Saturday, September 26, 2009

All, Some, or None: Truth in the Bible

A couple of days ago (Sept 24, 2009), I was listening to David Jeremiah's radio program "Turning Point." He made what seemed like a controversial statement. He said people needed to be aware of the Bible's limitations. Huh? He went on to say that what he meant was that the Bible contains all the truth we need, but not all the truth there is. In other words, there are truths on which the Bible does not expound. However, all such truths are non-essential. Okay, I understand this. After all, if every truth had been written in the Bible, it would be too large to carry to church, even if it were on microfiche. (If you are so young you do not know what microfiche is, look it up.)

Now, the question is: does the Bible contain only essential truths, or does it contain both essential and non-essential truths. Well, we first have to determine what truths would be classified essential. As I understand Christian beliefs, the only things that really matter are those things with eternal consequences. Thus, the most important truths would be those related to obtaining salvation. So, ask yourself this question. Is the knowledge of everything written in the Bible necessary for one to be saved? Obviously not. Else, I do not believe anybody would be saved.

Now, consider this. Does the Bible contain every truth necessary for salvation? If you think about it seriously, you'll see that it does not. After all, to be able to read and understand the essential truths of the Bible, one must have already come to understand the meanings of the words, in whatever language he or she is reading them in. They must understand how words are put together into sentences and how then to interpret correctly those sentences. They must already have a knowledge of how to discern the words of a charlatan from those of a sage. They must have an understanding of how the world works so as not to believe obvious falsehoods. Without all this precursor knowledge, it would be impossible to comprehend the essential truths of the Bible. Yes, a person lacking in some of these skills could get someone else to help him along, but then he would be latching onto a secondhand faith rather than one completely his own.

Oh, and don't forget that a person also needs skills in obtaining food and shelter in order to survive. A dead person is not really interested in truth, Biblical or not.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Wild Horses

If you haven't yet heard Susan Boyle sing "Wild Horses," you are really missing out. I just couldn't believe how clear her voice was and how well orchestrated the arrangement was. It brought tears to my eyes! My son said that he believed the angels in heaven would sound like her. WOW! I think I could listen for quite a while if that is true. Below is Susan performing the song on the finale of America's Got Talent.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Whatever Floats Your Boat

You have probably heard someone use the expression in the title of this post: "Whatever Floats Your Boat." It is usually said in response to someone expressing his or her personal beliefs or personal likes and dislikes. The responder, by saying the aforementioned words, is expressing an opinion that basically says, "You can believe or like whatever you want as long as it makes you happy or fulfills your life, even if the same does not apply to me." This is obviously true when it comes to subjective matters such as what hobbies a person likes or what a person's favorite colors are. However, should it apply to matters that are factual in nature?

For instance, if a person decides that, for him, four plus four would henceforth be equal to nine, would it be appropriate to say, "Whatever floats your boat?" I don't think so. I dare say that most people would challenge this statement, saying that it is false for everyone. Yet, when it comes to certain philosophical or religious beliefs, many people are hesitant to challenge the truthfulness of the beliefs regardless of how irrational or contradictory they are. They, in essence, respond, "Whatever floats your boat."

Many years ago when I was a member of the Church of Christ, a fellow believer and I were at a local hobby store. We discovered that the owner was an acquaintance of mine. We began talking about various topics and eventually got around to discussing religious beliefs. The acquaintance told us he was a member of some denomination, I believe Baptist. My friend and I began expressing some of the differences between his denominations' beliefs and those of the Church of Christ. With every statement we made, he would respond something like this: "That's great that you believe that way. If it works for you, that is good. I will believe what works for me." In essence, he was saying, "Whatever floats your boat."

Of course, when it comes to beliefs concerning the supernatural realm, no one knows what the absolute truth is. They may think they do, but they don't. In reality, we don't even know for sure if the supernatural exists. So, "Whatever floats your boat" seems to be the appropriate mentality.

