Archive for July, 2006

The Gospel Of Thomas

The apocryphon Gospel of Thomas is believed to have been written around 350 AD. Some date it earlier but content and style suggest this later date. Irenaeus, Origin, and Hippolytus writing around that time make reference to such non-canonical writing. Since the work does not contain historical data, that is, narrative insight, it is difficult to date it exactly. It contains statements attributed to Christ, Mary, Peter, Thomas, and Matthew.

There are three works alleged to have been written by Thomas: “The Gospel of Thomas,” “The Infancy Gospel of Thomas,” and “Book of Thomas the Contender.”

There is nothing Christian about the works. They are a collection of stories alleged to have occurred in the childhood of Jesus based on Hellinistic legend and pious thought. Interwoven is docetic and Gnostic philosophy. It furthers their teachings but detracts from the canonical gospels.

The author or authors of these works were not part of the Christian community. They showed no regard for mainstream Christian doctrine. They produced what Paul condemned as “another gospel.”

Irenaeus claimed in his classical Second century denunciation of Gnostic writers: “everyone of them generates something new, day by day, according to his ability, for no one is deemed perfect, who does not develop …some mighty fiction.”

The word Gnostic is derived from the Greek word Gnosis meaning “knowledge” or “the act of knowing.” From this same root comes our word agnostic meaning “not knowing.”

The school of Gnosticism holds that salvation of the soul comes from a quasi-intuitive knowledge of the mysteries of the universe and from the sacred formulae within that knowledge.

These works were virtually unknown until 1945 when a Coptic version (an Egyptian language derived from the Greek alphabet) was found in Nag Hammadi, Egypt. It does not contain narrative material but is simply a collection of 114 sayings attributed to Christ many of which are contrary to those of the New Testament. When the Coptic version was found it was realized three portions of it had been found in 1898 in Oxyrhynchus, Egypt. These earlier Greek fragments vary in significant ways from the Coptic one.

The first line of the book refers to “didymos Judas thomas.” The word “didymos” is Greek for “twin.” The Aramaic work dor “twin” is “thomas.” This indicates the author’s name was Judas and he was called “the twin.” There is no mention of any such Judas in the New Testament. The Thomas of the New Testament is definitely not the author. The work does not bear his name in such a way as to indicate he was its author. It was originally ascribed to James. The preamble states these are “secret sayings,” this identifies the work as Gnostic intended to be esoteric in nature. The secret meaning being allegedly known only by gospel initiates.

Internal evidences indicate it was not the work of a First Century writer in that the author shows he had no concept of Jewish life in the time of Christ.

It teaches there were two creations recorded in Genesis 1 and 2. The first was perfect and the second flawed. The author contends the Kingdom of God exists now on earth but can only be seen in our surroundings by “the light within.” According to the author the Image of God still exists on earth today and persons should strive to assume that image and see the Kingdom of God here and now. Rather than wait for a future end-time Kingdom to come people are encouraged to return to the perfect Kingdom state here and now.

It depicts the challenge his parents had in rearing him as a strong willed petulant child with supernatural powers. He allegedly used these powers in devious ways like killing playmates, causing those angry with his father to go blind, and his teacher to faint. Only later in life did he begin to use his miraculous powers constructively.

In considering the creditability of the work as compared with ancient New Testament manuscripts a problem arises. Though there are fragments of the ancient Greek version of the text the Coptic version there is only one complete version. Compared with the numerous ancient New Testament texts it lacks verification.

James Robinson writing in the Nag Hammadi Library states:

“Neither the Coptic version nor the Greek fragments seem to have preserved this gospel in its oldest form. The comparison of the extant Coptic and Greek texts demonstrates that the text was subject to change in the process of translation.” Compared to the consistency of the ancient New Testament texts it is lacking in creditability. It is without redaction. The work was obviously under change by the Gnostics and the changes favor Gnostic teaching not Christ’s.

An example of the conflict between this fallacious gospel and New Testament teaching involves womanhood. In the Gospel of Thomas 114, Simon Peter is reputed to have said, ““Let Mary leave us for women are not worthy of life.’ Jesus said, “I myself will lead her in order to make her male, so that she too may become a living spirit resembling you males. For every woman who will make herself male will enter the kingdom of heaven.’”

