Crocodiles Eating Straw Just Like Bulls

There are people who say - more people than not - that it is more likely for your dog to pour himself a breakfast bowl of Cheerios than for a lion to eat straw like a bull. They are not really built that way.
 
That's why I like how the brothers didn't go there last night with the God's Kingdom Rules book. Discussing the return of the Jews from Babylonian exile and how they would be encouraged by Isaiah's prophesy about the animals, it said: "The lion would eat straw in the sense that it would not devour the Jews' cattle."
 
They didn't have to do it. They could have said "God will supply them with bales of hay in order to feed the lions."
 
Will it be literal someday? Who knows? But I like that our people can spot a metaphor when they see one. They know (unlike some religionists) that when someone cries crocodile tears, it does not mean that they are a crocodile.
 
Crocodile tears
 
 

Weather on Steroids

At the end of each year, media looks back to recap just what went down in the past 365 days, even as they brace for the new year. Didn't Ogden Nash point out that every new year is the direct descendant of a long line of proven criminals? It was a light and breezy line when he said it, long ago, but over time the criminals are getting nastier and nastier. PBS ran a story Dec 28th titled “How 2011 Became a 'Mind-Boggling' Year of Extreme Weather” Anyone halfway observant knows that last year blew us away (sometimes literally) for extreme weather, but people of scientific bent demand evidence! So here it is:

Whereas normally there are three or four “significant” weather events per year in the U.S, last year chalked up twelve. The prior record breaking year, 2008, ImagesCA1EWC8Wregistered nine. “So, we went a third again in the number of events each of which had greater than a billion dollars, many other events, of course, that just fell below that billion-dollar threshold through the course of that year, quite a remarkable string, quite a remarkable array,” said Kathryn Sullivan of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Jeff Masters, of Weather Underground, added: “we talk about the Dust Bowl summer of 1936. Well, this summer pretty much matched that for temperature, almost the hottest summer in U.S. history. We also talk about the great 1974 tornado outbreak. Well, we had an outbreak that more than doubled the total of tornadoes we had during that iconic outbreak. And, also, we talk about the great 1927 flood on the Mississippi River. Well, the flood heights were even higher than that flood this year. So, it just boggles my mind that we had three extreme weather events that matched those events in U.S. History.”

The story focused on U.S. weather events, but worldwide extremes were not ignored: “Weather around the world showed equal extremes. Australia was hit with record flooding, followed by one of its worst tropical cyclones ever. Floodwaters also ravaged parts of Thailand and China, while the Horn of Africa suffered its worst drought in decades.” Jeff Masters especially keeps track of drought, since that corresponds with social upheaval. Russia cut of wheat exports in 2011, so bad was their drought. Food prices surged, and it's thought that the Arab spring revolts were caused, in part, by that woe.

For my money, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said it best in his 2012 State of the State address. He didn't want to get into a debate on global warming, he prefaced, but “100 year floods are now happening every two years, so something is clearly happening.” ImagesCAOK6GNE

Does rotten weather count as one of the signs of the last days that Jesus ticked off? You have to force it a bit. I mean, it's not so directly mentioned as are earthquakes, food shortages, wars, and so forth. Does it fit under the “fearful sights and from heavens great signs” of Luke 21:11? Or is it a factor, among many, that when put together, give relevance to Jesus' fig tree remark? “Note the fig tree and all the other trees: When they are already in the bud, by observing it you know for yourselves that now the summer is near. In this way you also, when you see these things occurring, know that the kingdom of God is near.” (Luke 21:30)

No one in the story's comment section pays any attention to Biblical relevance, of course. They just debate over whether the extremes do or do not indicate global warming, since upon that question hangs major economic policy. One character remarks weather may not be getting any worse at all; we simply have miraculous scientific measurements today so that we notice things more, as though the flattened town of Joplin, Missouri might not have registered upon less enlightened folk of a generation ago.

Weather Underground's Jeff Masters thinks global warming is positively a factor, and by pumping more heat energy into the atmosphere, the result is weather events “on steroids.” If he's correct, then surely extreme weather is but another manifestation of humans “ruining the earth” today, as Revelation 18:11 says.

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Costa Concordia, Titanic, and the Last Days

Sometimes the spirit of an entire age is captured in a single event. Even better, sometimes the spirit of an entire age is bookended by two separate events, one defining the “before,” the other the “after.” Whenever this happens, it's a fine thing. It saves a lot of work. You don't have to read up on the entire age....don't you have a lot to do already? Just get your head around the two bookend events and you're homefree. Like Morgan Freeman said to Miss Daisy, "we don't have to worry about what's in the middle?" No. We don't.

 

Costa concordia sailing

 Titanic sailing

We have exactly this situation today with regard to the Costa Concordia, that luxury cruise liner that capsized January off the Italian coast. It's a nautical bookend. It's complement, the Titanic, also capsized, almost exactly a century ago, in 1912. The age thus bookended is the “last days”, as proclaimed by Jehovah's Witnesses. That age began in 1914 and is near completion, since we are “right around the corner” from the end of this system of things. 1914, you will remember, was the year of WWI, and marks the first time the entire world went to war concurrently. It was the year that events described in Luke 21:10 set off with a bang, and have intensified to our day. Odd as it may sound, that year is determined by biblical prophesy.

If ever there were contrasting events to illustrate the fulfillment of 2 Tim 3:1-5, they are to be found in these behemoth boats. Those verses of Timothy read:

"But know this, that in the last days critical times hard to deal with will be here. For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, self-assuming, haughty, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, disloyal, having no natural affection, not open to any agreement, slanderers, without self-control, fierce, without love of goodness, betrayers, headstrong, puffed up [with pride], lovers of pleasures rather than lovers of God, having a form of godly devotion but proving false to its power; and from these turn away."

In other words, the verses point to a general deterioration of human character. People have “gotten worse” during the last days. As Pop, who's even older than I am (and not a Witness)  readily asserts: the world is going “to hell in a handbasket.” But this is not necessarily easy to prove to one who thinks otherwise. It's subjective. If you show the verses to someone who doesn't agree that they apply more today than at other times, there's not much you can do about it. To some extent, it depends upon where you look. If you think in terms of technology, for instance, the notion of things worsening is patently untrue. One is reminded of that line from the 1968 book The Truth that Leads to Eternal Life, “True, there has been progress in a materialistic way. But is it really progress when men send rockets to the moon, and yet cannot live together in peace on earth?” Some people think it is.

Still, the best chance we have of illustrating 2 Tim 3:1-5 lies in contrasting similar events occurring in different time frames. Like ship sinkings. Consider: after the Titanic struck a berg, back in 1912, the captain expedited rescue efforts, then went down with his ship. After the Costa Concordia struck a rock, in modern 2012, the captain, seen beforehand schmoozing up women in the bar, was among the first to jump ship. Titanic's crew, in 1912, urgently worked to shepherd passengers to lifeboats. Concordia's crew, in 2012, told them to go back to their rooms....surely this crisis would pass. With the 1912 Titanic, it was “women & children first.”* With the 2012 Corcordia it was “every person for himself.”

 
In short, all that was noble and self-sacrificing is replaced today with all that is cowardly and self-serving. That's the relevance of 2 Tim 3:1-5. Tell that to fatheads that can's see any change in people!

Even the big liners themselves seem to fulfill 2 Tim 3:1-5. Titanic, in 1912, went down majestically, gracefully, symmetrically. Concordia, in 2012, rolled over on its side like a huge fat pig and just lay there lolling in the sun, like our overstuffed cat does in hopes someone will scratch it's belly. People of the last days can't even sink a ship properly.

 

Titanic sinking

  Costa concordia

Okay, okay, so it doesn't prove anything, comparing the two sunken ships. It's pure symbolism. I understand that. But as symbolism goes, it doesn't get any better. I don't issue many prophesies, being a modest guy, but I'm comfortable with this one: James Cameron will never make a film entitled Concordia.

