Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Does "According To Their Kinds" Rule Out Evolution?



One common argument creationists give against the concept of Evolutionary Creationism (i.e the view that God used evolution to bring about life) is that Genesis is replete with the phrase "according to their kinds". Whenever God would bring a type of creature into being in the Old Testament, He would say "let them reproduce according to their kinds". Take the first life ever to come on the scene as one example. "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." (Genesis 1:20-21, emphasis mine).

Special Creationists argue that God could not possibly have used evolution to bring about life because The Bible says that all of the creatures God created reproduce according to their own kinds. If that's the case, they argue, then evolution would contradict scripture since Darwinian Evolution posits that creatures don't reproduce according to their own kind, but kinds can give rise to different kinds. On Macro Evolution, you have one "kind" of animal giving rise to another "kind" of animal. Therefore, the creation account rules out evolutionary creationism.

Is this a good scriptural argument against evolution? I don't think so.

How A Concordist Might Take This 

First of all, let's consider how one may view this from a concordist standpoint. A concordist is someone who believes that science and scripture occasionally talk about the same things, and when they do, they will agree. For example, The Bible says the universe had a beginning (Genesis 1:1) and that ocean life was the first life to ever be created (Genesis 1:20). A concordist would say that science, done correctly, will agree with The Bible. Incidentally, science does agree with scripture on these points. The Big Bang is the beginning of the universe, and all biologists will tell you that life began in the ocean. Fish came before apes and apes came before men according to both The Bible and modern science.

However, what about the "according to their kinds" phrase in Genesis? First of all, if you're not an evolutionary creationist, this won't bother you at all. But what if you're concordist in you're thinking and think God used evolution to bring about life? Hardly any EC is concordist in his thinking. Most are accomadationalists. Nevertheless, what if an EC were concordist in his thinking? How would he view this phrase?

One way he could interpret this would be to say that this is just the commonsense observation. It's the observation that a type of creature gives birth to the same type of creature. My parents gave birth to a human being like themselves (me), and my grandparents who were also human, gave birth to them, and their parents who were also human, gave birth to them, and so on. Cats beget cats. Dogs beget dogs. Cows beget cows. However, this is an obvious truth that no one denies, not even Darwinists. I don't believe that the phrase "They reproduced after their own kind" necessarily precludes the possibility that through millions of years of mutation and natural selection, one kind couldn't give rise to another. I think this verse would only be applicable if Darwinian theory posited that a monkey could give birth to a human being in a single generation. The passage doesn't seem to be arguing against evolution, but merely asserting the obvious truth that Animal A gives rise to animal A and not animal B.

Accomidationalism 

Accomidationalism is the view widely held by many evolutionary creationists today. However, even before Darwin came along, there were theologians who held to this view. John Calvin is one example. Galileo Galilei is another example (he appealed to it when responding to proof texts for geocentrism).

Now what is this view? This view asserts that God was not concerned to correct the faulty science of the ancients during the time scripture was written. They held to a sort of flat earth, dome cosmology, and you find this sort of cosmology in scripture. Accomidationalists will say that God allowed these scientific misconceptions to get into scripture because correcting them wasn't relevant to the point God was trying to make, and moreover, if He made these corrections, the people of that time would have quibbled amongst themselves about how these things could possibly be true, and they would have missed the whole point that the scriptural passages like Genesis 1 and Psalm 104 were trying to convey.

God's point in Genesis 1 is that He is the Creator of everything that exists. Nothing came into being except through God's creative power. If God had described the natural world correctly, contradicting the common wisdom of the day, then the people of that day and age would have been distracted, arguing and wondering how the sky could hold water if there's no vault up there, or how people don't fall off the Earth if it's a sphere. God, in His wisdom, accommodated their scientific misunderstandings so that they would not miss the forest for the trees, and instead focus on the essential truths God was trying to convey.

