Bill Johnson’s Talk at Bethel Church After His Wife Beni Died

Although we live a continent away from Bethel Church in Redding, California, we feel an ongoing connection there. We have attended talks on the East coast when Bethel staff members have traveled out this way, and we benefit from their ongoing presentations on podcasts and YouTube.

We made a month-long pilgrimage to Redding in 2018 to check the church out in more detail. I tend to be somewhat skeptical (“Is this too good to be true?”), so I made a point while I was there to schmooze with lower-level staffers to try to get the inside scoop. I found a consistent picture of integrity and good-willed service at all levels. I wrote up my 2018 visit on this blog here:   Prayer for Healing at Bethel Church.   

One thing that Bethel is known for is a hopefulness about supernatural healing. Managing expectations for answers to prayers for healing is tricky. I do not claim to have found the perfect balance here. In most churches, when prayers are offered for someone’s healing, there is a (spoken or unspoken) caveat clause of, “If it be thy will.” That lowers expectations, which in turn mitigates disappointment when (as so often happens), the ailment simply runs its natural course.  I think that is reasonable theology, and as a practical matter everyone, even the holiest saint, eventually dies of something; that seems to be just the way things are.

The problem that Bethel has with this approach is that when Jesus was on earth, he (as a general rule) healed everyone who came to him. There is no record of him telling, say, a leper, “I just don’t want to heal you”, or “Sorry, my power is running low today, I can’t heal that condition.”  If Jesus perfectly represented the heart of God, the reasoning goes, then it must always be the case that God does (on some level) want to heal everyone who is prayed for in genuine faith. In support of this thinking, there are a number of passages in the gospels where Jesus makes extravagant claims about how his followers’ believing prayers will be answered. If a Bethel person prays for a healing which does not occur, the usual response is not, “I guess it was just God’s will for them to stay sick”, but “How can I grow in faith and godliness so that next time I pray for this type of ailment, it will get healed?”

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A Logarithmic Map of the Observable Universe, From Earth to Edge

Pablo Budassi has created a logarithmic map of the entire known universe, that shows the distances and relative sizes of objects above the earth’s surface. I think you will find it a worthwhile use of your 30 seconds of attention to click on the link below, scroll to the bottom to start down at the earth’s surface (the image quality at the link is much better than I can convey in these snips here):

And  then scroll your way up and up, through planets and stars to galaxies (not every star and every galaxy is shown, of course) and galaxy clusters:

And out through galaxy superclusters, to the very edge of the observable universe:

The scale of distances and sizes keeps getting larger and larger by factors of ten (i.e.,  logarithmically) as you go up. Here is the link: https://www.visualcapitalist.com/cp/map-of-the-entire-known-universe/

I am awed by the sheer sizes of things compared to familiar earth-scale objects. We know that our observable universe has not existed forever; presumably the source of this vast universe is incomprehensibly vaster. [1]

I am also impressed that humans are able to figure all this out; it is not obvious to the naked eye. An enormous amount of collective brainpower over the years  has gone into making instruments (including space-based telescopes) to collect data at many electromagnetic frequencies and to figure out what it all means.

If someone can recommend a similar graphic that bores down and down into the microscopic realm, please post it as a comment.

Bonus: In case you haven’t seen them already, here is a link to compelling infrared images from the newly-deployed Webb space telescope:

https://www.cnet.com/science/space/features/webb-space-telescope-mechanics-how-nasa-unlocked-astronomys-next-great-era/

[1] I don’t want to distract from the sheer visual enjoyment of this graphic with a controversial discussion of who or what is responsible for the appearance of our universe. All I will say here is that it did not come from “nothing”, as a certain dishonest physicist is fond of claiming. See the “Thinking About the Existence and Attributes of God” section of Christian Apologetics Insights from David Geisler, Ray Ciervo, and Prem Isaac [2020 NCCA, 9], including footnotes 1 and 2, for a brief discussion of these issues, and implications for a nonmaterial Creator/Sustainer of physical reality.

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Raspberry Pi 400 Review: A $100 Desktop PC?

The Raspberry Pi 400 is billed as a complete desktop PC for under $100 ($99.99). Is this for real, considering the cheapest regular computers are around $300, not including paying for Word and Excel? I am interested in low-cost technology which might benefit less-developed countries, so I decided to look into this.

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New Finds from Tanis Fossil Site Shed Light on the Demise of Dinosaurs and Vindicate “Amateur” Fossil-Hunter

Three years ago the world of paleontology was rocked by the claim of a brash young maverick to have found a site which captured a physical record of events from the very day 66 million years ago that a giant meteorite impacted the earth and (eventually) killed off all the dinosaurs. Robert DePalma had the perseverance and the insight to realize that the initially unpromising location (just some crumbly fish fossils in mudstone) that he took over from another fossil hunter was a unique paleontological site. DePalma and co-workers published a PNAS paper proposing that the Chicxulub meteorite which struck near what is now the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico caused an earthquake which in turn caused massive waves of water to surge up a creek at the so-called Tanis site in what is now western North Dakota.

