The Genetic Apocalypse of the Human Race Made Simple

Poly-constrained message

Evolutionary theory holds that all of the diversity of life that we see – from dandelions to whales to hummingbirds to Vladimir Putin – all of this descended from a single ancestral genome. By accident. Somehow, life accidentally appeared from dead matter, and that first single-celled organism reproduced and, blindly and mindlessly, eventually led to increasingly “advanced,” “higher” life forms.

The biological process by which this all supposedly happened is this: random mutations plus natural selection. This is considered to be scientific fact in the sense that it is certain enough that it is no longer seriously questioned in secular academia. The assumption is that, over billions of years, the seemingly impossible has occurred innumerable times.

Materialist evolutionists claim that we know evolution is a fact because we can observe it occurring both in the laboratory and in the field. In saying this, they mean that we can observe mutations and natural selection giving rise to new species and newly adapted life forms.

Correcting a Common Misconception About Creationism
No one denies this. Natural selection and speciation are central to both creationist and evolutionist theory, but both worldviews disagree sharply on the role of natural selection and speciation. I would like to correct a common misunderstanding between the two worldviews. Here is where they disagree:

Creationists believe that mutations and/or natural selection can result in change and speciation within a given category of creature, but that there is a limit to what mutations and natural selection can accomplish. Dogs always produce dogs, and salmon always produce salmon. Mutations cannot create new genetic information of the type that is required to move an organism’s offspring in an “upwardly evolving” direction. For example, land bound reptiles could not have accidentally evolved into fully feathered, flying birds.

Evolutionists also believe that mutations and natural selection can result in change and speciation within a given category of creature, but they ascribe almost magical powers to the kind of change that mutations and natural selection can accomplish. Through gene duplication and other biological processes, they believe mutations can indeed add new genetic information of the type that would be necessary to move life from microbes to marimba players. For example, feathers accidentally evolved from scales via mutation, (or perhaps as some novel epidermal structure.)

100 years ago, microbes-to-mathematician evolution seemed like a viable possibility. Scientists had not yet discovered the astounding complexity of life at the cellular level, or seen the amazing complexity of the human genome. Within my lifetime we were told that humans and chimp DNA was about 99% similar. We were told that about 95% of our DNA served no function; that it was vestigial “junk DNA.” New research may be turning the tide of scientific opinion against these assertions.

In 2015, the director of the National Institutes of Health, Francis Collins, said in response to a question about junk DNA. “We don’t use that term anymore. It was pretty much a case of hubris to imagine that we could dispense with any part of the genome — as if we knew enough to say it wasn’t functional. Most of the DNA that scientists once thought was just taking up space in the genome turns out to be doing stuff.”

The Inevitability of Genetic Deterioration
I don’t really watch football. Instead, I’ve been a lifelong fan of following the creation/evolution “debate”. I’m no scientist, but I like to think I’m a (reasonably) intelligent designer. I’m willing to be convinced that all of life accidentally, mindlessly evolved from a single celled common ancestor, but I would have to at least be shown some natural process that could accomplish such a fantastical feat.

Probably the most important book I’ve read in the past year has been a book by Dr. John Sanford, entitled Genetic Entropy and the Mystery of the Genome. I highly recommend it to everyone, regardless of your worldview.

You can Google Dr. J C Sanford to learn his credentials. He was a materialist, evolutionary geneticist for most of his career. He holds over 30 patents, and has over 80 scientific publications. However, his research has led him to conclude that naturalistic evolution as currently taught is scientifically indefensible. His book, Genetic Entropy, claims to demonstrate that the human genome is unavoidably deteriorating, and thus cannot possibly be millions of years old.

Sanford refers to the idea that man is merely the product of random mutations plus natural selection as modern evolution’s “Primary Axiom.” The Primary Axiom is universally taught in academia and repeated in mainstream media.

Here is a brief excerpt from the prologue of Sanford’s book:

Late in my career, I did something that would seem unthinkable for a Cornell professor. I began to question the Primary Axiom…The Primary Axiom is actually an extremely vulnerable theory. In fact, it is essentially indefensible…To question the Primary Axiom required me to re-examine virtually everything I thought I knew about genetics. This was the most difficult intellectual endeavor of my life. Deeply entrenched thought patterns only change very slowly (and, I must add, painfully.) What I eventually experienced was a complete overthrow of my previous understanding.

As to the substance of the book, below is a sampling of one of several arguments against the Primary Axiom. As you read this, bear in mind that a mutation can be simply understood as a misspelling or copying error in the genome:

  1. Poly-constrained DNA
    Most DNA sequences are
    poly-functional and so must also be poly-constrained. This means that DNA sequences have meaning on several different levels (poly-functional) and each level of meaning limits possible future change (poly-constrained). For example, imagine a sentence which has a very specific message in its normal form but with an equally coherent message when read backwards. Now let’s suppose that it also has a third message when reading every other letter, and a fourth message when a simple encryption program is used to translate it. Such a message would be poly-functional and poly-constrained. We know that misspellings in a normal sentence will not normally improve the message, but at least this would be possible. However, a poly-constrained message is fascinating, in that it cannot be improved. It can only degenerate (see illustration above). Any misspellings which might possibly improve the normal sentence form will be disruptive to the other levels of information. Any change at all will diminish total information with absolute certainty…” (p 131.)

I would add a reminder that mutations are passed down to an organism’s offspring, accumulating with each generation. Sanford claims that all “higher genomes” are deteriorating, including ours. Mutations must ultimately move “higher” organisms in the wrong direction, “downward,” rather than in the direction needed for microbes-to-man evolution to occur. Far from solving the issue, deep time simply spells extinction.

Genetic entropy, if true, is not happy news for anyone, regardless of one’s worldview. If Sanford’s description of the world is correct, even a non-scientist can see important implications. From a theological perspective, I find it worth pausing to consider how pervasive are the effects of the fall of creation. Conversely, for those of us who hope in a Savior, it is worth considering how pervasive are the effects of the salvation that He has promised.
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Isn’t the Solution for Planned Parenthood Very Simple?

The Sexual Revolution & AbortionThey could stop doing abortions.

Since the most recent video scandal, defenders of Planned Parenthood have been retorting that abortion only accounts for a very small percentage of the services that Planned Parenthood provides. As if abortion is an insignificant part of what Planned Parenthood does.
Okay, then. If abortions are such a small part of what Planned Parenthood does, then why not stop doing them altogether? Why not just stick with actual women’s reproductive health services?

But this will never happen. Why? Why is providing abortions a deal-breaker for Planned Parenthood? Why will Planned Parenthood risk losing over $500 million in taxpayer funding rather than stop doing abortions?

They will not stop because their reasons are ideological.

Gender feminism and the Postgender movement will not accept an ethic that compels a woman to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term. The key word is unwanted. Apparently, “Progressive” ethics is ultimately about autonomy, self-determination, and “equality,” even if this means demanding a woman’s right to kill her offspring in utero; and it does. These people believe that women cannot be on equal footing with men so long as women are bound by a biologically assigned role that men are not bound by.

The connection between sexual intercourse and pregnancy must be severed, or else women can’t possibly share an “equal status” with men. This is essential to the sexual revolution. It doesn’t matter if a woman freely chooses to have sex resulting in an unwanted pregnancy. Her male partner doesn’t have to worry about living with an unwanted pregnancy, so neither should she. It wouldn’t be fair. For radical feminism, legal abortion is basic to ensuring equality with men.

Therefore, those of us who oppose abortion on demand are said to be waging a “war on women.” But we’re not. We’re waging a war on an inhumane utopian fantasy. We accept the natural order of creation and recognize the value, equality, and sanctity of every human life regardless of differing gender roles.

Going backwards?
But maybe gender feminists have a point. Why not use abortion to level the gender playing field?

