Friday, July 31, 2015

In the beginning God created...

Greg Goebel

Did God create the world instantly ten thousand years ago? Or did he start the process of evolution in order to create the world?

For several years I led a parish book study, and it was one of the most personally fulfilling aspects of ministry for me. But it was also often quite provocative. One such moment came when we were reading Alistair McGrath’s book Theology: The Basics.

We were reading his overview of the Apostle’s Creed, starting with his discussion of “God the Father, creator of heaven and earth.” McGrath discusses five basic ways that Christians have understood how God accomplished the creation of the world, including young earth creationism, intelligent design, and theistic evolution.

When we got to that point, the room seemed to instantly divide into camps. All of us were fellow Christians, fellow parishioners, and we respected one another. We were also all book lovers. Yet we literally divided physically into camps. I’m not sure how it happened, but it seemed like I looked up and people had actually changed places to be near their group.

One group said that the only way to truly and faithfully read the Genesis account was to believe that God created the world about ten thousand years ago. Another said, no, Genesis is obviously poetic and intended to convey a theology of God, not a mechanism of creation itself. This led to the conclusion that God began the process of evolution. Still another group believed that God didn’t just start evolution’s march, he guided it in a process called Intelligent Design.

The creed was sitting there on the page. It simply read, “God the Father, creator of heaven and earth.” That’s it.

Think about this for a moment. The undivided church gathered in a series of ecumenical councils (there were no separate denominations then). They knew Genesis, they knew Paul’s letter to the Romans. They knew the Gospels. And it may surprise many to know that they knew about evolution too. No, not the modern scientific theory. But they knew about the Greek philosophical schools that had developed a vision of life evolving. And they also knew about Jewish (mostly poetic) readings of the book of Genesis.

So they could have agreed to sacralize one of these views for all time as creed. And yet they didn’t. They were content to simply require all Christians to believe that God purposely created the universe. They left the how outside of what is required for salvation.

We might want to try that today.

That’s not to say that we should stop debating, arguing, and advocating one or the other viewpoint. We should keep on vigorously working and promoting and talking about this, because its important.

Yet rather than advocating the simple creed, and then making space for believers to discuss varies theories, some parishes identify as “Creationist” or “Intelligent Design” or pro “Theistic Evolution.” But our churches shouldn’t be presenting one or the other interpretation or theory as if it is the only authoritative way to understand creation. That’s not the pastor’s job. We weren’t ordained to promote creationism, but creed. We aren’t called to preach evolutionary biology, but to preach Bible basics. Our job is to present God the Father as creator of heaven and earth. Period.

Why? One reason is evangelism.

Here is an example of how staying with the creeds can help evangelism: I got a call from a family member, who said, “I am almost ready to be baptized and become a Christian. But, I can’t because I accept the theory of evolution as proven science. If you can show me that evolution is wrong, I can consider becoming a Christian.”

This was a critical moment. In my past I might have marshaled evidence that evolution is false, hoping to clinch that final argument that would bring him to faith in Christ. At another point in my life I might have argued that God did indeed use evolution to create the world.

But does our faith rest on arguments? Does it rest on scientific refutations? Does baptism require us to first develop a detailed theory of the mechanism of creation? Nope. Just an affirmation of the creed. Period.

So thankfully I was able to say, “Yeah, a lot of Christians wrestle with that. Not a problem. You can be baptized and become a Christian and keep on wrestling with the rest of us Christians. We only require an affirmation that the world is not an accident, or purposeless, and that God the Father is the creator who decided the world would exist and made it happen. He is the source of life.”

So you may be sad, at this point in my musings, to find that I’m not going to try and advocate for one or the other interpretations of Genesis, or philosophies of “death before Adam.” There are many great studies out there on these issues, and they are important questions.

As a priest and pastor, I simply affirm that God created the world. Period. And that is a beautiful, amazing and challenging belief in and of itself.

From here.

Pastors should be informed on the four aspects of evolution: mutation (fact), adaptation (fact), natural selection (evidence, but not a law) and common ancestry (a theory). Bible-believing Christians must reject the common ancestry theory when it comes to human origins as this is contrary to the biblical assertion that humans were a special creation. The growing evidence of archaic humans increasingly supports the biblical assertion of humans as a special creation.

Likewise, pastors should understand that Young Earth Creationism (YEC) does not align with what Genesis reveals. It is neither scientific nor biblical. The Earth is very old, and humans have been on the Earth for close to four million years. From the beginning they were fully human: walked upright, used tools, controlled fire, had human dentition, etc.

Pastors should also be informed about the cultural context of Abraham's ancestors from whom he received the hope of a Righteous Ruler who would overcome death and lead his people to immortality.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Three-Clan Confederations of the Bible

4000 year Egyptian rope coils
made using three strands 
Alice C. Linsley

There is great strength in the cooperation of three clans that share a common ancestry. Consider rope physics, something well known to the ancient Habiru/Hebrew.  Three-clan confederations were kinship based. The loyalty of 3-brother patrilineage made them strong confederations.

The twelve-tribe organization found in the Old Testament appears to have developed from the earlier three-clan confederations of the Habiru/Hebrew.

