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Daniel of Doulogos Name:Daniel
Home: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
About Me: I used to believe that evolution was reasonable, that homosexuality was genetic, and that people became Christians because they couldn't deal with the 'reality' that this life was all there was. I used to believe, that if there was a heaven - I could get there by being good - and I used to think I was more or less a good person. I was wrong on all counts. One day I finally had my eyes opened and I saw that I was not going to go to heaven, but that I was certainly going to suffer the wrath of God for all my sin. I saw myself as a treasonous rebel at heart - I hated God for creating me just to send me to Hell - and I was wretched beyond my own comprehension. Into this spiritual vacuum Jesus Christ came and he opened my understanding - delivering me from God's wrath into God's grace. I was "saved" as an adult, and now my life is hid in Christ. I am by no means sinless, but by God's grace I am a repenting believer - a born again Christian.
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Daniel's posts are almost always pastoral and God centered. I appreciate and am challenged by them frequently. He has a great sense of humor as well.
- Marc Heinrich

His posts are either funny or challenging. He is very friendly and nice.
- Rose Cole

[He has] good posts, both the serious like this one, and the humorous like yesterday. [He is] the reason that I have restrained myself from making Canadian jokes in my posts.
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This post contains nothing that is of any use to me. What were you thinking? Anyway, it's probably the best I've read all day.
- David Kjos

Daniel, nicely done and much more original than Frank the Turk.
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There are some people who are smart, deep, or funny. There are not very many people that are all 3. Daniel is one of those people. His opinion, insight and humor have kept me coming back to his blog since I first visited earlier this year.
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Tuesday, March 30, 2010
One of the great things about...
...praying for others, is that it forces you to be honest with God; assuming your prayers can stray into the "right thing to say, but not said with your heart" category.

I know from reading scripture what my prayers should look like. When I pray, I suppose I subconsciously make sure my prayers are to the best of my ability, proper; that is even if and when my heart isn't exactly contrite the words of my prayers are. Which is pretty sad, since God isn't fooled by lucid and orthodox articulations if the heart that is forming these words isn't tied to them.

So it is that often when I am in prayer, and I say "often" to my own shame, I have had to stop in the middle of saying the right thing, and ask myself whether I actually mean what I am so eloquently saying, or trying to say.

I may learn a thing or two about myself from "Christian living". I may gain insight into the human condition through reading scripture, but I tell you, I learn more about my own sinful condition through prayer than through any other means. Assuming my experience is not a statistical anomaly, but is an experience common to all who spend time each day in prayer, then I can say with some conviction that those who consider intercessory prayer a daily duty and not a "monthly maybe" are probably going to have a far more real assessment of both who they are before God, and who they are in Christ.

You see it is one thing it have the head knowledge that one is accepted by God in the Beloved (Christ), and quite another to come daily before the throne, in the mire of our own imperfect lives, and be forced upon learning some new and horrible truth about the depth of our own depravity, that we are not heard on high because our perfections, but that even in our imperfections we have God's ear "in Christ. The former is the doctrine, the latter is the living it out.

I like to muse about those who spend all their time perfecting a theology they never get around to really living out. Which is not to denigrate the need for study, or the pursuit of a right theology; for without such things one suffers loss; but rather to say that some are inclined to pursue the one for it's own sake, rather than for the sake of living it. You know people like that - they have an opinion on everything theological - and usually it is an extreme opinion, but they lack grace and love and life in expressing it.

Which is not meant as a polemic against such things, rather I mention it because I thought about it while I happened to be typing this out. The link being that the same sort of disconnect is there - an adherence to religion, whether institutionalized, or self-made; that doesn't translate into actual obedient living.

I preached this Sunday on the difference between Saturation and Motivation. I said that scripture teaches us to be saturated with many things - to be in prayer always, to give thanks always, to rejoice always, etc., and that some immature Christians take such commands and after building for themselves a model of what healthy Christianity should look like, they err in imagining such things are intended to motivate them to Christian living.

Let me exposit that for a bit. I mean that they find themselves naturally disobedient towards God, and imagine that this disobedience flows out of some corruption in their faith - a corruption that they have spent, and continue to spend, the lion's share of their energy fruitlessly trying to overcome. The idea is that if they can just over come this deadness in themselves, that new life will spring out - and that obedience will not only become easy, it will be suddenly something they truly and passionately are driven to do.

The problem, I stated in my preaching, is that they imagine that Christians only have to obey God when and if they are properly motivated. They rightly conclude that we are to worship God in spirit and in truth, that we are to be holy, submitted, etc. etc. but conclude that all this comes -after- God zaps us with "grace" - but by grace here, they think some sort of mind altering, and desire altering mystic changing of our being so that our sinful flesh, which has no desire to do God's will whatsoever, is suddenly and powerfully "gagged" or suppressed, leaving only that good desire which is from God, so that we effortlessly begin to obey God and everything is beautiful in the world.

The fact, I said, is that we are God's slaves.

