Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Why Is COVID-19 "Novel?"

Mankind is confronted with a blizzard of multidimensional news concerning COVID-19. Consequently, we will comment on a few elements of the “novel” coronavirus phenomenon, especially, why COVID-19 is a “novel” disease. Novel connotes new, never encountered before. A coronavirus is a concomitant of viruses in general. Coronaviruses consist of a family of viruses—a taxonomic group of viruses having a variable effect on our environment and on humans. The well known “family of coronaviruses” is a large group. Some members of the family coronavidae cause upper-respiratory illnesses. Many of these coronaviruses originated in animals—pigs, camels, bats, cats, and other animals. Sometimes they ‘jump’ to humans and are transmissible among humans, creating what is known as a ‘spillover’ event.

Hundreds of coronavirus species are known but not all coronaviruses are human pathogens. Some cause disease in humans. Coronaviruses with the exotic names 229E, NL63, OC43, and HKU1 cause common colds and various other respiratory ailments in humans. More famous recent coronaviruses are SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) which appeared on Earth in 2002 and disappeared by 2004. It infected 8437  and caused 813 deaths. In 2012 another coronavirus infection appeared known as MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome). Virologists initially called the disease “2012 nCoV” meaning “novel coronavirus of 2012.” It resulted in roughly 2000 cases and caused about 600 deaths. It still rarely appears on Earth in some animals.

Now the world is confronted with the scourge of COVID-19 (Corona Virus Disease 2019. After it was originally identified in China in late 2019 scientists named it SARS-CoV2 (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Corona Virus 2.) While the disease is currently informally referenced as the ‘coronavirus,’ the moniker COVID-19 was proposed by WHO (World Health Organization), an agency of the United Nations, and has caught on in the public mind. The novel COVID-19 disease has supplanted the former “novel coronavirus of 2012” by a wide margin, probably because it is more deadly and of far greater importance.

COVID-19 is a novel, never-seen-before viral disease. The disease is caused by a virus mutation-an alteration or change in the genetic sequence of DNA or RNA of a less virulent virus which was not especially harmful. COVID-19 has proven extremely contagious. For some infected people, most of its effects are not especially harmful. For others, the disease is extremely harmful or even fatal. In our previous post we explained that viruses occupy a unique position in the world of biology. They are not truly living entities, but they have genetic DNA and RNA sequences more typical of living things. A genetic sequence is a chemical code “instruction book” governing the production of physical characteristics and function of living things. Some viruses promote normal health. Such viruses are benign, but harmful viruses adversely affect human health. Sadly, the COVID-19 virus is a harmful mutation.

Pastors and theologians have offered many timely commentaries on the current role of God as He observes humanity in the physical world He created. In our 3-8-20 post we characterized our planet as “significantly…a microbe world.” Most microbes are harmless or even helpful. We wonder how God perceives the current virus pandemic phenomenon. What is the mind of God for 2020? These questions cannot be answered to the full satisfaction of humanity. The mysteries contemplated may have a parallel in the questions and answers posed by the righteous and blameless Job and by the Lord Himself in the Old Testament Book of Job. Note especially The Lord’s comments in Ch. 38-41 and Job’s humble reply in Ch. 42.

We invite you to study additional pandemic COVID-19 science and faith issues with us in upcoming posts.



Saturday, March 21, 2020

Virus Profusion and COVID-19

Many lay Christians, pastors, teachers, and theologians have been focused on explaining the presence of the current COVID-19 pandemic in terms of God’s relationship with the human race. Pandemics, both virus and bacteria caused, have been a recurring concern. Natural disasters, horrors of war, and other sources of personal tragedy are also difficult to rationalize in terms of the benevolent Creator of All Things revealed in Holy Scripture.

Our science/faith blog during current events is somewhat more focused on scientific knowledge about infectious agents. God is the author of theological truth. Scientific and theological truth may be conflated in satisfying ways. During the High Middle Ages a phrase became popular among scholars: “Theology is the queen of the sciences.” Philosophers have addressed the meaning of this statement for centuries. We continue to discuss the overlap of science and Christian faith.      

Our previous post may have startled readers by stating the incredible myriad of virus particles (virions) which rain down each moment from the atmosphere and abound in virtually every environment inhabited by humans. Non-living virus particles far outnumber living bacterial organisms. Prevalence of benign, or even beneficial microorganisms outnumbers harmful microorganisms significantly. The coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic has assumed a prominent role in our human experience. Discovering scientific truth and dealing with the presence of the current pandemic is linked to our Christian worldview.

Statistics of viruses, virus particles, and viral infections in our environment can be overwhelming. The majority of human pathogens are virus-caused. At the same time some viruses are capable of helping our bodies fight off invading bacterial microbes. These interactions are complex and understandable by those trained in bio-medicine. The prevalence of viruses by the numbers is overwhelming. Trillions is not an easily grasped mathematical concept. When trillions of viral particles rain down on us from outer space or can be found in our water and soil, we are overwhelmed.

