Posts Tagged ‘Evolution’

Book Plunge: The Passionate Intellect

December 2, 2014

What do I think of Alister McGrath’s book? Let’s dive into the Deeper Waters and find out.

The Passionate Intellect

First, my thanks to IVP for sending me a copy for review purposes of this book. IVP I have found to be an excellent publishing company and their books consistently meet a high standard of excellence.

The Passionate Intellect is a look at the life of the mind from the viewpoint of Alister McGrath, himself a former atheist heavily interested in the sciences who became a theologian after his conversion to Christianity.

In some ways, I got a lot of good out of the book, but I’m not sure it was the good I was wanting to get. I would describe myself as one who has a passionate intellect. My wife would be more likely to connect to God through art and music and things of that sort. For me, I connect more through apologetics and through study of the historical Jesus.

Something I had been hoping for was a look at how exactly study was to be done with a passionate intellect. What do you do if you do not connect the most through music? After all, for me, one time I like to hear in a church service is “You may be seated.” I want to jump right into the study of Scripture and see what it has to say. This is not intended to disrespect the band at our church. They do a great job much of the time, but I can only stand and hear the songs for so long.

McGrath doesn’t do that as I would have liked. Still, he does bring out the importance of theology. Theology should definitely inform our worship and then in turn our worship will inform our theology. Too often we have worship going on in the church that has no real content to it and ends up focusing on us and our emotional experiences.

McGrath recommends studying the minds of the past and seeing how they deal with different circumstances, such as the problem of suffering. Here we see a contrast between Martin Luther and C.S. Lewis. What would these two have thought of each other? Could it be that we can have an idea of what the solution is to suffering but then we suddenly see how difficult it is when the real suffering takes place?

The second part of the book does focus largely on apologetics. Those who are interested in the question of the relationship between science and religion will always find something interesting to read in McGrath. You will find discussions on Darwin as well as looking at what has happened when atheism comes to power. McGrath even has a little bit on suicide bombers and asking if they’re primarily religious or if they instead happen to be more political.

So in conclusion, while I did not get what I was necessarily wanting, I did get something that was helpful and I do agree with McGrath that we need some passionate intellects in the church. Those who would see themselves as having a passionate intellect are encouraged to get this book and see if it helps them on their Christian journey.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Where The Conflict Really Lies?

September 17, 2014

What do I think of Alvin Plantinga’s book? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Since this book has been one talked about highly in the modern science debate, which I do enjoy, I figured I should take a look. Alvin Plantinga is one of the biggest names in Christian philosophy today. He has also written some on what he sees going on in the new atheism today so I was eager to see where he would say the real conflict in the science and religion debate lies.

Plantinga starts off with a case that I have been making. He looks at the idea that many atheists will say evolution is true, therefore theism is false. Plantinga is willing to grant evolution for the sake of argument and contends that it could be that God would use an evolutionary process to bring about the creation the way that He wants to.

I find this an important point to stress.

Too often, fundamentalist atheists and fundamentalist Christians think the exact same way. If evolution is true, then Christianity is false, and if Christianity is true, then evolution is false. It could be that they’re both true. It could be that they’re both false. There is nothing in one that necessarily contradicts the other. To be sure, some forms of Christianity would face contradictions with evolution and some understandings of evolution would contradict Christianity.

For instance, if you hold evolution is an unguided process, then for the most part, this would go against Christianity, yet the problem with that position is that that position is not known through science. It is a metaphysical idea. Meanwhile, if you hold to a view like young-earth creationism, then you will no doubt find a conflict with evolution.

It’s my stance with Christians that if you are not science-minded, don’t argue evolution. Leave that to those who are science-minded. If you are science-minded and you want to present a scientific argument against evolution, have at it! Now if you are a skeptic who holds to evolution and receives such an argument, it behooves you to really look at it. I contend that if evolution falls, it will fall because it is bad science and will do so when better science shows up.

Plantinga also points out that the theist in fact has the most options at this point. For a naturalist, at this point, evolution is the only game in town. The theist can be open to evolution or he can go with fiat creation if he thinks the evidence warrants that. Neither one will be harmful to his views.

If we instead go with the route of the fundamentalists, we create a false gap between science and religion. When it is asked why so many don’t believe in evolution today in America, it is because for the most part, most people in this country are theists and if it comes down to choosing God who most people would claim to know through a personal experience (Not validating that. Just stating it) and it comes down to choosing God or evolution, the majority of them will choose God. We could argue that they should sit down and weigh out the evidence and make a decision, and I agree they should, but that sword also goes the other way.

If many atheists are taught that belief in Christianity means that they have to give up evolution and then in their eyes be anti-science, then it becomes a no-brainer just as much. If they want to be scientifically-minded people, then they will just have to reject the resurrection. This is why so few that I meet no doubt have really failed to interact with the evidence and in fact taken knee-jerk positions. (Jesus never existed for instance. The sad part is that there are more scientists who hold to a YEC view than there are historians who hold that Jesus never existed. If the atheists see YEC as a joke, they should see Christ-mythicism as a bigger one.)

I contend that too often the evolution debate has been a knee-jerk debate as well based on people thinking that the “plain reading” of a text must be the right one and that Genesis must have been written to address scientific issues. Both of these are modern presuppositions. The problem that we really have is not with what the Bible says, but with the modern thought processes we read into the Bible.

What about miracles? Plantinga again sees no contradiction there as well. It is this idea that we often encounter that if you believe in miracles, you believe in a God who is constantly intervening in the system. While we would say God intervenes, we do not think it is constant. In fact, I consider this to be based on a large misnomer. God is constantly interacting with the system holding it all together. Much of the modern debates assume that if God is doing anything with the creation, it is when He directly acts in the form of a miracle. Other than that, the creation can run just fine on its own, all the while ignoring that it requires God’s upholding of it for it to just exist.

The reason that we recognize miracles is because we do have an organized system. Why is it a virgin birth would be seen as a miracle? Because we know darn well what it takes to make a baby. Why would walking on water be seen as a miracle? Because we know what happens when people try to walk on water. Why would a resurrection be seen as a miracle? Because we know that dead people stay dead.

It has never made sense to me to say that because we live in an era of modern science, we now know miracles don’t happen. Sure, the ancients weren’t as scientific as we are, but did they have to be to know what it takes to make a baby, that people don’t naturally walk on water, and to know that dead people stay dead? Are these recent discoveries since the scientific era?

Plantinga does briefly touch on biblical criticism and I would have liked to have seen more replies to what is going on in that area since too many atheists just read the people that agree with them and go on from there. (I think of Victor Stenger who on Unbelievable? decried people who use just one source and then said for the questions about the Bible, he relies on Bart Ehrman. By all means read Ehrman, but read his critics as well and if you read the NT scholarship that is conservative, then read people like Ehrman as well) This was a part that Plantinga looked to have brought in and then just let drop.

Plantinga goes on to talk about two areas of agreement he sees between Christianity and science. Both of these are in the areas of fine-tuning. One is the intelligent design of the cosmos. Plantinga is a bit more hesitant there, but he does lean to the idea that fine-tuning of the universe if demonstrable, and to some extent I think it is, does fit in well with theism.

The next area would be in the area of the research of Michael Behe with Darwin’s Black Box. Plantinga does think that Behe is on to something here. To go with Behe would not rule out evolution either, but it would point to evolution needing to be guided and he spells out what he thinks would be needed to have a defeater for Behe’s beliefs. Those wanting more on these last two points will need to read the work itself since I don’t discuss the science as science.

The next area of concord that he sees is that science arose in a Christian milleu and this was because the Christians saw themselves in the image of God and that God made a creation that is rational and meant to be understood. Plantinga makes the case that it is incredible that mathematics of a complex nature that we can do would be that which is just what we need to understand the universe.

Finally, he brings out the deep conflict. For this, Plantinga uses his famous evolutionary argument against naturalism where he says you can believe in one or the other, but you will face a problem if you believe in both because you will have a defeater for your belief in naturalism. The argument is an interesting one worthy of consideration.

So this gets us to where the conflict really lies and that is….

