Horror Movies and the Christian

Dear Reader,

With an election coming up soon in our church, the pastor was preaching on the duties and qualifications of elders. In the course of things, as an aside more than anything else I think, he mentioned that he would have serious reservations if a man elected as elder was a known fan of horror movies. This caught my attention particularly because I was practically raised on horror movies.

My father was not a Christian; he never professed faith in anything so far as I know. He was also a huge fan of horror movies. I am the youngest of four children and one of my brothers and I followed in his footsteps in this. I am not quite sure why, honestly, I consented to watch so many horror movies. My other two siblings, though they must have watched their fair share growing up, often opted out, but I kept watching with my Dad for many years. Now a key point in all this was that I was the youngest. My siblings are 5,8 and 10 years older than I so the entertainment in our house was often at their level, not mine. What this meant is that by age 7 I was watching movies like My Bloody Valentine. I do remember being scared by these when I was younger. I would occasionally chicken out and go upstairs to sit with my mother, a good Catholic who never participated. And we all knew on some level that my mother disapproved of the movies though I don’t remember her saying much about it.

Despite my initial fears, I quickly got beyond them and for the most part I was not frightened by the movies we watched. There may occasionally have been one that unsettled me but I had relatively few nightmares as a kid. Honestly, the things I remember giving me the heebie-jeebies were books like Audrey Rose, in which a girl is the reincarnation of one burned in a fire, and Helter Skelter, the Charles Manson story (not even really horror).

My initial reaction to my pastor’s comment in the sermon was agreement. I did not give up horror movies right when I became a Christian but pretty quickly after that point my interest in them just died. Of course there is a lot of variety in the genre, but for the most part I would say that as a Christian I realized how much of what happened in the movies was real and that was what turned me off. I really didn’t look back after this point. I simply had no more desire to watch horror movies and they had no more influence on my life. I would say the teenager-y movies we watched like Sixteen Candles had a far more pervasive influence in that they gave unrealistic expectations about relationships. Those I think were more damaging to me than horror movies because they stuck with me. And then there are some movies included in the very broad designation horror which I still would have no problem with. I am thinking particularly of monster movies like Godzilla and King Kong and also of movies in which the threat is natural like Jaws. Now one might say that these are not true horror movies but if you google “types of horror movies” (I did) then you will find them included.

So I guess the question I have now is where as Christians do we draw the line? In my efforts to answer that question, I came across a wonderful article by Grant Horner on Christianity.com entitled “A Christian Perspective on Horror Movies & Culture.” It is actually an excerpt from his book and I liked the article so much that I plan to get the book as well. I think the popular conception is that people watch horror movies to be scared, like telling ghost stories around a campfire, which is partially true. I can understand this feeling — there is a kind of relief in being scared temporarily and then knowing it is not real. But this was not really my own experience. Yes, as a small child I was at times scared, but for the most part being scared was not the point. Instead, we prided ourselves in not being scared. And Horner’s article does a great job of explaining what the thrill is and why we watch horror movies.

Basically, what Horner says is that people are made to fear God. This is a healthy fear we are supposed to have and it is a pleasurable fear. Though many people do not fear God, they still  have the need to fear something. Thus they seek out scary circumstances and horror movies fit the bill. They allow us to fear. But they do more than that as well. They also suppress fear. It is as if these small tastes of scary stuff over time inoculate us against our larger fears. It becomes harder and harder to really scare us. And really my own experience and observation is that other emotions can become suppressed as well. As if when we learn through repetition to control the fear, we also become better at tamping down those other annoying emotions. And honestly I am not sure that this effect is entirely a bad thing. Using stories to address one’s fears and to overcome them can be a good thing. Fairytales allow us to do this. They let children come to terms with scary things in a fictional setting before they have to face all the world’s evil in real life. And there is a whole batch of horror movies, the early monster movies, whose purpose was to help a scared populace address its fears. The real threat might be bombs flung at us by communists but we dealt with our fears by screaming at movie monsters for a couple of hours instead. It is a kind of escapism, but I am not sure that in itself makes it a bad thing.

