The Biblical Narrative: What Is Now, Isn’t What Was Then

Science has messed up an understanding of history. For example, back when Mount St. Helens erupted in 1980, scientists predicted an unrecoverable blow to the ecosystem. The devastation—“hundreds of square miles were reduced to wasteland”—caused by the blast, could not be overcome for hundreds of years. Or so they said, with the same authoritative voice that all scientific pronouncements are made.

Imagine the shock when nature didn’t cooperate with science. The predictions of ecosystem disaster were simply wrong: “For example, within just three years, 90% of the original plant species were found to be growing within the blast zone” (from “After devastation … the recovery”).

The point is, science thinks things thousands of years ago acted the same way researchers have observed them to act today—as if the intervening time did nothing to change the way things work. Consequently, things like people who were nine feet tall or who lived for nine hundred years simply get filed in the “just a myth” category. So does a worldwide flood and talking animals. We know these things aren’t true, the scientific rationale goes, because we’ve never observed these things.

One more problem—the basic idea of evolution, of survival of the fittest, suggests that the strongest survives, the smartest or most capable. In essence, in practice if not in philosophy, evolution suggests that people are getting better.

So how could there have been a period of time in which men were taller, stronger, smarter, and lived way, way longer than we do now? Science simply says it didn’t happen that way.

But what if the Bible is true? What if God did create Adam and Eve and all the plants and animals and called all He made good because it was all at optimum capacity? That scenario doesn’t leave much room for the natural order getting better. Unless God’s “good” was simple a good start.

How are we to make sense of the Bible in light of the observations of science? Or do we simply dismiss science as ineffectual in understanding history? Do we accept the Bible with no attempt to integrate scientific discovers? Take the existence of dinosaurs for example.

There are actually a number of theories that Biblical scholars have postulated through the years to explain dinosaurs. One is the gap theory—the idea that the dinosaur age existed in a period of time between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2. Another idea is that dinosaurs were corrupt and not taken onto the ark, so they died in the flood. Still another theory is that they were taken onto the ark but became extinct after the flood.

My own theory is that dinosaurs were in the serpent family, falling under God’s curse:

The LORD God said to the serpent,
“Because you have done this,
Cursed are you more than all cattle,
And more than every beast of the field;
On your belly you will go,
And dust you will eat
All the days of your life (Gen. 3:14)

Just like Adam’s consequence for his sin affected all of mankind, might not the serpent’s complicit involvement in the temptation of Adam and Eve, affected the entire reptilian family?

Really, there are all kinds of possibilities if a person first accepts the Biblical account as true. And by “accepting the Biblical account,” I mean the entire Bible.

Consequently when Scripture says, in God’s way of reckoning time, a day is like a thousand years (see 2 Peter 3:8), that’s something to consider when contemplating a “six day” creation. So also is the fact that no way existed to measure twenty-four hours until God created the sun on “day” four. What, then, did God mean when He said, The evening and the morning were the first day? The second day? The third? In truth, we don’t actually know for sure.

But what about the giants and living for hundreds of years? Isn’t all that far-fetched?

Keep in mind, we’re starting with the premise that the Biblical narrative is true. The discussion, then, would be how do we explain these phenomena, not how do we prove them.

According to the Bible, in those early days there was one land mass; there was no rain, but a mist watered the earth; no animals were carnivores; and a person’s natural life-span was over eight centuries. And then there was a worldwide flood, a division of the land, people stopped living for hundreds of years, and they started speaking different languages. In other words, everything changed.

Is there a reasonable explanation for all this? Actually there is a possibility tucked into Genesis 1. Verses 6-10 discuss land separated from water, but also water separated from water by an “expanse,” or “heaven,” which we now call space.

What if our earth’s atmosphere once contained a layer of water that protected the inhabitants from the harmful rays of the sun? Wouldn’t it be possible to imagine people living far longer lives? And animals living on a different diet, not needing meat? Wouldn’t it also be possible to envision a worldwide flood if that layer of water gave way?

