Why Was The Christmas Star Visible From Afar But Not Noticed In Bethlehem?

There are many mysteries about the miracles that form the basis of Jesus Christ’s claim of divinity. Jesus is claimed to have healed the sick and raised the dead of the Roman province of Palestine during his short ministry. These miracles made him famous and inspired disciples to follow him but from a modern perspective, they are impossible to verify. The witnesses to these miracles are long dead. Even Lazarus and the others that Jesus restored to life eventually returned to the grave. However, there is one miracle associated with the life of Jesus that should be easy to verify because it was apparently visible from around the world.

The miracle of the Christmas star occurred at the time of Jesus’ birth and according to the Biblical account was visible to learned travelers from a distant land. Matthew tells us that the Magi saw a star that they recognized as symbolizing the birth of the king of the Jews and traveled to Jerusalem “after Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea” (Matt. 2:1). The star apparently appeared at the time of Jesus’ birth (2:7) and lasted months until the Magi could make their journey from a distant land. The problem for Christian believers is that other observers of the time don’t report significant astronomical events around the time of Jesus’ birth. The lack of reports would seem to rule out stars as well as nebulas and comets.

Beyond the lack of extrabiblical support for a stunning celestial display, there is another problem with the story of the Christmas star. There is a paradox in the Bible’s claim that the Magi could see the star from thousands of miles away while King Herod seemed ignorant of it only five miles away in Jerusalem. Any obviously bright star would be easily visible to anyone who looked up at night, yet Herod and his court were unaware of it.

Further, consider that stars typically seem to move when viewed from the earth’s surface. The location of stars is fixed in space, but the earth’s rotation makes them appear to move. A star that rises in the east would set in the west a few hours later yet the Bible says that the star “stopped over the place where the child was” (2:9). The typical depiction of the Christmas star as an immense, blindingly bright star hovering above the Bethlehem stable seems more and more unlikely.

The problems with identifying the star of Bethlehem seem insurmountable. The star was allegedly seen clearly from a great distance away but unobserved in and around Bethlehem. The meaning of the star was so obvious that the Magi left on an international trip yet other astronomers around the world missed it entirely. Stars normally move but this one was reportedly stationary. The problems are so difficult that many consider the Christmas star to be nothing more than a myth.

A clue to the answer can be found in the original Greek text of the New Testament. In his fascinating look at the historical foundations of the Bible, “The Bible As History,” Werner Keller pointed out that in verse two, the Greek word translated as “star” for thousands of years is actually plural rather than singular.

Keller offers a theory as to the identity of Matthew’s Christmas stars. For hundreds of years prior to the time of Christ, Jewish exiles had lived in Babylon. Babylon, located to the east of Palestine in present-day Iraq, was also the home of an advanced school of astronomy. Clay tablets discovered by archaeologists that date back to more than 400 years before the time of Christ detail calculations by which the Babylonians could predict the paths of the planets, which of course look like stars when viewed without a telescope.

Two planets in particular may have been of interest to the Magi. Jupiter, the king of the planets, was considered to be a royal star and was also associated with luck. The second largest planet, Saturn, was associated with Israel according to ancient Jewish traditions described by Tacitus, a famous Roman historian.

Keller describes how Jupiter and Saturn came together not once but twice in 7 BC. The first conjunction occurred on May 29 and was followed by a second on October 3. He writes that the journey from Babylon to Jerusalem would have taken about six weeks by camel caravan in Biblical times. It would have been unwise to undertake such a journey across Middle Eastern deserts at the beginning of summer but an October departure would have placed the Magi in Jerusalem in late November. This would place the birth of Jesus prior to the onset of winter in Palestine when shepherds would have still had their flocks in the fields (Luke 2:8).

Frederick Larson of BethlehemStar.com has a similar theory but arrived at a different date for the star’s appearance. Larson looked at the movements of the heavens and found an interesting occurrence over a period of months in the years 3 and 2 BC. At that time, Jupiter and Regulus, a star the Romans considered royal, entered a triple conjunction that would certainly have attracted the attention of Babylonian astrologers.

Larson also provides an answer for how the star could have stopped above the stable in Bethlehem. If the Magi were observing Jupiter from Jerusalem as it entered retrograde, the planet would have appeared to stop over the town of Bethlehem, five miles to their south. One of the dates that this could have occurred was December 25, 2 BC.

Regardless of which celestial event is the particular one observed by the Magi, the theory that the eastern travelers observed astrological signs that pointed them to the newborn Messiah is an idea that can overcome the difficulties inherent in a traditional reading of the Christmas story. The astrological event would have been visible to trained observers but would not have been apparent to King Herod or the people of Judea. The meaning of the signs would have been lost on other astronomers who were not aware of the association of various planets and stars with Israel and Judaism.

