Monday, October 31, 2016

Happy Reformation Day!

Don't have time to post much today, but I did want to register the 499th anniversary of Martin Luther blogging, ur, posting points for discussion, on the Wittenberg cathedral door. P.S. Tom is now taller than me. Sophie's pretty tall now too.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Seminary PL25: Leadership and the Gentile Mission

This is the eleventh post on church management in my "Seminary in a Nutshell" series. In this series, I first did a section on the Person and Calling of a Minister. Now this is the twenty-fourth post in a section on the Pastor as a Leader (see at the bottom).

The previous post in this series was on basic conflict resolution. This week continues with a case study from the New Testament church.
1. At times the New Testament church is held up as the ideal church, as if all we need to do is get back to the way things were at the very beginning. There is probably a sense in which the book of Acts does give us somewhat of an idealized picture of the earliest church. Although Acts does mention some of the conflicts of the earliest Christian community, we know more details from elsewhere, giving us a sense that at times matters were messier than we might think if we only had the book of Acts. Acts, after all, was written as a certain "apologetic" for the true nature of the "Way," and indeed it reveals that true nature.

There were thus different groups in the early church, not quite denominations, but with a similar flavor. There was the Jewish leadership of Jerusalem, with fairly "conservative" figures like James and Peter. There was also a "more conservative" group in the church that we might call Judaizers. They believed that Gentile converts to faith needed to go the whole way and become Jews. Paul was far more "liberal" than these groups, teaching that Gentiles did not need to keep the parts of the Jewish Law that distinguished Jew from Gentile. Finally, there was a group "more liberal" than Paul who felt free to eat at pagan temples and perhaps did not consider the sexual legislation of the Old Testament to still be in force.

2. These varying positions were conflicts waiting to happen. Paul certainly came into continual conflict with the Corinthian church over various matters. He tries to resolve the conflicts with varying degrees of firmness. He was usually quite confrontational when it came to sexual issues, such as when he commands the Corinthians to hand over to Satan a man who was sleeping with his step-mother.

He was more tactful when it came to the question of food offered to idols. He believes that the food itself is morally neutral, that the issue of morality relates to the conscience of the person eating. If you believe such food to be unclean, then it is unclean to you and you should not eat it. Do not ask where meat comes from. Eat it with thanksgiving. If it is going to cause someone else's faith problems, do not eat it for their sake. And do not go to a pagan temple because that is a bad witness and there are demons there.

However, this was not, as we will see, the position of the Jerusalem church, especially James, the Lord's brother. What we learn from Paul here is that some issues are non-negotiable, while others require us to navigate differing understandings within the church. We find common ground and then respectfully act in accordance with our consciences on matters of disagreement.

3. On the other end of the spectrum, Paul came into conflict with Judaizers who tried to get Gentiles to convert fully to Judaism. On his own turf, he was quite firmly against this group, because he saw them as undermining his churches. It is important to realize that the individuals in Galatia who were urging circumcision were Christians. It was not non-believing Jews that were the target of Paul's attack in his letter to the Galatians, but people who believed Jesus was the Messiah.

As Paul's mission got fully underway, he stood rather strongly against this potential influence on his churches. In Philippians 3:2, he calls these Christians "dogs" and the "mutilation" (katatome), mocking them for not truly being the "circumcision" (peritome). In Galatians, he warns that those who get circumcised will "fall from grace" (Gal. 5:4). Once again, we see that there are some non-negotiables for Paul. On other matters he urges a freedom of conscience.

He was apparently more tentative at the very beginning. After his first missionary journey, on which his ministry to non-Jews seems to have gained full steam, he consulted with the church leadership in Jerusalem (Gal. 2:1-5). With great cleverness, he took his uncircumcised co-worker Titus. This tactic made the issue real--are you going to tell this young man, this God-fearer, that God will condemn him on the Day of Judgment? Look at his faith!

Paul wins this battle. James and Peter agree that Titus does not have to become a Jew. They did not "force" him to get circumcised (Gal. 2:3). However, the wording suggests that James at least thought it would be ideal for him to convert fully. A win for Paul. His theology is allowed. Therefore, he can do his mission work accordingly.

This is a reminder that different pastors reach different audiences, often with slightly different teaching and approaches. Sometimes we do this under the same organizational umbrella. Sometimes we do so under differing denominations. But the gospel is often enriched by this diversity. As Paul says in Philippians 1:15-17, Christ is still being preached, and that is a good thing.

Acts 15 gives us a picture of this issue being officially settled. We know from Paul's letter that not everyone agreed. But the Jerusalem leadership--James and Peter especially--agreed that Gentiles did not have to become Jews to be part of the church. There was an official position, despite some continuing individual disagreement. The church could move forward.

4. But Paul and the Jerusalem leadership would part company soon enough. The blow up would take place at Antioch, one of the most exciting churches of the second decade of Christianity (40s). By the late 40s, there were numerous Gentile believers there. They were fellowshipping freely with the Jewish believers at Antioch. It is from this church that Paul and Barnabas launched the first missionary journey.

Jerusalem hears about this vibrant church, and Peter comes up to visit. At first, he fully participates in the Jew-Gentile fellowship of believers. But James is worried about a slippery slope. They had decided that Gentiles did not need to keep the Jewish Law to be saved, but he was concerned that Jews would now think that they also no longer needed to keep it.

He seemed particularly concerned about the purity laws. Was the food prepared correctly? Where did the meat come from?

5. So Peter stops eating with Gentile Christians, and the other Jews at Antioch are pressured to do so as well. Paul vehemently disagrees. We are all justified by faith, not by these sorts of "works of Law." He comes into direct conflict with the church leadership, and calls what Peter is doing hypocrisy (Gal. 2:14). The unity of the body of Christ trumps the purity laws.

Paul may or may not have handled this situation well. On the other hand, perhaps it was important for him to stand up for Gentile believers publicly. Sometimes public confrontation is necessary to defend others, to keep them from being discouraged or demoralized.

On the other hand, Barnabas took a more conciliatory tact. Although he may have agreed with Paul theologically, he did not agree with Paul procedurally. Perhaps he was thinking that they would get together and talk the issue through. They could come to some compromise or arrangement. They just needed to slow things down and work things out.

Paul was presumably long gone before that happened. The letter of Acts 15:23-29 may give us the compromise. As long as Gentiles will not prepare meat by strangling, as long as there will be no blood in the meat, as long as the meat has not been sacrificed at a temple to some god, as long as the Gentiles themselves are not sexually immoral, then Jewish and Gentile believer can eat together.

Paul only agreed on the matter of sexual immorality. On the other issues he has a "Don't ask" policy. Do not ask where the meat came from. Eat it with thanksgiving. He and Barnabas would part ways when it came time for a second missionary journey.

6. But the gospel would benefit greatly from this split! Paul and Barnabas agree to disagree and they part ways. As a result, Paul ends up in Greece, writing the first books of the New Testament. Barnabas has a much less significant ministry close to home. So we see that this conflict vastly expanded early Christianity. The heart of Paul's mission took place outside of what was then the mainstream.

It is important to recognize that Paul and the Jerusalem church probably did not come to agreement on these points. In some ways they agreed to disagree. Acts 21 pictures James still trying to reel Paul in on the matter of his own keeping of the Jewish Law. Paul probably did continue to keep the Jewish Law in general, except when he thought it hindered the mission.

But Paul did not win the argument at Antioch. When he won the argument, he told us (e.g., Gal. 2:9-10). He says nothing of the sort about the blow up between him and Peter (Gal. 2:11-14). Paul does the bulk of his ministry presumably without the full support of the church's leadership.

Next Week: Pastor as Leader 26: Navigating Disputable Issues

Leadership in General
Strategic Planning
Church Management
Conflict Management

Saturday, October 29, 2016

6.1 Rules for Voltage and Current

So we move on to Module 5 in the Navy Basic Electricity and Electronics series (here is the previous module). This module is on Parallel Circuits (as opposed to the series circuits of the previous module). The first section is "Rules for Voltage and Current."

Some take-aways from this first section:
  • A parallel circuit is one which has more than one path for current to follow, although with only one common source.
  • Each path provides a "load" with a certain resistance.
  • Christmas lights used to be in a series configuration. If one light burned out, the rest wouldn't work. Most now are configured in parallel.
  • The voltage across the branches of a parallel circuit will be the same in every branch. Voltage is not additive.
  • This is different than in series circuits. For them, we had Kirchhoff's Law--"The sum of the voltage drops equals the applied voltage." Voltage is additive.
  • On the other hand, the current--the amount of electrons passing a given point at a given time--is divided up among each branch. Branch current in each branch is determined by the amount of resistance in that branch. The total current equals the total current of all the branches.
  • Kirchhoff's Current Law is that the total current is the sum of the current in all the branches.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Friday Gen Eds MS3: The Atom and Quantum Physics

This is the third post in the math/science part of my "Gen Eds in a Nutshell" series. It's a series of ten subjects you might study in a general education or "liberal arts" core at a university or college. I've already done the subject of philosophy, and I'm half way through the world history subject on Wednesdays. I'm combining the last two into one series on Fridays.