My pre-teen and teenage years were in the 80s and I, like many of my contemporaries, was fearful that the cold war could turn hot and nuclear bombs would fall on us. One movie which had a profound effect on me at the time and whose images have stuck with me was about a family that lived through (or didn’t as I recall) such an attack. I vividly remember the mom in the movie family holding her child over the kitchen sink because he was excreting blood uncontrollably (sorry — that’s vivid, but it was). It was a scary movie to me, but it also helped. Somehow seeing the worst happen onscreen was comforting because I could say this is how it might be. It made vague fears tangible and I had in a manner already been through them. Now this movie is more of a disaster movie than a horror movie but I think that the point still applies — movies can help us work through our fears.

In other ways too, horror movies can have redeeming qualities. It has been years since I saw Jaws but the idea of a man who must overcome his fears, usually arising from past failures, and step up to face the evil and defeat it is a common horror movie theme and it is not a bad one. There is a valuable and inspiring idea in this plotline, however cliché it has become. And horror movies for the most part have their own sort of justice. It is always the teens who are sinning in the first scenes of the movie –often sexually, but sometimes in other ways such a bullying other characters — who end up getting axed first.

While some horror movies may have good ideas buried in them, I do not think that there is value in all horror movies. Many are just about showing as much gore as possible and can do much harm. So how do we know what is worthwhile and what isn’t? Again it is all about where to draw the lines. I don’t know all the answers to these questions, but I have  a few thoughts:

The first and most important rule is: Follow your conscience. If something makes you uncomfortable, don’t watch it. Stop the video, walk out, be the one nerdy, silly Christian who gets made fun of. Do what you have to do to not watch such a movie.

The second rule is: If you are with other people and they are uncomfortable, stop the movie or walk out with them. Do whatever you have to do to make them comfortable. Christian liberty is a nice thing but it does not give us the right to sit by while another’s conscience is violated. If you can see your brother is uncomfortable, stop for his sake.

A general principle when selecting scary movies is that older is better. This is not to say there are no recent movies that are worthwhile or that all older ones are good, but over time we as a people have needed more and more to shock us and our movie makers have responded. A movie made in 1986 is likely to be a lot more violent than one made in 1956.

If it seems like the whole movie is filmed in the dark, it is probably not a great movie.

If it has sequels, it is probably not as good a choice. The more sequels, the worse it is. If there were really a good idea being communicated here, why would they need to produce 13 parts to get the message out?

If it has occult elements, if there is anything supernatural in it, it is probably best to avoid it. Evil is real but horror movies are not likely to get the theology of it right. It is better just to avoid movies with poltergeists, demon possession and the like.

What do you think? Is there a place for scary movies? What other criteria can we use to distinguish the good from the bad, or at least the bearable from the truly horrendous?

Nebby

 

Receive a 10% Coupon on Unique, Handmade Gifts for Babies, Kids and Adults

Dear Reader,

My daughter is doing a promotion on her blog, Creations by Maris. If you sign-up for her e-mail list, your received a coupon for 10% off your next purchase from her Etsy store.  In my completely biased opinion, she has great gifts for all ages — hats, onesies and baby gift sets for the littlest ones, gloves, headbands and water bottle holders for kids, touch screen gloves which make great gifts for teens, and gloves and super soft, warm scarves for men and women. Her prices are very affordable and with the extra 10% off you will really be getting a deal! Please take a few seconds to head over to her blog and fill out the form to receive your coupon.

Nebby

A preview:

Scarves, Infinity scarves and Cowls for men and women

Scarves, Infinity scarves and Cowls for men and women

Unique tie-dyed and appliqued baby onesies

Unique tie-dyed and appliqued baby onesies

Adorable baby hats

Adorable baby hats

Two-layer gloves can be worn together or as fingerless gloves. They come in both children's and adult sizes making them a gerat gift for everyone on your list.

Two-layer gloves can be worn together or as fingerless gloves. They come in both children’s and adult sizes making them a gerat gift for everyone on your list.

Water-bottle holders. Make all your kids carry their own on your next nature walk.

Water-bottle holders. Make all your kids carry their own on your next nature walk.

Women, Church, and Submission

Dear Reader,

I think I have probably blogged on this before, but I have had reason to think about “women’s issues” again recently, and I thought that it could always use more airtime.

