Friday, May 22, 2015

Billy Graham: Living Together

QUESTION: I want to get married, but my boyfriend says we need to live together to see if it’s going to work out. He says all our friends do it, and I guess he’s right, but I’m not sure I want to go down this road. What is your advice? — K. McG.
In my opinion, what your friends are doing doesn't really matter. But with that said, I agree with K's boyfriend. Marrying someone is a big decision, so isn't it a great idea to make sure you really know that person and are truly compatible before deciding to spend the rest of your like with that person?

I didn't move in with my wife, but I did stay with her on the weekends when we were dating. By spending so much time with her, I was able to get to know her incredibly well. This knowledge made it clear that we were very compatible, and that living together post-marriage wouldn't be a problem. And more importantly, it underscored that marriage was a good idea, and not something that would immediately blow up in our face.
ANSWER: It may be popular with some of your friends, but for both practical and spiritual reasons I strongly urge you not to go down the road your boyfriend is urging you to take.
For terrible religious reasons no doubt...
On a practical level, the problem with simply living together is that there’s no real commitment, either to each other or to marriage. What’s to keep your boyfriend from deciding he doesn’t want to be tied down, and suddenly casting you aside? Or what’s to keep you from leaving after a minor disagreement (as happens in almost any relationship)? The answer is simple: precisely nothing.
What world is Billy From? Moving in together is a big step in a relationship. It is a step people take after they have already been dating for a while. How is there no commitment? It is usually the last step prior to a proposal, so by time a couple lives together, they are pretty damn committed to one another. And what of Billy's scenarios? They are also silly because they can happen if you without moving in together too. Couples can split ways, have a relationship with another, or fight whether they are living together or not.

But here's the point Billy doesn't seem to realize. Even if this does happen, it was a good thing. Isn't it better to find out that you can't live with someone before you get married rather than after? Billy often speaks ill of divorce, so he should be in favor of moving in together since it can actually help avoid divorce. But perhaps that's too much logic for him to comprehend...
But I also hope you’ll avoid this for spiritual reasons. God gave marriage to us for our happiness and mutual help, and in His eyes it’s a solemn commitment to be faithful to each other, no matter what happens.
No, for the one-thousandth time,God didn't give us marriage. Marriage far predates Christianity, and may even predate religion of any type. And if it's supposed to be such a solemn commitment, why does God allow divorce if the man finds his wife displeasing?
This is why the Bible commands us to avoid sexual relations outside of marriage.
Here's the thing though... It doesn't. Well, if you are a man that is. The Bible only commands sexual 'purity' from women. But that's partially because a virgin is worth more than a non virgin daughter. Dad has to make money off this after all. But do men have to practice sexual purity? A reading of the Bible doesn't place males with the same requirement. Heck, a man can rape an unwed woman and his only punishment is to pay her father and marry her. The Bible does talk about about the vague subject of fleeing 'sexual immorality'. But that could include any number of things.
Only then can true love flourish, and only then will your relationship grow stronger over the years.
But love can flourish by saving sex until after marriage and finding out that you aren't compatible at all?
At the moment, your boyfriend’s suggestion may be very tempting, but it’s filled with uncertainty and great risk, as many have discovered, to their sorrow. 
How the hell is wanting to move in together a decision filled with uncertainty? It's a choice one makes when they are sure they want to take the relationship to the next logical step. Yes, there is risk, but so is marriage. But what will create more sorrow... Moving in together and having it not work out, or getting married and having it not work out? I think that the answer to that one should be rather obvious.

-Brain Hulk

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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Billy Graham: Lazy Kids!

QUESTION: I own a small business that hires a lot of young people, but I’m frustrated because I can’t find very many who are reliable and actually want to work. Doesn’t the Bible say we’re not supposed to be lazy? — D.E.
As far as DE's staffing troubles go, the Bible does have one solution. But it's far from a pleasant one...
ANSWER: Yes, the Bible certainly urges us to be responsible and diligent in our work, no matter who we are or what we’re doing. The Bible says, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might” (Ecclesiastes 9:10).
To be fair, all that really says is to do your best when you do do something. I can get behind that. But it doesn't really have anything to say about laziness so much as quality of work...
One reason is because laziness will never give us the things we want, or even the things we need. More than that, others will suffer because of our slackness – not only our families, but society as a whole... But the Bible warns us against laziness for another reason: a lazy person isn’t making use of the abilities and gifts God has given them.
Too bad all of this doesn't jive with parts of the Bible. Remember that unsavory solution I mentioned for DE's staffing issues? The Bible has an answer in Leviticus 25:44...
Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you; from them you may buy slaves.
That's right! Slavery is the answer! I don't know about you, but I don't think that it gets much more lazy than slavery. And what's more, the Bible comes to the rescue when your slaves don't do as you tell them in Exodus 21:20-21...
If a man strikes his male or female slave with a rod and he dies at his hand, he shall be punished. If, however, he survives a day or two, no vengeance shall be taken; for he is his property.
Maybe it's just me, but all of this sounds like God approved laziness that causes others to suffer. Exactly the kind of thing that Billy is actually claiming that the Bible is against.

-Brain Hulk

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Monday, May 18, 2015

Billy Graham: Prejudiced God

QUESTION: I enjoy my friend’s company, but sometimes he gets off on racial issues, and his intolerance and bigotry really make me very uncomfortable. I tried to say something to him about it once, but it just made him angry. How should I handle this? — W.J.
It sounds to me like WJ tried to do the right thing, and maybe has to give saying something about it another go. If he continues to react so strongly then there is a choice to be made. How often does this happen, and how much does it bother you? The answers to those questions will determine if you should just try to deal with it, try to reason with them, or cut ties completely.

Nope, God is totally against ethnic prejudices. He would never
put one people above another, much less order one destroyed,
right. Right...?
I can understand the confusion of people always being drawn toward certain issues. I know people that can and will turn any unrelated conversation on it's head and just bring up 'illegals', gays, or people on food stamps completely out of the blue. I have more than once found myself flabbergasted by the abrupt change of topic to something so unrelated. In many cases, I find that it's a case of people believing misconceptions, or watching too much Fox News. So don't feel disheartened. Sometimes the solution is just a few corrections to falsehoods they may have heard brandied about as fact from suspect sources.
ANSWER: Racial or ethnic prejudice is a sin in God’s eyes,
What?! Seriously, what!? Has Billy ever read the Bible? It is rife with God commanding his people to kill and conquer other peoples. Actually, the fact that he even chose one group of people to be his chosen ones and condemn those that were worshiping other gods is an obvious example of the Christian god playing favorites.

And when he's not telling his people to kill, he tells them to take their slaves from the nations around them. This is yet another example. One that was used by southern Christians to justify their claimed right to keep African slaves. Furthermore, holy books have even been used to claim that 'darkness of skin' was either the curse of Kain, or the curse God bestowed on Noah's son Ham and his descendants. The latter has been a common teaching in some Jewish and Christian sects (though it is far less common now).
and it should be wrong in our eyes, as well.
And to a lot of it it is wrong. The problem that religions have that Billy is ignoring, is that they can and are used to justify the very prejudices that he is claiming they are actually against...
How do we know this? We know it for many reasons, but most of all because Jesus Christ died on the cross to save people from every race and ethnic background. Even some of the earliest Christians had a hard time understanding this at first, but in time they did, and God confirmed it by bringing all kinds of people into His kingdom.
Sorry, but allowing anyone into Heaven doesn't make up for condoning the owning of people from other nations or ordering the slaughter of other peoples for incredibly petty reasons. The Bible still promotes ethnic prejudices any way you slice it.

What's more, God separates people for ridiculous reasons once more by destining some to Heaven and some to Hell. While this may not be ethnic or racially motivated, it is certainly proof that God certainly doesn't love everyone the same.

-Brain Hulk

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Friday, May 15, 2015

Outspoken Atheist?

I'm sure we've all heard the joke in a few different formats, but it generally goes like this: A vegan, an atheist, and a crossfitter walk into a bar. I only know because they told everybody within 2 min.

Okay, I guess it's a bit funny, but it also doesn't make much sense. As far as the atheism part goes, the joke would have you think that we go about bringing up religion constantly out of the blue. But this
hasn't been my experience at all.

By and large, many atheists are closeted. Depending where we live, just letting the fact that you don't believe can have serious ramifications. That said, when it comes to religious discussion, I am almost never the one to start the conversation. I know how annoying it can be when a believer brings Jesus and the Bible up out of nowhere, so similarly I don't bring up my non-belief unless it is relevant. Because of this there are many in my life that have no idea that I'm an atheist.

Perhaps believers act as though we are shouting our atheism from the rooftops because when the topic of religion does come up naturally in conversation, it is a topic that we tend to be very interested in. I know that I love talking theology. It's a topic that genuinely interests me. Sometimes I even find myself hoping the other party asks a certain question so that I have a chance to share a particular thought. But if that question or comment isn't uttered, I save that opinion or though for another day.

But the main reason I think believers may think that all atheists are outspoken is that we are memorable. Out of all the people they meet, we stand out because we have the audacity to not hold the same belief as them, or worse yet, we don't keep it to ourselves. It's comical in a way that a believer may consider me answering a question about belief with "Actually, I'm an atheist." as forcing my beliefs or being too vocal. How is that the case?

If I was asked by the door-to-door proselytizers if I know if I'm going to go to Heaven, isn't their outrage amazingly ironic? I simply honestly answered a question that they asked of me. And here they are going door-to-door, handing out tracts at a festival, or constantly asking anyone who will listen if they've heard the 'good news'. So please tell me... Which one of us is that one who can't shut up about our beliefs?

So, yes... It is a funny joke. But the reality is that it doesn't match up with reality. Perhaps the joke should be 'a Christian, rich man, and a show dog owner walk into a bar...'

-Brain Hulk

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Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Billy Graham: True Christians?

Q: Several of my friends are active church types, but I can't see that it makes any difference in the way they live. How do you explain this? I don't think they're any better than I am. -- C. McK.
To tell you the truth, none if this surprises me. In fact research has shown that societies that believe in an unforgiving god tend to be more peaceful that those that believe in a forgiving god. And should this really surprise us? Christianity teaches that any sin a believer commits will be forgiven. It's this flawed system that would see murderers enter Heaven, and serves as no deterrent to bad behavior if
they truly believe they will be forgiven.
A: If someone is sincerely committed to Jesus Christ, it will make a difference in the way he or she lives.
Like rapist priests and a Pope that tried to cover the whole thing up? Like the majority of US prisoners, who are Christians? Like the insanely devout who bomb abortion clinics and protest funerals? Sure, belief made a difference for them. But it wasn't a good difference.
It may only be in small ways at first, but over time that person's life will be different because Christ now lives within them. The Bible says, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come" (2 Corinthians 5:17).
Christ lives within them? Does that mean Jesus is going to pull out the Alien chestbuster routine, or is he more the explosive diarrhea type?
Only God knows, of course, whether or not your friends have truly believed in Christ. However, the Bible warns us against claiming we are following Christ, when in reality we aren't. We may claim to be Christians... we may say we're trying to live by the Ten Commandments or the Sermon on the Mount... we even may be active in a church, but we've never allowed Christ to take control of our lives. The Bible warns, "Faith without deeds is dead" (James 2:26).
You see, all Billy is trying to lay out here is the No True Scotsman Fallacy. It's a simple claim, but one that is easily combated with any amount of honest examination. Billy claims that belief will always make you a better person. But when presented with evidence that this isn't the case for someone, how is he to respond? Simple! Just claim that they aren't 'real Christians' and move on as if nothing ever happened. But this is dishonest. It ignores whether their belief is actually sincere. It ignores that by the very definition of what is required to be a Christian, they undoubtedly are.