Because by definition, abortion undermines any meaningful notion of equality. It abuses power, destroying vulnerable individuals in order to advance the status of more powerful individuals. It saws off the limb on which it is sitting.

The only way that abortion can work as an equalizing force is to pretend that a human fetus is not a human being. But it is simply a biological fact that a new human life begins at conception. If we’re going to hold that human life has innate value, then there is no rational way to argue that a human fetus has no value.

If we do not value innocent human life from its beginning point, then we are left with arbitrarily qualifying some other point at which a life is human and has value. Any such arbitrary point opens the door to creepy ethical scenarios. For instance, if we pick viability, does that mean that the dependent elderly and disabled are not fully human? Is it then ethical to terminate them at will and sell their organs for research?

But what about cases of rape, incest, and the life of the mother?

These objections cannot be brushed off lightly. In cases involving rape and incest, the girl/woman has had a pregnancy forced on her. It is wildly unjust that anyone should ever be forced into such a situation. At the same time it is unjust that an innocent human life should be ended because it originated through the selfish actions of a male perpetrator. There is no perfect answer. Such is the world in which we live.

A Pro-life position does not advocate no abortion whatsoever. Pro-lifers who say so are misinformed, in my opinion. The life-of-the-mother argument is held up by the Left as an example of so-called Pro-life extremism – an example of why Roe v Wade is necessary. But the truth is that abortion was allowed in cases where the life of the mother was endangered before Roe v Wade. Such decisions have always been made by the mother and her family.

How can the decision to terminate such a pregnancy be considered a Pro-life decision? It is Pro-life because the life of the mother is at stake. What is being weighed in such a case is the fundamental right to life of two separate individuals; the life of the mother vs. the life of the child. But in the vast majority of abortion scenarios, what is being weighed is a woman’s “right to choose” vs. the right to life of a child. The right to life is simply more fundamental – the right upon which all other rights rest. If we fail to uphold innocent human life, certainly secondary rights are expendable as well.

As a compromise, even as an ardent Pro-life person I would support a law or amendment making an exception for rape, incest, and the life of the mother, even though I would not necessarily agree that abortion is justifiable in those situations. Factual numbers around these scenarios are elusive, but in combination these constitute probably well under 5% of abortions, so such a law would still do away with so-called abortions of convenience. Abortion for non-medical reasons is not health care.

Planned Parenthood’s better world

Damning investigative videos about Planned Parenthood are not new. They’ve been trickling out for years now. Several years ago, when Planned Parenthood workers from several different states were secretly recorded, assuring white donors that their donations could indeed be designated to specifically abort black babies, what I heard angered me.

Later, a Live Action hidden camera filmed a 13-year old girl seeking an abortion at an Indiana Planned Parenthood facility. Rather than report the situation to Child Protection Services, as the law requires, the nurse instructed the girl to lie about the age of her 31-year old partner in order to circumvent the law, and then directed the girl to a neighboring state for a secret abortion. Very disturbing.

Then, when a Planned Parenthood worker was caught on hidden camera coaching a sex-trafficking pimp on how to circumvent the law in order to obtain abortions for his underage, non-English-speaking “workers,” I was angry. However, Planned Parenthood could throw these employees under the bus because they weren’t in high-level positions.

But the latest string of videos, released by the Center for Medical Progress, implicates several Planned Parenthood representatives at the highest levels of the organization.

Since the Roe v Wade decision in 1973, the abortion issue has divided the American public. We didn’t need videos to know that taking an innocent human life for money is a bad thing. But even now, even in light of the latest revelations, I haven’t heard the Right demanding that Planned Parenthood and their radical sexual politics be driven out of existence. But is it so unreasonable to ask that taxpayer dollars not be used to subsidize them?

If “Progressives” must have abortion-on-demand in order for their vision of equality to work, let them do it without the forcing the humane sector to fund it. If there is going to be an abortion industry, let it stand on its own, like other service industries. Let the industry find it’s own sympathetic benefactors. Let us see if a business that terminates infant human lives for money will somehow have the effect of fostering human flourishing, equality, and a culture of enlightenment.

It fascinates me that while we continue to advance scientifically and technologically as a society, we remain morally and ethically lost. The same science and technology that is used by some to ease human suffering and make the world a better place is used by others for oppression and for harm. Human action continues to be darkened by greed, willful ignorance, and arrogance on a worldwide scale. The research lab cannot tell us right from wrong, or even if such a thing as right and wrong exists.

Planned Parenthood is one modern example of misapplied science and technology in the service of a well-meaning, but tragically mistaken, ideology. However, there is plenty of misapplied science to go around on both sides of the political spectrum. When all is said and done, how we perceive our problems and solutions still comes down to our beliefs. Our beliefs dictate our behavior.

Here’s hoping we can still respectfully talk to those whose beliefs differ from our own about things that matter to us all. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Baby doctor

Found on the sidewalk outside the micro brew pub near my house…

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Why Bruce Jenner Is Not A Woman

Is transgenderism anti-woman

I’m not making fun of Bruce Jenner. But I’m not celebrating either. I have some questions first.

I admit I have no qualifications to write about this. (I haven’t even had my sex talk yet.) But what are we supposed to do? By the time “the experts” start asking the right questions, the revolution will be long over, and then there will be no putting the gender genie back in the bottle. Since the news media are too busy celebrating to do their jobs, I thought it might be helpful to state some facts, and ask some honest questions about the basic facts of life.

Recently I read this in Yahoo Celebrity News:
“Bruce Jenner has been changing his appearance for months, leading to speculation that the former Olympic athlete is becoming a woman. A source for People magazine claims that’s exactly what’s happening,..”Bruce is transitioning to a woman…” (Erin O’Sullivan)

Actually, no, Bruce is not becoming a woman. For people to say so is an insult to women, and demeaning to the female gender.

Since it’s a full time job to keep up on the constantly changing, politically correct terminology around transgenderism, I’m simply going to attempt to be fair, honest, and as sensitive as I can be, and that’s going to have to be good enough. I ask the reader not to read any hostility into my questions, since I actually am committed to valuing transgender people. I think gender dysphoria is a real thing that people don’t choose, and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.

Why it is anti-woman to perpetuate the idea that a man can become a woman
There is something fundamental at stake here: A grip on the basic shape of reality. I would hope that my readers would be offended if I were to refer to a women as a “cunt.” I hope we would agree that this is demeaning to women because it attempts to reduce a woman down to nothing more than a vagina. But at the end of the day, the transgender community seems to be doing something similar. If a dude thinks that buying himself a vagina through “sex reassignment” surgery is going to complete his transition to womanhood, I think it just shows that he is thinking like a dude.

The male reproductive package is relatively simple compared to that of women. One cannot simply trade in a penis for a vagina and call it a sex-change. It’s not an even trade.

Compared to that of men, the female reproductive package is very complex and all encompassing. A girl’s reproductive system dramatically announces and asserts itself at puberty, and continues to do so cyclically throughout her entire adult life until she reaches menopause as an older woman. Her reproductive system pervades her entire body, inside and out. Whether or not she wants to, she must think about her body on a daily basis. Often it demands her attention. If she becomes pregnant, for months she lives minute by minute with the reality that a living being is growing inside of her body; a body that was designed to bring new life into the world. During the birthing process, her body naturally takes over, bringing her through the transcendent and intense experience of childbirth. After birth, first the colostrum, and then the breast milk produced by her body, is the best possible source of nourishment for her baby, delivering exactly the nutrients, minerals, prebiotics, and antibodies that her baby needs. These biological realities, to a greater or lesser degree, must necessarily shape the psyche of every woman.

There is simply nothing like this for guys.

Does the fact that we can now chemically and surgically alter our bodies mean we can change our sex/gender? No. It’s true that “sex reassignment” surgery can construct an authentic-looking vagina, even retaining tissues that enable many MTF (male to female) transgenders to experience orgasm during sex. But at the end of the day, it’s still a hole. It doesn’t connect to a cervix and uterus. There are no ovaries, no cramps, and no menstrual cycles. No possibility or risk of pregnancy. No (naturally) lactating breasts. A surgically constructed transgender vagina must be regularly dilated every day, for life, so that it doesn’t close up.