The reason a slave obeys his master is because he is a slave. That's his motivation. Yes we are to be saturated by God, and that saturation will make the burden light - but we don't wait around for the burden to get light; that is, we don't try and psyche ourselves up with the "right" spiritual™ motivation, rather our motivation is that we are God's slaves, and slaves obey.

I know that sounds a little utilitarian, or perhaps even mercenary for some, but it is never the less true. Jesus came to earth, and lived the life of God's slave, having emptied Himself of everything else, setting His own eartly desires aside, He commended Himself to doing the will of the Father while on earth. Are we more free than our Lord and Savior? Did He come to serve, and not be served, so that we could not serve and be served? Where the Master is, there the servant is also.

The point is that rather than looking to our subjective feelings for the "juice" to obey for today, we should be looking to God and saying, just as in the parable, that even should our obedience as slaves become flawless we will only be unprofitable, having done what was expected of us.

A lot of Christians are struck dumb at the thought that God actually expects us to obey Him. We run around "wanting" to obey, but find that it is difficult, so we think there is something wrong with us, and instead of obeying God "because we are slaves" we try to obey God "because we feel like it" - and so embark on a fruitless quest to capture the magical "obedience feeling" that we tell ourselves we lack.

Listen: the lepers were healed as they obeyed. The pattern in scripture is that when you obey, God is merciful. Contrition moves the heart of God. The heart that says, "I will obey the moment you make it easy to do so" is not a contrite heart, it is a rebellious heart, and likely making excuses that, when examined closely, translate into it being God's fault that one isn't obeying. He didn't give me the power, or the strength, or what have you.

God does give power, and strength, but not to those who demand it and stand aloof until they receive it. Surrender your heart to God, obey Him for no other reason than because He is your Master and you are His slave. I mean, you do love God, so this isn't tyrannical, or mean, it is an expression of love on your part - an act of worship - so don't demand that God primes your pump further. He has chosen you, directed his mercy towards you while you were yet a sinner. Called you to Himself and given you faith to believed to the saving of your soul. Were that not enough, He Himself has put His own Spirit into you, as a guarantee until the day that you are redeemed in full. He is with you, and surrounding you on all sides with every opportunity, and has even opened a way in Christ for you to talk to Him directly - a throne that you can come to by grace; so that you have every reason to obey Him, love, gratitude, joy, peace, etc. But you are not called to obey God out of gratitude or love (you should be saturated by these things, not motivated by them), rather you obey because of who you are in Christ - God's slave.

One of the things I wish I had closed on, in that particular sermon, was the thought that every command that God gives; every act of obedience that God demands, is intended for our own joy. God commands us to live in such a way as to bring about our greatest joy. His commands are not self serving, but serve us and our joy. To disobey them is to turn away from life and joy, peace and grace and mercy. It is to invite suffering and sorrow into our existence; and to obey is to draw near to the Creator upon whom our lives depend, and for whom our lives exist. That yes we are slaves, and yes we should learn to obey God "because" we are slaves, looking to no other truth to motivate us unto obedience - but let us not imagine that we are slaves to some cosmic tyrant, but rather as children let us obey our Father for He loves us, and knows what will bring about our greatest joy - the very thing that His commandments are intended to foster.

Anyway, these are just my thought this morning. My hope is that they are edifying.

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posted by Daniel @ 8:29 AM   8 comment(s)
Monday, March 29, 2010
Did Saul See Samuel's Ghost or Not? Part -X- (conclusion)
Review
We have given some consideration to the various aspects of this study, and have been careful (I hope) to consider the matter both from scripture and from a rational sense of reason. We have first considered the possibility that Samuel's ghost, really was there, and concluded that for this to have been the case, we have to step away from both what is biblical, and what is likely. Our examination did not rule out the possibility, but suggested that there was very little support for it.

We showed that the arguments from "reason" that support the notion that Samuel's actual "ghost" being actually present are not compelling. We demonstrated this by showing that the presumptions behind the arguments are entirely speculative, such that one can make equally compelling arguments using entirely different speculations.

My Conclusion
In grade school we played this game I am sure everyone reading is familiar with. We would sit in the proverbial circle, and the teacher would whisper something in the ear of the first child, who would repeat what he or she heard into the ear of the next child in the circle, and so on until two minutes later the last child repeats the message, and we see that the message is far removed from the original that was first whispered by the teacher.

Given my understanding of what a medium was - not someone who has some supernatural power to see into the spirit world, as television portrays such - but rather a demonized person who, in knowing defiance of God, seeks visions from a familiar spirit (or "demon"), I think it fair to record the chain of whispers, if you will, between God and Saul if this was the actual Samuel:

Saul speaks to the medium
The medium inquires of her demon
The demon summons up Samuel
Samuel recites his personal revelation from God
The demon projects this in a vision to the medium
The medium describes the vision to Saul.

In order to believe that what the medium described to Saul was in fact a spiritual reality, we have to believe that Samuel is going behind God's back to supply the demon with information, since God has denied Saul this information through legitimate means. We also have to believe that the demon, though God's enemy, is inclined to faithfully pass along the message in the form of a vision given to the medium, and again that the medium, though an abominable defier of God's commands, nevertheless is faithful to give Saul the straight goods.

