Wednesday, February 27, 2013

1 Chron 12:32 report, 109: History Channel's "The Bible" series March 3, 2013 by Roma Downey and Mark Burnett -- an opportunity to educate a new generation in basic Bible knowledge

From Monday evening, 7 pm Eastern Time, History Channel -- I know, I know, this also hosts a lot of trash the Bible stuff -- will host a 10-hour, ten session dramatised mini series on the Bible, produced by Roma Downey (of Touched by an Angel) and her husband, Mark Downey. (Episodes guide, here.)

Episodes, per History Channel:
Lead: Monday, March 7, 2013, 8:00 pm Eastern US Time. (Presumably, this will run to about 10 pm.)

  • March 04, 2013 - 12:02-02:02AM
  • March 06, 2013 - 09:00-11:02PM
  • March 07, 2013 - 01:01-03:03AM
  • March 10, 2013 - 06:00-08:02PM

Trailer (extended):

The introduction by the producers will be useful:

And, to get a flavour, here is C Lo Green's Mary, did You Know, in the series session on the birth of Jesus:

I regard this as an opportunity to do "Sunday School" for a generation that needs to hear and to see the message and broad storyline of the Bible in a medium that is familiar and comfortable, video. While, the series is obviously only highlighting several pivotal events in the Bible's timeline, and thus giving a broad overview of the timeline/ plotline of the Bible, even that is something that too many simply do not have today.

And, the videos can be a springboard for discussion, reading and study.

(Onwards, I strongly recommend doing a full survey of Bible history, and another of systematic theology (NB: scope-sequence is here), in a context where one also does a structured study of/introduction to the gospel, basics of the Christian commitment of discipleship, church renewal, and service/leadership based on cell/small groups. (This last should include a survey of personal evangelism skills (cf. here on organising public evangelistic meetings) and handling of basic intellectual challenges -- apologetics.) We should have some exposure as well to organising ourselves to be active participants in the global Missionary Mandate of the church.

We are living in a time where all too many are woefully ignorant of the Bible and its central redemptive, transforming message. In addition, others have spent their time obsessively trying to poison minds against the Bible, in inadvertent fulfillment of Jesus' warning in Jn 3:19 - 21.

Let me clip the context:
Jn 3:Jesus answered [the leading Jewish teacher, Nicodemus], “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.[c] Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You[d] must be born again.’ The wind[e] blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?”

10 Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things? 11 Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you[f] do not receive our testimony. 12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man.[g] 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.[h]

For God So Loved the World

16 For God so loved the world,[i] that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe [--> refuses to trust God through the gospel . . . .] is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.  

19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”

(Cf. here on a rebuttal of evilbible, a typical sampler of the manipulative well-poisoning rhetoric used by many so-called New Atheists and their fellow travellers. A broader survey of issues raised C1 - 21 is here.)

So, I believe it is of first importance to support such a worthwhile effort, whatever flaws may/will be there. Getting people to pay attention to the Word of God is a big step to their making an appropriate, eternally vital response to it. And, by starting where people are -- with video, an audio-visual medium -- we can then help people focus their minds on what, sadly, is now the less familiar, less easy medium of printed text.

Quite frankly, I am at the stage where I openly advocate using multimedia projectors with rich visuals to help open eyes to see and hear, then projecting the text, music videos etc, and diagrams too, to help people learn the gospel message in context. (In that context, I highly recommend using video clips in sermons and Bible lessons, including appropriate web downloads etc. Cf. Glo Bible here. Amazon, here.)

And, once attention has been won, and once the gospel brings forth a proper response,w e can then proceed with solid teaching and training, to help disciples grow in grace and serve Christ in a very challenging age.

So, I welcome this event and look forward to the opportunity to purchase the DVD set for the miniseries. END

Sunday, February 24, 2013

VIDEO: Dr Guillermo Gonzalez lectures and answers questions on the fine-tuning cosmological design argument

Astronomer Dr Guillermo Gonzalez (the same, expelled from Iowa State university in the context of being involved with Privileged Planet) here presents a survey of the fine-tuning argument in which he explains how we get to several fine-tuning cases:

It will be evident that he draws out the same sort of inference that Sir Fred Hoyle did, though he is apparently explicitly a Christian. Food for thought. END

PS: Pardon audio, especially on audience questions. (This is a pity, and can be averted by using a lavalier microphone fr the presenter, as well as wireless microphones for questioners handled by ushers, or simply an aisle microphone or two.)


F/N: For a 101, and for links to onward details, cf. here on. (A basic backgrounder will be seen here on.)

Saturday, February 23, 2013

VIDEO: Taking apart a "typical" Tablet PC (here, a Toshiba Thrive)

It is a useful exercise to watch over the shoulder as a proficient owner takes apart his Tablet (to replace a cracked screen) and puts it back together again:

This should also speak to how to take apart cell phones, notebook screens, etc. Of course, the warnings given are not for a lark; one can get into a lot of trouble, really fast, here.

How tweredun, and what the innards look like. Useful. END

F/N: For something that is downright scary, look here at how a Microsoft Surface Pro was opened up, with the aid of a heat gun, yes a heat gun on plastic and next to delicate electronics. Not for amateurs, or the faint of heart.

Matt 24 watch, 196: JONAH (a Jewish outreach to people struggling with same sex attraction and homosexuality) is sued by the Southern Poverty Law Centre (a so-called civil rights law group) for "fraud," responds

Ever since Mrs Madalyn Murray O'Hair's lawsuit removed prayer and Bible readings from public schools in the 1960's, a favourite tactic of dechristianising radicals in the USA has been to resort to the courts to shut down open discussion of issues and lock out what they wish removed. 

This is especially notorious on matters relating to origins science, Creation and Design, but it is now being extended to moral and counselling issues such as homosexuality.