He has done this in non-scientific areas as well. For example, during the early period of the Old Testament, God did not correct Israel's erroneous belief now called "henotheism" which is the view that there are many gods, but there's oneGod (i.e Yaweh) that is superior to all of them. When God gave The Ten Commandments, He didn't assert the truth of monotheism, instead He simply told Israel that they should only worship Him. He told them not to worship any other gods (see Exodus 20:2-3). Before they drove out the Canaanites, God told them "Do not intermarry with them. Do not give your daughters to their sons or take their daughters for your sons, for they will turn your children away from following me to serve other gods, and the LORD's anger will burn against you and will quickly destroy you." (Deuteronomy 7:3-4). In the case of giving the first commandment, and in His instructions to Israel before they drove out the Canaanites, God presupposed the truth of henotheism. He didn't seek to tell them "Hey, these other gods don't really exist."

It wasn't until Isaiah's ministry that God really put emphasis on monotheism, saying things like "Is there any God besides me? No, there is no other Rock; I know not one.” (Isaiah 44:8b), and "I am the Lord, and there is no other; apart from me there is no God." (Isaiah 45:5a). Although He did assert it earlier, in Deuteronomy 6:4, he didn't emphasize it. Most of the time, God talked as if these other gods actually existed. In addition to this, you've got the practice of polygamy. You've got the practice of taking of concubines and divorce, which God seems to have allowed and regulated, even though the "truth" is that marriage is supposed to be between one man and one woman for their whole lives (see Mark 10:7-9). God did not always see fit to insist on strict monotheism or monogamy, so maybe He would also not see fit to always insist on correct cosmology. Jesus Himself seemed to hold to a bit of accomidationalism regarding divorce. When asked why Moses said divorce was okay if divorce is a sin, Jesus responded "Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning." (Matthew 19:8), and then proceeded to say that divorce should not be permitted under any circumstance except for marital unfaithfulness (Matthew 19:9).

Now, I'm not saying this view is my own. I need to study this more before I make up my mind. However, I'm not nearly as uncomfortable with as I used to be thanks to BioLogos' answers to my concerns about it. However, it does make some sense. And it certainly would be in line with the hermenuetical principle that you should always read scripture in light of what it would mean to the original audience. And we do have some non-science examples of it in scripture (e.g what Jesus said in Matthew 19:8). So, it very well could be the case.

Now, what am I getting at here? Simply that if the Accommodation view is correct, the "According to their kinds" scripture could just simply be more of God not seeking to correct the faulty science of their day ((assuming of course that special creation is faulty)). Imagine if God had put some imagery of evolution in scripture. We could easily imagine people thousands of years ago going "Preposterous! Apes giving rise to mankind!? Giant lizards eventually becoming birds!? This is absurd!" And they would have quibbled over this. They would have missed the entire point of the creation account.

God gave us two books; the book of scripture and the book of nature. God, in His foreknowledge, knew that we would eventually learn more about the natural world through scientific investigation. Therefore, He saw no need to tell us about the lack of a dome or evolution in advance. God knew that what we couldn't get in one book that He gave us, we could get from the other.

Please Note!

As of the time of this writing, I'm still not an evolutionary creationist myself. However, I'm writing this blog post to let people know that The Bible doesn't close the door on EC. If EC is to be rejected, that will only be on the basis of scientific evidence. I'm still OEC only because I'm still not convinced macro evolution could occur (though micro evolution certainly does).

Conclusion 

Whether you agree with the accomidation view, or whether you're a concordist, I don't think you're forced to reject evolution on the basis of the "according to their kinds" phrase found throughout Genesis 1. Either hermenuetic approach could accommodate (pun not intended) this phrase into an evolutionary creationist creation model.

Monday, September 26, 2016

If Evil Isn't A Substance, How Can People Inherit An Sin Nature?



So, on a couple of occasions, I've had encounters with Pelagians who argued that people could not inherit the sinful nature from Adam because evil is not a positive substance. It's not a thing. And if it's not a thing, then it can't be passed on from generation to generation like diabetes or hair color. Moreover, if evil isn't a thing, then there can be no such thing as an evil nature within us. For those of us who are Arminians and Calvinists, how are we to deal with this objection?

First of all, I would agree with these pelagians that evil is not a substance. St. Augustine agreed with this. Augustine said that evil was a privation of good. In this way, evil is similar to darkness and cold. Darkness is a privation of light. Cold is a privation of heat. Neither darkness nor cold are positive substances, rather, they are a lack of light and heat. Similarly, evil is a lack of goodness.

