Genesis 1, Science, and Logical Conclusions

This week I learned of a college student at a large, local state university who told of a story about one of his professors. The student’s geology professor, on the first day of class. specifically took time to ridicule Genesis 1. What this has to do with teaching undergraduate geology is more than a bit questionable. Recent news reports included beheadings done in the name of Muhammad. I wonder what would happen if this geology professor went to a few select mideast countries and ridiculed the Quran on the first day of class. On second thought, I do not have to wonder.

But I do wonder whether this geology professor has taken the time to read Genesis 1, or any of the other 49 chapters of the book. Keep in mind that we live in an age where the leading scientists of our day tell us, with all seriousness, the absurd notion that absolute nothing can produce something, even everything (See here, and here, and here).  Meanwhile, Genesis 1 is getting a bit of a new evaluation that should lead us to a new respect for the old story.

The folks over at Six Day Science have stated “Genesis 1 makes at least twenty-six statements about the creation of the universe and the development of life on Earth that can be tested against current scientific understanding.” These items are not only tested against cosmology, chemistry, physics, and yes, geology, but are found accurate. You can find the explanations here and here.  Next, the folks over at Reasons To Believe have several resources on how science is compatible with Genesis (start here).

I am reminded of the introduction to logic course that a relative of mine took at a local public university. I saved their handouts and tests, and the examples used in class leaned heavily toward showing logical fallacies in conservative Christian positions. Some of the examples were straw man examples, but even if we considered the rest valid, the irony of such a class is blatant. The professor taught logic by using in-class examples that only showed fallacies in one viewpoint, a clear persuasion technique.

I am further reminded of the account of a Chinese scientist who was visiting the USA, doing a few lectures on particularly unusual fossils found in China. In the lectures and demonstration, the scientist questioned Darwinian evolution. One of the American scientists asked “Aren’t you afraid to question Darwin?” which hinted at a lack of academic freedom and pressure to toe the line on Darwinism. The response was telling: “In China, we can question Darwin, but not the government. In the US, you can question the government, but not Darwin.”

Respected scientist and researcher James Tour has said the following:

I do have scientific problems understanding macroevolution as it is usually presented. I simply can not accept it as unreservedly as many of my scientist colleagues do, although I sincerely respect them as scientists. Some of them seem to have little trouble embracing many of evolution’s proposals based upon (or in spite of) archeological, mathematical, biochemical and astrophysical suggestions and evidence, and yet few are experts in all of those areas, or even just two of them. Although most scientists leave few stones unturned in their quest to discern mechanisms before wholeheartedly accepting them, when it comes to the often gross extrapolations between observations and conclusions on macroevolution, scientists, it seems to me, permit unhealthy leeway. When hearing such extrapolations in the academy, when will we cry out, “The emperor has no clothes!”? (for the rest of this article, see here)

Here Tour touches on a subject that seems to me to be a significant issue within the modern scientific community. Any given area of science, even sub-sub areas of specialization, include so much published research that most scientists have trouble staying current in their own fields, yet alone being expert enough in other disciplines to understand the interdependent details of such a wide-ranging theory such as Darwinian evolution. (for more, see here)

In any case, it seems telling that a professor in a science class would spend time ridiculing a view that is not particularly relevant to the course. Such actions tell of motivations that are not based in education or a pursuit of truth, but are grounded in an emotional dislike for the viewpoint.

 

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Does Dispensationalism Teach Two Modes of Salvation?

I periodically hear from Christian circles the accusation that dispensationalism teaches two modes of salvation, one for Israel and another for gentiles and the church. Dispensationalism is a way of viewing theology, and can be contrasted with a few other systems which differ on how to view God’s overall way of dealing with people over time.

Although I am no longer, I was a member of two dispensational churches, totaling about 18 years. During that time, I did not once hear taught the doctrine that there are two salvations. While I’m sure there may be some individual dispensationalists who believe this, I found the idea of two methods of salvation to be rather shocking, and if true, would likely qualify as heresy.

