Tuesday, but late with Scripture Saturday.  Every single time.

This new job has really cut into my blogging time!

Not that I’m complaining, mind you.  After all, I need the money.  And, for the first time since I can remember, I actually like my job.

Now on to Scripture Saturday.

Many atheists argue that God is a moral monster.  They say that he has appalling standards compared to us humans.

Have you ever wondered why this is so?  Why do atheists think God is evil for punishing sinful people (like the Canaanites)?  Or why do they think he is a bumbling moron for allowing the Fall or creating Satan?

Simple.  Atheism isn’t just a rejection of the concept of a deity.  It is a decision with a serious moral dimension, and terrible consequences for the atheist — and I’m not referring to hell.  I’m referring only to earthly consequences, especially in the way one thinks as an atheist.  Let’s look at the Scriptures:

Evil men do not understand justice, but those who seek the LORD understand it completely.  (Prv 28:5)

Are atheists evil?  Maybe some are.  Most aren’t by human standards.  But by divine standards, they are as messed up as the rest of us (Rom 3:23).  The bigger picture is the second clause — people who seek the Lord understand justice.

Without seeking God first, perfect and flawless justice will mean nothing.

The atheist can hem and haw all he wants about how he sought God and there was no God to be found.  Balderdash.  He fails to understand true justice because he is not seeking God.

Therefore, God’s actions against people like the Canaanites seem to the atheist inexplicable and mysterious; evil or disgusting.  The atheist isn’t seeking God when examining the Bible, he’s really just window shopping “the god of some other religion” and comparing its actions with what he already believes morality to look like.  He finds this god as coming up short, and therefore Christianity is yet another religion that fails to meet his criteria.

No wonder he doesn’t believe in God.

Instead, reverse all that.  Let God set the bar, since God is (after all) God.  Then measure yourself by his standard.

What’s happening, according to Scripture, is that since the atheist is not seeking God, he cannot understand justice.

Contradiction Tuesday: Is God a God of War or Peace?

God is often cited as the God of peace, for example:

Now the God of peace be with you all.  Amen. (Rom 15:33)

However, the Bible also describes God in terms related to battle:

The LORD is a man of war: the LORD is his name. (Ex 15:3)

So, “Which is it?” asks Jim Merrit.

Why not both?

Humans are made in the image of God.  Humans are dynamic.  Humans don’t act the same way in every circumstance.  We adapt.  So why can’t the One in whose image we are made not adopt a different approach based on the circumstances?

It’s ludicrous to reduce God to a one-dimensional construct who can’t act on a case-by-case basis.  Christians do this with God’s love, assuming God loves everyone the same and in equal measure — and that leads to the absurd notion that God couldn’t get mad at someone or that he won’t judge people and that everyone will end up in heaven by his side.

The truth is that God is more complex than we are in his behavior and his character.  God loves us all, but in different ways.  For example, you don’t love everyone in your own life in equal measure.  Many people might let you down or disappoint you, and that changes the way that you feel about them.

And so it is with God.

When the circumstances call for God to be a God of peace, he is.  When circumstances call for God to be a man of war, he is.  Same God, but acting differently in different circumstances.

Scripture Saturday: Who Conceives Evil? (Ps 7:14)

Recently a commenter going by Patrick asked me, regarding this article, if it mattered whether God created calamity or evil.  He wondered if that was just semantics.

Well, no, it isn’t just semantics.  Evil here means “moral evil.”  If God created moral evil, then he cannot be good by any definition of the term.  A perfectly good God could not look back on his creation and say it was “good” if he had created moral evil.

On the other hand, “calamity” is neither this nor that.  It’s a force of nature, neutral.  In the hands of a righteous God, argues Clay Jones, calamity is a powerful call to repentance.

So for this Scripture Saturday Sunday (better late than never, right?), I wanted to take a peek at Psalm 7 to determine just who creates “moral evil.”  The answer is in verse 14:

Behold, the wicked man conceives evil and is pregnant with mischief and gives birth to lies.

This verse describes a potentiality — the potential to sin.  It all begins with the will to evil; a desire to commit mischief and that gives birth to lies.  James, the brother of our Lord, explains it this way:

Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. (Jms 1:15)

So the desire is our own, not the fault of God.  The desire, having taken root, produces the sin.  Sin, fully realized, is death.  That’s why God takes all of this so seriously — and why we should, too!  But, alas, Francis Schaeffer was right to observe “. . . that none of us in our generation feels as guilty about sin as we should or as our forefathers did.”

Contradiction Tuesday: Is God Good to All, or a Few?

Today, we introduce the second feature new to Josiah Concept Ministries: Contradiction Tuesday.  Each Tuesday, I will discuss an alleged contradiction in the Bible and why it is not, in fact, a contradiction.