Thus far in the math/science subjects:
1. Way back in the 400s BC, a Greek named Democritus suggested that everything we see around us, all matter, might consist of certain fundamental, uncuttable units, a certain number of core units from which everything is made. He called them "atoms," meaning uncuttable. He even suggested there might be "soul atoms," which made things live.

The idea wasn't fully picked up again until the 1800s with John Dalton (1766-1844). Newton had suggested that light was made up of particles, and the century after him generally had begun to think of the world consisting of particles. But it was Dalton who saw that these particles combined in a way that showed all of matter consisted of a certain fixed number of fundamental units. We call these fundamental units, "elements."

Everything around us that is matter--gases, liquids, solids--all are made up of less than a hundred distinct elements. If we took the whole world and somehow boiled it all down and put its fundamental components into baskets, we would find that there is a finite number of building blocks of everything around us.

2. So all of matter--stuff--breaks down into 90 basic elements that occur in nature. These are 90 basic types of "atom" that combine in various ways to form "molecules" and compounds. Then those molecules get mixed in various ways to form everything we see around us that is a gas, a liquid, or a solid.

As an example, two of the most basic elements of the universe are hydrogen (H) and oxygen (O). Both of them can bind to form "molecules" like hydrogen gas (H2), oxygen gas (O2), water (H2O) and hydrogen peroxide (H2O2). If you know these compounds, you know they each behave quite differently. Hydrogen gas can be used to fly the Hindenberg, but don't let any sparks come near it. Oxygen is necessary for us to breathe, but it is also what keeps fires burning. Water is a liquid we need to survive. Add a second oxygen per molecule and you have something that helps clean a wound.

3. The initial idea of an atom was that it was the smallest building block of matter, an indestructible unit. However, in the late 1800s, experimenters began to wonder if there was a level of reality even smaller than the atom. Did the atom itself have parts--or "particles"--inside them, if you would?

For example, Ernest Rutherford discovered in 1909 that when you bombard gold foil with something called alpha rays [1], most of them went through but occasionally one would bounce backward. From this observation he concluded that the center of an atom was more dense than the rest of it. He called this center of an atom the "nucleus," and inferred that most of the rest of the atom was empty space.

Twelve years earlier, in 1897, J. J. Thompson had also figured out that "cathode rays" were smaller components inside an atom and that they had an electrical charge. They would come to be called electrons. With the discovery of the nucleus by Rutherford, Niels Bohr would suggest in 1913 that the much smaller electrons orbit the nucleus like planets around the sun.

4. Over the next few decades, a more precise sense of the atom would unfold. There are three fundamental particles in the atom: electrons, protons, and neutrons. Protons and neutrons are in the nucleus. Electrons pertain to the space beyond the nucleus. The electron has a negative charge, the proton a positive charge. The neutron is neutral and has no charge.

The electrical charge in general holds the negatively charged electrons to the positively charged nucleus. Opposite charges attract, like charges repel.

Then why don't the positive charges in the nucleus cause the nucleus to fly apart? It would be the 1970s before the current theory came together. Protons hold together because of a force, the "strong nuclear force," one of the four basic forces of the universe, the strongest of them all. But it only works on a very, very small scale. [2]

As the "standard model" of particles continued to develop, physicists would conclude that protons and neutrons themselves were made up of smaller particles called "quarks" (three a piece). The strong nuclear force that holds protons and neutrons together also holds these quarks together to form protons and neutrons.

5. At the same time that particle physics was developing--even faster in fact--a sense of the nature of electrons was also developing. Late in the year 1900, Max Planck would give birth to modern physics with his proposal that energy existed in discrete passages or "quanta" of energy. It was a revolutionary suggestion and Planck himself probably did not realize the full implications.

So electrons could only occupy specific energy states around the nucleus. To complicate matters, Louis de Broglie was able to solve certain problems by suggesting that electrons were both waves and particles. Werner Heisenberg discovered an uncertainty principle. You couldn't know both a particle's location and its momentum. In a sense, it didn't even have a specific location until you tried to measure it.

So an electron is really more like a certain probability field around the nucleus. That is to say, an electron is not really in just one place at a time. In a sense, it is more or less in a zone. If you try to locate it, you make it take on a location, and there is a greater likelihood that it will be in some places more than others. It probably will not be in a different galaxy, although there is a very very small possibility.

The first two electrons of an atom are most likely found in a spherical zone close to the nucleus (the 1s orbital). In keeping with the next energy states that are possible, it is as if there is assigned seating area for each additional electron an atom might have. After the first spherical zone is a second one for two more electrons (the 2s orbital). Then there are three perpendicular zones for the next six electrons (the 2p orbital).

The zones for additional electrons are now well known, that is, the fields they occupy. [3]

6. Quantum physics implied a dramatic shift from the physics that Isaac Newton developed in the 1600s. Up till the twentieth century, scientists assumed that everything in the universe was determined. That is to say, many believed that if we had all the data and knew all the laws of nature, we could determine everything that would happen for the rest of history.

Quantum physics suggested that you simply couldn't predict what nature would do, at least not on its smallest scale. Richard Feynman often used the so called double slit experiment to explain the crazy quantum world. If you fire a series of photons randomly at a screen through two slits, they will eventually form a pattern on the screen known as an interference pattern. This is a pattern typical of a wave.

But if you put a detector by each slit, to see which one each particle is going through, the interference pattern goes away. Now you have two collections of dots from the photons, as if the photons are particles. So you cannot predict where any one photon will go, although you can predict the interference pattern if you don't connect the detector. And if you connect the detector, the act of measurement eliminates the wave like property of the photon.

Now the atomic world is not determined. It is unpredictable on its most fundamental level.

7. This seems like an appropriate place to mention the atomic bomb, dropped on Japan in 1945. One of the discoveries of the early twentieth century was that the same element can have more than one form. The same element can have different numbers of neutrons in its nucleus. We call these different "isotopes" of an element.

To back up a little, it is the number of protons that identifies an atom as a certain element. If an atom has one proton in its nucleus, it is hydrogen. If it has two, it is helium. If an atom has 8 protons in its nucleus, then the element is oxygen.

But the same atom can vary in the number of neutrons--or even electrons--it has. So with regard to electrons, sodium can lose an electron and take on a positive charge. Or chlorine can gain an electron and take on a negative charge.

It is differing numbers of neutrons that make different "isotopes" of an element. For example, most hydrogen does not have any neutrons in its nucleus. But there is a rare isotope of hydrogen with one neutron (deuterium) and there is an even rarer isotope with two (tritium).

"Radioactive" isotopes are forms of an atom that tend to deteriorate into other elements. For example, uranium has an "atomic number" of 92. That means it is an element with 92 protons in its nucleus. However, it has more than one isotope. Uranium 238 is relatively stable. It has 238 particles in its nucleus (its atomic weight). So a little subtraction suggests that this isotope has 92 protons and 146 neutrons.

There is, however, another isotope called Uranium 235. It has 143 neutrons and is unstable. If you shoot a neutron at it and hit the nucleus just right, it begins a reaction that ends with uranium breaking apart into Krypton and Barium. The atomic bomb took less than a kilogram of Ur 235 and created a nuclear chain reaction, releasing the immense amount of energy that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

8. A standard model for particle physics reached its mature form in the 70s and 80s. There are six types of quark. There are six smaller particles called leptons that include the electron and a small particle called a neutrino. There are four bosons that are the mediators of the fundamental forces: gluons mediate the strong force, photons the electromagnetic force, the W and Z mediate the weak force. In 2013, the Higgs boson was also tentatively confirmed, which is thought to give matter its mass.

9. It is not agreed what may underlie these smallest of particles, if anything. String theory suggests that all these particles and forces can be explained by way of fundamental strings that vibrate in certain ways. However, not all agree and there is no experimental confirmation of string theory. A competing theory is loop quantum gravity, which functions on the assumption that space itself has a smallest size, the Planck unit.

Next Week: The Periodic Table

[1] Now we know that alpha rays are two protons and two neutrons, basically the nucleus of a helium atom.

[2] The electromagnetic force is a second. Then the "weak" nuclear force works in something called beta decay. Finally, there is gravitation.

[3] 1s2, 2s2, 2p6, 3s2, 3p6, 4s2, 3d10, 4p6, 5s2, 4d10, 5p6, 6s2, 4f14, 5d10, 6p6...

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Gen Eds H6b: Renaissance and a New World

This is the second half of my treatment of the period, "Renaissance and Reformation."

These are posts in the World History part of my "General Education in a Nutshell" series. This series involves ten subjects you might study in a general education or "liberal arts" core at a university or college. The first topic in the overall series was philosophy. So far in the world history section:
The Renaissance
9. The Protestant Reformation broadly took place within the context of the Renaissance or what was seen as a period of "rebirth" of ancient Greek and Roman culture. Notice the implicit bias in such language.  The period before this rebirth comes to be known as the "Dark Ages" or the "Middle Ages." Middle between what, one might ask. The language implies the middle between a time thought to be alive and a time when culture was reborn again. The implication, again, is that the middle time was a time of death and darkness.

