Tuesday, 19 March 2013
I have huge aspirations for starting a Christian-oriented video game company. While the reality of such a dream is a long way off, I want to simultaneously help other Christians who strive to grow in their field within the game development industry. I'm also well aware of how difficult it can be to find people who share similar/the same beliefs as well as like-minded gaming goals. So I created this group on Facebook called Xion Developers. Below is the about description:
Xion Developers is a forum for those who aspire to take their Christian faith into the multi-media world of video games.
X.D. will serve as a hub for Christian fellowship while supporting and seeking help from each other in all areas of game development, including such areas as programming, directing, art & animation, music, and more. The idea is to help people connect with others and fill roles we can't do alone (1 Corinthians 12:12-31).
Even if you aren't specifically interested in pursuing a video game-related career, because of the unique nature of video games, which covers a wide variety of fields, others are welcome to share their work and offer or request feedback.
While Xion Developers is a Christian-oriented group, non-Christians will not be denied access on the grounds that those here who hold to Christ as their Savior and the Bible as the Word of God are respected. Likewise, Christians are to be an example of Christ's heart for the lost (remember you were once lost, yourself) and are to show kindness at all times.
X.D. is not to be a forum for debate. (Both Christian and non-Christian individuals are liable for their behavior and attitude and are not except from being removed from the group.)
There is a huge, untapped niche for Christians to take their faith into the world of video games. Anyone who remembers games like Spiritual Warfare (think classic Zelda infused with a whole lotta Matthew 28 and literally throwing fruit to represent the Fruit of the Spirit....it's cooler than it may sound) and action puzzle games like Exodus and Joshua from waaaay back in the 90s ought to remember the short-lived era of Christian gaming. While there were a few other games that attempted to added to the line-up, we've not seen many quality games that could reach the standards of the industry while simultaneously matching the standards of the faith. I believe it's high-time that Christian gamers step-up to reach a vast community that is dominated by blood, gore, sexualized women, extreme shock-violence, and much, much worse elements.
For example, I'm designed several games that you would never think has anything to do with Christianity in the slightest (one is a stickman game of all things!), and yet there will be themes "hidden" amongst the gameplay and/or stories. So we need not limit ourselves to how we can live for Christ and also create the amazing games we dream of.
So come join me at Xion Developers! Membership is pending - I like to be able mind who is accessing the group...troll management and all that. But all are welcome, otherwise! See you there!
Sunday, 27 January 2013
I was curious...
So I did just a little number crunching. This is, by no means, an accurate calculation. It doesn't account for all kinds of various financial factors and makes several assumptions (such as the notion that a newborn could generate that much money...but let's remember that abortions were happening before 1973, too). It doesn't take into account possible offspring and compounded income tax collected from the same individuals from successive years of wage-earning life. It's meant purely as an illustration...so please keep that in mind, especially if you're a financial wiz.
Roe Vs Wade was passed 40 years ago. I wondered...what would our economy look like, even vaguely, if those 50+ million children had not been aborted. Is there some way to just get a hint?
This is what I figured...
50,000,000 abortions / 40 years = 1,250,000 abortions per year
Minimum $20,000 annual income per aborted individual had they survived
Amounts to ~$2,000,000,000 ($2 billion) gross income for all children
YEAR || ESTIMATED Income Tax || Total Taxes Collected
1973 | ~30% tax | $600,000,000
1974 | ~31% tax | $620,000,000
1975 | ~30% tax | $600,000,000
1976 | ~30% tax | $600,000,000
1977 | ~30% tax | $600,000,000
1978 | ~30% tax | $600,000,000
1979 | ~31% tax | $620,000,000
1980 | ~31% tax | $620,000,000
1981 | ~31% tax | $620,000,000
1982 | ~30% tax | $600,000,000
1983 | ~29% tax | $580,000,000
1984 | ~29% tax | $580,000,000
1985 | ~29% tax | $580,000,000
1986 | ~29% tax | $580,000,000
1987 | ~31% tax | $620,000,000
1988 | ~31% tax | $620,000,000
1989 | ~30% tax | $600,000,000
1990 | ~30% tax | $600,000,000
1991 | ~30% tax | $600,000,000
1992 | ~30% tax | $600,000,000
1993 | ~30% tax | $600,000,000
1994 | ~30% tax | $600,000,000
1995 | ~31% tax | $620,000,000
1996 | ~31% tax | $620,000,000
1997 | ~32% tax | $640,000,000
1998 | ~32% tax | $640,000,000
1999 | ~31% tax | $620,000,000
2001 | ~32% tax | $640,000,000
2002 | ~30% tax | $600,000,000
2003 | ~28% tax | $560,000,000
2004 | ~28% tax | $560,000,000
2005 | ~30% tax | $600,000,000
2006 | ~31% tax | $620,000,000
2007 | ~31% tax | $620,000,000
2008 | ~30% tax | $600,000,000
2009 | ~28% tax | $560,000,000
2010 | ~27% tax | $540,000,000
2011 | ~27% tax | $540,000,000
2012 | ~28% tax | $560,000,000
2013 | ~31% tax | $620,000,000
That's $24 TRILLION. We could have been out of debt by now.
Thursday, 24 January 2013
I'm just going to be blunt. I'm...perhaps...going to even sound unChristian. But this is not said as a personal attack, nor without compassion and understanding regarding those who view this matter differently.
If you are for gun control laws, and further think they'll actually do any good towards actually preventing gun-related crimes...you're a fool. A damned-in-the-head fool.
For this "war on guns" has become beyond absurd. It has virtually ignored the greater issue: the person pulling the trigger, the person committing the crime regardless of the weapon. This issue has become so embroiled against guns that a child recently was punished with a 10-day suspension for playfully telling her best friend she was going to shoot her with a Hello Kitty bubble-blowing gun. The girls hugged every day at school and had no ill-intent towards each other. Oh, but it's not so bad because the suspension got reduced to two days.
And now a certain young lady in fifth grade got severely harassed because she pulled out piece of paper that looked remotely like a gun. That's all she did - she pulled it out. She didn't point it at anyone. She didn't make like it was a game. She was just going to throw it away and suddenly she's public school enemy number one.
This child was then accused of being a murderer and harassed with claims that she could be arrested! Over a piece of paper?! The worst part is that this did not come simply from fellow (immature) classmates, but from the administration! Those adults who are supposed to be intelligent enough to understand the sensitive hearts of our youth and wise enough not to blow a simple matter out of proportion!
Let me be clear. This report (see the link below) did not try to link this incident with the whole gun control drama. And that's good. However, it's evident that this report was certainly hot news in light of this political stupidity we are now tangled up in. A fifth grader was treated with such evil over a ridiculous piece of paper that someone imagined to be a weapon of terror.
You know...I remember a time in my childhood when I would grind popsicle sticks to a point and I'd have my own knife. I had no inclination to actually hurt anyone. I was a boy and a warrior. I was on a mission to be a hero in my own backyard game. But, I did use it on a kid once...because he was swinging a garden hose around and tried to hit me. He did, right in the leg, and I let my immature anger lead me to chase him down, tackle him, and stab him in the back several times. You know what the saddest part is? I remember pulling my "knife" out of my pocket and telling him something to the effect that it "had to be done". Pitiful...whatever my words were verbatim. The good news is that he was not in the least seriously injured. He never had to go to the hospital. I didn't draw any blood. But I did hurt him badly. The even better news is that I was severely punished by my loving parents. The kid's mom came to meet with my parents and they maturely resolved the problem like adults...which I clearly was not on many levels that day (speaking nothing about my age).
That entire ordeal passed into my history...a sad blotch on my record. Ask anyone who knew me well - friend or family - and they'd tell you I was virtually an ideal child and well-behaved for the most part. And a great deal of that is because I was taught how to live right. The popsicle knife didn't pull itself out of my pocket, walk down my, leg, and jump up and down on the kid's back repeatedly. Do you know also what didn't happen? Popsicles were not banned from my household. Future visits to the grocery store did not forever exclude the occasional frozen fruity treat. And the wooden sticks that were left over were of no concern. In fact, I wonder if my mom or dad even remember the event. It's never been brought up once since.