In Paul’s writings he tells us the wife of Peter was a believer (I Cor. 9:5). It is hard to conceive of him as a married man believing his wife wasn’t “worthy of life” simply because she was a woman. This is totally contradictory to the redemption mission of Christ. Under this concept salvation is a matter of maleness not the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. Like so many passages this diminishes the role of Christ. The author sought to recreate Christ in his own image. Gnosticism in general does. It should be noted that present day proponents of “The Gospel of Thomas” have a similar purpose. Any document that presents an “emasculated Jesus” is welcomed by liberal thinkers.

Gnostic writers often used sexual symbols to communicate their concept of God. They envisioned Him as a dyad or duality, that is, He had both male and female natures.

One of their prayers revealed this: “From thee Father, and through thee Mother, the two immortal names….”

Their work represents Jesus more as a wisdom sage after the order of a Greek Cynic philosopher than a Jewish rabbi. He is not acknowledged as divine but as a worthy role model. He is represented as teaching the God of the Old Testament was evil.

There are some passages that parallel the Bible teachings of Christ. Some use this to argue for the reliability of the work. It is not an endorsement of Thomas. Rather when it does agree with the Bible it adds creditability to Scripture as another source showing the consistency of ancient New Testament texts.

Writing in the Fourth Century Cyril of Jerusalem mentioned “The Gospel of Thomas” in his “Cathechesis V.” “Let none read the gospel of Thomas, for it is the work, not of one of the apostles, but of one of Mani’s three wicked disciples.”

Any disciple of Mani was no follower of Christ. Mani (210-276 AD) was a Persian who believed salvation could be attained through education, self-denial, vegetarianism, fasting, and chastity. He later proclaimed himself the Paraclete spoken of by Christ. Our English word “manicheism” comes from his name and means “two opposing thoughts.” Indeed this work and the New Testament gospels form a manicheism.

A current reading of these meretricious works attributed to Thomas will do nothing to enhance ones Christian experience. It has long been dismissed as an unreliable bogus work by an unknown author.

Authors Grand and Freedman, no friends of conservative Christianity, wrote: “The Gospel of Thomas” is “probably our earliest significant witness to the perversion of Christianity by those who wanted to create Jesus in their own image….Ultimately (“The Gospel of Thomas”) testifies not to what Jesus said but to what men wished he had said.”

It is accepted that the Thomas of the New Testament upon leaving the land of the Bible went to India as an evangelist sharing the good news of Christ as revealed in the New Testament gospels. There are still Christian groups in India who trace their origins to Thomas. They relate only to the Thomas of the New Testament.

The Resurrection — Easter

As Christianity moved out of its base region it entered a pagan culture which included worship of the sun goddess Estera. The sun rose on the same horizon each day so the direction from which it emerged was called East in her honor. Each spring a grand festival involving celebrating the goddess was held.

The Christians traditionally celebrated the rising of the Son of God about the same time of year. With the rapid expansion of Christianity resulting in many former worshipers of Estera turning to Christ the Christian community decided to merge the two celebrations in worship of Christ resurrection. It gave occasion for the former worshipers of Estera to have a new celebration to replace their old one. They called the celebration of the resurrection of Christ Easter.

An event as phenomenal as a decidedly dead man coming back to life is as rare occurrence as would be the rising of the sun in the west. In every generation there have been those who have assiduously tried to dispute the reality of the resurrection. They must contend with a massive mountain of evidence in support of the miracle.

The belief in the bodily resurrection did not develop over time as a result of memory fading and myth emerging. Nor was it the figment of the imagination of unlettered tribesmen. It was the central propellant that caused an explosion of faith into other cultures. It was foundational from the day of it being reported.

The Sanhedrin that condemned Christ to death appointed a special prosecutor to investigate and expose the rumored resurrection. He was one of the most learned advocates of the era. He was chosen because he was the apple of the eye of the distinguished jurist of the Jewish Supreme Court. They empowered him to apprehend, threaten, and even kill anyone who professed to believe in such a radical concept. His role was to invalidate the report. He investigated the incident more than any person of the time. Instead of refuting the resurrection he was converted to belief in the one resurrected. His name was Paul who at the risk of his own life became an apostle of Christ.

