Neuroscience and the Bible

Be afraid. Be very afraid. 

Or not.

When it comes to advances in science regarding the brain and our understanding of where our thoughts, emotions, consciousness, perceptions, choices, and more come from, some of our religious notions like the idea of the immaterial soul, or free-will, or sin might be shaken.  That shaking however, so far seems to involve religious traditions and a few interpretations of the Bible, but not the Bible itself.  Turns out the actual Scripture is holding up just fine.

Neuroscience, thanks to the use of brain scan technology, is a rapidly growing field of science that is in the process of revolutionizing psychology and our understanding of ourselves, but ironically Jesus and the Bible seem to have been saying similar types of things.

Some logical premise building first: If God is real, and the Bible was truly inspired by him, then it stands to reason that it would remain consistent with much of our own science.  That’s not the case with church traditions or some interpretations of the Bible. Those things change all the time. In fact, discovering the truth about most anything, means also discovering what was not true.  So while Christians may have to wait until reaching heaven before some arguments over interpretations are settled, it may be that some new scientific discoveries could actually help resolve some long standing debates.

Yeah, that’s probably wishful thinking, but at least the discoveries make the debates more interesting.

For instance, if neuroscience could prove (and some research makes a strong case) that our brain makes a decision BEFORE we are conscious of it, that seems to take away our ability to have free will over our own actions.  If we have no real choice, then what about sin? How could God judge us? Continue reading “Neuroscience and the Bible”

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Coming to Grips with the Christmas God

There are several details about the Christmas story that don’t exactly match up with… well the actual Christmas story.  It makes for some interesting trivia during this time of the year, which could make you a hit at parties perhaps, but it is also symptomatic of our culture.  Are we content to believe a tradition-filled caricature of the Bible, or are we interested in the real thing?

Take the 3 wise men for instance, or magi, or kings or whatever you want to call them.  Their story is in Matthew chapter 2, and here we find one of the more glaring instances of tradition versus the Bible.  We can start with the fact the Bible never said there were 3 wise men, but only that there were 3 separate gifts.  The Bible never said they traveled on camels, ( John MacArthur’s research says they traveled on Persian steeds and with a sizable cavalry) and the Bible never said their names, or the color of their skin.  In fact, the Bible never calls them kings, and we know from history the magi were advisers to kings, but likely not kings themselves.

Nevertheless we have an entire tradition about the magi, which is often assumed to come from the Bible, but doesn’t.  Ironically, we even sometimes we try to prove the Bible to be false, or a myth by disproving things the Bible never said.  A youtube video called Zeitgeist claimed that the Christian story was simply made up of earlier myths, which also included stories of 3 wise men and births of a Savior on December 25, etc…  While the video is largely a hoax (those earlier religious myths did not make those claims either) it nevertheless convinced a lot of people who assume the Bible talks about things like 3 wise men, or December 25, or being born in a stable, when the Bible actually says nothing about these things.

How much do you think you know about the actual Christmas story?

Continue reading “Coming to Grips with the Christmas God”

Knowing Jesus Rose from the Dead

This claim is the center-piece of Christianity. As all four Biblical narratives about Jesus life and death attest, Jesus died from severe torture and crucifixion at the hands of the Romans and the blessings of the leadership in Israel. On a purely human level, Jesus’ teaching was obviously threatening the power and status of those in the theocratic leadership of Israel, and Rome was wary of anyone causing disruptions. It created a perfect storm which resulted in Jesus’ execution. On a spiritual level, Jesus life and death fulfilled over 108 distinct prophesies and became the culmination of the Old Testament religious covenant to the Israelites and the world. The New Testament Scriptures indicate that perfect storm was actually God-orchestrated, for the purpose of providing forgiveness and grace to the human race.

It’s powerful stuff, and the deeper you get into it, the more powerful it becomes. Jesus was the culmination of the Jewish sacrificial system for sins because He was the ultimate sacrifice, taking away sins once for all according to the book of Hebrews. (It’s why John the Baptist once announced Jesus was “the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!” -Lambs were often used as sacrifices)

Taking away sins once for all, meant a person no longer had to feel separated from God by sin, and provided a way for anyone to approach God, without a priest to intercede. It’s one reason three of the four Gospel accounts record the curtain of the temple being torn in two by an earthquake at the time of Jesus’ death. The curtain of the temple is what separated “the Most Holy Place” -where the presence of God was- from the outside world. The meaning being that humanity no longer had to be separated from God because of Christ.

And that only begins to scratch the surface how in Jesus, or through Jesus, so much of the Old Testament religious teaching is fulfilled, or reaches the highest order of magnitude. But none of it matters, if Jesus never got out of the grave. Continue reading “Knowing Jesus Rose from the Dead”

Timothy Beal and Is There a Bible?