I don't think we need to dispute this view of what evil is in order to preserve the doctrine of total depravity. Just because evil isn't a substance doesn't mean it cannot be passed on from generation to generation. It doesn't have to be a substance in order to be passed on. Here's an analogy: If a creature loses its eyes because it lives in an environment in which it doesn't use them, then it will pass on the no-eye-trait on to its progeny. The lack of eyes isn't an actual substance, it's a lack of something, namely eyes. Similarly, I don't see why a deprivation of goodness cannot be passed on in a similar way. Now, I don't know how this works, but it does, for scripture tells us it does (see Romans 5).

Or again, let's say someone had a disorder that made them totally unable to grow hair anywhere on their body (none on their head, face, chest, pubic area, no where). This person copulates and produces offspring. This offspring also has the disorder. Now, once again, we have an example of a person pass on a privation of something (i.e hair). The lack of hair was passed on from person 1 to person 2.

The human souls which continue to come into being seem to be born missing something. Adam's soul lost a chunk when he and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit (Genesis 3), and each generation from them produces souls also missing that chunk.

Moreover, whether you think a sinful nature is inherited, we all have one. See Romans 7:18 and Colossians 3:5 for examples. I'm not sure how else you can explain where it comes from though.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

How Can A Christian Apologist Keep From Getting Discouraged?


When I went into Christian Apologetics, I had two major goals: (1) To use arguments and evidence to clear away intellectual road blocks people have keeping them from embracing the gospel, and (2) to help Christians struggling with their faith to become more confident. My goal was and still is to convince unbelievers and solidify the faith of believers. However, when one begins arguing with skeptics, one quickly discovers that it isn't easy to win them over. I have found that you can argue with unbelievers until you're blue in the face, making the most persuasive and powerful case for Christianity one could hope for, and the unbeliever will still be unconvinced. It doesn't matter how many objections you refute, and it doesn't matter how thoroughly you refute those rebuttals. This is why so many say "You can't argue people into the Kingdom."

I'm sure many of my fellow apologists reading this article can resonate with what I'm saying. It can be easy to get discouraged when it seems you can't even make one disciple despite all your argumentation and preaching. Apologetics, and evangelism in general, can start to feel like a waste of time. One can get the feeling that engaging with the atheists, muslims, cultists, etc. is just a waste of time. They won't be convinced no matter what.

I have felt this discouragement before. Even blogging, I sometimes wonder how much of an impact for Christ I'm really making. Is God planting and watering any seeds through me?

In this post, I'll show you some things that I always remind myself of whenever I feel that "what's the point?" mentality arising within myself.

Remember, You Never Know Who You Might Be Influencing

When it comes to who you influence, you just never know how your evangelistic efforts may be affecting people. I get about 200-300 page views per day on average. Most of these are from the United States, but others are from different countries like Russia, China, Japan, and Great Britain. People from all over the world are reading articles I've written on a daily basis. I have no idea how my words may be affecting the thinking of the readers who visit here. Some of them may be skeptics, some of them may be spiritual seekers, others may be Christians trying to work out theological issues.

I have no clue who these people are. I don't know who they are, what they look like, and I especially don't know what they're thinking when they read my blog posts. Occasionally, I will have someone leave a comment or send me a message telling me how much I've helped them. A lot of these are Christians who were either doubting their faith, or just had some questions they didn't know how to answer. Others were Christians who used my site as a resource in witnessing to people (i.e "This guy wrote an article addressing this issue. Take a look at it and see what you think."). Unfortunately, I haven't had someone message me and say "I used to be an atheist, but your article on The Fine Tuning Argument really convinced me that there's a Creator." or "I used to be a Oneness Pentecostal until I read your defense of the doctrine of The Trinity." Maybe I will one day, but I haven't so far. That's ok though. The messages from the brothers I've helped out was enough of a morale booster.

