Summer Psalms

franklin indiana churchesOh, how we need spiritual refreshment today.  So many are weary of the culture wars, the foreign wars, and wars in their own hearts.

This sermon series is designed to bring the cool water of God’s words and wisdom to His people. Through a verse-by-verse study of eight especially-chosen Psalms, we will find the strength of God of Israel.

Please join us!

Youth Group News

youth-group

Youth News

The Youth Group meets in the Sanctuary from

6:00pm to 8:00pm on Sundays

Good Sam Food Club

GOOD SAM FOOD CLUB

Are you a GOOD SAM Food Club Member? To join, simply donate food to the FCC Good Sam Food locker. When you make your first donation, you will receive a membership card to use as a reminder for future donations.

This is an ongoing Outreach activity so donations are always acceptable of the following items:

Cereal (low sugar) – Saltines – Graham Crackers – Animal Crackers – Canned Soup (not creamed) – Peanut Butter – Jam – Granola Bars – Macaroni & Cheese – Pasta / Rica – Pasta Sauces – Oatmeal Packets – Canned Fruit – Canned Veggies – Frozen Veggies – Canned Beans (no raw) – Tuna – Toilet Paper – Toothpaste – Toothbrushes – Shampoo – Soap

Contact Joe Shumaker or Janette Metzler with questions.

Operation Chauffeur

Our new program “Operation Chauffeur” will begin this month.  Members of the church family will transport those who do not have transportation to and from church on Sunday mornings.  They will be serving for one month at a time.  If you are interested in joining this outreach ministry, please contact Kevin Layton.

God’s Chisel

Here is the video we showed in church last Sunday.  You can purchase it for download here:

Working and Serving Together

Franklin Community Church

Five Things Science Cannot Prove (that are necessary to do science)

Perhaps the most common misunderstanding of science today is the idea that it alone operates only on what can be proven.  The scientist, we are told, unlike the historian, sociologist, or (shudder) the theologian, believes nothing except what is proven to be true by the scientific method; therefore he or she alone is the oracle of true knowledge of the physical world.

It is remarkable how prevalent this thought is, even when not articulated, since it is so easily shown to be not the case.  Science is a wonderful and noble way of exploring and understanding this world we find ourselves in, but it in no way operates solely on the basis of proof. Some things it must assume. I will list a few of them.

[Note: nothing I can say will stop some people from viewing this as an attack on science; it is anything but, as I think any reasonable reading will show. ]

  1. 1. Reality is rational.

That is, its makeup is such that it exhibits order and consistency, so that we can make predictions and postulate laws and theories.  Now this may seem like common sense, but that would be common only to sensibilities formed in and shaped by what could loosely be defined as “western” thought (though of course we mean history more than geography here).  To the ancients, and to many of the east today, the idea that the universe is rational and subject completely in its physical workings to consistency and order is not something assumed at all.

Nor can reality be “proven” to be rational.  Indeed, ask yourself how this would be proven from the viewpoint of someone within this reality.  You cannot prove it by experiment, for you cannot experiment on reality as a whole. You cannot prove it by induction, arguing that since everything we have studied has proven rational that reality itself must be. An inductive argument like this fails for four reasons.  First, an inductive argument of this sort will only grant a probable truth, not a certain one, so the best we could say is that, “reality is probably rational” which is a world different from saying “reality is rational”. Second, we have no way of measuring how much of reality we have “figured out” versus how much we have not, so there is no way of knowing if we have high probability or very low probability for our inductive claim.  Thirdly, it is simply not the case that we have figured out everything we have been able to study.  When Richard Fenyman wrote, ‘I think I can safely say that nobody understands quantum mechanics,’ he was including himself which is disconcerting given how many books he wrote on that very subject.  No-one today can give a satisfactory answer to the most basic question of physics (how quantum mechanics and the theory of relativity can both be true since they contradict each other) nor can astronomers and astrophysicists give an agreed upon answer to the quandary that most of the matter of the universe (dark matter and dark energy) cannot even be observed (but must be assumed to make sense of everything else).  Fourth, even if everything we can study shows rationality, that is no proof that we do not inhabit a slice or bubble of the universe that has qualities different than the universe as a whole (an idea which some astrophysicists argue as possible).

Now, I do believe reality is rational, for I believe it is the creation of a rational being.  And I suspect the legacy of this belief gives a clue to why science developed more successfully in theistic societies than pagan, pantheistic or animistic ones.  So I am not arguing that reality is not rational, but that science is logically dependent on a belief that it cannot prove.  Unless reality is rational, science is not possible.

  1. 2. Reality is knowable.