Lewis Sperry Chafer founded Dallas Theological Seminary in 1924, and published his Systematic Theology in 1952. DTS is one of the largest seminaries in the world, and the largest one that teaches dispensationalism, graduating somewhere around 600 to 800 people a year, going back some 70 years or so. Although I believe it does no longer, in the past Chafer’s Systemaic Theology was taught at DTS for many decades. If anywhere there was a “mainstream” teaching of dispensationalism, it would be here. Chafer systematized the teachings of his mentor, C. I. Scofield, who published the widely-influential Scofield Reference Bible, first published in 1909. I would estimate that DTS has graduated about 20,000 pastors in past decades, and is therefore the largest source of dispensational teaching by a wide margin. So here are some quotes from Chafer’s Systematic Theology:

“the individual Jew is now divinely reckoned to be as much in need of salvation as the individual Gentile (Rom. 3:9). These facts, related as they are to the present age-purpose—the calling out of the Church from both Jews and Gentiles alike (Eph. 3:6)—have no bearing upon the divine purpose for the coming kingdom age when, according to covenant promise, Israel will be saved and dwell safely in her own land (Deut. 30:3–6; Jer. 28:5–6; 33:15–17).”
(Vol. 3, Page 105.)

“it is also as clearly stated that no blood could ever avail for any remission of sin other than the blood of Christ. We conclude, therefore, that the nation Israel will yet be saved and her sins removed forever through the blood of Christ.”
(Vol. 3, Page 107.)

“God is righteously free to act in behalf of sinners only on the ground of the fact that the Lamb of God has taken away their sins. A major objective in the death of Christ is, therefore, the national salvation of Israel.”
(Vol. 3, Page 108.)

“National election, too often confused with individual election (note the Apostle’s warning to the nation Israel on this point as recorded in Rom. 9:4–13), anticipates no more than the ultimate blessing of Israel as a nation and their national preservation unto that end. Ahab and Jezebel along with Abraham and Sarah, were partakers alike in Israel’s national election. However, a judgment day for Israel is predicted when multitudes will be rejected (Ezek. 20:33–44; Dan. 12:1–3). There is, nonetheless, a recognition in the Bible of a spiritual remnant in all Israel’s generations; but that spiritual group shared no additional covenants, their distinction being due to their willingness to be more faithful to those relations to Jehovah which were the privileges extended to all in Israel. The remnant out of Israel in this age is “a remnant according to the election of grace” (Rom. 11:5), and is composed of those who are saved by faith in Christ, and therefore partake of the heavenly calling which pertains to the Church. It is not until a Deliverer comes out of Zion that all Israel will be saved (Rom. 11:27), and that salvation will not only be unto the realization of all their national, earthly covenants, but also unto the taking away of their sins (cf. Jer. 31:34). In the present time, as above stated, only a remnant out of Israel are being saved as individuals, which is according to the divine election in grace and unto the heavenly glory of the Church.”
(Vol. 3, Page 189-190.)

“The receiving of eternal life will be for Israelites, as it is in the case of the Christian, a feature of salvation itself; and salvation for Israel is, in Romans 11:26–32, declared to be after the present age-purpose of the fullness of the Gentiles which is now accompanied by Israel’s blindness (verse 25), and at the time when “there shall come out of Zion the Deliverer,” who shall “turn away ungodliness from Jacob.” “This,” Jehovah says, “is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.” Isaiah anticipates the same great moment of Israel’s salvation when he predicts that a nation shall be born “at once.””
(Vol. 4, Page 26.)

“There is great force added to the whole program of Israel’s regathering, repentance, restoration, salvation, and realization of her covenants, when, by the proper elimination of the present age, these are seen to follow directly upon the rejection of their King.”
(Vol. 4, Page 321-322.)

Again, these quotes are from what could be called the most influential dispensational teacher of the last 100 years. Another influential dispensationalist is Norman Geisler, who in his Systematic Theology also affirms one salvation for all. I therefore maintain that this is mainstream dispensationalism, not the extreme views that are sometime painted as dispensational, or views possibly held by individuals.