 

2012 1 18 downtown pictures 093


 

*74% of the women on board Titanic were saved and 52% of the children, but only 20% of the men. (with major variations over First Class, Second Class and Third Class passengers)

 

Thanks to Aussie blogger Daniel for the inspiration.

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No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

 


How to Predict the End of the World

From our readers:

 

Dear Tom Sheepandgoats:

How can I figure when the world will end?

Sincere Person

 

Dear Sincere Person:

The only thing you're sincere about is saving your skin! Nevertheless, here's how you do it.

You start with the well-known verse in Mathew:

Concerning that day and hour nobody knows, neither the angels of the heavens nor the Son, but only the Father.     Matt 24:36

Got it? Nobody knows the day and the hour. While, at first glance, that might seem unhelpful for your calculation, in reality it is the key to success! The method is straightforward. Since no one knows the day and the hour, that means if anyone claims a certain date for the end of the world, that's not it. To visualize how the method works, start with a calendar. 

2011 5 13 cameras and calendars 014 
 

Now, let's consider an example. May 21st. Say someone declares this day to be the end of the world. Since he knows it to be true, that's not it. On your calendar, you cross out May 21. Cross it out, not in pencil, but with a permanent marker. That way, no atheist can later erase it, trying to confuse you or your pets.

 

2011 5 13 cameras and calendars 021 

Repeat the process. Whenever you come upon a day someone just knows is the day and the hour, cross out that day. With a bit of research, you ought to eventually have a calendar looking like this.

 

2011 5 13 cameras and calendars 023 


There! That's all there is to it. You'll cross out all days except one. That's the day! Be ready.

  

I can hear the cynics, already. “Hold on a minute, Sheepandgoats!  You can't tell me that every day of the calendar is taken. There may be a lot of nutcakes, but surely not so many as to fill up every day on the calendar!”

On the surface, it seems a valid objection, but in reality, it just reveals laziness on your part. I admit, if you just count nutcakes predicting the day and hour, you'll fall short. You must count more than just the nutcakes. You must also count the screwballs, the cranks, the fruitcakes, the starry-eyed lunatics, the wolflike false prophets, the round-the-bend idiots, the maniacal crackpots, the self-aggrandizing demented, the certifiable crazies, the raving beserk, the unhinged wackos, and the moonstruck schizos. It's a little work, I admit, but it's not rocket science. If you count all these characters, you easily eliminate the wrong days, leaving only the truth to assert itself!


Now, since I do nothing but think about God all day long, I've worked through all this, and I know the date. But, if I really knew the date, that wouldn't be the date, would it? So I don't know. I've only been able to narrow it down to three possibilities. There are only three days throughout time that no one else has claimed. Thus we can see the breathtaking splendor of the heavenly plan. Three things are proven:

1. God is a trinity.
2. He works in mysterious ways.
3. Matt 24:36 holds. You can't tell the day and the hour; your best shot is a 33% chance.

 

Now, should we give Mr Camping some credit? It's not easy to do. I agonize over it. His formula, seven 1000-year days after the flood, seems awfully simplistic. He's throwing everyone in a tizzy over that? Haven't I said before I don't do floods? If I met him, I'm not at all sure I would like him. Besides, he buys into all the typical hash of trinity and hellfire, doesn't he? Don't get me started on this rapture stuff. And what's to say about those folk who buy into his prophesies? Why weren't they wearing ties as they announced the end? So, I suppose, not being on board, I run the risk of going to hell. Maybe if I say kind words, I will go to a softer version of hell...some place with merely an abominable climate, like here in Rochester, which I am used to. At any rate, it seems worth the effort. So....

Harold Camping, too, was aware of “Concerning that day and hour nobody knows, neither the angels of the heavens nor the Son, but only the Father.” He didn't just blow it off as if it never existed. He worked around it in a very clever way. He said that verse related only to that specific period of time in which it was written, not now! Now all the Trinitarians laugh at such a silly explanation, yet they blunder as greatly regarding the second part of the verse: "...no man knows the day and hour, nor does the Son, but the Father does!" Still, they would have me believe that the Son and the Father are the same!

Look, Camping stuck his neck out and looked ridiculous, he messed up a lot of people, but at least he is in the spirit ofJesus admonition to “keep on the watch.” I'll give him credit for that, if no more. I mean, I've heard atheists and skeptics carry on about how can people be so credulous to buy into end-time obsessions. I'll tell you how. You need look no further than Newsweek, which lists calamities on the front cover of it's “Apocalyse Now” edition, before tearing their hair out with “What the #@%!" is Next?! So at least Camping errs in furthering a Bible theme, that there will be an end of this system of things. I mean, if the ridicule of him comes from those steamed over his goofball formula, or his presumption of nailing the day and hour, well and good. But if it comes from those mocking the very notion that one day God will intervene in world affairs so that the earth does not end up totally ruined.....well....I hate to pick sides. I'm not sure which is the worse.

Years ago I called on some science person who had read the book Life – How Did it Get Here; by Evolution or by Creation. In the course of discussion, he asked what difference did it make. Who cared? Either way, evolution or creation, we're here. I answered that if God was responsible for bringing about earth and the life on it, then he just might have some purpose for it, and might not stand idly by while human mismanagement destroyed it. But if evolution was responsible for all, then if there was any hope for earth's future, it lay with humans. And they weren't doing so well, then or now. The man's wife, who up to that time had had little to say, remarked 'that's a good point.'


Well......alright already Sheepandgoats. You say there's three possibilities? Spill. What are they? Not so fast! It'll cost ya. Look, Camping and everyone else draws a salary for what they do. What should I and Jehovah's Witnesses be the only ones not to cash in? Contact me and we'll talk. Do you want to be ready for the big day or don't you?

************************

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No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

 


What the #@%! is Next?

Can you really put a smiley face on the world, with but a little tweaking, or even none at all? I wouldn't think so, but there are plenty who disagree.  Sometimes, trying to make me mad, they scour Watchtower publications for pictures of Armeggedon, and post them on their websites. Jehovah's Witnesses are mean, they charge. Look how they print such pictures, traumatizing the little children! What is armeggedon cover Many of these grousers, amazingly, are ex-Witnesses, who have tired of organized cooperation with a Bible educational work. These have reassessed their former view that today's world merits God's disapproval, instead concluding that it's a nifty place to find fulfillment.

 

Typifying this view, here's a comparative religion website accusing the Watchtower Society of "maintain[ing] a state of high anxiety in their membership by stressing the imminence of the end." We would not have phrased things this way.  Instead, we would say that recognition of where we are in the stream of time goes a long way to allay anxiety. It's as though these web writers think all is just peachy worldwide and everyone would know it were it not for JWs fouling the air with their “high anxiety.”


Well, two can play at that game. Take a look at Newsweek's cover for March 28, 2011:Newsweek cover apoclayse

“Tsunamis, Earthquakes, Nuclear Meltdowns, Revolutions, Economies on the Brink!” No anxiety here, is there? I tell you, for anyone with a memory, it's absolutely amazing to see such despairing words on the cover of a national magazine. Surely Newsweek, representing the world's collective wisdom, has some reassuring words for the children? Ah...yes, here it is, just below the list of calamities: They say “What the #@%! is next?!”

And to think that my 7th grade social studies teacher had us all subscribe to Newsweek, on the premise we would thereby become well-informed. Was I anticipating future covers of that magazine when I began my World News Oral Report with the words “What the #@%! is next?” and spent the rest of the semester writing “I will not swear” on the chalkboard? As adults of this system have failed the children in so many ways....in morals, in education, in personal and group and financial security, they now fail them even in reassuring rhetoric. “What the #@%! is next?” is the best they can manage. Why not further say: “We haven't a clue, kids. We've screwed things up in every way.”

For that matter, why not say “Jehovah's Witnesses are Right?” For Jehovah's Witnesses have been saying for decades that the present system of things is doomed to extinction, to be replaced by God's Kingdom. Everyone else says or hopes that God will somehow bless the present hash of human governments, so as to collectively bring us all a happy future. Well who doesn't want a happy future? But a happy future is not something humans can provide. It comes only under God's Kingdom. No human has the slightest role in bringing that Kingdom about. God himself does that. But we can position ourselves to benefit from it. That is the long-standing message of Jehovah's Witnesses, coupled with an invitation to study the Bible itself.