Do you really think I’ll spoil it for you? This was a great ending to the book and I recommend instead of my sharing it, that you go read it for yourself.

A downside to the book however is that I did often wish when historical questions came up, like Biblical criticism or the history of science, that a historian had been called on to write those. Also, sometimes, the writing in Plantinga’s book becomes highly technical and thus it will not be as accessible to the layperson. Still, there is plenty here for all readers to consider. I recommend this one for an excellent look at the modern debate between science and religion.

In Christ,

Nick Peters

Debunking 9 Truly Evil Things Right Wing Christians Do Part 5

July 30, 2014

Do Christians undermine science? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Once again, I’m letting Allie have this one. Please let me know what you think about what my Mrs. has to say.

“We are half-way through with the going through the topics in the article: http://www.alternet.org/belief/9-truly-evil-things-right-wing-christians-do?page=0%2C1 We are now at 5. Undermining science is evil. This could be another long one like the first one because this is a very touchy subject. A lot of people are under the opinion that Christians do not support science at all. People are under the opinion that Christians are stuck in the Dark Ages and believe all science is bogus unless the Bible says it clearly. There are even people who think all Christians do is pray and refuse medical care that could help them (mostly the Jehovah Witnesses refuse medical care though). Let’s get started in clearing up this up.
The first thing the article does is talk about how the scientific method has helped the world greatly, “It’s the reason most of our children don’t die before hitting the age of five. It’s the reason broken legs heal straight, sky scrapers don’t collapse, and our houses are warm in the winter. It is what alerted us to the fact that our carbon consumption has become an existential threat.” Okay, there’s no disagreement there, I’d say the majority of Christians would agree with you (writer) there. The article then says “the scientific method has also become an existential threat to Bible belief.” No surprise they would think this, this is a common argument that if I might be frank is a stupid one; but is unfortunately leading so many young people away from Christ because that is what our schools are teaching in grade school and universities. “We know now that the Genesis creation story is myth,” this is an assumption, not a fact. There are many scientists who even show through the scientific method the Genesis creation story actually happened. Take Dr. Hugh Ross for example, he’s well respected and you can watch one if his videos on this here (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UPvO2EkiLls). He also has a ministry covering this called Reasons to Believe (http://www.reasons.org/) or even check out his book “Creation As Science: A Testable Model Approach to End the Creation/evolution Wars” (http://www.amazon.com/Creation-As-Science-Testable-evolution/dp/1576835782). The next accusation “neurotransmitters rather than demons cause mental illness,” can be true for some cases and not for other cases. This is a very difficult and delicate matter. There are extremes on both sides. There are those like the author of this article who say “Nothing is caused by a demon” and those who say “Everything is caused by a demon!” They are both wrong. I recommend Jeff Harshbarger’s book “Dancing With the Devil: An Honest Look Into the Occult from Former Followers” (http://www.amazon.com/dp/1616386959). I know him personally and he does not have a mental illness. He was formerly a Satanist and God rescued him from death and a path of darkness! He now runs a ministry to help people involved in the occult. The next issue they bring up is “mandrake roots and dove blood don’t improve female fertility or cure skin diseases”. I agree, in today’s culture. They had a link to to this; it discussed how this was in the Abrahamic Law (because honestly I had never heard of this before). Again, they accuse Christians of only praying instead of having any other healthcare. They quote James 5:14-15 to support their argument. Is any sick among you? Let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up. No doubt for a Christian, prayer is very important. It’s how we communicate with God. It’s not just Christians who pray, other religions pray. In fact, there are some religions who pray today even more dedicated and often than most Christians do (such as Muslims). I do not wish to be Muslim, but I often wish I was dedicated in my prayer life like Muslims often are. Even Eastern religions pray in the form of meditation. Now, none of these religions pray to the same God, but they still pray. Prayer can also be very helpful. There are many medical cases where prayer has helped, but there are times prayer did not help (http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/06/090617154401.htm). This is not because God wasn’t there or not listening, but as cliche as this sounds, he had different plans. I have lost close family members to cancer, and even now I still wonder, “Why God? Why did you take them away? Why didn’t you heal them? Don’t you know I still need them? Don’t you know the rest of their families still need them? You let them suffer only to die? Why?” I can’t imagine what some of you are going through, who have lost a spouse or a child. I am so sorry for your loss and the pain you have. But God has not abandoned you, not even for a moment. Remain in him, and he will remain in you. So this link from the article then says “Throughout the Bible, both Old Testament and New, physical health is largely a spiritual matter. Healings come from prayers, rituals of repentance, and miraculous intervention. In Chronicles King Asa, who has a severe foot ailment, is held up as a bad example for seeking help from physicians and not from God. By contrast, King Hezekiah prays when he falls ill, and Yehovah adds fifteen years to his life.” King Asa was a wicked king and because he wouldn’t turn to God and repent of his wickedness, he was cursed with the severe foot ailment. He’s not held up as a bad example because he saught out help from physicians. He’s a bad example because he was wicked and even after he was cursed with the foot ailment, he still did not turn to God. He refused to turn to God and kept seeking out for help from others. Now King Hezekiah, when he saw what he had done, he turned to God and repented. He felt remorse and changed his pride and with that, God blessed him. Then Hezekiah humbled himself and repented of his pride, as did the people of Jerusalem. So the LORD’s anger did not fall on them during Hezekiah’s lifetime. (2 Chronicles 32:26 NLT) Next they say, “Like prescriptions against homosexuality, Hebrew and early Christian health practices appear to be shaped largely by surrounding cultures and the ‘yuck factor.'” We really don’t have time to get into this debate right now, but homosexuality was a sin – an abomination to God. It wasn’t a “yuck factor.” It was what God deemed to be wrong. If you’re going to call homosexuality a yuck factor, you might as well call ALL sins yuck factors. Yes, I said all of them. Stealing, adultery, lieing, murder (including hate), etc. All of them are yuck factors in the eyes of God just as much as homosexuality. You can’t just single out one sin and say one sin is greater than the other. They are all sin. They all have consequences to them. You can get some pretty nasty STD’s for example from homosexuality practices (http://www.cdc.gov/stdconference/2000/media/stdgay2000.htm). They were being obedient to God and at the same time helping their fellow brother and sisters when they fall into temptation. That’s why today there are Christians who try to help people with their homosexuality. It’s not because they hate them, but the opposite – they love them! I love my husband dearly, but ever since I was a teenager I have struggled with bisexual tendancies. It’s something not very many people know about me. Don’t get me wrong, I was always “boy crazy.” But there was always a dark part of me that was attracted to girls too. I kept this side of me quiet mostly because as a Christian, I knew it was wrong and I didn’t want to act out on it. I remember being so ashamed of myself of sometimes being more turned on when I saw a woman than when I saw a man. My dad was in ministry and I felt if anyone ever found out, it could ruin his ministry! I remember asking my mom once, “If it turned out I was a bisexual, would you still love me?” and she said, “Of course we would!” Then I told my dad once that I was a bisexual and he laughed and didn’t believe me. It really hurt because this was a real struggle for me and yet he didn’t think it was real. There were times at school I would have visions of me kissing girls I knew and I would try to shake them out of my head, how they haunted me! Before I got married, I thought “Surely this will go away! I’m going to be married and I’ll get to be with him whenever I want however much I want!” Even so, it’s still a struggle. I still have visions of being with other women and I still have to shake them out of my head. It even happens while I’m praying and I just have to trust God and ask him to help me through those times. I was abused by men, so it only makes sense that I’d be attracted to women. Anyway, I’m saying all this because I know it’s a struggle. It may be even more of a struggle for you. I know for me there have been times, even now, where I have almost started making out with a woman. The temptation is so strong, and the temptation seems to only get stronger the older I get. I’m so glad my husband is so patient with me and he still cares about me even through this struggle I have. But we can get through this! You have to fight it! This is an on-going war and some people get over it completely, and some people struggle with it all their lives. For me, I know I will probably struggle with this all of my life. But I’m a fighter! We are soldiers in Christ and when we fall he helps us back up! When we are weak and feel like we can’t fight it anymore, rely on him and he will be our strength! God is not going to abandon us no matter what our struggle is! Keep fighting it and in the end you WILL be victorious! So the link moves on to talk about Dermatology with dove blood by quoting these verses from the Book of Leviticus.
Anyone with such a defiling disease must wear torn clothes, let their hair be unkempt, cover the lower part of their face and cry out, “Unclean! Unclean!’”As long as they have the disease they remain unclean. They must live alone; they must live outside the camp. (Leviticus 13:45-46).
