Friday, November 30, 2007

My New Purpose (Scriptural)

As a complement to yesterday's post, I will liberally borrow from God's word and post this entire chapter, 1 Samuel 12:

Samuel said to all Israel, "I have listened to everything you said to me and have set a king over you. 2 Now you have a king as your leader. As for me, I am old and gray, and my sons are here with you. I have been your leader from my youth until this day. 3 Here I stand. Testify against me in the presence of the LORD and his anointed. Whose ox have I taken? Whose donkey have I taken? Whom have I cheated? Whom have I oppressed? From whose hand have I accepted a bribe to make me shut my eyes? If I have done any of these, I will make it right."

4 "You have not cheated or oppressed us," they replied. "You have not taken anything from anyone's hand."

5 Samuel said to them, "The LORD is witness against you, and also his anointed is witness this day, that you have not found anything in my hand."
"He is witness," they said.

6 Then Samuel said to the people, "It is the LORD who appointed Moses and Aaron and brought your forefathers up out of Egypt. 7 Now then, stand here, because I am going to confront you with evidence before the LORD as to all the righteous acts performed by the LORD for you and your fathers.

8 "After Jacob entered Egypt, they cried to the LORD for help, and the LORD sent Moses and Aaron, who brought your forefathers out of Egypt and settled them in this place.

9 "But they forgot the LORD their God; so he sold them into the hand of Sisera, the commander of the army of Hazor, and into the hands of the Philistines and the king of Moab, who fought against them. 10 They cried out to the LORD and said, 'We have sinned; we have forsaken the LORD and served the Baals and the Ashtoreths. But now deliver us from the hands of our enemies, and we will serve you.' 11 Then the LORD sent Jerub-Baal, [a] Barak, [b] Jephthah and Samuel, [c] and he delivered you from the hands of your enemies on every side, so that you lived securely.

12 "But when you saw that Nahash king of the Ammonites was moving against you, you said to me, 'No, we want a king to rule over us'-even though the LORD your God was your king. 13 Now here is the king you have chosen, the one you asked for; see, the LORD has set a king over you. 14 If you fear the LORD and serve and obey him and do not rebel against his commands, and if both you and the king who reigns over you follow the LORD your God-good! 15 But if you do not obey the LORD, and if you rebel against his commands, his hand will be against you, as it was against your fathers.

16 "Now then, stand still and see this great thing the LORD is about to do before your eyes! 17 Is it not wheat harvest now? I will call upon the LORD to send thunder and rain. And you will realize what an evil thing you did in the eyes of the LORD when you asked for a king."

18 Then Samuel called upon the LORD, and that same day the LORD sent thunder and rain. So all the people stood in awe of the LORD and of Samuel.

19 The people all said to Samuel, "Pray to the LORD your God for your servants so that we will not die, for we have added to all our other sins the evil of asking for a king."

20 "Do not be afraid," Samuel replied. "You have done all this evil; yet do not turn away from the LORD, but serve the LORD with all your heart. 21 Do not turn away after useless idols. They can do you no good, nor can they rescue you, because they are useless. 22 For the sake of his great name the LORD will not reject his people, because the LORD was pleased to make you his own. 23 As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by failing to pray for you. And I will teach you the way that is good and right. 24 But be sure to fear the LORD and serve him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things he has done for you. 25 Yet if you persist in doing evil, both you and your king will be swept away."

You can't tell me God isn't merciful. You very simply can't.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

My New Purpose

If I'm to believe the reports, voter turnout in Canada is very unhealthy. Especially among the younger generation. While this is quite sad in a political sense, I really appreciate the fact that many people who turn their backs to politics don't vote ignorantly--that is, based on their perception of parties or candidates. To use a fairly universal example, I know a tonne of people who hate President Bush but couldn't cite many of his poor decisions. What has happened is this: many of us have a reached a point of such diluted attention spans that we allow vignette news stories to decide opinions for us. I would have much more respect for someone who reads all the party platforms and votes against my principles than someone who votes with me ignorantly. Not only is it ludicrous to prostrate ourselves to public opinion; it's also very dangerous. I would even go as far as to cite it as the paramount flaw with democracy. Those who educate themselves have equal say as those who don't. This will never make sense to me, and it has nothing to do with political affiliations and everything to do with the culture of ignorance that has filtered into our countries. Would people even be concerned with the environment if it weren't trendy? Clearly not. If that were the case, we would have sought renewable energy solutions a long time ago.

What prompted to me write this? Why, my scriptural reading over the past week and a half. I've already noted that I still find it surreal when I stop and compare myself with my old life. It really shames me that a lot of my previous Biblical knowledge was a diluted account of the actual text. "Hey, did you know that it says this or that in the Bible? Isn't that ridiculous? God is such a vengeful miser. Yadda yadda." Quite honestly, if you only zoom in on certain passages, that's a pretty fair conclusion. But consider for a moment how fair the world would be if we tried criminal suspects that way. What if we chose to take a tunnel-visioned approach and just hear the testimony of one side? Would that enable us to sentence anyone fairly? No. But as soon as God is the one on trial--as if we could ever have a right to try the loving Being who created us and all that surrounds us--people seem willing to conclude things based on the testimony of liberal agenda pushers and the PC police.

In the last week and a half, I've read from Exodus to Judges, which I'll finish later this evening. I've seen the true versions of many paraphrased portions that once served as hurdles between my intellectual mind and my willingness to submit to God. What I invariably conclude, in all of these seemingly extreme outcomes, is that humanity is always the first to offend. If you believe the scripture, and I certainly do, none of us would be here were it not for Noah, who found favour in God's eyes amidst a world of detestable sin. God felt compelled to destroy it all, just as I would if I were to create a people that would eventually come to represent everything I abhor. But surrounded by countless awful deeds was a man who acted in accordance with God's will, at least as it had been conveyed to that point. And so God chose to spare him and repopulate the world with his descendants.

Fast forward to Exodus (and forgive my lack of citations, for now). It would be easy for a rational thinker to sympathize with the Egyptians. Even if you want to discount the fact that Noah's descendants were oppressed by these people, you could argue that God might have tried to soften their hearts instead of making them the token guinea pig during the life of Moses. But that's not what happened. They were punished in accordance with their crimes. They enslaved God's people, and He acted quite dutifully in releasing Israel from Pharaoh's iron grip. And then Israel lived happily ever after? Not at all, my friend. After witnessing miracle after miracle, receiving blessing after blessing, Israel griped and moaned. Everything was provided for them, and yet they always seemed inclined to cry out to God as if to say, "Yes, LORD, You have done much for us. But we think we might be convinced if we had just one more olive branch as a testimony of Your love."

I guess you need to read it all to understand, but this seems so fickle to me. We are very fortunate that Jesus Christ came to earth as a man and paid the debt for all our sin, effectively creating a ladder for us to get into Heaven. Of course, it rests on the individual to climb it, but it's there. Of course, just as voter interest has been diluted over the years, so has the contingency of faithful. Our laws have been glossed over with generic versions of their old selves. It saddens me that even if we could behold the types of Old Testament miracles I've been reading about, we'd still probably fall from grace. I mean, God's acts are so beyond any scientific technology we could develop that you'd think people would have forever raised their children to bow down to His grace. Again, not at all. As soon as compelling leaders like Joseph son of Jacob or Moses or Joshua passed away, people lost their faith. Makes you wonder if it was even God they revered in the first place, or was it the human representatives He chose?

As people drifted from God's will, God continued to provide. The books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy describe many a law and covenant that God handed down so we might have ways to demonstrate our love to Him. Some seem almost cultish (the sacrifice of burnt offerings, for instance), but who are we to question the offerings He requested, when exchange we stood to gain eternal life?

Suppose it were possible to speak to the old me again. If you were to describe to him the process of making a sin offering, without any of the surrounding info, he would have thought God quite an adept cult leader. Thanks to God's grace and forgiveness, none of which I deserved, I've changed my stance on these rituals. I see them as further offerings, as I describe above. Instead of expecting perfection, God provided Israel with very visual, very methodical ways of demonstrating their obedience. I used to think that God was the mean and Christ was the kind one. Christ's ministry was very forgiving and restorative, at least from the side of the coin. I've no doubt that when you stand in front of Him and are judged for the way you live, He returns the same verdict God would. But what I didn't appreciate until I actually read the Bible for myself was just how generous Old Testament God is. We all get tempted. We all have sinful thoughts. But God saw beyond these and offered a cumulative set of ways to atone for our increasingly evil deeds.

Why do so many non-believers twist this grace into anything sinister? Because, as I used to feel, it's in our nature to want to live for ourselves. We are all inclined to selfishness. But I've learned over the last several weeks, cleansing oneself much more rewarding. It's not an easy process, but it leaves me feeling complete. I have God's presence with me whenever I choose to acknowledge it. My days are populated with prayer, even little blurbs here and there, when something goes well or when I feel myself in need of patience. I hand over all that is good and bad in my life to the LORD, and He reciprocates every time, whether it be in erasing my doubts or depressions or offering new blessings. Sometimes I'm not meant to have what I want, and He helps to erase those empty desires. There is a time for all these things, and I see that.

But man, does it ever tick me off when I read how generation after generation of people who saw much more visual signs of God's grace were still stubborn. They were still willing to submit to earthly idols admist irrefutable signs of God's authority. Call me a radical, but I've come to the point where I know what God's intent is: it's to gather all His people into His kingdom. I've also come to another realization: those who refuse, especially to the extremity I read about in Judges, get what they deserve.

I can't explain why I've been given so many chances to walk God's path, and I certainly don't consider myself any better than any person who ever lived. I wouldn't take the aggressive approach with people on the fence, and I hope my comments will be limited to the people described in the gospel. I believe in the principle of helping people mend their lives, not throwing the book at them. It just really bugs me when people think they've been given the short end because these are the ones who fit the classic definition of insanity: trying to same thing multiple times and expecting different results. That was me. I tried to live for myself and lay claim to all my deeds and accomplishments, and none of them ever left me with a feeling of satisfaction. Now that my eyes have been opened, I could kick the old me in the neck.