Alternately, if I regard the narrative as a literal telling of the events from Saul's perspective; that is, it doesn't describe what is going on spiritually, but rather records (unapologetically) the details of the meeting with the medium, as they happened, and the spiritual components as they were described by the medium. If we take this route, and I am inclined this way after all is said and done, The whisper chain, after God refused to answer Saul, looks like this:

Saul inquires of the medium
the medium inquires of her familiar spirit (demon)
the demon gives a vision to the medium
the medium describes what the demon makes her see to Saul.

In this chain, Samuel doesn't show up; the demon just projects Samuel into the vision he provides to the medium; which is entirely in character (I might add) with a spirit who actively serves the father of lies and his plans and purpose. This demon, and probably every demon, would be well aware of all the things he puts into Samuel's mouth, since God doesn't do such things in a corner.

Conclusion

In the final analysis it comes down to a question of credibility.

Certainly both Saul and the medium are convinced that the apparition seen in the medium's vision is in fact Samuel. This series does not contend otherwise. The question we have set out to answer is whether what was supplied to the medium by the demon was a legitimate portrayal of Samuel, or a demonic lie. The text doesn't explicitly state that this was a demonic vision, but I think early readers of the text would have implicitly understood this to be so.

I conclude therefore that this was not Samuel, but a demonic vision given to the medium.

Having Said That...

I have no emotional investment in this opinion. There are doctrinal hills well worth defending,... but this isn't one of them. The close examination we gave this text was not primarily intended to make a point, but rather to exercise myself and the reader in examining a text in scripture. If you have followed along, and used your brain and scripture to weigh these thoughts, then the exercise was probably fruitful.

If someone wants to argue that I am wrong, or right, they have missed the point.
posted by Daniel @ 11:00 AM   5 comment(s)
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
iPhone Remote Keyless Entry?
As a programmer, and gadget lover, I was wondering today whether or not I could program my iPhone to remotely unlock the doors on my vehicle. I mean, why not? The same chip on the iPhone (well, the 3G-S iPhone at least) that enables Bluetooth™ and WiFi, is also an FM radio transmitter and receiver.

I know there are a few gag apps in the iTunes app store that pretend to unlock your vehicle, but I thought, how hard could it be to write a genuine app?

Well, the truth is it wouldn't be all that hard to write the app if the hardware could do it, and the FM drivers were included as part of the iPhone OS.

Let's start with the driver. In order for the operating system to communicate with (i.e. make use of) the FM transmitter portion of the chip, it would need to know "how" to do that. The "how" is why we would need a driver, since the driver is like a command interface, you tell it what you want it to do, and it goes to the chip and does it. If you don't have the driver, it is like a car with no gas - all the parts are there, but the thing that makes it "go" is missing. The chip is certainly there, but this functionality hasn't been included as part of the OS (as yet).

If the driver to both transmit and receive were present, an iPhone could easily be used as a radio walkman sort of thing, or turned into a rather weak walkie-talkie; or even just transmit your iTunes songs or audio from video to the fm transmitter in your car wirelessly, and without intermediate hardware. You would just turn on your app, transmit to a station (usually around 88 MHz), and then tune in your radio and listen to your iTunes on the radio.

This is all quite do-able, in fact the chip was designed for that sort of stuff. Apple just hasn't enabled it.

Which is why I was thinking that since remote keyless entry systems send their encrypted key pulses through an FM signal; it was possible, in theory at least, if Apple ever got around to including and FM driver in their OS, to write an app that could "read" the signal of your "Fob" then retransmit the same signal from the app. It wouldn't have the range of a standard keyless fob, but it would easily work in the 30 to 40 ft. range.

You will note from this page, that the FM receiver/transmitter (in the chip that resides in an iPhone) operates only in the range of 76MHz to 108MHz; that is, it receives, and can transmit in this narrow band only. But here is the rub: most keyless entry systems in North America work on 315MHZ in North America (433.93MHz in Europe), so even if Apple included drivers to enable the FM transmitting capability of the iPhone, the chip itself could not transmit on a high enough frequency to unlock a door. The best you could do would be, maybe to add a lot of static to someone's nearby radio signal.

Sigh.

That means that, at present at least, it is impossible for a stock iPhone to mimic a vehicular keyless entry system...

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posted by Daniel @ 8:07 AM   7 comment(s)
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
Did Saul See Samuel's Ghost or Not? Part -IX-
Prologue

I plan on wrapping this up in the next post. I know, it isn't must of a prologue, but there are some who are following that I am sure would like to know that this train eventually will pull into a station.

Review

In the last post we asked whether the bible teaches that spirits have both the authority and ability to compel the spirits of the departed to return to the world of the living for their own personal interrogation.

The question presumes that the spirits of the dead are available for questioning, so we first examined whether scripture even allowed the possibility, and our conclusion was that scripture does not preclude the possibility.