Our society is largely based on rights. In fact, we have been studying the time of the American revolution in our homeschool and it is right there ion the Declaration of Independence: “our inalienable rights” . . . “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” We Americans are very big on protecting our own dignity from infringement. And this often boils down to yelling at the guy who cut us off in traffic, taking some “me” time, and the like.

But Christianity calls us to just the opposite. It calls us to submission. There are certain relationships which the Bible tells us require submission — wives to husbands, children to parents, slaves to masters (today we might say employees to bosses). But we are also told that we must all submit to one another. Submission, in fact, should characterize the Christian life. Submission means not claiming what is ours but allowing ourselves to be less, to have less, to seem less in others’ eyes. And our example in this is no less than Christ Himself who, we are told, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped (though He was equal to the Father and could have asserted Himself) but humbled Himself and not only became such a lowly thing as a man but even died a very shameful death for our sakes. So we are called to do likewise, not to think of what we deserve but to be willing to appear less and to put others and their needs and wants before our own.

I blogged recently on abortion and this was really my point in that post as well. It is not that a woman does not have rights over her own body; she does, and I am very glad I live in a society that recognizes that as so many around the world do not. But we are called to set aside our own rights when another life is involved. (There was an excellent article on cnn.com recently, by the way, about a mom who did just this, chose not to have an abortion though it could have saved her own life. If anyone can find it, please let me know.)

I met a very nice female minister recently. I don’t know her well but she seems energetic and enthusiastic and creative. Other women might be more educated than their husbands. They might have a better understanding of theology. Why should these women not be pastors? Well, the simple answer is that the Bible tells us so. In marriage too women are told to submit to their husbands. It is not that women are in any way inferior to men in God’s eyes. It is not that they, individually or as a group, are stupider or less spiritual. Submission is not about being less; it is about being willing to take a back seat. Remember that Christ too submitted though He was equal with the Father. In fact, when God calls us to submit (and all of us are called at one time or another to do so; it just seems to fall more on women), He is saying, “I want you to be more Christ-like. I want you to have s small taste of what I did for you.”

A really important point here, I think, is that for submission to be genuine, it must be voluntary. If someone else is forcing you to submit, that is not what the Bible is talking about. And especially in marriage, that is not what we should be looking for.

It is tough to not claim our rights, to not have others acknowledge that we have the power or brains or whatever it takes to get the job done, especially when our society is always telling us that we deserve everything and that we can’t let others intrude upon us. But Christianity tells us that it is not all about us and that our value is not found in others’ opinions anyway. Nor is it found in our own intelligence or abilities. God gave us those anyway and we have no reason to boast in them. Our value is found in the fact that Christ submitted Himself and died for us. It is in the price He paid for us. When we understand that, it should be much easier to take a back seat and not always assert our own rights.

Nebby

Recipe: the 100 Calorie Pumpkin Shake

Dear Reader,

This shake/smoothie is low-carb, gluten-free, and only 100 calories. It also contains some protein so it should stick with you for  a little while at least. If you want it even higher protein, you could add whey protein powder, but, of course, this will increase the calorie count. The cottage cheese gives it a nice creaminess. Glucomannan, if you are not familiar with is, thickens things up nicely. It is great because it thickens whatever you are making without needing to heat it up. The more you blend once you have added the gluco, the thicker it will become. I add the ice at the end because I like my shakes/smoothies cold and I hate to have to wait. If you are on the THM diet, this is, I believe, a fuel pull snack.

The 100 Calorie Pumpkin Shake:

Ingredients:

1 c water

1/2 c unsweetened almond milk

1/4 c canned pumpkin

1/4 c fat-free cottage cheese

1/2 tbsp stevia (or to taste)

pinch salt

splash vanilla

1/2 tsp cinnamon

dash nutmeg

splash maple extract

1 tsp glucomannan

ice cubes

Directions:

In a blender, combine all the ingredients except the glucomannan and ice. Blend on medium for  a minute or so. While blender is running, slowly add the glucomannan. Blend for another minute. Turn blender to high/ice crush and add a few ice cubes. Blend a few more seconds and then you are done.

pumpkinsmoothie

Nebby

Does the Bible Mention Dinosaurs?