But what if a biological male identifies as female? This is a real thing.

I think we have to delicately ask, “How does a dude know what a woman feels like on the inside?” What if his idea of “feeling like a woman” is only a cartoonish caricature of femaleness? How would he or anyone else know the difference? We have to take his word for it, and I’m not willing to do that because people are wrong about stuff all the time. He may not “feel like a man,” but what does that mean?

Someone may ask, “Can’t we all live and let live, and let these people do whatever they want if it makes them happy and they’re not hurting anyone?” Yes. People are free today to do whatever they want, obviously. If only that were enough for them.

Why Gender is not a Social Construct
The hip, liberal viewpoint now is that sex is biological, but gender is not. Gender is supposedly a changeable, fluid continuum, and every point on that continuum should be celebrated. There are supposedly as many genders as there are people. But here is the deal: This is an opinion. It’s one, novel way of looking at human sexuality. There has been no new groundbreaking scientific “discovery” that there are a zillion genders (1). It’s a political perspective. It is every bit as legit to hold the opinion that there are only two genders – male and female – and that anything “in between” is disordered. But sexual liberals don’t like that viewpoint because they think it’s exclusionist and mean. It’s not – it should go without saying that people with disorders should not be shunned or hated.

Can we say that near-sightedness, far-sightedness, color blindness, macular degeneration, people with cataracts, and people born without eyes are all simply experiencing different ways of seeing? Are these simply all different points on a continuum that should be accepted and celebrated? Here is why worldview matters. Those of us who believe in a Creator and an intentionally designed universe would say that our eyes were designed for seeing; that there exists an ideal of perfect vision that is good. Do we therefore hate blind people? Of course not.

This is not obvious to everyone. In an accidental, mindlessly evolved universe, things cannot be objectively good or valuable – they simply exist. There is no ideal because there is no purpose to life. I once actually had a conversation with an evolutionist in which he found himself having to argue that working eyesight was not good. He could only say that he preferred having eyes that see, in our present context, but that blindness might someday be an evolutionary advantage. So for him, his preference for organs that actually function according to design is simply a cultural construct. I am of the opinion that this is wacky thinking, and I’m not sorry.

How can we know that gender is not a cultural construct? Because gender is similarly based in biology. Only women have the biological equipment necessary for gestation and childbirth. That’s not cultural. It’s been true in every culture for all of human history. Childbearing is a uniquely female, gender role assigned by our biology. A woman may or may not choose to embrace that role for whatever reason, but this doesn’t turn that gender role into a cultural construct. She may or may not exhibit stereotypically feminine behavior, but that doesn’t either confirm her gender or throw it into question.

Why should the binary, heterosexual system of human reproduction be the standard for defining human sexuality? Because of the fact that the continued existence of humanity has always depended on it. This means something. It means that binary heterosexuality is a good, healthy, proven, whole, and self-sustaining system. To be self-sustaining is part of what defines good. This is not to say that those who deviate from it should be taken out and shot, but neither should we go redefining marriage, sex and gender to help them feel better about themselves. At least not yet.

There remains much to be learned about gender dysphoria before we start breaking out the party hats and dismantling western civilization. I realize that transgenders – people whose gender identity does not match their natural biological gender – find relief in having a sexual category where they fit in. But what if it’s not a true category? What if this is not a natural phenomenon that we should be normalizing? This is a big question. If the transgender movement is correct, then when babies are born, doctors should stop biasing the way parents think about them by announcing, “It’s a girl!” or “It’s a boy!” Because we won’t really know. Apparently, we still won’t know even if the child wins a gold medal in the Olympic decathlon as an adult man.

One possible cause of gender dysphoria
It is possible that environmental factors may cause or contribute to gender dysphoria. There are endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) prevalent in our environment and food now that weren’t there just a few generations ago. If a fetus developing in utero is subjected to such chemicals, which are known to damage or inhibit normal sexual development, could this account for an increasing number of children and adults experiencing gender dysphoria today? We can’t say for sure because more research needs to be done.

But will the research be done in our hyper-politicized environment? Have you ever heard anyone in any media even mention EDCs? I’m guessing that transgender people would prefer to think of themselves as the vanguard of a new, revolutionary, liberated human sexuality rather than as people with birth defects.

Radical Feminism, Transgenderism, and Postgenderism
An alien visiting our planet might assume that a movement called “feminism” would embrace the essential and uniquely feminine role of childbearing. But no, radical feminism sees this biologically defined role as innately oppressive, and the idea of the nuclear family as something from which we must be liberated. Pregnancy is practically seen as a weapon used against women. Therefore, the gender feminist camp of the feminist movement, far from being offended, is heartened by transgenderism, gay marriage, sexual promiscuity, abortion-on-demand, and pretty much anything else that helps to subvert the ideal of lifelong, loving, heterosexually monogamous marriage. It is in the interest of radical feminism to obliterate the connection between sex and reproduction in general, and women and the innate role of childbirth in particular.

Here is a vision of equality by radical feminist author, Shulamith Firestone, from her seminal postgenderist work, The Dialectic of Sex, published in 1970:

“Humanity has begun to transcend nature: we can no longer justify the maintenance of a discriminatory sex class system on grounds of its origins in nature…The reproduction of the species by one sex for the benefit of both would be replaced by (at least the option of) artificial reproduction: children would be born to both sexes equally, or independently of either…the dependence of the child on the mother (and vice versa) would give way to a greatly shortened dependence on a small group of others in general, and any remaining inferiority to adults in physical strength would be compensated for culturally…For unless revolution uproots the basic social organization, the biological family – the vinculum through which the psychology of power can always be smuggled – the tapeworm of exploitation will never be annihilated. We shall need a sexual revolution much larger than – inclusive of – a socialist one to truly eradicate all class systems.”

Yes, you read that right. Women cannot be equal with men until their biologically assigned role is overcome through technology, and the nuclear family is abolished. This is at once an admission from the Left that left-wing sexual politics cannot work in the natural world, and also a beaming example of the astonishing arrogance of atheistic humanism.

This explains why we see a curious refusal on the Left to associate sex with procreation, and childbirth with the female gender. This is why we see a campaign to keep gender superficial and interchangeable between sexes. It’s part of a utopian political movement.

So what do we do with each other?
With such fundamentally clashing views competing in our culture, how can we all co-exist? The answer is actually very simple – pluralism and freedom. (Here I use “pluralism” to mean the intentional co-existence of competing ideas.) If you’re reading this and you’re a transgender, or gay, or feminist person, I hope you are happy. I really, really do. I don’t bear you any ill will at all. But if you need me to celebrate your viewpoint in order to be happy, that’s going to be a problem for you. If you intend to use the power of government to force your ideological agenda on me, that’s a serious problem for all of us. We need to all be free to carry out our lives, according to our beliefs, in the free marketplace of ideas. Then we will see how this all shakes out.

I think it would be very helpful if we would all go out and meditate on our COEXIST bumper stickers. Then, if you’re looking for a profound movie, I recommend The Giver.

Relevant links:
1) Why Johns Hopkins Hospital Stopped Doing Sex Change Operations
2) Dear Justice Kennedy: An Open Letter from the Child of a Loving Gay Parent

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Why the Magi Did Not Follow the Star to Bethlehem, and Why it Matters

Magi,Magus-Scott FreemanI’m not out to ruin Christmas for anyone. In fact, I hope to make Christmas more awesome for everyone who reads this. And by “awesome,” I actually mean “awesome.”

