Thursday, December 31, 2015

[BTT010] The Fall of Time and the Three Curses

Previous: [BTT011] The Fall of Space and the Fall of Time

The argument so far is thus:

1). Time is part of creation, not part of Eternity.

2). The nature of Time can be changed, and indeed, has already been changed from a perfect state into a fallen state.

3). Just as the rest of creation will be restored to its perfect, pre-fall state, so will Time.

I do not think that most readers will have any major objections up to this point. I feel that most Christians do not think about the redemption of Time, but only because we do not think very much about the relation between Time and Space. Once we see and accept that Time is part of creation, the necessity of its redemption fairly cries out to us.

But there is a point where the discussion becomes an argument. First, in what exact sense is Time fallen? In Genesis 3, we are given a fairly clear picture of how the fall affects Space - the earth brings forth thorns and diseases, childbirth and work become painful, and our physical bodies die. This gives us some good leads in exploring how the fall affects Time, but it also forces us to indulge in a certain level of speculation.

Second, in what sense will Time be redeemed? Once again, it is fairly easy to get a Scriptural image of what a restored Space will look like - no more death, no more pain, no more sin. The lion will lay down with the lamb, there will be no more war, and God will dwell directly in our midst.

It is much harder to imagine a changed, redeemed Time. Will this redemption apply only to the Future? To the Present and Future? Or dare we suggest that the redemption of Time will also apply to the Past?

After all, the redemption of Space will not apply to only one country, one continent, or even one planet. It is all of physical creation, from the Earth to the Sun to beyond our galaxy, that will be burnt up and replaced with a “New Heavens and a New Earth.” Redemption will not extend only to the upper atmosphere of Earth.

What then of Time? When the physical universe is burnt up like an old cloth in a furnace, what does that mean for Time? We can very easily accept that the Future will be redeemed, we can easily accept that there will be a definite Present moment in which this will occur (though we know not the day and hour, we can reasonably assume that it occur in a particular day and an hour), but what about the Past?

I would like to look at how the fall affects Time first and how the redemption will affect Time second. After all, if we understand how sin has affected Time we will be better equipped to tackle how redemption will restore Time.

To understand how the Fall has affected Time, we must go back to the moment that the curse was proclaimed onto the world, as described in Genesis 3:14-19. In this passage, God pronounces what effects the Fall will have on three individuals: the Serpent, Eve, and Adam.

            “So the Lord God said to the serpent:
            “Because you have done this,

You are cursed more than all cattle,
And more than every beast of the field;
On your belly you shall go,
And you shall eat dust
All the days of your life.
And I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her Seed;
He shall bruise your head,
And you shall bruise His heel.”

             -Genesis 3:14-15

First, God pronounces His judgment on the Serpent, who we know from the rest of Scripture is actually Satan. Now, there is a legitimate line of thinking that claims that in this passage God curses both a literal serpent that Satan was possessing and Satan himself. It is common to see paintings of the temptation of Eve in which the snake has legs, thus implying that part of God's curse was reducing snakes into ground-crawlers.

I have no particular objection to this interpretation, but it does require a certain amount of speculation. The Genesis account does not explicitly tell us that snakes had four legs before the Fall. Perhaps God is using the snake which Satan inhabits to tell us something of Satan's fate.

Scripture certainly does imply that part of Satan's existence from here on out consists of “going to and fro in the earth, and…walking up and down in it” (Job 1:6-7). Cast out of the assembly of his brother angels, Satan is reduced to crawling around on a sphere of clay. Lucifer, the bright morning star, must eat the dust of the world that he led into sin.

I am taking this time to discuss the identity of the Serpent, not because I do not think that my readers are well of who Satan is, but in order to draw out the role of Time in this curse. Satan is cursed “all the days of [his] life” and bound to the physical world of dirt in a way he was not before. Part of Satan's curse is that he is now bound to Time. Even if he has until the end of history before he must face the Judgment, for a being that once dwelt in eternity “His time is short” indeed!

Second, Satan is cursed by the prophecy of the Seed. This too is a curse relating to Time. From here on out, there will be enmity between Satan and the woman, between his seed and her Seed. This is Satan's ticking clock. One day, the Seed will come and crush his head.

Satan's future is written, his Time is set. Struggle as he may, the day of vengeance comes inexorably closer. He can fight the woman and her seed, kill and accuse humans, work his own seed of sin, death, and separation from God, even go so far as to fatally wound the Seed, but it is all in vain.

For Satan, a very real part of the curse is the simple onward movement of Time. Even if part of this curse is turning snakes from four-legged creatures to no-legged creatures, the Messiah, the Promised Seed, does not come to wage war on physical snakes. The second part of the curse only makes sense in reference to Satan. After all, we are given images of redeemed snakes in the World to Come. Isaiah 11: 8-9 tells us:

            “The nursing child shall play by the cobra’s hole,
              And the weaned child shall put his hand in the viper’s den.
              They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain,
              For the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord
              As the waters cover the sea.

The snake is a fitting symbol for Satan crawling around in the dust of our world, but the snake as an animal is part of the original, good creation. Jesus will not destroy snakes, He will make them our companions and friends. Snakes look forward to the redemption as much as the rest of creation. The passage of Time is not a curse on them, but on Satan.

Moving on to Eve:

            “To the woman He said:

            “I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception;
            In pain you shall bring forth children;
            Your desire shall be for your husband,
            And he shall rule over you.”

             -Genesis 3:16

This is perhaps the curse least related to Time, but it is still a curse related to the future. Now, it is difficult for us to imagine a form of childbirth that would not be painful (a friend describes it as “a watermelon being pushed through a tennis ball”), but the point is something which was once only blessing is now part curse.

However, if we look back at the curse on the serpent, we can see that this curse is mixed with a blessing. The Seed will be delivered in pain and sorrow, but it is coming. There is a Hope in our cursed timeline, a Seed which will overthrow the enemy.

It is also interesting to note that men ruling over women was not a part of the good original order, but rather the fallen order. This verse has been used time and time again to justify male domination, but nothing could be further from the point.

Bear in mind the unique dignity given to the woman in this passage. It is not the man Adam who the serpent will be at war with, it is the woman Eve. The Seed, the redeemer, the over-thrower of sin, will not be born through a man, but through a woman. The future of woman is filled with pain, but it is a pain which will deliver the Savior into the world. Men may die for the truth, but only a woman can give birth to the Truth, the Way, and the Light.

Jesus may be a man, but the glory of his birth belongs to Eve and Mary, not to Adam and Joseph. Without women, there would be no Redeemer, no hope for all of Time.

Let us turn to the man, to Adam and his curse:

            “Then to Adam He said, “Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat of it’:

            “Cursed is the ground for your sake;
             In toil you shall eat of it
             All the days of your life.
             Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you,
             And you shall eat the herb of the field.
             In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread
             Till you return to the ground,
             For out of it you were taken;
             For dust you are,
             And to dust you shall return.

