googlef87758e9b6df9bec.html A Sure Word: February 2011

Monday, February 28, 2011

The Cafeteria Presidency

Have you noticed how President Obama and his administration has a habit of picking and choosing what laws should be enforced? Most recently, it was the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Obama has decided that the law was unconstitutional and has decided that his administration will no longer defend it in court. Ordinarily, the President is considered to be the “Chief Law Enforcement Officer.” Obama, on the other hand, only enforces those laws he personally agrees with. It seems that his is an administration of selective law enforcement.

He has defended his action by asserting he is suspect of the constitutionality of DOMA. Now, I'm not constitutional scholar or anything but it seems to me that should be a decision for the courts to make. Well, never mind, I guess, because the Executive branch has already decided the issue. Without so much as a hearing, the White House has ruled on the issue. They will not defend the law in court. They have forfeited the game without stepping foot onto the field.

This isn't the first time the Administration has engaged in selective enforcement. Remember the case of the Black Panther voter intimidation? Two goons dressed in military garb stood outside of a polling station while brandishing night sticks. It was as blatant a case of voter intimidation as you could ever imagine. Yet Christopher Coates, former head of the Department of Justice voter rights division, testified before congress that, “I had people who told me point-blank that [they] didn’t come to the voting rights section to sue African-American people.” Attorney General Eric Holder inexplicably dropped charges against the offending thugs.

After the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Obama decided by executive fiat to discontinue oil drilling in the Gulf. A court ruling against his decision has done little to deter him since there is still no off-shore drilling going on by any US companies. This is a “law” Obama decided to enforce in spite of it being ruled unconstitutional.

Oh yeah, there was also his recent decision to end “don't ask, don't tell.”

The worst case of selective enforcement, however, must be the failure to enforce the immigration laws. As illegal immigrants stream across our southern border by the thousands, the Obama administration does nothing. Actually, it's doing worse than nothing. When Arizona decided to pass and enforce laws that mirrored the laws the feds weren't enforcing, the Obama administration actually sued the state of Arizona! So not only does the Administration not fight to stop illegal immigrants, it fights against anyone who does!

Maybe it's just me but it seems that Obama has decided to run a cafeteria presidency. How else could we describe it? He likes some laws but doesn't like others. He then executes policy accordingly.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

2 Corinthians 9:7: Cheerful or Hilarious?

In another post (here), I mentioned the exegetical fallacy of “reverse etymology.” This is where people force the modern meaning of a word onto its original meaning. In that other post, I talked about how some critics attack the Bible because the Hebrew word עוֹף (oph) seems to contradict their understanding of the modern word “bird” (Leviticus 11:13,19). However, the fallacy of reverse etymology isn't practiced only by critics. It is more often used by well meaning Christians – even pastors. One example of this fallacy I've heard from well meaning Christians concerns 2 Corinthians 9:7:

Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

The word translated here as “cheerful” is the Greek word ἱλαρός (hilaros) – used here in the neuter, ἱλαρὸν. You might recognize the word. It is from ἱλαρός that we derive our English word “hilarious” and it is on that fact that I've heard many well intended pastors pounce. They say, for example, that tithing shouldn't just be joyous, it should be “hilarious.” The problem with this view is that English word hilarious, though it may be derived from the Greek, still carries a different meaning to the modern hearer than it did for the original audience.

Strong (word # 2430) defines the word simply as “joyous, cheerful, not grudging.” HELPS Word Studies expounds on this a little: “properly, propitious; disposed because satisfied – describing someone who is cheerfully ready to act because already approving ("already persuaded"). hilarós ("won over, already inclined") is only used in 2 Cor 9:7 where it describes spontaneously non-reluctant giving.”

Tithing is a form of worship. Everything we have is given to us by God (John 1:16). When we tithe, we give back a portion of what God has given to us. We should want to do this. It should be done with a glad heart and not begrudgingly. This is what 2 Corinthians 9:7 is telling us and this is what is meant by the word ἱλαρὸν. That is how the original hearers would have understood it.

Something different is meant by the word hilarious. Hilarious describes something that is extremely funny. Those pastors I've heard use this point try to suggest we should be happy to the point of laughter. It's as though we should be rolling on the floor laughing when the offering plate goes around. Do you really think that is what Paul meant? Tithing is joyous but it's not a joke.