Some people also postulate a layer of water under the crust of the earth that protected the inhabitants from volcanic activity. Kind of like a thicker water table.

Which brings us back to the lessons of Mount St. Helens.

Because things are the way they are today, we cannot assume to know what the world was like thousands of years ago, unless we have written records preserved miraculously by the One who knows exactly how those records and scientific observation fit together.

In short, science doesn’t have to be feared or ignored, but it does have to be understood in light of the infallible record given to us by our omniscient, all powerful God.

This article is a revised and edited version of one that appeared here in March, 2013.


Paul Was A Creationist—A Reprise

Some time ago, during my personal time in the Bible, it dawned on me that the Apostle Paul must have been a creationist.

Clearly he viewed Genesis as a historical record. He drew parallels in numerous places between Christ and Adam (Romans 5; I Corinthians 15). None of those analogies would carry any weight if Adam was a mythical character, not an actual historical person.

Come to think of it, the writer of the book of Hebrews (some think that was Paul, too, but some think it might have been Barnabas or even Peter) also believed in the historicity of Genesis. The fundamental comparison in Hebrews is between Christ and a little-known priest/king named Melchizedek. Genesis 14 mentions him briefly, almost in passing, but clearly the New Testament believers understood him to be a historical figure and highly significant in helping people (especially Jews) understand Jesus’s role as High Priest and King.

I suppose, more important than all is that Jesus Himself understood Genesis to be history. After His resurrection, He is the one who spent time with His disciples explaining how He figured into the Law and Prophets—how the Old Testament Scriptures pointed to Jesus.

Before His crucifixion, He made numerous references to David, Moses, and Abraham. In fact, in connection to Abraham, He taught about life after death. If He had used a mythical character for these lessons He would have destroyed the very point He was making. Instead, He referenced historical figures, and mentioned their motives, their choice of a verb tense, their use of words. If Jesus knew these Old Testament people to be figments of someone’s imagination, He would have been partaking in a great fraud.

No, He, along with the writer to the Hebrews, along with the Apostle Paul, viewed the Law and the Prophets as grounded in historical fact.

So how do I get from that point to Paul was a creationist? If Paul believed Adam was a historical figure and that sin came into the world because of what Adam did, which is precisely what he says in Romans 5:12 (“Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned —”), he must have believed that Genesis 3 was historical. That’s the passage in the Old Testament that relates how sin entered into the world because of one man.

Do we have reason to believe Paul thought Genesis 3 was factual but Genesis 2 or Genesis 1 was mythical?

Actually there’s no evidence that Paul thought any of the Old Testament was mythical. He’d spent his life as a Pharisee, and he’d been a student of one of the most learned men of the time. Clearly he took the Law and the Prophets to be the word of God, and he was zealous to do what he believed God would have him do.

But God stopped him. And changed him. From the time of his conversion, Paul did a 180°. Instead of persecuting Christians, he spent his time reasoning with non-Christians so that they too might believe. Despite this change, he still based his instruction on the Word of God. In every city, he began his church planting by reading and discussing Scripture.

Sure, today some may dismiss Paul as scientifically ignorant. But one thing we can accurately know—he was not spiritually ignorant.

So the question is, does rational thought negate the power of God? If after all our scientific discoveries, we say, God couldn’t have created the world the way Genesis says, isn’t that actually a reflection of our own beliefs, rather than what really happened?

I mean, what we’re really saying is, I don’t see how these scientific facts and the Genesis account can both be true, so I choose known science (even though unknown science might someday prove me wrong). Science is ever-changing, shaky ground. God’s word is authoritative, infallible, accurate, and true. To choose the fallible over the infallible is not a wise decision.

What’s more, God Himself is all powerful, so to conclude that God couldn’t create the world (because it’s billions of years old, we know, and evolution does away with the need to believe in creation) is a bit silly. God could create a grown man, so certainly He could create a fully developed universe. Scripture never said He was creating the beginning of stars. No, He created stars. Fully formed stars. And they undoubtedly looked a whole lot older than one minute. Just like Adam undoubtedly was not an infant and had never been an infant.

