We have all seen the tragedy of the huge fire that destroyed much of the iconic Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. In the days after the fire, we have witnessed theological discussions about why the fire happened, and whether it is a demonstration that there is no God. Should God have protected Notre Dame Cathedral?
We want to point out a few things about the fire, Notre Dame Cathedral, and what the Bible says about the Church and church buildings. Of course, the fire was a tragedy. Anti-Catholic writers and atheists have denied it was a tragedy. Those critics maintain that it was good that this religious symbol was destroyed. We would point out that Notre Dame Cathedral has great historical significance and was a testimony to the artistic expression and skill of ancient human engineers and artisans. The building was a museum and had great tourism value. A destructive event in the Louvre or the Smithsonian would be comparable to what happened at Notre Dame.
From a theological standpoint, the fire is of little or no significance. Nowhere in the New Testament was there a command or instruction to build any kind of building. The name Notre Dame means “Our Lady.” Mary was blessed to be a tool of God to bring His Son into the world, but nowhere does the Bible command us to worship her. The Bible does not portray her as an intermediary between God and man.
The word “Church” in the original Greek is “ekklesia,” meaning “that which is called out.”The Bible never uses the term in reference to a building. Passages like 1 Corinthians 3:16 tell us what the Church is. From a religious standpoint, church buildings have often been a bane to faith, consuming money that should have gone to provide for the needs of the poor and disenfranchised. Frequently buildings becoming objects of worship themselves — an idol instead of a tool.
Paleontologists who study the earliest fossils of life on Earth refer to an event they call the “Cambrian Explosion.” The fossils from that event are unique because they have advanced body plans and no previous ancestors. A vast range of marine species that lived in an ancient sea suddenly appeared in the fossil record. A new discovery of fossils from the Cambrian Explosion is known as the Quingiang biota. Scientists are calling it one of the most significant fossil discoveries in the last 100 years.
Scientists made the find near the Danshui River in the Hubei province of China. It appears to be an ancient mudslide that buried a vast range of fossils. The site contains at least 20,000 individual specimens. At last report, 4,351 fossils have been examined, and they represent 101 different species. Fifty-three of those are new to science meaning that fossils of those species have not been found before. Because they were buried so quickly, not just shells, but even some soft parts have been preserved including muscles, guts, etc.
On April 11, 2019, scientists released the first actual image ever taken of a black hole. The black hole picture used wavelengths that are outside of what our eyes can detect. Astronomers used eight radio telescopes to see wavelengths that are beyond human vision. They photographed a black hole that is as large as our entire solar system, so it is a supermassive black hole.
This scientific accomplishment is significant because it allows scientists to test some of the predictions of Albert Einstein even down to the shape of the hole. A black hole is so massive that even light itself cannot escape the gravitational pull. The relationship of gravity and the shape of space is a concept proposed by Einstein that has radically improved our understanding of the nature of the universe.
There are important implications for apologetics in this discovery as well. A significant question that has been debated by atheists and believers for hundreds of years is whether the universe had a beginning or whether it has always existed. The biblical concept is that there was a beginning. Well-known atheists have claimed that matter/energy is eternal and just gets changed from one form to another forever. The nature of a black hole is that it sucks in everything that gets near it, including light. There is no escaping a black hole and attempts to propose a way around this fact such as wormholes and white holes have all been disproven.
If the universe has existed forever, and if black holes are continuously sucking in all matter including electromagnetic radiation, what would be the ultimate result? It seems pretty obvious that everything would have been sucked up by black holes and there would be nothing left but one supermassive black hole. That obviously isn’t the case, so there must have been a beginning to the creation.
If there was a beginning, there had to be a cause to that beginning. Ideas such as string theory and brane theory have attempted to get around this logical point without success. If there was a cause, there has to be a causer. The design, intelligence, and purpose that we see in the cosmos identify some of the properties of that causer, and God fits those criteria uniquely.
NASA posted this picture on apod.nasa.gov on April 8, 2019. Yang Suite took the photo in northern Norway of a phenomenon that lasted about 30 minutes. Witnesses said that colorful clouds, dots, and plumes suddenly appeared. Can you imagine what would have happened if the sky over Washington D.C. had been filled with what you see in this picture? Are they space aliens?
In this case, the picture is of a NASA-funded project called Auroral Zone Upwelling Rocket Experiment (AZURE). Gas tracers were dispersed from two short-lived rockets into the ionosphere at altitudes of 70 to 150 miles (112-240 km). The goal was to measure how the solar wind transfers energy to the Earth and powers auroras. Science still has much to learn about the design of the solar system and how something like an aurora takes place. So are they space aliens? No, and anytime we can see something that we don’t understand, we should seek to understand it and recognize the design and intelligence that is involved. The more we know of the creation, the closer we can get to the Creator.
On March 27 we posted an article about Dr. John Lennox, and yesterday we talked about Galileo. Today we have a quote from John Lennox on Galileo.