I believe there is great value in studying the original meaning of words. Word Studies are fantastic tools that can give us new insights into familiar passages. However, we need to be careful as we consider these words. Remember that when the Bible was being written, English didn't exist. It's a powerful temptation to project our understanding of a word onto its original meaning. We need to resist that temptation. Do not consider what the word means now; instead, ask yourself what the word meant then.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Taking a Look at Invisible Taxes

I've worked in banking and financial services for over 20 years. During that time, I've loaned tens of millions of dollars to literally thousands of people. Perhaps my opinion might still be considered anecdotal but let me tell you something that I've noticed in my experience. There are many people out there who don't know how much they make. When asked about their income, they only answer with how much they take home. They know there are taxes being taken out of their check but they really have no idea how much. They can tell you to the penny how much their paycheck is; they just don't know how much it was before the government took it's share.

How exactly did it come about that the government has first dibs on our income? I really don't know. I must say, though, that it's very clever. By taking their cut before we get our check, it's like we never miss the money. How can we miss something we never had? I think that's the intended effect. The government believes it has a right to the first fruits of our labor and if they take it before we even see it, we're less likely to make a fuss.

I've noticed a similar practice in the gasoline tax. Have you noticed gas prices lately? They've gone up a little since Obama took office. The prices displayed on the pump already include the taxes. The average tax (federal & state) on a gallon of gas is 48.1 cents (source) but since it's already included in the price, you don't know how much you're paying for gas and how much you're paying in taxes.

Do you think we need tax reform? Here's one place to start: the government needs to stop taking out taxes before we get out check. Instead, the government should send us a bill each month and we have to write a check to pay our taxes. What do you think would be the result if that happened? I believe people would begin rioting in the streets. I believe that when people see their tax bill is more than their car payment, they'll storm the capital.

The same could be done about the hidden gasoline tax. In KY, our sales tax is 6%. When I buy a cheeseburger for $1.00, I have to pay $1.06. Likewise, the gas pumps could display the cost of just the gas and after we pump 10 gallons, they charge us for the gas and add another $4.81 cents for the tax. If you want to get people outraged about taxes, this would do the trick.

The government hides taxes everywhere. They're in your phone bill, your utility bill, even your cable bill. Do you know how much you pay for cable? You probably do. How much of it is taxes? Do you know? I'll bet you don't. These are stealth taxes. It's the modus operandi of the of big brother. People aren't passionate about the government intrusion into their lives because they can't see the intrusion. The feds like it that way.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Were there Fish on the Ark?

In the many years I've spent defending Christianity, I've heard a lot of criticisms of the Bible. Some are repeated more often than others and one criticism I've heard concerns the disposition of fish during the Flood. It's not one of the more commonly raised criticisms but it's raised often enough to warrant our attention. Yet I believe it's one of the least answered by apologists. Many apologetic websites that I've visited have long lists of articles responding to common objections but this objection is curiously absent from many of them (though certainly not all of them). I'm really puzzled as to why because it's not that difficult to answer. Perhaps I shouldn't be too hard on my fellow apologists, though. After all, my own blog is over three years old and I haven't addressed it yet. I guess I just never got around to it. We'll, I'm going to remedy that now.


Certain species of fish are extremely intolerant to variations in their environment. They can only survive in a narrow range of water temperature or salinity level. If the water is too hot or too cold or too salty or not salty enough, the fish will die. During the Flood, however, all the waters would have been mixed together. Remember too that the waters of the Flood covered the earth for approximately one year. If all the waters were salty, how did fresh-water fish survive? If all the waters were fresh-water, how did salt-water fish survive?


At first hearing, this sounds like a serious objection but as an old saying goes, it's a mile wide and an inch deep. There's a very glaring assumption built into the objection that undoes the entire dilemma. I think many evolutionists recognize the flaw which is why the objection isn't raised more often. After all, evolutionists face this same dilemma yet the flaw either doesn't occur to some evolutionists or they won't admit it exists. The simple answer is this: it is only the modern species of fish that have adapted to their environment. The ancestors of these species could obviously survive a broader variation in their environment.

Think about this: even according to evolutionary theory, all species of fish (both fresh and salt-water fish) have a common ancestor. Was this supposed ancestor a fresh-water or salt-water dweller? If the ancestor lived in salt-water, how come some of its descendants can only live in fresh-water? It is because they have adapted to live only in fresh-water, of course.

Creationists believe much that same things about fish; that is, modern species have adapted to their environment. The key differences in our theories are 1) how long it took the species to adapt and 2) we do not believe all fish have a single common ancestor but have descended from a few created “kinds” (see my previous post, What is a Kind).