Back to the Apostle Paul. This learned man who had a direct revelation of Jesus Christ, wasn’t encumbered with the restrictions of modern philosophy or with the uncertainties of postmodern ideas or with the chaos of post-truth thought. Undoubtedly his vast study, his reliance on and belief in the authority of Scripture, led him to be a creationist.

This post is a revised version of one that first appeared here July, 2009.

Published in: on July 2, 2018 at 5:26 pm  Comments Off on Paul Was A Creationist—A Reprise  
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Why I Am A Biblical Creationist – A Reprise

00Galaxy_NGC1300A number of years ago I read an article entitled “Young Earth-ism Cost Her Faith” posted on a friend’s Facebook page. The author stated that “many apologists for young-earth creationism (including the writers of my Christian textbooks) actually appeared to have misrepresented evolutionary theory and the evidence for it in a way that I can only describe as dishonest.”

Coming to this conclusion caused her to ” ‘lose my faith,’ as it were.”

I was curious about the direction the responses to this article would go, but the website proprietors closed comments which also apparently hid them.

In the sidebar was another article that I thought might explore a similar subject, this one entitled “Why I Am A Darwinist–Mary Catherine Watson” , so I turned there.

In similar fashion to the writer who lost her faith, Ms. Watson came to her belief in Darwinism through exposure to it after growing up with a creationist education: “I took AP Biology and found myself convinced that evolution made more sense in explaining the world around me than did the Bible.”

The irony is, I had the reverse experience. I grew up with evolution, the Big Bang theory, Darwinism, taught in school as if there were no other possible answers.

But I was fortunate. I also grew up going to church where I learned the Bible was God’s authoritative Word, His revelation. Consequently, my experience was quite different from Ms. Watson’s.

From her study, she concluded,

And no, it is highly unlikely that every scientist is simultaneously deluded by this theory. Science is one of the most intellectually intense fields of profession [sic] around, and its workers have some of the highest IQs, they are not that naïve.

From my study, I concluded that God, who is omniscient, the Creator of all those high IQs, revealed that which only He could know with certainty.

Ms. Watson says she went to the Bible and found more questions. She admits evolution doesn’t answer all questions either but concluded, “in light of all the information I’ve come across from both sides, it [evolution] seems to me to be the more logical option.”

On the other hand, I went to the Bible and found more and more facts that made the big picture come together in a logical whole, outstripping anything science can answer. Evolution has no answers for the big questions like why are we here? and where are we going? and what happens after we die?

Ms. Watson changed her opinions in part because of her questions about the flood recorded in Scripture:

such a flood would require steady, worldwide rainfall at the rate of about 6 inches per minute, 8640 inches per day–for 40 days and nights–so as to cover the entire earth with an endless ocean 5 miles deep, thus burying 29,000 ft. Mt. Everest (the tallest mountain) under 22 ft. (15 cubits) of water, made me think again. That is a lot of water, where did it come from, and where did it go?

Her study of Scripture seems to be less complete than her math computations. According to the Biblical record of creation, there was “a lot of water”:

The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters . . . Then God said, “Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” God made the expanse, and separated the waters which were below the expanse from the waters which were above the expanse; and it was so. God called the expanse heaven. And there was evening and there was morning, a second day. Then God said, “Let the waters below the heavens be gathered into one place, and let the dry land appear”; and it was so. (Gen 1:2, 6-9)

Then in the account of the flood, this:

on the same day all the fountains of the great deep burst open, and the floodgates of the sky were opened. The rain fell upon the earth for forty days and forty nights. (Gen 7:11-12)

In other words, this was not the typical modern-day rain storm we’re familiar with.

Herein lies the divide between people like Ms. Watson and people like me—when the Bible records something that is outside my experience, I don’t conclude it was fabricated, mythologized, or inaccurate. I believe it is outside my experience and outside today’s scientific observation because things were different from what the scientists assume. And clearly, assumption plays a huge part in “observing” what transpired thousands of years ago.