            -Genesis 3:17-19

In Adam's curse, we perhaps best see the effects of sin on Space, on the physical world. Adam's curse does not only affect him in the way that the curses on the serpent and Eve affect only them. The ground itself is cursed on Adam's behalf, the creation is “subject to futility” because of Adam's sin.

What a terrifying vision this is! The sinless creation is turned into a nightmare of pain and death in order to punish Adam for his crime! Satan is cursed to eat the dust, but Adam is cursed to become it. It is in this curse that we see creation bound for the sake of one man's sin.

While the curse on Satan and the curse on Eve give us a glimpse of the coming Seed and the inevitable Redemption, the curse on Adam ends on the bleakest note possible. There is no hope of new births to lighten the curse on Adam, only a life of futility which ends in death.

In a very real sense, Adam is now bound more tightly to Eve than Eve is to Adam. Eve may be subject to desire for her husband and to chafe under his rule, but her salvation is contained inside her very body. Not so for Adam! He is the ruler of the kingdom of death. His hope can never be in his body, which will toil, wear out, and die, but in protecting the woman from whom new life will come. Nowhere do we see so clearly the Gospel message, that salvation will not be born from the futile work of our hands, but from the gift of God.

This, then, is the curse on Time: bodies will grow old, work will become futile, and history will be the oppression of the guilty. Perhaps this is best expressed by Entropy, the physical law by which energy is scattered into an unusable form. The Sun and her sister stars will run out of energy and explode, succumbing to the futility of their work. All of the monuments of man will crumble and fall, all systems be reduced to chaos, “things fall apart, the center cannot hold.”

How clear the Fall becomes when we look at Time! Our world is so fallen that it marches forward toward a universal scattering, not an evolution into a perfect state. While Time cannot destroy matter or energy, it can break them apart.

When we look at Time, we see the curse on Adam in its purest form. All our effort is broken and reduced to dust. The finest poetry is forgotten. The greatest empires crumble. Our cities will be swallowed by the sea, the continents will be pulled into the mantle of the Earth, and the Earth will be consumed by a dying Sun. All that is will be undone, pulled into an increasingly chaotic state until the sin of man has reduced the universe into an endless gray void.

The lesson of Time is that our world cannot continue on its own. Time, though it was created good, has become as much of a source of futility as Space. Were it not for the Seed, the works of man would all be pulled into a universal cloud of dust. Without the pain of birth cursed on woman, the promise of God cannot be born into Time.

Next: [BTT011] The End of Time

Monday, December 28, 2015

Race and HBD Comment Thread

Hey Anon, leaving scattershot comments across different posts is making this discussion difficult. So I'm making a post all for you and pinning it the right side of the blog. Hopefully this will make the conversation easier to follow. If this doesn't work, we'll go back to scattershot comments.

Others are free to chime in as well.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

[BTT009] The Fall of Space and the Fall of Time

Previous: [BTT008] The Beginning of Time

Any discussion of the original creation must turn inevitably to the tragedy of the Fall, an event that so radically altered the nature of the universe that we must struggle to understand what life was like before it. What was it like to live in a world without death, without disease, without pain in childbirth? How could the lion lay down with the lamb?

Even so, it is relatively easy to understand how the Fall has affected Space, the material creation. We may not know how lions fed themselves before death came into the world, but we know what they eat now. We have all felt our bodies heavy with disease, felt the painful curse put upon our work as we struggle to provide for ourselves and our families. We struggle with sin, with the twistedness of our own hearts. There is not a day of our lives in which we do not come face to face with the consequences of the Fall on the race of human beings.

But the effects of sin are not limited to humans. It extends to animals, which must also shed blood to survive. It extends to plants with the creation of thorns and thistles, with vines and weeds that choke the life out of other plants. While the death of plants is not put on the same level as the shedding of human blood (or even animal blood) in Scripture, their struggle for life in a hostile universe is an all-to-clear reflection of our own.

In The Man Who Was Thursday, G.K. Chesterton poses the haunting question, “Why does each thing on the earth war against each other thing? Why does each small thing in the world have to fight against the world itself? …Why does a dandelion have to fight the whole universe?”

Every thing that is, not just humans, must partake in the dreadful struggle for continued existence, feeding on the life of others and being fed upon in turn. Even the stars grow old and die. From the largest, most powerful star in the depths of space to a broken dandelion struggling up from the concrete, the whole of creation is in “the bondage of corruption” (Romans 8:21).

Just as humans are not the only part of creation subject to bondage under Sin and Death, so humans are not the only part of creation which will be redeemed by God. In Romans 8:19-22, Paul paints a beautiful picture of the creation that will be redeemed along with us:

For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now.

 It is not enough for God to redeem His sons and daughters out of a dying universe. God will not be content until the entire creation, which He made good, is returned to that original state of goodness.

The dandelion which struggles against the universe is subjected to the same hope as us: that God will remake all of creation according to the “glorious liberty” which frees us from Sin and Death. “Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body” (Romans 8:23). The need we feel in our hearts for the redemptive love of Christ is shared by the whole of creation.

It is very commonly accepted Christian teaching that the Fall has affected physical space - death entered the world, changed the physical natures of humans, animals, and plants. If we keep Paul's teaching in Romans 8 in mind, we can easily expand this to the whole of creation - not just living beings, but rocks, water, and air. After all, Jesus says that if His people do not respond to His divine presence, the rocks and trees will praise him (and while we might be tempted to assume Jesus is speaking metaphorically, Paul seems to take Him quite literally).

But as we established earlier, Time and Space are both part of the same creation. This thing called Time is by definition not a part of Eternity, nor part of the Eternal Nature of God. Just like the Sabbath, Time was not created for God's needs, but for our needs as human beings. If created Space is subject to the hope of redemption, it seems to follow that created Time is also in need of a Savior.

As human beings, we instinctively know that the realm of Time is the realm of change. We change in time, growing from babies into adults and from adults into elders. Time weathers down monuments and great cities, eats away at mountains and transforms languages. It is in Time, not in Eternity, that we age and die, that our works are buried beneath the sand and forgotten.
However, there is also a sense in which we think of Time as unchanging - the Past. We move forward in Time, not back. The Past remains ever as it was. It is as if once a given moment slips past our fingers, it becomes permanent. I would say that it becomes etched in stone, but even words etched in stone are weathered away. The Future has infinite possibility and the Present is still fluid, but the Past is as firmly settled as Eternity.

This is a perfectly natural thing for beings within Time to feel, to think. We cannot reach back into the Past and change it any more than we can rewrite the laws of gravity. But to a being which exists outside of Time, this might be a laughably limited perspective.

Next: [BTT010] The Fall of Time and the Three Curses

Thursday, December 17, 2015

[BTT008] The Beginning of Time

Previous: [BTT007] The Time Before Time

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.

Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. So the evening and the morning were the first day.

