Category Archives: Biblical & Related Commentary

Biblical and related commentary

Rapture Night

More frustrations with local Bible studies. I seem to have showed up for Rapture night.
It is a terrible irony that in order to satisfy their demands for an absolute literal interpretation of Scripture—including a literal Israel at the time of Christ’s return (but see Romans 9: 6-8, for example) and a literal physical Temple (but see 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 for example) Dispensationalists must drape a whole new man-created, imaginary theology over God’s Word.
The arguments presented tonight for a Rapture separate from Christ’s return (the Second Coming) include:
  • The Rapture isn’t mentioned in the Old Testament (!).  The Hebrew Bible or Old Testament is an incandescent arrow (metaphorically, not literally), drawn across time—forward and back—to show us what to expect of the Messiah, and to let us recognize Jesus when He appears; but somehow the Law and the Prophets neglected to ever mention the whole Rapture thing?
  • There are no signs associated with the Rapture–it’s “imminent”.  God isn’t going to give His people any markers of progress toward this monumental event because there isn’t enough time? On the other hand, Jesus’ return is to be marked by numerous signs.
  • Jesus will meet with the Church “in secret”, presumably to remove us from Earth so that a literal Israel and a literal Temple can take their place without any messy symbolic interpretation.  But that isn’t what Jesus said:

 27 For just as the lightning comes from the east and flashes even to the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man be. Matthew 24:27

Again, if you reach a conclusion about God’s Word that contradicts most or all of what It says, your conclusion is wrong.  The dispensations and the Rapture aren’t in the Bible, because they don’t exist.

“Understanding Creation” on SU

1 Corinthians 1:22-25
22Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.

Now we have groups with different names, but mostly the same misunderstandings. Adherents of Science want the Universe to be a somewhat limited puzzle, ultimately explicable by some combination of mathematics (including statistics), physics, and the heroic exertion of personal intellect. In Religion, on the other hand, some practitioners insist that God perform as required whenever the correct ceremonial affectations are presented. Others demand that His Universe must be a static diorama of the creations of a fully comprehensible God.
But the Universe was not designed for the convenience of human understanding. Creation is the work of a Mind beyond anything we can know how to ask about or even imagine (Ephesians 3:20-21)!
This is a boundless mystery of wonders to be explored, but we have to know where to look (James 1:5).

-An Amateur Summary of the Bible: 1.

1. What is the Bible “for”?  Why do we need it?  Salvation? Rescue?  From what?

Romans 3:23-24 (NIV1984)

23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

Romans 6:23 (NIV1984)

23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

It should be fairly obvious to most of us by now that the way we have been conducting our business as a sentient species doesn’t actually work.  If some combination of warfare, politics, written legal codes,  and “salesmanship” could yield a permanent, constructive, productive civilization, it would have certainly done so by now.

We learn from God’s Word that He knew before the beginning what would happen to us if we tried to build our own world without Him—destruction.  We would become eternal slaves to sin and death.  

For reasons we may never understand, God loved us too much to let us suffer this unimaginably horrible fate without a fight ( John 3:16 )—even though we chose to rebel against Him ourselves.  To save us, He had to explain something to us we can’t understand even though we aren’t listening—to show the unknowable to the unteachable.  Yes, this thing we call Salvation is completely impossible, which means we really need to get started as soon as possible.

The Bible is the written part of this impossible Plan—provided for us by God through the ultimate act of service by His Son, Jesus Christ, revealed and explained and taught to us by His Holy Spirit ( John 14:26 ). 

Next:

2. What (or more importantly, WHO?) is the Bible “about”?  What is it telling us? Why is this important?  Why does it seem to some people like just a collection of stories and commandments? 

3. What are we supposed to do about it?  What is this “faith” Christians keep talking about? Why is it important?

—Brief Notes on Christian Religious Requirements [on SU]

We often get conflicting information about Christian religious requirements. In addition to Romans ch. 14, where Paul talks about the role of freedom in Christ vs. religious observations, diet, etc. (“disputable matters”), in the Christian congregation, it’s important to know where to go to understand what Jesus and His apostles said:

-Jesus explains the instruction of the Holy Spirit
John 14:26 (New International Version 1984, ©1984)
26 But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.

-James says, if you don’t understand something, ask God!
James 1:5-6 (New International Version 1984, ©1984)
5 If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. 6 But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.

-Paul explains why it is so important to “grow up” as a Christian, so that we can’t be mislead by religious frauds and deceptions.
Ephesians 4:11-15 (New International Version 1984, ©1984)
11 It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12 to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.