Dear Reader,

My high schooler this year is studying biology. The main curriculum I have for him, DIVE Biology, is a Christian one and takes a 6-day creationist approach. I am okay with this but I want him to also get an idea of what other people belive about the origins of the earth and its creatures. My own view on the topic is still  — if you will pardon the word choice — evolving; you can read my many posts on the creation/evolution topic here. So to supplement the video portion of the DIVE curriculum, I am not using their internet textbook nor one of the other many textbooks they recommend but am instead providing him with a selection of reading materials I have chosen. On the subject of evolution specifically, I had him read Paul Fleisher’s book Evolution . If you have never looked at them, Fleisher has some wonderful thin volumes on a number of science topics. He does a great job of taking tough concepts and making them accessible. Not all of them are as controversial as evolution so even if you don’t agree with him on this issue, you might want to check his books out. At any rate, Fleisher represented the main stream science view. Wanting to also give the other end of the spectrum its say, I then had him read Ken Ham’s The Great Dinosaur Mystery Solved! If you don’t already know, Ken Ham is the big guy behind the Young Earth Creationist group Answers in Genesis. Now the particular volume we used is not one of Ham’s most recent so I can’t say that it represents his best, most current effort, but I already owned it so it was what we went with.

One of the main tenets of Ham’s book is that dinosaurs lived at the same time as humans. This, of course, is based on their view that all land creatures, including people, were created on the same 24-hour day. There are a number of arguments made to support this position. There is the theological one that sin and death could not have occurred before the fall and therefore before humanity existed — I have thoughts on this but won’t take time to elucidate them here; I have touched on this topic previously in this post. There is the scientific argument that human and dinosaur bones have been found close together. I am not able to evaluate the scientific arguments myself. One group says one thing; the opposing one says the opposite; I don’t have the expertise to say who is right. Then there is the biblical argument — that the Bible itself seems to mention dinosaurs. Now this is an area in which I feel a little more competent. In case you haven’t heard me mention it before, I studied biblical Hebrew in college and grad school and was ABD (all but dissertation) in a Ph.D. program when I quit due to an overabundance of babies.  So when my son came to me for his narrations and told me that Ham’s book said that the Bible mentions dinosaurs, I had to pull out my Hebrew concordance and start looking up references.

Ham starts with the assertion that when people in the past have spoken of dragons they were really talking about dinosaurs. I have no problem with this point. Dragons as they are usually depicted are quite a bit like the larger dinosaurs. I don’t think it is by any means necessary to believe this — dragons could be entirely fictional, but it does make sense to say that if people in, say, ancient China had seen a large dinosaur, they would have called it a dragon. I would point out, however, that in all cultures that I know anything about it seems that dragons were a rarity. The stories never seem to have a colony of dragons living on the other side of the mountain; they are always rare beasts and quite to be feared. Because of this, I would find it a lot more plausible to believe that an isolated dinosaur or two survived and was seen by men than that humans and dinosaurs always coexisted. But the number of cultures which have dragon stories does at least make one think there must have been real creatures people saw which inspired them. And personally, I kind of like the idea that there are Nessie-like holdouts out there surviving way past their peers.

So if other cultures mention dinosaur-like creatures, what about the Bible? Does the Old Testament contain any references to creatures that could be dinosaurs? Ham says yes:

“It is highly interesting to note that the word ‘dragon’ (Hebrew: tannim) appears in the Old Testament at least 21 times. . . . There are passages in the Bible about dragons that lived on the land . . . Biblical creationists believe these were references to what we now call dinosaurs. There are also passages in the Bible about dragons that lived in the sea.” (p. 39)

In his end notes on this section, Ham cites Henry M. Morris who says that ” ‘Dragons, for example (Hebrew tannim) are mentioned at least 25 times in the Old Testament'” (p. 140) as well as two other authors who say that tannim meaning dragons appears 21 times.

This is the point at which the concordance comes out. There are three words I can think of which could be taken to refer to dragons or the like in the Old Testament. They are (pardon my Hebrew): tannin, behemoth, and leviathan. As far as I can find (and it’s possible I am missing some references though I tried to be thorough), tannin occurs fourteen times, behemoth referring to some sort of extraordinary beast occurs once and leviathan occurs six times. If you are counting, that is a total of twenty-one occurrences. I cannot find that tannin alone occurs 21 times, and certainly not the 25 Morris cites, but the three terms together do give us the 21 number which Ham cites.  Let’s look at each of the terms in turn.