The bottom line is this: Ms. Watson and the anonymous “lost her faith” writer read the same science I read, read the same Bible I read, and yet we have arrived at vastly different places. I am far from thinking that I know all the details about creation, but I’m pretty confident that the scientists who deny a Creator have made a serious error. If you start with a wrong hypothesis, it’s pretty hard to draw closer to the truth if you persist with that line of reasoning.

Hänsel_und_GretelIn the end, I’ll take the word of omniscient, eternal God over finite, limited Man when it comes to the origins of the cosmos. After all, without God’s revelation, we’re trying to follow a trail of bread crumbs back to the first cause. As Hansel and Gretel discovered, bread crumbs aren’t so reliable.

This post is a revised version of one that appeared here in June 2013.

God’s Greatest, Matchless Gift

Christmas is fast approaching, so I would not be surprised if you all expected me to write about Jesus as God’s greatest, matchless gift. But no. OK, maybe in part.

But there’s something else.

I’m actually thinking of God’s revelation of Himself.

It dawned on me today that the standard line atheists repeat simply is not true. There’s no evidence for God, they say.

On the contrary, God has given us abundant evidence of His existence. But those who reject Him simply skate around the evidence or dismiss it altogether or find reasons to call it into question.

In one thing atheists are right—there is no way for us frail and finite humans to reach God, so on our own we have no proof of His existence. But He did the unthinkable—He revealed Himself to us.

First He put His fingerprints on the world He made. Paul said it best to the Romans:

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.

God’s invisible attributes seen in what He made.

But the atheist doesn’t believe God made the world.

OK, God put a man and woman on earth to be His intermediaries. Then He brought forth a nation through miraculous circumstances so that the rest of the nations would “know that I am the LORD.”

All God’s dealings with Adam and Eve, then with Israel, teach us about Him. Because they broke covenant with Him, however, their special relationship with Him isn’t something we can see today.

No worries. He spoke through prophets, He gave us a lasting record of His work in the world through those developing years.

And then He gave us Jesus. Well, kind of in the middle of giving us the Scriptures. But Jesus was His exact representation, so much so that He told His disciples, If you’ve seen Me, you’ve seen the Father.

Now it’s up to us. We have the natural world around us—with every amazing scientific discovery after the next demonstrating God’s order and purpose and care and power and wisdom and beauty and majesty and dominion.

As an aside, some who don’t believe in God have come up with a counter for the amazing facts that demonstrate how intricate the universe is. Some of the amazing facts include the following:

The Earth…its size is perfect. The Earth’s size and corresponding gravity holds a thin layer of mostly nitrogen and oxygen gases, only extending about 50 miles above the Earth’s surface. If Earth were smaller, an atmosphere would be impossible, like the planet Mercury. If Earth were larger, its atmosphere would contain free hydrogen, like Jupiter.3 Earth is the only known planet equipped with an atmosphere of the right mixture of gases to sustain plant, animal and human life.

The Earth is located the right distance from the sun. Consider the temperature swings we encounter, roughly -30 degrees to +120 degrees. If the Earth were any further away from the sun, we would all freeze. Any closer and we would burn up. Even a fractional variance in the Earth’s position to the sun would make life on Earth impossible. The Earth remains this perfect distance from the sun while it rotates around the sun at a speed of nearly 67,000 mph. It is also rotating on its axis, allowing the entire surface of the Earth to be properly warmed and cooled every day.

And our moon is the perfect size and distance from the Earth for its gravitational pull. The moon creates important ocean tides and movement so ocean waters do not stagnate, and yet our massive oceans are restrained from spilling over across the continents.4 (“Is There A God?”)

The counter is that if mud existed in a mud hole, it would marvel at how perfect the hole is that contains it. The shape is perfect and it allows the proper amount of moisture, and so on. That analogy is supposed to explain away the reality that countless details have to be just right in order for the universe to exist. But it doesn’t.

These few examples don’t even begin to recount the numerous ways in which the natural world has to be just right in order to exist. The idea that all these intricate and balanced and nuanced details happened by chance has an overwhelmingly high probability of existence—so high it’s beyond what mathematicians consider possible.

