Our Modern Quest For Truth

Science continues to create theological problems that we have never been presented with before. This isn’t going to go away. We live in a scientific age where science is the dominant method for attaining truth.

Science is no conspiracy. While there is a degree of error, every scientific theory is under constant scrutiny and peer review. If someone were to find an alternative to, say, germ theory, they would instantly be famous. So how do Christians and other religious believers deal with our faith in light of such a science-dominated culture?

The Authority of Scripture

 

I recently had a dispute with a friend on Facebook. This individual (falsely) accused me of not accepting the authority of Scripture because of my views on Genesis 1-3. I have not doubt that this friend was well intentioned and was genuinely looking out for me as a fellow believer, but I think he missed the point. As Christians, our faith is centered on the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Anything that threatens those truths can rightly be seen as diminishing to the authority of Scripture. I do not see how one can say Genesis 1-3 affects that truth. This is not an issue of authority. It is an issue of interpretation. While an alternative to the literalism of Genesis 1-3 does present significant theological problems (death before the fall, historical Adam, etc.), none of them affect the authority of Scripture.

The History of Young Earth Creationism

While it is important to note that 7-day creationism was a view that some theologians had before the 20th century, it has not been, by any stretch, the dominant view. Ellen White, a Seventh Day Adventist in the 19th century, has been considered by many to have developed modern Young Earth Creationism. Later, Henry Morris and John Whitcomb wrote The Genesis Flood as a way to explain the fossil record. In 1925, we had the Scopes trial. Combine these three events together, and you have modern day Young Earth Creationism. Origen, John Calvin, Charles Spurgeon, and many others saw the Genesis account of creation as having a very poetic nature to it and did not see the creation of the world as being bound by seven literal 24-hour days.

The problem is that Ken Ham and many others today have made a literal interpretation of Scripture as being the only way to properly understand the Bible as the authority of God. This is not true. In fact, in some ways, this it is the opposite. True authority comes from God, who inspired certain men to write the biblical texts, which are communicated through a specific cultural context. If we are to take the authority of Scripture seriously, we have to understand what exactly the author of any given text is saying. To just assume post-Enlightenment literalism does a disservice to Scripture. Literalism is a hermeneutic, just like any other, and it has to be defended on the same grounds.

Galileo Galilei

 

Not only did Galileo provide sufficient evidence for a heliocentric solar system, but he also set a precedent for a particular kind of hermeneutic. It was widely accepted, without question, that the heavenly bodies did revolve around the earth, and the earth was fixed and could not be moved (Psalm 93:1; 1 Chronicles 16:30). It would not be seen as very sophisticated in this day and age to make a claim that these verses are literal, scientific texts that ought to overpower our basic understanding of astronomy. Galileo was vehemently accused of heresy in the Catholic church, but he stuck to what he believed is right, and now we have a proper understanding of the astronomy of our own solar system. “The Bible teaches us how to go to heaven, not how the heavens go.” We should listen to Scripture on the basis of how we are to be reconciled with Christ, not what the material world has to teach us.

Charles Darwin

 

Darwin was no Christian, but he did not see his theory and Christianity as being in conflict. He had many friends who were Christians, and none of them saw evolutionary theory as a threat to their faith. Darwin developed his theory based off of his own observations. It had nothing to do with his lack of belief in God. Asa Gray, a friend of Darwin’s who was a Christian, wrote him after he developed his theory and said that it actually helped him make better sense of his theology. Charles Kingsley, another theologian who was acquainted with Darwin, wrote “We knew of old that God was so wise that he could make all things; but, behold, He is so much wiser than even that, that he can make all things make themselves.” Charles Spurgeon, one of the most popular pastors of the 19th century, said in a sermon once that the notion of millions of years should not be a threat to biblical theology. YEC pastors and theologians were not widely known in the 19th century, and Darwin was seen as giving a rational method that God used to create.

Interpretation

The Bible is a very old book. It is easy to take it literally, and when any given literal statement contradicts objective reality to just assume it is literary or some sort of metaphor. People in the Ancient Near East really did think that the heart, intestines, and other body parts controlled intellect. People really did think hell was actually underneath the earth. People really did think there was a dome above the sky and the stars and other heavenly bodies were carved into it. This is ancient science, and nobody actually accepts it. Just because Ancient Near East writers had a false conception of what the cosmos actually looked like does not diminish the inspired theological truth of the Scriptures. The Bible is not a book to the universal truths of every field of study; it has a very specific message just like any other piece of literature.