Putting together the quotes above, Chafer is saying that in the future, most of the nation of Israel will repent at once, believe in Christ, and be saved by Jesus’ blood. The last quote specifically mentions repentance. Therefore, while I admit there may be some that call themselves dispensational that would hold to two salvations, this does not represent the bulk of dispensational teachings in the last 70 years. Two salvations was never taught by Chafer.

As far as mainstream dispensationalism teaching that there are two salvations, one for Israel and one for the church, it is simply not true. It teaches, and has always taught, that as far as individual salvation goes, all are one in Christ Jesus.

As a Christian who was a member of two dispensationalist churches for 18 years and earned a seminary degree from a dispensationalist seminary (SES), I affirm that I have never heard a dispensationalist pastor or Bible teacher hold to two salvations. Chafer taught that Israel had a national election separate from the individual Jew, but this is another matter (see below). Israel must repent and believe in Jesus just as gentiles, which was taught to at least 20,000 dispensational pastors over the last 70 years.

So far, I’ve seen no direct quotes from any dispenationalist theology text that says any different. I’ve seen non-dispensationalists giving accusations, but not a word of citation from a noted dispensationalist. Perhaps they are there and I have missed them; if so, I would be interested in any primary source quote from a dispensational theology text that says Israel is saved by some other means other than faith in Christ. I’ve found none.

Perhaps the confusion is created by dispensationalists’ teachings about the covenants and kingdom roles of Israel and the church.  Norman Geisler has explained the difference between Traditional Dispensationalism (Darby, Scofield, Chafer), Revised Dispensationalism (Walvoord, Ryrie), and Progressive Dispensationalism (Blaising, Bock):

 [Traditional Dispensationalism] holds that the Old Testament covenants known as the Abrahamic, the Davidic, and the new were made strictly with the nation of Israel and its literal descendants and will be literally fulfilled in them. This involved the belief that there were two new covenants, one for Israel (yet to be fulfilled) and one for the church (presently being fulfilled). Further, Israel and the church forms two separate peoples of God, one earthly and the other heavenly. Hence, they will have two destinies, one in heaven for the church and one on earth for Israel.

 Revised dispensationalism . . . affirms that there is yet a literal national fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant to Israel. However, it holds that there is only one new covenant , which, while having a later literal fulfillment in national Israel, has a present application to the church. Most revised dispensationalists hold . . . all are part of one overall people of God who share in spiritual redemption wrought by Christ.

 [Progressive dispensationalists] insist that there is a present inaugural fulfillment in the church. Thus, they maintain that fulfillment of the Davidic covenant began at Christ’s ascension to God’s right hand and will later come to earth at the Second Coming. Like covenant theologians, they both stress the view that there is one people of god . . . (Geisler, Systematic Theology, vol 4, 499-500)

As we can see from this comparison, the emphasis here is on eschatological fulfillment of covenants, not on salvation. The issue is whether or not Christ’s kingdom is written on hearts or physically on the earth in the latter days, or whether the earthly kingdom is only ethnic Jews or many nations. We should all approach this with a bit of caution, for it is difficult to properly mesh Jeremiah 31, the book of Hebrews, and Jesus’ upper room statements about the new covenant. But we can be sure of this: all mainstream dispensationalists teach one salvation, by repentance and faith in Jesus.

Geisler does include a critique of some ultradispensationalists (Baker, Bullinger, O’Hair), but the issues in question are not salvation (see vol. 4, 680ff).

 

 

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Questions of the Mind Applied to the Kalam Argument

I recently saw a person in an online philosophy discussion pose the question “Can we prove that logic applies to reality?” Such are questions that give philosophers a bad name amongst non-philosophers who view topics like this as worse than the flat earth society and alien abductions, and dismiss them as musings of rich college students with not enough to do. Perhaps they are correct. Others, such as postmodernists, new agers, and pantheists readily embrace the non-logic of the entire universe, and are ready to give us a logical argument why this is so.

Let us put the question before us: Can we prove that logic applies to reality?