I’ll start with behemoth since it only occurs once referring to some sort of extra-ordinary creature. The word behemoth actually occurs quite frequently in the Old Testament. It is the plural form (-ot being the feminine plural ending in Hebrew) of the noun behemah which means beast. It is a common noun, occurring more than 150 times in the Old Testament and usually referring to the beasts of the field (as opposed to domesticated animals). The plural form behemoth occurs around 15 times. An example would be Job 12:7:

“But ask the beasts, and they will teach you;
the birds of the heavens, and they will tell you.” (ESV)

The one reference in which behemoth seems to refer to more than just the usual beasts comes later in the book of Job in chapter 40. Here we find:

“Behold, Behemoth, which I made as I made you; he eats grass like an ox.” (Job 40:15; ESV)

It certainly sounds like God is here speaking of one beast, not of the beasts in general. As the passage continues, we learn that Behemoth eats grass, is strong and muscular, and has limbs like iron. He lives among reeds and lotus plants, presumably in or near the water. We are also told that he is not afraid of turbulent waters and that he is untameable by men. One phrase of which much has been made is found in verse 17: “He makes his tail stiff like a cedar.” This has been used to say that Behemoth had a huge, stiff tail; he has thus been connected with the larger, plant-eating dinosaurs like Apatosaurus. I do not think we need take the verse this way, however. It says not that his tail is large like a cedar but that it is stiff like one. One of my old professors said that Behemoth was a hippopotamus and I have to say the description does sound a lot like one to me — a herbivore that lives by the water and is yet quite vicious and dangerous to people, all of that could describe a hippo. If anything I am more intrigued by verse 19 which tells us that Behemoth is “the first of the works of God.” It makes me think rather that there were creatures who were prehistoric, who came early on in the history of creation. If all land animals were created on the same day, what does it mean to say this one was “first”?

This passage describing Behemoth is followed immediately by the best description we have of another extraordinary creature, Leviathan. In Job 41 we read:

“Can you draw out Leviathan with a fishhook or press down his tongue with a cord?” (Job 41:1; ESV)

The following verses go no to tell us that Leviathan, like Behemoth, is untameable. He is strong and has fearsome teeth. In addition, “his back is made of rows of shields” (v.15) and he breathes fire (vv. 18-21). This certainly sounds like a dragon. But again, he seems to be a singular, unique creature, not one of a species. If people really lived alongside dinosaurs, surely they would be aware of more than one of them. There is also the problem that dinosaurs did not breathe fire. If we are to take away that one detail, this passage could describe a dinosaur, but then again it could also describe a crocodile.

The other passages referring to Leviathan add only a few more details. Isaiah 27:1 calls him a “fiery” and “twisting serpent.” Psalm 104:26 says that he plays in the sea. It is hard to know if this is his sole habitation or if he only enters the water sometimes. Again this could refer to a crocodile. I do not know if the large land dinosaurs spent time in the water as well. Lastly, we have Psalm 74. Verses 12-17 of this psalm seem to refer to God’s creative act. They speak of dividing the sea and establishing the heavenly lights. In the midst of this we are told that God also “crushed the heads of Leviathan” and “gave him as food for the creatures of the wilderness” (v. 14). This makes it sound as if there was again one Leviathan, albeit with multiple heads, who was destroyed by God in the early stages of creation.

What are we to do with all this information? I still find myself fairly uncertain about what to think of Behemoth and Leviathan. Here are the things I think we can say:

  • They are each spoken of as unique, individual creatures, not as members of a larger species. That is, there is no indication that anyone was aware of there ever having been more than one of them.
  • Though God talks as if Job should be familiar with them, they are also placed, by Job 40 in the case of Behemoth and Psalm 74 in the case of Leviathan, in the early history of creation.
  • The only detail about Behemoth that makes it sound unlike creatures we know is this reference to its tail. I do think, however, that this need not refer to an extraordinary long tail but could mean simply that its tail is stiff like a cedar.
  • Job tells us that Leviathan breathes fire. If we are going to take the Bible at its most literal, I would think this is a problem for everyone, no matter their theory of creation. Dinosaurs did not breathe fire anymore than the other animals we know. (Or perhaps Ham thinks they did based on this passage?)
  • Both animals seem to spend at least some time in the water.

