Total Eclipse: The Sign and the Wonder

Total Eclipse March 20, 2015

We’re all aware of the total eclipse of the sun on August 21st, 2017. But perhaps you’re not aware why so many are excited:

 

For us Americans, this will be the first total eclipse of the sun viewable in the states since 1979. So we don’t have to fly half way around the world  to see a total eclipse as astronomer Guillermo Gonzalez did in 1995, flying to Northern India to see the eclipse on October 24th of that year. Continue Reading

A talking snake and the alien connection

     The serpent deceives Eve. (Gen 3.1-5)  Was there really a talking snake that deceived Eve in the garden of Eden?

I’m a Christian, but the Bible’s all stories1 … ’. As I write this article, that is not only the title of the lead article on Creation Ministries International website, but unfortunately it’s a sentiment shared by far too many devoted, well meaning, but dead wrong Christians; as well as by most Bible skeptics. I lay a good portion of the blame for the many misguided Christians in this area at the feet of Bible teaches and pastors who get in front of congregations or Bible classes every week, and talk about Bible “stories” (stories being typically understood as make believe) instead of Bible “accounts”  (accounts being typically understood as a recounting of something factual that happened). You may think the difference is a minor thing – but the way an idea is labeled is critically important. Why else do companies pay so much attention to branding (a form of labeling) and spend millions to promote their own brand as well as protect it? Why else are there battles over how various issues are labeled?

Why do those who support liberal border policies prefer the term “Undocumented immigrants” over the more accurate “Illegal aliens?”

Why do so many in the LGBT community insist on calling those who support one man,  one women marriage not  “traditional marriage  supporters” but rather  “homophobic” or “haters”?

Because they know how you label an idea is critical to how it will be perceived. And they want to frame how people think about those issues without even discussing it. The church has handed the adversary an easy victory on that front by allowing the historic events of the bible to be labeled as “stories”  – without raising an objection. (Please note my objection!) But terminology is just the tip of the iceberg. The root of the problem lies much deeper.  And it’s tied up with why so many in the church still call Bible accounts “stories.”  The reason: because unfortunately, for many Christians – as the CMI article points out – that is precisely what they are to such Christians: just stories. Not historic accounts, but stories – not to be taken literally. Not to be understood as actual history.

But as Bible and Hebrew scholars2 will tell you, the Genesis accounts (and biblical narratives in general) are presented not as fictional stories, but as straight forward narrative history, and are intended to be understood as such. What then are we do with things like a 6 day creation, and a talking snake?

The reason most people no longer believe in a 6 day creation is they need to squeeze in billions of years because they have embraced the godless theories of the  big bang and neo-Darwinian evolution which require billions of years. I have already devoted a number of articles3 to exposing the numerous flaws of those godless theories so I will spend no time here. Instead, we turn to the objection of a talking serpent.

Some people reason that since snakes neither talk, nor even have the physical capability to do so (no vocal chords, etc.) the “serpent” referred to in the account of the fall in  Genesis cannot be a real snake, and thus they reason, the account cannot be a true and accurate account. But like a murder mystery that seems obvious who-done-it at the beginning, you don’t come to the correct conclusion until you consider all the evidence; and the key pieces are not given until the end. So let’s take a step back,  broaden our view and consider more evidence and determine if the “it can’t be true” position is a premature jumping to conclusions before all the evidence is in.

Who or what is the serpent?

Let’s start with a review of the biblical text: Gen 3.1-4

3:1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”
2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden,
3 but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.'”
4 “You will not surely die,” the serpent said to the woman.
Gen 3.1-4

There would be no question that the serpent is Satan, or the devil, except for the few who deny that, claiming the serpent is never identified as Satan in scripture4. Perhaps the serpent is not identified as Satan in this small section, but it is simply not true that the serpent is not identified in scripture. Jesus appears to be referencing the serpent when speaking of the devil in  John 8.44; and he clearly does so in his revelation to John:

The great dragon was hurled down–that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray.
Rev 12.9

Only those who don’t know their bible well or are actively trying to deny the connection can miss this clear identification of the serpent as Satan. But that’s the easy identification. Let’s press on to the deeper questions:

Who did Eve speak with? A snake, the Serpent or something else?