The Quest For Truth

Literalism is easy. After all, if God wanted to convey truth to us through His Word, wouldn’t He make it easy to understand? Sadly, it is not that simple. Nobody, and I mean nobody, takes the whole bible literally (at least in the post-Enlightenment sense). Many only take the Bible literally when it doesn’t conflict with common sense or their prior convictions. This is not a consistent hermeneutic, however. Culture plays a huge part in how the Bible was written, and it plays a big part for us when we go about interpreting it. God speaks to cultures. There is not one objective way to speak to a human being, it is done differently depending on the understanding that person has about the nature of reality. In an age of science, where much of the data we acquire in the fields of biology, geology, physics, anthropology, etc. contradicts a literal reading of Scripture, we must be careful to take the Bible for what it is. The Bible is the Word of God, but it does not define every aspect of truth that can be discovered. God created the natural world, so it will not contradict His Word. Science and religion are not in conflict; they both point us toward truth.

Atheists Can Be Pseudoscientists, Too

A few years ago, Ben Stein released a documentary called Expelled. In this documentary, Stein advocates Intelligent Design as an alternative to contemporary evolutionary theory. At one point in the documentary, Stein interviews popular atheist and evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins. Dawkins, being sort of a poster-child for modern day atheism, made the point that he believes a rational explanation to the origin of life on earth was that it was planted by aliens. “Aliens? Really? And this is coming from a guy who is supposed to advocate reason?”

That’s what most theists would say if a comment like this were made. I, however, don’t find anything inherently irrational about what Dawkins said. He may be right. Personally, I don’t think he is, but he did propose an explanation of some kind in order to solve the ongoing problem of abiogenesis. My beef with Dawkins doesn’t lie in exactly what he said but the entirety of Dawkins’ argument as a whole. You see, Richard Dawkins is one of those guys who advocates an atheistic worldview because he believes that theists are making radical pseudoscientific God-of-the-Gaps assumptions and taking away from the good work of science. To Dawkins, science is the key. To a degree, I think he’s right. I don’t advocate young earth creationism or Intelligent Design, as I see evolutionary theory to hold a lot of weight to it. But, it seems that Dawkins is committing the same crime that he is accusing theists of doing. He’s advocating pseudoscience. There’s nothing scientific at all about assuming that aliens planted life on earth around 3.9 billion years ago. Even if he’s right, there’s no testable hypothesis to assume this. And even if there was, there’s still the problem of abiogenesis occurring on another planet. And even if this could occur on another planet, you still have to weigh the mathematical probabilities of evolution successfully taking place on another planet as it has done on ours. (I am no expert on this stuff, so I’m trying not to go into it much. My point is that Dawkins has simply raised more questions that he seems to be answering with the same pseudoscientific principles that he is accusing theists of using.)

A recent study has indicated that more people in Britain believe in ghosts and aliens than in God. But so what? Does this matter? Only if you take into consideration that most atheists accuse Christians/theists/etc. of holding pseudoscientific beliefs. But creationists and ID proponents are not the only Christians/theists accused of pseudoscience. In an article he wrote on Karl Giberson, Jerry Coyne says:

“I gave the answer above to why the middle ground is losing: accommodationism doesn’t work, nor does converting naturalists into theistic evolutionists. So there’s no reason that middle ground should increase. The reason it’s decreasing is palpably obvious: America is becoming less religious as young people either lose their faith or fail to embrace any. Further, as they become less religious, they become more pro-science (being religious is a barrier to accepting science). And if you’re pro-science and a “none,” theistic evolution simply isn’t credible.”

It’s not that he blatantly says anything against the theistic evolutionist camp as being a group of pseudoscientists, but he does make his point very clear that embracing modern science will diminish one’s faith in a deity. This is demonstrably false. Coyne doesn’t seem to take into account that there are MANY scientists who do believe in God, and, while many young people do lose their faith, many young people also grow in their faith by embracing a love and understanding of science.

Another pressing issue in the whole “Science and Religion” discussion is the multiverse theory. Does the existence of multiple universes exclude the need for a creator? Possibly, but let’s think about what we’re dealing with here. The principle of uniformity states that all natural laws that operate in the universe now have always operated in the same way, and they also operate in the same way all the way across the whole of the universe. This is a totally reasonable principle, and there are scientific reasons to accept it (pretty much everyone accepts this principle). The problem is that when you start throwing multiple universes into the mix, you lose the uniformity principle. Why? Because there is no reason, especially no scientific reason, to assume that the same uniformity that exists in our own universe (the only realm of existence that we can actually study, I might add) exists in other universes. The multiverse may not, in fact probably doesn’t, have the same natural laws that exist in our own universe. If they don’t, then the laws of the multiverse may not be natural. They may be supernatural. My point: there is no way to make scientific claims about the multiverse. It is unobservable, it cannot be experimented on, and it may not even behave under natural law. It’s all pseudoscience.

(Just for the record, I personally do not believe in the multiverse. There are Christians who do, however.)

The bottom line is this: embracing science is not a one-way street to atheism. There are many Christians, most notably Francis Collins and Alister McGrath, who converted to Christianity from an atheistic perspective and now believe that God gives much more beauty to their scientific endeavors.