Even children know that it’s part of the Christmas story that three Wiseman followed a blazing star which led them to Bethlehem, to the manger where the infant Jesus lay; a “star of wonder…of royal beauty bright…westward leading…guiding,…” We get this idea from Christmas carols and greeting cards, which are supposedly derived from the Christmas story in the Bible. Does it matter that the Bible doesn’t actually say any of this?

Stay with me. I’m not a theologically anal party pooper. I love Christmas and Christmas carols. But I’ve also noticed that the traditions that have sprung up around the Christmas story and “Christianity” make it challenging to see what the Bible actually says.

For instance, did you ever notice that Luke never says that the angels sang to the shepherds? We get that idea from carols like Hark, the Herald Angels. See for yourself: Luke 2:13. (Michael Card agrees with me.)

Now, I’ll be first to admit that this business of control-freakish-Bible-verse-correcting can be pedantic and super annoying. Those of us who grew up in evangelical sub-culture have heard a million times: “You know, it doesn’t actually say there were three Wiseman.” And, “It doesn’t actually say it was an apple that Eve ate.” And, “It doesn’t actually say that Jonah was swallowed by a whale.”

So freaking what?

However, in the case of the star of Bethlehem I do actually have a serious reason for being picky. On December 22, 2012 I published a blog post called, The Star of Bethlehem – A Fairy Tale? This post summarized the research of Rick Larson, who has produced, in my opinion, a very compelling video entitled The Star of Bethlehem. Larson’s video and website shows the correspondence between the observable, testable universe and the Bible regarding the Star of Bethlehem story. Modern computer software can show us the precise configuration of the stars at any point in history, from any location on earth. We can know exactly what was going on in the sky around the birth of Jesus. And what was going on will blow your socks off.

After I published that post, a PhD physicist with degrees in mathematics and astronomy replied. His name is Aaron Adair, and he has a special interest in the Star of Bethlehem. He had just published a book claiming to debunk Larson’s theory. For Bible “skeptics,” he is apparently considered the go-to guy regarding the Star of Bethlehem.

So the next year, on December 22, 2013, I published a blog post entitled, Answering a Debunker: The Star of Bethlehem. In response, Mr. Adair cordially visited my blog’s comment section where he and I engaged in a rather lengthy but respectful debate. (Those interested can view the entire conversation HERE.)

A brief summary of why interpretive accuracy matters in the case of the star:
Mr. Adair claims to have debunked a naturalistic interpretation of the biblical story of the star of Bethlehem. He claims to have proven there was no clear, natural, astronomical sign in the heavens around the time of Jesus’s birth that fits the story in the Bible. We now know what the ancient sky looked like, and there was nothing in the heavens that would have told the Magi that a king in Israel had been born. Furthermore, there was no star “dancing in the night with a tail as big as a kite” that could’ve led the Magi to Jerusalem, then to Bethlehem, and then to the child. But then, I contend that the Bible doesn’t actually say that this is what happened. I contend that Mr. Adair has merely done a great job of debunking nonbiblical traditions passed down through Christmas carols and greeting cards. I think the actual biblical account of the star only becomes more amazing under modern scrutiny.

Following is a brief summary of what the Bible actually says about the Magi and the Star:

  • The story begins hundreds of years earlier when Israel is in exile under Babylon and Persia. While in exile to these foreign powers, the Jewish prophet Daniel is given miraculous revelation from God concerning the coming of an eternal kingdom and an eternal king from Israel. Daniel provides a specific timeline as to when these events would occur. Hundreds of years later, when the Romans, (the fourth kingdom prophesied in Daniel ch 2,) came to power, the Persian Magi would’ve been watching for some sign that the prophesied king of the Jews had been born. We now know that in 3 and 2 B.C. there were, in fact, remarkable, rare and repeated astronomical signs having to do with the birth of a king.
  • So upon “seeing His star in the East,” the Magi left for the capital city of Israel – Jerusalem – assuming that’s where they would find the young king. They didn’t need to follow a star to get there, especially considering the history between Persia and Israel.
  • Upon arriving, the Magi were probably surprised to learn that no one in Jerusalem seemed to know about the birth of Israel’s own king. In fact it says the entire city was troubled by the statements of the Magi. It is clear that King Herod didn’t know about the star either (Matt 2:7.) So the Bible is not describing a blazing star leading Wisemen around the Middle East. Whatever the Magi were seeing would’ve been easy for others to miss.
  • A troubled King Herod assembles the chief priests and scribes to learn where the messiah would be born according to the Jewish prophets. Then, King Herod, (not a star,) sends them to Bethlehem (2:8.) Bethlehem was five miles down the main road. Again, the Magi did not need a star to guide them.
  • He tells them, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him bring me word…” (2:8).
    This is significant because there was obviously no blazing ball of fire leading the Magi around. Why would Herod have directed them to diligently search if he could see that the Magi already had a magical star to guide them to Jesus? Better yet, why would he not have sent his own guys to follow the star directly to the child?
  • As the Magi start out to Bethlehem, “lo, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy…” (2:9,10.)
    Can heavenly bodies appear to move in the sky and then stop over towns? Yes, they can. In fact, we know that in 2 B.C. Jupiter performed a retrograde loop and was stationary over Bethlehem on, interestingly, December 25th. This was only one of many significant planetary movements involving Jupiter. (See full explanation HERE.) While I understand how this one sentence has been interpreted over the centuries that mean that the star was guiding the Magi to the house where Jesus was, this is not the only way to see it. It can also be seen as a divinely orchestrated coincidence; an affirmation to the Magi that the young king was indeed in Bethlehem. Of course the Magi would’ve been overjoyed at this heavenly sign.

The reason all of this matters to me is that Christmastime has become one more occasion for Bible “skeptics” to come out of the woodwork, claiming they have debunked the Bible, claiming that science is at odds with the Bible, and claiming that biblical faith is irrational. I enthusiastically disagree.

There is one loose end in my dialogue with Mr. Adair, having to do with the Greek text, which I promised to check into, so I’ll briefly take the occasion of this blog post to respond. Mr. Adair claims the Bible implies that an unnatural star led the Magi to Bethlehem, and that the Magi followed it to the very house where Jesus lived; that the star was literally over the house in close proximity. I contend that the Bible does not say this. But then, I readily admit that I’m no Greek scholar. I welcome anyone who is to weigh in here.

Mr. Adair claims that when the text says, “the star…went before them” (proago), the Greek is clearly saying they were being led by the star. Not necessarily. Just because there are people going before you in the checkout line at Walmart doesn’t mean they’re leading you. In fact, after the resurrection, both Matthew and Mark have an angel telling the disciples that Jesus “… is going before (proago) you to Galilee; there you will see him” (Matt 28:7; Mk 16:7.) In the same way, the Magi were not relying on the star for directions. The words “went before” can simply mean “went before.”

Mr. Adair claims that when the text says the star went on before them “until it came and stood over (epano) where the child was”, the Greek must mean “on top of or slightly above.” As in, “…and they put up above (epano) his head this charge against Him…” (Matt 27:37,) speaking of the sign placed directly over the head of Jesus at His crucifixion. However, the same word is also used here: “…[he] threw [the dragon/Satan] into the abyss, and shut it and sealed it over (epano) him…” (Rev 20:3.) Epano comes from epi – on, upon, and ano – up, above. In the case of the star, understanding epano to mean “in the sky directly over Bethlehem” seems to be within the range of allowable meanings. This is true especially considering that the text has already told us that the Magi needed no starry guide to get them to Bethlehem, that the Magi would have to diligently search for the child when they arrived, and that apparently no one else noticed the star. I favor letting scripture interpret scripture.

Conclusion
Am I arguing that there was nothing supernatural about the Star of Bethlehem? Am I sucking all of the mystery and wonder out of the Christmas Story?

Of course not. The entire thing is miraculous and supernaturally orchestrated from top to bottom.