But what about the case where a person knows the truth about something, yet chooses to believe something different because it makes them feel good? Or how about people who withhold the truth from a friend or family member because they sincerely believe the person would become overly distraught. What is more important, believing a disturbing truth or a feel-good falsehood? This has always been an intriguing question to me.

I personally prefer the truth to a feel-good lie. I just don't like the idea of believing something false. As those Hulu aliens say, that's the way I roll. In many cases, believing something false can lead to all kinds of trouble or conflict, particularly when the untruth concerns other people. Yet I know there are people who, as Col. Nathan R. Jessep (Jack Nicholson) said in A Few Good Men, can't handle the truth. To them I say, "Whatever floats your boat!"

Friday, September 18, 2009

Disturbing Things: Awards and Healthcare

Did you watch the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards on September 13? Even if you didn't, you have probably heard about Kanye West interrupting Taylor Swift's acceptance speech for Best Female Video to announce that Beyoncé had made one of the best videos of all times. Yes, that was disturbing to a lot of people. West later apologized to Swift, and Beyoncé graciously allowed Swift to finish her speech during her acceptance for Video of the Year. I guess West was correct about Beyoncé having one of the best videos of all time. He just wasn’t willing to wait and see if she won the big one.

Equally disturbing was a statement made by that British chap, Russell Brand, who hosted the show. He implied that the US leaves people on the streets to die. He said that Britain did not do that since they had free healthcare. FREE healthcare?!? How can this be? Does the motherland have healthcare growing wild on trees in such abundance that there is plenty for everyone. I can visualize the barker near the grove yelling, “Get your free healthcare here. You pick it; you keep it.” I say we need to introduce that tree variety here in the US. Perhaps it can replace all those American Chestnut trees lost to blight in the Smoky Mountains. But wait! I have always heard that money doesn’t grow on trees. So, since healthcare has a certain equivalent monetary value, perhaps it doesn’t grow on trees either. I know! It’s probably a root plant like potatoes and carrots. Everyone knows that that’s how money grows since everyone is always saying that money is the root of all evil. (Actually, the Bible says it is the love of money that is the root of all evil, but what’s a couple of extra words between friends.)

Before I go further, let me clarify something. There may be a few Brits getting free healthcare. For those whose income is such that they never pay taxes, healthcare, for them, is free. But still, the cost of the care has to be paid. It’s just that other people pay for it. So, while a few are getting their healthcare at no cost to them, others end up paying many times over what their own healthcare would have cost. Those in the middle may end up paying about the same as what their care would have cost. But in the end, the healthcare must be paid for. You’ve heard it said that There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch (pronounced TANSTAAFL for all you acronymic types out there). Well, There Ain’t No Such Thing As Free Healthcare (TANSTAFH).

Government may have the power to do a lot of things, but as yet they have not been able to rescind the laws of physics or the laws of economics. But not to worry, they are working on it!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

What's Old is New Again

I have been wanting to update my personal Web site for a long time, but just never took the time to do it until now. I have all my old stuff on the site along with some things I had never posted. The interface is cleaner and spiffier. So, take a look. It's at

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Lifting Himself Up By His Own Bootstraps

I have heard a number of people claim that Jesus raised himself from the dead. In fact, I just heard John Ankerberg say this on his September 11, 2009 radio program, The Ankerberg Minute. I have not been able to find any references in the New Testament proclaiming that. Every passage I have found where the raiser is mentioned says that it was God the Father. Here are verses I have found that state that Jesus was raised by God the Father:

Acts 2:24, 3:15, 4:10, 5:30, 10:40, 13:30, 13:34, 13:37
Romans 4:24, 6:4, 8:11, 10:9
1 Corinthians 6:14, 15:15
Galatians 1:1
Colossians 2:12
1 Thessalonians 1:9-10
1 Peter 1:21.

All these references say that God raised Jesus from the dead. I know of no references that say otherwise. If you know of any, please leave a comment.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Today's Content: Being Content

In last Sunday's sermon, our preacher talked about contentment. It was based on 1 Timothy 6:6-11.

