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Monday, April 23, 2018

What about the Call of "Peace and Security"?



When Christians discuss where we are in the stream of time, there are certain “signs” we look for.

The major ones are listed in Matthew 24, Luke 21 and Revelation 6: 
  •          large-scale wars
  •          Frequent earthquakes
  •          Widespread food shortage and disease
  •          The preaching of the Good News of the Kingdom earth-wide

If you’ve been paying attention, you know you can check those off your list. But the sign marking the Last Days includes some other details that don’t get as much attention, such as this one: 
When they say, “There is peace and no danger,” then sudden destruction will come on them, as birth-pains on a woman with child; and they will not be able to get away from it. (1Thessalonians 5:3 BBE)

The greatest cry of “Peace!” in all history has to have been the elation, the dancing in the streets, that accompanied the end of World War Two.

Yet clearly, that event wasn’t what Paul was talking about, since the ‘sudden destruction’ hasn’t happened. It is hard to imagine a war that so dwarfs World War Two that its ending prompts a significantly louder cry of ‘Peace!’ – so loud that everyone knows it is the real fulfillment of the prophecy.

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Therefore, the talk of ‘peace and security’ has to be different from merely the end of a war, no matter how great.

In my novel Resurrection Day I speculated that 1 Thessalonians 5:3 could be fulfilled by a technological advance so great that the majority of mankind felt an improvement in their standard of living because of it. This is not unrealistic: we are on the cusp of advances in battery technology, graphene, thorium reactors and other marvels that potentially could, if used correctly, have people sighing with relief, however misguided their belief. By itself, however, no single whiz-bang invention is going have people declaring an outbreak of peace.

But here’s another thought: What about a different take on "Peace"? In 2018 the United Nations held a special meeting entitled, “A New Approach to Peace.” The agenda was described as peace-building and sustaining peace. They focused on “renewed efforts toward conflict prevention addressing the root causes of conflicts rather than the consequences of conflicts.” The agenda candidly admitted that, in spite of the UN’s best efforts, 
“Violent conflicts in many parts of the world are surging and becoming more complex, deadly and protracted.” There is a “troubling increase in the casualties among innocent civilians that have been the target of direct attacks, as well as unparalleled numbers of displaced populations.”

The United Nations, it said, “needs to adjust its capacities to build and sustain peace. It must engage with Member States long before conflict breaks out and be able to support them at all stages of conflict.”

Their real motivation appeared a couple paragraphs later: “More resources are spent on addressing the aftermath of conflicts than on preventing them from flaring up and escalating.”

One of the most effective ways to motivate someone to do something your way is to show them how it will save them or make them money.

In 2019 the president of El Salvador took a selfie during his speech from the UN's podium, telling the audience that social media had become more effective at bringing people together than any efforts by the UN.

The UN has been called ‘The World’s Largest Debating Society,’ and with good reason. If their success was measured by the number of empty words they’ve produced they would be ranked the most successful organization the world has ever seen. So my hopes are not too high that anything will result from this high level meeting.
 
But what if we look at the UN from a different perspective? 
 
Prior to the 20th century, there was no world peace organization. When a war ended, the victor dictated terms to the loser, and the world moved on. It was only after the horrors of World War One that multiple nations saw the need to sit down together and try to hammer out regulations to keep the peace everywhere, not just in the previously warring countries. That's huge: in all the thousands of years of human history, this peace and security effort is unique. 
 
It has changed, more than once. The original organization, called the League of Nations, comprised 60 nations. It failed significantly when World War II broke out. But it was reorganized when that war ended. Today every government on Earth has joined it. Its ineffectiveness could, theoretically, be fixed. It could, with some adjustments, become an organization that is apparently useful, that seems to be actually creating peace and security. 

I'm not saying I'd put my faith in it. But as a Christian who carefully watches events, to keep track of where we are in the stream of time, I’d be crazy to ignore it.