In one of his writings (I Corinthians 15) he listed persons who had encountered the resurrected Christ and urged skeptics to talk to these eyewitnesses. More than 515 first person witnesses are listed. That is a creditable cadre of witnesses various ones of which are said to have talked with Him, dined with Him, walked with Him, and touched Him. This was no aberration nor was it a hallucination. There never has been a group hallucination.

After Paul’s conversion pressure was intensified on the Christian community. If friends had stolen the body they could have spared themselves suffering and death by producing the corpse. If enemies had stolen it they could have ended the movement by producing the lifeless form.

If neither friends nor enemies had reason to conceal a stolen corpse the resurrection is seen to be more plausible. That fact brings joy to hearts in which the first Easter message still reverberates: “He is risen.”

Bible Ignorance

For some time an effort has been under way to marginalize Christianity and minimize Bible knowledge. An unexpected accomplice in this have been churches.

Consider some realities in evaluating how successful this effort has been.

The Baran Research Group along with researchers George Gallup and Jim Castilleia have engaged in surveys that give concern.

One survey revealed 82% of the respondents thought, “God helps those who help themselves,” is in the Bible. Not!

Baran found 12% believed Joan of Arc was the wife of Noah. Among graduating high school seniors 50% thought Sodom and Gomorrah were husband and wife.

A large number of one group polled indicated the Sermon on the Mount was preached by Billy Graham.

Fewer than half of adults polled could name the four gospels and 60% could not name five of the Ten Commandments.

Sounds like the afore mentioned effort is progressing well doesn’t.

A Bible bereft public arena has helped produce a generation of persons not versed on Scripture.

A bigger contributor to this appalling ignorance is many churches.

Many youth ministers offer a Pablum strength ministry more committed to activities and entertainment than Bible study. Churches offering engaging contextual Bible study are attracting young people. They are facing issues that deserve answers. Activities, entertainment, and social opportunities are a must but should provide a forum for Bible application. Where that environment exists youth congregate.

Many pastors are too busy to study the Word and make application of it so that people can relate. Twenty years ago the pastor of an urban church had five major responsibilities. Today that number has climbed to twenty-four tasks. That is no excuse for entering the pulpit unprepared intellectually and spiritually. No task is more important to ministry.

A third contributing factor is the homes of America. Studies show that a great majority of youth still look up to their parents. The primary way of teaching is modeling as a paramount part of mentoring. That makes relating to Scripture seem palatable.

There are simple ways for families to get involved in teaching spiritual values. Jewish, Islamic, and Buddhist families do a better job of it that Christians. Much of their teaching is related to their traditions which provide tutoring opportunities.

There are many superb programs designed to help families engage in enjoyable Bible reading, memorization, and learning. Check with a Bible book store.

Do you suppose there is any connection between Bible ignorance in our land and the moral decay, sexual decadence, political corruption, and unraveling of our social structure?

The Gospel Of Judas: Part II

“The Gospel of Judas” was given major national exposure by the “National Geographical Society” the week before Easter. It was given major national exposure in a TV special, two books, features in major magazines, an exhibit, and a special web site. The Society paid $1,000,000 for the right to publish it and made great profit.

The Gospel of Judas portrays him as a noble individual seeking to help Christ. Gnostic writing popped up everywhere between the second and fourth centuries. This aberrant “Christian” group believed an evil god created the world of the flesh. They held that secret knowledge could allow a person to escape the evil prison of the body and enjoy an elevated spiritual state. This heretical writing contends Judas was doing Christ’s bidding in betraying Him to the authorities to be put to death in order that He might enjoy this heightened state. Judas is represented as the “thirteenth spirit” appointed by God to free Jesus from His mortal body imposed on Him by His incarnation.

What do scholars say of this and other Gnostic writing found in Nag Hammadi, Egypt?

Dr. James Robinson, the distinguished editor of the Nag Hammadi codices that include several Gnostic gospels calls it a “dud.”
The scholarly “Biblical Archaeological Review” magazine concluded: “The fact is that it will be a rare scholar who will argue that this Gnostic gospel is historically trustworthy in its description of Judas’s motivation in betraying Jesus.”