To conclude, I would like to emphasize the fact that not all atheists believe in pseudoscience. At the same time, neither do all theists. There are rational theist perspectives and there are rational atheist perspectives as well. My point of writing this post is to simply show that atheism should not be conflated with science.

Genesis 1

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If I were to ask you what a computer is, what would you say?  For most people, a computer is a machine that you can use to surf the internet, type papers, play games, etc.  Suppose the computer was just a machine, with no purpose at all.  It didn’t work or anything, it was just a useless machine.  Would you call that a computer?  The reason why we call it a computer is because it has a certain function, one that gives a purpose to the machine.  This analogy ties in to the Genesis account of creation.  After the Enlightenment era, a much different way of viewing the world began to rise.  This view consisted of a much more materialistic worldview, and it definitely had an impact on how Scripture was being interpreted.  Biblical literalism started to become a major part of hermeneutics and the original meaning of certain biblical texts was ignored.  In this post, I will not try to answer the question of whether the creation account is “literal”, “metaphorical”, “mythical”, etc.  To do so would be a major oversimplification.  In this post, I will attempt to be answer the question “what does Genesis 1 mean?”

 

First of all, I will emphasize why it is very important to interpret this text properly.  We live in an age of science, and one may find it difficult to reconcile current mainstream scientific ideas with the biblical creation account.  Geology is a major field that has wrecked post-Enlightenment literalism.  There are two ideas that are withheld in the field of biology:  Catastrophism and Uniformitarianism.  Catastrophism is the idea that Noah’s flood created the geologic layers and even the fossil record that we see today.  It wasn’t until about 200 years ago that this was found to be very problematic.  Uniformitarianism quickly replaced catastrophism in the current scientific paradigm.  This is the idea that slow, gradual processes brought about the fossil record and the geologic layers over millions of years.  The main reason why this view has succeeded is because it’s testable.  Catastrophism is based off of radical assumptions that cannot be tested and have no scientific basis to them.  Uniformitarianism, on the other hand, can be tested and the evidence shows very little geomorphological change in the earth around the time of the flood.  This is a huge problem for the catastrophist, and on top of that, Darwinian evolution has dominated the field of biology.  These two factors go directly against post-Enlightenment literalism.  So, how do we interpret the creation account?  The truth is that the language of Genesis 1-11 is unapologetically folklore in its face-value reading.  However, I won’t focus on that too much.  I’ll start by discussing Genesis 1.

 

Verse 1

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

I have often been accused of claiming that this verse is true, but the other parts of the Genesis account are mythical.  At best, that is a perversion of the text and in no way do I advocate it.  Context is everything and, like I said before, Genesis is an account of functional ontology rather than material.  That being said, the word “beginning” is translated in Hebrew as bara.  This is giving the creation account a function from the very beginning.  It is used in the context simply to give a functional beginning for the rest of the creation account.

 

Verse 2

Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

 

In Hebrew, “formless” means tohu and “empty” means bohu.  Again, both of these words mean simply something that is “unproductive.”  This is giving function to the text.  What’s interesting is Genesis 1 is the only text in the Bible where the words “formless” and “empty” are used in the context of not being material properties.  It is important to note that in this context, these words do not mean something that lacks material, rather it simply means that nothing was happening.

 

Day 1:  Verses 3-5

“And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.  God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness.  God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.”

The ancients didn’t really have a clear concept of what “light” was.  This is important because it helps us to understand what the ancient function of light was.  Now, look at verse 5.  Notice how God calls the light “day.”  This is interesting, because the Hebrews had two distinct words for “day” and “light.”  So why not use them?  What the writer of Genesis was doing was using a rhetorical device called “metonymy.”  The Hebrews would have understood the text as a “period of light” as opposed to just “light.”  Essentially, it would make more sense for the text to say “God called the period of light “day,” and the period of darkness He called “night.”  This makes more sense because it takes care of the “light being day” issue and it gives a condition to “light,” which is how the Hebrews would have better understood it.  Not only that, but many people wonder why God would have created light before the sun.  If “light” is established as a period of time, as opposed to a material object, there is no contradiction between God creating light before the sun.  It just makes more sense.

 

Day 2:  Verses 6-8

And God said, “Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water.”  So God made the vault and separated the water under the vault from the water above it. And it was so.  God called the vault “sky.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the second day.

Many people thought that the modern science of evolutionary theory and the age of the earth contradicted the literal reading of Genesis 1.  This is true, but so should this.  The ancient hebrews thought there was a vault, or firmament (a solid dome) in the sky that held up the waters above the earth.  This is drastically problematic for the biblical literalist, because nobody believes this.  Man has traveled to the moon and our technology has gone even further.  To put it simply; the firmament does not exist.  However, the ancients thought it did.  This was part of their model of the universe, one that is 3-tier.