Hey, it's not been an easy job. It still isn't. “Aw, go soak your head,” people tell us. “What a bunch of alarmists! We've always had bad things happening!” I can hear the refrain now.  Naturally, the Bible reader thinks of 2 Peter 3:3,4:

First off, you need to know that in the last days, mockers are going to have a heyday. Reducing everything to the level of their puny feelings, they'll mock, "So what's happened to the promise of his Coming? Our ancestors are dead and buried, and everything's going on just as it has from the first day of creation. Nothing's changed."   (the paraphrased Message translation; it may not be literal, but it sure is fresh)

Well....we sure haven't always had magazine covers like this one of Newsweek's! It's as if the editors are collectively throwing up their hands and crying “Sheesh! Everything humans touch turns to shit!” (Normally I would never use such unsavory words as “shit,” but I am unwholesomely influenced by Newsweek's #@%! It really is true that “bad associations spoils useful habits.)

The only time I said “What the #@%! is next?” was when I saw the price of the magazine. $5.95! Weren't these things under a dollar when I was a kid? With more pages? And better written, not dumbed down like it is today? I know, I know, it's unfair to be critical of a mass publication for “dumbing down.” The Watchtower is dumbed down, too. We all know it. As the world's education system steadily goes down the toilet, so do collective reading skills. If you want to reach a broad audience, simple writing is the way you have to go, however painful it may be for guys who cherish reading. But there's hardly any need to rub it in: Note above the Newsweek banner is the byline for another story: “How Ignorant are You?” Am I being too sensitive when I read between the lines: “We're not ignorant.....you are!”?)
 
To be faithful to the Bible, you need to talk about things not so pleasant. You just do. And destruction of “the ungodly” is not so pleasant. Nobody says otherwise. The only caveat.....and it's a significant one....is that a person can be saved from it by adhering to divine direction. Isn't that, when push comes to shove, a good thing?

Now....see if you can spot the spurious words I've cleverly inserted in the following passage: Revelation 6:12-17 (Message Translation, again) in which John prophesies

“…..a bone-jarring earthquake, sun turned black as ink, moon all bloody, stars falling out of the sky like figs shaken from a tree in a high wind, sky snapped shut like a book, islands and mountains sliding this way and that. And then pandemonium, everyone and his dog running for cover—kings, princes, generals, rich and strong, along with every commoner, slave or free. They hid in mountain caves and rocky dens, calling out to mountains and rocks, “What the #@%! is next?”

There. Did you spot it? What they actually cry is "Refuge! Hide us from the One Seated on the Throne and the wrath of the Lamb! The great Day of their wrath has come—who can stand it." But I try to keep up with contemporary jargon per Newsweek.

Or, what about the words of Jesus:

The time is coming when they'll say, 'Lucky the women who never conceived! Lucky the wombs that never gave birth! Lucky the breasts that never gave milk!' Then they'll start calling to the mountains, “What the #@%! is next?”  Luke 23:29-30

Nope. What they actually call to the mountains is “Fall down on us! Cover us up!”

We take a lot of flak for adhering to the Bible's teaching of Armageddon, great tribulation, destruction of the wicked, paradise earth under Kingdom reign, and so forth. Jehovah's Witnesses are a serious religion that doesn't hedge its bets. We're not all over the board. We unabashedly hold to key Bible tenets, no matter if they find scorn elsewhere. For, to be sure, if you don't think God will call “the ungodly” to account, if you don't think God will one day intervene dramatically in world events, then Jehovah's Witnesses and all that they represent are ridiculous, a perfect target for derision. It all depends upon where you're coming from.

But pertaining to Armageddon.... look, I don't know just who will and who will not go down at that time. Nobody does. Can you be some distance from theocratic provisions or not one inch? Dunno. But why not stay in a known place of safety and take part in a work in which it is good to take part in any event, simply on the basis of Rev 4:11?

“You are worthy, Jehovah, even our God, to receive the glory and the honor and the power, because you created all things, and because of your will they existed and were created.”

God created all things. The massive experiment of human self-rule is turning out exactly as he said it would. He deserves our service.

Is it coincidence? In the same month Newsweek throws up its hands in mass despair, Jehovah's Witnesses intensify their ministry as never before.  Here in Rochester, most congregations have 50-80% or more of members in some form of “pioneer service,” volunteering 30-50 hours of their time in Bible teaching. As they visit neighbors, they don't say “What the #@%! is next?” Instead, they point out today's disintegration is all foretold, and is a precursor to God fulfilling his promise to bring peace and paradise on earth through his kingdom.

We like verses like the following one in Psalms. We think they're soon to come true. And we don't just sit on the information, we do our best to tell others so they can benefit too:

And just a little while longer, and the wicked one will be no more; And you will certainly give attention to his place, and he will not be. But the meek ones themselves will possess the earth, And they will indeed find their exquisite delight in the abundance of peace.   Ps 37:10-11

Does not this Psalm recall Jesus' words “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” They certainly haven't to date. But Jehovah's Witnesses believe this promise is soon to be fulfilled, and they invite others to examine the evidence.

See here, here, here, and here.

 

[EDIT....58% was the figure of those in some sort of full-time service during April, so reported our C.O. recently. (figures in your circuit may vary)]

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At My Age I Shouldn't Have to Prove Anything to Anyone

All Pop wants is to cross the border for a few hours to visit a relative. You wouldn't think that's asking too much. But it is.
 
A distant cousin lives in a St Catherine nursing home, just across the Canadian border. We run up to visit her once a year or so – my brother, Pop, and myself. A driver's license and birth certificate has always sufficed for crossing the border. (or rather, for return crossing, back into the U.S.) But, as of last June, only an “enhanced” license will do – that or a passport. With only minor fuss, my brother and I obtained ours, but no such luck for Pop. State (and perhaps Federal) clerks looked askance at his out-of-state birth certificate from the 1920's – it's old and crumbly – you have to handle it as if it were an ancient Bible manuscript. And....is it a certificate or just a 'notice'? And....does it have a raised seal or is it just a flat one? Go get another one, they tell him.
 
But record-keeping in New Jersey wasn't so hot 90 years ago, and the department has changed hands or moved any number of times since. They don't seem able to come up with anything to readily satisfy New York. Yes, for a certain fee and substantial inconvenience, if Pop can dig up some old coot whose been around forever, who knows him from long ago, and who can testify that, yes – Pop is indeed a person, he was born here, he is a citizen, and if you can get that person to testify to that effect before a notary, then the wheels of progress can slowly move ahead once more. But the old coots are dead, or far away and long forgotten. The guys Pop hangs with now, bowling and golfing buddies, for the most part, don't go back that far. They can testify he throws a good strike ball, but not much else.
 
Pop's been on the phone with a series of persons, but he gets frustrated with the layers of bureaucracy he must plow through, and he gives them a piece of his mind. (no doubt ringing alarm bells everywhere) “I've had a driver's license for 70 years,” he grouses. “I fought in the world war. At my age, I shouldn't have to prove anything to anyone.”

'Why don't you take charge yourself, Sheepandgoats?' one might ask. 'Why don't you help him out?' Yeah, well, maybe that will happen. But it's not so easy as it sounds, for Pop is quite competent. He takes pride in being self-sufficient, and doesn't like to be helped....might not accepting help imply he is helpless? Besides, would I do any better? I've had my own struggles with (local) bureaucracy, untangling an ancient web regarding property rights, which also entailed tracking down old coots who could remember how things used to be, parading them to the bank notary public, hiring a lawyer (who opined that submitted documents had only to “weigh enough”) and persuading certain other interested parties that there was nothing more to be done till the gods of real estate had spoken.
 
