Who Was Ussher, and What Did He Usher In?

Have you ever heard of James Ussher? He was the Archbishop of Armagh for the Church of Ireland and Primate of All Ireland from 1625-1656. He was a brilliant theologian, Chancellor of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin, and eventually the Vice-Provost at Trinity College. I’ve visited these places and am very impressed, because I can’t think any higher honors for someone living in that time and place!  However, what really made him famous was his scholarly work in attempting to figure out the age of the earth from studying biblical genealogies in the Masoretic text and cross-referencing them with various events in history such as the deaths of Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar. According to his calculations, Adam and Eve were created by God around 4004 BC, King Solomon’s temple was built 3000 years from creation, and Jesus was born 1000 years later. Even the Bible I use today has Ussher’s calculations of time included at the top of each page, so I think his work is still considered the gold standard for most English-speaking students of the Bible who believe in interpreting the scriptures literally.

Many people today think of the Bible as simply a book of legends and myths, but I do not. I believe it is true and is the inspired Word of God. As the Apostle Paul wrote, the scriptures are “able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:  That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works” (1 Timothy 3:15-17).

Does this mean I believe that all we need to study is the Bible? Not at all! God has given us a vast world to explore and understand. However, I do believe the Bible is our textbook for how to live (and how to gain eternal life), and that it is accurate in what it says. I also resonate with Moses’s teaching in Deuteronomy 29:29, “The secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law.” God has given us tiny windows into the universe—like a father explaining something vastly complex to his children—but what he says is true, albeit put in simple language that we can understand. And, this is enough for us. We can delve into the mysteries of the universe all we want and will never exhaust knowledge, but in the Bible, we have all we need to live lives filled with love, joy, peace, and goodness. It is enough. God is enough. Jesus is enough!

But, what about the age of the world? Is it really 6,021 years old? I’m not sure. I do believe that I’ve descended from Adam and Eve, whether or not I can “prove” it through genealogical research. I also believe in the Genesis account of creation, including “the evening and the morning were the first day” (Genesis 1:5). Sounds like a 24-hour day to me, and therefore I tend to hold with the “early creation” point of view. Tomorrow I want to share more on that subject, but for today, may I just end with the last words of James Ussher? “O Lord forgive me, especially my sins of omission.” Ussher ushered in an age of believing the world was nearing 6 thousand years of age and that the millennial reign of Christ would begin at the beginning of the 7th thousand (roughly AD 2000). Was he right, or did he omit something accidentally that made his calculations off?

When we get to heaven, we’ll know the truth about so many things, but in the meantime, can we humbly hold to our opinions without letting them break our fellowship? There are some things worth arguing, but I don’t personally believe that genealogies or how many days the earth has existed are among them. The only thing we’re exhorted to contend for in the scripture is true faith: “earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 1:3). God want us to believe and testify to true faith, and that faith is explained in the Bible.

But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain” (Titus 3:9).

As I besought thee…that thou mightest charge some that they teach no other doctrine, Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith: so do. Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned” (1 Timothy 1:3-5, emphasis mine).


Keeping Track of Our Puzzles

This afternoon will be the memorial service for a 21-year-old student from Calvin College here in GR. Tara Oskam was killed in a car crash not far from our home on March 11 when her car was struck by the car of a 16-year-old who was fleeing the police. Tara was pronounced dead on the scene, and the 15-year-0ld passenger in the teen’s car also died; the suspected teenage driver was seriously injured but is in a stable condition at the hospital at this time. Tara was a beautiful young woman, admired and loved by many, a junior studying speech pathology, very much in love, and looking forward to a bright future. Where’s the justice in that? Can you tell me? I can’t explain it to you at all.

We’re a family of puzzlers. It’s been a favorite pass time on quiet winter evenings since our kids were little, and now even our grand children are hard at work learning how to solve puzzles. I love to watch the progress over time
as the kids think through how to put the pieces together. They’ve learned to arrange the border first.cinderellas-castle-puzzle-almost-completeNext, they sort out pieces that have the most color contrast. Finally, they fill in the hardest pieces
that look so similar it’s hard to figure out where they go.