 

Day 3:  Verses 9-13

And God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.”  And it was so.  God called the dry ground “land,” and the gathered waters he called “seas.”  And God saw that it was good.  Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.”  And it was so. The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.  And there was evening, and there was morning—the third day.

What’s interesting about day 3 is that it does not describe God actually creating anything.  He gives the land responsibility to produce vegetation.  This clearly shows function over anything else, because God is establishing a creative order for how plants and vegetation are supposed to work.  It is not a material creation, it is a functional description.

 

Day 4:  Verses 14-19

And God said, “Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years,  and let them be lights in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth.” And it was so.  God made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars.  God set them in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth,  to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good.  And there was evening, and there was morning—the fourth day.

Again, more problems with the firmament.  The ancients thought that the stars and other celestial bodies were in the firmament, but, as we now know, the firmament does not exist.  The function focuses on the terminology of the “greater light” and the “lesser light” established times.  This is not God “creating,” but “establishing.”

 

Day 5:  Verses 20-23

And God said, “Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the vault of the sky.”  So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living thing with which the water teems and that moves about in it, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.  God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth.”  And there was evening, and there was morning—the fifth day.

Fairly simple.  The function here is to establish the roles of living creatures, and one of their primary functions is to reproduce.

 

Day 6:  Verses 24-31

And God said, “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: the livestock, the creatures that move along the ground, and the wild animals, each according to its kind.” And it was so.  God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.

 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals,[a] and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

 So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

 Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.  And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so.

 God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.

Again, establishing more function for creatures.  God then proceeds to instill His Image within mankind.  This is the most important functional aspect of the creation account because it establishes man’s role, which is the most important thing God has created.

 

This was just a simple overview of Genesis 1.  For the next post in this series, be watching Ryan Ellington’s blog = ryanwaitforitellington.wordpress.com

Are Christians Really Insane?

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A couple years ago, I posted a Facebook status talking about Obamacare.  This discussion soon got off topic and turned into a religious debate.  One guy in particular commented on my status, used some very harsh and inappropriate language, and then made the comment, I quote, “anybody who believes in an invisible man is insane!”  At first, I just ignored this ignorant statement, but then he started private messaging me.  He went on and on and on about how Christians are stupid and insane.  However, he failed in showing any evidence to support his own reasoning.  Is this enough?  Is it insane to believe in God and all of the things that are entailed in Christianity?

 

What if it’s true?

 

If somebody is hearing voices, or if they feel as if something inside of them is telling them or motivating them to do something, and those voices or feelings are not there from some outside source, this person is classified as mentally ill.  This could be used against Christianity.  However, there are huge implications if this is not the situation.  If there is a God who is speaking to us, whether it be through Scripture or some other method, then you could not be classified as insane for hearing God speak to you.  Why?  Because God would be an outside source.  So, how do we prove this one way or another?

 

How do we know?

 

How do we know if God is truly speaking to us or not?  Sam Harris describes people who believe that God is speaking to them as mentally ill.  However, this can in no way, shape, or form be used as evidence against the existence of God.  Why?  Because it has no evidential basis for it.  You cannot prove that God isn’t speaking to someone.  I am normally not a fan of arguments such as “I can’t prove that God exists, but you can’t prove that He doesn’t.”  I will agree that this argument doesn’t make any sense.  However, in the situation where people claim that God is speaking to them, this is different, because it is an issue of perspective, not empirical evidence.  However, we can validate personal experience with a different kind of evidence (or at least form some sort of philosophical theory behind it).

 

But you don’t have any scientific evidence for this claim.

 

I don’t have to.  I’m not strictly speaking of empirical evidence (because there is none).  God is not proven by science, but by other philosophical methods.  If you support scientism, then you are going to disagree with everything I’m about to say.  Science and empirical data are not the only way to gain knowledge.  Can I know this?  Absolutely.  How?  Because in order to show how evidential science actually is, you have to use a different method.  “Philosophy of Science” if you will.  The Scientific method cannot prove the scientific method.  This does not mean that the scientific method is flawed, it means that a different “nonscientific” method is used to determine its validity.  Which, for me, is fine because I accept other methods of gaining knowledge other than science.  Philosophy is not a branch off of science (as some people assert) but science is a branch off of philosophy.  Why?  Because philosophy is the basis for scientific validity.  Asking the question of “How does science work?” is not a scientific question (if it is, then I would like to see it proposed).  Why am I ranting on about scientific evidence?  Because mental illness is often confirmed through observational data, or some other psychological theory.  When it comes to the issue of God, this cannot be the case.  So, the argument of whether someone is mentally ill for believing that God is speaking to them or not becomes irrelevant when it comes to STRICTLY science, because there are other philosophical issues as well.  You cannot say on JUST a scientific basis that God is speaking to someone or not.

