The heavens are putting on a celestial show this week — and one Christian pastor is convinced it’s a sign from God.
Bestselling author and televangelist Pastor John Hagee says the four blood moons that will soon appear in the skies over America are evidence of a future “world-shaking event.”
The blood moons are part of a tetrad, a set of complete and consecutive lunar eclipses that will begin on April 15 and continue in roughly six-month intervals until October 2015.
According to NASA, seeing four complete lunar eclipses in a row is very rare. The skies were tetrad-free from 1600 to 1900. But in the 21st century, there will be many.
What’s even stranger is that Americans have a front row seat.
“The most unique thing about the 2014-2015 tetrad is that all of them are visible for all or parts of the USA,” NASA eclipse expert Fred Espenak told CNN.
Hagee, founder of Texas’ Cornerstone Church, thinks this is no coincidence. For him, it’s a sign of the end times.
The 73-year-old preacher has been preparing for the tetrad for years. He released a book about the blood moons last October and will go in depth about his speculations during a special TV event on April 15 on the Global Evangelism Television channel.
He points to Acts 2:19-20, which reads, “And I will show wonders in Heaven above and signs in the Earth beneath, the sun shall be turned into darkness and the moon into blood before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord.”
In sermons to his flock, Hagee said that each of the blood moons happens on a religiously significant day.
The April 15 event happens during Passover. On Oct. 8, the blood moon will occur during the Feast of Tabernacles. Another blood moon will occur during Passover on April 4, 2015. The last will happen on Sept. 28, 2015, another Feast ot the Tabernacles.
For proof of his theory, Hagee finds connections between past tetrads and important events in the life of the Jewish people.
In 1493, a tetrad occurred while the Jews were being expelled from Spain. Another tetrad occurred in 1949, soon after the state of Israel was founded. The last tetrad happened in 1967, during the Six-Day War between Arabs and Israelis.
“Just as in biblical times, God is controlling the sun, the moon, and the stars to send our generation a signal that something big is about to happen. The question is: Are we watching and listening to His message?” Hagee writes in his book. (Contributor: By Carol Kuruvilla for the NY Daily News)
Intercessors have been praying and will continue to intercede for whatever event or events God has planned in relation to this eclipse pattern over the next two years. It will be consistent for us to continue to pray in unity for another national Great Awakening to revive the Church, that clear Gospel preaching, teaching, and witnessing will lead many to salvation in what the Apostles and Church Fathers called “these last days.” We must not predict but we may expect God to reveal Himself. The Scripture from Joel’s prophecy is applied by Peter on the Day of Pentecost.
“And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, that I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions, your old men shall dream dreams. And on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days; and they shall prophesy. I will show wonders in heaven above and signs in the earth beneath: blood and fire and vapor of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord. And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Acts 2:17-21)
The first total lunar eclipse in more than two years graced the skies this past Monday, and it was all the more rare because it was visible above the entire Western Hemisphere.
During the overnight hours of April 14-15, skygazers there had a front-row seat as the full moon is painted red, creating what many call a “blood moon,” as Earth’s shadow creeps across the lunar disk.
Lunar eclipses are exciting because [God through] nature puts on a free show for everyone to enjoy, and it causes us to look back at the sky and reexamine our place in the solar system and beyond.
Lunar eclipses occur only when there is a full moon and the sun, Earth, and moon are precisely aligned for our planet’s shadow to turn out the lunar lights.
During a lunar eclipse, the moon passes behind our planet so that Earth blocks the sun’s rays from striking the moon. Due to the moon’s tilted orbit around the Earth, one doesn’t occur every month. And total eclipses usually happen once every few years, though there are sometimes more than one in a year.
“Since the moon’s orbit around the Earth is slightly inclined, it doesn’t pass through the shadow every month, therefore every year we get an eclipse twice a year—very rarely we can get up to five,” said Samra.
Unlike solar eclipses, lunar ones are safely visible to the unaided eye. (A solar eclipse occurs when the moon comes between the Earth and the sun and blocks the disk of the sun.)
Lunar eclipses have been considered an awe-inspriring sky event for millenia, and ancient astronomers could do rudimentary but fundamental science with them, says Samra.
