Pastoral Bible Institute News

PBI Directors Elected

The members of the Pastoral Bible Institute have elected these seven individuals to serve as directors for the next 12 months:

Francis Earl
Len Griehs
Carl Hagensick
Michael Nekora
Andrew Polychronis
George Tabac
Tim Thomassen
Letters

I wish to express my profound gratitude to Jehovah God and his beloved son Jesus Christ as one of your subscribers and also for your constant commitment to the publication of this Bible-truth journal. Please keep it up. I was greatly encouraged by your generosity to issue this journal free of charge to me. I take delight to read this journal every night for my spiritual progress and am determined to continue with you as long as you endure.

My knowledge and understanding in some Bible matters has increased due to your truth-enlightened magazines and booklets. Once again I appreciate your kind gesture and love in endeavoring to educate me with Bible truths, traditions, history, and the customs of the Jews in the Bible.

—A reader in Nigeria

Around the World

Last week Richard Holbrooke devoted the U.N. Security Council’s first session in the new century to an unprecedented discussion of AIDS. It was the first time the Security Council has discussed a health issue. Holbrooke argued forcefully that the pandemic, which infects 33.6 million people worldwide, 23.3 million of them in sub-Saharan Africa, constitutes as great a threat to international security as any military conflict. [Acting Security Council president Al] Gore warned that AIDS will probably kill as many people in the next decade as all the wars in the 20th century combined.

—Time, 1/24/2000

By any measure, communism was a seismic presence in human affairs in the 20th century, turning the world on its head, shaking it violently and creating an unparalleled amount of suffering. By exterminating as many as 100 million people, it raised immensely troubling questions about human nature and especially our capacity to murder and maim in the pursuit of utopia. Communism was also a colossal economic blunder. One statistic makes the point: In 1987, Singapore—a nation-state of only 2 million residents—exported 20% more machinery to the West than did all of Eastern Europe. No wonder in 1989 as many as5 million of East Germany’s 16.5 million citizens indicated that they would abandon their country if possible.

—Los Angeles Times, 1/25/2000

Nearly 3 million people in Kenya’s arid northern and eastern regions desperately need food to avoid starvation, the United Nations said Wednesday. The Kenyans are going hungry after three successive crop failures caused by drought in some areas and flooding in others.

—Los Angeles Times, 2/3/2000

Israel

Ultra-Orthodox rabbis in Israel have banned the Internet. The chief rabbi of the Belz Hasidic sect decreed in October that followers couldn’t use the World Wide Web because of the easy accessibility topornography. Almost every other leading ultra-Orthodox leader has endorsed the ban, the Associated Press said. The rabbis considered banning computers altogether, but backed off because they are useful for teaching the Scriptures and running businesses. They decided that the real threat is the Internet. The ruling affects more than 500,000 ultra-Orthodox Jews in Israel.

—Religion Today, 1/11/2000

The taboo against public debate on Israel’s nuclear policies was broken when the issue was placed on the Knesset agenda by Hadash MK Issam Mahoul, who blamed Israel for nuclear proliferation in the region and endangering the public by keeping outside inspectors away from the reactor in Dimona. Mahoul said that since the Sunday Times published its story on Mordechai Vanunu in 1986, the number of atomic bombs in Israel’s arsenal grew from 100 to "an insane number of between 200 and 300 bombs." "Israel won’t be the first to introduce nuclear weapons to the Middle East," he said. He added that "Israel supports the principle of nuclear nonproliferation, but at the same time the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, with all of its global importance, does not provide a fitting solution for our region as proved in the case of Iran and Iraq."

—Jerusalem Post, 2/3/2000

Foreign-equity investment into Israel reached a record net $3.51 billion last year and actually accounted for more than half of total equity investment. All told, foreign-equity investment—a figure that includes any financial or direct investment done by buying shares—grew by 84 percent from 1998’s $1.91b. and surpassed the previous record set in 1997 of $3.34b., the Bank of Israel said. Overseas investors accounted for 53% of all investment in Israeli equities, up from 40% last year and just 16% in 1994. Foreign financial investors, however, focused their attention on Israeli shares traded overseas, mainly in New York. They put a net $2.76b. into foreign-listed Israeli stocks, up from $1.3b. in 1998.

—Jerusalem Post, 1/20/2000

On Monday Syria became the world’s first Holocaust-denier state. An editorial in the official Damascus newspaper, Tishreen, proclaimed that Zionists "created the Holocaust myth to blackmail the world and terrorize its intellectuals and politicians." The editorial, written by Tishreen’s editor, Mohammed Khair al Wadi, labeled Israel "the plague of the third millennium" and added that "what Israel is doing today against the Arab states is worse than the Nazi system." The logic is classic totalitarian: Israel’s crimes outdo the Holocaust, which never happened. Israel Prime Minister Ehud Barak hasn’t said a word about the Tishreen editorial. He is afraid of reminding the Israeli public about the nature of the regime to which he proposes yielding the strategic Golan Heights in exchange for a peace likely to be as trustworthy as Tishreen’s sense of history.

