Evolution’s Narrow View


Young chimpanzees from Jane Goodall sanctuary of Tchimpounga (Congo Brazzaville)

Young chimpanzees from Jane Goodall sanctuary of Tchimpounga (Congo Brazzaville)

Some years ago I watched part of a PBS program hosted by Alan Alda. (Yes, the Alan Alda of Mash fame.) The program, Scientific American Frontiers, had some really interesting material, but all from an evolutionary point of view. So, too, the show to which I’m referring.

This one discussed researcher Jane Goodall and her work with chimpanzees, in particular some of her groundbreaking observations. Chimps can and do use tools. They have minimal rational thought, not just imitative behavior. They form “nation” groups with differing traits from one another. They exhibit emotions and even prejudice or at least aggressive behavior toward outsiders—chimp groups that have broken from the main body. They operate under a set of “moral” rules, with inappropriate behavior corrected by the leader or group.

All these observations are on film, and much of the program showed footage that gave evidence of these findings.

Honestly, I find it fascinating. But here’s the key assertion. According to Alda and his research team, this look at chimps is a look at Mankind’s earliest development.

Some might find this a natural conclusion: chimps do simple cognitive reasoning; man as a more developed creature does advanced cognitive reasoning. One leads naturally to the other, thus offering further evidence that the latter came from the former.

I find this conclusion to be based on narrow thinking. Rather than looking at the facts and asking, How can this be? these scientists look at the evidence and say, Then it must be this way.

As I see it, their thinking is along this line of reasoning: a pine tree bears pine cones which aren’t edible; an apple tree bears apples—an edible fruit—and is therefore more advanced. Consequently, pine trees must be the primitive fore bearers of apple trees.

On the surface that looks rather silly, but the logic follows the same lines as the idea that chimps are the fore bearers of humans.

The point of division is that evolutionary theory apparently only accounts for evolutionary cross-species changes in biological life, not in botanical life.

Admittedly, I am ignorant of a lot of evolutionary theory, so I could be wrong—possibly evolutionary scientists extend the theory to the botanical but for some reason based on their science, do not see pine trees as the forerunner to apple trees.

Nevertheless, my point remains, which is this: evolutionary theorists are narrow in their thinking. They see a set of observations and draw conclusions based on only one possibility—that similarities in species indicate a common source that underwent evolutionary changes, giving us life as we know it today.

The fact is, there is another possibility that fits the data just as well—or better. The observed similarities in species exist because the same Creator made both chimps and Man.

In fiction we talk about an author’s voice—a kind of signature woven into novels through word choice and sentence structure and characters and theme and genre and style and mood. Those familiar with an author can often pick out which lines are his simply because they know his work so well.

Why would it be a stretch to believe that Creator God, who said He created Man in His image, nevertheless showed something of His personality in the rest of the creatures He made?

An artist paints according to his style. A sculptor, an architect, a wood craftsman … all those who create, stamp what they make with their own identity. Why not God?

Seems to me, theorists that don’t at least consider this question are narrow in their thinking.

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Photo credit: Delphine Bruyere

This post, with some minor editorial changes, first appeared here in November 2009).

Talking To Atheists


"Black holes are cosmic objects that harbour a gravitational field so powerful that nothing, not even light or radiation can escape."

“Black holes are cosmic objects that harbour a gravitational field so powerful that nothing, not even light or radiation can escape.”

Atheists and Christians look at life and the world from diametrically opposed views, so having a conversation between those who hold to those divergent opinions is not easy. On one hand, atheists, believing only in scientifically verifiable substance, are convinced that God does not exist. Some even question the historicity of Jesus. These fundamental positions lead them to dismiss the Bible as more myth than an accurate historical source.

In contrast, Christians know that God and an entire supernatural realm beyond the scope of science, exist. This fundamental position leads us to accept the Bible not only as accurate but authoritative since the words and thoughts are God’s, written by humans through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

Most of that last paragraph would be nearly unintelligible to atheists. After all, from their perspective there is no God, therefore no Holy Spirit, no inspiration, leaving the Bible to be a book of made-up stories and rules.

Generally conversation between those holding the two opposing positions means one side creates a “convincing” argument dismantling the position of the other, only to have the reverse occur during rebuttal.

