Sunday, May 31, 2009

Pentecost

Today's readings: Ezekiel 37:1-14 (sermon text), Acts 2:1-21, and John 15:26-27, 16:4b-15.

Here's the vision in the text: the valley of an army of dry bones. Ezekiel prophesies to them; then they come to life and are allowed to go home. First, an overview of the prophet Ezekiel's book: (1) judgment on Israel; (2) judgment on the nations; and (3) promises of restoration for Israel. Our text falls in the last part.

Look at the first two verses. The vision begins, lifelike. Who killed the bones? The answer (chapter 21): God Himself, through pagan nations. The bones stand for those physically and/or spiritually dead because of God's punishment for their relentless sinning. Now look at verse 3ff. Ezekiel prophesies to the bones - God breathes, as at Pentecost, His Spirit into the "very dry" bones, the totally spiritually dead. (At Pentecost, three thousand came to life, those who had cried out for Christ's death.) The bones then came together as complete, articulated skeletons, by the power of God's Word using Ezekiel's preaching. The Spirit is, we see, connected to the Word and Sacraments. No other means - these are the ones He uses. Don't mistake the gift for the Giver.

Next, breath is prophesied into the bodies. This "breath" is specifically the "wind of the Spirit of God." Compare to our Baptism - we, too, are resurrected to be warriors of God! We fight using the Scriptures to show others that there is only one path to God: Jesus Christ.

Finally, God tells Ezekiel to send the army home - they were formerly cut off from God (their own fault), but were now reconnected. Apart from the Holy Spirit, we are dead. But now we are His soldiers, for He has raised us and brought us to the new Israel. Live as a child of God, therefore, walking in the Spirit.

New upcoming sermon series: how to live as a Christian. Not what you'd expect from an LCMS church? Wait and see!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Easter 7: The Family Prays Together

Today's readings: Acts 1:12-26, 1 John 5:9-15 (sermon text), and John 17:11b-19.

The Head of the family gives us life by speaking; He initiates communication. In prayer we speak back to Him. We can't speak about God and ignore Christ; to do so, says John, is to deny God.

In the Divine Service, there exists lively communication; prayer is an essential element. In Acts, we see a model for Christian family prayer life. The apostles "devoted themselves to...the prayers" - specific prayers, prayed together. When we, undeserving sinners, ask God according to His will, He hears us! Ordinary people are able to come before the Emperor of the universe!

What should we pray? For God to guide our families; for the Word to be proclaimed; for unity (preventing silly prayers - wants vs. needs). He says that He hears us; therefore we know that He hears and answers the needs of His family. Talk to Him all the time - don't relegate Him to a two-minute corner of your morning or evening. Your individual and corporate prayers are important to God. Take ample advantage of that.

We were attending a graduation last Sunday and were unable to make it to church. But I think today's sermon makes up for that. :)

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Ascension

Tonight's readings: Acts 1:1-11, Luke 24:44-53, and Psalm 47.

Ascension is one of the three major Church festivals; the others are Easter and Pentecost. To someone who asks, "Do you know Jesus," we answer, "Yes, the ascended Lord." Ascension is one of those events that changes everything. Christ is now preparing a place for us with His Father. On the Last Day, He will come in the same way He left. We speak of Ascension - not Christmas or Easter - when we say that "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever."

This Jesus has promised to be with us always; this Jesus is with us in the means of grace: Word and Sacrament. We no longer see Him, but He is with us to the very end of this age. Be comforted, for you have a great High Priest who resisted every sin that we must face. He now intercedes for and blesses us continually. Rejoice because of Jesus, the ascended Christ!

I'm back at my home church until mid-August.

Origins: key ideas of evolution

Other posts are under the label Origins.

The evolution model has four key ideas pertaining to the origin of the universe, life, and diverse kinds:
  1. The world is changing; it is not static. (This was postulated to rebut the concept of fixity of species, a 19th-century Creationary idea that is not part of today's creation model. Here, though, is a brief AiG article explaining the confusion wrought by changing a word's definition midway through a historical period.) This is not disputed by creationary scientists.
  2. Evolution (lower-case e) is a slow, gradual, continuous process. (However, it may be accelerated by selection.) Again, creationary scientists do not dispute this.
  3. Common descent means that all form of life have various common ancestors. (To which a creationary scientist would reply: To an extent!)
  4. The mechanism for the origin of diverse kinds of life, and of life itself from chemicals, is natural selection - neo-Darwinism adds mutations to the mix. More on this later.
My comments: Although Darwin extrapolated from artificial selection to natural selection, there is a key difference between the two. The former is based on a primary cause (the intelligent agent doing the selecting), whereas there are only secondary (natural) causes involved in the latter. Neo-Darwinian evolution adds genetics (which was conveniently ignored for many years by Darwinists because of the laws of inheritance) as a component. Granted, sport mutations do occur. But the vast majority of "new" traits are recessive ones being expressed - they were already present.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Origins: history of the creation model; some resources

For other posts in this series, look under the label Origins.