—Los Angeles Times, 2/3/2000

Islam

Islamism may still be the most potent opposition in almost every Moslem country but it is declining, and it owes that decline to its own inherent shortcomings as well as to state oppression. Almost everywhere the same pattern of strong initial gains was followed by a decline. The loss of popularity grows partly out of the way Islam in opposition conducted its struggle. A mainstream leader like Abbas Madani, of Algeria’s FIS, simply cannot comprehend the savagery perpetrated in Islamism’s name, or so he claims. We must not even deny that Islam is responsible, he said, because to deny is to acknowledge that Islam is so much as accused. But after all due allowance is made for the provocations it suffered at the hands of brutal regimes, it is hardly surprising that, with the [militant Koranic] Verses of the Sword always there for the invoking, Islamism has a tendency to gravitate toward extremism. Hence those climactic horrors, the massacre of tourists in Luxor, and the mass, throat-cutting barbarities of Algeria. If, said a letter in the [Egyptian] Al-Ahram newspaper after Luxor, this is what they do to get to power, what will they do when they achieve it? It has become clear to many Egyptians that, in power, they would just as readily betray their natural socioeconomic constituency as the Iranian mullahs. A global movement which came to reform others is now in itself in need of reform. Without it, Islamism in power will self-destruct; and Islam in opposition will never achieve power in the first place.

—The [Beirut] Daily Star, 2/4/2000

Hundreds of Muslims have died, some in mosques, in religious violence in the Moluccas islands. Scores of charred corpses reportedly were recovered from burned-out mosques on the chain of islands 1,550 miles northeast of Jakarta, Indonesia, CNN said. "It’s very difficult to count the bodies [which were] torched and burned by unidentified people," said Mursal Amal Tomagola of Medical Emergency, an aid group. Authorities believe nearly 1,000 people have died in the past two weeks after a Christian bus driver accidentally killed a Muslim boy. At least 1,500 have died in similar outbursts of violence since last January, CNN said. The Moluccas are traditionally Christian.

—Religion Today, 1/12/2000

Nigeria is approximately 50% Muslim and 40% Christian. The remaining 10% follow Aboriginal and other faiths. Muslims are concentrated in the northern part of the country; Christians are largely in the south. Even though Nigeria is a secular country, the state of Xamfara adopted Sharia (Muslim law) in Sept. 1999. Since then, seven or more states have nearly completed the process of adopting Sharia; all are in the north. Riots broke out in Kaduna state on Feb. 21 over imposition of Sharia there. By Feb. 24,50 deaths were reported and many churches and mosques have been destroyed. In practical terms, Sharia prohibits the consumption of alcohol, allows caning and amputation of limbs for certain crimes, requires girls and boys to be educated separately, and requires separate public transportation for men and women. Although Sharia violates the federal constitution, there has been no move by the federal government to cancel its implementation.

—Reuters, 2/23/2000

Christendom

Authorities in central Russia are trying to shut down 13 religious communities in accord with the country’s new law on religion, the Keston News Service reports. The Voronezh regional department of justice initiated suits in local courts demanding liquidation of the groups which include Baptist, Pentecostal, and Lutheran churches, and a Jewish community. Russia’s Lower House of parliament, the State Duma, voted to extend the re-registration deadline, but Keston says that the impact of that vote on the Vorenzh lawsuits remains to be seen. Kryuchov said that other regions in Russia have not taken such action in compliance with the law because they have some 200 organizations to handle while Vorenzh has only 13.

—Reuters, 2/22/2000

The Vatican and the Palestine Liberation Organization agreed to open holy sites and strengthen and clarify their relations. In his ninth meeting with PLO leader Yasser Arafat, Pope John Paul II "newly expressed the Holy See’s solidarity with the Palestinian people who are still waiting to see their legitimate aspirations realized," a Vatican statement said. The two sides signed a document recognizing the PLO as the representative for Arafat’s Palestinian Authority that administers parts of the West Bank and Gaza.

—Washington Post, 2/13/2000

Economics

Thousands of farmers, burdened by debt and unable to keep up with the relentless pressure to cut costs and expand production, are giving up on agriculture. Farmers forced out of business in Iowa during the 1980s wound up with higher incomes than their neighbors who stayed in agriculture and showed less evidence of stress and depression, according to a study published in February’s issue of Rural Sociology. Families who left farming in the middle to late 1980s saw their income rise from $5,670 to $9,820 per person from 1989 to 1992, according to the study. At the same time average per capita earnings for families still in agriculture dropped from $10,870 to $7,950 per person. Symptoms of depression dropped sharply among both men and women who left farming. Some 350 Iowa families took part in the study that was conducted at Iowa State University and the University of North Carolina. Some 67,000 farmers leave the business each year.