However, even if no one ever lets me know how I've helped them, I know that I may very well be having an impact. In fact, at an apologetics conference I attended last year, Lee Strobel told a story of how he felt God putting a heavy burden on him to walk into the bank where his atheist friend worked and spark up a faith conversation with him. Strobel said that he had no idea why God wanted him to go to this particular place at this particular time to have a conversation about Christ with his atheist friend, but he did it anyway. He shared the historical evidence for Jesus' resurrection with him, for the historical reliability of the gospels, and other arguments. This friend of Strobel's remained unconvinced. At the end, Strobel just simply invited him to church. He refused to go. Lee Strobel left that bank wondering why God lead him to do what he just did since it didn't cough up results. Some time later, Strobel met a man who had told him that back when Strobel was talking to the atheist friend at the bank, he was somewhere out of sight listening in. He was convinced by the arguments and committed his life to Christ that very day.

This is an example of what Lee Strobel calls "Richochet Evangelism". You may not convince the person you're engaging, but you may convince someone who's listening in.

Once You're Confident Enough, Engage In Broadcasted Debates

The point about Ricochet Evangelism under the last sub heading provides a nice segue to my next point. You should engage in broadcasted debates rather than typing debates on social media, in comment sections on Facebook, Twitter, etc. What I mean by "broadcasted debates" is that you should engage in debates that will be shown on YouTube to an audience. You get a friend to moderate the debate, and then you find someone who is willing to engage you in whatever topic you plan on debating. The most convenient way to do this is Google +'s "Hangouts On Air" feature, which is basically a video call between multiple people, but it's broadcasted. This is the kind of debates I've done last year. I've only done 4 so far, one of them was on the issue of whether Hell is compatible with God's goodness which I had against The Counter Apologist and someone named Riley. The most recent one was against Nathan Reese on the resurrection of Jesus. All of these debates can still be viewed on the "My Video Debates" page.

This can be very beneficial because you most likely won't convince the person you're talking to, but that doesn't mean your words will fall on deaf ears. You can convince the people watching the debate! Moreover, given that live streamed videos stay on YouTube, you can have an impact on someone's thinking months or even years after the debate is over. This is less likely to occur with conversations typed up in Facebook comment sections or Twitter because most people won't read a very long back and forth comment section discussion, but they will watch a one hour video. This is not to say that no one will read or be influenced by a comment section, just that there will be fewer of those than ones influenced by the audible back and forth in the video.

However, I don't encourage this for young apologists. Wait until you've had a few years of training (i.e studying) before you do this. It's far easier to get stumped if you haven't been studying the topic for a while. For the newer apologist, I just recommend engaging on social media comment sections where you'll have more time to chew on what the atheist/muslim/mormon/or-whoever said and you'll have time to come up with a response.

It's Not A Numbers Game

You should never measure your success as an apologist or evangelist by how many people you influence. Every soul is precious to God (John 3:16, 1 Timothy 2:4), and therefore even one soul is worth your effort. Just remind yourself "If even one person comes to Christ, it'll be worth it." If even one person comes to Christ, working your fingers to the bone to produce those hundreds of articles on your blog will be worth it. If even one person is prevented from apostatizing, all the hours spent typing and proof reading that book before finally publishing it, will be worth it. If even one person comes to Christ, that hour long video broadcasted debate which you spent months prepping for, will be worth it.

I may never make as big of an impact as C.S Lewis, or Lee Strobel, or William Lane Craig, but if even one soul comes to know Jesus, my efforts, no matter how strenuous, will not have been in vein. That will be one soul not suffering in Hell. One soul who will spend eternity in their Father's arms. One soul who will enjoy the fruits of God's Kingdom. One soul, whose mother's prayers for her son or daughter's salvation got answered. 

Ripple Effect: The Few You Do Influence Can Influence Others

If you've read my short biography on this site, or the introduction to Inference To The One True God, you'll know that God saved me from sliding into agnosticism through the writings of Lee Strobel. Strobel is the one who helped me regain my confidence in the truth of the Christian worldview. Strobel is the one who introduced me to the field of Christian Apologetics. God used him to save my faith. And after I watched his The Case For A Creator film on YouTube, and reading his book The Case For Christ, I thought to myself "I've got to share this evidence with others!" and so I began studying these books, reading them cover to cover multiple times, buying other books on the topic and studying them, spending hours in my room every evening, trying to master the material. And....well, you know the rest.