This last detail is not as insignificant as it may sound. Israel’s neighbors all had creation myths in which their god had to defeat the Sea (big “S” because it is personified) or a sea monster in order to form the world as we know it. Though Genesis 1 and 2 do not relate such a battle, we find remnants of this idea elsewhere in the Bible, including in the section of Psalm 74 discussed above. The Sea represented chaos and danger to the Israelites (they were not big beach-goers) and therefore was the antithesis of God’s orderly creation. And in the end times when all is perfect again, we are told there will be no more sea.

The last term we need to look at is tannin. The first thing we need to note is that Ham, and apparently the sources he quotes, speak of tannim, but the Hebrew word is with an -n, tannin. There are two very similar words actually. The noun tan means a jackal. Its plural would be tannim (-im being the masculine plural ending). This looks very like the word tannin which is our subject here. The plural of tannin is similarly tanninim. Ham and his sources seem confused by the similarities between these two nouns. Morris, as quoted by Ham in his endnotes, reads tannin in Malachi 1:3, taking  the verse to say that the mountains of Edom “have been laid ‘waste for the dragons of the wilderness'” (p. 140). This is a misreading of this verse. The Hebrew speaks of the tannot of the wilderness. This -ot is again the feminine plural ending; there is no reason not to think it is a plural form of the word jackal. Further supporting this reading, this is not the only place in which the jackals of the wilderness are used in such a context. An example would be Jeremiah 9:11 in which God says,

“‘I will make Jerusalem a heap of ruins, a lair of jackals and I will make the cities of Judah a desolationwithout inhabitant.” (ESV)

My point here is that not all the supposed references to dragons even reflect the word in question, tannin. First we must eliminate those which are really forms of tan, jackal.

Having done so, we are left with 14 uses of the word tannin. These remaining references may be divided into three groups: those which seem to refer to large water animals collectively, those which seem to refer to snake-like creatures, and those which seem, like Behemoth and Leviathan, to refer to an extraordinary creature or creatures.

Let us begin at the beginning, with Genesis 1. Genesis 1:21 says that “God created the great  tanninim and every swarming living being with which the waters abound according to their kind and  all the winged birds according to their kind, and God saw that it was good” (my translation). We learn from this verse that the tanninim are large and that they live in the water. They are distinguished from the swarming creatures which also live in the water; these appear to be quite small things. The word for “swarming things” is also used to refer to insects those these are water-swarmers. Psalm 148 also treats the tanninim as a group of animals:

“Praise the Lord from the earth, tanninim and all deeps.” (my translation)

The association with the deeps seems to indicate that these are again water animals. Later in the psalm the beasts, birds and swarmers (same word as in Genesis 1:21 by the way) are also told to praise the Lord. What I take away from these two passages is that the tanninim are large, aquatic and not necessarily unusual; that is, they are listed along with other ordinary groups of animals (eg. birds).

There are other passages in which tannin seems to refer to a snake or snake-like creature. Most notable among these is Exodus 7:9 in which Moses’ staff becomes a tannin (see also verses 10 and 12). Of course, tradition says that the staff became a serpent and I see no reason to doubt that this is so. It is certainly a logical thing for a long wooden rod to become if it is going to become any animal at all. The connection with snakes is made clear in Deuteronomy 32:33 which the ESV translates as: “their wine is the poison of serpents (tannin) and the cruel venom of asps.” Similarly, Psalm 91:13 also uses tannin in parallel with adder.