The search for the Christmas star has lessons for those who are seeking God. At the outset, it seemed that it was impossible that the account of the star could be more than a myth. The very idea seemed to make no sense and the problems presented by skeptics seemed insurmountable.

Upon closer inspection, however, when the original writings and understanding of the Bible’s writers were taken into account, it turns out that there is a rational explanation that can back up the story of Matthew’s Magi. As it was with the ancient Jews, who thought the Messiah would be a military leader who would overthrow the hated Romans, our problem with the Christmas star lies in our lack of understanding of what the Bible’s writers were trying to convey. When we put aside our preconceived ideas about what the star must have been, we find the answer was there all along.

The lesson of the Christmas star is that God answers those who seek him. While not all of the answers and explanations to Biblical questions are readily apparent, we do have enough answers to know that Christian faith can be based on verifiable facts and does not have to be a blind faith. The Bible’s accuracy is a launching point for the relationship with Christ that offers our only hope for conquering death.

That is the true meaning of Christmas.

Born To Die

Almost everyone is familiar with the Christmas story. The tale of how Mary and Joseph were turned away from the inn and gave birth to the Son of God in a stable is traditional holiday fare. Even those who consider the story to be a myth have at least heard it and recognize the characters.

That familiarity can be a problem. Many of us have heard the tale so often that it loses its impact. We have heard the story for so many Christmases now that it becomes part of the background, like Christmas carol muzak in a department store or mall, and we fail to appreciate the impact of Christmas.

The real impact of Christmas lies beyond the manger scene. Christmas is really about what the newborn infant would do some 30 years later as an adult.

Christmas reminds me of the scene in Talladega Nights in which Will Ferrell leads his family in a mealtime grace, addressing the prayer to “little baby Jesus.” Baby Jesus in the manger is a nonthreatening image that is easy to celebrate because a newborn infant is not controversial and makes no demands of us.

The problem with limiting our view of Christmas to the manger scene is that the babe in the manger came to shake things up and make difficult demands of us. The newborn baby was an infant on a mission. The baby Jesus was born to die.

If we fast forward about 30 years to see the ministry of the adult Jesus, we would get two central themes to his message. One, that we should love our fellow man, is another common Christmas theme. As Bill and Ted put it, Jesus taught that we should “be excellent to each other.”

But Jesus’ second theme is even more important. Beyond loving others, Jesus taught that we should love the God who created us and seek after him.

In fact, the most important message from Jesus’ preaching can be distilled down to two verses. In John 10:30, Jesus said, “I and my Father are one.” In this verse, Jesus made the controversial and earthshattering claim that he is God. A few chapters later in John 14:6, he made another extraordinary claim. “I am the way and the truth and the life,” Jesus said. “No one comes to the Father except through me.” In two short statements, Jesus overturned the conventional wisdom that priests and sacrifices were needed to approach God.

Jesus’ statements were either the ravings of a madman or the herald of a new way of looking at life and God. After a few short years of itinerant preaching, he would be executed by the Romans with the complicity of Jewish leaders. Far from being a tragedy, however, Jesus’ death sealed his victory. It was why he had come in the first place. As Jesus had previously explained to his disciples, he “did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28).

You see, like Jesus, we are also born to die. I once saw a t-shirt that said, “Life is sexually transmitted and always fatal.” We are dying from the day we are born.

Unlike Jesus, who as the Son of God holds the ultimate power over death, we are its mercy. As sinners, we are doomed to eternal separation from God as punishment for our misdeeds. It is in this realization that Jesus’ mission is made clear. He did not come to bring world peace or military triumph. Contrary to what prosperity gospel preachers say, he did not come to give his followers worldly wealth or to heal the sick. Even though he is capable of doing all these things, Jesus came to give us a chance at eternal life and the ability to triumph over death.

Christmas is about hope. The hope that would ultimately be fulfilled by the adult Jesus on the cross. The baby in the manger would grow up to sacrifice his life for ours, but the gift of sacrifice must be accepted.

While the baby in the manger makes no demands of us, the resurrected Jesus who died on the cross demands that we put aside all other paths to God, believe in him, and make him Lord of our lives. In return, we receive salvation and eternal life, the ultimate Christmas gifts.

Why I Believe In The God Of The Bible

Earlier this year, I had cancer. Thankfully, it was only a stage one melanoma that was easily removed, but to paraphrase Samuel Johnson, the possibility of death concentrates the mind wonderfully. Some of the things that my mind concentrated on were God, the afterlife and whether my own religious beliefs reflected the true path to heaven.

I’ve been a Christian for most of my life and at times it has occurred to me that, for most of us, our religious beliefs are somewhat hereditary. We are Christians or Muslims or Jews or Buddhists because we were raised in families and communities that followed those traditions. For something as important as the final destination of our immortal souls, we should probably look beyond what our family and neighbors believe and seek out the objective truth.