Given that scripture didn't deny the premise of the question, we examined, from scripture, the known powers and authority given to spirits, both as a survey in and of itself, and more particularly, to see if Spirits could compel men to do things they were not otherwise inclined to do. This we did in order to establish whether it was reasonable to conclude that a spirit could compel Samuel against his will - for we presume that if God was not inclined to answer Saul through legitimate means, it followed that God would likewise not be inclined to answer Saul through Samuel - unless Samuel could be coerced by the familiar spirit being employed by the medium.

We began by showing that our Lord gave authority to the twelve, and then to the seventy, over unclean spirits (demons), and all their power. We drew a point from this, and demonstrated its truth from scripture, that all authority comes from God, so that no creature (human, spirit, or otherwise) can act in any way unless God allows/permits it.

We showed from scripture that God has on occasion allowed spirits to compel men, either by deceit, or possession. In this way we established the fact that spirits do have the ability to compel, men while they live either through deceit or direct intervention, but we have no way to be certain that this authority extends beyond the grave.

Our honest examination of these things does not convince us that Samuel was definitely drawn out of his rest to answer the interrogation of some unclean spirit - but that same examination did not deny the possibility.


The Other Shoe For a Moment

We have, thus far, been following the narrative according to the understanding that the writer is describing the events as they were in actuality.

The other way to follow the narrative is to see it as describing Saul's perspective - which is a fancy way of saying, it describes what Saul saw.

Now, we know that Saul didn't actually "see" anything, rather it was the medium who was receiving a vision from a familiar spirit. She was merely describing to Saul what the demon was showing her.

It seems significant to me that the "vision" here is being projected in the form of a vision to the medium by the unclean (familiar) spirit. Perhaps I should say it this way for the sensational effect: A demon is giving a vision to a medium, who is relaying the details of what the demon is showing her to Saul.

Question: Given that unclean spirits are known to practice deceit, and bent on the destruction of God's people, is it possible that this demon is merely fabricating the encounter because both Saul and the medium are willing to believe it to be genuine?

Answer: I would say it is not only possible, but almost certain.

You see, a lot of people have this picture from television that there are these people out there who have the power to see into "the spirit realm" (called mediums), and so when they read this, they presume upon the sincerity of the medium, as though she had eyes to see spiritual things, and was only relaying what was happening in the spirit realm.

I mean, if one injects the 20th century made-for-tv medium into the text, one may well conclude that the medium is merely describing what is actually going on. But the truth is that the medium is only describing that the demon is feeding her.

The question then, is not "did this happen", but rather, is the demon more inclined to project a true image into the mind of the medium, or is the demon more inclined to deceive her with lying wonders?

Think long and hard about that.

The question we ought to be asking is whether or not the demon was providing the medium with a true image.

Let's Not Kid Ourselves

The question of plausibilty requires us to examine both sides of the equation.

We have examined the case, and (given what we have found), we concluded that it is "not impossible" for this demon to have given the medium a true vision. Yet we note that in order to accept the demon's testimony, we would have to:

[1] Assume that the demon was willing to help Saul
[2] Assume that the demon is portraying actual events and not simply deceiving both the medium and Saul.
[3] Assume that the souls of the dead exist somewhere between death and judgment
[4] Assume that demons have the ability to compel the dead
[5] Assume that the same God who denied Saul through legitimate means, gave authority to this demon to supply Saul by illegitimate means,

I could be more granular I suppose, but by now you should be getting the picture that in order to believe that what the medium was describing to Saul was actually happening, we need to make a heap of very significant assumptions.

Let's put this into perspective. How do some people imagine the world to be millions of years old? They do so because they begin with a few presumptions about those things they cannot know for certain. All their fine calculations rest upon established philosophical presumptions. There is no "evidence" to support, say, evolution, that doesn't, when distilled, depend upon some profound philosophical presumption.

I mention this to highlight the fact that the more presumption your opinion depends upon, the more likely it is flawed or even outright wrong, a truth I shouldn't have to convince any bible believer of.

In a word, while I do believe that it is possible that Samuel actually was there, and that the demon was giving the medium a true vision, and that she was relaying that vision accurately to Saul, and that God who had denied Saul's legitimate inquiry, did in fact reward him when he enticed this medium to commit something abominable in the service of Saul's own sin - yet I am inclined by reason to conclude that it is so far from the realm of likelihood, that I am disposed to conclude that the vision was a false and deceiving one.

Question: What about the surprise the medium expressed? Doesn't that "prove" the vision was legitimate?

Answer: No, it doesn't prove that. All it shows is that they medium was genuinely surprised by the vision, and the fact that it was Saul who was asking her to mediate between himself and the demon.

Question: What about the fact that these events happened just as "Samuel foresaw" them? Doesn't that "prove" that the vision was legitimate?

Answer: When God asked of a spiritual host, "'Who will entice Ahab to go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?" (c.f. 1 King 22:20), in doing so he was making a multitude of spiritual beings aware of what He indended to do before He did it. Chew on that for a second, because it means that certainly some, and possibly all spirits are aware of at last some of God's intentions before they come to pass. The fact that this unclean spirit was aware of what would come to pass does not "prove" that the vision he supplied the medium with was an actual vision.