Finally, we are left with those verses in which tannin might refer to an extraordinary creature. In Ezekiel 32:2 God says to Pharaoh, “‘You consider yourself a lion of the nations, but you are like a tannin in the seas; you burst forth in your rivers,
trouble the waters with your feet, and foul their rivers'” (ESV). There is no inherent reason to suppose an unusual creature is here meant, however elsewhere in Ezekiel, Pharaoh is told:

“‘Behold, I am against you, Pharaoh king of Egypt,the great tannin that lies in the midst of his streams, that says, ‘My Nile is my own; I made it for myself.’I will put hooks in your jaws, and make the fish of your streams stick to your scales; and I will draw you up out of the midst of your streams, with all the fish of your streams that stick to your scales.'” (Ezek. 29:3-4; ESV)

This is again, then, like Behemoth and Leviathan, a water creature and one that may be scaly. Also like those two, there are a few references to tannin which make it sound like a prehistoric creature God defeated. Indeed, there are two passages in which Leviathan and tannin are used side by sidse. Psalm 74:13, in the verse before it mentions Leviathan, says:

“You divided the sea by your might; you broke the heads of the tanninim (note the plural) on the waters.” (ESV)

And Isaiah 27 reads:

“On that day the LORD will visit His hard, great and strong sword upon Leviathan, the fleeing serpent, and upon Leviathan, the twisting serpent, and He will kill the tannin which is in the sea.” (my translation)

The reference to prehistoric times we find in Isaiah 51:9 which reads:

“Arise, arise, put on strength, O arm of the LORD,

Arise as in the days of old, the ancient generations,

Was it not you who cut Rahab to pieces, who pierced tannin?” (my translation)

These are all the significant uses of the word tannin. The other ones I have found are brief and do not add much to our understanding of the word; they include Jeremiah 51:34, Job 7:12, and Nehemiah 2:13.

What then, can we say about tannin in the Old Testament? In some passages it seems to be a snake-like creature. In others, it seems to refer to a class of large water animals. And like Leviathan and Behemoth, it seems to be either a singular animal God once defeated or perhaps (noting the plural in Psalm 74) a group of animals.

So does the Bible mention dinosaurs? You can draw your own conclusions. Personally, Leviathan sounds a lot like a dragon to me, but not like a dinosaur which does not breathe fire. All three of the extraordinary creatures mentioned, Leviathan, Behemoth and Tannin, live at least partially in the water. I see not indication that Bible people were aware of large land animals like the larger dinosaurs nor of there being many of these creatures, whatever they were, in existence. Finally, God’s defeat of these creatures seems to have happened in the distant past and is tied to creation. If anything, I would think we could say from this that there were extraordinary and large creatures who existed early on in creation (implying a long process of creation) but that God has since killed them off.

What do you thin? Have I convinced you?

Nebby

God’s Laws for Creation and for People

Dear Reader,

[This is part of my continuing series in the book of Jeremiah. You can find all the posts from it here.]

Though I said last time I would cover three chapters of Jeremiah all in one post, the truth is I have a bit more to say on Jeremiah 5-8.

In my most recent post, I hope that you picked up that Jeremiah 6, 7 and 8 hang together pretty well. Chapters 6 and 8 both contain verses in which the leaders are reprimanded for saying “peace, peace, peace” when there is no peace for Judah (Jer. 6:14 and 8:11). Chapter 7 also has a threefold repetition in “the temple, the temple, the temple” (Jer. 7:4). Both of these phrases give the people false assurance of their safety because of their supposed special status before God.

But there is another idea that I see beginning even a bit earlier in chapter 5 and being picked up again here in chapters 7 and 8. The people’s obedience to the law (or lack thereof) is contrasted with creation. This may seem like a funny thing to us. We joke about disobeying the law of gravity but really we do not see such things as being the same as moral laws, whether they come from our nation or our God. Even when we are just looking at the Old Testament, we like to distinguish between moral, ceremonial and civil laws. These are not distinctions which the Bible itself makes. The prophet Jeremiah here goes beyond just putting all laws for humans on one plane, he actually equates what we would call natural laws with God’s moral law.

In chapter 7, the people are once again chastised for their many sins. When we read them catalogued, it is hard not to think of the Ten Commandments:

“Behold, you trust in deceptive words to no avail. Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, make offerings to Baal, and go after other gods that you have not known, and then come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, ‘We are delivered!’—only to go on doing all these abominations?” (Jer. 7:8-10; ESV)

It almost sounds like they have gone through the commandments trying to break each one.