Of course Europe's greatest universities--Oxford (1096), Cambridge (1209), Paris (1150), Bologna (1088), Heidelberg (1386)--were founded in these "middle" ages. Perhaps some would see these foundings as the beginning of the rebirth. Yet they were founded to be places to study theology, not science or literature.

And there was a steady stream of thinkers throughout these "dark" times. In the Muslim world were philosophers like Ibn Sina (900s) and Ibn Rushd (1100s), through whom the works of Aristotle were preserved. Anselm in the 1000s. Abelard after him. Then Aquinas (1200s).

10. The beginning of this "rebirth" is sometimes traced to Petrarch (1304-74). It was Petrarch who called the time before him the "dark ages." It was he that rediscovered the writings of Cicero the Roman (106-43BC). Plato's Academy, the school he started in Athens in the early 300s BC, had been closed by the church in AD529. Petrarch and others would effectively reopen it, not literally, but culturally.

So we had a growing number of Italians reaching back into the writings of the ancient Romans. And since the Romans themselves borrowed a great deal of culture from the Greeks, we see the rebirth of interest in the Greco-Roman world of classical antiquity. [2] This renewed interest in the literature of the Romans and Greeks would soon spread to France and the rest of Europe.

"Humanism" arose, an interest in human culture and achievement. It is not that such individuals did not believe in God. But many of them began to focus on humanity as a subject in itself. They talked about humanity without necessarily talking about God. You might say that God was marginalized in their exploration of humanity. They operated more in line with the words of the ancient Greek Protagoras (487-12BC): "Man is the measure of all things."

11. There is something both exciting and discouraging about this flowering. We can ask the same question we might have asked about the scientific revolution. Why wasn't there a scientific revolution until people began to ask how the world might operate on its own without God's direct involvement? So with the clear flowering in art and literature that arose in the Renaissance, why did it take the marginalization of God and a focus on humanity for it to take place?

We don't see the need to hold God apart from science and art today. At least I don't. I find it easy to believe that God created a world that is distinct from him and that operates according to laws he has placed within the universe apart from his direct intervention. I find it easy to believe that God created the world to be beautiful on its own, that art and beauty do not need a justification or to make a theological point. The universe is beautiful beyond belief. Praise be to God!

So we do not need the word humanism. We can glorify God as we celebrate the beauty humans create and that they are. We can praise God for what he has enabled humans to accomplish. It glorifies God to celebrate the cultural achievements he has made possible. It glorifies God to create art and music and drama and literature. Shame on any church that has shut such wonderful expressions of the power God has placed within and among us! What are the Psalms, if not primarily the joy, sorrow, and anger of Israel, expressed in artful form?

But the context presumably for such a shift in focus was in part the general malaise of the medieval Roman Catholic Church. In the vacuum of spiritual expression, dormant forms of beauty were rediscovered. In the absence of a felt spiritual presence, science was born. And in the absence of spiritual authority came the Reformation. The plague of 1348-50 may also have played a role, as human life may have come to be seen as generally worthless.

12. We know the art of the Renaissance, and one of the ten subjects in this general education series will be "World Art and Music." The three greatest masters of Renaissance art were Raphael (1483-1520), Michelangelo (1475-1564), and Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519), although there were many others. The first two had much to do with the art in the Vatican and St. Peter's Basilica, reconstructed by Pope Leo X in the early 1500s. It was the way Leo raised money for these projects that incited the need for reformation in Martin Luther.

The New World
13. "In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue." We all know the legend. He was seeking a short cut to the Indies and hoped to go around the globe rather than going around the horn of Africa and back up east. However, he vastly underestimated the size of the earth and instead hit the island that today we call Haiti and the Dominican Republic. [1] Within a century, the native population was wiped out.

The Spanish and the Portuguese were the first to explore what we now call Central and South America. They were looking for gold and in the process decimated the indigenous Aztec and Inca peoples. In 1519, Hernan Cortez landed in Mexico, and by 1521, Aztec civilization was gone. The Incas in Chile were thoroughly defeated by 1536 and gone by 1572.

So the Spanish would conquer Mexico and much of South America. The Portuguese would end with Brazil. Texas, Florida and California  would also be either under Spanish or Mexican control. The French held Canada, Louisiana, and some of the Midwest.

The decimation and removal of native Americans in North America was slower. But as hoards of British arrived, native Americans were pushed further and further west. After the Civil War, those native Americans left in the south mostly moved to Oklahoma (since they were grouped along with freed slaves as non-whites). Meanwhile, those who were in the West were either sacrificed to the lust for land in the western expansion or were confined to "reservations."

The Ottoman Turks
14. In 1453, the Ottoman Turks conquered Byzantium, which had existed as a major center of power since the Roman emperor Constantine moved the capitol of the Roman Empire there in 330. This kingdom had begun in northwest Anatolia (modern day Turkey) in the 1200s but would steadily expand until its peak under Suleiman the Magnificent (1494-1566).

In the 1300s, the Ottoman empire would expand across into Macedonia and the Balkans. In the early 1500s, they would take Egypt. Then under Suleiman they would take Iraq and much of Hungary. Finally, Suleiman was stopped while trying to seige Vienna in 1529. The Turks would try one last time to take Vienna in 1683, and they would never try again.

The Ottoman Empire would continue to rule from Greece and Hungary to Egypt to Iraq for centuries. In 1821, Greece would break free. In the late 1800s, war with Russia would free Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia, and Bosnia. Egypt and Saudi Arabia had become as much allies of the Turks as fully controlled territories. Finally, after World War I, the Turks would lose Syria and Iraq.

  • The labels we give to historical movements and periods reflect and propagate our biases and perspectives--they are not the facts of history itself.
  • There are periods of time when people call themselves Christians (or perhaps any religion), but those who truly believe and live out Christianity (or whatever religion) are almost always a much smaller number.
  • When the representatives of a religion is in power, it is then when they seem least likely to be authentic.
  • It's okay to explore science or to express ourselves in the arts as an expression of our love for God without imposing theology artificially on them. "Forced" faith-integration sometimes squelches the pursuit of truth and the brilliance of the expression.
  • The expansion of empire almost never has anything to do with God.
Next Week: The Age of the Church and Jihad

[1] Educated people at the time of Columbus did not think that the earth was flat. They did still think that the earth was the center of the universe, but most educated people had not thought the earth flat for centuries upon centuries.

[2] The Roman poet Horace (65-8BC) once noted that while Rome may have conquered Greece militarily, the Greeks conquered Rome with the arts.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Harry Shepherd Prophecy 13

The thirteenth installment of my grandfather Shepherd's prophecy book, copied here without comment.
The Fourth Promise, The Antichrist 
The False Prophet And Armageddon
Because the antichrist will, near the middle of the Tribulation, after his breaking of his covenant with many Israeli, launch and carry to and through Armaggedon the most terrible persecution which they have ever experienced, he must incur the penal consequences of God's Fourth Promise to Abraham. Eventually he will silence every preacher except the angel of Revelation 14:6 who will preach the Everlasting Gospel from the heavenly spaces to all peoples. He will add to his other murders the despiteful slaying of the two heavenly-returned witnesses of Revelation 11:3-13—Elijah and Moses or Enoch. He and the False Prophet will increase his guilt further by their compulsory, ruinous, totalitarian, collectivistic economic policy (buying and selling) and by their meting out death and starvation probably to those who refuse to cooperate (Revelation 13:16, 17). In addition they will put over a repulsive idolatrous worship of the antichrist and also of his image, with pain of death for refusal to comply. Jews, of course, will rebel and be slaughtered by the thousands probably. During the three and a half years ministry of the two witnesses mentioned above, in all probability the 144, 000 Israelites of Revelation 7:3-8 will be saved and sanctified holy. These fire-baptized evangels will go out into all the world and be used of God to turn to Him the great host of Gentiles which no man could number (Revelation 7:9-17). As the two witnesses' ministry is 1260 days or three and half years, and as the antichrist slays them at the end of the second woe or Sixth Trumpet Judgment toward the end of the Great Tribulation, then their work would have to begin before the middle of the Tribulation. Hence the campaign of the 144,000 Israelites would be in the last half of it (Revelation 11:1-14). Therefore the antichrist will not stop all preaching till near the end of the Time of Jacob's Trouble toward Armaggedon. From Matthew 24:14 we can infer part, at least, of what they will preach. From Psalm two we can see the effect of their ministry. I think they will preach the gospel of the kingdom, (Matthew 24:14) saying as John the Baptist and Jesus did, "Repent ye for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." They will probably remind the nations that their Messiah has come and taken back to heaven with Him all the redeemed ones who were ready, dead or alive, at this time of the rapture and resurrection. They will also declare that He will in a short time come again to earth, set up His earth-wide kingdom upon the restored throne of His father David in Jerusalem, His capital city, and that the law of the Lord for the world will go out from the capital (Isaiah 2:3) and that all sin will be put down. According to Psalm two this message will cause a furor of anti-Semitic hatred. The antichrist will call his ten confederate dictators to a Conference, possibly inviting others also. According to Psalm 2:1, marginal reading, they will tumultuously assemble. Their satanic-inspired decision will be to blot out the Israelitish race and block the setting up of a Messianic kingdom (Ps. 2:2 and 3). Satan will take a personal part by sending out a demon from himself and by helping the antichrist and false prophet send out of their mouths a demon apiece (Revelation 16:13-16). These three demons will be a satanic recruiting officers to enlist and gather the kings of the inhabited earth with their multitude of troops to Armageddon to the great day of God Almighty. Thus with the help of the devil will the antichrist assemble his vast host for the great and bloody battle of Armageddon—far, far more bloody than bloody Antietam in 1862.

The Battle of Armageddon
Armageddon is located in southwestern Galilee either in or near the plain of Esdraelon, an Old Testament battle ground, in the vicinity of Mount Carmel. Here will be the northern end of the Armageddon battle line of the combined forces of the nations. Isaiah 63:1-4, especially verse 1, gives us where the southern end will be, namely at Bozrah in Edom, south of the Dead Sea. Between these two points will the antichrist station these united troops, for 1600 furlongs or 200 miles (Revelation 14:20). He, as generalissmo, will place his headquarters "in the glorious holy mountain" (Daniel 11:45) possibly the Mount of Olives on the east of Jerusalem, or Mt. Zion in the city. From the following Bible passages we may infer some of the likely details of this terrible battle: Zechariah 14:14, chapter 14:1-16, chapter 12:2-9, 13:8 and 9, Joel 2:32 and 3:2, 9-17, Jeremiah 24:29-38, Revelation 11:1-2, 14:18-20, 16:16-21, and 19:11-21. According to the first reference Judah will fight at Jerusalem in this battle. The present population (1960) of the new State is about two million. (1,837,000 Jews and 225,000 non-Jews, total 2,062,000).

If the two million Jews in Russia and if some of the five million in the United States should immigrate into the new Jewish nation before Armageddon this influx might increase the present population. This we cannot tell for this battle is as the very end of this Time of Jacob's Trouble and as the bloody persecution (Zechariah 13:8 and 9) and scattering (Daniel 12:7) of the Israeli by the antichrist will have been under way for almost three and a half years the total population then might be even less than now. At least according to Zechariah 13:8 and 9 two-thirds of the people will be killed before and including the battle casualties. Since Haifa bay is the finest sea port on the eastern Mediterranean it is likely that the antichrist will land many or all of his armies from the West at this place. In such a case he would send them south past Jerusalem through the valley of Jehoshaphat, (Joel 3:2 and 12) east of the city, and on to Bozrah in Edom—a 200-mile battle line. Whatever may then be left of the present, very efficient Israeli army may contest this southward march, at least fight at Jerusalem as mentioned before (Zechariah 14:14). In some of the struggle it seems that these Jewish troops, supernaturally helped, will give an unusual account of themselves and inflict heavy casualties on their foes (Zechariah 12:6-8). The subnormal among them will be equal in fighting abilities to Israel's greatest king, David in his palmiest days. The house of David among them will be in this battle as the angel of the Lord.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Seminary PL24: Basic Conflict Resolution

This is the tenth post on church management in my "Seminary in a Nutshell" series. In this series, I first did a section on the Person and Calling of a Minister. Now this is the twenty-third post in a section on the Pastor as a Leader (see at the bottom).

The previous post in this series was on the third mark of the church conflict. This week continues posts on conflict management with a post on basic conflict resolution.
1. There are many different reasons for conflict. In People Smart, Mel Silberman mentions four different categories of conflict: conflicts over 1) facts, 2) methods, 3) purposes, and 4) values. [1] The first is a conflict over data--what is the truth? The second kind of conflict agrees on the facts and even agrees on the goals. It just doesn't agree on how to get there. The third kind of conflict has to do with the goals and purposes. Where are we trying to go? Finally, conflicts in values disagree on what is important. What are the non-negotiables? When will we have failed?

I might add that some people like conflict for its own sake. If an argument always seems to erupt when a certain person is around or in a discussion on social media, then there is a fair chance that you have someone around who just likes conflict. This type of person should not be put in any kind of leadership and, like a cancer, should be marginalized from most processes that matter.

We still care for their souls. We are still called to minister to them. But they are one of the fools of Proverbs (e.g., Prov. 10:8; 15:2; 26:4-5).

2. We often think of conflict as bad, as something to avoid. If we are talking about war or about conflict that inflicts serious damage or harm on another person, then certainly it is much to be avoided. War always indicates moral failure on someone's part. Genuine harm to another person is always sin. Harmful conflict needs to be resolved, at times with the use of force or power.

However, conflict between individuals who are aiming for the good can be a great boon. If you are in conflict over the facts, it is in your best interest to resolve the conflict by discovering what the facts are. Disagreement over values and purposes can lead to greater clarity, which will only help you achieve better goals. Conflict over methods can result in a better method being found than might have otherwise. And when two parties can't come to an agreement, going your separate ways can actually multiply the mission, as we will see next week.

So conflict need not be bad. Bad conflict should be resolved. But good conflict can be very healthy and productive. It should rather be managed.

Of course we should not assume that we can reach agreement. Human nature being what it is, we are not primarily creatures of reason. If we think that conflicts can be resolved merely by rational argument, we will probably lose most of our arguments. We are far more creatures of affect than we are creatures of reason.

Let me suggest the following seven principles for managing conflict:

1. First, be aware of it.
Conflict often lurks in the shadows, under the surface. It can percolate and boil without you realizing it. This sort of lurking tension probably won't just go away without being addressed. It needs to be addressed before it explodes.

I know of a situation at a college where someone was hired although some on the campus had serious questions about the person. The leadership felt that those questions were unjustified from the standpoint of the facts. However, it would have been wrong to think that all that needed to be done was to explain rationally the reasons for the hire.

There needed to be opportunities for release, to bring the hurt and the questions out of the shadows and into the open, not in a way that escalated the tension but that relieved it. Revolutions happen in part when those in leadership have been ignoring the underlying tensions--or when leaders try to use force to squelch it.

Hidden conflict usually needs to be addressed, especially if it is a matter of genuine concern. People need to feel like they are being heard.

2. De-escalate the situation.
I did some substitute teaching in the public schools the year before I came to teach at Indiana Wesleyan University. One day I came into conflict with a sixth grader who insisted on leaving the portable in which I was subbing before he was supposed to at the end of the day. I got in his way at the door. I kept him from leaving with my size advantage.

He went crazy. He said he would go home and get a gun and come back for me.

Now it would be easy for me to pontificate about how bad kids are these days or about the moral degeneration of our society. But I know that there are plenty of teachers and social workers--including my wife--who wouldn't have let the situation escalate to that level. I failed at conflict resolution because my words and actions escalated the situation.

I think I have become better at conflict. I don't just give in to avoid it (which was particularly typical of my personality when I was younger). I don't fight back to make sure I win (which has been typical of some of my friends from time to time). Rather, I have deeply come to appreciate the proverb that says, "A soft answer turns away wrath" (Prov. 15:1).

The person who yells back only escalates the situation. If you respond in kind, the situation will only escalate unnecessarily. If you respond calmly and keep your cool, you have a key characteristic of a good leader, one who can de-escalate conflict.

It is important to show respect to the person with whom you are in conflict if you expect to resolve the conflict by anything but force. When you are the mediator, you must try your best to be unbiased and not take sides. This is true in parenting. It is true in pastoring. As an aside, this is a good reason for a pastor not to take sides too obviously in an election too.

Most important, the sides at odds must know that you care for both of them, that you truly want what is best for them and for the kingdom.

3. Know yourself.
Someone once said that when you point your finger at someone, you have three fingers pointing back at yourself. This is what Jesus was saying when he said to be careful about judging others because we will be examined according to the same standard. In psychology, we talk about projection, which is when you accuse someone else of something you yourself are guilty of. It is Hypocrisy 101.

It is important as a pastor to examine yourself before you go accusing your congregation of something. And it is important when you are in a conflict to stop and ask yourself, "Am I really in the right here?" It takes two to tango, and so most conflict is not really one-sided. Usually, we have some blame in a conflict that has gotten out of hand.

Pastors often like to assume themselves a persecuted prophet. "I'm trying to do the will of God and the congregation doesn't see what I see" or "Satan is using the congregation to fight against God's direction for the church." Maybe. Or maybe it is you who don't see or that Satan is trying to use.

We must always ask ourselves the question in a conflict: "Am I entirely in the right here?" "Are my motives entirely pure here?" "Could my opposition actually be right about something?!"

4. Find common ground, "win-win" strategies.
Compromise is a dirty word. Except it isn't. Sure, we don't compromise on core values. But most of the things we fight about aren't core values. They're about better and worse methods. They're about better and worse priorities. They're about which value is most crucial at this particular moment.

The balance of powers in Washington is part of the brilliance of our Constitution, and it also ensures that very little will get done in Washington unless politicians learn to compromise, to seek common ground and "win-win" strategies where opposing parties both get something but rarely get everything they want.

There is gridlock in Washington because no one will compromise. From a Constitutional perspective, we don't need "stronger" leaders. We need leaders who can give and take. The only way for it not to be that way is to set up a dictatorship. But dictators are not good leaders.

And so it is that good leaders will often meet opposing sides half-way. They will give and take. They will try to meet in the middle. Occasionally, an issue may be important enough for a leader to use his or her power to go against the will of the majority or without any compromise. But leaders cannot do so too often, or else they will cease being leaders.

To resolve conflict, it is important to find common ground in a way that creates "win-win" situations for both sides.

5. You don't have to be right even when you're right.
When the Corinthians were taking each other to court, Paul suggests the radical Christian teaching that it's better sometimes to lose than to be right. That is to say, Paul tells them it would better for them to lose their court battle, even though they think they are in the right, for the greater good of being a good witness to the world (1 Cor. 6:1-8).

Arguably, the evangelical witness in America right now is largely burnt over ground with younger non-believers because a certain segment just has to win, even at a horrendous cost for our witness.

This way of thinking is incomprehensible to some of us. "But I'm right!" someone might protest. Who cares, if it is not a matter of the utmost importance? It is an all too easy confusion of facts with values. The value of harmony at times is more important than the value of truth, at least when we are just talking about facts.

I was on a committee once with someone who had the personality that, if he was convinced he was right, he felt that his perspective had to prevail, no matter what. Sometimes I agreed with him, but we would still lose the vote. He couldn't handle that. "But I'm right," he would reassert. "Let me explain it better."

But it wasn't a matter of the others not understanding him. They just didn't agree. There are much more important things than winning, and there is a time to lose even though you are right. There is a time to submit willingly to authority that is wrong. 1 Peter 2-3 say as much to slaves and wives in such a situation.

6. Submit to the verdict.
Represent your position strongly in debate. "Iron sharpens iron." The outcome won't be as sharp if you have not fully represented the strength of your argument with a good attitude.

Then comes time for the decision. Perhaps there is a leader who makes the final decision. Perhaps there is a vote. Then it is time to submit to authority. It is time to agree to disagree. If it is a matter of principle, then you should go your separate ways, as Paul and Barnabas did.

In the 2000 election, Al Gore did not agree with the conclusion of the Supreme Court as to who had won the election. But he conceded the election with honor. He agreed to disagree and submitted to defeat for the greater good. This is the Christian way.

So it is that we should not continue rehearsing the old argument, replaying the old debate, re-opening the old wounds once the debate is over. We agree to disagree and move on.

7. Be reconciled.
Finally, agreeing to disagree means that we continue without hatred toward each other in our hearts. Although Paul disagreed with Barnabas over John Mark and other things, we find Paul commending Mark in Colossians 4:10. No grudge was held. They were reconciled.

We will not always be able to get the other side to shake hands. We will not always get an apology when we think we deserve it. Wisdom may say that we do not re-engage some people.

But we can give it to God. We can move on. We can forgive even when we cannot forget. We show that by the way we act toward the other party. We show that by praying for them, by asking God to help them.

Next Week: Pastor as Leader 25: Leadership and the Gentile Mission

[1] People Smart: Developing Your Interpersonal Intelligence (San Fransisco: Berrett & Koehler, 2000), 150. They themselves were following Jean Lebedun, Managing Workplace Conflict (West Des Moines, IA: American Media Publishing, 1998).

Leadership in General
Strategic Planning
Church Management
Conflict Management

Saturday, October 22, 2016

5.5 Troubleshooting Series Circuits

This is the fifth and final week of Module 5 in the Navy Basic Electricity and Electronics series. This module is on troubleshooting problems in series circuits. The first four sections were:

5.1 Voltage, Resistance, and Current
5.2 Ohm's Law Formula
5.3 Power
5.4 Internal Resistance

1. Most of the problems that occur in a series circuit either come from a short circuit or an open circuit. A short circuit is where there is a current path that shouldn't exist creating more current than is desirable. An open is where a part of the circuit is not connected or not fully connected and thus the current is not flowing as it should.

There can be a direct short circuit and there can be partial shorts. A direct short circuit is where the poles of the power source are directly connected in some way to each other. This will likely mess up the power source. A partial short only by-passes some of the components.

2. The purpose of a fuse is to keep the components in a circuit from damage in the case of a short. The symbol for a fuse is:
Fuses are rated for the amount of amps that they can safely carry.

You can locate a short using either a voltmeter or an ohmmeter. The voltmeter will tell you if there is too much voltage. Meanwhile, an ohmmeter will read 0 when it shouldn't.

3. An open circuit can also be found either with a voltmeter or an ohmmeter. When an ohmmeter is measured across an open element, it will read infinity. A voltmeter will read nothing across parts of the circuit where the open is not. But it will read full voltage across the open component.

An open circuit often results from a blown fuse or a defective switch.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Friday Gen Eds MS2: Basic Types of Numbers

The second post in the math/science part of my "Gen Eds in a Nutshell" series. It's a series of ten subjects you might study in a general education or "liberal arts" core at a university or college. I've already done the subject of philosophy, and I'm half way through the world history subject on Wednesdays. I'm combining the last two into one series on Fridays.

Thus far in the math/science subjects:
Basic Types of Numbers
1. It seems to me that it is perfectly acceptable to expect someone with a college degree to have some basic mathematical skills. Such basic math was historically part of the ancient and medieval curricula. Arithmetic and geometry were both part of the so called "quadrivium" of early medieval education, and math was part of the other two as well: music and astronomy.

Of course most people will know how to add, subtract, multiply, and divide before they even enter high school, hopefully before middle school. A child of one year old knows "less than." Before we can speak, we can signal that we have "less than" we want. By two years old we think we know when our sister or brother has "greater than" we do.

We know the circle shape of the wheels on our bikes. We may not know to call the shape of our doors a rectangle, but probably we do. Most of us learn what a triangle and a square are easily enough.

2. We learn to count early on. We may not know that the counting numbers are also integers. They are whole numbers too. We can use these numbers even if we don't know what to call them.

"How many people in your party?"

"One, two, three, four... a table for four please."

"Jim wasn't able to come tonight."

"OK, subtract one from that... a table for three please."

So the counting numbers are 1, 2, 3, 4... If we add the number 0 (which wasn't really used until Brahmagupta fully gave it notation in the 600s), then we have the whole numbers: 0, 1, 2, 3, 4...

3. These are of course highly useful numbers. We can add them to each other. We can subtract one from another. We do these operations all the time in real life.

We can add multiple times, which we call "multiplication." If we add 3 to itself 3 times (3+3+3) then we have 3x3 which is 9. We can do the same thing with subtraction. if we start with 16 and we subtract four till we get 0, then we have 16-4-4-4-4. We had to subtract 4 times, so 16 "divided by" 4=4.

We multiply and divide all the time. Sometimes we multiply a number by itself, such as when we are finding the "square footage" of a room (i.e., the area of its floor). We "square" a number when we multiply it by itself (e.g., 10= 10 x 10 = 100). We "cube" a number when we multiply it by itself three times (103 = 10 x 10 x 10 = 1000). In physics, we might do this to find out the "volume" of a room that is 10 feet long and 10 feet wide and 10 feet tall--a cube, in other words.

We call this task of multiplying a number times itself, "raising to a power." The number of times we multiply a number by itself is the "power" to which we are raising it and we call that number an "exponent." You can also go the other direction. The square root of 4 is 2 because 2 x 2 = 4. The cube root of 1000 is 10 because 10 x 10 x 10 = 1000.

4. So the whole numbers are 0, 1, 2, 3, 4... all the way to "infinity," the word we use for numbers never stopping in how high they go, numbers going on forever. The 1, 2, 3, 4 part, the counting numbers are also called "positive integers." They are called positive integers because we can imagine those numbers decreasing the other direction below zero as well, negative integers.

Think of it this way. What if I imagined a number that, when added to 3, gave me 2? It would, in effect, be the same as subtracting 1. We call this number -1 or "negative one." If we imagine that negative numbers go on to negative infinity, we have -1, -2, -3, -4, -5... and so forth.

The whole set of numbers of this sort, positive and negative (1, 2, 3, 4... and -1, -2, -3, -4...), along with 0, make up the set of integers.

5. When we divide a number by another, say 8/4, then we have, in effect, something called a "fraction." In this case, 8/4 is 2. In this case, since this "ratio" of 8 to 4 is greater than one, we might call it an "improper" fraction.

So what is a "proper" fraction. It is a ratio of this sort that is less than one. I ordered a pizza last night and between my daughter and I, we consumed "half" of it. That is to say, we only consumed a "fraction" of the pizza. Of the 8 total slices, we consumed 4. So we ate 4 out of the 8, which is 4/8, a fraction.

Of course there is an easier way to write 4/8. We can "reduce" this fraction. Any number divided by 1 is the same number, and 2/2 is one. So if I divide 4/8 by 2/2 we get 2/4. If we do it again, we get 1/2, a much more familiar way to write 4/8.