 

So, where is your “philosophical” evidence?

 

Well, the evidence I see lies at the heart of many issues.  I believe the only question of “why is there something rather than nothing?” is ultimately answered by some sort of transcendent being (see my post “Defense of the Kalam Cosmological Argument”).  How do I know this is God?  Through teleology and other inductive methods (intrinsic fine-tuning in our universe, etc.).  Through this, I can clearly see that there is an intelligent, transcendent agent who created our universe.  You can disagree with all of this evidence, however, when calling a Christian “insane” for believing in God, well, there’s a lot more evidence to consider with that claim.  No, not all atheists/agnostics/naturalists etc. believe that Christians are insane.  There are, however, people who do believe this.  I have seen studies out there that claim that Christians are mentally ill.  These studies are based on asking ridiculous questions that do not even pertain to the existence of a personal God or lack thereof.  If you are not even willing to address the ultimate problem at hand, which is the evidence for God, then how can you have a right to call someone insane?  Like I’ve said many times before, this issue is about asking the right questions.  And I feel that the right questions are scarcely asked when discussing these issues.

Defense of the Kalam Cosmological Argument

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  1.  Everything that begins to exist has a cause.
  2. The universe began to exist.
  3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.

 

This is a simple yet very complicated argument for some.  This argument does not prove the existence of the Christian God, but rather it attempts to show that some action outside of the natural realm caused the universe to come into existence (which most people would say IS God).  However, many people still seem to have a big problem with the first two premises.  I’ll go ahead and start with tackling premise one in this first section.

 

Everything that begins to exist has a cause.

 

The first law of thermodynamics states that “matter cannot be created or destroyed.”  (I know, this is not what the official law states, but it is a dumbed down version of it.)  Many would argue that we have no basis to claim that everything that begins to exist has a cause, because we have never actually seen anything begin to exist.  This is true, but only to a small degree.  Matter cannot be created, so therefore everything in the natural world is just a rearrangement of this matter.  Matter changes form, but the quantity of it doesn’t change with new “creation.”  Matter cannot be destroyed, so, even if you “destroy” or get rid of something, you haven’t destroyed the matter, but you changed its form.  So, in a sense the person who is making this argument is right in that we don’t exactly see something coming into existence, but in a different sense this is not the case.  To make this argument you would have to assume that every human being has existed since the beginning of time (around 14 billion years ago).  You can make the argument that the “parts” that make us up have always existed, but it would absurd to assume that we as human beings have always existed.  Who we are, our consciousnesses, etc. have not always existed.  The matter that makes all of those things up has always existed.  However, that rearranging of the matter IS the cause of the creation, not necessarily the matter itself.  The end product, which in the scenario above is human beings, is the effect of the cause, which is the rearranging of matter.  So, the argument of “everything that begins to exist has a cause” still stands as rational.

 

The universe began to exist.

 

I’m not sure exactly why this is much of an issue.  At one point in time, prier to the 20th century, it seemed rather reasonable to believe that the universe has always existed.  However, with the discovery of big bang cosmology (which I’m not sure why theists run from), it has become obvious that the universe had a definite beginning.  (I haven’t heard very many arguments trying to refute this claim, but there are some out there).  With a definite beginning to the universe, the obvious question next is whether or not this definite beginning was the cause of divine intervention or something else.

 

But what about the multiverse?

 

The multiverse theory has very little if any basis supporting it at all.  I am extremely open to this theory, however there is no scientific evidence for it.  This is due to the fact that we can only apply scientific principles to what is in our own universe, not what is outside of it (if the M-Theory is exactly what most scientists suggest it is).  However, for the sake of argument, let’s just assume that the M-Theory is plausible.  Many may say that our universe was created from parts of another universe.  This would require entropy to never increase, and we know that this is not the case.  While the quantity of matter never decreases, the quality does.  In order for the above theory to work, the quality of matter would have to remain constant, and this goes directly against the second law of thermodynamics.  So, this cannot be explained scientifically, much less naturally.  Like I said above, I am not making a case for the existence of the Christian God, just that the universe does have to have some unnatural, unscientific cause (after all, if science is how we interpret the natural world, and the natural world had a definite beginning, then there’s no way that natural products could have created the universe).  There are many more ways people have tried to use the multiverse to fight against Kalam (which is weird, because nobody seems to be able to understand what exactly the multiverse is), but this is just one hypothetical example.

 

Well, if God is the beginning cause of the universe, then who caused God?