“Many cultures have mythologies associated with lunar eclipses so there has always been interest in the eclipses,” said Samra. “The ancient Greeks were able to use the Earth’s shadow cast on the moon to predict the approximate relative sizes of the two bodies.”
Lunar eclipses make the scene in skies over heavily populated cities and towns, making next week a special event for all sky-watchers. Here’s our viewing guide:
Why was this eclipse so noteworthy?
Beyond its occurrence over two heavily populated continents, this week’s event kicked off a lunar eclipse tetrad (group of four). For two years, a lunar eclipse will occur over the Western Hemisphere every six months. In addition to this past April 14, mark your calendars for this October 8 and for April 4 and September 28, 2015.
If you were clouded out or on the wrong side of the Earth for this month’s eclipse, don’t fret. You can watch the entire disappearing act online, via a robotic telescope webcast from the SLOOH Observatory live feeds from throughout North America including the Prescott Observatory in Prescott, Arizona.
Why does the moon turn orange-red during a lunar eclipse?
During an eclipse, sunlight shining through the ring of Earth’s dusty atmosphere is bent, or refracted, toward the red part of the spectrum and cast onto the moon’s surface.
As a result, expect to see the lunar disk go from a dark gray color during the partial phase of the eclipse to a reddish-orange color during totality. The same effect is at work when the sun turns red at sunset.
The moon’s color during totality can vary considerably depending on the amount of dust in the Earth’s atmosphere at the time. Active volcanoes spewing tons of ash into the upper atmosphere, for instance, can trigger blood-red eclipses.
No one can predict exactly what color we’ll see before each eclipse.
Who gets to see the sky show?
The best views will be from the entire North and South American continents and much of the Pacific Basin, including Hawaii. Eastern Australia got to see the second half of the show on the night of April 15, as the moon rose during totality.
Europe, Africa, and central Asia, meanwhile, missed the entire eclipse because it was daytime in those regions at the time of the event. (Contributor: National Geographic)
Here is some additional scientific data and explanation of the eclipse phenomena. It is interesting but not divine revelation. Intercessors have our “marching orders” from the Bible, which teaches us that we should “always pray and not lose heart” (Luke 18:1). The follow Scripture describes how God would have His Church poised, awake from slumber, hear His Word, and obey His direction. Pray accordingly, as led. Let us all remain on “high alert” in the Spirit.
“And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.” (Romans 13:11-14)
The U.S. National Security Agency knew for at least two years about a flaw in the way that many websites send sensitive information, now dubbed the Heartbleed bug, and regularly used it to gather critical intelligence, two people familiar with the matter said.
The agency’s reported decision to keep the bug secret in pursuit of national security interests threatens to renew the rancorous debate over the role of the government’s top computer experts. The NSA, after declining to comment on the report, subsequently denied that it was aware of Heartbleed until the vulnerability was made public by a private security report earlier this month.
“Reports that NSA or any other part of the government were aware of the so-called Heartbleed vulnerability before 2014 are wrong,” according to an e-mailed statement from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
Heartbleed appears to be one of the biggest flaws in the Internet’s history, affecting the basic security of as many as two-thirds of the world’s websites. Its discovery and the creation of a fix by researchers five days ago prompted consumers to change their passwords, the Canadian government to suspend electronic tax filing and computer companies including Cisco Systems Inc. to Juniper Networks Inc. to provide patches for their systems. (Contributor: By Andrew Fazekas for National Geograph)
Putting the Heartbleed bug in its arsenal, the NSA was able to obtain passwords and other basic data that are the building blocks of the sophisticated hacking operations at the core of its mission, but at a cost. Millions of ordinary users were left vulnerable to attack from other nations’ intelligence arms and criminal hackers.
“It flies in the face of the agency’s comments that defense comes first,” said Jason Healey, director of the cyber statecraft initiative at the Atlantic Council and a former Air Force cyber officer. “They are going to be completely shredded by the computer security community for this.”
Experts say the search for flaws is central to NSA’s mission, though the practice is controversial. A presidential board reviewing the NSA’s activities after Edward Snowden’s leaks recommended that the agency halt the stockpiling of software vulnerabilities.
When new vulnerabilities of the Heartbleed type are discovered, they are disclosed, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence said in response to the Bloomberg report. A clear process exists among agencies for deciding when to share vulnerabilities, the office said in a statement.