Dr. Lennox is Professor of Mathematics emeritus at the University of Oxford and an Adjunct Lecturer at the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics. In his book God’s Undertaker, he told about how Galileo, as a Bible believer, advanced a better scientific understanding that went against not only the churchmen but also the philosophers of his day. They were disciples of Aristotle and interpreted the Bible to fit an Aristotelian view of the universe. Referring to the refusal of the authorities to accept Galileo’s more scientific perspective, Lennox has a warning for today:
“Philosophers and scientists today also have a need of humility in light of facts, even if those facts are being pointed out to them by a believer in God. Lack of belief in God is no more a guarantee of scientific orthodoxy than is belief in God. What is clear, in Galileo’s time and ours, is that criticism of a reigning scientific paradigm is fraught with risk, no matter who is engaged in it.”
We could also point out that from the time of Aristotle until Einstein, the prevailing view of science was that the universe was eternal. That was even though Genesis, the first book of the Bible written long before Aristotle, clearly says there was a beginning. Even Einstein was reluctant to accept the fact of a beginning, and other scientists refused to accept it for many years. Today, Dr. Lennox and others point out the many problems with Darwinian evolution. Meanwhile, the science establishment continues to accept it by faith ignoring the obvious problems shown by mathematics and the fossil record.
The problem which the religious and philosophical establishment had with the heliocentric system was their interpretation of the Bible and devotion to Aristotle. The problem some scientists today have with accepting an intelligent cause for life is their rejection of the Bible and devotion to Darwinism. Another quote from John Lennox on Galileo and religious leaders is, “The important lesson is that we should be humble enough to distinguish between what the Bible says and our interpretations of it.” In other words, both sides must follow the facts wherever they lead, free from devotion to HUMAN doctrines.
Most of us have seen, heard of, or perhaps even witnessed psychics who seem to do some amazing things. This may include telling some detail about a person’s life that only the person or a close family member would know. Sometimes psychics turn into what debunkers call “grief vampires” in which they convince grieving family member they are talking to a dead loved one. According to financial analysts, this has turned into a two billion dollar industry.
In the old days, psychics and mentalists learned how to read body language and would give vague generalities about a person that seemed pretty amazing. They were mostly just games with little money involved and no recruitment of followers. These are called “cold readings” and don’t involve family finances. In the last few years, this has turned into “hot readings” where a psychic reveals personal information and tells the customer what to do.
Hot readings may require giving a family fortune to an unknown person because a dead uncle said to do it. Marrying someone so that a wealthy person’s estate is accessible is another example. Paying a cancer clinic for a miracle cure of cancer is a third example. The list of exploitative psychic claims that involve talking to a dead loved one is vast.
One reason for the resurgence of psychic activity using hot readings is because of technology. Psychics will focus in on a customer and review their Facebook postings for a year or more to gain information that previously only family members would know. The Week magazine (April 5, 2019) described some cases where psychics used Facebook material to build up a dossier of information that convinced people they were talking to a dead loved one such as a parent or child.
Our apologetics studies necessarily involve claims that someone has the power to talk with the dead. The Bible makes it clear that no human can communicate with the dead. First Samuel 28:7-20 tells the story of Saul contacting the witch at Endor. The witch conducted a séance to bring Samuel back from the dead. Seances are scams, and this woman was going to perform her usual scam activity when the real deal shows up – the spirit of Samuel! The woman screamed when she realized that Samuel was actually there (verse 12) and that a miracle beyond the reach of her scam activity had taken place.
No one has power over death except God, and Jesus destroyed the power of death (1 Corinthians 15:26). Revelation 21:4 shows that being with God is the antidote to death and all the bad things that can be a part of life. A group called “Guerrilla Skeptics” has been posting false data on Facebook to see if psychics would use it. They have caught so-called psychics at their own game. People who are skilled in psychic techniques can put on a convincing show, but it is just a show. No human can contact us after we die, because talking to a dead loved one is not possible.
In Genesis 8 we read about a plague against Pharaoh that involved frogs. The frogs came upon the land of Egypt in such numbers that they got into everything, including beds and food preparation areas. Verse 5 indicates that this abundance of fogs came from the rivers, ponds and streams. Is a plague of frogs possible?
Skeptics have suggested that such an event is not possible. They have even suggested that this is just an attempt at humor by the biblical writers. Preachers have generally just shrugged their shoulders and said, “Well, God can do anything.”
Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, recently experienced a mini-plague. In March of 2019, people awoke to an infestation of thousands of baby bufo toads covering the city. There were so many that one resident described it as a plague of frogs “covering every square inch. You couldn’t walk through grass without stepping on one.”
A singe female frog can produce a vast number of eggs. It isn’t hard to visualize how this plague could happen. Like all of the plagues directed at the Pharaoh, the message is more important than trying to figure out how the plague was accomplished. But, of course, “God can do anything that is according to His will and nature.”
Recently we have seen news about racial hatred and white supremacy. Sometimes racist claims are attributed to the Bible. We must understand the true biblical teaching on the origins of racial groups. Acts 17:26 tells us that God “has made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on the face of the Earth.” Galatians 3:28 tells us that in Christ we are all one. Genesis 1:27 reveals that God created us in His image. That description is of all humans, not one race or group.
