Great questions and answers on Stephen Meyer on his new book Darwin’s Doubt:
Great questions and answers on Stephen Meyer on his new book Darwin’s Doubt:
The more I personally experience the nature of internet atheism, the more I realize this is an aspect of our kids’ spiritual environment that we need to prepare them to engage with. They may only occasionally encounter vocal atheists in their personal lives, but they’ll almost certainly encounter atheists with regularity online – through social media posts/conversations, comments on news stories, blogs and more.
As I reflect on my experiences to date, I believe there are six key things kids need to understand before they face the online battle of worldviews. [Click the link below to learn those six things - JW]
At some point I had to ask myself, “Am I rejecting this because there isn’t enough evidence, or because I don’t want there to be enough evidence?”
The verdict seems unanimous. From presidential speeches to role-playing games, the crusades are depicted as a deplorably violent episode in which thuggish Westerners trundled off, unprovoked, to murder and pillage peace-loving, sophisticated Muslims, laying down patterns of outrageous oppression that would be repeated throughout subsequent history. In many corners of the Western world today, this view is too commonplace and apparently obvious even to be challenged.
But unanimity is not a guarantee of accuracy. What everyone “knows” about the crusades may not, in fact, be true. From the many popular notions about the crusades, let us pick four and see if they bear close examination.
There is a shortage of good apologetics material out there for kids, and I am always on the lookout for more.
One of those is my friend Melissa Travis‘s book “How Do We Know God is Really There?”
Also, William Lane Craig has a series out as well here:
Lee Strobel also has books for kids based on his “Case for…” series:
If you know of other good ones, add them to the comments!
I recently had a friend express to me the hurt he felt that his Christian family did not accept his alternate religious beliefs. He then went on to explain that his own religious views did not require everyone else to abandon their views in favor of his. His consternation at the closed-mindedness of Christian proselytizing was clear. The pain and distress experienced by my friend was real and evident, and I expressed my sincere sympathy with what they were going through.
So why can’t we all just get along? I’m sure you’ve seen the “Coexist” bumper sticker before (see the image above): each of the letters are formed to represent a religious or other ideological view. The implication is that these ideologies have not been doing a good job of peacefully coexisting, and that world would be better if we all just got along. Is that a fair interpretation of the message being communicated here? Isn’t this also the message expressed by my friend?
Still, though, the application of this is pretty unclear, isn’t it? The devil’s in the details, as they say. We can cry for peace all we wish, but it cannot be achieved through declaration or emotion alone. There are two problematic assumptions I see with the “coexist” approach. 1. All paths are presumed to lead equally to God, and/or 2. Religion is considered a placebo. But both of these assumptions are really condescending towards anyone who takes religion seriously, aren’t they?
Concerning “all paths lead equally to God,” most religions differ with every other religion (and I include atheism in this) over the big questions of life. What happens to our consciousness upon death: reincarnation, absorption into the great spirit, heaven or hell, extinction? What is the significance of mankind: God’s special creation, insignificant happenstance of evolution, insignificance of illusory existence? Who was Jesus: a deceiver, a lunatic, the son of God? All religions could be false, but under no circumstances can they all be True (with a capital “T”).
In regards to religion as a placebo, I mean that it is an atheistic view which presumes from the outset that all other religious views are false, but that it has some positive psychological benefit for the believer, so it is OK for a person to believe. At least, it is so long as they don’t take it so seriously that it starts to affect other people in any way.
In either of these cases, religion is reduced to an ice-cream parlor in which you choose your favorite flavor, mixing and matching components as it suits you, to pick what appeals to you, and in which it would be ridiculous for someone else to say your preference is wrong. But is religion simply a matter of opinion, like ice cream flavors, or are does religion refer to absolute truths which are independent of our likes and preferences? The only good reason to hold a religious (or any other) view is because it is objectively true, and accurately reflects reality, isn’t it? This makes it rather important to thoroughly investigate and compare coherence, consistency, and completeness of the core claims of any religion being considered, and see if they accurately explain the world we in which we live.
At any rate, this view of religious tolerance self-destructs. Reflecting back on the conversation with my friend, I wish I had asked him why, if trying to change others’ religious views was such a great moral crime, he was trying to change his Christian family and my religious views? After all, Christianity is a missionary religion, and respectful persuasion is part of our core beliefs.