The priest is to take some of the blood of the guilt offering and put it on the lobe of the right ear of the one to be cleansed, on the thumb of their right hand and on the big toe of their right foot. (Leviticus 14:14)
I recommend watching this humerous video that explains this by J.P. Holding (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8qhB_8ge88o). The next thing the link talks about is how they believed mandrakes were a fertility agent and they quoted Genesis 30:9-22 – Now in the days of wheat harvest Reuben went and found mandrakes in the field, and brought them to his mother Leah. Then Rachel said to Leah, “Please give me some of your son’s mandrakes.” But she said to her, “Is it a small matter for you to take my husband? And would you take my son’s mandrakes also?” So Rachel said, “Therefore he may lie with you tonight in return for your son’s mandrakes.” When Jacob came in from the field in the evening, then Leah went out to meet him and said, “You must come in to me, for I have surely hired you with my son’s mandrakes.” So he lay with her that night. God gave heed to Leah, and she conceived and bore Jacob a fifth son. Genesis records this, it does not say the mandrakes gave Leah the son. Leah also gave up the mandrakes to Rachel, so how could the mandrakes have given her the fifth son if she gave up the mandrakes? Some of the other things the link goes through (if you get a chance to look through) I’m not answering because they have to do with the cleanliness and the video J.P. Holding did explains all this. The link then talks about how psychiatry and neurology are treated through exorcisms, mainly in the New Testament by Jesus and early Christians. Demons would cause things such as muteness, epilepsy, and abnormal strength. It’s easy to dismiss demons when you’ve never experienced demons or don’t believe demons exist. Personally, I have experienced them since I was very little – four years old to be exact. I was never posessed but they haunted me much of my life. It’s funny, a lot of people are more willing to believe there are ghosts roaming the world than to believe there are demons. The things I saw as a child, others saw around me, so it could not have been a hallucination. There are no such things as group hallucinations. You can have mass hysteria, but a group hallucination is clinically impossible. Believe me, I know from personal experience. I have delt with demons in the past, and I have also delt with hallucinations. You may ask, “How can you tell the difference?” It’s difficult to tell the difference now honestly. You see, I didn’t always have hallucinations. The hallucinations started after I had a massive drug overdose when I tried to kill myself five years ago (God was gracious enough to protect me through that). I have a brain injury from that which causes me to have hallucinations now (which I am being treated for). The only way now I can really tell if it’s a hallucination is mostly how my cat reacts when I see/hear something. My cat mostly follows me around the house everywhere I go and if I see something unusual, I look at how my cat reacts. If my cat is relaxed (my cat is very skittish – he’s a rescue and we believe he may have been abused before we got him), I know it’s in my head. But if my cat runs away frightened or acts defensively (like he is protecting me from something), I know something isn’t right. Animals can detect things we humans typically can’t. Next they talk about preventive care and say all they do for that is worship. They don’t do any nutrition or exercising, just worship. They quote these verses:
There is no other God beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal. (Deut. 32:39)
Worship the LORD your God, and his blessing will be on your food and water. I will take away sickness from among you, and none will miscarry or be barren in your land. I will give you a full life span. (Ex. 23:25-26)
The LORD will smite thee with the botch of Egypt, and with the emerods, and with the scab, and with the itch, whereof thou canst not be healed. (Deuteronomy 28:27)
First of all, nothing in the Bible says they didn’t exercise or do nutrtion. In fact, Paul in the New Testament uses many metaphors to sports! Not to mention think of all the walking they had to do, everywhere they went. There were no cars. Sure they had camels, donkeys, and horses. But not everyone had the luxery of riding animals or chariots. All the walking people did back then going city to city had to have burned some major calories! Plus, if Paul used metaphors with sports, it must mean they understood sports and probably played some (finishing the race). Therefore, this is automatically an assumption they made, not a fact. As for using these verses to prove their point, God is so powerful. I mean, he created the entire universe. He created life itself. If someone is so powerful that they created all life, could they not just as easily take any life away? If this being has the ability to heal, could they not also have the ability to wound? Let’s take it even deeper: if this being is able to create life, does this being have the right to do whatever he wishes to do with them? Doesn’t he have the right to choose to wound them or heal them if he wishes? Doesn’t he have the right to give life or take life if he wishes? When I am working on my artwork, I have every right to do as I please to do with my artwork. Now of course my artwork is not a living being, but my artwork has a different sense of life in itself. I can choose to make any edits I want. I can choose to frame it or toss it in the trash. I have a right to what I created. Doesn’t God have rights to what he’s created? Of course, there’s a difference between the artwork I make, and the artwork God has made. My artwork comes to life in a different sense. But God’s artwork is literally alive! It literally lives and breathes! We are made in his image and he is constantly forming us and changing us to be more like him. But when we die, it’s not like he’s tossed us into the trash! When Jesus reaches his hand out to us and tells us to “Follow me,” we either give him our hand back and follow him or we walk away. If we follow Christ, we will be with him when we die. If we walk away from him, we will be in a place of destitute. A place filled with pain and anxiety beyond anything you could ever imagine and I pray that you will not reach that place, reader. God blessed his people when they followed him and he still blesses us today. That doesn’t mean you’re going to get rich. That doesn’t mean your aches and pains are going to go away. God blesses us in so many different ways, we often times don’t even realize it. Blessings can even come in disguises. When we go through good times, we can often forget about God. We forget about the things he’s done for us and the things he’s blessed us with. We even get arrogant and prideful and think, “I did this” or “this is MY doing.” Then when when things go wrong and we have nowhere and no one else to turn to, we get down on our knees and cry out to God for help. We realize we don’t have everything together. It’s during those times when we are so vulnerable and weak that God shows his love for us and comforts us. He gives us strength to get through it and he leads us through it. We realize “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible.” (Matthew 19:26 NLT) So we go back to the main article and they say, “the cognitive structures of the human mind predispose us to certain kinds of religious belief.” They link to the book “Religion Explained” by Pascal Boyer. My question is, “If all religions come from a certain part of the brain, why are there so many different religions that disagree on so many factors?” If religion comes from a certain part of the brain, then morals must also according to the author right? But different people have different morals (though there are many morals that people will agree on – such as don’t kill people). A lot of people like the author of the article would probably say morals are relative and only matter to individuals. “Your morals work for you and my morals work for me.” If morals are relative and basically mean nothing, what if that person went to a country where there are cannibals living there. According to the morals of those cannibals, there’d be nothing wrong with eating this particular person. But is this particular person going to say, “Hey it’s all good, I’ll be your dinner”? No way! They’re going to do whatever they can to get away from there as quickly and safely as possible! How about another example. Say you get a new laptop and you invite a friend over to show them. The friend admires the laptop for a moment, then picks it up and starts heading out the door. You yell at your friend, “You can’t take my laptop! You’re stealing!” What if your friend says in response, “Your morals call it stealing, but according to my morals there’s no such thing as stealing! I can just take whatever I want!” Are you going to let them take your laptop because their morals say it’s okay? No! If you can’t get it back you’re going to call the police and file a theft complaint about your friend! Morals are relevant to these sort of people unless it interrupts their morals. It’s a double-standard. Morals come from the Law in the Torah (Old Testament) which came from God. But God also imprinted these morals onto our hearts.The last paragraph the article says on this topic is, “It may boggle moral credibility that believers intent on propping up the Bible would sacrifice humanity’s best hope of beating the enormous threats we face, threats like resource depletion, food and water shortages, climate change, and rapidly evolving superbugs. But if there’s any overarching theme to Christian history it is this: the end justifies the means.” This is more assuming. Christians worry about these things too. There are Christians working on solving some of these problems more than governments are. Places in Africa for example that don’t have any clean water, Christians are digging wells there and getting filters, as well as feeding many poor communities. Many soup kitchens for example are run by Christians. You don’t see the government feeding the poor. You don’t see the government digging wells to access more water and handing out water filters for people to have clean water. A lot of governments around the world actually take these things away from people instead of giving them these necessities. Even medical care. There are many Christians who will go to some of the poorest places and give out free medical care. So before accusing Christians of not caring about these issues, actually do your research and quit your complaining!
Our next topic is: 6. Promoting holy war is evil.”

