Tom: Thanks, Gary. If you’ve joined us, maybe you’re a first-time listener, we just finished up Dave’s book A Cup of Trembling and we’ve started a new book. Actually, it’s - as we mentioned last week - it’s partly from An Urgent Call to a Serious Faith, and then another little booklet tract we have called The Non-Negotiable Gospel, and we think it’s - well, we’re excited about the book [as] Dave mentioned last week because it’s the type of book that you can give to somebody who doesn’t understand the gospel. It explains the gospel, and, Dave, I think better than anything we have.
Dave: Well, not only those who don’t understand the gospel but those who may have questions: Does God exist? Is there really something after death? How do we know? And so forth. So yeah, it’s the kind of a book that I’ve been waiting for, and I’m going to give a lot of them away.
Tom: Yeah, 120 pages, so it’s not, from its size, intimidating for somebody to read. So, well, Gary will explain to you a little later in the program how you can get the book if you’re interested.
Dave, we’re in chapter 1, and we went over it last week briefly. But I want to go back over some things we left out. You have some scripture verses that you quote, and I’d just like you to comment on them. Every time I see a scripture verse, some of them are self-evident, but some of them, you know, I think it’s helpful to explain them.
Moses wrote: “So teach us to number our days that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.” Number our days—what does that mean?
Dave: Well, that’s Psalm 90. Psalm 90 and 91 have a little heading that says, “A prayer of Moses, the man of God.” And my father—I don’t know why, but he used to read those Psalms every time we went on a trip. Probably because Psalm 91 is about the protection of the Lord.
“Teach us to number our days.” Well, that we may know that we are but flesh. We may know how short our time is. And when we—I mean, you can’t number your days, really, because today could be the last day. So it’s not meaning literally to find out exactly how many days we’re going to live, but to recognize that our life at best is very brief.
Tom: Mm-hmm, yeah.
Dave: We used to sing—did you know that hymn, Tom? Probably not. “Life at best is very brief, like the binding of a sheaf, like the falling of a leaf be in time. Be in time! Fleeting days are telling fast that the die will soon be cast, and the fatal line be passed. Be in time.”
Tom: No, growing up, Dave, it was the Gregorian chant, and other things.
Dave: Right, I thought so. Yeah, there are many other verses to that. It’s a terrific hymn, but I haven’t heard that in forty years, probably. So, if we realize that we are temporary beings, as far as our life on this earth is, it doesn’t last very long, but we know that we go on eternally. You know it’s a pretty simple equation. You match 70—life expectancy—against eternity, there’s no doubt what we ought to prepare for. And people prepare to retire. They prepare for, you know, this or that, but they don’t think about eternity.
So Moses says, “Teach us to number our days that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.” Let’s make some wise choices here.
Tom: And David, as you say, in agreement with that in the Psalms—Psalm:39:4 says, “Lord make me to know mine end, the measure of my days, that I may know how frail I am.”
Dave: Right. We are very frail, Tom, and the NBA star who has just been voted MVP, you know, in the finals, feels pretty good. He can dunk, but if he is lying in the wreckage of a car, as happens to some of them, you know – you’ve got thirty seconds to live – Wow! Your whole perspective changes.
I used to quote William Law, who talked about this young prosperous businessman who is suddenly terminal – dying in the thirtieth year of his life. And his friends visit him, and they are expressing their condolences, and he says, “Why are you giving me your condolences? You’re concerned that I don’t have a few more years to make some more money? My thoughts are no more like yours than my condition is like yours. I realize that the only thing that matters now is the judgment that faces me. And what troubles me the most is that I didn’t always understand that.” So that’s what David and Moses were talking about.
Tom: And then Solomon, in Ecclesiastes:7:2 – and this is a verse that puzzles some people; maybe we can help them out with it—“It is better to go the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for that is the end of all men and the living will lay it to his heart.”
Dave: Yeah, Tom, some people just tuning in may think, Wow, this is a pretty morbid program, but we are hearing these men of God say, “Wait a minute! This is what you’d better think about, because eventually it is going to happen. Don’t wait until then.” Because as we mention in this first chapter, there’s a finality about death that says, “Too late, too late, too late, you should have thought of this before.”