My point is: Strobel had a big impact on my life. I may, unbeknownst to me, be having an impact on others. And for all I know, some non-Christian, after reading my book, or going through blog post after blog post on this site, is giving his life to Christ right now. And he may, for all I know, be making the decision not only to receive Christ, but also to defend Christ from now on, using the information that he gained through his spiritual investigation. And he, through his apologetic endeavors, may make another disciple who in turn will also become a defender of the faith.

We have no idea of the ripple effect that we can be a part of. Even if you yourself only influence one person, that person can influence another, who influences another, who influences another, and so on and so forth. Eventually, in the chain, you may have a William Lane Craig type of person or a new Billy Graham who influences A LOT of people, but he only makes such an influence because he was influenced by person E who was influenced by person D who was influenced by person C who was influenced by person B, who was influenced by person A, i.e you. So, in some sense, their converts are really yours too.

Conclusion

When I begin feeling down, thinking I may be wasting my time, these are the things I remind myself of to boost my morale. All of my blogging, all of the work I've done on my book, all of the conversations I spent time and effort in, they are not a waste of time. 

Friday, September 16, 2016

Should We Take The Bible Literally?




I can't tell you how many time I've heard someone ask me, or ask a fellow Christian "Do you take The Bible literally?" I'm never really sure what the questioner intends by his question. What does he mean by "literally"? Does he mean do I read every single sentence from Genesis to Revelation as a literal statement? In that case, I would have to say "No." In fact, I don't know of anyone who reads everything in The Bible literally. On the other hand, I don't read everything in The Bible as a metaphor either. Some things I take literally, and others I take to be metaphors.

So if anyone ever asks you "Do you take The Bible literally?" you should respond "Only the places where I think the author meant for us to take him literally." Of course, this raises another question: How do we go about determining what should be read as literal and what should be read as metaphorical?

Common Sense Can Often Alert Us To The Non-Literal Nature Of A Passage

More often than not, you don't need to be a highly trained exegete to know when a passage of scripture isn't meant to be taken literally. Sometimes just using the brain that God gave you will do the trick. For example, when Jesus says "I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture." (John 10:9, ESV), we don't immediately think that Jesus is a large wooden rectangle with a knob and hinges. This is because we know that Jesus is God (John 1:1-3, Hebrews 1, Collosians 1:15-16, John 10:30) and we know that Jesus is human (John 1:14, Philippians 2:5-8), and we're aware that Jesus cannot be a door if He's God Incarnate. Not only that, but we know that doors are inanimate objects and ergo cannot be itinerant preachers. Common sense immediately leads us to the conclusion that Jesus is not literally a door. He's calling Himself a door in a metaphorical sense. He is "the door" in the sense that just as you can enter a room only through the door, so you can enter the Kindgom of Heaven only through Jesus (c.f John 14:6). 

Or again, when we read Galatians 2:20, in which Paul says "I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." (ESV), we don't think that Paul was literally nailed to a cross next to Jesus. This is obvious in that if Paul were literally crucified, he would be dead, and therefore would not be able to write this epistle to the Galatians. Once again, common sense tells us that this passage is not meant to be read literally. What Paul obviously means is that the person he used to be is no more. He died when he met Christ. His old nature has died, and his new regenerate nature has come to life.

Knowing The Genre Of The Book Helps

Sometimes knowing what genre the book you're reading is can help you track down metaphors that aren't so obvious as the previous 2 that I mentioned above. The Bible is comprised of 66 documents (books and letters) and not all of them are in the same genre of literature. Some books are historical (e.g Genesis, Exodus, Numbers,... the 4 gospels, Acts, etc.), others are books of poetry (i.e The Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song Of Solomon, and some would include Job), others are apocalyptic literature (e.g Daniel, Revelations), and so on.

Knowing the genre of the book can help you pinpoint which statements are literal and which books are metaphorical. For example, if you're reading a history book like Matthew or Acts, then you can take a lot of things far more literally than you could in a poetry book like Psalms, though as we've seen, even the history books in The Bible can contain metaphorical statements here and there, but with a historical book, they're bound to be fewer than in a poetry book like Psalms. In a book like the Psalms, you're bound to find metaphorical statements everywhere, since metaphor is a prominent feature in poetic literature, both ancient and modern. With apocalyptic literature like Revelations, pretty much the vast majority of the text is going to be metaphorical. I'm hesitant to take anything from that book literally. This is because symbolism is a key feature of the apocalyptic genre.