Moreover, I've had my own border trouble. It happened some months after 911, as Mrs Sheepandgoats and I were driving home from Quebec City. Rounding the final bend on Rt 137, a long long line at the NY-Canadian border came into view - endless cars waiting for customs. 'Rats!' muttered I to my wife, and then 'well, as long as I have to sit here, I'll read the newsmagazine in the car trunk.' But as I opened the trunk I noticed all eyes in the control booths ahead were upon me. 'Sheepandgoats, you idiot!' Now they think I'm hiding drugs – they'll tear the car apart!

So I waited my forty five minutes, and when it came my turn, the first words from the officer's mouth were: “what were you doing in your trunk?” Getting something to read, I said, adding I instantly knew it was a mistake and they'd all be thinking I was hiding drugs. “Drugs, hell!” the fellow snapped back. “One wrong move and you would have been shot!” That's how it was after 911. They were edgy there at the border, cautious, supposing I might emerge from the trunk with a machine gun.

Now, we don't complain, mind you. Well....Pop does a little...it's more evidence that 'the world has gone to hell in a handbasket,' he grumbles. But I know it's all a consequence of terror and the “war on terror.” People die or are maimed all the time through terror, so it's hardly sporting to gripe over a just a bit of inconvenience, even though we live in America, are all spoiled, and have long taken our “rights” for granted. One must keep things in perspective. Still, when Tom Whitepebble was a boy in Niagara Falls, NY, he'd routinely walk across the bridge to Canada and back, after a day of fun at the falls, and nobody asked him anything. Nobody had to see any papers at all.
 
I write this just after police have arrested some fellow who'd hoped to blow up Times-Square with a car bomb. It might have been a much bigger story, complete with dead bodies and burning buildings – T-S is always mobbed with people - had not his crude bomb fizzled. Such events are routine in the world but (so far) relatively rare in the U.S. Who of my generation would ever have imagined it would come to this, that killing civilians indiscriminately would come into vogue, and even strapping on bombs and delighting to die if only you can take out a dozen or two with you. Tell me....you really don't think it's not evidence that “in the last days” people will be “fierce,” and without “natural affection?”  (2 Tim 3:3)  And did the July Watchtower really say that the recent upsurge in graphic movie, TV, game and media violence might be a satanic ploy, stoking people up for fratricidal warfare?

It steadily escalates. In Russia, “two female suicide bombers killed at least 38 people on packed Moscow metro trains on Monday, stirring fears of a broader campaign in Russia's heartland by Islamists from the North Caucasus,” says the March 29th Washington Post. They call these female bombers “black widows,” and they've struck many times, with great loss of life. They've generally lost all their menfolk to war and all their womenfolk have been raped. They're pretty much crazed, without any social net to fall back into, and it's a sinch to recruit them for suicide missions. The Post names a certain Chechen “warlord” who, a decade ago, “pioneered” the use of women to strike civilian targets. And why? Reprisals for the 1940s transportation of Chechens to Central Asia, with enormous loss of life, by dictator Josef Stalin. [70 years ago!] In recent decades, Islamist militants have joined the fray, giving it new import.

Now, horrible as such grievances are, in past decades people weathered equal atrocities without suffering destruction of their natural affection for humankind. It often broke them, it often broke faith in God, it often left them with hatred for the perpetrators, but not for humankind in general. Jews and other emerged from WWII concentration camps, for example, without dedicating their future lives to revenge, or at least revenge against non-involved persons. A century before that, blacks in this country similarly emerged from brutalizing slavery without goals of hatred and vengeance to all. But times are different today. People are surrounded by hate, and when they escape from one hate-filled situation, they simply enter another one. There is no respite. There is no consolation. It ought to be quite clear that this world produces and promises to produce no end of persons like the Chechen black widows, so increasing violence seems absolutely assured, until God brings about an end to the entire system of things, a forerunner to ushering in his own kingdom.

Under such circumstances, one doesn't gripe about inconveniences at the border. It's more or less to be expected.

***********************

Tom Irregardless and Me                No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash


So There was this Lutheran Evangelical, and he Approaches this Rabbi

so as to SAVE him. Only, he doesn't know he's wearing a big "kick me" sign on his behind. No sooner does he finish his pitch and the rabbi does kick him. Hard! HA!!

[Okay, okay, Tom Sheepandgoats, don't gloat. Stop it!. The rabbi doesn't like you any more than him, most likely. Maybe he'll try to kick you, too. Well....maybe, but at least I have one saving grace. I'm using a decent Bible translation.]

Dear Rabbi [Tovia Singer, who runs Outreach Judaism, and responds to issues raised by "missionaries, cults, and Jew for Jesus."]:

".......I admire your commitment to your faith." [Roll eyes. Does he also admire the Pope's committment to his faith. Sheesh! When you're writing a someone like the rabbi, you don't lead off with patronizing twaddle about admiration. If you truly admire him, the tone of your letter will show it.]

Brackets mine, by the way.

yet I am perplexed as to why you so assuredly reject Jesus Christ as your messiah. [Not the Messiah, but your Messiah. What, is he trying to get this fellow mad? Not that I disagree with the "your," necessarily, but you have to know your audience. Even Jesus' disciples referred to him as the Messiah. (John 1:41) Do these modern day evangelicals simply love him more than the original twelve?]

He came not only for the gentiles, but for the Jews as well. He was born to a Jewish mother and came to the Jewish people. [Perhaps the rabbi has never heard this.]

[Wait a minute....haven't church Christians treated Jews abominably through the centuries? Better defuse that one. Shouldn't be a problem:]

"I know that the Jews have been maligned and persecuted by so-called Christians. This has certainly left a bad taste in the mouths of the Jewish people against Christ; but certainly you must know, rabbi, that these were not real Christians, for a believer in Christ must love the Jew, for his Savior is a Jew....The true Christian loves the Jewish people." [There! Done! Easy as Pie! Hundreds of years of persecution out of the way! Now, on to business:]

"You surely have read the 22nd Psalm which most clearly speaks of our Lord’s crucifixion. Read verse 16. [Do it, rabbi. NOW!] It states, “Dogs have compassed me; the assembly of the wicked has enclosed me; they pierced my hands and my feet.” Of whom does the prophet speak other than our Lord? This Old Testament prophecy could only be foretelling Jesus’ unique death on the cross. What greater proof is needed that Jesus died for the sins of mankind than this chapter which was written a thousand years before Jesus walked this earth?"

I'll concede I'm being somewhat hard on this Lutheran fellow. He's certainly sincere enough But these guys come after us all the time, too, set to save us. Positively cooing love, until you refute them, and then you're likely to catch a hellfire backhand. Well....if you're going to pull stuff like this on the rabbi (and us), you'd better have your ducks lined up. As it turns out, this fellow's ducks are waddling all over the place, and the rabbi calls him on it.

His verse is fraudulent translating, the rabbi replies. It does not read in Hebrew "they pierced my hands and my feet." It reads "like a lion, they are at my hands and my feet." The Hebrew word is kaari. It means "like a lion." It does not mean "pierced." Furthermore, this is no accident of translating, the rabbi goes on to assert. It is deliberate. Other places in the Old Testament, such as Isaiah 38:13, the Hebrew work kaari is translated "like a lion," as it should be. Only at Psalm 22:16 (some translations have it vs 17) is it "pierced." a word that, in this setting, just sounds so much better for religionist church translators! Never mind that there actually are Hebrew words that mean pierced - words that are not used in the verse. No, we'll just change the word kaari so as to support an image we like!

Well.....honest mistake, reply some churchy types that know of the switch. You see, they explain, those early church translators mistook kaari for kaaru.....it's only one letter off, and kaaru means "pierced." They probably suppose Jesus maneuvered matters this way. The only trouble, says the rabbi.....is that there is no kaaru. No such word. Or, at least, not until those religionists coined it to justify their mistranslation.

Now, I didn't know any of this. I checked various translations, some in my own library and some on the internet. The website BibleGateway.com has a feature by which one may compare different translations. I refer to it a lot. Out of the 18 English translations listed, none have "like a lion" at vs 16. They all say "pierced" or (in two cases) phrases that mean pierced.