In the Beginning Conference
This is a dump of the “raw” notes I took during the conference. It does not include any conclusions or commentary by me, but only reports the presentations made by the speakers.
Wed. 6/15/11 – John Lennox
Defending Christianity as a truth claim, rather than genetic
Although true, not defended with violence
1 Pet 3:15 Forthright engagement with love and humility
Fact of creation agreed upon, its manner and timing is debated
Under attack from atheists, Christians may be confused about Genesis and its interpretation
Aristotlean and Copernican views of earth as center of universe, and the Biblical indications supporting this; Galileo disproved this. Why do we as Christians believe this? Have we disregarded Biblical teaching?
The issue is really how the Bible is interpreted. Genre, cultural context important. One should be guided by natural, customary meaning (literal method) of the text, in context of the other Biblical teachings. Can be more than one natural reading of a word. Earth – as the planet, or the ground. Other times literal not meant – Jesus says I am the door – meant as a metaphor. Metaphors stand for something real. So different levels of literality. Literalistically (exactly as written) vs. literally (as the author means it).
If meaning not obvious, then what? Scripture and science – some think Bible isn’t relevant to science at all (non-overlapping magisteria). Doesn’t work because Bible does talk about some things that science talks about, like origins of universe and life. God encourages man to investigate natural world. God loves an inquiring mind – “love Him with all our mind”. The Bible is not a textbook of science, but has truth to tell us about same objective reality that science discusses, so we need to try to understand that truth. True knowledge of science by Christians gives credibility to the Christian message. If my views of something non-fundamental to the gospel are in conflict with others, it may be that my view is just my interpretation. Must know difference between what scripture says and what it means. In order to discern truth and come together charitably, conferences are helpful.
“Foundations of the earth” are metaphors for something real – not literal metal cement and stone, but real nonetheless. Earth doesn’t have to be the center of the universe to be in the center of God’s attention. Science and reason helps us come to the most probable interpretation of the Bible. Once it became evident that the earth did move and that the Bible could be consistently interpreted in that way, it was not foolish to believe so in light of the new science.
“Creationist” – meant someone who believe God created. Currently usually means “young earth creationist” Many prominent church fathers and theologians have interpreted Genesis to be young or old.
The interpretations morph into the following views:
Young earth – 10000 years or less
Old earth – “days” are of unspecified length
Framework – days are not chronological, but descriptive. Genesis days form a literary parallel or framework, where days 1-3 balance 4-6. Cosmic temple view – (theistic evolutionists). Could still contain sequence all the same.
Different interpretations of the same text. Must think about what the text says before we interpret. We bring preconceived notions to the understanding of what the text says to what it actually says.
Genesis 1 – “day” Hebrew “yom” – one use in the Bible – daylight hours, 12 hrs , other evening and morning – 24 hr day. 7th Day, Sabbath, is different in that no mention of evening and morning. Some say the seventh day extends through the present. Another use of day could be as in “in my day” – an indefinite period of time.
Genesis 1:1-2, following the 6 days of creation. Could indicate that 1 & 2 is not included in day 1. Logically possible that universe is ancient, and that the creation days were 24 hrs as well, on the reading of the text. No definite articles used on day 1-5, but on 6 and 7. “A” day, vs “the” day. Noteworthy for logical possibilities. Could be a sequence of creation time periods of differing length, or 24 hours separated from one another by unknown lengths of time. Opposite of unguided non-intelligent process – no movement towards more complexity without God’s word. Textual sophistication gives room for these different interpretations.
Objections to framework –
What of the serpent, before the fall? Something had already corrupted at least part of the creation, and it was corruptible.
Uniformity of nature – the present has the only key to the past. But with creation, we know that the past is not absolutely uniform. Theistic evolution – creator engineered the parameters universe to be able to evolve life. God creates universe; sets laws; sustains the universe; let life develop without any further intervention, except perhaps infusing souls into humanity.
Evolution – cannot account for origin of life. Presupposes but doesn’t explain first life. Unguided processes do not create new information. The materials cannot create the outcome without the intellect.
Don’t overlook the main message of Genesis – that God created it, not the method. Also remember to be charitable as it is not a crucial issue of orthodoxy.
Saturday, June 18, 2011 Q&A with John Lennox
Science is not the only source of knowledge, and science is not coextensive with rationality.