Of course there are all sort of fractions: 3/4, 5/9, 13/37. We can come up with an infinite number of them. These are called "rational numbers," because they are numbers that can be put in the form of a ratio like 3/5. All the integers fit into this set, because all the integers can be expressed in fractional form (like 4/2 is the same quantity as the integer 2).

Fractions can also be expressed as decimals, numbers presented in the form of tens and tenths. Because we have 10 fingers, Arabs and others in the Middle Ages developed systems of using numbers to express fractions in tenths. So 0.1 is one tenth, 0.2 is two-tenths. If we go further to the right 0.01 is one tenth of one tenth or one hundredth (1/100). 0.001 is one tenth of one hundredth or one thousandth (1/1000).

Fractions can thus be converted into decimals. 1/5 turns out to be 0.2. 3/7 turns out to be 0.4285714 and then the decimal repeats 285714 over and over forever. We call this a "repeating decimal."

6. As math has progressed, we have realized that some numbers in decimal form go on forever without repeating. These are numbers that relate closely to certain shapes and patterns in the real world. Because they cannot be put into the form of a ratio, they are called "irrational" numbers.

One of the best known is the ratio of the circumference of a circle (the distance one time around its edge) and the diameter of a circle (the distance across the circle at any point through its center). This number is known as "pi" (π) and is approximately 3.1415926535...

Similarly, there are some "roots" of numbers that do not come out "perfect." They are not "perfect squares" like 2 is the square root of 4. These roots also can be expressed as decimals that go on forever.

They relate especially to the shape of a triangle. For example, let's say that I have a "right triangle" (one with one angle that is 90 degrees), with two sides that have the same measure. Let's say its longest side is 7 inches. How long are each of the two other sides? As we'll see when we get to geometry, the answer is the "square root" of 7 (√7). In decimal form, this number goes on forever: 2.6457513... It is, in other words, an irrational number.

Another very important number is e, which stands for the answer to (1 + 1/n)n as n becomes larger and larger. It turns out to be 2.718281828459... This number is important for calculating something called "compound interest," which explains how much extra we often pay the bank for our mortgages.

7. All the numbers we have mentioned so far--rational numbers (which includes all the integers) and irrational numbers--together form a set of numbers known as the set of "real" numbers.

Starting in the 1500s, certain mathematicians began to explore solutions to various equations that involved taking the square root of negative 1 (-1), written √-1. [1] In the twentieth century, the physics of the atom was discovered to involve this square root extensively, written as "i" for short.

Eventually, another whole set of numbers--all the real numbers multiplied by i--developed. These came to be called "imaginary numbers." When we combine the real number system with this imaginary number system, we get the "complex number system," which finally constitutes all possible numbers.

All numbers can thus be expressed in the form of a + bi, where a is the real part and bi is the imaginary part. If b equals 0, then we simply have a real number.

Next Week: The Atom and Quantum Physics

[1] For example, what is the solution to x2 + 1 = 0

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Harry Shepherd Prophecy 12

The twelfth installment of my grandfather Shepherd's prophecy book, copied here without comment, although I find it fascinating that my grandfather was drawing on the ASV. I wonder if it was in one of his sources, or perhaps he used it when he was a student at Wabash College in the first decade of the 1900s.
The Time of the Russian Invasion
When will Russia march into the Middle East? In my opinion this question cannot be specifically and dogmatically answered. We may, however, offer some preferential ideas on this point. I do not think this invasion is at the same time as Armageddon but before because at the latter all nations gather against Jerusalem. In this Russia with certain, well-specified allies will invade the land. Also here Russia is the commander Ezekiel 38:7 (American Standard Version 1901, marginal reading). At Armageddon the antichrist is the commander. Then the means of divine destruction in Ezekiel 38:19-23 varies from Armageddon in Revelation 16:18-21 in brother's sword against brother in the invading forces, and in the use of blood and an overflowing rain with fire and brimstone. Armageddon has the earth's greatest earthquake with fleeting islands and obliterated mountains (Revelation 16:18 and 20). In Ezekiel 39 the sacrifice following Russia's destruction is for fowls and beasts whereas the supper after Armageddon is for fowls only. (Revelation 19:17). In Daniel 9:27 we have mentioned the length of the Tribulation, the Jewish covenant of one week or seven years with the antichrist. Jeremiah chapter 30:7 calls this period or at least the last half of it the Time of Jacob's Trouble. In my opinion the Russian hordes will enter Palestine either in the first part of this period or three and a half years before it begins. Ezekiel 39:9 tells us that, after the Russian slaughter, the Israeli will be making (A.S.V.) fires of the military spoils for seven years. As the antichrist will break his covenant with the Jews in the midst of the Tribulation week and launch the worst campaign of persecution and destruction which Israel has ever undergone, they certainly could not be burning the spoils of the Russian invasion in the last three and one half years of this time of Jacob's Trouble. Hence they will have to do this seven years burning during the first three and one half years of the Tribulation plus three and a half years in the Millennium or during three and a half years before the Tribulation plus the first three and a half years of the Tribulation. The first alternative would have the problem of separating the spoil of this invasion from the spoils from the awful battle of Armageddon. If the second alternative is correct the time of Russia's march would seem to be near and certain in the lives of people now alive.

Let us pause briefly to give an example on the positive side of this verification of Promise Four. We, with our finite limitations, are not able to roll back the undercover curtain which conceals some things in the affairs of men. But when the affairs of men and nations shall have been unrolled at the last great assize (Revelation 20:11-15) of the human family, I dare say we shall find that the forward march, success, fame, prosperity and greatness of our nation will have stemmed in considerable measure from the positive phase of this Fourth Promise to Abraham because we have blessed his descendants in giving them equal rights and privileges with all other nationalities and with our native born.

God's Purpose And Intent For The Tribulation
In order to understand better the Fourth Promise and its connection with the antichrist and Armageddon it will be well to give consideration to the why, purpose and intent for the Tribulation. God's main thought in fulfilling His promises to Abraham is the salvation of Israel and of the Gentiles as well. As the Jews as a whole will never come back to God in a spiritual return and believe on Jesus Christ as their Messiah, they will have to be driven into a corner to bring such spiritual recovery of them that will believe. One why then for the Tribulation will be to drive Israel into this corner. Another reason is found in the Scripture truth that the righteous shall inherit the earth. It is an evident fact that not many of the righteous are inheriting much of this earth now. Then with Satan and his crowd in almost complete control of this world and with it characteristic of them that they will refuse to give up such control without a struggle, it will be necessary for God to use the Tribulation to break their grip upon the earth and thrust them out in order for His Son and His saints to inherit the earth in the Millennium. Hence the why, purpose and intent of the Tribulation is that God in carrying out His Four promises to Abraham may bring Israel and the Gentiles to submission and salvation, thrust the devil and his crowd out of earth's possessions and control and turn this world over to His Son, Jesus Christ, and His redeemed ones for their inheritance in the Millennium. Hallelujah! Another why is God's retributive justice and judgment against sin.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Sermon Starters: God is on His Holy Throne

Title: God is on His Holy Throne
I preached tonight at the Sunday evening SAGE service at College Wesleyan Church. The title is taken from Habakkuk 2:20.

Text: Habakkuk 1:2-4, 5-7, 12-13; 2:1, 2-4, 20

I. Introduction
Habakkuk was written at a sad time in the history of Israel, perhaps the last decade of the 600s BC. Habakkuk looks around him and sees all the wickedness in Judah. The northern kingdom is gone, destroyed by the Assyrians in the 700s. He cries out to God, "How long, O LORD?"

God's answer is not what he had in mind. Don't worry, God says. I'm bringing the Babylonians to take care of the unrighteousness in Judah. Let's just say it's not what Habakkuk had in mind.

II. Body of the Sermon
Point 1: It's OK to cry out to God.
  • We have all sorts of reasons to cry out to God. Why am I suffering? Why is someone I love suffering? Why did my spouse cheat on me or leave me? Why am I alone? Who do we have these two candidates for president?
  • The Scriptures repeatedly model the righteous crying out asking God why (e.g., Ps. 2:1-2; 13:1-2; 79:4-6; Zech. 1:12--and that's not the half of them)
  • They always end in faith or thanksgiving.
  • The psalms model praising, thanking, lamenting, even anger towards enemies. But don't stay angry forever, and make sure your questioning always ends in faith.
  • We need to learn to live without knowing what God is precisely doing. We know it will all work for eternal good, although sometimes he lets us be destroyed by the Babylonians now.
Point 2: God's solutions aren't always the ones we'd prefer.
  • I know I'd rather have God remove the ungodly leaders of Judah, not destroy the whole place by the Babylonians. But this was apparently God's plan in this case.
  • When I look at the presidential race right now, I think of bringing the Babylonians. I don't know many people who are actually enthused about either candidate.
  • Important to take an eternal perspective. God is in his holy temple. God is still in control. God is still on the throne.
  • We have to believe that God has his reasons for letting bad things happen, for letting the Babylonians come and destroy our world.
  • But what is the alternative--everything is meaningless if there is no God. Other pictures of God don't give us something better.
  • We need to look at things through an eternal lens.
Point 3: The just will live in faithfulness.
  • This is what God tells Habakkuk in 2:4.
  • God took this verse in another true direction with Paul, justification by faith.
  • Here it is about faithfulness--we continue on in faith, even though we don't know what God's doing.
  • One step at a time.
  • God is at work in us, both to will and to do his good pleasure (Phil. 2:12-13).
  • You will hear a voice behind you if you deviate off the path God has for us (Isa. 30:21)
  • Do all to the glory of God and act with love toward your neighbor and enemy.
III. Conclusion
God is on his throne, though we don't often know what he's doing. In the meantime, the righteous will live in faithfulness.

