Sunday, September 30, 2018

Brett Kavanaugh: Alcohol and the Party Culture

Last Thursday, Brett Kavanaugh, Supreme Court justice nominee, said about his relationship to alcohol:
Yes we drank beer, my friends and I, boys and girls. Yes, we drank beer, I like beer, I still like beer, we drank beer. The drinking age, as I noted, was 18, so the seniors were legal, senior year in high school people were legal to drink. Yeah, we drank beer, and I said sometimes, sometimes probably had too many beers, and sometimes other people had too many beers. We drank beer, I like beer.
Other questions were asked about his high school year book, his mini bio, which was filled with sexual innuendo and foul language, sported proudly by the young Kavanaugh.  The strategy for Kavanaugh confirmation was a choir-boy defense.  They said he was a "choir boy."  The Business Insider, which isn't a liberal publication, reported:
But Maryland's minimum legal drinking age for beer and wine was changed to 21 from 18 in July 1982, during the summer before Kavanaugh's senior year. It was already 21 for hard liquor. Therefore, any drinking that Kavanaugh did in the state of Maryland during high school was illegal. 
Residents who had turned 18 by that time were grandfathered in and allowed to drink legally. Kavanaugh was 17 at the time.
Maybe the other side doesn't deserve it, but I wish he'd told the truth.  There's a lot I think about a judge and drinking.  He liked beer.  He likes beer.  He drinks beer still.  A lot of Americans can relate with him and say that they relate to the beer drinking, so male and so American, so representative of what it is to be an American now.

When God described the wretched condition of His people, worthy of judgment, He used drunkenness in Isaiah 28:1-8.  He was explaining their sin and he used drunkenness as a metaphor for their sinfulness as a people.  In verses 9-10, the leaders of Israel scorn or mock Isaiah as a response.  How dare someone make such a point? Rather than heed the warning, they argued about it.  Proverbs 31:4-5 state:
It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine; nor for princes strong drink: Lest they drink, and forget the law, and pervert the judgment of any of the afflicted.
Alcohol perverts judgment.  That should be a serious concern for a judge.  It doesn't help him.  No one should feel nonchalant about it.

The youth culture is also a party culture.  It's assumed this is permissible.  "Hey, he goes to church every Sunday!"  He said church wasn't on his calendar on Sunday because it was like brushing his teeth, it was so automatic.  Righteousness does not translate to a filthy mouth and the drinking of alcohol.

Two weeks of Kavanaugh's summer calendar were titled "Beach Week."  What do kids do at beach week?  Alcohol drinking ones?  The party life, which includes alcohol, is what the Bible calls, "riotous living."  Paul wrote in Romans 13:13:
Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering.
One of the qualifications of a pastor is that his children are not accused of riotous living. -- not him, his children -- "having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly" (Titus 1:6).

The word "riot" in Titus 1:6 is translated "excess" in Ephesians 5:18, which says, "be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess."  I was reading an article recently that quoted the same verse in the ESV, that reads, "And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery."  That translation leads people astray on the meaning of the verse.  It goes against the grammar.

In the grammar, the real grammar, in the wine is excess, riot, or debauchery, not the act of getting drunk or drunkenness.  The ESV misleads, and I think people are glad to have it.  There are five Greek words in a row -- oino en ho estin asotia (noun, preposition, relative pronoun, verb, noun).  Literally, they mean "wine in which is debauchery."  The relative pronoun and the noun agree.  The debauchery is in the wine.

Kavanaugh isn't a choir boy.  Kavanaugh is another Roman Catholic jurist, whose alcohol doesn't clash with his Christanity and his judgment.

I don't trust Kavanaugh as a person.  He might make conservative judgments, especially with his newfound intensity of hatred of leftist politics though.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

The Trip to Europe Continued (Eighteenth Post In Total)

One   Two   Three   Four   Five   Six   Seven   Eight   Nine   Ten   Eleven   Twelve   Thirteen   Fourteen   Fifteen   Sixteen   Seventeen

On June 13, 2018, my wife, two youngest daughters, and I arose and walked the 7 or 8 minutes to the Mestre, Italy train station to catch ours to Rome.  We left around 9am for about a 1pm arrival.  We got back to our house fairly early the night before and our train wasn't leaving that early.   We could look out the window to see what Italy offered by train between Venice and Rome.   The route moves through Tuscany, which is considered one of the most beautiful areas in Italy.

Tuscany was nice, but for what I saw from the train, it looked a bit like parts of California that are equally beautiful.  I live about 30 minutes from Napa Valley, which has a similar terrain, maybe even nicer in certain ways.  Of course, we were on a train, which limits what you can see.   We saw it -- nothing outstanding.  The train went right through Florence.  If we would could have stopped there and spent a day, I'd have more to write here.

Rome doesn't have a great public transportation system, compared to London, Venice, and later Paris.  We didn't have many options to get to our room.  We got off at Roma Termini and had to figure out the public transportation system.  We live in a metropolitan area, so catching busses and trains is normal to us, but Europe is different and every big city in Europe is different, especially in different countries.  We took a bus that let us out still pretty far to walk with our luggage on narrow, rugged walkways and heavy traffic.

I know you can tell this by looking at a map, but Rome is an entirely different area in Italy.  The area is much different than Northern Italy, as are the people.  The people from both places will tell you that.  It's similar in that way to the United States in the sense that you've got regions with a lot of variation, even in the same state.  California is vastly different both in people and topography in various regions.

What sticks out in Rome right away is that you are in a major metropolitan area, but you are also in an amazing historical and archaeological location.  It's both.  There isn't anything like that in the United States.  I have never been to anywhere in the world like that.  I would think Athens is and perhaps a few more locations such as that.  We stayed in an apartment on the eighth floor about a thirty minute walk from the Coliseum.  We had to wait for our hostess to arrive.  Rome was warm, so we found a little shade and waited.  While we did, one of my daughters and I fond the nearest grocery store to get a few things we knew we'd need while we were in Rome.  There they also did not know English.  You can do enough to do business and it gives you sympathy for people in the United States who don't know your language.  Italy is not a third world country.  You can get what you want or need there.

Only three people could go up in the little old school elevator, so I waited with a daughter downstairs for it to go up and down.  The hostess, who was a native of Rome, gave us some tips, showed us everything, and left.  We got settled in and freshened up.

Something I haven't mentioned was that in two different places we took the key with us and had to send it back.  The first was the very first place we stayed and we sent it right away in London.  It worked out fine.  I will say that we also sent some postcards from London back to the United States, one of which arrived three months later.  Disappointing.

Mailing the key was an adventure.  I found a post office about three blocks away and went in and asked if I could get an envelope and send the keys.  He didn't know English.  He was able barely to explain that I needed to get my own envelope.  I tried about three different places, and one of them said the tobacco shop.  The tobacco shop.  If you grow up like I did, you don't go into a tobacco shop.  However, in Italy the tobacco shop is the Italian version of a convenience store and it is the place you get your public transportation tickets.  That was good to find out almost right away.  They're all over the place.  They had the envelope I would need, so I went back to the post office, addressed the envelope to the Venice host's parents,  and finally it all worked.  He got the key over a week later.

Our goal for the late afternoon and evening was to go to the heart of Rome and go on a walk starting at Campo de Fiori.  First, we would eat in the late afternoon.  I can't remember the name of the restaurant, although I could look it up.  It was one little room with very cramped small wooden tables.  We liked it. It was a good start to the food of Rome for us.  It was near the famous statue Pasquino, which is along the walk, and we would get started once we were finished eating.
I'll return next week, Lord-willing, to describe that night and the next .  At some other time in some other post, I'll talk about mid-week services this week and the next.  We went the first and second midweek in London and Ripon.  It wasn't too hard to find a place to attend in England, even if we had to go a little bit out of our way.  We were glad to do it.  It's a major part of our trip.  We decided in advance before our trip, not because of time, but because we decided we could not do better than meeting on our own, something I would have never done until a few years ago.  I'm convinced in rare instances, it's the best thing to do.

Friday, September 28, 2018

The Septuagint (LXX) Chronology in Genesis 5 and 11: Corrupt and Indefensible

Recently a friend of mine asked me to evaluate the following paper: Smith, H.B., Jr. 2018. The case for the Septuagint’s chronology in Genesis 5 and 11. In Proceedings of the Eighth International Conference on Creationism, ed. J.H. Whitmore, pp. 117–132. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: Creation Science Fellowship.  The author is Associates for Biblical Research's lead researcher for the Genesis 5 and 11 Research Project.  Associates for Biblical Research has some quality material on the Bible and archaeology, but, regrettably, Mr. Smith's attack on the chronology of the Hebrew Masoretic text and defense of the LXX cannot be included among this high quality material.

God's Promises Require that the Hebrew Masoretic Text is Correct, not the LXX, in Genesis 5 and 11

The conclusive reason why Mr. Smith is wrong in his defense of the LXX's chronology in Genesis 5 and 11 is that his position contradicts God's Word.  Mr. Smith argues: "Scripture’s promises that God will preserve His Word do not specify how those promises will be carried out. . . . Rather, it merely promises preservation (Mat. 5:18; 24:35; Luke 16:17; I Pet. 1:24–25; Is. 40:8), which has subsequently occurred in complex ways over many millennia."  Mr. Smith would have done well to read and accept the Biblical truth in Thou Shalt Keep Them: A Biblical Theology of the Perfect Preservation of Scripture, or, indeed, simply examined Matthew 5:18 a bit more carefully.  The Lord Jesus promised: "For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot [the Hebrew letter yod, the smallest Hebrew consonant] or tittle [the chireq, the smallest Hebrew vowel] shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled."  The Lord Jesus promised that the inspired Hebrew text dictated by the Holy Spirit through the human instrumentality of Moses, Isaiah, and the other Old Testament writers would be perfectly preserved, rather than the Hebrew words being lost while a Greek translation would preserve (?) God's message.  (Please see the studies on Bibliology here for a great deal more Biblical teaching on preservation.)  Matthew 5:18 makes Mr. Smith's position impossible.

Regrettably, Mr. Smith sets up the following straw man that one who rejects his position based on faith in God's promises of preserving the Hebrew text:

Only the divinely authorized writers were uniquely and infallibly moved by the Holy Spirit, not scribes who translated, (re)copied, and/or transmitted the biblical text after it reached its final, canonical form. The Bible never promises the infallible transmission (copying) of Scripture in any single textual tradition (117)

Of course, Mr. Smith cites no sources that actually argue that every Biblical scribe was infallibly moved by the Holy Spirit or that there would be infallible copying of individual manuscripts.  The actual Biblical position, which he ignores in his paper, is that God would preserve every one of the Hebrew words of the Old Testament (Matthew 5:18), that those words would be continually in the mouths of God's people (Isaiah 59:21), and that God's people and institution, Israel in the Old Testament and the church in the New, would receive those words (Isaiah 40:6-8; John 17:8; Matthew 28:18-20).  These Biblical presuppositions necessitate that the Christian today receive the Hebrew Masoretic text and the Greek Textus Receptus as the preserved Word of God.

Mr. Smith's Arguments For the LXX and Against the Masoretic Text Are Weak

Mr. Smith attempts to argue that one who declares that attempts to explain the LXX numbers are wrong when they are larger than those in the Hebrew Masoretic text fail.  Their failure is allegedly because one must have "a specific and adequate motive for inflating the numbers," something for which "there are no ancient testimonies," and, furthermore, "it would have been impossible for the LXX translators (or anyone else) to get away with such a fraud due to the subsequent dissemination of the LXX" (121).  Of course, there are no ancient testimonies about what the LXX translators did in Genesis 5 and 11 because we have no idea who they were, we are not certain when they lived, where they worked, or practically anything else about them.  Indeed, there are good grounds for doubting that there ever was a "the" LXX, rather than a multiplicity of Greek translations of the Hebrew Scriptures; the Letter of Aristeas, just about our only original ancient source on the origin of the LXX, makes reference to earlier translations.  Asking defenders of the Masoretic Text to supply the specific motives of the LXX translators in Genesis 5 and 11 when we do not even know their names, their location, the time they did their translation, or just about anything else of the sort is an utterly unsupportable requirement, somewhat comparable to requiring one to specify the eye and hair color, as well as the type of drink he likes with his breakfast, for a person when one does not know his name, have any evidence of his looks, or even know the continent and century in which he lived.

Furthermore, Mr. Smith's argument that the LXX in Genesis 5 and 11 became widely disseminated, and so could not be corrupt, proves too much, even for him.  His article shows awareness of the astonishing corruption evident in other equally widespread portions of the LXX (e. g., Jeremiah 26 in the Hebrew text and the Authorized Version is Jeremiah 33 in the LXX; Jeremiah 48 in the preserved Hebrew text is Jeremiah 31 in the LXX, etc.)  But how could such corruptions be possible?  Was not the LXX of Jeremiah widely distributed, just like the LXX of Genesis? Were Mr. Smith's argument valid, it would prove that there was no serious corruption anywhere in the LXX--a supposition he himself knows to be false.

Mr. Smith makes the astonishing affirmation that we are to explain the differences between the LXX numbers in Genesis 5 and 11 because of "deliberate chronological deflation in the proto–Masoretic Hebrew text by the Jewish rabbis in the post–AD 70 period" (122).  They allegedly were able "to introduce wholesale chronological changes into the biblical text while also purging the higher numbers from the textual stream. . . . In the aftermath of 70 AD, it became possible for the rabbis to amend their Hebrew MSS and hide the trail of evidence," making "radical chronological alteration permanent in future manuscripts" (122).  Why, one wonders, would they allegedly corrupt the entire Hebrew textual tradition in Genesis 5 and 11?  It was because the numbers in Genesis 5 and 11, Smith argues, were changed in the Hebrew text because they disprove the Messiahship of the Lord Jesus (122)!

Mr. Smith's allegation here is ridiculous.  First, the motive given for changing Genesis 5 and 11 is laughable.  Why did the Rabbis change Genesis 5 and 11 to disprove the Messiahship of the Lord Jesus, but leave untouched Isaiah 53 and the countless other passages that prove the risen Savior is the Messiah?  Second, his affirmation that the Rabbis corrupted the entire Hebrew textual tradition and then hid all the evidence is simply factually impossible.  Why does every pre-Masoretic manuscript found outside of Qumran (Masada, etc.) agree with the Masoretic Text?  Why is the Masoretic text so strongly supported at Qumran as well?  Did the post-70 A. D. Rabbis not only cover their tracks so well that they left not a scintilla of evidence for their corruption of the Hebrew text, but also go back in time to corrupt texts made decades or even centuries before they were born?  Were piddly disagreements among Jewish Rabbis recorded and discussed ad nauseum in the Jewish ancient literature such as the Talmud, but radical corruptions of the Hebrew text universally agreed upon without any evidence that it ever happened in the ancient Jewish sources? Furthermore, any student of the Hebrew Bible is well aware of the strong evidence that the scribes of the OT were unwilling to change the text in this sort of way.  Has Mr. Smith read the Old Testament through in Hebrew?  Has he read the Greek LXX?  Mr. Smith would require that post-70 A. D. Rabbis got together, changed wholesale the Hebrew of Genesis 5 and 11 to attack the Messiahship of the Lord Jesus while leaving hundreds of plain Messianic prophecies untouched, covered up all the evidence that this ever took place, and even somehow planted evidence that predated them.  Sadly, such notions sound more like wild-eyed conspiracy peddling than the sound scholarship that characterizes a great deal of the work of Associates for Biblical Research.