The early Christian church denounced the bogus gospel as heretical for one reason, the same reason it is dismissed toady, it simply was heretical. It was not and is not considered authentic and authoritative. It was written hundreds of years after the death of Judas yet bears his name as author. That alone discredits it. Most Gnostic writing scholars agree were originally written in Greek and later translated into Coptic. It is the Coptic version that exists.

Irenaeus, one of the early church fathers, writing around 180 AD called the work heretical. Indeed it is in that it not only omits reference to Christ’s redemptive work spoken of in the New Testament gospels. Instead it emphasizes a distortion of the spiritual world.

Why then did The National Geographical Society engage in such disreputable sensationalism? Even they noted, “Scholars disagreed on whether the gospel shed and new light on the historical Jesus and Judas Iscariot.” Be real!

Perhaps it was not their intent but it is yet another attempt at discrediting the Bible and diminishing the deity of Christ.

There are current movements within churches as alien to Christianity as were the Gnostic writings. Hopefully this generation will be as vigilant as the church of the era that produced such writings. Discernment has never been more needed.

New Orleans Katrina Response Part II

We just returned from our first post-Katrina visit to New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast. What we saw proves there is no such thing as real estate. In that area it is in an unreal state.

We visited the three breaches in levies. When they burst a mountain of water rushed across the area. The Lower Ninth Ward was devastated. Here most houses were wooden and did not withstand the onrush. Most were leveled and washed away some distance. A few some distance from the breaches were left leaning. The height of the water was indicated by some refrigerators being on roofs. As reported this area was occupied mostly by “poor blacks.”

Minister Faricon said the levies were blown in order to force poor blacks out of New Orleans. Our visit to the other levy breaks dispute this. We drove through are area as vast as East Cobb where there were houses valued at from $250,000 to two million dollars. Doors were open, windows out, interiors stripped, possessions gone, and dry mud two to three feet deep. The occupants of this vast area were middle to upper income people. Yachts and other large vessels are piled on each other. The Metairie Country Club and the Yacht Club are destroyed. Were levies blown to drive these people out of town? No!

It is going to take years to rebuild New Orleans. The Gulf Coast will respond more rapidly in that they have better leadership and the area was basically swept clean. There is a support system a mile inland at most places.

Leadership in New Orleans is minimal. One of the candidates for mayor is a clerk of court who oversees elections. She wasn’t at a forum last week involving all candidates. She was in jail. Persons whose houses are repairable are reluctant to act not knowing if the city will condemn their entire area and tear down their houses.

FEMA has such a negative reputation their employees don’t wear their uniforms. We saw vast lots of unused trailers. Tax payers are paying $3,000 a month storage per trailer. Many assigned trailers were on individual homeowners lots and had been for weeks but are still not hooked up and are unusable.

Finding an open grocery, pharmacy, or gas station may require a drive of ten miles or more. The few stores that are open close at 5:00 PM because of a shortage of employees. A random fast food place might be found open. They pay $11.00 an hour and a $5,000 to $10,000 bonus at year’s end.

Many people will not return to these devastated areas. It will not be financial or physical uncertainty that prevents their return. It is emotional. There is a heaviness, an overall depressive environment that prevails. Many experienced so much they are in effect “shell shocked.” Just being there a few days enables one to understand this.

Ironically the very thing that was built to save New Orleans led to its destruction. Years ago drainage canals were dug to connect the Mississippi River with Lake Pontchartrain in order to divert flood waters from the river to the lake and spare the city in the event of upland flooding. The winds caused an extraordinary rise in the lake level that backed water up these canals and stressed the levies to the breaking point.

The “sliver on the river,” the beautiful older section of uptown New Orleans, was high enough that it experienced minimal damage. This coupled with the French Quarter will be the hub for a new smaller New Orleans.

Over 100 churches are no longer existent. One pastor whose flock is scattered rotates each month going to Houston, Baton Rouge, Hattiesburg, and Atlanta to meet with remnants of his congregation in worship. Church groups from across America have been major disaster recovery groups to aid the city. Little publicity has been given this but the citizens readily acknowledge it. If you are part of a church that is sending a team —- go.