The Nine Rings of Hell

In case you were wondering, here's what Dante said (good page here):

1. Limbo
Unbaptized babies and pagans who never had a chance

2. Lust
People driven by their fleshly desires in life

3. Gluttony
People who overindulged in food and drink

4. Greed
Those who hoarded possessions and those who overspend

5. Anger
The wrathful

6. Heresy
Those who had beliefs that contradicted those of the church

7. Violence
Murderers, suicides, blasphemers and rapists of the same sex

8. Liars
Panderers and seducers, flatterers, those who buy church offices, sorcerers and false prophets, corrupt politicians, hypocrites, evil counselors, the divisive, perjurers, [and surrogates for presidential candidates... just kidding]

9. Treachery
Those who betrayed their closest friends and family, including Judas

Saturday, October 15, 2016

The Moral Value of Pain

I thought it might be helpful to set the various views of pain as I understand them next to each other. Where have I gone wrong in my analysis of the varying positions? Have I missed anything?

1. The Naturalist Perspective
This perspective does not believe in God or a human soul, so it would make us merely highly evolved animals with no eternal destiny. From this perspective, therefore, pain is simply painful. It has no real significance other than the fact that it hurts us and those who empathetically hurt with us. Pain thus presents no moral problem.

2. The Buddhist View
In this view, pain is part of the nature of things. We are nothing, so our pain is nothing. In fact, pain becomes good because it moves us toward nirvana. We experience it as our karma from our past actions, perhaps in past lives or existences. It is thus just. In this view, pain is good, part of the justice of the universe and something that moves us toward good.

3. The Hyper-Calvinist and Muslim View
Since in these views God directly dictates everything that happens in the universe, pain simply becomes God's will. It is good because God says so. God in fact has dictated it, or it is the will of Allah. Pain thus is good because God wills it.

4. The Augustinian/Arminian View
God did not create the world with pain. God created the world with the possibility of pain. Pain is a consequence of Adam's sin. But a world where we are free to choose good or evil is a better world than one in which there is no evil or pain. God sometimes intervenes to stop pain, but sometimes he does not intervene because there is a greater good in play. Pain thus not God's ideal for any specific situation, but it is good in the light of his overall design.

5. The Theistic Creationist View
Those who believe that God used an evolutionary process to create humanity must in some way assume that pain is part of God's plan for the creation. Pain therefore must not be intrinsically bad. Might they then assume that part of God's plan is/was to remove pain for homo sapiens forever? If they take Adam literally, might they blame him for messing up the removal of pain by keeping humanity from the tree of life? If they take him as symbolic, might Jesus' resurrection point to an as yet future human destiny without pain? Irenaeus' theodicy might fit in here as well--pain and suffering provides us with a context in which we can either grow or diminish in character. In any case, this view would not necessarily view pain as bad.

6. The Open View
Because God has created the world with freedom--or perhaps because of his nature--this view might assert that God cannot stop pain without ending human freedom. Or an extreme version might say that he simply cannot stop evil because his nature is love, and love can only persuade, not force. Maybe it makes us feel good to conclude that pain is always bad and that God is always against it, but this God is not all powerful. He's more like a very loving Zeus. This is the only view, it seems to me, where pain is actually bad.

7. Warning to the "Abandon the Faith" View
At this point, someone might be tempted to throw away faith. What kind of God allows pain? But once you throw away God, you're back at the naturalist view (or perhaps the Buddhist view, which requires just as much faith as the Christian view). If there is no God, then pain is completely meaningless, other than the fact that it hurts. We are back where we began. Pain is not bad and you can't blame God because you've thrown him away.

In conclusion, pain is not morally problematic unless you don't believe God is omnipotent. And in that case, you have bigger problems than the problem of pain.

Is this logic sound? Have I missed something? Thoughts?

5.4 Internal Resistance

This is the fourth week of Module 5 in the Navy Basic Electricity and Electronics series. This module is on the relationships between current, voltage, and resistance. The first three sections were:

5.1 Voltage, Resistance, and Current
5.2 Ohm's Law Formula
5.3 Power

1. This week is on the internal resistance of a source such as a battery. Let's say that you were to put a voltmeter across a battery in an open circuit and it were to read 12 volts, the "no-load" voltage. Then lets say you close the circuit and the voltmeter drops to 11 volts. This suggests that your battery has an internal resistance that is zapping some of the force.

2. To measure the internal resistance (Ri) of a source:
  • Measure the no-load voltage.
  • Energize the circuit and then measure the voltage across the source again.
  • Subtract the difference (internal resistance decreases the voltage in the circuit).
  • Measure the current in the circuit.
  • Use R=E/I to determine the internal resistance of the source.
3. Hopefully, the internal resistance of your source is small enough to be negligible.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Friday Gen Eds MS1: Math and Science

So I've been doing a series on Wednesdays called, "General Education in a Nutshell." I've already finished a series of twelve posts on philosophy. I'm about half-way through a series on world history. Now for the last few weeks on Friday I've been processing the content of math, chemistry, physics, and biology, in preparation for cooking them together for this series.
1. As part of my philosophy series, I did a post on the philosophy of science. That post suggested that science was a language we used to describe and predict how the world works and would behave next time, but that it isn't actually language of how the world actually is. Our formulas, our language describes things that are real, but our language is like finely tuned myths that describe mysteries.

Science also proceeds by way of paradigms that, thus far, change over time. A paradigm is a way of looking at a particular area of knowledge, a particular way of thinking about a certain set of data, a particular set of glasses. So prior to Copernicus, the predominant astronomical paradigm saw the earth as the center of the universe, with sun, moon, and planets circling around it. Prior to Einstein, it was generally thought that space and time had fixed measures.

So paradigm shifts take place when the anomalies of "normal science" prompt new theories that, over time, come to be adopted as the new normal science.

2. The scientific method, therefore, is not exactly about reality itself. It is not exactly about what is absolutely true. It is about either confirming the usefulness of existing paradigms, about refining them, or perhaps about prompting a paradigm shift that will more precisely describe and predict the world.

We look at the data, we form hypotheses, we test them. When our hypotheses repeatedly seem to explain the data and correctly predict the results we will get the next time we test, we eventually call them theories. From the 1600s to the 1800s, discoveries were sometimes called "laws"--Newton's three laws of motion, the law of universal gravitation. We haven't used language of laws for a long time now.

3. So what is math? Some math seems to mirror reality in a much closer way than any scientific theory. I have ten fingers, so base 10 makes sense to me. But is base 10 really the most fundamental base of reality? Other numbers seem more intrinsic to the universe, like the number known as "e," which seems to pop up all over the place. [1]

Repeatedly, either mathematicians have realized possibilities that were later "discovered," or math was invented to explain what was already "discovered." The square root of negative 1, "i" is a case in point. Recognized in the 1700s, this curiosity would become essential in the quantum mechanics of the twentieth century. Carl Gauss and others explored the possibility of a non-Euclidean geometry in the early 1800s, but Einstein would apply it to general relativity in 1915.

So if the theories of science are far more precise myths to express reality than the stories of the arts and humanities, then numbers are the characters in those myths.

Of course math is much more than quantities. It is more than geometries. It is also a number of tools to help get at quantities and geometries.

5. Over the next twenty weeks, I hope to survey the main fields of math and science. I'm not exactly doing "what a college student should know," but this may not be too far off that idea.
  • The Basic Types of Numbers
  • The Atom and Quantum Physics
  • The Periodic Table
  • Molecules and Ions
  • Chemical Reactions
  • The Basic Tools of Algebra
  • Thermodynamics
  • Basic Geometry and Trigonometry
  • The Physics of Motion
  • Basic Calculus
  • The Forces of Motion
  • Electromagnetism
  • Genetics and Evolution
  • Cells and Microbiology
  • Botany
  • Zoology
  • Geology
  • Astronomy 
  • Relativity
  • Basic Probability and Statistics
[1] e is 2.7182818284590452353602874713..., an irrational number that goes on infinitely.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

The Tides of Culture (a poem)

The tides of culture have changed. 
They have changed almost imperceptibly; 
It has seemed to happen overnight. 
The ground we stand on is different, 
But we did not realize it because we did not move. 
We were the leaders, we thought,
And then we weren't.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Gen Eds H6a: Reformation and Scientific Revolution

Finally I can move on to the sixth period in my World History series: "Renaissance and Reformation." I'll need to do it in two parts though.

