Not Traditional, Original

Global Warming

“The earth is heating up!” “We are at record warming levels.” So the global warming warnings go.
I’m watching Nova on PBS. The episode is Making North America: Origins. As the narrator displays palm frond and coral reef fossils he makes a startling statement. He’s finding these artifacts in Alaska. And he says this, “This palm grew here when the climate in Alaska and the rest of the world was much warmer (emphasis added).”
He’s talking, of course, about a period hundreds of millions of years ago by his dating. But the point still remains: The whole earth has been much warmer than it is today,
So the statement that the earth today is warmer than it has ever been is repudiated by this statement in this Nova presentation.
What this illustrates is that the range of temperatures that the earth has naturally swung from very warm to frigid cold over the eons and millennia.
This is not to say that we shouldn’t be good stewards of out planet. Freon is a good example where it was proven both that something we were doing (using freon) was harmful and stopping it was worth the trouble.
Carbon emissions are certainly something that we should keep an eye on. But alarmist cries that we are heating up the earth to unprecedented levels is clearly untrue. We’re nowhere close to where the earth itself has engineered its own global warming levels.
Nevertheless, we are called to be good stewards of the earth. As Christians we are taught:

And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so.
(Genesis 1:28-30)

Man was charged with the care of the place in which he was placed.

At the same time, we individually are incapable of impacting more than our individual range of responsibility and we are often fully engrossed in just accomplishing the task at hand:

“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
(Matthew 6:34)

So if you follow this instruction while not ignoring the charge given to us in Genesis chapter 1, each of us does the best we can today with what we are in charge of so that collectively the earth is properly tended by all of us together.

But the emphasis is that we have to take care of today.

So as stewards of the earth we need to be responsible in this area today and everyday.

As individuals that means using more energy efficient products. We insulate our houses better, reuse bags, cover our pots while cooking, turn off appliances and lights when not in use, and recycle. There are websites devoted to how we as consumers can help.

On a larger scale, businesses and governments have the same responsibility to be more efficient and steward the earth.

Its one of the first charges God gave to man. God gave us this earth, to keep it in good shape.

June 30th, 2016 Posted by | Modern Christianity, Sermons | no comments

Carbon Dating Accuracy

All old things from fossil bones to caveman artifacts are radioactively dated.  Amazingly, the dates for these artifacts are presented in very definite terms.

Carbon dating has been used by scientists to show that man is older than the dates offered by Bible records.

One dating example is that of the Shroud of Turin.  For anyone that doesn’t know the Shroud of Turin is a piece of very old cloth that has an image on it that some say is the very image of Christ.

How this relates to the title of this article is this.  A few years back a number of scientists said the shroud of Turin has to be a fake because it only dates radioactively to the middle ages.

Well, it seems that there is a little more to the story.  Now Italian scientists say that this cloth could date to the time of Christ because of earthquakes.  In fact, an earthquake could have been the cause of the picture in the first place.

“Alberto Carpinteri of the Politecnico di Torino and his team suggest that an earthquake in Jerusalem in A.D. 33 — the time of the crucifixion — released neutron particles that could have fixed the picture on the shroud.

The Italian hypothesis would concur with a study conducted by geologists investigating seismic activity in the Holy Land, who in 2012 offered a theory on the date of the crucifixion: Friday, April 3, 33.

The Italian scientists say that radiation from the earthquake could have elevated the levels of carbon-14 isotopes in the shroud, which would interfere with radiocarbon dating.”[i]

How about that?  It seems that radioactive dating isn’t so sure after all if something that some scientists say is 700 years old is really three times that old.

Another example of carbon dating inaccuracy recently was brought up on the show Nova on the PBS channel in the USA.  On the episode titled “Lost Viking Army” (May 22, 2019) the archeologists had a problem with a skull carbon dating a century or two older than the other bones in the grave.  Then they made a fascinating statement; Bones would yield different carbon dating results depending on whether the people ate meat or fish!  The age of the carbon-14 in a bone depends on the age of the carbon-14 in the consumed food!

This is a relatively new development.  Scientists have now determined that the carbon 14 in the oceans is far older than that on land.  In fact, the program said that the age of carbon-14 in the oceans is centuries older than that on land!