Youtube: dueling professors
Thursday, June 16, 2011 – Terry Mortenson and Hugh Ross
Terry Mortenson – young earth creationist view “A Defense of Biblical Creationism”
God created the world in six literal 24-hour days about 6000 years ago and judged the earth with a flood
Genesis 1-11 is history
Why Galileo affair is not relevant to origins debate:
Gen 1:5 – God called day, and the darkness he called night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day. Clear what the meaning is by context – literal – cardinal, not ordinal
Numbers modify days: one, second,…
Modified with “evening” and “morning”
Genesis 1:14 God created lights to measure days, years and seasons.
Vs 17 says that God placed them in the expanse of the heavens which was made on day 2.
So the sun, moon, and stars were not made on Day 1 or any time before Day 1 – but on Day 4
Psalm 33:6, 8-9 – by the word of the lord the heavens were made and by the breath of his mouth all their hosts. For he spoke and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast.
Exodus 20:11 – For in six days the Lord made the heavens and earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day.
5 days before Adam – 5 days
Adam to Abraham – ~2000 yrs
Abraham to Christ – ~2000 yrs
Christ to present – ~2000 yrs
Total - ~6000 yrs
Gen 1:21, 25 – “after their kind” – not changing from one kind to another kind (ie evolution)
“It is not important when, how, or how long God created, what’s important is that God created” – he disagrees because Genesis is foundational to the rest of the Bible. Has theological implications on other Biblical doctrines.
Doctrine of death: why is there death and disease, and why is it tragic? Rom 5:12 says through one man sin entered into the world and death through sin.
Natural disasters – did God make the earth like that? Fossil record shows record of pain, suffering, death, disease, killing, and extinction over millions of years. Nowhere does the Bible clearly state that animals did not die or kill before the fall, but neither does it say that God is triune or that Jesus is fully God and fully man either. Context and other doctrine imply these.
Gen. 1:29-30 – “I have given you every plant” Man and animals are originally vegetarian. Eating plants doesn’t kill, animals do not have life. Only after flood is man explicitly told to eat meat (Gen 9:3).
Consequences of fall
-serpent was cursed – more than the cattle and the beast, so other animals were cursed also.
- Eve cursed with pain in childbirth, Rom 5:15 – physical death
Vs 17 ground cursed, outside garden
Vs. 21 Coats of skin to cover their nakedness – first mentioned death of animals
Vs 18 thorns and thistles grow – fossil thorns in records millions of years ago (ie. Before original sin)
Rom 8 – creation waiting for the sons of God, creation subjected to futility, hopes to be set free from slavery. Whole suffering groans. Most commentators say subjection happened at the fall.
Many dinosaurs seem to have had cancer – if cancer in dinos millions of years before man, god must have said it was “very good”
4 major extinction events in fossil record over millions of years – again “very good” during creation process.
If there were millions of years of natural evil, was not the curse of Gen 3 completely meaningless? What did it do? We would call the curse a blessing by greatly improving things, since we don’t see the massive extinction afterwards.
Doctrine of God
Gen 1:31 – God created heavens and earth – it was very good, then sin came. How does he teach sinners to relate to the fallen world? You are to rest on Sabbath, also your ox and donkey (Ex 23:12). Not to abuse their animals but treat them well (Prov 12:10). Matt 6:26 God cares for the creation, even in fallen world. Animals and earth are cursed, many destroyed in flood, all because of man’s sin.
Genesis foundational to the doctrine of God.
Dembski’s book – The End of Christianity – Finding a Good God in an Evil World. Assumes that the millions of years of evil and says it is part of the consequence of sin because of God’s foreknowledge. Answersingenesis.org – Mortensen and Dembski for his response.
Doctrine of the Gospel – build on foundations of Genesis
Seed of the woman will break the work of the serpent. Jesus is the second and last Adam – came to solve problem started in Garden of Eden. Rom 8:19-23 – creation waiting eagerly for revelation of the sons of God – creation will be set free from corruption. So Jesus return will eradicate pain and death of the curse. Is. 11 and 65 – time in future when wolf lies with the lamb and lion will eat grass. Gospel is not just about spiritual salvation, but redemption of entire creation.
“You have to believe in young earth to be saved” – He certainly does not say this, only belief in Jesus work. But this does not mean age of the earth does not matter. Genesis is foundational to the credibility of the gospel, must be history and reliable, or the rest of the Bible is questionable.