New Orleans Katrina Response Part I

Two people can say the same thing one as a friend of the object and the other a critic. Bill Cosby speaking on the need of better parenting in the black community and a skinhead speaking in essence saying the same thing comes across differently. Likewise, Dennis Prager, a Jew who is a radio talk show host, and an anti-Semite speaking on an issue related to the Jewish community might say basically the same thing but it comes across differently.

The experience of the speaker and the reason for saying it makes the difference. One speaks as a friend and the other a critic. Against that background consider this statement:

“It ought to be possible to live a Christian life without being a Christian.”

The speaker is asking why a non-Christian can’t have a life-style in many regards like a Christian without being one. That is, why is it that often the two don’t respond alike.

The maker of that statement was Roy Hattersley, a columnist for the “U.K. Guardian.” Hattersley, an outspoken atheist, reached that conclusion after watching the extensive faith-based organizations response to Hurricane Katrina.

“Notable by their absence,” he stated, were “teams from rationalism societies, free thinkers’ clubs, and atheists’ associations — the kind of people who scoff at religion’s intellectual absurdity.”

Hattersley pressed his point by further stating that Christians “are the people most likely to take the risks and make the sacrifices involved in helping others.”

He then made a statement that challenges Christians. “The only possible conclusion,” he said after watching response to the Katrina disaster, “is that faith comes with a packet of moral imperatives that, while they do not condition the attitude of all believers, influence enough of them to make (Christians) morally superior to atheists like me.”

Not all Christians are like those who responded to disaster relief causes resulting from Katrina and not all atheists are like Hattersley. However, his observations regarding compassionate response in this time of need is correct. I have been there helping to cleanup and cook for relief workers as part of the third largest relief group in America, the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief Agency. The group would be number two if number two didn’t include their numbers among their own. The media gives coverage to FEMA, the Red Cross, and Salvation Army but it is the Baptists who cook for most of them and have the largest number of trained chainsaw teams and counselors. They don’t seek recognition they are there simply because they are moved by compassion and want to help. It is inherent in their faith and that is what Hattersley is commending.

Having written this what is my motive? It is not to impugn those organizations that did not respond but to challenge those who normally do to live up to Hattersley’s observations. It is to commend the integrity of the statement of an individual observant of a need among many of his peer groups. Who said it resonates.

Church: The Change Within Part II

Imitation often makes things dull.

Modern churches have a challenge previous generations did not have. It regards how to deal with diversity. Racial diversity has come a long way. Many churches have several races represented and involved. Educational, economic, social, and cultural diversity have been dealt with constructively. A primary distinction that has become increasingly excluding in some churches is age. It not only involves persons of AARP age but those over or under 45 are crunched.

This is such an issue former dean of the Morehouse School of Religion has written a book entitled: “Our Help In Ages Past…”

In an age when younger people need to be under the influence of a warm family, some churches socially engineer services to remove the influence of the very people who have provided the place where they meet.

To some degree this has been caused by churches trying to meet the changing needs of society. Some older established churches have resorted to imitating certain role model churches. In doing so they have overlooked one major distinction. These role model churches have admirably emerged using their distinct methods which have worked in their culture which is often different for those seeking to imitate them. To use a non-Baptistic statement, “they are dancing with the one who brought them to the party.” These churches were developed using the methods that attracted their membership.

Some older established churches in trying to imitate them have in essence communicated to the older membership we don’t care if you leave the party. In changing the style that attracted the base membership they are eliminating the very things that attracted them. Thus, the older membership is marginalized or completely disenfranchised. What is even more alienating than what is being done is the cavalier way in which it is done. To be made to feel unwanted in ones own “home” is grievous.

This has resulted in many ostracized members not being angry but lonely. A frustration barrier has caused many to look for an atmosphere when they are wanted and feel spiritually comfortable. Their exodus from their beloved long standing home churches is painful. In doing so they have left long time friends and even family members. Many who remain behind experience this loveliness because they to have lost friends. For some the only thing causing them to remain is friendships.