This is not the same argument as above.  The success of the scientific method assumes not only that reality has the quality of rationality, but that it is also knowable. That is, it is conceivable that realist is rational, but I could be irrational, and not able to form valid conclusions about reality.  My mind must be “on the same wavelength” to capture its rationality.

Steven Pinker, the famous evolutionary biologist, unwittingly encounters this very issue when he writes on page 561 of “How the Mind Works”:

We are organisms, not angels, and our minds are organs, not pipelines to the truth. Our minds evolved by natural selection to solve problems that were life-and-death matters to our ancestors, not to commune with correctness or to answer any question we are capable of asking.

Somehow, one gets the impression that Pinker feels his own mind is an exception to this rule, else why would he write the book (or even ask us to believe the above quote).

But indeed, how could we prove that the human mind is a capable tool for understanding reality and finding truth, especially on the assumptions Pinker makes (that the mind evolved to solve practical problems that affect reproductive success, not to find truth)?  But without the belief that the human mind can understand reality, there is no reason to study reality.  One is better off not wasting the time.

Again, I am not arguing that reality is not knowable.  I believe it is because I believe the same rational being who created reality (thus ensuring its rationality) also created mankind in His own image, thus ensuring the possibility of valid knowledge of, and reasoning about, that reality. No, I cannot prove that scientifically.  But neither can the scientist prove that his or her mind is capable of anything more than an utilitarian problem solving that may or may not speak actual truth.

  1. 3. The uniformity of nature across time and space

Quick, what is the speed of light?  299 792 458 meters per second, of course.   But what was speed of light a second after the big bang? Or 4 billion years ago?  Or what will it be 4 billion years from now (or even next week?)  Of course we don’t know, in one sense. No-one measured the speed of light 4 billion years ago, and any knowledge of the measuring of the speed of light in the future is inaccessible to us.  Nor can we measure the speed of light right now except in that small sliver of the universe we can actually observe.  And the same is true of other laws of nature: gravity, the interplay of the parts of the atom, etc…

It should be noted here that the speed of light, for example, is derived from observation.  Every time we observe it, it is always that speed (or its speed makes possible other equations that correspond to present reality). But nothing in the nature of reality mandates that it must be at that speed; other speeds for light are at least conceivable.

So how do we know that the speed of light or other laws of physics apply across the universe (when we’ve only studied a sliver) and across time (when we only have access to the present?).  Technically, we do not know.  We assume.  Since all the places and times we have been able to observe follow these laws, it seems logical to assume that is also the case for the places and times we cannot observe.  But notice, this is an inductive argument, and as such can only give a probable conclusion, not an air-tight certainty.  Yet every science, if you dig deep enough, operates on the assumption of continuity and uniformity.  This is no mark against science; it can hardly do otherwise.  But it is still worth noting that the foundation is an assumed deduction, not a proven fact.

  1. 4. Causation

Surely, if there is one thing science can prove, it is that one thing causes another, right?  Actually, nothing could be farther from the case.  The very idea of causation must be assumed.

David Hume, of course, is the one who most famously has shown this.  Imagine, he said, I have one hundred windows in a row, and I take a hammer and hit the first 99.  All of them shatter.  I approach the last one.  Will it shatter also when I hit it?  Hume argues that you cannot know that, for there is no way of proving that the impact of the hammer caused the other windows to break. It is conceivable (even if unlikely) that some other forces or forces broke the windows at the exact time the hammer hit them.  Causation, he argued, is an attribute of the mind, by which it tries to make sense what happens in the world.  But there is no way to prove beyond doubt that causality applies beyond the mind’s interpretation.

Hume’s argument is epistemological, that is, a question of how we know things.  But 20th century science (in the form of quantum mechanics) itself has undermined the concept of causation (please read up on simultaneous causation and the uncertainty principle to see this).

Also, as I am writing this, the world of science has been shocked by the apparent find of a team at the European Center for Nuclear Research (CERN) that some particles travel faster than the speed of light. One article notes,

The existence of faster-than-light particles would wreak havoc on scientific theories of cause and effect.

“If things travel faster than the speed of light, A can cause B, [but] B can also cause A,” Parke [head of the theoretical physics department at the U.S. government-run Fermilab near Chicago, Illinois] said.

“If that happens, the concept of causality becomes ambiguous, and that would cause a great deal of trouble.”

At this point, both philosophically and scientifically, the simple idea of causation (A causes B) is very much a working assumption that makes science possible, not the result of science itself.  [Please note I am talking about the concept of causation, not examples of one thing causing another].