So does that mean there is no way the two can discuss the big issues of life? There certainly is a barrier. From my perspective as a Christian, I feel as if I’m trying to convince someone who is colorblind that the sky is blue. It’s an obvious fact to me, but he has no knowledge of blue and therefore considers everything I say to be nonsense.

From his perspective I imagine he has what seems to be the most obvious, basic, clear, tangible standards by which reality can be determined, but Christians claim truth on the basis of those standards plus something intangible, unclear, obscure, and convoluted.

If I’m right, both sides shake their heads at the other and say, how can they be so ignorant?

In reality, I as a Christian would like to learn to talk to atheists, but to do that means bridging this worldview divide. Oh, sure, we can talk at each other—I can quote Scripture, which they don’t believe, and they can quote “Bible scholars” who don’t believe the Bible. I can throw out names of Christian scientists and they can list three times as many atheist scientists. I can present archeological data supportive of the Bible, and they can point to detail after detail in the Bible for which no historical evidence exists. I can discuss cosmology and the need for an intelligent designer to explain intelligent complexity, and they can discuss evolution and the natural development of all life.

The point is, we aren’t actually talking to one another. Rather, I’d like to find out, beyond theory, why atheists believe as they do.

Some, of course, believe they have come to the only rational, intelligent conclusion possible, but that presupposes that the human mind can know all that is or is not in the vast cosmos, including the multiverse and the possible different dimensions, should string theory prove to be true.

Ah, but there lies the problem. We humans don’t know if string theory is true. We don’t know if there are other dimensions. And if there are? Why would those dimensions have to be like ours? Might not there be a spiritual dimension filled with the supernatural?

Humankind is still looking for evidence of life in space though we don’t know for sure if it exists or if it will be intelligent should it exist. Despite that uncertainty, atheists are certain God is not there. Life maybe; God absolutely not.

All the above to point out that claims to “the only rational, intelligent conclusion possible” are hardly sufficient to answer the question why someone is an atheist.

On the other hand, if someone asks a Christian why they believe as they do, I think the answer might also be categorical—something along the lines of, I’m convinced Jesus is who He said He is: Son of God, Savior, Lord.

And where’s the evidence, atheists will answer.

Where indeed? Within the pages of the Bible the atheist doesn’t believe in; by the witness of the Holy Spirit living in each Christian, which the atheist doesn’t believe in; through the power of a changed life which the atheist has no way to measure or to ascribe cause.

It seems we’ve returned to the impasse. But I keep coming back to the question why the atheist can’t accept what he can’t see for himself—at least when it comes to God. He can’t see gravity, but believes in it; can’t see black holes, but (most) would agree they exist.

When it comes to God, however, inferring His existence from the effect He has on life (which is how we know about gravity and black holes) is insufficient evidence. So “a cosmic accident” is a better explanation for the existence of life than is an intelligent designer.

Why?

Maybe if I understood that, I’d understand atheists better and we could talk.

For Atheists: Intelligent Design Suggests Intelligence


Earth from spaceApparently the position to ridicule these days is belief in the Bible as historical fact, not as a collection of myths mixed in with some principles of spiritual value (or as complete fantasy, as I’ve heard some atheists say). The most obvious point of attack is creation, but other stories in Genesis are also fair game—notably, the flood (see “Updates on the Creation Wars”).

The thing that catches my attention most is the idea that people today, because of the wonderful discoveries in science, are smarter than people of long ago who believed in supernatural claptrap—really just a form of superstition.

Now we KNOW. We know the world couldn’t possibly be created in six days. We know there was no such thing as a worldwide flood. We know that people didn’t really live for nine hundred years. We know animals didn’t live on a big boat for a year. We know serpents don’t talk. In other words, we know the Bible isn’t meant to be read as historical—at least not most of it.

And how do we know all this? Because we’ve never seen such things. They don’t fit with the observable scientific data we have.

Problem is, all these Biblical events hinge on one central point—God acted. If you posit a Supreme Intelligent Being who is omnipotent, then what could He not do?

And if He created Man, as He said He did–in His own image–you’d have to assume an intelligent being, not of the caveman variety who needed to evolve into a higher form. This view of Man is a complete contradiction to the picture Romans 1 gives of a natural world deteriorating as a result of sin.

On one hand you have Creator God saying all He made was good, that sin entering through Man’s disobedience started a downward spiral which has Humankind confusing good and evil and falling further into decline.

On the other you have science which can only postulate an accident—which probability says is incredible—to explain how we came to be and can say nothing at all about why we are here or what happens after this life. And yet, according to this thinking, Man is smarter now than ever.

But which sounds the most intelligent: A) an uncaused accident yielding complex life and intelligence or B) an intelligent person yielding complex life and intelligence?

I’m not sure what there is to debate.

For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Rom 1:19-23

Or, as is the case today, unbelieving people bypass the images and go straight to giving glory to mortal man.

Imagine an island where all the people ignore their sense of hearing. Instead of talking, they learn to communicate by signing. In fact their ability to hear begins to fade as they grow older.

One day a hearing person arrives. He soon learns to communicate with them, but when he tries to remark about the crash of the waves on the sand or the chirping of birds or the wind rustling the leaves, they say he is making up stories.

At first they humor him, but when some of the children start to say they think they also can hear these sounds, the adults turn angry. You’re deluded, they sign. You’re making up stories and confusing the children. Be gone.

Sadly, he sails away.

What a fool he was, the island people sign to one another. Sounds. What a horrible thing that would be, to hear the cry of the wounded and dying. How glad we are that we’re not like that foolish, deluded man who made up stories about sound. We’re too smart, to learned, to believe such an impossible tale.
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This article first appeared here at A Christian Worldview of Fiction March 2013

Published in: on October 27, 2014 at 7:19 pm  Comments (5)  
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God Is Great


Lookout_Moutain_West_View

When I was younger, I heard a little poem prayer people sometimes quoted before meals—usually when they wanted to get started eating right away:

God is great
God is good
And we thank Him
For our food.

Amen

Since the purpose of said prayer was to quickly dispatch the necessary requirement of thanking God for our daily food, I didn’t think much about how profound those four lines are.

But the truth is, they give us some of the essentials of the relationship a Christian has with God. Not all the essentials, certainly, but there are some key ingredients, starting with God’s greatness.

ElkmtsThat’s where all people start, according to Paul in Romans. We look at the world around us—the vastness of the heavens, the power of the ocean, the majesty of the mountains, the intricate beauty of the rose—and we’re looking at the evidences of God. Everywhere we look, there’s the mark of greatness. Nothing is done half way.

Colorado_beautyOh, sure, in our urban society today, we may have to work to reach a place where we can see the sky at night, or the ocean, or the mountains. We may need to calm our busy lives in order to notice the roses or the bougainvillea or the tulips.

But when we look at our world, we see things we can’t make, things we can’t control—not in the ultimate sense. The incredible thing is, as apologist William Lane Craig has pointed out, the more we learn about the make up of our universe, the more remarkable it becomes. The heavens are far more vast than what we knew, the life-sustaining balance between energy and matter more precise, the make up of our bodies more complex.

Whether we look in our ignorance or look in our knowledge, we see greatness:

For since the creation of the world [God's] invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that [men] are without excuse. (Romans 1:20)

V_4_above_Ice_Lake (13,500 ft.)It’s really astonishing to me that anyone can look at our world, as atheists do, and think it came about by chance. The reality is, that those holding to a “big bang” origin of course are not dealing with origin at all. They must presuppose the existence of something that came together somehow, in a random manner, for no planned purpose, to create the greatness of the universe.

Apparently there is no attempt to explain the existence of that supposed matter or energy credited with setting in motion the creative process. There’s no attempt to explain how order could come from disorder, in contradiction to known laws of physics.

The greatness of creation, in fact, does not inform the understanding of those bent on denying God:

For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.Professing to be wise, they became fools (Rom. 1:21-22)

Regardless of man’s denials, God is great. Great in His creativity and originality and design. Great in His power and strength and might. Great in His purity and holiness and sinlessness. Great in His justice and righteousness and impartiality. Great in His love and mercy and forgiveness.

Published in: on July 7, 2014 at 7:15 pm  Comments (2)  
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The Defeated Foe Looks Like He’s Winning


rattlesnakeSatan is God’s enemy. He’s a rebel who wants to pull off a coup d’état, and like any undermanned foe, he’s using guerrilla tactics.

His great plan, as I’ve pointed out from time to time, is to call into question God’s word. He wants to undermine the authority of the Bible, but he also wants to undermine belief in Jesus.

The thing is, God’s Word is always a revelation of who He is, and it is truth about God’s character, His work of redemption, the essence of His personhood that Satan doesn’t want humankind to see.

But there’s one other area he systematically is going after: Creation. After all, creation is God’s first revelation to humankind. It is by what He has made that we first realize He is.

If C. S. Lewis’s fictitious head demon, Screwtape, were giving advice to his underling today, he would surely include ways to twist our understanding of God’s creative power and purpose.

    Now listen, Tapeworm, or whatever your name is, we’ve been ramping up the program to distort the information about this ridiculous species the Enemy cares so much about. You’ve fallen down on your end. There are rumors that more and more scientists have stepped forward, saying they actually believe in a designer and in the account of first things the Enemy released.
    This has got to stop!
    Nothing is more important. Nothing.
    Let your puny charges believe in the Enemy and even worship him, but be sure he’s stripped of his essential power. Let him be relegated to the role of cheerleader, watching from the sidelines, cheering Humankind along on their journey through life. Let them think the being they worship is kind and good and loving . . . and powerless. Powerless, at least, to impact the world in a meaningful way.
    Consequently, it’s up to them to take things into their own hands and do what they can to clean up this mess.
    The One they worship? He can give them a shoulder to cry on, an occasional thumbs-up atta-boy, a timely “well done” to let them know how important they are to his plans. After all, what would he be without them? They’re all that stands between him being declared a myth, a mirage, or even a bit of undigested cheese.
    Do you see where I’m going with this, Wormbottom, or whatever your name is? You must create the impression that the Enemy’s greatest displays of power either didn’t happen or were not his to claim.
    Start with the origins issue. Your subjects already feel as if their grasp of science makes them far superior to those who want to credit the Enemy with making the vastness of the universe from nothing.
    I wonder what they would think if they could see the spiritual realm, too. Of course, that’s something they must never, ever know.
    Your job is to keep your subjects developing theories they elevate to fact which leaves the Enemy out of the origins process all together. Do this, and his first source of showing himself to these weaklings is destroyed.

And so the instruction might continue.

Sadly, the plans Satan has put in motion seem to be winning. Except, that’s only an appearance. Another one of his lies. He’s attacking Scripture and creation and marriage and Jesus, all with the intent to overturn God’s sovereignty.

But that’s not possible.

God already turned Satan’s best weapon, death, into His greatest victory.

For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “DEATH IS SWALLOWED UP in victory. O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR VICTORY? O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR STING?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Cor. 15:53-57, emphasis mine)

So Satan may look as if he’s winning when we look at what sin does in our world, but his pretension of greatness is short lived and utterly false.

If we’re tempted to doubt, all we have to do is turn our eyes to the heavens.

Milky_way_(8322292662)Isaiah 40 says, because of the greatness of His might and the strength of His power, not one of the stars He made is missing. His might. His power. On display every time we look to the heavens.

Satan’s working on distracting us and deluding us so we don’t see the truth. But here it is: God is the Creator and sustainer of everything He made that has been made. He owns it. He rules it. He preserves it. And He will one day remake it all for our good and His glory.

Published in: on April 30, 2014 at 9:44 pm  Comments (5)  
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Language And Thought


talkin-about-revolution-700582-mThe debate is not new: does language shape thought or does thought give rise to language? In some ways, a companion argument exists: does popular culture reflect society or is society shaped by pop culture?

In both, the question seems to be, does giving expression to thoughts influence others to think the same way or does it merely reflect the way people are already thinking?

My answer generally is, yes.

I believe the Bible gives us reason to believe that thought precedes language. Romans 1, for example, makes it clear that before Scripture was written, before prophets prophesied or apostles preached, humankind knew God through creation:

because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. (Rom 1:19-20)

Thought, then, pre-exists language. They saw God’s attributes, eternal power, and divine nature in what He made, not because of what He said. They understood without a verbal lesson.

And yet clearly God values language. Jesus is named the Word; God inspired the writing of Scripture; the Father Himself wrote His commandments in stone; and through His angel, He commissioned those who believe in Jesus to make disciples, baptizing and teaching.

Over and over, Scripture itself verifies the importance and veracity of Scripture. That may seem a little odd until you remember that the all-knowing God is the author. Who is positioned better to make a judgment about His Word? The idea that finite humans can pass judgment on what an infinite God said is laughable.

So from Scripture we learn, for example that God’s word is tried (tested) (Ps. 18) and stands firm (Ps. 119), that it endures forever (Is. 40 and 1 Peter 1), that it is righteous and faithful and upright and pure (Ps. 119), that it gives understanding (Ps. 119).

Here’s the key to understanding God’s Word:

The sum of Your word is truth,
And every one of Your righteous ordinances is everlasting.

Taken together, God’s Word is true. Taken one by one, each of His decrees will last forever. The sum and the parts, then, are vital in identifying what God chose to communicate.

There’s another interesting aspect to language, however. Satan introduced lies. From the beginning of this fallen angel’s interaction with humankind, he has called into question God’s truthfulness, proving himself to be the liar.

But Eve fell for his game: Did God really say . . . ? And people today continue to be swayed by Satan’s words–an evidence, then, that language has the ability to persuade. God made His existence evident to people, and yet many have been persuaded away from what they once knew.

The same happens among people claiming the name of Christ but denying His word. Essentially they asked the question, Did God really say . . . ? And many of them have concluded, No, he did not.

Why? Because they have evidence to the contrary? No. They simply have determined in their hearts that “their god” wouldn’t say such a thing or do such a thing. Or they’ve undermined the idea that He actually inspired writers and communicated to us His purpose, work, person, and plan. No, they say, language has no static meaning. What certain words meant two thousand years ago to a people living in a different culture, speaking a different language, can’t possible retain the same meaning for an audience today.

In so saying, God’s power is also called into question. The God who said, with Him all things were possible and proved it by the Incarnation of Jesus, born of a virgin, now, according to those who deny the Bible’s authority, cannot govern language to the degree that what He wrote millennia ago retains its meaning today. So much for an all powerful God.

So here’s the conclusion: thought gives rise to language (God’s thought, communicated to the people He created, first by making us in His image–thinkers who communicate). But language can also shape thought.

Sometimes, for instance, giving voice to ideas, either verbally or in written form, clarifies what a person believes, even to himself. In turn, those thoughts given concrete expression can influence the thinking of others. Isn’t that the general point of communication?

More to say about how praise and thanksgiving fit into this, but I’ll save those thoughts (and words ;-) ) for another time.

Published in: on February 6, 2014 at 7:30 pm  Comments (8)  
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Rebutting The Postmodern Philosophy Of Language


Adam_and_Eve019Much of postmodernism stems from an assertion that language shapes the way humans think, but humans, in turn, cannot stand outside of language to investigate it objectively. Thus, language is powerful because it shapes human thought, but it is impoverished because it is unable to serve as a means to examine itself.

Recognizing the power and poverty of language, poststructuralism implies that all knowledge, including its own, must be taken on faith.
- How Postmodernism Serves (My) Faith, Crystal Dowing, p. 126.

Downing asserts that this view of language is Biblical, citing God’s identification of His name to Moses as Yahweh—I AM WHO I AM. “As though in recognition that language molds perception, God communicates a Self that transcends the limitations of any noun referring to a created entity” (p. 127).

Her summation follows:

The power of language to mold, and hence limit, our understanding of God thus implies its poverty. Language cannot capture the essence of God because it is a human, not a divine, creation.

This is wrong on many levels.

First, Man did not create language. Downing’s own assumption destroys this theory–how could a man without language create language if we are molded BY language?

I refer back to the Bible, where God commanded Adam to care for the garden, keep it, cultivate it, refrain from eating of the fruit of a certain tree. Clearly, God initiated this conversation. Language had to be His idea.

He also put Adam in charge of naming the animals BEFORE Eve was created. Adam had no “cultural” reason to name things, yet he did so as a response to God’s command.

Does this mean that Man created language? Not the concept of language, surely. Individual words, yes–in that regard only, Man “creates” language.

Other Scriptural evidences that language is God’s creation include the fact that He named Man. He named Woman. Later in history, He wrote with His finger in stone the commandments He wanted His people to follow. He also specified that He inspired all Scripture–the words that reveal Who He is and what He does.

Secondly, the idea that Man cannot capture the essence of God because of the poverty of language is flawed.

Man cannot capture the essence of God, according to the Bible, because sin separates us from Him. Sin blinds, so we do not see His essence. We do not seek after Him. We are, like Adam, hiding from Him.

Postmodernism promotes the concept that God is hard to find, transcendent and mysterious.

The truth is, He was not any of those things before sin.

God and the people He created walked in the garden and talked together. Adam and Eve weren’t on their faces in fear, weren’t mystified by God’s presence or His essence–no more than a toddler is in the company of his mother, though she is certainly not a person he can fully grasp.

I posit that any poverty of language is a direct result of sin that defaces all creation.

When I was little—second grade, I think—I got in trouble one P. E. period for being too loud. We were right outside the 6th-grade classroom playing kick ball on the asphalt with lines painted for the bases. (Why someone thought this was a good place for little kids to play anything is wrong, so very wrong for so very many reasons! :-( )

For a competitive, excitable seven-year-old lacking self-control, staying quiet during a close game of kick ball was just too much to ask. My punishment was to miss P. E. the next day.

This was back in the era when no one thought much about leaving kids inside classrooms, so on the day of my punishment, my teacher told me I was not to get up out of my seat, then left with the rest of the class.

Most of them, that is. A little boy was also staying in because he hadn’t finished some work. We talked a bit, and I guess he told me what was stumping him. I was pretty sure I could show him what to do, but there was my teacher’s order, Don’t get up out of your seat.

Ah-ha, a solution presented itself. I wouldn’t get up out of my seat, I would get down. Yep, I got down on my hands and knees and crawled across the room. And yeah, I got busted–lost P. E. for a week, but worse, I was embarrassed, caught in front of the whole class, not just for my disobedience but for lying as I tried to walk the line of literalism. True story.

What does that have to do with the postmodern philosophy of language? If my teacher had been a postmodernist, she might have thought the problem was with language. Perhaps we needed a discourse that would allow us to communicate outside the tower in which our language group had us confined–hers the language of adults, mine of second graders.

Poppycock. I knew exactly what she MEANT by Don’t get up out of your seat. But I didn’t like it. I wanted to find a way around it. I also didn’t want to suffer consequences for going against it. So I, in my mind, manipulated what she said and justified myself to myself by pretending I was not disobeying as long as I didn’t break her mandate in the precise way she stated it.

I am so thankful God gave me a teacher who didn’t let me get away with that. The problem was in my sinful little heart, not in the language my teacher used. Not in my perception of that language.

We cannot speak of God as He really is because we no longer know Him as He really is. Not because of who He is but because of what we became–sinners with a nature that no longer allowed us to relate to Him.

Without Jesus, that’s the state we’re destined for.

However, with Jesus, I now know the Father.

And yet, I see through a glass darkly. One day, even that will change, and I will know in the same way I am known.

That’s something to look forward to! :-D

This article combines two posts from a series on Postmodernism published here in 2006.

Published in: on February 5, 2014 at 6:37 pm  Comments (5)  
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The Shadow Lamp by Stephen Lawhead – CSFF Blog Tour, Day 1


shadow lamp coverThis month the CSFF Blog Tour is featuring The Shadow Lamp, fourth of Stephen Lawhead‘s Bright Empires series. I’ve been a fan of these novels, moving from tepid to hot over the first three, and I’m no less a fan after having read this fourth installment. Lawhead has me hooked. But I have to admit, this one took a step back from the awesomeness I’d predicted for the series.

Today I’ll address what I consider the hard part. Better to get it over with, I think.

Science And Pseudo-science

Of the four Bright Empires books I’ve read, this is the only one that has what I consider didactic sections. Interestingly the “preachiness” has less to do with God than it does science. Coming in book four as it does, this caught me off guard. (Orson Scott Card has a rule for science fiction that pretty much says, establish the rules and move on). I had accepted the premise that the multiverse exists (in these stories), that travel along ley lines took the characters from one place and time to another, similar to but not the same as time travel.

How this supposedly works was not one of the burning questions on my mind, but apparently it was one on Mr. Lawhead’s mind. How much he believes of what he had his characters explain is impossible to know. I expected some illumination because he included an essay at the end. He did not expound further on multiverse theory, however, but considered the role of Christianity as it has related to science.

Towards the end he included this paragraph:

When a loudly outspoken evolutionary biologist declares absolutely that religion is a mental delusion . . . or a prize-winning physicist claims to have proven there is no God . . . we might take a step back and reflect that these men are simply repeating Galileo’s mistake: pontificating on matters outside their field and beyond their understanding. And when religious fundamentalists refuse to consider evidence that challenges the likelihood of a preposterously young universe . . . or ignore perfectly credible fossil evidence . . . we might pause to consider that creating pseudo-science to support dogmatic beliefs does give violence not only to realities that are ultimately beyond time and space, but also to any reasonable ability we might ever have to comprehend them (pp 377-378).

While Mr. Lawhead seems fairly charitable toward scientists speaking against God, stating simply that they are out of their realm, he seems peculiarly strident in his remarks about “religious fundamentalists” who scientifically support a young earth theory. They refuse to consider some evidence and ignore a body of archeological findings. Their theory is preposterous and they use pseudo-science to support their dogmatic position.

Certainly I’m aware that there are Christians who have a dogmatic position about creation. Whether that makes them “religious fundamentalists,” I can’t say since I don’t know what Mr. Lawhead meant by that term. There is an evangelical denomination which includes the term “fundamentalist” in their name. Is that who he’s talking about? If that were the case, then he’s speaking about something I don’t have knowledge about–I am not schooled regarding that denomination’s views on creation.

The people I know who hold to a young earth position are hardly dogmatic. They are also not scientists, but I dare say they have heard what various scientists have said, as I have, and believe that there is a body of evidence pointing to a different conclusion from the currently favored evolutionary theory.

Is this “pseudo-science”? What makes science “real” and what makes it “pseudo”? Is it real if it agrees with an old earth view and pseudo if it supports a young earth theory?

There’s an astrophysicist, for example, named Dr. Hugh Ross who was part of a panel that looked at recent scientific discoveries which “buttress the case for a biblical creator while continuing to erode the foundation for the evolutionary paradigm.” Am I to assume that this astrophysicist is pushing pseudo-science simply because of the conclusions he’s drawing?

Unfortunately Mr. Lawhead doesn’t elaborate on his comments any further except to say that the Roman Catholic Church has “continually pursued a policy of active involvement in scientific inquiry and advancement, quite notably through the Vatican Observatory” (p 38).

I’ll likely have more to say on this subject since the science of this science fantasy pushed its way to the forefront in The Shadow Lamp.

Take time to see what the other tourists have to say about this thought-provoking book. As usual, check marks link to tour articles.

The Problem Of Evil And God’s Goodness


sunrise-over-the-field-1377784-mSome atheists dismiss the existence of God in large part because of the existence of evil. One line of thinking is that if God existed He is either not good, not powerful, or not caring. He could not, they believe, be good, caring, and powerful and co-exist with evil.

What irony that these skeptics don’t turn around and scrutinize goodness. From where do acts of kindness from strangers originate, or the encouragement from a verse of Scripture or the ethereal beauty of fog wisps floating in and out of trees or pier pilings?

Who can explain the transformation of the Huaorani people in Ecuador after Jim Elliot’s death? Or the message of forgiveness Corrie ten Boom preached after losing her father and sister under Nazis cruelty? Who can explain Job’s restoration of wealth after losing all or Joseph’s rise to power in Egypt after being sold into slavery?

In other words, who can explain Romans 2:28 – “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”

How could a God who was not good work all things together for good? And Christians see time and again God’s hand working tragedy into triumph, suffering into sanctification, sacrifice into salvation.

Only God’s goodness can be credited with such miracles as Ruth experienced. The widowed immigrant at the edge of poverty becomes the great-grandmother to Israel’s greatest king, in the direct line of the Messiah.

Who could write such a story? People today would think it too … good, too sappy, too sweet. But that’s God, isn’t it. He goes beyond what we think could possibly happen. He gives more, loves more, sacrifices more.

He takes brokenness and makes a vessel fit for a king, takes a wayward woman and makes her His bride, takes discarded branches and grafts them into His vine.

He hunts down the lost, comforts the grieving, answers the cry of the needy.

Above all, He gives Himself. He sent His prophets to teach the rest of us what we need to know about Him. More, He Himself came in the form of Man, then gave us His Spirit and His written Word.

God’s goodness is imprinted on the world. We have the starry sky, the harvest moon, billowing clouds, flashing lightening, crystalline icicles, yellow-red leaves, falling snow, crashing waves, the rocky grandeur of mountains, and on and on. How can we look at this world and not see God’s goodness?

How can we think that the good things we enjoy are accidents of nature or results of human endeavor? Nature is morally indifferent and Mankind is marred. God alone is good, without wavering, without exception.

May He be praised now and forevermore.

Originally posted in 2010 under the title “God’s Goodness.”

Published in: on November 5, 2013 at 6:17 pm  Comments Off  
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We’re No Longer Saving Daylight


westcoast sunsetI enjoyed an extra hour of sleep Saturday night, but I have to admit, each year I find this clock changing nonsense connected with Daylight Savings Time to be annoying. For one thing, I can never figure out which change of the clock shifts us into Daylight Savings Time and which shifts us out.

But this weekend, one of the news anchors said something about the end of Daylight Savings Time, so now I know–at least for a week or so. ;-)

Actually I find the whole concept to be ludicrous. I mean, who’s kidding whom, that we’re actually saving daylight by shifting our clocks an hour? For me it’s a matter of whether or not it’s dark when you get up in the morning or when you finish work at night. One end or the other, it’s dark, and as the days get shorter, it’s actually dark on both ends.

So we’re clearly not saving any daylight. No matter what we do with our clocks, the sun ignores us and rises and sets at God’s command, according to the pattern He established years ago when He put the greater light in the heavens to rule the day.

It’s really quite a reflection of Mankind’s attitude, I think–us saying we’re saving daylight.

God saved daylight once. He stopped the sun in its tracks extending the day so His people could experience a great victory in battle.

We don’t save daylight like that, and never will. But we sound so powerful, so in control by saying we’re saving daylight. We don’t want the sun to go down when it actually does, so we’ll save daylight.

That’s the old carnival huckster’s trick, selling the public a bit of swamp land based on sleight of hand. Look at how much light we have in the evening, they say, in hopes we won’t notice how much less light we have in the morning.

So now we’re done with it. For a few months, at least. Not that I think those who believe Mankind is able to manipulate time see us as any less in control now than before. I suspect they believe we are capable of pulling our planet out of global warming or climate change–take your pick. If only Man had been around when the Ice Age first showed signs of becoming a thing! I mean, what aren’t we capable of doing?

Such a sad perspective.

I’ve stood on “solid” ground, with the earth bucking and quaking beneath me. I’ve been in the ocean with one wave after another towering over me so that I knew I wouldn’t have the strength to evade one more. I’ve been in the mountains in the winter as the sun goes down and realized the fine line between being warm and dry and freezing to death.

Who is Man that we think we can save daylight? In truth, there’s not much we can do about God’s creation, though we like to think we can. The spate of floods and tornadoes people from Colorado to Oklahoma experienced this year should wake us up to the fact that we aren’t in charge.

Ironically, God assigned Adam the job of cultivating and caring for the earth. He was the steward, I guess you’d say. But post-fall, we want more, we want more. Now we want to manipulate what God made, for our own ends.

For instance, we develop antibiotics and believe we will eradicate disease, only to discover that in the process we’ve created a strain of germs that are resistant to our drugs. Pandemics aren’t a thing of the past at all but a thing of the future. And so is famine and a variety of other “natural” disasters.

Funny how we can save daylight but make no dent in all the blizzards and hurricanes and tidal waves this world throws at us.

If only we’d come to our senses and run back to our sovereign Father, the Creator and Maker of heaven and earth, and admit that we have been trying to usurp His authority. The world is His, we are the mere caretakers. He gives us the good gifts we enjoy–the rain that brings the food we need, the sun that warms us, the land that produces the rocks and trees to provide us with material for shelter, the very air we breath.

Saving daylight? We might as well say we are dismissing gravity.

Light is God’s realm. He describes Himself as Light, after all. If nothing else, maybe starting or ending Daylight Savings Time can remind us who the true and eternal Light is. And that He is the One who saves.

Published in: on November 4, 2013 at 5:19 pm  Comments (2)  
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