In Christ,
Nick Peters

A Further Reply to Randy Hardman

March 14, 2014

Is there a danger in the apologetics community? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

In a previous blog this week I wrote a reply to Randy Hardman on the nature of the apologetics community. Now I wish to look at part two and part three of Hardman’s series.

One characteristic I note is that in part one, Hardman told us a lot about his own experience. I did the same. Yet when I look at part two and three I see Hardman telling us more about his own experience. Now naturally, he’ll know more about that than anyone else, but I wonder what interaction was being done with the evangelical community?

For instance, at the most recent ETS meeting, the entire theme of the conference was Inerrancy. It was discussion largely about what it means for evangelicals to believe in Inerrancy and what Inerrancy is including having a book released around the same time on five views on Inerrancy. I do not see any awareness of this on Hardman’s part.

Going back a few years, what about the Geisler controversy, which readers of this blog know I was quite well aware of and wrote profusely on. I do not see any mention in the writings of Hardman on any of that. I do not see him acknowledge that many evangelicals would say while they hold to Inerrancy, it is not a necessity for salvation.

Hardman writes in part two about faith as science. He includes this line:

“For every atheist that’s incorrigibly committed to the truth of his philosophical naturalism there is an evangelical incorrigibly committed to his theism in such a way that neither one lacks the need to feel absolutely certain.”

Now I do not doubt that such evangelicals exist, but I would like to have seen some interaction with who these people are. Furthermore, what is this about absolute certainty? I think of how Peter Boghossian has written about dialoguing with an OT professor who said it would take finding the bones of Christ to make him abandon his faith.

Of course, there are myriad problems with this, such as how you would identify the bones. (Perhaps they would have a unique DNA make-up due to a virgin birth) That is why I have made it my claim instead to say that one needs a better explanation of the data surrounding the rise of the belief in Jesus’s resurrection and the early church’s survival.

Also, as those who study history will tell you, including Mike Licona in his book “The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach”, history deals with probabilities. You cannot prove X necessarily with history, but you can say beyond any reasonable doubt. Can we absolutely prove that Alexander the Great conquered the world? No. Would you have to be completely clueless on history to think otherwise? Yes.

Hardman goes on to say

“For these evangelicals, conviction leaves no room for doubt, and so in popular Christian apologetics doubt is something to be assuaged with answers.”

Again, I wish I knew what evangelicals were being talked about. If he wanted to talk about doubt, why not refer to who I have referred to before in part one, namely Gary Habermas. Habermas is an evangelical who has written more about doubt than most in the field have.

Habermas classifies three kinds of doubt. For the kind of doubt that Hardman is writing about here, intellectual doubt, yes, an answer to the question will satisfy it. What happens if the answer does not satisfy? Then one could be dealing with a different kind of doubt.

The #1 culprit is emotional doubt. This doubt is the kind that usually asks the question of “What if?” It can often disguise itself as intellectual doubt but the major difference between it and intellectual doubt is emotional doubt is never satisfied and for many of us, if we were thinking rationally, we would not be worried about it.

Let me give a personal example. Shortly after I got married, I had a bad case of gallstones and it was decided that I should have my gallbladder removed. Now I had had anesthesia before as I am no stranger to surgery, but this time I was scared. I have a wife now! What if I go under and never come out? How will she handle it? What will happen?

Allie thought I was being crazy about such fears.

She was right.

Yeah. It could happen, but is it really something to be concerned about? You could show me all the statistics in the world and my position was not changing. It was entirely emotional in nature. The problem in this case is unruly emotions and you need to find a way to get those emotions in check.

The other kind of doubt is the worst kind to deal with. This is volitional doubt. These are people who not only do not believe, they have firmly decided they will not believe and no evidence could convince them. (Think of certain people who write books about training street epistemologists and encouraging practicing “doxastic openness” as an example of this.)

I still would like to know who these people are. Gary Habermas again gets before audiences with his minimal facts approach and says he’ll use only the data that liberal scholars will concede and still have it that Jesus rose from the dead. There is no requirement for Inerrancy. There are some who do not have a problem with evolution. Some do, but they will also dispute it on scientific grounds. Are the arguments valid? I can’t answer that, but I can say that is the way to dispute evolution if one wants to.

Hardman is right that Inerrancy being central is a problem. I cringe to think of the student who says “If John is wrong on how Jesus died, maybe everything else is wrong too!” I think of the guest on Unbelievable? once who was presenting a contradiction of how Judas died to the Christian guest and was saying that if we can’t be sure of the Bible on this point, what basis do we have for believing in something like the crucifixion?

I don’t know. Maybe history….

There is only one document in ancient history that people seem to have this all-or-nothing approach to and that’s the Bible. If the Bible is wrong on one thing, it must be wrong on everything. If it is right on one thing, it must be right on everything. No historian would treat the Bible this way. The fundamentalist Christian and the fundamentalist atheist sadly treat the Bible the exact same way.

Too many Christians have this attitude that the only way we can know what happened historically is if we treat the Bible as Inerrant. It is a wonder how the first evangelists of the Christian Gospel somehow spread the word without an Inerrant Bible. It’s also a wonder how they convinced anyone else since they would have to be convinced of Inerrancy first.

Now to be fair, there are events we’d have a harder time verifying, but this is true of any report in history. Can we prove that Cato or Caesar or someone else said something at a particular time? Not likely. Can we make a stronger case for more important events in their lives, such as that Caesar crossed the Rubicon or that he was assassinated on the Ides of March? Yes.

So when it comes to Jesus, the resurrection is central. We can make a stronger case for that. Can we make as strong a case that He was born of a virgin? No. Can we make as strong a case that he turned water into wine? No. I’m fine with that.

Hardman also talks about the great risk involved with the question of “If evolution is true, is Christianity false?”

I do not know what the great risk he sees in this is. It was a conclusion I reached years ago and I’m still able to even hold to Inerrancy just fine. I just determined that I’m not a scientist and I do not have the time or desire to really focus on the science questions as my area of study is the NT, so I’m fine with just letting it be. In fact, as a Thomist, my arguments for God’s existence are not rooted in the origins of the universe or the creation of man, but in the doctrine of existence itself.

Hardman goes on to say

“It is trust, not data, that allows one to wrestle through the night with God, through the unanswerable, and, indeed, the irrational. It allowed me to approach questions differently and it allowed me, a couple months later, to re-examine my own life and concede what was true: I didn’t know Christ as much as I knew about him.”

And this is Hardman’s experience. I can write about my own as well and say for me, it has been the knowledge that Jesus did rise from the dead that has sustained me in my times. I just sit back and look at the evidence and realize that this is true. Who else has done this? Greg Koukl. In his series on surviving spiritual storms, he says that whenever he wakes up scared that maybe it isn’t true, he thinks about the facts.

After all, if we could control our feelings that easily, then we would wake up scared and just tell ourselves “Don’t be scared” and then go right back to sleep. I don’t think that’s going to happen. I know that when I have nights when I’m worried about something and try to tell myself to relax, I usually do a terrible job.

So now we have Hardman’s experience. We also have mine and Koukl. Question. Why should we take Hardman’s experience to be the one for all of us? Second question. Why should we take mine and Koukl’s experience to be the one for all of us? It could depend largely on what kind of doubt it is that you’re dealing with.

As we move to part three, we find more of the same from Hardman.

“This post still deals with what I find to be a strange irony in the discipline of apologetics, namely, the insistence on a “rational and well thought out” faith with the insistence on upholding scriptural inerrancy and creationism.”