It's but a sad attempt to try and redefine what something means in order to keep up the illusion that the initial claim is still true. But the truth is that the claim that belief always results in a positive change in the believer's life and actions is patently false.

History is full of believers and non-belivers alike who were good people and bad. Who lived rich lives or financially depressed ones. Belief has led some to end their life in hopes of Heaven, and it has drove many an innocent child to end their life because believers bullied them endlessly for being gay. Likewise, some claim that non-belief leads to an empty meaningless feeling toward life. This has not been my experience, but I don't pretend to speak for everyone.

So in the end, it's no surprise that there are believers that don't live saintly lives. That's because when you get right down to it, it's not your beliefs that matter but what kind of person you are independent of them.

-Brain Hulk

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Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Random Bits of Nerdiness

This was a shorter weekend for me, plus I didn't really see many stories I felt like writing about, so lets do something a little different today and talk about a few bits and pieces of things from this weekend and recent weeks...

Sunday was the day that my wife and I went to see the movie we have been anticipating since the first Avengers movie. Thor: The Dark World and Guardians of the Galaxy were great, and filled the gap nicely until The Avengers: Age of Ultron. This movie had a lot to live up to after the first Avengers, so I went in hopeful that it was going to be good, but worried that it might not live up to the hype.

Let me just say that I had no reason to be worried at all. This movie was awesome! The action was great, the comedy was perfect, James Spader as Ultron was amazing, Paul Bettany as the Vision was so much more awesome than I ever could have imagined. While this movie delivered on the action and comedy, it also developed in ways I didn't expect. Hawkeye is much more pivotal this time around, we learn things about each of the characters, and there is even deeper meaning that is explored beneath all the fighting, explosions and jokes.

I don't want to spoil the movie for anyone, but there is one thing that I couldn't help but notice. If you haven't watched to movie yet and don't want to hear even the slightest spoiler, stop reading now and skip to the next paragraph. To me, there are clear comparisons between the god of the Bible and Ultron. Ultron is created for the purpose of rotecting humanity. But he views humanity as humanities greatest threat. So he wants the human race to fundamentally change of face annihilation. Something he plans to bring about by way of a global catastrophe. Of course he never really intends to give them any realistic chance to change. Noah is even referenced in case anyone missed the parallels. And just like the god of the Bible, Ultron sincerely believes that everything he is doing is just and good. But to any rational mind observing from the outside, it's obvious that he is simply mad and warped. Intentional or not, I felt like that was a great Easter egg.

Okay, with that out of the way, let's move on... Fueled by the awesomeness that was Age of Ultron, we decided to stay in nerd mode and stop at a local toy store to see if they had this collectable figure that i had been searching for. As luck would have it, they had it and I purchased it to add to my collection. The figure? The new Marvel Legends figure of Spider-Man 2099.

Who the hell is Miguel O'Shea?!
In an earlier blog, I talked about comics and how this future Spider-Man has become a favorite of mine. But when I was looking at the packaging when I got home, I noticed this description on the back... "With ninja-like stealth, Miguel O'Shea fights against a dark future in the year 2099!" Wait, wait wait... Miguel O'Shea? The character's name is Miguel O'Hara. O'Hara, not O'Shea! How did that error make it past quality control? Are they all printed like this? Has the packaging since been corrected? Whatever the case, Hasbro just plain goofed!

And while we're on the topic of Spider-Man 2099, the last issue (2015 #11) featured confirmation of something that I have suspected, and makes me relate with the character even more. Miguel O'Hara is an atheist! He is directly asked if he believes in God and says no. And in his internal speech he goes on to say again that he doesn't believe. This is important because likeable atheist characters are in short supply throughout the various entertainment mediums, especially heroes.

And finally, lets conclude this randomness with a return to nature... My four Ginkgo tree seedlings are still doing quite well. A re-potting this spring found that they had a very healthy root system.

