The sign of the cross: to stifle the old rivals

The Christian rhetor Lactantius records that, at Antioch some time in 299 [AD], the emperors were engaged in sacrifice and divination in an attempt to predict the future. The haruspices, diviners of omens from sacrificed animals, were unable to read the sacrificed animals and failed to do so after repeated trials. The master haruspex eventually declared that this failure was the result of interruptions in the process caused by profane men. Certain Christians in the imperial household had been observed making the sign of the cross during the ceremonies and were alleged to have disrupted the haruspices’ divination.

My two cents

That’s awesome! I’ve read other accounts from the first centuries of Christianity, where non-Christians were trying to do something evil, and all Christians had to do was to keep making the sign of the cross to stop it.

I’m not sure what the Jehovah’s Witnesses would think of that, but the way I see it, repeatedly doing an up-and-down sign of a torture stake wouldn’t have the same effect—doctrinally, symbolically or visually.

When it comes to the sign of the cross, I like how Eastern Orthodox believers (and perhaps others) describe the significance of the hand/finger positions. In other words, the tips of the thumb, index and middle finger are joined, and that symbolises the trinity. The ring finger and little finger are kept together while contacting the palm of the hand—that symbolises the divine and human natures of Christ in union, without confusion.

Every now and then, there will be some sporting event where a sportsman will do the sign of the cross before things get started, and I like seeing that as well.

Quote source

Wikimedia Foundation. (2014). Diocletianic Persecution. Available: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diocletianic_Persecution. Last accessed 18th Mar 2014.

Government embracement of Christianity

As far as we know, Russia is the only country in the world to sponsor special activities recognizing 2000 years of Christianity. One of these activities was a conference held in Moscow, March 23-25, entitled “Christianity and Education.” Prominent educators and scientists from several countries and Russia participated in the conference…The conference was jointly sponsored by the Russian Ministry of Education and the Kindness Foundation, a Russian Christian organization establishing Christian resource centers in Russia…

Dr. [Alexander] Osmolov expressed their desire to end indoctrination of students and to teach alternatives, including creation, to restore a moral and ethical code in their schools, and to restore the students to their parents. It might be noted that these goals seem to be exactly the opposite to those supported by educational authorities in the United States.

My two cents

I guess this quote is a decade or so overdue, but better late than never. I hope I can learn more about the conference, but that probably depends on the internet being able to tell more about it.

If it wasn’t for the internet, I’d probably assume that the only valid approaches to government were those practiced in English-speaking western countries (like the USA or Australia), but countries like that are clogged with anti-Biblical, pragmatic, and humanistic baggage—and the baggage piles up with each passing year.

In recent times, I’ve picked up on a fair few quotes that relate to Russia—especially on civil government and Christianity. While I hope to find more quotes about Russia’s civic support, it would be good to find similar quotes relating to other countries’ governments as well; Israel, Uganda, Tonga, Zambia, and South Sudan all come to mind as candidates.

Quote source

Morris, J.D. (2000). Russia Acknowledges 2000 Years Of Christianity. Available: http://www.icr.org/article/russia-acknowledges-2000-years-christianity/. Last accessed 16th Mar 2014.

Supreme Court support for the Sabbath (sort of)

In McGowan v. Maryland (1961), the Supreme Court of the United States held that contemporary Maryland blue laws (typically, Sunday rest laws) were intended to promote the secular values of “health, safety, recreation, and general well-being” through a common day of rest, and that this day coinciding with majority Christian Sabbath neither reduces its effectiveness for secular purposes nor prevents adherents of other religions from observing their own holy days.

My two cents

When I think of the American Supreme Court, I tend to think of a statist institution that’s bent on overriding whatever the Bible says about public life. While there’s more to it than that, it’s encouraging to see the occasional ray of light penetrating through the dark cloud of humanistic jurisprudence.

If court precedent is anything to go by, then it would seem that lots of verses from the Old Testament could be supported so long as they meet the litmus test described by the courts (i.e. promoting ‘secular’ values of health/safety/recreation/wellbeing, and not preventing others from observing their own holy days).

But instead of going forward along that line, it seems that most American states have gone backwards and eroded their blue laws over time…though other parts of the world, like Tonga, have held firm.

While I’m conscious of Colossians 2:16-17, that didn’t seem to hold water a 100 years ago—so it would be interesting to know how the theologians approached it back then.

Quote source

Wikimedia Foundation. (2014). Sabbath in Christianity. Available: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sabbath_in_Christianity. Last accessed 13th Mar 2014.

Answers in Genesis overcoming its opposers

There’s something I don’t understand here, and what I don’t understand, is that…if secularists go out there and want to go out and build an evolution museum, we don’t go to try and, you know, disrupt their finances, and cause all sorts of problems, I mean they can go build it, they have freedom to do that.

And yet, when we [creationists] try to do something, yeah we had problems with the Creation Museum. A group of atheists tried to stop us and, actually it was a good thing, really, because we lost our first piece of property and ended up with this one, where the Creation Museum is, and it’s far better, and we built a far bigger museum anyway. So as it says in Genesis, about Joseph: what men meant for evil, God meant for good.

My two cents

I love that second paragraph. I hadn’t thought about linking it with Genesis 50:20, but I think it’s a good fit all the same. If creationists have future setbacks, I’ll have to remember the quote instead of thinking it’s over.

Elsewhere, the linked video talked about how the mainstream media made inaccurate statements about the upcoming Ark Encounter—and then atheist bloggers put blind faith in those statements by parroting them on their blogs. Thankfully Ken Ham set the record straight.

Quote source

Ham, K. (2014) Ark Encounter Design & Bond Update. Available: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zFKF5WT3U7Q&feature=share&t=8m51s. Last accessed 10th Mar 2014.