Barring specific reader requests, I’m working off of Jim Merrit’s list of biblical contradictions from the Secular Web.  I’ll start at the top and work my way down.  No skipping.

So, unless I specify that Contradiction Tuesday comes from X or Y reader, then assume I am continuing with Merrit’s list.

Yesterday, I explained why Merrit’s rebuttals to specific replies are silly.  Now, let’s look at a specific contradiction and see if it really is a contradiction:

The LORD is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made.  (Ps 145:9)

versus

And I will dash them one against another, fathers and sons together, declares the LORD. I will not pity or spare or have compassion, that I should not destroy them. (Jer 13:14)

Let’s first hammer out “good.”

The objection centers on the unspoken contention that punishment is bad, and if God punishes someone then God is not good.

But that’s ludicrous.

When God tells Abraham of the impending destruction of Sodom, what does Abraham object to?  Not to the destruction of the city.  Not to the punishment of the sinners in it (it’s already established that Sodom is wicked; see Gen 13:13).  Abraham objected to the punishment of innocents, challenging God rhetorically: “Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked?” (Gen 18:23).

God is, in fact, good to everyone regardless if they happen to deserve his goodness.  Let’s look at a couple of examples, starting with Job’s astute observation that God does allow evildoers to flourish:

Why do the wicked live, reach old age, and grow mighty in power?  Their offspring are established in their presence, and their descendants before their eyes.  Their houses are safe from fear, and no rod of God is upon them.  Their bull breeds without fail; their cow calves and does not miscarry.  They send out their little boys like a flock, and their children dance.  They sing to the tambourine and the lyre and rejoice to the sound of the pipe.  They spend their days in prosperity, and in peace they go down to Sheol. (Job 21:7-13)

Jesus confirms: “For [God] makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Mt 5:45), the context of that making it clear that it is good in the eyes of God to treat all with the same respect and impartiality (as he does).

Therefore, God is good to all — whether they accept or reject him.  He prospers the wicked, as Job laments, and he allows all to enjoy the fruits of this world.

Somehow, in the eyes of the skeptic, God eventually punishing these wicked is not considered “good.”

On what planet?

Does that mean that if a human judge repeatedly lets murders and rapists go free without prison time that he is “good?”  I’d hardly say so.  I’d think that he’s apathetic, and so would any of these skeptics.  Somehow, when God executes justice on the unholy, the skeptics think that he is a big meaniehead, but when a human judge is tough and ruthless to deserving individuals he is lauded as just.

Double standard.

Contradiction Tuesday Pre-Launch

Tomorrow begins Contradiction Tuesday, a new feature on Josiah Concept Ministries that will spotlight alleged biblical contradictions and make some sense out of them.

The list I’m starting with comes to us from Jim Merrit of the Secular Web.  He lists over 60 alleged contradictions, which will keep me busy for over a year (given this is a weekly feature).

Jim has taken the most common replies to these perceived contradictions and did a preemptive strike, explaining why these responses fail.  So I’m doing a pre-preemptive strike to explain three things:

  1. Merrit doesn’t get the Bible at all
  2. Merrit is as stuck in his worldview as he accuses us of being, but is worse off because he doesn’t realize he is stuck in his worldview
  3. These only suffice as starters if the thought processes are developed a bit more

With that, let’s begin: Read the rest of this entry

Scripture Saturday: Importance of Bible Study (Prv 28:9)

I’ve heard that some folks benefit from a regimented blogging schedule, so I thought I’d give it a shot to see if it helps me.  And that means I will now introduce two new features.  If I blog nothing else in the course of a week, I will blog the two features.

The first is Contradiction Tuesday, where I will detail a perceived contradiction in the Bible.  I’ll take requests for this series from skeptics and believers alike — e-mail me.  It will begin next Tuesday; I didn’t have time to do one this week.

On a side note, I’m thinking of adding Anti-Testimony Wednesday sometime in the future.  I would critique the latest “Why I’m not a Christian” bit from ex-Christian.net, with a private offer to the poster to defend him or herself here.  Since they don’t like their unbelief challenged on the site, this would be playing by their rules.  After all, the anti-testimony is posted publicly so it’s unrealistic to think that someone won’t pick it up and challenge it somewhere.

The series beginning today is Scripture Saturday.  What better way to kick off Scripture Saturday than with a verse on the importance of studying Scripture?

If one turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination.  (Prv 28:9)

Strongly worded.  If a person stops studying God’s Law, then that person’s prayer is an abomination.  An abomination!  That’s the strongest way God can revile something.  And here, God is saying that he will revile a person’s prayers if that person refuses to hear God! Read the rest of this entry