Be On The Lookout For Similes. 

A simile is a figure of speech. A simile is an explicitly stated comparison using the words "like" or "as". Whenever you read a statement containing the words "like" or "as", you're reading a simile. Statements like these would be found in verses like 1 Peter 1:24, for example. 1 Peter 1:24 says "For, 'All people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall,'" (NIV). Here, we see Peter quoting an Old Testament verse that says that people are "like" grass, and their glory is "like" the flowers of the field, and what that means is that just as grass is beautiful and green at one point, but withers and fades later, so people are young and vibrant, but they grow old and die later. The verse is clearly not saying that people are grass, but that people are like grass in this particular aspect.

Another example of simile would be found in Luke 10:3. In this verse, Jesus said to his disciples "Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves." (ESV). Jesus used simile here. He said that he was sending them out "as" lambs among wolves.

Keep The Text In Its Context

Ripping Bible verses out of context may be the number 1 heremenutical error that people make when interpreting The Bible. Sometimes a verse may seem to be speaking literally, but when you look at the passage in its context, you see that this isn't the case. And by the way, I don't just mean the immediate context of the preceding and proceeding verses and chapters within the book that the verse is in, but this even means the context of The Bible as a whole.

For example, several passages express features of God which some take to be literal statements (e.g Mormons), but when you look at all of the biblical data on God's attributes, taking these statements literally would cause The Bible to contradict itself. For example, Psalm 17:8 says "Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings," (NIV), Isaiah 59:1 says "Surely the arm of the LORD is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear." (NIV), Proverbs 15:3 says "The eyes of the LORD are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good." According to these verses, God has eyes, ears, and arms. Some sects like the Mormons interpret these as literal statements and conclude that God has a physical body. However, if you interpret these verses literally, you run into problems, for we are also told in scripture that "God is spirit" (John 4:24), and that God "...lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see." (1 Timothy 6:16). If God is a spirit, then it follows that He's immaterial, since that's what a spirit is; an immaterial, unembodied consciousness. If that's the case, then He cannot literally have eyes, ears, and arms, since these are physical organisms. Moreover, according to 1 Timothy 6:16 which I just quoted, not only has no ever seen God, no one is even capable of seeing God. Why is this? If God had a physical body, of course you'd be able to see Him, since He'd be reflecting photons. If God is an immaterial spirit on the other hand, it would make sense why this verse says that no one can see God. God does not have a body. These verses are metaphors for God's knowledge of what's going on in the world (His "eyes"), His attentiveness to His people (His "ears"), and His omnipotence (His "arm").

And yes, I know that Jesus is God and Jesus had a body, but we need to keep 2 things in mind. For one thing, these verses were written before the incarnation occurred. Secondly, by "God", I'm referring to the entire triune divine being, not simply one person of the Godhead like the Father or Jesus. The Trinity never became incarnate, only the Son did, so it is still the case that God -- defined as the entire Godhead -- still does not have a body, even though the second person of The Trinity has been embodied since the first century.

So, one needs to interpret scripture verses in light of the context, both the immediate context as well as the context of The Bible as a whole. In the latter case, you're letting scripture interpret scripture.

Conclusion

This blog post is by no means exhaustive on the ways to discern metaphors from literal statements, but these are a few of the basic hermenuetical principles one needs to apply when reading scripture. Should we interpret The Bible literally? We should only interpret some passages literally and others metaphorically, and applying these hermenuetical principles will help you know what's literal and what's a metaphor.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Does Evolution Leave God Out Of A Job?




Many people, both theists and atheists alike, see Darwinian evolution as a God substitute. If evolution is true, then God is not needed to explain why life emerged on this planet. God becomes superfluous. Many atheists go so far as to argue that Darwinian Evolution disproves the existence of God or at the very least removes any epistemological warrant for belief in God. This is why so many atheists use evolution as an argument for the truth of their worldview.

Evolution is seen by many Christians to be a sort of big bad wolf that will undermine Christianity if you let it in by its chinny chin chin. Since Evolution removes any need to appeal to a Creator to explain how all of the different kinds of life arose on this planet, many Christian Apologists feel called to go to war against this theory.