Essentially, the source of the creation model is not people (as with the evolution model), but rather the Bible. Yet there are other, non-Bible-derived creation models, but the principal one is from the Christian worldview. The Bible is revelation, written down by people yet inspired by God. This has led to a charge (mentioned again in a later post) that, since the source of the creation model is *unscientific*, therefore the creation model must be entirely unscientific, aka "religious."

How would a creationary scientist respond to that charge? Have at it!

Bonus for today: some interesting reading on the creationary side of the debate.
  • Genetic Entropy and the Mystery of the Genome by Dr. J. C. Sanford. This book, which I just finished, presents a thorough argument that genetic entropy as theorized and seen today does more than not support the basis of the evolution model...
  • "Is God an Evolutionist?" by David Menton. This article argues against theistic evolution (TE) in general, from a Lutheran point of view.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Origins: history of the evolution model

The posts in this series are under the label Origins, at left.

Evolution, at least the model thereof, wasn't handed down by some omnipotent being, since the definition excludes such a being. Rather, it was developed in spurts by many people from at least 600 B.C., culminating with Darwin, the synthesizer of all the ideas. Simply put, the source is man.

Below are various ideas pertaining to the evolutionary model (some are dated and rejected today but helped form the foundation), the people who originated them, and my comments.
  • Water (a secondary cause) was the origin of everything - Thales, section 3. Water is indeed a reducing agent (the Miller-Urey experiments required a reducing atmosphere) and is used in many biological reactions.
  • One species can become another species over time - Anaximander, bottom of page. The definition of "species" has been in at least a little flux for quite some time now, but this concept is definitely a building block in the evolutionary model.
  • Chance (a secondary cause) is a productive force by itself - Empedocles, top half of page. There's a technical definition of "chance" used by scientists in a slightly different way than the rest of the population uses it, but look at the web page and see what its understanding of "chance" is.
  • Spontaneous generation (life from non-life) is a mechanism to produce life - Aristotle. At the bottom of the page is something interesting: while Pasteur's experiments demonstrated that life cannot under today's conditions (an oxidizing atmosphere, different gas proportions, etc.) originate from dead organic matter, scientists hold firm that it could have under different conditions. It must have, in order for the evolutionary model to be true. But those conditions are for another day.
  • Uniformitarianism is a main process through history - Hutton and Lyell, both geologists. Again, this will be discussed in more detail on another day. But Hutton's reasoning behind a conclusion of uniformitarianism is very interesting. Go read it.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Origins: an introduction

The material in this series (under the label Origins) is based off a class I had this past semester. With the professor's permission, I have set out to post topics of class discussion and my reactions to them, as well as outside links if I can find them.

Cosmogony, whether you know it by that name or not, is a hot topic: evolution versus creation. It's the study of origin science (historical, not observable - observable science works only in the present); therefore, neither side can "prove" its case, but both sides must rather make sure that their own models of origins are logical (which both are, as we will see) and able to encompass a wide variety of evidence (as both can), inferring as to the better model. Both models have religious as well as scientific aspects.

Why study origins at all? Answer: The meaning of something is linked to its origin.

First, very brief definitions of both models. (Ed, please correct me if I'm wrong on the definition of the evolutionary model.)
  • Creation: The universe, life, diverse kinds, and human beings have their origins in a primary cause, that is, an omnipotent designer (aka the "First Cause" - and no, Biblical Creationism is not the only subset of the model). Secondary causes, aka natural laws, govern the continuance and maintenance of the universe.
  • Evolution: The universe, life, diverse kinds, and human beings have their origins in secondary causes only; no primary cause was involved. Maintenance of these things is also by secondary causes.
  • Theistic Evolution (TE): a subset of the evolution model attempting to reconcile the Bible with current science by saying that God used evolution as a means of creation.
More later. Chew on that for a few days.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Easter 5

Today's readings: Acts 8:26-40, 1 John 4:1-11, and John 15:1-8 (sermon text).

In an ancient culture or two, there is a maturation ritual for the young men, in which they are tethered by vines to the highest branches of a tree, must jump, and in doing so must trust the village elders who fastened the vines. Like them, we are connected to the Vine - without it, we are dead. We need to trust fully the One who has connected us to it. We are part of Him, and He is part of us; this is seen clearly in the Sacrament of the Altar. It's inconceivable to us that many do not want to be connected safely.