This question asks us to accept the premise that we are trying to start with a question in our mind and get to reality. The questions starts with a pure idea, namely the question of whether we can prove that logic applies to reality, and tries to apply this pure idea it to reality.  We cannot do this, however. If we start with a mental problem separated from reality, we will always have a mental problem and will not be able to get to the real world. If we start only in the mind, we will end up there. Further, with the question at hand, it is impossible to prove the contradictory, that logic does not apply to reality. So the question puts the burden of proof onto us, and it is impossible to prove, for we merely have a mental problem separated from reality. We might as well be asking, “Can we apply the concept of four to reality, before we apply it to reality?” Any supposed demonstration that logic applies to reality has to use reality to prove it,  which is the question in the first place, so any response will be circular and invalid.

If we start with pure mental problems, we will be forever locked in our minds. To make conclusions about what is real, we must start with reality and derive meaning, not the other way around. If we start with thought problems and try to get to reality, we will fail and forever be locked in our minds.

A similar question is sometimes applied to some of the proofs for the existence of God. The Kalam Cosmological Argument is as follows:

1. Everything that has a beginning has a cause.
2. The universe had a beginning.
3. Therefore the universe had a cause.

I have had some atheists object to the first premise on the grounds that we cannot prove the premise applies to reality. The objection, as posed by some atheists, goes something like this: Can you prove that everything that has a beginning needs a cause? I think you might be inventing the idea and applying it to the world. Can you prove to me that causality applies to reality? If you cannot prove it, it is an unsupported premise.

The first premise is built upon the law of causality that says that every effect requires a cause. By definition, an effect is something that is caused, and a cause is something that produces an effect. We cannot get away from these basic definitions without either redefining what we are talking about or going into absurdity.

Well, if we view the law of causality as a mental concept separated from reality, then we have by definition done just that: separated it from reality. In such a case, the atheist’s question has started with a mental problem and will always remain there. Such might be an interesting mental puzzle, but the atheist has paid a high price for his skepticism. He has forever locked himself into his mind and cannot draw conclusions in the real world. I suspect he does not use this degree of skepticism with more mundane things like his dealings with the bank teller or the IRS auditor, but only when we are talking about a God that applies moral standards to one’s life.

But if we accept that a real world exists and derive our premise from it, then premise 1 is perfectly valid. We start from the real world and draw from it both premise 1 and the law of causality that is behind it. Premise 1 of the Kalam Argument is not proved by starting with pure mental questions and trying to apply them to reality, for no question on any topic can make this leap. Rather, premise 1 is derived by accepting that the real world exists and we can know things about it.

Further, it does no good to deny premise 1 by using induction, namely, by saying that we have not observed every event, therefore we cannot know that every event requires a cause. First, the contradictory is impossible to prove, namely that there are some events that do not have causes. Second, an event is by definition something that is caused, and a cause something that creates an event, so the subjects and actions are true by definition. We cannot equivocate in mid-discussion and change what we are talking about. If the conversation is about causes and events, we cannot then say that some events might not be caused, for that is not what we are talking about.

Therefore we hold that the first premise of the Kalam Argument is valid, and the argument is a good demonstration of a first cause. This we call God.

Posted in Apologetics, Philosophy | 4 Comments

Ancient Bible Critic Reinforces Biblical Truth

One of the strongest supports for Christianity can come, surprisingly, in a backhanded way from its critics. One such is the ancient philosopher Celsus, who wrote a book against Christians in c.175. This work has been lost, but is largely preserved in the writings of Origen, who wrote Contra Celsum (Against Celsus) in 248 AD.

We will show that an ancient critic of Christianity gives some support to some of the most critical aspects of Christian theology.

First, lest we think Origen is falsely quoting or misrepresenting Celsus’ view, we have the statement of the noted scholar Philip Schaff:

But the rule which Origen prescribed to himself, of not allowing a single objection of his opponent to remain unanswered, leads him into a minuteness of detail, and into numerous repetitions, which fatigue the reader, and detract from the interest and unity of the work. He himself confesses that he began it on one plan, and carried it out on another. No doubt, had he lived to re-write and condense it, it would have been more worthy of his reputation. (Philip Schaff, Ante Nicene Fathers, Bible Truth Forum e-edition, 4.394)

We also have the words of Origen himself in the preface to his book against Celsus:

In the language of Celsus there seems to me to be no deceitfulness at all, not even that which is “vain; ”such deceitfulness, viz., as is found in the language of those who have founded philosophical sects, and who have been endowed with no ordinary talent for such pursuits. And as no one would say that any ordinary error in geometrical demonstrations was intended to deceive, or would describe it for the sake of exercise in such matters . . . (Schaff, 4.610)

So here we have Origen being respectful toward his subject. This was no street brawl, but an attempt to show respect for Celsus while showing his mistakes.

Still further, Origin was condemned a heretic for his false views on the nature of Jesus. Therefore we have Origen, who was not afraid to disagree with orthodox Christianity, carefully, respectfully, and tediously quoting Celsus, an admitted critic of Christianity who was trying to destroy it. Yet the writings help support some essential Christian teachings.

For example, William Paley, in one of his apologetic works titled A View of the Evidences of Christianity, shows us that Celsus only quoted books that were part of the canon of the New Testament. Paley gives about a page of references to Celsus’ quoting of the gospel writers, then sums up his point by saying

It is extremely material to remark, that Celsus not only perpetually referred to the accounts of Christ contained in the four Gospels, but that he referred to no other accounts; that he founded none of his objections to Christianity upon any thing delivered in spurious Gospels. (Paley, Christian Evidences, London: 1810, p.282)

Thus we have Origin giving a tedious, exhaustive refutation of an early critic of Christianity who only quoted the same gospels that we have today and none others. For example, when Celsus criticizes the Biblical account of Herod at the birth of Jesus (Schaff, 4.653), he is telling us that the ancient Christian scriptures included the story of Herod murdering the children at the birth of Jesus. When Celsus criticizes Jesus for gathering disciples that were “tax gatherers and sailors” (Schaff, 4.654), he affirms that the gospels include this account. Origen goes on for hundreds of pages, telling us about Celsus’ claims about the Bible.

Celsus’ lengthy descriptions of Bible passages was intended by him as an attack, but turn out to be supportive in some respects. We cannot conclude that the Bible was invented in the later centuries if we have lengthy references from an enemy of Christianity telling us that the Bible includes stories of Jesus virgin birth, death, and resurrection, and reaffirming to us that the books we now have are the same as what was circulated in the years after the events happened, and these were the Books being taught, not others.

 

Posted in Apologetics, Bible | 1 Comment

What About the Resurrection Body?

The Bible tells us that we will be resurrected. 1 Corinthians 15 mentions 11 times that our bodies will be raised, which naturally raises the question of what the body will be like. Scripture reveals some things to us, and systematic theology tells us more.

First, we must look at Jesus’ resurrected body. After Jesus rose from the grave, the body was gone from the grave (John 20). It was the same body that died on the cross, for it had the same markings (John 20:20, 27) and was recognized by His friends as the same Jesus. Jesus could pick up physical objects (John 21:13), and could be touched and seen (John 20:27). The resurrected Jesus was not a spirit, but was flesh and bone (Luke 24:39)  which could eat regular food (Luke 23:41-43). He could be grasped and hugged (John 20:17).

Second, Philippians 3:20-21 tells us that our resurrection bodies will be like Jesus’. It says “our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body.” 1 Cor. 15 tells us that our bodies will be raised; allusions to “spiritual” in this chapter do not refer to non-physical, for the same term in the same book is used of physical things (see 1 Cor. 10:4; Gal. 4:29). We are also told that we will resurrect physically like Jesus did (Romans 6:5; Phil. 3:11; Rev. 20:5), but will not die again (Rev. 20:6; 1 Cor. 15:42).

Therefore the Bible teaches that our resurrection bodies will be physical, will be able to eat, will be able to be recognized by our friends as the same person, and can do the same physical things we can now.

Systematic theological study can tell us more about our resurrection bodies.

It would appear that beings in the presence of God will sing, as we do now (Rev. 4:8, etc.). Job tells us that “in my flesh I will see God” (Job 19:26), therefore we will be able to see with our eyes as we do now.

The Bible also teaches that sin has corrupted the world, including our bodies. With the curse of sin removed, we can conclude that our bodies will be perfect and without defect. Thomas Aquinas describes it this way:

Man will rise again without any defect of human nature, because as God founded human nature without a defect, even so will He restore it without defect. . . human nature will be brought by the resurrection to the state of its ultimate perfection which is in the youthful age, at which the movement of growth terminates, and from which the movement of decrease begins. (ST, III.81.1)

and again,

Each one will rise again at that quantity which would have been his at the end of this growth if nature had not erred or failed, and the Divine power will subtract or supply what was excessive or lacking in man. (ST, III.81.2).  

Therefore those who die as babies or as decrepit will resurrect as they would have as uncorrupted mature people, after full growth but before decay.

We can also safely conclude that the same set of specific individual particles are not required for the resurrected body as prior to death, since all during one’s lifetime specific particles are ingested, become part of the body, then are sloughed off. Therefore the same body can be regenerated without the exact correspondence of all particles. Nevertheless, it would appear from what we stated above that the same body as died will be regenerated and resurrected. We could then conclude that severed limbs or organs will be restored to a state of perfection that would have been had we not been corrupted by sin and death.

Part of our answer to the resurrection of the body is  understood in terms of form and matter. Our soul can be said to be our form, with our body as matter. No matter can exist without form, therefore when the soul returns, the soul conforms matter to itself and the body is restored to perfect union of soul and body. Humans are a soul-body unity. Therefore physical defects incurred in life such as scars or severed parts will be resurrected as they would have been at perfect growth.

For more details on the resurrection body, see Systematic Theology by Norman Geisler, 4.247ff, 4.690-1; and Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, III.75-86.

 

 

 

 

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Does God Know His Own Future Decisions?

This is another in a series of questions, criticisms, and attacks posed by skeptics.

Question: How can God know His future decisions? If God is all-knowing, how can He make any decisions at all, or choose one thing over another? If He were all-knowing, He would not be able to make a future decision, for He would already know everything. He would not even be able to think.

Response: Perhaps criticisms like this are the root of the claim that atheists do not understand God. Nevertheless, the question is confused and has a rather straightforward answer.

Here, the skeptic is half correct. Since God is all-knowing, it is correct that He does not make future decisions. Further, since time is a measure of change, and God does not change, He is timeless and does not experience before and after as we do. Thus when God acts, He acts from timeless eternity in one unified act. This unified act of God results in many sequenced effects that we experience as present and future.

A simple analogy can illustrate. A doctor can give a single prescription to give medicine three times per day for a week. The one order from the doctor results in many future effects that happen in sequence. There is no logical contradiction in a timeless, changeless God acting from a timeless eternity, yet multiple effects happening in seqence in a changing world.

As for God making decisions and thinking, I have already answered this, which you can find here and also here.

 

 

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Brought to you by Ratio Christi
DEFENDING THE FAITH IN TURBULENT TIMES 

A Conference for Christian Apologetics
This event is designed to help prepare you to make a defense for the Word in turbulent times.
  • How can we reconcile Christianity and Science?
  • Does scripture tell us we are in a battle of ideas?
  • How can God be good when there is so much evil?
  • Are ancient texts reliable?
  • Can we defend the faith and still tell the good news?
Speakers:
Dr. Clay Jones is a writer, speaker, pastor, professor, and radio host. His talk will be on “Why Does God Allow Evil? An Apologist’s Perspective.”
J. Warner Wallace was a professional police officer, working his way from patrol officer to SWAT Team to homicide detective. He will speak on “The Case For Truth: A Detective’s Perspective.”
Dr. Sarah Salviander holds a PhD in  astrophysics and specializes in quasars and supermassive black holes. She will speak on “How Did God Create The World in Six Days? A Scientists Perspective”
Dr. Dan Wallace is arguably the foremost living expert on ancient New Testament document research. He will speak on “In a Modern World, How Can Ancient Be Reliable? A Scholar’s Perspective.”
Glenn Smith is regional director for Ratio Christi. He will speak on “Why Do We Need Apologetics? A Practical Perspective.”
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SATURDAY 27 SEPTEMBER 9:00 AM – 4:30 PM

 

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