Scientific question – Grand Canyon –280 mi long, 4-5 miles wide, 1 mile deep. Millions of years to form on evolution. Evidence that it happened catastrophically (ie. Flood). A global flood changed things and in minutes, hours, or days, gave the impression of much greater age. Challenges the dating methods of the earth of millions of years.
Uniformitarian view – earth movement before works the same as now. Rejected by some geologists, because some past catastrophic events could have changed things faster than the gradual changes (Catastrophism). Assumptions affect the outcome of their hypotheses.
Radiometric dating? The problem is the assumptions in the dating methods – circular reasoning
Hugh Ross – “Old earth view”
Reasons to believe reasons.org
Constructive integration – bible has detail description of natural history, works with data of science
Belgic confession – God known by natural and special revelation, and we should study both (book of nature)
Sola Scriptura – Bible is the only verbal propositional authority, but not the only reliable revelation, ie. Nature; they will agree with one another. Bible is inspired by God, universe is created by God. Impossible for God to lie, so they will agree.
Theology: human interpretation of Bible’s word
Science: human interpretation of nature’s facts
1 Thess 5:21 – “test everything, hold onto the good.” Test and act on established truth.
Scientific method from within scripture. “Biblical testing method” encourages investigator to research before drawing conclusion. Repeated over and over again to approach the truth more closely. 27 chapter length or longer descriptions of creation in Bible.
Slows down process causing faulty interpretations
Many different Biblical creation accounts on reasons.org
Integrate all disciplines of science for a more complete picture
“All attempts to harmonize our biblical story of the creation of the world with the results of natural science have been useless and must always be so.” Disagrees!
“Yom” – “day” in Gen. 1 with four different possible meanings. Only word that can stand for a long finite period of time in Hebrew, so Moses had to use it if he meant a long indefinite period of time.
Gen 1 miracles
i. Knauth & Kennedy Nature 460 (2009) 728-32
ii. Strother et al., Nature 473 (2011): 505-509
How much evolution?
If YE: after the fall some herbivores rapidly evolved to become carnivores. After flood, thousands of species rapidly evolve to become millions. Radical evolution
Old Earth: micro evolution, small changes within the species
Theistic/naturalistic evolution: micro and macro evolution
Does the Bible allow for evolution? Lev 19:19 – “min” translated “kind” cannot refer to genera, families, or orders given in the prohibition in Lev 19:19 – “Do not mate different kinds [kil’ayim = two kinds] of animals” Different owls separate “min” Lev 11:15-16. So Bible rules it out
No discernable change in human DNA over the last 25,000 years – DNA not evolving in any significant way. No discernable change in Neanderthal DNA over 80,000 year period. Long-term evolution experiments on yeast and bacteria show only micro-evolution.
“there was evening and morning” omitted from seventh day – we are still in the seventh day. God’s rest answers the fossil record enigma. Average of one new species/year before humans arrive, virtually none afterwards. God targets evil and suffering on seventh day, but at the end it will be eradicated. God’s Sabbath (epoch of rest) explains why present-day science reveals only natural processes at work.
More scientists in physical science believe in God than in natural science. Anthropic principle responsible for their conversions.
Adam (Genesis 2)
Genesis 1 score
With yom = epoch and reference frame = earth’s surface, science accuracy score is:
Initial conditions 4 of 4, creation events: 10 for 10
The more we learn about nature’s record, the more reasons we gain to trust in biblical inerrancy.
The more we learn about the Bible, the more reasons we gain to trust the reliability of nature’s record.
13-14 billion years ago universe created
60,000-30,000 years ago man created
Friday, June 17, 2011 –Michael Behe
Michael Behe –Intelligent Design
“Intelligent Design at the Foundation of Life”
Design – Psalm 139:13-14 “I am fearfully and wonderfully made”
David knew this, not from revelation, but from empirical observation. Can we tell if a system was purposefully designed by an intelligence? This is the question, not taking position on the creator itself. Intelligent Design could have been conducted through the process of evolution. A designer can design something to change over time. ID does not take a position though, just says it is possible.
Why science and not just the bible? Prov 25:2 – glory of God to conceal the matter, to search out is glory of kings. World is mysterious and it glorifies God to search out the mysteries. Mendeleev discovered the periodic table of elements and the hidden relationship between the elements.
What is Intelligent Design, how do we recognize it, and why is it a compelling theory for the biology we have discovered?
i. Bacterium flagellum
ii. Macromolecular machines in the cell
iii. The more studies done in life science, the more complicated the systems of life are – they are not becoming simpler to understand.