There are other egregious problems with Mr. Smith's article.  He does not in any way adequately deal with the textual variation within the LXX itself on Genesis 5 and 11, as evidenced in the textual apparatus in the Gottingen LXX; his article is filled with special pleading; it contains numerous strawman arguments; etc.

One wonders if Mr. Smith's fundamental reason for arguing against the Hebrew text the Lord Jesus promised to preserve in its every consonant and vowel (Matthew 5:18; Luke 16:17) is an apologetic one, evident in his concern about Carbon-14 dates allegedly at variance with the chronology in the Hebrew text of Genesis (128).  Such an apologetic desire is commendable, but rejecting God's promises to preserve His inspired Hebrew words while making poor arguments in favor of the too-often corrupt LXX is not the way to go about defending Scripture.  The consistent Christian who believes God's promises to preserve every Greek and Hebrew word that He inspired does not need, for example, to believe that there are no gaps in the genealogies of Genesis 5 and 11 any more than he needs to believe that there are none in the genealogy of Matthew 1.  Indeed, Luke 3:36's reference to Cainan is conclusive proof to the Christian perfect preservationist that the Genesis chronologies can have gaps.  The genealogies cannot be extended indefinitely--to use an extreme example, if there were, say, several thousand years between each name in Genesis, the genealogies would be a poor joke--but the affirmation that there were no gaps is simply contrary to the evidence found in the Biblical text itself.  Furthermore, even were one to (improperly) concede that there were no gaps, and somehow explain Luke 3:36 away, Christ's promises to preserve the Hebrew text are of infinitely more significance than particular attempts to explain Carbon 14 readings, and apologetic concerns cannot justify jettisoning the doctrine of preservation and God's preserved Hebrew words to embrace a Greek Old Testament text containing many evident corruptions, even apart from the far more serious apologetic difficulties that would arise from accepting the factually impossible notion that a cabal of Hebrew rabbis successfully corrupted the entire Hebrew textual tradition, requiring Christians to attempt to pick up the pieces from a Greek text with many corruptions evident to all.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

The Oracle of Delphi, Preaching, Power, and Sensing God

Part One    Part Two

In upper central Greece along the slope of Mount Parnassus resided the ancient city of Delphi.  The ancient Greeks considered Delphi to be the center of the world, the world personified by the mother earth goddess, Gaia, and Delphi her navel.  Delphi comes from a Greek root, which means "womb."

The story was that Zeus had found the origination of the earth at Delphi by sending out two eagles to search.  Later, Apollo, the brother of twin sister Artemis (Diana) and the son of Zeus, the Greek god, slew Python or Drako, a serpent that protected the navel of Gaia.  The legend was that the Pythia was the original priestess in the worship of Gaia.  When Apollo slew Python, its body fell into a fissure at Delphi, releasing fumes that intoxicated Pythia, sending her into a trance and allowing Apollo to possess her spirit.  Then she prophesied, becoming his oracle.

The Greek author Plutarch, who himself became an actual priest at Delphi in the first century A.D., wrote about the oracle of Delphi and described how a woman would enter a small chamber in Apollo's temple and inhale sweet-smelling vapors ("pneuma") from a fissure in the mountain before entering a state in which she would provide responses to seekers' inquiries posed to her mediated by priests, who interpreted her pronouncements.

Delphi is 123 miles away from Corinth.  It doesn't look very far on a map.  Today it's about a three hour drive around the Gulf of Corinth.  In ancient times, people travelled great distances to ask the Pythia questions.  In 1 Corinthians 12-14 Paul confronts a case of paganism mixing with true doctrine, dealing with ecstatic utterances interpreted as divine revelation, often the more extreme the more likely its credibility (1 Cor 12:1-3), unknown languages (1 Cor 14:1-27), and female prophetesses and their asking the questions rather than being asked them (1 Cor 14:34-35).

Earlier in 1 Corinthians (1:18, 21), Paul said "it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe."  "Preaching" (kerugmatos) isn't a style of speech, oozing with feeling and stylistic dynamics, but the content of the proclamation, and this is how the word was used in ancient literature.  In 2:1-5 he goes further to emphasize the effect wasn't in the excellence of the speaking that he did, excellence being the superiority of the person, but in the message, the testimony of God.  He spoke the words "which the Holy Ghost" had taught him, or with him as an apostle, in other words, he spoke scripture.

Of all the mentions of "the power of God" in scripture (13 of them and all in the New Testament), five are in 1 and 2 Corinthians.  The power of God rests in the Word of God, not in some means of a human intermediary channeling power akin to a Delphic oracle.  In another mention, Paul says the gospel is the power of God (Rom 1:16), again emphasizing the message, not the oracle.

When the said power stands in the message, the substance of the preaching, God gets the glory or that "no flesh should glory in God's presence" (1 Cor 1:29).  God's presence is in the preached Word of God.  Later Peter says that God is glorified when a man speaks "as the oracles of God" (1 Pet 4:10-11), which is scripture.  You know it is the Spirit of God when it is the Word of God, this being how someone knows God's presence.

The oracular or ecstatic speech that accentuates the experiential, the euphoria of style, glorifies man.  It is not what God has chosen to confound the wisdom of this world.  Anyone who hears a "powerful" speech by a dynamic orator could glorify the speaking of that man, but that isn't how God chooses to persuade men.  It makes sense to men, but it isn't what God uses.  When I write this, I'm not saying that a speaker attempts to be as dry and monotone in speech as possible.  I'm saying the emphasis is not on human means to sway.  Powerful preaching isn't related to technique, strategy, gesticulation, raving, or passion.  It's not a Billy Sunday pose or the visage and voice of a Billy Graham.

Through history, oracular religion, hearing voices, and then ecstatic speech are all manifestations of paganism.  Mormon doctrine says that Joseph Smith was an oracle, given the translation of the Book of Mormon.  Part of the doctrine of Roman Catholicism is visions and apparitions.  For instance, Teresa of Avila, a Catholic "saint," in the sixteenth century was a Spanish Catholic mystic and in her own book about herself, she wrote (Life, p. 27):  "being at prayer, I saw, or rather (for I saw nothing, either with the eyes of the body or with those of the soul) I felt my Savior near me and I saw that it was he who spoke to me."  She also wrote:  "I have rarely beheld the Devil in any form, but he has often appeared to me without one, as is the case in intellectual visions, when as I have said, the soul clearly perceives someone present, although it does not perceive it in any form."  I've heard others tell me in many instances one or the other of these experiences Teresa testified to having.

These subjective experiences are supposed to mark supernatural intervention.  At the beginning of Acts, Luke wrote to Theophilus that Christianity came with infallible proofs.  These were supernatural proofs that God was involved with what was occurring in the story of Luke and Acts in fulfillment of prophecies.  Everything and everyone that is going to say it is God or of God must give some kind of supernatural basis that would at least seem to evidence God.  In your own Christian life, you want to know that it is real, that it is of God or God working, a true relationship with God.  Many, maybe even a majority, of those who claim to be something Christian look to their own personal experiences to confirm that what they have is of God.

The early motto of Apple, used in marketing, was "Think Different."  In the authorized biography of Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson, he was quoted as saying:
Taking LSD was a profound experience, one of the most important things in my life. LSD shows you that there’s another side to the coin, and you can’t remember it when it wears off, but you know it. It reinforced my sense of what was important—creating great things instead of making money, putting things back into the stream of history and of human consciousness as much as I could.
Psychedelic drugs, Jobs said, made him think different, altered his consciousness enough to get a different look at the world.  I've heard several advocate the same since I've lived in California.  It reminds me of the fumes inhaled by the Pythia before she offered her insight to a visiting inquisitor.  This information that apparently comes from outside the body seems elevated to what someone learns with a natural method.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, author of the Sherlock Holmes series of books, also subjected himself to Victorian spiritualism.  He believed in it.  He believed God sent solace to those bereaved after the death of a family member, using mystical means.  Clairvoyance is the ability to see what isn't physically present, clairaudience is the ability to hear spirit's voice or thoughts, and clairsentience is the ability to sense what a spirit wants to communicate or to feel sensations from a spirit.  The Bible and historic Christianity has rejected these experiences as not of God.  They are either someone deceived, someone lying, or a demon.