Some older churches are meeting this diversity challenge in a way both groups feel comfortable. It can and is being done by some. The church in general has dealt commendably though not perfectly with the divisive issues of diversity mentioned herein. The people who lead in that cultural renewal are the very ones now being alienated. The wisdom shown and the spirit manifested by these experts in social change in making these changes is often not being enlisted in meeting the current challenge.

Piloting the old Ship of Zion in today’s troubled waters is a challenge. It is a day in which there needs to be ALL hands on deck. Fortunately it can and is being done by some. Sail on! Others having lost their GPS (Gospel Perspective Source) have resorted to being imitators rather than creators and are off course in their cultural sea.

Church: The Change Within Part I

As a minister for 55 years and a pastor for 53 years I love churches and those who comprise memberships. To be a critic of something I love so much is an impossibility. To pretend today’s churches don’t have a major challenge would be to evidence a lack of observation, however. The challenges are multiple and complex.

On relates to age groups. To simplify the issue let’s just divide the body into two parts each having multiple sub-parts.

One is the older membership. Members are checking out of churches in the older age group. Likewise, younger people are staying out or dropping out. Many of the members of the older group have given their lives, devotion, and financial resources to purchase land, build buildings, and develop ministries.

The younger group consists of a smaller number of their demographic body than previous generations. Many are uncertain they want to be a part of organized Christianity though studies show a greater interest among them for things spiritual. To survive the church must reach a larger segment of this body. Faced with this challenge some churches are indirectly if not directly marginalizing the older group giving them the impression they aren’t needed and don’t count. To question this approach is often represented as questioning the will of God.

In a drive to reach the unchurched some churches are un churching the churched. This is increasingly resulting in the older generation giving up and giving in but not giving to the church. That in itself is a challenge. The younger members being attracted are not the givers the older generation proved to be.

New churches begun as contemporary ones are growing using techniques, methods, and messages that attract the younger generation. Established churches that try to sideline their older membership and change their church lifestyle are finding it challenging.

Organizations that study church growth say that a church prospers using either traditional or contemporary styles of worship. The form they are started with attracts people who like that form. To change the form is to take away the very thing that attracted the people. They begin to look elsewhere to find what they had.

Those same bodies that study church growth agree that to change a church’s style has rarely ever worked. Some persons find an exception to the rule and represent it as the norm. They set themselves up for failure by discounting the facts.

In spite of the rush to change some traditional churches have stayed with what worked and by doing it tastefully have prospered. This is even true of liturgical congregations. Many of them are attracting young people by doing what they have always done with quality and good taste. Many youth find their formality appealing.

Churches have a challenge. To prosper they must respect their history in charting their future. There are wonderful examples of churches reaching all age groups. Neither needs to be forfeited.

Creation: Intelligent Design Part II

Dr. Anthony Flew has taught at Oxford and other leading universities. For half a century he has been considered the world’s foremost atheist. The man revered as the world’s smartest atheist has written numerous articles and books arguing against the existence of God. He has long been the darling of atheistic philosophy. His devotees are many.

Flew is no longer an atheist. I don’t want to misrepresent him. Neither has he become a Christian or a proponent of Biblical theology. However, recently he announced he must “go where the evidence leads” and that is to a Creator of enormous intelligence and power. When first reported some atheists tried to blow it off as a false report. Flew has confirmed his atheism is a thing of the past. He affirmed that his former arguments for atheism are obsolete in light of new evidence. Of some of his own writing he said it has become “out of date,” a “historical relic.”

His reason for a change is described by him in this simple way. “I think that the most impressive arguments for God’s existence are those that are supported by recent scientific discoveries.” He further explains this conclusion is a result of new knowledge of cell complexity and genetic coding. In light of this he said, “It now seems to me that the findings of more than 50 years of DNA research have provided materials for a new and enormously powerful argument to design.”

“It has become inordinately difficult,” says Flew, “even to begin to think about constructing a naturalistic theory of the evolution of that first reproducing organism.” He expanded on this by continuing to say, “The enormous complexities by which the results were achieved look to me like the work of intelligence.”

He reached his conclusions apart from the Bible. He admits being impressed by some scientists who correlate Genesis 1 with scientific knowledge. This has prompted him to say, ”That this biblical account might be scientifically accurate raises the possibility that it is revelation.”