The thing is, though, don't let anyone tell you who to worship or how to vote. Especially me. Take the onus upon yourself to know the basis of every word you breathe and every action you take. If you aren't genuinely satisfied with your life, try something else. Even if you need to take another five steps before trying to know the LORD, don't settle for an unsatisfying life.

Now then, my purpose: I will defend with every ounce of my intellect the scripture I once scorned. That's one of the reasons my updates have been so sparse laterly; I'm trying to read every book of the gospel so that I might familiarize myself with it. I feel like a new kitten that was adopted into a large house. First I must sniff my way through each room (i.e. each book) to know what's inside. Once I know where things are, I can seek them out as need warrants. I must learn where my figurative dish is, the coziest spots to rest, the parts to seek when I need comfort. And yes, even where my litter box is.

It will likely take a lifetime of study to even begin to wrap my little brain around the subtler points, but for now I will satisfy myself to just know the story and where things are. Whatever insight God chooses to plant into my head, I will share it with you. It's just become very apparent that a lot of these stories intertwine with one another. There are cumulative things that lead to certain acts or situations, and it seems evermore closed-minded for me to wrestle with things on a micromagerial level. Of course, I seldom feel the need to rebel against any of the Word, so that too is a great comfort to me. I believe every ounce of what I've read thus far, and if my testimony is worth anything to you, then there you have it. But don't just accept it; read these books for yourself. We are none of us entitled to an opinion on something we don't understand. No exceptions.

Friday, November 23, 2007

God is Working Much Faster Than I Could Have Expected


Tonight I started to read the book of Leviticus. Before I comment on my thoughts about the first few chapters, please allow me to post some overarching thoughts about Exodus.

The book of Exodus was quite an exhilerating read for me... at first. The more I delve into scripture, the more vividly it appears in my mental movie screen. To read about the many plagues and miracles God used to free His people from slavery was nothing short of inspiring. It's gotten to the point that I don't even question the legitimacy of these verses, which is quite baffling in itself if I stop and think about how much I once resisted the truth of these books. That's just one facet of my transformation, but as someone who still recalls his old ways, it just speaks to how much God has done to soften my heart and mind to His blessings. Genesis and Exodus, while not the most recommended starting places for new Christians, really helped to spark my enthusiasm. Our world's history is absolutely breathtaking. It just is.

But then the story suffers an abrupt end to the action. Moses painstakingly halts the plot, albeit with good reason, to write about the laws God teaches him. He describes the meticulous ways that man is to build the Ark, its sanctuary, and the many garbs to be worn by Hebrew priests. While fascinating in detail, these chapters are completely void of humanity. They are strict laws that can almost border on cultish. Let's switch gears and focus on the positive side: not only are we blessed through Christ's sacrifice, those of us who live after His first coming are blessed to not be subjected to the arcane rules described in Exodus and Leviticus.

I won't lie. I genuinely hoped Leviticus would resume the story that was halted in the Desert of Sin. From a reader's perspective, I'm waiting for something new to happen and vicariously yearning for these people to FINALLY get out of the freaking desert. Man is it taking a long time. The art snob in me applauds this. A good writer can make you hate the villain, love the hero, and feel all the emotions described therein. When I read about the materials and formation of arks and clothes and so on, it frustrates my internal reader, who simply wants something to happen. In writing, we call this stuff info dump. That's when an author spends an extraneous amount of time describing a setting (or anything, really) instead of entertaining the reader's desire to see something actually happen.

Certainly, I extract a lot of joy from serving God and knowing that I am working on behalf of a greater cause than I can understand. The actual method to it can be pretty unspectacular. The laws described in Leviticus almost leech the spirituality from what they represent. They are so methodical and drab that it almost sounds easy to forget that people did these things to earn God's favour. Here's the example quoted below, which I will paste a second time (though this is the first you'll read the citation):

Leviticus 4: 27-31 "27 " 'If a member of the community sins unintentionally and does what is forbidden in any of the LORD's commands, he is guilty. 28 When he is made aware of the sin he committed, he must bring as his offering for the sin he committed a female goat without defect. 29 He is to lay his hand on the head of the sin offering and slaughter it at the place of the burnt offering. 30 Then the priest is to take some of the blood with his finger and put it on the horns of the altar of burnt offering and pour out the rest of the blood at the base of the altar. 31 He shall remove all the fat, just as the fat is removed from the fellowship offering, and the priest shall burn it on the altar as an aroma pleasing to the LORD. In this way the priest will make atonement for him, and he will be forgiven."

The first time I read that, I glossed over the word "unintentionally". It seemed to me that God was offering man a way to purchase forgiveness. That was exactly one of my problems with the traditional Catholic church. Another, of course, was their ritualistic way of worshipping God.

My Wesleyan experience has been quite the opposite. The pastors pray about what to preach, and they consistently express in terms that are applicable to everyone's life. I think it no mere coincidence that they always address things that are very relevent to my previous week. God has been so generous in giving me answers through my brothers and sisters in Christ. It just fuels my desire to share my faith. The passages above (and below), in contrast, seem like loopholes at first. It seemed as if God was relinquishing His judgment, that anyone could commit any sin and merely fork over a head of cattle to a priest. What's worse, there's mention in verse 3 of the same chapter that when priests sin, it brings guilt upon all the people. I sure as heck didn't approve of that.

Unlike last night, I decided to read ahead to see if these points would be clarified. Last night I made the mistake about discussing the sin of greed with regards to the offerings that would yield materials for the Ark's construction. Perhaps those who withheld proved my point, but I would have preferred to use a more generic example. I thought it kind of silly, and a little embarassing, that subsequent chapters would offer a much better citation: the part where Aaron tempers a false idol out of gold. That was a perfect example of greed, because it was a lust for power. Anything empty is sinful, as God never commands us to do anything without purpose. He may test or tempt us at times, but the testing of faith is entirely justified. (Remember when He tempted Abraham to kill Isaac?)

So I read on. I found that Leviticus wasn't shedding much light on my confusion. The story wasn't progressing. Moses was describing monotonous law after monotonous law. Yakkity yak. I'd have been more okay with this if I felt it wasn't a cop out of some kind. Yes, God was being merciful; yes, He was offering man a way to atone even before Jesus Christ came in did that on our universal behalf. Yes, I can understand why God would want us to do something that is pleasing to Him, even if it was just for the sake of sanctifying a base creature and producing something aromatically pleasing to Him. But, darn it all, I didn't understand why He was willing to let us sin and then make it up with such seemingly foolish practices.

Then it occurred to me, as I noted earlier, that these laws only applied to those who sin unintentionally. People didn't get to buy their way into sinful lives; they were offered a chance to atone for their ignorance. God is perfectly just in holding us responsible for sin of any kind, but He is so loving and merciful that He was willing to proffer a way out of damnation when it's our limitation, not intent, that leads us astray. But that's the difference between focussing on what we struggle with and focussing on the whole picture. It's just that, this time last month, it would have taken me a couple days to sort all this out in my head. Now, I get near instant results. I'm at peace again. The old me would have metaphorically shaken a fist at God in protest, but this time I merely told Him that I wasn't certain about these passages. It wasn't spiteful; it was a genuine concern for my progress. I can't tell you why He loves me enough to swoop in and clear my head, but He did just that. There's no way I wasn't going to mention it in here.

As I said, I occasionally remember the old version of myself. I don't miss the stubborn emptiness I once embodied, but I remember how desolate it felt. I remember the way I used to ignorantly scorn my uneducated perception of God and what He stands for. Maybe it would be healthy for me to skip to the New Testament and then read these books later. But for those who can approach any part of the gospel with an open mind, I don't think there is a right or wrong sequence. Just let God guide you through it, whatever you do. Some parts of the story may be less aesthetically pleasing than others. Certainly, Christ's resurrection and the promises described in Revelation are my current favourites. But there's value in every single syllable in the Bible. I used to doubt that too. How dangerous my life used to be.

As I told Matt this evening: I feel like I'm only a month old. It's okay, though. I love being eternally young. I also love the fact that every day of my life is the most important day of my life. When I wake up tomorrow, I will have all the wisdom God has given me. And I'll add to it, because I just can't allow myself to live an entire day without reading at least some of the gospel. This is my journey, and it will never end. For such an ugly world, it's a beautiful promise we can all share in, if we choose to.

OLD VERSION OF THIS POST: "A Retraction, For Humility's Sake"

You know what? As blessed as I am to have my relationship with Jesus Christ, I am slowly learning that mere existence after Christ's coming is a blessing in itself. We have it much, much easier than the people of Old Testament times. I will try to be very tactful in how I say the following points, and I should also be careful to not declare them too early. Nevertheless, I would like to state for the present time that I've never witnessed any Catholic rituals that were half as bizarre as the first chapters of Leviticus.

Here's a little teaser for those who haven't read this book:

Leviticus 4: 27-31 "27 " 'If a member of the community sins unintentionally and does what is forbidden in any of the LORD's commands, he is guilty. 28 When he is made aware of the sin he committed, he must bring as his offering for the sin he committed a female goat without defect. 29 He is to lay his hand on the head of the sin offering and slaughter it at the place of the burnt offering. 30 Then the priest is to take some of the blood with his finger and put it on the horns of the altar of burnt offering and pour out the rest of the blood at the base of the altar. 31 He shall remove all the fat, just as the fat is removed from the fellowship offering, and the priest shall burn it on the altar as an aroma pleasing to the LORD. In this way the priest will make atonement for him, and he will be forgiven."

What's so disturbing about this? For starters, these rituals almost supercede the act of repentance. These procedures could certainly be construed as merciful, as God offers man a way to atone for sin, something I previously thought only possible after Christ's sacrifice. Also, I have no trouble accepting the fact that burnt offerings might be aromatically pleasing to God. But as I said above, the idea that one need only purchase and offer an animal as a means to erase sin is quite a spiritual loophole.

[end post in progress]

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Cardinal Sin Part 2: Greed

I won't lie about my thoughts on rituals: a lot of them seem meaningless to me. I even used face value judgments to refute some of the Old Testament rituals I've been reading about the past few weeks. It's not that faith doesn't manifest itself through action, but until five minutes ago it never donned on me that there are reasons behind sacrifices like burnt offerings. Before I get to that, I'd like to dwell on some of the rituals God didn't ask of us.