—Christianity: No more pretensions, con’d

Revelation 7:4 (New International Version)
4Then I heard the number of those who were sealed: 144,000 from all the tribes of Israel.
http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Revelation%207:4&version=NIV

Revelation 7:9-10 (New International Version)
9After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. 10And they cried out in a loud voice:
“Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”
http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Revelation%207:9-10&version=NIV

Romans 14:5-6 (New International Version)
5One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. 6He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord. He who eats meat, eats to the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who abstains, does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God.
http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=romans%2014:5-6&version=NIV

Romans 14:17-19 (New International Version)
17For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, 18because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men. 19Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.
http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=romans%2014:17-19&version=NIV

—Christianity: No more pretensions

2 Corinthians 10:5 (New International Version)
5We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2%20Corinthians+10:5&version=NIV

Ephesians 4:11-15 (New International Version)
11It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
 14Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. 15Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.
http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Ephesians%204:11-15&version=NIV

Matthew 7:21-23 (New International Version)
 21″Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ 23Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’
http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew%207:21-23&version=NIV

Hebrews 7:23-28 (New International Version)
23Now there have been many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office; 24but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. 25Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.
 26Such a high priest meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. 27Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself. 28For the law appoints as high priests men who are weak; but the oath, which came after the law, appointed the Son, who has been made perfect forever.
http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Hebrews%207:23-28&version=NIV

Mark 3:20-21;31-35 (New International Version)
 20Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. 21When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.”
http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Mark%203:20-21&version=NIV
Jesus’ Mother and Brothers
 31Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him. 32A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, “Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.”
 33″Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked.
 34Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”
http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Mark%203:31-35&version=NIV

Luke 22:14-20 (New International Version)
The Last Supper
14When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. 15And he said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.”
 17After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, “Take this and divide it among you. 18For I tell you I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”
 19And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.
 20In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.[”]
http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke%2022:14-20&version=NIV

Matthew 27:50-51 (New International Version)
 50And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.
 51At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The e

—More on the Truth Project

1 Corinthians 2:14

14The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.

We watched the 4th or 5th episode in the series The Truth Project  from Focus on the Family[http://www.thetruthproject.org/] with the Sunday School class yesterday,  which focused on evolutionary theory, Intelligent Design, and philosophical and scientific ideas on these topics. 

Class members appeared to agree that species change, adapt to their environments, appear, and disappear [I feel that requiring God to have created a static Universe to accommodate our literary comprehension is also a mistake].   It is the replacement of the Creator with a statistical fluctuation that  defies reason and sober judgment.  Worse, modern science has adopted as dogma that the Universe must not have been Designed—and will not tolerate questions that confront this principle, in defiance of its own most fundamental ethos. 

Moreover, the narrator of the series didn’t begin to plumb the depths of the preposterous conclusions necessary to omit God from our understanding of the Universe.  I have seen a number of additional examples– Richard Dawkins, who was mentioned several times in the episode, figures prominently in several:

“VOICES OF SCIENCE – Available Now on DVD
Richard Dawkins, Steven Weinberg, Lawrence Krauss, PZ Myers, David Buss
Four fascinating discussions between Richard Dawkins and some of today’s top scientists.”  http://richarddawkins.net/articles/2868

Steven Weinberg, who is required to conclude that it’s still a stochastic fluctuation, regardless:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthropic_principle

One of my favorites, which shows that the spontaneous appearance of self-aware beings from nothing in the middle of nowhere is actually >more likely< than 6 billion sentient observers randomly showing up on a nondescript, rocky backwater planet:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boltzmann_brain

[The presence of this species is thermodynamically preposterous.  Please stop existing all over our tidy Universe.]

Then there’s Steven Hawking’s “Top-Down Cosmology”, a quantum-mechanical abstraction that requires that the history of the Universe is being written as—or because?—we observe it, which means that we are creating the Universe as we speak, but the possibility that an intelligent Creator ever did so must apparently be excluded as contradicting scientific >dogma<:

“Hawking is now pushing a different strat­egy, which he calls top-down cosmology.  It is not the case, he says, that the past uniquely determines the present. Because the universe has many possible histories and just as many possible beginnings, the present state of the universe selects the past. “This means that the histories of the Universe depend on what is being measured,” Hawking wrote in a recent paper, “contrary to the usual idea that the Universe has an objective, observer-independent history.””
http://discovermagazine.com/2009/jul-aug/11-stephen-hawking-is-making-his-comeback/article_view?b_start:int=3&-C=