Flew is among the growing number of former skeptics who now see in science evidence compatible with what many who believe in the Bible to be a reality. That is not to misrepresent such persons as believing in the Bible but believing that which parallels what the Bible postulates based on scientific evidence apart from the Bible.

Those who believe the Bible is revelation find certain texts meaningful, such as:

“Since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities —-His eternal power and divine nature —- have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made” (Romans 1:20).

The Psalmist sang, “How many are your works, O Lord! In wisdom you made them all” (Psalm 104:24). Meaning, “You designed them intelligently.”

When there two opposing thoughts one has to be correct and the other not. In the laboratory, if not the court room, the pendulum is swinging in favor of intelligent design. If there is scientific evidence of intelligent design what is to be feared by letting the evidence in the science room? If it isn’t students are deprived of data on which to make a scientific decision.

When science and religion are compatible does the science have to be discarded simply because the two are independently parallel?

Creation: Intelligent Design Part I

There is a concept from which youth must be protected. Persons who try to share it are trashed in an effort to expunge this dangerous concept from young minds. Courts, certain editorial boards, and various special interest groups are aligned in shielding young minds from this ideology.

A growing number of scientists and scholars are offering support to sharing the principle called Intelligent Design. Having analyzed observable data they have concluded it is a plausible concept. To this ever expanding cadre of academicians it is a matter of scientific observation of complex cells, organs, and systems that reveal a design indicating intelligence therein. Many proponents are not religious persons. They have reached their conclusion based on scientific observation apart from any religious premise.

That is a concept considered so threatening to some they not only want to stifle freedom of speech but freedom of thought on the topic. It appears proponents of random evolution feel the concept is so indefensible it must be propped up by court order and spread by indoctrination of it and it alone with no dissenting discussion.

After all if the poster boy of evolution, Dr. Anthony Flew of Cambridge University, could be persuaded the evidence of intelligent design is so strong as to change his mind some high school students might also come to believe in it. Evidently evolutionary inquisitors think that would be opprobrious.

Flew had the integrity to say, “It now seems to me that findings of more than 50 years of DNA research have provided materials for a new and enormously powerful argument to design.” He expanded, “What I think DNA material has done is show that intelligence must have been involved in getting these extraordinarily diverse elements together.”

Unfortunately there was a historical period when people of faith sought to stifle scientific knowledge. Now it is people of science who seek to gag their own evidence.

Where there is design there is a designer. Consider a certain kind of watch. There is a big hand on it. Every time it goes around the face of the watch one time a mid-sized hand goes around one-twelfth of the surface. There is a little second hand that hustles even more. Every time the big hand goes around one time it makes sixty trips around its dial. Those hands work that way every time. Take the back off the watch and the design that enables it to perform like clockwork is observable. It was designed to do so. The logical conclusion is there is a designer who produced the watch.

The elemental observation of the earth rotating on its axis and traveling in its orb reveals there is a design to the process. It is so exact the position of the earth can be determined far in advance. Such a design indicates a designer. That designer certainly had intelligence. Intelligence itself indicates an intelligent source. This cudgel isn’t likely to end soon.

Israel/Egypt Travel 2006

Time machines do exist. Sunday morning I had breakfast in Cairo and dinner that night in Marietta.

Saturday night we dined and watched a stunning sound and light show recount the history of ancient Egypt at the Great Pyramids in Giza. Thus concluded a fifteen day visit to Israel and Egypt. We traveled on six different planes, four boats, camels, horse drawn carriages, busses, a tram, desert jeeps, and walked a lot. Counting our own we traveled on four continents, drove over the Mountains of Sinai, and through a tunnel under the Suez Canal.

We sailed the Nile for four days visiting temples at Aswan, Philae, Kalabsha, Edfu, Komo Ombo, Luxor, Karnac, Isis, and Memphis. A number of the 62 Egyptian Pyramids arrested our attention. The Step Pyramid of Sakkara, the oldest stone structure on earth, evidences early genius. The tombs in the Valley of the Kings, the Necropolis of the Princes, and the Cairo Museum are captivating.

We ate off the ground in an ageless cave in the Ramone Crater in the Negev and enjoyed fine dining at the Mena House by the pyramids, one of the top ten most romantic hotels in the world.