StudyLight.org makes 37 complete English translations (there is some overlap with BibleGateway) available for comparison. Only four say "like a lion." The Easy to Read Version, trying to please everybody, I guess, uses both: Like a lion, {they have pierced} my hands and my feet." [are lions known to pierce hands and feet?]

Four translations out of fifty! So I look up the verse in the New World Translation, the one used by Jehovah's Witnesses:

For dogs have surrounded me; The assembly of evildoers themselves have enclosed me. Like a lion [they are at] my hands and my feet.

The NWT gets it right, one of only a handful of translations to do so! Since the other accurate translations are all somewhat obscure - not well known - for all practical purposes, the NWT is the only accurate one available. Moreover, in translating the word kaari accurately, the NWT works "against" its translators own interests, since we also believe the Christ is foretold in various psalms, including the 22nd. We'd love it to say "pierced," too. but it doesn't. No fair stacking the deck. Accuracy in translating comes first. The Foreword of the New World Translation says, in part: The translators of this work, who fear and love the Divine Author of the Holy Scriptures, feel toward Him a special responsibility to transmit his thoughts and declarations as accurately as possible. They ought to cite Ps 22:16 as a case in point, for here they ignore a rendering they must instinctively agree with doctrinally, because the original Hebrew word does not allow it!

I've seen how born-again Bibles alter the New Testament, trying to sneak their Trinity doctrine in, but I've not seen it before with the Old Testament. Moreover, I am so sick and tired of these know-nothings, buttressed only by the opinions of ones who think like them, shouting that the NWT is a shoddy translation. And maligning it's authors, making much of the fact they haven't gone to their seminaries, in striking similarity to how religious leaders of Jesus' day sneered at the first century Christians (and even Jesus himself):

Now when they beheld the outspokenness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were men unlettered and ordinary, they got to wondering. And they began to recognize about them that they used to be with Jesus.  (Acts 4:13)

Therefore the Jews fell to wondering, saying: “How does this man have a knowledge of letters, when he has not studied at the schools?  (John 7:15)

There was some trial somewhere, decades ago...you see it all over the internet.... in which Fred Franz is asked to translate an English phrase into Hebrew and he replies "I won't attempt to do that." This means, say his detractors, that he doesn't know Hebrew at all, and yet he chaired the NWT translating committee! Does he even know Pig Latin? But all sneering aside, the New World Translation got Ps 22:16 right, when virtually nobody else did. Everyone else repeats uncritically (they surely by now have had opportunity to correct matters) the faulty King James rendering! Rather, they vigorously defend it. Possibly, one might (gingerly) allow that the verse, in Hebrew, is homonymic. Alas, such wordplay, along with poetic devices as alliteration, rhyme, onomatopoeia, and so forth, is not translatable. Even if you were to attempt it, you still need a good dose of "translator privilege" to derive pierced. Not to be lost sight of is the fact that this verse is not cited as messianic in the New Testament although several other Ps 22 verses are. In the end, responsible translating demands you translate only what is actually there. (in a footnote, the NWT Large Print with References includes two alternate readings: Biting like a lion my hand and my feet (Targum) and They bored (dug through) my hands and my feet. (Septuagint, Vulgate))

.............................................

By the way, the rabbi's not buying into this "love the Jews" slogan, either [his word]. Doesn't this Lutheran character know of Luther's reputation? "Among all the church fathers and reformers, there was no mouth more vile, no lips that uttered more vulgar curses against the children of Israel than this founder of the Reformation whom you apparently revere. Even the anti-Semitism of the New Testament and the church fathers pales in comparison to the invectives launched by Luther’s impious tongue during his lifetime.....Have you not read his odious volume entitled 'Of the Jews and Their Lies'?"

"Although evangelicals repeatedly declare that true believing Christians love the Jewish people, the annals of history clearly do not support this slogan. With few exceptions, the tormentors of the Jewish people emerged out of the fundamentalist genre of Christianity. Remarkably, denominations that evangelical Christians regard as heretical, such as Mormonism or the Jehovah’s Witnesses, do not have a strong history of anti-Semitism."

[It's true. Didn't I go to bat for Dov Hikind when everyone else wanted his head on a platter?]

..........................................

And while we're at it, the rabbi also takes a swipe at Trinitarianism, which he wrongly equates with Christianity. Psalm 22 opens with "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" If these words are to be attributed to a Trinitarian Jesus on the cross, asks the rabbi, (Matt 27:46) can it really be that God has forsaken himself? This is the sort of nonsense you have to buy into repeatedly when you accept the Trinity doctrine. It's nonsense that clears up instantly once you appreciate that Jesus and his Father are two separate beings, just like any other son and father we can imagine. Indeed, that's why the Bible uses that bit of personification - in order to highlight the intense closeness and absolute harmony existing between them, while all the time making clear they are separate beings.


Governing the Modern Day Congregation

Like Plato's philosopher kings, the "apostles and older men" in Jerusalem set policy for the first century congregation. They determined how scripture applied for the rapidly growing Christian faith, much as modern govenments apply principles contained within national constitutions. If they did not do so, constitutions would quickly become inapplicable, lost among new developments not explicitly spelled out. They'd become relics for debate, and nothing else. (Some people would like it that way.) But the Bible was not to suffer the same fate. It was to be applied to changing times by a governing agency.
 
Traveling ministers carried decisions of that early governing body to the ever-increasing congregations, which within decades had spread throughout the Mediterranean world. Acts 16:4-5 reports:
 
Now as they traveled on through the cities they would deliver to those there for observance the decrees that had been decided upon by the apostles and older men who were in Jerusalem. Therefore, indeed, the congregations continued to be made firm in the faith and to increase in number from day to day.

Alas, for those who suppose Christianity ought to be based upon Western democracy! It wasn't guidelines being delivered. It wasn't suggestions. It wasn't proposals to be put to popular vote. It was decrees which were to be observed.
 
It's not just the New World Translation. Nearly all English translations use the terms "decrees" or "decisions." The New International Version calls them "decisions for the people to obey." Of the few variations, only the Message translation waters the phrase down to "simple guidelines which turned out to be most helpful." But the Amplified Bible uses "regulations," Moffatts Bible says "resolutions," the Good News Bible offers up "rules."
 
Isn't this what one would expect? If God's ways are really higher than our ways, as Isa 55:9 states, and people become Christian converts precisely for that reason, does anyone truly think God's ways would be determined by majority vote? If that's the case, who needs God? Unless you want scripture to be no more than fodder for debate. And as already observed, that's exactly what many folks want; the more learned they are and thereby fond of their own opinions, the more they want it. That way no one has to really pay any attention to it, even if it's their own that opinion prevails. It's just academic hot air. No, there has to be a governing agency. God saw to that in the first century. The apostles and older men governed from Jerusalem as a God-ordained arrangement. They weren't ambitious men seizing power. They were Christians with the most experience, men who had introduced the faith to others, and they saw to their own succession.
 
Is this arrangement to be extended into the present? Jehovah's Witnesses say yes. It's what they glean from consideration of Matt 24:45-47: Who really is the faithful and discreet slave whom his master appointed over his domestics, to give them their food at the proper time? Happy is that slave if his master on arriving finds him doing so. Truly I say to you, He will appoint him over all his belongings.  

