My church celebrated homecoming this week.  This event is known by other names but in essence it is designed as a big church event to boost attendance numbers and/or raise money through offering for a special project.

I’m of two minds on these such events and waffle back and forth depending on what mood I am in.  Some churches act as if these events are evangelism because people come that don’t normally attend their church.  At least with the name homecoming, it is implied that it is more like a reunion for people who have moved away or attend other churches.  The truth of homecoming (and most other special events) is that it generally adds attendance at the expense of other churches.

On the other hand, homecoming is always a good excuse to invite back people who used to attend the church but no longer do for any number of reasons.  It is good to make an effort at winning people back who have stopped attending church regularly.  If anybody returns to church because they attended homecoming, then it is a win not just for the church but for the kingdom of God.

So, at least for today I’ll say that homecoming is a good thing in the right context.  We shouldn’t be out to get people from other churches but if we draw back anybody who had fallen away, then it is a good week.  I suppose it all depends on the intent of what homecoming is about for the church.

Ardi, the so called missing link

Scientists are abuzz over the release of fossil findings that claim to be much older than previous human remains and come closer to the elusive missing that bridges the gap between the evolution of apes and humans.

For starters, I’m not a big believer in evolution.  I believe God created man from the dust of the earth, not through millions of years of gradual changes as the strong survived and the weak died out.  It bothers me greatly that this is taught as scientific fact in schools for the simple reason that it is called the theory of evolution for a reason.  If it’s a theory, that means it hasn’t been proven or it can’t be proven.  And if it is a theory, alternative points of view should be discussed but those come from religion and apparently religion has nothing to teach us so it should be removed from public school at all costs.

Perhaps more frustrating about the Ardi finding is the fact that scientists are jumping to conclusions about what this new fossil teaches us.  It appears that Ardi walked on two feet like a human and had many other human like traits that scientists didn’t expect one of our “ancient ancestors” to possess so early in our evolution.  Based on one skeleton scientists are rethinking everything they know about early humans.

Rethinking things is fine when new evidence is presented. I’m all for that.  But the way these new conclusions are being trumpeted as if we have finally find the answer to all that we were missing is absolutely ridiculous.  This is one skeleton.  It happens to be far more complete than some of the previous heralded finds but still just one skeleton. 

What puzzles me more than anything about science’s search for the missing link is how little evidence there is compared to what we can still find from what supposedly took place millions of years before man was on earth.  Dinosaurs supposedly died out 65 million years ago – Ardi’s remains date back only about 4 million years.  Why are there an abundance of skeletal remains from 65 million years ago but nothing of ape/human remains.  You could make the argument that dinosaurs were much bigger and their bones would take much longer to break down and decay than a human’s.  But I would have to believe that 60 million plus years is more than enough time to make up for the difference in size.

While scientists trumpet this latest proof in the evolution of humanity, I’d recommend that we take everything with a grain of salt.  I believe the Bible for what it’s worth and believe that God created me special, not as a long term science project with apes.  But using sciences own criteria I feel fully confident that in a few more years there will be another “big discovery” that will change the way we look at early human history once again.


Welcome to A Pastor’s Thoughts.  This site will serve as my personal place to sound off on what’s on my mind in regard to religion, current events, and politics.  It will also serve as a place to provide updates on what is going on with Spreading Light Ministries. 

I have no idea how often this will get updated but I’d like to provide at least one update a week so it is worth the time to come back and visit often.

What you should expect from this site is a sort of view from the pulpit.  I believe that pastors see the world slightly different than everyone else, for better and for worse.  It is my hope to offer insight into the world around us and encourage others to remain strong in their faith.

I’ll try to stick with current events as they relate to Christians but occasionally something there may be something that is just bugging me enough that I have to get it off my chest.  Although I consider myself a conservative Christian, this will not be a right-wing political platform to air grievances about liberals.  There are going to be things that I disagree with from both parties and I will be critical of decisions made by politicians in general, not attacking one side or another.