As we write this post, we are reminded of the dual nature of viruses. Our society could be negatively impacted if we fail to find a medical or natural solution for abating and defeating the current COVID-19 phenomenon. It is one of over 200 virus species causing infections in only 23 virus families. Different sources report varying statistics. Novel viruses develop by mutation each year. Many human pathogens are viruses. A minority of human pathogens are bacteria.

Most bacteria are not harmful. This situation is more complex for viruses, because they must always invade living cells to reproduce. They functionally thrive within host cells when the virus particles become integrated with host cells, but they are unable to capture or store free energy. They are far smaller than bacteria. Viruses occupy a unique position in the world of biology. They possess some features of living things but they are not considered to be living micro-organisms. However, they have a genome of either DNA or RNA, are able to code for several proteins, and are able to adapt to changing environments. At best, these nonliving infectious entities can be said to lead a sort of ‘borrowed life.’ Viruses coexist with life wherever it exists.

We repeat the staggering truth concerning the ubiquity of microorganisms. One liter of seawater contains 10 billion bacteria and 100 billion virus particles. Such microbes are on us, within us, and around us. BMC (BioMedical Central), reported (2017), “The number of viruses and bacteria on earth is staggering and they occupy essentially every environment…..The vast majority of microbes are harmless and many play essential roles in plant, animal, and human health.” 

In Nature Reviews Microbiology, an article entitled “Microbiology by Numbers,” (2011) the authors state, “In total, there are approximately 1400 human pathogens (including viruses, bacteria, fungi, protozoa, and helminths), and although this may seem like a large number, human pathogens account for much less than 1% of the total number of microbial species on the planet…..Estimates for the total number of microbial species vary wildly, from as low as 120,000 to tens of millions and higher.”

Viruses and bacteria have the physical appearance of being designed organisms. Even the simplest cyanobacterial cells which comprised the first elemental life on Earth were morphologically simple but biochemically complex—an indicator of an intelligent Creator who initiated the design process. Virus particles are simpler than bacterial cells but also possess exquisitely designed structure. Another term used by microbiologists is virome—the collection of all the bewildering number of viral species surrounding us.

Viruses and viral pandemics are part of the ‘created order.’ Likewise, bacteria and other pathogens are part of that order. We must understand that humanity has not been placed in a ‘perfect world.’ The perfect world is being prepared for those redeemed by Jesus Christ (John 14:1-3). It is partially defined by accounts of the New Creation described in the Book of Revelation, Chapters 21-22. Until we experience the New Creation in our eternal home we must be content to exist in the good and very good creation of the here and now. There are episodes of natural evil with which we must periodically cope.

In recorded human history there have been numerous pandemics and multiple natural tragedies. In a previous post entitled “Universal Perfection” (9-22-17) we also discussed periodic episodes of natural evil:


We humbly pray for the safety and health of all people negatively impacted by this dreadful COVID-19 pandemic.

   

  

    

    



  


       

Sunday, March 8, 2020

Beneficial and Worrisome Infectious Agents

What’s new at the start of the 21st century’s third decade? The coronavirus COVID-19 has thrown the world into a state of fear. There may be some justification for this fear, primarily based on our lack of knowledge. On the contrary, there may not be justification for the degree of current fear based our enhanced acquisition of medical knowledge. COVID-19 is the third well-known coronavirus human infection since 2000 to generate substantial dread among the world’s population. The previous coronavirus infections were dubbed SARS and MERS. SARS has apparently disappeared from the planet. MERS is still present in some animals. 

Behavior of viruses and the symptoms they cause is diverse. The coronavirus family has resulted in “common colds” for many years, but the new coronavirus infections such as COVID-19 have more severe consequences. This virus family can originate in animals and jump to humans, possibly mutating and becoming more serious. Such viruses are known as zoonotic viruses. Zoonotic infections may also be bacterial, fungal, or parasitic. Zoonotic infections have increased from 61% to 75% in the most recent decade. It has been established that COVID-19 originated in a live animal/fish market in Wuhan, China.

Infectious disease may be caused either by viruses or bacteria. Well known viral diseases are flu, smallpox, chickenpox, measles, mumps, hepatitis, herpes, polio, rabies, zika, and ebola. Examples of bacterial diseases are plague, tuberculosis, syphilis, anthrax, cholera, pneumonia, and ear infections.

Most bacteria and viruses do not produce harmful infections—a fact which should reassure us. There have been 5000 viruses described, but there are millions of different types. Viruses have emerged as the most abundant biological entity on our planet. There are 30,000 named species of bacteria, but millions more exist. Only a small part of the total diversity of viruses and bacteria have been studied and described in detail.

Many bacteria are helpful in human digestion, produce a robust immune system, and work for the health of human skin. Bacterial microbes are highly diverse. With respect to viruses, we may be aware of ‘viral therapies’ to treat forms of cancer. Bacteriophages are large viruses that kill bacteria. Sometimes called simply “phages,” they are ubiquitous viruses that are sometimes useful in overcoming harmful bacterial infections. Research in this field is ongoing.

Speaking of viral and bacterial ubiquity, we may be startled that each cubic centimeter (ml) of sea water ordinarily contains several million viral particles. We also may be startled that trillions of viral particles, called virions, rain down on us each day from the sky. An incredible statistic has been reported: Scientists have found hundreds of millions of viruses in a square meter and tens of millions of bacteria.

It appears, therefore, that we could characterize our planet significantly as a microbe world. Viruses and bacteria are present virtually everywhere and have been present since life on Earth originated. An unfamiliar term applies—the microbiome—the entire habitat, including diverse microorganisms, their genomes, and the surrounding environmental conditions. (Compare the familiar term ‘biome.’) These concepts may be better comprehended during our current coronavirus fear obsession. Fear is a powerful emotion related to a lack of faith that our God, the Creator of All Things, is in control of our world.   










     

Friday, February 28, 2020

Food Web Wonders

The Old Testament books of Psalms and Job supply many descriptive references on wonders of the inanimate and animate physical creation. Psalm 8 speaks of the majesty of the Lord who established his glory above the heavens, and the glory of the visible cosmos, exulting in “…the work of your fingers, the moon and stars, which you have set in place.” Later, in Psalm 104:24, living creatures are recognized as part of God’s manifold works: “…In wisdom you have made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.” These creatures “…all look to you (the Lord), to give them their food in due season (v. 27). Job 37-39 reviews the majesty and power of contemporary spectacular weather events, Earth’s geologic history, and the fascinating behavior of many of our planet’s living creatures.       

Before addressing issues surrounding food webs, we use several thoughts and quotes from “The Poetry of Science in the Book of Job,” written by Subby Szterszky of Focus on the Family Canada. Many have stated the Bible is not a science textbook. Szterszky responds, saying, “Textbooks are often dry and prosaic affairs…..God’s word, by contrast, speaks to the whole person—heart, soul, strength and mind…..all things in scripture—historical accounts, prophecies, songs, descriptions of nature— are recorded with a specific purpose in view. That purpose…..is to turn our eyes heavenward, to focus our thoughts and affections on the glory of God.”

Scripture “…touch(es) on a wide array of what we call scientific disciplines, including geoscience, oceanography, climatology, and zoology.” In pre-scientific days when scripture authors lived, many uncertainties existed that modern science has solved. “Modern science has yielded mysteries and wonders our ancestors could never have imagined. Whether in the depths of space, in the heart of the atom, or in the riddle of life itself, the hand of the Creator has become evident in ways that Job and his contemporaries would not have dreamed possible.”

Against this background we cite several inspirational passages concerning food production and consumption such as Psalm 65:9, Psalm 104:13-14, and Psalm 107:9. These verses imply the reality of food webs, food chains, and food cycles. Understanding these concepts magnifies the role of our Creator as Designer: God, in His wisdom, has designed the relationships between and among species with regard to their food sustenance.  

We stress the consistent availability of food for all of Earth’s creatures, including humanity. Many scriptures highlight our understanding that God sustains the existence of all living creatures. We begin with a brief discussion of a simplified food chain.

Green plants are autotrophs, ‘self’ feeders sometimes categorized as food producers. They make their own food (simple chemical sugars) from water and carbon dioxide in the presence of sunlight. Plants use inorganic substances to produce organic foods. The plant, therefore, manufactures its own food products. Many plant food products are consumed by heterotrophs which cannot make their own food. Literally, heterotrophs are ‘other’ feeders. They are categorized as food consumers. Compared with autotrophs, heterotrophs consume food manufactured by another source besides themselves. Herbivores consume only plants. Omnivores consume both plants and other animals. Carnivores consume only other animals. Herbivores, omnivores, and carnivores are all heterotrophs.

Food chains consist of a simple linear sequence of organisms. For instance, a plant supplies food for a grasshopper. In turn, the grasshopper becomes a meal for a frog, which may become food for a snake, which in turn is eaten by a hawk. This sequence is somewhat oversimplified but exemplifies the general concept of a food chain.

Food webs are more complex and interesting. They consist of many interconnected and interlocking food chains. These chains involve transfer of nutrients and energy from one organism to another. The energy level transfer may be modified by omnivores which derive their food from several locations on the food chain. Sometimes a chain is interrupted by the death of an organism. Its decomposed body is then recycled into a position on another food chain. Food webs represent many interconnected nutritional pathways. Generally, food webs describe who eats what on food chains. As we carefully observe the fields, woods, air, and waterways there are many opportunities to observe food chains and to understand the intricacies of food webs.

Scripture does not formally address the topics of food webs and food chains. It does, however, challenge us to recognize and understand the plan of the Divine Designer on our unique planet brimming with life. We close with Isaiah 66:2. Its purpose is to “turn our eyes heavenward, to focus our thoughts and affections on the glory of God.”