 - Genesis 1:1-5

Then God said, “Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years; and let them be for lights in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth”; and it was so. Then God made two great lights: the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night. He made the stars also. God set them in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth, and to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. So the evening and the morning were the fourth day.

 -Genesis 1:14-19

These are complicated passages, and there are many opinions on how to best interpret them. Since I am not interested in engaging in debates outside of the scope of the present question of Time, I will stick to a fairly literal reading of the text.

I doubt there are many who will challenge me when I say that “In the beginning” refers to the very moment of the beginning of Time and Space. Time and Space were created simultaneously - “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”

There was no creation of Time separate from the creation of Space. There was no Time, in our universe's understanding of it, before there was Space; there was no Space before there was Time. However, just as God successively developed Space into distinct categories (for example, separating the seas and the land), so God developed Time into more and more distinct categories.

The first thing we see from the creation account in Genesis is that God created our universe in a series of days, according to the new order of Time. We might assume that God could have created a fully-functioning universe in a single moment if He so wished, but the text shows that He chose to first create the raw material and improve from there.

God created the world in a series of six days, not for a lack of power, but to show us how God chose to interact with this new creation of Time. By dividing His work into six separate days, God shows us in Genesis that He prefers to work with Time rather than against it. Rather than simply “poofing” a fully-functioning universe into existence, God reveals it slowly, starting “without form and void” and making it more and more complex.

Now, the first specific things which God creates by name instead of by general fiat is light. These are the first recorded words spoken directly by God in all of Scripture: “Let there be Light.” The light is still mixed with darkness in a disordered and chaotic state until God separates them. In doing so, God creates another new thing: the first distinction of Time. Before, there was only homogenous, undefined Time; now there is night and day. God has created a measurement by which Time can be recorded and expressed.

Skipping down to Genesis 1:14-19, we see a further defining of Time. We use the Sun, Moon, and Stars to define much more distinct categories of Time than “evening and morning.” Our day is divided into 24 hours based on the Sun's motion across the sky. The concept of Months was first found in the waxing and waning of the Moon. The rotation of the Earth around the Sun, the long days of Summer and long nights of Winter, define the concept of the Year.

So God creates Time, and then creates more and more minute categories for marking the movement of Time. These categories would be unimportant to an Eternal Being existing outside of Time, but they are extremely useful to temporal beings existing inside of it.

For that matter, these categories of Time would be fairly useless to a being living on, say, Pluto. When your year (that is, a single rotation around the Sun) lasts more than 90,000 days, it is a much less useful marker for Time.

Just as God created the universe according to an order our benefit, so these increasingly complex means of marking Time were created for our benefit. These categories of time are not necessary for an eternal God or to a hypothetical microbe living on Pluto, but they are extremely useful to human beings on Earth.

It is precisely in this context that I wish to talk about Time.

When I discuss Time with other Christians, they have a tendency to approach it as something sacrosanct, something unchanging and immutable. Genesis 1 paints a very different picture. It shows us an “original” order of time - chaotic, undistinguishable, unmarked - and then an “improved” order of time - ordered, distinct, marked. Some say that God would not alter the nature of Time. Genesis 1 shows He already has. What's more, He has done so for our benefit.

This, I hope, will inform the debate over Time. It is no less subject to change than Space, though admittedly more difficult for humans to influence. But there is no “eternal and unchangeable” nature of Time presented in Scripture. That which has been changed once may be changed again. For another example of this, we can look at the sixth day of creation and the establishment of the Sabbath.

 After creating Adam and Eve, God addresses them in Genesis 1:28-30: “Then God blessed them, and God said to them, 'Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.' And God said, 'See, I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food. Also, to every beast of the earth, to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, in which there is life, I have given every green herb for food'; and it was so.

As God gives His blessing to the first man and woman, He unveils the astonishing fact that all of the Creation has been given into their hands. This mighty labor has been done for their benefit. But in Genesis 2:1-3, God does something even more surprising: “Thus the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, were finished. And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.” Having finished His work and having blessed Adam and Eve, God blesses a time.

How strange this is! God blesses a period of Time, establishing a seven-day week for the newly-created humanity. Mark 2:27 tells us that this too was for our benefit, as Jesus says “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.” The entire establishment of Time, just as much as the creation of plants and animals, is for the benefit of mankind.

Let us remember this when we are tempted to think of Time as an unchanging, untouchable law. The Sabbath, the original holy day, was created not for its own sake, but solely for the good of “those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28).

Previous: [BTT009] The Fall of Space and the Fall of Time

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

StudyOke! "TSUNAMI" - Southern All-Stars

Thursday, December 10, 2015

[BTT007] The Time Before Time

 Previous: [BTT006] What Does the Bible Say About Time?

            “Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations.
            Before the mountains were brought forth,
            Or ever You had formed the earth and the world,
            Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.

            You turn man to destruction,
            And say, “Return, O children of men.”
            For a thousand years in Your sight
            Are like yesterday when it is past,
            And like a watch in the night.”

            -Psalm 90:1-4

Before the mountains were brought forth. Before the Earth and the universe it inhabitants. Before atoms, before energy, before Time, there was God.

God is an eternal being, not a temporal being like us. He had no beginning, and He will have no end. Our universe and its specific form of Space and Time do not apply to God. He sees “the end from the beginning and from ancient times things that are not yet done” (Isaiah 46:10). We might well add that the past is not a closed book to God either; while the past is inaccessible to us, God is an Omniscient God, fully able to see the beginning from the end.

We see from these verses that there was “something” before our universe existed, a Time Before Time. Scripture makes frequent reference to what existed before “the foundation of the world.”

Now, when we say there was “a time” before Time, we do not mean it in the same sense we might say “there was a time before the United States of America.” When we refer to “the time before the United States of America” we can use the conventional picture of a time-line: at this point on the line the USA came into being, but here on this earlier point, it did not exist.

When we talk about the “time” before our universe, we are not talking about points on a timeline at all. We are not even talking about a point on a different timeline. We are talking about the paper onto which the line was drawn. The Time Before Time was not just a larger, longer timeline extending infinitely into the past, it was the absence of Time as we know it.

In a certain sense, this Time Before Time is older than our universe. It did, after all, exist before it. In another sense, concepts such as “older” and “before” do not properly apply to it, since these words presuppose our universe's structure of Time.

It is entirely appropriate to say that Rome is older than the United States of America. There was a city of Rome long before 1776, or even before European colonization of the Americas. Rome begins on this point of the timeline, long before the USA. This is the common usage of “older” and “younger.” But these terms presuppose a shared timeline - in fact, they do not make any sense without a shared timeline.

Let me give an example by way of a question: Which is further North, Mt. Everest (the tallest mountain on Earth) or Mons Huygens (the tallest mountain on the Moon)?

Give up?

It is very easy to compare latitude of two objects on the same planet. Mt. Everest is located 27 degrees north, while Mt. Kilimanjaro is located at 03 degrees south. Therefore, Mt. Everest is unquestionably farther North than Mt. Kilimanjaro.