You may wonder what’s the difference between a snake and the serpent? Let me suggest that the term “the serpent” acts as a technical term, a code word that in many place in scripture refers specifically to Satan. We see the key to the code in Rev 12.9 (above) – the serpent=Satan (as does the dragon=Satan)5.  Now let’s go back and re-read the passage in light of that understanding – that “the serpent” refers to “Satan”. Continue Reading

Diamonds – A Girl’s and a Creationist’s Best Friend

Marilyn Monroe singing 'Diamonds ae a Girl's Best Friend' in the movie 'Gentemen Prefer Blonds'

Marilyn Monroe singing ‘Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend’ in the movie “Gentlemen Prefer Blonds”

Diamonds are evidence of  young earth, and so they present a perfect opportunity to witness, using it as a symbol and object lesson.

 In an age of visually oriented communications such as TV, movies and the internet, the power of symbols is not lost on content makers such as advertisers and movie producers.  This is particularly true when you combine pop icons with these symbols to make a lasting impression. Case in point: diamonds. The point was indelibly etched in the courting rule book when the iconic beauty Marilyn Monroe sang:

“a kiss on the hand may be quite continental, but diamonds are a girl’s best friend.”1

Since then, aside from the numerous remakes2 from beauties trying to channel the appeal and success of Marilyn, we’ve had regular reminders that “diamond’s are a girl’s best friend.” They come right around this time of year – in time for the Christmas shopping season, to reminded you that if you really want to express your love to a lady, the proper way to do it is with a diamond. This year it was done with a twist – taking a form of  nature documentary and using penguins instead of people3, but the message was the same.

There are multiple lessons for Christians here – aside from the well known fact that advertisers can use beautiful women to sell their wares.  They are as follows:

1. God first used signs & symbols, and continues to use them

During the creation week, God said:

And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years,
Gen 1.14

And as the children of Israel were about to enter the promised land, God gave them these instructions:

6 These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and
bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.
Deut 6.6-8

So God was the first to use signs and symbols.4 And of particular interest is his  command to his people to have a symbol of his word, his instructions to them for proper living displayed prominently both on their person , and on their houses. This command was fulfilled with the placing of  tephillim (Phylacteries in the New Testament (Matt 23.5)) on the wrist and forehead; and a mezuzah on the house. Why? Because what advertisers have learned, God already knew: the power of a constant reminder in the form of a symbol. His purpose is clear: to impress the importance of His word upon His people, God used symbols – the tephillim and mezuzah – which both symbolized his word and contained portions of it.

Another symbol, mentioned briefly in my article  Physical Evidence that Jesus Existed, is that of the Chi Rho (the first two Greek letters in “Christ”). History records how God used the symbol to inspire General and soon to be Roman Emperor Constantine to trust in Christ, not the pagan gods on the eve before what would be a decisive battle for the victor.  Constantine’s victory at the Mulvian bridge over his rival  Maxentius led to Constantine extending his power, allowing him to legalize Christianity in the Roman empire, ending (eventually) the widespread persecution of Christians and setting the stage for accelerated growth of the church.

A final example: Jesus indicated that his return will be preceded or accompanied by “the sign of the Son of Man” (Matt 24.30).  Thus signs and symbols have been in use by God to further the faith since the beginning, and continue to be in use. Clearly we have as a precedent God’s own use of signs and symbols in furtherance of the faith.

2. God redeems and claims symbols for his own use

The cross is arguably the most recognized symbol in the world.  For Christians it represents Christ’s passion and redemption, hope and eternal life.  Even for non-believers it is a well recognized symbol of Christianity. But it was not always that way.  The cross is after all an instrument of death. And not just any death, a death of torture – a slow death of literally excruciating pain. (The root of excruciate is crux – meaning cross).  The cross was used not only to execute, but to intimidate. In that regard it also excelled because it became one of the most feared forms of execution in the ancient world.

Even so,  God took that instrument of death and torture, and turned it into a symbol of hope, and of the true faith. That transformation from sign of intimation and death; to sign of hope for the faithful has not been lost upon historians: Continue Reading

Physical Evidence Jesus Existed

Interior - St. Peter's BasilicaInterior – St. Peter’s Basilica as painted by Giovanni Paolo Panini
Claims that there is no evidence that Jesus ever existed are simply untrue. Here’s why.