Please leave a polite comment. (Comments are monitored so, if you have an agenda, don't waste your time.) To read another of my columns on a similar subject, click here.
 
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Sunday, February 18, 2018

Would Jesus like your church?


Christianity, so called, has changed drastically since the first century.

If Jesus dropped by your church this Sunday, would he be comfortable there? Would he recognize your beliefs? Would he even acknowledge your congregation as his followers?

At the front door he’d likely be met by a man in a flowing extravagant garment, or at least a weird collar. Would he hear you calling this man “Father,”  “Pastor,”  “Reverend,” or some other special title? Would he observe you giving this man special consideration and deference? Perhaps the man has a fancy car in a special parking spot close to the door, or a special seat inside the church.

The Pharisees in Jesus’ day had all these practices, and Jesus wasn’t shy about condemning them for it. Take a moment to read Matthew chapter 23, you’ll quickly see what I mean.

Could Jesus get through the whole service without the subject of money coming up? Would a collection plate be passed? Would the preacher claim that the lord loves a cheerful giver and He needs you to pony up? What would happen when the plate got to Jesus? What would he drop in it? In spite of numerous miracles, including raising the dead, Jesus died broke, owning literally nothing but the shirt on his back.

Or would Jesus pull out a whip and say, “Stop making the house of my father a cave of robbers!” When he sent his disciples out to preach he taught them what to say, but he gave them the stern warning, “You received free, give free.” (Matthew 10:8)

Would Jesus point out to the congregation that he sent all Christians out to preach, not just their paid minister? (Matthew 28:19, 20) Would he find evidence in your church that the parishioners know how to preach the good news of the Kingdom, that they know how to defend their faith with the Bible, that they love to read scriptures to others?

Is there a flag in your church? Or an image of Jesus on a cross? Would Jesus look at them and mutter, "Little children, guard yourselves from idols"? (1 John 5:21)

Would this be the Sunday the padre would tell you how important it was to support your country, to pray for the president or the troops fighting for your freedom? Or would the preacher catch himself just in time, remembering that Jesus specifically told his followers, “Those who take to the sword will perish by the sword.” (Matthew 26:52) When asked by the ruler Pontius Pilate about his politics Jesus replied, “My kingdom is no part of this world. If my kingdom were part of this world my servants would fight.” (John 18: 36)

Christians in the first century certainly understood that. “Early Christians refused to share certain duties of Roman citizens. . . . They would not hold political office.” (On the Road to Civilization - AWorld History, A. K. Heckel and J. G. Sigman)

In his book The Rise of Christianity E. W. Barnes wrote: “No Christian became a soldier. No soldier, on becoming a Christian, remained in military service.”

And the Encyclopedia of Religion states: “The early church fathers… were constrained from taking human life, a principle that kept them from participating in the Roman Army.”

Perhaps Jesus would sit next to that same-sex couple holding hands in the front row, and the preacher would point out how accepting and inclusive and non-judgmental your church is. Would Jesus speak up, perhaps repeating his own words at Luke 17: 28 & 29? “The same was true in the time of Lot; they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building; but on the day that Lot left Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all.”
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No? Too harsh? Would you tell Jesus to shut up and sit down and learn how to be more tolerant?

After all, you have this massive church, with thousands of seats. It doesn’t pay for itself. You need people filling those seats, no matter their lifestyle. You have a rock band on stage in front of an enormous stained glass window. Surely Jesus must love this place, doesn’t he? His church has certainly come a long way from the private homes and modest halls in which early Christians met.

At the end of the service, does the pastor direct prayers to Jesus? Even though Jesus himself said to pray to his father? “Our father in the heavens, let your name be made holy,” he said in his Sermon on the Mount. But the preacher acts as if he doesn't even know what the father's name is. Yet Jesus told the Samaritan woman at the well: “True worshipers worship the father.” (John 4:23)

As he is leaving your church, perhaps he spies the calendar on the bulletin board. It shows special church events celebrating:
 
  • New Year's day
  • Valentine’s day
  • Easter
  • Halloween
  • Christmas
He shakes his head as he runs his finger down the list. “Pagan, pagan, pagan, pagan, pagan,” he says. He knows the origins of all these holidays. They were around in the first century. His true followers back then knew to steer clear of them.