Now, during the Flood, even many aquatic animals died. Marine animals represent the overwhelming majority of species in the fossil record and most of these fossils were created during the Flood. Even so, a few representatives of the various “kinds” of fish survived. After the Flood, there was a common principle that applied to all surviving species: adapt or die. The various kinds of animals that survived the Flood were genetically diverse and this wide range of genetic potential meant the early generations of their offspring enjoyed wide diversity. As animals spread out to repopulate the world, those creatures with traits well suited to an environment prospered while those with unsuitable traits died (see my post, The Real Origin of Species). The species today are specialized and well adapted to their environments. They are also less able to adapt to changes in their environment than their more genetically diverse ancestor were.

Concerning this subject, there are many other factors that could be discussed but they are only of marginal importance. For example, why must we assume that the Flood waters were uniform? Even though the Flood was global, the level of salinity was not necessarily the same everywhere. Neither was the temperature likely the same everywhere. There could very well have been pockets where the water was warmer, or cooler, or more salty, or less salty, or more acidic, or less acidic, etc. Consider the Pacific Ocean; even today, is the water temperature the same everywhere in the Pacific? If the Pacific Ocean still isn't entirely uniform, why must a single, global ocean be uniform? Also, how tempestuous was the Flood? The Bible says it rained for 40 days (Genesis 7:12) and the water prevailed 150 days (Genesis 7:24). The most violent part of the Flood was the beginning. Afterward, the waters were probably more tranquil so there wasn't necessarily a year long “stirring” of the water. Finally, we know that the seas are becoming more salty (here). At the current level of salinity and the rate at which salt is being added, the seas would have been entirely fresh water only 62 million years ago. So, even granting the most generous assumptions to evolutionists, the oceans must be less than 62 million years old. At the very least, the salt levels in the ocean would have changed markedly over the last few hundred thousand years. If the fresh-water fish of old could not have adapted quickly to the increase in salt levels, they should be dead now according to evolutionists' own theory!

These ancillary issues are interesting to discuss but the bottom line is still this: it is flimsy ground to argue that ancestral fish could not have survived the Flood based solely on the tolerance ranges of modern species. This objection poses no problem at all to creationists. The caricature painted by evolutionists of Noah having to build aquariums on the Ark to preserve sensitive species of fish is nothing more than a straw man.

Further reading:
Is Shark Hybridization "Evolution in Action"?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

What is a “Budget”?

A few years back, I was doing some volunteer work for Junior Achievement. Once each week for 10 weeks, I met with a class of sophomores and discussed “personal economics.” Most of it was basic stuff like balancing a check book or filling out a job application. However, there was one thing which stood out that I still carry with me today.

A couple of the lessons dealt with having a budget. I was trying to figure out a good way to explain the concept of a budget to a group of 10th graders and I came up with the following analogy. Imagine that, immediately after graduating college, you get a job where you take home $20,000 each year (I said “take home” because I didn't need to get into a discussion about taxes just yet). Anyway, what are some of the things you could do with $20K/year? Well, you could save all your money for six months and buy a nice, used car. You could save your money for a year and buy a new car. You could even save all your money for five years and pay all cash for a modest house.

You see, even on a modest income of only $20K, you could still afford nearly anything you want: a house, a car, a vacation, nice clothes, etc. The problem, however, is that you can't afford everything you want. You could buy a house OR a car OR take a vacation but not necessarily all three. A budget, then, is a list of your priorities. You have to decide what it is you want the most. If you want to eat dinner out every night you can. But if you would rather save to buy a car, then eating out every night isn't a option. It might be nice to have both, but realistically you can't. You have to prioritize which you're going to spend your money on. That is a budget; it's simply prioritizing your spending.

It was a simple concept and the 10th graders seemed to catch on quickly. Unfortunately, our elected officials still don't get it. They still think we can have it all. They want to “invest” (i.e. spend money on) education, green jobs, unemployment, social security, health care, infrastructure, foreign aid, defense, corporate bailouts, teachers' pensions, congressional salaries, and pork barrel projects. When we protest the outrageous spending that's going on, they merely answer with the question, “well, what are we going to cut?” as though everything is too important to cut funding for it.

Not only do our elected leaders not understand the concept of a budget, neither do they seem to understand the definition of “priority.” How can everything be a priority? If you want to balance the budget, you've got to decide what is truly a priority, spend your money only on those things, and cut everything else.