In his seminal work "The Scheme of the Twelve Tribes of Israel" (1930), Martin Noth showed that the Twelve Tribes of Israel did not exist prior to the covenant assembly at Shechem described in the book of Joshua. The Joshua passage shares with the Deuteronomist Historian a common concern with idolatry and the centralization of worship in Jerusalem. Yet, both place the covenant at Shechem at the location where God appeared to Abraham in Three Persons (Gen. 18). Here in reference to the Godhead, the number three speaks of oneness or unity. Likely, the twelve-clan confederation is a linking of four three-clan sets, and a natural development as the Hebrew populations grew and needed additional layers of organization for defense and for self-governance.

The introduction of this twelve-tribe theme is late and reflects the twelve lunar phases. The twelve-tribe organization relates to the month in which the various divisions of Habiru warriors were to perform their service to the King. This is evident in Chronicles 27:1-15:

1 As for the sons of Israel by their number, the heads of the paternal houses and the chiefs of the thousands and of the hundreds and their officers that were ministering to the king in every matter of the divisions of those that came in and that went out month by month for all the months of the year, each division was 24,000.

2 Over the first division of the first month there was Jashobeam the son of Zabdiel, and in his division there were 24,000.

3 Some of the sons of Perez the head of all the chiefs of the service groups were for the first month.
4 And over the division of the second month there was Dodai the Ahohite with his division, and Mikloth was the leader, and in his division there were 24,000.

5 The chief of the 3rd service group for the third month was Benaiah the son of Jehoiada the chief priest, and in his division there were 24,000.

6 This Benaiah was a mighty man of the 30 and over the 30; and [over] his division there was Ammizabad his son.

7 The 4th for the 4th month was Asahel, Joab's brother, and Zebadiah his son after him, and in his division there were 24,000.

8 The 5th chief for the 5th month was Shamhuth the Izrahite, and in his division there were 24,000.

9 The 6th for the 6th month was Ira the son of Ikkesh the Tekoite, and in his division there were 24,000.

10 The 7th for the 7th month was Helez the Pelonite of the sons of Ephraim, and in his division there were 24,000.

11 The 8th for the 8th month was Sibbecai the Hushathite of the Zerahites, and in his division there were 24,000.

12 The 9th for the 9th month was Abi-ezer the Anathothite of the Benjaminites, and in his division there were 24,000.

13 The 10th for the 10th month was Maharai the Netophathite of the Zerahites, and in his division there were 24,000.

14 The 11th for the 11th month was Benaiah the Pirathonite of the sons of Ephraim, and in his division there were 24,000.

15 The 12th for the 12th month was Heldai the Netophathite, of Othniel, and in his division there were 24,000

The older three-clan confederations likewise served for mutual defense and the provision of priestly and levitical service in Jerusalem. This organization was based on the kinship of three sons. This is evident in 1 Chronicles 23:6-26:

6 David separated the Levites into divisions corresponding to the sons of Levi: Gershon, Kohath and Merari.

7 Belonging to the Gershonites: Ladan and Shimei.

8 The sons of Ladan: Jehiel the first, Zetham and Joel—three in all.

9 The sons of Shimei: Shelomoth, Haziel and Haran—three in all.

These were the heads of the families of Ladan.

10 And the sons of Shimei: Jahath, Ziza, Jeush and Beriah.

These were the sons of Shimei—four in all.

11 Jahath was the first and Ziza the second, but Jeush and Beriah did not have many sons; so they were counted as one family with one assignment.

12 The sons of Kohath: Amram, Izhar, Hebron and Uzziel—four in all.

13 The sons of Amram: Aaron and Moses [Korah is not listed as he died in the wilderness.]

Aaron was set apart, he and his descendants forever, to consecrate the most holy things, to offer sacrifices before the Lord, to minister before him and to pronounce blessings in his name forever. 

14 The sons of Moses the man of God were counted as part of the tribe of Levi.

15 The sons of Moses: Gershom and Eliezer.

16 The descendants of Gershom: Shubael was the first.

17 The descendants of Eliezer: Rehabiah was the first. Eliezer had no other sons, but the sons of Rehabiah were very numerous.

18 The sons of Izhar: Shelomith was the first.

19 The sons of Hebron: Jeriah the first, Amariah the second, Jahaziel the third and Jekameam the fourth.

20 The sons of Uzziel: Micah the first and Ishiah the second.

21 The sons of Merari: Mahli and Mushi.

The sons of Mahli: Eleazar and Kish.

22 Eleazar died without having sons: he had only daughters. Their cousins, the sons of Kish, married them.

23 The sons of Mushi: Mahli, Eder and Jerimoth—three in all.

24 These were the descendants of Levi by their families—the heads of families as they were registered under their names and counted individually, that is, the workers twenty years old or more who served in the temple of the Lord. 

25 For David had said, “Since the Lord, the God of Israel, has granted rest to his people and has come to dwell in Jerusalem forever, 

26 the Levites no longer need to carry the tabernacle or any of the articles used in its service.”