So, in a sense, it is no surprise that the same formerly respectable Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) that labelled the Family Research Center affiliated with Focus on the Family as a "hate group" because of its stance against the homosexualisation of our civilisation, and so inspired a lunatic to attack it with guns and Chick-fil-A sandwiches he intended to put on the victims of his shooting rampage, is now suing to brand ministries that reach out to Homosexuals as frauds. 

The odd twist in this case, is that JONAH -- Jews Offering New Alternatives to Healing -- is a Jewish outreach. (Cf JONAH press release in reply to SPLC, here.)

However, if SPLC wins its case by picking the right judge to legislate from the bench in its favour -- a now notorious pattern, you can rest assured that the decision will have direct implications for any Christian outreach to homosexuals, or any pastor standing in a pulpit to teach from Rom 1 etc etc. 

Ken Connor, a Christian Post Guest Columnist, writes:
. . . as the years have passed, SPLC has allowed its work to become less about defending the constitutional rights of all Americans and more about prosecuting a far-left ideology in our courts of law and in the court of public opinion. In the process, it has become an agent of intolerance and an enemy of free conscience and religious liberty.
There has always been an inherent tension between individual liberties and the greater social good. The American people are always struggling to strike a balance between protecting the freedoms of speech and conscience and protecting those who might be harmed by the misuse of those freedoms. As time passes, new issues arise and new debates emerge. Most recently, our society has been engaged in a fierce debate over the issue of homosexuality and what place it should occupy in America's social and legal milieu.

The right of individuals to freely associate – in public and behind closed doors – has been an issue that has sparked controversy in all quarters. The question remains as to what level of acceptance society must accord homosexual behavior – conduct that is fraught with social, religious, moral, and medical implications. Those who treat homosexuality as normative behavior rooted in immutable characteristics find their view in conflict with those who subscribe to more orthodox views of sex, marriage, and family. SPLC has very strong views on where society should come down on this issue, and anyone who dares to disagree with its "progressive" worldview is branded hateful and bigoted and assaulted with all the vigor it can muster . . . .

SPLC apparently feels that the most effective way to silence debate on key moral issues is through the courts. Recently, SPLC has filed suit against Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing, or JONAH. According to its website, JONAH is a "faith-based, nonprofit organization that offers assistance to men and women seeking to resolve their sexual conflicts, including unwanted same sex attractions." SPLC asserts that homosexuality is fixed and immutable, and that because of this JONAH's work to help people overcome their same-sex desires amounts to consumer fraud. They further assert that JONAH's work is emotionally and psychologically harmful, and that it fosters "anti-gay bigotry."

A victory for SPLC in this case would set a frightful legal precedent with broad-sweeping implications for the foundational constitutional freedoms of speech, conscience, religion, and association. As a private organization, JONAH has every right to offer reorientation or conversion counseling to willing clients. 

Individuals with unwanted same-sex attractions have every right to pursue resources to help them overcome these attractions. SPLC is seeking to silence the voices of faith and tradition in America by making it "hateful" and "fraudulent" to advocate for these causes. What's next? Suits against churches for preaching about a "nonexistent" God? Suits against Creationist research groups for advocating intelligent design? Suits against those who reject the theory of man-made global warming? Suits against Weight Watchers for suggesting that fat people can become thinner and healthier by changing their lifestyle choices? The possibilities are limitless.
This is yet another shot that lets us know that the dechristianising radicals intend to abuse the colours of law and civil rights to persecute Christians and other people of principled conscience, who disagree with their radical agenda for our civilisation.

In addition, we need to be able to effectively answer the too often persuasive, allegedly "scientific" claim that homosexuality is innate, is unchangeable and is therefore to be regarded as a civil rights issue. 

The following clip from an earlier KF blog post will I believe be of some help on this, as well as a read of the referenced book, here. Clipping:
Matt 24 watch, 166f: But, don't my genes make me do it? (Or, are your genes making you think that "my genes made me do it," etc? Thence, absurdity . . . )
Now, there are some topics that -- being the point where the deceitful and ensnaring spirit of the age is pushing -- require a serious and sustained answer. In that light, painful and utterly distasteful though the current focal topic here at the KF blog is, I need to continue. (And, I intend to continue on and off as necessary until I am satisfied that a sufficient counter-statement to the major propaganda push has been made. Hopefully, this post will be sufficient for now, to drive home the case we have had to make in recent days: parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.)

Last time, this blog noted:
. . . we are ensouled, en-conscienced, morally governed creatures, not mere beasts acting at the whims of our impulses and hormones . . . .
Because, we live in an era of scientism, where, never mind how absurd a notion is, if it can fly the flag of science, and can be presented to the public or students as the "consensus" of the guardians of the only credible temple of knowledge acceptable to a secularised society, it will be very persuasive. That is why Kirk and Madsen, in their After the Ball strategy, sought to capture the institutional scientific high ground thus making those who object to their agenda (especially on faith-based grounds) seem to be bomb-throwing, irrational, backward, hateful fundamentalist terrorists and would be theocratic tyrants comparable to the Mullahs of Iran . . . .
[Read the further details here on . . . it's vital]

Now that we have a more balanced atmosphere to evaluate the claims being touted on gay genes and the like, we can turn to a book-length summary of relevant evidence by Neil and Briar Whitehead that deserves to be far better known than it is. Clipping the introduction and summary:
The West has been subject to such a campaign of misinformation and disinformation in the last 20-30 years that its public institutions, from legislatures and judiciaries to the church and mental health professions widely believe that the homosexual orientation is innate—in the sense of biologically imprinted—and therefore unchangeable. 
The implications of this are that anyone who makes the scientifically true statements below is considered the one who is misinformed.