And again, where is the interaction with ETS? Where is the interaction with Five Views on Inerrancy? What about the Geisler controversy? Is there in fact any interaction with one of the latest works that I think should not be neglected, The Lost World of Scripture, by Sandy and Walton?

Nope.

Hardman says

“It is my conviction that when we insist that young people have to choose between evolution and God or the critical results of scholarship and faith, we are not at all helping students overcome some of the intellectual barriers and questions they might have. Rather, we contribute to the swath of students who find Christianity to be opposed to reason.”

I agree, but this is not entirely revolutionary. Hardman writes about the problem, but what about the data? Does he interact with it? Does he consider a work such as “You Lost Me” about how so many people are walking away? Now naturally, I think some of this is because of the lack of apologetics training, but it is also definitely just as important how we teach people and that means focusing on the essentials.

Hardman goes on to relate an experience that demonstrates the problem:

As I was currently enrolled in a Biblical Studies program at Asbury Theological Seminary, he posed me a question: “Randy, what do you think? Did Luke and Matthew use Mark as a source?” I don’t really know what answer he expected from me but I just looked at him and said, “Absolutely! That’s pretty near consensus in NT scholarship…I don’t see any reason to doubt it!”

My friends eyes widened as he sat back in his seat, threw his hands up in the air, and said, “No, no, no…They didn’t use Mark as a source. That’s just a theory promoted by the Devil and populated through Bultmannian scholarship.”

As it stands, this other person doesn’t even realize that this kind of thing goes back far farther than Bultmann. Now how will this be answered? It will be answered with data. The sad reality is that Hardman wants us to avoid an extreme, but has he himself not gone for an extreme just as much? His argument goes that we assume creationism and Inerrancy must be central, but could it be that he in fact has assumed that that is assumed?

In fact, I and many other apologists follow the model when we debate, such as on Peter Boghossian’s Facebook page, that our data is that which comes from the best scholarship in the field. This is in fact the position of evangelical scholars themselves! Go listen to any of them! I have had several show up on my podcast and they’re very often talking about scholarship. If you read their books, just note the bibliographies and how much scholarship they interact with.

Hardman goes on to say the same about a young-earther with a PH.D. who chose to commit himself to the Bible instead of The Origin of Species.

Hardman says

“The problem, as you are probably suspecting, is this: When we caricature Christianity by such narrow boundaries, we run the risk of making Christianity anti-intellectual. Even more dangerous, however, is that when we promote views like these in the vein of “apologetics” and “Christian intellectualism” we run the risk of making our intellectual Christianity anti-intellectual.”

The sad aspect here is that it looks like Hardman is just as guilty of this caricature. This could be disputed, but unfortunately no evangelical scholars are cited to show that this is the position of evangelical scholarship. How can evangelical scholarship view it inimical to interact with scholarship when it itself interacts with scholarship?

In conclusion, as I finish Hardman’s case, I wonder where he has been. Here he is wanting to say “We shouldn’t be marrying Christianity to doctrine X” when so many evangelicals beforehand have been saying the exact same thing. This is not new.

Note also that as pointed out, there is a lack of interaction with evangelical scholarship. It is quite interesting to hear the evangelical community being told its doing something wrong and yet where do we see the data? What scholars are being cited?

I conclude the problem is not apologetics once again. It is us. It is part in fact of an American mindset approaching the text. It is a fundamentalism that got a grip of our culture and unfortunately we’ve let it maintain its grip, and this mindset is held by atheists and Christians a lot. (Note that Craig Evans describes Ehrman as being on a flight from fundamentalism.)

The solution is really moderation in all things. Apologetics is not the problem. Pride can exist in any field whatsoever. You could have the lowliest job on the planet and still have to struggle with pride. The problem is the people that are involved and the way that we are training our youth today. (In fact, I have a good friend who went to a highly fundamentalist Bible College and is now having to rethink and unthink so much of what he “learned.” I’ve been fortunate to be able to help him, but I also wonder what if he knew of no one who had wrestled with these questions before?)

I can’t help but think about the 1 Timothy 3 admonition about requirements for leadership.

No doubt, the same should apply to the apologetics community.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Four Views on the Historical Adam

March 5, 2014

What did I think of this counterpoints book? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

A friend sent me this wanting to see what I thought of it. He also figured I’d eat it up since I am a major fan of the work of John Walton. In that case, he is entirely correct and it’s not a shock that in my eyes, Walton did indeed deliver.

I will say also that at this point, I do believe the case for a historical Adam is far stronger than the case against. At the same time, I am not ready to make the belief in the existence of Adam a point of salvation. Salvation is based on belief in the death and resurrection of Jesus. It is not based on belief in Adam.

The one essay in the book that argued against a historical Adam, that of Denis Lamoureux’s, also contained a wonderful story about his coming to Christ and it’s apparent throughout the work that he has a great love for Jesus Christ and a high regard for Scripture.

In reviewing this book, I’d like to look at in order the essays that I found most persuasive and why.

It is not a shock that I found Walton’s to be the most persuasive. Since reading The Lost World of Genesis One, I have been amazed by Walton and that book has forever shaped the way I read Genesis. Naturally, I have a great admiration as well for the book he co-wrote with Brent Sandy called The Lost World of Scripture.

Walton argues that Adam is the archetype of humanity. The text does not say anything about if Adam was the first human or if he was the only one at the time before Eve was created, but it does argue that he is the one who is the representative of us all. Walton also argues that the text says nothing about the material origins of man but rather a statement such as being dust refers to our mortality. He also argues that God did not really perform divine surgery but that the text is written in a way to show that Adam realized Eve was of the same nature as he was and was meant to be his helpmate.

The argument is impressive, but I would like to have seen some other points. For instance, I would have liked to have seen more about his view of the Garden of Eden itself, though I realize that that was not the scope of the book, it would have helped explain the relation between Adam and Eve more in their historical context. Also, the biggest pushback in the counter essays to Walton was on his view of the firmament in day two and this wasn’t really addressed. I know his view has become more nuanced since The Lost World of Genesis One was published and I would have liked to have seen more on that.

The second essay I found most persuasive was that of C. John Collins. Collins comes from an old-earth perspective more along to the lines of what one might see from Reasons To Believe. I found Walton did make a case for how his view would fit consistently.

Yet at the same time, I wondered about some aspects of his essay. Did he really make a case for reading Genesis as he suggested to refute the young-earth position, especially since one scholar in the book is a young-earth creationist? I did not see that presented enough. I also did find his essay contained more concordism than I would have liked.

The next on the list is Denis O. Lamoureux who argued that Adam did not exist. I found it amazing to see that Lamoureux did hold to a high view of Scripture in fact proclaiming his belief that it was inerrant. His case was a fascinating one for no Adam and he did seek to bring into play the NT evidence as well.

Yet I found myself wondering if this was really necessary. The genealogies and other such arguments do lead me to the position of a historical Adam. I do not see how Lamoureux’s position does in fact explain the origin of sin in the world and the problem of evil. Still, it is worth seeing what that side has to say.

The least convincing to me was that of William D. Barrick who argued for a young-earth and a historical Adam. It is not because I hold a disdain for YECs. My ministry partner is a YEC. My wife is a YEC. I do have a problem with dogmatic YECs however, and that includes someone dogmatic in most any secondary position. I would have just as much a problem with a dogmatic OEC.

Barrick too often was pointing to Inerrancy and seeing Scripture as the Word of God as support of His position and agreeing with what God has said. Now naturally, every Christian should want to agree with what God has said, but your interpretation might not be what God has said. This is built on the idea sadly that the Bible was written for the context of a modern American audience. I do not see this.

I have also seen firsthand the damage that is done by assuming that if you believe in Inerrancy, then you must believe in a certain interpretation of Scripture. I would not argue against a Jehovah’s Witness, for instance, that he denies Inerrancy, even though he denies essential tenets of the Christian faith. I would argue against his interpretation. Inerrancy says nothing about what the content of Scripture specifically is. It only says that whatever the content is, that when Scripture affirms something, it affirms it truly.

Also, Barrick did not make any arguments for a young Earth that I saw from a scientific perspective. Now he might discount this as man’s reason and such, but I would have liked to have seen something. I do not think these arguments work since I am not YEC, but I still would have liked to have seen them.