But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.

I believe contentment is a valuable attribute if applied appropriately. A person who is always discontent no matter how well off they are will find themselves stressed much of the time, always trying to determine what their next step on the stairway to contentment should be. But once that step is reached, there will be yet another, and another. So, it is a good idea to have an attitude of contentment in whatever circumstances we find ourselves. However, we don't want to be completely content either lest we become complacent and never try to better our lives. Let me explain.

I have heard of a number of POWs that despaired over their circumstances thinking that they would never be free or that they could not endure the time they would be captive. Sometimes these people gave up and died. However, others took on an attitude of contentment. Yet, even in the midst of being content they still strove to find a way of escape. This gave them hope for the future. I believe this combination, contentment and hope, is a good one. It allows us to be satisfied with current conditions, but have a reason to believe that an even better day is coming.

The contentment/hope team is also helpful in less dire circumstances than being a POW. It can be useful to the person working a dead end minimum wage job who aspires to get a higher education which in turn will lead to a better job. It can even be useful to the workaholic multi-millionaire Wall Street financier who aspires to slow down the pace and spend more time with family.

The basic idea is this: always strive to improve your life in any way possible by setting achievable goals, making honest plans, and following through with them. But if you fail, or it takes a lot longer to achieve your goals than you had hoped for, be content with the things you do have along the journey. You will be better off physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Founding Father's Home

My son attended the private Christian school that my wife teaches at from the 1st through the 12th grades. Every year, the sixth-graders and parents take a trip to Washington, DC. My son's trip was in 2003. On the way up in the bus, we stopped at Monticello, Thomas Jefferson's home. We arrived fairly early in the morning when a fog was in the air. I heard several people express their disappointment in not being able to get any good pictures. However, I like fog photos, as attested by the photo I posted earlier. My favorite photo from that visit to Monticello is shown below. I separated from the group to get it. In fact, you can see some of the group in the distance wearing maroon jackets. I have more Monticello photos on my Web site at RKA Photography.

Eternal Torment, Bliss, or Oblivion?

How often do you contemplate your own mortality? How often do you consider your fate beyond death? I find myself thinking on these things fairly frequently, especially since I am now most likely closer to my death than I am to my birth. I'd have to live past the age of 109 for this not to be true.

The idea of dying and passing into eternal oblivion doesn't hold much appeal. Of course, if the alternative is passing into a place of eternal torment, I will take oblivion any day of the week. Yet, still, the idea of "going to sleep" to never awaken again seems in some ways totally bizarre. I have on a number of occasions been laying back in my recliner and, just as I a reach that transition state between consciousness and unconsciousness, have the reality of eternal oblivion hit me. I normally awake with a sinking feeling and the word "absurd" stuck in my mind. But when I think about it rationally, I realize that my state of being before I was conceived was not at all scary. If that is the state I will ultimately return to, it should be no more scary. Basically, eternal unconsciousness is only troublesome to us while we are conscious. Once we reach that eternal state of unconsciousness, no worries!

On the other hand, the idea of passing into a state of eternal bliss is a bit troublesome also. Again, not if the only alternative is eternal torment. Think about existing forever. What would you do? How could anyone possibly occupy all that time without getting bored stiff. After having done everything there is to do a thousand times or more, I think I would at least be ready for a nap. I am reminded of the movie Groundhog Day. In it, Bill Murray keeps repeating February 2 over and over and over again. The implication is that he repeats it hundreds, maybe thousands, of times. Eventually, he gets so bored, he begins to commit suicide only to wake up again on the morning of February 2. Of course, many people believe that those people going to heaven will spend eternity praising God. No disrespect to my Creator, but that sounds boring to me. As much as I enjoy the singing at church, after about 20-30 minutes I am ready to move on to the sermon. And then after 20-30 minutes of the sermon I am ready for lunch. Now lunch I can handle for quite some time, but my stomach refuses to cooperate. The point is that I thrive on diversity. Hey, with as many nearby restaurants as we have, my wife and I still sometimes become bored with them all and wish for something new.