Mainly though, I want give insight into the mind of a pastor, his frustrations and triumphs.  I hope that you’ll find it worth your while to read.

The issue with speaking in tongues

My purpose in writing this is not to prove or disprove the gift of speaking in tongues as an active gift in the church today.  I will admit from the beginning that I do not believe that the gift is what the early church saw it to be and by most definitions nonexistent.

I will not write to dissuade those who say they speak in tongues because despite my own personal belief, I can offer no solid Biblical evidence to prove that the gift has ceased.

The point I desire to make with this article is that many of the churches that practice speaking in tongues do so in an unbiblical manner.  If the gift of tongues is truly active in the church today, there are many churches that are in direct violation of what the Bible says concerning tongues.  I feel that this is a matter that is more important to address than whether or not tongues is truly an active gift today.  This is not a criticism of all charismatic churches but a warning that there are ones that clearly violate what scripture says concerning it.

First off, one does not have to speak in tongues in order to prove they are saved.  Yes there are instances in the New Testament where people, even in large groups, speak in tongues upon their conversion.  Speaking in tongues, however, is a gift like any of the other nineteen mentioned in the New Testament.  (Most are in I Cor, others are in Romans).

In I Cor 12:29-31, Paul addresses the issue of tongues and other gifts.  “Are all apostles?  Are all prophets?  Are all teachers?  Do all work miracles?  Do all have gifts of healing?  Do all speak in tongues?  Do all interpret?  But eagerly desire the greater gifts.”

The expected answer to Paul’s questions are that not all are apostles or teachers.  Likewise, not all speak in tongues.  Earlier in chapter 12, Paul speaks of one body with many parts.  Each part is not the same, but the body would have no use for two noses if it is in need of ears.  The church is the body, and each gift makes up a part of the body.  It would be ridiculous for a pastor to expect his entire congregation to be made up of teachers.  Likewise, if everyone was a teacher there would be no one to teach.  In the same way, not everyone in the entire congregation should be expected to speak in tongues.

The Corinthian church had apparently put too much emphasis on the speaking of tongues as a gift because Paul berates them in chapter 14.  Verse 6 says, “Now, brothers, if I come to you and speak in tongues, what good will I be to you, unless I bring you some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or word of instruction?”  He continues in verse 9, “Unless you speak intelligible words with your tongue, how will anyone know what you are saying?  You will just be speaking into the air.”

In verses 13-18 Paul stresses the need for others to understand what is being said.  “For this reason anyone who speaks in a tongue should pray that he may interpret what he says.  For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful.  So what shall I do?  I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my mind; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my mind.  If you are praising God with your spirit, how can one who finds himself among those who do not understand say “Amen” to you thanksgiving, since he does not know what you are saying?  You may be giving thanks well enough, but the other man is not edified.”

In verse 22, Paul explains that tongues are a sign.  Understand that this is the main point of contention as to why many believe that tongues are no longer valid – they say that we no longer need signs.  If tongues continue to be a sign though, Paul’s words are still valid.  Tongues are a sign for the unbeliever and not the believer.

Verse 23, “So if the whole church comes together and everyone speaks in tongues, and some who do not understand or some unbelievers come in, will they not say that you are out of you mind?”  While unbelieving observers will not understand what is said, more importantly, they won’t know what is going on and it will likely scare them.

All of that was regarding the church’s misplaced emphasis on tongues.  Paul continues on with how speaking on tongues is to be used in worship.  Allowing for the fact that there may be people who are genuinely gifted by speaking in tongues, I will say that the church has not used the gift properly in worship.

Paul is explicit in the way the gift is to be used and when and when not to use it in worship.  I will first jump to the end of the chapter where in verses 39-40 Paul says, “Therefore, my brothers, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking tongues.  But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.”

If the gift of tongues is active today, no church should forbid it.  However, it must be done in the proper way.  Going back to verse 27, “If anyone speaks in a tongue, two – or at the most three – should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret.  If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and God.”

