Recently I came across a reading of the Didache. “The what?” you may ask. The Didache is a book written somewhere in the first or second century. For a long time it was up for consideration as Scripture. It was believed to be the Teaching of the Twelve Apostles. Eventually it was agreed that the book was an excellent book, but not inspired Scripture. So I was pleased to be able to download this admirable book containing good teachings from the early Church fathers.
The book seemed to be largely a lot of quotes from Scripture. You’ll learn the basic rules of Christianity — “First, you shall love God who made you; second, love your neighbor as yourself.” You’ll learn that “grave sins” are forbidden, like adultery, murder, fornication, and so on. (They specifically include pederasty in the list.) There are instructions regarding teachers, prophets, Christian assembly, and so on. Lots of the normal, good stuff. But, since this was written sometime prior to 200 AD, I was somewhat surprised at this instruction: “You shall not murder a child by abortion” (Didache, Ch 2).
I got curious about what babies look like when they are just a few weeks old, so I went looking for pictures of them.
This post from Life News has ten excellent pictures of life inside the womb.
Here’s my favorite from 10 weeks:
This is a first trimester baby!
I decided to go hunting to see what is developed at this time, and found this list:
From this week until birth, the developing organism is called a fetus.
The fetus is now the size of a small strawberry.
The feet are 2mm long (one tenth of an inch).
The neck is beginning to take shape.
The body muscles are almost developed. Baby has begun movement.
While still too small for you to feel, your little one is wriggling and shifting.
The jaws are in place. The mouth cavity and the nose are joined.
The ears and nose can now be seen clearly.
Fingerprints are already evident in the skin.
Nipples and hair follicles begin to form.
The unborn baby is now called a fetus. Though the fetus is constantly moving, you will not be able to actually feel fetal movement for several more weeks. All of the organs, muscles, and nerves are in place and beginning to function. As the hands and feet develop fingers and toes, they have lost their paddle like look. The touch pads on the fingers form and already have fingerprints.
During this week of pregnancy the crown to rump length of the fetus is 0.9 inch to 1.2 inches (22 to 30mm), weight 0.07 ounce (2gm). They are now on the way to forming their testicles or ovaries, getting ready for the next generation. Until the ninth week of fetus development, the fetal reproductive apparatus is the same one for the both sexes. The head is still large and curves into chest.
Each week your uterus grows larger with the baby growing inside it. You may begin to see your waistline growing thicker by this time. A pelvic exam will detect that your uterus has grown from it’s normal, size of your fist, to a little bigger than a grapefruit.
[I]n the second century, as Christianity emerged with a distinctive religious identity, the surrounding pagan culture began to take notice. And it didn’t like what it saw. Christians were seen as strange and superstitious–a peculiar religious movement that undermined the norms of a decent society. Christians were, well, different.
So, what was so different about Christians compared to the surrounding Greco-Roman culture?
[…]While it was not unusual for Roman citizens to have multiple sexual partners, homosexual encounters, and engagement with temple prostitutes, Christians stood out precisely because of their refusal to engage in these practices.
For instance, Tertullian goes to great lengths to defend the legitimacy of Christianity by pointing out how Christians are generous and share their resources with all those in need. But, then he says, “One in mind and soul, we do not hesitate to share our earthly goods with one another. All things are common among us but our wives” (Apol. 39). Why does he say this? Because, in the Greco-Roman world, it was not unusual for people to share their spouses with each other.
In the second-century Epistle to Diognetus, the author goes out of his way to declare how normal Christians are in regard to what they wear, what they eat, and how they participate in society. However, he then says, “[Christians] share their meals, but not their sexual partners” (Diogn. 5.7). Again, this is the trait that makes Christians different.
We see this play out again in the second-century Apology of Aristides. Aristides defends the legitimacy of the Christian faith to the emperor Hadrian by pointing out how Christians “do not commit adultery nor fornication” and “their men keep themselves from every unlawful union” (15).
A final example comes from the second-century apology of Minucius Felix. In his defense to Octavius, he contrasts the sexual ethic of the pagan world with that of Christians:
Among the Persians, a promiscuous association between sons and mothers is allowed. Marriages with sisters are legitimate among the Egyptians and in Athens. Your records and your tragedies, which you both read and hear with pleasure, glory in incests: thus also you worship incestuous gods, who have intercourse with mothers, with daughters, with sisters. With reason, therefore, is incest frequently detected among you, and is continually permitted. Miserable men, you may even, without knowing it, rush into what is unlawful: since you scatter your lusts promiscuously, since you everywhere beget children, since you frequently expose even those who are born at home to the mercy of others, it is inevitable that you must come back to your own children, and stray to your own offspring. Thus you continue the story of incest, even although you have no consciousness of your crime. But we maintain our modesty not in appearance, but in our heart we gladly abide by the bond of a single marriage; in the desire of procreating, we know either one wife, or none at all (31).