 

Ah, yes.  This good old question.  Who caused God?  First of all, to even ask this question has huge metaphysical implications.  You must first completely misunderstand the first premise “Everything that begins to exist has a cause” as “everything is caused.”  To make this claim, you would have to know everything about every field of knowledge (which clearly nobody does).  On a scientific basis, yes you can claim that everything is caused, but on a complete metaphysical basis, you cannot make this claim.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not completely denying the antecedent.  I am simply saying that God is uncaused.  Is that a step of faith?  Yes.  Is it an even bigger step of faith to claim the opposite?  You bet.  While I also don’t know everything about metaphysics, I can rest easily on the claim that there is something that transcends beyond the material world, which is uncaused and goes beyond our own logic and reasoning, because that is the most consistent conclusion.

Deceptive Appearances

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Recently I’ve been doing some studying on what exactly God’s creation says about His character.  When talking about issues such as the age of the earth, we have to take something into consideration.  Did God create the earth with the appearance of age?  If He did, what does this say about Him?

I personally am unsettled with the appearance of age theory for many reasons.  I feel as if it makes God out to be a deceiver.  It prevents scientists and historians from doing their work in the field.  I grew up believing that this theory was valid, but a trip to Utah a couple years ago, seeing all of the arches and the canyons that were apart of God’s creation, caused me to rethink this view.  Thinking that all of this was created as some part of deceptive masterpiece just doesn’t seem right anymore.

 

And it isn’t.

 

One example of God doing this “appearance of age” miracle is in John 2, when Jesus turns water into wine, but he creates the wine with age.  This was done for a specific purpose, and that was to create the best kind of wine for the people.  However, what does it say about God when He creates the universe with the appearance of age?  Essentially, if the universe appears as having an age of around 14 billion years old, yet you claim that it is only 6,000 years old, you are basically saying that the mass majority of history is completely made up.  This makes God out to be a cosmological trickster, and even more than that, a deceiver.  But why is this different than the wine?

 

Jesus clearly had a purpose in doing what He did with the wine.  However, why would he need to create a world that was 6,000 years old with the appearance of several billion years of history?  Here’s how I like to view the situation.  We find out the validity of the Bible, God’s Holy Book, through historical findings.  Now, we have to start with the presupposition that history is not made up or flawed by a celestial charlatan, otherwise we have no reason to assume that anything we find about the accuracy of the Bible is true.  So, once we discover the accuracy of the Bible, should we believe that all the history before that was fake?  If that’s true, then we have good reason to believe, at least on moral grounds, that God created the world at any point in time with the appearance of age, even with biblical history in it.  Therefore, the Bible wouldn’t be an accurate book.  This would be just one of few huge problems with the appearance of age argument.  

 

Another big thing is the distant starlight problem.  If you believe that God created the light in transit, then you are saying that every star that you see in space past the 6,000 light year mark is a complete illusion.  If you see a star explode that is three million light years away, everything you saw before that explosion isn’t even real.

 

So, the appearance of age theory presents many problems not just on scientific grounds, but also on theological grounds.

 

 

 

“Speak to the earth and it shall teach thee…”

Job 12:8

Asking the Right Questions in an Age of Disbelief

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One of the things I love about Christianity is it ties in everything that we experience in the world together.  Not only that, but it helps me make better sense of everything.  However, one thing that I see as a struggle today is many Christians feel as if they are losing ground to the secular community.  Is Christianity dying, and is non-religion winning?  I feel like sometimes Christians feel as if they are losing the battle with their arguments, because as we gain more knowledge, atheistic arguments just seem more plausible.  I am here to make the argument that this is not so.

 

The debate between Christians and atheists certainly has changed over time, at least in the last 100 years or so.  Arguments have been formed, revised, and thrown out on both sides as time has gone on.  Let’s go all the way back to about 6000 years ago.  Man did not have the technology or knowledge that we have today.  All of their ideas about ancient cosmology and other sciences were very different than today.  One of the biggest things was most people did not see any distinction between the natural and supernatural worlds.  In fact, there were no such concepts around back then.  Things really started to change over the centuries with advances and discoveries in science that no one would have ever thought could possibly happen.  

 

Many of the first people to arrive in America were Christians who were very grounded in their faith.  Philosophical ideas from all sides were thrown around and, for a while, atheism didn’t seem to stand a chance.  Most of the philosophers, writers, and scientists were Christians.  However, in the 1700s-1800s, Christianity started to lose it’s ground.  Christians started to become intellectually lazy, focusing on strictly the spiritual, physical, and social aspects of Christianity, completely ignoring the mental.  This was a bad mistake on the Christian part.  This is why secularism started to gain its ground.  In the midst of all of this, Darwinian evolution arose and this completely revolutionized the way scientists thought about biological life.  New discoveries were starting to be discovered about ancient cosmology, and science seemed to cover up all of the evidence that Christians were using.  Science was gaining major ground, and it was able to explain things that many people never thought it would be able to.  Then, in the past decade, four men rose to fame.  Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, and Daniel Dennet.  Each of these men, being experts in very different things, began to attack theism from many different angles, revolutionizing the way the Western World viewed religion.  So, what are we to do with all of this?  One of the biggest things to note is that the argument has changed from strictly philosophy, to science.  Scientism has taken over the minds of many people.