Besides the natural world, we have the miraculous word of God that shows us God and His Son Jesus throughout—a marvelous collection of works by various writers, some separated by centuries from others, all singing a united tune: this is who God is and what He’s like. All pointing to Jesus as either the promised Messiah, the present Son of God, or the future coming King.

Then we have the Holy Spirit living in the lives of every believer. Of course, no one can see the Spirit, but the evidence of His work is apparent through changed lives. The problem here is that false teachers and false religions can put up counterfeits. I think of the magicians in Pharaoh’s court, replicating the miracles Moses performed. Up to a point.

All these claims and ideas can be tested. Which is real and lasting? Which is of true value? For example, I just heard of a snake handler. Apparently he considered his ability to pick up poisonous snakes a sign of something spiritual. Scripture can actually be misinterpreted in that way. But in testing the spirits, one immediate question comes to mind: so what? So what if he can handle snakes? Who benefits? Oh, BTW, the report was that this snake handler was bitten by the snake, refused treatment because he said God would heal him, and he died.

True evidence of the presence of God’s Spirit is not paper thin like that.

But the bottom line is this: the work of the Holy Spirit is never in contradiction to God’s written word.

God tells us He loves us. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son. We would not have known about God, His love for us, or His Son if He had not revealed this to us. His revelation of Himself is, undeniably, His greatest gift to us.

Published in: on November 28, 2017 at 5:51 pm  Comments Off on God’s Greatest, Matchless Gift  
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The Compatibility Of Science And Christianity

Protoplanetary_diskChristians should be the first to combat the idea that science and Christianity are at odds with one another. They aren’t. In fact science, by its nature, is a limited field, contributing only to the field of observable knowledge accessed through our physical senses.

Christianity, of course, does not purport to explain DNA or the string theory or black holes, but it does reveal God and His plan and purpose for the world. It answers the big questions of life: who am I, why am I here, what is my destiny?

In reality, science and Christianity together give us an understanding of life. No one should separate the two, and yet an artificial divide is being forced onto society.

This divide would be similar to asking someone heading into a movie theater if he’s going to listen to the movie or watch it. Well, both, would be his logical reply. No, no, the pundit says, you have to choose one or the other. Sight and sound aren’t compatible.

Well, yes, they are. They reveal different things, but those things aren’t in contradiction. In fact sight and sound complement each other and give a fuller, richer movie-going experience. So too with science and Christianity.

The root to this divide seems to be in the creation-versus-evolution debate. Because the courts have ruled that evolution is science and can be taught in schools while creation is not and cannot be taught in schools, a line has been drawn in the sand. Choose what you believe, the pundits say—science or religion.

First, evolutionary theory is filled with unrepeatable parts that can’t be studied by the scientific method. Second, science is far greater than evolution. And third, Christianity is not synonymous with religion.

In other words, evolution requires a great deal of faith to believe—more so, in my opinion, than believing God designed the universe and brought it into being.

Regarding the first point, because evolution is a theory and not provable by the scientific method, it takes faith to believe it. Did you know, for example, that a single strand of DNA contains 3.1 billion bytes of information? A single strand. Three point one billion! And yet we are to believe, according to evolutionary theory, that an accidental concussion of matter and energy is responsible for the process that ordered all of life. Not just a single DNA strand, but all of life! The improbability of such a thing happening is incredibly high—astronomically high, you might say. Truly, it is more feasible that an explosion in a print shop resulted in Webster’s Dictionary.

The second point is equally important. Science that actually adheres to the scientific method does contribute knowledge about the physical world—knowledge which does not contradict the Bible. As a matter of fact, a host of early scientists were Christians, from Francis Bacon, Galileo Galilei, Johann Kepler, Blaise Pascal to Isaac Newton, Samuel Morse, Louis Pasteur, and many others.

