This is a bit of an earth-shaking revelation. It will have far-reaching impact.
This is a bit of an earth-shaking revelation. It will have far-reaching impact.
“At the heart of modern evolutionary theory is the so-called “struggle” for existence. And the question gradually dawns on us: Why do living things struggle to survive? Why do they struggle at all? Neither rocks nor electrons appear to struggle to stay in their current configurations, nor do carbon atoms seek any obvious goals. What does it mean to struggle if not to seek an end? And if living things seek ends, then in what respect has old Aristotle been refuted when he claims that “nature acts for an end” (Feser, Aristotle to Darwin and Back Again, forward)
Aquinas, in his fifth way, states “Whatever lacks knowledge cannot move towards an end, unless it be directed by some being endowed with knowledge and intelligence, as the arrow is directed by the archer. Therefore some intelligent being exists by whom all natural things are ordered to their end, and this being we call God.” (ST., I.2.3)
So logically, either a thing moves toward an end or it does not. If anything moves toward an end, there has to be a mover. Inanimate things cannot move toward an end without external intelligence. The evolutionist somehow has teleology introduced somewhere along the way, with inanimate things struggling toward life.
It would seem then, at a minimum, that either things are working toward an end and God exists, or things cannot work toward an end and the struggle for some pre-biotic chemistry toward survival is false. Yet today we do indeed have life striving toward survival. The first option is most reasonable.
What are we to think of the current response to the covid-19 coronavirus?
We are told that the disease is so deadly that it could overwhelm the medical communities’ ability to deal with it. Italy’s medical community seems stretched, and the risk is that doctors will not be able to treat sick patients, causing unnecessary death. So in response, governments have shut businesses, mandated that people stay home, and are preventing people from visiting family members in nursing homes. All public gatherings are to stop, including sports games, restaurants, bars, and any place of business that gathers people.
I am bothered by this response, while many of my friends and family are perfectly willing to accept it. Let me take time to explain why the issues are so vital.
My rejection of the current coronavirus response is not due to being isolated in my home. I am basically an introvert, and would rather stay home than to deal with people. I like working from home, for I am more productive there and it costs less money and time than driving to work and back. I’m not a big sports fan and cannot recall that I have ever watched a complete NBA game in my life, so I really don’t care much if they are not playing. So I like staying home away from people. So my disagreements do not originate out of being confined to my home.
However, I cannot think of a more basic human right than to spend time with one’s family. Parents and children meeting together is as fundamental of a human act as can be imagined. Time lost with family can never be made up. My friends tell me that my right to see my family is outweighed by the public’s need to not die from exposure to a virus, and that the government has the right to restrict my rights for the public good.
Our forefathers disagreed. Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence, following John Locke’s lead in the 1600’s, held to a view that has been a foundation stone of the western world for centuries: that we have unalienable rights. A free person’s right to be with their family is not granted by the United States, so it cannot be taken away by the United States. A basic human right is freedom of movement and freedom of association. This can be taken away by a just imprisonment due to guilt of fault, but not to the free and innocent.
Across our nation today, we have people being forced to stay in their homes and prevented from caring for their parents in retirement homes. My own parents are paying $4000 per month in an independent living apartment where the company running it, Brookdale, is preventing me from seeing my parents. Based on 29 deaths in 4,000 infections, the governor of New York has mandated “Don’t go to your daughter’s house. That is a mistake.” This is a violation of basic human rights, as significant as that of separating a mother and baby, brother and sister, father and son.
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The next issue is financial. I know from personal experience what it is like to be in financial hardship, so I feel for those who are out of work, in debt, unable to work, and with a baby. It is not merely hard, but so very stressful as to impact health and wellbeing. The physical and emotional stress on a person’s body and marriage are not just an inconvenience, but are very real. Anyone who has not been through such a period simply does not know the sweat and tears it takes on a family. It is painful. Millions of Americans live hand to mouth, paycheck to paycheck, and have invested years of 70-hour weeks into their small business. Anyone who goes through losing their livelihoods knows the toll it takes on people: stress increases, marriages break up, children suffer, lifelong dreams are lost.
Besides the emotional stress, Jefferson and Locke again define the freedom to pursue one’s livelihood a natural right not granted by governments. What Locke called the pursuit of property, Jefferson called the unalienable right to pursue happiness. Our citizens have all freedoms not specifically restricted by law, and the government only has such rights as granted it by law. The founding fathers specifically framed our laws to restrict a repressive government.
Now, my government, with good intentions wrapped in fear, is intentionally causing people to lose their ability to earn a living and feed their children. In many cases, they’re not just regulating commerce, they are stopping it. At last count, news reports claimed 20% of America is now unemployed due to lockdowns. If this lasts only a couple of weeks, many of them may possibly recover. If it lasts longer, we will be faced with 30% or more unemployed for months or longer, numbers not seen since the Great Depression.
Former Superior Court Judge and law professor Andrew Napolitano claims that, besides the violation of unalienable natural rights, such directives violate multiple areas of the US constitution: the right to due process, the right to associate, the Contracts Clause, and the Takings Clause.
Put bluntly, the fear of dying and the desire to not infect others, although commendable, does not give anyone the right to restrict others from visiting family members or making a living. Even if we conclude it is the best course of action, government simply does not have the right or the authority to remove natural rights. More fearful than mass death due to a virus is that the government has gone beyond its specific restrictions to violate rights, and the people are so willing to not only give up their rights but to actively endorse the taking of them from their fellow citizens.
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Pearl Harbor was bombed on December 7, 1941. It was a devastating blow that killed 2,403 people in a single morning. At the time, the people of the US recognized that they no longer had a viable navy, and the west coast was open to attack by the Japanese. They were afraid, and the fear was not imaginary, it was real and based in fact. In a fear-based response, the US was worried that Japanese spies may have already infiltrated the Japanese American communities on the west coast, were equally afraid that in an invasion they could not tell the enemy from the friendlies, and were worried about the loyalties of Japanese Americans in a time where large numbers of people could be killed and our country destroyed. So innocent Japanese Americans were gathered and forced into camps and held there until after the war. Looking back on the situation, we shake our heads in horror at how callous and insensitive the US government could have been. But the people of 1942 only saw a defenseless coast, thousands of dead people, and a risk of more deaths. They looked at innocent Americans and justified their imprisonment based on the deaths that had already occurred, the possibility of more, and the possible existence of the country itself.
Today, we are also looking at thousands of dead and the threat of more. In response, our governments have not only requested that we stay inside, but have passed laws insisting on it. Several states, adding to tens of millions of people, have legally mandated residents stay home. The government leaders, as they work their jobs where they get paid, are requiring millions of people stop seeing their families, stop their livelihoods, not get paid, and stay home under threat of legal action, and if necessary, force.
I am not suggesting that the current lockdown is equally as bad as the camps where Japanese Americans were imprisoned. But the parallels are nevertheless there. Put it this way: if instead of internment camps, the government would have confined Japanese Americans to their homes, restricted their ability to gather, and kept them from working, would it have been acceptable? No, not then and not now.
Similarly, In a state of fear of loss of life, we are today violating basic human rights. While motivated by good intentions, the current actions are morally wrong, historically short sighted, and based on incomplete data.
Let’s continue the current logic that the common good overtakes individual rights. If a cure develops in the near future, will they force us to take it? Will they continue to insist people remain in their homes and prevent them from working if they refuse a vaccine?
I am indeed sensitive to the need to save lives by not spreading the disease. The last thing I want to do is cause the death of anyone or see my loved ones die because others insist on their freedom of movement. But are we willing to be satisfied to live in a society that takes away the basic human right of being able to visit your family? Are we to be satisfied with a government who intentionally causes people to lose the ability to feed and educate their children? Are we willing to throw out the core values that western society is built upon, and change to saying that because a few are irresponsible, we will take away the rights of all?
In a free society, we have long held a philosophy of accepting the risks and consequences of free acts. Many things cause death and agony: besides a host of contagious diseases, there is alcohol, automobiles, boats, airplanes, fire, knives, chainsaws, fatty food . . . the list goes on . . . all these things free people use to cause the deaths of themselves, their loved ones, and others. We regulate these things, but we do not take them away, nor outlaw them, nor cause the entire nation to lock down. Instead we as a society live with the consequences of our freedoms even though people die all around us because of them. We decide that the benefits of free people driving cars outweighs 56,000 people a year who die horrible painful deaths in wrecks.
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As to the coronavirus itself, we have been repeatedly told that if we limit exposure, we will ‘flatten the curve’ of the infection. The popular models we are shown by medical professionals tell us that if we limit exposure of the general population, the medical system will not be overwhelmed and lives will be saved. Of course we can all support this idea in concept and all stand behind the goal of saving lives.
If we assume the models are true, the curve can indeed be flattened, but in doing so lengthened. Basing their decisions on preliminary and incomplete data, our government officials do not truly know how long the curve will last, whether the entire population will eventually be infected, or the number of people eventually needing healthcare. Some estimates project the lockdown will be two weeks, others that the curve may not peak until July, but these are guesses. They really do not know, and they seem to be reacting day by day. If we follow the current curve logic, the population will need to be on lockdown until enough of the population has already had the disease and the curve will not exceed the capacity of the medical system. So our government officials are prepared to keep people from earning a living for an extended period of time.
Will they take into consideration the health and societal problems caused by large percentage of increase in poverty, an inevitable result of a nationwide lockdown? I suspect that they will not. We hope that in a few days or weeks, the fog of panic will burn off with the clarity of the noonday sun and people will be allowed to go about their lives. But if I am wrong, and the lockdown continues, are we to believe that the United States treasury is deep enough to float so many failed industries? All year? They cannot, but even if it were possible temporarily, it is unwise. So far, our government is willing to prevent people from making a living and paying taxes, then paying them money in return. Would it not be wiser to allow them to work? The US debt is not limitless and will eventually have dire consequences to all citizens.
The best case we can hope for is that the trillions added to the debt will simply cause an economic slowdown and a small increase in chronic poverty. That’s the best case. However, it is logically possible for the US to default on its bonds or print money to pay its debts. I will leave it to the economists’ crystal balls to predict the likelihood of this, but history proves to us that economies can collapse and social structures with it. When economies collapse, there are no funds to run the hospitals or other essential functions. Are we expected to believe that severe damage to the economy will not reduce the health of the nation and the ability of the healthcare system? As I said, I have absolutely no idea of the likelihood of this, but if we think we are smarter than all the countries in history that destroyed their economies, we are fools. Are our leaders considering the overall stability of the country when they decree a mass stoppage of paychecks? I doubt it.
I therefore plead with our government officials; go take a nap and come back when you’re rested. We need you making clear decisions.
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What are we to do then with the face of mass death due to the coronavirus? Are we to allow irresponsible people to callously travel about, infecting us, our families, and their own loved ones?
The loss of even a single life is tragic. No one wants death. I honestly feel deeply for the nursing home directors. They are faced with a dilemma of either violating basic human dignity by isolating the elderly from their loved ones in the last days of their lives or risking an infection lethal to everyone in the building.