• sexual orientation is not inborn but develops over some years in response to an individual’s response to life events— as many human predicaments do
• homosexual orientation can change, i.e half the homosexual population naturally moves towards heterosexuality over time (without any therapeutic interventions), and further and
faster with counselling and support
• The same-sex attracted are not 10% of the population but (including bisexuals) much closer to 2.5%
The West has lost its way on this issue, and today we are seeing the outcome . . . 
Those are quite strong words, but they are backed up. Clipping the summary from Ch 1 in the 2010 online downloadable version (and of course, there is much more, with a lot of details; especially note the rebuttals to common myths):
No mainstream geneticist is happy with the idea that genes dictate behaviour, particularly homosexual behaviour.
• Genetically dictated behaviour is something that has so far been discovered only in very simple organisms.
• From an understanding of gene structure and function there are no plausible means by which genes could inescapably force SSA or other behaviours on a person. Genes create proteins not preferences.
• No genetically determined human behaviour has yet been found. The most closely genetically-related behaviour yet discovered (aggression in Dutch males) has shown itself remarkably responsive to counselling.
• If SSA were genetically dictated, it would have bred itself out of the population in only several generations, and wouldn’t be around today.
• Generally, geneticists settle for some genetic influence of rather undefined degree, most agreeing that many genes (from at least five or six to many hundreds) contribute to any particular human behaviour.
• A genetically dominated SSA caused by such a cluster of genes could not suddenly appear and disappear in families the way it does. It would stay around for many generations. So SSA is not produced by many genes.
• The occurrence of SSA in the population is too frequent to be caused by a chance mutation in a single gene. So a single gene is not responsible for SSA. Nor would many genes all mutate at once.
• SSA occurs too frequently to be caused by a faulty pre-natal developmental process, so it is not innate in that sense either.
• The widespread age-range of first homosexual attraction is very unlike the narrow time-spread of genetically driven phases of human life, e.g gestation time, puberty, menopause, making homosexuality very unlikely to be genetically driven.
The histone system which controls genetic expression is strongly affected by the environment, e.g nurturing, making searches for individual genes responsible for certain behaviours, mostly pointless.
• Same-sex attraction could be about 10% genetically influenced and opposite sex attraction about 15%. But this is weak and indirect, e.g genes making a man tall don’t also produce basketball players.
• SSA falls more naturally into the category of a psychological trait
In an earlier version of the book, the following comparison is used, to present a helpful comparison:
If a girl becomes pregnant at age fifteen, we could argue that she is genetically predisposed. We could say that in her culture, her genes gave her the kind of face and figure that send male hormones into orbit and bring her under a level of pressure that she is unable to resist, and she is fertile. But that’s about the strength of the genetic influence. There are a huge number of environmental factors that could also have brought the pregnancy about, from cancellation of the basketball game she was going to watch with a girlfriend, permission to use her boyfriend’s father’s car, her boyfriend’s company, the movie they had just viewed together, and failure to use a contraceptive, to big environmental factors like personal values systems, peer group pressure, and an emotionally distant father.
In short, there is no responsible way to escape the implication that -- whatever influences we are exposed to and however they may help shape our choices -- the common sense view that on the whole we are significantly responsible for our behaviours makes excellent sense, and that by and large the habits we form are significantly influenced by cumulative choices we make. That includes cases of bondage to life-dominating destructive sins, habits and addictions. (And, the "on the whole" is meant to take in the genuine cases where people are immature or insane or sufficiently retarded or senile etc. as not to be responsible. Notice, the significance of age of consent laws and the premise that to engage in unlawful carnal knowledge with someone under that age is statutory rape.)
 What about a way forward? 

For that, I draw attention to the painfully accurate but hope-giving diagnosis of life dominating, destructively habituating or addictive sins in 1 Cor 6:9 - 11:

1 Corinthians 6:9-11

Amplified Bible (AMP)
Do you not know that the unrighteous and the wrongdoers will not inherit or have any share in the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived (misled): neither the impure and immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor those who participate in homosexuality,

10 Nor cheats (swindlers and thieves), nor greedy graspers, nor drunkards, nor foulmouthed revilers and slanderers, nor extortioners and robbers will inherit or have any share in the kingdom of God.

11 And such some of you were [once]. But you were washed clean (purified by a complete atonement for sin and made free from the guilt of sin), and you were consecrated (set apart, hallowed), and you were justified [pronounced righteous, by trusting] in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the [Holy] Spirit of our God.
Yes, there are life dominating sins, ranging from greed and drunkenness to adultery and homosexual behaviour, but by the cleansing power of the gospel, for 2,000 years there has been a way out. This is also consistent with the above summarised findings on the true nature of homosexual addiction and the astonishing success of the 12-step type recovery programme. Accordingly, I went on to say:

Such a general conclusion brings forward the relevance of the well-proved 12-step addiction recovery process pioneered by Alcoholics Anonymous as a context of hope for many of us who are caught up in such life-dominating downward spirals (and, these days, I put pornography addiction as challenge no 1 here beyond even that notorious old demon rum). Let me clip, citing Ch. 5 of the AA Big Book:
Rarely  have  we  seen  a  person  fail  who  has thoroughly followed our path. Those who do not recover are people who cannot or will not completely give  themselves  to  this  simple  program,  usually  men and women who are constitutionally incapable of be-ing  honest  with  themselves . . . . If you have decided you want what we have and are willing  to  go  to  any  length  to  get  it—then  you  are ready to take certain steps. At some of these we balked. We thought we could find  an  easier,  softer  way.  But  we  could  not . . . . Remember that we deal with alcohol—cunning, baf-fling,  powerful!  Without  help  it  is  too  much  for  us. 

But there is One who has all power—that One is God.

May you find Him now!

Half measures availed us nothing . . . . Here are the steps we took, which are suggested as a program of recovery:

1.  We admitted we were powerless over alcohol— that our lives had become unmanageable.
2.  Came to believe that a Power greater than our-selves could restore us to sanity.