I was raised Catholic. If you know what that entails, you probably have a reactionary thought that leaps onto your mental front burner just to hear that word. I know I do. While I respect any Christian faith, Catholicism really exhausted my patience for any kind of worship by the time I was old enough to intellectualize what they do. By the time I reached a certain age, my mother realized she couldn't just drag my sister and I to church. I couldn't say at exactly what point, but she and I both abandoned it in our adolescent years. Don't get me wrong; no one hands out goat's blood at Catholic churches, and my Acadian ancestors have built some gorgeous buildings, mostly Catholic, through God's inspiration. But the way they preach the gospel doesn't inspire me. They receive weekly booklets, presumably identical to the ones circulated throughout the world, and half the service is based around repeating the exact same lines at the exact same times, except for the odd weekend. (Easter would be a prime example.)

I vividly remember the Christmas services I would attend during break from university, as they were about the only ones I attended during the year. It all seemed to come together in my head when I was home in Tusket for my sophomore year. Obviously the dictation was the same, but even the five minutes during which the priest speaks sounded exactly as they had the previous year. Catholicism didn't just feel like an automated Christ dispenser because it was repetitious, it felt like an automated Christ dispenser because it was just that void of inspiration. I've spoken personally with many priests, and I've yet to find one who isn't a genuinely good soul. I know the media would suggest otherwise, but I didn't detect any malicious hints in our community. So, if these ordained men were not the source of the roboticism, then, surely, the doctrine was. They didn't preach the gospel to you; they preached it at you. Historically, this kind of worship has been very much embedded into the Catholic mentality. It used to be that everything about God was for sale, as they understandably wanted to further their agenda as much as possible. But instead of encouraging you to give your trials to God and praise Christ for erasing your sins, they wanted to sell you a ticket into God's kingdom. Had an extra child? Fantastic! That's what the LORD wanted. And He also wanted you to buy their seat in the congregation. While my experience wasn't quite as shallow, the delivery sure was. It was dry, and I maintain that it is. You can find hypocrisy in any church, but these people thrived on it. All you had to do was present yourself for an hour a week, experience all the sacrements, and you were golden.

Now, while I've said I don't want to dump on Christian faiths, I have no choice but to be accountable to God in this instance and declare just how dangerous that stuff is. You must live for Jesus Christ. Waving to Him once a week is simply not enough. But rituals are just that compelling when you're willing to shut off your mind. I never was, and that explains to me why it took so long for me to submit my soul to God.

Now then, let us get to the point of my most verbose post to date: what do Old Testament rituals, specifically burnt offerings, tell us about the sin of greed?

Exodus 25: 1-9 "The LORD said to Moses, 2 "Tell the Israelites to bring me an offering. You are to receive the offering for me from each man whose heart prompts him to give. 3 These are the offerings you are to receive from them: gold, silver and bronze; 4 blue, purple and scarlet yarn and fine linen; goat hair; 5 ram skins dyed red and hides of sea cows; acacia wood; 6 olive oil for the light; spices for the anointing oil and for the fragrant incense; 7 and onyx stones and other gems to be mounted on the ephod and breastpiece.

8 "Then have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them. 9 Make this tabernacle and all its furnishings exactly like the pattern I will show you."

As I read this passage a moment ago, it occurred to me that God doesn't need any of these things. Not only can God make His own riches, He as much as affirms their commodity by asking people to sacrifice them. For a Creator Who condemns greed, this seems very hypocritical. It's also intriguing that the Bible says that those who reach Heaven will wear crowns based on the ir human deeds. Is this a form of materialism? Not at all, my friend. Not at all. First, let's examine what greed truly is.

Understandably, we associate greed with money. Money is a human invention that once represented a currency of work. If you performed a duty, it was worth a certain payment. It wasn't as simple as life might be. Back in the days when people bartered exclusively, we skipped the middle men. We were more independant and didn't need to depend on merchants to supply us with everything.

But then, as material things became more complex, as they took several sets of hands to manufacture, money, though an imaginary representation of worth, became the crux of human economy. Even worse, there's absolutely no standard anymore. It used to be that a goat was valued at such and such a price, but now we've distorted those lines. We exploit other countries for cheap labour. We pay professional athletes whopping salaries and shortchange some of the most valuable workers in our communities. We've made money the centre of all things material and all things laborious. That's why it makes sense to associate the unquenchable search for it with greed. It's an accurate portrayal, but I just wish more people would understand that the insatiable pursuit of anything material is no more or less greedy than the stockpiling of money.

The problem with sin is not always in the devastation of the act. Greed doesn't always inflict direct pain on others. But as we've come to learn, sins are equal in that they place a wedge between God and ourselves. The aimless pursuit of anything earthly requires us to take our gaze away from God and place it onto false idols. The exploitation of poorer countries for our own wealth is an act of neglect toward our fellow man, and it's a terrible way to represent ourselves as believers in Jesus Christ. That is what makes greed so bad. It's a lot more subtle than acts of wrath, but it still requires us to step outside God's chosen path for us.

So, when God asks for all the abovementioned offerings, He's not condescending to us. He's not suggesting that we should give these things to Him with one hand, and collect as much as possible with the other. He's very simply asking us to part with our earthly trinkets to test our willingness to do so. It's a visual testimony that we prefer His grace to our own luxuries. And, as I noted above, He will be returning the gesture in spades for those who are willing to comply.

EDIT: So apparently, as I've been reading ahead, God wanted all these materials for use in constructing the Ark of the Covenant. Let's just pretend I quoted one of the many other passages in which people sacrificed things to Him. I think the principle remains intact. Just kind of feel bad about using this for the example, given the token nature and significance of the Ark. I never said I wasn't in the midst of learning, though.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

NIV For Me

A pretty cosmetic update this time, but I've decided to read the New International Version from now on, which the astute will surely notice when I quote scripture in future posts. I found myself having to cross-reference a lot of things with, and it occurred to me that I might have been focusing more on the language than the message at times (King James Version). So yeah, I've been sloppy with updates the last few days, which is not to say that I've been less aggressive in my campaign to serve God.

What the hey, let's mention a few other nuggets from my life:

1. On Saturday I attended a membership class at the Yarmouth Wesleyan. Having considered the important points outlined in the class, I've decided to make it formal and join the flock. In accordance with their principles, this will require me to forsake my weekly lotto ticket, as no member is permitted to indulge in any form of gambling. If you need further evidence or testimony of the changes God has worked for me, I'm not the least bit bothered by this change. It's actually a relief, to be completely divulgent. See, I'd long held to the law of probability that states, quite truly, that my numbers would eventually pop up if I were to play them forever. Of course, it's entirely random, but I thought that if those numbers should converge sooner than later, I'd have my novels funded and wouldn't need to submit to a publishing company that doesn't share my vision for the books. For the record, I'm not writing for Christians, but am instead using Biblical resonance for the sake of spicing up what I hope will be an entertainment tale with spiritual and political undertones. As Matt said the other day, if God has truly put this story into me so that I might write it, circumstance will see that my words hit a print press. I trust in that. I just do.

2. Because I spend waaayy too much time alone, I've decided to get more involved at the church. I've tentatively made arrangements to accompany one of the pastors during house visits next week, and I will be more than eager to share any part of my story that might help anyone find the LORD. Beyond that, I'm unsure to what capacity I can lend further assistance, but I am so compelled to do God's work that it was simply time to take the initial steps. Answers are coming; I'm sure of it.

I guess that's all I'll mention for now. Other surprises forthcoming.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Virtues Part 1: Forgiveness

While I certainly intend to continue my dissection of sin, its subtleties, and how I've come to identify it, God has instructed me to not gloss over some of the optimistic messages in the Holy Bible. Too often, we focus on the negative. There's no mincing words about that. If you are a true believer who walks with Jesus Christ, then you understand that He is there for all events in your life; He relishes in sharing your joy as much as He bleeds His heart to erase your pain. With that in mind, and before I delve too deeply into the book of Exodus, I want to bring our attention to Joseph, son of Jacob.

Quite simply, Joseph gets a raw deal from his brothers. I will make a very concerted effort to focus on Joseph's forgiveness instead of his brothers' jealousy, but you'll soon understand, if you don't already, just how pivotal sin is to this story. In fact, as I've said before, evil always claims the right of first offence. God, though He knows which of us will sin and when, does not administer unwarranted punishment, i.e. we are permitted to choose unwisely out of respect for the freedom we are given. In terms of Joseph's brothers, they are envious of the fact that Joseph is the chosen one among his generation*, that they will ultimately be called to serve him as a means of pleasing God**, and that they seem to feel that only God Himself has the right to direct their services.

* Genesis 37: 3-4 "Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age: and he made him a coat of many colours. And when his brethren saw that their father loved him more than all his brethren, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably unto him."

** Genesis 37: 5-7, 11 "And Joseph dreamed a dream, and he told it his brethren: and they hated him yet the more. And he said unto them, Hear, I pray you, this dream which I have dreamed: For, behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and lo, my sheaf arose, and also stood upright; and behold, your sheaves stood round about, and made obeisance to me ... And his brethen envied him; but his father observed the saying."

Now, we all have our own crosses to bear. I think I should note a stark difference between the times described in Genesis and our times. As Christians, we often say that we should allow God to fight our battles and hand over anything that troubles us. But because Christ had not yet walked the earth and hadn't yet paid for the sinful debts of these people, they had even less of a leg to stand on than we do. It's not something that will really detour my train of thought here, but I just want to emphasize an important point that should give us hope. I don't know the intimate circumstances of how God ultimately dealt with the souls of Joseph's brothers, but I know that Christ is an unbreakable olive branch for those of us willing to accept it. Now then, onto what Joseph's brothers did with their jealousy: they indulged it.

Genesis 37: 12-14 "And his brethren went to feed their father's flock in Shechem. And Israel said unto Joseph, Do not thy brethren feed the flock in Shechem? come, and I will send thee unto them. And [Joseph] said to [Jacob], Here am I. And [Jacob] said to him, Go, I pray thee, see whether it be well with thy brethren, and well with the flocks; and bring me word again."