And, of course, we deal in the next chapter with, well, maybe we can just be reincarnated, or maybe we just survive and go on to learn more lessons. But that isn’t true. But, Tom, it’s not something that we want to just think about all the time and try to become depressed. You know, “Well, I’m going to die, I’m going to die.” But certainly, we ought to give some thought to it; some concern.
Tom: And, Dave, we quoted from the Scriptures…
Tom: Moses, David…
Tom: But you also have some quotes here – it isn’t just the men of God who are concerned…
Tom: …about this.
Tom: This has been a problem…
Tom: …for mankind down through the ages. You quote Shakespeare…
Tom: …Lady Capulet, talking about Juliet in Romeo and Juliet, “Death lies on her like an untimely frost upon the sweetest flower of the field.”
Dave: Mm-hmm. Yeah, death – it always comes too soon. There is something about death that you know it isn’t natural. It isn’t right. So Lady Capulet does mourn over Juliet, “Death lies on her like this – an untimely frost on the sweetest flower of the field.” It happens every year in Bend. We’ve got some irises, Tom, some pretty good patches of irises. They look very nice. They blossom sometime in April, towards the end of April, and you know what happens. Bang! Twenty-four-degree temperature that night. We had frost last night! I’m sorry, not last night, but the night before here in Bend, and this is July, in the middle of July! So it can happen.
“Untimely frost on the sweetest flower of the field.” And I can tell you that it really hurts me when I see those flowers that I was looking forward to enjoying, and suddenly they’re gone. And that’s what death does.
Tom: You quote Milton from Paradise Lost, “Food for so foul a Monster” as death.
Dave: Yeah, Milton I think was a real Christian. He did, in fact, write a tribute to the Albigenses who were slaughtered, as you know, by the Catholic Church.
Tom: Mm-hmm, as heretics, supposedly.
Dave: Yeah, right. They were true Christians, and the Catholic Church was the heresy promoter. But they killed them, and Pope Innocent III wiped out the entire city of Béziers, France, 60,000 people. He said it was the crowning achievement of his papacy.
But anyway, Milton – yeah, he mourns that we should be…that anyone should be food to so foul, (it’s in the Old English, f-o-u-l-e, I think) monster.” It doesn’t seem right. You know we lost our youngest grandchild at 22 months. He had such promise, such a life before him. And coffins come in all sizes. So we’re – again, we’re not trying to be morbid, but we’re trying to be wise.
Tom: Dave, this is a reality. Everyone has to do this.
Dave: Yes, right. It’s like – Tom, I must confess – well, my wife has straightened me out, but I used to be the last guy, at midnight, not April 15th, not August 15th, but October 15 – my second extension of my income tax – and the last guy to finally at the last minute get it there, you know, into the mail, because we have a tendency to put things off. At least I do. Now, not my wife. She does….
Tom: Yeah, but you’ve got a big fat plate there, you’ve got a full plate, so….
Dave: Well, yeah, but Tom, she pays a bill the instant she receives it. She…well, she’s amazing. Well, it’s that Dutch blood in her, I guess. She’s 100 percent Dutch, and they are very precise and very well organized. And, boy, is she well organized! The house is well organized—everything except my study, as you know, Tom.
Tom: Yeah, it’s been cordoned off by the authorities.
Dave: Yeah, you used to say, “You’ve got to have a rope around your waist when you go in there, you might never get out.” It’s pretty bad.
Tom: From piles, people may not understand that—of all your research.
Dave: Things could fall down on top of you and bury you.
Tom: Especially since you used to live in Northridge. And we know what happened in Northridge, Southern California.
Dave: Right, right, but….
Tom: They had the big quake that scared us.
Dave: Yeah, but, Tom, we have a tendency [to say], “Well I don’t want to think about it now. Well let’s not think about it now. Don’t do today what you can put off till tomorrow.”
