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Conspiracy Theories

Conspiracy Theories and the Need to Understand, Author Christopher DOMBRES (CC BY-SA 4.0 International)

The internet is buzzing with conspiracy theories that dispute the validity of mass shootings and attribute dark motives to hidden cabals [1].  The so called “deep state” is said to have hired “crisis actors”” to convince gullible citizens to give up their weapons, in a misguided effort to prevent more deaths from gun violence.  So the theories go.

There is a certain comfort in these explanations of events that – to many of us – feel incomprehensible, as well as threatening.  The heated and divisive political atmosphere prevailing give such explanations added power.

We should consider carefully, however, before we place our trust in conspiracy theories.

For one thing, the brain is wired in such a way as to make conspiracy theories attractive – whether they are accurate or not.  For another, Christians are warned not to trust in things with a spiritual dimension merely because they are “urged with vehemence, zeal, or plausibility” [2A].  We are instead to apply “the appropriate tests from reason and the word of God…” [2B].

Wiring Errors

Conspiracy theories have appeal because of the way the human brain is engineered.

Pattern – The brain is designed to seek out and detect patterns.  This can deceive us into seeing patterns where none exist.  Most of us, for example, can see the face of the “man in the moon” if we stare hard enough.  That is not, however, proof of his existence.

Intentionality – The brain seeks rational explanations.  This can deceive us into believing hidden motivations underlie random events.  We prefer any explanation to none at all.

Proportionality – When events are particularly shocking, we are inclined to believe the explanation for them must be proportional.  It is, in other words, difficult for us to believe Pres. John F. Kennedy was assassinated by a single gunman.

Errors in Judgment

Biblical discernment is the ability to decide between truth and falsehood, right and wrong [3].  It is the responsibility of Christians to be discerning about the things of God:

Test all [spiritual] things; hold fast what is good.  Abstain from every form of evil” (1 Thess. 5: 21-22).

We are instructed that two or three prophets should speak, and others weigh carefully what is said (1 Cor. 14: 29).  In fact, the ability to distinguish between good and evil spirits is a gift of the Holy Spirit not all possess to equal degree (1 Cor. 12: 10).

“[However] Christianity does not require people to disregard their reason, or to be credulous.  It does not expect them to believe anything because others say it is so.  It does not make it a duty to receive as undoubted truth all that synods and councils have decreed; or all that is advanced by the ministers of religion.”

-Barnes’ Notes on the Bible [2C]

The Word of God provides us guidance in every area of life.  God grants us “all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him” (2 Peter 1: 3).  Unfortunately, Christians often engage in unbiblical thinking.  Unfamiliar with the Word of God, they are swayed by worldly influences.

Read more…

Education, Part 2 – Acceptable Violence

Dressing change, Author kcxd, Source https://www.flickr.com/photos/26786061@N00/6434955639/, (CC BY-SA 2.0 Generic)

Schools today regularly hold drills on when to lock doors, and hide in classrooms.  However, in the time required to secure a classroom against a shooter, a child can bleed to death.

An initiative known as “Stop the Bleed” offers teachers in all 50 states training on how to stop bleeding, in the event of another school shooting [1].  Some 125,000 teachers, counselors, and administrators have taken this medical training nationwide.

It is a remarkable commentary on our times that classrooms are now stocking tourniquets, gauze, and bandages, while school staples like chalk are in short supply.

At some level, violence has become acceptable.  Since we can conceive of no other remedy to stem it, teachers are actually being urged to arm [2]. Read more…

Education, Part 1 – Willful Ignorance

Old books, Hendrik Conscience Heritage Library, Antwerp, Author missmarettaphotography (CC BY-SA 4.0 International)

“We don’t need no education.
We don’t need no thought control…
Teachers leave them kids alone.
Hey!  Teachers!  Leave them kids alone!
All in all it’s just another brick in the wall…”

-“Another Brick in the Wall” by Pink Floyd

There is a disturbing trend in America to applaud ignorance, as if the pursuit of higher education were somehow unmanly…even unAmerican [1].

Generations relied on the sweat of their brow to advance the American dream.  There is no shame in that fact.  It was always, however, the goal that their children should have more opportunities than they did.

With the complicity of our politicians, that concept is being lost.

Tax cuts are never unpopular with the electorate.  In fact, the Tea Party demanded them, as a protest against uncontrolled government spending and perceived waste.  On a state level, however, tax cuts have had a dramatic and detrimental impact on the quality of education in this country [2].

A reduction in state revenue has resulted in increased class size, deteriorating infrastructure, and decreased resources (with teachers often providing badly needed classroom supplies at personal expense) [3][4].  Reduced tax revenue is the root cause behind teacher salaries stagnant at 1990s levels in many states [5]. Read more…

Nehemiah – Rebuilding the Wall

Broken wall, Commondale Moor, UK, Author Mike Garratt, Source geograph.org.uk (CC BY-SA 2.0 Generic)

The words of Nehemiah…

It came to pass… that…one of my brethren came with men from Judah; and I asked them concerning the Jews…who had survived the captivity, and concerning Jerusalem.  And they said to me, ‘The survivors who are left from the captivity in the province are there in great distress and reproach.  The wall of Jerusalem is also broken down, and its gates are burned with fire.’

