Easter and God’s Solution

Human beings have a fundamental problem.  It is a problem some acknowledge and some do not.  It is the sinful nature we all have that tends to resist what God wants in our lives.  It is one thing to acknowledge the existence of evil in the world, but another thing altogether to face up to evil in your own heart.  God led the ancient nation of Israel in a covenant governed under the Law of Moses.  There were elaborate procedures for atoning for sin and dealing with what was called “uncleanness.”  Reading about all this in Leviticus you think to yourself, “How did they do all this?”  It would have been a tough thing to live by.  I think the law taught the Israelites about the pervasive nature of sin and how it affects everything we think and do.  There are certain important things in Old Testament times that were teaching about atonement and sacrifice for sin, things that point to what Jesus was to do one day.  One of these important lessons was the story of Abraham being told to sacrifice his only son.  God asked Abraham to do a very tough thing as a test and when it came time to do it, God stopped him and provided a substitute sacrifice.  But it raises the issue of how is the life of a ram equal to the life of a man?  It isn’t equal, but it was a lesson that God would provide a solution for sin.  Another lesson on atonement was an annual practice by the ancient Israelites.  It was part of the special annual sacrifices on the Day of Atonement.  After other steps were taken to deal with the priests own sins, there was a practice of taking two young goats, sacrificing one and setting the other one free far away in the wilderness.  The blood of the sacrificed one was used to ceremonially “cleanse” the altar.  The priest put his hands on the other goat’s head and figuratively placed all the sins of the Israelites on that goat, the one that came to be called the scapegoat, and then that goat was taken far away and set free.  This teaches the lesson of one individual’s sin being treated as transferred to another and of sin being put away.

These both bear similarities to what Jesus did in dying for the sins of the world.  Like Abraham almost had to do, God gave the life of his only Son.  Like the scapegoat, the “spotless” sinless one had our sins laid on him and he was put away as if he was guilty.  Imagine being guilty of a crime in which the penalty is death, but after the judge renders a verdict, the judge gets down off the bench and turns himself in to take the penalty for the accused!  Then the accused is allowed to go free.  We are the accused and Jesus took our penalty.  How can Jesus death be a substitute for the sins of the world?  It is because he is both fully God and fully human.  Because he is a sinless human, he can die for humans, the just for the unjust.  Because he is God, his life is valuable enough to pay the price.  Also because Jesus was given all authority in heaven and Earth by God the Father, he had authority to determine his own death.  In John 10:18 (NIV) Jesus said this about his life and death, “No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”

Jesus’ life and ministry from a worldly natural perspective could appear to be a failure.  Jesus was very popular with the masses and he did great miracles.  The people of Israel wanted to make him King but he never pursued any political power or economic gain.  In the end he was rejected, largely because the Jewish leaders rejected who He was.  He was hated in the end enough that the crowds wanted a murderer set free instead of Jesus!  Pilate, who was no softy, wanted to release Jesus but he gave in to the pressure from the Jews.  Jesus, as the Old Testament said he would do, did not even try to defend himself when he was being tried.  Jesus allowed his ministry and his life to end in being rejected by his people and then being crucified like a criminal.  It appeared to the disciples and perhaps to the Jewish leaders that the whole thing would have been over after Jesus died.  The Jewish leaders had seen other controversial leaders come and go and be forgotten.  They may have thought Jesus would have just been another forgotten movement.

But death could not hold Jesus.  The solution was for Jesus to go through the suffering first to make atonement, then much later in history He will return to reign as King of the world.  Jesus did not give in to Satan’s temptations in life and Satan did not prevent Jesus from his mission.  Even though the disciples had trouble understanding and believing what Jesus told them about his death and resurrection.  Even though there was a traitor among Jesus twelve disciples, and even though Peter denied that he knew Jesus.  None of these things stopped God’s plan.  Jesus’ death also did not stop God’s plan, but became a key part of it.  When Jesus was on the cross people mocked him because it looked like a defeat.  But what was physically like a defeat was spiritually a victory.  God’s solution to man’s problem is not intuitive for fallen humans to understand.  The resurrection authenticates Jesus as being both God and Man, and proved everything he said about himself to be true.