However, as I have attempted to show, the current response will indeed cause health problems in society as an unintended consequence. Deciding how many deaths to allow for this virus is no different than what we have done daily throughout our history. How slow do we make the speed limits so that we balance the saving of lives with increasing the cost of transportation? Do we raise taxes and hire more police to monitor speeders, or leave taxes lower and allow some to speed and kill others? Do we insist on stronger roll cages in cars and save lives but prevent poor people from affording cars? These types of decisions are made every day in multiple fields of public interest. We balance the deaths of thousands of people with the negative impact on millions of people. What we do not do, at least up to now, is insist that commerce stop and confine the populace to protect all life.
5,000 people a year die of choking in the US. 56,000 die of car crashes. 225,000 people die in the US every month, year in and year out. All are tragic. We do not clear all restaurants to prevent choking deaths. We do not stop transportation to prevent road deaths. And we do not take preliminary data, lock down 327,200,000 people, throwing 500,000 to 2,000,000 into poverty, shutting down 75,000,000 children’s education, and stopping our courts, all to prevent an unknown number of virus deaths.
A free people, to stay free, must live with the fact that some free people are irresponsible and will damage other people. This is tragic, but history has proven the alternative to be worse.
As a bible teacher and dispensationalist, I would periodically hear people make the claim that dispensationalism teaches two salvations. I found this very curious, for although I am no longer, I have been a member of two dispensational churches for many years, visited a number of dispensational churches, and heard a good number of dispensational teachers in the media, all the while never hearing any of them teach two modes of salvation. The teaching from dispensationalists was always uniform: salvation was only by faith in the finished work of the messiah Jesus. I would periodically hear individual people make claims that I disagreed with, but since followers of all theological systems can have individuals that teach most anything, I never counted these as authoritative. Are we to measure Calvinism by any random member of a reformed church, or are we to measure Calvinism by the main body of teaching of key followers of Calvin? Again, no dispensationalist pastor or teacher I ever met taught any way of salvation except through faith in Christ, myself included.
I would routinely challenge those who made this claim and would never get an answer. In my first post, one responder posted ten quotes in support of the position that dispensationalists teach a separate salvation for Israel and the church (see the comments on this post). I will attempt to deal with these here.
Briefly, C. I. Scofield was arguably the first popularizer of dispensationalism when he published The Scofield Reference Bible, a very popular study bible of the early 1900s. Dispensationalism holds that God has different administrations or types of expectations for men of different ages. Clearly, the specifics of the law of Moses was not given to Adam before or after the garden. Before the Fall, Adam was to eat only vegetables, while after the Fall he could eat all types of meat. After Moses, Israel was commanded to eat only certain types of meat, and today we are again not commanded to avoid unclean meat. Under the present age, we are not expected to keep every single command of the law of Moses as ancient Israel was commanded. So they were in the dispensation of law, we are in the dispensation of grace, but in all dispensations all people attain salvation the same way: by the payment of Jesus on the cross, not of any works that people do. That said, if an Israelite were to callously disregard the Mosaic law, he would be out of the will of God by not trusting God as would a believer today who disobeys God.
Scofield’s notes in his study bible were widely influential. However, his notes were rather brief comments on certain verses, not a commentary or lengthy theology text. Nevertheless, there are statements from Scofield that say troublesome things, such as:
“. . . grace begins with the death and resurrection of Christ…” (John 1:16)
““The righteous man under law became righteous by doing righteously; under grace he does righteously because he has been made righteous.” (1 John 3:7)
“. . . a new function, that of preaching the glad tidings of salvation through a crucified and risen Lord to Jew and Gentile alike.” (Matt. 10:2), “New” as if it were in contrast to a previous way.
“The Christian is not under the conditional Mosaic Covenant of works, the law, but under the unconditional New Covenant of grace.” (Exodus 19:25)
However, Scofield also said:
“The Scripture knows nothing of salvation by the imitation or influence of Christ’s life, but only by that life yielded up on the cross.” (Lev. 17:11)
“Gal. 3:6–25 explains the relation of the law to the Abrahamic Covenant: (1) the law cannot disannul that covenant; (2) it was “added” to convict of sin; (3) it was a child-leader unto Christ; (4) it was but a preparatory discipline “till the Seed should come.” (Ex. 19:1)
What are we to make of this? Part of the answer is this: Scofield taught that Israel’s position in God’s plan is dependent on the law. Exodus 19:5 says “Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” This passage is clearly a conditional statement: if you obey, you will be to me a kingdom. Scofield’s note on this verse says “What, under law, was condition, is under grace, freely given to every believer.” Therefore part of the answer is that Scofield made a distinction between what under law was conditionally dependent on obedience, namely national position and God making them “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation,” and individual salvation, which was only through faith in God’s finished work on the cross.
Further, another part of the answer is unfairly isolating phrases and sentences in Scofield’s notes. The quote I gave above of his comment on Ex. 19:25 seem to say that Israel was under a conditional covenant to salvation, but Scofield’s note on this verse clarifies:
The Commandments were a “ministry of condemnation” and of “death” (2 Cor. 3:7–9); the ordinances gave, in the high priest, a representative of the people with Jehovah; and in the sacrifices a “cover” (see “Atonement,” Lev. 16:6, note) for their sins in anticipation of the Cross (Heb. 5:1–3; 9:6–9; Rom. 3:25, 26). The Christian is not under the conditional Mosaic Covenant of works, the law, but under the unconditional New Covenant of grace (Rom. 3:21–27; 6:14, 15; Gal. 2:16; 3:10–14, 16–18, 24–26; 4:21–31; Heb. 10:11–17).
Thus Scofield taught that Israel’s attempt to obey the law only brought death, and the Mosaic sacrifices pointed to The Sacrifice, the one of Christ, which pays for all sin. OT sacrifices did not truly cover sin, but the sacrifice of Christ did.
Next, Scofield, and even others such as Chafer, at times seem to indicate that obedience to the law was a demonstration of faith, much as baptism would be today. This is not the same as conditioning salvation on obedience to the law.
We now turn to Chafer. He is quoted as having said, when speaking of the future messianic kingdom, “there will be a return to the legal kingdom grounds”. Statements such as this, and others speaking of the legal dispensation of Moses or the future kingdom, do not condition salvation, but a mode of administration or dispensation. Are we to deny that God gave Moses a law? That Israel was commanded to keep it and conditions applied to this law, per Deut. 30:15-19? Or that the New Testament claims that the blood of bulls and goats saves no man (Heb. 10:4)? Again, giving commandments under Moses does not mean that is how men were saved in those days no more than the command to make disciples and baptize means this is how we are saved today.
We must admit, however, that Scofield and Chafer do have some troubling statements. I do not want to gloss over or excuse such passages. However, it seems unsafe to base all of dispensationalism, or even all of Scofield or Chafer, on a few isolated sentences made in short notes on individual verses. Further, the lengthy quotes from Chafer I gave in the first and second posts show that Chafer, at length in those passages, clearly taught one mode of salvation. When confronted with this very charge, Chafer denied it vehemently. That other passages seem unclear or contradictory are by no means an affirmation of a clear, blanket teaching of two salvations. At most we can charge them with inconsistency, not heresy.
When we add other well-known dispensational teachers such as John McArthur, Norman Geisler, Charles Swindoll, Charles Ryrie, Tony Evans, J. Vernon McGee, and many others, surely we can put a stop to blanket falsehoods that claim all dispensationalists teach two salvations.
As we said in Part 1, (see here) any system at its core, dispensationalism included, can only be measured by the bulk of its teachers. We do not claim that every single person claiming to be a dispensationalist is orthodox, but this is true in any theological system. We do claim that Lewis Sperry Chafer founded Dallas Theological Seminary, likely the largest seminary in the world which graduated the most dispensational pastors. Chafer studied under C. I. Scofield, one of the key early figures in dispensationalism. Chafer also systematized dispensationalism into a theology proper, publishing his Systematic Theology near his death in 1952. Chafer’s theology was taught at DTS directly to tens of thousands of seminary students over at least 70 years. With his extensive writings and influence, Chafer represents the body of teaching that defines dispensationalism.
We do not have to guess at what Chafer’s position was on the charge of more than one mode of salvation. In the mid-1940’s, a group of Presbyterians charged Chafer with exactly that: more than one mode of salvation. As editor of the journal Bibliotheca Sacra, Chafer responded directly in two editorials. I quote the relevant sections of his responses here. I quote this at length to remove confusion about his point:
False and damaging statements are included in this report which are a libel of immeasurable proportions. It is no slight injury to an individual when a Committee declares before a Presbyterian Assembly what is utterly false. The report states that the Editor of BIBLIOTHECA SACRA teaches “a dispensational view of God’s various and divergent plans of salvation for various groups in different ages.” To this it is answered, as answered before, that the Editor has never held such views and that he yields first place to no man in contending that a holy God can deal with sin in any age on any other ground than that of the blood of Christ. The references cited by the Committee from the Editor’s writings have no bearing on salvation whatever, but concern the rule of life which God has given to govern His people in the world. He has addressed a rule of life to Israel on the ground that they are His covenant people. Observing the rule of life did not make them covenant people. In like manner, God has addressed a rule of life with heavenly standards to the believers of this age; not as a means of salvation, but because they are saved.
The present ill-conceived wave of resentment which is being fostered by Covenant theologians against dispensational distinctions in Biblical interpretation has centered its contention on the assertion that those who recognize dispensational distinctions—especially the late Dr. C. I. Scofield and the Editor of Bibliotheca Sacra—teach that there are two ways by which one may be saved—one by law-observance and one by faith in Christ. It seems not to occur to the men who frame their protests against dispensational teachings that their contentions have no basis whatever upon which to rest, nor do they estimate the injury to other men when they, attempting to state what dispensationalists believe, publish what is utterly untrue . . .
Are there two ways by which one may be saved? In reply to this question it may be stated that salvation of whatever specific character is always the work of God in behalf of man and never a work of man in behalf of God. This is to assert that God never saved any one person or group of persons on any other ground than that righteous freedom to do so which the Cross of Christ secured. There is, therefore, but one way to be saved and that is by the power of God made possible through the sacrifice of Christ.
. . . man never contributes anything to his salvation whether he be one who keeps the Law or one who trusts Christ alone apart from human works. The colossal error which supplies any point to the contention of those who accuse others of believing that there are two ways by which the lost may be saved is just this, that neither works nor faith of themselves can ever save anyone. It is God’s undertaking and always on the ground, not of works or faith, but on the blood of Christ.
God has assigned different human requirements in various ages as the terms upon which He Himself saves on the ground of the death of Christ . . .
First, God imputed righteousness to Abraham, which righteousness is the foremost feature of God’s salvation, on the sole ground that Abraham believed or amened God. Abraham believed God respecting a son whom he would himself generate. . .
Second, God imputes righteousness to those in this age who believe, which righteousness is the foremost feature of salvation, on the one demand that they believe; but this belief is not centered in a son which each individual might generate, as in the case of Abraham, but in the Son whom God has given to a lost world, who died for the world and whom God has raised from the dead to be a Saviour of those who do believe. . . From this it will be seen that, though the specific object of faith—Isaac in the case of Abraham and Jesus Christ in the case of those becoming Christians—varies, both have a promise of God on which to rest and both believe God. It does not follow that men of all ages may be saved by believing any promise of God; it is only such promises as God has Himself made to be the terms upon which He will save. Both Abraham and the Christian come by faith under transforming power and neither one saves himself. He is saved by God alone and only through the righteous freedom which the death of Christ provides whereby a holy God can save sinful man. . .