Also, last Summer I built and installed a bee house in my garden to attract and help increase the numbers of  (indigenous to my area) Mason Bees. Far too late in the season to actually get anyone to move in, but it got me ready for this year. Well, watering the plants Saturday I saw my first Mason Bee enter the house! And Sunday I saw it leave and return again. Monday saw confirmation in the form of a mud plug on the hole. That means shes layed at least a few eggs chambers in that hole. So here's hoping that it'll stocking more holes with eggs that will translate into an increase in local pollinators.

Okay, I think that bit of random nerdiness may be it for me this week, so until next time, never stop thinking!

-Brain Hulk

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Friday, May 1, 2015

Billy Graham: Perfect God?

Q: Can God make mistakes? I suppose you'll say He can't, but why not? I wonder about this when I see how messed up the world is. Maybe God didn't quite get it right when He created the earth. -- S.C.L.
There isn't a God that created the Earth to begin with. But it is clear that if there was, he's either not very caring, or is grossly incompetent.
A: No, God doesn't make mistakes or do anything wrong because He is absolutely perfect, holy and just.
So Billy thinks that the world is perfect then? Because by definition, if God is perfect then he can only create a perfect creation...
Nor does He ever lie or give us false promises, because "I, the Lord, speak the truth; I declare what is right" (Isaiah 45:19).
But what about those times that he did?
"but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die"
-Genesis 2:17
God is supposed to be all-knowing. Adam and Eve don't die the very day they ate from the tree. So God lied to them.
"I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and will give them all these lands, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed"
-Genesis 26:4 (also referenced elsewhere)
This is a false promise on God's part. There are an estimated 13-14 million Jews in the world (who the verse was talking about). Yet there are up to 400 billion stars in our Milky Way galaxy. And the observable universe contains a conservatively estimated 100 octillion stars. To put that info perspective Earth contains up to 14,000,000 Jews. Yet the universe contains at least 100,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 stars. That's quite a big margin of error. Sounds like a false promise to me.
"and the stars in the sky fell to earth, as figs drop from a fig tree when shaken by a strong wind"
-Revelation 6:13
Another false promise. This one is because it proves that the people writing the Bible had no idea what stars where, or where they are (and obviously, how many there are). So this one is false because it's not even possible.
Why, then, is the world so imperfect, and even evil? Is God responsible for this (as you suggest)? No!
Actually, yes... Yes he is!
I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things.
-Isaiah 45:7
Seeing how even the Bible claims that God created evil, I feel pretty safe in saying he's responsible for evil. He could have just not created it, but nope...
When God created the world it was absolutely perfect. But something terrible happened -- and that "something" is what the Bible calls sin. The world was no longer perfect; evil and death had invaded God's perfect world, and they have been with us ever since. Never forget: Sin isn't just some little thing we do wrong; sin is ultimately rebellion against God.
There's two problems here. For starter, 'sin' is all part of God creating evil. Secondly, this comes back to the claim of God being perfect. If he's perfect, he can only create a perfect creation. If his creation can go wrong, it wasn't fully perfect. If the creation wasn't perfect God can't be perfect. So is this really the road Billy want's to be heading down?
But listen, part of God's perfection is that His love is perfect!
As long as you meet the conditions of his 'love'...
That's why He didn't destroy the world or abandon it.
Except for that one time he supposedly did. I'd count killing almost the entire planet with a global flood as destroying the world. In fact, Genesis 9:11 even confirms that God considered the flood to be 'destroying the Earth'.
Instead, He has done everything possible to bring us back to Himself by coming into the world in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ.
Well, not everything. He could scientifically prove his existence, or at least in a way that was accurately and historically documented.
By His death and resurrection, Christ conquered evil and sin and death, and some day His victory will be complete and all evil will be destroyed.
Because the all-powerful God of the universe just didn't feel like doing away with it himself without attaching some arbitrary condition/act to it?
Is your hope in Christ? Or have you given in to despair and hopelessness? 
Why is this phrased as if it's a question of either or? Research has shown that in the USA, the areas with the most financial despair also tend to have the most faith. 
If so, I invite you to see God as He really is
-- perfect not only in His justice and holiness
Has Billy even read the Bible?
, but perfect also in His love.
*Some conditions may apply.

-Brain Hulk

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