Because Jesus rose from the dead, it also means he is alive and able today to save those who believe in him.  The Jewish leaders could only deal with his resurrection by making up lies and then ignoring the issue.  Jesus body was not dumped into a mass grave with other criminals, as some have alleged.  That would have made it very easy to refute the Apostles and others who claimed to see him risen from the dead.  He appeared to many people over a 40 day period.  Jesus also gave believers hope when he said he would be with us always and when he said he was going to prepare a place for us.  Jesus defeated Satan by what appeared from a natural human perspective to be a defeat.  Since that meant there was an atonement for sin that was sufficient for anyone and everyone, the only remaining thing was for people to hear the good news and believe it.  That began the so-called “Church Age,” which we are now in.  So for whoever believes, sin no longer has the power to dominate their life.  There is power to change, a child-father relationship with God, and purpose for living life.  Easter is a rememberance of Jesus resurrection and a reminder of God’s solution to man’s problem.

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Faith Versus NASA

Another dissident in science has been discriminated against and wrongly treated on the job for his faith.  I use the word “dissident” because this relates to an article I wrote called “The Mistreatment of Darwin Doubters.”  The article was a review of a great book by Dr. Jerry Bergman, “Slaughter of the Dissidents.”  What I’m referring to now is about David Coppedge, who was an employee for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).  NASA’s JPL facility manages a lot of solar system research and thus what they do is of much interest to me.  I have read articles from David Coppedge on the internet and in the Acts and Facts publication of the Institute for Creation Research.  He often writes about solar system research and I like his articles and often agree with him.  His perspective seems to be similar to mine on planetary science.  Thus, I am troubled by the way he was demoted and then laid off, apparently because of his Christian beliefs and him promoting ideas related to Intelligent Design.

Note that Coppedge is not one of the top scientists at NASA.  He was apparently some type of team leader in a computer related position on the Cassini mission to Saturn (a very important mission).  He worked for NASA for I believe 15 years.  But in 2009 he was removed from his team lead position, then more recently was let go.  NASA says he was let go as a result of budget cuts and because of issues about him relating poorly to his peers.  In 2009 some employees accused him of harrassment.  What was his harrassment?  Apparently it was speaking about his Christian perspective on various issues such as his support for California’s Proposition 8 which defines marriage as limited to heterosexual couples, believing in use of the word “Christmas,” and handing out Intelligent Design related video DVDs.  Today some who oppose Christianity overreact to any expression of it or hint of it in the workplace.  Christians do have to be careful, but the founders of this nation would be appauled at someone losing their job over freedom of speech and freedom of religious expression.  It doesn’t sound like what Coppedge was doing was so dangerous, it sounds like the reaction to it is the dangerous thing.

What would happen today if Isaac Newton were trying to go through the modern University system to get a Ph.D. in Physics and then work for some scientific organization?  There is a good possibility today Newton would not be allowed to get this Ph.D. and he would not be likely to get the prestigious position of Lucasian Professor at Cambridge, which Newton once held.  Newton’s principles of mechanics and motion are still depended on by NASA but I doubt that NASA would allow Newton to be hired.  Newton believed in intelligent design and wrote about it regarding the solar system.  He also believed the Bible and wrote Bible commentaries, especially on the book of Daniel.  Newton did have some questionable theology on some issues, such as having trouble with the concept of the Trinity.  But, I think he was definitely a Christian and he wrote against the idea of evolution.  The only comfort I can give to David Coppedge is that 1) You’re in good company with Isaac Newton, and 2) You’ve stood up for your Christian faith in an unbelieving world, so I applaud you whether NASA does or not.

Two articles about David Coppedge below.  There is a lawsuit that reached court this past week apparently.  Don’t know the outcome yet.
First, Yahoo News article.  Second, an MSNBC article here.  This article deals more with the aspect of the “dangers” of expressions of religion in the workplace.  I don’t know David Coppedge personally and I don’t know how he related to his peers at work.  But it is very suspicious that after apparently 15 years he is let go in this way.  In scientific organizations and in academia, it seems like there is a mindset that those in charge are somehow exempt from having to respect freedom of speech and freedom of religious expression.  It looks like a classic example of discrimination and mistreatment.  It’s true that employers do not have to tolerate any and all types of expression of someone’s religious faith on the job.  But the problem is that the general idea of what constitutes making fair allowance for someone has changed in our culture.  Employers, or government agencies, care about how things look when someone is let go and it is often hard to determine the honest truth about why someone is let go.  Employers let people go carefully at times and in ways where it will look legitimate, so the real reason for it is not evident.  I can’t claim to know the situation with Mr. Coppedge but it looks very suspicious.  The Alliance Defense Fund and The Discovery Institute are both supporting Coppedge in the lawsuit.  The lawsuit is sort of Coppedge’s faith versus NASA, but it should not have to be that way.