They knew all these things. When did Christians forget?

Yet none of this surprises true Christians. The common expression "wolves in sheep's clothing" comes from Jesus' own Sermon on the Mount. The apostle Paul, too, warned of what would happen after the death of the original apostles. "After my going away," he said, "wolves will enter in, and will abuse the flock." (Acts 20:29)

Jesus also warned, in his illustration called 'the wheat and the weeds,' that soon after his death Christianity would be infected in exactly this manner. 

He also described a conversation he will have with fake Christians at judgement day. "'Lord, we spoke in your name, and performed miracles in your name, and practiced many good deeds in your name!' And then I will tell them, 'I never knew you. Get away from me.'"

Bill K. Underwood is a Bible student and author of several books, including three 'bible friendly' novels on Amazon. 


Thursday, January 25, 2018

You Need to Understand Radio-carbon Dating




Last week I read this in an Israeli newspaper:

“A massive tower that defended [Jerusalem’s] main water source – which was thought to have been built in the Middle Bronze Age, nearly 4,000 years ago – [Carbon dating results] have shown the structure likely dates back only to the ninth century B.C.E.”

Like it or not, you need to understand radio-carbon dating. Nearly every field of science relies on it. Archaeologists in particular count on carbon dating to help them determine the age of many of the artifacts they dig up.
What is it? How does it work?
At this moment, powerful cosmic particles from somewhere out in the Milky Way are striking Earth’s upper atmosphere. They combine with nitrogen atoms to form unstable Carbon 14 atoms – unstable in the sense that the C-14 atoms slowly decay back to nitrogen.
The C-14 and more stable C-12 carbon atoms combine with oxygen atoms to form carbon dioxide. The ratio between the two types of carbon dioxide is - currently - one trillion to 1.
Both types of carbon dioxide are breathed in by living plants. Animals, of course, breathe in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide. However, animals collect C-12 and C-14 from the plants they eat. So animals and humans, like plants, are assumed to have the same one trillion to 1 ratio of C-12 to C-14. Obviously, rocks cannot be measured by a carbon clock since they don't breathe.
(The archaeologists in Jerusalem had to have dated some piece of wood they found, not the stones the tower is built from. It was the piece of wood, or technically, the death of the tree the wood came from, that dated to David’s day, not the tower.)
When a plant or animal dies, it stops taking in carbon dioxide. It is assumed that the C-12 remains stable for the rest of eternity, but its C-14 begins to decay.
It is assumed that all plants take in C-12 and C-14 in the same amounts and with the same ratio. It is further assumed that the ratio has remained constant; that is, that a plant living, say, 6000 years ago took up one C-14 atom to every one trillion C-12 atoms, just as plants do today.
The rate of decay – that is, the rate at which C-14 leeches away – is currently measured at one half gone every 5,700 years. And it is assumed that it has always been the same. So if you were to analyze a sample of 100 trillion carbon atoms from a modern plant, 100 of them would be C-14 atoms. If you looked at 100 trillion atoms of a 5,700 year-old plant you would only count fifty C-14 atoms – half the original amount. 100 trillion atoms from a plant 11,400 years old would have only twenty-five C-14 atoms, and so on.
Simple, right? The lower the amount of C-14, the older the sample. Given all that, any sample more than a few thousand years old will have a microscopically small amount of C-14... one might even say an "immeasurably small amount." And, of course, when you are measuring things in atoms, the samples (and the machinery) are subject to contamination.
According to radiocarbon.com, scientists use oxalic acid made from sugar beets known to have been harvested in 1955 to calibrate their tests. They also use wood from a tree known to have been cut in 1890, “unaffected by fossil fuel effects.”
Wait: What?
