Category Archives: Bible

Synthetic biology and the Bible

I’m reading J. Craig Venter’s book, Life at the Speed of Light: From the Double Helix to the Dawn of Digital Life. Venter is a scientist, a genetic engineer. In year 2010, he and his colleagues became the first to successfully create “synthetic life.”

Not an easy task, in light of the fact that Venter first had to achieve genome sequencing which involved sequencing millions of genes to decipher their codes. Scientists now can take genes from a simple organism, write a new code, and construct a synthetic genome that creates living proteins.

Venter sees the possibilities of creating organisms that can eat carbon dioxide. Others wonder: Are these scientists trying to be God? What if someone creates a monster? This situation gets a little scary, a bit divisive. So, I look to divine Science for insights.

geneFrist off, throughout his book, Venter stresses the ethics necessary in this phase of biological research.

Secondly, the “synthetic” product is not anything “new.” A synthetic product is an artificial imitation, or copy, of something that already exists. The genes used to produce synthetic materials already exist.

Granted the manipulation of those genes may seem a bit egocentric, however thought barriers are being broken and humankind is being forced to look beyond themselves. Although Venter believes life is of the material/physical construct, he admits that DNA synthesis is error-prone, and that genes alone cannot define life, because environment also plays a role.

Humankind has also admitted life is more than that which is attached to the fluctuating substance we call matter.

These admittances push the question, What is Life? What is a substantial life? Is life  tactile to the physical senses? Or is life metaphysical? Is life from matter or Spirit?

The whole scenario of trying to find life in matter has been repeated over and over again throughout history. Humankind has tried to mimic God by generating, yet what we create always dies while God still lives. We are taught that the heart or brain and genes are the source of life, but not completely.

Looking to our genes as a source of life, or security, is misleading, unless it circles back around to God. Remember Jesus, who said, “Do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham.”

Will the day come when synthetic biology can originate what they call “life” from a stone? Many doubts.

Maybe synthetic biology can originate life from dry bones, but again the idea is not original.

In Ezekiel we read about the valley of dry bones. The prophet writes, “And he [God] said to me, ‘Son of man, can these bones live?’ And I answered, ‘O Lord GOD, you know.’ Then he said to me, ‘Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD. Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the LORD.’” (ESV)

Living from the standpoint that Life is complete, we spend less time trying to create something and more time enjoying the good already created.

We read in 21st Century Science and Health, “There can be but one creator, who has created all. Whatever seems to be a new creation is only the discovery of some distant idea of Truth; or else it is a self-division of mortal thought. The human mind is not an originator, but is a mime, attempting to mimic the divine infinite.

“The multiplication of a human sense of persons and things is neither creation nor revelation. A temporal thought, like an atom of dust thrown into the face of spiritual immensity, is dense blindness instead of a scientific eternal consciousness of creation.”

The Fast Runner runs out the bad guys

Igloo-inside_largeThe 2001 film, Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner doesn’t have a lot of dialogue or fast action, but even in light of our fast paced lives in America, the show did keep my attention. The setting is in Eastern Arctic wilderness at the dawn of the first millennium, in Igloolik.

The population of Igloolik could fit in one igloo.

The Canadian film, directed by Zacharias Kunuk is the first feature film ever to be written, directed and acted entirely in Inuktitut.

It’s rated R for a reason as there is murder and sex. The 172 minute movie showcases the patience of forgiveness. The story tells of an Inuit legend of an evil spirit causing strife in the community. Atanarjuat battles the menace with immense resolution, spurred by his love for his wife and child.

A ceremony is performed in the end and the people who caused so much hurt were asked to leave the community. There was wailing and begging for more forgiveness, but the Inuit Grandmother stood her ground. The envy, greed, and hate walked out of the igloo.

“For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing, and they have no more reward, for the memory of them is forgotten. Their love and their hate and their envy have already perished, and forever they have no more share in all that is done under the sun.” (Eccl. 9: 5-6, ESV)

Digging through sacred text or thought?

excavation_largeIf reading the Bible is a challenge for you, I recommend reading Bruce Feiler’s book, Walking the Bible: A Journey by Land through the Five Books of Moses.