However, these conclusions seem to me to be unjustified. I don't think evolution removes the need for God at all. I certainly don't think it disproves His existence or even leaves us without good reasons to believe He exists. Let me explain why Christians should not be afraid of evolution.

God Is Still Needed To Explain The Origin and Fine Tuning Of The Universe

Even if one conceded that evolution removed the need for God to bring about life on the planet, it would still not be the case that God would have no part in His creation. We have powerful scientific evidence that the universe began to exist out of nothing a finite time ago, and that at the beginning, the laws of physics were precisely calibrated to enormous precision so that life could arise in the universe.

The Big Bang -- In 1915, the scientist Albert Einstein developed his theory of General Relativity. His theory predicted that the universe was in a constant state of either expansion or contraction. Einstein was bothered by the implication of an expanding or contracting universe so he added a cosmological constant to the theory which would allow the universe to remain in a static state, neither expanding nor contracting. Einstein's cosmological constant is now widely known to be ad-hoc, that is, there's no reason it should have been added. It just put in there to keep the universe, on this model, from expanding. Einstein later recanted the cosmological constant of his theory, saying it was "the greatest blunder of my scientific career". General Relativity predicted an expanding universe. Later on in 1929, the American Astronomer Edwin Hubble glanced through his telescope and noticed that the light coming from the distant galaxies were "redder" than they should have been, and by that, I mean that the light was shifted to the red end of the light spectrum as a result of the Doppler Effect. Hubble concluded that the reason the light from these distant galaxies were farther in the light spectrum than they should have been, was because these galaxies were moving away from us at fantastic speeds! Hubble had discovered empirical evidence for the theoretical prediction of Einstein's theory of General Relativity.

The fact that the universe is expanding had startling implications. Simple backward extrapolation lead to the conclusion that if the universe is expanding, it must have had a beginning. Why is that? Because if the universe is getting bigger, and bigger, and bigger, as it gets older, and older, and older, then when one rewinds the clock, one sees that the universe was smaller and smaller in the past. If the universe gets bigger as you go forward in time, then the universe gets smaller if you go backwards in time. If one rewinds the clock far enough back in time, the universe becomes as small as the period at the end of this sentence. Go back farther still, and the universe shrinks down to nothing! This is the origin of all matter and energy, and even space and time! This was dubbed by astrophysicist Fred Hoyle; "The Big Bang".

Now, it seems to me that if the universe had a beginning to its existence, it must have had a cause. Nothing comes into being without a cause. We know this from 3 factors; number 1, nothingness has no properties. It is literally non-being. It is the absence of being. It isn't anything. If nothingness has 0 properties, then it follows that it has no causal powers, and if it has no causal powers, it follows that it cannot bring the universe into existence. In fact, calling nothingness an "it" isn't a correct way of speaking, since saying "it" presupposes that there's "something" there to be called an "it". The second reason is that we have an endless number of examples of things coming into being, and we know that they had a cause for their beginning. Thirdly, we have no examples whatsoever of something coming into being without a cause. Therefore, we have good inductive grounds for affirming that if something comes into being, it had a cause.

Since the universe began to exist, and since whatever begins to exist has a cause, it follows that the universe had a cause. This cause must be spaceless since space didn't exist prior to the big bang. It must be timeless since time began at the big bang. It must be immaterial since material objects cannot exist in the absence of space. It must be enormously powerful, since it was able to create the universe out of nothing. And it must be a personal being, since out of two immaterial objects -- abstract objects and unembodied minds -- only the latter has causal ability.

So, the evidence supports the conclusion that a spaceless, timeless, immaterial, powerful, personal Creator is responsible for creating the universe. This sounds a lot like God to me.

If you want to look at this subject in more depth, check out my blog post "The Kalam Cosmological Argument" and pick up my recently published book Inference To The One True God: Why I Believe In Jesus Instead Of Other Gods.

The Fine Tuning Of The Universe -- Over the past 50 years scientists have been stunned to discover that the laws and constants of physics surprisingly come together in a shocking manner to enable the universe to permit the existence of life. If these constants and quantities were altered in any way, the balance would be destroyed, and life could not possibly exist anywhere in the universe.