The organization of patriarchal lines into tribes of twelve sons or chiefs does not always hold up under close investigation because the lines of the brothers intermarried. The lines of Cain and Seth intermarried. The lines of Ham and Shem intermarried. The lines of Abraham and Nahor intermarried as Isaac's wife was his patrilineal cousin or niece who was fetched from Nahor's family in Padan-Aram. 

We see the twelve-tribe organization in Genesis 22:20-24: Nahor, Abraham's older brother, was the progenitor of twelve Aramean tribes through his twelve sons, of whom eight were born to him by Milcah and four by Reumah.

Likewise, there are twelve clans ascribed to Ishmael in Genesis 25:13-16. Ishmael, Abraham's son by an Egyptian concubine, was the progenitor of twelve Nilo-Nabatean tribes: "Nebajoth; Kedar, Adbeel, Mibsam, Mishma, Dumah, Massa, Hadar, Tema, Jetur, Naphish, and Kedemah: These are the sons of Ishmael, and these are their names, by their towns, and by their castles; twelve princes according to their nations."

Jacob, a son of Isaac, was the progenitor of twelve Israelite tribes: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Zebuln, Dan, Naphati, Gad, Asshur, Joseph and Ben-Jamin. There is discrepancy on the number of Israelite tribes. Some count Dinah's line and some count Joseph's two sons Ephraim and Manassah.

Also there is an attempt to organize Esau into a twelve-tribe confederation in Genesis 36:40, but only eleven chiefs are listed, and two are women: Anah and Oholibamah. Genesis 36:24 lists Anah as a ‘son’ of Zibeon and her daughter Oholibamah is listed as an Edomite chief in Genesis 36:41. The attempt fails also because there are two named Esau. Esau the Elder was the father of Eliphaz. Esau the Younger had two wives. Basemath who bore Reuel, and Oholibamah who bore Jeush, Jaalam, and Korah (Genesis 36:1-9). These were the people of Seir, the Horite. They were Horite clans. Their organization appears to be that of three-clans, not twelve-tribes.

There is more evidence in the Bible for the three-clan organization than for the twelve-tribe organization. Often the rulers' names begin with Y, a solar cradle indicating divine appointment. Abraham's sons Yitzak (Isaac), Yishbak (Ishbak) and Yishmael (Ishmael) are an example. Here are some of the three-clan confederations listed in Scripture:

Cain Abel Seth (Gen. 4-5)
Ham Japeth Shem (Gen. 5-9)
Magog Og and Gog (Gen. 10 and Nu. 21:33)
Haran Nahor Abraham (Gen. 11-12)
Yishmael Yaqtan (Joktan) Yitzak (Gen. 16, 21, and 25)
Jeush Jalam Korah (Gen. 36: 4-18)
Jimnah, Jishvah and Jishvi (Gen. 46:17)
Korah Moses Aaron (Ex. and Nu.)
Dedan Tema Buz (Jeremiah 25)

The Jebusite confederation is Yoruba, Egba and Ketu. In Canaan, the three-clan Jebusite confederation consisted of Sheba, Jebu and Joktan.

Among the Sara of Chad, Sudan and Somalia the confederation is comprised of the qir ka, the qin ka, and the qel ka. The Sara are descendants of the Sao, an earlier three-tribe confederation of warriors and kingdom builders. According to legend, there were "giants" (Anakim/Anakh) among them. Some of the Anakh made their way to Southern Europe and even the British Isles.

Three-clan confederations in British Isles

About 64% of modern European men (that 2 out of 3) are descended from three Bronze Age males, possible brothers. That is the finding of a research team from the University of Leicester. Did these three males produced an enormous number of children or does this research confirm the existence of a 3-clan patrilineal confederation which practiced endogamy? If the latter is the case, this is confirmation of the kinship pattern of Abraham's ancestors in the R1b peoples who arrived in ancient Britain and Ireland.

In the ancient world, the R1b Annu/Ainu/Anakh dispersed widely. They built their shrines near water on mountains or elevated places. This was true along the Nile, in the Baltic region, in Southern China, Northern Japan and Okinawa, and in Cornwall. The Cornish fortress of Tintagel or Trevena is an example. In Cornish, it is called Tre war Venydh, meaning "village on a mountain."

The Ravenna Cosmography, compiled around 700 AD from Roman material 300 years older, lists a route running westward into Cornwall. On this route is a place then called Duro-cornovio. The Latin Duro-cornovio corresponds to the British Celtic duno-Cornouio-n, which means "fortress of the Cornish people." However, the original name for Cornwall was Kernow, which is related to the words Karnak and Karnevo. Kar is a archaic root that refers to a circular place of ritual. Kar-nak refers to the rite of teeth removal among the ancient Nilotes.

The words duno [Duno-Cornouio-n] and duro [Duro-cornovio] are related to the Ana'kh word dar, which refers to a citadel or a fortress. The Aramaic word for fortress is derived from dar, and the Arabic word dayr means monastery.