The Christmas story only matters if it is true. Part of the beauty of it is that we can look back and see the correspondence between events recorded in scripture, and verifiable planetary movements using modern computer software. Yet it is a mantra of “New Atheism” that no evidence for God exists. Therefore the Star of Bethlehem must be assigned fairy tale status. Adair elsewhere appeals to tradition in saying “all ancient commentators” speak of the star as a supernatural (unnatural) phenomenon. But they didn’t know what we know today. Modern astronomy combined with the plain biblical text reveals an astonishing series of events that, in the sovereignty of God, can only have been scheduled when the stars were first created and set in motion.

God’s fingerprints are all over the Christmas story. The Magi were acting by faith on Jewish prophecy that had been handed down for some five hundred years. The Creator of the stars did announce the birth of His universal Messiah on the canvas of the observable universe, with amazing specificity. The Magi were a foreshadowing of the gentile nations coming into a salvation that would be for “the Jew first, but also to the gentiles.” After leaving Herod for Bethlehem, the Magi rejoiced to see the star going before them and stopping over Bethlehem because they knew that they were a part of a divinely ordained, world-changing chain of events. The invitation has been sent, and you are invited:

For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time” (1 Tim 2:5,6.)

May God reveal Himself more clearly to us all this Christmas season!

(Still Looking for Gift Ideas? If you live in Northern Colorado I’ll make you a GREAT deal on Fine Art Prints and/or Original Art!
There’s still time! Contact me: scottnmollie@yahoo.com. I’m calling it the “Hospital Bills are Kicking My Butt Sale”!!!)

Boyhood Visions of the Future

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I was born in the year 1960. Have you ever had moments of realization when you look back on your childhood and suddenly see how media was shaping your perception of reality? Kind of like finding out that the “food” you’d been eating as part of your “healthy diet” was actually part of a seductively packaged alien plot to incapacitate you so that the aliens could take over the planet? Lately I’ve noticed this around popular assumptions about the future that I grew up with.

I’m referring to the booming period of optimism and faith in human progress after WW2, when new nuclear-age war technologies began to be applied to the public sector marketplace. When cars began to grow fins, and vacuum cleaners and toasters were mass-produced to look like rockets. When “the future” was upon us – “The Space Age,” promising to give us a better world through chemistry. When little kids like me grew up watching the Jetsons, My Favorite Martian, Lost in Space, and Star Trek on black and white TVs. This era was the context of Pixar’s more recent, Toy Story, the era when little boys began to turn their attention from Cowboys and Indians to “the new frontier” – Outer Space!

There is a song that still cracks me up, summing up many of these early 60’s stereotypes about the future. The song’s bad grammar helps make the point, probably more accurately than songwriter Terry Taylor could’ve guessed it would, that human beings are still the same, despite technological advances:

(It’s the Eighties So Where’s Our) Rocket Packs?

I thought by now I’d walk the moon
And ride a car without no tires
And have a robot run the vacuum
And date a girl made out of wires…

I thought by now we’d live in space
And eat a pill instead of dinner
And wear a gas mask on our face
A president of female gender

Though progress marches on (new day)
Our troubles still grow strong
And my expectancies become my fantasies
You turn my blood to sand, the earth stands still again

My hopes are running low
Things moving much too slow
There’s no space men up above
And we’re still far from love…so very far from love

I thought by now we’d build a dome
Around the world, control the weather
In every house a picture phone;
Communicate a little better…

                          – written by Terry Taylor, 1984, from the album Vox Humana

You have to watch this Youtube video of the song. You must. Asap:
(Click here. Now.)

I thought it might be fun to list a few of the more damaging myopic futuristic assumptions that everyone thought would be so cool. At the time I was completely oblivious to the politics behind them.

Improved/Synthetic/Space-Age Food
Really? Why did anyone think this would be a good idea? Oh, that’s right – because Science has so perfectly grasped how food and the human body works. It is beyond pompous to assume that we can process, refine, chemicalize, and even genetically modify, the food supply and end up with better results than if we eat the stuff that organically grows out of the ground from nutrient-rich soil. (If you can still find any.) Genetically modified corn and soybeans were introduced into the American food supply in 1990s. Since then, food intolerances/allergies to these foods have exploded.  ‘Could be just a coincidence. Nevertheless, some 60 plus countries have now banned GM crops. Not in America though. There’s too much money to be made. But don’t worry. After all, it’s only the nation’s FREAKING FOOD SUPPLY.

Many futuristic assumptions forgot to take into account human greed and arrogance. Apparently this was supposed to evolve away, or something.

Apart from the nutritional benefits of eating actual food, it is worth noting that preparing food together and sharing a meal with family and friends has always been the quintessential communal act of human existence. Maybe we shouldn’t do away with this in the name of convenience.

Living in Outer Space on a Synthetic Planet
This doesn’t sound fun to me. Maybe for a couple of hours. The reason given for living in space was that the earth was going to become too crowded and polluted. I actually had teachers tell me this. But even as a boy the obvious question seemed to be, “But, couldn’t we just not destroy the earth?”

The Gender Thing
Visions of the future often included a more androgynous society, featuring both women and men wearing matching unitards. Apparently this was supposed to directly equate with equality, as if men and women cannot be equally valued so long as gender and gender roles exist. As if difference must necessarily imply inequality. I think they apply this same strategy in North Korea today, except they don’t use unitards, exactly. No one really knows.

As a little kid I remember seeing an artist’s conception in LIFE magazine about the future. The image contained a line drawing of a man and woman, each wearing only identical striped, bell-bottomed pants. They were the same height, both of their heads were shaved, and they had the same skinny build. The only difference was that the woman had boobs, sort of. (One can only guess at why.) I remember the picture made me cry, because I thought this was what the future would inevitably be like, since it was in LIFE magazine.

In remembering 60’s pop culture I have a hard time coming up with any innate difference between the sexes being celebrated in the future. I can’t think of any futuristic men with beards, (unless they were villains.) I don’t recall seeing a pregnant woman in a futuristic show or movie at all, let alone an image of woman breast-feeding a baby. Eyuu! How primitively human would that be! That would just call to mind all sorts of inequalities and unscientific, subjective feelings. It’s taken decades for breast-feeding advocates to overcome the misperception that breast-feeding is somehow innately less “modern” or less “scientific” than bottle-feeding.

The Procreation Thing
And speaking of babies, in songs and movies it was definitely assumed that this messy, emotional, undignified business of childbirth would somehow be cleaned up in the future. We’d pick babies from a test tube. Fetuses would be grown by scientists in a big tank. We’d be able to pick the gender, eye color, and intelligence of our (probably only) child. As if intelligence is a virtue, apart from good character. (Why does everyone assume their genius child is going to use their intelligence to eradicate disease and hunger? Maybe your genius child will use her intelligence to make weapons of mass destruction and eradicate humanity.)

I’ve been in a number of conversations with pro-legal-abortion-on-demand people who have brought up the idea of an artificial uterus. They seriously hope for this development. This would resolve the issue for them, finally making men and women equal. What is this impulse that pushes us to reject what is most innately human and deeply meaningful about ourselves?

The Inconvenience Thing
The idea of the innate worth and sanctity of all human life necessarily seemed to be on shaky ground in futuristic visions. There were never any people with disabilities, or blindness, or incurable diseases, or old age, in the Future. Why? They’re not there because, well, we will have learned how to fix the human machine by then. At least one hopes that’s why they’re not there.

Much of the futuristic vision seemed to be about overcoming inconveniences, like food preparation, childbirth, children, work, infirmity, and human limitations; the very things that have given shape to the lives of everyone who has ever lived on the planet.

The Work Thing
The idea of a person going to work all day at a job involving physical labor was not futuristic. Even walking more than a few steps was oh-so-20th century. A smiling George Jetson carried a briefcase home from work as the moving sidewalk carried him to his front door.

Of course most labor would be performed by cool-looking robots. Transportation would be akin to a trip to the amusement park – everything from personal hovercraft to rocket packs.