All these things my hand has made, and so all these things came to be. (ESV) 

  









       

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Feeding the Mammals

Don’t feed the mammals? Imagine seeing a similar warning sign in a village, county, state, or national park! People may scratch their heads and wonder: Why not just “Don’t feed the animals?” When we were young we may have distinguished birds from animals. We clarify: Birds are animals. Likewise, snails, snakes, and insects are animals. Warning park visitors not to “feed the animals” may be more precisely stated, “Don’t feed the mammals.” Feeding mammals such as deer, bear, or even squirrels, chipmunks, or raccoons could be unwise or dangerous for many reasons. Most warnings against feeding the animals relate to similar species. 

(Our youngest park visitors may not be able to process biological classifications, but they understand that living things are grouped into kingdoms—plant and animal kingdoms. Most young children learn the difference between plants and animals. We might draw distinctions within the animal kingdom when we warn park visitors not to feed the animals. Different systems of classification and taxonomy have arisen as knowledge of living things has increased. Animal and plant kingdoms have been recognized along the spectrum of different classification schemes.)

Some traditionally connect scripture references of God’s care for animals with the most familiar creatures. The psalmist David, the author of the Book of Job, and many other scripture authors have highlighted the largesse God provides for all of His created beings, including the familiar kingdom “animalia.” With our contemporary enhanced knowledge of food cycles, food webs, food chains, biomes, ecosystems, energy flows, and nutrient cycles in relatively recent times, we have become aware of the depth of wisdom and perception of ancient scripture writers. Our enhanced modern biological knowledge gives man the rationale for acknowledging a Creator who provides and has always provided food for all living things in wondrous ways. Pastors and teachers have exquisite reasons to extol the God of heaven and Earth for His infinite creative wisdom in designing food webs, food cycles, food chains, and related phenomena which have sustained all living creatures on this planet for eons. Millions of living species lived and thrived long before the creation of modern humanity.

Familiar scripture passage such as Genesis 1:30 quotes God, “And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air and all the creatures that move on the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food” (NIV). Plants have been the foundation of complex food chains and food webs sustaining all living creatures. Genesis 9:3 explicitly enlarges upon God’s divine provision for food thousands of years later: “Every thing that lives and moves will be food for you…” Recalling the diverse agricultural offerings of Cain and Abel, we may conclude that nutrition of many types was available during prior centuries, not only for humans, but also for all living things.

Psalm 136 begins with several exhortations to “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever.” The ensuing verses in Chapter 136 express the psalmist’s reasons for his emotion of thankfulness. The passage is not only of devotional value, but also of scientific value penned in pre-scientific days. Verses 25-26 close the chapter, recognizing God “…who gives food to every creature. His love endures forever.” This would include food for all five classes of phylum “chordata” as well as living creatures in 34 additional animal phyla—literally millions of different species.

We trust readers will understand the exhortation of park personnel not to “feed the mammals” (or even the birds) in light of this discussion. Much literature is available to give us pause concerning animal feeding. Not only do we cause animals to be unnecessarily dependent upon man for food, but we may be subject to injury from the wild animals, be instrumental in spreading animal diseases, cause injury to the animals from inadequate or unbalanced diets, or disrupt the animals’ natural food gathering or hunting behavior. Our population may be more willing to accept this advice in our day when “natural” qualities appear to be more desirable. On a personal level, our family has been blessed by observing natural animal behavior unenhanced by either the presence of feeders or by the action of humans who feed the animals.

A favorite traditional hymn text by Isaac Watts (1674-1748) expresses the theological, devotional, and even scientific truths of Planet Earth’s food production. Verse 2 of “I Sing the Mighty Power of God” aptly expresses knowledge of and devotion to the Creator of All Things:

I sing the goodness of the Lord That filled the earth with food;
He formed the creatures with His word And then pronounced them good.
Lord, how thy wonders are displayed Where-e’er I turn my eye:
If I survey the ground I tread Or gaze upon the sky!


  

    

   



  

Monday, February 10, 2020

Feeding the Birds

Bird feeders have supplied joy for thousands of bird lovers anxious to observe birds at close range. Birds are a wonderful biological class—a superb category of living creatures to provide joy for humanity. It is not surprising that many people have devised means of inviting birds into our close range environment. We highlighted Class Aves in our post of 8/8/18:


Since our 2002 arrival in northwest Illinois in a unique region called “The Driftless Area” we have become aware of a wondrous area of bird habitation. We have dubbed it “bird heaven,” because the area affords many opportunities to observe the avian population. Could our awareness trigger a desire to “feed the birds?” We let our readers judge for themselves.

Government wildlife agencies discourage the feeding of wildlife. On the spectrum of different species, birds may be an exception to this advice under certain circumstances. The question of supplying food for birds has many parameters. What could be inappropriate in supplying food for God’s beautiful creatures?

Many scripture writers have highlighted birds to illustrate theological truths, including the authors of Genesis and the Book of Job. The Psalmist David, several Old Testament prophets, and Jesus himself in several gospels, pose references to birds. Several hundred passages in Scripture refer to birds or bird imagery. Even though the Bible is not a “Book of Nature,” some authors of scripture have enriched our understanding with their perceptive understanding of nature. 