Another summary of the concepts above:
“God or a multiverse?”
  By Mark Vernon on Tuesday, December 9 2008, 08:16 – Science
http://www.markvernon.com/friendshiponline/dotclear/index.php?post/2008/12/09/1174-god-or-a-multiverse

“Quantum physics says goodbye to reality”:
http://physicsworld.com/cws/article/news/27640

My earlier weblog comments on these articles:
—On Science
https://savageutopia.wordpress.com/2007/10/14/336/
—Some Other Questions[—Integrity? and/or a failure to communicate?]
https://savageutopia.wordpress.com/2008/05/05/some-other-questions-2/
—It’s Science Again 

https://savageutopia.wordpress.com/2008/12/15/its-science-again/

—Thanksgiving…Really!

We are now officially living in “interesting times”.  Everything seems to be in a state of collapse—government, law, morals, ethics, personal judgement, democracy, religion, public trust, and just about anything else people ever placed their faith in, except the one thing which people can put their faith in.  The more we explore with our science and technology, the less sense the Universe makes.  The more we legislate and adjudicate with our “common sense” and “wisdom”, the fouler and more despicable our public institutions become.   The whole world economy is on the precipice of an abyss, at a time when the most powerful government in history is in the hands of people who apparently think its destruction is a good idea—a prelude to some witless notion of a “revolution” which has already failed miserably everywhere else it’s been tried.

It not just that everything humanity depends on is falling apart—-nothing humans depend on ever worked in the first place.   It just that now even our collective delusions of civilization are disintegrating.

And so, I am thankful beyond adequate words that God in His mercy has provided something we can depend on, and hope for, and look forward to, and which we can be joyful in even as we speak:

Romans 8:37-39 (New International Version)

37No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[a] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

—APA: No Choice for Homosexuals

 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 (NIV)

9Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders 10nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.  [my emphasis]

Psychologists Reject Gay-to-Straight ‘Therapy’ – Health News | Current Health News | Medical News – FOXNews.com

The APA, of course, is speaking from political expedience rather than any sort of scientific or professional rigor.  Like “justice” in America, “science” is whatever makes important people feel more important—almost always at the expense of making some other group feel less important.   

How do you know you’re dealing with charlatans?  It’s the oldest trick in the quack’s little black bag;  the “science cannot prove” dodge:— “There’s no evidence… ” a proponent of the APA report says, that remedial therapy is of any use for those whose homosexual tendencies conflict with their religious beliefs. 

The report advises “…therapies that do not attempt to change sexual orientation, but rather involve acceptance, support and identity exploration and development “.  

When advocates of various sorts of sexual “diversity” first began to co-opt the momentum of the Civil Rights movement of the ’60’s and ’70’s (I first heard these sorts of arguments at the U. of Texas, in around ’73), they steered public consciousness down a dark alley.   As far back as the early ’80’s, we were already seeing attempts by advocates of pedophilia to construe themselves as a disadvantaged “lifestyle”.  The collective decision of politically influential people and groups to go in this direction will have—actually already have had— consequences—what sorts of other behavior will receive public acclaim and advocacy next?  There are, in fact, studies which almost reasonably argue that murderers and other criminals are genetically predisposed—have a “natural tendency” —to their “lifestyle”.  I mean, why not? 

Of course, Paul’s list in 1 Corinthians (the Biblical letter, not the South American soccer club) includes all sorts of behaviors, in addition to homosexuality, which are destructive to the Church and society in general;  thieves, swindlers, and even malicious gossipers are included.  Paul also makes no distinction of the degree of evil these behaviors represent, and they all have the same outcome.  Those practicing these things will destroy themselves, unless they repent and pursue God’s way (see also Phillipians 3:12-14 ).  Paul makes it clear that people in the Church at Corinth had been guilty of the behaviors listed, but that faith in Christ had brought them out of those things.  Now they are new people (2 Corinthians 5:17), and the old, destructive ways no longer enslave them. 

Political and social expedience has had its say in the matter, and has proved to be a complete waste of time and peoples’ lives for centuries—“maybe it will work this time”, but it’s not a good bet. 

Jesus gave us a way to set aside behaviors and ways of thinking that can only destroy us, and move toward rescue and rebirth, hope and a new life, safely guided by His Spirit toward an eternal home.   Ignore what the “important people” say—we have a choice!

—Health Care Debate: Morally Bankrupt vs. Habitually Evil

My Way News – Analysis: Obama facing tough choice on health care

Why is everyone missing the point?  Let me try to explain:

My father became seriously ill one night in the late ’90’s, and was taken to the hospital in Orange, Texas.  I didn’t rush over to see about things, because there was no indication of urgency.  I have some experience in the life sciences, and there is at least a remote chance that I might have been able to prevent the fiasco that transpired, if I had the seething distrust and loathing of the medical profession then that I have now. 