Things Missing From the Future:
God, of course. Of course there would be no belief in God in the future because everything would be explained and fixed without Him. And that would make us God. Super convenient! I now assume this was the media industry buying into the “secularization thesis” – the now discredited “Enlightenment” idea that as nations modernize and progress technologically, belief in God will inevitably die out. So surely in the scientific, space-age future, God will have been long gone.

Large Families. Gosh – there’s just something kind of undignified and Stone-Age about large families. And there is that overpopulation thing. It is interesting to note that the nations that are going extinct today, due to a failure to reproduce themselves, (as in Japan and much of Europe,) are also the ones where belief in God has been on the wane for some time.

Not What It Used To Be
In the present day, entertainment media’s conception of the future is very different from that of the 50s and 60s. It is now difficult to find an optimistic view of the future in popular culture. Most movies portray a very seamy, hopeless, barbaric, apocalyptic or post-apocalyptic futuristic vision. Perhaps this is because Science has proved to be an insufficient savior – it has indeed helped us with our technological problems, but not the human problem. The Modernism of the 50s has given way to the Post-modernism of today, which can offer us no transcendent purpose to history.

So what is my point in going back to the 50’s and 60’s portrayal of the Future, besides for the fun of it? I hadn’t noticed until recently how uniform the picture was that was presented to me, even during that innocent era. As pop culture’s vision of the future has grown darker, the picture of the future continues to be quite uniform. The underlying assumptions that guided the optimistic makers of children’s entertainment in the 50s and 60s happen to be remarkably fitting with the same metaphysical and political agenda promoted by the entertainment media today. Secularist values have not really changed – they’ve just lost their luster. People aren’t smiling at the future anymore. It’s the same fascism (for a better world, of course), the same evolutionary materialism, the same confusion about sex, gender, marriage, and family, the same utter lack of any transcendent basis for valuing all of human life, the same repudiation of the most meaningful aspects of what it means to be human.

In the not too distant future, I may or may not produce a children’s book that will set the vision of the future that I grew up with on its head. Set far in the future, in my book these prevailing secularist ideas will be looked upon as backward. Ideas such as food coming from a box, can, tube, or pill will seem funny. The idea that gender is a mere social construct will seem puzzling. What if children grew up with adults pointing out to them that, back when God ceased to exist, human beings ceased to exist as well, becoming merely accidental bundles of chemicals floating through space? What if children grew up convinced of the absolute value of every human being, since all human beings bear the image of a universal Creator who loves them? What if children grew up respecting the unique gender and parenting roles of both men and women? And what if bringing a new life into being were seen as a great privilege, and a valuable responsibility, rather than an inconvenience? I can testify that it would make for a better world.

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More About Mores (and Morays)

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Webster defines mores (pronounced MOR-aze – like the eel,) as:
“the fixed morally binding customs of a particular group.”

I’m no expert on morality and ethics, but then, who among us is? However, I have been paying attention. There is an idea about morality out there that seems to be not going away, despite the fact that it’s completely unhelpful to the discussion. It’s like the high fructose corn syrup of discussions on morality – self-serving people have put it in everything, even though it’s really bad for everyone.

I’m speaking of the idea that, regarding human behavior, if something is natural then it must be good; if an impulse is natural it must be in us for a legit reason.

May I delicately point out a couple of things about this idea that might be stupid?

First of all, what does that even mean – a “natural tendency,” or “natural behavior”? If we’re merely material animals, as secularists claim, how could anything we do not be natural? Maybe some of you can answer this for me, but I come up empty. I mean, if animals do it, doesn’t that automatically make it natural? Can we really say that killing other people is unnatural? Couldn’t I argue that it’s perfectly natural to make snow angels in a bed of poison ivy, or to rush off a cliff to my death like a lemming? How is this helpful in determining what is moral behavior? Couldn’t someone plausibly argue that it’s natural for the larger, physically stronger, and more aggressive sex to dominate the other? Or, on the other hand, I might look around at the world of nature and conclude that wearing clothing isn’t natural, since we’re the only animals doing it. I’m also pretty sure we’re the only ones cooking food, using electricity, and making art. I don’t get it.

Second, pundits seem to be using evolutionary theory as their basis for thinking this way, as if they actually know anything about our so-called evolutionary past. Evolution explains everything for secularists because they believe that it must. If we truly evolved from scum, then everything that is here is the result of natural evolutionary processes, whether or not it seems plausible. And yet, our evolutionary past is not observable or testable, and is therefore not falsifiable. Is this sounding familiar? This is what secularists say about God, whose existence is also not falsifiable. Nonetheless, we now have highly educated materialists, speaking as dogmatically as any Sunday School teacher ever did, teaching utterly speculative things like, “Men are more sexually promiscuous than women because, in our evolutionary past, sexually promiscuous behavior increased the odds of passing on one’s genes.” I can hardly imagine a worse basis from which to derive morals and ethics.

Thirdly and most importantly, the equating of what is natural with what is acceptable completely misses the point of what morality is. Here I must make the observation that moral behavior is always at odds with our “natural” tendencies – that’s precisely WHY moral behavior is revered and respected!  Call me Master-of-the-Obvious, but isn’t a reason we value truth-telling precisely because we know we all have a natural tendency to lie? Do not stories of love and self-sacrifice move us to tears precisely because we know we all have a natural tendency toward self-preservation? Don’t we celebrate couples who have lived their entire lives together in marital sexual fidelity precisely because we know that people are naturally inclined to be sexually promiscuous?

Let’s stop there for a moment: In other words, marital monogamy is not natural – rather, it is the high bar for relationships. But in fact we are now hearing “marriage equality” secularists arguing precisely against marital monogamy in their quest to redefine marriage. Because monogamy isn’t natural. (See examples here, here, & here.)

Right. By definition, moral behavior is not natural. If anything, I’d say it’s…well, kind of…supernatural.

What it’s like to be a human being
Our polarized postmodern culture now carries two prominently clashing views of humanity, morality, and freedom – the secular view, and the biblical view. I find the comparison endlessly fascinating. Both sides see a problem within human beings, but both see the problem and solution in profoundly different ways. Both see human beings as split apart. But each understands this disunity differently:

1)     The secularist believes only in the material reality. No spirit apart from the body. No mind apart from the brain. No truth apart from observable matter. The physical nuts and bolts of the human machine is all that objectively exists. Anything beyond that – values, morality, spirituality, culture; even gender and ideas of human worth – are fluid, squishy, subjective, arbitrary, illusory, and  ultimately disposable. So within man, the secularist posits a separation between what can be observed as fact (the material,) and the unseen realm of values (the non-material.)

2)     The biblical view understands human beings as creatures who were created to be a unity of body, soul, and spirit (1 Thes 5:23.) We were created to be relationally united with our Creator, who objectively exists apart from our physical reality. (Therefore, mind, personhood, and worth can all exist objectively apart from physical reality.) However, human beings now exist in a fallen state of spiritual separation from God; we’ve lost an essential part of what we were meant to be. So within man, the follower of Jesus sees a separation between God and man, which has consequently left man struggling to find the lost unity – body, soul, and spirit – that he was created for.

The secularist believes that the material universe contains the only pieces of the puzzle that exist. The follower of Jesus believes there are critical pieces missing that must come from outside of ourselves, and outside of the material universe, and that our loving Creator took it upon Himself to provide those pieces. So the goal of the spiritual rebirth of which Jesus spoke is about restoring us broken creatures back to wholeness and relational unity. It was never about religion, or “going to heaven.” (I welcome any argument from the whole of scripture that shows otherwise.)

Regarding social mores, both views can agree that morals are not natural in that they go against our natural impulses. But one perspective views this as negative and limiting, while the other sees it as positive and helpful

1)     The secularist approach says that we accidently evolved by mindless, natural processes, and that “artificial” social constructs, such as religious moral codes, are tools of oppression that may keep our true selves from being expressed. Our natural impulses are what brought us to our present evolutionary state. Social constructs such as gender limit our choices and potential.