3.  Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

4.  Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

5.  Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.[--> This is the famous, pivotal public confession, "I am an Alcoholic . . . "]

6.  Were  entirely  ready  to  have  God  remove  all these defects of character.

7.  Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

8.  Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

9.  Made  direct  amends  to  such  people  wherever possible,  except  when  to  do  so  would  injure them or others.

10.  Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.

11.  Sought  through  prayer  and  meditation  to  im-prove our conscious contact with God as we un-derstood  Him,  praying  only  for  knowledge  of His will for us and the power to carry that out.

12.  Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
Many  of  us  exclaimed,  “What  an  order!  I  can’t  go through  with  it.’’  Do  not  be  discouraged.  No  one among us has been able to maintain anything like per-fect adherence to these principles. We are not saints.  The point is, that we are willing to grow along spiritual lines. The principles we have set down are guides to progress.  We  claim  spiritual  progress  rather  than spiritual perfection . . . [Alcoholics Anonymous, "big Book," ch 5, pp.58 - 60.]
 This approach, which was widely reviled and dismissed by members of the counselling professions and by many voices in the media when it was developed as a lay person rescue movement sixty or more years ago, has now outlived its critics and has become so credible and respected for its effectiveness, that it is the basis for any number of recovery movements, from drugs on up.

So, now, will we "hit the snooze button" on the alarm, and return to sleep, or will we wake up and take a firm stance for sanity and for principle and liberty in our day.

A day, where liberty is under assault in the name of civil rights, in the very courts that are supposed to administer justice. 

The end game of the radicals is on plain display now -- they intend to criminalise the Christian Faith and churches as hateful bigotry and anti-science superstition. Instead of snoozing on as those who intend to marginalise and even lock us up steal one march on us after another, let us now arise and take a firm stand now, before it is too late. END 

Friday, February 22, 2013

Matt 24 watch, 195: Israeli PM Netanyahu warns about Iran as it approaches the red line nuclear threshold, in the aftermath of the apparent explosion at the Fordow nuke centrifuge facility

Israeli PM, Binyamin Netanyahu has just given a major speech on the global and regional danger posed by the Iranian Nuclear programme, which we need to take note of. As usual, this is not being headlined by our local, regional or global news managers as a major focus for international attention and effort. 

But, it  is vital, given what a nuclear armed Iran would be capable of, and given what a strike to knock out the capacity would probably trigger, especially in the global oil markets. 

As in, yet another major energy crisis. 

Just what the troubled global economy does not need. 

Of course, Iran is banking on global inattention and reluctance to reach the critical 20% U-235 enrichment level with enough substance to build its first bombs. (Note from no. 193, Feb 16, 2013, in this Matt 24 watch series, on what A Q Khan had to say about Pakistan's achievement of nuke weapons, and how it decisively changed the game. Then, think about what that implies for the vastly more unstable, apocalyptic and terrorist-minded Iranian regime.)

So, here at KF, we will shortly look at a clip of it, but first we need to know some key background.

That is, especially on the Fordow nuclear enrichment facility in central Iran:

The buried-under-a-mountain Iranian nuclear enrichment facility at Fordow, [HT ISIS, Jan 22, 2013]

It will help us to know that on January 24, a former Iranian official using the pseudonym Reza Khalili, reported in WND that there had apparently -- it has been pretty hush-hush and remains "unconfirmed" (which may be actually a sign that something serious happened) -- been a major explosion at the Iranian Fordow centrifuge facility that apparently has been working to bring nuclear materials to the 20% U-235 level; from which concentrating to the 90% weapons grade level would take only a matter of weeks.

Map of nuclear facilities in Iran, c. 2010. Fordow is near Qom, South of Tehran. The cumulative investment in these plants and the associated programme is patently in the dozens of Billions of Dollars (US$) [HT: Business Insider]

According to the report:
An explosion deep within Iran’s Fordow nuclear facility [--> which is built 300 ft under a mountain and is apparently invulnerable to conventional bombing] has destroyed much of the installation and trapped about 240 personnel deep underground [--> apparently as a consequence of the two elevators being crippled], according to a former intelligence officer of the Islamic regime.
The previously secret nuclear site has become a center for Iran’s nuclear activity because of the 2,700 centrifuges enriching uranium [--> i.e uranium hexafluoride, UF6] to the 20-percent [U-235] level. [--> U-235 is the isotope that undergoes fission by so-called thermal neutrons and is the key to a Uranium bomb] A further enrichment to weapons grade would take only weeks, experts say.

The level of enrichment has been a major concern to Israeli officials, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu repeatedly has warned about the 20-percent enriched stockpile . . . . 

The regime’s uranium enrichment process takes place at two known sites: the Natanz facility with more than 10,000 centrifuges and Fordow with more than 2,700. The regime currently has enough low-grade (3.5 percent) uranium stockpiled for six nuclear bombs if further enriched.

However, more time is needed for conversion of the low-grade uranium than what would be needed for a stockpile at 20 percent. It takes 225 kilograms of enriched uranium at the 20-percent level to further enrich to the 90-percent level for one nuclear bomb.

According to a source in the security forces protecting Fordow, an explosion on Monday at 11:30 a.m. Tehran time rocked the site, which is buried deep under a mountain and immune not only to airstrikes but to most bunker-buster bombs. The report of the blast came via Hamidreza Zakeri, formerly with the Islamic regime’s Ministry of Intelligence and National Security . . . . 

The blast shook facilities within a radius of three miles. Security forces have enforced a no-traffic radius of 15 miles, and the Tehran-Qom highway was shut down for several hours after the blast, the source said.
 This has been denied by the ISIS, which suggests that they are not seeing a cluster of emergency vehicles at the site. So, the report has been unconfirmed.

 Of course, even if Fordow has been crippled, that still leaves Natanz spinning away in central Iran (Note Global Security here), with seven to ten thousand centrifuges, depending on the report one consults.