“This administration takes seriously its responsibility to help maintain an open, interoperable, secure and reliable Internet,” Shawn Turner, director of public affairs for the office, said in the statement. “Unless there is a clear national security or law enforcement need, this process is biased toward responsibly disclosing such vulnerabilities.”
The NSA and other elite intelligence agencies devote millions of dollars to hunt for common software flaws that are critical to stealing data from secure computers. Open-source protocols like OpenSSL, where the flaw was found, are primary targets.
The Heartbleed flaw, introduced in early 2012 in a minor adjustment to the OpenSSL protocol, highlights one of the failings of open source software development.
While many Internet companies rely on the free code, its integrity depends on a small number of underfunded researchers who devote their energies to the projects.
In contrast, the NSA has more than 1,000 experts devoted to ferreting out such flaws using sophisticated analysis techniques, many of them classified. The agency found Heartbleed shortly after its introduction, according to one of the people familiar with the matter, and it became a basic part of the agency’s toolkit for stealing account passwords and other common tasks.
The NSA has faced nine months of withering criticism for the breadth of its spying, documented in a rolling series of leaks from Snowden, who was a former agency contractor.
The revelations have created a clearer picture of the two roles, sometimes contradictory, played by the U.S.’s largest spy agency. The NSA protects the computers of the government and critical industry from cyber-attacks, while gathering troves of intelligence attacking the computers of others, including terrorist organizations, nuclear smugglers and other governments.
Ordinary Internet users are ill-served by the arrangement because serious flaws are not fixed, exposing their data to domestic and international spy organizations and criminals, said John Pescatore, director of emerging security trends at the SANS Institute, a Bethesda, Maryland-based cyber-security training organization.
“If you combine the two into one government agency, which mission wins?” asked Pescatore, who formerly worked in security for the NSA and the U.S. Secret Service. “Invariably when this has happened over time, the offensive mission wins.”
When researchers uncovered the Heartbleed bug hiding in plain sight and made it public on April 7, it underscored an uncomfortable truth: The public may be placing too much trust in software and hardware developers to insure the security of our most sensitive transactions.
“We’ve never seen any quite like this,” said Michael Sutton, vice president of security research at Zscaler, a San Jose, California-based security firm. “Not only is a huge portion of the Internet impacted, but the damage that can be done, and with relative ease, is immense.”
The potential stems from a flawed implementation of protocol used to encrypt communications between users and websites protected by OpenSSL, making those supposedly secure sites an open book. The damage could be done with relatively simple scans, so that millions of machines could be hit by a single attacker.
Questions remain about whether anyone other than the U.S. government might have exploited the flaw before the public disclosure. Sophisticated intelligence agencies in other countries are one possibility.
If criminals found the flaw before a fix was published this week, they could have scooped up troves of passwords for bank accounts, e-commerce sites and e-mail accounts worldwide.
Evidence of that is so far lacking, and it’s possible that cybercriminals missed the potential in the same way security professionals did, suggested Tal Klein, vice president of marketing at Adallom, in Menlo Park, California.
The fact that the vulnerability existed in the transmission of ordinary data — even if it’s the kind of data the vast majority of users are concerned about — may have been a factor in the decision by NSA officials to keep it a secret, said James Lewis, a cybersecurity senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
“They actually have a process when they find this stuff that goes all the way up to the director” of the agency, Lewis said. “They look at how likely it is that other guys have found it and might be using it, and they look at what’s the risk to the country.”
Lewis said the NSA has a range of options, including exploiting the vulnerability to gain intelligence for a short period of time and then discreetly contacting software makers or open source researchers to fix it.
The SSL protocol has a history of security problems, Lewis said, and is not the primary form of protection governments and others use to transmit highly sensitive information.
“I knew hackers who could break it nearly 15 years ago,” Lewis said of the SSL protocol.
That may not soothe the millions of users who were left vulnerable for so long.
Following the leaks about NSA’s electronic spying, President Barack Obama convened a panel to review surveillance activities and suggest reforms. Among the dozens of changes put forward was a recommendation that the NSA quickly move to fix software flaws rather that exploit them, and that they be used only in “rare instances” and for short periods of time.