Students of scripture may notice that human feeding of birds is never mentioned among several hundred biblical references to our feathered companions. Instead, we are told that God provides food for all avian species in various ways. Sometimes birds such as eagles and hawks achieve nourishment through predation. Ravens are supplied with their food from God in various ways. Birds do not sow nor reap, but God feeds them. They find food that is already present. Non-migrating birds have discovered means of finding nourishing seeds or other plant matter produced during the warm growing season. It is not necessary to feed the birds who remain after seasonal changes have spread frigid conditions over the countryside. 

Let us review several positive and negative experiences with backyard bird feeding. When we first embarked on a bird feeder adventure, our wire basket suet block feeder was suspended on a pole from our back yard deck. After a few days it was visited by multiple bird species, the record being six different species in less than one minute. One favorite activity was trying to determine which type of woodpecker was currently visiting: was it a hairy woodpecker or a downy woodpecker? (they are almost identical save for a small difference in overall size). Squirrels and raccoons became aware of the largess after a while. They creatively devised ways to access the seeded suet. I retrieved the wire basket from the ground with what was left of the suet many times. One wire basket was never recovered after an extensive search. 

Our young grandchildren were fascinated by the neighborhood birds. The experience was of high value for them. Out of weariness from replacing the suet and retrieval of the baskets, over time I gradually surrendered to my lack of energy. Rationalization  overcame my motivation. We opted to discontinue the bird feeder adventure.

Does our personal opinion possess ‘campaign value?’ I have surprised friends and family with my alternate view of bird feeders. Notwithstanding, over the past few years our back yard is still frequented by multiple bird species, even though we may be forced to wait longer for viewing opportunities. On occasion our back yard is still a hive of activity. Since last fall our backyard trees have supplied the usual fare of red cedar berries and wild grapes whose vines have overtaken our wild cherry tree. Among the more spectacular visitors to our wild grape crop last fall was the male and female pileated woodpecker pair not even 40 feet from our window. Dozens of cedar waxwings swoop in and are occasionally joined by non-migrating bluebirds and robins in our red cedar trees, even though we are currently deep in the heart of our northwest Illinois winter. Many other species of birds favor us visually with their unique behaviors. High on our list of favorites are the seldom seen but more frequently heard great horned and barred owls.

A surprising truth has been revealed to our family. Job 38:41 and Luke 12:24 provides attitudinal guidelines. Both passages propose God provides food for the ravens. By extension, we infer He provides food for all 10,000 planetary avian species. Even though we are not forbidden to provide food for birds, we subscribe to the principle that the specialized diets naturally accessible to all birds are sufficient for their healthy survival. A USDA guideline applies not only to birds but to the feeding of all wildlife: “Enjoy viewing wildlife at a distance. Respect their space and remember they are wild animals that should stay wild.” This principle of creation care is appropriate and desirable. Many articles on the pros and cons of bird feeding are easily available online.

Among many Scriptures on the wonders of creation is this passage from Psalm 104:10-14 (NIV): “He makes the springs pour water into the ravines, it flows between the mountains. They give water to all the beasts of the field; the wild donkeys quench their thirst. The birds of the air nest by the waters; they sing among the branches. He waters the mountains from his upper chambers; the earth is satisfied by the fruit of his work. He makes grass grow for the cattle, and plants for man to cultivate—bringing forth food from the earth…” 

             

     

  




Thursday, January 30, 2020

Dual Reality

Our current series of posts has concluded that UAPs are real. They were commonly called UFOs in the 1950s by early writers and investigators such as Marine Corp officer Major Donald Keyhoe and Air Force officer Edward Ruppelt. In the last several years our military has been forced to acknowledge their reality verbally and via release of technologically advanced videos produced by professional personnel. The term UFO replaced the less appropriate “flying saucer” moniker, because strange aerial phenomena have appeared in many different shapes and forms, including saucer- or disc-shaped. Flying Saucer is sometimes used, however, as a throwback to earlier days of the mid-20th century, possibly used as a humorous spoof term.

What questions does our post title provoke? We have proposed that UAP/UFOs are spiritual, inter-dimensional manifestations of reality. They possess many visual physical traits. In terms of their ability to appear and disappear, we may describe them as ghosts or similarly apparitional. They do not appear to be an essence of the physical, natural world because they do not consistently adhere to physical laws of motion, inertia, acceleration, or deceleration. They are spectacular manifestations of the paranormal—more spectacular than activities such as mediums, ouija boards, palm reading, seances, spiritism, devil worship, and dozens of other popular pursuits. However, all of the above phenomena, from UAP/UFOs to other mystical paranormal manifestations, belong to the realm of the malevolent and malign spirit world.

In sharp contrast, there is another spiritual realm of reality. This spiritual world is the realm of the Almighty God—the righteous, holy, omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, benevolent God of Creation. This realm is evident in the revelation of Jesus Christ, the Word, as described by the Apostle John (John 1:1-2). When we compare this realm to the realm of the malevolent and malign, we highlight a fundamental contrast: the contrast between good and evil.