This was our 31st visit to Israel and 8th to Egypt. Every trip is a learning experience and an inspirational upper. Some of the things I learned in Egypt were the Sahara Desert really was once a forest and all female rulers during the Greek period in Egypt were called Cleopatra. Cleopatra VII, the friend of Mark Anthony, was the last.

Some questioned our sanity in going. Security is tight —- at the Atlanta Airport. Therefore, it is not unreasonable that it is in Israel and Egypt. It is not however imposing or alarming.

Nearly one half of the population of Egypt makes a living off tourism. Therefore President Mubarak has rounded up all known suspected terrorists. Tourists are treated like celebrities. A police car preceded us and another followed with sirens on to open the road for the bus. An armed safety officer wearing a business suit sat in the jump seat on the bus. Egypt has a tourist police force that wears uniforms very much like our sailors. They only purpose is to accommodate tourists.

Israel has perhaps the best internal security of any country. With all we have heard in the last five years about suicide bombers not one tourist has been involved. They also value the worth of tourism to their economy. It is the second leading source of income.

One of the most interesting things I have learned from visiting Israel relates to the hometown of Jesus, Nazareth. In the time of Christ the historian Josephus listed 240 towns and villages in the region of Galilee. Tiberius having a population of about 10,000 was the largest. Most, however, had a population of between 200 and 300. Nazareth was so small and inconsequential it wasn’t even listed. It was about 300 yards long and dwellings consisted mostly of caves.

If you know anything about gossip imagine an unmarried pregnant teenager in Nazareth. Everybody would have known. It increases ones compassion for Mary and respect for Joseph.

Travel is educational. Most of all it educates you to the blessings of home. We have much for which to be thankful.

Intermittent Explosive Disorder

In recent correspondence a friend told of how two usually civil friends erupted in a “cat fight” at their bridge club.

Later came the story of two persons who verbally engaged in egregious behavior at a meeting of their civic club.

Then came the question, “What is going on? Is there an epidemic of some sort of “people rage’ like “road rage’?” The answer is “yes.”

That same day I read an article originating in New Orleans regarding a diagnostic term getting increased use there. It is “Intermittent Explosive Disorder” (IED). It is used to describe normally compatible persons who, out of character, suddenly become explode. The aggression may be physical but is most often verbal.

It is caused by undue stress. In the area impacted by Hurricane Katrina such stress is common. It has resulted in increased incidents of explosive conduct by rational people.

Susan Howell is a professor at the University of New Orleans and a reputable pollster. Throughout March and April she and her staff interviewed 470 people in and around New Orleans. They found people in the area are having trouble sleeping. Nearly 2/3 say they are stressed over what is going to happen in the next few years. Twenty percent say they feel tired, irritable, sad, that they have difficulty concentrating and that everything is an effort. Summarily those are signs of stress.

At best the poll is skewed. The pollsters used conventional phone lines and many of the residents hardest hit still don’t have phone service. Had they been included the depression rate would have likely been considerably higher.

Our entire culture is stressed. Social, economic, business, political, and family pressures are at an all time high nationally. Those who are “news junkies” don’t help themselves in that the accumulative effect of events not directly involving them bring pressure on them.

Being made aware of this condition might well cause a reader to recall a recent incident where they nearly boiled over. If so it is good to realize this and pre-prepare for such a moment concluding in advance the proper response when next tempted to erupt. Plan a cooling down attitude and a positive reaction. A predetermined rational response to the conditions that might precipitate aggression can mentally help control potential rage.

It is also wise to realize other persons are experiencing similar pressures and therefore avoid a tendency toward retaliation. Tit-for-tat responses produce road rage. You never know what is going on in the life of the other person. You can be the “ice man or woman” to help chill out a potentially explosive situation. It takes character to “walkaway” from mounting unnecessary hostility.

Self-control means you are in control. If you aren’t someone else is. That means the other person wins by controlling you. Don’t let another’s intemperance control your temper.

For years I carried in my wallet a little note given me as a teen by my mother that still works. It reads, “A soft answer turns away anger.” Try it.

Follow the wise council of Barney Fife, “Nip it. Just nip it.”