Now, I know some decisions are hard to make but we have reached the point where we have to make them. Is congress so weak-willed and indecisive that they can't decide what is a priority? Do I need to remind you that this was a lesson I taught to 10th graders?

Continuing to spend money on everything we want is no longer an option.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Shut Up and Eat the Fish!

I'm not Catholic but where I grew up, there was a large Catholic population. I went to a public school but a large percentage of the kids there were Catholic. At that time, the Catholics still observed the practice of not eating meat on Fridays and, so, the public school I went to always served fish on Fridays. Why? Because a lot of the kids there were Catholic and could only eat fish. You see, even though it was a public school, they made a concession because of the religious beliefs of their kids.

Now, like I said, I'm not a Catholic. There wasn't anything about my religious beliefs that prevented me from eating meat on Fridays. I would have preferred a cheese burger over the fish. If I wanted, I could have had a fit about it. My parents could have hired a lawyer and sued the school over some violation of the separation of church and state. But I didn't do any of these things. Even though I was very young, I understood the concept of tolerance. I shut up and ate the fish.

Tolerance then meant something different than it does now. What liberals call “tolerance” now means not offending anyone. More precisely, "tolerance" means not offending liberals. If I were to pray out loud, for example, I'm being intolerant because an atheist might be offended. I suspect that if that attitude prevailed when I was young, the Catholics would not have been tolerated. The minority atheists would not have been tolerant at all. They would have protested having to eat fish.

This intolerant doctrine of “tolerance” is now the norm in schools. What do schools do now to accommodate the religious beliefs of their students? We no longer have the example of serving fish on Fridays. We do, however, have a sizable percentage of kids who believe in Biblical creation. What accommodations are made for them? Of course, I don't expect public schools to teach Genesis but couldn't they at least show a little respect for their students' beliefs? How about teachers not calling a belief in creation, “superstitious nonsense”? How about not using science books that describe creationism as, “the biblical myth that the universe was created by the Judeo-Christian God in 7 days”? How about not banning from college any home-schooled kids who used a creation based curriculum? Couldn't these things be seen as just a touch intolerant?

Again, I'm not asking schools to teach creation. It would just be nice to see a little of this tolerance I keep hearing about.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Evidence for the Tooth Fairy

I'm going to tell on myself. In my last post, I talked about how theories explain the evidence while the evidence is neutral. There, I said that statements like, “there is no evidence for creation” are demonstrative of the ignorance of the person making the statement. Well, I admit that I have made statements before like, “there is no evidence for evolution.” What's worse, I didn't say it hastily and without thinking. I was very deliberate. I confess: I have done the very thing I have just chided evolutionists for saying.

Now, you might be asking why I would have made such a statement if I believe it's such an ignorant statement. You may also wonder why I would confess to it so forthrightly. Well, at the risk of sounding hypocritical, when I have said that there is no evidence for evolution, I did not mean it in the same way that evolutionists mean when they say there is no evidence for creation (generally speaking, of course). Let me explain.

First, I sometimes mean it in the same sense that I suggested in my last post. Evidence is neutral and theories are merely attempts to explain the evidence. In that sense, there is no evidence for any theory. Evidence doesn't speak and doesn't endorse any theory. One might say that his theory is the better explanation of the evidence but the evidence isn't for the theory.

But I sometimes mean it in another sense. Do you believe there is a tooth fairy? There are millions of kids out there who do. Why? Well, there are a few reasons. Usually, they're told by their parents that there is a tooth fairy. Also, when they lose a tooth, they put it under their pillow, they go to sleep, and the next morning they find cash in place of the tooth. All of these things certainly convince the kids that there is a tooth fairy but is it really evidence for the tooth fairy? The existence of a tooth fairy would certainly explain all this “evidence” but there's another explanation that happens to be the correct one.

Evolution is kind of like the tooth fairy. It might seem to explain the evidence reasonably well but there's another theory that is the correct one. Some people call creation a fairy tale but evolution is truly a myth. It's been called a fairy tale for grown ups where a frog turns into a prince – over millions of years. For all of its scientific trappings, it's still a myth. The “evidence” for evolution is nothing more than kids findings quarters under their pillow.

God made the world as described in Genesis. It might not be considered scientific but it's the truth. What some people call “evidence for evolution” is just like the evidence for the tooth fairy. It might convince some people, but it's certainly not proof. How can something that's not real be proven? How can something that's not real even have evidence? It's for this reason I've sometimes said, “there is no evidence for evolution.”