 

As Christians, what we have to realize is what constitutes a valid argument.  When discussing issues of God, we cannot resort to scientific consensus, but to philosophy.  We have to learn to ask the right questions.  If you view everything from a scientific standpoint, chances are you are not going to come up with God as a conclusion.  If you view it from a philosophical standpoint, and possibly combined with science, I think it would be very probable to come up with God as a valid conclusion.  Examples of scientific questions are:  Why does the earth revolve around the sun?  Why does biological life change over time?  How old is the universe?

 

Some philosophical questions are:  Why are we here?  Is there an afterlife?  Is morality objective or relative?  Is there a God?  Why is there something instead of nothing?

 

There is clearly a different standard between these two sets of questions.  Asking the right questions is the most important thing when it comes to argument, and this is where atheists have failed in their arguments.  They have successfully done a good job at making many people view everything from a scientific standpoint, and this has diminished our culture’s view at asking the right questions.  Atheism has not succeeded in proposing valid arguments, it has succeeded at getting the argument off topic and asking the wrong questions.  In order for Christianity to thrive, we have to come together and take the issue of God’s existence from a different viewpoint.

Teleology and the Multiverse Theory

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The teleological argument is, for some people, one of the most powerful arguments for the existence of God.  It is often called the argument from design, and it attempts to show the existence of God using empirical evidence.  There are many forms of the teleological argument, some have been demolished and some are still standing strong.  The one I want to talk about, which is probably the biggest one, is the fine tuning of the universe.  Is our universe finely tuned for life?  Is there evidence in our universe to support it?  Is there a better explanation other than God?

 

Martin Rees, an astronomer from England, published a book titled Just Six Numbers, where he talks about six very precise numbers where, if one of them is “untuned” life within our universe would cease to exist.  Now, it is impossible for these numbers to align up perfectly to where life does exist, so the most logical conclusion for some would be that there has to be a designer.  However, we run into a problem, because there is another option.  The multiverse theory.  Are there multiple universes?  And if there are, can this demolish this form of the teleological argument?

 

The theory goes something like this.  There are an infinite number of universes out there with an infinite number of possibilities, therefore drastically increasing the probability that life can exist in our universe without a designer.  However, there are a ton of problems with this theory.

 

First of all, the multiverse theory is proposed by physicists as a scientific theory, and there is nothing scientific about it.  Things that are tested scientifically have to reside in our universe, and the multiverse theory by definition takes place outside of our universe.  Another problem is there is absolutely no evidence for it at all.  Literally none.  The final problem with it is none of the scientific properties in our universe would work in other universes, since other possibilities outside of the possibilities in our universe have to exist.  Also, the multiverse theorists have punched a hole in their own argument because if every possibility exists, then God HAS to exist.  Overall, the multiverse theory is just a very poorly designed philosophy.  A designer is much more probable, because otherwise you are just assuming there are a fist full of maybes.

 

If the multiverse theory did exist, does this diminish my belief in God?  No.  There are plenty more evidences for God’s existence, such as how these multiple universes came into existence in the first place.  Overall, we are still left with a very probable explanation for the Creator God.

 

 

Adapting Faith

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I’m going to take a break from my posts on skepticism and talk about the current state of faith in our culture.  This still has to do with knowledge and truth, but not on the same lines as my previous post.  As a Christian, I believe that we need to be aware of the history of faith and how it has changed.  I have come to believe one central thing in my studies.  Faith that cannot adapt to change will significantly shrink and eventually die out.  Now, what do I mean by this?  If our faith is grounded on what we may have thought at one point in our lives, or at one point in our history, then we will see Christianity slowly start to go away.  My theory is that this is what is happening in our society right now.  Yes, there are people genuinely seeking to disprove God, but there are also Christians who feel so strongly that they cannot abandon what they have been taught, that they are willing to refute modern findings in history, science, and other fields of knowledge to keep their fundamental beliefs.  The American society is becoming more and more hostile to Christianity, and it is not because they have no reason.  The popular myth is that Christianity cannot adapt to change, and this is because CHRISTIANS have not allowed it to adapt to change.

 

I live by one central motto in my life.  “All truth is God’s truth.”  I am not afraid to discover what is true, because I do not feel as if God wants me to live in ignorance.  God created the world and everything in it, and so I think it is a sin to sit back and just not discover what is out there because of fear of what we might discover.

 

There are several examples of times where science has changed and many Christians have felt that they cannot accept it, because of what they have been taught.  One example of ignorance in science is when Copernicus theorized that the earth revolved around the sun.  He was deemed a heretic because, in the book of Joshua, Joshua asks God to stop the sun in the sky.  This implied that the sun revolved around the earth, not vise versa.  The reason why he was called a heretic was because people could not let go of their fundamental beliefs and accept the change.  This change brought another way of viewing the Bible into perspective.  God does not correct us if we are ignorant of something in His creation, He lets us discover it on our own.