At this point, Jacob is a well-established man of God. I don't want to get too far off into tangent to describe his exploits, but they are well documented in previous chapters. As such, it's very intriguing that Jacob is the one who ultimately leads his chosen son to strife.

For me in particular, this is a very poignant issue. It's been shockingly easy for me to align my situation with God's will, but I find myself plagued with my insecurities when God asks me to do things for other people, to varying degrees and based on the circumstances. I just feel in general that this part of my life is in such a state of rebuilding that I wouldn't want to share that burden and that need for healing with others. It's something I'm working on, but I've come to feel intense moments of guilt when I see, in hindsight, that I might have been someone's shield if I trusted God's faith in me as much as I trust my faith in Him. Now then, back to Joseph:

Genesis 37: 18-21, 26-28 "And when [his brethren] saw him afar off, even before he came near unto them, they conspired against him to slay him. And they said one to another, Behold, this dreamer cometh. Come now therefore, and let us slay him ... And Reuben heard it, and he delivered [Joseph] out of their hands; and said, Let us not kill him ... And Judah said unto his brethren, what profit is it if we slay our brother, and conceal his blood? Come, and let us sell him to the Ishmeelites, and let not our hand be upon him; for he is our brother and our flesh. And his brethren were content. Then there passed by Ishmeelites merchantmen; and they ... sold Joseph to the Ishmeelites for twenty pieces of silver: and [the Ishmeelites] brought Joseph into Egypt."

There are some conflicting things about the above passages. Judah, for instance, displays a fear of God in that he doesn't want to spill Joseph's blood. Conversely, he is willing to sell his brother for profit, as if God could possibly endorse that action. It is very easy to think we are doing God's will when we are doing some of it, but the fact remains that to be a true follower of Christ is to serve Him eternally, not to choose which services to pay.

Skipping ahead, a lot happens in Egypt. Joseph is sold into slavery, framed, and imprisoned. He will later find grace in the eyes of the Pharaoh by successfully interpreting the fate of two of his servants. Joseph will reach tremendous acclaim by interpreting two of the Pharaoh's dreams, predicting seven years of abundant harvests, which are to be followed by seven years of famine. Satisfied with Joseph's interpretation, Pharaoh grants Joseph a seat of nobility and control over the country's supplies, which Joseph accepts quite earnestly. Joseph preserves and stockpiles extraneous food so that the country might survive the famine. As it will come to pass, his brothers eventually approach him to buy some of this food. The details are very intricately described in the scripture, and it's not that I don't think them important, but I would like to keep focus and fast forward to the point where Joseph reveals himself to his brothers, during a second expedition they will take to Egypt to purchase food for the land of Canaan.

Genesis 45: 4-8 "And Joseph said unto his brethren, Come near to me, I pray you. And they came near. And he said, I am Joseph your brother, whom ye sold into Egypt. Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither: for God did send me before you to preserve life. For these two years hath the famine been in the land: and yet there are five years, in the which there shall neither be earing nor harvest. And God sent me before you to preserve you a posterity in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So now it was not you that sent me hither, but God: and he hath made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt."

Phew! How much happens here, in light of Joseph's forgiveness? Much, I'm afraid, and I will do my utmost to describe it. First, let me try to break down everything that happens when one party forgives another, as evidenced above:

1) The forgiver relinquishes his anger.
2) The offender is relieved of guilt, provided a willingness to self-forgive is present.
3) Amends are made between both parties.
4) All those involved are healed in the eyes of God, as clinging to anger or guilt can only drive a wedge between God and oneself. This is not meant to be a loophole for sidestepping repentance, but it is certainly part of the restoration process.
Secret answer 5) In this case, I wouldn't say that Jacob's hands were free of responsibility, as he identified the potential for all that happened between his sons. However, as Joseph so carefully illustrates, even Jacob's role in this can be traced back to God.

I genuinely believe that, while it is never a good thing to stray from God's path, the return trip is inherently possessed of valuable lessons. What is truly damning is not learning from them. In case any of us have forgotten, let us remember that God is so loving that there is nothing we could do that would prevent Him from accepting us, provided we should return to His grace and obey Him faithfully before death claims us. That, as Pastor Jim so brilliantly explained this morning, is one promise you can take to the bank. Not to mention the only one you need. However, those of us who can't seem to forgive ourselves for things we've repented are in for a very rough go of it. Trust me, I can sympathize.

May God bless you all.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Big Whoppin' Disclaimer

In re-reading some of these posts, I sometimes find some don'ts that should read as dos, and so on. Let's always assume in favour of God, because those typos can definitely change the implications of a sentence's message. Just fixed a couple over the last few minutes, mostly because I need a break from my day job work, but I'm glad they've been fixed for the sake of anyone who might read these posts in the future.

The funny thing about this blog is the trance I slip into when I write for it. The same applies for any worship things I write. Sometimes I need to force myself to sit in front of the computer, but after a few lines I just go to sleep until the whole thing's onscreen. Problem is, my fingers seem prone to Freudian slips. I guess I'm just scared to forget something I mean to say and write extra fast for the sake of logging it all. Ah well, I think my intent is clear for the most part.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Sin, Temptation, and Strength Through Repentance

Although I forget the exact timelime, I think it's fair to say that for approximately one month I've made a concerted effort to serve God and live in His favour. In that time, I've eliminated many vices from my life, have avoided many bad influences that might stifle my progress, and I've also made a few constructive steps toward healthy living and thinking. For me, the easier parts have been in the things I chose to give up. In contrast, I've perceived a few endeavours God wanted me to do, i.e. introduce into the scheme of my life, that have been much more difficult to follow through with. It's much harder to take a leap toward unknown good than to abandon something concretely bad. At least that's been the case for me.

As I was waking up this morning, I reflected on the past month. I thought about changes, freedoms, and complications I've experienced, and I also found myself remembering a few passages from Genesis that crept under my radar the first time I read them. I have asserted, and still believe, that sin is not just an evil, but it's a necessary one. Imagine, if you can bear with the simplicity and light sarcasm of the analogy, if life were a multiple choice test that read something like this:

Question 1: In order to achieve salvation, you must believe in and follow:
a) God and Jesus Christ
b) Jesus Christ and God
c) all of the above

Not much room in there for free will, is there?

No, we all have the option of choosing alternate, unfulfilling routes in life, and that they exist is the only scenario that allows for faith to be truly tested. One misconception I certainly had before speaking confidentially with many Christian role models is that the more you do for God, the easier it gets. I know a few pastors who have felt intense stress through their works, and this in spite of the fact that, even when they realize it or not, even when the job is thankless, most of them have done a tremendous amount of good in this world. Their effectiveness, just as it is with all Christians, hinges entirely on genuine faith in Jesus Christ and an honest approach thereof. Honesty is always a measure of authenticity.

On the subject of honesty, I want to reiterate that I have no idea about how true or incorrect any of my posts are, but I do make a very deliberate effort to keep open-minded when interpreting the gospel and making decisions in life. I sometimes struggle to hear God's voice, because there are conflicting ones, though subtle, that want me to stray, as I'm sure we've all experienced. When I read the Old Testament, His instructions seem so clear, so black and white, as if only those who deliberately scorn God could falter. Truly, if an angel showed up at my door and performed a miracle in front of me, I would be remiss to send him on his way until I'd performed all he asked. Not because I'm fickle and would respond to magic, but it's just such a declaration of God's love that He makes His guidance so impossible to distort with some of His servants. And, even though His instructions can seem absolutely absurd to those who receive them, even if it seems like God is willing us to sin or to do something we don't feel we have the strength to do, it's important to remember that, if we follow His path, we are not the source of our strength anyway:

Genesis 22: 1-2 "And it came to pass ... that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am. And [God] said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of."

Now, before we continue, a quick summary of important things we know by this point: 1) God has made an everlasting covenant with Abraham that promises a multitude of kingdoms in his seed; 2) Isaac, who is to be burned in offering, is the first of that lineage; 3) it is an established law that for Abraham to kill his son, who has not sinned in accordance with that punishment, would be sinful on Abraham's part.

Genesis 22: 3-12 "And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and clave the wood for the burnt offering, and rose up, and went unto the place of which God had told him. Then on the third day Abraham lift up his eyes, and saw the place afar off. And Abraham said unto his young men, Abide you here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you. And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering, and laid it upon Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife; and they went both of them together. And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here I am, my son. And he said, Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering? And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together. And they came to the place which God had told him of; and Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood. And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son. And the angel of the LORD called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here I am. And [the angel] said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou has not withheld thy son, thine only son from me."

The first time I read the above passages, I merely accepted them. It's kind of surreal for me, as I used to be tremendously judgmental toward scripture. My approach used to be spiteful; I was looking for something that could prove God's imperfection and/or the inauthenticity of the Word, which would have been conducive to my former (and false) independence from being accountable to Him. I was trying to live one life for me and balance it with a lackadaisical belief in the essence of God and an afterlife. And, as for Abraham, how easy would it be for him to reject this command, in spite of its clarity and his familiarity with God's voice, and especially given the oxymoronic nature of the request itself? Whether he envisioned it or not, Abraham declared that God would provide a lamb, and it turns out He would. But how easy would it have been to doubt in that?

This is what I mean about how the stronger we get spiritually, the stronger we must be to maintain a relationship with God. For me, giving up bad habits proved strangely easy, but as for venturing into new grounds outside my comfort zone, suddenly I felt the sting of fear and doubt, and I am working on those in my own terms. But if someone like Abraham, who had previously demonstrated so many acts of fear, can reform himself so much as to raise a hand against his son, I see a lot of promise in that. Of course, God intervened, as I trust He would should I ever be tested this strongly and adversely, but I really have no words to describe how impressive this seems to me, even though my old self would deem it utterly deceitful. And, as I lay in bed this morning, reflecting on things I've done this past month, and reflecting on these verses, here's what I concluded for myself: this form of temptation doesn't exist to distort God's image but to strengthen humanity.