So it was, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned for many days; I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven.

And I said:  ‘I pray, Lord God of heaven, O great and awesome God… for the children of Israel Your servants, and confess the sins of the children of Israel which we have sinned against You…We have acted very corruptly against You, and have not kept the commandments, the statutes, nor the ordinances which You commanded Your servant Moses.  Remember, I pray, the word that You commanded Your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations; but if you return to Me, and keep My commandments and do them, though some of you were cast out to the farthest part of the heavens, yet I will gather them from there, and bring them to the place which I have chosen as a dwelling for My name.’  Now these are Your servants and Your people, whom You have redeemed by Your great power, and by Your strong hand.  O Lord, I pray, please let Your ear be attentive to the prayer of Your servant…” (Nehemiah 1: 1-11).

The cupbearer to King Artaxerxes I of Persia, Nehemiah was made governor of the province of Judah following the Babylonian Captivity, and successfully rebuilt the protective wall surrounding Jerusalem.

Nehemiah assisted the priest and scribe, Ezra, in making the law of Moses again known to the people which resulted in a spiritual revival.

How many Christians today are fasting and praying for the welfare of this nation?  At a time that political corruption is rampant, environmental disasters threaten, and nuclear war could easily devastate the planet, surely we should all be on our knees. Read more…

BOOK REVIEW – Against the Flow, Part 2

“Daniel’s Vision of the Four Beasts” by Matthaus Merian (1630), Source http://www.johannesoffenbarung.ch/die_himmel/drach_antichrist.php (PD-Art, Old-100)

In Against the FlowThe Inspiration of Daniel in an Age of Relativism author, John Lennox analyzes the biblical Book of Daniel in depth.  In the latter part of the book, he addresses the four visions of Daniel which deal with end time prophecy.

Lennox compares these four visions to a series of photographs of the same image taken using different wavelengths of light.  Each vision reinforces the others while, also, providing unique information.  Combined they give us a clear picture of what the future holds in store for Christians and the world.

The Four Beasts

As many Christians know, Daniel first had a vision of four wild beasts emerging from a troubled sea.

These had the appearance of a lion with the wings of an eagle, a bear raised up on one side with three ribs between its teeth, a leopard with four heads and four wings, and an unnamed beast with ten horns and iron teeth.

The beasts represent a series of empires arising from the roiling sea of nations:  Babylonian, Medo-Persian, Greek, and Roman.  The empires increase sequentially in ferocity.

John Lennox explains that the symbolism is comparable to that in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream (the statue of a man with a head of gold, arms and chest of silver, stomach and thighs of bronze, legs of iron, and feet a mixture of iron and clay).

Lennox links it, also, to Revelation, specifically the beast with ten heads, and seven horns described by John.  As Lennox explains to us, the fourth beast is not some abstract idea of power, but an actual human being in the person of the Antichrist.

Essential for an understanding of this dense symbolism is Paul’s discussion of the Great Apostacy and the Second Coming of Christ in 2 Thessalonians:

Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ…that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God…For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way.  And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming.  The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved” (2 Thess. 2: 1, 3-4, 7-10).

Paul describes in plain language what Daniel and Revelation describe in symbolic terms:  the final form world power (and human rebellion against God) will take, and the utter destruction of such power/rebellion by Christ.

The Ram and Goat

In Daniel’s second vision, he saw a rampaging ram.  The ram was invincible until gored by a goat with a single horn.  At the height of the goat’s strength, its horn broke and was replaced by four others.  Out of one of these horns grew a small horn which increased rapidly to enormous size.  This horn desecrated the sanctuary, but was ultimately brought to justice by a heavenly court.

The ram is the Medo-Persian empire, and the goat the Greek.  The large horn of the goat represents Alexander the Great who was succeeded by four generals. Read more…

BOOK REVIEW – Against the Flow, Part 1

“Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego” by Simeon Solomon (1863) (PD-Art, Old-100)

Acclaimed Oxford University Professor, John Lennox, has written another book with significance for Christians confronting the modern world.  Against the Flow – The Inspiration of Daniel in an Age of Relativism is an analysis of the biblical Book of Daniel.  Lennox finds striking parallels between the Prophet Daniel’s time and our own.

Lennox examines the Book of Daniel systematically, addressing the faithfulness of Daniel, Hananiah (Shadrach), Mishael (Meshach), and Azariah (Abednego), young boys forcibly transported from their homeland during the Babylonian Captivity; Nebuchadnezzar’s dream; Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the fiery furnace; the madness of Nebuchadnezzar; Belshazzar’s feast; Daniel in the lion’s den; and Daniel’s own prophetic visions [1].

In the process, Lennox discusses a variety of other topics including the flawed nature of man, the Kingdom of God, the perils of various forms of government, and the deification of man.