Scripture highlights the contrast between the two spiritual realms—one malevolent, the other benevolent. The Bible asks us to “test” the different spirits to see if they are of God (I John 4:1). This passage states that the spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God. In contrast, a spirit that does not acknowledge this truth is not of God. In many of the numerous paranormal activities, the spirits, for example, may actually communicate with humans in the form of “spirit guides” or “ascended masters.” One frightening aspect of paranormal spirit communication consists of ability to disguise followers as “false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ” even as “Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light” (II Corinthians 11:13-15). Also, we need to put on the armor of God to stand “…against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12b).

The spiritual realm of the paranormal is connected with evil and malevolent spirits, whether we deal with UAP/UFOs or the intimate spirit world embodied by dozens of human activities over centuries of human history.

A single, coherent set of laws governing the physical realm was originally emplaced by our Creator. In this sense, the physical world may be less complex and easier to understand than the accompanying spiritual world which possesses an evil, malevolent realm paired with a good, benevolent realm. The natural world and the spiritual world are two different entities. Expanding on that dichotomy, theologians and scriptural scholars have correctly described the spiritual world as two different essences—the malevolent and the benevolent.

We return to the previously discussed TTSA (To The Stars Academy). The organization actively solicits support for their scientific research into the well publicized UAP/UFO phenomena. TTS personnel such as former government employee Luis Elizondo has expressed beliefs at odds with those who believe paranormal UAP occurrences are supernatural, even demonic. Elizondo’s professional role at TTSA is “Director of Global Security and Special Programs.” TTS personnel assume that whatever “beings” pilot or guide UAP/UFOs use hitherto undiscovered scientific technology which may be accessible to our military in the future. This assumption leaves many questions unanswered concerning the essence of UAP “pilots” and other realities of the spirit world. For a review of the origin and current status of TTSA, we link:


Elizondo correctly defines the prefix “para” as above, beyond, or beside. But he states the term paranormal often implies fringe or taboo science. He then attempts to normalize the paranormal. He provides examples such as mysterious solar eclipses of pre-historic times, “miraculous” properties of electricity several centuries ago, or the inception of “miracle” drugs such as antibiotics in the past century. What was formerly perceived as paranormal ultimately becomes understandable according to modern scientific knowledge, according to Elizondo.

Will paranormal manifestations such as UAP/UFOs and more common human engagements with the mystical, magical, or spiritistic be recognized as part of the natural realm? Will we no longer experience pause at unnatural sinister activities and view them as desirable, normal and natural? We must not countenance the malevolent, sinister paranormal as normal, healthy, and beneficial. To state these principles positively, we must acknowledge that God is the benevolent Creator of All Things. He will ultimately triumph over all vestiges of evil.            

              

       


   

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Natural, Supernatural, Preternatural, or Paranormal?

When I was a freshman at Rutgers University, I was assigned to John Ciardi (1916-1986) as my English Composition instructor. He was an eminent scholar, a poet/translator who could impart fresh literary motivation within his class of newly minted college students. Among his divergent interests Professor Ciardi had pondered the famous Salem witch trials. At an early point in the year his English Composition students were assigned writing projects commensurate with the instructor’s interests. As a class member, I did not understand the mysterious complexity of the Salem witch trials. Fortunately, we classmates were graded on our skills in English composition rather than knowledge of details concerning the strange witch trials.

In retrospect, the Salem Witch Trials are an example of how intensely our early forebears were aware of the preternatural (highly unusual), supernatural, and paranormal. Ancient Israelites were divinely warned against the dangers of the malevolent supernatural. Deuteronomy 18:11-12 specifically forbids divination, sorcery, omens, witchcraft, spells, mediums, spiritism, and consulting the dead, according to the NIV translation. In contrast, the Chosen People were instructed to “have no other gods before me” and to obey the commands of the divine, righteous, supernatural Creator of Heaven and Earth. Humanity has always been afforded a personal choice between good and evil.

Today we are still offered choices, especially in media entertainment which satisfies basic human preferences and perceptions of reality. Along with more conventional media offerings highlighting history, nature, adventure, religion, and current news there are literally hundreds of sources which offer topics of the supernatural paranormal—vampires, horror, magic, alien spacecraft, unidentified objects, sci-fi, and witchcraft, among other mystical spiritual subject matter.

We discovered over one hundred categories of spiritism, paranormal, or demon manifestation in encyclopedic references. A few categories may not qualify as blatantly paranormal or evil. For example, meditation, fantasy, magic, and Halloween “fun activities” in late October need not be condemned out of hand. Participation in such activities may or may not tilt us toward deeper participation in questionable activity. Wisdom from God is promised if we ask for it.

Our personalized, random alphabetic compilation of a small sample of paranormal activities and phenomena follows. (The list is not necessarily in order of spiritistic importance): apparitions, black magic, clairvoyance, divination, ESP (extra-sensory perception), fortune telling, ghosts, hauntings, levitation, mediums, New Age, ouija boards, palm reading, reincarnation, seances, tarot cards, witchcraft. We challenge interested readers to do an exhaustive search of paranormal phenomena classifications. How many hundreds of media programs and literature are grounded in paranormal thematics? Results of your search may surprise you.