I've heard lots of different personal, subjective happenings to validate someone is operating under the jurisdiction or within the working of God, not unlike the visions and apparitions of Roman Catholicism.  It's heavy in the Charismatic movement, but it's now maybe just as prevalent among evangelicals of different stripes, who would say they are non-Charismatic.  Some are revivalists, and even those who deny revivalism still have some kind of mysticism in their professing Christianity.  They say they sense God or feel the Spirit of God.  These sensations in almost every case are not verifiable.

 We have a completed and sufficient Word of God.  It is not to be added to or taken away from.  This is how God speaks today.  There are experiences that believers have outside of the Bible, but the Bible is the final and infallible authority for the validity of those experiences.  They are judged by the Bible, proven by scripture, or tested by the Word of God.

For instance, fruit of the Spirit shows up in the life of a believer yielded to the Spirit of God, which is to be obedient to scripture.  Love shows up.  That's an experience.  Patience shows up.  That's an experience.  These are all defined by scripture.  They can be judged by believers according to the Word of God. This is how God wants us to live.

On the other hand, men move outside of the Word of God into their own experiences as validation.  This is not living by faith, but by sight.  It doesn't please God.  It doesn't bring glory to God.  Many bad practices, against or outside of scripture, are justified by extra-scriptural mystical experiences.  False doctrine is taught and confirmed by sensations attributed to God by someone without any biblical means of verification.

Perhaps worse, the voices or calls or feelings explained above devalue scripture, and very often are elevated above scripture.  They are viewed as a superior form of relationship with God, more personal than the Bible.  Many of those who claim these experiences see themselves as having a higher form of spirituality, or even something of the power of God, not possessed by those who depend only on scripture.  Those with just scripture are thought or said to be missing something, a kind of spiritual have-not.  All of this is ripe for compounding deceit.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Concocted Christianity

When I was young in a small Indiana farming community, off and on we owned various black and white televisions and sometimes watched Wide World of Sports on Saturday with host Jim McKay.  Then I first saw the Harlem Globetrotters play, Meadowlark Lemon and Curly Neal.  They always played the New Jersey Generals, and won every time.  It wasn't real.  Everyone knew it.  They defied the rules of basketball, the audience played along, and everyone knew, they knew, that what they were doing and we were watching was concocted.  Very little was at stake.  It was all just fun.

We shouldn't take the Globetrotter approach and use it on Christianity.  Maybe for some basketball is sacrosanct, not to be touched with such profanity as the Globetrotters.  It doesn't matter to me.  However, Christianity is and should be sacred.  It can't be modulated or modified or adapted for whatever purpose.  And yet it has been and it is.  And different explanations are given for why it is appropriate, even though it isn't.  The contention of this piece is that very little genuine Christianity exists anymore.  It's been given the Globetrotter treatment.

With the Globetrotters, the referees didn't do their job on purpose, so they were also in on the concoction, turning basketball into something different in nature.  All the props were there to give the impression of basketball.  The Globetrotters were concocted.  Christianity has its referees on earth, the ones supposed to be responsible for keeping it real and true and pure, not making a joke of it and not allowing it to go astray.  The rule book is the Bible, it's plain, and it's simple.  Christianity's referees have been on the concoction too.  Most of Christianity is some concoction now.

There is a lot at stake with Christianity being a concoction.  It relates to this life, but also the next.  God isn't pleased.  That's very bad -- very, very bad -- but it doesn't stop there.  If it isn't real and true and pure, people will go to Hell, separated from God forever.  It should matter to the referees.  The pastors, the major leaders in Christianity, should be about keeping Christianity according to the Bible.

Concocted Christianity isn't Christianity.  It is concocted to look like it is, using some of the same terms and relying on the same rule book.  The concoction gives the impression or an attempt is made to give the impression that it is Christianity.  For most, it's good enough.  It doesn't have to be the same, just good enough.  It fools people, but it will never fool God.  He authored Christianity, knows every difference, and isn't fooled for one moment.

How is a new Christianity concocted?  Christianity departs from scripture.  You could say, churches depart from scripture.  Scripture clashes with the world.  If a person, a family, or a church believes and practices the Bible, they're going to clash with the world.  Rather than clash with the world, if an individual, family or church change Christianity closer to the world, to what the world is and does, which will mean departing from scripture, it will clash less with the world or not at all.

The way Christianity functions, according to scripture, which is the only Christianity, not a concoction, is not complicated.  It's clear and simple.  The problem is that it clashes with the world.  The referees need to keep it in line, but they haven't.  If they say, let's conform to scripture and clash, it appears they will shrink in numbers and they do.  They concoct a new Christianity that doesn't clash and waylays shrinking.  It is akin to the people walking away from Jesus in John 6 and Jesus saying, "Stop, I'll concoct something different, more in line with what you want, please stay."

The world mobilizes an array of forces against Christianity.  Whatever Satan has in the world system, he uses.  Bringing down Christianity is all he has left.  He won't fully accomplish it, but he and the world system do a lot to get as far as possible in this endeavor.  It has worked very, very well.  Based on most measurements, Satan has succeeded and is growing more and further in that success.

Christianity is about God, but man wants to serve himself.  This is the sphere or realm where the departure from scripture occurs.  Individuals, families, and the church consider what man wants, what they want, more than what God wants.  Romans 1 calls it worshiping and serving the creature rather than the Creator.

A new Christianity is concocted.  What characterizes it is lust.  It's not sacred any longer, profaned by what pleases men, which again is lust.  The lust itself, the feelings that arise out of lust, are very often confused as something spiritual, and, therefore, of God.  The church becomes more and more like the world and less like God, fully deceived that it is about God.

God Himself isn't good enough for people, so the Christianity concocted conforms God to what people do want for themselves.  The God they want is more like a genie in a bottle, who is there for them to give them their wishes.  The message fits what they want out of life.  Worship itself is determined by what gives them the feeling they want.  The concocted Christianity grows, which is said to testify of divine provision, the approval of God.  The feelings are said to be caused by God.  Receiving what they want is called blessing.

God is Who He is.  Concocted Christianity has a different god, one who approves of what its participants need him to approve.  He takes what they give him, even if he doesn't really.  God isn't whoever we imagine him to be.  When concocted Christianity forms its own god, he isn't God.  The Globetrotters isn't basketball.  The god of concocted Christianity isn't god.

The concocted Christianity has causes used to vindicate it.  Certainty is pride, so it fights pride and justifies doubt.  It battles division with toleration.  It cares more except with sentimentalism, not the deferred gratification of eternal reward.  Scripture is used conveniently and flexibly to rule out what they dislike and advocate what they love.

One other major way concocted Christianity attempts to exonerate itself is by saying that it doesn't ruin major doctrines. At worst, it is claimed that it changes smaller or small ones and the application of cultural issues, keeping most of the framework intact for the most part, which they might also argue is all that should be expected.  However, doctrines really do change, including their so-called major doctrines.  Another Christianity is not concocted without doctrines being affected.  People have a different take, a distorted perspective, on what scripture is, on who God is, on what salvation is, on what true worship is, what church is, what Christian living is, and more.  Everything changes and everything has changed.