A friend asked me to comment on Timothy Beal’s blog post on CNN entitled “My Take: There’s no such thing as the Bible and Never has been”.

Beal is a good writer, but my first reaction was negative. After all, it’s an article that begins with its conclusion.  I’m sure it will be applauded by those who already agree, and denounced or ignored by those who don’t.  In church we call this “preaching to the choir,” and I’m definitely in a different choir than Timothy Beal.

It’s natural, but I believe these days we are starting to buy our culture’s own propaganda. You know, the one that says southerners are always dumb, Republicans are always rich, sexual promiscuity is always enlightened, and anyone who believes the Bible is true is uneducated at best, and raving mad at worst. Continue reading “Timothy Beal and Is There a Bible?”

The Trinity: It’s the Whole Point

Although the Bible never uses the term, and never sets aside any passage to explain it, the idea of the “Trinity” has been a pretty key doctrine for Christianity for a long time. It can be found in various early creeds and teachings, and basically explains that God is one God, but revealed to mankind as three: God the Father, God the Son (Jesus), and God the Holy Spirit.

Arguments are made by some that Jesus never claimed to be God, but in fact, according to the Bible He did several times and did so in unmistakable ways. He took the name of God for Himself, He claimed the power of God for Himself, He claimed the authority of God for Himself, and flat out said He was equal with God in clear enough terms that many of those present tried to kill Him for blasphemy. So clear is the teaching in the Bible that Jesus is God, the Jehovah Witnesses -who do not believe in the Trinity- went to the trouble to develop their own Bible, which specifically has changed the passages of the New Testament dealing with Jesus as God. It is accurate to say then, that the Bible presents Jesus as God, with the lone exception being the version of the Bible printed by the Jehovah Witnesses in 1961.

Muslims and Jews would simply claim this is a heresy to the truth. Both the Jewish Scriptures (the Old Testament), and the Qur’an teach that God is one God. So does Christianity of course, but Christians believe in the Trinity, which adds that God is also three. On the surface it is contradictory, but in the expression and understanding of God, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I wouldn’t believe in any other way. Continue reading “The Trinity: It’s the Whole Point”

Who Was Cain’s Wife in Genesis?

The Book of Genesis in the Bible, says that Adam and Eve had two sons: Cain and Able. In the story, Cain kills Able and eventually moves away to a land east of Eden. The Bible mentions Cain had a wife, but it doesn’t say where she came from, or when they got married, or where they met. It simply says this:

Then Cain went out from the presence of the LORD, and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden. Cain had relations with his wife and she conceived, and gave birth to Enoch; and he built a city, and called the name of the city Enoch, after the name of his son. -Genesis 4:16-17

So where did Cain get that wife? Surprisingly, despite all the attention given this question over the years, when one looks at the circumstances in the story itself, the answer isn’t hard at all.  The problem seems to be more that we don’t like the answer. Continue reading “Who Was Cain’s Wife in Genesis?”

Age of the Earth, Can the Bible be serious?

The Bible actually never says how old the earth is, but people do infer the age by adding up the genealogy lists which give the ages of various persons in a family line. There are several places in Genesis where it lists who was the father of who, and how long they lived, so adding those up, people arrive at an age of about 6,000 years.

It has been argued that traditionally Jewish genealogies have sometimes left people out and skipped a few generations here and there when making a list.

If that happened with the lists in the Bible, then one would expect the age of the earth to actually be a bit more, but still nowhere near the 4 1/2 billion mark that the scientifically establishment usually says. (I heard a rumor they are fixing to increase it again, this time to 6 billion)

Many Bible believers, and even some (not all) Hebrew scholars have argued that the word we translated “day” in the Genesis story referred to a time period that was longer than 24 hours. (The word can mean a portion of a day, basically a full day, or an indefinite period of time depending on how it’s used.) Here, it’s used in a way that is most easily just translated “day,” as in… a regular ol’ day.

Other’s have argued there’s a gap of time in there BEFORE the seven days of creation even start. Historically, they’ve argued that this is the time the dinosaurs lived, but the Hebrew language in those verses doesn’t really allow any gap between verse 1 and 2 for the dinosaurs to live in. Some argue that the earth was covered by water for eons, in between Genesis 1:2 and 3, but you can’t fit land dinosaurs in there.

So the plain meaning of the Bible, taking a day to be basically a regular day, is that the earth is a little more than 6,000 years old. Since there was evidently no sun until day four, I think you have give a little room for God to say what is meant by “evening and morning” on those days. I think Augustine said those were “God-defined days, not solar-defined days” and I agree. Was it 24 hours, or 19 hours, or 456 hours…?? Continue reading “Age of the Earth, Can the Bible be serious?”