First of importance, speaking in tongues should be done one at a time.  There should not be a mass of people speaking at the same time.  There should not be such confusion.

Also of importance, and this is where I fault most churches that promote speaking in tongues, there must be an interpreter.  If there is no interpreter, the speaker remains silent and speaks only to God and himself.  If there is no one to interpret, the speaker does nothing but edify himself, as Paul mentions earlier in 14:4.  There should never be a showcasing of gifts or holding one gift above another.  A teacher would not teach just to hear him or herself talk if there were no students.  A missionary would not go into a church where everyone is saved so everyone can pat him on the back.  Likewise, a person with the gift of tongues is not to speak unless there is an interpreter.  It is useless in worship otherwise.

This still allows for someone to speak in tongues when they are in prayer at home, or singing, or whatever else.  I have heard of such stories, and even though I have no basis to evaluate them, they don’t violate what Paul has written concerning tongues.

Going back to the concept of the church as a body, a body has every part that it needs otherwise it is considered handicapped.  The church likewise should have every gift it needs.  There shouldn’t be many churches who truly have people gifted in tongues that don’t have an interpreter.  God will provide an interpreter if there is someone speaking in tongues at your church.  Otherwise, it would be a church that is missing a part.

In conclusion, the Bible offers no clear proof that tongues have ceased.  Many feel strongly one way or another about the issue, as do I.  More importantly however, if tongues are still active in the church today, it is often practiced in a manner that is contrary to what the Bible says about it.  You can read all about it and not just take my word on it.  As a matter of fact, I suggest that.  I do suggest that you take God’s word on it and where things are clearly spelled out, that the churches obey it.

Christian views on cloning

It has been a few years since I was a physics major and even then I didn’t learn too much but I’m going to try to explain the church’s difficulty with the issue of cloning.  It is obviously a hot issue right now and I hope that I can explain things in terms everyone can understand.  I will in no way claim to be an expert on the issue, but after some research I feel that I have a good handle on the issue and can discuss it.  Because of my need for research on the matter, I’ve included web addresses of some sites I referenced at the end of this article.

The Bible, unfortunately, has nothing to directly say about cloning; that should be easy to figure out as it obviously wasn’t possible even 50 years ago.  There is no Bible verses that even allude to it, saying, “You shall not make an exact likeness of yourself,” or “Creating children is only something God do.”  What can be taken from the Bible on the issue revolves around the sanctity of life and mostly ends up becoming the same argument that is used against abortion.

The church’s typical stance on cloning is mostly the same as it is for abortion – against it.  While this is probably the proper stance (and one taken by a lot of secular scientists who think human cloning to be irresponsible) I fear that most church members do not understand the issues at hand and simply say they are against cloning because their church or their pastor is against it.  Hopefully I can clear the muddy waters to enable everyone to understand the position and be able to have their own conclusions on it without just accepting what someone else says.

First off, when we talk about cloning even the word creates problems.  Science fiction gone awry immediately comes to mind when cloning is mentioned.  From a scientific aspect, cloning is still a vague word however, because there are three types of cloning.

1)    Embryonic cloning – this has actually existed since the late 70’s.  It is a scientific process of duplicating the normal process that results in a woman having twins of triplets.  (That’s fraternal twins – from one egg, then it splits.)  This process has been used on humans but to a limited extent.

2)    Adult DNA cloning – this is what the real uproar has been about lately.  It is what “Dolly” the sheep was created using.  It is also what scientists are trying to use to clone a human.  I’ll explain the process in a moment.

3)    Therapeutic cloning – this involves the same process as creating an adult clone except after 14 days the “pre-embryo” is killed allowing scientists to harvest stem cells.  Stem cells can then be encouraged to grow into a kidney, liver, or some other organ.