But if the issue over "popsicle stick control" arose, would we be "up in arms" if someone cut out a strip of paper that remotely looked like a flimsy piece of wood with colored stains? Is our social mentality in such decline and disarray? Not yet...but when a child is facing nightmares because of a small piece of paper that resembles - slightly - the shape of a gun, then we're too bloody close. Would we raid the grocery stores and confiscate all the popsicles? Would we burn them on site?
It's "for the children!" Right?
When we hold to our ideals - whether right or wrong - so tightly that we lose any sight of rational thought that our very behavior only perpetuates or adds problems, then solutions are only going to be few and far between...at best.
That little girl did nothing wrong. She was just throwing away a piece of paper. For crying out loud, the thing wasn't even loaded.
Thursday, 20 December 2012
An event has just happened. You wake up, dazed. You hear noises, overlapping conversations. You don't know what just happened and you only recall events earlier in the day, but nothing at present that can explain the current situation or why you just woke up in such a state.
With this (generic) scenario, what comes to mind?
Think less on what the situation actually is (or could be) and more on the implications. This is a very outside-the-box analysis. For example, consider your current awareness versus potential future clarity. What other thoughts come to mind about this matter?
Wednesday, 19 December 2012
Originally posted December 17, 2012.
Hello! Welcome to the tenth entry to my Biblical Contradiction series. Yes, that is a 9 in the title – the only entry I’ve done in order was the very first one, so you’re not going crazy (or are you?). If you’re new to the series, I’ve been attempting to answer the claims that the Bible is full of contradictions. In a very clever YouTube video depicting stickmen in a game show, one individual is striving assert that the words on the page of the Bible don’t add up the way Christians say they do.
Since words hold meanings, and the Bible is set richly in a historical and cultural time almost long-forgotten, I want to see if maybe there’s more to the story than what anyone might simply read in a passing glance.
ONE OF THESE IS NOT LIKE THE OTHER
When the same word is used in a book, wouldn’t it seem natural to assume that the same idea, object or action is employed? That’s what the maker of the YouTube video would have you believe. It’s not a completely invalid point, mind you. In fact, it can be quite accurate. If I start talking about a car, it would be fairly difficult to conclude that I’m not referring to a motorized, horseless carriage with NOS, right? But what about the word, “earth”?
Now there is a multi-faceted five-letter conundrum. “Conundrum?” you ask. “What’s the big deal about ‘earth’? It’s obvious the word refers to the planet in outer space.”
Au contraire! Am I speaking of the planet? Perchance I was speaking specifically of the soft earth from which the lovely lilies grow. (Actually, here in Texas it’s the blasted red dirt that always gets tracked into my house.) Or maybe the people of the earth. So which one does the Bible use? Actually, all of them. You can be sure we’ll get to that in a bit. First, we need to get an idea of contradiction in question.
The verses held in contention this time around come from Ecclesiastes 1:4 and 2 Peter 3:10.
Generations come and generations go, but the earth never changes.
(Ecclesiastes 1:4, NLT, bold mine)
But the day of the Lord will come as unexpectedly as a thief. Then the heavens will pass away with a terrible noise, and the very elements themselves will disappear in fire, and the earth and everything on it will be found to deserve judgment.
(2 Peter 3:10, NLT, bold mine)
Now, considering the perspective I just offered above, what say you? Are Solomon (author of Ecclesiastes) and Peter talking about the same thing? “They are using the same word, after all,” you might say. In the English translation, indeed, they are. But is it the same definition?
The charge is that Ecclesiastes is saying the earth never changes, and 2 Peter is claiming that the earth will be ultimately wiped out along with the heavens and the very elements, themselves. Both talk about the earth, so why continue on? What does the definition matter? There’s clearly a contradiction in the Bible now.
Oh, reeeeaaaalllyyy? Well! Strap yourselves in, boys and girls!
TIME TRAVELING WITHOUT A GREEN CARD
I shall now ask you to join me in some world time travel by way of imagination (for I lack a DeLorean and we wouldn’t all fit anyway). I take you back now to ancient Israel (wasn’t that fast!). (Don’t worry, I’ll have you back in roughly 7 1/2 pages worth of MS Word.) We see here Solomon, son of the late King David…say hi, Sol! …[no answer]… Sol’s a little shy of time travelers.
Ecclesiastes is a somber compilation by an unnamed editor who amassed Solomon’s accounts about the activities and pursuits of life. It is a not a book for those seeking an encouraging pick-me-up. Solomon spent his life seeking wisdom, pleasure, fame, and more. All of these things God granted him…but in the end, apart from God, it was all hebel, the Hebrew word for vapor or breath. In context, the term describes how fleeting and meaningless – lacking anything concrete or substantial – all these pursuits are when sought after for their own sake (i.e.: a wise man who gained all insight, yet dies, taking it all with him to the grave). Solomon never condemned these things, outright; he encouraged the people to seek them out, even, noting that they were gifts from God (2:24). It was virtually an “eat, drink, and be merry” encouragement; but not exclusively, as if that was all there was to life.
Solomon sought to put into perspective the meaninglessness of human aspirations of grandeur, whether by the righteous or the unrighteous, the wise or foolish. Sol observed that despite of all these grand pursuits, in human terms, it amounted to the same fate for all: death (2:16). (Somehow I hear Poe’s nevermore crow cawing in the background.)
TRIVIA: Chapter 3 contains lyrics to a song covered by The Byrds (the music was originally written by Pete Seeger in 1959, making Solomon the author of the oldest existing song lyrics ever).
A WISE MAN ONCE ASKED…
If Ecclesiastes is Solomon’s conclusions on life, then 1 Kings describes his journey to it. It’s important to understand the background of Solomon’s life for it offers a ton of clarification as to the focus of his messages. (I say messages; the plural is due to much of Ecclesiastes was likely discourses Sol gave to large audiences; 1 Kings mentions how kings, queens, and other wise men came from distant countries to listen to his insight, garnering large audiences…not to mention gifts a-plenty that would make Bill Gates cry. What Bill will make in one lifetime, Solomon perhaps received in one day…or so I imagine.)
Over in 1 Kings 1, Solomon has been established as king over Israel by his ailing father, David. Solomon then spends time dealing with those who threatened his rightful rule under God’s provisions during chapter 2, thereby fulfilling requests made by his dad.
By chapter 3, God plays a spiritual “sandman” of sorts.
That night the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream, and God said, “What do you want? Ask, and I will give it to you!”
(1 Kings 3:5, NLT)
Solomon replies, recognizing that it was God’s hand that led him to sit on the throne of his father, David. Sol adds:
“Now, O LORD my God, you have made me king instead of my father, David, but I am like a little child who doesn’t know his way around. And here I am in the midst of Your own chosen people, a nation so great and numerous they cannot be counted! Give me an understanding heart so that I can govern Your people well and know the difference between right and wrong. For who by himself is able to govern this great people of Yours?”
The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for wisdom. So God replied, “Because you have asked for wisdom in governing My people with justice and have not asked for a long life or wealth or the death of your enemies – I will give you what you asked for! I will give you a wise and understanding heart such as no one else has had or ever will have! And I will also give you what you did not ask for – riches and fame! No other king in all the world will be compared to you for the rest of your life! And if you follow Me and obey My commands as your father, David, did, I will give you a long life.”
(1 Kings 3:7-14, NLT, bold mine)
Personally, I get this playful grin in light of Sol’s first display of wisdom being to ask for wisdom. It seems clear that God agrees that it was, indeed, wise. But, however wise Solomon was in terms of knowledge and insight, he was still human. And any human has the potential to abuse the gifts of God by forgetting Who gave those gifts to begin with and hyper-focus on the gifts. What we’re going to quickly examine is the decline of Solomon’s political and spiritual leadership and his kingdom in order better see how it leads up to Ecclesiastes.
WHEN KINGDOMS FALL
1 Kings 3:3 states that he “loved the LORD and followed all the decrees of his father, David…” (NLT). He definitely followed in his father’s footsteps out of the starting gate. However, just two verses earlier, Solomon had married an Egyptian princess (3:1), something God forbade for certain moral and social reasons at the time. This would not be the first time Sol made such alliances with other nations and would begin a downward path of a Godly man to an oppressor of his people.
