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Den of Lambs

Christian Defense of the Faith

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June 2016

800 Years? Really?

First century Roman-Jewish historian Flavius Josephus, in Antiquities of the Jews — Book I wrote: “Now when Noah had lived three hundred and fifty years after the flood, and that all that time happily, he died: having lived the number of nine hundred and fifty years. But let no one, upon comparing the lives of the ancients with our lives, and with the few years which we now live, think, that what we have said of them is false; or make the shortness of our lives at present an argument that neither did they attain to so long a duration of life: for those ancients were beloved of God, and [lately] made by God himself: and because their food was then fitter for the prolongation of life, might well live so great a number of years. And besides, God afforded them a longer time of life on account of their virtue, and the good use they made of it in astronomical and geometrical discoveries…”

Old manRecently, I became aware of a discussion between a Christian and an atheist about the longevity of biblical figures.  The atheist was incredulous that the Christian believed that someone could live for 800 years.

“Lol 800 years? Really?” the atheist asked, “800 years? Science which surrounds you every day. What you used to reply to this post, brought to you by science means nothing? But you read in some ancient fairytale text that someone lived 800 years and you believe it?”

It seems, though, that the Bible is not the only ancient text that has listed life spans of more than 800 years.  Ancient writings from many cultures have listed life spans that most modern people (including myself) find unbelievable. Could the dating be misunderstandings in translation, or maybe the numbers are merely symbolic?   Is it possible that there are arguments that leave the historian wondering whether the human lifespan has actually decreased so significantly over thousands of years?
One theory is that in the ancient Near East, the understanding of a year was different than our concept of a modern calendar year. Perhaps a year meant an orbit of the moon (a month) instead of an orbit of the earth around the sun (12 months). If we extrapolate, while it brings the age of the biblical figure Adam down from 930 to 77 at the time of hisold woman death, it also means he would have fathered his son Enoch at the age of 11. And Enoch would have only been 5 years old when he fathered Methuselah.
Similar inconsistencies arise when we adjust the year figures to represent seasons instead of solar orbits. Carol A. Hill in her article “Making Sense of the Numbers of Genesis,” published in the journal “Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith” in December 2003 noted, “Numbers [in Genesis] could have both real (numerical) and sacred (numerological or symbolic) meaning,”
In both Genesis and in the 4,000-year-old Sumerian King List—which lists the reigns of single kings in Sumer (ancient southern Iraq) as exceeding 30,000 years in some cases—there is a steady decline in lifespans. Genesis and the King List differentiates between pre-flood and post-flood reigns. The pre-flood reigns are significantly longer than the post-flood, though even post-flood lifespans are shown to be several hundred years. In the Bible, we see a  decline over the generations from Adam’s 930-year life, to Noah’s 500 years, to Abraham’s 175.

In ancient China, accounts of super-centenarians were also commonplace, according to many texts. Acupuncturist Joseph P. Hou, Ph.D., wrote in his book “Healthy Longevity Techniques”: “According to Chinese medical records, a doctor named Cuie Wenze of the Qin dynasty lived to be 300 years old. Gee Yule of the later Han dynasty lived to be 280 years old. A high ranking Taoist master monk, Hui Zhao, lived to be 290 years old and Lo Zichange lived to be 180 years old. As recorded in the The Chinese Encyclopedia of Materia Medica, He Nengci of the Tang dynasty lived to be 168 years old. A Taoist master, Li Qingyuan, lived to be 250 years old. In modern times, a traditional Chinese medicine doctor, Lo Mingshan of Sichuan province, lived to be 124 years old.” According to Guinness World Records, the greatest fully authenticated age was Jeanne Louise Calment who lived to 122 years and 164 days. At the writing of this blog, Holocaust survivor Mr Israel Kristal of Haifa, Israel, is the world’s oldest person at the age of 112 years and 287 days.
Someday we’ll know, but for now, skeptics as well as believers are left either to believe what ancient records have to say about astonishing lifespans, or to consider the accounts as exaggerations or misunderstandings. For many, though, if we were created to live for eternity (Gen 2:16-17), an earthly existence of less than a millennium is actually a drop in the bucket.

Modern Science Points To A Supernatural Beginning To The Universe

The universe had a beginning. Robert Jastrow, American astronomer and planetary physicist, who was a leading NASA scientist, populist author and futurist who served as the director of the Mount Wilson observatory in Los Angeles, California, had much to say about that.  Jastrow was the founder of NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies. His impeccable credientials as a scientist is the reason why his book God and theThe universe Astronomers made such an impression on those investigating the implications of the Big Bang, namely those asking the question “Does the Big Bang point to God?” In chapter 1, Jastrow writes, “When an astronomer writes about God, his colleagues assume he is either over the hill or going bonkers. In my case it should be understood from the start that I am an agnostic in religious matters.”