Intelligent Design is rational
Michael Behe Q&A
Google: bacterial evolution experiment lenski
Round Table Q&A – Behe, Ross, Mortenson
Faith and science –
Mortenson – when in conflict, allows science to influence his thinking, but only the text of the Bible to determine meaning. Nature is cursed; Bible does not say that the evidence of nature is infallible, only God’s word. Since Bible is written word, it is a different kind of revelation than natural revelation, and proper interpretation may be more difficult. Science doesn’t change interpretation with authority, but by driving back to the scriptures for reconsideration and reconciliation. “Established” scientific theories are overthrown all the time, so must be cautious in depending on science to interpret the Bible and reality.
I think our view of God is a an inaccurate one often. We tend to think of him either as an authority, but equal, like a president, or else something completely impersonal or removed who has no daily influence. God is wholly “other,” and while we are created in his image, we are not God and he is not us. We share characteristics, but must not become too casual and comfortable in our relationship. The pure, holy, and awesome God condescends to have relationships with man, yet he still retains his attributes.
I used to think that wrath was unworthy of God. Isn’t God Love? Shouldn’t divine love be beyond wrath? God is love, and God loves every person and every creature. That’s exactly why God is wrathful against some of them. My last resistance to the idea of God’s wrath was a casualty of the war in the former Yugoslavia, the region from which I come. According to some estimates, 200,000 people were killed and over 3,000,000 were displaced. My villages and cities were destroyed, my people shelled day in and day out, some of them brutalized beyond imagination, and I could not imagine God not being angry. Or think of Rwanda in the last decade of the past century, where 800,000 people were hacked to death in one hundred days! How did God react to the carnage? By doting on the perpetrators in a grandfatherly fashion? By refusing to condemn the bloodbath but instead affirming the perpetrators’ basic goodness? Wasn’t God fiercely angry with them? Though I used to complain about the indecency of the idea of God’s wrath, I came to think that I would have to rebel against a God who wasn’t wrathful at the sight of the world’s evil. God isn’t wrathful in spite of being love. God is wrathful because God is love.
- Miroslav Volf, quoted in Is God a Moral Monster, by Paul Copan
Isaiah 53:5 -
But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes we are healed.
Does this last line refer to physical healing, or spiritual?
Could healing not occur before the stripes? Yes, God healed in the old testament as well as during Jesus ministry prior to the crucifixion.
Is this intended as a promise to believers for an assurance of healing? It does not seem to be the case – there are many Christians with physical ailments, and some of them die. Indeed, since “old age” isn’t a legitimate medical cause of death, everyone (including those previously healed) who doesn’t die of violence will die of some physical ailment (rapture notwithstanding).
Taking the view that this is a healing promise from God is dangerous in that expectations are built up for disappointment and disillusionment if healing does not occur. The false doctrine of the “health and wealth gospel” or “prosperity gospel” asserts that Christians should expect financial prosperity and physical health as guaranteed sign-on perks, and that if one does not possess them, then one’s faith is deficient. This is a false view of the purposes of God; his objective is not to make us happy in this life, it is to perfect our character. For most of us, luxury and comfort foster complacency and self-reliance; for some few others, wealth and health is properly used in selfless generosity. When the clock runs smoothly, we often forget the clockmaker. In The Problem of Pain, C. S. Lewis says that “Pain is God’s megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
I will not deny that God can and does heal; I know of many cases where miraculous healing makes the best explanation. But I think the context of the phrase in the verse, as well as the evidence of our Christian life experience seems to indicate that this is intended to mean the spiritual healing of a restored relationship with God through Christ’s sacrifice.
I’ve been thinking over the years since I read “Mere Christianity” by C.S. Lewis about whether objective morality is possible without the existence of God.
The best answer I could come up in favor of morality without God as a standard was the Social Contract model, in which morals developed as part of an evolutionary …survival tool as societies formed for the protection of the masses.
The problems I have with that though is that it’s too arbitrary – whose society gets preference in a conflict? That is, how do you define a society? It could be a country, an ethnic group, a minority group, a family, or even perhaps an individual.
The other issue that follows from this is whether or not living with “positive” moral values is really in my best interests without an afterlife in which I must account for my actions. That is, if I think I can get away with it, why not lie, cheat, and steal to improve my own condition?
The attached link is a paper (not mine) which develops this argument.