Of this site, Wiki notes:
(33°43′24.43″N 51°43′37.55″E) Natanz is a hardened Fuel Enrichment Plant (FEP) covering 100,000 square meters that is built 8 meters underground and protected by a concrete wall 2.5 meters thick, itself protected by another concrete wall. In 2004, the roof was hardened with reinforced concrete and covered with 22 meters of earth. The complex consists of two 25,000 square meter halls and a number of administrative buildings. This once secret site was one of the two exposed by Alireza Jafarzadeh in August, 2002. IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei visited the site on 21 February 2003 and reported that 160 centrifuges were complete and ready for operation, with 1000 more under construction at the site.[30] Under the terms of Iran's safeguards agreement, Iran was under no obligation to report the existence of the site while it was still under construction. There are currently approximately 7,000 centrifuges installed at Natanz, of which 5,000 are producing low enriched uranium.[31]
So, if the Fordow facility was largely working on moving to the 20% level, and the Natanz one had another 2,000 or so centrifuges, what perhaps just happened is that through a black operation -- perhaps a cyber attack or something like that -- the main and best protected UF6 concentration facility has been knocked out, at least for now. 

(And, while there has been no open acknowledgement that the WND breaking news report is substantially true, there have been some hints over the past few weeks that suggest that we should take it seriously enough to bear it in mind. Remember, if it it true, that would be good news, time has been bought. If it is FALSE, bad news, Iran is running hard to the nuke weapon red line! So, let us not get bogged down in futile debates over whether or not the report is/can be confirmed, that is secondary to the main issue: the Red Line is getting ever closer as we speak.) 

Where, the Natanz facility -- while significantly hardened -- is obviously far more vulnerable to conventional bunker buster air strikes than the one at Fordow. Which would make Fordow the likely site for sprinting to  the 20% then 90% U-235 concentration red-1 and red-2 lines.

 It is against that backdrop, that Israeli PM Netanyahu spoke recently to the Jewish Agency.

According to key parts of the text released by his office:, we first must face the facts of renewed slander and genocidal hatred against Jews and especially the renewed Jewish state in the historic Jewish homeland:
Now, Israel is facing today a set of challenges that are daunting, nothing less than that, and we'll need all the unity and the strength that we can muster to overcome those challenges. The first challenge is Iran.  You said, Natan [Sharanski], quoting my father, that the Jewish fate has changed because of the Jewish state, and that is true.  But not the designs of the enemies of the Jewish people. They have not changed with the rise of the Jewish state. That is the millennial desire of the enemies of the Jews, fired by Jew hatred in antiquity and medieval times and in modern times to eradicate the Jewish people. 

That has not changed.  It may have taken a back seat for a few decades after the Holocaust, it was politically improper, but it has come back with full force, in the renascent Islamist anti-Semitism, the anarchist left and that strange bond between them that you've spoken about many times, and also in the failure of those who should know better to stand up against the de-legitimization of Israel; in fact, to concur in it and to assist it by portraying Israel, which is a uniquely moral country and the only country that observes human rights and fights for democracy and fights for the rights of people to be heard and fights for the rights of minorities and maintains those rights and the rights of women and everyone else, the de-legitimization of Israel in the face of the attempts to actually destroy is one of the great moral failures of our time. 

And we should expose it, we should speak out against it . . . 
As 6 million ghosts are moaning in warning as we read, that should shame the world and stir it to urgent action. 

Sadly, by and large it does not.

That is the context in which the next pivotal part of the speech becomes so vital:
. . . there's nothing short of an effort to eradicate the Jewish state, and we should be clear about that, that is spearheaded first by Iran.  Iran makes no bones about it, it is developing nuclear weapons with the expressed purpose of destroying the Jewish state, and I think this is the foremost challenge of the next government that we will form. 

I think as in the other instances, what is directed, the hatred that is directed against the Jews threatens the rest of the world, but the rest of the world doesn’t see it. That is also a repetition of history.  But I think that the development of nuclear weapons by Iran will be a pivot of history, will change the balance of power irrevocably in the world. When people with unlimited ambitions of aggression get unlimited weapons, what they believe are weapons of unlimited power, the demon is uncorked, and it's happened before. 

Up to the point when they think that they've got the power to work out their mad designs, up to that point, they're careful, even though they can be quite aggressive and they are, they can use terror and they can use subterfuge and they can use many other acts of violence, but this is nothing compared to the point where they think they've assumed the critical mass of power necessary to carry out their fantasies. This is the greatest mistake of history – to assume that people will behave rationally when they're fundamentally irrational when you give them the power of mass death.  Iran is seeking the power of mass death, and it's enough to see what they're doing now to realize what they'll do then.  Because what they are doing now is conducting a worldwide web of terror – brazen, unabashed, across a dozen countries.  That number is growing every day, with their henchman, Hezbollah – they've just been exposed in Bulgaria, but they're exposed everywhere. Governments know it, they know it, but they don’t call it like it is, and I congratulate Bulgaria for doing so.  You should congratulate them too. And in addition what they're doing, they're conducting a brazen campaign of cyber attacks against everyone – against Israel, against the United States. 

This is the unseen attack, but it's felt and it will be felt more and more.  And they're arming their tentacles, their poisoned tentacles of Hamas and Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah with tens of thousands of rockets and deadly weapons.  They're threatening, I believe, not only the security of Israel but the security of every regime in the Middle East, and certainly the flow of oil from this region.  And certainly their development of nuclear weapons will spark a nuclear arms race.  It will make the Middle East a nuclear tinderbox.  It will change the world.  We've not seen anything like it.  We've not seen since the advent of nuclear weapons a power that could contemplate using those weapons with happy abandon – they say so.  Nobody has said so since the Cuban missile crisis, over a half a century ago.  Nobody has said that.