But we’d better think about it, because, Tom, my wife and I owned, and I was the administrator of, a convalescent hospital. And you would think that people who are in their 80s and 90s approaching 100, and they’re very weak and they’re dying, they know they’re dying. You would think that they would really be concerned about what lies beyond death’s door. Tom, I can tell you, it astonished me, they just kind of drift off into eternity. You could even talk to them, and they think they’ve got more time. And they’re still putting it off.
So this is why Moses said, “Teach us to number our days that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.” And…
Tom: Dave, Homer in the Iliad, this is a tremendous quote: “Death in ten thousand shapes hangs over our heads, and no man can elude him.”
Dave: Elude him, mm-hmm. Well, that’s the case. Everybody who has ever lived has died. Or they’re in the process of dying. Now the only rescue from that is the Rapture. Some of us are going to leave in the Rapture if we are alive when Christ returns. But even those who die – we don’t really die because it’s “absent from the body, present with the Lord.” We are taken – our souls and spirits are taken to heaven. This is a promise of Christ himself, and we look forward to a new body, resurrection. We’ll have a body of glory like His body, but we don’t come to that in the first chapter.
Tom: No, last week we discussed materialism. Those who say “Hey look, when it’s over it’s over, when it’s done, it’s done. That’s it, nothing but nothing.”
Dave: Yeah, one of the things we deal with in this chapter, Tom, is it’s a famous enigma in philosophy. I don’t know much about philosophy. How long ago was it since I studied philosophy? Fifty-some years. See I graduated from UCLA in ’51, no…was it? Yeah, ’51. We were married in ’50, and I was still going to school. And my wife had already graduated. And philosophy—well, it has some worthwhile things about it. It’s just logic. You’re trying to understand. On the other hand, if you approach it with a preconceived idea, then your outcome is pretty well set as well.
But anyway, this is a famous puzzle in philosophy. It’s called Lenin – well, I’ve given the Russian pronunciation, Leneen—“Lenin’s dilemma.”
Lenin was a materialist – scientific materialist. And Lenin said, “Look, there is no spirit dimension. When you’re dead, you’re dead. We are just stimulus-response mechanisms. Bodies, that’s all we are. You touch something hot, well, you learn about hot. You touch something cold, you learn about cold. And all we know [this was Lenin’s position] all we can know is what we experience from this physical universe.” Therefore he said, “You cannot even think of something that doesn’t exist.”
You say, “Oh, I can think of pink elephants.” Yeah, but pink exists, and elephants exist. You go to Star Wars or some of these space films, you know….
Dave: They’ve got you out on some planet out there. The weirdest creatures that you could imagine, but what are they Tom? They’re just bizarre combinations of what we already know. They can’t come up with anything new.
Somebody says, “Oh yeah, I can think of something that doesn’t exist.”
Okay, come up with a new prime color to the rainbow. Think about it. You can’t do it. God creates out of nothing. Man can do incredible things with what God has given him of material, whether it’s the energy in the atom or whatever it is. But we cannot create out of nothing. We cannot think of anything that doesn’t exist. And Lenin was right when he said that. You know, he recognized that. Well, then he rocks back on his heels, and he says, “Whoop, wait a minute. Where did this idea of God come from? If you can’t even think of anything that doesn’t exist, where did the idea of God come from?”
“Well, those preachers, they instilled that insidious opiate of the masses.” But then he thought, Well where did the preachers get it from? And if you can’t think of anything that doesn’t exist, God is unlike anything in this physical universe. In fact, there is nothing in the physical universe that could possibly represent God, and that is why the Bible warns us not to make idols. You’re not to make any representation of God because God is a spirit. Well, but you can only think of physical things, or things that exist that are part of this physical universe. Well, where did the idea of God come from? He must have put that there. He must be revealing himself to us. In fact, we can think of other things that are not physical, like justice, truth, holiness, and so forth.
Tom: Mm-hmm, love.