All of which is to say that while we cannot prove from scripture that it is impossible for this mediums unclean familiar spirit to have compelled a deceased Samuel to provide for Saul what God Himself refused to provide; it is far more likely that the medium's unclean spirit provided the information to Saul, and wrapped it up in a vision that Saul would be most inclined to believe.

What We Should Take Away From This Post

At the end of the day, we aren't going to be able to say that scripture proves one opinion, while denying the other; for if that were the case, this passage would have no controversy attached to it. Yet even though we cannot rule out certain understandings, we can weigh their likelihood. This post has been an attempt to show what lays in the balance. We need to consider these things as we draw our conclusions in the next and final post.

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posted by Daniel @ 11:12 AM   1 comment(s)
Tuesday, March 09, 2010
Did Saul See Samuel's Ghost or Not? Part -VIII-
Review

We identified two possible options concerning the narrative of 1 Samuel 28; either the narrative "literally" describes events as they were interpreted by Saul (i.e. a narrative that described things as they would have seemed from Saul's perspective), or it "literally" describes events as they actually happened.

We left the former option (Saul's perspective) hanging for now, and began to investigate the latter, specifically looking at what sort of theological allowances would have to be made in order to embrace the opinion that the deceased prophet really did show up.

We began by reasoning that in order for the vision of Samuel (that was given to the medium by her familiar spirit) to be a true portrayal of reality (as opposed to a deceitful invention by the familiar spirit) we would have to believe that when you die, your soul not only [1] lingers around somewhere, but that [2] it is also subject to the commands of the sort of spirits that God forbids people to communicate with.

In order to establish the possibility of this option, we needed to ask and answer the question: does the bible rule out the possibility of there being some intermediate place between death and judgment, and if not, then where does the soul reside after death?

The answer I gave was that scripture does not deny or preclude the possibility, so today we are going to look at the other half of that: does scripture teach that spirits have both the authority and power to command the souls of men [1] while they live, and/or [2] after they die? We want to learn whether scripture precludes this possibility.

Demanding Spirits

Let's begin by looking at the question of authority. In Mark 3:14-15 we read that Jesus, "...appointed twelve, so that they would be with Him and that He could send them out to preach, and to have authority to cast out the demons." [NASB]. Two things we draw from that, the first is that normally people have no authority to cast out demons, and secondly that Christ who Himself had received authority from the Father (c.f. Matthew 28:18, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth."), had given this authority specifically to the twelve. This same authority, if limited to casting out demons in chapter 3 of Mark, is possibly raised a notch in chapter six where, "He summoned the twelve and began to send them out in pairs, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits;".

What does that authority look like? We see a glimpse of it in Luke 4:36, where we read, "And amazement came upon them all, and they began talking with one another saying, "What is this message? For with authority and power He commands the unclean spirits and they come out."". In Luke 9:1, the same scene is played out - authority is given to the twelve to cast out demons, but in Luke 10:19 the ante is upped when he says to the seventy, "Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing will injure you."

Jesus makes a point in talking to Pontius Pilate, that we want to take note of, "You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above; for this reason he who delivered Me to you has the greater sin." (John 19:11 [NASB]); that being that in order for a creature to have authority over anyone or anything, God Himself has to grant that authority. Paul lucidly says as much in Romans 13, where he writes, "...there is no authority except from God".

All of which is to say that, in the New Testament at least, it seems that all authority is given by God, and that God gave Jesus authority over everything in heaven and earth, and then Jesus gave authority over certain spirits (the power of the enemy, etc.) to a limited group of people, first the twelve, and then the seventy, and that this authority gave the person the ability to command the spirits of the enemy - at least so far as to cast them out of people, so that none of the enemies power could over come that.

We haven't yet seen any indication that Spirits have authority over men, at least not until the book of Revelation. In Revelation 6:8 we read, "I looked, and behold, an ashen horse; and he who sat on it had the name Death; and Hades was following with him. Authority was given to them over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence and by the wild beasts of the earth." Here Death and Hades are personified and given authority over a fourth of the earth to kill by war, famine, disease, and the wild beasts of the earth. The "earth" hear likely refers to those who are alive upon the earth during the pouring out of God's judgment upon it. Depending on your eschatological leanings, you might believe that the elect are floating around in the sky with Jesus by this time, or that the elect is still on the earth, safe and sound in the 3/4 of the population that these have not been given authority over.

Either way, we have an instance of what could be a spirit have some kind of authority over men - granted, it is bestowed only in the end time, and it is fair to reason that this means that this same authority is lacking prior to the end time.

I think most would agree that Hades and Death here, are only personified for the sake of the metaphor. Which means we don't have a "clear" example in this text of a spirit having authority over a person.

Again in Revelation 13, we read that the dragon (Satan) gives the beast his power, throne, and authority. That suggests that Satan has power, a throne, and some authority (though clearly that authority was given him by God, as we showed earlier), but of particular interest to our study is the text in verse 7 of chapter 13, "It was also given to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them, and authority over every tribe and people and tongue and nation was given to him.".