In light of Jastrow’s personal agnosticism, his theistic quotations are all the more provocative. After explaining some of the Big Bang evidence, Jastrow writes, “Now we see how the astronomical evidence leads to a biblical view of the origin of the world. The details differ, but the essential elements in the astronomical and biblical accounts of Genesis are the same: the chain of events leading to man commenced suddenly and sharply at a definite moment in time, in a flash of light and energy.”

“Astronomers now find they have painted themselves into a corner because they have proven, by their own methods, that the world began abruptly in an act of creation to which you can trace the seeds of every star, every planet, every living thing in this cosmos and on the earth. And they have found that all this happened as a product of forces they cannot hope to discover. . . . That there are what I or anyone would call supernatural forces at work is now, I think, a scientifically proven fact.”  Jastrow to observe in an interview.

Jastrow echoes the conclusion of Einstein’s contemporary Arthur Eddington by evoking the supernatural. As an English astronomer, physicist, and mathematician of the early 20th century who did his greatest work in astrophysics, Eddington found it “repugnant” that “The beginning seems to present insuperable difficulties unless we agree to look on it as frankly supernatural.”

Why would Jastrow and Eddington admit that there are “supernatural” forces at work? Why ­couldn’t natural forces have produced the universe? Simply because natural forces– indeed all of nature– were created at the Big Bang. Time, space, and matter came into existence at the Big Bang.   In other words, there were no natural forces or natural laws prior to the Big Bang. Since a cause cannot come after its effect, natural forces or natural laws cannot account for the beginning of the universe. Therefore, the cause must be something outside of nature; supernatural.

The Nobel Laureates and discoverers of the cosmic microwave background radiation (evidence for a hot early universe), Robert Wilson and Arno Penzias, were also not theists. Both initially believed in the Steady State Theory (which states that the universe has always existed and will continue to survive without noticeable change). But due to the mounting evidence, they’ve since acknowledged facts that are consistent with the Bible. Penzias admits, “The Steady State theory turned out to be so ugly that people dismissed it. The easiest way to fit the observations with the least number of parameters was one in which the universe was created out of nothing, in an instant, and continues to expand.”

Wilson, who once took a class from the man who popularized the Steady State Theory in 1948, Fred Hoyle said, “I philosophically liked the Steady State. And clearly I’ve had to give that up.” When science writer Fred Heeren asked him if the Big Bang evidence is indicative of a Creator, Wilson responded, “Certainly there was something that set it all off. Certainly, if you are religious, I can’t think of a better theory of the origin of the universe to match with Genesis.”  George Smoot echoed Wilson’s assessment. He said, “There is no doubt that a parallel exists between the Big Bang as an event and the Christian notion of creation from nothing.”

Robert Jastrow ends his book, God and the Astronomers with this classic line:  “For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.”

Amusing The Goats

The unofficial father of the seeker movement in the United States, Bill Hybels, recently admitted that seeker churches have done a very poor job of making disciples. The irony here it that making disciples is what Jesus commanded us to do! So, why has the seeker movement failed in the church if it is our central purpose?

Lack of attention span: Services (Worship to dismissal) don’t last longer than 45 minutes to an hour, max. If the pastor goes even a little longer, apologies abound and the congregation gets restless.
Lack of deep Biblical teaching: In a lot of cases, you can leave your Bible at home– the pastor handles the Bible reading which is normally pulled from its context and often superficial. Most of the sermon is based on social application and therPulpite is no attempt to teach you how to study the scriptures on your own.
Lack of true worship: Though musicians are often extremely talented, modern worship has turned into a performance; a concert in which active participation by the congregation is usually non-existent.
Lack of theology: The repackaged, every Sunday, sermon is often of little value other than to make you feel good for the next few days. Sound Biblical theology is often missing.

What is the outcome?  Believers are often left with cotton candy theology; tastes great but no nutritional value.  If a Believer is to “…go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” Matt 28:19, they must have sound theology and the armor of apologetics to  “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,” 1 Peter 3:15

Unfortunately, most other denominations are not doing much better. We’re loosing 75% of our young people because– instead of making disciples who are in awe of God and devoted to His purposes– a majority of churches from most denominations are producing shallow narcissists obsessed with themselves and their own happiness.

What we fail to realize is that what we win them with is what we win them to. If we win them with superficiality, societal outreach, entertainment, and unsophisticated theology, that is exactly what we will win them to. Charles Spurgeon was way ahead of his time when he implored the church to start “feeding the sheep rather than amusing the goats.”

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