When the adherents of concocted Christianity compare it to the real thing, they can't recognize it.  The referees, those governing concocted Christianity, tell them Christianity isn't what's real. It's extreme, even hyper -- "just keep walking, you'll be fine."  It looks false to them.  It looks too certain, too intolerant, and too strict.  They want the safe feeling they get from concocted Christianity, even if it isn't Christianity.  It's a false sense of security, like the fish swimming in the dragnet, unaware of danger.

One other factor for not knowing that professing Christians are in a concocted Christianity is that they have stopped comparing their concocted Christianity to scripture.  They think they're comparing it to something authoritative and it rings true, but very often it's just a feeling that they have and then the conjectures of leaders, who have stake in their participants not knowing.  Very often it's just the blind leading the blind.  A lot of people are on this road, so they also say, there are so many people who agree with me, so they rely on a new norm that's not acceptable to God, but they assume it is, because of the numbers they think they see on their side.

When we watch the Globetrotters, we know it's concocted.  That's how easy it is to judge concocted Christianity.  Concocted Christianity is a placebo against the worst possible ills.  Even worse it inoculates against the real thing.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

The Trip to Europe Continued (Seventeenth Post In Total)

One   Two   Three   Four   Five   Six   Seven   Eight   Nine   Ten   Eleven   Twelve   Thirteen   Fourteen   Fifteen   Sixteen

Venice has a permanent population of 55,000 and 20 million visitors a year.  At most moments, far more tourists dwell there than permanent inhabitants. It's not really built for the number of people who are normally there.  I'm glad to say we missed the high point.  There were crowds, but it didn't seem that cramped on June 11 and 12, Monday and Tuesday, 2018.  For as many people as there were there and in some locations, especially San Marcos square, you can still find an entirely empty walkway or even piazza, even feel all alone.  I understand those who say that every corner you turn in Venice is another surprise.  Nothing is normal there.
It was impossible to get up to speed on every place we went on this trip ahead of time.  It was enough, really, to plan it and pull it off.  I did reading, one travel book and a few essays.  Something you can do, so as perhaps not to stress about this before your trip, is to understand that you can read about the place you visited afterwards.  Get up to speed later.  You can savor your trip then.

Everywhere you look in Venice, at least for me, you want to know more.  There are too many things to look at to know everything that you're seeing.  For a day and a half, essentially we just enjoyed Venice.  Our host was Venetian.  He knew a lot from a Venetian perspective, but even so we couldn't learn it all.
Venice is full of art.  It was our first major art experience on the trip.  When it comes to art, I still don't know most of what I'm seeing, and what it means.  It's usually religious though, Roman Catholic, from the same era, old, done by very skilled painters and sculptors.

On Tuesday, June 12, we rose late after the early a.m. arrival the night before.  We replayed the previous day's travel:  train, vaporetto down the grand canal, except exited a few piers early to walk a short cut to St. Mark's Basilica in San Marcos square.  We had prepaid tickets.  We missed a long, long line with a very busy square.
In the U.K. we toured several cathedrals.  We added two more in Italy.  St Mark's was laid out like everything else.  It seemed like something to visit.  It's number one on most lists, but I didn't have a good impression.  It was dark, hot, and crowded.  There was really little to see.  We didn't stay long.  It was sort of, been there, done that.  We decided not to attempt to go up the tower, and just make our way back to the train, slowly walking Venice.

Part of what you do in Italy again and again, which we did, is gelato.  We had already done it the night before and did it at least twice more.  I say the best you can do in Venice is slow walk through it.  Eat little food items.  Buy something.  Sit, watching a great scene, while eating gelato.

Nothing is like the Italian coffee experience.  The U.K. had its tea.  Starbucks founder learned coffee from Italy, but Italian coffee is still its own thing.  Part of it is the service, which brings an experience.  We sat at a restaurant right next to the Grand Canal and the Rialto Bridge.  We went with sharing four different desserts and then coffee.  This is the way to make your way through Venice.

We stopped at an Italian leather shop and bought my mom some Italian leather gloves. The Italians have a unique take on leather, hence Italian leather. Every breath in one of these shops is that rich leather scent, nothing like it.

We decided to leave Venice in time to go into Mestre to an Italian restaurant owned by a friend of our host.  We ate outdoors traditional Italian pasta and it was terrific.  We got home at a good hour for a regular night sleep.  We would be leaving between 8 and 9 a.m. the next morning by train to Rome.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Evan Roberts: Deceived by Satan, Part 15 of 22

The content of this post is now available in the study of:

1.) Evan Roberts

2.) The Welsh Revival of 1904-1905

3.) Jessie Penn-Lewis

on the website. Please click on the people above to view the study.  On the FaithSaves website the PDF files may be easiest to read.


You are also encouraged to learn more about Keswick theology and its errors, as well as the Biblical doctrine of salvation, at the soteriology page at Faithsaves.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

A Critique: Worship Wars by Robert Bakss, pt. 2

Intro   Part One

Before I start, I encourage you to read a second post by Dave Mallinak along the same lines as the first he had written on his blog, the first was "Gone Contemporary" and the second, "Gothpel Style."

Like any counterfeit, Bakss book, Worship Wars, has truth in it.  As a subtitle for chapter one, for instance, he asks, "Did you know you were made for worship?"  That's true.  Then after testifying that he is a worshiper, he writes:
The issue is not whether we know how to worship but rather it is about Who we worship.
In his introduction, Bakss said he just wanted to be scriptural, because he isn't any kind of expert, but this statement is divorced from scripture.  The issue is not just Who we worship.  Cain worshiped the right God in Genesis 4.  He brought fruits and vegetables.  Most often false worship starts with the error on the "how," which leads to the wrong "who."  God doesn't accept the wrong "how," hence the death of Nadab and Abihu.  Very often the most important question is whether the worship is holy and acceptable unto God.

Bakss says that because everyone has been made to worship, "there's an internal homing device inside of us that perpetually longs for our Maker."  Romans 3:11 says "no man seeketh after God."  Whatever homing device man started with, made in God's image, died because of sin.  Bakss says,
We have an internal Godward magnet pulling our being toward Him.
I don't believe that.  It's just the opposite.  Being made in the image of God doesn't assume anywhere in scripture that after Adam's fall, man by nature wants to worship God.  The best Bakss does to prove that is to tell a story of a Roman Catholic woman who saw Jesus in a piece of toast, followed by thousands who also came to worship before the toast.  Romans 1 says that men know God, but they glorify Him not as God.  Because of general revelation men know God, but they by nature rebel against that knowledge.  It makes sense that a faulty view of the nature of man lies at the root of Bakss's false worship.

Bakss then tells another illustration, which he introduces with this statement:
Sadly, for some people the only type of church worship they have experienced is similar to the humorous story of a young boy's first time in church.
The little boy couldn't understand dressing up, being quiet, kneeling, and bowing at a pew in an old church building, maybe it was Roman Catholic, the kneeling the only clue.  The implication by Bakss was that these circumstances -- dressing up, being quiet, kneeling, and bowing -- are what turn people away from true worship.  He follows the story:
The amount of time we spend focusing on worship music styles is a strong indicator that many have little understanding of the heart of worship.  If we get so focused on how we worship, it's easy to forget why we worship or even, at times, Who we are worshiping.
Huh?  There's almost nothing to connect that conclusion from that short illustration.  The first sentence is almost impossible to decipher.  Who is "we"?  Is "we," "many" that have little understanding of the heart of worship?   His own story focuses on worship style.

True worshipers will focus on both "how" and "Who," and perhaps better put, "what" and "Who."  Worship must recognize Who God is, but it also must give Him what He wants.  The "how" relates to what God wants from worshipers.  He doesn't accept something that He doesn't want, so that's why true worshipers consider style.  You can't focus on Who God is without focusing on what He wants, or how He wants to be worshiped.