2)     The biblical approach says we all bear the image of a loving God, but that our nature has been corrupted. “Artificial” social constructs serve as one imperfect way to keep our corrupted nature from spiraling downward, keeping our natural tendencies in check, and preserving societal order. Our fallen, natural tendencies tend to be selfish and destructive.

Clearly, a person’s ideas about freedom will be shaped by which idea of reality he or she buys into. It might come as a surprise to some that the teaching of Jesus and His apostles deals squarely with these issues of wholeness, freedom, and a unified life – unity between God and man, between man and man, and between man and nature.

A view of freedom that has been cutting-edge for 2000 years
In writing this, I am not advocating religion or politics or social mores as some sort of solution, nor does the Bible put forth this view. At best these things are more like a holding pattern. Personally, I am generally annoyed by religion, and I find some religions to be downright nasty and oppressive. Accordingly, in my last post I said that I don’t live by sex taboos at all, even as I was defending them. Secularist readers may be wondering how I can say these things since I consider myself to be a follower of Jesus. That’s a fair question. My answer is that Jesus is a person, not a religion, and that Jesus made possible an entirely new and better way to live, transcending cultural mores and religion. He opened the possibility for a life that couldn’t have existed before He came, and He was able to do this because He was more than merely a “great teacher.” Following is His good news, according to the Bible, as brief as I can make it:

The whole human being was created both a spiritual and a physical being, created for companionship with both God and men. God declared this relational unity to be “good.” When this relational unity with God was broken, humanity consequently experienced a spiritual death, or separation, and humanity slid into dysfunction and violence. With God’s covenant people Israel, God established a written body of “low-bar”, temporal social mores in the Torah. Similarly, all civilizations develop externally enforced bodies of mores, customs, and laws designed to maintain societal order. However, uniquely (and supernaturally) embedded within the Hebrew Torah and prophets was a promise of a coming freedom and salvation. God Himself took on human flesh in order to fulfill these promises for humanity. His salvation is total – freeing humanity from bondage to imperfect, externally enforced moral codes, but also freeing us from bondage to sin, death, and decay – the consequences of our fallen-ness. In making spiritual rebirth possible, Jesus uniquely made possible a real, internal change, and a new and better life in the Spirit as opposed to living under a written code (Ro 7:6&7.) All of this was an act of love on our behalf, and it comes with an invitation to everyone (Acts 13:47; Titus 2:11.)

This is not to say that the follower of Jesus is above the law, or that he is without law. God’s standard fulfills and surpasses the law. We see this illustrated in statements by Jesus such as, “You have heard it said, ‘You shall not commit adultery [Torah.] But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Mat 5:27,28.) Yet the Spirit-led person is no longer motivated by fear or guilt, but by the highest motivator, which is love – Love for God and love for people. If you are a parent, or were raised by one, perhaps you will agree that there is no greater motivator than love. Accordingly, Jesus stated that the greatest commandment is to love God, and the second is like it – to love one’s neighbor (Mat 22:36-39.) In keeping with this the apostle Paul stated that “Love does no wrong to a neighbor, therefore love is the fulfilling of the law/Torah” (Ro 13:9&10.)

This better life in the Spirit made possible by Jesus surpasses the mores of each given culture.
In contrast, the non-spiritual life of the secularist rejects the cultural mores to follow “natural” impulses.

Ironically, from a biblical perspective, the secularist can be said to have the right idea in recognizing the insufficiency, artificiality, and even restrictive nature of externally enforced mores. But to dump the mores without replacing them with something better, (such as spiritual rebirth,) would be to turn our corrupted selves loose against forces too great for society to bear. This is akin to putting the inmates in charge of the prison.

For several years now, Evangelicals have been accused, both from within and without, of “harping on social issues like abortion and homosexuality.” As if Evangelicals are simply interested in returning to a nostalgic 1950’s America. As if these issues are simply a matter of a lack of intelligence and education on the part of Evangelicals. As if the issues of human personhood, gender, and sexuality do not affect us all at the most fundamental level. But this is now no longer a theoretical debate. America currently has a presidential administration that is forcing the issue. Social and political engineers are now dumping cultural mores and actively attempting to use the force of government to coerce otherwise law-abiding citizens to violate their “fundamental religious beliefs” over the issues of abortion and gay marriage. I understand that the political left’s ostensible reason for forcing everyone to submit to its political views is that its agenda is correct, just, good, & better for everyone. But really? I wonder if other totalitarian regimes have ever thought that. (I’m kidding. I don’t wonder. The answer is “yes.”) Must we be reminded that it is not okay to force people to submit to our personal political views just because our intentions are good?

It’s hip and trendy now to accept the materialist story and its implications – that you have the heart, mind, and destiny of an animal, and that human life has no unique, innate, or transcendent value. If you call yourself a Christian and you are buying into these materialist ideas, I urge you to get your head in the game, because this stuff matters. To  secularist and the Christian alike I offer a gentle reminder that there is no falsifiable evidence establishing as true the dogma of materialism. There is merely the same old pendulum of human bias and peer pressure, now imposing a materialist perspective onto reality. The issue for all of us is about the true shape of reality. Until that can be tested and proven in a laboratory, we had best cut each other some slack and err on the side of freedom of thought. Both sides of the worldview spectrum are going to have to find a way to respectfully disagree and co-exist, because neither side is going away.

“Here is the true meaning and value of compassion and nonviolence, when it helps us to see the enemy’s point of view, to hear his questions, to know his assessment of ourselves. For from his view we may indeed see the basic weaknesses of our own condition, and if we are mature, we may learn and grow and profit from the wisdom of the brothers who are called the opposition.” — Martin Luther King Jr.

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Answering a Debunker: The Star of Bethlehem

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Star of Bethlehem
Worship painting by Mollie Walker Freeman, 18×24″, mixed media
This is not so much a depiction of how the Star of Bethlehem may have actually appeared, but is more a symbolic depiction of light breaking into spiritual darkness.

Last Christmas season I wrote a post about Rick Larson’s remarkable Star of Bethlehem video and some new insights made possible by modern astronomy software. A reader commented on my post, claiming to have debunked Larson’s theory. I didn’t publish this reader’s comment because when I went to his blog site, he hadn’t finished writing about the two points of greatest interest to me. He has now finished those articles and has, in fact, published a book as well. He believes his book demolishes Larson’s theory. I haven’t yet read the book, but if it contains reasoning similar to that in his blog,…well, I’ll leave it to you to decide for yourself whose arguments are left standing.

The author’s name is Aaron Adair. His new book is The Star of Bethlehem: A Skeptical View. Adair has a PhD in physics, and degrees in mathematics and astronomy from Michigan State. He has read widely and published on the topic of the Star of Bethlehem, about which people have been theorizing and writing for centuries. Apparently the Star has long been an area of special interest for him.

I, on the other hand, know next to nothing about physics, math, or astronomy and have no credentials. I am relatively uneducated, and I paint pictures for a living. Perhaps it would make sense for me to accept Dr. Adair’s proclamation that he has debunked Larson’s theory. Perhaps. Except that, as is so often the case with experts and scholars, I can’t help noticing that his reasoning is super lame.

On his blog site, Fleeing Nergal, Seeking StarsAdair posts a “Critical View Index.” There he lists five posts wherein he critiques five claims from Larson’s theory. For the sake of brevity, and because it is Christmastime, I will comment here only on his third post: The Constellation Leo as the Sign of the Jews. His wrongheaded approach to discrediting the story of the Magi in the gospel of Matthew is typical of “skeptics” and Bible critics.