After all, if we are going to just simply say “We don’t need man’s reason” then my reply to that is “Then I do not need to read Barrick.” I do not need to go to his seminary and sit in his class and learn from him. I do not need to go to a church service and hear a pastor speak. I have everything I need with just myself.

Yet I will not be the one who thinks that the Holy Spirit has only guided me into truth and everyone else is just ignorant.

Sadly in many ways, it comes across as just a self-righteous and holier than thou approach to argumentation. I do not think that that is at all conducive to good debate and discussion and while of course the case of Scripture is supreme, there is no harm in looking at extra-Biblical sources. The Bible was not written in a vacuum and we dare not proclaim there is a cleft between the book of Scripture and the book of nature.

The book ends with essays by Greg Boyd and Philip Ryken with Boyd arguing that Adam is not an essential to the faith and Ryken saying that if we don’t have a historical Adam, then Christianity is seriously undermined.

Frankly, I see Ryken’s argument as a kind of paranoia in Christians that if you take this one step, then everything goes down from there. I do not see the argument that if there is no Adam, there is no original sin and thus no need of a savior. If I need to see original sin, I just need to turn on the evening news and see that there is a need for a savior. If I want to see if Christianity is true, I look and see if Jesus is risen. I find it bizarre to think that we could say “Yeah. Jesus came and died and rose from the dead, but Adam didn’t exist so Christianity is false.” I can’t help but think of what G.K. Chesterton said in Orthodoxy:

“If it be true (as it certainly is) that a man can feel exquisite happiness in skinning a cat, then the religious philosopher can only draw one of two deductions. He must either deny the existence of God, as all atheists do; or he must deny the present union between God and man, as all Christians do. The new theologians seem to think it a highly rationalistic solution to deny the cat.”

I highly recommend this volume as an important work on an important question. While I do not think this is a salvation question, I do think this is an important one and one worth discussing.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Clarification On Discussing Evolution

February 10, 2014

Is Evolution an important question to discuss? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

My post on the Ham/Nye debate has been getting a lot of attention and it’s been getting a lot of questions, which is understandable! A number of people have wondered about my position and asked if I really think the question of evolution is unimportant.

Yes and no.

Suppose you want to know if Christianity is true. All you need answered is one question. Did God raise Jesus from the dead? If that is true, then Christianity is true and Jesus is the King of this world. If that is not true, then Christianity is not true and you can move on.

How do you establish the resurrection question? You do a historiographical study of the evidence that we have such as found in the NT and in the surrounding culture of the time and other writings outside of the NT. You find the explanation that best explains the data.

Do you need Inerrancy to do this? No. Inerrancy is an important topic, but if there was an error in Scripture, it would not mean Jesus did not rise. The Bible is not an all-or-nothing game and it would be ridiculous to treat it as if it was.

So let’s make a hypothetical situation here. Let’s suppose for the sake of argument, and I do not believe this at all, that the first two chapters of Genesis are in error. Does that mean the whole NT is untrustworthy? No. It does not. It just means we need to change our doctrines of inspiration and Inerrancy. Note I am taking a scenario that is unfavorable towards us intentionally and using it to show that the central truth can still stand.

So in that case, I again repeat, if you want to know if Christianity is true, you don’t need to answer the question of evolution. If evolution is wrong, I would rather someone come to Christ with a belief in evolution, than to avoid Christ while having a true belief that evolution is wrong. I am more interested in getting people to Christ and removing as many hurdles from them as I can. I don’t want them to think they have to overcome a hurdle with evolution. Just show them what alone is essential.

So then, is the question of evolution important? Yes. But this is in a scientific sense.

The Bible is a book of history. I do not believe it is a book of science nor is it intended to be. This is not to fault the Bible or science. It is simply to admit the Bible is interested in teaching us God’s activity in the history of the universe and is not interested in telling us how the planets in our solar system move. It is also not interested in telling us how to do math, how to paint a masterpiece, or how to get in shape, even though there is nothing wrong with any of these and many are important.

Of course, I say this realizing the Bible contains other aspects such as moral teaching and Wisdom, but these are not to be separated from its history. The history is central to the text and the moral teachings are an outworking of that history.

As I said, the view I take on the matter is that of John Walton. You can hear my interview with him here. In this view, the creation account as it were is not a scientific account but is a functional account. You can have literal 24-hour days where God gives the orders on how everything is to behave and still have billions of years of Earth history prior.

What does this say then about how God created? Nothing. Not one thing. God could use fiat creation in Genesis 1 and 2 and Walton’s view is safe. God could also use evolutionary processes and Walton’s view is safe. Now where do you go to determine which view is accurate? You go to the sciences.

Evolution is a scientific question and if it is to fall, and I care not if it succeeds or falls, then it will fall scientifically. Right now, it is the leading naturalistic theory. There is no denying that. That does not mean it is true, but it means it is a serious contender.

So why do I not speak on if evolution is true or not? Simple. I am not a scientist. I do not possess the knowledge in the field. If I was up against a scientist and had to discuss it as science, I would not stand a chance whatsoever. I could not critique evolution from a scientific perspective. I could not defend it from a scientific perspective.

And I’m fine with that.

Too often in the apologetics field, someone can think they have to master everything and have an answer for everything. You don’t. It’s okay to say you don’t know some matters. Many of us have seen the atheists who think they are such experts on history and philosophy and really, they are just embarrassing themselves. Unfortunately, too many Christians when they speak without knowledge on scientific matters are also embarrassing themselves and this only presents a barrier to those atheists who are skilled in the sciences that will keep them from entering the Kingdom. It will give them the impression that Christians just believe what they are told without thinking about it. (Like we do when we see atheists quote “The God Delusion” as an authority.)

Now if you want to critique evolution, then have at it! Go for it! Just make sure that it is a scientific critique and not a Bible critique. The last thing we need is to have this be the case of science vs. the Bible. As soon as we put that to the world, guess which one they will go with.

Also, we must be clear on evolution. I am fine with anything that can be established scientifically as I believe fully that God wrote two books, Scripture and nature, and all truth is God’s truth. If something can be shown through science, then we should accept it.

So could it possibly be shown through science that mankind evolved through a long process of time? Sure. The process could be possibly shown scientifically. Could it be demonstrated that there is no God behind the process whatsoever? No. That is then philosophy and not science. In the same way, I do not think we could use science to PROVE that there is a deity. I think we could establish probabilities either way, but hard proof relies on metaphysics.

This is one reason I hesitate with Intelligent Design. If one takes Intelligent Design to mean do you believe there is a designer behind the universe, where every Christian would be an IDer, but it depends on what kind of universe. What I see most in the ID field is concern about the mechanism which makes God more of an engineer.

The mistake we often make is thinking that if evolution is shown to be true, God is out of a job. Atheists and Christians BOTH make this mistake. This is a concept that I do not think does justice to the Biblical concept of God. For instance, in Colossians 1, we are told that God by His power sustains the universe. The same is said in Hebrews 1.

It is not the case that the universe can just exist on its own. What is holding it in existence? What is sustaining it. Evolution does not answer the question of existence, the most important question to answer.

What this means for me is I can go to someone like Richard Dawkins and say “I will grant you anything about evolution you can show scientifically. Now what is your argument against theism?” If he wants to establish an eternal universe, fine. We’ll do it! If he wants to establish an eternal multiverse, well he can knock himself out! We’ll do it! None of those answer the question of existence itself as you need to explain not just the existence of the universe, how it came about, but the existing of the universe, how it is today.

If someone wants to go out and argue against evolution, I say let them. Just make sure the case is scientific. If evolution will fall, it will fall because it is bad science and the God who gave us Scripture is the one who gave us science as well. Bad science can be shown scientifically. Maybe it cannot be shown right now. Maybe it can be. I don’t know. I just know that I won’t comment on it because it is not my field and the truth of Christianity does not depend on it.