. . . This redemption was confirmed, as was all Old Testament redemption, by Christ on the Cross. . . When [Israel is] saved it will be because One died for that nation and on that righteous ground alone, which death for them they will then be moved by the Holy Spirit to accept by faith. . .
Thus it is disclosed that the salvation of an Israelite, who lived in the Mosaic age, which age will be completed in the coming Tribulation, was guaranteed by covenant; yet the individual could, by failing to do God’s revealed will as contained in the Mosaic Law, sacrifice his place in the coming Kingdom and be cut off from his people (cf. Lk. 10:25–28; 18:18–21; Matt. 8:11, 12; 24:50, 51; 25:29, 30). Jehovah’s salvation of Israel will be on the ground of Christ’s death. The human terms, because of the covenant promise regarding their salvation, are not the same as that required of Abraham or of any individual in this age, whether Jew or Gentile.
Once again and finally let it be asserted, that salvation of any character or of any people or upon any varied human terms is the work of God in behalf of man and is righteously executed by God on the sole basis of the death of Christ. It is puerile to intimate that there could be a salvation achieved alone by the power of either law-works or faith. It is only God’s power set free through Christ’s death that can save and it is always and only through Christ’s death, whatever the human responsibility may be.
Further, many well-known dispensational teachers such as J. Vernon McGee have very public teaching ministries that teach salvation through faith in Christ alone. Surely no one can listen to McGee and determine anything other than his sole focus on Christ.
Personally, I was a member and sometimes bible teacher at two dispensational churches for about 18 years and I was only taught salvation in Christ as the only way of salvation, never once hearing of a supposed two means of salvation. Directly, I am a dispensationalist and I affirm salvation in Christ alone. I deny that old testament saints, or any other, could achieve salvation in any other means except that of faith in Christ. For those who insist on continuing in the false idea that dispensationalists teach two salvations, what do you do of me and my testimony?
A few quotes were given to my first post. These will be dealt with in the next post.
NOTE added 12/22/19: The key phrase in all this seems to be the following, as quoted above: “the salvation of an Israelite, who lived in the Mosaic age, which age will be completed in the coming Tribulation, was guaranteed by covenant; yet the individual could, by failing to do God’s revealed will as contained in the Mosaic Law, sacrifice his place in the coming Kingdom and be cut off from his people.” The key words here are that an OT Israelite is saved by God’s election with sin bought by Christ’s death. If such a person disobeyed the law, they would sacrifice their position in the coming kingdom age. This would be no different than a saved Christian in the present age who did not obey God.
Some people have made the claim that the Bible teaches socialism, and the proper biblical view is that of some sort of socialist economic or governmental system. For example, writer Obrey Hendricks, Jr. has made a strong claim to this regard (see here).
Since this is a claim to the Bible, we can speak of it here. Before we respond, we need to be very clear in that the Bible does not promote one type of government or national economic system for the nations of the world. Whether a country is a monarchy, fully communist, a republic like the United States, or some other form of government, the Bible simply does not command that people hold one type of leadership structure for a nation. In ancient Israel, God commanded the leaders run the country a certain way. However, He made no commands upon any gentile nation, therefore we cannot hold that one type of government is more biblical than another.
In economic systems, such as socialism or capitalism, the Bible gives us more guidance. As we will see, the scriptures have a good bit to say about money and people. However, we again must be careful to go no further than scripture, and recognize that many of the competing economic theories are matters of degree and the Bible does not completely command one or the other. A call for charity in these discussions is in order.
For our purposes, we will hold to a definition of socialism as a central authority gathering resources, voluntarily or involuntarily, and distributing them for the common good. We contrast that to a system that allows more individual control of resources. Does the Bible promote one of these views over the other?
The supposed purpose of socialism is to have a distribution of wealth that is fair, especially to the poor. The Bible has quite a bit to say about taking care of the poor.
In the Old Testament, God has many passages that commanded Israel to take care of the poor, namely:
Besides these, there are many Old Testament passages where God tells us His heart is with the poor and oppressed.
Again in the New Testament, the Bible tells us that those who have the means are to give to the poor, to reach out to the poor, and not trust in riches.
On the other hand, God expects the poor to have responsibilities for what they get. This is clear from many passages;
Perhaps most telling is the way that giving is to happen. Throughout the Bible, Old Testament and New, while people were told to take care of the poor, it was the individual persons who were to take care of the poor. Nowhere does God give a command for a central government to collect money and resources then distribute them out to others in an attempt to create fairness. The primary giving is by individuals; the taking care of the poor is an individual responsibility. Nowhere is a government told to gather resources and give it out to increase fairness.
The one place in the Bible where a central government gathered all resources and distributed them was when Joseph was running Egypt in Genesis 47:20-21. The result was not a utopia, but rather the leader owned everything and reduced the people to servitude. It seems that the one example of gathering resources and distributing them out again did stave off starvation, but at the cost of impoverishing the entire nation.
One New Testament passage gives instructions to church leaders on how to collect money and take care of the poor. In 1 Timothy 5:3-16, Paul goes into a good bit of detail on how the church should distribute money to help the poor. In speaking of helping widows, several qualifications are given:
These detailed instructions are telling. Yes, the Bible teaches that we should take care of the poor, but the New Testament church is specifically not to give money to people merely because they are poor. Rather, they must be of good character and truly in need. Giving money to people merely because they have no income can “teach them to be idle” (v.13) and burden the community coffers, preventing the truly needy people from getting enough.
The Bible teaches a strong view of personal property. In Acts 5:1, a couple, Ananias and Sapphira, sold a piece of property and gave the money to the church. God judged them because they lied about how much money they made from the sale. In 5:4, Peter says “Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal?” Therefore it is not the case the church or central government had the responsibility of gathering resources and redistributing them.
The Bible also makes it clear that while praising Jesus and doing good works to the poor are not mutually exclusive, praising Jesus is more important to us than good works toward people (Mark 14:7)
The Bible makes it clear that being poor per se brings no righteousness nor reward (1 Corinthians 13:3).
Finally, while Jesus did heal everyone, these were signs that spoke of His credibility (John 6:2). Jesus healed everyone as a sign of His messiahship. Apart from these miraculous signs, God never healed everyone (see 2 Corinthians 12:9). God Himself sometimes used sickness as a judgement (1 Cor. 11:30). Several of the people near Paul remained sick, including Epaphroditus (Phil. 2:26-27), Trophimus (2 Tim. 4:20), and Timothy (1 Timothy 5:23).
The vast majority of the passages in the Bible that speak of helping the poor and oppressed are commands to the individual. The central church is to give to the poor, but with several restrictions. Nowhere is a central government told to bring in resources and distribute out to increase fairness. Private property is always under the control of the individual, who is responsible to God for how it is handled. The poor, when they meet the test of truly needy, should be helped, but it is their responsibility to work. Nowhere in the Bible does it say for a government to take care of people’s debts.
Further, the primary place to take care of people is the family. In both Old Testament and New, the person’s immediate family has the responsibility to take care of their needs. This is why the family unit is so important, and breakup of the family is so detrimental to society. Families are critical to the neediest of society, and when the family breaks up or is redefined, the poor are the ones who suffer.
We can safely conclude that the Bible does not share the goals of socialism, even what is today called democratic socialism. It speaks nothing to universal healthcare run by a central authority, but rather commands individuals to take care of each other’s needs, using compassion and wisdom. The Bible does not command everyone be given a minimum income, but rather commands all to work and the family to take care of people’s needs.
God’s model is for all of us to have compassion on the poor, and therefore the common coffers will have enough resources to take care of the truly needy.
In the first century, the Romans had a Jew named Josephus to write a history of the Jewish people and the wars that took place in Israel. Josephus’ book Antiquities of the Jews mentions Jesus twice. The first is brief and merely says that Jesus, who is called Christ, was the brother of James (Ant. Ant. XX.IX.1) The second is lengthier and in some dispute. It appears to us as follows:
Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man; for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was [the] Christ. And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day; as the divine prophets had foretold and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him. And the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct to this day. (Ant. XVIII.III.3)
This passage is debated at length and good discussion on it can be found elsewhere. A good and fair treatment can be found in The Historical Jesus: Ancient Evidence for the Life of Christ by Gary Habermas (1996, College Press, Joplin, MO, 192-196). Habermas discusses the questions with the passage and gives support for the original passage mentioning Jesus, although admitting some sections are in legitimate question. Habermas states:
There are good indications that the majority of the text is genuine. There is no textual evidence against it, and, conversely, there is very good manuscript evidence for this statement about Jesus, thus making it difficult to ignore. Additionally, leading scholars ont he works of Josephus have testified that this portion is written in the style of this Jewish historian. (192)
Habermas reviews the scholars who have dealt with this passage, as have others. Therefore we will not repeat that here; Christian apologists have dealt with it at some length. For our immediate purpose, we can say for the sake of argument that the passage is in dispute.
It is problematic for the atheist or skeptic to dismiss the Bible outright due to a questionable passage such as this. Atheists throw around criticisms denying that Josephus mentions Jesus, apparently concluding that they can dismiss the historicity of the Bible in the process. A more extensive reading of both the Bible and Josephus reveals a rather solid corroboration about historical details. The list below provides a series of facts presented in both the Bible and Josephus. It is a rather extensive list, with conclusions to follow.
One might nitpick about the importance of a few of the items in this list. We could counter with the fact that some of them involve multiple facts, and the list is not an exhaustive examination of Josephus. This list will nevertheless suffice to say that the Bible has a rather extensive corroboration in Josephus. We can stand on firm ground in saying that the Bible has a good historical corroboration in a major first century work written by a non-Christian who had no motivation other than documenting history. The burden of proof is on the skeptic to deny the general historical accuracy, and the specifics listed here provide a solid list of support for the particular historical accuracy of the Bible.
We can add to this the list of other sources that historians show corroborate the facts in the Bible. In The Historical Jesus, Habermas quotes over 40 sources outside the Bible that support several hundred facts inside the Bible, and recreates almost the entire gospel account from sources outside the Bible. Some of the sources are hostile to the Christians, providing especially strong evidence, since they have no motivation to help Christianity or Christians.
Particularly relevant is the fact that sprinkled within the many corroborated facts are miracle accounts, words of Jesus, and teachings of prophets claiming to speak for God Himself. A fair reading must conclude that the statements sprinkled within the history must be taken at face value, at leas without preconceived conclusions that it is a historical novel or invented out of whole cloth. The two mentions of Jesus, that he existed and was called the Christ, are therefore given support.
We therefore conclude what the Bible presents as true, namely that it was written by eyewitnesses to the events it presents.