Think about that for a second. God is omnipotent. That is, God is aware of everything that was and would be. God knew, beyond all doubt, that Abraham would submit to this request. So why would He ask him to jeopardize his son's life, the son whose lineage would descend all the way to Christ? Because faith and submission transcend ALL acts of good and evil. My mind is so inclined to judge the nature of what God wants that sometimes I forget it's Him doing the asking. If I live long enough, the chances only increase that God will request something of me that might create a mess, that might place me into a very uncomfortable situation. Not that I would try to wash my hands of any inherent responsibility, but I MUST trust God to clean it up for me. What if, in serving Him, I am to abandon friendships or securities? If so, it's crucial (and always will be) to remember that the same faith and the same God that asks us to do things on His behalf is the same faith and the same God that will carry us through these trials. That gets harder every day for me, but, without exception, when I follow through, so does He.

Believe me, I can study and try to rationalize and empathize with the situations of others, but it doesn't help me as much as I once thought. I'm still not as strong as Abraham demonstrates. I'm still the the version of Abraham that would want Sarah to identify herself as my sister. I'm still the James who will come across passages in other chapters and books and wonder at the logic, as if logic were a form of gospel. But, upon reflection, I have learned that in falling from God's grace means having nothing to cling to, that when God eventually embraces me again He holds onto me much tighter than before. I am always bestowed with a stronger faith in the good for having experienced new levels of pain, because the disparity between pain and joy has gotten so much wider.

I used to sin so casually and never repent any of it, and now I feel so lost and desolate and empty when God makes it clear that I've disappointed Him. It would almost be enough for me to regress into my old ways of being, but for the fact that every moment I spend on God's path illuminates and fulfills my life. If it were impossible not to achieve salvation, I would think Heaven no better than this planet, because life on earth, for those who have it, is a given. And, as I find myself tempted in newer, subtler ways, as I find my insecurities so turned against me because of my efforts to live well, I am learning just how damned this place truly is. All the pain we experience comes from earth, not from God's promises. No matter what sacrifices I have to make, and no matter how many attempts and struggles I have to go through, I will profess here again, in front of any eyes and minds that might ever read this, that I am utterly committed to living with God in Heaven, even though I will never be deserving of it. By no means am I strong enough, but I don't have to be. As I'm slowly starting to understand, it's not even possible to live perfectly. It's important to not only let God fight our battles, but to let Him choose which ones we should fight. My attempts to be perfect for Him, when they come from my own desires, are certain to fail.

This is why sin is necessary, and this is one thing that Satan will never understand about his agenda: when he fails to destroy us, God reaps in it. Conversely, when God tempts us, we must submit to the challenge. Can't say I always know the difference, but at least I have the greatest Ally in existence to help me through it all.

As for Abraham, I can only imagine the relief he felt when the angel stilled his hand. You might have noticed that even he struggled a bit with this. He and his men camped for three days before Abraham finally lifted his eyes to see the designated place, and I can't help but wonder if he was waiting for God to send further or different instructions, as I sometimes do when I can't wrap my head around something. It's the same stalling strategy I've used when I did understand and lacked the courage to follow through. Not only did Abraham stall, but he had to look upon Isaac for those same three days, suffering silently, knowing that Isaac might not live to succeed him. How hard would it be for any parent to lie to their child, saying that God would provide an offering but knowing that it was their very offspring that would be sacrificed? (In this sense, we must praise God's sacrifice, as He'd known for eternity what Christ would have to endure on our behalf.)

I guess the moral is to always be honest in the way we listen to God and conduct ourselves in life. Sadly, many of us, including me, try to convince ourselves that easier choices can yield happiness. If I had any such examples, I'd have included them herein. Trust me.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Cardinal Sin Part 1: Vanity

In almost every list Pride is considered the original and most serious of the seven deadly sins, and indeed the ultimate source from which the others arise. It is identified as a desire to be more important or attractive than others, failing to give compliments to others though they may be deserving of them, and excessive love of self (especially holding self out of proper position toward God). Dante's definition was "love of self perverted to hatred and contempt for one's neighbor." In Jacob Bidermann's medieval miracle play, Cenodoxus, Pride is the deadliest of all the sins and leads directly to the damnation of the famed Doctor of Paris, Cenodoxus. In perhaps the most famous example, the story of Lucifer, Pride was what caused his Fall from Heaven, and his resultant transformation into Satan. Vanity and Narcissism are prime examples of this Sin. In the Divine Comedy, the penitent were forced to walk with stone slabs bearing down on their backs in order to induce feelings of humility.

I'm actually quite impressed that vanity is here regarded as the most dangerous sin, not just because I agree with it, but because of some of the subtleties I've observed about it. Let's get one thing out of the way: all sins are empty. Heck, two things: all pleasure derived from sin is also empty.

As people, we have egos. People with egos are subject to egos and the subsequent inclination to indulge them. The problem with vanity is not so much in the appreciation of cosmetic beauty or narcissism--although those are indeed quite damning--but in the way it seeps into every facet of every sin in the world. Consider this phrase: to do something in vain. What does that mean for you? To me, it involves performing an act that has no purpose. It's based on hollow pursuits that bring immediate and ephemeral gratification, things that give a false sense of pleasure but never enrich one's life. You can see how all other sins could be interpreted that way:

Lust: indulging chemical desires
Gluttony: eating for the sake of taste or distraction, instead of hunger
Greed: the pursuit of more money than one inherently needs
Sloth: a false sense of repose (as it doesn't count when one is genuinely tired)
Wrath: the manifestation of anger instead of healing
Envy: the pursuit of gifts that aren't given by God

Vanity is a very strange bugger, because it doesn't always serve to elevate oneself as much as distract from more urgent motivations. Whenever we deviate from God's will, we try to serve our weaknesses instead of our purposes, and that, according to my interpretation, is a deliberate act of vanity. In fact, it might even be alleged that vanity is what prevents a lot of people from finding God in the first place; where God's guidance yields permanent, undying gifts, vanity only serves the moment that commits it. Vanity is also the progenitor of guilt and repentance for those who acknowledge them, but, sadly, many choose to fill those voids with further acts of vanity, and that is one dangerous cycle in which to find oneself.

Fear vs. Faith

Over the past month, I've come to learn that sin is not the only thing that can drive a wedge between God and me. I just wikied a summary of the cardinal sins, and I find it absolutely fails to describe some of the subtleties I've observed (and committed) over the years, so my next post will be the first in a non-consecutive series about my thoughts on this issue. First, I'd like to address one of the sins that didn't make the list, and I consider it a sin because it really encapsulates the extreme opposite of faith in God: fear.

It's interesting to me that I once held to the twisted belief that God was merciless in the Old Testament, especially with regards to the death penalty. I understand the logic in wanting to keep gratuitous sin away from impressionable people, especially where people seem to glean pleasure in many forms of sin. What I've come to realize, however, is that it's very easy to examine this issue as a sweeping theory, but much more difficult to point a finger at God when there's a face attached to it. From what I've read over the past few weeks, the easiest way to build a case against God's mercy would be to cite the instances of Babel, Sodom, and Gomorrah. Basic human empathy would, I hope, suggest that laying waste to entire cities would be indicative of wrath, not justice. As I'm gradually learning (and accepting, to my surprise), we are not meant to know everything. In all the abovementioned, we are never properly told what the inhabitants of these places have committed and to what degree, but it's interesting to note that God seemingly saves the ones who are deserving, specifically Lot and his family. Having learned what I know, I must give God the benefit of the doubt and assume that He would have kept his promise to Abraham by not destroying the city at all if there were ample people worth saving, and, since He did save the few that were worthy of His mercy, I also have to assume that had any more been present, they too would have been led outside the walls.

So how does fear factor into this, and precisely what is it? As for Lot, who identified the angels God sent to rescue him and his immediate family, he wanted to back out at the last minute. He had doubts about the legitimacy of the prophecy that clearly predicted the destruction of these hubs:

Genesis 19: 14-6 "And Lot went out, and spake unto his sons in law, which married his daughters, and said, Up, get ye out of this place; for the LORD will destroy this city. But he seemed as one that mocked unto his sons in law. And when the morning arose, then the angels hastened Lot, saying, Arise, take thy wife, and thy two daughters, which are here; lest thou be consumed in the iniquity of the city. And while he lingered, the men laid hold upon his hand, and upon the hand of his wife, and upon the hand of his two daughters; the LORD being merciful unto him: and they brought him forth, and set him without the city."

These men that led him out were not just ordinary men; they were judges sent by God to canvass the city. The night before, as described in the scripture, two of them appeared at Lot's dwelling to warn him, as they saw in him the presence of the Lord. A little later, the third one showed up, followed by men of the city, who were intent on beating the angels and anyone who aided them. Now, not only do I not want to doubt Lot's faith in God, but I would think it only reinforced after seeing the judges cast a blindness upon the aggressors so they couldn't even follow through with their sinister desires. In spite of this, and the many miracles to which Lot had been privvy, he feared the implications of uprooting his family. He also retreated into himself when faced with his sons in law, as they thought him quite foolish for even suggesting it.

Again, what is fear? For an instinct that seems to walk hand-in-hand with doubt, it makes little sense given the above circumstances. The same could be said of those who doubted Christ, and, if you consider some of the miracles Christ performed, it's pretty ludicrous to assume He was anyone but the Son of God. Jeff McDowell makes a very explicit point in noting that, while many false prophets have stumbled from the woodwork over the course of history, Christ is not only one of few (if not the only one) who calls Himself God's only Son, but He actually demonstrates it with acts and miracles that couldn't be attributed to anything less. As I keep reading, God is very liberal with demonstrations of His own power and love throughout the Old Testament. So, why is it, then, that after witnessing such impossibilities, anyone could be inclined to doubt? The only answer I can come up with is based on my own situation. It has everything to do with focus.