Dave: Which, again, is because we are made in the image of God. So, if we are then nonphysical beings, which we are, and we have nonphysical concepts, thoughts are not physical. Our brain does not originate our thoughts, as we mentioned last week, or we would be the prisoners of our brain, waiting: What is my brain going to think of next? Then I’ve got to do it. That’s absurd. We are the thinkers who live within our bodies and we have no reason to believe scientifically – and certainly the Bible tells you the opposite – we have no reason to believe that when these bodies die and decay in the grave, we have ceased to exist.
Tom: Mm-hmm. Dave, last week, as I said, we sort of rushed through this first chapter. But going back over it, there was a section that hit me, and that has to do with the conscience. How do you explain the conscience? How do you explain – how do people explain a sense of right and wrong that we all have? Where does that come from?
Dave: Well, Tom, you know that the sociologist tries to say ‘Well, that’s conditioned response. This was the way you were raised. This is because of your culture, or your background.” But we can disprove that very quickly. I can go to the South Pacific and talk with natives down there. They’ve never taken a course in ethics. I don’t care who you are, you know what is right. You know what is wrong. You know what is honest. You know what is good and what is bad. And I think it was Erwin Schrodinger, Nobel Prize winner in physics, who said, “Science has no answer to good or bad, cannot explain it. Good or evil, beautiful or ugly, God, eternity, there’s no way that science can answer those questions and yet all men have this. The Bible says that God has written His law in every human conscience, and everyone knows they shouldn’t kill and so forth.” And, Tom, I think we talk about it a bit in this, maybe we give an example in this.
Tom: Well, Dave, the example I’d like you to go to—this really fascinates me—you say in this chapter that the conscience, the law written on our heart, transcends our legislative laws.
Tom: And you give a startling example of that. Can you….
Dave: Right it was a famous example. I did study law, way, way back there. This was two men and a boy that were the only survivors of a sinking of a ship. And the men, calculating and so forth, they finally decided it would be better for two to live than for three to die. And they killed the boy, and it was proven in court that had they not killed him, they would have all died. And this went all the way to the Supreme Court. And the Court ruled – all the courts ruled – they were guilty of murder. There is no justification for taking someone else’s life. So there is no legislation about, you know, what two men and a boy ought to do in a boat. There are specific examples for which you have no rules and regulations. The young man that sits in the back of a courtroom and bursts out, “There ain’t no justice!”, you know, he doesn’t like the court’s ruling. He’s not complaining that they’re not following the legislated law. He recognizes there is a higher law that they have violated and it pains him because he has a sense of right and wrong.
Dave: Now, that is true everywhere of everyone. You cannot explain it in any other way except God wrote His law in our conscience.
Tom: Yeah, and Dave, you certainly can’t explain it from an evolutionary perspective. This is the antithesis. You know, survival of the fittest? No! Our consciences just rail against that.
Dave: And to argue that Oh well, we just learned that from our parents or from our society – come on! We have a whole generation of people – they don’t follow what their parents say. You’re just making conditioned responses, and whatever you’re parents said, then that’s what you’re going to with? No, no, you don’t do that. We rebel against governments, we rebel against parents, we rebel against schoolteachers. No, we want to take our own way. We want to do our own thing, but everyone knows in his heart what is right and what is wrong.
Now there’s a very interesting exception, Tom: the Fourth Commandment to keep the Sabbath holy. That is not written in the human conscience. And that’s something I would like our Seventh-day Adventist listeners out there to consider very carefully. Because that is not for Gentiles. That was only for Jews, and Psalm 147 will tell you that very clearly, as do other passages in the Bible. So, no one has written in the conscience that they should keep the Sabbath because that was only for the Jews. But everyone has written in their conscience “You don’t lie, you don’t steal, you don’t steal someone’s wife, you don’t murder”, and that is written in every human conscience, and it comes from God and it proves we are made in His image.
Tom: It also proves that the physical is not all there is. Materialism is wrong. It’s dead wrong.
Dave: Yeah, material things die. And Paul said, “That which is seen is temporal, that which is not seen is eternal.” We don’t see the soul and the spirit – yet. But they are eternal and that has some serious consequences we need to think about.