In a podcast (transcript here), William Lane Craig says the following:
Dr. Craig: . . . If God is in time then there are tensed truths. That is to say, there are propositions which have verbs in them that are in the past, present, future, and other tenses. And therefore these propositions change their truth values as time goes on. For example, it was once true that Columbus will discover the New World. A little later it was then true that Columbus is discovering the New World, and as time passed it became true and is now true that Columbus discovered the New World—past tense. So what this means is that if there are these objectively tensed truths that change their truth values from going from false to true, then God, in virtue of being omniscient and knowing all truths, will come to acquire new beliefs—he will learn new truths, namely, as the proposition “Columbus discovered America” switches from having the value false to having the value true, this now will come to be believed and hence known by God. And so a God who is in time will have a knowledge that is constantly changing, he will have a knowledge that is constantly growing, we could say learning new things, as new propositions become true. So far from entailing his non-omniscience, God’s omniscience would actually entail that his knowledge will be changing and constantly being added to as new truths come into being.
[Interviewer]: Some people may be thinking that you’re saying that God didn’t know that Columbus, for sure, would discover America and he came to know that when he goes, “Oh, look!”
Dr. Craig: No, no, that’s not what I’m saying. I’m saying that before the event God knew the future tensed proposition “Columbus will discover America” but he didn’t know the proposition “Columbus discovered America” because that was false at that time. That was false at that time. So that proposition switches truth value once Columbus has made his discovery—it goes from being false to being true, and since God is omniscient (and omniscient means knowing and believing only and all truths) God must come to believe that proposition now. And he will no longer believe the proposition “Columbus will discover America” because that proposition has now become false. It used to be true but it isn’t any longer, so God won’t believe it anymore.
So, you see, God does learn new tensed truths all the time, because he is omniscient.
Craig and the interviewer go on to claim that “people need to get past third grade Sunday school theology.” apparently claiming that the view that disagrees with them is elementary and naive.
Here we must disagree with Craig, for his mistake leads to a very serious error. Craig makes a mistake by not being precise with his truth statements. Using his example, Columbus discovered the new world in 1492. In 1491, the statement “Columbus discovered the new world” (past tense) is false, while in 1493 the statement would be true. However, he is incorrect in saying that the statement made in 1491 changes from false to true, for it is true for all people in all time that the statement made in 1491 “Columbus discovered the new world” is false. The statement was false in 1491 because it was made in 1491, but it is still false for all times that the statement “Columbus discovered the new world” was false in 1491. Likewise, it is true for all people and all times that in 1493 “Columbus discovered the new world” is true. The point Craig was making is that the truth statement changed, when in fact it was merely an imprecise example statement. Using the tensed statement “Columbus discovered the new world” is only meaningful made in time, and when moved to another time either becomes a different statement or becomes imprecise and unknowable. More correctly, we would have to say something like “As of today, Columbus discovered the new world.” We would then have to ask “when is today?” and we would know whether it was true or false. Regardless of when “today” was, the statement would be either true or false for all times. Making a statement with tensed verb apart from a point in time is merely an imprecise example. Again, apart from a time reference, a past tense statement is not meaningful. “In 1492, Columbus discovered the new world” is a past tense statement with a time referent, which has meaning,
This imprecise view of truth leads Craig to hold to the position that God can be omniscient and still learning. To his credit, he does hold that God is not surprised by things, so in that sense Craig holds that God knows all things. However, this is a tortured view of omniscience, saying that God is constantly learning new truths but always knowing all truths, as Craig says in two sentences above.
Rather, holding that God truly does know all truths and does not learn is not a “third grade Sunday school theology.” These statements are unfair, unjustified, and uncalled for. In but one example, the great theologian Charles Hodge says of God’s knowledge:
This distinction between the possible and actual, is the foundation of the distinction between the knowledge of simple intelligence and the knowledge of vision. The former is founded on God’s power, and the latter upon his will. This only means that, in virtue of his omniscient intelligence, He knows whatever infinite power can effect; and that from the consciousness of his own purposes, He knows what He has determined to effect or to permit to occur. (ST, 1.398)
Thus all of God’s knowledge is included in what He has determined to effect or permit to occur, which scripture tells us He knew from the beginning, prior to any earthly human action. If we include the possible and the actual in God’s knowledge, we have included all states of affairs, therefore God is omniscient in the fullest sense of the word. If God’s knowledge changes in any way, it must result in God being limited in some sense, whether it be knowledge or power. This is a serious error.
If God did not exist, what would be the impact on morality? For the answer, let’s look to those who say that the only things that exist are natural forces:
Morality is a biological adaptation no less than our hands and feet and teeth…Considered as a rationally justifiable set of claims about an objective something, ethics is illusory. I appreciate that when somebody says “Love thy neighbor as thyself,” they think they are referring above and beyond themselves…Nevertheless, such reference is truly without foundation. Morality is just an aid to survival and reproduction…and any deeper meaning is illusory.” – Atheist philosopher Michael Ruse
Morality, or more strictly our belief in morality, is merely an adaptation put in place to further our reproductive ends.
Ethics as we understand it is an illusion fobbed off on us by our genes to get us to cooperate. –M. Ruse and E. Wilson, The Evolution of Ethics (1989)
Evolutionary biology tells us there are no purposeful principles in nature . . .There are no inherent moral or ethical laws . . .Human beings are marvelously complex machines. –atheist William Provine
Either our wills are determined by prior causes and we are not responsible for them, or they are the product of chance and we are not responsible for them. –Sam Harris, Free Will, p.5
In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe we observe has precisely the
properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference. ” –Richard Dawkins, River out of Eden, page 33.
This last quote is most telling. Dawkins, a committed atheist, clearly holds that there is no evil and no good. Clear to the bottom, the universe is blind pitiless indifference. He repeated these words while speaking at an atheist rally in Washington DC. Dawkins clearly holds that there is no moral code that permeates the universe.
Yet in that same short speech in Washington, Dawkins proceeded to call religion evil. His books are replete with justifications of why he believes religion to be a bad thing. So it would seem that Dawkins gives himself away, informing us in one breath that there is no moral code, then in the next breath telling us how he has grounds to measure us by a moral code that applies to all men.
In reality, all of us have a moral code that we measure each other by. In Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis clearly points out that we do indeed all believe in a moral law that transcends all of us. We clearly make a distinction between the man who tries to trip me and fails and the man who succeeds to trip me by accident. If, as William Provine says, we are but machines, we should hold machines just as morally culpable as we do people. But we do not. When a power saw cuts a finger, we do not hold the saw morally responsible. Why?
Well, because there is a moral law, an ethical code that we all know is there. Men are not machines, but are morally responsible for how we act compared to the moral law that is larger than any civilization or group of civilizations on earth. Moral laws require a moral lawgiver. This we call God.
This is an excellent talk by Dr. James Tour, who is a top-tier scientist in his field. He manages to make this both understandable for those not academics in biology and challenging for those who are. I encourage you to listen to his talk.
The king of skeptics, David Hume, taught that we cannot be certain of even common things that happen around us. He claimed that even when one billiard ball hits another, we cannot be sure that the first caused the movement in the second. But even Hume once said “I never asserted so absurd a proposition as to say that something should arise without a cause.”
I was saved in an independent, non-denominational evangelical church. That particular church was very involved in social issues. They had a social issues committee that would try to influence culture and a letter writing committee that would meet to write letters to elected officials and tell them what church members think about cultural issues. At no time did they ever endorse a political candidate, but they did advocate for moral positions. They were very active. Since this was the only church I knew, I thought that all churches did such things.
It was only when I moved and joined another church did I learn different. In the many years since I was saved, I have visited many churches, been a member of several, been to seminary, and have been actively involved in ministry where I meet people from many backgrounds. For most of the years since that first church, it has been my experience that social action has been fading or non-existent in churches. Just this year, the largest protestant denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention, made a lot of fanfare about a new generation of leaders taking over. There were a lot of headlines about this new group of leaders wanting to leave politics behind.
I find this interesting because in the churches I’ve attended, I have never once seen a candidate recommended from a pulpit. There have been Christian leaders who have endorsed candidates, but not from a pulpit, or at least from any that I have attended, and I have attended very many. Compared to the overall population of protestant pastors and leaders, ones that endorsed candidates have been a significant minority. Further, protestant action has decreased on issues such as abortion, sexual morality, marriage, and divorce. When the Southern Baptists say they want to leave politics behind, many church members understand this as saying they will not be making statements on moral issues such as abortion, homosexuality, or marriage. I have heard evangelical ministry leaders specifically speak against mentioning abortion at Christian meetings because they did not believe in getting political.
Compare this to a hundred years ago, when conservative denominations such as Southern Baptists, Pentecostals, and Nazarenes were quite vocal about ills such as card playing, dancing, alcohol, and women’s clothes.
So we have a clear, conscious walking away from culture wars in protestant evangelical churches.
Change the channel to the modern black social justice movement. Today a black member of my church sent me an article from the New York Times that explained that black people are leaving mainly white evangelical churches because they do not speak up about black people and the police, immigration, and racial overtones in recent presidential elections. It would seem that white evangelical churches are criticized because they were silent about social justice issues.
So at this point I admit confusion. Is it not the case that race and ethnic based problems are moral issues? Is not abortion a moral issue? Is it not a social justice issue to keep marriages together so that parents can teach children to be effective members of society? Is trying to stop parents from voluntarily killing their children somehow a conservative cause? Is advocating public sexual modesty somehow helping candidates running for office? Is advocating help for destitute people arriving at our borders somehow more moral than stopping violence to a beating heart inside a womb?
Many, if not all, of these issues are moral issues that are distinct from political candidates. No political party has a corner on honesty and morality, and no political candidate has a verse in the Bible with his campaign slogan in it. Yet we are indeed called to be good citizens, which in our country means being educated on the issues and the candidates. That we should vote is a command, not an option, but there are no purely Christian political parties. That we should take action on social issues is expected, and indeed cannot be avoided, for to be silent on an issue is to make a statement about the issue’s relative importance. It seems odd to be expected to make social justice stance on racial issues while being silent on abortion.
Can we be more sensitive to white and black issues? Certainly. Should church leaders endorse candidates from their official positions? It is a bad idea, and I advise against it, but they are citizens and do not give up their rights when they become church leaders.
I fail to understand how we are wrong for advocating for some social justice issues and wrong for not advocating others. Perhaps we have been imbalanced, perhaps hypocritical. However, we cannot be active on police violence against 20 year old black males while being silent on violence to 20 week old black fetuses.
In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar—when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene— during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the desert. He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. As is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet:
“A voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord. . . ” (Luke 3:1-4)
We have to ask ourselves why such a passage would be in the Bible. The section listing the leaders adds no theological point, no spiritual truth, no church law, no personal edification, no religious end. Other spiritual books from the era do not include such passages. Why would someone include such a thing?
We can prove the leaders in this section lived in the times and had the titles listed here. Since we can prove the parts we can corroborate, it only makes sense to accept the things we cannot prove, which was that John the Baptist actually spoke in the wilderness and said the things he did. We accept the passages we cannot prove because the passages we can prove are so accurate.
But further, this is tying Jesus to a passage in Isaiah 40. Isaiah says to “prepare the way for the LORD” which uses the name of God almighty. Prepare the way for YHWH, Jehovah God. John the Baptist, inspired by God, is calling Jesus God Almighty.
We have no way around passages such as this other than to accept them as they are: a factual historical account of a prophet of God who was telling us that Jesus was the one and only Deity.
Evolution is a topic that raises emotions on several sides of the discussion. By itself it is not a subject that should divide people, whether disagreements be between Christians or atheists or faculty members of respected universities. It does divide, however, and raises the interest of many.
The following is a very brief summary of several lines of argument against evolution. They are all summaries, and no attempt is made to build each in detail, for a thorough treatment would take volumes for each. These are merely presented as summaries for thought and further study. This is presented as a summary of a cumulative case. I would ask that any responses be in the same vein.
1. If evolution were true, then all life is only geared toward survival, and what exists is only there due to natural forces, such as gravity or electromagnetism, or natural selection, commonly called survival of the fittest. In an evolutionary world, we cannot explain anything that goes above and beyond the need to survive. Therefore we have no explanation for why the human brain is so extraordinary. If we only need to catch animals and grow vegetables and kill enemies, why would we ever need to figure out advanced math, or complex, abstract concepts. We do not need to figure out nuclear physics to survive. We do not need differential equations, the ability to determine theoretical physics, or art of most any sort. If evolution is true, there is no explanation for the complexity in the human brain.
2. If evolution were true, our senses only exist to help us survive. Problem: If every rabbit runs from every bobcat because they think the bobcat is playing a fun game of tag, the same result will happen as if the bobcat were trying to eat the rabbit. Therefore our senses are not geared toward perceiving reality, but only to help us survive. We have no guarantee our senses are not lying to us, but only that they help us survive. For more on this, see Plantinga’s evolutionary argument against naturalism.
3. For most of the years since Darwin, evolutionary biology has dealt with large-scale questions: primates to human, or dinosaurs to birds, or amphibians and reptiles. The actual mechanism of mutations has largely been assumed. It has just been in the last few years that researchers have been able to actually look at DNA and see what is going on. In fact, the world of DNA is still being researched, and there is much still not understood. So far, the data is somewhat questionable as to whether it supports random mutations being able to make evolution work. At least, at the level of DNA mutations, we are just now peeking into that world. Mutations are the starting mechanism that supposedly drives evolution, and DNA is a field that is still relatively new. At the very least, it seems prudent to wait and see. The dogmatism that accompanies evolution seems unwise in the light of the primary mechanism being so much as yet unproven.
4. Similar to 3, the actual mutations that supposedly cause evolution are just now being able to be measured. The mathematicians are just recently getting involved. Unless the math works, then evolution will fail. While I admit ignorance of mathematical theory, evolutionists are trying t work their way out of some dead ends presented by mathematical models of how evolution would work. Any workable model would have to be a statistical model that had enough random mutations to be able to be filtered by natural selection. To date, there is no valid mathematical model has been shown to work, at least so that the model has widespread acceptance in mathematical circles. The discussion is getting interesting. For more, see “introduction to Evolutionary Informatics” by Marks, Dembski, & Ewert.
5. The world of microbiology has increased by leaps and bounds over the last few years. The level of complexity within each living cell has been shown to be extreme, beyond anything ever dreamed in the past. This field also has a great deal yet to be understood and is still still being researched. it would seem that standard evolutionary process would break down at the sub-cell level, for claiming that sub-cell systems composed of mechanical and chemical elements should compete with each other seems difficult, yet is essential to standard evolution. Further, the complexity there is so extreme as to stretch the credulity of the explanation of trying to make the sub-cell systems evolve from simple to complex.
6. Even if we eventually find immediate material causes for complex sub-cell structures and systems, material causes cannot explain the information found in DNA. The human genome is not merely a machine that causes something else, for it contains more than mechanisms. DNA contains information and fits well into information theory. The people in the field even use information-centered terms. The words on a page or on a screen are not merely ink and paper or pixels of light and dark, but contain ideas and concepts, reference data, the coding of the computer. I once asked an evolutionary biologist whether DNA contains information. He knew the conundrum he was facing, and answered that “it’s sort of information.”
7. If you get the scientists alone, they will often admit that even in their own areas of specialization, they can at best only understand a portion of the field. When you consider any field anywhere near a whole, the best minds simply do not understand the majority of the subject matter. It’s not because of lack of intelligence or lack of time and focus, but rather because of the level of complexity in most fields of study. Every field of science is extremely complex, and the more they dig, the more they realize they have yet to unlock the mysteries of what they are studying. Further, they have trouble keeping up with the research in their own sub-field or area of specialization. In fact, as much as has been learned in the last few generations leads researchers to realize how much is not yet known. It stretches credulity that all the accumulated knowledge of the history of science understands such a small percentage of something that is unguided and without intelligence.
8. Similar to 7, no one can be expected to understand the other fields of science that they do not study. However, for evolution to work, it would require many, many areas of science: astronomy, astrophysics, microbiology, paleontology, geology, and on and on, each of which must be considered in light of logic and philosophy of science. Each of these fields has many sub-fields, each of which in turn has areas of specialization. So no one has grasped all of their own field, let alone all of every field, yet evolution requires all of these areas for the process to work. At the very least, it would seem wise for evolutionists to dial down the dogmatism and be a bit more humble. It is entirely possible that people within a single field have misunderstood the working together of multiple areas of content.
9. Evolution is not testable and cannot be falsified. Whatever facts that get measured in a lab, evolution can explain, even contradictory facts. For example: Say you are walking on a mountain, and spot a man who has fallen off a cliff and is hanging by one arm, almost ready to fall to his death. You have a choice: you can risk your own life to save him, or let him die. If you risk your life to save his, the evolutionist calls this proof of evolution: you risk your life to save him because of “tribal instinct” or “herd instinct.” The tribe or heard has a greater chance of survival than an individual. But suppose you take the other choice: you say “If he dies, there will be more food and women for me” and you walk on by, hoping he falls to his death. Well, evolution can explain this too……a selfish person is more likely to survive than a non-selfish one…..more food and women to reproduce with. Other examples exist in biology: If a series of animals can be placed in an evolutionary sequence, then their environment must have changed and they have evolved. If another animal shows long period of stasis, their environment did not change and they did not evolve. So evolution explains whatever data is observed, and there is no scenario that could arise that the evolutionary model could not explain within its scope. Evolution cannot be disproved based on data because it explains contradictory data. Models that explain too much reek of fallacies.
We think of science as providing modern conveniences, but in actuality scientists provide less of the things that make our lives more enjoyable than we realize. Instead, engineers take the things of science and make them work in practical ways. Newton may have demonstrated laws of motion and friction, but it was an engineer who took Newton’s laws and made practical machines that will do work for people. Engineers are responsible for cell phones, automobiles, air conditioners, space ships, and potato chips. A chemist may have figured out the periodic chart of elements, but chemical engineers figured out how to make the chemical compounds that are in so many of the products we use every day.
As any engineer will attest, getting a system to work is quite difficult. Getting a system to work correctly for a long time takes an extreme amount of effort, and even then the systems break down at some point and need maintenance. If we look at the development of things such as electric motors, which are a type of system, we see a long, difficult journey to create an efficient motor that could be depended upon to do useful work. To keep motors running requires periodic maintenance, including complex troubleshooting to find the root cause of breakdowns.
Further, the more complex the system, the more difficult it is to get it to work. Machines as routine as automobiles have taken armies of engineers many decades to make systems which work as well as they do today. Even today, after over a century of work by many thousands of engineers, our cars take regular maintenance or they would quit running rather quickly. Consider a system as complex as a space station and how many orders of magnitude it takes to keep such a system running.
Any engineer will tell you that to get a system to work as intended takes time and effort, and is a major achievement when it does.
In our natural universe, we also find systems. Our bodies, for example, have many systems: a circulatory system, a nervous system, a muscle system, a skeletal system. When we examine these systems, we find complexity. The nervous system is both electrical and chemical; the circulatory system has several major components, such as the shape of the veins and the nature of the blood components.
Further, the more we look, the more systems we find. Our bodies are composed of systems of systems. The several systems in the body have to work together to maintain life. The circulatory system has the heart, which is a pumping system. The heart valves are another system, the lungs yet another system, and blood cells are still another system. The more we dig, the more systems we find. As modern microbiology has well proven, living cells are extremely complex, and have major systems of their own, most of which have subsystems within subsystems.
So in many parts of nature, we see systems of systems of systems, many levels deep. We have yet to even discover all the systems, let alone determine exactly how they all function. Interlocking and interwoven systems that depend on each other.
While they do indeed break down, as arthritis and death are a reminder, the systems seem to work rather well overall. They have been repairing and reproducing themselves for quite a long while. We marvel at the human heart, which beats an average of 70 to 80 years. Systems of systems, keeping life going for millennia, reproducing themselves, functioning quite well.
Which brings us to our problem: If God does not exist, then these systems are natural to the world, and the world naturally produces systems of systems of systems that work quite well for a very long time. They come together through natural processes, which hone out the poor systems and leave the good ones, naturally and inevitably. However, this is not what we encounter when we try to make a system. In fact, it takes teams of the brightest human minds to make one system that works. To get systems of systems, several layers deep, to work at all would be an engineers dream. Usually they find themselves trying to keep the old simple systems running at all, and have no time to try to design complex new systems. No engineer intentionally makes Rube Goldberg machines, for systems of systems do not work.
If nature has no design and no purpose, as Richard Dawkins has claimed, yet produced complex systems of systems, then it would seem that a guided effort by the brightest minds would be able to put complex systems together rather easily. Yet what we see is exactly the opposite. To get simple systems to work is difficult, and getting systems of systems of systems to come together and function well over a long time without intervention is not what human efforts produce.
It would seem that what we see in nature is a strong evidence for a master engineer beyond our wildest dreams. The fact that our brightest engineers fail more than they succeed should be strong evidence that anything that runs as well as the universe does not come together without intervention. The skeptic and atheist must answer the problem of why the universe runs so well all by itself, with no intelligence behind it, while our best intelligent efforts have so much difficulty. If the natural order was that systems come together and work well without an intelligent intervention, then our human engineers would have an easier time of their work. The fact that they do not demonstrates that the universe is not an accident but very well designed. Good designs require a designer. This we call God.
I saw a new documentary titled Fragments of Truth (see here). It features Dr. Craig Evans, who leads us through a series of locations, libraries, and archaeological digs to tell a story of early Bible manuscripts. The film also includes some top scholars such as Daniel Wallace and the keepers of the libraries which house the most important Bible documents.
The scholars in the film maintain that that they’ve proven that the papyri lasted much longer than what most people originally thought. Papyrus was a relatively cheap form of paper made from plant fibers, which compared to parchment, which was made from animal skins. The common modern myth has been that the papyri only lasted a few years, maybe 20 or so, and that in the early centuries the NT was copied many times over lots of iterations…..a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy. But scholars in the film maintain that the average life of a papyrus was about 150 years, with many of them in use for 200 and some even 300. This is significant, for it could be that two copies from the autographs lasted until 500 or 600 AD.
Next, they now know that a good number of the early NT manuscripts were from secular, professional scribes, getting paid by the line. They would have no reason to redact the text, nor is their work as sloppy as many think.
Further, it would have been common for Paul or Luke or John to make several originals; keep one and send a few originals to different churches. Thus more than one autograph probably existed.
Next, the church was the first to make widespread use of the codex (book form), which makes the pages last much longer than scrolls.
With the huge number of copies, we can be assured that the Greek texts that are used in most translations for the last 1000 years are made from a small number of generations from the autographs. All the evidence points to a large number of manuscripts, each of which lasted a long time, and were available to trained scribes to copy for many years. The Greek texts that have been used for the life of the church were from a small number of generations from the autographs. Some of the extant manuscripts from the second or third century could have been first generation copies from the originals, done by trained scribes.
This further attests to the accuracy of the New Testament. Daniel Wallace, the author of a widely-used Greek grammar book and one of the world’s leading document experts, put the accuracy of the modern New Testament research to only 0.06% error, being 99.94% accurate. With this level of surety, we can be confident that what the Bible teaches about Jesus is what the original authors wrote. The film argues that the burden of proof is now on the skeptic, since the evidence for the text of the Bible is so strong.
We can be confident of what Jesus said. The question then appears before us: Why do we not follow His teachings? He tells us that His yoke is easy, and His burden is light, a concept that is missing in our lives.
A somewhat bizarre news story recently arose where a man tried to create a joke that backfired. His girlfriend had a too cute pug dog, and he taught the dog to do a Nazi salute upon the command “Do you want to gas Jews?” You can read the story here.
The man is certainly guilty of extremely bad taste, but he has also been charged with a hate crime. He claimed he did it as a satirical joke just to annoy his girlfriend, but the court thought differently and convicted him of a hate crime. He may face jail time.
The event brings up a few interesting issues. Not the least of which is where does offensive humor stop and a crime start? Should the intent of a statement be worse than the statement itself? How do we know this man’s true intent when all we have are his words?
I look at this event with a philosophical eye. Let’s say we hold the man truly guilty of a hate crime and think he should indeed be arrested and kept in prison as a menace to society. But what about the dog? The dog was the one actually doing the salute to the offensive statement. Why did the police not arrest them both?
Many atheists tell us that we do not have free will, that humans are moist robots, and that our actions are conditioned responses to stimuli, just more complex versions of the dog being trained to salute. Further, the differences between humans and the dog are time and evolution, with the only differences being in the nature of what is called for in survival. So fundamentally there is not a difference in the man and the dog; both are merely responding to external stimuli.
Indeed, the atheist naturalist tells us that rapists and murderers do what they do because of a causally-closed universe, and that humans are not free agents and cannot originate a cause of their own actions. Therefore both the human and the dog are doing what they do for the same reasons.
How then can it be a hate crime, for the man is not truly hating? If we hold that the man is hating but not the dog, then we have no basic explanation for why this is so.
Of course, we do not lock up dogs for tricks that their owners teach them, and we know that the man should have had more compassion while the dog had no concept of the meaning of the command to gas Jews. For all the dog knew, the man could have been saying “Greep nackle harbing stu.” No society would lock up a dog for a hate crime. The only meaning the dog knew is that if he raised his paw, he got a treat. The ideas behind the words were lost on the dog.
Hate crimes exist because there truly is a meaning in our statements when we talk about gassing Jews or any other hurtful thing. Meaning exists, ideas have consequences, and in this case, widespread consequences of life and death. Further, if we can hate bad enough to be convicted of a crime, then mere non-material ideas have ethical consequences. Why is this so? Because there is an objective moral law that transcends the physical world. Moral laws require a moral law giver. This we call God.
Billy Graham’s recent death brought many people in the press to recognize and compliment his life. In one article, a columnist published an article doing just that. The headline talked about Billy Graham, and the first third of the article gave a tribute to the famous evangelist.
The last two-thirds of the article was on an entirely different subject. The author rambled about her being a member of a Methodist church, and as such did not believe in forcing her views on anyone else. She talked about how the Bible was not to be taken literally and how she had no place to insist her views be held by anyone else. Did I mention that she talked about how she did not impose her views on others? She mentioned that a lot, as if she was wanting to make everyone aware that she would not let her Christianity impact those around her. So much so that a tribute to a great Christian leader turned into the author’s attempt to make sure no one around her felt threatened by her private beliefs.
I was also struck by the categorical statement that the Bible was not to be taken literally, which is like saying the books in the library are not to be taken literally. Such a statement does not make much sense, for the library has many kinds of books: fantasy books, how-to books, poetry, history, and reference books. Some of them, such as nursery rhymes, are not intended to be literal, while a history of World War II would certainly be literal.
To say categorically that the Bible is not literal can only be made by someone who has not seriously read their Bible. Like a library, it is not one book but many, including history, poetry, private letters, and biography. It is obvious that some passages are not to be taken literally, but some are. Nevertheless they are all true, whether they be literal or not.
When Jesus says “I am the door” in John 10:9, no one concludes that He is claiming to be made of wood and has hinges. Nevertheless, the verse is still true. The whole verse says “I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.” Jesus is not literally saying He is a physical door with hinges and a knob, but it is true that Jesus is claiming to be the entry point to salvation.
It is not valid, as the news author seems to try to claim, that because one holds that the Bible is not literal, then the Bible’s claims are somehow not binding on us and those around us. Rather, even the figurative statements are still true, and still true for those who reject the Bible. For example, when Jesus claims to be the door in John 10:9, and later claims in John 14:6 “No one comes to the Father but through Me,” then we cannot wave the meaning away by saying it is not literal. The meaning of the statement is still there and still true. It is literally true that Jesus is claiming to be the one true door to get to the Father. It is also literally true for both Christians and non-Christians that Jesus is making this claim, for whether or not we believe Jesus was correct, the language is nevertheless saying the same thing for anyone who reads it, whether they be Christian, any other religion, or atheist.
It seems odd to try to explain to people that when the Bible says Jesus walked on the road to Emmaus, then it is talking about a literal road, where a literal man was literally walking to a literal town. When the Bible talks about Jerusalem, it is not a symbolic meaning of a false poetic literary device. And when Jesus says “You shall not murder” then He literally means to not murder, and when He says “No one comes to the Father but through Me” then He is literally claiming to be the literal only way to the literal Father.
But even on a wide scale, the Old and New Testaments both mention names and places that we know for a fact exist. Are we to really dismiss entire historical books with a wave of the hand by saying they are not literal?
Perhaps some Methodist Bible study teachers should try to impose some ideas onto their own congregants.
Archaeologists have discovered an ancient mosaic that presents Jesus as God. You can read about it here.
Since this dates to about 230 AD, and directly mentions “God Jesus Christ,” it is just one more proof that Jesus has always been held to be God Almighty, and has been so since the first. The doctrine of the deity of Christ was not invented at the Council of Nicea in 325, as some have claimed. Of course, this is nothing new, for there exists plenty of direct evidence that Jesus was God back to the first century, even in the Bible itself. (See here and here.
Agnostic / atheist Bertrand Russell wrote a clear description of the atheist worldview:
That Man is the product of causes which had no prevision of the end they were achieving, that his origin, his hopes and fears, his loves and his beliefs, are but the outcome of accidental collections of atoms, that no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling, can preserve an individual life beyond the grave, that all the labours of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system, and that the whole temple of Man’s achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of a universe in ruins–all these things, if not quite beyond dispute, are yet so nearly certain, that no philosophy which rejects them can hope to stand. Only within the scaffolding of these truths, only on the firm foundation of unyielding despair, can the soul’s habitation henceforth be safely built. (Bertrand Russell, Mysticism and Logic (New York: Barnes & Noble, 1917), p.47-48)
By contrast, God speaks to us through the apostle Paul:
For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39).
We could go on to quote many atheists who state clearly that we all live a purposeless lfie, upon a purposeless planet, doomed to a purposeless end. We can also go on to quote passages where God tells us that love truly exists, that He has a plan and a purpose for us and for His creation, and that goodness does indeed exist. The place to put our trust is clear: in the Lord God of the universe. Do we build on a foundation of unyielding despair, or do we build upon the firm rock of Jesus Christ? The choice is yours.
Ibn Ishaq was a biographer of Islamic prophet Muhammad. He collected stories of the prophet which can now be found in his book The Life of Muhammad: Apostle of Alllah. The book was written in the early years after the death of Muhammad.
In the work, we find the following story:
The apostle of Allah himself described what had happened. ‘Whilst I and my milk-brother were pasturing some animals in the rear of our house, two men came to us dressed in white garments and bearing a golden platter full of snow. They took hold of me, opened my belly, extracted my heart, split it open and took out of it a black lump of blood which they threw away. Then they washed my heart and belly with snow, until they had purified them. Then one of them said to his companion, “Weigh him against one hundred of his people.” And he weighed me with them, but I proved heavier than they. Then he said, “Weigh him with one thousand of his people.” This he also did, and I was again found more heavy. After that he said, “Leave him; for if you were to weigh him against his whole nation, he would outweigh it.'” (London, the Folio Society, 2003, p.20)
This story is interspersed with other more standard ones describing the life of Muhammad.
The New Testament has a few miraculous stories of Jesus: He is born of a virgin, walks on water, and his body briefly glows with light. When we compare these stories, what do we find?
We find distinct differences. The stories of Jesus were seen by many and reported by eyewitnesses and recorded in the New Testament by first-generation eyewitnesses. This story of Muhammad was seen by no one and is only handed down to us through the long line of people telling the story to the next generation, who told it to the next.
The stories of Jesus in the New Testament are presented in a historical narrative that reads like a history book: Jesus went to this town, sent the disciples ahead on a boat, came to them walking on the water, taught some spiritual truths, and went to the other side of the sea. By contrast, the stories of Muhammad presented here are isolated vignettes with such a fantastic tone that we have trouble taking it any way except allegorically or completely symbolic. The story of Jesus reads like a miracle and is preceded by a normal historical narrative, while that of Muhammad leaves us wondering whether anyone would take it seriously. Yet it is in Ibn Ishaq’s narrative like all the other stories.
Another important difference is that the stories of Jesus are told by His followers to bring praise to Jesus. By contrast, this story of Muhammad is told by himself to bring glory to himself.
We are also left to wonder how they weighed 1,000 people, or how such a heavy man would not collapse whatever it sat upon.
For these reasons, we reject this historical narrative of Muhammad as fancy. However, since it is early and corroborated, this story gives us some indication that we can extend the rejection to the body of historical knowledge of Muhammad.
I recently watched an online video of atheist Christopher Hitchens. He was apparently speaking at a Freedom Fest in 2008. Hitchens was quite influential, and to read the comments to the video, he was much beloved and missed by atheists. He had a good platform and audience by late in life, and made quite a splash with his books, speaking engagements, and debates.
I have found Hitchens interesting. The reason I find him interesting is that the first time I watched him I was hit hard in the gut by the force of his statements. A few moments of reflection made me realize that he was not saying very much, at least nothing academically respectable to anyone trained in apologetics or philosophy. Reading his book confirmed to me that his arguments were indeed quite shallow (See here for one example). The writings do not rise to the level of a very good journal article, but read closer to the level of a of a popular magazine.
So why does Hitchens remain so influential? I think it is his stage presentation. He spoke with a force and vigor bordering on anger. My first reaction was that this was a formidable opponent, but a little while of cold-blooded reflection reveals that his arguments simply do not hold up.
For example, in the video I watched recently, Hitchens criticizes New Testament as a Jesus myth, one that is haphazardly put together. Jesus’ story is so fake, Hitchens claims, that we have no evidence that Jesus ever existed, the virgin birth does not prove Jesus’ messages, and the writers had to force-fit the birth of Jesus being in Bethlehem by inventing a census that would take Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem. According to Hitchens, the whole thing reeks of legend, haphazardly slapped together and obviously fake to any thinking person. Of course, he says all this in the midst of a long string of other criticisms, such as the virgin birth being a copy of many pagan virgin birth myths. The story of Jesus is supposed to be an outright and obvious fake full of historical inaccuracies.
At first Hitchens statements seem quite persuasive, but after some thinking, they reveal themselves as having enough error to keep us going for a while. Hitchens eventually cedes the point that if the whole thing was made up from the start, why not have Him just start out in Bethlehem? This where we first notice the flies in Hitchens ointment. He is saying that the story is an obvious fake, but the central story is based in fact about a real person. Which is it, Chris? Hitchens would have us believe that the authors of the New Testament took a real person that everyone of that day knew where He was born, then wrote a story about Him that convinced large numbers of people to defy Rome, but was sloppily put together, riddled with historical and geographical error, and included teachings that are immoral on the face of them. Plus, believing in this story would get one ostracized from Jewish society and killed by the Roman government. Chris has obviously glaringly missed something here.
As to Hitchens claims about Jesus being a copy of several ancient virgin birth myths, this is just false on the face of it, and Hitchens may have plagiarized this part of his writings and public speaking (Again, see here for detail on this).
Hitchens goes on to claim that even the virgin birth and the resurrection, if they are true, would not prove the value of the proposition that we should “take no thought for the morrow” which was one of Jesus’ statements in Matthew 6:34. Hitchens holds this to mean that we should not save money and should abandon our families. As the only qualifications Hitchens seems to bring to the table are that of a journalist, surely he knew what he was doing here. One sentence taken by itself does not make an accurate presentation of someone’s views. In the same paragraph of the speech, Jesus is telling His listeners to not worry or be anxious, for God knows what we need. The sentence just prior to the one Hitchens quoted tells us that if we seek first God’s righteousness, our physical needs will be taken care of. Further, in other passages, Jesus tells us to care for our families in Mark 7:9-13 and makes provision for His own mother after His death in John 19:27. Add to this the many passages throughout the Old and New Testament that tell us to help the poor and the widows, to work and not be a burden on anyone, and on and on about being good citizens.
Hitchens is also wrong about the historicity of the Bible. The New Testament alone has a large amount of historical fact that cannot be dismissed by a wave of the skeptics hand. For but a few examples, see here, and here, and here. The criticism about the census in Luke is tired and old and has been soundly refuted for years. See here. The Old Testament is also historically accurate, as shown here.
No journalist would get very far by making such a misstep in any other field, but Hitchens made a good living by doing it to the Bible. He either knew what he was doing and did not care, or more probably, was so emotional about religion that he self-blinded himself to obvious and glaring flaws in his arguments.
But think about one statement Hitchens made. He claimed that even if someone rose from the dead, it would not prove their statements were true about life’s anxieties and worries. This is interesting and revealing. Hitchens is saying that even if someone were to actually, truly rise from the dead, he still would not submit and trust Jesus. It reminds me of the passage in Luke 16:19-31 where Jesus tells the story of the rich man and Lazarus. In the story, a wicked man is in torment in the afterlife, and wants to go back and tell his family to change their ways. In v.31, Jesus teaches that if someone does not believe the Bible, they would not believe even if someone were to come back from the dead. Christopher Hitchens proves this point, for even though Jesus did rise from the dead, he did not believe, just as many Jewish leaders of the day did not believe even when Jesus rose before them.
Back to our question: Why was Hitchens so popular? I believe it was because of his tone and presentation style. He spoke quickly and threw out a lot of criticisms in a short time. Even though most of them are patently untrue, it sounds impressive and makes it difficult for debate opponents to respond to all of them. I also believe his popularity was because of the force and bluster in which he spoke. He spoke with emotion bordering on anger, sprinkling in some ad hominem insults. Such a style sounds impressive. The irony is that upon close inspection using a reasonable evaluation, we find the arguments fail.
Christopher Hitchens’ style lends itself to what TV personality Bill Maher was quoted as saying after his death, saying he was “one of the great talk show guests of all time.” Things that make an outstanding talk show guest will influence many, but nevertheless be hollow upon close inspection.
Christian and Atheist discuss the Easter Bunny and the cause of the universe.
A: You xtians are so silly. You believe in a great god in the sky. Us reasonable people do not believe in fantasies like the Easter Bunny.
C: There is no evidence to show the Easter Bunny is real.
A: That’s right. No reasonable person would believe in something without evidence. And your sky god has no evidence either. Therefore we should believe neither. You are a foolish person.
C: The God of the Bible is reasonable and has several lines of evidence to support His existence. One is the Kalam cosmological argument. There is also the vertical cosmological argument, the moral argument, and the argument from design.
A: Silly person, the Kalam argument fails.
C: How so? The Kalam says that everything that has a beginning needs a cause, the universe had a beginning, therefore the universe has a cause.
A: The Kalam fails on the first premise, You haven’t looked at everything that came to existence, so you cannot say that everything requires a cause.
C: Are you seriously saying that there could be something that arises without a cause?
A: I’m saying it’s possible that could happen, and since you have not viewed the beginning of everything, you cannot categorically say that everything needs a cause.
C: Hmm. Didn’t you just say that the Easter Bunny is false?
A: Of course it’s false.
C: How do you know? Have you checked everywhere in the world? Could it not be logically possible that you did not look in the one place that the Easter Bunny existed, and you just missed it?
A: See, now you are being really crazy. It’s obvious to everyone that there’s no Easter Bunny because no one has ever seen one, ever.
C: So if no one ever sees an Easter Bunny, are you saying we can reasonably conclude it has not happened?
A: Yes, of course.
C: So if no one ever sees a thing arise without a cause, we can reasonably conclude that nothing arises without a cause?
A: Well, uh, no.
A: Well, because it just does not work that way.
C: Why? If it’s true that we can make statements about Easter Bunnies because of universal experience, we should be able to make a conclusion about the cause of all things based on the same universal experience.
A: But this is absurd. You are a stupid idiot.
C: Further, has not some atheists told us that the universe could have come from nothing, without a cause, because it could have come from the quantum vacuum?
A: Yes, yes, the quantum vacuum. Now that’s reasonable. It proves that the universe does not need a cause. The Kalam fails again.
C: So the quantum vacuum could have pre-existed the universe?
A: Yes, it could have pre-existed the universe.
C: Pre-“existed,” huh? Sounds like the so-called quantum vacuum is a thing…..a thing with causal power, or at least the potential for the beginning of the universe. Therefore you are saying it is not nothing. So according to you, the universe had a cause, but did not have a cause. This is not reasonable.
A: Uh……you are a big fat stupid idiot.
C: Yeah, Ok. Let’s try an experiment. I’m going to inject you with truth serum. (gives Atheist a shot). There now. You denied the first premise of the Kalam argument, which says that everything that has a beginning has a cause. To deny this is absurd, and we have no evidence anything ever arose without a cause. Why would you make such an absurd claim?
A: Because I do not want God to exist and I will look for any loophole, no matter how tiny.
C: Yeah, I thought as much. You told me a minute ago that no reasonable person would believe in something without evidence, but then you claimed you believed that something could arise without a cause, even though there is no evidence anything like that ever happened. Can you not see how unreasonable this is?
A: Yes, but if God exists, I’ll have to answer for my personal life.
C: I would suggest you read the Bible and learn of Jesus. He will clean up your personal life.
We have recently seen a rather unusual event in Roman Catholicism. Pope Francis issued a document called Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love). In it, the Pope moved in the direction of softening the Roman Catholic Church (RCC) stance on issues related to marriage and divorce, This is important, for in RCC theology taking the bread and wine in the Eucharist is a means by which a person receives God’s grace, and RCC rules prohibit divorced people from receiving the bread and wine. Protestants would disagree, saying that God’s grace is not given through any good act, but through trust in the finished work of Jesus, and hold that forgiven sins do not separate us from God’s grace.
In response, a group of priests, bishops, and lay leaders of the RCC have penned a document titled Correctio Filialis de Haeresibus Propagatis, which loosely translates as Subordinates’ Correction of the Propagation of Heresies. This Filial Correction is an attempt to correct what they call heretical teachings that arise from the Amoris Laetitia.
This is a very interesting development in Protestant – Catholic relations. Defenders of RCC positions have long taught that without an authoritative source, no Christian can rightfully interpret the Bible. The RCC claims that the authoritative interpretation, of course, can only come from the RCC, the holder of the authoritative succession from Peter, who they hold as the first Pope and keeper of the keys of church doctrine. The official RCC teaching office, called the magesterium, is held to be the sole source of authoritative interpretation, which they hold as equal in authority to the Bible. The official doctrinal teachings of the Pope are held to be infallible. In the 500 years since the Protestant Reformation began, the RCC has held that no Protestant can rightfully know what the Bible teaches because they are outside the teaching magesterium and do not hold the Pope’s teachings as infallible. The issue of the teaching authority of the RCC is a major issue in Catholic – Protestant discussions and has been for five centuries.
Into this fray comes the Filial Correction. This is interesting from a Protestant perspective, for now we have a Pope’s official teachings being corrected. A few points cannot be denied by RCC defenders:
It will be interesting to see how this plays out. One can immediately sense the uneasiness in RCC circles and the attempt to explain away the implications. One RCC source claims that the accusations are not that the Pope is teaching heresies, but rather not acting to stop heresies. Such words are a dance of sophistic artistry, as are also the words of the Filial Correction that suggest they still hold to papal infallibility while they correct the Pope for false teachings.
We will watch this issue to see how it progresses. Meanwhile a critical point is reinforced: post-first century humans are all potential sources of error. Paul corrected Peter in Galatians, and here the RCC bishops are correcting the Pope. This leaves us with what every protestant has known since the 1500s, namely that the only authoritative source of truth we have is the text of the Bible itself. Accurate interpretation is a legitimate question, but falls into the realm of how we know things, a different question entirely. Protestants have long had mechanisms for correcting what church leaders hold to be false teachers, and now the Roman Catholic Church has exercised the same authority.
Catholic apologists have long spent much time and energy attempting to refute protestant Christians. I call them to soften their positions against protestants, at least on this issue, and begin to spend more energy on the true enemies of the church and evangelizing the lost.
A few weeks ago I attended the National Apologetics Conference, sponsored by Southern Evangelical Seminary (SES). One of the sessions was a moderated discussion between Dr. Richard Howe and Mr. Ken Ham on the topic “God’s Word or Man’s Word: From Where Must Apologetics Begin.” Ken Ham is a well-known young earth creation writer, speaker, and ministry leader. Richard Howe is a seminary professor, writer, and speaker. Both men are young earth creationists and both hold to the inerrancy of scripture.
Since both men agreed on what the scriptures taught, the discussion was not on the age of the earth. Their disagreement was on what methods are proper for Christians to use when reading and deriving the meaning of the Bible. Ham continues to use the phrase “God’s word or man’s word,” saying that it is illicit to start from a human conclusion and apply it to interpreting the Bible. Howe contends that we must compare scripture to what we know about the real world. Howe would say that when Jesus says “I am the door” we know things about humans and doors and conclude that Jesus was using a metaphor, and He is not made of wood.
In the talk, both men were asked questions by the moderator and the audience and gave their positions. The problem came a few weeks later when Ham sent out a fundraising letter, which you can read here. Although Ham agrees with Howe in what Genesis is saying, Ham portrayed the event in an uncharitable way:
SES was rightfully concerned, and published a response which you can read here.
I attended the discussion and have a recording of it. Ham’s statements do not align with what actually happened. Despite the fact that there was no disagreement on the age of the earth, Ham continues to paint it as if there was one. He is painting a picture that Howe and SES’s positions are a plague, accusing them of compromising scripture, making false claims about what they stand for about the Bible, even twisting the scriptures.
What is so disappointing is that this conference is one of the few places that is trying to get Christians together to have a safe discussion of the issues without name calling and mud slinging. The conference invites Christians to discuss the issues openly and charitably.
Keep in mind that Howe and SES are in the strongest camp of inerrantists. Both the seminary and this particular professor have defended Biblical inerrancy in the strictest possible terms. Anyone who knows Richard Howe knows that he takes a very strong position on the inerrancy of the Bible and has done so all his career. Howe even agreed with Ham on what the Bible says, but this was not good enough for Ham. The use of the phrase “God’s word or man’s word” is used uncharitably and inaccurately.
It seems that not only does Ham not allow someone to disagree on what Genesis says, but also will not allow anyone to disagree on the way we come to the conclusions about what Genesis says. He misrepresented what happened at the conference in a fundraising letter, painting the position to donors that he was defending the truth of scripture against the compromising plague of attacks from seminary professors. Ham’s statements are untrue. Ham either knows the difference in what he is saying and does not care, or genuinely does not understand what the whole discussion was to be about. He painted this issue in light of age of the earth, even though age of the earth was not at issue. Therefore Ham is the one making age of the earth the issue.
In making these statements, Ham is ensuring that Christians cannot even have a dialogue about how to approach the Bible. He turns an attempt at a calm academic discussion into an emotional appeal for support for his ministry. He has lowered his credibility and damaged the ability of well-meaning Christians to discuss the Bible and come to a common understanding of what it means. In that, we cannot recommend Ham or his approach to the issue.
In Acts 13, we find Paul the apostle traveling around the Mediterranean region. This chapter is typical of the last half of Acts, in that it mentions a series of minute details about local geography and people:
The second half of Acts has hundreds of these types of details. Such minute facts show that the writer had an intimate knowledge of the land, the people, the leaders around the Mediterranean. The details serve no theological or political purpose, and do not help with any plot line in the story. If this were a historical novel, as critics suggest, it would be a very poor one, for the plot line does not allow for much of a novel, and the details serve no purpose in a fictional story.
The only purpose for these details is to show that it was from an eyewitness who was in that region in the first century.
There is an old Jimmy Stewart movie called Harvey, where a crazy drunk man sees and talks to a six-foot invisible rabbit. By the end of the movie, the sane people are talking with the non-existent rabbit. What is worse, an insane person whose internal mental state is not aligned with external reality, or a sane person who goes along with them and treats them as if their mental state aligned with what is real?
It’s getting increasingly difficult to keep up with the sexually liberated world. Hugh Hefner was concerned about a sexually restricted world. Our society has freed itself so much that it’s hard to keep up. Now we can have trans-age.
A 52-year-old father of seven has now declared that he is a little girl, and says he is living like one. (see here). So now we have transsexual and trans-age. Our liberals and social justice warriors, having accepted the first, have no logical grounds to object to the second.
I have no idea what happened to this man’s family. If it turns out that he abandoned them to go play sex games, he would certainly not be the first to do that. But it would seem that our citizens would be more interested in having a family that is paying for themselves and being productive members of society rather than ensuring someone has the right to pretend they are childish. On second thought, he is not pretending, but actually being childish.
Even if we go down the path of insanity and accept this person’s view of self, there are several problems. First, the person claimed to change ages at will. If someone is trans, they would not be able to just change identities so easily–did not Lady Gaga tell us they are born that way? Next, the news stories claim this person has a job in the winter driving a snowplow. Six year old girls are not allowed to drive heavy equipment. So it would seem that this person is trans part of the time and not others.
If the age portion of this trans person can be changed at will and only lived part of the time, why could not the sex part? Why are the rest of us having to put up with such mental disconnects?
Michael Brown reminds us of a few other trans problems (see here), which I will add to my list. It gets crazier and crazier trying to keep up, but here is my list of people whose internal mental state does not match external reality, yet seem to be accepted, even protected, by society:
Similar to Miley’s gender fluidity, it seems that the trans-age and the trans-specie people often move between the extremes: sometimes old, sometimes young, sometimes human, sometimes an animal. If we accept one fluid person, are we not obligated to accept them all?
We have a long enough list that we need to categorize them now: trans-gender, trans-racial, trans-specie, trans-ability. Here are my questions:
I think it much better to go back to when we knew what normal was. The Bible has told us that when we throw out a moral absolute, we are lost in a sea of relativism. It would do all of us good to go and read what true love is: look in the Bible and read the little book of 1 John.
(addendum: Regarding the woman who believes she is a cat–in my high school there was a girl, Lou Ann, who acted like a cat. She hissed at people, meowed, and did cat paw movements with her hands. We all thought she was doing it for attention. We treated her like a human and expected her to be a human. We did not live in her fantasy and pretend she was a cat. Last I knew, she is living as a human female. Perhaps we should take the same approach with everyone else in this trans-messed-up world.)
I readily admit that I am not trained in any of the technical sciences, nor in math. Therefore I rarely comment on these fields, and usually then only to quote an expert who has published in the field. I hold that Christians would do ourselves better if we were to not comment in fields that we know little about. Likewise, atheist scientists would help themselves much more if they stopped commenting on fields where they know so little, such as religion and philosophy.
My career has been in human learning, perception, and studying the way people do the things they do. The concepts in these fields are ones that I am knowledgeable and can readily comment.
When people approach a problem with a mental paradigm, typically their research reinforces what they have already concluded to be the case. Anomalous data is ignored, but not because they consciously choose to bias their research, but because their minds do not perceive the data that goes against their views. They literally do not see the conflicting patterns. Why does it take so long for old scientific views to be disproved and replaced? There are several reasons, one of which is that humans do not perceive data that does not fit their worldview.
Another factor influencing human behavior is how much emotional attachment a person has to the views they hold. If a view of religion is held by a loved one, we tend to be attracted to that view. If a view of religion is held by someone whom has hurt us, we tend to be repelled by that view. Emotional attachments are strong, despite our best attempts otherwise.
I was at a major university, waiting in a lobby to meet with a committee that was to consider one of our Ratio Christi Christian apologetics clubs. In the same lobby was a physics professor who was scheduled to speak to the same committee, only he was speaking to the committee against our club. Since I am not a public figure, this man knew nothing of me, and only knew of our organization what he could glean from our website. I shook his hand and told him my name. In less than five seconds, this man began a quite lengthy emotional diatribe against me and the organization I was standing for. He barely stopped to breathe, keeping going on and on about how wrong we were. He was quite emotional. I attempted dialog, but made no progress, for he was not listening to anything I was saying. My few attempts at polite conversation merely increased his agitation. What was the root of his concern? The entire thing stemmed from a single sentence on our website that rejects theistic evolution.
Now this person is a recognized faculty member at a major university. His field of study is technical and difficult. He must be an intelligent person or he would not hold the position he does. Yet his judgement was so clouded that he did not even stop to ask me what conclusions I held, what my intentions were, to what degree I had thought through my positions, or anything else.
This one professor is arguably an example of a much larger problem. Our friends in the technical sciences, at least the atheist ones who are antagonistic towards Christianity, hold themselves out to be the bastions of cold logic and hard reason. Yet in truth they are nothing of the sort. Often they are as blind and biased as the random person we meet at the bus stop. Examples are not hard to find:
For more on this type of bias, see the works of sociologist George Yancey, such as his book Hostile Environment: Understanding and Responding to Anti-Christian Bias. Bias is amplified when we mix in subjects with moral implications such as whether or not God exists.
I am sure those in the technical sciences have little patience with those that they disagree. I also have little patience when obviously biased scientists extend beyond their areas of expertise and make poor statements about theology and philosophy. The academics have a responsibility to deal with issues with calm and respect. When they do not have both, they are betrayed by their bias.
The modern trend toward trans-ing things seems to be continuing. Not content to be transgender, now we have transracial. The first well-known person to identify as another ethnicity than the body they are in was Rachel Dolezal, the white woman who was working at the NAACP as a black woman. When it came out that her parents were both of white European decent, she was fired.
We now have the case of a white male born as Adam, who changed his name to Ja Du and is telling everyone that he is actually Filipino (see the story here). Since he thinks he is internally a Filipino, why, we should have no hesitation to consider him one.
We must be very careful, since modern liberals tell us that it is a moral crime to, on one hand, reject a person’s internal identity, and equally horrible to appropriate someone else’s culture. If I merely like Filipino food and open a Filipino restaurant, the liberals are quick to call me morally reprehensible for stealing someone else’s cultural identity. But if I am internally Filipino, then it is a crime to not accept me for what I claim to be internally. It is so hard these days to satisfy the social justice warriors.
The social justice warriors appear confused. Some of them tell us there is a fundamental difference between a person’s gender identity and their racial identity. They tell us that we should accept a transgender person but reject a transracial person. Why is this so? Well, because it just is. Their sophistry against transracial claimants never seems to give many reasons other than we ought not confuse the two.
So now have a fairly good list of people whose internal mental state does not align with external reality:
So now we have enough specific examples to ask a legitimate question: How long should society go along with someone whose internal mental state does not align with reality? To be consistent and fair, we cannot fire Rachel Dolezal from her job while accepting and encouraging transgendered people. How can we be consistent?
In the midst of our quandary we are referred to a certain Dr. Stacey Scheckner. Being a licensed psychologist, she is somehow qualified to tell society what we should accept morally. She tells us that we should consider “who they really feel inside” and “life is about finding out who you are. The more knowledge you have of yourself, the happier you can be.”
Rather, there is a much more sensible approach. If someone’s internal mental state does not align with reality, we should help them to align their mental state with what is real. In actual fact, a person born white is not of African or Filipino decent. And a person born male is not female, no matter what their internal mental state is.
A much better source of guidance comes from the Bible, which has more than a little to say about the human condition. The Bible tells us in no uncertain terms that we cannot know ourselves fully, and if we did, we would not like what we find there. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; Who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9) The most deceived person is the self-deceived person. What modern social justice warriors, psychologists, and liberals should realize is that all people are confused in their inner being. Searching inside a sick person is not the place to find health. Rather, to cure the sick we must look to a healthy person, even a physician. Jesus is called the Great Physician, and has the cure for the human condition: creating us as a new person from the inside out.
Left to ourselves, we are all confused and without a moral compass. When we look to the wisdom of the ages in the Bible, we find that we have a sure moral guidance. Jesus tells us that He will direct our path.