Linking his own personal thoughts with the thoughts of Bible scholars, archeologists, and people who live in the eastern region today, Feiler broadens the view of the Pentateuch, considered sacred by Jews.

Feiler’s discourse on anachronism was helpful to me last night. An anachronism is define in Merriam-Webster as: something (such as a word, an object, or an event) that is mistakenly placed in a time where it does not belong in a story, movie, etc

For example, “Edom” is presented in the Bible during the patriarch era, however there is no archeological evidence that Edom existed then. Similar to “The Clock Strikes Three” in Shakespeare, when clocks were not invented yet.

Words and phrases get entered into text later. But, does that affect the spiritual integrity of the Bible?

The Samaritan at the well

wellOn his way to Galilee, Jesus stopped at a well in Samaria. We read in the Gospel John, “A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) 10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”

Jesus and the woman talked for a while. Christ was recorded to have said, “24God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth…

“27 Just then his disciples came back. They marveled that he was talking with a woman, but no one said, ‘What do you seek?’ or, ‘Why are you talking with her?’” English Standard Version

This event apparently took place rather early in Jesus’ ministry. It’s chockfull of lessons.

  • -Christ Jesus was objective.
  • -The message Jesus shared was uncomplicated and fruitful.
  • -The woman was content with the shift in thought about worship that Jesus presented to her. She didn’t expect a “sign.”
  • -The disciples marveled yet kept their mouths shut. They didn’t protest when Jesus listened to the woman and then spoke to her in a way she understood.

Interestingly, the woman returned to her city and told other Samaritans about Jesus, who then invited Jesus to stay with them for a few days. Many recognized Christ.

From 21st Century Science and Health, Christ is defined as “The divine manifestation of God, which comes to the flesh to destroy incarnate error.”

The incarnate error of restricting Christ to a nation or ethnic group has been destroyed. And, Christ isn’t pushy. Christ offers spiritual truths without expecting us to be like Jesus. We can be who we are.

Tweaking the approach to healing

uncooked rice in fieldAfter getting married, I began teaching myself how to cook. I made cookies when I was a kid, however, as much as I’d like to, I figured my husband and I couldn’t live off cookies. So, out came the rice.

Looked simple enough. I filled a pot with water, threw in rice kernels and brought it to a boil. I boiled it until it was done. Always turned out rather mushy, but my husband knew better than to complain.

Then one day, we had dinner with my brother and sister-in-law. I watched them make rice. After bringing the water to a boil, they turned the burner to simmer. Thinking this was a waste of time, I mentioned my technique of keeping the water at a rolling boil.

cooked riceMy brother showed me the directions on the back of the bag. Hmmmm. Yes, indeed, the recommendation was to lower the heat to a simmer and leave on the stove for 30 minutes.

The rice turned out better than I’d made. So, I took up this method of cooking rice in the future. The end result is not nearly as mushy.

It’s amazing what a little change in technique can do.

When I’m praying for healing, I refer often to something Christ Jesus was credited to saying, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matt. 5:48)

Logic has it that if God is perfect and God made me in His likeness, then I too must have access to this perfection.

But all too often I pray with the intent to be perfect now, rather than aim for perfection, which impacts the effect of my prayers differently.

If I try to be perfect, pray to be perfect, I become discouraged, for the mere fact that there is no perfect human being or human existence. So, I tweak my prayers.

I can feel a sense of perfection when I am aiming for perfection.

But do you like her?

Dictionary definition of Like

Like. \’līk\

:to enjoy (something): to get pleasure from (something)

:to regard in a favorable way

:to feel affection for (someone): to enjoy being with (someone)

There is a classic scene in the 1965 movie Shenandoah, where Charlie Anderson, played by Jimmy Stewart, has a conversation with his daughter’s suitor, Lieutenant Sam. In the film, Sam approaches Charlie Anderson to ask for his daughters hand in marriage. The conversation goes like this:

Sam: I want to ask for your daughter’s hand in marriage.
Charlie: Why? Why do you want to marry her?
Sam: Well, I love her.
Charlie: That’s not good enough. Do you like her?
Sam: I just said I….
Charlie: No, no. You said you loved her. There is some difference between love and like. You see, Sam, when you love a woman without likin’ her, the night can be long and cold, and contempt comes up with the sun.