The surges deposited several feet of mud onto sandbars in the creek. It also deposited a number of hapless fish onto the sandbars, where the fish eventually perished. The meteorite impact blasted tons of melted rock into the air; little glassy congealed blobs (“tektites”) rained down across western North America for the next several hours. As it happened, some of those glassy pellets were falling in North Dakota just as the mud layers were being deposited on the sandbars from the water surges. Finding these pellets, and even their little impact holes, in the middle of these mud layers confirmed that these layers were in fact deposited a few hours after the meteorite impact. We described these 2019 findings in Tanis Site: The Day the Dinosaur-Killing Asteroid Hit, and discussed how they support the mainstream science view that the earth is billions of years old and that dinosaurs died out millions of years ago.

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Three Different Polls Show Recent Rapid Decline of Religion in America

Three polls (by Gallup, Pew, and Barna) were published in 2021 which tracked church membership and religious affiliation among Americans. I will pick out a couple of salient plots from each poll, and comment at the end on their significance. The linked references can provide details on polling methodology.

Gallup Poll

Twice a year the Gallup organization quizzes Americans on their religious attitudes and practices. IN March, 2021, they released a set of results with the headline U.S. Church Membership Falls Below Majority for First Time. The chart below shows that membership in a church, synagogue or mosque was fairly steady at around 70-73% from 1937 (when Gallup first measure this) through about 2000. After 2000 there began a significant decline, which seems to have accelerated in the past few years:

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Faith Meets Agricultural Science: “Pfumvudza” Planting Technique Brings Hope to Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe, formerly known as Rhodesia, lies just north of South Africa and Botswana. In 1980, the white minority government was replaced by majority rule. Rhodesia/Zimbabwe was known as the “breadbasket of Africa”, and even the “jewel of Africa”, because of its natural resources and prosperity. This arrangement with good agricultural production lasted for some twenty years after the 1980 regime change.

Birth of a New Farming Method

Brian Oldreive is a native Zimbabwean. A star cricket player as a young man, he moved on to become a successful tobacco farmer. In 1978, he had a born-again Christian experience, and became convinced (given the harm that tobacco causes) that he should no longer grow tobacco. When he tried to switch to food crops like corn (called maize in Africa), using standard agricultural practices, he could not make a go of it. He ended up losing his farm due to his moral stand on growing tobacco. He went to work for another large farm, but even there it was a struggle to grow food at a profit. Soil was eroding and crop yields were falling.

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Trends in Young Earth Creationism, from Prof. Joel Duff

Joel Duff is a professor of biology at the University of Akron, Ohio who blogs at Naturalis Historia. He monitors trends in the world of Young Earth (YE) creationism, and posts occasional articles on his blog. Last year I summarized some of the data he gathered on the finances and the social media reach of major YE creationist organizations.

In 2021 he published four articles on the state of YE creationism. The final installment is Young-Earth Creationism in 2021- Part 4: Final Thoughts and New Creationism Resources. A recurring theme in his work is the emergence of what he calls “The New Creationists”. This is a (mainly) younger generation of YE creationists, not formally part of the old guard organizations such as Institute for Creation Research, Creation Ministries International, or Ken Ham’s Answers in Genesis. Some names here include:

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How to Earn 7% in U.S. I-Series Savings Bond or 9% Stable Interest in a Crypto Account

Inflation is up to about 7%, which means that the cash in your bank account or savings account or money market fund (all which pay almost nothing) is losing that much value in a year. That has spurred me to find other places to park cash.

There are plenty of high-yielding stocks (e.g., ARCC, ACRE stock symbols) which pay 7% or more, but their value can flop up and down. That is bad if the stock is down when you want to retrieve your money to make some other use of it. Therefore, I looked for things that have stable values while still paying high interest. The two I have found recently are the I-series U.S. savings bonds, and  “stablecoin” cryptocurrencies.

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Parker Sun Probe: Fastest Man-Made Object Brushes the Sun

I just saw a recent YouTube video, NASA’s Parker Solar Probe Touches the Sun for the First Time. It describes the mission and early findings of a probe that was launched in 2018, and now is brushing through the Sun’s upper atmosphere – the corona – and sampling particles and magnetic fields there. Solar outbursts can impact our earthly electronics, so it is helpful to better understand how these outbursts form. In its closest approaches to the sun, the Parker probe will attain the highest velocity of any man-made object, some  430,000 miles per hour . See here for some construction details that allow it to survive and function so close to the sun.

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Four Biological Examples Best Explained by Common Descent (from BioLogos)

I just came across a good article by Biologos editor Jim Stump, which discusses four biological examples that are explained better by “Common Descent” (evolution) than by “Common Design” (each species created separately):

Common Descent Explanation: The evidence we see—of shared characteristics in plants and animals alive today, and in the fossil record—is best explained by supposing that they descended from common ancestors.

Common Design Explanation: That same evidence can be explained equally well by supposing a Designer created species or kinds separately—that is to say they don’t have common ancestry—but used a common design template for those characteristics that are similar.

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