The small-town hospital didn’t know what to do, and transferred him to St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Beaumont.  It was the weekend, and the “B” team  on call made a classical medical blunder—they misdiagnosed congestive heart failure as pneumonia. 

The cardiac team that moved in to clean up—or rather cover up—the blunder went into hard-core damage control mode.  Our attempts to get information on my father’s condition deteriorated into several screaming matches with the cardiac professionals and the hospital administrator.  They punished our insolence by declaring that my father had contracted an antibiotic-resistant bacterial strain so they could put him in isolation and restrict our attempts to visit him.  He was, by this time, on a ventilator and a constant feed of morphine (which is how they keep elderly patients quiet until the insurance runs out).   

Rather than watch my father murdered slowly,  I next attempted to have him transferred to any of several hospitals in Houston, where most of the family lives.  This would have required a physician in Houston to take over his case.  All refused out of hand, including physicians who are prominent in our Church and have known us for years.  It would have required some physician to go against the wishes of a very prominent cardiac group in Beaumont, and nobody would have anything to do with our request.

My mother wanted to take him home to care for him, which would have been nearly impossible.  Thus, I made my second critical mistake in dealing with my father’s final illness.  I suggested that we get a doctor from nearby Port Arthur to come by and see him in the hospital and give us an independent opinion on his condition and recommendations for his further care.  A doctor I called agreed to see him the next day.  I actually thought we had reason to hope that we could then get him transferred to a non-demon-spawned medical institution.

So, still foolishly believing that even the monstrously evil medical professionals we had been screaming at in desperation to stop them from torturing my father to death would have some vestigial level of humanity,  I left my father in that Hell-hole of a hospital for one more night.  Worse,  I actually faxed the hospital administrator to tell him that a doctor outside the Beaumont cardiac establishment would be stopping by to see my father. 

It never occurred to me that they would just murder him.  But they did, and I was told the next morning that he had died—at just about the time they would have arrived in their offices, and read that message on the fax machine, plus—presumably—the time it would have taken to drop by his room and give him a little extra morphine. 

They did suffer a brief period of evident panic when I demanded an autopsy.  (There were nervous phone calls, and threats to make us pay for it.)  My mother couldn’t face the prospect, however. 

Strangely, every law firm I contacted about the situation was somehow involved with the very prominent cardiac care group responsible and couldn’t represent us.  Other family members finally couldn’t take anymore, and the matter was dropped, at least from the standpoint of mere temporal, human justice.

——

In later years, I have visited terminally ill, long-term care patients often enough to learn how you can tell when the insurance coverage is about to run out.  You see, the hospital chaplain comes around, to fret with the family that the patient “just needs to let go”. 

——

Recently, we tried to help a family friend who couldn’t work because of multiple strokes, and has no health care benefits.  Since the friend had to depend on municipal charities for her considerable medical expenses, she had to go to Ben Taub Hospital in Houston on two occasions when she suffered serious psychiatric breakdowns (One involved threatening her clinic physician).  On both occasions, we left her in the care of the alleged charity hospital, only to have her discharged by the staff within hours.  Apparently they deduced some sort of miraculous cure, and dumped her out in the lobby.

——

So it is not without some experience in the matter of health care in America that I have concluded that the Great Health Care Debate is irrelevant and fraudulent at best, and Hell’s joke on the human race at worst.  I said earlier that private health care would leave you out in the street to die if you couldn’t pay, while government managed heath care would leave you out in the street to die if they found you politically unreliable.  Neither is an acceptable model of anything which should be mistaken for humane, responsible, competent medical care.  The powerful will continue to torment and abuse the weak as they have done for centuries, no matter who pretends to pay for the process for whatever political or economic advantage.

The foundation of caring for the sick, poor, and helpless among us is not to be found in actuarial tables or economic-management models, however cutting-edge they might seem at the time.  An evil people will always produce evil results, special professional oaths to the contrary notwithstanding. 

Jesus knew us for the evil beings we were in His day, and how much more evil we would be able to accomplish later when augmented with superior technology.  He gave us the Law which actually works, from the God Who Actually Exists, and His Life in our place, so that a relative handful of us might avoid the most permanent consequences:

Matthew 22:37-39 (New International Version)

37Jesus replied: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38This is the first and greatest commandment. 39And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’