However, Mt. Everest and Mons Huygens do not share a common concept of North. They are located not simply at different latitudes, but on separate systems of latitude. It is like this with our Time and the Time Before Time. They are not just different points on the same line, but completely different systems of measurement.

I realize that this may be a bit abstract, so let's talk about a more concrete issue. How are we supposed to understand the relation of angels to time? We know that God is an eternal being who is not limited by Time, but angels are created beings. Do they operate according to our understanding of Time?

Job 38:4-7 seems to indicate that angels existed before our physical universe. God asks Job:

             “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?
             Tell Me, if you have understanding.
             Who determined its measurements?
              Surely you know!
              Or who stretched the line upon it?
              To what were its foundations fastened?
              Or who laid its cornerstone,
              When the morning stars sang together,
              And all the sons of God shouted for joy?”

Here we have an image of the very first moments of our universe. God is “laying the foundations of the earth,” setting up the architecture which underlies our universe while the angels sing and shout for joy.

Genesis 1 at no point specifically refers to God creating angels. It does mention the creation of stars, and we might be tempted to take the reference to “the morning stars” in Job 38 to mean that angels were created along with the physical stars. However, the stars were not created until the fourth day of creation. Angels could not be present at the first day of creation if they were not created until the fourth. So clearly, the “morning stars” of Job 38 are not the physical balls of fire in the sky, but angels metaphorically described as stars.

It seems most likely that angels were already in existence when our world was created. What is not clear is just what relationship they have with Time. If they were created before Time, it would seem logical for them to not be bound by its rules.

And yet, Scripture seems to indicate that Time does have an effect on angels. In Daniel 10, an angelic messenger, a “glorious man” is sent to interpret Daniel's visions. This angel describes his experiences with the language of time:

“Then he said to me, 'Do not fear, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand, and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard; and I have come because of your words. But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days; and behold, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I had been left alone there with the kings of Persia. Now I have come to make you understand what will happen to your people in the latter days, for the vision refers to many days yet to come.” 
- Daniel 10:12-14 (emphasis mine)

The prince and kings of Persia in this passage are often said by theologians to refer not to human royalty, but to demonic spirits claiming to rule “the kingdoms of this world.” Although there are some who object to this interpretation, I think an angelic conflict is a much more likely theory than a human king with the power to oppose an angel.

Whether or not this confrontation was between angels and fallen angels or angels and supernaturally powerful humans, it lasted for twenty-one days. And we have no reason to believe that these were metaphorical days. In Daniel 10:2-3, Daniel describes himself as fasting for three full weeks, that is, twenty-one days. The twenty-one day struggle between the glorious man and the prince of Persia lasted for twenty-one literal rotations of the earth, for twenty-one “evenings and mornings.” Angels and demons do seem to be, in some sense and in some contexts, bound by the laws of Time.

One possible way to understand this is that they are bound by Time only when they are interacting directly with our universe. That is to say, the glorious man may not have been affected by Time until he was sent to minister to Daniel. This would make a certain sense; after all, human brains understand things according to forward-moving linear Time. If you want to speak to a human, you need to make some accommodation for how they perceive the world.

Alternately, angels may operate according to some sort of parallel system of Time of their own. Call it an "Angelic Time," which operates independently of our universe's laws. No matter what theories we may speculate with, Scripture does not give us a clear answer.

Based on these basic teachings of Scripture, I have developed three main theories about angels and time:

1). Angels have their own system of Time, which is similar to ours but not based on our universe's laws of physics.

2). Angels have no system of Time, but rather work with Time when interacting with human beings.

3). Angels did not have a system of Time until our universe was created by God, at which point they began to use our system of Time.

While none of these arguments are in direct conflict with Scripture, I do not think any one of them has any significant amount of Scriptural support. All we can say for certain from Scripture is that angels can operate according to our universe's structure of Time, not that they must.

I think the principle of angels operating in accordance with our world's concept of Time may also be reflected in how Jesus operated within Time during His earthly ministry. While Jesus was fully God when He walked among us, part of His humility was in living as we live. In Christ, God bound Himself to Time, incarnating His eternal being into a human body that was born, aged, and died.

In other words, He submitted Himself to the operation of the very Time which He Himself had created. Jesus did not only submit Himself to the Law of the Old Testament that all humans were slaves to, He submitted Himself to the Laws of Time and Space. It should then not surprise us that angels also work within human Time when ministering to humans such as Daniel.

While it is not exactly clear to what extent angels are bound by Time, it is very clear how God is. Or rather, how He is not. With the exception of Jesus intentionally humbling Himself to live as a human among humans, God is not bound by Time. The divine being of God is eternal, from “everlasting to everlasting.” God was God before our Time existed, and He is in no way bound by its ebb and flow.

Peter refers to Psalm 90 in 2 Peter 3:8, where the apostle writes, “But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” The exact meaning of these verses has been much debated. I remember talking to one pastor who claimed it meant God literally perceives periods of 1,000 years as if they only take 24 hours!

Clearly, this is not what Peter is trying to say. Both Psalm 90 and 2 Peter are, in fact, speaking of God's patience towards human beings. In the next verse, Peter says “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” Psalm 90 shows God's concern for humans, as God cries “Return, O Children of Men!”

While some of us may pray that the Second Coming would come soon, to take us from the heavy burdens of this world, God in his patience waits for all to come to repentance. A single day, a thousand years, it makes no difference to God. A day is not literally a thousand years for God (or vice-versa), rather, Time and our perceptions of it are not binding to God. A thousand-year wait or a one-day wait; it makes no difference to the God who plans patiently for our salvation.

There are a few more passages dealing with the “foundation of the world” and the Time before it that I would like to discuss.

In discussing the Beast from the Sea, Revelation 13:8 says that “All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” This shows us that God's plan of salvation transcends Time - the names written in the Book of Life have been there “from the foundation of the world,” not after the Fall or after the resurrection of Christ.

Just as the names in the Book of Life were ordained from the foundation of the world, so was Christ's divine mission. 1 Peter 1:20 says of Christ, “He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you.”

The foreordination of Jesus as the Savior of mankind explains how our names could be written in the Book of Life from the foundation of the world. Ephesians 1:4 says “...He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love.” We were chosen before the foundation of the world on the basis of Christ's foreordination as Savior.

There are many more Scriptures that refer to the Time before the foundation of the world, but I think it is sufficient to establish the following points:

1). God is eternal, existing before Time.

2). As the creator of Time, God and His works are not bound by Time.

3). Angels existed before Time, but seem to operate according to its principles when dealing with humans.

4). The plan of salvation existed before Time and is not bound by it.

We will talk a little more about how salvation relates to Time a little later on, but first let's talk about the creation of Time.

Next: [BTT008] The Beginning of Time

Thursday, December 3, 2015

[BTT006] What Does the Bible Say About Time?