See, if I'm to follow Christ, and I truly mean to do so, there are times when He will grant me blessings and times when He will ask me to perform things on His behalf. Some are easier than others, and I've yet to come across an example where I disobeyed and suffered for it. In fact, I recently noticed some ethical conflicts at work, which, although they weren't on my shoulders, didn't change the fact that I was contributing to an enterprise that wasn't always conducting itself in honourable terms. Against my own will, I made it clear that I could no longer continue as things were, and, beyond that, even went as far as to insist that these situations be rectified in order for me to hand over some work I was sitting on. None of this was my doing, not because I disagree with God's assessment of the situation, but I've become far too dependant on having a paycheque, not to mention a reference for the future. Earlier today, I found out that balance is on the fast track to being restored. The funny thing is, aside from the initial approach I took, I barely had to do anything. As my mentor would say, I took a leap and a net appeared to catch me.

But then, there are other challenges where I have let fear consume me, and, as I've come to realize, it had nothing to do with the situation. I was never in any danger, and I didn't stand to actually lose anything. What I did, instead, was focus on my own weaknesses as a person instead of the endless strength and support I have from God. What I was doing was trying to intellectualize things that were not for me to consider, and that is very, very dangerous. I even had a moment where I asked God to delegate certain obligations to those of stronger faith, stronger will, it didn't matter. All I knew was that I alone could not possibly accomplish some of the things being asked of me, because I'm just that vulnerable right now. It was as if God had given me a shield to use in the proverbial battle that is life, and instead of using it to guard against evil, I was trying to guard against the will I handed over to God. I wanted it back, because I was focussed on internal struggles, which, as we all know, should have been handed over to God in the first place. But it's hard to let go of these things, and I tried to go it alone, and it failed. Quite poetically, actually. If nothing else, there should be great comfort in knowing that God always comes back.

Even some of God's most loved children have done exactly as I did. Abraham, when entering a new kingdom, instructed his wife Sarah to say she was his sister, so the men of these countries wouldn't kill him to claim her. Isaac did the same. Just tonight, I read about Jacob's conflict with his brother Esau, his attempts to spoonfeed gifts to him to defuse his anger. None of these could be construed as acts of faith, and none of them are worthy of praise. But the funny thing about it all: these men, just as the Bible says, did spread their seeds across the globe. God doesn't expect me to be perfect; He expects me to be honest. We all have insecurities that will be used against us, but, as I can truly attest, there's a light at the end of it all.

Fear has nothing to do with what's asked of us. It also has nothing to do with any comparison we could draw between our inherent abilities and the situations in which we find ourselves. Fear is entirely introspective; it's the way we try to grab the sword from God's grip and swing it for ourselves. If I've learned nothing else over my 27 years, it's that, even when I do land a blow, it's only coincidental. God, on the other hand, is incapable of missing.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Why Run From Yourself When You Could Walk Instead?

Just saying.

(As if you weren't getting frustrated with the long posts. ;))

Thoughts on Creation

For those of you who don't know me very intimately, I studied many scientific disciplines in high school, including physics, biology, and chemistry. I also took calculus, which was no picnic but a fantastic challenge for the ole grey matter. I took these classes on the recommendation of teachers and peers who all suggested it would leave as many doors open as possible for my higher learning pursuits, and I suspect that's the case. Of course, once I got to university I decided to study the arts, as I felt more at home in literature and poetry than I did slicing frogs. I guess I've always been something of a silent romantic, having written some 200-300 poems since age 16 or so. With that in mind, you can understand why I felt conflicted about mainstream depictions of Creation and evolution, though I had never perceived any reason for them to refute one another. Unlike most people of my background, I kind of took for granted that A) parts of the Bible were wrong (or misinterpreted), and B) some scientific data were exaggerated (or misinterpreted). Funny that I would eventually conclude that neither assumption was correct, thanks to an honest approach to scripture and reliable scientific sources (i.e. pure science).

When I sat down last month to re-examine the book of Genesis, I noticed some startling things that had completely evaded me a few years back, such as a few ambiguities that never seem to pop up in the heated debates that polarize these subjects. As I studied the passages, I wrote down several thoughts, which now seem infantile in the wake of reading Lee Strobel's books, but I will post them here nonetheless, in case they might function as an introductory approach to a more comprehensive examination of these topics. Certainly, I don't encourage anyone to take my word as evidence of anything I say, but I do feel very comfortable with my own interpretations of time and creation. I will make slight modifications to the draft I circulated among trusted friends, only for the sake of corroborating some of my points that were expressed better by other people. I don't expect I'll write many more dissertations, not because I don't care about helping people understand scripture and/or science, but because God has done a very impressive job in guiding the hands of others, whereas He wants me to focus on my fiction writing, specifically a 5-book outline I've been fleshing out over the past two years.

One more point before the nitty gritty: It was suggested to me on Sunday that the best place to start reading the Bible is the New Testament, and I wouldn't dispute that. (Thanks, Pastor Jim!) As for me, I've been spoonfed portions of the New Testament throughout my life, and I'm quite familiar with the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. You would think that would have been enough to recruit me, but there were so many holes and omissions in the way it was presented to me, as well as personal conflicts that got in the way, that prevented me from taking a proper plunge until recently. Seeing as Genesis had always been a big hurdle for me, I thought it quite appropriate to tackle that first, but for most people I would echo the sentiment that there is more promise and satisfaction in reading about Christ's ministry. (I also love the book of Revelation, for the record, with Acts as a very close second.)

Now then, here she be:


authored by: James Matthew Wood

inspired by: much greater men, as well as God (Listed in this order as I have been more influenced in my thinking by intellectual argument than prayer and scriptural study, so far.)


First and foremost, this is a work in progress. That may never change, and that's okay.

Throughout this dissertation, I will base certain arguments on principles I've studied over the past 27 years, which I believe coincide with the Christian doctrine. I don't wish to be credited with these ideas, but I will refer to them, sometimes without proper citations, in an allegorical manner and for the sake of explaining my logic. I wish to state that I have made past attempts to study the book of Genesis, but I realize in hindsight that my approach was dishonest, and I certainly did not notice any of the similarities between science and intelligent design as were revealed to me this week. It is very encouraging to me that I have discovered these new similarities, and I will explain why in due time.

For those who doubt my intentions, I want to make it clear that I felt the presence of the Holy Spirit during these studies, and I suspect it is for one (or two) of two possible reasons: 1) I've taken a vested interest in the gospel, and I understand that it cannot be mentally absorbed alone or in one sitting, but I am making an effort, which I believe God appreciates; 2) perhaps I have stumbled onto things that are indeed true, but that is not something I'm ready to conclude yet. I trust that God is pleased, not with my limitations but with my renewed dedication to understand Him as best I can, and, to that end, I invite any degree of criticism from any well-intended source that might enlighten or clarify (or invite clarification on) any points I present herein.

Please understand that I will reduce certain concepts to simpler terms so they might be easier to grasp, as I firmly believe that the gospel is far more substantial than my ability to analyze it. It is for that reason that I would encourage those who disagree to first consider the congruity of the comparison, but only after having read the entire piece.

Please note also that I will not address all verses, as many of them, in spite of their perceivable relevance, don't conflict with Creationism vs Evolution, but moreso with the mere existence of God, insomuch as believers and non-believers are defined by an acceptance or dismissal of these verses, e.g. In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. The reason this line is not relevant (to this debate) is because mainstream argument focuses on the age and nature of our planet, of its species, and of humanity's origin. Neither side debates whether these things came into existence, but they do debate how, i.e. both sides acknowledge that the universe exists, that the Earth is formed from a shapeless cosmic soup of some kind, and so on. One cannot argue in favour of Creationism or approach it with an open mind if one does not believe in God, which suggests to me that, in so doing, one limits his or her ability to properly analyze the evidence. Conversely, because most Christians purport that God cannot co-exist with evolution, they are incapable of seeing evolution as the manifestation of God's influence, which is a matter of semantics and not grand truth, and it's equally inhibiting to an honest examination of the data.

Both arguments, as accepted by their respective peers, impose human-based restrictions on the other side: Creationists seem reluctant to accept that God's hand could be responsible for the observations we lump together as science, just as scientists seem to maintain that, in spite of the remarkable similarities between the gospel and nature, these similarities couldn't possibly be produced of God's influence. If one approaches this subject matter with the preconception that they cannot be one and the same, then one closes one's mind to that potential result, thus tainting the investigative process. (In that sense, I have far more respect for someone who reaches an incorrect conclusion honestly than someone who reaches the right conclusion dishonestly.)

My approach will hold each side of the debate side by each and will consider all similarities and dissimilarities equally; that is, I will merely compare the gospel with observable science. You will note that certain ambiguities exist in science that may never be explained, and, as Lee Strobel's interview subjects all conclude through their own disciplines, there is amply data that support the correlation between both bodies of work and why it is very rational to accept the ambiguities as supportive evidence, not mere conjecture. One of the most compelling aspects about the gospel is in the fact that it was written in a language that would appeal to every era of human civilization and makes claims that would be impossible to prove until several thousand years later when technology would allow us to examine these claims more scientifically. This is something I would not remove from consideration, as it adds weight to the prophets who so deliberately committed their divine visions to parchment for us.

The following link might be used to elaborate on the closed-mindedness of mainstream debate:

Here we see Hovind make the following statements:

"The Bible says that in six days the LORD made Heaven and earth and all in them that is."

  • CORRECT! And irrefutable, I might add: this statement is clearly contained in the gospel.

"[The Earth] was created in six literal 24-hour days."

  • INCORRECT! The Bible does not impose a time restriction upon the length of a day but defines a day as the time it takes for an observable recurrence, i.e. morning to morning, night to night, etc.

"Based on [the above] premise, we can make a few predictions, which is what science is supposed to do. Scientific theories are supposed to allow you to make predictions."

  • INCORRECT! Science is entirely observable. It's true that scientists often present theories, but these theories are only accepted once they have been repeatedly observed. A scientific experiment is dismissed as soon as it yield as little as one different result from the same scenario. As such, any theory that is accepted without proper observation and testing, whether it be in favour of Creationism OR Evolution, is inherently unscientific (or as yet unproven). Because Hovind's understanding of science is subjective, the arguments he presents as scientific, which cannot be repeatedly observed, are conjecture, as are the many unprovable theories presented by many scientists. Hovind goes on to confuse this point by reverting between the two, as many of his points are indeed observable while some are not.