I think that women should want men who believe in chastity before marriage and who believe in committing to you exclusively as protector and provider for a lifetime. And they should have to prove that they can be faithful and committed during the courtship, too. You can’t just take their word for it, they have to work before the marriage to demonstrate their ability as a husband and father. It’s not just that this is the way that we have always done it, it’s that there are real reasons why chastity and fidelity are important for marriage success. You can’t just have fun, pick anyone you like, and have marriage “work out”. You have to be comfortable with chastity and fidelity, and the person you choose has to be comfortable with chastity and fidelity. It takes two people with self-control to make a stable, exclusive and committed marriage.
In this post, I want to show you an atheist tweet, and then contrast the atheist tweet with some scientific evidence.
Look at this meme that was recently tweeted by a serious atheist:
That’s the tweet, now let’s see the scientific evidence.
Look at this article from the Weather Channel which talks about the most recent NOAA hurricane estimates:
A new hurricane season forecast issued by The Weather Channel on Tuesday says we can expect the number of named storms and hurricanes in the 2015 Atlantic season to stay below historical averages.
A total of nine named storms, five hurricanes and one major hurricane are expected this season, according to the forecast prepared by The Weather Channel Professional Division. This is below the 30-year average of 12 named storms, six hurricanes and three major hurricanes.
[…]The Weather Channel forecast for below-average activity during the 2015 Atlantic hurricane season is consistent with what Colorado State University (CSU) said in its forecast issued on April 9. CSU’s forecast called for seven named storms, including three hurricanes, one of which is predicted to attain major hurricane status.
[…]The 2014 season featured the fewest number of named storms in 17 years (eight storms), but also featured the strongest landfalling hurricane in the mainland U.S. in six years (Hurricane Arthur on the Outer Banks), and featured two back-to-back hurricane hits on the tiny archipelago of Bermuda (Fay, then Gonzalo).
Meanwhile, we should also be concerned about tornadoes, and here is a graph of that:
As of September 25th, 2015 (the black line) is near the record low (the pink line).
By the way, the leftist Los Angeles Times is now reporting that the hurricane caused ZERO deaths. It was much less powerful than the hand-wringing global warmists wanted us to believe.
I understand that it’s fun for atheists to send each other pictures that make them feel smarter than theists, but at the end of the day, we should care about the data, shouldn’t we? I mean, we should be driving at truth using scientific evidence, and not just amuse ourselves with comforting myths that make us feel smug and self-assured.
Who’s irrational now?
Now, let’s take a more generalized look at which group, atheists or theists, are more likely to believe in ridiculous superstitions, using survey data from the center-left Pew Research Center (and not some meme tweeted on Twitter).
Notice the numbers for Republicans vs Democrats, conservatives vs. liberals, and church-attending vs non church-attending. The least superstitious people are conservative evangelical Republicans, while the most superstitious people are Democrat liberals who don’t attend church. I think there is something to be learned from that. It’s consistent with the results of a Gallup survey that showed that evangelical Christians are the most rational people on the planet.
Here’s the Wall Street Journal article about the survey done by Gallup, entitled “Look Who’s Irrational Now“. Again, this is data, and not some meme tweeted on Twitter.
The reality is that the New Atheist campaign, by discouraging religion, won’t create a new group of intelligent, skeptical, enlightened beings. Far from it: It might actually encourage new levels of mass superstition. And that’s not a conclusion to take on faith — it’s what the empirical data tell us.
“What Americans Really Believe,” a comprehensive new study released by Baylor University yesterday, shows that traditional Christian religion greatly decreases belief in everything from the efficacy of palm readers to the usefulness of astrology. It also shows that the irreligious and the members of more liberal Protestant denominations, far from being resistant to superstition, tend to be much more likely to believe in the paranormal and in pseudoscience than evangelical Christians.
The Gallup Organization, under contract to Baylor’s Institute for Studies of Religion, asked American adults a series of questions to gauge credulity.
[…]The answers were added up to create an index of belief in occult and the paranormal. While 31% of people who never worship expressed strong belief in these things, only 8% of people who attend a house of worship more than once a week did.