Bakss says something very important and true, quoting 2 Chronicles 29:30, that is, worship is about God.  He says that the worship wars will end with 'better understanding what worship is all about.'  Then he explains that the English word, worship, means 'to ascribe worth,' and "we worship the One who is worthy," then quoting Revelation 4:11.  He defines worship as "acknowledging that God is worthy of all praise, from all people, for all time," a definition, I believe, that falls short of sufficient.

Worship acknowledges Who God is, and then it gives Him what He wants.  If you don't give Him what He wants, it's obvious that you are not acknowledging Him for Who He is.  Bakss though continues with his incomplete understanding by saying that "true worship is simply catching sight of the greatness, majesty, and glory of an infinite God."  That's less than half right.  However, it is a definition that the reader will see buttresses Bakss next point.

Bakss says 'that our worship is small, because our concept of God is small.' It is true that God deserves great praise.  That would also say that someone can know what is great.  Isn't that style?  All the way through, Bakss makes an obvious contradiction.  It's the norm for men like him today.  Bakss obsesses over style while saying that style either isn't important or doesn't mean anything.  The men who think and then teach like Bakss does, all of them, are the most sensitive people that I see to style.  Style is almost everything to them.  It's definitely not content, which is easy to see by reading Bakss's book.  The little boy in his story got turned off by a worship style he experienced, one that Bakss says occurred because of a preoccupation with style.

The focus, writes Bakss, must be on God and he quotes Isaiah 6:3, the verse on the angelic worship Isaiah witnessed  with the angels chanting, "Holy, holy, holy."  From that Bakss says, "Worship is declaring, with our lips and our lives, that God is more important to us than anything else."  That's not what the angels were declaring.  They declared that God was holy, not that He was important.

To that point, Bakss writes:
This is why, when we think of worship wars, we must ask ourselves, "Who really wins?  The answer is, "The devil."
It doesn't connect with what he's been saying.  It doesn't follow.  I don't see that as the answer either.  I say, "If we don't war, the devil wins."

As if to explain that point, Bakss then says:
As I said, we are all worshippers.  In fact, some of the greatest forms of worship are found outside the walls of the church and have no reference to the God of all creation.
No.  The greatest forms of worship are not found outside of the church.  No worship of God is outside the true church.  No Christian should look to the world to learn about worship.  Scripture is replete with examples of men, who moved to false worship, because they looked at the world for worship.  Think at least Jeroboam and Solomon.  However, he defends this by providing an anecdote.  He says that "all you have to do is drop in on a rock concert or go to a sporting event at a nearby stadium to see amazing worship."

Bakss's point is that kids at rock concerts and athletic contests are really putting their heart into what they're doing, valuing these events highly, as seen in their passion and enthusiasm.  As much as anything, they're not worshiping anything or anyone but themselves.  These are entertainers and they're being entertained.  The entertainment makes them feel good.  It's something akin to the passion that a dog shows when someone puts out its bowl of dog food.

Another example was Oprah's interview of Michael Jackson with the most viewers in television history.  Jackson's fans, he says, waved "their hands in the air," "some fell on their knees," and "others strained with outstretched hands."  He continues, "Seared in my mind is the image of one young girl with a look on her face of total awe."

In each of Bakss's descriptions, he focuses on how people acted or the style that they used.  If someone thinks really highly of something or someone, the way they do that is by using these types of methods.  He writes, "This clip was an amazing picture of worship."  The problem according to Bakss was not the style.  That was amazing and wonderful.  The problem was the "not-so-great a god," "Michael Jackson."

In addition to singing, Bakss says that people worship with singing, giving, prayer, preaching, etc., all of these focusing on "how."  Those are all legitimate he says, but he's going to focus on music and singing.  After a few more illustrations, he ends his first chapter with what seems to be his main point:
So, when we truly understand Whom we are praising with our songs and our actions, then it takes the focus of worship off us and our preferences and directs us to be united in our worship of God.
His last sentence of the chapter reads:
It is certainly a privilege to be a part of the Rise of Music in our churches.
I have no idea what he means by that.  The "Rise of Music?"  Written in capitals.  No idea.

Overall, you can see where Bakss is headed.  Warring over musical styles can be stopped by focusing on Who we praise.  The people who have preferences, the ones who think that only certain music is acceptable to God, that occurs solely because they're not considering Who they are praising.  If they would just start doing that, everyone would be united around God.  So, musical preferences are what causes war in music.  Perhaps this particular practice, accepting all musical style, as long as the focus is on God, is the "Rise of Music."  He does nothing to prove that point, but it's the only explanation that made any sense to me.

Bakss says he's a lawyer and implies in the introduction this as an advantage for him.  He says that his goal is to rely on evidence, which for him, he says, is scripture.  He does nothing close to making his points from the evidence of scripture.  His conclusions are nothing more than his own biased assertions that he sets about to defend.  It's possible that a lawyer lets evidence lead him to the truth, but I've noticed this is hardly the case of all lawyers, maybe not even most of them.

The problem for Bakss, like he expressed in his introduction, continues to be the warring.  And it isn't even so much the warring.  As I said, Bakss is warring with this book.  He wars.  However, what he calls warring is not allowing him and others like him to have their position tolerated.  He gave me no reason to think otherwise.  The false worship he propagates deserves war.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Actual Sensing of the Holy Spirit or God and then the More Prominent Fake Kind, Which Is a Lie

Part One

My first part in this series was due to many varied circumstances, primarily spurred by a letter I had read, but this is something that I've basically been putting up with for years.  If you don't put up with it, much like with Charismatics, you are in trouble.  You've got to accept these subjective, mystical, esoteric feelings or experiences as something legitimate, or you are against the working of God or the Holy Spirit.  I'm not going to be in on it.  Count me and our church as out.

I cared about what I wrote about in part one, but the reaction was bigger than what I expected.  I want people to think about it, and I do think it actually is important, so I'm glad that it has received attention.  I said I was going to write an answer to some comments, and this is part of it.  It won't be all, because I don't think it will answer everything.

Think about the Day of Pentecost, the one 50 days after Passover, the year Christ died, was buried, and rose again.  The church there in Jerusalem, 120 baptized believers, was waiting for the promise of the Holy Spirit by John the Baptist and the Lord Jesus Christ.  In other words, they couldn't sense His presence.  What was the means of sensing God's presence?  We know what it was, so if we are basing the ability to sense God's presence from scripture, that actually given to us by God, by the Holy Spirit, this is what would inform of that.  What was necessary to know the presence of God is what God says is necessary to know the presence of God, and we find out in Acts 2.

Jesus promised the presence of the Holy Spirit, but those saved people in Jerusalem wouldn't know He had come, because this wasn't something that you could know without being shown.  If there wasn't anything needed to indicate the presence of God, then the way God would show He would come also wasn't necessary.  But it was necessary, and it was external, obvious, and verifiable.  It wasn't an inkling, a hunch, an impression, related to something natural, what anyone could just make up.  Not only did the verification of the presence of God occur, but it was recognizable by everyone at once, not just by some type of unique caste of spiritual specialists.

Acts 2 makes specific mention of the experiencing of the presence of God.  Here's the description (Acts 2:2-4):
2  And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. 3 And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
First, the feeling or the sensing of the presence of God came audibly with a sound of a rushing mighty wind without actual wind present.  Everyone could hear that.  The word "wind" is a unique word in the New Testament, found only here and another place, and it is a blast, unprecedented.  They heard wind like a hurricane without there being wind, just the noise, minus the blowing.  Hearing wind with wind present is something many have experienced and that would have signified nothing.  Hearing a cyclone-like wind sound without the wind is highly impressive, swaying, convincing of something, especially in conjunction with the promise that God the Holy Spirit was coming soon.

Before I move to number two, understand that this was the Day of Pentecost, fifty days after Passover.  This event was sovereign.  It was under the power of God, as God did it when He wanted.  Jesus died at Passover, He rose again at Firstfruits, and the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost.  These are not haphazard.  This was the plan of God.