In Genesis 6:4 we see a passage that many have felt advocates strange interpretations of the Hebrew word “nephilim.” The Hebrew lexicon tells us that “nephilim,” means “fallen ones.” Numbers 13:33 uses the same word to give us the story of a time when Israel was about to invade and take the promised land. Twelve spies scouted the land and came back with a report of the land and the people. They described the people, and among them they included “the fallen ones who are the sons of Anak.”(Verse 33). Anak in the Hebrew language refers to a “large, long-necked people.” The Bible describes these pagan, war-like people, but the point is they are all descriptions of people. The nephilim were not aliens or astronauts or spirit creatures or yeti.
In the first chapter of Song of Solomon, we see a wife of Solomon writing a love letter. In verse 6 she indicates that her racial characteristic is that she is dark skinned. Dark sin was considered to be beautiful, and that is true of American teenagers just as it was in ancient Israel. Just a casual look at the relationship between latitude and skin color shows us that many racial features are a function of the geographic latitude where people live. People who are native to equatorial latitudes tend to have darker skin than people in northern latitudes. Almost every racial feature you can imagine has practical survival value as a function of climate. God created humans to live anywhere on the Earth, and we all have genomes that allow us to adapt to those latitudes.
Racial hatred has no place or connection to the Bible. It is totally a function of ignorance and a refusal to value humans and see them all as equal. God urges us to love one another and to live as He has called us to live.
We have learned about a very useful resource called Essentials in Education. That organization states as their mission, “We encourage high character through standards-based, instructionally sound, and high quality educational materials.” They have produced what they call the Bible Literacy Project.
Essentials in Education claims that they want to address issues beyond the academy and beyond the walls of the church. Because they are not church sponsored, they have had some success in areas others have not. One thing they have done is to publish a textbook titled The Bible and Its Influence. It was first published in 2005 and updated since then. The student textbook is a hardcover, full-color, 373-page volume that covers the content of Genesis to Revelation.
In 2006 a bill was signed into law in Georgia requiring elective Bible courses statewide. Other states have passed laws allowing academic Bible study. The textbook The Bible and its Influence has provided instruction to 125,000 students in 625 public high schools in 43 states. The Bible Literacy Project has not received a legal challenge.
The textbook was produced with input from 40 leading scholars and religious leaders. It presents biblical content including the narratives, characters, plots, poetry, letters, events, parables, prophecies, and proverbs in the Bible. Because the book is non-denominational and non-sectarian, not all preachers and teachers will like all of its content. However, it has been widely accepted by schools for use as a semester-long or year-long course. Special features include Abraham Lincoln and the Bible, Handel’s Messiah, The Bible and Emancipation, Shakespeare and the Bible. The Bible Literacy Project’s website states that “without an understanding of the Bible, today’s youth cannot fully understand literature, art, history, music, or culture.”
For the website of Essentials in Education click HERE. For the Bible Literacy Project website click HERE. To learn more about their academic materials click HERE.
One of the significant differences between Christianity and all other religious choices is that Christianity offers practical help for conquering worry.
Worry is very destructive. One study has shown that worry is a major cause of 50% of l patient hospitalization. Our wealth as a country has not produced less worry among us. Worry is one of the main ways we hurt those who love us. Worry can paralyze us, and it is contagious. Here are some principles in the teachings of Christ that help us with conquering worry:
2 Timothy 1:7- Worry and fear paralyze us. 1 Peter 5:7- Fear is a fault. God cares and wants us to rely on Him. (See Psalms 46:10.) John 14:27- Slow down and worry slips away – be still and know. Matthew 6:33- Make heaven your main goal, and worry becomes secondary.
Listen to the advice of Jesus for conquering worry:
“You cannot serve two masters, for you will hate the one and love the other… That is why I say to you to stop worrying about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink or wondering what you will wear. Isn’t life itself a greater gift than food or drink or clothes. Observe the wild birds, they don’t sow or reap or gather into barns, but your heavenly father keeps on feeding them. Aren’t you more valuable than they? Which of you with all your worry can add a foot to his height?”
“And why are you anxious about clothing. Consider the lilies of the field, and how they grow. They don’t toil or spin and yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his spender was arrayed like they are. If God so beautifully dresses the wild grass which is green today but tomorrow is dry and thrown into the flames is He not more likely to clothe you? O how little we trust Him. So don’t worry and say what shall we eat or drink or wear. Your Father knows you need these things. Seek the kingdom of God first, and all these things will be added to you. So don’t fret about tomorrow for tomorrow will bring its own set of trouble.”
Matthew 6:24-34 (See Also Matthew 7:7-8)
We have a God who cares about our worries. Other belief systems just encourage bearing with whatever misfortune comes our way. Christianity offers real help and hope for conquering worry. The Church is a vehicle God created to give us a support system to deal with life. Read James 5:13-20. Remember – Today is the tomorrow we worried about yesterday.