There is not a lot of wiggle room in that statement. First, it suggests that the saints are not floating around in the sky with Jesus, but are still on the earth in the midst of all this apocalyptical calamity - but more particularly, that the beast will be given authority at that time to overcome the saints for (as we read earlier in the text) 42 months.

Here we -do- see some spirit given authority over men. But this authority is limited in scope - the beast has authority to overcome the saints. We ought not to be surprised that God gives the enemy this authority, for God gave Satan a similar authority over Job in the O. T.. The truth is, that even if this means that the enemy is given authority to murder the saints, it isn't really anything new. If Pontius Pilate could not murder Christ unless God gave him the authority to do so, we can extend that to every murder that ever takes place, or will take place. Unless God allows the murder, it will not happen. Can it be said that Jesus was the only Christian who was ever murdered? Of course not! Christians began to be murdered for their faith almost immediately - and plenty of Christians have been murdered for other reasons too. Which is only to say, don't think it some strange thing that God gives authority for the saints to be overcome - it isn't exactly a "new" thing. What is significant is that the time is short, 42 months; after which, presumably (and according to the text), all authority will return to God, and (I suppose) murders will cease to be.

While it is clear from this survey that there is a hard line between now and the end times in terms of what authority is given. We see also that all authority is given by God and that authority is always temporal (since all authority will one day return to God). That's important because it reminds us that there is no such thing as inherent authority.

Now, as to the authority to command living men to do things, while we see God giving authority to Spirits to compel men by deceiving them (c.f. 1 King 22:21, 2 Chronicles 18:20), that is not the sort of "compel" we are interested in. That is, we don't see any instances in scripture where God gives spirits the authority to control (as in force men) to do their will. He does give authority for men to be compelled according to their own will, but not against it.

That leaves us with the last thought, but probably the most germane one to our discussion - the question of demonic possession, since clearly, in the case of possession, an unclean spirit (a demon) is forcing a person to do something that they would otherwise avoid. In the text of scripture, let's quickly survey the sort of things that Spirits were given authority to do. Here are the things I found:

- spirits can deceive men with false information (1 King 22:21, 2 Chronicles 18:20)
- spirits can cause sickness/disease in a man (Job 2:7)
- spirits cause men to become extremely violent (Matthew 8:28)
- spirits cause muteness (Matthew 9:32, Luke 11:14)
- spirits cause blindness and muteness (Matthew 12:22)
- spirits cause someone to speak (Mark 1:23,34)
- spirits cause convulsions (Mark 1:25)
- spirits cause superhuman strength (Mark 5:4)
- spirits cause self mutilation (Mark 5:%)
- spirits cause a man to slam himself to the ground (Luke 4:35; 9:42)
- spirits cause a man to foam at the mouth (Luke 9:39)
- spirits cause sickness (Job, Luke 13:11)
- spirits give divinations (Acts 16:16)
- spirits cause a man to go around naked (Luke 8:27)

The list may not be exhaustive, but it gives us enough to work with. We see here that unclean spirits cause men to do all kinds of things. I mean, going about naked, screaming, foaming at the mouth, being tossed to the ground, not to mention the blindness, and sickness. Scripture doesn't say that -all- illness or calamity has a spiritual cause, but it doesn't deny the possibility either. When God judged King David's numbering of the nation by sending an angel of pestilence - David sees that angel as a person with a sword - gone out to slay, not unlike the final Egyptian plague; in fact, many times in scripture an angel is sent to destroy men, often through a plague.

We do see, therefore, that spirits have the ability to force living men to obey their will, but that this authority is something God allows, and could not exist without that allowance.

But we have no way to be certain that this authority extends beyond the grave. What is more? There are mitigating concerns that make it difficult to assume that is even possible. First, scripture speaks of an insurmountable gulf between Abraham's bosom and Hades, so that none can pass out of either and into the other. That suggests that once you are in Hades, or Abraham's bosom, you can't leave of your own accord, neither can anyone pull you out of where you're at. As the tree falls in the forest, and lays there, so too, as you enter into one of these places (assuming this is where we go when we die), it seems nothing but judgment day can bring us out of it.

Given that thought, the idea that a rogue spirit can drag anyone out of Hades or Abraham's bosom, seems... well, a very strained thing.

But what if one could? I mean, what if we are just over stating the point, and Spirits can drag people out of Hades and Abraham's bosom - could they do so against the will of the person? I mean, if on the earth certain men were given authority over all the spirits - could it be that when they died they lost that authority; that is, that the authority was given to their flesh, and not their spirit? I mean, aren't we supposed to be judging these spirits eventually?

The more we look at it, the harder it is to soberly imagine that a spirit could drag an unwilling person from this place; but what if the person were willing? Even though the rich man in Hades was certainly willing to leave the place, let's say that the rules in Abraham's bosom are different, so that Samuel could, if he wanted, go and talk to living people and whatnot.

Would he?

Before I digress, let's remember that we are not yet discussing the plausibility of such a thing, but only the possibility , and while the evidence strongly favors the impossible, that argument ends up being implicit rather than explicit, and that leave some room (though not a lot) for doubt. So while we cannot say for certain that Samuel's spirit could not leave Abraham's bosom, we can say that the deck is definitely stacked against it.