The scientists said that they have a way to use chemical markers to determine the “fish” sourced carbon-14 in bones and thus make the adjustment.  In this case, they pronounced the older carbon-14 dated skull the same age as the others because of this.  Good for them!  It looks like they were able to discern quite a bit about Viking invasions of Britain circa 873.

But it sure is something to think about.  For example, a Huffington Post article says that the oldest caveman bones are 7000 years old.[ii] With all of the earthquakes that have happened in the history of the world, what is to say that the date is off a little, maybe enough to line up with a biblically based timeline that puts modern man, i.e., Adam and Eve, starting about 6000 years ago?  Or what about what they ate, what if the carbon in the food they ate was older than what was originally thought?

Or what other scientific finds are going to be made to show more variances in carbon-14 dating?  Carbon dating does not look quite as straightforward as we have been told in the past.

February 12th, 2014 Posted by | Modern Christianity | no comments

Be Wary of TV Shows Promoting Rejoicing in Wrongdoing

There once was a serial killer. He had a dark passenger that drove him to terrible depths.  He had overpowering urges to kill.  And he acted on those urges, repeatedly killing ritualistically, stabbing his victims through the heart after binding them to his table, his altar of death.

Like other serial killers, he appeared normal.  He was a dedicated employee, respected in his job. He fit in at work.  He socialized with his co-workers.  He was a loving husband and father.  He had a sister that he cared for deeply

So, knowing all this, certainly people would want to see this man captured, stopped, killed if necessary, right?

No, actually a lot of people were rooting for him.  You see, he was the hero of a TV show. The show was Dexter.

And as odd as it sounds, Dexter was likeable.  Dexter was understandable.  Dexter had a code.  He only killed people that deserved to die.  He was a forensic scientist, and so he could use his skills to investigate. He made sure they were worthy of death before he killed them.  No matter that he thrilled on the act of stalking and killing these people, he was doing a valuable service, ridding the world of vermin.

It also didn’t matter that Dexter slowly involved his sister in the web of deception that was necessary to cover the grim tale that was his life to the point where she killed an authority figure to save him and continue his deceit.  People felt sorry for her but they rooted for her too.

Or that he had a girlfiend that was also a serial killer that he started to kill but couldn’t for reasons of the heart.  But she tried to kill his sister. But she came back.  And his son loved her so much.

They were both good people.  They were just complicated.

And the show was so interesting;  the social interactions of killers amongst themselves and among their mostly unsuspecting social circles.

And therein lies the seduction.  Its okay to root for the killer, the liar, the deceiver.  They are complicated, understandable, lovable.    They have such good reasons for their misdeeds.  And these are no little mistakes, these are big calculated cons, these are murders.

If we rejoice that they get away with  this stuff we are rejoicing in their wrongdoing, their sin, their evil.  Even if it is a TV show.

It’s not like anyone ever imitates this stuff.  O wait, they do.  Mark Andrew Twitchell[i] says was inspired by the show in his murder.  Andrew Conley[ii] likewise cited Dexter as inspiration for his murder of his 10 year old brother!

Some fans were disappointed that Dexter didn’t ride off into the sunset to Argentina with his loving killer wife and his son.

While possibly the most extreme Dexter is not the only show where the hero is performing criminal acts.

Suits is the story of a young genius who is so smart that despite never having gone to Law school he made extra money taking and passing the bar exam for others.  The development of that premise is that he eventually takes a job as a lawyer falsifying an Ivy League education in the process.

House of Lies is a drama where the consultants revel in the lies they tell to pull off consulting jobs with big financial gains.  Leverage is a Robin Hood story of sorts where a team of thieves and con artists pull incredible scams on guilty parties to avenge and restore the victims.   White Collar is the story of a top tier white collar criminal who is allowed out of jail to consult with the FBI while he secretly continues his scamming ways sometimes even in the pursuit of his FBI duties.

I am focusing on just a few shows but this is really just the start of the list.  There are shows today that promote adultery, greed, lying, promiscuity etc, etc, etc.

You might hope that somewhere in any of these dramas would be the concept of rehabilitation and redemption, that these anti-heroes reform their ways and get back on track.  But no, that would ruin the premise of the story.  The crime continues non-stop from Neal Caffrey in White Collar scamming every week to a non-stop parade of murders by Dexter.

So it needs to be said that Dexter is a murderer who should have been stopped and punished.  Likewise it is wrong to con and scam in all the shows from Suits to White Collar.   Adultery, greed, lying, promiscuity etc. are all wrong.

Otherwise we are celebrating misdeeds, rejoicing in wrongdoing.

It (love) does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. (1 Corinthians 13:6 ESV)


[i] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mark_Twitchell

[ii] http://abcnews.go.com/2020/teen-kills-brother-loves-dexter-life-imitating-art/story?id=13161191

January 21st, 2014 Posted by | Modern Christianity | no comments

A Wicked and Adulterous Generation – Repent

I have been watching Frontline, the episode titled The Untouchables. It is the story of the investigation into the banking industry concerning the meltdown was caused by bank industry practices of selling and reselling bad mortgages. These practices made a lot of bankers rich, but it almost caused a worldwide economic meltdown. It certainly caused a national economic catastrophe. And, amazingly, as the show points out and despite efforts by Senate investigators as well as the New York State Atty. Gen.’s office, none of these “fat cats” went to jail.  This is the opposite of what happened after the S&L crisis in the 80s where thousands of bankers went to jail.

One of the things that becomes apparent when you look at this debacle is that the scale of the thing. This was no isolated incident at any level. There were loads of people buying mortgages that had no business getting them. There were numbers of bank workers at every level that were aware that a lot of these mortgages were being secured by people without the resources to pay them off. To their credit, there were a number of people who tried to point the problems out to people that were higher than them but they were ignored. And there were the mortgage companies, and the banks whose only concern was profitability, and more specifically, that if it was okay on Wall Street and the moneymakers were making money, then it was not only a business that was okay, it was a business to pursue. In the words of the chief executive of Countrywide Mortgage, the motto was “fund em”,  that no matter what people’s circumstances were, there was a way to fund them, whether they had jobs, or assets, or not. The big banks made lots of money with this strategy.

However, this caused a big economic bubble, which crashed. It other times in history when this kind of reckless behavior was discovered people went to jail. Not this time.  The rich got richer. The poor have became poorer. (That is called “oppression” in the Bible)

What does that say about the society in which this kind of behavior thrives?

Jesus made an interesting comment after he was asked by some Pharisees for a sign:

But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas: For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here. The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for she came from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here. When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest, and findeth none. Then he saith, I will return into my house from whence I came out; and when he is come, he findeth it empty, swept, and garnished. Then goeth he, and taketh with himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first. Even so shall it be also unto this wicked generation.  (Matthew 12:39-45 KJV)

Jesus called the generation a “wicked and adulterous” one. Wicked is just another word for evil. It means sinful, or unrighteous, or simply put, not living as God intends for us to live. Adulterous brings up the image of a person who is unfaithful to their spouse, but in this case it is an analogous term that refers to God’s people being unfaithful to him.

When God talks about a generation being evil he doesn’t mean everyone in the generation, just that it’s so prevalent that it’s something that marks the generation. One of the biggest things that marked the current generation is this Wall Street banking scandal of the early 21st century.

The Wall Street banking scandal clearly illustrates practices that are not what God would want. God believes in fair practices, a good day’s work for a good day’s pay, and a good price for a fair amount of product.

“You shall not have in your bag two kinds of weights, a large and a small. You shall not have in your house two kinds of measures, a large and a small. A full and fair weight you shall have, a full and fair measure you shall have, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you. For all who do such things, all who act dishonestly, are an abomination to the LORD your God.  (Deuteronomy 25:13-16 ESV)

This sets a standard that says when somebody trades something that is so much weight it needs to be accurate. If you’re buying a pound of wheat or rice or gold, it needs to be measured accurately in order for the appropriate value to be determined. There is no leeway in the above standard.

The banking industry clearly did not hold that standard. They sold bundles of mortgages that were supposedly good while they knew they were not. Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein not only admitted as such, but he presented the practice as part of “market making”. In his statements to Congress he was unapologetic and his arguments focused on what have become the standard business practices of the day, which includes taking both “long and short” positions on sales, that is selling things while taking a position in the market that the item being sold will fail.