God appears to Solomon three times during his reign, and each time is less pleasant that the last. The first is the aforementioned blessing of wisdom (1 Kings 4:29-32, 34), knowledge (4:33), fame (4:31, 34), and wealth (4:20-28, 5:10) in chapter 3. About the time that Solomon finished building the Temple for the LORD, God, likely through a prophet, had an encouraging message for Solomon, reminding him to stay faithful to the LORD and the covenant He made with Sol’s dad so to continue the prosperity and blessings God promised (1 Kings 6:11-13) for all of Israel.
After twenty years, Solomon finally built both the LORD’s Temple and his own palace (9:10). God appeared again, acknowledging Solomon’s sacrifices, prayer, and petition (chapter 8), but giving a firm reminder that the blessings of the Covenant He made with David were still conditional – Israel still had to obey God (9:2-9). By chapter 11, Solomon is once again visited by God, who is now extremely angry with Solomon and proclaimed that Solomon would be punished for the rest of his life due to his failure to observe God’s Laws and the Covenant He made with David years earlier. Starting with marrying an Egyptian princess (3:3), he made political alliances with ungodly nations by marrying their women (11:1-3). The influence of 700 wives and 300 concubines over Solomon proved deadly in terms of how Solomon conducted his affairs as a leader, spiritually and politically. The people of Israel became embittered with him due to hard, forced labor and heavy taxation (12:4), and his father’s enemies created a great deal of trouble for him throughout his reign (11:14-25) and seized upon growing opportunities to attack Israel.
By the end of chapter 11 and beginning in chapter 12, God establishes that Israel will later be split into two kingdoms – 10 tribes will be ruled by one of Solomon’s own officials, Jeroboam (11:26), and the other 2 southern tribes would be ruled by Solomon’s son, Rehoboam. That Sol’s son would be king was a sign of grace and in keeping with God’s promise to David to preserve David’s dynasty due to David’s faithfulness to the LORD.
Keep in mind that we only get 12 chapters in 1 Kings, a collection of discourses in Ecclesiastes, and a huge chunk of wisdom one-liners in Proverbs. (Oh, and of course there’s the ever-popular Song Of Songs. Didn’t think I’d really forget that one now did you? Heh heh.) What we don’t have is the detailed timeline of decay of Solomon’s actions and his thoughts about the course of his life as each event played out. After only 20 years, we have but a small handful of details and a few more mini-summaries.
HOW TO GET A MASTERS DEGREE IN STUPIDITY
Now to transition to the letter of 2 Peter to answer the matter of the earth getting burnt to a crisp as opposed to Solomon saying the earth never changes.
Peter’s main concern focuses on two points: 1) to grow in the knowledge of Christ (which is actually an overarching-focus of this blog series) and 2) warns against and denounces false teachers who claim to come in the name of Christ...or denounce Christ completely. There is an additional reference to judgment and the End Times as he brings his short letter to a close. It’s to that matter we’ll zoom in on in order to resolve this issue of conflict in the Scriptures in a second.
The whole of the context of Peter’s letter starts out by encouraging Christians to remain strong and grow in the knowledge of Christ (1 Peter 1:2), emphasizing that first-hand witnesses (1:16) of Christ and the fulfillment of the prophets (1:19-21) gives reliability to the claims of Christ as the awaited Messiah and risen Son of God. Unfortunately, Peter warns, there are false teachers who will (and, indeed, already were) proclaiming things that were overtly not of God. Furthermore, Peter emphasizes that such evidences, like those of false teachers, provides certainty that the “message proclaimed by the prophets” (1:19) is true. Due to the fulfillment of past prophesies, how much more so will Christ’s own promise to return be true, since both are from God. (1:19-21).
Given the clear picture of what is Godly via the Scriptures – which is why Peter emphasizes so much the importance of knowledge of Christ, etc. – Peter then details the horrible, sinful behavior of the false teachers, stating, “They will cleverly teach destructive heresies and even deny the Master who bought them…mak[ing] up cleaver lies…” (2:1, 3), amongst other sins (2:2, 10, 12, 14-15, 18).
But God has their fate sealed for they refuse to repent (2:3-6). Judgment is coming.
I LIKE MY DOOMSDAY MEDIUM-RARE
Both the prophets and Jesus, Himself, warned about the coming of such false leaders with contrary behavior…some far more obvious than others, given their use of lies and deceit to reel people into a destructive lifestyle. Like a witch’s poisoned apple and a certain princess. Oh how good it looks…and, oh, how deadly.
Evidence indicates that Peter died under Emperor Nero in AD 64 or 65, which would place 2 Peter sometime in the early 60s (he states he is aware that his life will soon be gone (1:14-15)). Roughly six and a half decades have passed since Jesus’ death on the Cross and the subsequent resurrection from the grave. So there has been plenty of time for word to get around that Jesus promised to return.
It’s here that the matter of 2 Peter 3:10 comes into focus, allowing us to begin bringing this contradiction to a rest. Again, Peter starts out by reminding people to keep their knowledge of Jesus and the prophets strong. In this way, they can discern the Truth of God from the lies and sinfulness of the false teachers. Finally, Peter references the mocking questions of these wayward people: “What happened to the promise that Jesus is coming again? From before the times of our ancestors, everything has remained the same since the world was first created” (2 Peter 3:4, NLT, bold mine). Okay, what has remained the same? Remember, Peter just got done discussing the judgment such false teachers will face.
This might seem insignificant, but it’s almost the crux of everything Peter is trying hurriedly to convey. Remember all that Jesus did. Remember all that God accomplished in the past. Remember! Just like Satan causing Eve to doubt God’s warning of death for sin, these Godless people are questioning the very history of the world!
Peter expounds on this claim:
They deliberately forget that God made the heavens by the word of His command, and He brought the earth out from the water and surrounded it with water. Then He used the water to destroy the ancient world with a might flood. And by the same word, the present heavens and earth have been stored up for fire. They are being kept for the Day of Judgment, when ungodly people will be destroyed.
(2 Peter 3:5-7, NLT)
Peter references the Great Flood of Noah, citing that the world has seen great change due to the method of punishment God extracted upon the sinful people of the (really) ancient world. Such a point is why remembering the Scriptures was so important; because the false teachers were making wildly preposterous claims! The naïve would be too easily fooled and drawn into sinful behavior (2:18-20).
Given the question of Jesus’ promise to return, Peter adds this famous – and famously misunderstood – verse about how a day is like a thousand years to God and a thousand years is like a day (3:8). It is meant to point out that Jesus’ promise to return is not delayed (3:9), but is an expression of God’s grace so that people may have more time to choose to repent. This is a comparison of perspective – ours from within time, and God’s from outside. Peter is warning, though, that the time of Christ’s return will be as unexpected as when a thief decides to rob your home. Time will eventually run out.
However! Dear readers, this is now not just an article to address a claim of contradiction, but an address to you, personally, with what follows… Please adjust your thinking from intellectual to one that regards the condition of your current relationship with Jesus Christ…or, perhaps, lack of one. It is my hope that this will serve as a gentle, but firm, and sobering thought for serious consideration. I’m sure Peter intended it as such.
But the day of the Lord will come as unexpectedly as a thief. Then the heavens will pass away with a terrible noise, and the very elements themselves will disappear in fire, and the earth and everything on it will be found to deserve judgment.
Since everything around us is going to be destroyed like this, what holy and godly lives you should live, looking forward to the day of God and hurrying it along. On that day, He will set the heavens on fire, and the elements will melt away in the flames. But we are looking forward to the new heavens and new earth He has promised, a world filled with God’s righteousness.
(3:10-13, NLT, bold mine)
Are you amongst the “we” mentioned here? Consider the alternative. We do live in a day and age where weapons can literally melt away the surrounding environment. I don’t know if that’s how God plans to invoke judgment upon the earth, but it is one hell of a way to go out…literally.
To close this section, we see here a clear distinction between people and the earth. The earth…and everything on it. People, those without Christ will be amongst the everything on it. And if you at all take the Bible seriously, there is no theme of “annihilation”. Hell is everlasting.
WHICH EARTH ARE YOU FROM?