A great number of Christians working in the fields of science exist today, too, men such as the following:
# Dr. Larry Vardiman Senior Research Scientist, Astro/Geophysics
# Dr. William Arion, Biochemistry, Chemistry
# Dr. Paul Ackerman, Psychologist
# Dr. E. Theo Agard, Medical Physics
# Dr. Steve Austin, Geologist
# Dr. S.E. Aw, Biochemist
# Dr. Thomas Barnes, Physicist
# Dr. Geoff Barnard, Immunologist
# Dr. John Baumgardner, Electrical Engineering, Space Physicist, Geophysicist, expert in supercomputer modeling of plate tectonics

Last point: Christianity is unique among religions because of Jesus Christ—no other religion has a person at the center of its faith as opposed to a system. No other religion offers grace and mercy instead of rules and regulations. Sadly, Christianity has been lumped in with those that play on superstition, guilt, and fear. Christ, in fact, brings peace and joy and hope and help. Christianity is not about a way to appease an angry God. It’s a realistic understanding of the human condition and the need of the human heart.

In no way does science step on Christianity’s toes. The idea that is incompatible with truth is the dismissal of God as the One who is before all, created all, and rules all. But if you accept God for who He is, study science all you want. The two are not mutually exclusive.

This post first appeared here in March 2013

Published in: on March 16, 2016 at 6:35 pm  Comments Off on The Compatibility Of Science And Christianity  
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The Atheist’s Shallow Worldview

engineers-scales-335147-mRecently in a discussion with some atheists, I asked, if all life descended from a common source as many evolutionists claim, why do atheists care for humans more than for other species?

The exchange stemmed from the oft-used assault on God based on the lack of prohibition against slavery in the Ten Commandments. Why, I asked, were atheists so intent on human rights but not on animal rights (though a growing number are moving in that direction). Now that I understand this common descent theory, I would expect those who hold to it to follow the logically consistent position that all life was worth fighting for or that no life was worth fighting for. But to advocate for human rights over and above animals seems inconsistent.

The answer I received was that there’s species identification—we treat those like us more favorably.

Of course other names for “species identification” would be prejudice, partiality, favoritism, bigotry, intolerance. I mean, if it’s OK to identify favorably and advocate for one species over the others, then why not do the same for one gender over the other, for one race over the others, one religion over the others, one language, one ethnicity, one hair color or eye color or height or weight or favorite sports team? 😉

In fact, it seems few atheists think past their assertions to the logical next step or subsequent consequences of their worldview.

In truth what ground do atheists have for ethical living? Why, from their perspective, is pedophilia wrong or murder or rape or car jacking or terrorist attacks? One atheist says the “human community decides,” but on what basis? If more people, or more powerful people, want to have sex with children, than want to protect children from abuse, would the “human community” simply change the laws as if wrong has become right? This is precisely what the movement to change the definition of marriage is doing.

Atheists apparently see nothing wrong with such a moving scale of right and wrong (unless, I suppose, the scale should move to a point where atheism was a crime). Rather, the moral imperative is simply the will of the people (or of the powerful people). This position reflects what life is like without God. There is no authoritative standard and ultimately we descend into caveman thing: might makes right.

What else is there? Self-sacrifice for others becomes a foolish act if this life is all there is. Why give to the needy instead of hoarding all we can get? After all, survival of the fittest should prevail.

And yet, there are impressively generous atheists who seem to derive some pleasure in thinking of others and not just themselves. How does that fit with their worldview?

There’s no absolute standard of right and wrong, and yet almost unanimously all peoples would stop to help a crying child, give directions to a stranger, thank the man who changes a tire deep in the American desert.

The atheist can’t explain the compunction to do what is right. They don’t believe that humans have been made in God’s image.

At the same time, they have no answer for why an atheist would gun down three Muslim students or curse Christians at every opportunity or act in other hateful ways. They don’t believe humans have a sin nature.

In essence, atheists can only go skin deep because that’s where science stops. It doesn’t examine the intents of the heart. What can atheists say about the basic philosophical questions of human existence: who am I, why am I here, where am I going, what is truth, how do I know what is right and wrong (and where did the sense that there is a right and wrong come from)?