—Associated Press, 2/26/2000

US companies and consumers have built up record levels of risky debt that could threaten banks’ financial health if the economy slows, warns McKinsey, the management consultancy. Wolfgang Hammes, a senior manager in McKinsey’s banking practice said: "There is a substantial amount of hidden credit risk at US financial institutions that could potentially lead to serious loan losses. Most banks’ risk management systems are not sufficient to identify and quantify these risks." Hammes says that, in spite of a nine-year economic boom, US consumers and companies are more indebted than ever. The borrowings of the average US household now exceed a year’s disposable income, according to Federal Reserve figures. The consultancy is even more concerned at the rapid growth of riskier types of credit on bank balance sheets. Volumes of sub-prime lending have grown by 80 percent a year since 1995. Margin debt (borrowed against the value of securities) now exceeds $200 billion. The growing inter-relatedness of domestic and international credit markets, combined with debt leverage of banks, could intensify the credit swing, leaving many market participants with large and sudden credit losses.

—Financial Times, 2/22/2000

Science

Global warming is not only real but it is accelerating, U.S. government researchers say. In the past 25 years alone, average global temperatures have started zooming up at a rate that works out to two degrees Celsius (four degrees Fahrenheit) per century, the team at the National Climate Data Center, part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said. Writing in the March 1 issue of Geophysical Research Letters, Thomas Karl, director of the center, said there was only a one-in-20 chance that the record high temperatures in 1997 and 1998 were simply unusual events—as opposed to being a turning point in global climate. They found that 1999 was the fifth warmest year on record, even though it should have been a cool year because of the La Niņa ocean current phenomenon.

—Reuters, 2/24/2000

Seasoning rice with daffodil and bacteria genes, scientists have boosted the vitamin A content of the developing world’s most widely consumed grain in the hope of ending a common dietary deficiency that kills one million poor children every year, according to research made public Thursday. The researchers deliberately developed the genetically modified rice without commercial support so that they could give the seed away to farmers—free of the patent or licensing restrictions that so often limit the distribution of genetically engineered crops. In Southeast Asia alone a quarter of a million children go blind every year because of vitamin A deficiency. The new transgenic vitamin A rice may be the first to actually improve a crop’s nutritional value to make it a better food, several experts said. Most commercial transgenic plants are designed to make crops cheaper and more efficient to cultivate, not make them more beneficial to eat.

—Los Angeles Times, 1/14/2000

Medicine will get better and keep people alive longer in the next ten years, but the behavior of Americans will worsen as they exercise less, put on more weight and fall victim to preventable chronic diseases, according to an authoritative forecast of national health released Wednesday. Lifestyles go halfway toward determining an individual’s health, says a report funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation [the nation’s largest philanthropic research group devoted exclusively to health care]. A stubborn 24% of the population smokes, alcohol abuse is persistent, and the incidence of obesity is rising, according to the report. More health dollars should be spent in persuading people to eat right and exercise "so we can spend less money curing diseases we could prevent if we behaved better," Wendy Everett, director of health programs for the institute, said at a news conference where the report was presented. The factors that determine whether an individual is healthy are: 50% for lifestyle, 20% for environment, 20% for genetics, and 10% for access to medical care.

—Los Angeles Times, 2/24/2000

Book Review

Galileo’s Daughter: A Historical Memoir of Science, Faith, and Love, Dava Sobel, Walker Publishing Company, Inc., 1999, 448 pages.

This book is readable history based around 124 surviving letters written by Galileo’s daughter and confidante, a cloistered nun. The interest to the Bible Student is the enlightenment the book provides about the early struggle of modern science to emerge in spite of the suppression of Christendom.

The book reveals life in the 17th century: Papal Rome, the fledging age of reason, and Italy’s place in Europe where Luther had nailed his theses to the church door. The bubonic plague, monastic life, and the human mind awakening from the dark ages are viewed against the backdrop of the mathematician who laid the foundation of modern science. Galileo’s observations and discoveries in the heavens contradicted church dogma. He fought to resolve the apparent contradiction between science, established religion, and his personal belief and relationship with God. Galileo contended that God’s universe is written in the language of mathematics, and he made elementary steps in extending the principles to biblical interpretations. That reasoning led him to conclude that no controversy existed between a careful observation of God’s world and the Bible. In fact, the "new discoveries" could enlighten man’s understanding and appreciation of God.

In Galileo’s day, the Church said that the Bible taught that the earth was the center of a stagnate, yet perfect universe. Galileo fashioned telescopes to look at the wonder of God’s universe and found observable evidence that the earth was rotating around a sun which had variable "spots" blemishing its surface. Galileo’s telescope only strengthened his reverence for God, but the Church saw it as a challenge to its authority, bringing attention to matters forbidden to be considered. Interestingly, Galileo initially was labeled a loyal friend of the Catholic Church and worked under its sanction.

The second half of the book focuses on Galileo’s trial before the Inquisition. He was officially branded as a heretic through the efforts of jealous enemies within the Church. Galileo recanted and was banished beyond Rome, put under house arrest in Florence but discreetly continued to fashion the "new world." Friends and supporters within and without the Church never deserted him. A new age was dawning and the Church lacked the power to silence Galileo regardless of the fact that he submitted to the condemning sentence. As Bible Students know, when God’s time clock strikes, no power on earth can resist God’s onward march to enlighten the world and free man from Christendom. This book portrays one such time in history.

—Debbie Moss