Previous: [BTT005] Creatures of Time, Creatures of Eternity

This is the essential question. As Christians, we can trade personal theories about Time as much as we want, but we must keep our discussion grounded in Scripture. We may compare and contrast what the Bible says about Time with scientific models, but science can tell us very little about how spiritual, non-physical beings relate to time.

Scripture does not give us an explicit explanation of how Time functions, but then again, it doesn't give us an explicit explanation of how the human circulatory system functions either. There is no pull-out chart of human anatomy in the Bible, no discussion of physics. The Bible is not science textbook.

This does not mean that the Bible has nothing to say about time. Some of it is practical, such as verses in Proverbs which exhort us to make proper use of our time. Some of it is prophetic, as with Daniel's “time, a time, and a half a time.” Some of it refers to “times and seasons,” that is to say, the Jewish calendar of feasts and festivals. Instead of throwing up our hands because Jesus never discusses thermodynamics, I think it is appropriate to concern ourselves with what the Scriptures do say about time rather than bemoaning what it does not say.

I've broken this section down into five main parts:

1. The Time Before Time - What does the Bible say existed before the Genesis 1:1? How do angels relate to time? How does God relate to time?

2. The Creation of Time - What does Genesis 1 tell us about the nature of time? What was time like before the Fall?

3. The Fall of Space and the Fall of Time - How has the Fall affected time? What is the nature of time in a fallen world?

4. The Fall of Time and the Three Curses – How do the three curses on the Serpent, Eve, and Adam relate to the Fall of Time?

5. The End of Time – How does the Bible describe the Day of Judgment? What happens to Time when Space is destroyed?

Next: [BTT007] The Time Before Time

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Calibrate Your Rage

It’s not as popular as it once was, but I kind of liked the phrase “Check your privilege.”

Now, I understand why some people didn’t like having the phrase shoved in their faces. Even if you accept that you benefit from structural discrimination, there is still an authoritarian tone to the meme. “Check your privilege” – or else, what? An implied threat lingers over the words.

The phrase may rankle when it comes from the outside (from a rainbow haired twit denouncing your Chinese tattoo as worse than the Rape of Nanking), but it can be a very positive thing when it comes from the inside.

Once you come to realize that "Check your privilege" can be a step on the road to "know thyself" it starts to feel less of an imposition. Know how the world sees you, and that it would treat you differently if you looked differently. In this positive sense, it is a call for self-awareness and humility, not to hate yourself for being white, male, CIS, or whatever.

But life is nothing without balance. For every angel, there is a devil; for every proton, an electron. While “Check your privilege” can be a good thing, it must have its necessary counter-balance.

Which takes us to “Calibrate your rage.”

Uncalibrated rages may result in nuclear explosions

We live in a perpetually outraged society; a world where every man is a rapist and every woman is a gold digger. A world where every immigrant is a potential terrorist and every gun owner a potential spree-killer. I know people that get more angry about white people wearing kimonos than the South East Asian sex trade.

"Stop appropriating your own culture!"
To “Calibrate your rage” is to put offenses into a larger perspective. It is to take a moment to breath, and remember what actual evil looks like. It is reflecting that, while this person may be a CIS piece of shit, they are not literally as bad as Hitler. It is considering that, while that person may be a PC asshole, they are not literally as bad as Stalin.

Take a moment to calibrate your rage today. When you find yourself boiling over with righteous indignation about a shitlord who microaggressed you on Tumblr, go read a few pages of Mein Kampf. Heck, go read a few pages of The Turner Diaries. Expose yourself to someone who literally wants to swing you from a lamppost, and then reconsider if that asshole on Tumblr is still worth getting upset over.

Suddenly, I'm not as angry about the cultural appropriation of Hip-Hop

It’s good to get angry, sometimes. Angry gets shit done. But when we live in a state of perpetual hyper-sensitized outrage, angry can get too much shit done. It gets shit done that should not be done. It encourages us to do more evil than we would if we just took a step back, and understood that this was not the hill to kill and die on.

If you calibrate your rage today, I guarantee that the worst thing that will happen is that you will be less angry about things that do not matter. If the person pissing you off is doing something that is actually evil, putting it into context will only remove any lingering doubts you may have. And then, you can hit back twice as hard.

So take a breath. Look at the big picture. Calibrate your rage.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

[BTT005] Creatures of Time, Creatures of Eternity

Previous: [BTT004] Faith of Our Fathers

No living human being fully understands Time or Eternity. No human language is fully equipped to express it. And yet, the Bible talks about both anyway.

There are some things about Time that we can say with absolute certainty from Scripture. God created the universe, both Time and Space. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was incarnated in a physical human body within Time. And both Time and Space, as parts of the physical universe, will have an end. Jesus Christ, now seated at the right hand of the Father beyond our Time and Space, will return to us who live within Time and Space, and make all things new.

Why would the Bible discuss eternity, a concept which human minds cannot fully comprehend? It is not to give us certain scientific knowledge, but to let us know that it exists and we a quickly speeding towards it. Our lives are a vapor, which will soon disappear. The Bible does not discuss eternity to explain it intellectually, but to prepare us for our entrance into it.

Regardless of the theories we develop about eternity, we will know the truth of it soon enough. If we disagree, let us disagree in love, for our thoughts on eternity will not affect the state of our eternal souls. It is not our formal doctrines on eternity that matter, but the love of Jesus Christ, the God who came from eternity in the body of a man to save us from an eternity of separation from God.

We mortals may discuss eternity, but our true goal is to prepare for it. Discussing the nature of Time can be part of that preparation, but only when we keep the true goal in mind.

Next: [BTT006] What Does the Bible Say About Time?

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

StudyOke! "Sake to Namida to Otoko to Onna" - Kawashima Eigo

Friday, November 20, 2015

An Open Letter to a Dearly Beloved

Look, the Left, we need to talk.

I'll admit, I haven't always been the best partner. When you were shouting about Social Justice, I was more concerned with Civil Liberties. When you wanted to experiment with centrally planned economies, I insisted on acknowledging realistic market values. And then there's the whole Abortion thing (but I know you don't like to talk about that).

It's natural for an interfaith marriage to have some friction. I'm a Christian, and last I checked, you were an Atheist Wiccan. A Sufi Buddhist? It's hard to keep up with what religions you find acceptable.

But even if I might forget what your belief of the day is, I will always remember those early, exciting years when we would stay up all night, just cuddling and hurling insults at each other.

There was also plenty that we agreed on. Freedom of Speech. Freedom of Religion. That people should be judged on the content of their character rather than the color of their skin or the style of their genitals. That the Pharisees who care more about lining their pockets than washing feet are not true Christians. The good stuff that made your barbed insults sting like kisses.

I don't know where along the line things changed. Maybe it was when I graduated college and had to start working for a living. That certainly had a strain on our relationship. My days no longer had enough hours to listen to your latest outrages and rambling discourses. Results and real-world applications started to matter.