So now we have a rather vivid account of Ecclesiastes and 2 Peter (and 1 Kings which sets the stage for Ecclesiastes). It ought to be self-evident what the differences are and how they’re not contradictions after all. But for the doubtful, let’s take a “microscopic” look. Remember, the pit bull match being staged is based on the usage of the word “earth”. I personally challenge that an unfair fight is being waged, though. One that is not unlike saying a fight between a dog and a cat is purely fair because both animals have fur, four legs, and a tail.
See, we’re actually dealing with two words. Not one. “But the words on the page both say earth.” Yes! In the translations to English! Ladies and gentlemen, not only do we have two different words we’re dealing with in the Bible, but two languages – Hebrew and Greek (though that’s just an additional bit of info to highlight fact). Allow me to explain.
Just like most any word in most any language, each word has a varied set of definitions, but the definition in play depends on the context of the intended message, which is usually clarified by the surrounding words and, when applicable, the current circumstances. To start out with, the following is the definition set of both uses of earth in their respective languages.
Generations come and generations go, but the earth never changes.
(Ecclesiastes 1:4, NLT, bold mine)
…Then the heavens will pass away with a terrible noise, and the very elements themselves will disappear in fire, and the earth and everything on it will be found to deserve judgment.
(2 Peter 3:10, NLT, bold mine)
WORD & DEFINTION
‘erets (eh’-rets), noun
Root word: from an unused root probably meaning to be firm
1) land, earth
1) whole earth (as opposed to a part)
2) earth (as opposed to heaven)
3) earth (inhabitants)
1) country, territory
2) district, region
3) tribal territory
4) piece of ground
5) land of Canaan, Israel
6) inhabitants of land
7) Sheol, land without return, (under) world
8) city (-state)
c) ground, surface of the earth
d) (in phrases)
1) people of the land
2) space or distance of country (in measurements of distance)
3) level or plain country
4) land of the living
5) end(s) of the earth
e) (almost wholly late in usage)
1) lands, countries
a) often in contrast to Canaan
gē (gā), noun
Root word: contracted from a root word
1) arable land
2) the ground, the earth as a standing place
3) the main land as opposed to the sea or water
4) the earth as a whole
a) the earth as opposed to the heavens
b) the inhabited earth, the abode of men and animals
5) a country, land enclosed within fixed boundaries, a tract of land, territory, region
It’s pretty obvious that 2 Peter’s word for earth is straight forward – it’s talking specifically about the physical planet. But with Ecclesiastes, Solomon’s choice of words has a few more options. It’s true that the word could refer to either the physical planet, the land on the surface, or the people of the earth. But…which one is it? The key comes in the context of what Solomon was talking about. He frequently discussed people and their actions and what he and they all poured their efforts into. Since the Hebrew word ‘erets can refer to the physical object of the planet earth, it’s land, or the people, we need something to single out which meaning is intended; that word is generation.
In Hebrew, generation is translated from dowr (dōre), and one particular definition is “those living during a period [of time]”. It’s a reference to people. We’re dealing with two different earth references, not one. Despite the single use of the English earth, one is to the planet, and one is to the people on it.
THE “NEW” NEW? WHO KNEW?
To round out the context of Ecclesiastes 1:4, let’s take a gander at the rest of the opening discourse.
Remember that the subtext of Ecclesiastes meaninglessness, hebel, the fleeting value of human efforts alone, apart from God.
What do people get for all their hard work under the sun? Generations come and generations go, but the earth never changes.
Keep that in mind. Solomon’s starting out by examining the worth of all that people do. He illustrates his opening point with the repeating course of nature, itself.
The sun rises and the sun sets, then hurries around to rise again. The wind blows south, and then turns north. Around and around it goes, blowing in circles. Rivers run into the sea, but the sea is never full. Then the water returns again to the rivers and flows out again to the sea.
With that visual, Sol further clarifies his point by comparing physical nature with all that he has observed about human nature.
Everything is wearisome beyond description. No matter how much we see, we are never satisfied. No matter how much we hear, we are not content.
History merely repeats itself. It has all been done before. Nothing under the sun is truly new. Sometimes people say, “Here is something new!” But actually it is old; nothing is ever truly new.
While it’s not the purpose of this article to be a social commentary with a Biblical perspective, that’s certainly one aspect of what Solomon is addressing presently. He’s been there, done that and had the “unlimited” resources to indulge in it (1 Kings explains his financial gains, too). Solomon pursued wisdom, knowledge, partying, drinking, working, building grand cities, fame…hebel. All hebel.
How often does society get excited about the latest and greatest? How often is the latest and greatest nothing more than an update on the previous model, whether it’s the newest video game console (think Nintendo, PlayStation, or Xbox) or smart phone or car? (Who remembers the old models? Cell phones with black-and-white LCD screens. Cars with no A/C or radio. The Atari 7800 game console. Anyone?) All of these things have been invented. Video games are not new, nor are smart phones or cars. They’ve all been around for many years now – especially cars. All the new-fangled things to come onto the market aren’t new; they’re just updated models of what’s old. Perhaps fashion embodies this notion best of all.
True, there was a time when none of these things existed. However, it’s not about the specific item or idea, but the whole hyper-focused, fad-minded, delusions-of-grandeur way of living that is being addressed, as if those things, or style of dress, or career, or whatever, were somehow the. Ultimate. Thing.
We don’t remember what happened in the past, and in the future generations, no one will remember what we are doing now.
(Ecclesiastes 1:3-11, NLT, includes verses referenced above in this section)
Most likely, I’m guessing now, Solomon is speaking of the “nobler” human efforts.
That’s what never changes. Generation to generation, the people of the earth don’t change. They don’t understand the pointless pursuits – when sought after for their own sake – will lead to emptiness. That doesn’t make helping others, having grand buildings that touch the sky, reaching other planets, growing businesses, of having world-wide fame bad things. The point is that, apart from God, these “new” things are completely hebel. It would be foolish to let anyone teach you different, just like Peter warned about regarding the false teachers and prophets of old.
The major difference is that Solomon was addressing the unchanging nature of humanity, apart from God, and Peter was discussing future matters. Solomon was examining matters in hindsight, while Peter was foreshadowing things yet to come.
Thursday, 29 November 2012
Originally posted November 26, 2012.
HE’S JUST MISUNDERSTOOD
Have you ever felt grossly misunderstood? No matter how carefully you word something, it seems like everyone is out to twist what you say to prove their own point of view is true. I wonder if that isn’t how God feels. He sets out to declare who He is, the “extent” (as if He had a limit) of His power, and how it is that He is the ultimate authority, and then we gotta go in and contort His message.
Not that God needs my help, but I’m here again to try to set the record straight.…with a dose of humor, of course.
“LET’S START FROM THE VERY BEGINNING…A VERY GOOD PLACE TO START”
As always, a little background. This series seeks to address a video on YouTube that, while very well made (truly, I laughed at the clever dialogue), claims there are contradictions in the Bible. I definitely can’t say I haven’t run across my own share of Biblical head-scratchers, asking, “How can this be?” In today’s episode, we’ll be examining the argument that God is the author of evil. But wait, doesn’t the Bible say God is love? Indeed!
We’ll be taking a look at a few things to answer this question: 1) The historical context of Isaiah that serves as a backdrop to its account, 2) A few key Hebrew words, and finally 3) a briefing about the four types of love.
GOOD VERSUS EVIL
How can God be all good, yet is the author of evil? Isn’t that self-defeating? That could be a summary of a question asked by any inquiring critic, and it’s a totally legit question if it were true. We don’t like double-standards in humans, so why would we give any credit to a supposedly superior deity with the same flawed character?
The Pharisees in Jesus’ day tried to discredit Jesus with a similar argument (Matthew 12:22-31, 33; NLT), but Jesus was ready for them:
[Jesus heals a demon-possessed, blind and mute man.]
But when the Pharisees heard about the miracle, they said, “No wonder He can cast out demons. He gets his power from Satan, the prince of demons.”
Jesus knew their thoughts and replied, “Any kingdom divided by civil war is doomed. A town or family splintered by feuding will fall apart. And if Satan is casting out Satan, he is divided and fighting against himself. His own kingdom will not survive. And if I am empowered by Satan, what about your own exorcists? They cast out demons, too, so they will condemn you for what you have said. But if I am casting out demons by the Spirit of God, then the Kingdom of God has arrived among you. For who is powerful enough to enter the house of a strong man like Satan and plunder his goods? Only someone even stronger—someone who could tie him up and then plunder his house.