I am an active defender of the new creation beginning in Christ. I am anxiously awaiting its full fruition. My salvation does not lie in Genesis. My salvation lies in Easter Sunday.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

The Ham/Nye Debate: Why I Don’t Care

February 7, 2014

So why did I not even bother watching the big debate? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Awhile back, I first heard the news about how Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis was going to debate Bill Nye, the Science Guy. I had great frustration as soon as I heard about the debate. On Facebook after the debate, someone in apologetics I know posted asking who won. My pick obviously didn’t win, and that was the meteor shower that should have come through and knocked the satellites broadcasting it out of the sky or else the winter snowstorm that could have cancelled the whole event. I replied that I don’t know who won, but I’m sure the loser was everyone on the planet.

Yet a few people did ask me what I thought about it and wasn’t I excited about this debate. Therefore, I figured I’d write something so that those who want to know my opinion on the whole matter could see what it is and why that I hold it.

As readers know, I am an old-earth creationist. I do not hold hostility towards YEC. My ministry partner is a YEC. More importantly, my wife is a YEC. What I have a problem with is a dogmatic YEC. I in fact have just as much a problem with a dogmatic OEC. Someone is not more or less of a Christian because of their views on the age of the Earth. There are people who love Jesus more than I do who are YEC. There are people who love him more than I do who are OEC.

Having said that, part of the problem those of us who are OEC have to overcome is constantly having it be assumed that if we’re Christians, then that means that we believe in a young Earth and we don’t. Too often, YEC is presented as the biblical model. As readers know, I happen to think John Walton has the right model. My review of his book on the topic can be found here and my interview with him can be found here.

I also have another viewpoint that can be considered different from a number of Christians and that is that I do not consider the question of evolution important to Christian truth. That does not mean the question is unimportant in itself, but if you want to know if Christianity is true or not, you do not need to ask if evolution is true or not. Now if matter is all there is, then of course Christianity is not true, but because evolution is true, it does not necessitate that matter is all that there is.

In my own work, I refuse to speak on evolution as evolution and my reasoning for doing such is quite simple. I am no scientist. If evolution is to be critiqued, I believe it should be critiqued scientifically. I do not possess the necessary study and/or credentials to do that. If I fault the new atheists for speaking on philosophy, history, biblical studies, etc. without proper background and/or study, then I will follow the same pattern.

For those who do wish to critique evolution, there is no reason to bring Scripture into it. The claim of evolution is a scientific claim and if it falls, it will fall on a scientific basis. I have no problem with people critiquing evolution. I hold no position on the matter simply because I could not scientifically defend or deny evolutionary theory. It is the same reason I do not use Craig’s Kalam argument for the origin of the universe. I am not a scientist and it is not my language. I will stick to the metaphysical arguments instead.

So when I see the Ham/Nye debate, I see the perpetuating of a stereotype that I do not want perpetuated. I see it being made as again, science vs. the Bible and if you hold to the Bible, well you have to hold to a young-earth.

When we are trying to get people to become Christians, our goal should not be to get them to a viewpoint on the origins of old creation but rather on new creation. We want to get them to the risen Jesus and not to a 10,000 year old Earth. Suppose that someone believes in evolutionary theory and a 4.5. billion year old Earth, but also believes Jesus is the risen Lord. Such a person is in the Kingdom. No doubt about it.

Now on the other hand, suppose there is someone, perhaps a Jew, who will stand with Ken Ham and say that the Earth is indeed 10,000 years old and macroevolutionary theory is a fairy tale. Suppose also that this person being a Jew and not Messianic denies that Jesus is the risen Lord. Such a person is not in the Kingdom. No doubt about it.

So which one should we be emphasizing and getting people to realize the most? The age of the Earth and a stance on evolution, or should it be that we are getting them to recognize that Jesus is the risen Lord?

What we do too often is tell atheists that if you want to be a Christian, then you must deny what you are certain of by the sciences. What we also do is tell Christians that if you want to be a follower of Christ, you must believe that the Earth is 10,000 years old. Both positions I am sure will keep people away from the Kingdom.

It is my hope not that Christians will embrace evolution as I do not care about that, but that they will realize that it doesn’t matter and the ultimate hope is to realize that Jesus is the risen Lord of the universe. If you are someone who is capable of presenting every argument you can for the Earth being young, but you are unable to make an argument that Jesus is the risen Lord, then you have made a mistake somewhere along the way.

It is because it feeds a debate then that I do not support in any way that I refused to watch the Ham/Nye debate and so far, no one has given me any reason why I should.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Sense and Goodness Without God Part 7

December 20, 2013

How is it that we got here? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

We’re continuing our look again into Carrier’s book (Henceforth abbreviated SGWG), but I’m almost done with another book I’m reading so expect that there could be a review of that next week and then surely some sort of post on Christmas Eve. This review will overall be completed. There are a lot of arguments I want to get to.

Now this chapter we’re going to be talking largely about evolution. I’ll be upfront and state my opinion on evolution.

I don’t care.

Really. That’s it. I’m not a scientist so the question doesn’t make much difference to me. It doesn’t affect my interpretation of Genesis since I go with a John Walton view. I know there are arguments that are put forward by scientists and they are highly persuasive. On the other hand, I know there are still hard questions for the theory in particular circumstances.

That last part does not mean the theory is false. Every view that is true has hard questions with it. That does not surprise me. What I wish to stress however is that I am not a scientist so I cannot answer the question either way. If I said “The evidence supports evolution”, I could not name you that evidence. I could not defend it either. If I said “The evidence does not support evolution”, I could not name you that evidence and I could not defend it. I’m fine with that.

If I woke up tomorrow and saw the headlines “Even the SBC now has admitted that Macroevolution is a fact” I would simply go about my day. It really wouldn’t matter. On the other hand, if I saw “Scientists admit macroevolutionary theory false”, I would have the same reaction.

So when we get to the science as science, I will not be saying anything. I have long said that people like Richard Dawkins and others who do not understand biblical studies should not be commenting on them as if they are authorities. I plan to follow my own advice.

So right at the start, Carrier tells us that “The universe is so vast, it was inevitable that something like us would be one of its byproducts somewhere.”

Really?

Why should I think this? Really?

On the one hand, Carrier has argued about what a waste this universe is and all the empty space and even how dangerous it is, and then on this side, he’s telling us that surely we would show up somewhere. If this universe is the way he says it is elsewhere, I would think we wouldn’t show up somewhere. We’d have no chance. Is the universe friendly to life or is it not? I can’t tell you which it is, but I can tell you it’s not both.

Besides, this kind of approach would mean you could justify anything ultimately. “Well guys, I know I got a perfect hand in that game of Bridge, but you know, in a universe so vast, it was inevitable. Guess I just got to be the lucky one.”

In fact, Carrier tells us that if conscious beings can exist once in a million galaxies, there would be thousands of such civilizations in the universe.

Now there could be life out there of course, but we have no evidence of it. It’s hard to start talking about probabilities in that case. Saying if they could doesn’t even mean that they do and again, what kind of universe do we live in?

So as we go on, we find in the final paragraph on page 165, the reasoning found here. I will be paraphrasing.

Simple life stands a good a chance of being all over a galaxy like ours.
Galaxies have billions of stars.
This means millions of star systems.
Even life arising in one in one million such systems means thousands of planets in our galaxy alone have life.
Sentient life is rare and improbable, but the universe is that amazingly old and big.
Amazingly improbable things are sure to happen all the time.
Therefore, we are a natural product.

The end conclusion does not follow. Neither does the next one.

A divine engineer would have no reason to make a trillion useless galaxies just for us.

Let’s look at the first case. It’s simply speculation built on speculation. Thousands of planets in our galaxy have life? We don’t know of a single one that does other than our own. Why should we build a foundation on a speculation that we have no evidence for and plenty of evidence against?

Furthermore, if amazingly improbable things are sure to happen all the time, then it would seem we also have a case for a miracle. Why not believe someone was suddenly healed of a disease like cancer or blindness or even raised from the dead? Amazingly improbable things happen ALL THE TIME!

How also does it follow we are a natural product? I can’t help but notice how Lewis said the atheist stacks the deck with cosmological questions like this. If there is life everywhere in the universe, well see, life isn’t so special. You don’t need a creator for that. If there is life only one place in the universe, well see, the creator would not make a waste like that!