The Annu/Ainu/Anakh were known as masters of stone monuments, tombs and mining operations. They built sacred circles in reverence to the Sun, the emblem of the Creator. Ki-kar refers to a circle as in Exodus 25:11: ki-kar za-hav ta-hor, meaning "circle of pure gold." In the Anchor Bible Commentary on Genesis, E.A. Speiser recognizes that kikar refers to a circle.

A motif consisting of three interlocked spirals, called a triskele, is carved into the rock near the main entrance of Newgrange in Ireland. Newgrange was constructed over 5,000 years ago (about 3,200 B.C.) during the Neolithic period, which makes it older than Stonehenge and Great Pyramids of Giza. Newgrange is a large circular mound with a stone passageway and chambers inside.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Ignoring Anthropologically Significant Data

Alice C. Linsley

The website of the American Scientific Affiliation has papers from the ASA journal, or presentations given at ASA meetings, or works by individuals associated with the ASA that address Genesis 1-3. The authors generally agree that these chapters must be understood in the context of the Ancient Near Eastern (ANE), specifically Mesopotamia. None have explored the older Nilotic background of the material, which is indicated by the Genesis 10 designation of Abraham's ancestors as descendants of Kush. We find Abraham, the son of Terah (priest), in Mesopotamia because his ancestors were part of the Kushite dispersion that has been verified by DNA studies, anthropology, linguistics and archaeology. The marriage and ascendancy pattern of the Kushite rulers drove expansion out of the Nile Valley.

James Henry Breasted (1865–1935), director of the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago, in his 1916 textbook, Ancient Times: A History of the Early World, included the Nile Valley as part of the "Fertile Crescent," a term he coined. The crescent was fertile because it included major water systems that were interconnected during the African Humid Period. However, a Nilotic context for Genesis 1-3 is not considered by any of these ASA writers:

James D. Bales
Richard H. Bube
John C. Collins
Dick Fischer
Terry M. Gray
Daniel C. Harlow
Armin Held
Charles E. Hummel
Conrad Hyers
Lee Irons
Thomas Key
Meredith Kline
Denis O. Lamoureux
Paul Seely
William F. Tanner
Edwin Walhout
John Walton
Davis A. Young
G. Douglas Young

All of these scholars would describe themselves as "Evangelicals" who take Scripture seriously, yet they ignore anthropologically significant data provided in Genesis.

Related reading: The Themes of Genesis 1-3; Rightly Reading Genesis 1-3; The Fertile Crescent and the Cradle of Civilization; Abraham's Ancestors Came Out of Africa; Abraham's Kushite Ancestors; The Genesis King Lists; Denis Lamoureaux's 2013 ASA Lectures; Genesis in Anthropological Perspective; Alice C. Linsley's posts at ASA Website; Water Systems Connected Nile and Central Africa

Friday, July 24, 2015

Mother's House and Father's House

East African village

Alice C. Linsley

Among the Nilotic peoples children are valued and raised by the whole community or village. Traditional rites of passage included circumcision, scarification, naak, and the building of small huts. Among some Nilotic peoples, before girls come of marriage age (13-15 years) they build their own huts next to the huts of their mothers. They mimic female adulthood until they marry, at which point they take down their small hut and move into a larger hut built by their husband and located with his kinsmen (called patrilocal residence).

Similarly, young men celebrate their approaching manhood by building a small hut next to their father's hut until they take a wife, at which time they build a larger hut. 

The mother's house is where women gather to plan weddings and ceremonies for the girls. The father's house is where the elders of the village gather to deliberate. Sometimes marriages are arranged here, but the women are the ones who make the actually arrangements for weddings and the setting up of a new household.

This practice of hut or house building is alluded to in the book of Ruth where Naomi tells her daughters-in-law to return to their "mother's house" so that they can prepare to remarry. Contrast this to the story of Judah and Tamar (Gen. 38). Judah's sons who were married to Tamar die one after the other. He refuses to fulfill the levarite marriage law, fearing that he might lose another son. Judah tells Tamar to return to her "father's house" which is to say, "You will remain a widow and childless."

Sunday, July 19, 2015

The Doctrine of Creation and the Doctrine of the Church

1662 Memorial to Richard Hooker (1554-1600)
in Bishopsbourne church, line etching by William Faithorne

Alice C. Linsley

Richard Hooker is a saint at repose who in that state must surely be amused that his great theological reflections are gaining some popular attention among modernists and non-Anglicans. He has much wisdom to offer at this time of great confusion about the Church.

I acquired Hooker's complete works from a member of the Antiochian Orthodox Church where I worshiped through a remarkable circumstance, and since that time I have been reading through the volumes at my leisure. (This was one of several peculiar incidents which led me to believe that my Lord Jesus might be directing me back to the Anglican Way.) 

Of course, Hooker's most famous work is the Lawes of Ecclesiasticall Politie, first issued as a folio in sixes by John Windet in 1593. Another volume appeared in December 1597, and after that year "it was customary to sell both volumes together." From 1604, Hooker's work was printed as Books I-IV. 