“If the NSA knows about a vulnerability, then often other nation states and even criminal organizations can exploit the same security vulnerability,” said Harley Geiger, senior counsel for the Center for Democracy & Technology in Washington. “What may be a good tool for the NSA may also turn out to be a tool for organizations that are less ethical or have no ethics at all.”
Currently, the NSA has a trove of thousands of such vulnerabilities that can be used to breach some of the world’s most sensitive computers, according to a person briefed on the matter. Intelligence chiefs have said the country’s ability to spot terrorist threats and understand the intent of hostile leaders would be vastly diminished if their use were prohibited. (Contributor: By Michael Riley for Bloomberg News)
The ultimate source of national security is not computers or surveillance, but from God, whose Word declares, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord…” (Ps. 33:12). But where is such a nation today? We learned through Abraham’s intercession that God would have spared Sodom if only 10 righteous were found there (Gen 18). Let this give us hope! Surely, there are thousands of righteous persons in the U.S. Pray for God’s mercy, asking Him to awaken His Church to unified prayer, with fasting, for a national turning back to Him. He knows all the secrets and holds the keys for mercy or judgment.
“Then [Abraham] said, ‘Let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak but once more: Suppose ten should be found there?’ And [God] said, ‘I will not destroy it for the sake of ten.’” (Gen. 18:32)
“And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.” (Hebrews 4:13)
“For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, nor hidden that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have spoken in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have spoken in the ear in inner rooms will be proclaimed on the housetops.” (Luke 12:2-3)
The US Navy on Saturday christened the first of its newest class of destroyers – the more than $3 billion (£1.8 billion), 610-foot (186-metre)-long USS Zumwalt.
Named after the late Admiral Elmo “Bud” Zumwalt, the warship sports advanced technology and a stealthy shape designed to minimise its visibility on enemy radar and reduce the size of its crew.
Among the 15,000-tonne destroyer’s cutting-edge features are a composite deckhouse with hidden radar and sensors and an angular shape that officials say will allow it to be confused for a small fishing boat on radars. It also has a wave-piercing hull designed to reduce the ship’s wake.
It’s the first US ship to use electric propulsion and produces enough power to one day support the futuristic electromagnetic rail gun, which will be tested at sea in 2016.
Rail guns fire a projectile at six or seven times the speed of sound – enough velocity to cause severe damage. The Navy sees them as replacing or supplementing old-school guns.
In the future, it could also be fitted with even more advanced weaponry. This summer, the US Navy plans to test the viability of a laser weapon device in the Persian Gulf. It will be used to shoot down aerial drones at ultra-low cost – it is thought one shot of laser will cost about $1.
It is also hoped the Zumwalt will, like its reformer namesake who spearheaded changes that helped shape the Navy by offering new opportunities to women and minorities, shepherd the fleet into a new era, officials said.
“This ship is a modern marvel, and it’s going to take smart and creative and hardworking sailors like Bud Zumwalt to operate it,” Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus told the crowd of thousands at Bath Iron Works, where the ship has been under construction since 2009.
Mouzetta Zumwalt-Weathers and Ann Zumwalt, the former admiral’s daughters, each christened the ship by smashing a bottle of champagne near its bow, followed by cheers and bursts of red, white and blue streamers. They were joined at the ceremony by Zumwalt’s son, retired Marine Lt. Col. Jim Zumwalt, who recalled 55 years ago, as a young boy, attending the christening of the USS Dewey, which his father commanded.
Inside, sailors will have more space to work and live because the Zumwalt will only require about half the crew of the current generation of destroyers. Meanwhile, fewer sailors will need to stand watch because of cameras and video monitors that show what’s going on outside.
That will allow the Navy to “carry out its crucial mission at a time of budget constraints,” said US Senator Susan Collins of Maine.
The Zumwalt was originally supposed to be christened in October, but the ceremony was rescheduled because of the federal government shutdown. The ship is expected to be delivered to the Navy late this year and to enter service in 2016. It will be joined by two other destroyers in its class, which are also being built in Bath. (Contributor: Antonia Molloy for The Independent - Additional reporting by Associated Press)
Pray for God to give elected officials wisdom in stewarding the costs of maintaining national security through our military. He alone knows where our nation will be in 2016, when the USS Zumwalt has been outfitted, tested, and enters service. With growing national debt, as well as our budget straining and in need of balance, the country needs strong defense, coupled with thrifty use of its resources. Pray, too, for the moral concerns of military life, such as placing women in direct armed conflict, and the curtailed freedom of Christian chaplains to share the Gospel. When it was young, our nation sought God’s ways. Pray that we will return to those roots.