Some might say, it was an answer to their prayer.  I think they were praying for this event.  I have no non-ambiguous proof that they were praying for this event.  I think it is what Jesus taught them to pray in Luke 11.  We know they were praying, it just doesn't say anywhere they were praying for this event to occur.  This event was going to occur, whether they prayed for it or not.  It also occurred with everyone.  The presence of God is sensed in an unambiguous way by everyone.  It isn't isolated.  Everyone knows it.

Second, the feeling or sensing of the presence of God came visually with the appearance of tongue-shaped cloves of fire.  It wasn't fire.  It was the appearance of fire.  The appearance of these tongue-shaped cloves of fire was on every single one of them.  Each person knew he had this.  This is how he sensed.  He could see it.  Everyone else could see it.  Everyone would know it.

If God is going to be sensed in a lesser way, that someone testifies he got in his own individualistic manner, that would be the absence of sensing God's presence.  That would be not to sense God.  Sensing God should be like sensing God in the Bible, or that sensing would mean nothing.  The expressed sensing of God would void scripture, make it as nothing.  God exalts His Word, says it is sufficient, but we would be saying that, no, our experiences supercede or surpass the Bible.

God's Word is truth, and saying that it is true means that it should not be contradicted.  If the sign or the manifestation of the presence of God is what scripture says it is, we should expect to get that.  If we don't get it, we should reject our experience and go with what God says in His Word.

Third, the feeling or sensing of the presence of God came through speaking in an actual foreign language that the speaker did not naturally know.  God gave men the supernatural ability to speak to people in a different language.  They suddenly knew a language or their mouth just moved in that language while their brain fed it information in their own language.  Acts 2 does a lot to establish these as actual languages, but this is sensing the presence of God.

There will very often be claims of the presence of God or the sensing of the presence of God.  No one should just assume that is going to occur.  If it was something that someone could sense, he should expect to sense it like the Bible shows someone senses it.

You might ask, is there any other way to know the Holy Spirit is there?  Sure, but it isn't characterized as sensing it, like people claim to have done.  If they were sensing it, it should be verifiable on the outside.  Claiming that in a subjective, individual way someone senses God's presence is not what scripture teaches.  Scripture is sufficient and God isn't a liar.  Let God be true and every man a liar.

There are ways that we know the presence of the Holy Spirit is there, which are biblical and sufficient.  I see four ways in scripture.  I'm going to list them and say nothing about them:  fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5), spiritual giftedness (1 Cor 12, Rom 12), changed relationships (Ephesians 5:18-6:6), and boldness in proclamation of the Word of God (Acts 4:31).  What I've noticed most often is that the actual ways scripture says you will know someone has the indwelling Holy Spirit are not there, not witnessed, but the very individual, subjective feelings are there, and the latter is elevated above the former, which is the norm today, it seems, for the discernment for true spirituality.  That doesn't honor God -- it is wicked and adulterous.

Because men are not satisfied with actual knowledge of the Holy Spirit, I have witnessed them going about to manipulate situations to fool people about the Holy Spirit.  Sometimes, I suspect, they themselves are fooled while they fool others.  However, through the use of music, speaking style, and other external stimuli, they give a wishful public their placebo experiences.  They can produce crowds through a gimmick and then say it was the Holy Spirit.  They use emotionalism for tear-jerking altar calls, and then when people come, they say that's the Holy Spirit.  Things that are not miracles are called miracles.  It is one thing after another.  If you say that you don't have or do these things, they say you don't have the power of God.  They are lying.

I don't expect to sense the presence of the Holy Spirit through the Acts 2:1-4 type of occurrence, because that experience is complete.  If it was an ongoing experience, I would expect Acts 2:1-4 authentication.  Here's what I've witnessed though.  A preacher says something like the following.  "Our whole church fasted all day and then our men got together and prayed all night for the outpouring of the Spirit of God, that He would come and meet together with us.  It's no wonder that I have felt the presence of God in this meeting.  You can sense the presence of God, a movement of the Holy Spirit in numbers of ways:  how that the hymn choices have matched the sermon choices, the obvious power that has been there in the preaching, and that others have told me they sensed God's presence."  Have you heard that?  I've heard it numbers of times among independent, even unaffiliated Baptists.  Every time, I either feel something, sick to my stomach, angry, or the blood drain from my face.  That is in reaction to something that is not true.

This last paragraph I've called "soft continuationism."  I don't know anymore.  Maybe it's just continuationism.  They aren't seeing some wacky Charismatic manifestations, but they are seeking and having experiences that are lies.  I'm not saying they don't have the experience, but their interpretations or stories are lies.  I wish they could be satisfied with what God says, since He wants that faith in His Word.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

The Trip to Europe Continued (Sixteenth Post In Total)

One   Two   Three   Four   Five   Six   Seven   Eight   Nine   Ten   Eleven   Twelve   Thirteen   Fourteen   Fifteen

Monday, June 11, 2018 was a very busy and stressful, yet exciting day.  We got very little sleep, arose very early, and then we had all the running due to our customs error at the Edinburgh airport, not getting checked off on the passports before security.  There were so many parts to the day, because we arrived in Bologna, bus to train station, train to Mestre, and walk to our condo.  One advantage so far may be that we hadn't walked over ten miles.

Almost every Italian neighborhood is near some piazza, a common feature of Italian towns and cities.  Our place of stay was near one with a fountain in the middle.  Venice is a nighttime city, but in hindsight we slept longer than we should have for the rest of the parts of this day.  We walked back to the train station to go the final leg into Venice, which is only about ten or fifteen minutes.  It was nice to be rid of the luggage.  Where we stayed, we walked east, passing many bicycles.  Italy is filled with bicycle riders, peddling along as their actual mode of transportation.  Almost all of these bikes look like the retro 1940 simple, plain bike.

The track to Venice is upon a narrow land bridge to a group of islands, so it looks as though you are coasting along on top of the Mediterranean as Venice grows larger in front of you.  The Venice station is a giant one in the very north and west.  You walk a short way south and east, down some granite steps to the grand canal.  Nothing is like Venice.  Wherever you look is different than anything you've ever seen.

I led my family to a ticket office right on the canal, where I purchased four vaporetto passes.  The goal here was to ride the entire grand canal from the very beginning, past Piazza San Marco.  Our host, Massimmo, suggested it.  It was probably a good suggestion if we had left two hours sooner, which itself would not have been the right move, because we needed the nap.

To ride the vaporetto, the water bus, you wait on a little platform, they call a ferrovia.  The vaporetti travel both ways.  Just to be honest, when I stepped on to the ferrovia, I thought I was on a square vaporetto, because I had never seen one or ridden one.  So much of this trip was a first time for whatever it was.  We were the first onto the platform, waiting then for the actual boat.

As we stood and sat and others followed us, a couple from Chicago walked on, and started the most memorable, hot argument of the entire decoration.  She asked a fairly inane question about the direction of the vaporetto and he took offense at the simplicity, so he insulted her.  She went back at him, he at her, the volume elevated, and then my wife and I were actually trying to help settle it, calming them both down.  They stood then in silence looking different directions.  There was plenty to look at.

Our vaporetto came into the ferrovia, and it was clear what was happening. This is where people got on and off, off first, of course.  The stop has an official and the vaporetto has a captain.  They keep their rules strict, and it's easy to see how offended they are at tourists.  Tourists in general just want an advantage for themselves to be and go where they want to go.  It was different in the U.K.  This showed up to the maximum in Italy and France.  As much as you might think, Americans are not the worst.  Others are by far worse than Americans, and I'll let you know as we go along.