The story of how the Lawes came to print is remarkable in itself, but by the grace of Almighty God, the work was birthed into the world. Against the puritan dissent of the state's ordinances for the running of the Church, Hooker insisted that they were not qualified for that task by virtue of their poor handling of Scripture, which would certainly produce a polity that was wrong by the measurements approved by Scripture and the Fathers' consensus on Scripture. (The 1571 Canon requiring subscription to the Articles of Religion instructs the clergy “not to teach anything except what is agreeable to the doctrine of the Old and New Testament, and what the Catholic Fathers and the ancient Bishops have collected from the same doctrine.”)

Hooker's Lawes isn't merely about how to run the Church. It is about the nature of the Church as the Body of Christ. The body has structure and works in an orderly way as directed by the Head. In other words, Hooker's understanding of church polity is closely aligned to his understanding of what the Bible teaches about creation. In both the doctrine of creation and the doctrine of the Church, Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Word, is central and lifted up. Both show forth the glory and beauty of God's holiness. No group may claim to know better how to re-form the Body of Christ. Indeed, no group has this authority; neither Rome, nor the Puritans, nor even the Church of England.

While this connection between the doctrines of creation and the church is well developed in the Lawes, it is in the "Dublin Fragments" that I find the most satisfying delivery of this relationship. This is found in IV: The creation and governance of the world not yet considered as being evill. And touching the first beginning of evill in the World.  I reproduce that section here for readers to contemplate. I have retained the Elizabethan English, which should not be difficult for readers to follow.

It should be noted how far the Church of England departed from Hooker and Scripture on the doctrine of creation in the 1939 report on Doctrine in the Church of England. Is it any surprise then that the Church of England has also departed from the Scriptural understanding of the Church?

This is how the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, subtly dismissed Hooker's contribution:

"I doubt whether he could have entertained any idea that the moral law set out in Scripture was anything other than lastingly valid, and, despite arguments to the contrary, I can't see him easily accepting alternatives to patriarchy as the basis of human (and therefore ecclesial) government. Yet there remains something about his approach to the Church's nature and basis that may offer a few pointers for a theology of Christian belonging less obsessively anxious about the humanly policed limits of the Church than some of our current styles of thought."
(From here.)

Richard Hooker
The Dublin Fragments

IV: The creation and governance of the world not yet considered as being evill. And touching the first beginning of evill in the World.

Wherefore to come to the operations or effects of Gods will, because his eternall and incomprehensible being, is soe allsufficinet, as nothing could moove him to worke, butt only that naturall desire which his goodnes hath to shew and impart itselfe, soe the wisest of the verie heathens themselves, which have acknowledged that he made the World, now that noe other reason thereof can be yeelded butt this, his mere goodness, which is likewise the cause, why it cannot be, butt that the world which he hath created, he should love soe farre forth, as it is the workmanship of his hands.

Seing then that good is before evill in dignitie and in Nature (for we cannot without good define and conceive what evill is:) and of good things that come to passe by the will of God, the first is the end which his will proposeth, and that end is to exercise his goodness of his owne nature, by producing effects wherein riches of the glorie thereof may appeare: for as much as all other effects are grounded upon the first existence or being of that which receiveth them; the first determination of God for the attainement of his end, must needes be creation, and the next unto it governance. For that he which created should governe, and that he which should guide, seemeth reasonable in all mens eyes. Whereupon wee come to observe in God two habilities or powers, his power to create, and his power to rule; in regard of the one, wee terme him our God, in respect of the other, our Lord, and King. As God, Creator or Father of all, he hath noe will but only to be gracious, beneficiall, and bountifull. As Lord, both mercie and wrath come from him; mercie of his owne accord, and wrath by occasion offered. Butt his providence, the roote of both is over all. All things have their being from him, by him their continuance, and in him their end. In power he ordaineth them, butt yett with gentlenes; mightily, butt yet in amiable manner. Soe that under him they feele noe unpleasant constrait, framed they are to his inclination without violence to their owne, such is the course of his heavenly Regiment, such his wisdome to ovre rule forceably without force. This providence of God is both generall over the kindes of things, and such alsoe as extendeth unto all particulars in each kind.

Of things created, the noblest and most resembling God, are creatures indued with the admirable guifte of understanding. St. Augstin comparing the first matter whereof all things are made with these last and worthiest workes of Gods hands, saith of the one, it is little above the degree of nothing; the other, little inferior to God, the Creator of all. If God then, clothe the lilies of the field, and provideth foode for the birds of the aire, should we thinck that his Providence hath nott allwayes as especiall care, as well of each particular man, as of mankind, and that for our greatest good everie way, unles some great thing occasion the contrarie. The work of Creation itselfe therefore, and the government of all things simply according to the state wherein they are made, must be distinguished from that which sinne arising afterwards, addeth unto the government of God, least wee runne into their error, whoe blende even with Gods verie purpos of creation a reference to eternall damnation and death.