You encouraged me to go back for a graduate degree, but that only made things worse. When you're an undergrad, professors keep up the façade of caring about truth. They keep their nihilistic existential nightmares tucked safely beneath the bed. But being a grad student meant rubbing elbows with the profs on a more intimate basis. The masks started slipping.

Yes, there were professors who cared about truth behind their professional personas, but I can't count the number of times I was told the truth didn't matter. That collecting evidence and looking for answers based on that evidence was missing the point.

You see, I romanticized you, the Left. I always thought it was the Republican Wall-Street types that wanted money for nothing. We were the ones who cared about Truth, Justice, and if not the American Way, then the Nobel Path. Grad school wanted to take my money and give me nothing in return. Worse, they wanted to take away my evidence and replace it with Nothing. And while I was foolishly ready to part with my money, I could not accept their Nothing.

I remember when you used to call me out on my belief in God because it was based on faith instead of evidence. Evidence was everything, you said. It's where the rubber meets the road, where Philosophy becomes Science. We could speculate all day, but a theory that cannot survive contact with reality was not worth a damn.

It was one of the few solid arguments you had. I could not prove God. I could not scoop Him up in a jar to show you or point a telescope towards Him. He was neither beneath the microscope nor among the stars. I had no direct, scientific evidence.

I loved your insistence on evidence and Science. The facts kept me grounded when I was tempted to fly off into mystical revelries. It reminded me to treat my opponents like human beings, as rational creatures that deserved evidence. I kept my faith, but acknowledged that not everyone shared it.

When did you give up on evidence, the Left? When did you decide it no longer mattered? These days, it's like I don't even recognize you. Last time we talked about Science, you denounced it as a mind-control tool of White Heterosexual CIS Shit Lords. The Left I remember could spend hours rhapsodizing about the egalitarianism of Science, how its reliance on objective facts meant that no race or gender could monopolize it. What happened to that, the Left?

Yesterday you told me that asking a Person of Color to explain their point of view was "privileged and gross." You told me that asking for evidence that a female video game character was a Male-to-Female transsexual proved that I hate transsexuals. Every time I try to understand you, you push me further and further away.

I love you, the Left. Ever since we stood up together to protest the censorship and unjust wars, I have loved you dearly. But I don't know what's happened to you.

What happened to the feisty, passionate one that I loved? I remember a time when you could not argue enough, when I thought you would never have your fill of debate. Once you thundered challenge and swung your fists without rest. You wore a dazzling suit of armor and bore a bloody battle flag. And though we bickered at times, I fought beneath your flag without hesitation.

Who has silenced your thunder, oh Left? Who has stilled your fists? Who has stripped you of your armor and exposed your nakedness, that you should shrink from your enemies? Why does your banner lie ruined on the ground? It is no longer a flag of blood and battle, but a torn and muddy rag.

I do not know this shrieking violet who can only hurl insults from behind a wall. I do not know this Scientist who hates evidence, this Academic who hates facts. I do not know this Warrior who dares not leave the Safe Spaces.

I look upon you as the corpse of a dear friend. While others may shrink back at your rotten putrescence, I wish only to cradle your broken head in my arms.

I would split the Red Sea for you, that you might march out boldly from your Safe Spaces. I would give you cold facts instead of warm fuzzies. I would teach you again the glory of defeat and the shame of retreat.

There is no glory in battle with straw men, and even less with shadows (I have seen the Shadow Hunts in the walls of your Safe Spaces). You told me once that reality has a Liberal Bias. Why do you flee from it? You told me once that it was your duty to Transgress. Why won't you step beyond the walls of your prison cell?

I love you because of who you are, but I cannot love what you are doing to yourself. How can I support your decision to cut yourself off from the world? How can I love what harms you? That love is reserved for your enemies.

This is difficult, but I think we should go on break for a while. Maybe start seeing other ideologies. You need to figure out what's really important to you - equal rights or procrustean laws. I will wait for you. Not forever, but I will wait. And I will never forget who you were - who I pray you can be again.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

[BTT004] Faith of Our Fathers

Previous: [BTT003] The Wages of Dogmatism

Our Fathers and Mothers in the Faith have been very, very wrong about many, many things. From the Christians who justified the Trans-Atlantic slave trade to the early Protestants who condemned foreign missions, all who came before us have gotten things wrong.

I do not mean to attack or condemn them, for they were no more fallible than we are today. What evils do we support today with human interpretations of Scripture? It is difficult to say, blinded as we are by our own sinfulness and humanity. If we forget the failures of those who have gone before us, we risk ignoring our own.

We, the living men and women of today have the same responsibilities and weaknesses. We must engage the Scriptures humbly. We must engage the Scriptures constantly. And when we come away with different conclusions, we must recognize the difference between the Bible and human interpretations of the Bible.

I am going to advance some theories in this series, theories which are nothing more than a human interpretation of Scripture. If you think that these theories conflict with Scripture, you should reject them. If you think that these theories conflict with reality, you should reject them. If these theories simply fail to convince you, you should by all means reject them!

We're going to start with the actual content from the next post onwards. I am going to get some things wrong, you are going to get some things wrong, and it will be okay. We are looking for truth, not claiming to have what no man knows.

[BTT005] Creatures of Time, Creatures of Eternity

Thursday, November 12, 2015

[BTT003] The Wages of Dogmatism

Previous: [BTT002] Biblical Theologies and the Bible

If the explicit teachings of Scripture on the subject are not enough, we also have the example of history to guide us. We live in a world that thinks of Christians as anti-science - and not without reason. While many of the greatest scientific minds of history were Christians, some of the gravest errors of the church were caused by insisting that only one of the possible human interpretations of the Bible was correct.

Need we speak of Galileo and the insistence of the Catholic Church that the sun revolved around the Earth? And lest we put all of the blame on the Catholics, Luther and Calvin insisted on the same. The Geocentric model was thought of as a theological given.

In the defense of these Christian theologians, Galileo's argument was far from air-tight. There were numerous mathematical issues with the Heliocentric model that had not been worked out, many solid scientific reasons for favoring Geocentrism. And yet, as scientific understanding advanced, Galileo proved to be correct and the Christian church ended up on the wrong side of history. And all over an issue that was far from essential Biblical doctrine and far from being explicitly stated in Scripture.

An issue that should have been resolved by love, charity, and a healthy appreciation for the limits of our understanding of Scripture has become an embarrassment that lingers over Christianity to this very day.

This extends to current scientific debates as well. Does the Bible teach a literal six-day creation or is Genesis 1 a poetic allegory? Natural selection and micro-evolution (the belief that wolves and dogs developed from a common canine ancestor, not the idea that humans developed from fish) now accepted by the majority of Christians, was once rejected as anti-Biblical. This despite the fact that the theory of genetics was developed by a Christian monk!

The issue with Christianity is not that it is inherently anti-science, but that we have inherited the attitude of the Pharisees. The Bible is not anti-science, but hating a fellow Christian because they subscribe to a different plausible interpretation of Scripture is without a doubt anti-biblical.