At first glance, one might wonder if these verses can really refer to governance for the modern-day Christian congregations. I've had someone try to tell me the verses are no more than a nice little story with the moral to always do your best. But consider that the verses are embedded in Matthew 24-25, two Bible chapters filled with prophesies and parables about Christ's return. Matt 24:3 leads with the question posed by Jesus' disciples: "what will be the sign of your presence and of the conclusion of the system of things?" Matthew 25 consists of three parables in which the Master returns after a long absence and settles accounts with his slaves....what have they been up to while he was gone? Some have been diligent. Some negligent. Some have kept alert. Some have fallen asleep.  Some have done well by his "brothers." Some have ignored them. As always, Jesus speaks in illustrations, largely so as to throw off people whose interest in spiritual things is only superficial. (see Matt: 13:10-15)
 
From time to time through the years, various persons have claimed to be "the faithful and discreet slave," presuming that whatever they have to say constitutes "food at the proper time" for the "domestics." However, Christ departed in 33CE - wouldn't he have made his appointments before leaving?. And he arrived....Jehovah's Witnesses (alone) are on record stating his invisible presence as reigning heavenly King began in 1914 (another claim which, at first glance, seems far-fetched, but which is substantiated with reasonings reproduced here and here and here.) Therefore, the faithful and discreet slave must be, not an individual, but a group, or class, of individuals. A small remnant of Christ's followers recognized through Bible study that the Master's presence would commence in 1914. They gave the matter wide publicity well beforehand. ‘Look out for 1914!’ has been the cry of the hundreds of traveling evangelists who, representing this strange creed [today known as Jehovah's Witnesses], have gone up and down the country enunciating the doctrine that ‘the Kingdom of God is at hand.’ wrote the New York World newspaper on August 30, 1914. Early Watchtower President C.T. Russell wrote weekly sermons which were published, all told, by more than 4000 newspapers. The early Witnesses were off on some applications, but they were surely right on enough of them so as to be uniquely recognizable.
 
Can that small anointed remnant not be "the faithful and discreet slave", found by the "master on arriving" to be giving "food at the proper time?" The passage points out that this "slave" is thereby appointed over all his [the Master's] belongings. Thus, today, a governing body, drawn from members of this anointed class, oversees kingdom interests on earth. As closely as possible, it models itself after the pattern set by that first century governing body. In this way, congregations of Jehovah's Witnesses are governed. They thereby maintain unity. They actually stand for something, and don't just reflect cultural norms of the day slightly modified by a God smiley face.
 
..........................................
 
Appendix: Acts chapter 15 (reproduced below) offers a specific example of how Christians were governed in the first century. It provides a template which the governing body uses in directing Christians today. Note the dispute (regarding circumcision), and the agreed upon channel of redress. Note how, prior to reaching a decision, scriptures are considered, both historical and prophetic. Witnesses are heard, who testify to the role holy spirit is playing....what God is then doing among the congregations. The resulting decision is put into writing and sent to all the congregations. Delivery must have taken some time, given means of travel back then.
 
From Acts chapter 15:
 
And certain men came down from Judea and began to teach the [newly converted Gentile] brothers: “Unless you get circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” But when there had occurred no little dissension and disputing by Paul and Barnabas with them, they arranged for Paul and Barnabas and some others of them to go up to the apostles and older men in Jerusalem regarding this dispute.  Accordingly, after being conducted partway by the congregation, these men continued on their way through both Phoenicia and Samaria, relating in detail the conversion of people of the nations, and they were causing great joy to all the brothers. On arriving in Jerusalem they were kindly received by the congregation and the apostles and the older men, and they recounted the many things God had done by means of them. Yet, some of those of the sect of the Pharisees that had believed rose up from their seats and said: “It is necessary to circumcise them and charge them to observe the law of Moses.”
 
 And the apostles and the older men gathered together to see about this affair. Now when much disputing had taken place, Peter rose and said to them: “Men, brothers, you well know that from early days God made the choice among you that through my mouth people of the nations should hear the word of the good news and believe; and God, who knows the heart, bore witness by giving them the holy spirit, just as he did to us also. And he made no distinction at all between us and them, but purified their hearts by faith. Now, therefore, why are you making a test of God by imposing upon the neck of the disciples a yoke that neither our forefathers nor we were capable of bearing? On the contrary, we trust to get saved through the undeserved kindness of the Lord Jesus in the same way as those people also.”
 

At that the entire multitude became silent, and they began to listen to Barnabas and Paul relate the many signs and portents that God did through them among the nations. After they quit speaking, James answered, saying: “Men, brothers, hear me. Symeon has related thoroughly how God for the first time turned his attention to the nations to take out of them a people for his name. And with this the words of the Prophets agree, just as it is written, ‘After these things I shall return and rebuild the booth of David that is fallen down; and I shall rebuild its ruins and erect it again, in order that those who remain of the men may earnestly seek Jehovah, together with people of all the nations, people who are called by my name, says Jehovah, who is doing these things, known from of old.’ Hence my decision is not to trouble those from the nations who are turning to God, but to write them to abstain from things polluted by idols and from fornication and from what is strangled and from blood. For from ancient times Moses has had in city after city those who preach him, because he is read aloud in the synagogues on every sabbath.”


Then the apostles and the older men together with the whole congregation favored sending chosen men from among them to Antioch along with Paul and Barnabas, namely, Judas who was called Barsabbas and Silas, leading men among the brothers; and by their hand they wrote:
 

“The apostles and the older men, brothers, to those brothers in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia who are from the nations: Greetings! Since we have heard that some from among us have caused you trouble with speeches, trying to subvert your souls, although we did not give them any instructions, we have come to a unanimous accord and have favored choosing men to send to together with our loved ones, Barnabas and Paul, men that have delivered up their souls for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. We are therefore dispatching Judas and Silas, that they also may report the same things by word. For the holy spirit and we ourselves have favored adding no further burden to you, except these necessary things, to keep abstaining from things sacrificed to idols and from blood and from things strangled and from fornication. If you carefully keep yourselves from these things, you will prosper. Good health to you!”
 

Accordingly, when these men were let go, they went down to Antioch, and they gathered the multitude together and handed them the letter. After reading it, they rejoiced over the encouragement. And Judas and Silas, since they themselves were also prophets, encouraged the brothers with many a discourse and strengthened them. So, when they had passed some time, they were let go in peace by the brothers to those who had sent them out. 

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The new policy wasn't at once accepted by all, which in itself offers a template for modern-day similar situations. Jewish converts, in particular, had taken circumcision as a rite for generations. But now it was to be simply a personal choice, not an obligation to be imposed upon new believers. Long after the governing body supposedly settled the matter (49CE), its representatives were reasoning with those who opposed it, becoming more forceful with the passage of time:
 
(circa 51CE - 2 years later): For such freedom Christ set us free. Therefore stand fast, and do not let yourselves be confined again in a yoke of slavery. See! I, Paul, am telling you that if you become circumcised, Christ will be of no benefit to you. Moreover, I bear witness again to every man getting circumcised that he is under obligation to perform the whole Law.  (Gal 5:1-3)
 

(55CE - 6 years later): Was any man called circumcised? Let him not become uncircumcised. Has any man been called in uncircumcision? Let him not get circumcised. Circumcision does not mean a thing, and uncircumcision means not a thing, but observance of God’s commandments [does]. (1 Cor 7:18-20)
 
(circa 61CE - 12 years later): Look out for the dogs, look out for the workers of injury, look out for those who mutilate the flesh. For we are those with the real circumcision, who are rendering sacred service by God’s spirit and have our boasting in Christ Jesus and do not have our confidence in the flesh.   (Phil 3:2-3)
 
(circa 63CE - 14 years later): For there are many unruly men, profitless talkers, and deceivers of the mind, especially those men who adhere to the circumcision. It is necessary to shut the mouths of these, as these very men keep on subverting entire households by teaching things they ought not for the sake of dishonest gain. (Tit 1:10-11)
 
Did such resisters eventually find themselves removed from the congregation? It seems likely, in view of such directives as:
 
As for a man that promotes a sect, reject him after a first and a second admonition; knowing that such a man has been turned out of the way and is sinning, he being self-condemned. (Tit 3:10-11)
 
So it is in the modern-day congregation. Not everyone agrees with everything. But they strive to come into agreement, rather than cultivate divisions, having bought into the way of thinking that "God's ways are higher than man's ways," including his ways of providing organization. They subscribe to the wisdom from above (tell me if this isn't different from the wisdom of today): ...the wisdom from above is first of all chaste, then peaceable, reasonable, ready to obey....(Jas 3:17)

Occasionally individuals decide they can no longer acquiesce to this type of arrangement. Should they get to that point, they leave. It's the only reasonable course. It's really the only viable course. As in real life, you can't grab hold of the wheel. You get tossed off the bus should you try that.