They say it.  They move forward.  They're progressing.  They're getting closer to the red line that I had set at the UN.  They're building rapid centrifuges: that is centrifuges that enrich the uranium needed to make nuclear bombs at three times the pace so that they could cross that red line and get to a high enrichment to a sufficient amount of 90% enriched uranium within a much shorter time.  They're doing all that.  So far, they've not been stopped.  And the sanctions themselves – even tougher sanctions – will not stop them.  

Case in point, North Korea.  Have tough sanctions stopped North Korea?  No.  And the fact that they produced a nuclear explosion reverberates everywhere in the Middle East, and especially in Iran.  They say, "Where is the world?  Where is the international community?  Where is the tough response?"  It's a question that everybody deserves to ask.  Sanctions alone will not stop the nuclear program of Iran.  They have to be coupled with a robust, credible military threat.  If they are not, there's no chance to stop it.  If they're coupled with that military threat, there is a chance to stop it.  And if it doesn't stop it that way, then it will have to be stopped another way.  But the world has to decide whether it allows this terror regime that breaks all norms to have access to atomic bombs.
 The alarms are going off, but we are not listening. 

That is why, within the next few months (unless something intervenes to decisively break the trend), I therefore expect Israel to strike in Iran. They see themselves as having little or no choice, and I am pretty sure that the same US President Obama who so blatantly despises the Jewish state's leadership (for whatever reasons) and is unwilling to face facts on the ever deepening failure of his Arab Spring efforts, now rapidly becoming a militantly IslamiST winter, is utterly unlikely to stand up to Iran in good time. 

Sure, he will be willing to go along with the sort of cyber attacks or black operations otherwise that may have done something at Fordow, but the sort of resolute stand that might -- might -- have a chance to stop Iran short of their long term goal of nukes will not earn the plaudits of the world press and chattering classes [the same who awarded him a Nobel Peace Prize in 2009 -- i.e. before he did anything to earn it, in a pre-emptive strike . . . ], that, he is utterly unlikely to take.

Mr Barak Hussein Obama, please, prove me wrong. Please. Please. Please.

Sadly, I doubt that he will prove me wrong.

And, I fear, Mr Netanyahu's analysis is dead right: on the analogy of North Korea (which just did another nuke test despite world opposition), largely toothless sanctions may further hurt the Iranian people, but they are utterly unlikely to stop a terroristic, apocalyptic regime that has already built the sort of vastly expensive hardened facilities we have been discussing.

Diplomacy backed up by obvious resolution, just might get the Iranians to see reason, that he time is not ripe to pave the way for the Mahdi to re-emerge and so it is not wise to spend more effort on presenting him with the long-desired nuclear weapons for his global conquest.

Yes, that is what is going on, Iran is where Khorasan proper is, and the Mullahs genuinely expect to see the 12th Imam of Shia Islam re-emerge from 1,000 years of "seclusion" in the company of his Black Flag Army, and genuinely expect to see him first conquer the Middle East and massacre the Jews, then subjugate the world from East to West.

Yes, yes, I know, I know, that seems like apocalyptic rubbish to many here in the West; more an occasion to bash "Religion" rhetorically -- with the Christian Faith as the main target -- than to do anything serious about it.  

That has nothing whatsoever to do with the attitude of the Mullahs, who have been steeped in Islamic end of days expectations from childhood.  They see the current uprisings in the Middle East as presenting them with a once in a lifetime opportunity to bring on the ferment that paves the way for the Mahdi. And so they are emboldened by a West that seems paralysed and riven with internal dissensions, decadence and perversions.

What seems reasonable to us, therefore is likely to seem as weakness among the enemies of Allah, Allah's warriors and Allah's Mahdi, to the Mullahs and other IslamISTS across the region.  No wonder, Iran seems to be hosting Al Qaeda training camps, and no wonder Ahmadinejad is making overtures to Morsi in Egypt, even across the Shia-Sunni divide.

All of these are very bad signs.

 And so, I think, bit by bit, Israel is being backed into a corner, just like in 1967.

A cornered Israel seeing itself facing an existential crisis and threat with the world playing silly diplomacy games just like in May 1967, is very likely indeed to strike, strike hard, as hard as they think necessary. (And, the Iranian Mullahs should know that if they are beginning to play at nuke weapon games and have made genocidal threats -- in a context of an Islamic eschatology that pivots on a latter-day slaughter of Jews, they are now playing by nuke weapon rules.) 

I therefore think an all-out strike by Israel, probably using aircraft, cruise missiles, submarines and possibly commando style operations designed to aid targetting, is in the offing.  Such, at minimum, has been planned and has been rehearsed, then improved bit by bit and updated on a daily basis, for years. That is what any responsible supreme command structure facing what Israel faces, would be doing.

yes, a strike will be gravely risky, and will utterly turn the world against Israel. But the alternative may be far, far , far worse. Not only for Israel, but for the world. 

As an immediate spin-off of such a strike, I expect the Middle East to spin utterly out of control, with oil prices surging to levels that will make out current horrific levels -- my oil price ticker is at US$ 113.53 just now for Brent North Sea benchmark crude oil -- look cheap.

What that will do to tourism and to a global economy mired in the doldrums, needs hardly be said.

Frankly, one way or another, we are at the edge of an apocalyptic abyss.

Wisdom is, to take steps that would provide for family and friends in the event of the world situation spinning even more out of control. A little cottage and pigeon peas-plot in the country side looks good, at minimum, a fairly serious backyard garden; or an allotment area in the town or its surroundings. We can walk to such a plot, but if we don't have food, we cannot do anything else.

Notice, that word, allotment.

I am hereby officially advocating that our regional governments encourage people resident in cities to farm small organised garden plots, maybe using open lots and maybe using surrounding areas. As a matter of priority policy. And, curricula to teach such small plot agriculture should be put in our schools and made available to families and communities as an urgent priority. Pronto.

A lot can be done in only a few months, if we are serious. (Even, for confirmed "brown thumbs." A bit of skill and advice backed up by the motivation to have something on the meal time table that does not cost the earth and requires a few simple and inexpensive tools plus some willing labour, is a big incentive.)