“For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it—lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish’? Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is still a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks conditions of peace.” (Luke 14:28-32)
In wake of unilateral Palestinian move to seek further international recognition, Israel sends clear warning to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas • White House: Unilateral moves by both sides will not accelerate the peace process.
Israel has imposed economic sanctions on the Palestinian Authority in response to the PA’s recent submission of applications to 15 different international organizations and conventions.
An Israeli official said that Israel would deduct debt payments from tax transfers that the PA routinely receives, and limit the PA’s bank deposits in Israel.
The Israeli official said Israel had “decided this evening to deduct debts of the Palestinian Authority to Israel from tax revenue transfers,” but would not say what amounts were involved.
Israel has made it clear to the Palestinians that if they further pursue their unilateral moves in the international arena, Israel will escalate its own unilateral steps.
On Wednesday, Israel said it was limiting its contacts with Palestinian officials, citing the unilateral move by the Palestinians to seek further international recognition. Israel also said it would suspend its participation in a gas exploration project off the coast of the Gaza Strip.
Israel viewed that move as an attempt by the Palestinians to assume the trappings of statehood outside the framework of the U.S.-backed negotiations, which appear to be in danger of collapsing before an April 29 deadline.
Abbas, for his part, has accused Israel of violating a commitment to release two dozen prisoners at the end of March, the last group of about 100 Israel pledged to free, including Palestinians convicted of killing Israelis, when the negotiations resumed in July.
The revenues that Israel collects on goods bound for the Palestinian market amount to about $100 million a month and accounts for about two thirds of the Palestinian budget. Based on Israeli media reports, Palestinian debts to Israel for such services as electricity total at least a month’s worth of revenue.
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki called the Israeli move “unfortunate” on Friday.
“We’ve seen these press reports, but we have not seen an official public announcement by the government of Israel. That said, we would regard such a development as unfortunate. We believe that the regular transfer of the Palestinian Authority’s tax revenues and economic cooperation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority has been beneficial and is important to the well-being of the Palestinian economy,” Psaki said.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said, “Unilateral moves by both sides will not accelerate the peace process, but will rather do the opposite.”
The Prime Minister’s Office did not comment on the remarks made by American officials and, at this point, it is unclear where the efforts to keep the peace talks alive stand.
Senior Palestinian official Yasser Abed Rabbo said, “These sanctions will not scare us and they’re evidence to the world that Israel is a racist occupation state that has resorted to the weapon of collective punishment in addition to other practices including settlements and their expansion and the denial of our most basic rights as a people.”
Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said Friday that “the Israeli decision to withhold these funds is piracy. … It cannot be maintained.”
Meanwhile, an Abbas adviser told The Economist magazine that the PA was in a no-win situation regarding the framework peace deal U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has been trying to formulate. “If we say yes, we are doomed,” because of the Palestinian ridicule that would ensue, the adviser said. “And if we say no we are doomed; the blame game is waiting for us as usual.” (Contributor: Israel Hayom)
There is nothing new here. American Christians must live with the fact that our government continues to pull back from its fair support of Israel. This observation should guide our prayers. We know God is fully in control and has an ultimate plan and purpose for each of the nations. This includes the preservation of Israel. Pray accordingly, asking God to remove the veil so Israel will turn to the Lord, recognizing Jesus as Messiah. Isaiah speaks of a future day when light will come to Israel and the glory of the Lord will again rise over His Old Testament people (see all of Isaiah 60).
“But their (Israel’s) minds were blinded. For until this day the same veil remains unlifted in the reading of the Old Testament, because the veil is taken away in Christ. But even to this day, when Moses is read, a veil lies on their heart. Nevertheless when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.” (2 Cor 3:14-16)
“Arise, shine; for your light has come! And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you. For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and deep darkness the people; but the Lord will arise over you, and His glory will be seen upon you. The Gentiles shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.” (Isaiah 60:1-3)
More Americans are doubting the infallibility of the Bible, treating it as a guidebook rather than the actual words of God, according to a survey released Wednesday.