We humans also tend to enjoy overcoming obstacles to reach goals in this life. Will it be the same in heaven, or will we be more like automatons mindlessly being subservient to our maker? I would hope for the former, how about you?

Sunday, September 6, 2009

A Favorite Photograph

Back on October 20, 2003, as I was driving to work one morning, I noticed a fog over the Tennessee River. I knew that a replica of the Niña (one of Columbus' boats) had been docked at the harbor for some time providing tours. I wondered if it was still there. I diverted to the harbor area and sure enough, there it was! It looked almost mystical in the fog with the sun being blocked just enough to see its disk. I took a number of photos that morning, but the one below was my favorite. It still is one of my favorite photographs of the thousands I have taken. Interestingly, I found out later that the Niña departed around noon that day. I was very fortunate to have had the Niña's presence and the fog coincide that fateful morning. You can see more of my photos at RKA Photography.

Hours for a Shirt

Many years ago I traveled to Wisconsin with my wife, son, and in-laws to visit my wife's cousin and his family. While there, we went to Old World Wisconsin. This was an interesting place, having many different types of farms from the late 19th century based on different heritages (such as a German settlement, a Norwegian settlement, etc.) One location was showing how thread was spun on a spinning wheel. This got me thinking about how many hours it must have taken people back in those days to make a simple shirt.

Later, as the family was relaxing at a bus stop, I asked my cousin, "How many hours do you have to work to buy a decent shirt?"

He was a bit puzzled by my question, but answered, "One or two hours, I guess. Why do you ask?"

I responded, "I just wanted to compare the amount of labor required today to obtain a shirt compared to the 19th century. How many hours do you think they had to work to obtain a shirt?"

He now saw what I was getting at. "I don't know, but many hours I am sure."

New inventions, such as powered looms and their further improvements, have allowed the amount of labor to produce a product to keep getting lower and lower, thus making the product much cheaper to obtain. It's this industrialization that has allowed everyone's standard of living to skyrocket. The average middle class American today lives a much better life than most kings did a thousand years ago. Yeah, we may not have a bunch of servants standing around waving fans at us to keep us cool on a sweltering day, but we have something better: air conditioning.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

My Food, the Market, and Unknown People

As I was eating dinner last night I began to think about what all had to transpire for the food I was eating to make it to my plate. People had to grow the potatoes, raise the cows, and harvest the macaroni ( macaroni is a plant isn't it? 8>) ). All these things had to be sold at a market, then transported to a factory, then sent out to a distributor who in turn most likely transported it to a regional distribution warehouse. Delivery trucks then had to take these goods to the local store whereupon I purchased them. Then I had to transport them home, blend ingredients together, and cook them. In the end, my cost for the meal was most likely less than $10.00 for my family of three. This sounds nearly impossible, but that's the nature of a free market. Businesses keep coming up with better ways to grow, obtain, and distribute goods such that costs keep getting lower. Of course, all of this is only possible when there is a large market for the same items. If only one person in New York wanted potatoes from Idaho, it would be prohibitively expensive to obtain them. But since thousands, perhaps millions, of New Yorkers want those potatoes, the cost can be lowered to a very affordable amount. Additionally, having a free market economy helps because when businesses have to compete against other businesses, they can't afford to be wasteful.

Another interesting aspect of the food I ate last night is that I don't personally know anyone involved in the chain of events leading from the farm to my home. Isn't it nice that all those people were so concerned with my culinary well being that they all chipped in to get me the food I wanted? Yeah, right! In actuality, they each did their part out of self-interest. They were doing their job to earn money to support self and family. Isn't it interesting how the world works. People who perform honest work strictly for their own interest end up helping many, many people eat a meal on the cheap.

Hey guys, keep up the good work of working for yourself!