“Anyone who isn’t with me opposes me, and anyone who isn’t working with me is actually working against me.”
Jesus said a moment later…
“A tree is identified by its fruit. If a tree is good, its fruit will be good. If a tree is bad, its fruit will be bad.”
This accusation of the Pharisees did two things: 1) It attempted to make Jesus look like the bad guy, and, by default, 2) it made the Pharisees look all righteous because they were (supposedly) of God. They were obviously against Jesus, so why not label Jesus the Satan worshiper? Jesus didn’t deny that there were exorcists among the Pharisees who drove out demons, too, but surely they didn’t use Satanic powers. (“Isn’t that right?” Jesus asked.) The Pharisees wouldn’t make that claim about their own exorcists, so they stood convicted that they were speaking lies against Christ who was doing the same thing, and ultimately, were against God (there’s a hint of Matthew 1:23 here, too).
We ask again: how can a good God use evil to combat evil? According to Jesus, it’s just not a logical conclusion, for it would destroy the LORD’s own efforts and hinder His goals. How can a good tree produce a bad apple? How can a bad tree produce a good apple? The condition of the tree determines the quality of the fruit.
I CANNOT TELL A LIE…
Okay, now to get digging into the meat and potatoes (or whatever hearty meal gets you salivating)…the two verses that are accused of being contradictory.
Surely, just about anyone has heard this line:
“But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love” (1 John 4:8, NLT, bold mine).
Okay, God is love. The running idea is that He ought to be so good, so holy, He wouldn’t swat a fly or squish an ant. He’s like Fix-It Felix, the all-around nice guy and everyone’s favorite handy-man. People just love him. He can do no wrong (even if He tried) and even if he attempts to wreck stuff, it gets fixed!
But then we get this face-slapper! This is the verse that has all the critics up in arms:
I create the light and make the darkness. I send good times and bad times. I, the LORD, am the one who does these things.
(Isaiah 45:7, NLT, bold mine)
I can hear the soda erupting from people’s mouths in shock. Yup! God said it. And He isn’t denying it one bit. But…but why? Why would God say something like that?
If you’re not familiar with the Bible (or even if you are), let me ask you to reconsider what everyone’s likely first impression is. Read alone, I don’t blame anyone for thinking that, but is that really the whole story? Is that even the story? Remember, this is the book of Isaiah, chapter 45, and verse 7 of that chapter. People, you don’t need to be a Bible scholar to see that we’re smack-dab in the middle of a larger account. There’s more going on than whatever impression this single verse initially gives.
Please read this carefully: Each of the purportedly contradictory verses above – 1 John 4:8 and Isaiah 45:7 – have a lot of content surrounding them. They are nestled in different topics despite their appearances of being on opposite ends of a diametric theme. So, first up, folks: a history lesson.
THAT’S IN THE BIBLE, TOO
Throughout much of the book of Isaiah, God addresses the frequent rebellion of Judah and Israel (respectively the southern and northern halves of the larger Israelite nation); in this case, all-out acts of idol making and worshiping. But God frequently expresses messages of future grace and redemption when the people turn away from the objects of their sin. That message of hope is precisely what Isaiah 45:7 hangs on, even though you wouldn’t know it by reading the verse singularly.
We often miss the overall historical events in the Biblical accounts. The Bible usually depicts one perspective that, while true, doesn’t reveal all the details. Due to the fact that Isaiah focuses on God’s response to Israel’s sins and His promises of redemption, we don’t readily see the full scope of what’s happening outside this account. This isn’t to say the Bible is lacking…it’s simply that such additional details were not pertinent to the purpose of the writing. Just the same, we can always benefit from some extra-Biblical understanding.
According to the background info from my NLT Study Bible…
By the time of King Uzziah’s death (740 BC), the southern kingdom of Judah face[d] a major crisis. The empire of Assyria, dormant for nearly fifty years, was now on the move again. Assyria’s conquest reached southwestward from its homeland in what is now northern Iraq toward its ultimate destination, Egypt. The small nations of the Mediterranean coast, including [northern kingdom] Israel and Judah, stood in Assyria’s path. Assyria took Galilee and much of Israel’s territory east of the Jordan River. But Assyria would be satisfied only with total control of Israel, Judah, and all other smaller nations in the area.
While Judah’s King Uzziah was still alive, Judah was able to ignore the crisis. Uzziah had a strong army (2 Chr 26:11-15). Overall, Uzziah was a good and effective king, and his people hoped that he could somehow save the nation from the Assyrians. When Uzziah died, however, ungodly rulers succeeded him. During this crisis of leadership, God gave Isaiah the vision that launched his ministry for the next forty years (6:1-13).
…The prophet Isaiah brought a much-needed message: God is absolutely dependable, and it is utter folly to trust in anything or anyone other than God.
Unfortunately, Isaiah’s central message was not always heeded…
Regrettably, God’s people did not remain faithful to Him, As a result, God eventually allowed Judah to be overcome by Assyria’s successor, Babylon (605-586 BC). What would Judah’s destruction and exile to Babylon mean in terms of God’s absolute reliability, which Isaiah had proclaimed? Isaiah answered this as well: God would indeed punish Judah’s wickedness. He would also preserve a remnant that one day would return to the holy land. This return would not be due to any faithfulness on their part; it would be an act of God’s grace.
(The Book of Isaiah: Setting (pgs. 1104-1105), NLT Study Bible, 2nd Ed, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, bold mine)
While this isn’t a traditional history book, we do begin to get a bigger picture of what God’s people were up against, how they responded, and why God was upset with them. A lot of Isaiah focuses heavily on God’s sovereignty and promise of redemption despite Israel’s unworthiness.
When the message of Isaiah 40-45 was initially given, God’s people have not yet been taken into Babylonian captivity, something that wouldn’t happen until shortly after 600 BC. However, God’s grace had already lined up a solution in that Cyrus, king of Persia, would free God’s people from captivity and restore them. This prophesy was made 150 years before it happened (some sources suggest as little as 100 years), ensuring the people would know it was God – not some random fluke nor anyone’s own power – who freed them so they would once again come to know God as LORD and worship Him wholeheartedly.
Cyrus did not know God, but God surely knew Cyrus. Cyrus was born sometime between 600-576 BC, which placed him precisely around the time of Babylon’s conquest of Judah. Though the dates of Cyrus’ life are in some minimal dispute, the close proximity of his birth to the events of Judah’s exile sound much less coincidental given the prophesy Isaiah gave long before Cyrus was a gleam in his mother’s eye.
The LORD chose Cyrus and empowered him to accomplish His goals for Israel’s freedom. Though Cyrus may not had any mind or heart to serve Yahweh (though his political policies showed he had grand respect for the religions of the nations he conquered), Yahweh allowed Cyrus’ power to grow so that he could effectively defeat Babylon in battle, and, as a side-effect, enable a remnant of Israel to be restored to its former glory.
“I’M GOD; NEED I SAY MORE?”
Chapters 40-45 depict a present tense of a future event; how the people would bemoan God with complaints that He had forgotten them. God proclaimed encouragement to the people, “Do not tremble; do not be afraid. Did I not proclaim my purposes for you long ago? …I carry out the predictions of my prophets! … When I say of Cyrus, ‘He is My shepherd,’ he will say, ‘Restore the Temple.’” (Isaiah 44:8a, 26a, 28, NLT). (The Temple would be destroyed during the pending Babylonian conquest warned of in Isaiah 39.) Earlier He encouraged them, “O Jacob how can you say the LORD does not see your troubles? O Israel, how can you say God ignores your rights?” (Isaiah 40:27, NLT).
At the beginning of chapter 45. God begins addressing Cyrus, personally, in verses 1-6. The first three verses are encouragement to him and promising reward during his efforts. Then, God adds more regarding His use of Cyrus:
“And why have I called you [Cyrus] for this work? Why did I call you by name when you did not know Me?
It is for the sake of Jacob My Servant, Israel My chosen one.
I am the LORD; there is no other God.
I have equipped you for battle, though you don’t even know Me, so all the world from east to west will know there is no other God.