Even among Christians, there were disparities. While 36% of those belonging to the United Church of Christ, Sen. Barack Obama’s former denomination, expressed strong beliefs in the paranormal, only 14% of those belonging to the Assemblies of God, Sarah Palin’s former denomination, did. In fact, the more traditional and evangelical the respondent, the less likely he was to believe in, for instance, the possibility of communicating with people who are dead.
When I think of the “weird” things that evangelical Christians believe, I think of the origin of the universe, the cosmic fine-tuning, the origin of life and the sudden origin of animal body plans in the Cambrian. All of that science is superstition to an atheist, and yet all of it is rooted in mainstream science. Not just that, but support for our “weird” views has grown stronger as science has progressed.
There are many, many arguments for theism in general, and Christian theism in particular:
I can accept the fact that an atheist may be ignorant of the science that defeats his atheism, but that’s something that has to be remedied with more studying of the evidence, not tweeting memes to each other and giggling like children. There is no science that supports atheism, just as there is no science that supports superstitions.
Those of us who grew up in church have many fond and nostalgic memories of the Bible stories we were taught. We remember David and Goliath, Sampson and Delilah, Noah’s Ark, Jesus and the Feeding of the Five Thousand, Baby Moses in the Bulrushes, Zacchaeus the Wee Little Man, and many others. The problem is, we often have the same fond memories of many other childhood stories like Cinderella, The Frog Prince, Jack and the Beanstalk, and The Emperor’s New Clothes. Both sets of stories were short, entertaining, and had some moral lesson. They were often surprising or funny. They had kings and miracles. Their heroes did great and marvelous deeds. Unfortunately, we may not have understood that one set of stories was completely made up while the other is entirely true historically.
Now, many of us grew up and learned the difference between truth and fairy tales. We know that the Bible is true. We take it seriously now. But some children grow up and are told (often in school or in college) that the Bible is just a collection of myths. At best, it was a collection of tales passed down for many years and full of wishful thinking and primitive beliefs (or so they are told). And if those people haven’t learned better – if they have not been shown the historical evidence for the truth of the Bible – they often fall prey to this faulty view.
To help prevent this from happening, it is important to teach the Biblical account, not Bible stories. They aren’t “stories,” they’re true. There are several very serious problems with teaching the Biblical account as stories.
This is the one that rang true for me:
3. The Biblical account is not given its proper historical context
A big part of helping children (and others) to understand the historical nature of the Biblical account is including discussion of its historical context. Don’t just emphasize the moral lesson, talk about it as history. When children are taught about George Washington, Nero, Florence Nightingale, Genghis Khan, or any other historical figure, we talk about when they lived, their culture, their motivation, their language. In short, we put them in historical perspective and we talk about them as real people with real lives. Why don’t we do that with Biblical figures?
How often do you hear someone talk about what year the Flood happened? Whether dinosaurs were on the ark? Who Cain married? Why Eve didn’t freak out when a snake talked to her? Where the Garden of Eden was (there’s no way of knowing that, by the way)? Have you ever wondered why Jonathan didn’t hate David? Where the different races came from? Why God instituted animal sacrifice? Why Jesus came when He did? Why the particular 66 books of the Bible are Scripture and other ancient texts aren’t? These and many others are questions that today’s young people wrestle with. And they often are not getting answers.
If we neglect to talk about the Biblical account in realistic terms, we aren’t preparing our youth to answer the questions they will undoubtedly have. If they go long enough with unanswered questions, if they can’t figure out how what the Bible says can possibly make sense, many will start to wonder if it is really true. While we may not be able to answer every question definitively, we can at least have a serious discussion and offer reasonable possibilities for consideration. Without such reasonable discussion, why should they find it reasonable to believe it?
I never went to Sunday school, and that might explain why I never had this problem of outgrowing Christianity the way that kids outgrow fairy tales. Maybe it comes down to who is teaching in the Sunday school? Are the Sunday school teachers being selected because they are rational people with STEM degrees, STEM careers and some sort of practical outlook on life? Or are they very emotional, irrational, and desire-driven? Seems to me that we ought to be placing people who are more interested in the good old divisiveness of truth and facts in the Sunday school, and keeping out the people who are more interested in feelings and community stuff. I’ll never understand why the church seems to lack respect for practicality, and want to put in all these impractical touch-feely people to teach the young instead.
I remember when I was a teen, I served as a volunteer camp counselor with an older Catholic woman who was just starting her second year of college. She was raised in a very devout, sheltered Catholic family, and would not even say swear words like the s-word. She had this Sunday school, fairy tale view of Christianity. And she liked to tell me that God was a “she” and that Hell wasn’t real. After all, if religion is just about making up stories that make you feel good, then you can change it to be whatever you like best. She studied English in college and got into all kinds of radical feminism, anti-war, Marxism, and gay rights material. After a couple of graduate degrees that drove her further to the secular left, she eventually got a job teaching the young in a Catholic school. But her descent into secularism and leftism started with this super-nice, polite, fairy tale view of religion-as-niceness, rather than being about history and fact. She just had never been taught to make connections between the Bible and the real world, so her feelings were constantly allowed to override the truth claims of the Bible.