 

Another example of how science was very different in the past is the people who lived during the time that Genesis was written had a lot of strange, false views about what science was.  They believed that knowledge was derived from our intestines, not our brains.  They also did not believe in a supernatural or a natural world.  Nobody could even perceive of a world where God did not create it.

 

Now, we live in a culture where atheists and agnostics are making the claim that we do not need God or religion because science can explain everything, or will eventually be able to explain everything.  This is because they are taking advantage of the things that Christians are not willing to adapt to, and using them as a weapon against God.  I can see where they are coming with this, however it is not a proper approach.  We used to think angels pushed the planets in orbit, we now know that this is not the case.  We used to think that intelligence came from the intestines, we now know that this is not the case.  We used to think that the earth was only 6000 years old, and we now know that this is not the case.  We used to think that the great complexity of biological life on earth was the result of a designer, and we now know that this is not the case.  Sadly, there are many Christians who will not accept these truths.  I can go on and on, but the point is, if we are trying to conflate God with science, we are asking the wrong questions.  Asking the proper questions is the most important thing to saving Christianity in our culture.  You see, science hasn’t changed since the time when people were extremely ignorant of science.  We are constantly discovering just what is out there and what kinds of questions to ask when trying to figure out things about God.  If we are not open to change, and if we are not open to our faith evolving, we will lose opportunities for winning people to Christ.  Our society is becoming extremely secular because Christians will not open up and embrace the existing reality that is in front of them.  My hope and prayer is that Christians will not settle for intellectual laziness and go out, learn to ask the right questions, find the right answers, and then embrace the secular culture to ultimately further the Kingdom of God.

 

 

“Explaining how something happens scientifically doesn’t explain it away; the question of purpose, intentionality, the question of why still remains there on the table.”

-Alister McGrath

The Mendacious Logic of Richard Dawkins

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Richard Dawkins is arguably the most prominent atheist that is alive today.  Growing up in a Christian home, he became very interested in the natural sciences from a young age.  After learning about Darwin’s theory of evolution, he soon converted to an atheistic worldview.  Dawkins deserves some credit as a biologist.  However, I can give him absolutely no credit as a philosopher.

I opened the book that Dawkins released back in 2006 entitled The God Delusion.  This book has raised so much awareness toward atheism, and it is ultimately the reason Dawkins gained the amount of fame that he did.  I figured, if this piece of work was as cracked up as everyone makes it out to be, I ought to check it out.  I opened up to a random page and the first piece of text I read was this:  “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”  Wow.  This leads me to think two things.  First this book was written to attack Christians.  Second, Dawkins has in incredibly ignorant view of the Christian religion.

Dawkins takes a scientism worldview.  He believes that if it cannot be explained scientifically, then we have no basis to say that it exists.  So, from what I have read of him, his reasoning goes like this.  For many years we have thought that the great complexity of life had to have been the result of a creator.  Since we now have evolution, we do not need a creator anymore, for we start with something simple and progressively get more complex.  Since life can be explained without a designer, then we should never assume that the details that we see in our universe are the result of a creator, but of scientific properties, even though they can’t be explained by these properties yet.  On this basis, we have no reason to believe in a God, but rather certain scientific properties can reduce the “probabilities” and other factors in our universe, just like it did with biological life.  Also, if God did exist, he would have to be much more complex than His creation, so therefore, He can’t exist, because He can’t be reduced to something simple.

There are some big problems with these arguments.  First of all, it is not science like he claims that it is.  As a supporter of evolutionary theory, I can easily say that life can be explained using certain scientific properties.  However, to extrapolate that out and claim that, because of evolution, we can explain every detail without the need of a designer is a PHILOSOPHICAL view, not a scientific one.  You cannot test any of that scientifically, you have to look beyond.  You can’t even bring the topic of God into question without leaving the scientific realm and diving into philosophy, it’s just not possible.

Every scientific property is automatic, but just because there is an automatic mechanism there (gravity, thermodynamics, evolution, etc.) does not mean that the designer of these mechanisms is superfluous.  I can explain how a watch works in very great detail, but that does not mean that I exclude the designer who made this watch work.  Also, Dawkins does make a point that God would have to be more complex than his creation.  This is true, however it is irrelevant.  God is outside of time and the laws of our universe.  He cannot be measured by these properties, and since He is supernatural, there is no reason why He cannot be an infinite regression.  The ultimate problem with Dawkins is he views everything with a scientific worldview, and that leaves people with empty answers.

Richard Dawkins, though he has contributed much to the field of biology, has done nothing in the field of philosophy except confuse the minds of people.