What to take away from this

It may seem we haven't done a lot in this post, but we have established from scripture the kind of authority we -know- spirits to have, and compared that with what they need to have in order to compel Samuel to leave Abraham's bosom and provide Saul with informatin that God Himself refused to provide through legitimate means.

We are already seeing that the argument that this truly is Samuel, requires a great deal of speculation, or at the very least, it requires us to believe something of this text that isn't supported elsewhere, and may even be contradicted implicitly elsewhere.

What we want to take away from this post is a growing appreciation of just how much weight this opinion really has. Is it really biblical? Is it really rational?

Perhaps we will consider some of these in the next post.
posted by Daniel @ 1:07 PM   2 comment(s)
Thursday, March 04, 2010
Teachers, Schools, and Lap Dances.
Have you seen the lap dancing teacher video yet? I am told it went viral. I live in the city where the video was recorded... I also homeschool my kids.

I am just saying.
posted by Daniel @ 8:56 AM   11 comment(s)
Monday, March 01, 2010
Did Saul See Samuel's Ghost or Not? Part -VII-
Review
Sorry about the delay, this post was getting pretty long, so I decided to cut it back and cut it down a bit.

In the last post I narrowed the field a bit based on a more biblically accurate description of what a "medium" was. A medium (we said) was someone who had a familiar spirit.

Do you recall the slave girl that Paul encountered at Philippi (c.f. Acts 16:6)? The one with the spirit of divination? That would be a good example of a biblical "medium". A medium being, not someone who has some sort of supernatural power to summon or conjure up the "spirits" of the dead, but rather a person who receives information (in whatever form) from a familiar spirit.
Given this understanding, the unusual things that the medium sees, hears, and ultimately experiences are imposed on her by the familiar spirit, and therefore that means that the validity of the medium's experience depends entirely on the willingness of the familiar Spirit to portray things accurately.

He said, she said...

In Exodus 22:18, we read this imperative given to the Israelites (pertaining to their conduct in the promised land): "you shall not allow a sorceress to live"

Compare that to what we find read in 1 Samuel 28:10, "Saul vowed to her by the LORD, saying, 'As the LORD lives, no punishment shall come upon you for this thing.'"

Don't miss this. Saul invokes God's name here as his personal guarantee that he will not obey God's explicit command. I find that rather ironic, and certainly significant.

Just to play catch up a bit. Saul was afraid of the Philistines, and in particular he was afraid of what could happen in the up and coming battle. That much is implied in verse 5 where we read, "When Saul saw the camp of the Philistines, he was afraid and his heart trembled greatly".

So Saul is certainly motivated, in part at least, by fear. He wants to hear from God, but when God God refuses to answer Saul directly, Saul seeks to hear from God through an intercessor. For reasons known only to Saul, though we could probably guess at, the intercessor Saul chooses is Samuel. The only problem is that Samuel is dead.

Yet Saul knows that there are still mediums in the land, and finding one he promises her (in God's name and by God's life) that he will by no means obey God in putting her to death, if she will conjure up Samuel for him.

The narrative is following Saul's perspective. I mention that because, as I pointed out in our previous discussion on what all fits under the umbrella of a "literal" interpretation, there are two ways to interpret the events of this narrative: the narrative either [1] reflects Saul's interpretation of events, or it [2] records events independent of Saul's perspective (i.e. as they really were).

We have to examine both possibilities, but let's first examine the latter; we will examine the former in another post, and probably not the next one...

Let's see, therefore, what we would have to believe in order to pursue the idea that events happened just as they were recorded (i.e. irrespective of Saul's perspective).

And After That The Judgment, ...(unless someone conjures you up of course)

In arguing that the Messiah only has to die once, the author of Hebrews writes, in Hebrews 9:27-28, "And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment, ...", from this one might argue, I suppose that "the judgment" referred to here was that which was recorded in Genesis 3:19, in the words, "By the sweat of your face You will eat bread, till you return to the ground, because from it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.". That is, one might argue that the judgment refers to the judgment against mankind which ends in the fact that your body returns to dust. Thus, it is appointed for men to die, and after that they "turn into dust".

Now, this verse is being used to say that the Messiah (Jesus) doesn't die again and again, but only dies once. If the "judgment" here is the corruption of the flesh that takes place after death, then the author is saying that Jesus received "the judgement" of seeing corruption/decay. But we know that Christ didn't receive that. I don't think, therefore, that this text is identifying the corruption of our flesh after death as "the judgment" - but rather is referring to standing before the judgment seat of Christ.

Again, some would interject at this point and say that if by "judgment" we mean that immediately after death everyone goes before Christ to be judged, then how is it that certain individuals in scripture were restored to life? Did they live, die, get judged, get brought back to life, live again, and die again, and get judged again?

I think that is a valid, and even penetrating question - one we need to seriously consider.

Let's use Lazarus as our guinea pig, since he was dead for four days before the Father heard Christ's prayer and restored him to life. We could have picked any number of persons, I only chose Lazarus because he came to mind first. When Lazarus died, did he go to judgment or not?