  1. 5. The very existence of an external universe consisting of matter

I will spend the least time here, for this is unable to be proven by any worldview or any method of knowledge.  Suffice it to say that both solipsism and idealism would deny the existence of an externally existing material universe.   Solipsism argues this world does not exist outside my mental projections, or, as my epistemology professor put it, “I’m the only pebble on the beach. And there is no beach”. Idealism argues that only the spiritual is real, and the material world is an illusion (or, as for Berkeley, real only as the thoughts of God).  Technically, neither idea is refutable (any arguments against them must come from inside the projection or illusion).

Again, this does not count in any way against science.  Of all the five things on this list, this is to me the least substantial (since no-one can consistently live out this idea).  I include it here to remind us of the need for intellectual humility, whether we are a scientist or theologian.

Other presuppositions of science include the following:

  • The laws of logic (especially the law of non-contradiction)
  • The adequacy of language to communicate reality and truth
  • The existence of numbers

All these have been argued by philosophers and others, and none of them can be proven by the scientific method.  In short, they are metaphysical assumptions, not proven facts.

Also, related to this but somewhat a distinct issue is that science assumes certain values in order to proceed, without being able to scientifically prove the validity of these values.  Chief among these values is that of honesty.

All this to say that science is a wonderful tool for granting knowledge about this universe we find ourselves in.  It in no way is to be despised or denigrated.  But enough of the foolish talk that it alone traffics in certainty and what is beyond doubt.  It is an invaluable servant, but makes a terrible idol.

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The Meaning of 666: The Mark of the Beast

Perhaps no part of the book of Revelation is as well-known as the allusion to the mark of the beast, identified with the number 666. In fact, some people who do not even know this is a biblical allusion have some vague idea that 666 is evil, ominous, or of the devil. But what exactly does it mean?

Lets start with the text. The end of Revelation chapter 13 describes an unholy trinity of evil (dragon, first beast, second beast, or, as it is sometimes called, Satan, the Anti-Christ and the False Prophet). We are told that the second beast (the false prophet) causes the majority of humanity to be marked with some sort of sign denoting allegiance to the first beast (the anti-christ). Here is the passage in the ESV:

16 Also it causes all, both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave, to be marked on the right hand or the forehead, 17 so that no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark, that is, the name of the beast or the number of its name. 18 This calls for wisdom: let the one who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man, and his number is 666.

Here is the same passage in the NIV

16 It also forced all people, great and small, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hands or on their foreheads, 17 so that they could not buy or sell unless they had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of its name. 18 This calls for wisdom. Let the person who has insight calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man.[e] That number is 666.

Let us first make a couple notes about the verses, then lay out some options, and then, finally, offer some conclusions.

Notes:

The English versions reflect the ambiguity of the Greek on whether the “mark” is the name of the beast or the number of his name.
We are told that we can “calculate” the number of the beast, but warned it will take wisdom and insight. That is, it will require spiritual perception.
The early church did not have a standard interpretation of what the number of the beast represented.
The footnote [e] in verse 18 of the NIV denotes a note in the newer editions of the NIV which states, “Or is humanity’s number”.

Options:


A. Numeric understandings of 666 (Gematria)

Gematria is the practice of biblical numerology, based on the fact that the biblical languages of Greek and Hebrew assign numeric value to letters. That is, the ancient languages did not have dedicated number symbols (such as 1, 2, etc…). Think Roman numerals here.

In regards to this passage, then, gematria means finding a name whose numeric value equals 666.

The most common ancient name produced by this method is that of the emperor Nero. If you take the name, “Nero Caesar”, put it into Hebrew letters, you can come up with 666. Since Nero was a great persecutor of the Christians, had the power of an empire, and fits some other characteristics of the first beast, this is a common interpretation.

Nonetheless, there are a few problems with this interpretation. In the first place, to get 666 from Nero Caesar you have to use, not Greek letters or Latin letters, but Hebrew letters. This is possible (especially if John wanted to really hide the meaning from the persecuting Roman authorities) but may have been too obscure for his mostly gentile audience in Asia Minor. Second, the name Nero Caesar written in Hebrew in the usual way does not add up to 666. You can only arrive at that number by using a variant way of spelling that name (dropping the yod). While we do have evidence that his name was written that way in at least one document, it is definitely not the norm. Further, most scholars feel Revelation was written around 95 AD, while Nero committed suicide in 68 AD. There were rumors that his death was faked and he would return, but these rumors were certainly waning almost 30 years later. Also, the early church did not seem to make this identification of Nero as the beast. Finally, while Nero has some likeness to the beast of Revelation 13, one must strain the interpretation of that passage to make it fit him.