The State of the Bible survey, conducted by the Barna Group and the American Bible Society, shows that 19 percent of American adults are “skeptical” about the Bible and 19 percent are “engaged” with the book.
It’s the first time in the four years of the survey that the two groups are tied, with skeptics growing by 10 percentage points since 2011. The shift is attributed in large part to the growing doubts of the millennial generation and Generation X.
“I think young people have always questioned their parents, questioned the church,” said Roy Peterson, president of the American Bible Society. “In our experience, they may not necessarily be coming back like previous generations. Young people might have said, ‘God’s word is written by God, and it’s an important book.’ Today the skeptics are saying, ‘It’s just like any other piece of literature, and it’s no different from that.’”
Millennials, generally described as those born since 1980, are less likely to own, read and respect the Bible. Survey conductors predicted this trend would continue through the next five years.
“It is a concern for us,” Mr. Peterson said. “You know how ideologic we are when we’re young, hoping the church lives out what Jesus said to do, seeing the church meeting injustice and hurts of our society. We have to help people find answers in Scripture.”
Bible skepticism is on the rise. The survey showed that 79 percent of Americans believe the Bible is sacred, down from 86 percent in 2011.
The survey found that 88 percent of Americans have a Bible in their home, but only about 37 percent of them read it on a regular basis. Forty percent of respondents said the main reason they were not reading the Bible was that they were too busy. Other reasons included significant life changes or events that created doubt in the Bible owner’s faith.
Mr. Peterson said the “too busy” excuse will be a focus for the American Bible Society in the next year.
“It’s not possible to live to the standard of the Gospel without a vibrant relationship with the Lord,” he said. “No one is too busy to stop and eat; that’s really how we have to see the Scriptures. We have to disciple people to the point where they can’t live — can’t live their life — without Scripture.”
Another trend the survey found was a change in the way people read the Bible. Among Bible readers, 84 percent said they use print editions, but the share of people who use smartphones or tablets to access Scripture has increased from 18 percent to 35 percent since 2011.
About 11 percent of survey respondents who increased their Bible reading said that watching the successful TV miniseries “The Bible” last year inspired them to read more of the book on which it was based.
Also on the topic of media, about 33 percent of respondents, — compared with 29 percent last year — blamed television, music and movies for a decline in American morals. About one-third of those surveyed in 2013 blamed a lack of Bible reading as the problem, but that number dropped this year to 26 percent.
The survey of roughly 1,000 adults was conducted via phone and online Jan. 8-20. The margin of error was 3 percentage points.
The California-based Barna Group conducts a variety of surveys and studies on faith and culture. Its work has included what sacrifices Christians make during Lent and how voters’ faith affects their decisions. (Contributor: By Meredith Somers for The Washington Times)
This is a sobering report. Its focus for prayer is the Church, the body of Christ. May all of us first humble ourselves and pray without pointing at others. For perspective, every era in our nation’s history has seen spiritual decline. In each case, a remnant has stepped up with conviction to pray, with fasting, for national renewal, which God has granted. Will we press in again, as our forbears did, and ask God for wide-scale renewal? Let us seek Him. Consider first a Messianic Psalm that foretells our Lord’s victory with willing servants to move in God’s power. Then note that God’s grace redeems and renews!
“The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool.’ The Lord shall send the rod of Your strength out of Zion. Rule in the midst of Your enemies! Your people shall be [willing] volunteers in the day of Your power…” (Psalm 110:1-3a)
“But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.” (1 Peter 2:9)
In “Einstein, God, and the Big Bang,” a colorful chapter of his new book, Amir D. Aczel maintains that Albert Einstein truly believed in God. He points out that Einstein attended synagogue during his year in Prague (1913). He repeats several famous Einstein utterances mentioning the Deity: “Subtle is the Lord, but malicious he is not” and “I want to know God’s thoughts — the rest are details.” And he quotes from a letter the great physicist wrote to a little girl in January 1936: “Everyone who is seriously interested in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that some spirit is manifest in the laws of the universe, one that is vastly superior to that of man.”