If we are taking steps to help feed ourselves, it makes a big difference. 

And, let us pray for a miracle of peace, peace in the Middle East and peace in the world, that can return it to a more reasonable balance.

In support of such prayers, let us roll up our sleeves and prepare ourselves to move forward with the gospel of peace and reconciliation, by the grace of him who died on a cross for our sins as Saviour, and rose from the dead as Lord, with 500 witnesses who could not be broken, in decisive evidence.

For, the Prince of Peace is our only true Hope. END

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

VIDEO: A Lecture by Peter Williams, Warden of Tyndale House, on the resurrection of Jesus and historical evidence

Peter Williams of Tyndale house has a recent lecture on the evidence for Jesus and the resurrection that is well worth passing on:

Food for thought, starting with Tacitus and Pliny; on a foundational matter. END

Monday, February 18, 2013

Matt 24 watch, 194: Taking a "Sci Fi" look at Rev chs 8 & 9 (with an eye to the recent Chelyabinsk, Russia meteor impact and asteroid fly-by)

A Dashcam shot of the Feb 15 Chelyabinsk meteor
(HT: Youtube video, still as the main explosion fades)
On Friday last (cf. round-up here), we had a cosmological wake up call with an asteroid impact in Russia that hurt over 1,000 people, on the same day that an asteroid swept by our planet at scrapingly close range, 17,000 miles. That evening as well, another meteoric fireball was visible on the US West coast.

All of this eerily brings to mind the discussion in Revelations 8 & 9, with the prophetic trumpet judgements. 

While these puzzling texts have been the subject of much speculation over the ages,  and of varying suggested interpretations, the fact remains, that the first four judgements seem pretty directly linked to meteoric impact imagery, and the fifth is plainly related. 

While I make no pretence of being any great exegete or commenter on Scripture, that excites my curiosity. Why the emphasis on meteoric judgements?

First, let us look, first observing the initial cluster of four trumpets that seem to be blown in rapid succession. Clipping [ESV]:
Rev 8: 1 When the Lamb opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. 2 Then I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them . . . .  7 The first angel blew his trumpet, and there followed hail and fire, mixed with blood, and these were thrown upon the earth. And a third of the earth was burned up, and a third of the trees were burned up, and all green grass was burned up.

 8 The second angel blew his trumpet, and something like a great mountain, burning with fire, was thrown into the sea, and a third of the sea became blood. 9 A third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed.

 10 The third angel blew his trumpet, and a great star fell from heaven, blazing like a torch, and it fell on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water. 11 The name of the star is Wormwood.2  A third of the waters became wormwood, and many people died from the water, because it had been made bitter.

 12 The fourth angel blew his trumpet, and a third of the sun was struck, and a third of the moon, and a third of the stars, so that a third of their light might be darkened, and a third of the day might be kept from shining, and likewise a third of the night.

 13 Then I looked, and I heard an eagle crying with a loud voice as it flew directly overhead, “Woe, woe, woe to those who dwell on the earth, at the blasts of the other trumpets that the three angels are about to blow!”
We can see a definite cluster here, and -- on a fairly "literal" and "Sci Fi" reading (do, humour me for the moment) -- it looks rather like plagues on nature that parallel those of Egypt at the time of the Exodus (which targetted and exposed the Egyptian gods as powerless):
1: a hail with fire and smoke, leading to massive though limited destruction of vegetation.

2: An oceanic impact of an asteroid moving slow enough to appear as a burning mountain, leading to destruction of shipping (tidal waves?) and to what sounds a lot like massive red tide infestation.

3: A meteor fall leading to what seems to be an airburst damaging 1/3 of the waters. That suggests the Eurasian and possibly the African land mass -- which are the bulk of land on Earth, and heavy metal and/or radioactive poisoning.

4: Darkening the atmosphere through dust, leading to a meteoric "autumn" in which as the light moves through that much more atmosphere when the sun or moon are low in the sky [which BTW is why the rising or setting sun look reddened, the other colours of light being scattered by the dust in the atmosphere], they would be darkened out as behind a cloud. [NIV '84]
This first is a bit puzzling, but would perhaps be consistent with a cluster of smaller bodies falling and somehow triggering hail storms.

But the above looks to me like a possible natural catastrophe, maybe with some sort of asteroid that breaks up as it comes. (Sci Fi stories about using asteroid bombardments as weapons of war may have a -- but obviously not their only -- root in this text, BTW.)

And lo and behold in Chapter 9 following, the next trumpet -- no five -- is about "a star that had fallen from the skies" that opens the keys of the pit and lets out an army of locust demons that sting and plague for 5 months.

(I have once or twice thought -- Sci Fi style -- about someone really nasty and expert creating a host of locusts with genetically engineered capacities to plague and debilitate, paving the way for an invasion to follow. Which is the next judgement, an army of 200 millions. Of course, this is my Sci Fi imagination at work, not an exegesis. [BTW, to my mind the New Jerusalem sounds like a satellite station portal parked in orbit above the Earth . . . ] However, the context is now decidedly supernatural-spiritual so let us go easy on this one.)

There is then a definite pause at v 12 of Ch 9, and the next woe -- no 6 -- is invasion by the vast army just mentioned. An army on a scale BTW, that has only really become feasible in very recent decades, where we have 6 - 7 billion people on Earth. And only an Asian coalition could field such, which makes sense of the issue of "drying up" the Euphrates.

Then at the end of the chapter there is this remark:

Rev 9:20 The rest of mankind that were not killed by these plagues still did not repent of the work of their hands; they did not stop worshiping demons, and idols of gold, silver, bronze, stone and wood—idols that cannot see or hear or walk.21 Nor did they repent of their murders, their magic arts, their sexual immorality or their thefts. [NIV '84]
Would it astonish you to learn that the worship of Diana at Ephesus -- among other things a fertility goddess -- was associated with temple prostitution? [As in, maybe we now have a sad clue as to what some of those mysterious classes of temple priestesses were about?]