The answers I’ve heard are these: humans are a product of chance and evolution, without purpose, ending at death (therefore going nowhere); and truth, like right and wrong, is whatever you make it to be. In that shallow, simplistic worldview, there’s no explanation for the self-sacrifice of a Jim Elliott or for the forgiveness of a Corrie ten Boom or for the selfless service of a Katie Davis. No. The best atheists can can do is rail at the God they say does not exist.

He, on the other hand, extends grace and mercy to whoever believes.

Published in: on February 13, 2015 at 6:17 pm  Comments (31)  
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The Limits Of Science

Embryonic_Stars_in_the_Rosette_NebulaAtheists don’t like to admit this, but science is limited. True science, that is. There’s a particular process known as the scientific method that leads to truth pronouncements, but only a limited body of truth.

Art, for instance is foreign to science. What can science tell a painter or musician or writer? Is there a way to measure who will or won’t have a particular artistic ability? Does science tell these creative people what notes go with which or what colors they need on their pallet?

Perhaps we need first to understand what specifically are the claims of science. Here’s the definition from the Oxford American Dictionary: “a systematically organized body of knowledge on a particular subject.” This “systematically organized body of knowledge” comes about by use of the scientific method which also has a strict definition:

To be termed scientific, a method of inquiry is commonly based on empirical or measurable evidence subject to specific principles of reasoning (Wikipedia).

So if someone is exploring, say, the existence of a certain historical figure, such as Jesus of Nazareth, science can’t help because there’s no empirical or measurable evidence. Clearly, science can’t be a guarantor of historical truth.

Philosophical truth is another area in which science is pretty useless. Ask a why question and science has little choice but to shut up. Why are we here? Why is there suffering? Why do some people believe in God and others reject Him? What can science contribute to such explorations?

Of course science is also useless when it comes to ethics. We have no empirical way of measuring right or wrong, though we all agree that right and wrong exist. Science can’t tell you why we think this way and it can’t help us figure out what belongs in each category.

Or how about relational truth? Some people are drawn to each other. They have “chemistry,” but no one can tell you exactly what that means or how people achieve it. This relational chemistry exists between a man and wife, between friends, between team members. But when it comes to the latter, it’s not always there. Sometimes everything “clicks” and sometimes it doesn’t. What makes the difference? A certain leader, a peacemaker, someone whose unselfishness is an example to the others? No one can quantify what it is—it’s beyond the purview of science.

Then there’s the spiritual realm. Most atheists I’ve communicated with deny a spiritual realm because science can’t measure it—a shortsighted . . . or maybe, blind . . . pronouncement. Millions of people down through time have reported spiritual experiences. Atheists, however, consider these as delusions, fabrications, or brain function—none of which they can prove.

Rather, their trump card is that no one can produce scientific evidence to support the spiritual—as if science with its dependence upon empirical data can measure the supernatural.

What’s most intriguing to me is that atheists who cling so firmly to science most often embrace evolution as the explanation for humankind’s existence, and in fact of all life. Yet the very thing they use to counter the idea that the universe and all life has been created, is the very thing they can not verify scientifically.

Oh, sure you’ll hear a lot of science thrown around—light traveling through space for untold light years, rocks determined to be millions or billions of years old, fossils of a pre-man, and so on. But none of that is science.

Science is based on observation and questioning (how did man come to be?), followed by conjecture (he might have evolved from a lower life form), also known as a hypothesis. Then comes the real work: experimentation. The subject in question must undergo testing which yields empirical data, and the tests must be repeated to verify that the results weren’t simply coincidental. Clearly, no one can replicate evolution or its companion theory, the Big Bang. There are no experiments we can run to show how nothing exploded into life, how that life organized itself from a single cell to multiple cells, each more complex than the one before it.

In short, science is too limited to prove the theory of evolution, to disprove the existence of the supernatural, to explain morality, to determine answers to the great questions of purpose.

So why, I wonder, have we deified science as if it is the end all of every discipline? It is not.

Published in: on February 11, 2015 at 6:31 pm  Comments (6)  
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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.


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

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.