 

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Tom Irregardless and Me           No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

 


Epigenetics and Darwin's Update

"The potential is staggering," gushes Time Magazine (Jan 6, 2010) over the benefits epigenetics might bring humanity.  "For decades, we have stumbled around massive Darwinian roadblocks. DNA, we thought, was an ironclad code that we and our children and their children had to live by. Now we can imagine a world in which we can tinker with DNA, bend it to our will."
 
Yes, they can imagine it, but as ought to be apparent to anyone grounded in reality, it won't work that way. Epigenetics will not be our salvation. However, it just might give insight into today's worsening conditions.
 
Who has not entertained the suspicion that today's folk just aren't made of the same stuff as previous generations...that those old-timers were just plain tougher than we are? Tom Oxgoad, the Bethelite, made that point with me once. "Those old-timers must marvel at how frail we are," he said. "In the old days...say...back in the 1950's or before, one Bethelite might counsel another: 'you've got a rotten attitude and you'd better straighten up!'  And that fellow would straighten up, and he'd say 'thanks for the counsel!'" Or maybe he wouldn’t. Maybe he'd decide "this is not the life for me," and leave. But either way, he wouldn't melt into a puddle of mush, his fragile self-esteem dissolving, as we can so easily picture happening today. Does the newly explored field of epigenetics offer an explanation?
 
The upshot of epigenetics is that heredity works not just through Darwin's mutation and natural selection...a painstakingly slow process. We also pass along traits acquired via environment factors; furthermore, these changes can be dramatic and quick,  manifesting themselves in but a generation or two. Thus, Time says, a "long-standing deal" we've had with biology is now off the table, namely: "whatever choices we make during our lives might ruin our short-term memory or make us fat or hasten death, but they won't change our genes - our actual DNA. Which meant that when we had kids of our own, the genetic slate would be wiped clean."
 
No longer applies. Choices we make do change our genes, and our kids do not start with a slate wiped clean. The very idea is heresy to Darwin True Believers, but scientists are now quite sure of it. To put it more accurately, our genes do not physically change from generation to generation, but whether they are expressed or not changes. The epigenome sits just outside the genome and switches the various genes "on" or "off." It does so by smothering – masking gene portions meant to be “off” and leaving visible gene portions meant to be “on.” The illustration now in vogue is that of hardware (the genome) being manipulated by software (the epigenome). Hardware alteration via the Darwin heredity, as we all learned about in school, comes about slowly. But the new-found software changes happen quickly.
 
Furthermore, life-style and environment factors…..such as stress, such as smoking, such as gluttony, alters the epigenome, which in turn alters the genome, which in turn inflicts adverse results upon one’s children and grandchildren. Dr Lars Bygren studied a rural population of two centuries past, a physically isolated population that literally vacillated between feast and famine, depending upon the harvest. When the harvest was bountiful, youngsters gorged themselves. Their  grandchildren, Bygren discovered, had life expectancies reduced by as much as three decades!
 
In another study, published in 2006, Drs Bygren, Marcus Pembrey, and Jean Golding found the sons of those who began smoking before age 11 were at higher risk for obesity and various other health problems. Time Magazine summed it up: “you can change your epigenetics even when you make a dumb decision at 10 years old. If you start smoking then, you may have made not only a medical mistake but a catastrophic genetic mistake.” And to think I’ve been lectured before by atheists...capitalizing these very words....that, whereas I do what some god TELLS me to do based on a BELIEF, they act upon REASON based upon EVIDENCE. But in this case, as in so many others, you were far better off to quit smoking because God TOLD* you to, trusting he might be AWARE of EVIDENCE as yet UNDISCOVERED by humans.
 
*as inferred from 2 Cor 7:1
 
All this goes to show, BTW, that you need not lose your cookies when evolutionists rule creation absolutely out of the question. Nor should you feel you must wait for them to come on board. Opinions change fast. In 1996, Dr Pembrey, mentioned above, had a hard time getting published. Major scientific journals rejected his paper. Ten years later, it is “considered seminal in epigenetic theory.” Is that not a tidal change in scientific thought? For decades evolutionists carried on as if they knew all there was to be known - the essence of their subject was well-understood, and little remained but to mop up a few relatively insignificant details. With the discovery of epigenetics' role, if history is any guide, they will act as if now they know all there was to be known, save for a few odds and ends. Heaven help you if you choose a course of faith before it has been authorized by them. Yet the mapping of the human epigenome (already underway in Europe) will, when complete, "make the Human Genome project look like homework that 15th century kids did with an abacus," says Time. How immodest to have made grandiose, dogmatic claims, based upon a supposed thorough understanding of the genome, which now turns out to be but the tip of a submerged iceberg.
 
Look, don't think I'm anti-science. I'm not. Whenever scientists say they have discovered this or that I tend to accept it, but I do so tentatively, always with the caveat that these guys are frequently full of themselves, bursting with pride at human accomplishment, and intolerant of any layman who would question their theories, until they themselves revise them. Or - I suspect, its not so much those front line empirical scientists who are the problem, but a second buttressing layer of scientist-philosopher-cheerleader-atheist types, who ram science down all of our throats as the be-all and end-all. Me, I tend to side with that famous scientist and ex-Beatle John Lennon, who said "everything they told me as a kid has already been disproved by the same type of 'experts' who made them up in the first place." [quoted in interview with Playboy, so plainly I got this second-hand] As if to confirm Lennon's cynicism, Time writes of an upcoming epigenetics book by David Shenk: The Genius in All of Us: Why Everything You've Been Told About Genetics, Talent and IQ is Wrong.
 
You know, the epigenome comes a lot closer to explaining Rom 5:12 than does any Darwinian explanation, since Adam’s sin is obviously an acquired characteristic:
 
"That is why, just as through one man sin entered into the world and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men because they had all sinned..."
 
Furthermore, back to the present, Time reports Dr. Pembrey speculating: what if the environmental pressures and social changes of the industrial age had become so powerful that evolution had begun to demand that our genes respond faster? What if our DNA now had to react not over many generations and millions of years but, as Pembrey wrote, within “a few, or moderate number, of generations”?

Extrapolating from his statement, could it be that epigenetics in our stressful times sheds light on the outworking of 2 Tim 3:1-5?
 

"But know this, that in the last days critical times hard to deal with will be here. For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, self-assuming, haughty, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, disloyal, having no natural affection, not open to any agreement, slanderers, without self-control, fierce, without love of goodness, betrayers, headstrong, puffed up [with pride], lovers of pleasures rather than lovers of God, having a form of godly devotion but proving false to its power; and from these turn away."

We all know in our heart of hearts that these ugly traits are on display today as never before. Yes, I know, I know....such is human nature and people have always been that way. But it’s a matter of degree; the unrestrained expression of these traits is what's new. After all, Paul's contemporaries might easily have labeled his ‘prophesy’ a yawner: "People will be ugly, Paul? So what's new?” But they didn't say that. They knew what he meant.
 
In seeking to understand these ugly, seemingly accelerated traits, Alan Greenspan's book The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World, offers insight with regard to the barbarous slaughter that began in 1914. He writes: "World War I was more devastating to civility and civilization than the physically far more destructive World War II: the earlier conflict destroyed an idea. I cannot erase the thought of those pre-World War I years, when the future of mankind appeared unencumbered and without limit. Today our outlook is starkly different from a century ago but perhaps a bit more consonant with reality. Will terror, global warming, or resurgent populism do to the current era of life-advancing globalization what World War I did to the previous one?"

Could the barbarism unleashed in 1914, augmented by ever-increasing stressors of modern life, be triggering harmful genetic changes, as Dr Pembrey suggests can occur? The more one ponders the astounding woes that afflict persons today, the more plausible the idea sounds.