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Weeds in the Blog

My blog has been in existence now for about two and a half weeks.  Any kind of blog system or discussion forum system is automatically found by automated software on the web that looks for places to try and create fake links to another page.  They are fake because they create comments that are not from real users.  Someone is starting some webpage for something and they want to make search engines rank their page higher.  Links from other sites to your website do help search engines find your site.  My website does not get a lot of traffic but I do get referrals from some other creationism related websites that have links to it.  In the years I’ve had my website, search engines have found my site via traffic linking people to my site, and the various articles with my name on other creation ministry websites.  I can’t remember any case where I asked for such a link on another site, though I’m not positive.  I certainly did not go all over the internet creating bogus links to my site just to promote it.  This was slowly accomplished over time.  So most of my traffic on my website, and requests to my newsletter, are real people.  People have referred their friends to my site or my newsletter.  I hope the same happens with this blog.

In the short time my blog has existed there has been so far 16 fake comments that some persons or programs have tried to post to my site just to make a link to their site.  Their hope is that people reading my site will see the fake posts and click the link out of curiosity.  But I have installed a system on my site called Akismet that prevents comment spam.  So far it’s working pretty well.  I can tell the fakes from the real readers, so far.  So the fake comments haven’t been seen on the blog.

All this makes me think of Jesus’ parable of the weeds in Matthew 13:24-30.  Here’s the beginning of this from the NIV Bible (1984).   “Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat ….”  

This is like comment spam.  I put what I hope is worthwhile posts on my blog hoping that it will help some who read it.  But there is more traffic from the fakes so far than from real readers.  But I will delete the spam (the weeds).  Operating a blog means you have to deal with the weeds some so that real readers can have something to read.  In Jesus’ parable, the weeds are left until the end of history when Jesus returns.  Jesus will send angels to get rid of the weeds so the righteous can live in peace.  Jesus has the right to do this because of who he is and what he has done.  The righteous in the parable are referred to as the wheat.  The seed of the truth of the gospel is spread abroad among both weeds and wheat.  The weeds and wheat both grow for a time.  Some weeds look a lot like wheat (I know this because I grew up in Kansas).  Some may have trouble telling the difference between weeds and wheat, at least when you look from a distance.  But the God who sows the message knows the difference between the real believers and the fakes.  One good thing is that it is possible for weeds to become wheat in real life!  A nonbeliever can become a believer.  Jesus has been making this kind of metamorphosis in human lives for a long time now. 

 
Just a little update on this post. It’s now March 17, 2012 and there are 33 fake comments I’ve received since this post. More weeds with the wheat. Sending them to binary oblivion.

Wayne Spencer

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Is Christian Experience a Delusion?

Some skeptics who like to try and debunk Christianity may say that the experience of a Christian is a delusion.  That when Christians talk about experiencing God changing their life they are only engaging in wishful thinking or deceiving themselves about the nature of their experience.  They would point to people who believe other religions who might also say that their religion changes their lives (in positive ways) also.  So what is the difference between a Christian who’s life changes and someone of another religion who’s life changes?  This also brings up the issue of what are the roles of external objective evidence, such as historical or scientific evidence, versus subjective experience?  The skeptics may say, like John Loftus for instance, that subjective experience is not evidence at all.

It is true that a Christian’s personal relationship with God is a subjective experience.  But there is an objective basis behind Christianity that is not affected by my feelings or perceptions.  Christianity has its basis in historical events, such as the history of ancient Israel and the life and ministry of Jesus Christ in the first century.  I would not say it’s impossible for a Christian to delude themself, but that does not make their whole faith experience a delusion.  If there are many people who have a very similar subjective experience of faith in God changing their lives in positive ways because of believing in the same objective truths from history, then there must be something to it!  Millions of people from different cultures, languages, education levels, and nations have experienced many positive changes in their lives as a result of becoming a Christian.  This is not something to just dismiss.  It is not like the experience of people from other religious faiths, such as Mormonism or Islam for instance.  Mormons and Muslims do not have an experience like a Christian.  There may be outward similarities to a Christian’s behavior in these religions.  There are some commendable things about Mormonism and Islam in many outward behaviors but that does not make it the same.  There is a deeper more subtle satisfaction that is experienced in the Christian life that people of other religions do not know.  If a person is a Christian but they do not live an obedient Christian life, they do not by that failure disprove Christianity.  They just generate confusion.  There are many who by living the Christian life have demonstrated that their faith explains human experience better than other beliefs.