Aczel goes on to express strong displeasure with such people as physicist Lawrence Krauss and evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins (who, in his bestseller “The God Delusion,” says that Einstein “didn’t really mean it”) when they cast Einstein as an atheist in support of their diatribes against religious belief.
Dawkins; Krauss, with his bestseller “A Universe From Nothing”; and Sam Harris, with his bestseller “The End of Faith,” are prominent New Atheists, who use modern science to argue that God is not only unnecessary but unlikely to exist at all, even behind the curtains. There’s a certain religious fervor in all these books. Atheists, unite.
Aczel, trained as a mathematician, currently a research fellow in the history of science at Boston University and the author of “Fermat’s Last Theorem,” takes aim at the New Atheists in his intelligent and stimulating book “Why Science Does Not Disprove God.” He attempts to show that the New Atheists’ analyses fall far short of disproving the existence of God. In fact, he accuses these folks of staining the scientific enterprise by bending it to their dark mission. (“The purpose of this book is to defend the integrity of science,” he writes in his introduction.) Yet Aczel has a sly mission of his own. Invoking various physical phenomena that do not (yet) have convincing scientific explanations, he sets out not only to debunk the arguments of the New Atheists but also to gently suggest that the findings of science actually point to the existence of God.
In stockpiling his arguments, Aczel quotes from his interviews with dozens of leading scientists and theologians, and interprets statements in a range of popular writings. The resulting book is part science (interesting but superficial summaries of cosmology, quantum mechanics, evolutionary biology, chaos theory), part history of religion, part philosophy, part spirituality, and a modicum of backbiting and invective. The latter applies to the writings of the New Atheists as well.
Let’s start with the origin of the universe. There is plenty of good scientific evidence that our universe began about 14 billion years ago, in a Big Bang of enormously high density and temperature, long before planets, stars and even atoms existed. But what came before? Krauss in his book discusses the current thinking of physicists that our entire universe could have emerged from a jitter in the amorphous haze of the subatomic world called the quantum foam, in which energy and matter can materialize out of nothing. (On the level of single subatomic particles, physicists have verified in the lab that such creation from “nothing” can occur.) Krauss’s punch line is that we do not need God to create the universe. The quantum foam can do it quite nicely all on its own. Aczel asks the obvious question: But where did the quantum foam come from? Where did the quantum laws come from? Hasn’t Krauss simply passed the buck? Legitimate questions. But ones we will probably never be able to answer.
In his foray into biology, Aczel says the theory of evolution is flawed. In particular, he points out that it does not explain altruistic behavior with no apparent survival benefit to the genes of the do-gooder. He cites a recent example of a Mount Everest climbing expedition in which an Israeli climber was well on his way to the top when he discovered a fallen Turkish climber who had lost his face mask and oxygen supply. At the cost of his own fingers and toes to frostbite, and sacrificing the glory of reaching the summit, the Israeli stopped and saved the life of the Turkish fellow. Why did he do it? “Human decency and goodness,” Aczel writes, with the implication that such qualities come from religion and spirituality. (In another chapter, he explains how a code of morality developed in early religions.)
Aczel discusses the mysteries of “emergent” phenomena — when a complex system exhibits a qualitative behavior that cannot be explained in terms of the workings of its individual parts: for example, the emergence of self-replicating life from inanimate molecules or the emergence of consciousness from a collection of connected neurons. He writes, “The inexplicability of such emergent phenomena is the reason why we cannot disprove the idea of some creative power behind everything.”
I disagree. It is not the inability of science to explain some physical phenomenon that shows we cannot disprove the existence of a creative power (i.e., God). Science is a work in progress, and phenomena that science cannot explain now may be explained 100 years from now. Before the 18th century, people had no explanation for lightning. The reason that science cannot disprove the existence of God, in my opinion, is that God, as understood by all human religions, exists outside time and space. God is not part of our physical universe (although God may choose to enter the physical universe at times). God is not subject to experimental tests. Either you believe or you don’t believe.
Thus, no matter what scientific evidence is amassed to explain the architecture of atoms, or the ways that neurons exchange chemical and electrical signals to create the sensations in our minds, or the manner in which the universe may have been born out of the quantum foam, science cannot disprove the existence of God — any more than a fish can disprove the existence of trees. Likewise, no matter what gaps exist in current scientific knowledge, no matter what baffling good deeds people do, no matter what divine and spiritual feelings people have, theology cannot prove the existence of God. The most persuasive evidence of God, according to the great philosopher and psychologist William James in his landmark book “The Varieties of Religious Experience” (1902), is not physical or objective or provable. It is the highly personal transcendent experience.