I am the LORD, and there is no other.”
(Isaiah 45:3-6, NLT)
God is making clear His compassion and authority so the people will understand why He is using (or rather, will use) Cyrus. Though Cyrus will surely be given credit for victory in battle, it is God who will be given glory and full recognition for setting up all the events that would lead to that battle and its aftermath…namely, Israel being freed. It’s in this introduction that the context of Isaiah 45:7 is established: God is LORD.
But more than that, the “bad times” that God mentions in this case happens to be against the evil empire of Babylon. While the people of Babylon would come to praise Cyrus, it would surely be a dark day for the Babylonian leadership.
AN EMOTIONALLY UNSTABLE, DEPRESSED, RAGING SMURF WITH A COLD
In response to my other posts in this series up to this point, a staunch critic has vehemently dismissed my arguments, stating I was using semantics to justify my claims of a non-contradictory Bible. It’s ironic because semantics are precisely what make-or-break anyone’s argument, regardless of which side of the debate they’re on. If we don’t consider the meanings of words and the ideas they are meant to convey, then why communicate at all? It may seem trivial and tedious, but this is where some of the fun begins. Allow me to paint you an illustration.
For instance, suppose I stated “I am blue.” If that’s all I said, one could only guess as to what I truly meant without additional info. Am I sad? That’s likely the most reasonable conclusion. “Blue” is sometimes used to describe emotions. Or perhaps I’m saying that I decided to join the Smurfs. Who knows? Maybe both?
Let’s throw more dice into the mix. Moments after I make my blue declaration, I say, “I’m green.” Someone might argue “contradiction!” Perhaps. But semantics matter. Am I feeling sick? Am I signing up for the next Hulk movie (that would be so cool)? A contradiction could be called if I said I painted myself all blue and later said I was all green at the same time. I could be blue (sad) because I’m green (sick). I could even be a green (sick) Smurf or a blue (sad) Hulk (though sadness doesn’t seem to be an outstanding emotion of the big guy). There are several possible options here depending on the context. Semantic shmemantic? Hardly.
In any language, words can hold multiple definitions and uses. Just look in the dictionary. The word “set” has a record of definitions at 464! In the Urban Dictionary, “emo” has an astounding 915!! People, we’ve got to understand what words mean before we go calling contradictions at every moment of seeming impasse. Simply reading the “words on the page” will fail us almost every time.
Going back to Isaiah 45:7, let’s examine the word that seems to be causing all the trouble. The historical context about Isaiah will play a clarifying role in discerning the particular definition of the word we’re to employ.
The word in question is ra. (Not to be confused with the Egyptian god; though I do wonder if there isn’t a real connection between the word and the name…something to study up on later.) Ra can refer to evil in terms of morality, a bad quality or value of something, or calamity or troubles, as well as a few other variances.
Since the word consists of these different types of “evil”, we cannot immediately conclude that the only option is the moral or ethical idea. Even in English, the word “evil” holds a variety of definitions, one of which is “characterized or accompanied by misfortune or suffering; unfortunate; disastrous: [ie] to be fallen on evil days”. We even consider some things to be evil even though they have no ethical quality on their own.
In the context of the verse, this evil is not a moral issue, but one of circumstance.
THAT WHICH IS NOT
There are a couple of other words we’ll peek at in terms of the Hebrew words they’re translated from, but first we ought to consider a more philosophical matter. That is, the specific issue of evil. In 1 John 1:5 (NLT), we read
This is the message we heard from Jesus and now declare to you: God is light, and there is no darkness in Him at all.
There is a scientific “pun” to highlight a metaphysical point. In a lit room, as far as light particles can reach, darkness is no more; it is overwhelmed. The simple fact of the matter is that darkness is simply a term that relates to where no light exists in that area. Unlike light particles, you cannot hold darkness as a commodity, for it’ll surely be a wasted investment upon the introduction of a light bulb or flame. Darkness has no empirical qualities. In the verse, God is given a trans-literal quality of light. To consist of darkness means that He isn’t there or that He is somehow lacking. (How would they even know?)
The light and darkness is used to illustrate (illuminate) that God is life and truth, themselves (1 John 1:2, 7). The context is made clearer here in the next few verses following 1 John 1:5:
So we are lying if we say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness; we are not practicing the truth. But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin.
If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts.
(1 John 1:6-10, NLT)
The distinction here is made by comparing sinful man with holy, perfect God. If God is the light, then we are the darkness. We are the ones lacking in goodness and love without God to fill in the void.
With this understanding, it brings about a much larger view of the accusation that God is the author of evil. God is good. To be void of goodness is the definition of evil, just as darkness is the void of light. God cannot simply erase Himself in order that there be evil. The mistake is to think of evil or darkness as that which we can measure in quantity. Picture it this way: Can you say you have a fully developed human body while lacking arms?
This also brings up the idea of “levels” of goodness or evil. “He’s only a little evil.” “There’s still some good in him.” “I’m mostly a good person.” Oh, how we humans love to justify our iniquities. If I owed $1000, I couldn’t go to my debtor and say, “But I paid some of it back. I should be in the clear.” No bank or creditor would accept that, and certainly neither does God. A room with a little light in the corner still has darkness in the rest of the room.
Thus, logically, it’s a false notion to suggest or question that God is all good yet is also the author of evil. It’s like saying a functioning pen full of ink can write on paper without ink flowing out. When you use the pen according to its purpose, ink will flow and lines will be written. You cannot expect a lack of ink to result when the pen is full of ink. This pretty much defeats any notion that Isaiah 45:7 is claiming that God actually makes or does (moral) evil.
A RECIPE FOR DISASTER
Thus, it should come as no surprise that the wording in Isaiah 45:7 supports that idea. Let’s look at the verse again.
I create the light and make the darkness. I send good times and bad times. I, the LORD, am the one who does these things (NLT, bold mine).
Notice the words I highlighted. Below a breakdown goes like this when we review the Hebrew that the words were translated from.
HEBREW + definition
King James Version
I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these [things]. Form yatsar
1) to form, fashion, frame
a) (Qal) to form, fashion
2) of divine activity
b) to frame, pre-ordain, plan (fig. of divine) purpose of a situation)
c) (Pual) to be predetermined, be pre-ordained
H3335 Create bara'
1) to create, shape, form
a) (Qal) to shape, fashion, create (always with God as the subject)
3) of new conditions and circumstances
1) to cut down
2) to cut out
H1254 Make `asah
1) to do, fashion, accomplish, make
1) to do, work, make, produce *
d) to act, act with effect, effect
2) to make *
i) to bring about
( * ) there are several listings which might also be applicable to the context intended
H6213 Create bara’ – See listing above H1254
New American Standard Bible
The One forming light and creating darkness, causing well-being and creating calamity; I am the LORD who does all these. Forming yastar – See listing above H3335 Creating bara’ – See listing above H1254 Causing `asah – See listing above H6213 Creating bara’ – See listing above H1254
NOTE: Because I use the BlueLetterBible.com web site for help with cross-referencing words and meanings in the original Biblical languages, I’ll be comparing the KJV and NASB translations since those are what the site uses. They give a brief explanation for their current use of these two translations here if you’re at all curious.
The particular definitions selected from all possible definitions of each Hebrew word are of my best guess according to the known context of the verse. Thus, I have provided links to each Strong’s reference for a complete list of definitions lest there be any question to the accuracy of my analysis. Those stronger in Hebrew linguistic studies are welcome to offer their understanding and correction.
This is what I want you to notice in particular: the words used here all carry with them the idea of taking something and molding it. You can’t mold nothingness. Further, we already know that God is addressing Judah’s upcoming exile as punishment for their evil. We’re not talking about senseless actions against the innocent.
HOW TO ARGUE WITH POTTERY AND OTHER INANIMATE OBJECTS
Come on, who doesn’t love Bill Cosby? In perhaps his most famous solo comedy acts, “Bill Cosby, Himself” (to say “acts” is inaccurate – he was literally being himself), Bill talked about life as a child.
My father established our relationship when I was seven years old. He looked at me and said, "You know, I brought you in this world, and I can take you out. And it don't make no difference to me, I'll make another one look just like you."