I think the bottom line is that the more we make Christianity about feelings, the more young people will leave it when they hit college and find out how the world works (not really) from their never-worked-in-the-private-sector liberal arts professors.
I was on vacation last week, and after bingeing on video games for 3 days (hello, Darkest Dungeon), I decided to spend the rest of my time studying JQuery, AngularJS and Bootstrap. I did this learning at the kitchen table, with training videos playing on the laptop, and me entering commands in the NetBeans IDE and seeing what the output was in the browser via the Chrome NetBeans Connector. At times, I would stop the video lecture, call my parents over and show them things that I was trying that were “off the beaten path” to find out how the components really worked. I also messaged JoeCoder with questions, since he is a client-side programmer, and I am primarily a server-side programmer. I was even able to put JQuery to work right away in my ad-blocker (uBlock Origin) which uses JQuery expressions to select elements to block. The point is that I was learning, and learning means being free to experiment and try things out. But always, it is about practice, not feelings. No one cares how you feel about code, they only care what you can use it to accomplish in the real world. The point of it is that teaching is not meant to make you feel good, or make students like you, or make people in think that you are really spiritual after all the drunken sex you had in college, hooking up with atheist guys. The point of teaching is to convey useful, accurate knowledge that can then be put into practice immediately to achieve good results. Sunday school should be more like learning how to program, not about singing, coloring, having fun, feeling good.
This is from Glenn Beck, not someone I pay any attention to. But the poll was done by Barna, and the results are interesting.
An prominent Christian pollster joined Glenn on his T.V. program Tuesday night to unveil the findings from a new poll, which sought to identify the top issues church-goers want to hear about from their pastors. The findings fascinated Glenn, who has been saying for a long time the way to wake our country up should be through our churches.
Joined by historian David Barton, pollster George Barna from the American Cultural & Faith Institute presented his research in which nearly 3,000 active church-goers were surveyed about the issues they want to hear about most in church.
Top 12 Issues the Church Wants to Hear:
1. Abortion: Beginning of life, right to life, contraception, adoption, unwed mothers. 91%
2. Religious persecution/liberty: Personal duty, government duty, church response, global conditions. 86%
3. Poverty: Personal duty, government role, church role, homelessness, hunger, dependency. 85%
4. Cultural restoration: Appropriate morals, law and order, defensible values and norms, self-government. 83%
5. Sexual identity: Same-sex marriage, transgenderism, marriage, LGBT. 82%
6. Israel: Its role in the world, Christian responsibility to Israel, US foreign policy toward Israel and its enemies. 80%
7. Christian Heritage: role of Christian faith in American history, church role in US development, moder-day relevance. 79%
8. Role of Government: Biblical view, church-state relationship, personal responsibility, limitations. 76%
10. Self-governance: Biblical support, personal conduct, impact on freedom, national sovereignty. 75%
11. Church in politics/government: Separation of church and state, legal boundaries, church resistance to government. 73%
12. Islam: Core beliefs, response to Islamic aggression, threat to US peace and domestic stability. 72%
David Barton went on to present several Action Steps that church-goers can do right now, to help get their churches off the sidelines and their pastors preaching about these important issues.
Well, I certainly found these poll results interesting, and that’s why I try to have a variety of topics on this blog.
The first thing I thought when I read that list is that pastors would have to be reading about things outside the Bible in order to know how to speak about them. For example, to talk about abortion, it helps to read books by Scott Klusendorf, Frank Beckwith, Robert George and Christopher Kaczor. Now, I’ve talked to some friends who have been through seminary, and it sounds to me that they read very little on the substance of these kinds of issues, and a lot about spiritual fluff. Maybe, instead of focusing so much on the packaging, they can focus more on the content. The list is pretty clearly a list of serious controversial issues. But in church I feel that the emphasis is always on feelings and agreement.
So, let’s see. How should we go about getting the churches to speak about these issues? I really have no idea, and I’m not holding my breath waiting for them to start to talk about how the Bible is supported by evidence, or about what anti-Christians skeptics say, or about how the Bible applies to issues in the real world. The pastors just seem to be not interested in all the most interesting things in the world, for some crazy reason. I love the list – I wish I heard these things discussed in church.