"1. I predict that the universe will show evidence of order and intelligent design."

"2. I predict that there will be thousands of symbiotic relationships in nature."

  • CORRECT! It would be easy for evolutionists to dwell on the fact that Hovind uses pure science to illustrate his point, but it seems fruitless to me to fixate on the points that both sides accept. For the sake of objectivity, I must acknowledge the difference between evidence and proof. Evidence is suggestive, proof is final. Perhaps I am biased in this regard, but I do believe that the symbiotic relationships mentioned above are indeed evidence of intelligent design. There are many scientists who would agree, in spite of the devastating implications it means for the evolutionary process. This is one of the many ambiguities that refutes the premise of evolution: Evolution allegedly takes place over the course of millions of years, but most, if not all of the creatures we know to exist seem to spring from nothing. In spite of the dramatic and compelling evidence that intelligent design exists, accepted science suggests, quite vainly, that future evidence will surface. My opinion on this matter is shared by Strobel and his subjects, which is that most people do not want to be accountable to a will beyond their own, and that's why they refuse to credit God with His own works.

"3. I predict that there will be limits to the variations life forms are able to produce."

  • INCORRECT! I don't personally disagree with Hovind on this, but there is a very valid reason why he cannot substantiate this claim. Although we are able to intellectually observe the world, we are incapable of predicting the future. Hovind asserts that dogs are incapable of producing cats, thus aligning his argument with that of science. It's only in skewing this scientific observation in a holier-than-thou manner that he is able to reinforce his point, but this is not a constructive or honest approach to the debate. What he fails to realize is that Evolution, according to Darwin, its founder, is not based on a creature's ability to produce a new or different one, but in its ability to adapt to its environment through long periods of survival. I personally see no conflict between the gospel and observable science, as no respectable scientist would suggest that dogs could produce cats--unless, of course, he could demonstrate it, which no has been able to do yet, and I trust it will never happen. I must here acknowledge that nature is capable of greatly disfiguring God's creatures (such as in the case of many Chernobyl survivors, if you want to call them survivors). This is neither God's work, nor is it evolutionary; it's the result of toxic and mutative defficiencies exerted onto existing creatures. Beyond that, I would also like to stand up on God's behalf and simply state that if He should choose to invent something new or evolve His existing creations, He has no obligation to tell humanity about it. Similarly, if something were to evolve through God's influence, as I believe it would be strictly through Him, it is not our right to reject it, and certainly not based on the fact that it hasn't been observed or hasn't happened yet. Again, any argument that relies on the future caries no weight, regardless of which side of the debate it might benefit. If Hovind's prediction were not presented under the guise of science, it would be possible to accept this as his standalone belief, but he then imposes it upon himself to quote a line of scripture that that tells us, directly and not through interpretation, that God will not create more after the first six days. That would immediately end this dissertation, and I would be willing to pursue new ideas. (An important note about work beyond six days: Christ as good as tells us that He is very alive and still working.)

Having said all this, I aim to prove that the differences between Creationism and Evolution (or Darwinism) are akin to the following two statements:

Creationism: The cat is on the table.
Evolution: The table is beneath the cat.

Before I analyze the first few chapters of Genesis, line-by-line, I want to first touch on the nature of God, as God's nature is paramount to the gifts He bestows us with. According to my understanding, the greatest two physical (i.e. observable) gifts we all receive are this world and our bodies (salvation notwithstanding). There's a forward in my copy of The Holy Bible (King James Version) that briefly alludes to the fact that we can learn about God, the path He chooses for us, and the nature of His character through His Word:

"The Bible tells us about God, shows us God's mighty acts in the lives of his people, and describes how people responded to God. From the Bible we learn what God is like and what he expects from us."

The Bible and the Holy Spirit are what guide and enable us to grow as Christians. It is not sufficient to merely believe in Christ, but we must also follow and obey Him to truly save our immortal souls. Where I once felt the need to intellectually dignify this pursuit, I have since discovered that I can both approach the gospel intellectually AND enjoy the sheer happiness and freedom of serving Christ, as I find no rational conflict between the two.

Finally, I don't believe the book of Genesis is generally relevant to our daily lives, but it is certainly, according to my perception, one of the most hotly debated and easily subverted books, as it requires a literal acceptance that often contradicts the accepted scientific interpretation. Satan doesn't need to shatter the entire book to instil doubt into our hearts; instead, he merely needs to render it seemingly imperfect, which can be accomplished if we doubt as little as one syllable of the Word. Genesis is easy prey in that regard, and that's why, although we don't necessarily demonstrate its lessons as we journey through life, it's less relatable than some of God's more visible (to us) miracles, such as the book of Acts.


There are two contexts of nature:

1) the essence of something;
2) the physical world we inhabit (i.e. the wilderness).

I have said that it's important for Scripture and science to converge, not because earthly properties are more important than spiritual properties, nor should anything in the physical realm be held above the influence of the Holy Spirit, but because everything in nature (prior to Satan's influence) is a reflection of God as a Creator.

It is plausible to assert that a genuinely good and caring God would not create us in a manner that would distort our understanding of our surroundings, nor would He immerse us in surroundings that would deceive us. If God is truly altruistic, He would not create us with eyes that would not see the world for what it is. In other words, if I were to hold up two fingers and ask another person how many are being shown, and both parties are capable of seeing, and both have a concrete understanding of how many fingers constitute the number two, and neither person is schizophrenic or subject to any disease that might distort his or her view of the world, then that person should not see any other number but two. However, if that person--all these ifs cannot be understated--sees any other number, his or her eyes are showing his or her brain an image that is inconsistent with the physical world God created, which would indicate a deceptive flaw in this person's creation, and that flaw would be God's deliberate work. This would suggest that God's nature is not good but deceptive.

Considering the above logic, and, combining it with the premise that God created the Earth as a host for our material bodies, and, that along with our bodies the Earth is perhaps the greatest gift (aside from salvation) that God might give us, it would be indicative of a caring God to create an Earth that would not deceive us. Therefore, as the earth presents us with many repeatedly observable instances that it is indeed older than 6000 years, I am inclined to believe that it is, not because science tells me so but because I genuinely believe God is good.

The passage of time is not one that God describes in hours or minutes or seconds, but He instead describes it in days. I do not believe that, if God exists:

1) God has lied to us through the Scripture; or
2) God has lied to us through His creations.

Now then, let us examine why Creationism and evolution might be the same points with different semantics, granting all benefit of doubt to the scripture but only where ambiguities exist in both the gospel and scientific observation.


Christians contend, in accordance with the Scripture, as they ought to contend things, that Creation takes place over the course of six days. They also contend that any other interpretation is misguided and the work of Satan. These principles cannot be compromised in order to accept the gospel, and that is not something I would challenge.

Although I will attempt to splice science and Scripture to support a hybrid conclusion, I would first acknowledge the following possibility: God is entitled to test our faith with earthly and scriptural inconsistencies, but I don't believe He would, as I've yet to find any other instance where He doesn't guide us accordingly. It is imperative that God teaches humanity about sin, as it's the only way to enable humanity to avoid sin and live a proper life. Furthermore, it is arguably impossible for man to do God's will without His grace and guidance, as we are naturally inclined to sin. Adam and Eve didn't fall from grace because they accepted Satan's false gospel but because they rejected God's pure gospel. We are all able to accomplish the wrong objectives of our individual motivations, i.e. we can happen upon sin independently of Satan's temptations. I believe God realized this and that is one of the many reasons He has been so giving throughout our existence. The joy of Christ's message and sacrifice is that we might achieve salvation through Him, and, had we never been introduced to Christ, there would be little or perhaps no chance for us to join God in Heaven.

That is why, when God created the earth, and prior to Satan's influence on the world, it is unfair for man to impose earthly restrictions on God, the kingdom of Heaven, or how slowly time passes there. According to my understanding of the accepted argument in favour of Creationism, many Christians do just that. For instance, you might have heard the following statement, which I believe but cannot attribute to a proper source: "A thousand years on earth is like a second in Heaven." In other words, if we die and are accepted into God's kingdom, the time and distance spent away from our loved ones (who are eventually accepted into the kingdom) is imperceptible. Because of this disparity, it is entirely possible that, prior to the creation of the Earth, moon, and sun, the days described in the gospel are relative to God and not us. If this were the cause, only human vanity could purport that the first three days are subject to earthly increments of time, as earthly days rely entirely on the existence of the sun and the speed at which our planet rotates.

Genesis 1:2 "And the earth was without form, and void: and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters."

This is a rather bloated passage in terms of substance, especially when you consider the grandeur of some of the objects mentioned therein. An earth without form is not an earth as we know it, and certainly not the way we live and perceive it during our human lives. Instead, it is the sum of all the components God uses when He gives the earth its form in verse 3. Truly, we need the earth, as no Christian life (or life in general) could be lived if we were born into an existence that couldn't sustain us. That is why the Earth must come first, not just because of relative logic, but because God understands that we need it, and, therefore, He creates it for us out of love.

On the subject of water, there are many secular philosophies that regard water as a vehicle of chaos (a malleable soup, if you will), which is how the universe is described here. The universe is created in verse one, and, as neither side of the debate suggests there is no universe, it seems futile to suggest there is no deliberate reason for it to exist. Why would anything exist without an origin? Beyond that, it's easy to focus on the fact that darkness enshrouds everything in the physical realm (especially when you consider how dramatic it would be to witness light cast on something for the very first time EVER), but that really defers attention away from the important point here, which is that the universe exists but has no form.

In science, this same point is phrased differently (think of the cat sentences) and is described as a swirling soup of inert gases and energies and, in layman's terms, a whole mess of stuff. There are two forms of substance: energy and matter. Matter can be broken down into energy, just as energy can react to form physical objects called matter. In my humble opinion, this is air tight parallel between the two camps, as each side is saying the exact same thing with different words. It is not until the universe is given a form that Creationism and evolution seemingly part ways, mostly due (again) to phrasing. For more on this point, let us skip ahead to verse 9.