I can only imagine the effect that would have on a boy such as Little Bill. But apparently he turned out pretty well!
In light of Bill’s comical take on parenting (from both sides of the topic), I can picture God having a similarly exasperated and comical debate with Israel over the whole matter of God’s authority. Isaiah 45:7 is in the middle of this entire issue concerning God’s authority to punish His people. The people were practically telling God He had no right punish them even though they were the ones sinning, and God is like, “Look! I brought you into this world…I can make another one look just like you!” How appropriate that God uses references to molding clay…
“What sorrow awaits those who argue with their Creator.
Does a clay pot argue with its maker? Does the clay dispute with the one who shapes it, saying, ‘Stop, you’re doing it wrong!’ Does the pot exclaim, ‘How clumsy can you be?’
How terrible it would be if a newborn baby said to its father, ‘Why was I born?’ or if it said to its mother, ‘Why did you make me this way?’”
This is what the Lord says—the Holy One of Israel and your Creator: “Do you question what I do for My children? Do you give Me orders about the work of My hands? I am the one who made the earth and created people to live on it. With My hands I stretched out the heavens. All the stars are at My command.
I will raise up Cyrus to fulfill My righteous purpose, and I will guide his actions. He will restore My city and free My captive people—without seeking a reward!
(This is where I imagine God is about to bring the boom.)
I, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, have spoken!”
(Isaiah 45:9-13, NLT, bold mine)
I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE, LOVE YOU
Behold! A questionnaire.
I ____ you. (Check one.)
( ) love
( ) love
( ) love
( ) love
The first question everyone will ask is, “Uh… What’s the difference?” An excellent question; I’m glad you asked (but I would have told you anyway.)
In English, we have this peculiar word. Perhaps you’ve heard of it. The well recognized, “love”. We say we “love” a song as much as we might say we “love” our latest high school crush…or chocolate. We’ll say we love our family and we’ll say we love our spouse, but is the love referenced of the same nature? Would you die for chocolate which you love so much as you would give your life to save your loved one? Probably not.
Then it comes as no surprise that there are different types of love; four, actually, but you wouldn't know it by the English language...unless you're passing by the Hallmark cards during Valentine's Day. Categories read like "For sibling," "For special someone," "For spouse," "For friend". Even though English only has one word for the different types of love, it's very obvious that even in our culture, we do generally realize that love comes on different levels and applies to different relationships.
The reason I bring up this seemingly off-topic…er, topic is to address the other “contradictory” verse which says “God is love” (1 John 4:8). We just spent a long time to get up to the understanding that Isaiah 45:7 is not talking about moral evil – that is, the lack of that which is good – but rather about God’s authority. So it ought to make sense that love, too, falls into the same idea: evil, morally speaking, isn’t a separate, opposite notion, but the lack of love (and love is good). But what is love in general, particularly in Biblical terms (we’re studying the Bible, after all)?
CS Lewis, in a profound review on the subject, wrote in his book, The Four Loves, on the different levels of human love relationships. I say human, but, in truth, God holds perfect exclusivity on one of them: agape. It’s that particular type of love we’re called to emulate through the Holy Spirit’s leading. And I say emulate due to the fact that our sinfulness prevents us from loving as God loves in a perfect sense.
To dig deeper into this subject would require an entirely separate article, but I’ll go over each love in brief (thankfully, someone already did the work for me).
# OF OCCURANCES
Storge Love Affection; a fondness through familiarity despite most discriminating factors Exodus 20:12
Ephesians 6:1, 4
The word does not occur, but is present in concept
Philia / Phileo Love Friendship; a strong bond between people, often due to a shared interest or activity Matthew 10:37
John 5:20, 11:3
David & Jonathan’s relationship
Eros Love Romance; “being in love” or “loving” someone, seeking an emotional connection, separate from sexual love but it can be coupled with it Genesis 2:24-25
1 Corinthians 7:1-6
Song of Songs
The word does not occur, but is present in concept
Agape Love Charity; given freely without obligation expected from the recipient or payment required, unconditionally given John 13:35, 15:13
Romans 5:5, 8:35
1 Corinthians 13:1
Source: The Four Loves
Note: These words are from the Greek language. The New Testament is written entirely in Greek. I have not done a word comparison to find compatible words in the Old Testament (Hebrew and Aramaic languages).
Love in 1 John 4:8 is translated from agape. With that understanding, the verse would be better read this way:
But anyone who does not [give charitably, freely, without demand for repayment] does not know God, for God is [the One who gives freely in all these ways].
This is a rough summary of the four types of love, but it should help clear up the context a great deal. What this means is that we’re dealing with two incredibly different topics here. It should be evident enough to see that 1 John is dealing with how people ought to love each other the way God loves us. The same love which shapes His authority.
HOW TO HAVE A MENTAL BREAKDOWN AND LIVE TO TELL ABOUT IT
The problem critics have with these two verses is, first, they don’t understand the context, and second, the idea that a loving God will purposefully send any kind of calamity fails to register as reasonable.
In truth, a loving God allows calamity for a number of reasons. It might be due to the consequences of willful disobedience, such as an STD resulting from premarital sex. Troubles arise even upon the innocent as God does allow others to make their choices freely. In such troubles, God calls on us to trust in Him to get us through the trials and on to richer blessings. And sometimes God purposefully orchestrates trials for us to help us grow stronger in faith and wisdom. These trials are for our sake so that we can come to know who God is better. The story of Abraham and Isaac is a perfect example. You must understand – we live in a broken world due to our own sins. God operates through such conditions. But He does promise that one day such conditions will be a thing of the past for those who accept Christ’s sacrifice and follow Him.
It’s difficult for us to see how love and God’s use of authority work in tandem, but they must for either one to be expressed properly. It was out of love that God allowed Israel to fall into captivity to Babylon so that they would understand the error of their idol-worshiping ways. It was out of love that God would use Cyrus to later free them.
In the end, God is in control. He blesses the righteous and the unrighteous alike, and He sends the troubles and trials on them, too, all according to His plan and according to what is best. A clay pot may not like the kiln, it may think it’s just fine as wet clay, even if did not falter to form to the Potter’s hands, but the Potter knows when it is right to endure the intense heat, and the pot will come out stronger and more beautiful in the end.
Monday, 26 November 2012
Originally posted June 04, 2009 on my other account, NaitoOfNarnia. [Additional content added and original content minor-ly edited January 19, 2010.]
I SPY WITH MY MENTAL EYE...
For many of us around Xanga, the debates between Christians and non-Christians (even Christians and Christians) about the validity of the Bible and proof about God and whether the Bible is more of a moral story book, biography/autobiography, historical document or all of the above (and more) has been raging on with a steadily increasing rate over the last few years I have noticed (keep in mind this is my second Xanga account...I've been around for some time). While I have learned a great deal about the Bible and fully trust in its validity in every way, I am no formal Bible scholar. Nor am I a trained logic user (but I do try with a fair amount of success, I think). And there-in lies my point. I just made an assessment of my logic skills. It is an opinion about my personal ability to debate with sound logical reasoning. Many others with whom I've debated may think differently, though. The question that might arise then is how I came to any such idea about how good my skills are.
Well, there must be a standard. An unchanging, unbiased scale on which I can measure my performance.
But I have a confession to make: I don't really know what that scale is. As I said, I've never taken any lessons in formal logic or debate. What I have learned I have gleaned off of those clearly smarter than me here on Xanga or elsewhere; those who have a natural ability to see an issue and examine it piece by piece. (Honestly, I would have a much easier time putting together a 5000-piece 3-D puzzle - and I did put a 3-D puzzle together once and it was so much fun.) So my next thought is this: How can I truly be sure of the accuracy of my assessment of my skills at logic and debate unless I have a standard against which to measure my skills?
What I have basically done is...
1) observe myself (perception)
2) make a statement based off that observation (opinion)
3) and then form a conclusion about it (truth...that is, "it" being what really is the case regardless what I observe or think).
Perception is how we see things in the world. It is influenced by what you believe is real and how things should be. And in turn, that perception influences how we continue to see what is there before us. It might be said that it is the wheel that propels itself. There are other factors which affect perception, but for now I will keep it at that.