Just as the mathematics of Galileo's day supported the Geocentric model, the science of our day favors an old Earth. I cannot say whether further scientific investigation will disprove macro-evolution, but that which has changed once may yet change again. Instead of insisting on one human-made dogma and hating those who adhere to another, let us love another with sober minds and look past the doctrines of men to the commandments of God.

Next: [BTT004] Faith of Our Fathers

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Study-Oke! "Arigatou" - Yosui Inoue & Tamio Okuda

Thursday, November 5, 2015

[BTT002] Biblical Theologies and the Bible

Previous: [BTT001] Genesis 1:1

Augustine speaks of this very phenomena in his Confesions. Now, if you've ever read any of Augustine's writings, you know that the man was not blessed with brevity. So I'm going to quote from him at length because he lays it out much more beautifully than I could ever hope to, but feel free to skip it if your eyes start to glaze over.
First, Augustine admits his inability to know exactly what Moses meant when he wrote Genesis, or why God moved him to use those particular words:

"But which of us, amid so many truths which occur to inquirers in these words, understood as they are in different ways, shall so discover that one interpretation as to confidently say that Moses thought this, and that in that narrative he wished this to be understood, as confidently as he says that this is true, whether he thought this thing or the other? For behold, O my God...can I, as I confidently assert that Thou in Your immutable word hast created all things, invisible and visible, with equal confidence assert that Moses meant nothing else than this when he wrote, In the beginning God created. the heaven and the earth. No...

"For his thoughts might be set upon the very beginning of the creation when he said, In the beginning; and he might wish it to be understood that, in this place, the heaven and the earth were no formed and perfected nature, whether spiritual or corporeal, but each of them newly begun, and as yet formless. Because I see, that which-soever of these had been said, it might have been said truly; but which of them he may have thought in these words, I do not so perceive. Although, whether it were one of these, or some other meaning which has not been mentioned by me, that this great man saw in his mind when he used these words, I make no doubt but that he saw it truly, and expressed it suitably."

The greatest danger is not that we should believe one of many valid interpretations, but that we should allow these valid interpretations to become points of argument and hatred between us.

"Let no one now trouble me by saying, Moses thought not as you say, but as I say. ...O my God, life of the poor, in whose bosom there is no contradiction, pour down into my heart Your soothings, that I may patiently bear with such as say this to me; not because they are divine, and because they have seen in the heart of Your servant what they say, but because they are proud, and have not known the opinion of Moses, but love their own—not because it is true, but because it is their own.
"... When, therefore, we may not contend about the very light of the Lord our God, why do we contend about the thoughts of our neighbor...when, if Moses himself had appeared to us and said, “This I meant,” not so should we see it, but believe it? Let us not, then, “be puffed up for one against the other,” above that which is written; let us love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our mind, and our neighbor as ourself.

"...Unless we believe that Moses meant whatever in these books he did mean, we shall make God a liar when we think otherwise concerning our fellow-servants' mind than He has taught us. Behold, now, how foolish it is, in so great an abundance of the truest opinions which can be extracted from these words, rashly to affirm which of them Moses particularly meant; and with pernicious contentions to offend charity itself, on account of which he has spoken all the things whose words we endeavor to explain!"

There are arguments cannot be settled short of Moses or God descending to Earth and explaining exactly what they meant in a given passage. Since these arguments are not essential to the faith, what gain is there in hating a fellow Christian because they believe a different possible interpretation? What is meant by "the heavens" is debatable, but the essential Christian duty to "love another" is not up for debate. Moses did not write Genesis so that we could hate each other about it!

Lest you think I am relying solely on Augustine for this argument, in Matthew 15, Jesus confronts the Pharisees for favoring their own interpretation of Scriptures over the Word of God.
"Then the scribes and Pharisees who were from Jerusalem came to Jesus, saying, “Why do Your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread.”

"He answered and said to them, “Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition? For God commanded, saying, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.’ but you say, ‘Whoever says to his father or mother, “Whatever profit you might have received from me is a gift to God”—  then he need not honor his father or mother.’ Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition. Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying:

‘These people draw near to Me with their mouth,
            And honor Me with their lips,
            But their heart is far from Me.
            And in vain they worship Me,
            Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ ”

The Pharisees were more concerned with their interpretations of the Scripture (you must wash hands before eating) than with the actual contents of Scripture (you must honor your father and mother). The tradition of hand washing was intended to avoid accidentally making yourself ritually unclean - not a bad thing! Tradition and interpretation only become blasphemous when they are elevated to the level of doctrine, replacing the actual Words of God.

The point is not that we should all live in a feel-good cloud of moral relativism. The point is that the explicit, unassailable command of God that we love one another supersedes all human systems of dogma. Our interpretations of the Bible are always subordinate to the Bible itself.

Next: [BTT003] The Wages of Dogmatism

Thursday, October 29, 2015

[BTT001] Genesis 1:1

Previous: [BTT000] Prologue

"In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth." On first glance, this verse seems of the utmost simplicity. There is a being called "God," and this being creates the heavens and the earth, in the beginning. Got it.

Then we start to ask questions. Who is this "God" who has the ability to create the heavens and the earth? When was the beginning? Was this beginning the beginning of time, or simply the beginning of the heavens and the earth? By "the heavens," do we mean the sky above the planet Earth, or a separate plane of existence? By "earth" do we mean "Earth, the planet" or the entire physical universe?

Many of these questions are answered as we dive further into the Bible. Some of these things we learn with certainty - for example, we learn about the attributes and character of God through His interactions with human beings. He is the great "I AM," the uncreated creator of all that is. He is the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And above all, He is a God who cares for His creation, to the point of sending His Son to die on the cross to redeem it.

There are other things that we are not told explicitly, but can infer with a high certainty. For example, we learn that God had not yet made the stars or other planets, so it is likely that "earth" refers to the raw matter of the entire physical universe. This matter is later organized into specific planets, stars, and creatures. The Trinity is also an example of a thing inferred with high certainty - we read about the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, but the Bible never uses the term "Trinity."

There are other things which are inferred with less certainty. Does "heavens" refer to the earth's atmosphere or to the eternal heavens? Given that the earth was still "without form and void" and that there is apparently no atmosphere at this point (Gen. 1:6-8), it seems likely that here "heavens" refers to the eternal heavens.

This, however, is somewhat uncertain - when God creates the atmosphere a few verses later, it is also referred to as "Heaven" (the Hebrew word used in both verses is שָׁמַיִם /shamayim despite the capitalization/pluralization differences in English). So perhaps Genesis 1:1 is only giving us a preview of what is about to happen. It is difficult to say with certainty.

There are other things which seem straightforward at first, but later become more complicated. "In the beginning" mostly likely refers to the beginning of Time itself, not just the beginning of "the heavens and the earth." Using that as our starting point of Time and the subsequent genealogies as our subsequent chronology, it seems logical that our universe has only existed for roughly six thousand years.