In the companion article, Is Faith Rational, I note that many atheists claim:

In fact, there’s really no evidence that Jesus ever existed or had followers…There is no historical or archaeological evidence to support the existence of Jesus.1

You’ll find this objection from bloggers and authors2 alike among other skeptics. In response,  I pointed out 4 items that are historical or archaeological evidence of the existence of Jesus to silence this claim. They are:

1. St Peter’s Basilica; Cathedrals and Churches all over the world.
2. Nails From the Cross of Jesus
3. The Spear of Destiny (The Spear that pierced Jesus’ side)
4. The Shroud of Turin

In the companion article there was not space to discuss these issues, so here is that discussion.

Physical Evidences of Jesus’ Existence:

First, please note these are presented as evidences not proofs. It’s very difficult to “prove” anything that happened in the past. However what we do have left from events in the past is evidences that the event occurred. The following are evidences that Jesus existed.

1. St Peter’s Basilica; Cathedrals and Churches all over the world.
Pictured above is a view inside the great St Peter’s Basilica, the centerpiece of the Vatican, named  after the apostle Peter, a follower of Jesus who is  regarded by Catholics as the first Pope. For someone who never existed, Jesus somehow managed to get multiple people to write down the names of his first followers (the apostles), and managed to get churches, cathedrals and this basilica built to honor and worship him. Unlike mythical deities, such honor and worship continues to this day.  An amazing feat for someone who never existed.
Note: while the Basilica itself is prima facie evidence of the existence of Jesus, it also contains items that also prove the existence of Jesus. (See item three.)

Before moving on – wait – I hear an atheist saying, based on that logic every pagan god for which a temple was built must also exist. Nice try. Let’s consider a pagan temple the Bible mentions – the temple of Artemis (Roman name: Diana) in the city of  Ephesus. (Acts 19.27) and compare how people treat a mythical god with how they treat  Jesus:

– Is Artemis worshipped in any significant way today? Does she have thousands of temples/churches?
(In contrast Jesus is worshipped around the world today)

– When swearing or cursing, does anyone swear by Artemis? Or use Artemis as an expletive?
(As a corollary, why do you suppose that people only use the name of Jesus as an expletive, and not other deities? After all according to atheists all deities are the same – nonexistent. What’s the significance of using Jesus’ name?)

– Does anyone claim Artemis loved mankind enough to become incarnate, live on earth and redeem mankind from his own sin and folly?

– Is time divided before and after the coming of Artemis?
(Critics who want to point to days devoted to pagan gods like Thor’s day; Saturn’s day etc. should consider that such days do not point to anything meaningful. The division of BC/AD (before Christ/in the year of our Lord [Jesus]) locates for the world when the son of God became man for our benefit, and as such is very meaningful and significant. What does Thursday represent besides the fourth day after Sunday?)

– Does Artemis have an animal marked on its body with her symbol that carried her in triumph as Jesus does? (John 12.12-15) Has her symbol inspired kings and armies like the Chi Rho did Constantine and his army?

– Did Artemis prophesy anything that was fulfilled?
(In addition to his resurrection, Jesus predicted the destruction of the second Jerusalem temple which was fulfilled in 70 AD by the Roman General Titus.)

Whether you love Jesus and revere him or despise him and use his name as an expletive, clearly the responses to Jesus has always been, and always will be  qualitatively and quantitatively different from any other so called god. This makes both the worship of Jesus and his places of worship also qualitatively different.  There is an entire fabric of evidences that St Peter’s Basilica becomes part of strengthening the entire case for the existence of Jesus.  The temple of Artemis [or substitute any false god – Zeus,  whatever] is a single thread that simply reminds man of his tendency to idolatry and folly.  So please, don’t bother with the comparisons to other fallen temples.

2. Nails From the the Cross of Jesus
In 1990, construction workers digging to build the foundation for what is now the Peace Park in Jerusalem stumbled upon the tomb of Caiaphas, the high priest who questioned Jesus (John 18.19) and with the elders convicted him and sent him to the Roman governor for execution (Matt 27.1-2).   (Incidentally, this is yet another discovery that verifies a historical fact recorded in the Bible – in this case the existence of Caiaphas.  Such verifications are not possible with myths – which some skeptics believe the bible to be.)

While this find is helpful, what’s even more interesting is this: archeologist Simcha Jacobovici, noted that in the grave of the Caiaphas  were two nails.  He believes he has found the very nails used to affix Jesus to the cross, stating he has made: Continue Reading