Concerning his intended worke of creation and government simplie in itselfe considered by the effects which are seene, it may in part be understood what his secret purposes were, and that amongst sundry other more hidden determinations which were in God, these for examples sake are manifest: amiablie to order all things, and sutablie with the kindes, degrees, and qualities of their nature; not to be wanting unto reasonabe creatures in things necessarie for the attainement of their end; to give unto Angells and men happiness in the nature of a reward, to leave them indued with sufficient abilitie in the hands of their owne will; to enjoyne them their dutie, to shew them the danger which they might avoide, and must sustaine if they did not avoide. It being therefore the will of God to make reasonable creatures the liveliest representations of his owne perfection and glorie, he assigned by actions of mist dignitie, proceeding from the highest degree of excellencie, that any created nature was to receive from him. To Angells and men there was allotted a three fold perfection, a perfection of the end whereunto they might come, eternall life, a perfection of dutie whereby they should come, which dutie was obedience, and a perfection of State or qualitie for performance of that dutie. The first was ordained, the second required, and the third given. For presupposing that the will of God did determine to bestowe eternall life in the nature of a reward, and that rewards grow from voluntarie duties, and voluntarie duties from free agents: it followeth that whose end was eternall life, their state must needes implie freedome and libertie of will. A part therefore of the excellence of their nature, was the freedome of their will, and in this respect necessarie, that he whose will was to governe them in Justice, should strictly tie them to the constant observation of requisite offices, by the possibility as well of endlesse perdition and woe if they fell away, as of like felicitie if they continued for a tyme, that which they ought and might have done. Out of the libertie wherewith God by creation indued reasonable creatures, Angells and men, there insued sinne through their owne voluntarie choice of evill, neyther by the appointment of God, not yet without his permission. Not by appointment, for it abhorreth from the nature of God, to be outwardly a sharpe and severe prohibitor, and under hand an author of sinne. Touching permission, if God doe naturallie hate sinne, and by his knowledge foresee all things, wherefore did not his power prevent sinne, that soe his naturall desire might be satisfyed? Because in wisdome (whereupon his determinate will dependeth:) he saw it reasonable and good, to create both Angells and men perfectly free, which freedome being a part of their verie nature, they could not without it be that which they were; butt God must have left them uncreated if not indued with libertie of minde. Angells and men had before their fall the grace whereby they might have continued if they would without sinne, yet soe great grace God did not thinck good to bestowe on them, whereby they might be exempted from possibilitie of sinning, because this latter belongeth to their perfection whoe see God in fullnes of glorie, and not to them, whoe as yet serve him under hope. He saw it reasonable alsoe to graunt them power touching all events on their libertie, to shew them how they might use it to their owne everlasting good. Butt if himselfe having thus with great good reason determined, his power should after have interposed itselfe for the hinderance of their choice eyther in good or evill, asto hinder them the one way, could not have stood with the puritie of righteousness, soe the other way to lett them, had beene against the constancie of wisdome, which is in him whose greatnes nothing doeth more beseeme, then to be one and the same for ever. and not to stop the events of mutabilitie in himselfe.  Consider (saith Tertullian:) what divine fidelitie requireth, and thou wilt never mervaile, although for preservation of that which was according to the will of God, his power hindred not that which was greatly against his will. Wee see therefore how sinne entred into the World. The first that sinned against God was Satan. And then through Satans fraudulent instigation man alsoe. The sinne of Devills grew originallie from themselves, without suggestion or incitement outwardie offred them. They kept not the State of that first beginning which they had from God, and as our Saviour himselfe saith of them, they stood not in the trueth, whereby it may be verie probablie thought, that happiness even of Angells depended chiefly upon their beleif in a trueth which God did reveale unto them, the trueth of that personall conjunction which should be of God with men. For Christ,although a Redeemer only unto men, might notwithstanding bee revealed unto Angells as their Lord, without any reference att all to sinne, which the knowledge of Christ a Redeemer doth neessarilie presuppose: Soe that man their inferior by degree of Nature, they must in Christ, the Son of God advanced unto soe great honor adore. Which mysterie the too great admiration of their owne excellencie being soe likelie to have made incredible, it is unto us the more credible, that infidelitie through pride was their ruine. As alsoe envie maketh them ever sithence the first moment of their owne fall, industrious as much as in them lyeth to worke ours, which they can only doe as solicitors and instigators. Our sinne therefore in that respect, excuseth us not, butt wee are therewith justlie charged as the authors of it ourselves. Touching God, though he stopp it not, he neither coveteth nor approacheth it, he noe way approoveth, he noe way stirreth, or tempteth any Creature unto it. It is as naturall unto God to hate sinne, as to love righteousness. Amongst the Jewes twoe hundred yeares before Christ, there were, as it seemed, men which fathered sinne and iniquitie upon Gods ordinance: under the Apostles there is some shew that the like was broached. The Valentinians, the Mationites, and the Manichees being perswaded, as the trueth is, that one and the same God cannot wish, love, or approove both vertue and vice, both good and evill, ascribed willingly the one to that God most just and righteous, whome wee all worship: but vainely imagined that the other hath growne from some other God of equall power and of contrarie disposition. Of late the Libertines have reduced both unto God againe, they have left noe difference betweene good and evill, butt in name only. They make all things in Gods sight to be alike, God the worker, man, but his instrument, and our perfection to consist only in casting out that scrupulositie, conscience, and feare, which wee have of one thing more than another. Of all which heretical devices, the fountaine is that secret shame wherewith our nature in itselfe doth abhorre the deformitie of sinne, and for that cause studie by all meanes how to finde the first originall or if elswhere. Butt for as much as the glorie of God hath beene defended first by Jesus the Sonne of Sirach, against blasphemers in his tyme; by St. James against the wicked of the Apostles dayes, against the Valentinians and afterwards by Irenaeus, by Tertullian against the Marcionites, against the Manichees by St. Augustin, and against libertines, last of all Calvine. To whose industrie alone, wee owe the refutation of their impietie. Wee may well presume, that of this the whole Christian world agreed, all denying God to be the author of sinne.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Wisdom! Let Us Attend.