For those unfamiliar with Rick Larson or my post from last year, here’s a brief recap:
The movements of the stars and planets are set and predictable. We now have computer software that can show us exactly how the sky looked at any point in history, from any location on earth. Think about that. This means we can know what the Magi would’ve seen from their vantage point in Jerusalem when they were seeking the infant Christ. Larson narrows down the possibilities and settles on a time frame – 3 and 2 BC – and describes an incredible series of astronomical events that were occurring during that time frame, and explains how they might have corresponded with the events described in Matthew’s gospel. I read this perspective for the first time in a 1993 essay by PhD astronomer, Craig C. Chester, president of the Monterey Institute for Research in Astronomy (MIRA.) Larsen’s video and website goes into even more detail.

One such notable detail is referenced in the apostle John’s book of Revelation. John writes of a portent that “appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon at her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars” (12:1,2.) The woman is about to give birth. She delivers a male child “who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron” (12:5.) Now compare this fact: astronomy software shows that on September 11 of 3 BC, the sun was in the constellation of Virgo (the virgin), and there was a new moon at her feet. In other words, we now know that in 3 BC the heavens corresponded exactly with what John wrote down, which was clearly a reference to the birth of Jesus. This would be true whether or not anyone was aware of it at the time.

Larson admits he is an amateur astronomer. I was curious to see if Adair would argue that Larson had somehow gotten the astronomy wrong. But the degreed astronomer doesn’t argue this. Instead he tries to chip away at the credibility of the story mostly by citing a lack of ancient sources corroborating his own unfounded assumptions about the story. For example Adair states:

Regulus was the king star. With the planet Jupiter moving back and forth around Regulus it seemed to indicate something important, and the final, supreme conjunction of Jupiter and Venus then took place after this in 2 BCE. Now (sic) only is this a key part of the film, there are many planetariums around the USA that at the holidays present this dance of the planets and stars (including the planetarium I used to work at)…So a lot is hinging on how important Leo and Regulus are to kingship and the Jews. That means we need to look at what is the evidence that Leo was connected to the Holy Land and God’s chosen people…”

Actually, no, we don’t. (Though it would be icing on the cake to find such an association.)

Adair then impressively references a list of Jewish Rabbis, both medieval and ancient, to show they did not associate the constellation Leo with Israel. He then quotes ancient non-Jewish sources connecting Leo with other nations, not Israel. He shows that astronomical interpretation was all over the place in the ancient world and that there was no known authoritative standard by which ancient astronomers would’ve associated Leo with Israel. But all of these points are irrelevant to the account in the gospel of Matthew. If anything these points lend credibility Matthew’s account.

Why the Magi would’ve associated heavenly signs with a king born in Israel

The Bible gives a harmonious account of history that is internally consistent. Does it provide any reason to believe that “wise men from the East” would travel to Jerusalem seeking a newborn king, based on signs they had seen in the sky? Yes.

But first, I should point out that we would not necessarily expect to find Jewish or rabbinical sources linking the constellation Leo to Israel. The Torah of Moses and the prophets forbade the practice of astrology in Israel! (Deut 18:9-14; Isa 47:13,14; Jer 10:1-3.) As I mentioned in my original post, neither Herod nor anyone else in Jerusalem seemed to know anything about “the Star of Bethlehem.” In fact Matthew says Herod and all of Jerusalem were “troubled” by the Magi’s news. So, whatever the Star was, it must not have been very obvious. Or if it was obvious, its meaning was unknown to the Jewish people.

Secondly, the Magi were (probably) not Jewish. The sign was for them, not for the Jews. I would humbly suggest that here in the 21st century, these astronomical events can now be taken as a sign for everyone, both Jew and gentile, since we can now see in hindsight what has occurred. But for Adair to cite a lack of ancient Jewish sources identifying Leo with Israel debunks nothing.

However, since Adair also shows that neither were there non-Jewish sources linking the constellation Leo to Israel, (none, at least, that are known to us today,) he concludes that the Magi therefore wouldn’t have known to travel to Jerusalem to pay homage to a newborn king. Game over, Larson’s theory is bogus, and the whole story is fictional.

Incidentally, Adair is especially intent on proving that the Star could not have been a “natural” event, but, if anything, could only have been a miraculous one. (I’ll say more later on why this matters to him.) For the sake of argument, let’s say that the Star was a miraculous event. This still doesn’t solve the problem. Why would non-Jewish Magi associate a supernatural star with Israel, or “follow” it, any more than they would follow a natural star? (Unless it was a talking star.)

Then what reason is there to believe that wise men from the East would journey to Israel based on heavenly signs?

The biblical account of Israel’s Babylonian exile provides a plausible answer. Bear in mind that, from the beginning, God’s plan in establishing a chosen people Israel was to bless all the nations of the world through Israel (Gen 12:2,3; 18:18; 22:18; 26:4; 28:14.) In keeping with this, the book of the exiled Daniel has God revealing remarkable, specific prophecies regarding the precise timing of the coming of God’s Messiah and the establishment of His eternal kingdom (Daniel ch 2, 7, 8, & 9:23-27.) As a result of these prophecies and other miracles, first the Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar, decreed that the God of the Israelites was pre-eminent (Da 3:29,30.) Later, the Medo-Persian King, Darius, exalted Daniel and made the following decree:

“…I make a decree, that in all my royal dominion men tremble and fear before the God of Daniel, for he is the living God, enduring forever; his kingdom shall never be destroyed…he works signs and wonders in heaven and on earth…” (Da 6:25-28.)

These decrees came from idolatrous, gentile kings who had conquered the Jewish nation, and had then become convinced of the supremacy of YHWH, the God of the Jews. The Persian wise men in Daniel’s time could not have avoided being aware of Daniel and his God. They would’ve known of Daniel’s repeated prophecies that after Babylon there would be three more kingdoms and then the greatest of kings would come and establish an eternal kingdom (Dan 2:36-45.) Surely such knowledge would have been preserved and handed down until the time of the appointed fourth kingdom, which turned out to be the Roman Empire. At this time the Magi would’ve been watching for any sign from “the God who works signs and wonders in heaven and on earth.” They would have specifically been watching Israel, Daniels’s people, who had long since returned from exile to their homeland, and who were also in a state of Messianic expectation because of these same prophecies. So when the sky began announcing the birth of a great king, on cue, the Magi already knew exactly where to find him – Israel.

ImageSo we see that specifically associating the constellation Leo with Israel is not critical to Larson’s theory at all. As Adair admits, pretty much every ancient civilization wished to be associated with the lion. The Magi were expecting the birth of the greatest of kings who was prophesied to establish the greatest of kingdoms. How fitting it must have seemed to them that his sign would appear in the constellation of Leo.

I look forward to reading Adair’s book, and I’m hopeful that it will drive more people to check out Rick Larson’s beautifully produced video and website for themselves. Until then, just for fun, I want to go out on a limb and make a guess as to why Aaron Adair and people like him are so intent on proving that the Star of Bethlehem could not have been a “natural” event: They are dogmatists. It is an article of dogmatic belief for New Atheism that biblical faith cannot be based on evidence. At all. Ever. They feel that materialism/atheism owns the field of observable, verifiable evidence and that religious faith must ever remain wholly outside of that field. By definition. Always. Ironically, this in itself is a religious belief contradicting evidence, as I have explained here.

By contrast, I am perfectly content to share the field. I am happy to let PhD experts believe that by sheer coincidence the heavens declared the birth of a child who grew to be the most influential person who ever lived, and that this astronomical configuration was precisely described by the apostle John some 2000 years ago in the Bible. I understand that peer pressure in academia is very great. One simply won’t be respected by one’s academic peers if one entertains the possibility of events being foreknown and fixed in the stars by an omniscient Creator. Even if they were.

So to all academics everywhere, and to the academically unenlightened masses of which I am a part, I can only wish for us all the merriest of Christmases!

(For those interested in more detailed dialogue, please note that author Aaron Adair has replied in the comment section below…)