My interest here is that the passage has to have in it cultural memories of meteor impacts with consequences, and has to be speaking to the pagan worldview that has twisted this into support for myths of the gods and goddesses

It should be no surprise, that we do not have to look too far.

For, there is another allusion to such in the NT, in Ac 19. The focal location is Ephesus. As in, the same city that is the pivotal city in the cluster to which the Epistle of Revelations is directed. 
A city, where Paul had settled for two years, teaching daily in a rented school hall, with the effect that the gospel spread to the whole province. Leading, to an infamous riot stirred up by silver smiths angry over loss of trade as Paul's preaching was breaking up the lucrative trades connected tot he pagan temple. [BTW, so much for the notion that Paul paganised an originally Jewish faith to attract pagans!] 
 So, in the Arena -- for two solid hours -- a crowd gathered, shouting, Great is Artemis of the Ephesians.

Then, the City Clerk, in seeking to palliate the riotous assembly,  says that the image of Diana/Artemis (appar, = Astarte or Ashtoreth/Asherah) -- remember, a Moon goddess [the Latin form literally means heavenly or divine] -- fell from the skies:
Acts 19:35 The city clerk quieted the crowd and said: “Men of Ephesus, doesn’t all the world know that the city of Ephesus is the guardian of the temple of the great Artemis and of her image, which fell from heaven?

36 Therefore, since these facts are undeniable, you ought to be quiet and not do anything rash. 37 You have brought these men here, though they have neither robbed temples nor blasphemed our goddess. 38 If, then, Demetrius and his fellow craftsmen have a grievance against anybody, the courts are open and there are proconsuls. They can press charges.  
39 If there is anything further you want to bring up, it must be settled in a legal assembly.  
40 As it is, we are in danger of being charged with rioting because of today’s events. In that case we would not be able to account for this commotion, since there is no reason for it.”  
41 After he had said this, he dismissed the assembly. [NIV '84]
Bingo, we have here paganism connected to superstitous awe of some sort of meteorite that had fallen within memory of a tradition. Probably nearly a thousand years before, judging by references to the succession of shrines set up in an unusual, flood-prone location.

It seems that there was something that fell from the skies and had probably looked enough like a statue to be used and doubtless helped along a bit.  By the time we get to C1, it seems, the story had morphed into something impossible -- that a wooden (Ebony?) statue of Artemis had fallen from the heavens. So, let us think about what it is like to try to communicate the gospel to people caught up in such myths.
A natural phenomenon, turned into a snare to enmesh men's souls.
As Romans 1 warned against, even as it implicitly pleads with us to turn from false images and deceitful stories made to look like the things of nature, and repent, to serve the One True Living God:
Rom 1:14 I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians,4  both to the wise and to the foolish. 15 So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.  
 16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith,  as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”
 18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 
19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 
20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 
21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. 
[--> In the old days, idols in temples with stories that "everybody knows," as we have seen. Nowadays, too often, artistically created images in science museums, or textbooks, or on television, or the Internet etc., which are too often presented as if they were practically certain fact about the past. This leads to the Climbing Mars Hill challenge.]
 24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.  
 26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. 
[--> Cf. here (and onwards, here) on the now popular and widely promoted "my genes made me do it" myth. Here, offers help in addressing addictive or habituating, life-dominating sin, through the 12-step type recovery process pioneered by alcoholics.]
 28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 
29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 
32 Though they know God's decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.  [ESV]
What is significant then is that just as the idol of Artemis/ Diana/ Astarte/ Ishtar/ Asherah was based on some sort of meteoric fragment, the judgement being announced in part therefore duly comes from the same skies.  (And, it is noteworthy that meteorites as alleged holy objects and other troubling connexions may -- just, possibly, may -- be a bit closer as an issue today than we may be inclined to think. [I stand to be corrected on this, of course, but the admittedly ticklish matter should not be simply dismissed or angrily brushed aside.])

Against all this, I am not about to try to assign such trumpets to current events or the past of the last century or to the history of the past 2,000 years; all of which wee can see in various commentaries.  Similarly, I would view the Chernobyl nuclear catastrophe of 1986 -- Chernobyl, apparently, means "Wormwood" --  as a representation of what can happen if we become careless with very dangerous technologies, rather than any particular manifestation of the prophecy.

One onward interest is of course also ecological, and I am pondering on the implications of such impacts.
There is no doubt that we are vulnerable to asteroid impacts, and that these can potentially have devastating impact. Worse, we can do little to address such. But, we must be sensitive to the possibilities for catastrophe and we need to become far more aware of our environment. 
Including things like, what happens if we poison our land, air and waters more and more in the name of unbridled technological progress?

But also, including, concerns like: what happens in a world where ecological devastation has debilitated nations and there are those only too willing to pounce like armies of jackals to take away what others have?

Then also, let us think about the spiritual side of such plagues and depredations. 

What if, behind the scenes of day to day events, there are demonic hordes of deceptions only too willing to let loose legions of deluded followers with poisonous deceptions? 
Or, to whip up such followers into being predatory armies pouncing on the vulnerable?

So, as a civilisation, are we fatally weakening ourselves through spreading deceptions and foolish, unsustainable policies that set us up for debilitating disasters?

And, could we be setting ourselves up for yet another demonic false messiah at the head of a massive army of invaders, such as Hitler's Nazis envisioned in this demonic bomber-bird parody of the Descent of the Spirit at Jesus' baptism, with an army following him like a river of locust-demons?

In short, something like the Apocalypse, can and should speak to us in many ways that go far beyond the often futile debates over the "correct" interpretations of Bible Prophecy.

Ways, that sound disturbingly relevant to me. END