Let's answer that with a question: From God's eternal perspective, was Lazarus' life over? No. It is clear, given God's omniscience, that God knew before Lazarus was ever born, and certainly at the time of Lazarus' death that Lazarus would be raised again.

I think we can conclude, without going into the details, that God would not have judged Lazarus twice, but simply put off judging Lazarus until after his "entire" life was lived.

I think the same can be said of anyone who has ever died and was raised again to life again. Whatever else we might say, we must conclude that judgment comes after you are finished living all the life allotted to you. I think it is safe to say that God does judge the life you lived until after you have lived all of it.

One might ask, "Where did Lazarus' consciousness/soul go for those intervening days?" - a fair question. We know that spirits, dominions, principalities and powers, authorities in high places, etc. experience time in the same manner that the rest of creation experiences time. We know this from various accounts in scripture where spiritual beings could not be here or there in time because they were delayed. We see that certain spiritual beings are waiting for such and such, and even in the book of revelation, we see that some things precede other things, and are followed by further things. Creation, all of it (including every spirit and the reality they find themselves in) is bound by and in time. We all experience it in the same way.

Given that this is so, and we have no good reason to believe otherwise, the question we are faced with is, "Do we remain in creation when we die, i.e. is our soul shuffled off to some created place until judgment day, or do we step outside of creation (and therefore time) and immediately we are at the judgment?"

If the former is true, that is, if upon dying the elect go (in comfort) to (let's say) Abraham's bosom where they await the judgment, and the non-elect go (in torment) to (let's say) Hades, where they likewise await the judgment; the question becomes "Can a spirit summon a soul out of Hades or Abraham's bosom?

If the former is not the case, but rather the soul, upon dying, moves outside of creation (and therefore outside of "time")then the question about whether a spirit is able to conjure up a dead person becomes rather moot since it is ridiculous to imagine that a spirit could compel someone who has already been judged and entered into eternity to come back into time and space and answer questions for them.

Let's be fair here too. The text of Hebrews 9 goes so far as to tell us that "the judgment" follow death, but it doesn't say one way or the other whether that is immediate or not. One can infer that, but there is nothing in that text, one way or the other that demands it.

If souls do retire to Abraham's bosom or Hades before they are judged, that doesn't invalidate what is said in Hebrews 9. Judgment will still follow death.

For our purposes then, when we speak of after we die - we simply mean, after our lives is over - all of it. We have two possibilities, either we go to judgment immediately, or we dwell in either Hades or Abraham's bosom until the judgment.

If there is some intermediate place between this life and the judgment, we can assume that it is part of this creation, and that time exists in this place just as it exists everywhere else in creation.

In 2 Peter 3 we learn that the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men. (see 2 Peter 3:7, 10, etc.) We read about the destruction of ungodly men again in more vivid detail, in last few chapters of the book of Revelation. Our presumption then is that these are describing the same event - the judgment.

Here is the list of things (from the book of Revelation) that are going to be tossed into the lake of fire (LoF):
  • The beast

  • the false prophet

  • the devil

  • death

  • Hades

  • everyone whose name is not written in the Lamb's book of life (which presumably includes the list given in Revelation 21:8, (...the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars)


Note the inclusion of Hades?

Okay. Here is why this post took so long to put up. Seriously, there is a lot of room for discussion on what exactly Hades is, and how can death be burned up, if in the final analysis it is merely the absence of life? etc. etc.

I think, as much as I would like to ferret out every thread that could come off of that, I have to be realistic. It is interesting to note that Hades is listed here, and it lends some credibility to the notion that whatever it is, it is part of this creation, and will be face God's wrath along with everything else that is scheduled for wrath on that day.

So the first point we would have to believe in order to accept the text of 1 Samuel as describing what happened irrespective of perspective, would be that we would need to believe that soul's do not immediately go to judgment, but dwell somewhere else between dying and being judged - and do so "in time".

I think there is room to allow for that without compromising anything said in scripture. The next, and weightier question is, does the bible give us any reason to believe (elsewhere in scripture) that a spirit has both the power and authority to summon a person out of the place they go in between death and judgment?

Thoughts to take away from this:

Our first concern is whether or not a thing is biblical, and when we find room in our texts for various interpretations, we want to carefully rule out those interpretations that cannot be maintained according to some clear teaching elsewhere in scripture.

To that end we looked at the question of where the soul goes once it departs this world. Scripture claims that the soul goes to be with Christ (or so Paul claimed), again, scripture says that the soul goes to judgment (so the author of Hebrews writes), and while we hold both to be true, we cannot rule out one way or the other, whether that means immediately, or eventually, whether there is some intermediate place or not.

Looking to scripture, we see there is more support for an intermediate place (No, not a sort of purgatory, nor even a limbo, but either Hades or Abraham's bosom depending on the destination of our souls) where we go to await judgment, than the idea that we all step out of creation (and therefore time) and arrive at judgment without delay - unless of course, judgment precedes entry into Hades or Abraham's bosom - a thought we will consider in the next post.

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posted by Daniel @ 10:50 AM   8 comment(s)
 
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