One may ask concerning the relationship between paranormal topics, science, and faith, especially since the science/faith interface is the theme of our blog. Faith and belief in God is a supernatural gift. We are enabled by our Creator to exercise belief and faith.

Internet searches of paranormal categories mentioned in the above paragraphs almost unanimously categorize them as “pseudoscience.” This is because the phenomena generally cannot be analyzed scientifically. They are not empirically testable, repeatable, or predictable as cause and effect events in scientific laboratories. Many observers steeped in the reliability of the “scientific method” may, therefore, categorize the phenomena as “not real.” However, many studies of paranormal phenomena rely on scientific principles of careful observation and reliability of evidence. On this basis, some of their observations are empirical and scientific.

In our previous post entitled, “Dichotomy in Supernatural Realms” (1/9/20) we discussed two supernatural realms—(1) the evil, malevolent spiritual realm of Satan, and (2) the good, divine spiritual realm of the Creator of All Things. Between these two realms is the realm of the natural, the present home of humanity. Human residents of the natural realm may consciously contemplate and experience supernatural realms in various ways. Some deny the reality of one or both supernatural realms, claiming the natural world is all that exists; supernatural phenomena are pseudoscientific or unscientific, they claim. They exercise the gift of their personal “free will” to believe or disbelieve and to exercise faith.

We close with one more experience from personal college days. The daily college newspaper invited expression of student opinion on their “letters to the editor” page. Several students had exchanged letters regarding the reality of the Christian faith. It soon became apparent various writers were not on the same ‘spiritual’ page. In my personal letter contribution I quoted I Corinthians 2:14 from the King James version popular at the time: “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” In contemporary times many still actively categorize, analyze, and experience various realms of reality.   

      



      

                       


   

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Dichotomy in Supernatural Realms

Over many years our posts have primarily focused on the wonders of the natural world and the manner in which the natural world points to the reality of a divine Creator. The natural world may be defined as all things in our environment, living and non-living. From the perspective of a creationist, it results from the benificent provision of God for humanity’s home. God’s initial creation was replete with operational laws undergirded by a host of physical constants. The supernatural God had produced a wonderful natural operating system for mankind’s existence.

Recent discussions of UAP/UFO phenomena on our blog site have called to mind the nature of supernatural manifestations on Earth. Our thesis has been that significant evidence exists of malign spirits or demons, including UAP/UFO phenomena. UAP/UFO phenomena disobey physical laws as they suddenly appear and disappear, achieve impossible speeds and directional changes, and in some rare cases impact humans in a malevolent manner.

We have appropriated adjectives such as natural and supernatural. What is natural, we might ask? Descriptions of the natural include ALL living and non-living things in our physical planetary system. This description of natural is very broad. Natural events are described by scientific methods—primarily events which are manifest and explainable according to measurable causes and effects. The natural world is the subject of formal scientific study. This fact, however, does not totally preclude the use of some science methodology in the study of supernatural phenomena. For instance, if a UAP is suspected, it is carefully observed and its effects are recorded. These are examples of scientific methodology. A hypothesis concerning them may be offered, but as a statement of prediction we are on shaky ground. The prediction is not testable. We are unable to repeat results as science methodology requires but our inability does not preclude the reality of UAPs. Apparently they are not components of the natural world. They are components of the supernatural world.

We are confronted with another question: What IS the supernatural? In this area there is room for discussion and misunderstanding. The creation of our universe was a supernatural, miraculous event. There could be discussions about different types of miracles. 

Residents of the natural world have links to the supernatural. In studying this linkage, we may better understand two different categories of supernatural entities, including the angelic host created by God. They were no doubt created long before the creation of humans. Some of the angelic host followed the devil, or Satan, when he rebelled against the Creator. These angelic rebels were expelled from their heavenly realm. The Apostle Paul refers to “..the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience (Ephesians 2:2b). There are many New Testament references to Satan under different names. Therefore, one category of the supernatural linkage consists of evil angels, malevolent spirits, demons, the devil, or Satan. The Apostle Paul wrote that our Earth’s atmosphere is home to such malign creatures. Our proposal that UAP/UFOs are manifestations of demons may be understandable in such terms as we comprehend the meaning of Ephesians 2:2. Humanity and agents of the “prince of the power of the air” may share the identical physical realm on occasion. There are dozens of terms for paranormal phenomena—part of the malevolent supernatural.

The other supernatural realm is the heavenly abode of God. Of course, God is capable of inhabiting the physical realm because He is omnipresent. Humanity is able to access information about God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit by understanding the truth of the scriptural narrative. Christian scholars have established the body of Christian theology with divine guidance using evidence from the physical world, the record of human history including the incarnation and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and the inspired Word of God. Visible manifestations of divine beings such as righteous angels are rare in our age. We must commit ourselves to the realities of our Christian faith by diligent study of scripture which instructs us concerning the ministry of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. More, it provides instruction in righteousness. The key is our desire and effort to “search for God with all our hearts” (Deut. 4:29, Jer. 29:13, Acts 17:24-28).