To create a clone an egg is taken from a woman.  This is then stripped of its DNA.  (Egg cells, like sperm cells only have half the chromosomes of any other cell.  This could be important to the debate, so I thought I’d mentioned it as there’s a difference between fertilizing and egg and cloning a cell.)  The empty egg is given DNA from a person – this could be a complete set of chromosomes from the mother or from any other person.  An electrical shock is given to the cell and in a small percent of tries, the cell starts dividing like a fertilized egg would.

In adult cloning, the egg is placed back into the mother where it divides and grows like any normal fertilized egg would.  In therapeutic cloning, the egg is placed in a petri dish and allowed to divide for 14 days.  Still in a “pre-embryo” stage stem cells are removed from it, resulting in its death.  Stem cells can then be encouraged to grow into a specific type of cell, ultimately resulting in what could be a perfect genetic match of a kidney or liver for someone who is in need of one.

That is the science behind cloning.  Even if all of that sounds rather simple the process rarely works as it is supposed.  When it does work, it gives way to an assortment of ethical problems.

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Biblical issues with cloning

The biggest issue at hand is when does the cell or group of cells become a human being?  The position taken by most who are against cloning is that life begins at conception, hence the issue becomes the same as that of abortion.  In therapeutic cloning, a 14 day old baby would be killed.  Posing a problem for those who take the view that life begins at conception is the fact that there is no actual conception of an egg.

It could be argued that because there is no fertilization of an egg, a baby is not created but rather a cell.  If this is the case, killing this “pre-embryo” would be no different from me having a mole removed – it would be a lump of cells.  A quote from newscientist.com says, “To say that a cloned ball of cells no bigger than a pinprick cannot be created to allow a grown person to live is cruelly dogmatic.”  (The article later says that to uselessly kill a bunch of these is reproachable as well, so if nothing else, the editorial was advocating some limitations.)  If a ball of cells is all this amounts to at 14 days it would be foolish to prohibit its use to create a better life for suffering people.  While the cell contains the genetic material to become a life, it is not created naturally and therefore not a life at that point.  (It at some point does later because in adult cloning, it becomes a baby – unless someone wishes to argue that the baby is not alive because it was not conceived.)  This is the argument of those for cloning.

However, it can be argued that one single cell, no matter how it was created, will grow into a baby if given nine months.  This could be a very good indication that it is human life, even at the point of being a single cell.  In which case, life would not only begin at conception but at the point when a cell that has the potential to become a baby exists.

Some more food for thought: There is a high rate of death for zygotes (time from when a fertilized egg exists till it attaches to the uterine wall around week two).  Around 60% of zygotes die in the fallopian tubes, while more die before attaching to the uterine wall.  This high mortality rate occurs before the 14 days at which the stem cells are harvested.

What does the Bible say about any of this?  The typical belief, as I stated, is that life begins at conception.  We can’t however prove or disprove the notion.  The Bible says that God knit us together in our mother’s womb.  God also knew us before we were born.  God is obviously involved in the process of creating life.  That is why this is such an issue.  If God didn’t care about a fetus before birth, it wouldn’t be much of an issue.  But since abortion kills a child that God has been knitting together and God has known, it’s a much different.  It still does nothing to say at what point a life is formed.  It occurs at some point in the womb obviously and before birth.

This is where I go out on a limb from my conservative brothers and sisters.  Please don’t cast your stones until you hear me out at least.  I am unsure if a zygote becomes a “life” until it reaches the womb (the first two weeks are spent traveling down the fallopian tubes.)  At the start of two weeks however, organs start being developed and brain activity is discernible at six.  The problem becomes that if a human life is created, along with a soul, then heaven is full of people who never lived two weeks past conception.  (This is of course assuming that children under a certain age go to heaven.)  I could be very wrong, but when I reach heaven, I don’t expect to see a bunch of people who never lived two weeks past conception.  At two weeks when organs are formed and an embryo takes on human characteristics, I believe that to end its life is to take the life of another human.  Note: Abortions occur after two weeks and therefore I am still against them.