But when we look at the world around us, from the timescales necessary for the mountains to rise and the layers of the Earth's crust to form, from the speed of light from distant stars to the background radiation of the Big Bang, a very different picture emerges. At the very least, we must say that God created the universe with the appearance of age. Even if we do not doubt the Word of God, the picture becomes more complicated.

[For more on this, check out I Could Never Get the Hang of Last Thursdays: Thoughts on Omphalos]

Or take the example of Joshua 10:

"Then Joshua spoke to the Lord in the day when the Lord delivered up the Amorites before the children of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel:

“Sun, stand still over Gibeon;
            And Moon, in the Valley of Aijalon.”
            So the sun stood still,
            And the moon stopped,
            Till the people had revenge
            Upon their enemies.
Is this not written in the Book of Jasher? So the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and did not hasten to go down for about a whole day." - Joshua 10:12-13

Once again, the most literal reading of the text is that the sun literally stopped. This implies that the motion of the sun across the sky is a literal motion, i.e., that it is the sun that revolves around the Earth. Of course, we now know that this passage must be describing an appearance - the sun's motion in the sky stopped, but the sun did not literally stop moving because it is the Earth that revolves around the sun.

This is not to say that we can learn nothing from Scripture, but rather that certain passages can be interpreted in multiple ways. We can say that the sun stopped in the sky without error, because that is without doubt what Joshua saw, just as every day we see the sun move across the sky. If we take "the sun stood still" as a literal description of how the scene appeared to Joshua, everything is fine. If we then infer that the sun rotates around the Earth, we are in error.

In other words, there is a difference between saying that the Scripture is the Word of God, completely without error or contradiction, and saying that our interpretation of the Scripture is the Word of God, completely without error or contradiction.
Does "the heavens" in Genesis 1:1 refer to the sky and space, or the eternal Heavens? It is difficult to say. We can say in faith that Moses was moved by the omniscient Spirit of God to write those words. We can say with certainty that the Spirit of God knows best what happened, since it was there, doing the creating. All of these interpretations are feasible, none of them are contrary to the plain reading or spirit of the passage, and all can be held without doing violence to the text.

However, for the very reason that none of these readings are contrary to the honest reading of the text, it is wrong to claim that you know with absolute certainty exactly what Moses meant. We can gather evidence from Scripture, we can gather evidence from Nature, we can gather evidence from Logic, but in lieu of overwhelming evidence (of the 'oh, the Earth revolves around the Sun' variety) all reasonable interpretations remain valid.

The heresies of Gnosticism or Manicheism are easily enough refuted by the words of Scripture. One can only claim that Jesus did not have a physical body or that salvation comes by knowledge rather than faith by doing violence to the text - something which the heretics know all too well. Every new heresy invariably ends up writing new "holy books" to replace the Bible. Some claim to only supplement it with new inspirations or to restore the "true interpretation," but the new inevitably crowds out the old.

But for the faithful, the danger is not in adding to the Word of God or twisting it beyond recognition, but in insisting that one of the many possible interpretations is the only possible truth. It is in replacing the Scriptures, with all of their nuances of Divine meaning, with a single human reading.

Next: [BTT002] Biblical Theologies and the Bible

Thursday, October 22, 2015

[BTT000] Prologue: Free Will, Predistination, and the Limits of Understanding

A Brief Theology of Time Series Hub

As I will say many (many, many) times throughout the course of this series, I am not a theologian.

I have not attended a Bible College, let alone a seminary. My Bachelor's and Master's degrees are both in Japanese, not in Hebrew or Greek. In terms of academic credentials, I am as qualified to tell you about the Bible as your plumber (possibly less, depending on your plumber's curriculum vitae). I am also not a pastor, deacon, elder, priest, archbishop, lay minister, youth leader, or even a quiet yet deeply spiritual church janitor.
So why did I write this series? Good question.
I began wrestling with the issues raised in this series many years ago, after a discussion with a campus minister at my university. My younger brother and I were talking with this minister about sin. He told us that every time we were tempted to sin, we should think about Jesus on the Cross, and how our sins would make His burden all the heavier.

Now, my brothers and I were raised as strict Calvinists (and just as importantly, Science Fiction geeks), so this argument immediately rang false to both of us. This is not to say that we were unconcerned with the sufferings of Christ. We simply could not accept the idea that our sins would somehow travel backwards in time.

After all, God knows our futures before they happen – it is part of how He can promise that “all things work together for good.” The thought that the Father was up in Heaven with a pair of binoculars, watching us sin and saying “Darn it, that person just bore false witness. Tell Michael to go back in time to the Crucifixion and ratchet up the pain” felt silly, almost to the point of cheapening the sufferings of Christ.

At any rate, my family has never been one to back down from a good debate, so we raised our objections - much to the minister's surprise. He told us that he had counseled many students with that image, and that none of them had ever had an objection.

Now, this happened a good long time ago, and I may be remembering some of the details wrong, but I distinctly remember him saying something to the effect that my brother and I “don't see time like normal people.”

I'm still not sure whether to take that as a compliment or an insult, but I've never been able to forget that conversation. What exactly is the relationship between sin, redemption, and time? How does God relate to time? The angels? The fallen angels? Most importantly, what is the relationship between time and the New Heavens and New Earth described in Revelation?

I couldn't get these questions out of my head, and I couldn't find any books that answered them adequately. The only books on the subject of time in the Bible I could find dealt only with issues like Six-Day Creationism vs. Long-Day Creationism, chronos vs. kairos, or arguments over when the Millennial Reign of Christ would begin. Every now and then I would stumble across something enlightening, but these bits and pieces were long and far between - and I ended up with more questions than answers.

So, I wrote this series.

Now, I'm not going to claim that this series has the answers. Like I said, I'm not a theologian. But what it does have is some important questions and some theories on what the answers might be. My goal is to bring these questions together in one place so that we can start asking them together.

You may not agree with some of the conclusions that I come to in this book, but that's okay. I'm not 100% certain of my own conclusions. But I do think we need to start having this conversation.

In a sense, we are dealing with  concepts beyond the ability of any human to fully comprehend. What is eternity? What happens after the End of Time? That is why we are going to be examining theoretical models instead of asserting theological certainties. I am not asking you to agree with anything in this series - there are parts that I have serious reservations about - but I am asking that you read with an open Bible and an open mind.

I'm not trying to advance a perfect theory, but to set up multiple theories that can be disassembled and played around with. Don't like something I said? Don't agree with how I've interpreted a verse? I encourage you to take the argument apart and put together a new one.
Nothing discussed in here is essential to salvation. These are things that it is okay to disagree about. My hope is not that we will find definite answers to these questions, but rather that we might find a deeper understanding of the Scriptures by digging into what it says.

To that end, let's start by talking about what it means to argue.

Next: [BTT001] Genesis 1:1