I think that many of the things that show the authenticity of a Christian’s faith are things that are long term patterns that are demonstrated over time in the person’s life.  In other words don’t judge the reality of my faith based on whether I have a good day or a bad day.  But, if my faith makes permanent positive changes in my life that last a lifetime, then that is a kind of “evidence” that it is real.  When I was a nonchristian and 20 years old, I was seeing a psychiatrist on campus at Kansas State University.  He was a Harvard graduate and was not a Christian.  When I became a Christian, he did not try to dissuade me from my faith.  He saw that my involvement with Christian people and with Church was a good thing for me and he observed me making good decisions in my life that were healthier than the way I had been in the past.  My attitudes about myself were different as well.  So, my Christian conversion was not part of the problem that led me to see a psychiatrist, it was really part of the solution that led to my psychiatrist telling me I didn’t need to see him any more.  I really believe that if someone would have asked my psychiatrist then if I was deluding myself, he would have said no.  He would have been able to observe the difference in me believing a delusion and me growing in maturity and going in a healthy direction in my personal life.  Delusions don’t really meet people’s needs and often they don’t make a good life-long experience.  Others around someone who believes a delusion may be able to see that something is wrong in their life easier than they can see themselves.  I think Christian faith makes for a balanced healthy life, if you live a life obedient to God and you learn to really understand what the Bible teaches about life.  No one is perfect, so it is never nearly perfect, but it is significant.  I’m now in my 50’s and I’m certainly not perfect, but God has brought me a long way from where I was.

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Solar System Missions to Wish For

NASA is cutting its budget and cutting programs.  In economic times like these it is not surprising.  But I cannot help but wish we could do more solar system exploration.  This is an area I have focused a lot of my effort on in my own research.  NASA’s priorities are sometimes different than mine would be.  I do not think that everything about solar system exploration should revolve around the search for life, or former life, on other planets or moons.  So for instance in the several Mars missions of recent years, I’m more interested in Mars’ geology and its history whereas NASA is more interested in possible evidences of past life on Mars.

NASA seems to think Mars and Jupiter’s moon Europa are some of the most important science destinations in the solar system.  Both of them have been the topic of speculation about life.  In the discussions of possible life on other planets, it is never admitted that there is no explanation for how life could arise on a planet that is ideally suited to life (our own planet).  Scientists cannot explain how life could evolve from chemicals on this planet or any other planet.  Extraterrestrials are not going to be an answer either, though some might hope in that.  Better to put hope in the God of the Bible, who has created for a purpose.  He is the only possible First Cause of life.

But where would I send new missions if it were possible?  I think there’s good reason to go back to our own Moon.  There is a need to put newer technology to work in exploring the Moon.  Some has been done but I think since several non-American nations have plans to go to the Moon, the United States should make it a priority.  Then I would also pick Mars for its geology, I’d also pick Jupiter’s moon Ganymede (largest moon in our solar system), and Saturn’s moon Titan.  I’m also interested in missions to the asteroids (there have been some and will be more soon).  Mars has many interesting mysteries geologically and I suspect it will point to catastrophic processes.  Ganymede has a wide range of interesting geological structures and it is actually larger than the planet Mercury.  It also is perhaps one of a few (or maybe the only) moon in the solar system known to have a magnetic field.  This is probably an indication of a young age (as in thousands not billions of years).  Then Titan (Saturn’s moon with an atmosphere thicker than Earth) is very unique and interesting in its own ways.  It’s thick atmosphere is largely Nitrogen and a mix of many organic compounds.  There are issues scientists have with trying to explain how it could have methane left in its atmosphere after alleged billions of years of chemical reactions using it up.  Carl Sagan actually did some research on Titan and scientists consider it a model of how they think Earth once was as Earth was forming.  (I don’t believe this either.)

Wayne Spencer

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