Monday, May 4, 2009

Mike Mike Mike and Bible numerology

When I was in high school, my two best friends at school were both named Mike. Both were upwards of six feet tall and somewhere in the neighborhood of 200 pounds. I was five foot five and three-quarters and skinny enough to crawl through air conditioner vents. We were all conservative Christians. We'd eat lunch together at the loser table in the cafeteria.

One Mike and I were in most of the same classes. We fought for the top grades, and he generally beat me. We sat next to each other on the bus. We had been in the same gym class in middle school, and had been partners in badminton.

We were in Mr Little's Earth Science class together. The first unit was on geology, and Mr Little talked a lot about how the earth was billions of years old and how we could know that.

Of course, Mike and I knew better than to trust things like radiometric dating; we were both young earth creationists.

I had been homeschooled from second through seventh grade. My seventh-grade science curriculum was supposed to be on 'Matter and Motion', that is, physics and chemistry. Every science book in that curriculum had a unit on birds and a unit on creationism. The key quotes that I remember are, 'Evolutionists date the fossils by the rocks, and they date the rocks by the fossils. This is circular reasoning.' and 'There was no entropy before the fall.'*.

So, on the bus ride home, on the first day that Mr Little lectured on the age of the earth, Mike and I talked about how we knew that that's just not true. I told him about how the earth's rotational speed was decreasing; if we were to back-extrapolate the earth's rotational speed to five billion years ago, the earth would have been flat as a pancake because of the centrifugal force.

In government class, Mike sat on my right and Jason sat on my left. On Halloween, Jason wore yellow pants that lit up like Christmas lights. Dan set in front of me. We made fun of Dan a lot, but I forget what we said that was amusing. Riley sat behind me.

Halfway through schoolyear, it came out somehow that Mike was a Jehovah's Witness. So were Jason, Dan, and that girl in English class. Mike said, 'We've got you surrounded!', jokingly. Riley was not a Jehovah's witness.

When I got home and told Mom and Dad, they showed me how to use the book, The Kingdom of the Cults, and they rented some videos from the Christian bookstore about the Jehovah's Witnesses, so that I would know how to defend my faith. I charted out on a napkin my main arguments, like how God's real name is Yahweh.

Later that week, the other Mike told me he was moving to North Carolina. I had lost both Mikes.

I was scared that I would succumb to Mike's propaganda and accidentally become a Jehovah's Witness; even though I am a good Calvinist, I was afraid that I would lose my salvation. I don't think I was particularly concerned about Mike's eternal soul.

Mike and I spent the rest of the school year trying to convert each other. We each put in a lot of time digging up the perfect Bible verse that would prove the other guy wrong. Mike gave me sticky notes with Bible verses to look up. A lot of his arguments required that I use his Bible, which translated John 1:1 as 'In [the] beginning the Word was, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god.'

Our attempts at mutual evangelism were friendly and I eventually lost my fear of accidental conversion.

One of Mike's strangest arguments involved a verse from Revelation about a pregnant woman going into the desert for 'time, times, and half a time' (Revelation 12:14). Mike read this as 3.5 times; with one time being one thousand years (II Peter 3:8), for a total of 3500 years from the prophecy (585 BC) until the last judgment. Given that Jesus will reign for a millennium before the last judgment, Jesus was predicted to return in 1914. He did so invisibly, Mike said.

Also, it turned out that the other Mike wasn't actually planning on moving to North Carolina; he was just pranking us.


I was going to the hip contemporary church at this point; our youth leader was named Mike. He talked about grace a lot; he said that it is the thing that makes Christianity different from any other religion in the world. Mike talked a lot about his problems with road rage, and he was quick to confess how this was a consistent problem with him. He was free to talk about his shortcomings, though, because he believed in grace; he believed that repenting was more important than his reputation. He also taught us about the social gospel.

Mike told us about how he used to have a Jesus fish on his car, but he scraped it off because he didn't want Christians to look bad whenever he would cut somebody off.

There was a Christian video that Mike showed us a couple of times. It was made in the late seventies. It started with a college student waking up from a recurring dream in which he saw an old man wearing bib overalls, cutting down wheat with a scythe. This student was taking some college class in which he was told that religion isn't intellectually valid.

He started to doubt his faith, but, then, he came across an article that predicted Jesus' return to be imminent. The reasoning in the article was that, since a thousand years is as a day to the Lord, and Jesus was in the ground two days and rose on the third, and Jesus lived two thousand years ago, Jesus return must be soon, to usher in his millennial reign, the 'third day'. Also, the earth is six thousand years old, and it was made in six days, and the sabbath is the seventh day, so the earth is ready for a thousand-year sabbath, the millennial reign of Jesus.

The student got all set to make a big speech on campus based on the content of the paper. He then chickened out, and went to talk to the wife of the author of the article; on this visit, he saw a picture of her late husband, who was the man in bib overalls in his dream.

The student returned to campus. The student told the gathered crowd of skeptics that maybe the article isn't entirely sound, but we have lots of other reasons to think that Jesus is coming back soon; for example, Israel was re-formed as a state a mere thirty years ago. Even if Jesus isn't coming back soon, you never know when you will die, so you should go ahead and convert to Christianity, just in case.

After the movie ended, we talked about it, and Mike agreed that the Bible numerology was kind of hokum and that the story was kind of manipulative, but, he said, 'It makes a good point.'.

I was angry.


*If there was no entropy before the fall, then Adam and Eve must have been perfect crystalline solids.

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