These are posts in the World History part of my "General Education in a Nutshell" series. This series involves ten subjects you might study in a general education or "liberal arts" core at a university or college. The first topic in the overall series was philosophy. So far in the world history section:
The Scientific Revolution
1. The turn to reason in the Enlightenment no doubt was in part facilitated by the scientific revolution of the 1600s. The scientific revolution was based on one very crucial paradigm shift, namely, the idea that there is a natural realm and there is a supernatural realm. The natural realm behaves according to laws of cause and effect which we humans can discover.

This may seem to us to be the biblical view or the historically Christian view, but it is not. Prior to the late Middle Ages, the universe was seen more or less as a great "chain of being" from the basic elements all the way up to God. Events that took place were not seen as the product of natural cause and effect but rather the action of spiritual agents. As an example, Martin Luther committed himself to become a monk in a thunderstorm, which he saw as God trying to get hold of him.

The division between natural and supernatural thus is new in history. God is still believed to exist. He is still creator. But now he creates the world something like a machine. He creates it. He winds it up. He lets it run on its own. Is he even necessary to be present now?

This is the origin of Deism, the perspective that believes God created the world but is no longer involved. He placed natural laws into the world that run it now on its own. Some of the great scientists of the scientific revolution were Deists of this sort, like Sir Isaac Newton (1643-1727).

Even those of us who are theists, though, who believe God is still involved in the world, usually believe that there are natural laws that we can discover in the world. We think of thunderstorms as natural events rather than spiritual ones... at least most of the time. We think of God's intervention as "miracles," contravenings of the natural order of cause and effect. [1]

Many such laws were discovered. Newton developed his three laws of motion. He developed his theory of universal gravitation. He and Leibniz independently invented calculus to analyze change. The discoveries and inventions haven't stopped coming ever since.

We often refer to Francis Bacon (1561-1626) as the father of the scientific method. We make observations. We develop a hypothesis. We gather more data and test the hypothesis. After we have tested the hypothesis long enough and had results that support the hypothesis, we upgrade it to a theory.

This is an inductive method. It assumes that we can induce truths about the world through discovery. It contrasts with the more deductive approach of the Middle Ages, where theological assumptions were more the starting point and truths deduced from these a priori starting points. It is part and parcel of the modern age, even if it has received considerable push back at times in the last century.

2. There are different theories about the origins of modernism. Some would point back to Thomas Aquinas (1225-74), through whom the influence of the ancient Greek Aristotle (384-22BC) came to impact late medieval Christianity. Aristotle of course was more inductive in his approach to truth (as opposed to Plato, who prevailed in Christian thought for the first millennium). It is quite possible that the dominance of Aquinas in the late middle ages set a trajectory toward a scientific age.

Also suggested is nominalism, which came to the fore in the 1300s. Nominalism largely rejected the idea of universals. Rather than there being universal truths from which all other truths are deduced--and even rather than us inducing universal truths--nominalists see only individual truths and facts that stand on their own. For the nominalist, truths are individual and largely disconnected.

Reformation and Counter-Reformation
3. It is often suggested that nominalism played a role in Martin Luther's theology. We stand as individuals before God, not as a group. Being a Roman Catholic does not save you. Only individuals who have faith in God will be saved. So individualism is a central feature of the modern age. Cultures prior to the Reformation, indeed most cultures in most places and times have been "collectivist" rather than individualistic. Indeed, it would seem to be default human nature.

Luther (1483-1546) of course did not plan to fracture the Roman Catholic Church into the tens of thousands of new denominations we have today. Luther was rather ticked at the corruption of the Roman Catholic Church, which he had witnessed first hand on a trip to Rome in 1511. He was not the first. John Wycliffe (1320-84) had similarly protested corruption a little over a hundred years before.

In fact, the corruption of the Roman Catholic Church in the late Middle Ages had led Wycliffe and others to rediscover Augustine's (354-430) doctrine of predestination, the idea that God had chosen some to be saved, while all others will remain damned by default. This idea helped Wycliffe make sense of the fact that some in the church seemed to truly be Christians while many others--including Popes and other church leaders--did not.

4. Luther's own story set the stage for the crucial moment in history. He was someone who desperately wanted to be morally perfect, but couldn't manage it. When he realized that Romans 1:16-17 could be interpreted a different way, he felt an immense release. We are made right with God by our faith in Christ rather than by doing good works.

The sale of years off of purgatory was particularly angering to him. In it he saw Rome raising money for its buildings so that it could bask in opulence and greed. The traveling "salesman" Johann Tetzel in 1516 was the last straw. Luther would object to purgatory as an unbiblical idea of a piece with salvation by works. If we are saved by grace, then we do not have to "work off" our sins in purgatory.

Also gone then were the books of the Apocrypha that Jerome (347-420) had called "deuterocanonical," a "second canon." One of these books in particular, 2 Maccabees, gave a slim basis for purgatory, which Luther could not stand. This is why the Roman Catholic Old Testament has at least seven more books than the "Protestant" Old Testament. Luther completely took them out of his Bible and, in response, the Roman Catholic Church upgraded them and affirmed their full inclusion at the Council of Trent in 1545.

On October 31, 1517, Luther posted 95 debate points or "theses" on the door of the cathedral at Wittenberg, the city where he taught. Little did he know that it would spark a revolution. He would be put on trial. He would be hidden and protected for a year--many individuals saw an opportunity to break free of the power of the church. During that year, he would translate the Bible into German.

The rest is history.

5. Once one person had pulled away from the Roman Catholic Church, using the idea of the interpretation of the Bible as the basis, it was probably a forgone conclusion that this "protest" would be unending. Words are susceptible to multiple interpretations, and so we have seen come into play what Paul Tillich called, the "Protestant Principle": "Protestant" churches are almost destined to split over and over again in an endless cycle of differing interpretations. Protestant and Orthodox churches (which split in 1054) have unity because the institution is the primary organizing principle rather than a text.

There was perhaps a small chance that the separating group would remain a unity if Luther had been able to reach an agreement with the second great protester--Huldrych Zwingli. But Zwingli was a cantankerous man, who found no room for latitude with Luther on the nature of communion. In their 1529 "colloquy" at Marburg. Luther argued that Jesus was really present in communion, even if the bread and wine did not literally become his body and blood. For Zwingli, it was only a reminder, nothing more, and anything more was abominable. [2]

When they parted ways, the trajectory of tens of thousands of Protestant denominations was sealed.

6. Numerous other Protestant and almost Protestant groups would soon rise. There were the "anabaptists" that Zwingli opposed and drowned in the river for believing the Bible did not teach infant baptism. There was John Calvin (1509-64) in Geneva Switzerland, who picked up Wycliffe's ideas on predestination and formed one of the first comprehensive Protestant theologies.

In England, King Henry VIII (1491-1547) split with the Roman Catholic Church in order to get a divorce and the Church of England was born. Thankfully, those who set up its doctrine and practices had more noble purposes. In Scotland John Knox (1513-72) started the Presbyterian movement.

7. As is often the case, the lines between politics and religion blurred. What territories would end up Protestant in some way? What territories would remain Catholic? Spain and France remained Catholic. England, after a small regrouping under "Bloody Mary," would remain separated from Rome. The German lands at the time were divided into hundreds of territories of varying size, the "Holy Roman Empire." Each territory made up its own mind about whether to go Lutheran or remain Catholic. Austria would remain Catholic. Many of the German states in the northwest went Lutheran.

The Thirty Years War (1608-38) was fought not least partly on the grounds of religious disagreement. Which side would win? After pummeling each other for decades, it was decided that they would agree to disagree. This is wisdom that each generation needs to know before it pummels itself all over again.

8. Suffice it to say, these changes were world changing and profoundly disorienting. At the turn of the century 1600, there was an almost morbid mood. Shakespeare captures this mood in some of his plays. "All the world's a stage and all its men and women merely players. They have their exits and their entrances, and one man in his time plays many parts." [3] "Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour across the stage and then is heard no more. Tis a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing." [4]

It was into this uncertainty that Francis Bacon and the scientific revolution walked. It was this uncertainty that led Rene Descartes to ask what he could say for certain. The scientific revolution and Enlightenment would follow.

  • There is a point where it is best to agree to disagree. The amount of force it would take to win would create greater devastation than the "wrong" you are trying to eliminate, if you could ever win.
  • When a religion is only based on the interpretation of a text, that religion will multiply in endless variety.
  • The scientific revolution and modernism grew out of angst and a desire for certainty once religion had ceased to provide it.
Next Week: Renaissance and a New World

[1] In the Bible, miracles are acts of great spiritual power, greatly unusual acts that provoke wonder. But there is only normal and spectacular, not natural and supernatural.

[2] This same spirit of absolute certainty would soon lead him to drown in the river those who did not see infant baptism in the biblical text. He died soon after in battle against the Catholics.

[3] As You Like It.

[4] Macbeth.