I think trying to understand and solve the puzzles in our lives is a similar process. First, we develop a framework of ideas and beliefs for understanding our world and life experiences…often referred to as our “world view.” For the Christian believer, this framework is based on belief that God exists, and that He has spoken to us through His Word, the Bible. The scripture is our moral guide and compass. It’s filled with principles for making wise decisions, and it shows us what the picture is supposed to look like if we put life together right.The second step in puzzling out life is figuring out the contrasts: our perceptions of God, the world, and how we interpret our experiences with God in our world. This requires a lot of thought! How can we deal with all the circumstantial  contrasts and put them in the right order so our world makes sense to us?God gives believers the Holy Spirit to guide us. His Spirit takes the words of Scripture and helps us apply them to the various situations we face, so that we have the wisdom to make correct decisions and solve the puzzles in our lives. Finally, we tackle the hardest challenge: figuring out all the subtle situations that don’t have quick, easy, obvious solutions. Sometimes, even though we’ve figured out where the pieces belong, something is still missing. We don’t always have every piece of the puzzle in this life.I’m convinced that no one can solve all the puzzles completely here on earth. Some things are beyond us, and in those things—like little children—we need to trust in what we do know of God: God is good; God loves us; God works all things together for the good of those who love him.God calls us to faith in Christ, asking us to believe in Him and trust him with all the unsolved mysteries of life. Either we let our experiences kill our faith when we don’t understand what’s happening, or we allow our faith to transform our experiences. One makes us bitter; the other makes us better. Are we willing to trust God and obey Him even in the painful mysteries of life? Let’s trust Him to keep track of the missing pieces of our puzzles until we reach heaven, where I believe everything will at last make perfect sense to us.

The secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law” (Deuteronomy 29:29).

Mystery at Chinaman’s Hat

DSCN1010If you’re ever in Oahu looking for adventure, secluded beaches, sea caves, and DSCN1035 spectacular views of the majestic Koolau Mountains DSCN1032think about visiting Chinaman’s Hat (aka “Mokolii),  a small island off the DSCN1042windward coast of Oahu at the north end of Kaneohe Bay, DSCN1037 just offshore (and part of) Kualoa Regional Beach Park.  DSCN1043If you come about 25 minutes before low tide on a calm day, DSCN1047they say an adult can walk the 1,477 ft.to Chinaman’s Hat in 45 mins. without the water  getting more than 4 ft deep (on the west side, to the left of the bricks), DSCN1089although I’ve heard you should wear some type of foot protection, take a guide DSCN1056 for tides (so you don’t get stranded by strong currents and high tides)…and DSCN1057 frankly, if you’re not keen on traversing hammerhead shark breeding grounds, DSCN1124 you might prefer taking a boat or kayak, the 20-minute climb to the top for DSCN1080some stunning views, a walk around the island, and then head home.     DSCN1055 Or, you can do what we did: just stay ashore and have fun looking! DSCN1060Michael and Grace took us all for a picnic there one evening. DSCN1048Chinaman’s Hat is so named because the 206-foot basalt peak looks like the DSCN1138straw hat that a Chinese man might wear. From the island’s peak, you can also DSCN1101enjoy vistas of picturesque Mokapu Peninsula, which houses a marine base. DSCN1041We arrived on a cloudy June evening DSCN1061in time to walk on the beach, DSCN1063play in the sand, DSCN1079look for shells, DSCN1128and go for a swim. DSCN1066Grace and I watched the kids, DSCN1127and Alan watched Michael master-minding a grand supper of brats and beans DSCN1150with specially marinated zucchini that would beat french fries for me any day! DSCN1163While we were on the beach, Judah kept noticing helicoptersDSCN1100and planes flying overhead, DSCN1211and round and round Chinaman’s Hat, but we didn’t think much of it, DSCN1203because we knew it was a marine base. But, after 2 and sometimes 3 helicopters DSCN1197would be buzzing about overhead, sometimes so low that it created a windstorm, DSCN1143we definitely began to wonder if something was amiss. DSCN1148The girls finished their swim DSCN1161and dragged their driftwood up to our picnic spot. Judah was delighted!  DSCN1153The girls wrapped up in towels DSCN1157 to get warm and dry  DSCN1149while they waited for Michael to finish grilling dinner. DSCN1132The sunset was spectacular DSCN1087as the sun slipped behind the mountains. DSCN1186We ate a yummy dinner DSCN1223all the while watching the helicopters sweeping back and forth overhead, DSCN1216and all up and down the coast and around Chinaman’s Hat DSCN1220 in the gathering gloom of night. What were they looking for? DSCN1218What had happened? Had someone drowned or disappeared? We strained our eyes but couldn’t see anyone in the water or on the island. DSCN1224

Michael prayed with us, asking the Lord to protect anyone who was at risk and save them from harm. Then, we left for home, and the kids were all fast asleep in minutes. We never did figure out what happened, but it was quite eery and unsettling to know some mysterious, secret thing was doubtless afoot. Hopefully nobody died. If anybody reading this knows what happened there on the night of June 18, 2013, please let us know! Meanwhile, it made me think of all the times in life when there’s something that makes me anxious, but I really don’t understand what’s going on. My spiritual mom, “Mommu,” shared a verse with me that I always think of at such times: “The secret things belong to the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law” (Deuteronomy 29:29).