I’m a rational and logical person. Generally, when making decisions and forming opinions, I look for objective facts. Religion is no different. If we base our religious beliefs solely on subjective feelings and emotions, then we can’t be sure that we have the truth. Adherents of all religions feel that they have the truth, but they can’t all be right.

Investigating God and religion is actually a two-stage process. The first question is whether God and the spirit world exists at all. When that question is answered in the affirmative, the second question is which of the myriad religions comes closest to accurately reflecting the true message that God has given us. In my case, I’ve had several incidents in my life that proved the existence of the spirit world beyond my doubt so the question was whether Christianity truly represented God’s plan.

Determining whether writings and beliefs about something as intangible as spirits are true can be difficult, but the Bible actually contains some good and objective advice on how this can be accomplished. Deuteronomy 18:21-22 says, “If the word [of a prophet] does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the Lord has not spoken.” It turns out that determining truth is actually pretty easy. Just look to seek if prophecies match reality.

Objective research should include listening to both sides of an argument as well as considering alternatives. Objectively, religious claims cannot be used to prove themselves. External, impartial evidence should be used to corroborate religious claims. Not every statement made by religious texts is verifiable, but many are. Differences in language and points of view between the ancient writers and modern readers should be considered as we do so.

For example, there are several statements in the Quran that are at odds with modern science. The Quran claims that the earth is flat and that semen “comes out from between the backbone and the ribs.” The Quran also claims that there are seven planets. Muslim apologists have explanations for these passages, but these claims seem to be irrefutably wrong. Such mistakes seem inconsistent with a book that Muslims believe “exists today in the precise form and content in which it was originally revealed.” Likewise, the historical claims made in the Book Of Mormon fail to match archaeological fact.

With respect to prophetic claims, a list of fulfilled prophecies from the Quran seems very vague and open to interpretation. Another fulfilled prophecy, a great fire “in the land of the Hijaz which will illuminate the necks of the camels in Busra,” occurred some 640 years after Mohammed’s death, but is not actually recorded in the Quran.

In contrast, many of the historical claims of the Bible can be verified by archaeology. “The Bible as History” by Werner Keller is a classic text that describes much of the scientific evidence for the historical books of the Old Testament. King David, long thought by many to be a myth, is referenced in an inscription commemorating the victories of an Aramean king that was discovered in 1993. “Patterns of Evidence,” a 2015 documentary, provides plausible evidence for the Exodus by postulating that scholars were looking at the wrong dates in history.

When it comes to science, there are many claims that the Bible is in error. A representative list can be found here on Rational Wiki. Unlike Islam’s scientific claims, most of the problems have simple solutions. Some purported Biblical errors are due to a literal reading of passages that weren’t intended to be taken literally. For example, in Matthew 13:31-21, Jesus is not making the claim that there are no seeds physically smaller than a mustard seed, but that is the message that some critics get from the verse. Another example is Leviticus 11:20-23 in which the Biblical description of insects differs from the modern scientific definition. This problem is easily resolved by considering the differences in language between the Bible’s writers, later translators and modern readers. Deuteronomy 20:16-18 is held up as an error because DNA studies show that ancient Canaanites survived the Israelite invasion. The Deuteronomy verse shows that the Israelites were commanded to kill the Canaanites, but other verses, such as Judges 3:5-8 show that they failed to do so.

A claim that the Bible violates mathematic law is also dependent on assumptions by the reader. Critics claim that the large bowl described in 1 Kings 7:23-26 could not have existed because the measurements don’t fit the mathematic equation for circumference. If the Bible is right, they claim, pi would have to equal 3.0 instead of 3.14. Leaving aside rounding error and the lack of a standard measurement, the critics fail to note that the description of the brim of the bowl was “a handbreadth thick.” The equation could be thrown off by the difference between the inner and outer dimensions of the brim.

With respect to prophecy, the Bible makes numerous specific prophecies that can be tested against historical records for accuracy. Rational Wiki also provides a list of Biblical prophecies that the authors claim were in error. As even the compilers of the list acknowledge, some of these prophecies were contingent on the behavior of the recipients of the message. The classic example is Jonah’s prophecy that Nineveh would be destroyed in 40 days. The prophecy fulfilled its intended purpose when the people of Nineveh repented and so the prophecy was never fulfilled. Similarly, some prophecies are end-time prophecies that have not been fulfilled yet.

A more difficult case is the prophecy that Nebuchadnezzar would destroy the city of Tyre in Ezekiel 26. Critics say that the destruction of Tyre never happened and that the city continues to exist today on an island in contradiction to the prophecy. Archaeological evidence, however, suggests that the city of Tyre was primarily a mainland city in ancient days. Nebuchadnezzar apparently destroyed the mainland portion of the city while some survivors escaped to the island, which was later destroyed by Alexander the Great. One view is that fulfillment of the prophecy was begun by Nebuchadnezzar and completed by Alexander. Interestingly, verse 12 sounds like a very specific description of how Alexander used the rubble of the destroyed city to build a causeway to the island and finish Tyre’s destruction.