As I trued to show in my post on Jeremiah 5, God contrasts the obedience of the sea which, though it always crashes against the bounds He has set, never breaks them with the disobedience of His people. We find this idea again in Jeremiah 8 when the prophet says:

“‘Why then has this people turned away in perpetual backsliding?
They hold fast to deceit; they refuse to return.
I have paid attention and listened, but they have not spoken rightly;
no man relents of his evil, saying, ‘What have I done?’
Everyone turns to his own course, like a horse plunging headlong into battle.
Even the stork in the heavens knows her times,
and the turtledove, swallow, and crane keep the time of their coming,
but my people know not the rules of the Lord.” (Jer. 8:5-7; ESV)

The comparison here is between the people who are like a horse given its head, plunging forward according to its will and the birds who know their place and obey the rules their Creator has set for them.

What is the significance of all this for us? God tells us in Romans that we can know His character through His creation:

“For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.” (Rom. 1:20)

In this section of Jeremiah, we get a taste of what that means, at least in part. The laws of nature, things like gravity and th seasons changing in their time, show us that our God is one of laws and regularity and they even give us an example of how to obey Him. So too the birds mentioned in Jeremiah 8 are examples to us, perhaps in their regular migratory patterns, of what it means to adhere to the law. In our very modern mindset we like to separate things out; we don’t like to mix religion with science or politics or much else. But God’s creation is a unity and He made it so that it not only functions as it should but also so that it teaches us if we would only perceive it rightly.

Nebby

Creation and Evolution (Part 4): Is God Deceptive?

Dear Reader,

This will, I think, be my fourth and final post on E.O. Wilson’s book The Creation: An Appeal to Save Life on Earth. You can read the previous ones here, here, and here.

Throughout the book, though his goal is to convince Christians to work with him in preserving the environment, Wilson comes off as quite dismissive of Christian beliefs and even a bit obnoxious and offensive when he discusses things like the end times (why this even comes up in such a book, I am not sure). Towards the end of the book, he very briefly mentions and dismisses the theory of creation known as Intelligent Design. This is again one of those passages that had a very mocking tone and I don’t know how he thinks he will convince anyone with the tack he takes. Nevertheless, in the course of it all, he asks a very good question of the young earth creationists (YECs). He says:

“Life was self-assembled by random mutation and natural selection of the codifying molecules. As radical as such an explanation may seem, it is supported by an overwhelming body of interlocking evidence. It might yet prove wrong, but year by year that seems less probable. And it raises this theological question: Would God have been so deceptive as to salt the earth with so much misleading evidence?” (p. 166)

Now I suspect that YECs would reply that Wilson and his fellow evolutionists are misinterpreting the evidence and that it does not say what they think it says. But the fact is that there are an awful lot of people who would see things the way Wilson does, that the fossil record and the layers of the earth and all that show an old earth with a long history of life. So I think Wilson’s question is a valid one: Are the YECs really the only ones interpreting this evidence rightly? If they are correct and everyone else is misreading the evidence, why? Why would God allow so many people to be led astray on this issue? Is He deceiving them on purpose?

Now obviously there are quite a lot of humans, both now and in the past, who have not been Christians. I would say that these people are deceived about a lot of things. Depending on the person, these might include whether there is a God, what He is like, what their stance before Him is, and how they can be saved. The Bible tells us that when it comes to salvation issues that the Holy Spirit reveals the truth to some people and not others. What YECs seem to be implying is that God also reveals the truth about other issues, those not so directly related to salvation like how creation happened and the age of the earth, to His people as well and withholds it from most other people. This is not an argument I can accept. I think God’s truth on matters of science and the like has come through many quite ungodly people. Such truths are not the province of Christians alone. Look, for instance, at how Islam preserved learning through the Dark Ages in Europe or at the wisdom on the ancient Greeks.

So if God’s truths on matters not directly related to salvation are not available exclusively to His people, why are so many people(in the YEC view) wrong about the age of the earth? It sure makes it sound like God is deceiving them on purpose. And if so, we must with Wilson ask why. This does not sound like the God I know. He is not the sort of God who would plant bones or strata or rocks in the earth that look old just to fool those silly scientists. He is a God whose creation makes sense and He does allow humans to find out about Him and His creation by studying what He has made.

So whatever the faults of Wilson’s book, I think we need to take this question seriously. How about it, YECs? How do you respond to this question?

Nebby

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