So if life is everywhere, there is no God.
If life is only in one place, there is no God.

Heads they win. Tails we lose.

The problem is this is built on knowledge we do not have access to. Carrier tells us a divine engineer would have no reason. Really? How does he know this? Can he demonstrate. The most he can say is “I can think of no such reason.” Well perhaps you can’t. Perhaps I can’t. So what? That means there is no such reason?

As we move on, Carrier tells us that we should suspect metaphysical naturalism. Why? First off, natural explanations have turned out to be true for everything so far without exception.

Except for those questions that have not been answered and those questions that don’t fit into the worldview. So and so was suddenly healed of blindness? Well there has to be a natural explanation because we know miracles can’t happen. Therefore, the natural explanation is true. Jesus rose from the dead? There can’t be a miraculous explanation, therefore there has to be a natural one. The existence of existence? Existence must somehow be a natural phenomenon.

It doesn’t surprise me that there are many so-called natural explanations for what we see out there. Nor should it surprise any Christian. Yet if you say “Natural explanations are the only explanations that count”, don’t be surprised if everything becomes explained with such explanations and everything that doesn’t fit is “explained away.” I only would like to see the natural explanations for events like the life and resurrection of Jesus and the existence of existence itself.

Carrier on page 167 starts a paragraph talking about chemicals coming together to form proteins and it is more than reasonable to conclude that these all came together on a spot like Earth and certainly at least one will produce a protein that can reproduce itself. Most important is how he begins this paragraph. “Consequently, though we lack access to the facts we need in order to know just what happened on Earth four billion years ago….”

Let us not let a little thing like not knowing the facts keep us from making claims on a grand scale.

I only look at the paragraph and think “Why is this reasonable? Because this fits in with naturalism and naturalism alone is reasonable?” I am given no reason to think such and I certainly do not think it reasonable to make a conclusion when we do not have access to the facts.

But friends, the best is yet to come.

Years ago, I heard Richard Dawkins speak at Queens university in Charlotte and he was asked what the worst theistic argument he had ever come across was. He replied that it was the banana argument of Ray Comfort.

I have to agree.

And as I shared this upcoming argument with a friend of mine, he told me “We have found the banana argument of atheism.”

Yes. This is Carrier’s argument starting on page 171. I am quoting it in full so that you can look it up and see that, yes, he does make this argument.

“For example, nipples on men serve no function whatever, but are the inevitable byproduct of a procedure for developing men differently from women that is imperfectly carried out. Evolution explains why, in contrast, female breasts do not need to be large, or prominent at all—as instruments for nursing, small breasts are just as effective, while large breasts create increased strain on a woman’s back and increased risk of injury and lethal malfunctions like cancer.

The only physiological reason for large breasts is the same as for other insufficient methods of sexual competition, from the peacock’s feathers to the baboon’s inflamed butt: their size serves to compete with other women in attracting men. Otherwise, they are a liability, and a needless waste of energy–although, in the rude way nature works, that is their point; to advertise to men “Hey, this woman is so healthy she can waste energy on these risky things, aren’t they pretty?” What possible use such an insufficient tactic would have in the hands of an intelligent engineer is hard to fathom–especially an engineer whose only purported purpose for sex was procreation, not lust or entertainment. Wouldn’t making men attracted to, say, intelligence, or beautiful eyes, have been enough—even better—without all the danger and headache?” (p. 171-172 Italics his.)

Yes people. It really is in there. If you don’t think so, go and look yourself.

Let’s start with something in there. The only purported purpose of sex is procreation?

There’s this book in my Bible called Song of Songs. I don’t see them talking about making babies in that one. I see them talking about raw passion for one another. Christians do see making babies as A purpose of sex, but not the only purpose. Even the staunchest Catholic who is the most opposed to any contraception would not say making babies is the only purpose of sex.

Now of course, we do say there are misuses of sex, but one great purpose is to unite the husband and wife in a bond of love. It’s not an accident that lovemaking carries with it great emotional passion and great expressions of love come out at that time. Sex as intended drives a husband and wife together. It drives the man to love the wife as Christ loved the church and it drives the woman to learn to open herself up to the man and to trust him.

I wonder where on Earth the idea came to Carrier that God intended it only for procreation. I don’t see that at all in Scripture. (Of course, some church fathers held to such a view, but you will not find it today. Perhaps Carrier should read some books on sexuality written by Christian counselors.)

But now, let’s look at the claim itself.

First, I would really like to see Carrier walk into a place like a bar and start sharing this kind of view.

“Well gentlemen, I want to talk to you about why you should be atheists and think that there is no God. For instance, look at that woman over there with really big breasts. Do you think a loving God would allow her to waste her energy on those? No. He would make them only fit the job they’re meant to do and make you more attracted to other aspects of her.”

I strongly suspect most men in the audience are looking at the woman and thinking instead they see a darn good reason to believe God does exist.

It is incredible to fathom that someone could write those pages in a book and think that that is making an argument in favor of atheism.

Of course, there is no doubt many men find such attractive. Yet how is this supposed to show a problem with the way God made women? Could not God have made women that way to attract a mate? Contrary also to Carrier, men are attracted to other aspects as well such as eyes and intelligence.

I strongly suspect we’re seeing more a kind of fundamentalism Carrier encountered that he has imbibed himself rather than any real biblical position he’s interacting with.

And the scary thing is this isn’t even the worst argument in the book. That’s to come later.

When we return to this book again, we’ll be discussing the nature of reason.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Genesis One: The Lost World

June 20, 2013

What’s coming up on the Deeper Waters Podcast this Saturday? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

How old is the Earth? Is it 6-10,000 years old, or is it 4.5 billion years old? Most of us have decided the place to go to is Genesis 1 and this has been the battleground for the topic. Each side has been ready to cast out the other and charges of heresy fly around. (For all concerned, I am an OEC who has a ministry partner that is YEC and a wife that is YEC)

The underlying assumption for each side has been that this is what Genesis One is talking about. This Saturday, I will be interviewing a guest that says “No. Both sides have it wrong. Genesis One is not talking about that at all.” My guest is John Walton of Wheaton who wrote the book “The Lost World of Genesis One.”

Walton says that in our scientific mindset due to the enlightenment, we have had an emphasis on the material aspects of creation, but Walton says the ancients didn’t think that way. For them, something wasn’t truly said to exist until it was given a function, and thus the account of creation as we call it is not about the material creation, but the functional creation of the universe.

And what is the whole purpose of all of this? Walton tells us that the main goal of creation was to make a temple for which God would dwell in. The deity’s idol would often sit in the temple as well, which would be that which bore the deity’s image. This means that we are an integral part of the creation. We were made to serve in a temple that reflects the glory of God.

This thesis I find extremely fascinating. It fits in so well with the NT and the writings of N.T. Wright on God wanting to dwell with His people and on eventually the new heaven coming down to Earth. It also has the advantage of doing what I’ve said should be done for some time, getting to the way the ancients would have read the Bible and trying to move away from our modern presuppositions.

Yet this view is not without its critics. There are two especially we will be discussing. One is William Lane Craig who has made a number of statements with regards to Aristotlean philosophy. Has Walton committed a grave blunder in his reasoning? We will be asking him.

Another is Hugh Ross of Reasons To Believe. I do wish to state upfront that I do respect both Ross and Craig. I am a member of the local chapters of Reasons To Believe and Reasonable Faith, but I am of course allowed to disagree. Ross comes from another perspective.

Ross does believe the Bible contains scientific information in the account and defends a more concordist position. Ross is concerned about removing a scientific witness to the world from the Bible and what it means to tell modern man the Bible says nothing in regards to science. There are also concerns about Inerrancy that have come up. (Not that we’re unfamiliar with the code word of Inerrancy being used to drum up suspicion)

Chances are, you might have your own questions as well for Dr. Walton. If you do, I welcome them. The show time will be from 3-5 EST on June 22, 2013. Our call in number is 714-242-5180. I hope you’ll be listening in for an enjoyable episode of the Deeper Waters podcast.

The link to the show is available here.

In Christ,
Nick Peters