An opinion is a statement about what we prefer or think about something. It is directly influenced by our perceptions and may or may not be consequential.
And truth is what really is. Truth is not affected by any other outside force. It exists of itself and does not change. Nor can truth be anything else but what it is.
The argument comes down to defining what is true. But to do so, we must be able to make a clear discernment of what is real versus what is not. And that becomes a difficult task when we are all too often coming to the discussion table with a variety of perceptions, which translates into a collection of preset opinions which greatly interfere with assessing the truth as it really is.
LOGIC TEST REMIX: THE ELEPHANT WORE GLASSES
To try to illustrate (and please bear with me as I try to make this clear), I'll explain it like this...
Let's say we all come to this singular point, a simple post stuck in the ground. Let's say that prior to anyone's arrival, the post is, indeed, white. Before anyone could offer their input, the post is white and that is the truth of the matter. It was white from the Beginning.
So then four of us arrive at the post and relatively at the same time. All four of us are wearing glasses.
One with clear, untinted lenses (we'll call him "Clear"); one with cracked lenses ("Cracked"); one with red-tinted lenses (she will be "Rosa"); and lastly, one with glasses that has one red and one blue lens ("Sir Mixed", or "Mix" for short).
From the very beginning, those of us simply observing this gathering can see naturally that the four of us with glasses on are going to see things differently from one another.
So for this illustration, the question is proposed: what color is the post?
The glasses are our "perception", and technically, we are "oblivious" to our own perception...we are "unaware" of the glasses we wear.
The first to speak up is Clear and proposes that the post is white.
The next to speak Cracked. Due to the nature of light refracting through multi-surfaced glass, he sees the color spectrum as a rainbow and says that the post is all the colors of the rainbow at the same time.
Scoffing, the third one to speak Rosa and, of course, she says the post is red.
Lastly, as you can guess, Mix says, with a 1960s drawl, the post is purple (red + blue).
How then can we determine which one of the four is right with each one having different opinions about what the truth of the post is? The obvious answer would be to get everyone to remove their glasses to have the clearest possible perspective - to see the post as it really is. But that's not likely to happen.
One such way would be to blind fold the four, paint the post a certain color, tell the four what color the post is now, and then turn them back to observe the post. Clearly, the one who states the right color would be the one with the right perception. But the problem in proving such a thing is that all too often we are so convinced of what we think is true that we don't consider that just maybe our perception is off. That maybe we're looking at things in the wrong way. We tend to naturally think we have a clear picture, even when the facts don't add up to what we believe we see.
On that note, the problem comes down to failing to recognize that opinions, which both influence and are influenced by our perceptions, do not equal the truth. That is not to say that an opinion cannot also agree with what is true, but they are not the same thing. Remember, that post was white to begin with, independent of any observer's perception or statement about what color they believed the post to be. We assume that our perception of reality is equal to reality, unaware that we might just have tinted or broken glasses. And sadly, even when the truth is tested - such as checking the the resulting opinions against the truth after changing the color of the post - many people still fail to realize they have judged reality against their own preset ideas of what reality should be rather than examining reality as it is. [Such as is said in Proverbs: "Fools have no interest in understanding; they only want to air their own opinions" (18:2, NLT).]
As I mentioned twice before, truth is what is. It cannot be affected by outside forces. It exists unto itself and does not change. Even though the color of the post changed, the truth is that the post was white and is now a different color. If no amount of white paint remains then that post cannot be both the new color and white. If the post had some bits of white that remained unpainted, then it is a bit white and mostly the new color. But in any case, if, for instance, green was never used on the post, at any time - before, during, or after being painted - it would be a lie to say that the post was green. Because that was never the case, thus the truth is and was that the post was never green.
STEP TO IT
With that (exceedingly) stated, no amount of opinions can alter the truth. Nor can an opinion be the truth, itself. Opinions, at best, can only refer to the truth. (And for the record, this is not neglecting that some opinions are inconsequential, such as having a preference about one's favorite color or sports team and saying "this is the best"...). So what is left is that we must examine the evidence and take the claims made in defense of what is stated as true and test it. There must be a standard.
Let's say that we had a card that listed all the colors (and their respective names) of the rainbow. This was the official standard against which all other records were made. If we brought that card up to the post and checked to see which block of color the post matched up with, we would all have to agree that the post was white (or, whatever color it was later changed to). Before bringing out that standard, each person had a perception of the post. If there was no standard, no foundation on which to assert the true color, then each person would have been equally right. Because from their point of view, they simply saw a different color. The post could have been clear and there would have been no right or wrong answer even if they had all said the same thing they did as when the post was white. But because there is a standard - a true, defined and specific color - to say anything different would be wrong. Perceptions and opinions would be null and void.
I'm going to offer another example to explain my point in case my last one didn't quite make sense.
Take a ruler. Your traditional (American) foot-long ruler. A ruler has 12-inches; an inch being the distance from point A to point B and any time we refer to an inch it is always the same distance between points A and B. And each inch is, in turn, divided into equal fractional spaces, and so on. Three rulers laid end to end would equal a "yard".
How do we know this? Well, for one, long ago someone developed a standard. It has been speculated that the length of a foot was actually based on King Henry I's foot! And the length of an inch was the average size of three men's thumbs, all of whom were of different sizes. However (in)accurate these methods were, the short story is that there was no true widespread standard (as it was also speculated that other kings may have imposed their foot for the standard). But over time, as things went on, there did eventually become an agreed upon standard for what yard really was regardless of who was around and where you were. Point A to point B was the same distance wherever you went any time you mentioned a "yard".
But suppose that never happened. Suppose I said that my land extends 50 yards in all directions from my house. Let's say that my opinion of a yard is what a yard actually is today (but we're pretending no standard exists for a moment). But then my neighbor comes along with a disagreement. Not with the amount of yards, but with the actual length of what a yard is! Fifty yards could extend far less distance in his mind. If there was no standard on which to judge the amount of distance a yard occupies, who's to say who is right?
Before anyone can truly say what something is (that is, to make reference to truth), that something must already exist prior to the claim. If no standard for a yard exists, then even with the word "yard" in use, it has no meaning other than to suggest a measurement of distance. But then one could use almost any made up word to express a particular (or random) distance and it would have equally no meaning. Rather, the word "yard", in terms of measuring point A to B, must have a specific meaning. And anywhere you go, a yard will mean the same thing. (It's also true that some words carry more than one meaning at the same time. This might sound contradictory when I said that things cannot be truly one thing and another at the same time. However, in this example, we must also allow for context. If we are talking about measurements, a yard is a distance. If we are talking about a particular location, a yard is typically a land mass of grass in front of or behind someone's house.)
THAT'S WHAT I SAID
So it is that any time we debate about faith/religion, politics or other hot-topic matters, we are all too often arguing for what we at least think is the truth. That which is and has been so since before the debate started. If we argue about right and wrong, good and bad, real and fake, yet have no standard that provides timeless definitions for such things, we're arguing nonsense and speaking gibberish.
Now, as I said, I am no logical expert here. Certainly anyone with greater skill can see that I probably have some holes in my presentation here. But I would hope you can see my intended goal and that I did not make too many leaps. While one can clearly not go forward by jumping backwards or to the side, I do believe that I at least made forward leaps as I connected point A to point B...and maybe accidentally skipped point C...as I sought to reach point D.
My ultimate point here is that all too often, many people, not just here on Xanga, are coming to the debate table concerning the Bible with prefabricated ideas about the Bible without instead investigating the Bible based on its own claims. This includes not examining the intended audience for which each book was originally meant for, the writing style, the known history (and a great many of the books of the Bible make clear references to historical events, holidays, leaders and known regions back in that day, many of which we have identified despite being known as something different in today's age), intended message, and other factors. This is a grave error on the part of many who dismiss the Bible as authoritative.
If a man is suspected of a crime and gives his alibi, then the only sure way to check the validity of his statement is to check out his story against what really happened. So why do so few give the Bible the same benefit of the doubt?
Paul said it quite well, "Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn't worship him as God or even give him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. As a result, their minds became dark and confused. Claiming to be wise, they instead became utter fools. And instead of worshiping the glorious, ever-living God, they worshiped idols made to look like mere people and birds and animals and reptiles" (Romans 1:21-23, NLT).