A few chapters later, in Ezekiel 29:17-20, the prophet talks about the destruction of Tyre as if it has already happened. In the same passage, he says that Nebuchadnezzar will defeat Egypt. This happened in 605 BC at the Battle of Carchemish.  Critics argue that Babylon never completely conquered Egypt, but the prophecy merely says that Nebuchadnezzar would plunder his enemy. Two other passages, Ezekiel 30 and Isaiah 19 are also cited as prophecies that were erroneous. The opinion of many theologians is that these are end-time prophecies that have yet to be fulfilled.

To me, one of the most compelling proofs of the Bible is what Rabbi Jonathan Cahn calls “the anti-witness” in his devotional book, “The Book of Mysteries.” Cahn points out that if the biblical claim that the Jews are God’s chosen people is not true, there would be no reason for the age-old persecution of Jews. Instead, we find that Jews not only have been the subject of attempts at racial extermination throughout history but that they have survived as a genetically and culturally distinct group more than 2,000 years after Judah ceased to exist as an independent kingdom.

A friend recently pointed out to me the historical evidence that God used hostile nations to judge the Jews, but then judged those nations in turn because they attacked his chosen nation. The pattern repeats many times. Egypt, a longtime enemy of ancient Israel, was conquered several times by Assyria, Persia and finally Rome in 31 BC. After the death of Solomon, ancient Israel split into two kingdoms, Israel and Judah. The kingdom of Israel was conquered by Assyria around 740 BC. Assyria became the conquered less than 150 years later in 612 BC at the hands of Medo-Persians and Babylonians. Judah was conquered by Babylon in 586 BC. Only 50 years later in 539 BC, Babylon fell to the Persians led by Cyrus the Great. In AD 70, Rome recaptured Jerusalem and destroyed the Jewish temple at the culmination of the First Jewish Revolt. Nine years later, Mt. Vesuvius erupted during a festival celebrating Vulcan, the god of fire. This eruption, which destroyed Pompeii and several other cities, still ranks as one of the worst volcanic disasters in history. In 1945, Germany’s extermination of Jews was interrupted by the country’s total defeat at the hands of the Allies. Since World War II, the modern state of Israel is undefeated even against numerically superior Arab forces. Clearly, making war on the Jews can be harmful to your health.

When it comes to determining the truth and validity of the Bible, there is an added complexity. The Bible is not one book but is actually an anthology that is broken into two parts: The Old and New Testaments. While many of the details of the Old Testament can be verified through archaeology, the New Testament largely consists of theological books and the story of Yeshua, a Jewish carpenter better known to the world as Jesus. These themes do not lend themselves to archaeological fact-checking.

Accordingly, some claim today that Jesus never existed and is only a fictional character. This point is easily disproved through ancient writings that reference Jesus as a real person. Validating Jesus’s claims of divinity are more difficult to prove, however.

Even though the New Testament books weren’t written down until long after the death (and alleged resurrection of Jesus), there is evidence that Paul’s letters contain early church creeds that confirm that the message of the books written later was true to the story of Jesus. The evidence is that the content of the New Testament has been unchanged since the first century.

Skeptics also dispute the gospel claims about the death and resurrection of Jesus, the foundation of the Christian faith. The details of gospel story have been thoroughly investigated and found plausible by such one-time skeptics as Josh McDowell, Lee Strobel, and J. Warner Wallace. I encourage any seeker to read their answers to skeptical charges that the gospel accounts are unreliable.

No matter how much evidence there is, in the final analysis there is no definitive proof for spiritual matters. Ultimately, everyone has to make a decision as to what they believe and how to react to that belief. Belief itself is not enough. James 2:19 points out that even the demons believe in God. Forgiveness and salvation only come when we add submission to God’s authority to our belief (Romans 10:9).

Even though I cannot offer conclusive proof that the Bible is true and that Jesus is the only way to heaven, I have made the choice to believe and accept that truth. This faith is not a blind faith. It’s based on a preponderance of the evidence.

Review: ‘The Paradigm’ By Jonathan Cahn

When Jonathan Cahn speaks, the Christian world takes notice. The messianic Jewish rabbi is most famous for The Harbinger, his 2012 book that detailed the striking parallels between ancient Jewish history detailed in the Bible and modern events that have shaped the world we live in today. The Harbinger and its follow up, The Shemitah, were both runaway best sellers.

Now Mr. Cahn is set to release his fourth book, The Paradigm: The Ancient Blueprint That Holds The Mystery of Our Times. In The Paradigm, due out September 19, Cahn has once again found a pattern in which American history seems to be replaying historical events that took place in the Middle East almost 3,000 years ago.

I have long thought that America seemed to be following the paradigm, or pattern, that the Bible described of ancient Israel. The nation was founded on the basis of God’s commandments and, while it followed and honored those commandments, it thrived. In ancient Israel, the people eventually rebelled against God in spite of the blessings that he had given them. Success became pride and pride led to sin and rebellion. I could see that America seemed to be following the same general pattern.

Rabbi Cahn takes the analogy a step further. Cahn describes how the United States, once a Christian nation, is following the pattern of allowing our success to lead us into apostasy. The parallels between modern culture and that of ancient Israel are eerily similar.

Cahn describes how the proliferation of Baal worship turned Israelite morality on its head. Marriage became separate from sexuality as prostitution became part of the worship of Baal, a Phoenician fertility god. As sex was removed from the marital bedroom, it was increasingly put on public display. As a result, culture became more coarse, crude and harsh. Even gender became subjective as male prostitutes became a part of Baal worship.

What was evil began to be viewed as good and what was good came to be viewed as evil. The remaining worshippers of the Lord came under persecution as a culture war raged for the soul of the country.

The most heinous part of Baal worship was the sacrifice of children to the monstrous deity. At first, child sacrifice was illegal, but eventually it became commonplace and was even endorsed by the government and practiced by the royal family. The obvious parallel here is the sacrifice of hundreds of thousands of babies through abortion, which was encouraged by the federal government in the administrations of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.

This general parallel should be alarming enough to those who are familiar with how Israelite history ends, but Cahn goes even further. He describes specific parallels between the dynasty of the Israelite King Ahab and his wife, the notorious Queen Jezebel, and American political history over the past 30 years. The links are too numerous and specific to list here, but Cahn vividly and in detail shows how the dynasty of Ahab has been replayed in American politics with astounding accuracy.

In ancient Israel, the reign of Ahab and his son Joram represented a defining moment. As the cult of Baal grew, Israel teetered on the brink of irreversible apostasy. In Biblical history, the turning point came when the prophet Elisha anointed Jehu, a soldier in Joram’s army and a political outsider, to become king. Jehu came from nowhere in a meteoric rise to upset the status quo. In a lightning fast campaign, Jehu killed Joram, the sitting king, and his mother, Jezebel, and assumed the throne of Israel.

Cahn says that the warrior Jehu arrived to deliver the country a temporary reprieve from apostasy and ultimate judgment. Jehu’s goal was reform toward worship of the Lord, an ancient version of “draining the swamp.” In that vein, he killed the prophets of Baal as well as the members of the royal lineage of Ahab and Joram.

Cahn points out that while Jehu was used by God to temporarily halt the Israelite slide into apostasy, he was not necessarily a man of God. “Some undoubtedly saw Jehu’s rise as a calamity,” Cahn writes. “Others saw it as the answer. It was neither. It was a window.”

Cahn makes the same case for the election of Donald Trump. The Trump Administration, he believes, represents a reprieve for America from irreversible apostasy. The question is what the president and the country do with the postponement of the ultimate rejection of God and the judgment that would follow. “A political answer cannot solve a spiritual problem,” Cahn says. The only way to avert judgment in the long run is through national repentance and revival. Trump’s election may provide an opportunity for that revival.

As in his other books, Cahn offers little in the way of prophetic claims for the future. His focus is on how God is sending messages to America through the modern echo of ancient Israel’s history. He does note that the Biblical Jehu was only partially successful in “making Israel great again.” The Bible tells us that Jehu “was not careful to keep the law of the Lord” and “did not turn away from the sin of Jereboam,” worshipping the idol of the golden calves. Jehu’s false religion was of a more nationalist nature than the foreign god imported by Ahab and Jezebel, but it was still sinful.

The revival necessary for the redemption of Israel never happened. It was in the years following Jehu’s reign that the signs that Cahn described in The Harbinger began to appear. The warnings and “shakings” were ignored and, ultimately, the kingdom of Israel was conquered by the Assyrians.

In discussing Jonathan Cahn’s books, it is important to note that he never engages in replacement theology which holds that America has become a new Israel. Instead, he presents parallels that he believes God is using as warnings for America. Cahn’s core message is that America is careening toward judgment unless we change course. He urges nonbelievers to repent and believers to follow the models of Elijah and Elisha who stood strong to resist the moral decline of their country.

Some will also say that the replaying of ancient Israelite history in modern America is a series of coincidences. As the series becomes larger and more detailed, the question becomes how many coincidences are necessary to show evidence of an omnipotent God who controls events and history. At some point, the odds against the manifestation of such an improbable series of events repeating itself become astronomical.

Jonathan Cahn makes a compelling case that America is following the same pattern of disobedience and rebellion that ultimately led the kingdom of Israel to destruction. Regardless of whether you accept Cahn’s conclusion that history is repeating itself in a way that seems preordained by a higher power, it seems clear that the country is on an unsustainable path.

If America is to be saved, it must repent. And if America is to repent, it needs people like Jonathan Cahn to sound the warning.

 

Hammering a Screw





The most popular book in the world is also the most misused book. Here’s why.

One of the most underrated passages in the Bible is in Proverbs 4.

The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom.
Though it cost all you have, get understanding.
(Proverbs 4:7)

King Solomon must have gone through a lot in his life to come to that conclusion. But one simple and profound revelation is that knowledge does not equal understanding. Understanding is the doing of something, while knowledge is simply knowing about it.

To illustrate this, one of my favorite YouTubers, Destin Sandlin, made a video about a bike he can ride, but you can’t. The Bible is no different. It’s a tool with a purpose, but some people have been using it wrong for millennia.

I’ll stick to some modern examples, because everyone trashes the Pharisees and the legalists. Today’s Biblical butchers are more on the Gnostic side–but they do what everyone with their own plan does: Come up with your own morality and use the Bible to justify it.

In 2012, Eliyahu Federman penned a HuffPo piece “Is Abortion Murder? A Biblical View Says ‘No’.”

Do those opposing abortion on religious grounds know that the Bible does not consider a fetus a full human life or the killing of a fetus murder?

If one flips through enough pages, conflates enough Scriptures from Genesis, Luke and Exodus, one can justify this view. And Federman did.

Of course he did.

In fact, I could easily justify slavery, prostitution, rape, bigamy, incest, and genocide using this method of Biblical exegesis. I could also use a hammer to pound in a screw and it might hold two pieces of wood together.

Matthew Vines wrote a whole book on how God blesses “gay Christians” using this method. Though many Biblical scholars debunked his arguments, many in the LGBT community applaud it, for obvious reasons. They are hammering screws.

The Bible has one purpose. It’s not a historical document, though it has history in it. It’s not a scientific document, although much of today’s science came from Bible scholars’ desire to understand Biblical principles. It’s not a treatise on botany, though many plants are described. It’s not a morality text, although much about morality is discussed. It’s not a financial plan, though money is one of its chief topics.

I could go on: marriage, child-rearing, war, oil recipes, and tent-making are also in the Bible.

But that is not the purpose of the book. It has one purpose: understanding God. And knowledge of the Bible does not equal understanding God any more than knowing how the gears of a bicycle work gives you understanding on how to ride it.

Understanding God comes one way, and one way only. It comes from knowing Him.

Let me illustrate this. If you’re married or have a boyfriend/girlfriend (or significant other, whatever), this applies to you. If you’ve got a brother or sister or parents it also applies, but I’ll use a wife as an example, since I have one.

If my wife wrote down the details of her life, her thoughts, her dreams, and her actions, all kind of mixed together, on a daily or weekly basis, and handed that to me, but I didn’t know her, I’d have lots of knowledge about my wife. But I’d have no understanding. In fact, I don’t think I could love her as a husband should having that knowledge.

If I did the same for her, and she didn’t know me, I think she’d run screaming from me. But she loves me because she knows me.

Why does God love us?

I think the answer there is clear. If God is God, then he knows us–you, me, my wife–intimately. He knows us and knows that we are worth loving. We are worth loving even as sinners. In this way, Matthew Vines is correct, and Federman is correct. God loves gay people, and God loves mothers who abort their children.

But that doesn’t mean sinners, including those who openly practice homosexuality, and abortionists understand God. The Bible says they don’t (Romans 1, 1 Corinthians 6:9, Revelation 21:8 and 22:15, Ephesians 5:5, etc).

Understanding God means knowing Him. Knowing God means practicing ways to be more like God. Paul wrote “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Jesus Christ.” None of us win while we’re here on earth. We are practicing for a better kingdom where we know Him fully (1 Corinthians 13:12).

How do we become more like God? We love everyone the way He does, even when it’s hard because we can’t see other people like God sees them. But we can take it on faith that He loves them just like He loves us.

The Bible is a tool built for one purpose (a uni-tasker if there ever was one). Love God, love your neighbor, in that order. Love God and then understand God. Using the Bible for any other purpose, to justify ideals, goals, and “vain imaginations” made by people is nothing more than hammering screws.

Politico Demonstrates a Shortsighted View of the Book of Proverbs

The way the news media approach scripture is always interesting. Quite often, the only time you’ll see a reporter or author quoting scripture in the media is when they are using a verse against a conservative, to call him or her a hypocrite or to throw a verse or two in his or her face (often out of context).

The latest example? Over at Politico, Joel Baden, a professor of Hebrew Bible at Yale Divinity School, has noticed that Marco Rubio has been tweeting scripture verses lately, many of them from Proverbs. So Baden decided to hold forth on what he calls “probably the most Republican book of the entire Bible.” Here’s a taste:

Some of the statements in Proverbs look strikingly similar to those made by modern-day conservative policymakers. Take, for example, Representative Mo Brooks (R-Ala.), who, arguing that poorer people should pay more for health care, recently said, “Those people who lead good lives, they’re healthy.” It’s not quite a direct quote from Proverbs, but it’s not too far from these: “The Lord does not let the righteous go hungry” (Proverbs 10:3) and “A slack hand causes poverty, but the hand of the diligent makes rich” (Proverbs 10:4).

With all due respect to Professor Baden, that comparison doesn’t exactly make sense. Those verses from Proverbs, which express the wisdom that God takes care of those who follow Him and that laziness leads to destitution, don’t exactly correlate to Brooks’ vague statement that good people lead healthy lives. Oh, and Proverbs doesn’t have anything to say about federal government health care policy. I’m not a biblical scholar, and I can see that.

Baden plays his political hand when he looks at the fact that Republicans tend to quote Proverbs more often in inaugural speeches than Democrats, and he points out Donald Trump’s illiteracy when it comes to scripture, as though he’s representative of rank-and-file conservative Christians.

Most interestingly, he shows the left’s shortsighted tendencies to politicize scripture when he oversimplifies entire book of Proverbs:

In the understanding of Proverbs, everyone gets what is coming to them; behavior is directly linked to reward or punishment. This worldview has social consequences: Those who succeed in life must be more righteous than those who struggle.

Baden also plays one of the left’s favorite tricks: suggesting scriptures for Republicans to read. (And he projects a little when he accuses only Republicans of confirmation bias: “concentrating exclusively on the parts of it that affirm one’s own perspective…”)

One might advise Rubio to read, and tweet, more widely: from Ecclesiastes, perhaps, or from prophets such as Amos: “Because you trample on the poor and take from them levies of grain, you have built houses of stone—but you shall not live in them” (Amos 5:11). Maybe Leviticus: “When a stranger resides with you in your land, you shall not wrong him. The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as one of your citizens; you shall love him as yourself” (Leviticus 19:33–34). Or even the gospels of the New Testament: “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the Kingdom of God” (Matt 19:24/Mark 10:25/Luke 18:25).

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: the Bible is not a political book. There’s very little in the Bible that applies to government policy, because it’s meant to be a guidebook on how we are to conduct ourselves in our individual and family lives.

Yes, both sides of the political aisle use and misuse scripture, but in Baden’s case, he shows a shortsighted view of the Bible. Maybe he just doesn’t understand Proverbs, even though he’s a professor of the Bible, but I don’t think that’s the case. More likely, he’s applying his own political biases to the timeless truth of God’s Word.

Left Panics Because Kentucky Schools Can Now Teach (Gasp!) The Bible

On Tuesday, Gov. Matt Bevin signed House Bill 128, which gives Kentucky public schools the right to teach the first book ever taught in America–the Bible.

Let’s move beyond the dizzying fact that in less than 100 years we’ve gone from a society where a well-rounded education could not possibly omit the Bible, to a place where such a legislative act is necessary. The American progressive left doesn’t want the Bible taught because that might make kids Biblically literate, and able to actually argue morality on merits versus by rote adherence to liberal tropes.

Daily Kos wasted no time predicting that teaching will become preaching.

What do you suppose will happen to that well-read and mouthy Kentucky 10th grader who challenges the veracity of biblical tales such as The Flood, the Exodus, the Resurrection?

Well, if the Bible was allowed in the classroom, maybe the whole class would be able to examine the evidence and philosophy of both positions, and everyone would be enlightened? I’m just guessing here.

So many Christians I know are considering pulling their children from public schools because liberal dogma is being shoved down their throats. Teaching the Bible doesn’t mean forced conversion to Christianity. It means the Bible would be examined in a light that liberals don’t want: examination without outright rejection and dismissal.

Liberals are afraid of the Bible because it’s dangerous to their ideals. It’s dangerous to their ideals because it’s true. They’d rather challenge Noah’s Ark and the first two chapters of Genesis than deal with the overwhelming historical and eyewitness evidence of the risen Christ. Or the archaeological evidence of ancient Israel supporting the historicity and immutability of the ancient texts.

This is why the ACLU has its panties in a wad.

“A Bible literacy bill that, on its face, may not appear to be unconstitutional, could in fact become unconstitutional in its implementation,” said Advocacy Director Kate Miller.

Miller told WDRB News the ACLU will monitor the law closely.

“We want to make sure that teachers can teach and make sure that they don’t go in to preach,” Miller said.

Let’s be serious here. Teachers know they can’t preach. But students do have First Amendment rights to share their faith. With the Bible taken out of the penalty box, kids are going to be able to read the text and hear the witness of their peers.

This has leftists terrified.

Millennials Should Learn from Us, Not Lead Us

Several months ago I read an article by a Christian-turned-atheist who actually bragged that they were “de-converted” because their small children posed unanswerable questions to them about their faith. I remember sitting there for some time after reading that, trying to figure out why a grown adult would ever publish such an admission, even if they were in fact incapable of matching the intellect of a 6-year-old.

We see similar peculiarity every election cycle when adults submit the sanctity of their vote to the wisdom of their children’s immature, if not cute, political observations. Even political science professors jump on this mindless phenomenon, not to condemn the ignorance of letting toddlers just out of diapers determine the direction of the free world, but to applaud it. Take University of Colorado (Denver) prof Michael Cummings who wrote in his book, “Children’s Voices in Politics”:

“There are some very young people, politically precocious, who have strong ideas about public policy.”

He suggests that kids as young as 5 have some really engaging thoughts on issues like homelessness, the environment, and education, and that perhaps it is time to consider letting kids vote as soon as they want to vote.

Enough.

Let me preface this by saying that you won’t find too many people that have a stronger appreciation for youth, or a desire to work with them, instruct them, guide them, laugh with them, connect with them, and try to be a positive role model for them. I’ve dedicated my life to those things and am consistently blessed by the experience. And one of the greatest joys in my work is to see how so many of those high school kids, flush with passion but lacking in wisdom, grow and mature as they age.

That maturing is increasingly a challenging prospect, however, in a society that seems to worship youth simply for being young. Products and merchandise are prolifically peddled to keep us looking younger, feeling younger, and acting younger. From a physical standpoint, that makes a modicum of sense. Most people would prefer the curves and chiseled physique of a 20-something to the lumps and wrinkles of a 75-year-old.

But from an intellectual, logical, or philosophical perspective, idolizing youth is about as dumb as it gets. From across the pond, Clare Foges exposes precisely why in a piece blasting the absurdity of regarding young people as “political sages”:

[W]hat is galling is the veneration of youthful opinion regardless of the sense it makes; this growing idea that being under 25 confers some special sagacity that the rest of us might benefit from. A generation reared to revere the words “empowerment” and “respect” is demanding that they are empowered and their views respected.

Last week’s election revealed the judgment of many young voters to be as we might expect of those with relatively limited experience: hopelessly naive. They turned out in their droves for a man who became a kind of millennials’ prophet; promising to lead them out of the badlands of austerity and towards a future where everything is nicer, cheaper, or indeed free. They voted for a man who would have endangered our economy, the whisper of whose name can send the pound on a swan-dive.

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There is no wisdom here, no great lesson to be learnt; just the insight that many young people rather like being offered free stuff and ask few questions about how, ultimately, that stuff is funded.

Sound familiar? In addition to other demographic exploitation, America suffered for the last eight years under this same hopelessly naïve political approach. While some lamented the voters who chose Barack Obama because he was (half) black, I was far more concerned with the voters who picked him because he was “cool.”

  • For these youthful voters, his “dabbing” on Ellen overshadowed the galling reality that he racked up more debt than all previous presidents combined.
  • They overlooked the tragic realities that his backwards foreign policy led to the rise of ISIS and endangered the free world as never before, because he “slow-jammed the news” with Jimmy Fallon.
  • The fact that he shot baskets with Clark Kellogg and filled out an NCAA bracket every year was of more importance to them than the failure of his signature healthcare policy that stripped coverage from millions and raised premiums on nearly everyone in the country.

This is the problem inherent in a youthful mind, it overemphasizes idealism and undervalues consequence; its grasp on reality can be obscured by impassioned rhetoric and emotion. If the Obama phenomenon wasn’t proof of that, consider who millennials turned to in droves during the most recent campaign: a socialist once marginalized in Congress for his hair-brained adherence to failed pie-in-the-sky economic fantasies.

Which brings us back to Foges’ analysis:

Yet the passionate sense of grievance among many young people — that theirs is a generation uniquely betrayed by the generations above — should not simply be “listened to” as though it were true; it must be robustly challenged…What should be challenged too is the youthful expectation of a free lunch. For instance, many 18 to 24-year-olds — reared on the language of rights — believe it their right to receive a free university education, as Corbyn [read Bernie or Barack in America] exploited so successfully. What must be communicated to young people is not congratulations for backing wish-list politics but the reality that public resources are finite.

Wishing for a better world is nothing to be derided, and there is always something appealing about youthful enthusiasm…But when it comes to the way we run our country, we have a duty not to kowtow to youthful dreaming but to confront some of the myths that underpin it. There is no such thing as a free lunch. Socialism is a proven disaster. These might not make for inspiring Facebook posts but they have the virtue of being the truth.

I wholeheartedly concur. And as one who loves and works with young people every day, I would hasten to add that the greatest service we can render to them is not lionizing their idealism, but rather disciplining them to remember it is never an adequate substitute for wisdom and truth.