 

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Tom Irregardless and Me             No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash


The 1914 Collection

Alan Greenspan ran the U.S. Federal Reserve for 20 years. Now that he's up in his eighties, he's collecting his gleanings from history. We need old people to do that; otherwise the current generation, always at risk to imagine prior generations copies of themselves in all respects, only without ipods, attempt to rewrite history in their own image. But old birds like Alan won't let them. His generation reminds us that morality, values, attitudes have markedly changed over the decades. Of course, values have changed throughout time, but the onslaught of a pop-obsessed media, coupled with ever increasing isolation from stabilizing prior generations, speeds up that change. Values that have endured for generations are trashed overnight.

Mr. Greenspan’s 2007 book is The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World. In it, one finds yet another reference to that pivotal year, 1914. Optimism prevailed before and pessimism after. It's an idea that pops up repeatedly in historical writings:
 

Writes Greenspan: "By all contemporaneous accounts, the world prior to 1914 seemed to be moving irreversibly toward higher levels of civility and civilization; human society seemed perfectible. The nineteenth century had brought an end to the wretched slave trade. Dehumanizing violence seemed on the decline...The pace of global invention had advanced throughout the nineteenth century, bringing railroads, the telephone, the electric light, cinema, the motor car, and household conveniences too numerous to mention: medical science, improved nutrition, and the mass distribution of potable water had elevated life expectancy... The sense of the irreversibility of such progress was universal."
 

But...."World War I was more devastating to civility and civilization than the physically far more destructive World War II: the earlier conflict destroyed an idea. I cannot erase the thought of those pre-World War I years, when the future of mankind appeared unencumbered and without limit. Today our outlook is starkly different from a century ago but perhaps a bit more consonant with reality. Will terror, global warming, or resurgent populism do to the current era of life-advancing globalization what World War I did to the previous one? No one can be confident of the answer."  [quoted in the March 15, 2009 Watchtower]
 

1914 was a pivotal year. Clearly, Mr. Greenspan views it that way.
 

If you like to read, like to think, and are lacking a hobby, collecting 1914 statements is not a bad pastime. Keep your eyes open, and you'll come across a lot. If you want to cheat, you’ll start by raiding the Watchtower’s stash of quotes, for, it is fair to say, they collect them and have, over the years, amassed an impressive hoard. They do so because such statements dovetail so well with their understanding of Bible prophesy.
 

As early as 1876, Jehovah’s Witnesses began pointing to 1914 as a biblically significant year. The August 30, 1914 New York World newspaper, in its magazine section, ran the following story:
 

   “End of All Kingdoms in 1914”
 

“The terrific war outbreak in Europe has fulfilled an extraordinary prophecy….For a quarter of a century past, through preachers and through press, the ‘International Bible Students [Jehovah’s Witnesses], best known as ‘Millennial Dawners,’ have been proclaiming to the world that the Day of Wrath prophesied in the Bible would dawn in 1914. ‘Look out for 1914!’ has been the cry of the hundreds of traveling evangelists who, representing this strange creed [!], have gone up and down the country enunciating the doctrine that ‘the Kingdom of God is at hand.’”
 

For the most part, Jehovah's Witnesses thought that great war would escalate into the battle of Armageddon - must not Armageddon be concurrent with the "Kingdom of God at hand"? It didn't happen. [A failed end date!!] Yet, I hate to see them derided for it, because, clearly, they were on to something that everyone else missed.
 

Within a few years, they came to appreciate that the following verses had been fulfilled in that year:
 

So down the great dragon was hurled, the original serpent, the one called Devil and Satan, who is misleading the entire inhabited earth; he was hurled down to the earth, and his angels were hurled down with him. And I heard a loud voice in heaven say: “Now have come to pass the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ, because the accuser of our brothers has been hurled down, who accuses them day and night before our God!…..On this account be glad, you heavens and you who reside in them! Woe for the earth and for the sea, because the Devil has come down to you, having great anger, knowing he has a short period of time.   Rev 12: 9-12
 

Yes, it was the establishment of the Kingdom (Now have come to pass the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ....) but it was not yet time for the end of this system of things. That would come a little later, sort of like the interval between election day and inauguration day. In the meantime...."Woe for the earth and for the sea, because the Devil has come down to you, having great anger, knowing he has a short period of time." You don't think that harmonizes well with Alan Greenspan's 1914 observations? A sense of optimism before, a sense of pessimism after. A tipping point, almost as if the reflection of some greater supernatural event.
Here are a few other quotes (I'll number them) from the 1914 collection, starting with another mentioned in Greenspan's work:
 

1.)   "Those who have an adult's recollection and an adult's understanding of the world which preceded World War I look back upon it with a great nostalgia. There was a sense of security then which has never since existed."  Benjamin J. Anderson (1886-1949), Economics and the Public Welfare
 

2.)  We read "Historic events are often said to have 'changed everything.' In the case of the Great War [1914-1918] this is, for once, true. the war really did change everything: not just borders, not just governments and the fate of nations, but the way people have seen the world and themselves ever since. It became a kind of hole in time, leaving the postwar world permanently disconnected from everything that had come before."    A World Undone, by G J Meyer, (2006)
 

3.)  Everything would get better and better. This was the world I was born in. . . . Suddenly, unexpectedly, one morning in 1914 the whole thing came to an end.—British statesman Harold Macmillan, New York “Times,” November 23, 1980
 

4.)  Civilization entered on a cruel and perhaps terminal illness in 1914.”   Frank Peters, St. Louis “Post-Dispatch    January 27, 1980
 

5.)  In 1914 the world lost a coherence which it has not managed to recapture since. . . . This has been a time of extraordinary disorder and violence, both across national frontiers and within them. The Economist,” London, August 4, 1979
 

6.)   The whole world really blew up about World War I and we still don’t know why. . . . Utopia was in sight. There was peace and prosperity. Then everything blew up. We’ve been in a state of suspended animation ever since.    Dr. Walker Percy, “American Medical News,” November 21, 1977
 

7.)   Thoughts and pictures come to my mind, . . . thoughts from before the year 1914 when there was real peace, quiet and security on this earth—a time when we didn’t know fear. . . . Security and quiet have disappeared from the lives of men since 1914.    German statesman Konrad Adenauer, 1965
 

8.)   In 1914 the world, as it was known and accepted then, came to an end.”   James Cameron (the historian, not the movie-maker) 1959
 

9.)  Ever since 1914, everybody conscious of trends in the world has been deeply troubled by what has seemed like a fated and pre-determined march toward ever greater disaster. Many serious people have come to feel that nothing can be done to avert the plunge towards ruin. They see the human race, like the hero of a Greek tragedy, driven on by angry gods and no longer the master of fate.   Bertrand Russell, New York “Times Magazine,” September 27, 1953
 

10.)   More and more historians look back upon World War I as the great turning point of modern history, the catastrophic collapse which opened the way for others, perhaps the final one. Professor D. F. Fleming, Vanderbilt University:
 

Here is a list of American historians. Go through all their writings and find some more 1914 quotes. And why should you confine your search to American historians? Just because I'm in America doesn't mean you are. For that matter, why confine your search to historians? Are they the only people who think? However, you may have to confine your search to writers who are old, if not deceased. The modern generation produces only essays about i-pods, stock derivatives, and CSI.
 
Too, I don't want to hear any more carrying on about Jehovah's Witnesses being so focused on the end of this system of things, as if they're barking up the wrong tree. What does that verse in 2 Peter say?
 

For you know this first, that in the last days there will come ridiculers with their ridicule, proceeding according to their own desires and saying: “Where is this promised presence of his? Why, from the day our forefathers fell asleep [in death], all things are continuing exactly as from creation’s beginning. (2 Pet 3:3-4)
 

Details here and there have been off, but the Witnesses' broader view of historical trends and the direction in which they are heading have been spot-on, as testified to by all these 1914 quotes. It's the Bible's viewpoint, (as indicated here, and here, and here) after all, and Jehovah's Witnesses are, above all, Bible students.


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Tom Irregardless and Me                    No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash