Sin And The Human Brain


I once heard a comment that goes against common understanding—sin distorts Mankind’s thinking.

Most people agree that nobody’s perfect, but by this they mean, nobody lives a morally upright life all the time; nobody avoids making mistakes. The one thing that most people do NOT mean is that their thinking is flawed.

Rather, I suspect most people believe mankind’s ability to reason has become sharper over time, that we are out from under superstition and have honed deductive reasoning, can study evidence and make inferences more accurately than those who first lived on earth.

But why should that be true? If we believe the Bible, we know a few things about the earth before and after sin progressively took hold (some of these things became evident after the flood).

    1. Before — animals were not carnivorous (Gen. 1:30).

    After — even Man became carnivorous.

    2. Before — animals were at peace with each other and with Man.

    After — “The fear of you and the terror of you will be on every beast of the earth and on every bird of the sky; with everything that creeps on the ground, and all the fish of the sea, into your hand they are given” (Gen. 9:2).

    3. Before — the ground yielded fruit abundantly.

    After — the ground was cursed and needed to be cultivated by the sweat of Man’s brow.

    4. Before — Man was destined to life.

    After — Man was destined to death.

    5. Before — Man apparently had the capacity to communicate with the animals.

    After — animals only communicated with Man when God opened their mouths (see Balaam’s donkey).

    6. Before — an “expanse” divided waters, some above, some below—apparently creating another layer of our atmosphere and providing protection from the molten lava at the earth’s core.

    After — the “floodgates of the sky” opened and “the fountains of the great deep burst open.”

    7. Before — Man lived for centuries.

    After — once the atmospheric protection was removed, his life span became much shorter.

    8. Before — Man communed in person with God.

    After — Man hid from God.

    9. Before — Adam and Eve were a perfect fit, naked and unashamed.

    After — they hurled accusations at one another.

    10. Before — Man spoke a common language.

    After — God confused Men’s language and scattered them.

I could go on, but I think I’ve said enough for the purpose of this post. To sum up, sin changed the world, the heavens, the way Mankind relates to creation, to God, to others. Why would we think Man alone is untouched by the effects of sin? We know his life span was affected, so why not other aspects of his life, such as his ability to comprehend the supernatural or to reason clearly?

I don’t think it’s a stretch to believe that Mankind, with all the knowledge available to us, understands less about the world today than Adam did. Oh, sure, we know facts (and many of those prove to be incorrect at some later date), but we are reasoning ourselves away from God, not to Him.

It was Man’s observation, reasoning, and conclusions—well, woman’s, actually—that started the Fall in the first place: “When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate.” (emphasis mine)

God had said … but she saw, and she went with her own observations and her own conclusions. In that respect, things haven’t changed so much over time.

This article originally appeared here in August 2012.

Published in: on April 30, 2015 at 6:08 pm  Comments (11)  
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Creation Is Not Superfluous


SolarsystemMany discussions I’ve had with atheists at some point reference the beginning of all things—the big bang and evolution or creation. Yet there are some Christians who would rather not discuss the subject. They believe what they believe and don’t see any need to answer the questions presented by people who believe differently.

I understand this to a point. I mean, atheists have formed their theories based on the rejection of God as the first cause. Rather, they look at the heavens (astronomy and physics) and at the earth (geology, biology, and genetics) and speculate how all we see could have come into being.

In contrast Christians have historically read the Bible and incorporated its truth into the study of all the disciplines of science. Hence the first cause of all that exists has been recognized as God, the Creator.

With these two contrasting starting places, it’s unlikely that a theist is going to accept the evolutionary views of an atheist, or an atheist, the Creation views of a Christian, so why bother with the discussion?

Sadly, because of certain Supreme Court rulings, the discussion of first cause in schools has been relegated to the purview of science, as if this is a knowable, observable fact which experts have proved instead of a theory under debate.

Add to this the fact that the hard and fast belief in a six-day creation which Genesis seems to describe has been exposed as not quite as definitive as scholars once taught. There are, for example, things we don’t understand about the creation story. For example, Genesis 1:2 says God moved over the surface of the waters before the six-day process began. What else might be included in the first verse, then, which says God created the heavens and the earth? Were angelic beings created at this point? And how long did all of what God created exist before He started what we know as the six-day process?

Then there’s the fact that Scripture refers to God accomplishing various things on the first day, second day, third day, before He created the sun by which we measure time. So were these “days” simply a mark of completed activity, not to be taken literally as lasting 24 hours?

Then there’s the matter of Scripture stating that to God a day is as a thousand years. In other words, He’s beyond time. Could His creative day have been a thousand or a billion years?

These are questions we can speculate about, but there’s no place where we have the answers recorded for us.

Which, in the minds of some, opens up the whole creation process to the possibility of evolution. Some have opted for “theistic evolution” which suggests that God initiated the evolutionary chain of events. Few, it would seem, go so far as to believe in the common descent theory that says all of life evolved from one original source. One such idea is “the belief that God created a set of ‘kinds’ of plants and animals at the beginning of Creation” (Wikipedia) Most retain the uniqueness of man. The problem with this theory is a big one: evolution requires death and according to Scripture, death came into the world because of Man’s sin.

Of course, evolution has problems of its own, the greatest being the existence of anything before anything came into being! Then there is the mathematical improbability of random matter and energy coming together to create a “last universal ancestor”—or that first life. In addition there’s the problem of entropy—the thermodynamic law that suggests that order does not come from disorder. So the random convergence of matter and energy, even if possible, would not order itself into more and more complex forms with the intricate patterns we now know DNA to have.

Unless there were a Designer, a Creator, a guiding hand ordering what would not other wise be ordered.

Finally there’s the absence of “transitional forms between species”–fossil findings of evolving creatures who were in the process of changing from one species to another.

So here’s the summation of all this. None of us was present at creation. We either have to believe what atheists say about the random beginning of everything (trusting in theories based on some scientific observation while ignoring other known facts) or we have to believe the Biblical account with all its lack of clarity. Either way there are unanswerable questions.

I suspect at this point, some will say, Hey, better to be the guy who keeps his ideas to himself and doesn’t get caught up talking about something we can’t ever actually know (until Glory). But I’ll tell you, I think that’s why we are in the situation we’re in today, with public schools passing off evolutionary theory as if it is proven fact when it is not.

Yes, we know a species can evolve. It’s called micro-evolution. Take the honey bee here in the US, for example. When the more virulent African bee was accidentally introduced into the Americas, the honey bee population began to diminish and the African variety to become more dominant.

However, there still is no concrete proof of cross-species evolution. Some say the universal genetic code is such proof, but it isn’t. Because God created all, since we all come from the same mind, why should we think there wouldn’t be a commonality all share?

In fact, I think we’re approaching a crisis point. We have young men who have been steeped in evolutionary theory during their school years becoming pastors and youth ministers. What will they teach their congregation, their youth groups?

Here’s what we know about creation and it is sure: God created. We can dither about the way He chose to do so, but we must not question that He is the First Cause, the only One capable of bringing all life and existence into being because He is the I AM, the pre-existent One. The Bible makes no equivocation about this fact and neither should Christians.

Do you not know? Have you not heard?
The Everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth
Does not become weary or tired.
His understanding is inscrutable. (Isaiah 40:28)

That, my friends, is the truth about origins. It makes the discussion of Creation vital, not superfluous theological gobbledygook.

Published in: on February 16, 2015 at 6:51 pm  Comments (6)  
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Atheism’s Unanswerable Question


Evolution_tree_of_lifeChristianity and atheism, which of necessity requires belief in evolution, are two contrasting worldviews, not only because they have opposing views about God but also because they have opposing views about humankind. While the focus of discussions and debates often concentrates on the existence of God, it is the view of humankind that leaves atheists with an unanswerable question.

There are two specific ways that Christians and atheists view humankind differently. First, Christians believe that humans are unique from animals because we have an eternal soul. Atheists believe instead in the “common descent” principle:

In evolutionary biology, a group of organisms have common descent if they have a common ancestor. “There is strong quantitative support, by a formal test”[1] for the theory that all living organisms on Earth are descended from a common ancestor.[2]

Charles Darwin proposed the theory of universal common descent through an evolutionary process in On the Origin of Species, saying, “There is a grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one”.[3]

Second, Christians believe humans, though created in God’s image, have a fallen, or sinful, nature passed down through Adam who turned his back on God when he intentionally disobeyed Him. The only way to change society is to point individuals to Jesus Christ who provides a way of escape from sin, guilt, the law, and death.

Atheists, on the other hand, believe humans are morally neutral at worst and might even be considered “good” by virtue of the fact that what exists has survived.

Right and wrong, good and evil, then, are not existent apart from the perception of a group or community. Hence, homosexuality is wrong until the group determines it is right.

Infants come into the world as blank slates or even as good slates and only turn toward evil if they are influenced by societal patterns (racism, for example) or errant views (such as religion). The way to change society is simply to re-educate people.

One atheist puts it this way:

So if we are determined, then how do we define evil? If our minds come from our brains, and our brain circuitry is out of our control, then is anyone responsible for anything – no matter how courageous, no matter how innovative, no matter how good or evil, that the person is? (“An atheist’s view of evil”)

Another atheist discussing evil concludes with this:

For atheists, a better explanation for the presence of evil in the world is that God does not exist. (“Atheism”).

A number of others discuss evil only as an argument against the existence of God. But here’s the question that atheists can’t seem to answer: where did evil come from? If life has a common descent, if we’re born with no natural bent toward evil, what injected evil into the equation?

In reality, the atheist scenario is one that would seem to result in utopia: humans, evolved from a common and not evil descent, growing toward their full potential without any negative force to intercede.

Except for society. Which teaches gender differences and racism and encourages belief in mythical gods which motivate people groups to hate.

But society is nothing more than people interacting with one another. So how and why did humans start acting in hateful ways toward people who were different from them? Why did the strong decide to take from the weak instead of using their strength for the greater good?

In other words, where did evil come from?

This is the atheist’s unanswerable question.

As I mentioned, a number of professing atheists lay evil at the feet of God, then declare that its existence proves He couldn’t possibly exist. That he doesn’t eradicate evil shows either that he’s too weak to do so (and therefore, not God) or too evil himself or too undiscerning to know evil from good (and therefore not God).

The argument, of course, ignores what God Himself has to say about evil and its existence. But more so, it offers no alternative, no explanation for the virulent presence of evil in the world.

In fact, some atheists deny the existence of evil:

Atheists such as Richard Dawkins claim that evil doesn’t actually exist. In his book, River Out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life Dawkins writes: “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 that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.” (David Robinson, “The problem of evil is a bigger problem for atheists than Christians,” Christianity Today)

Of course such a view collapses the argument that evil disproves the existence of God, because something that does not exist cannot itself be used to disprove anything. So either evil exists, or it doesn’t. And if it exists, but there is no God, then where did it come from? How did it come to be included in this mix of materialism?

Actually the atheist I quoted above, was on the right track. Evil comes from the absence of God. He does exist, but He doesn’t force Himself on our lives. Humankind, having chosen to leave God out, now experience the world with the absence-of-God component a reality.

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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