Does this mean I would approve of cloning?  No, because this isn’t the end of the issue.  There are more moral complications even if life is not created until after the time when stem cells are harvested.

First off, I am not certain and will never have any way of knowing if I am right.  I would in no way bet my life or anyone else’s that I’m right on this issue.  The Bible does not say and there is no way of knowing.  Therefore, I can’t advocate killing “pre-embryos” even for the chance of extending another person’s life.  I stand for the middle of the road on the issue, saying it is better to be safe then to kill thousands of lives.

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More moral issues with cloning

The issue doesn’t end here.  If we can ignore the issue of whether a life is being taken, it only gets more complicated.  Cloning is in the very early stages of development.  In attempts to clone animals, scientists have had a very small amount of success.  Certainly they have succeeded in doing it, but as simple as the process sounds (if you call the process I explained earlier simple) it simply doesn’t work most of the time.

To clone “Dolly” the sheep, it took 276 tries.  Even now, scientists are unsure of their success.  The sheep has developed arthritis and some fear that it may be due to premature aging.  We can’t be sure because so far, this is our best subject to observe.  If scientists clone a human and their body acts like it is middle aged when the child is only a teenager and dies of “old age” at 30, it would be an atrocity.

Moreover, in the successful attempts at cloning, many animals have come out deformed or having serious birth defects.  Scientists have no idea why because their parents have no such problems.  It is feared that to clone a human the same birth defects may be just as common.

DNA, as much as we have discovered about it, is still a big mystery.  Researchers are discovering new things about it all the time.  To be experimenting with it when we have no idea what the consequences are would be incredibly foolish.  When the atom bomb was being tested in its early days, many people were subjected to radiation because the scientists did not understand all the principles.  It would be horrible to create babies with unknown problems that they’d have to live with for the rest of their lives.

Therapeutic cloning holds many of the same problems.  Scientists know what they want to do and they think they know how to do it.  However, they can’t get it to work.  Problems keep occurring that they don’t have explanations for at the time.  Once they are successful, what do they do then?  When a new drug comes out, it is tested for years on animals before it is used in humans.  But once we have a human liver, do we just throw it in the person it was grown for?  Once again, we have no idea what the ramifications are.

Even if we ignore the arguments of pro-life groups, cloning is not without its critics.  While many in the scientific community herald the potential discoveries as earth shattering, just as many are asking for sensibility on the issue.  While everyone is for finding a cure for paralysis or cancer, the risks involved in cloning may be too great.

Cloning is illegal in many countries.  Some have banned human cloning, allowing therapeutic cloning, while others have banned therapeutic cloning.  However, cloning will never be illegal everywhere and those who wish to practice it badly enough will simply go to another country where it is legal.

Some websites I visited seemed to blame pro-life groups for having cloning banned in many countries, saying that in countries where the pro-life movement isn’t as strong, it hasn’t been banned.  Certainly, the pro-life movement is against cloning and has stood against it, but they cannot be the sole cause for its banning.  If pro-life groups held enough political sway to ban cloning on their own, they would also be able to ban abortion.  Obviously, there is enough of the scientific community who feel that cloning is too dangerous and wish to have it curbed.

I don’t know where this debate will go.  As I write this, there have been claims that a cloned human baby have been born.  This report comes from a radical group and many are skeptical of the claim.  However, there is at least one credible doctor who is said to be near a breakthrough.  It may be only a matter of time before a cloned baby is born.  This does not remove any ethical questions concerning the process of cloning however.

If therapeutic cloning becomes successful and discovers the treatment for many diseases, there will still be those who ask, “At what cost has this come, thousands of unborn?”  While the methods are yet to be successful, those against it hold the high ground.  If the practice is ever successful, the debate will explode to unbelievable proportions.  It will become more volatile than the issue of abortion and more heated.

For now, however, it is in its “pre-embryo” stage and has not grown into what it may fully be.  Only time will tell if it is snuffed out or grown into a powerful and respected field of science.

Sites researched: