Jellied jellyfish — The cover of the April 2013 Journal of Creation has a picture of a jellyfish, with a caption that states “Fossil Jellyfish from Western Australia: Challenging Geological Chronology.” The article is “Fossil jellyfish from the Pilbara, Western Australia” by Philip Worts. The article is not available online yet, but I assume there is a claim that the Archean rocks of the Pilbara Craton—which contain what many believe to be Earth’s oldest known bacteria fossils—contain jellyfish fossils as well. I haven’t read the article so I cannot comment on that aspect.
What is harder to believe, that jellyfish got preserved in quiet, oxygen-poor sedimentary environments, or that somehow the carcasses of these fragile creatures stayed intact in the abrasive sediment-rich slurry that the YECs propose for Noah’s flood?
More unsalty salt — Last week I wrote a critique of a young-Earth creationist proposal that evaporites (rock salt, gypsum, etc.) were formed during Noah’s flood by crystallization from “salt magma.” Now there is a homeschool study guide to go along with the salt magma YouTube video. Most homeschooled kids won’t be harmed by this, but those who do any critical thinking or investigation about the video could be at risk of being “already gone.” This is especially true when they are presented with the false dichotomy of “if YEC isn’t true, then Christianity isn’t true.”
What is worse, a toy or a bloody conquest? — Lego drops Jabba toy after Muslims complain — So, it’s bad that this Lego set has a building that sort of looks like a mosque in Istanbul, but it is just fine that the Turks invaded the Christian Byzantine Empire, and converted its greatest church, the Hagia Sophia, into that mosque?
The empty tomb — Here are 14 Evidences for the Resurrection. This is a central teaching of Christianity. Put all other issues aside for a while—questions about evolution, biblical inerrancy, gay rights, or whatever else keeps you from Christ—and give some thought to the most significant person in all of history: the risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
The result is a very strong case that Jesus (a) died, (b) was buried, (c) rose from the dead, and (d) appeared alive to a variety of persons.
Young earth creationists paint a picture of half-crazed dinosaurs running around to escape the next giant wave washing new layers of sediments over the world and laying nests in barren sand layers and then running off to try to find higher ground. What we find in this nest contradicts everything about this explanation. Here we find that a well-organized preserved nest in which one of the broken eggs has these cocoons preserved in it.
The YECs might respond with their “They only look like wasp cocoons” tactic. That doesn’t help them; dinosaur nests simply do not fit into their flood geology model.
Richard Dawkins practices survival of the fittest — Dawkins is quite willing to tell the Arabic newschannel Al-Jazeera that the the God of the Old Testament is a hideous monster, but didn’t have anything bad to say about Allah in the Quran. Perhaps he hates Christianity worse than he hates Islam. Perhaps he wants to live a little longer. See In defense of Richard Dawkins.
Persecution of Christianity continues — Bible Burning Spreads to Another Former Soviet State. “The newest report on Kazakhstan suggests that a recent court order to ‘destroy’ 121 books (mostly Bibles) confiscated from a Baptist could be the first-ever religious book burning in the country.”
Persecution of Christianity questioned — CNN posted a story today — Christ was persecuted, but what about Christians? — that reported nothing new to anyone who has actually read church history. Official persecution of Christians by the Romans was sporadic, and most Christians in the Roman Empire never faced a real threat of martyrdom. But when the Romans did move into action against Christians (e.g. Nero), they could be quite brutal. Like today, however, there could be a lot of social pressure against becoming a Christian.
Landsat 8 — The Landsat Data Continuity Mission has released the first images taken by the satellite. It will be renamed Landsat 8 once it has completed all of its tests and calibrations. See First View from the New Landsat Satellite on the NASA Earth Observatory site.
LEAVING THE HATECHURCH — Two granddaughters of Fred Phelps—pastor of the heretical “God Hates Fags” Westboro Baptist Church—have left the “church.” Here are a few thoughts from an article in Christianity Today (The Westboro Baptist in All of Us):
Most of us wouldn’t go to the same lengths as those at Westboro, but collectively, we have our own prejudices, rigid rules, regulations, and zealotries. These drive us to marginalize, cast aspersions upon and exclude others within our own churches, Christian organizations and institutions who so much as dare to differ, even slightly, from our own political or theological stances.
“Zealotry is conscious zeal to be radically committed, so radically committed that one goes beyond the Bible to defend things that are not in the Bible…. Zealots…convince themselves that, even though the Bible does not say something, what they are saying is really what the Bible wanted after all.” — Scot McKnight
“The underlying assumption is that my thoughts are God’s thoughts; my cause is God’s cause. This divine alliance makes me exempt from obedience in order that I might bring about God’s purposes.” — Tim Gombis
The CT article is directed at Christians, but there is a little bit of Westboro in everybody.
GREEN ELEPHANTS FOR PRESIDENT — The top leadership of environmental organizations such as The Sierra Club, World Wildlife Fund, Friends of the Earth, and Greenpeace were given the opportunity to pick a list of greenest presidents. The top two vote-getters were Republicans: Teddy Roosevelt and Richard Nixon. See America’s Greenest Presidents. (HT: ConservAmerica)
Why Teddy Roosevelt? He clearly loved nature and did much to set aside land for preservation and stewardship.
Why Richard Nixon? The Environmental Protection Agency, Endangered Species Act, Clean Water Act…
What does the current crop of Republican leaders want to do about all of this?
IF I ONLY HAD A (CHIMP) BRAIN — If my wife sends me to the store with a list of more than three things, I must have them written down. If I were a chimpanzee however, I could do much better. Chimps have better short-term memory than humans.
We hear so often about Muslims as victims of abuse in the West and combatants in the Arab Spring’s fight against tyranny. But, in fact, a wholly different kind of war is underway—an unrecognized battle costing thousands of lives. Christians are being killed in the Islamic world because of their religion. It is a rising genocide that ought to provoke global alarm.
The portrayal of Muslims as victims or heroes is at best partially accurate. In recent years the violent oppression of Christian minorities has become the norm in Muslim-majority nations stretching from West Africa and the Middle East to South Asia and Oceania. In some countries it is governments and their agents that have burned churches and imprisoned parishioners. In others, rebel groups and vigilantes have taken matters into their own hands, murdering Christians and driving them from regions where their roots go back centuries.
Michael Horton, on the White Horse Inn blog, gives three ways in which we Christians in the West should respond (These are quotes, not the complete blog post):
More Christians have been martyred in the last several decades than in all of the centuries combined—including the early Roman persecutions. We are directed by Christ to pray first and foremost for the coming of his kingdom, come what may. But we also are called to pray for the “daily bread” and protection from temptation that become especially critical needs under persecution.
2. Faithful Witness
It’s striking that when Paul, writing from prison, asks for prayers on his behalf, he does not even mention better conditions. The gospel is his overriding passion. The “prisoner of Christ” asks for prayer “that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak” (Eph 6:19-20)
The temptation is great to tone down the radical message of the gospel. A growing trend in evangelical missiology, known as the “Insider Movement,” encourages people to become “Jesus followers” while remaining Muslims. They need not profess faith in Christ publicly, be baptized, or become part of the church; they may continue to be Muslims outwardly. In the church’s first centuries, a similar challenge arose. Many, including some bishops, claimed that they could remain Christians inwardly while outwardly surrendering their Bibles and any public identity as believers. Excommunicated, they were known as the “lapsed,” and this gave rise to the well-known statement by the third-century bishop and martyr Cyprian, “Outside the church there is no salvation.”
In the West, including the US, there is a growing detachment from public identification with Christ, including baptism and membership in the church. Emergent church leaders encourage people to become “followers of Jesus” while remaining Hindus, Buddhists, Jews, or Muslims. After all, it’s “deeds, not creeds.” There is growing reluctance to witness openly to Christ for fear of being perceived as narrow-minded and intolerant. While we eschew all appeals to temporal power, much less violence, for the spread of Christ’s kingdom, we must pause to consider the seriousness of Christ’s claims not only in the face of martyrdom but in the face of the more subtle forms of compromise that are weakening our witness at home and abroad. While brothers and sisters sit in prisons for their testimony to Christ, their greatest disappointment is to learn that some Western missionaries are encouraging what amounts to apostasy. It’s a policy that doesn’t even make sense pragmatically, since the duplicity of “Muslim followers of Jesus” outrages the Muslim community even where Christians and Muslims live in relative co-existence.
3. Human Rights, Not Just Christian Rights
Third, Christians in the West should advocate publicly for human rights, including religious freedom, as part of the universal mandate of neighbor-love. Ramez Atallah, an evangelical leader and general secretary of the Bible Society of Egypt, reportedly counseled, “It’s not to our benefit to have loud voices overseas talking about Christians. It’s a great benefit to us to have loud voices abroad talking about a more universal bill of rights for all Egyptians.”
Eurypterids in the petting zoo? — Eurypterids—the giant, scorpion-like arthropods of Ordovician to Devonian seas and lakes—may not have been the terrors of the waters that most have assumed. From FoxNews: Ancient 8-Foot Sea Scorpions Probably Were Pussycats. Some may have been vegetarians or scavengers, though the researchers acknowledge that species other than the ones they studied may have been predators.
The former president of Shell Oil, John Hofmeister, says Americans could be paying $5 for a gallon of gasoline by 2012. In an interview with Platt’s Energy Week television, Hofmeister predicted gasoline prices will spike as the global demand for oil increases.
Voyager 1 at edge of solar system — It is amazing to me that we are still in contact with the Voyager 1 probe, which is now 17.4 billion kilometers from the sun. From NASA:
December 13, 2010: The 33-year odyssey of NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft has reached a distant point at the edge of our solar system where there is no outward motion of solar wind.
Now hurtling toward interstellar space some 17.4 billion kilometers (10.8 billion miles) from the sun, Voyager 1 has crossed into an area where the velocity of the hot ionized gas, or plasma, emanating directly outward from the sun has slowed to zero. Scientists suspect the solar wind has been turned sideways by the pressure from the interstellar wind in the region between stars.
The event is a major milestone in Voyager 1’s passage through the heliosheath, the turbulent outer shell of the sun’s sphere of influence, and the spacecraft’s upcoming departure from our solar system.”
Praying for my children — I’m moving towards using prayer books rather than spontaneous prayers. I find that this helps me to concentrate better, and tends to be much richer in the use of Scripture than when I pray on my own. Here’s an example of a Scripture-saturated prayer for one’s children from a book I don’t have called Starck’s Prayer Book:
“Heavenly Father, immediately after their natural birth, I placed them into the arms of Your mercy in Holy Baptism. Behold, I now do the same in my prayer. Bless my children. Attend them in their going out and their coming in. Keep them in Your holy fear, that they may never burden their consciences with sins or offend You, or worst of all, fall from Your grace. Give them believing, humble, obedient, and godly hearts, that, like the child Jesus, they may increase in stature, wisdom and favor with God and men. Imprint on their hearts the image of Jesus in order that they may always keep, until their blessed end, a gracious God and an unstained conscience. Let my children be devout in their prayers, well-grounded in their Christian faith, steadfast and zealous in worship, chaste in their living, godly in their conversation, so that by their words and actions they may give offense to no one and thus bring upon themselves a fearful judgment. Preserve them from temptations and evil company. By Your Holy Spirit keep them constantly in mind of Your holy presence, that they remember that You are with them at home and away, in their room, by day and by night, in the company of others and when they are alone. Let Your holy angels be with them when they go out and when they come in. Let Your angels guard them when they travel. Give them Your holy angels as their companions. By their aid rescue them from dangers, as You did with Lot. Let them, like Jacob, live under the angels’ watchful care.”
My children were baptized at ages ranging from 6 to 17, so I would have to modify the first part a bit.
When America intervened to overthrow Saddam Hussein, Iraq’s Christians — mostly Chaldeans and Assyrians — numbered about 1.4 million, or about 3% of the population. Over the last seven years, more than half have fled the country and, as the New York Times reported this week, a wave of targeted killings — including the Oct. 31 slaying of 51 worshipers and two priests during Mass at one of Baghdad’s largest churches — has sent many more Christians fleeing. Despite Prime Minister Nouri Maliki promises to increase security, many believe the Christians are being targeted not only by Al Qaeda in Iraq, which has instructed its fighters “to kill Christians wherever they can reach them,” but also by complicit elements within the government’s security services.
Tertullian (~160-220 AD) was the first to say, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” While it is true that the church can grow and thrive under intense persecution—such as under the Romans of Tertullian’s time or China in the twentieth century—persecution can also drive the church to extinction. Picture Turkey (Ephesians, Galatians, the seven churches of Revelation 2-3) or most of North Africa.
Montana still under 1,000,000 — According to U.S. Census results, the population of Montana for 2010 was 989,415. When you drive across the state, it is hard to tell where they all are. There is still a whole lot of emptiness, which is the way it should be. From the Billings Gazette: Census: Montana population grows 9.7 percent.