The Christian view of euthanasia (in 400 words or so)

The reasons for the firm Jewish religious opposition to both assisted suicide and mercy killing are sprinkled throughout the Jewish scriptures, which constitute the Christian Old Testament. On multiple occasions in the Old Testament, God is acknowledged to exercise an absolute sovereignty over life and death. Death was the penalty for sin, and life was a gift from God that his people were meant to choose so they could continue to love, honour, and obey him. Choosing death was an affront to God that demonstrated contempt for the gift of life: “No man has authority…over the day of death” (Ecclesiastes 8:8). The scriptures contain some examples of Jews willingly dying as martyrs or choosing suicide, but they do so because they prefer death to violating Judaic law. And none of these examples occurs in conditions remotely resembling the circumstances surrounding modern-day medical euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide. Throughout the Old Testament, there is no instance of Jews either killing themselves or arranging for someone else to help them die due to the physical anguish of illness…

The emergence of Christianity in the first century AD was the other momentous factor that shaped the new era in the history of euthanasia. Basic Christian values about death and dying are similar to the Judaic moral code, although explicit condemnations of suicide are missing from the New Testament. It was in later centuries that the church fathers inferred from the Gospels that suicide was against God’s law. A major [spokesman] for this theory was Saint Augustine (354-430 AD), who in his City of God (428) argued that suicide was simply another form of homicide, and thus was both a crime and a sin prohibited by the six of the Ten Commandments. In Augustine’s eyes, even those who opted for suicide in order to avoid a sin (such as a virgin seeking to protect her virtue) were actually committing a greater sin and forfeited the possibility of repentance. The fact that the word “suicide” was coined later in history (the seventeenth century) to replace the phrase “self-murder” signifies that for centuries Christians followed Augustine’s thinking and regarded the taking of one’s own life as a form of murder, and thus an abhorrent crime that required no formal condemnation…

By the onset of the sixteenth century, church, state, society, and medicine had forged an alliance that decisively rejected the taking of a life either by suicide or with medical assistance.

My two cents

Every now and then, the issue of euthanasia crops up, and I have been needing to find a definitive Christian position on it—away from the modern-day revisionism that’s tainted by a (baptised) humanistic mindset.

Now I have found it in this quote—its sentiments confirmed my gut feeling.

And to think that an aunt of mine (who is Christian) happens to support euthanasia but has apparently no idea of the historical Christian position. If the idea is to force the point, then it’s another example of salt losing its savour—not that she would care.

I also think of the lobby group called Christians Supporting Choice for Voluntary Euthanasia, when they were demonstrating in front of Parliament House. It’s frustrating to see them use non-Christian premises like appealing to “choice”, and “majority of Aussie Christians support voluntary euthanasia”—as though that makes it OK with God.

I really need to counter their placards by using this quote on a placard of my own—but it’s too many words to fit on a placard unfortunately.

Thank you Ian Dowbiggin for laying down the truth so plainly—and for separating the rock of historical Christianity from the sands of a modern-day (socially) evolutionary political lobby.

Quote source

Dowbiggin, I (2007). A Concise History of Euthanasia: Life, Death, God, and Medicine. Plymouth: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. pp. 12-13, 19.

The sovereignty of God, Christianity, and the Bible

Second, because God is the total and sovereign God, our faith cannot be only a spiritual concern. The totally sovereign God is Lord over every aspect of life. All things are created, predestined, governed, and judged by Him. As a result, the Bible legislates concerning every area of life: church, state, school, family, science, the arts, economics, vocations, things spiritual, and things material. Neoplatonism, however, regarded the material world as low and irrelevant to religion. As a result, wherever neoplatonism is in evidence, Christian faith is reduced to a spiritual religion.

My two cents

I’m a big supporter of faith for all of life (not just some bits of it), as promoted by the Chaldedon Foundation. I never liked the idea of Christianity being squashed into a private emotional hobby that’s instructed to face the corner by overconfident secularists who think they know what’s best. I side far more strongly with the perspective of R.J. Rushdoony. Religion precedes the civic realm, especially legislatively.

When it comes to God’s sovereignty, I strongly agree with the proper, unadulterated and exhaustive sense of the term promoted by Rushdoony, as opposed to the yes-God-is-sovereign-but-with-a-dozen-qualifications sense promoted by Dave Hunt.

Quote source

Rushdoony, R.J (2013). Biblical Faith and American History [ebook]. Ross House Books, location 22 of 260.

Fudge factors in the Big Bang

The big bang today relies on a growing number of hypothetical entities, things that we have never observed—inflation, dark matter and dark energy are the most prominent examples. Without them, the observations made by astronomers fatally contradict the ‘predictions’ of big bang theory. Such continual appeal to new fudge factors to bridge the gap between theory and observation would not be tolerated in any other branch of physics. Rather, physicists would question the underlying theory.

My two cents

Why hadn’t anyone told me this before? I’ll have to remember that triad of inflation, dark matter and dark energy. I didn’t know that a hard science (like physics) had a soft underbelly.  I also hadn’t realised that there is a lot more cognitive leeway in cosmology and/or astrophysics than other branches of physics.

On that, it would be good to find a webpage that lists all the sciences and catalogues the various fudge factors that have found a home in the neighbourhood of scientific consensus.

I’d love to see a debate between John Hartnett and Hugh Ross. Well, maybe it could be a series of debates; the first would be on the Big Bang, the second would be on the book of Genesis, and the third would be on the philosophy of science in general.

Quote source

Hartnett, J. (2007). Bye-bye, big bang? An unsolvable riddle for the most popular view of evolutionary astronomy. Available: http://creation.com/bye-bye-big-bang. Last accessed 27th Feb 2014.