With love can come hate, as the divorce rate shows.

like-hashtagThis advice from the Shenandoah film impacted me years ago. For all the effort I put into being a loving person and loving unconditionally, I put forth as much effort “to like.” When we love a person, a book, a church, a religion, so much so, we may forget to like them. And, this can lead to hate.

But stop. And like.

Liking isn’t so apt to become obsessed. Liking isn’t so quick to hold false expectations. Liking is more open-minded, has a sense of humor, and can move past faults while yet aiming for the higher ideal.

Brrrr its cold

The experience of frigid temperatures can create many responses. I decided to respond to wisdom. After feeling cold air seep through the door crack, I stuffed newspaper in the crack and felt a considerable improvement. I also remember to put down the window shades to reduce heat loss.

I dress warm when I go outside. It’s so cold, icicles form in my nostrils, but I smile. The cold also keeps me moving and alert. Coldness isn’t so bad.

From Matthew, Christ Jesus said, “If anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.”

From Proverbs, “Like cold water to a weary soul it good news from a distant land.”

ice on inside window dining

Ice formed on inside of window behind window blind

Newspaper stuffed in door crack

Newspaper stuffed in door crack

Close up

Close up

The variability of danger makes it less dangerous

line-o-carsWhen the transmission in the truck went out, operations were stuck in second gear. It was slow going. 30mph. It was Christmas Eve, no repair shops were open, and there was over 400 miles yet to go on the 1200 miles trip.

The last 400 miles was driven in second gear. But, they all made it safe and sound. “It was dangerous to drive on the interstate though,” said the driver. “We had to find back roads because we were driving so slowly.”

Driving that slow gave time to talk, think, and laugh. One hundred-fifty years ago, a speed of 30mph was fast, dangerous and risky. Today, it’s dangerous to drive that slowly.

Danger is relative, comparable. It’s not an absolute. What seems dangerous today, may be safe tomorrow.

This is an important fact to know when praying.

Prayers themselves need to be inspired, renewed. What we prayed for and received yesterday may not be the thing we should pray for and receive today.

Do we pray for healing? Maybe we need honesty?

Do we pray for honesty? Maybe we need courage?

“And going a little farther [Jesus] fell on his face and prayed, saying, ‘My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.’” (Matthew 26:39, ESV)

Prayer affirms the will of Love, Truth, Life. Prayer confirms wellbeing, a trust in good, and promise.

Voice of the sky

“The skies proclaim the work of his hands.” Psalm 19:1


Religious texts redefined

Let me be blunt: revisions of religious texts, whether verbally or in print, are postmodern heresies. To which I say—Yes, indeed.

First off, languages and circumstances change. The lifestyle of today is not the lifestyle of yesterday. When attempting to apply religious texts in everyday life, those texts need to be adjusted to present day reality. We revise what we read in our heads, or in conversation, or through publication.

For example, in the Bible, we read that Moses told the children of Israel to bring offerings of animals or grain, to the Lord. The religious text has been revised dramatically. No longer do we insist on those offerings. Modern day society has shifted from an agrarian culture to one of industry and technology, diminishing access to animals and grain.

The old texts are revised because they violate our liberal mores. Society denounces as anti-Christian the slaughter of animals and the waste of grain. We instead offer the food to feed the starving. In other words, the revised version is heresy to the indigenous meaning.

Honest-to-Goodness-Truth-50Let me be clear: I am all for this heresy. But, let’s be honest about what we are doing. We can’t revise religious texts and believe or insist that that was their original intent. Revisions are designed to advance further the religious ideals that empower and train us to worship a God that promotes wisdom, justice, equality, and wellbeing.

Revisions do not replace the original. But we can submit to them to actualize the great and promising potential of religious texts.

This was originally posted on at Everyday Spirituality blog


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