Yup. Turns out that changes to the atmosphere mess with the carbon levels. Scientists assume that, prior to the fossil fuel age there were no significant changes to the atmosphere. That explains that reference to the ‘1955 sugar beet oxalic acid,’ as well: atmospheric testing of hydrogen bombs in the fifties significantly altered the levels of C-12 and C-14 in the atmosphere.
Notice all the assumptions involved: For the carbon clock to be reliable, the amount of the mysterious cosmic rays striking the atmosphere from the unknown space source would have to remain constant over tens of thousands of years. Have they? Who knows? The scientists admit they know little about them.
In addition, cosmic rays are greatly affected by magnetic fields – both that of the earth and that of the sun. The magnetic fields, in fact, are the reason scientists can only say the cosmic rays come from 'somewhere in the galaxy' – because each magnetic field they pass on their way to Earth changes their direction and their intensity
      - continues below -
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Earth's magnetic field fluctuates dramatically. The sun’s does as well.
Let’s take it a step further. For much of Earth's geologic history a dense shroud of water, dust or other debris covered the planet. Would this have affected cosmic rays striking the atmosphere? Absolutely. Would that have altered the relative amounts of nitrogen, oxygen, and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere? Again, yes.
Atmospheric oxygen is believed to have been as low as 15%, and as high as 35%, at various points in geologic history. The nitrogen level went down when oxygen went up, and vice versa. Carbon dioxide levels changed nearly every time a volcano erupted. When humans began cooking and heating with fire (6,000 years ago according to the Bible or 350,000 years ago according to science) carbon dioxide climbed. When we began using fossil fuels, CO2 really jumped. Atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons in the 1950s also greatly affected levels of C-14 in the atmosphere.
So how can anyone say that the ratio of C-14 to ordinary carbon in a plant living today is the same as the ratio in a plant that lived thousands of years ago?
The scientists themselves, who lean so heavily on the radiocarbon clock, need to read the work of other scientists:
  • A large and sudden increase in radiocarbon around AD 773 is documented in coral skeletons from the South China Sea…forming a spike of 45% in late spring, followed by two smaller spikes. The carbon anomalies coincide with an historic comet collision with the Earth's atmosphere on 17 January AD 773.” – Nature.com
  • “We find [in annual rings of Japanese cedar trees] a rapid increase of about 12% in the C-14 content from a.d. 774 to 775, which is about 20 times larger than the change attributed to ordinary solar modulation.” – Nature, June 2012
  • “The rate of carbon 14 radioactive decay may have been different in the past. The amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere may have been different in the past. The assumption of a constant ratio of C-14 to C-12 is invalid; equilibrium would require about 30,000 years, (or 50,000 years according to this mathematician) and the C-14/C-12 ratio appears to be increasing still.” – Tufts.edu
That last part there, about “equilibrium,” is important. If all the assumptions were true, 30,000-50,000 years after the C-14 process began, whenever that was, the atmosphere should have reached equilibrium… it should have reached a point where the C-14 decayed away at the same rate at which it is being generated. Otherwise, by now we’d be swimming in C-14.
But it is still increasing. Which can ONLY mean:
  1. The C-14 process – cosmic rays reaching the atmosphere, the atmosphere containing the present-day levels of nitrogen, oxygen, and CO2, the C-14 being absorbed by plants then decaying out, etc. – that process began less than 30,000 years ago… or
  2. The theory on which Carbon 14 dating is based, is just wrong
Please leave a respectful comment. (Comments are moderated, so if you're a troll or a salesman, don't bother.) To read another of my columns about how Carbon-14 can affect beliefs, click here.
Bill K. Underwood is the author of several novels and one non-fiction self-help book, all available at Amazon.com. You can help support this page by purchasing a book.