There is one scientific conundrum that practically screams out the limitations of both science and religion. And that is the “fine tuning” problem. For the past 50 years or so, physicists have become more and more aware that various fundamental parameters of our universe appear to be fine-tuned to allow the emergence of life — not only life as we know it but life of any kind. For example, if the nuclear force were slightly stronger than it is, then all of the hydrogen atoms in the infant universe would have fused with other hydrogen atoms to make helium, and there would be no hydrogen left. No hydrogen means no water. On the other hand, if the nuclear force were substantially weaker than it is, then the complex atoms needed for biology could not hold together.
In another, even more striking example, if the cosmic “dark energy” discovered 15 years ago were a little denser than it actually is, our universe would have expanded so rapidly that matter could never have pulled itself together to form stars. And if the dark energy were a little smaller, the universe would have collapsed long before stars had time to form. Atoms are made in stars. Without stars there would be no atoms and no life.
So, the question is: Why? Why do these parameters lie in the narrow range that allows life? There are three possibilities: First, there might be some as-yet-unknown physics that requires these parameters to be what they are. But this explanation is highly questionable — why should the laws of physics care about the emergence of life? Second possibility: God created the universe, God wanted life (for whatever reasons), so God designed the universe so that it would allow life. Third possibility, and the one favored by many physicists today: Our universe is one of zillions of different universes with a huge range of parameters, including many different values for the strength of the nuclear force and the density of dark energy.
Some universes have stars and planets, some do not. Some harbor life, some do not. In this scenario, our universe is simply an accident. If our particular universe did not have the right parameters to allow the emergence of life, we wouldn’t be here to talk about it. In a similar way, Earth happens to be at the right distance from the sun to have liquid water, a nice oxygen atmosphere and so on. We can ask why our planet has all these lovely properties, amenable to life. And the explanation is that there is nothing special or designed about Earth. Other planets exist. But if we lived on Mercury, where the temperature is 800 degrees, or on Neptune, where it is 328 degrees below zero, we could not exist. Unfortunately, it is almost certain that we cannot prove the existence of these other universes. We must accept their existence as a matter of faith.
And here we come to the fascinating irony of the fine-tuning problem. Both the theological explanation and the scientific explanation require faith. To be sure, there are huge differences between science and religion. Religion knows about the transcendent experience. Science knows about the structure of DNA and the orbits of planets. Religion gathers its knowledge largely by personal testament. Science gathers its knowledge by repeated experiments and mathematical calculations, and has been enormously successful in explaining much of the physical universe. But, in the manner I have described, faith enters into both enterprises.
Several years ago, I thought that the writings and arguments of such people as Dawkins and Aczel, attempting to disprove or prove the existence of God, were a terrible waste of calories. I have changed my mind. I now believe that the discussions of science and religion, even the attempts of one side to disprove the other, are part of the continuing and restorative conversation of humanity with itself. In the end, all of our art, our science and our theological beliefs are an attempt to make sense of this fabulous and fleeting existence we find ourselves in. (Contributor: By Alan Lightman for The Washington Post – Alan Lightman is a physicist, novelist and professor of the practice of the humanities at MIT. His latest book is “The Accidental Universe.”)
Christians should love this article, copy it, and share it with saint and skeptic alike. First, it stimulates great praise and worship toward the true and living God. The hymn writer exclaimed, “Great God of wonders…” The glories of creation are prelude to the exceeding glories of redemption. Second, we feel compassion for both Professors Aczel and Lightman as they try to fathom the unfathomable. Pray that God may be pleased to “reveal His Son” to them and millions of others before the end of the age. Christians know we need not “prove” God, but a revived Church will demonstrate His glory in changed lives prepared for eternity. Pray fervently for the body of Christ to emerge in power.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” (1 Peter 1:3-5)
“But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace, to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately confer with flesh and blood…” (Galatians 1:15-16)
“The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork. Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night reveals knowledge.” (Psalm 19:1-2)