1812 Ukrainian (Kyiv) Icon 
Sophia, the Holy Wisdom

Alice C. Linsley

Genesis 1 describes when God began the work of creation. It uses the words tohu (formless or confused) and bohu (empty or void). The Hebrew phrase "formless and void" (Gen. 1: 2) is tohu wa-bohu and is of Nilotic origin. The word tohu in Isaiah 34:11 means "confused" so it appears that Genesis 1 refers to matter in a confused or chaotic state before God set things in order.

In Nilotic mythology chaos preceded creation. The Egyptians personified chaos (tehom) and believed that this serpent dwelt south of Yebu (Elephantine Island). However, Tehom was overthrown by Tehut, divine Wisdom, also personified. The oldest known law code was the Law of Tehut, attributed to Menes, the first ruler to unite the peoples of the Upper and Lower Nile.

The idea of Wisdom personified is found in Proverbs 9 and Proverbs 8. Here Wisdom speaks in the first person, giving an account of creation:

YHWH had me as the beginning of his way,
the earliest of his works of yore.
Of old I was woven, from the very beginning,
even before the earth itself.

When the deeps were not existent, I was birthed.
When the wellsprings were not yet laden with water,
when the mountains were not yet anchored,
before the hills themselves, I was brought forth.
Before [YHWH] made the earth abroad
and the first clods of soil,
when he established the heavens, I was there.

When he circumscribed the surfaces of the deep,
when he secured the skies,
and stabilized the springs of the deep,
when he assigned the sea its limit
(lest the waters transgress his decree)
when he inscribed the foundations of the earth,

I was beside him growing up.
I was his delight day by day,
playing with him every moment,
playing with his inhabited world
delighting in the offspring of ‘ādām.

Wisdom tells us that she “came forth from the mouth of the Most High” as the first-born before all creatures. This sounds very like the Logos of John's Gospel. The creation of the universe was a singular event according to the Bible. Everything that was created in the beginning was created from nothing (creatio ex nihilo). God did not create from preexisting elements or from the substance of a previously existent world. God's power is in the Word which goes forth from God and unfailingly generates life and existence (Isaiah 55:11). The Word is generative.

Wisdom is personified as a female who seeks a place to rest upon the earth and finds that place among the people of Jacob (Sirach 24:8) In this view, wisdom is associated with the Spirit’s presence and guidance among people of the covenant. The covenant extends to those who put their faith in the Messiah whose appearing Wisdom foretold (Genesis 3:15).

To love Wisdom is to honor the boundaries established by Wisdom. The boundaries are set by binary distinctions or what Genesis calls separation. Order is established by separating the waters above from the waters below, the seas from the dry land, the night and day, male and female, humans and the lower creatures, etc.

In the Biblical worldview there is a fixed and immutable hierarchy in the order of creation, with humans being the most like the Creator. Wisdom delighted in play with humans, a wondrous creation. In the hierarchical conception of Genesis humans rank above the other animals, the animals rank above the plants, and the plants rank above inanimate objects such as rocks. Within these tiers are the "kinds" (essentialism), each reproducing according to its kind. 

This explains why homosex and onanism are regarded as serious transgressions of the divine order in creation. Onanism was regarded as an unrighteous deed because the seed that should fall to the earth is the seed of plants, which spring forth from the earth. The seed of man should fall on his own type (the womb), from which man comes forth. Clement of Alexandria wrote, “Because of its divine institution for the propagation of man, the seed is not to be vainly ejaculated, nor is it to be damaged, nor is it to be wasted” (The Instructor of Children 2:10:91:2 A.D. 191).

Thales of Miletus (c. 624-546 BC) was a great observer of the natural order. He was skilled in geometry, astronomy, engineering and the natural sciences. Thales studied in Egypt and calculated the height of the pyramids from the length of their shadows. He measured the time between one solstice and the next. Thales taught that water was the original substance from which all things took form. He called Wisdom arche/archai

To love Wisdom leads to blessedness (deification/theosis/sanctification). Those who despise Wisdom are cursed. St. Paul explains that their minds are darkened and they cannot see Truth. By the ignorance in them they are alienated from the life of God (Eph. 4:18). 

Contemporary Western culture shows no honor to Wisdom. The immutable distinctions are blurred by relativism, Process Theology, reductionism, laziness, ignorance, bigotry, entitlement attitudes, and the spiritual confusion that comes from involvement in demonic activity. 