The intellectual concept of the natural world is supported by careful study and analysis of our coherent physical world. How is our faith strengthened by observing its order? Wonders of the natural world declare the reality of the biblical Creator. Knowledge acquired in this way comes through general revelation supported by scientific knowledge.

Our natural world is the home conceived and created by the Creator of All Things. It is humanity’s tangible physical heritage, authored and provided by God. Our heritage is shared by what we term a dichotomy as described in the paragraphs above. The dichotomy consists, on one hand, of our awareness and knowledge of God—the supernatural Creator and Sustainer. On the other hand, we are aware of the supernatural malevolent, malicious, and malign “prince of the power of the air,” variously known as Satan, the devil, his angels, demons, and/or evil spirits. It is not a pleasant dichotomy to contemplate.

In our culture we have both believers and doubters in the dichotomy—people who believe in God and people who do not. Likewise, we have believers in Satan, evil angels, and demons, and those who do not. The topic is clothed in subtlety, mystery, and complexity.              

              

  

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Dimensionality Musings

Scripture unambiguously states that the universe had a beginning: its dimensions of length, height, width, its dimension of time, and the origin of all matter and energy. Physical laws, which we have somewhat humorously dubbed “Rules of the Game” in several past posts, were also set in place by the Creator. No other religious holy book suggests such extraordinary causes and effects. God created “all things,” an alternate meaning of “the heavens and the Earth.” (Genesis 1:1) “All things” embraces the dimensions listed above. The Creator originated the dimensionality of our planetary home and also a suite of physical laws under which living things, especially humans, could thrive. We may be sure that Our Creator designed the most favorable dimensionality and physical laws to govern the behavior of matter and energy for the benefit of humanity.

Several inspired Scripture verses state that God existed “before time began.” Human experience does not instruct us in regard to the qualities of timelessness such as referenced in three startling New Testament letters penned by the inspired writer—the Apostle Paul: I Corinthians 2:7, II Timothy 1:9, and Titus 1:2. The Bible also suggests a timeless future eternity. We may only imagine!


God could have created an alternate dimensionality for every day human existence. The IDH (Interdimendional hypothesis) is a reality for supernatural beings. He is capable of creating, transferring to, and utilizing a dimensionality parallel to ours. The trinitarian God Himself as well as the good and evil angelic beings He created operate in a parallel dimensionality—interdimensional reality—as well as within the current natural dimensionality we now experience. Supernatural beings demonstrate abilities such as appearing suddenly out of nowhere and vanishing equally suddenly. If they commandeer a vehicle such as a UFO, the vehicle could instantly accelerate to warp speed and/or achieve impossibly sharp turns. These beings have abilities beyond those possessed by humans in our present dimensionality and under the physical laws by which we operate.

In the past several years our descriptions of apparent interdimensional capabilities in UAP/UFOs have been documented many times by civilian and military observers using the most technologically advanced equipment as well as ordinary sensory observations. What formerly seemed like science fiction accounts have achieved unquestioned credibility. UAPs are real is the remarkable current media ‘punchline.’ Astrophysicist Hugh Ross of Reasons to Believe opened one paragraph of his book on UAPs with the statement that “…Only the Bible unambiguously states that time has a beginning.” He closes the same paragraph with “…God can—and does—exercise cause-and-effect capabilities outside the time dimension of the universe.” (Emphasis mine)

A topic with serious potential for study is the overlap of Newtonian physics, our current operating system, with interdimensionality at speeds approaching the speed of light or under intensely strong gravity. Conditions on enormously large cosmic objects or vanishingly tiny sub-atomic particles may impact us. Physicists have supplied some answers related to general and special relativity, quantum mechanics, and string theory. But be forewarned: This is a highly esoteric topic. It is beyond the comprehension of all but the most advanced theoretical physicists (including this writer). Ordinary observers may rest assured that our normal physical experience is governed by ordinary dimensionality of an orderly cosmos in our familiar physical environment. Advanced modern technological discoveries have made our lives more convenient and enjoyable in terms of ease of communication, travel, entertainment, and a host of additional benefits. Modern technologies seem almost miraculous in the benefits they produce, but sometimes a surfeit of modern benefits could deflect us from simpler and more satisfying divine realities. Now we must be on guard against the dangers of materialism.

We close this discussion with a cautionary warning. In God’s wisdom He has permitted fallen angels (demons) to wield some interdimensional power within the world of our familiar dimensions. This power particularly applies when humans willingly submit to the appeal of the supernatural paranormal. Many games, activities, and entertainments of dubious value are promoted owing to their appeal to the fascinating and mysterious. These paranormal activities should be actively shunned. Our last post, “The Malevolent Paranormal” references these activities with a goal to discuss the wide spectrum of paranormal activity in future posts. UAPs, while they consist of a spectacular occult aerial manifestation, may open Pandora’s box to many other activities which are best avoided by wise men, women, and children.