The Flawed Nature of Mankind

“History teaches a consistent lesson:  there is something obviously wrong with human nature…’A great and prolonged police strike, the existence of a revolutionary situation…and the exhilaration of conquest in an enemy country are likely to show up the seamy side of human nature amongst people who, cushioned and guided by the influences of normal social life, have hitherto presented a respectable figure to the world’ ” (pp. 125-126).

-Against the Flow by John Lennox

The author begins from the premise that mankind is flawed, as Christian theology teaches and history amply demonstrates.

“…[U]nrecognized flaws in human nature such as pride, cupidity, and self-centeredness can produce a dangerous self-righteousness that convinces people they are one hundred per cent right, and others similarly wrong…Christendom itself has been guilty at times of such self-righteousness, [as] when it tortured and burned heretics in a supposed effort to ‘save’ their souls.  But that attitude has also characterized…political movements, such as Nazism and Marxism, with their vast toll on human life” (pp.126-127).

-Against the Flow by John Lennox

John Lennox does not exempt Christians from this assessment of the flawed nature of mankind.  In fact, he warns Christians not to become self-righteous.

“There is a deep flaw in human nature, but humans still perversely insist on placing their faith in it…[T]he only satisfactory answer to man’s flaw is God’s supernatural power…” (pp. 128, 132).

-Against the Flow by John Lennox

John Lennox drives home the point that human beings persist in their error, that pride leads them to judge God by human standards.

The author explores how the failure to believe in God actually corrupts reason, as reflected – among other things – by degenerate imagery in art and entertainment. Read more…

Fake News

Edward R. Murrow (1947), Source CBS Radio (PD as published in US 1923-1977 without copyright notice)

“American traditions and the American ethic require us to be truthful, but the most important reason is that truth is the best propaganda and lies are the worst.  To be persuasive we must be believable; to be believable we must be credible; to be credible we must be truthful.  It is as simple as that.”

-Journalist, Edward R. Murrow, testifying before a Congressional Committee (May 1963)

The renowned journalist, Edward R. Murrow, said that about his profession a half century ago.  But it no longer seems to apply.  The line between fact and opinion, truth and falsehood, in journalism and government has been blurred to such an extent that we can no longer distinguish one from the other.

The consequences for our democracy will be dire.

News Bias

Americans may prefer to believe what sounds appealing and confirms their worldview.  Liberals can choose news with a liberal bias; conservatives can choose news with a conservative slant.  Truth, we are told, is relative.  Image, we are told, is everything.

But reality has a nasty way of making its presence known.

And facts matter.  We determine public policy based upon them…at least, we once did.  Now it appears that lobbyists determine how we allocate billions of taxpayer dollars – facts be damned!

Historical Truth

“Today, and every day from now on, we will be with you from America to talk about the war… The news may be good or bad for us – We will always tell you the truth.”

-Pledge by Voice of America, official international broadcaster of the US Federal Government

Did the Holocaust actually take place?  Edward R. Murrow confirmed from Buchenwald concentration camp that it did.  Radio broadcasts by the Voice of America sustained the French Resistance during WWII, and those behind the Iron Curtain in the decades afterward.

But historical truth is another thing we are losing.

Dictatorships and the Credibility of the Press

We may argue over what facts mean, what they signify.  But we ought to be able to agree on what they are. Read more…

Rabboni

“Christ’s Appearance to Mary Magdalene after the Resurrection” by Alexander Ivanov (1835), Russian State Museum, St. Petersburg (PD-Art, Age-100)

“…she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus.  Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping?  Whom are you seeking?’

“She, supposing Him to be the gardener, said to Him, ‘Sir, if You have carried Him away, tell me where You have laid Him, and I will take Him away.’

“Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’

She turned and said to Him, ‘Rabboni!’ ” (which is to say, Teacher)” (John 20: 14-16).

Have a blessed Easter!

READERS CAN FIND MY VIEWS ON ABUSE AND ABUSE-RELATED ISSUES AT ANNA WALDHERR A Voice Reclaimed, Surviving Child Abuse https://avoicereclaimed.com

Above All

READERS CAN FIND MY VIEWS ON ABUSE AND ABUSE-RELATED ISSUES AT ANNA WALDHERR A Voice Reclaimed, Surviving Child Abuse https://avoicereclaimed.com

Before Pilate

“Ecce Homo (Behold the Man!)” by Antonio Ciseri (1862), Museo Contonale d’Arte (PD-Art, PD-Old 100)

Pontius Pilate served as the Roman prefect of Judea from AD 26 to 36.

Pilate is mentioned in the four canonical Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), by the Roman historian Tacitus, by the Jewish historians Josephus and Philo of Alexandria, and others.  What we remember about Pilate, however, is his involvement in the trial of Christ.

Those familiar with the Gospels will recall the details of that trial:  how Pilate inquired whether Christ was an earthly king, in rebellion against Rome; how Pilate declared having found no fault in Christ; how Pilate offered to set Christ free for the crowd; how Pilate washed his hands, in a futile gesture proclaiming his innocence of Christ’s blood. Read more…