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Climate Studies and the Book of Genesis

Alice C. Linsley

Plato recounts that "Many great deluges have taken place during the nine thousand years" since Athens and Atlantis were preeminent. In these floods, water rose from below, and only those who lived on the mountains survived. He reports that the third great flood before Deucalion washed away most of Athens' fertile soil. [Timaeus 22; Critias 111-112]

The ancient Egyptians believed that flooding represented divine punishment of rebellion against Ra/Atum's appointed ruler. "People have become rebellious [lawless]. Atum said he will destroy all he made and return the earth to the Primordial Water which was its original state." (Genesis 1:2)

The African Humid Period

Noah was a Proto-Saharan ruler at a time when the Sahara was wet. According to Dr Kevin White, “Over the last 10,000 years, there have been two distinct humid phases, separated by an interval of highly variable but generally drying conditions between roughly 8,000 and 7,000 years ago. Another drying trend took place after about 5,000 years ago, leading to today’s parched environment.”

Noah lived during the period of the Old Kingdom of Egypt, a time of great cultural and technological achievement. This places Noah and his sons in relatively recent history, not at the dawn of human existence.

Noah's flood occurred in the region of Lake Chad in the Gurian Wet Period, also called the “Aqualithic." The latter term was coined by British archaeologist John Sutton (Journal of Africa History 1974; Antiquity 1977). This is also known as "the African Humid Period."

The Holocene Wet Period owes the abundance of water to climate cycles related to Earth's Great Year a cycle of 25,000-28,000 years), to monsoons off the Indian Ocean, and rifting that created great troughs or depressions.

The word Chad/Tchad is related to the Nilotic Luo word chaddhoreh, meaning a wound or a bruise. In Isaiah 1:6 the King James Version translates chabbarah as "bruises." The Luo word also refers to a depression where something has been cut out, plucked out, or bruised. A depression of this type is called chaddhoreh in Luo. So the name Chad describes the basin which filled with water and became Mega Chad.

About 7500 years ago Lake Chad was 130 feet deeper than it is today and covered an area of about 135,000 square miles (350,000 sq km). The footprint of ancient Mega-Chad has been confirmed by satellite photography. The Nile waters swelled from increased rainfall and cut a deeper and wider floodplain, extending well into Sudan to the west.

Fortified oasis of Djado in Niger
Ruins are about 1000 years old.

The Djado Plateau lies in the Sahara, in northeastern Niger. It is known for its cave art, but is now largely uninhabited, with abandoned towns and forts still standing. Ancient rivers cut deep canyons in the red rocky landscape. The many archaeological sites are a testament to the fact that the climate was once favorable to human habitation. There is evidence of widespread human settlements in the region over 50,000 years ago.

Ancient water systems connected the Nile and Central Africa. This is evident in the map below showing the African Sheer Zone.

Rifting, combined with prolonged rains, caused this entire region to flood. Lake Chad is located at the boundary of Niger, Nigeria, Chad and Cameroon.


The eastern Sahara Desert was once home to a large lake in the White Nile Valley floor. This is likely the western boundary of Biblical Eden, a vast watery world that extended to the Tigris-Euphrates Valley and the Indus River Valley. According to this report, the mega lake was probably formed more than one hundred thousand years ago in the White Nile River Valley in Sudan.

Between 10 and 12 thousand years ago the Nile river system filled with waters from the Angolan Highlands, the result of geological uplift which created Lake Victoria and directed its excess flow north in the White Nile. The White Nile provides most of the Nile's water during the dry season.

Between 12 and 10 thousand years ago, the Nile connected to the Chadic and Niger water systems through a series of shallow lakes in the Sahara Desert. This explains the common plant and animal species found in all three water systems.

The now dry Botswanan lake basin was once a sea filled with water from the Angolan Highlands. Some of Africa's earliest human populations lived on the edges of this great lake and evidenced by thousands of man-made stone tools found there. The tools include mace heads and date to between 80,000 and 100,000 years.

As the Sahara dried out, human populations and their cattle found it necessary to move toward the major water systems of the Benue Trough, Lake Chad and the Nile. The Sahara became increasingly depopulated. In the words of Leviticus 26:19, the heavens became like iron and the earth like brass.

Arid Phase in the Southern Levant

A core drilled from the Sea of Galilee was subjected to high resolution pollen analysis for the Bronze and Iron Ages. The detailed pollen diagram (sample/~40 yrs) was used to reconstruct past climate changes and human impact on the vegetation of the Mediterranean zone of the southern Levant. The chronological framework is based on radiocarbon dating of short-lived terrestrial organic material. The results indicate that the driest event throughout the Bronze and Iron Ages occurred ~1250–1100 BC, at the end of the Late Bronze Age. Read the full report here.

Related reading: When the Sahara Was Wet: Water Systems Connected Nile and Central Africa; Genesis and Climate Change; Rock Art in Sudan and Somalia; Africa in the Days of Noah; Boat Petroglyphs in Egypt's Eastern Desert; Climate Change Indicates a Dynamic Earth; Climate Cycles and Noah's Flood