Everything in Venice is unlike anything and that includes the grandness of the Grand Canal.  As much as we left late, the colors at around 7:30pm are marvelous.  There is so much activity:  gondolas, gondoliers, other vaporetti, water taxis, the bridges, and the buildings with the water, the spires, the windows, the little alleys and miniature canals, and surprises everywhere.
Venice is very odd.  Why would anyone live like this?  I get it, but it is still weird.  Security.  Safety.  Protecting money.  It started, kept going, built up, and then just became what it is, like anything different in the world.

We went from stop to stop to stop, taking in the views and at the end of the canal, it opens up into something wider, more spacious, and majestic.
We took our hosts advice, and went a stop past Saint Marcos, the most famous area of Venice.  We walked back from there along the canal.  Massimmo also told us that we could just keep heading that direction, and zigzagging, and we would make our way back.  That was not his best advice, but we were fine for now.

The lamps came on, and the temperature was perfect, the breeze coming off the water.  We were hungry now, and there are restaurants everywhere.  Venice isn't known for its food, but the atmosphere was terrific.  We liked the price and selection of a place, so we sat down outside with a view, watching the people go by.  It wasn't crowded that night in that special location.  We ate pasta of various types and it was wonderful.
I liked the service in Italy.  It was almost always men, and they were masculine.  The waiting seemed to be a craft with them.  They weren't doing it for a tip, so it wasn't ingratiating.  They didn't attempt to chat you up.  They were fulfilling a duty, it seemed, with a time-honored artistry with every movement.  They were there to help you, not impress you.  I didn't find it different any time in Italy.

When we rose to leave, it was dark.  There are lamps and lights everywhere.  The shops are open.  Venice is a maze of alleys and canals, sometimes very, very narrow.  At moments you walk into a very narrow alley that has no exit.  Sometimes it ends at a canal with no way out.  Some of these had very shallow water over the stone walkway, wetting the bottom of your shoes, splashing along.

Every view was fantastic, but we were very, very tired.  It would have been nice to have beamed to the end and started over fresh on Tuesday.  It took me about 45 minutes to figure out that the zigzagging advice of Massimmo was not the correct one, when I started using my GPS.  You can put in your destination and make it through in Venice -- just a tip.  I did that from then on.  It will tell you how long it should take on foot.  You have to watch very carefully especially at night.

If you remember, I told you about not having walked ten miles.  We took care of that with our walk through Venice late at night.  It was a long, long walk.  My wife was a trooper, because all things considered, this was a painful march.  Once we were in the middle of it though, it was too late to turn back. We saw some amazing things that night, that were overshadowed by the exhaustion.

We were late for the last train, arriving at the transportation hub where we started just after midnight.  We caught the bus though, which traveled all the way right next to where we were staying.  You might think that people everywhere would know English.  They don't.  You are in a foreign country at a bus stop.  However, there isn't the feeling of a threat that you might feel in the United States.  The main suggestion is keep track of your purse and backpack, your belongings.

Before we left on the trip, I bought two cargo pants, and a new billfold, one easy to carry in a front pocket, and I kept it in the zipped pocket on my thigh.  My wife and daughters had security purses and backpacks, anti-theft versions of these.  Everything we brought was easy to carry.  We always had our passports and they were in rfi safe holders.  We didn't have a problem the entire trip with that.

We slept well that night, and late morning we would make our way back to Venice on Tuesday.  I'll talk more about the Venice experience.

Friday, September 14, 2018

The Merneptah Stele: Proof for Israel's presence in Canaan

Skeptics of the Bible sometimes doubt that Israel was present in the land of Canaan during the time period specified by the Bible.  They allege that the Biblical record was made up many centuries later.  The Merneptah Stele is powerful validation of the accuracy of the Biblical narrative's account of early Israel's presence in Canaan.

The stele was placed by the Egyptian Pharaoh Merneptah (who ruled c. 1224-1214 B. C.).  He claimed to have defeated a variety of foreign nations to his north, specifying, in his list, “Israel” in a series of comments about victories over groups in “Canaan.”[1]  The Stele thus constitutes “an official recognition of a people called Israel in extra-biblical documents.”[2]  Furthermore, the word “Israel” is preceded by the Egyptian determinative for “people” or “ethnic group,”[3] while Israel’s presence on the stele indicates that the Israelites were a significant nation at the time, one important enough even at this early date for Egypt's Pharaoh to boast about a victory over them.  Thus, even at this early period  “Israel was well enough established by that time among the other peoples of Canaan to have been perceived by Egyptian intelligence as a possible challenge to Egyptian hegemony.”[4]

Thus, “Israel was definitely in Palestine by ca 1220 B. C.”[6]  In the words of the agnostic, anti-inerrancy scholar William Dever: “The Merneptah Stele is . . . just what skeptics, mistrusting the Hebrew Bible (and archaeology), have always insisted upon as corroborative evidence: an extrabiblical text, securely dated, and free of biblical or pro-Israel bias. What more would it take to convince the naysayers?”[7]
            Further evidence for Israel's presence in Canaan exists.  An inscription from the time of the Ramessess II (1303-1213 B. C.) refers to “Israel” in a captive list also mentioning Ashkelon and Canaan.  Furthermore, two captive lists found in the Egyptian Soleb temple in the time of Amenhotep III (1390-1352 B. C.) mention a people in a “land” that is associated with characters that “represen[t] exactly the way the Hebrew divine name would appear in hieroglyphic . . . leading many scholars to associate these inscriptions with Israel.”[8]  (This last piece of evidence also supports the traditional and conservative date for the Exodus in contrast to the later date adopted by many more liberal scholars.)
            The Merneptah Stele and other Egyptian sources provide “documentary extrabiblical evidence for . . . a ‘people’ called ‘Israel,’ living in Canaan, and [their] God” as  “known in the Egyptian sphere of influence no later than Merneptah and probably much earlier . . . the pre-Amarna period.”[9]

           Christians should be aware of the existence of the Merneptah Stele and refer to it when appropriate in apologetic encounters with non-Christians.

[1]           For the text of the stela, see James Bennett Pritchard, ed., The Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament, 3rd ed. with Supplement (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1969) 376-378.
[2]           Davis, John J. New International Dictionary of Biblical Archaeology (Accordance electronic edition, version 1.5. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1983), “Israel Stele.”
[3]           Thomas E. Levy, Thomas Schneider & William H. C. Propp, eds., Israel’s Exodus in Transdisciplinary Perspective:  Text, Archaeology, Culture, and Geoscience. (New York:  Springer, 2015) 203.
[4]           William G. Dever, Who Were the Early Israelites and Where Did They Come From? (Grand Rapids, MI:  Eerdmans, 2006), 206.
[5]           Picture from Billington, Clyde E. “The Curious History Of The “Editor” In Biblical Criticism: A Review Of The Edited Bible, By John Van Seters (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2006).” Bible and Spade 22 (2009) 115.
ca circa, about
[6]           C. F. Pfeiffer, “Israel, History of the People of,” ed. Geoffrey W Bromiley, The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Revised (Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1979–1988), 911.
[7]           William G. Dever, Who Were the Early Israelites and Where Did They Come From? (Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2006), 206.
[8]           Lawson G. Stone, “Early Israel and Its Appearance in Canaan,” in Ancient Israel’s History: An Introduction to Issues and Sources, ed. Bill T. Arnold and Richard S. Hess (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2014), 143; cf. e. g., Donald B. Redford, Egypt, Canaan and Israel in Ancient Times (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992) 272–273.
[9]           Lawson G. Stone, “Early Israel and Its Appearance in Canaan,” in Ancient Israel’s History: An Introduction to Issues and Sources, ed. Bill T. Arnold and Richard S. Hess (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2014), 142–143.  See also Peter van der Veen, Christoffer Theis, & Manfred Görg, “Israel in Canaan (Long) Before Pharaoh Merneptah?  A Fresh Look at Berlin Statue Pedestal Relief 21687,” Journal of Ancient Egyptian Interconnections 2:4 (2010) 15-25.