Everybody else would call that selling a product that they know is not good, or fraud. The focus of the Frontline piece centers around citizens, Senators, attorney generals all calling this fraud while Blankfein and his cronies call it standard business practices.

According to Wikipedia Blankfein regularly earns in excess of $50 million a year, and in 2011 was listed by Forbes as the 43rd most powerful person in the world.

It certainly looks suspicious that the Obama administration has failed to indict any of these leaders especially considering that Blankfein is a known democratic supporter. Again, according to Wikipedia, in 2008 Blankfein’s Goldman Sachs’ employees and relatives helped raise almost $1 million for Barack Obama, making it the company from which Obama received the most help getting elected.

One of the questions asked in the Frontline piece was not only why didn’t anyone hold the American banking system to account but why hasn’t anyone held the American Justice system to account for not holding the Banking System to account?

All of this has happened while the person on the street has suffered, losing income and buying power steadily throughout this fiasco.   Unemployment is still high and the economy is still shaky.

The whole scenario is what the Bible calls “a wicked and adulterous generation” because these things didn’t happen in a vacuum.  There has been a widespread culture change in our country that has allowed this to happen.

So what would the Bible message be in response to this?  It would be “Repent”, of course!  People, we have a choice. Greed may not be illegal, but it is evil. Don’t be a part of it. Don’t be a part of any business practice that isn’t right. And while finances and the economy are important, it is very important that we first of all act righteously in our own affairs. And second, that we do business with people and elect political leaders that will help make us a generation known for righteousness rather than evil.

This is not always simple. It means we may have to clean up our work practices. Sometimes it may mean changing jobs and/or the people that we do business with.

Remember, just because it is currently acceptable in our culture doesn’t make it righteous.

But, if we are truly believers, then the question that we must always ask ourselves, down to a moment by moment basis, is, “Is what we are doing serving the Lord?

And to the mighty in the land there is this charge:

“Thus says the Lord GOD: Enough, O princes of Israel! Put away violence and oppression, and execute justice and righteousness. Cease your evictions of my people, declares the Lord GOD.” Eze 45:9

Its time to make America great again for the common man.  We need to do our part by both living righteously and demanding the same from business and political leaders.

©copyright 2013 Mark W. Smith, all rights reserved.

November 12th, 2013 Posted by | Modern Christianity | no comments

Religion vs. Science is an Ongoing Debate – Brain Scans Do Not Reliably Predict Violent Behavior

Religion and Ethics Newsweekly is a PBS program that explores current news items that have a connection to religious and ethical practices.   As the title implies, the program takes a diverse religious approach as the it explores all religions as well as modern cultural ethical philosophies around the world.  Recent programs have featured Baha’i, Hindu, Islamic, Hebrew, and atheist perspectives besides various Christian denominational viewpoints.  The November 2, 2013 program entitled Predicting Violence; Reza Aslan’s Zealot features a story on how the brains of violent offenders differ greatly from people who do not display such violent behavior.  The implication is that religions that penalize people whose brains are programmed to so commit violent acts are themselves immoral.

Professor Adrian Raine, who teaches neuroscience at the University of Pennsylvania and wrote a book entitled The Anatomy of Violence: The Biological Roots of Crime, argues that there is a brain basis for violent behavior thus making judgments against such offenders immoral.  This flies not only in the face of Christianity, but many major religions such as Judaism, Islam, etc. all condemn violent behavior as sin.

The study for this research included having individuals respond to questionnaires as they were asked how they would respond to critical situations where the decision might be to have to kill one person to save five.

Paul Wolpe (Emory Center for Ethics) responded to Raine’s work as being very significant and worthy of further study but warns that jumping to judgement and implementing policy changes at this point could lead to seriously wrong decisions.

The work of Raine continues the progression of scientific recommendations that change the viewpoint on many behaviors from being the result of decisions and being the result of pure biology.

Wolpe makes an extremely important point that people with the same lesions exhibit different behavior paths.  In fact, Raine himself has a brain scan similar to some serial killers yet he chose to study neuroscience while other chose to commit multiple murders.

In my opinion, that alone is an excellent reason to reject the validity of brain scans to override the behavior choices that people make.

See PBS, Religion and Ethics Newsweekly for more information about the program.

November 2nd, 2013 Posted by | Modern Christianity | no comments