Genesis 1:9 "And God said, Let the waters [energy and gas] under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so."

There are certain points that are important to consider here, and, as mentioned above, they differ only in phrasing. First, let us address Creation.

Both sides accept that a reaction occurs in the universe, and God phrases it by saying that it was He who compelled the formless universe (waters) to take a deliberate shape. To describe the exact same reaction, scientists coin the term "Big bang" and purport that it's an accident. They assert this by observing, through complex technology, that the universe is still expanding, and this is how they conclude that it must have started at a very finite point. Let us stress here that science is only able to assume that it started that way, by retroactively tracing the expansion back to an origin. What is problematic about this approach is not the way it unfolds, but why it unfolds.

Because science cannot possibly observe the beginning of the universe, science cannot prove there actually was a beginning, in spite of scientists' consensus there was. Hovind, therefore, has every right to contend that scientists are wrong, as they can only make educated guesses as to how the universe took its form, and who are they to defend something they haven't observed and could never experiment with? Beyond that, it makes little sense for Hovind to actually contend the big bang theory, insomuch as its manifestation--if not its origin--supports the first verse of The Bible. Again, it's not a matter of WHAT happened but WHY, and, as science has no possible way of ever explaining it, which I would combine with the staggering similarity it shares with the gospel, I must insist that the universe's history, regardless of how old it is, cannot possibly result from anything but God.

If inert gases were inclined to react in such a way that would produce the universe as we know it, there would likely not have been a time when the universe was in a former state, unless there was a time when the gases didn't exist. That must mean that the following statements are true (and in occurred in the sequence presented):

1) There was a time when the universe didn't exist, else it would have reacted independently of God and taken it's present state;
2) Because there was a time when the universe wasn't in its present state, it must mean that something created it. This something must also be the force that ignited it to take its present form.

Since all of the above is described both by science and The Bible, I maintain that it is absolute truth, and I trust that I've satisfied the reader as to the legitimacy of both points, which do support one another.

Aside: One of the things I struggled with when I was first introduced to the New Testament was the fact that Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John did not all live during the days of Christ. "That should be encouraging," said one of my brothers in Christ, "because they were able to write such similar accounts of acts they didn't all witness." To this I replied: "Is that so hard? If I were to read A Tale of Two Cities, just as they might have read existing scripture, I could then write something eerily similar and make slight changes, then present it as my own insight." It's true that very few copies of the existing books of the Bible were available, as there were no print presses, but it's entirely plausible that three of these four men were simply mimicking the work of their predecessors. [NOTE: I've since read substantial evidence that supports the authenticity of the New Testament as examined through the same tests used to verify all documents of similar antiquity. Beyond that, there is also compelling evidence to suggest these books were all written within a centure of Christ's passing. Please refer to Jeff McDowell's More Than a Carpenter for further study on this subject.]

I have since prayed on this subject and have come to accept all four books as true gospel, but, ironically, I now find myself making the exact same argument my friend once did: scientists are arguing in favour of the gospel, saying precisely what God does, but they are attributing a very concise act to a random, arbitrary influence. The fact that God's Word predates our ability to properly study the universe is evidence to me that science is only supporting a gospel that could not have been confidently presented by anyone lesser than God or his prophets.

There are many who think the physical and spiritual worlds are mutually exclusive, but I contend, for the reasons mentioned above, that the physical realm is the deliberate manifestation of God's hand, i.e. not an accident. But this does little to explain why the earth tells us, through observable and repeatable experiments, why it is much older than we can summate in the later chapters where God defines time as a concrete measure, specifically when He describes the generations that descend from Adam and Eve (Seth, Enos, Cainan, etc.). He is also very detailed in describing the exact dimensions of Noah's ark, which are quite unnecessary for me as a believer. In other words, I consider it superfluous data that we know the size of the ark, but it only adds detail, which is not a bad thing. When held against the six days mentioned in earlier chapters of the same book by the same author (Moses?), it stands to reason that no time is attributed to the length of the day because the length is inconsistent. I see no reason for God to muddle His gospel with an explanation that earlier generations might struggle to accept, and, as an editor, consider this ambiguity as deliberate as the concrete statements presented in the Bible. In other words, sometimes one says a lot by saying nothing at all.

Genesis 1: 3-5 "And 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. And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day."

Genesis 1: 8 "...And the evening and the morning were the second day."

Genesis 1: 13 "...And the evening and the morning were the third day."

I believe that is human nature to assume the situation of others matches our own. I also consider it a very subtle form of vanity, and it expresses itself through heated differences that we sometimes dwell on, be they with regards to important matters like Scripture or trivial issues like whether olives make suitable pizza toppings. As such, Creationists assume, in these passages, that the first three days are identical to ours, which is defined as the time it takes for the earth to rotate once along its axis. As I mentioned above, I do believe that, in Heaven, we experience no separation from our loved ones, and, as such, the time difference between a day in Heaven and a day on earth would be not only staggering but entirely reliant on one's situation as well as one's ability to perceive it.

In these first three days, the sources of light are not the Sun or the Moon, as they cannot possibly influence the days that precede their creation. Since the sun and moon are not created until later (described in verses 16-19), I contend that it's plausible that God instead describes a day from His perspective, as He would have no basis upon which to do otherwise.

Because the sun and moon are not the source of light that is cast upon the universe in verses 3-15, I would contend that God is the source of that light (Christ would eventually describe Himself in terms of light). If Heaven were located at an appropriate distance, and it might be, it is also possible that the light would take a staggering amount of time to reach the Earth, which could account for the following assumptions while allowing them to unanimously support one another:

1. A good and caring God would not create a world that would deceive us by telling us it is much older than it truly is;
2. The first three days cannot be based on earthly time increments (and perhaps the next three, as God never imposes a time on the length of a day but instead the number of days that elapse);
3. It is entirely possible for the world to be billions of years old and not distort the Scripture, if the light God cast upon us originates from a great distance and travels at the same speed we observe today.

When Hovind insists that a day is 24 hours, he is indeed using his eyes and his ability to observe to make this conclusion. This is scientific because we repeatedly observe that the earth takes 24 hours to complete a circadian cycle. Conversely, when Hovind insists that a day for God is 24 hours, he has absolutely no evidence (and certainly no proof) that this is true. That is why I am convinced that Creationism and evolution can co-exist, because it stands to reason that God needn't tell us the length of a day (or six) in Heaven in order to guide our spirits. [My friend Devan has since noted that Christ uses parables to teach his disciples about things they would not understand until later, and that it's possible that God is doing the same through Genesis. Thanks, Dev!]

I am utterly willing to abandon my assertion as soon as someone can present me with a Biblical verse that states God spent 144 hours in creating the universe. Until then, I am going to trust both sources of information, both of which are gifts from God: the gospel and the world, respectively.

I will now discuss the physical properties of evolution, as I consider my argument about the relativity of time as being complete.


Just as science observes repeatable tests that suggest the world is very old, humanity has discovered the fossilized remains of creatures in God's image that predate Biblical generations. I have read differing points on this subject, one that suggests man evolved from these primitive creatures, specifically those that are regarded as apes' ancestors, and another school of thought that suggests apes merely came before man. I am inclined to believe the latter for two reasons:

1) There is supposedly a missing link, which is, in layman's terms, a large gap of time that we have no fossils to account for, as science tries to connect humanity and apes;
2) There is Scriptural evidence that supports the notion that ape-like creatures came before man, and, in this case, it is much less subtle than the time argument, though understandably more difficult to accept.

Genesis 1:26-7 "And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them."

Unfortunately, a literal interpretation of the Scripture can be a handicap, as the use of certain words changes over time. It is possible that a sentence written thousands of years ago would make sense to someone who read it today, but the meaning of certain words might have changed, which can dramatically influence the way we perceive things. In the case of ape before man, I think apes are described as men and women, because, whether we like it or not, they share many of our anatomical features. There is an important difference to note between the above passage and the creation of Adam, which is the fact that God breathes life (a soul) into Adam, whereas here he encourages the men and women to multiply in the same manner as the other creatures. Proper humanity is not subject to this practice until after the fall, and I think it no editorial error or meagre redundancy that God mentions the creation of man more than once, which suggests to me that God made baser creatures first and soon tires of the first, soulless, men-shaped creatures:

Genesis 2:7 "And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul."

This is clearly not the same men and women described in book 1, but the one man and one woman whose lineage we would all descend from, in spite of the eradication of most during the flood. I really don't see what more needs to be argued about this point, mostly because of my editorial inclination to assume every syllable and word in the Bible has its own purpose for being there. There are instances when things are repeated for the sake of clarity, but they are always prefaced with phrasing such as "These are the generations of..." or some such cue. Since the same thing is mentioned twice in consecutive chapters of Genesis, I believe they refer to different things that, while they are very similar in phrasing, are presented as such in very vague terms of the sake of describing a progressive timeline. It makes sense that human fossils are much younger than those of extinct creatures, because I consider the world's creation a very progressive procedure.

Consider this: If God is truly omnipotent, couldn't He just snap His fingers and create everything at once? Remember, God is not merely the strongest being in existence; He is the very extent of strength itself, i.e. limitless in that regard. That He takes more time than seemingly necessary to perform His acts is not something I have any authority to challenge; I merely accept it as being His way of doing things. That is why that, even though we might not be the first creatures He invents, I trust that He had a very deliberate reason for creating the dinosaurs. Without their existence several millions of years ago, they would not have been buried beneath the soil, along with many other surface dwellers, and subsequently converted to crude oil over great periods of time. When you consider the way crude oil, though it is an inefficient source of energy, has advanced our technologies and brought us together as a global community, thus allowing us to spread Christ's gospel, I can find very relative reasons for the deplorable way we thrust toxins into the atmosphere. The breadth and scope of purpose and reason is so far beyond our ability to reason it, that I am very inclined, and comfortable in that inclination, to hold both arguments side by side and accept both faithfully. The only places they seem to differ are in the ambiguities, and that only adds to my confidence.


While I do accept the above arguments for the time being, I will continue to investigate and pray on these matters. Please, if you have anything to add to this debate and my ideas, do not hesitate to send any constructive comments my way.