Other examples of Gematria are a little more subtle. One scholar (Giet) finds that the initials of Roman Emperors from Julius Caesar to Vespasian add up to 666 (but he has to omit Otho and Vitellius to make it work). Another scholar (Stauffer) suggests John was counting up an abbreviated form in Greek of the full Latin title of the emperor Domitian.

Others have tried to get the names of modern people (Hitler, Kissinger, etc…) to add up to 666. History obviously has not proved kind to these interpretations.

Another interpretation begins by noting that the beast is described as the 8th king in Revelation 17:11. It then notes that 666 is the triangular number of 36 (1 plus 2 plus 3 etc. up to 360) and 36 is the triangular number of 8.

B. Theological understandings of 666

These views do not try to add up anyone’s name, but seek to understand what 666 could mean theologically.

Many have noted that 7 is often used as the number of perfection or completeness in apocalyptic writings like Revelation. Also, while this is less obvious, 3 seems to be a number of intensification. For instance, the majestic beings of Revelation 4:8 worship God with the repeated phrase, “Holy, Holy, Holy”. Thus, it could be argued that the “number of perfection” is 777. In a similar way, if 7 is the number of perfection or fullness, 777 could be “the number” of the trinity. Thus 666 would be Satan’s attempt to ape the trinity, but also describe his utter failure to do so.

Related to the above, some have noted the possible way of translating “It is the number of a man” to mean something like, “It is the number of man” or “it is mankind’s number” (see NIV text note above). Thus, 666 would be a way of describing mankind as always trying to elevate itself to God (in rebellion) , while consistently failing to do so. (Some see here an allusion to Genesis 1, where the realm of man or creation is described in six days, while God’s days are seven).

Finally, one other item is worth noting here. It is the numerology of Jesus’ name. The name Jesus in Greek is Ἰησοῦς (English transliteration: iesous, with the “I” making the “y” sound as in “year”). For those interested in how this became “Jesus” in English, please see this chart:

Anyway, the numeric value of the name Jesus in Greek is this:

iesous = I (10) + e (8) + s (200) + o (70) + u (400) + s (200) = 888.

Thus, one way to interpret the numerology is to view 777 as the number of complete perfection, with 666 falling tragically (and sinfully) short of this, while 888 would speak hyperbolically of something like the exceeding fullness of Jesus’ perfection.

Conclusion:


You may have noted that not all of these options are mutually exclusive. Careful readers of Biblical prophecy know that many, if not most, Bible prophecies are fulfilled on more than one level. For example, Psalm 16 is considered a Messianic Psalm (a psalm pointing to the Messiah in the future) because Peter could apply the words to Jesus (see Acts 2:25-28). In other words, the words applied on one level to David, even as a fuller and deeper meaning of the words would only be fulfilled a thousand years later in the resurrection of Jesus. In a similar way, Psalm 8 applies first to David, then to Jesus in his perfect humanity during the incarnation, and most fully to Jesus in His future role as visible head over all creation (see this three-fold fulfillment in Hebrews 2:5-9). And in a further sense, Psalm 8 is fulfilled in the lives of mankind most fully because they apply to Jesus, the one who not only fulfills mankind’s role but shares it with those who have place their faith in Him. In other words, many prophecies work on more than one level, and we should not quickly assume that the prophecy about the mark of the beast has only one way of being fulfilled.

My own understanding, then, is this. First, I believe John used the figure of Nero as a way to give shape to the idea of the future anti-christ, and point out some features of his reign. Nero, then, was a template, or a foreshadowing, of one who will come. John did not expect Nero to come back, but used the popular motif of a Nero returning from death as a symbol of the false resurrection of the anti-christ (see Revelation 13: 3, 12). Part of the reason Nero is appropriate is because of his persecution of God’s people, his desire to be worshipped as a god, and his violent end. Furthermore, as emperor he also symbolized something likely to be true of the anti-christ: He embodies a world-wide and very powerful kingdom.

I think it likely that some sort of theological interpretation of the symbolism is also likely in play. That is, I think it likely that 666 not only looked back to Nero as a symbol, but looks theologically to the meaning and nature of the anti-christ and his kingdom. In particular, the last paragraph of the theological discussion (before the conclusion) seems especially intriguing and helpful to me. I don’t think one can be too dogmatic about this, however.

Does the meaning of 666 look not only backwards (to Nero), but does it also look forward to the anti-christ? That is, will the anti-christ have a name whose numerical value is 666? I would say this is possible, but by no means necessary. It is just as likely we are to understand 666 as giving us the symbol and meaning of the anti-christ, rather than a numeric clue to his identity.