But we're not the ones gripping the Vine! There is no such thing as us reaching out and hanging on to God...rather, He hangs on to us. Only this true Vine will give us life. There are many false vines striving for our attention. Life is indeed a jungle - popularity and drugs, to name just two false vines. But the more intertwined with the Vine we become, the better we can reject the false vines and weather the storms in life.

Poorly connected branches come loose in a storm. It's in your best interests to let Christ the Vine connect securely to you. Also, we have as the owner (vinedresser, caretaker) our Father. He abundantly cares for us; He is a very meticulous Gardener. Every branch must be either pruned (good branches) or burned (dead ones) - pruning increases the fruit a branch bears. The entire effect may resemble a topiary tree, with its elegant and precise shape, but this requires the exact pruning of every branch in His church.

As God has loved us, so let us love one another for His glory.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Of several sciences

Here's something you don't see by itself every day: a garden arranged and maintained according to the tenets of the Darwinian evolutionary theory.

If modern agriculture can compensate, Henslow's heirs aren't interested: "We do not dig if we can avoid it, we do not fertilize, we do not water, we do not spray. The plants either survive or die," Mr. Parker says. "The reason that these trees look so good . . . is that these are the survivors. They will survive under our conditions. . . . You grow them tough, they'll stay tough."

In case anyone hasn't gotten the point, he adds, "This is an evolutionary garden. What would you expect us to do?"

In a tangentially related vein, vaccinophobia is, predictably, causing outbreaks. People who have a disease are generally more contagious than those who do not (particularly if they've had the vaccine). Why were vaccines developed in the first place, you ask? Maybe it's because the diseases they now prevent - measles, mumps, etc. - actually killed people?

Finally, as a chemist-in-training, I couldn't resist this headline. Strictly speaking, everything is made of chemicals, and then some. Humans are made of carbohydrates, lipids, and proteins. Cotton is made of hydrocarbon and carbohydrate polymers. So, if a bed sheet is "made without chemicals," what exactly is left for it to be made of? Perhaps articles like this should clarify which class of chemicals are being added - like formaldehyde, which doesn't naturally occur in the human body - instead of clumping life into organisms plus clouds of "chemicals" whose structures actually aren't all that different.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Easter 4

Today's readings: Acts 4:1-12, 1 John 3:16-24, and John 10:11-18 (sermon text).

Children are immensely important to their parents, who recognize them as their own. What if our Father refused to recognize us? Punishment is one thing; abandonment, quite another. We may wonder: does our Father love us?

St. John reassures us: God has lavished His love on us! He delights to do so, to call us His children, to transform and adopt us by the bath of Baptism. Jesus died to free us sheep from the wolves and to draw us out of the dung-heap of sin in which we would otherwise wallow.

God is with us every day; therefore, He knows us. If we are with Him each day, we know His voice, tuning out impostors, when He calls us by our name. The world does not know Him or His voice; they turn away from God's embrace. Neither does the world know us, since we are His. But they do know that we are Christ's by the love we share. Be Jesus with skin on to the lost. Show the world that you are a child of God.

Today is also known as Good Shepherd Sunday.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Interesting quote

Courtesy GHF, who is perusing "The Education of Henry Adams". Henry is the great-grandson of John Adams; at this point in the book, he is secretary to the American delegation in London. He has just made the acquaintance of Charles Darwin...

Ponder over it as he might, Adams could see nothing in the theory of Sir Charles but pure inference, precisely like the inference of Paley, that, if one found a watch, one inferred a maker. He could detect no more evolution in life since the Pteraspis than he could detect it in architecture since the Abbey. All he could prove was change. Coal-power alone asserted evolution,—of power,—and only by violence could be forced to assert selection of type.

All this seemed trivial to the true Darwinian, and to Sir Charles it was mere defect in the geological record. Sir Charles labored only to heap up the evidences of evolution; to cumulate them till the mass became irresistible. With that purpose, Adams gladly studied and tried to help Sir Charles, but, behind the lesson of the day, he was conscious that, in geology as in theology, he could prove only Evolution that did not evolve; Uniformity that was not uniform; and Selection that did not select. To other Darwinians—except Darwin—Natural Selection seemed a dogma to be put in the place of the Athanasian creed; it was a form of religious hope; a promise of ultimate perfection. Adams wished no better; he warmly sympathised in the object; but when he came to ask himself what he truly thought, he felt that he had no Faith; that whenever the next new hobby should be brought out, he should surely drop off from Darwinism like a monkey from a perch; that the idea of one Form, Law, Order, or Sequence had no more value for him than the idea of none; that what he valued most was Motion, and that what attracted his mind was Change.


Soon I plan to begin a series on cosmogony; how's that quote for getting you started on thinking about the topic?