For example, if The Strong Nuclear Force were slightly stronger, it would be so aggressive at binding protons and neutrons together in the nucleus of the atom, that no atoms in the universe would exist that consisted of only a single proton. This is bad because the hydrogen atom is an atom that consists of only one proton in its center. So, if the Strong Nuclear Force were too strong, no hydrogen atoms could exist in the universe. Only heavy elements would. On the other hand, if this force were too weak, it would be too insufficient to bind together protons and neutrons at all. Therefore, only hydrogen would exist. Life chemistry is impossible if hydrogen either doesn't exist, or is the only element there is. The odds of the Strong Nuclear Force taking the just right value is 1 in 10^30 (that's a 1 followed by 30 zeroes).

If Gravity were too strong, stars would burn up too quickly and too erratically before life could develop. On the other hand, if gravity were too weak, stars would never get hot enough for nuclear fusion to transpire, thus many of the heavy elements needed for life (which are essentially "cooked" inside the cores of stars) would never form. The odds of gravity being just right is 1 in 10^36 power. In the documentary, The Case For A Creator based on the book of the same name, Lee Strobel said this was the same odds of having a ruler that stretched from one end of the universe to the other that was divided by one inch increments. The odds that anyone could put their finger on 1 specific inch out of the 14 billion light years worth of inches are the same odds that gravity should take the just right value.

If the ratio of electrons to protons were off by a little bit, electromagnetism would so overpower gravity, that galaxy, star, and planet formation would be disrupted. Hence, no galaxies, stars, or planets could exist in the universe. This is obviously bad because if there are no stars or planets, there's no home for life to live on. The odds that the just right number of electrons to protons should exist is 1 in 10^37. According to astrophysicist Hugh Ross, this is the same odds that a person could pick one marked dime out of a pile that fills one billion continents the size of North America!

There are only 3 possible explanations for why the universe is so fine tuned. It's either fine tuned out of physical necessity, it's finely tuned by chance, or it's finely tuned because an Intelligent Designer caused these laws of physics to take the values they did. Physical Necessity is implausible. There's just no reason to think that these constants and quantities couldn't have been any different than they are. Chance is even more implausible. But since neither necessity nor chance are good explanations, that leaves Intelligent Design as the only remaining alternative. Not only is it the only remaining alternative, but it has enormous explanatory power. If God created the universe, He would certainly have the ability to make these constants and quantities fall within the life permitting range.

If you want to look at this subject in more depth, check out my blog post "The Fine Tuning Argument For God's Existence (Updated Version)" and pick up my recently published book Inference To The One True God: Why I Believe In Jesus Instead Of Other Gods.

The Local Fine Tuning -- In addition to the laws of physics, which affect the entire universe. There are also certain parameters that need to be just right in a certain local region, lest life be impossible in that region. Any region that's going to have life needs a moon of the just right size, a planet not too far nor too close to its home star, with a rotation rate no longer or shorter than 24 hours, an atmosphere of the just right level of thickness, and is neither too big nor too small, and this planet must be surrounded by 4 gas giants that are neither too big or small, nor are too far away nor too close to the life hosting planet. There are several other parameters a region of the universe must have in order to contain life.

If you want to dive into this subject in more detail, I recommend reading my book Inference To The One True God: Why I Believe In  Jesus Instead Of Other Gods. I have an entire chapter on this subject in that book.

As you can see, God would still have a lot to do in creating. He would first need to bring the universe into existence, then finely tune the laws of physics, then providentially arrange a region with the 400+ features required for a planet to support life.

A Natural Explanation Is Not A Replacement For God

People hold that evolution, if true, would rule out God and leave Him with no role to play in developing life. However, there are many other areas of the universe where we have a natural explanation for how these things operate and yet no one thinks that they rule out God.

In chapter 1 of her book Origins: Christian Perspectives On Creation, Evolution, and Intelligent Design, astrophysicist Deborah Haarsma gives an example of the way weather operates. She points out that The Bible clearly teaches that God governs the weather and yet we also know of solid and proven natural explanations for how the weather operates. Dr. Haarsma points to several Bible passages proclaiming that God causes rain and drought (see Deuteronomy 11:14-17; 1 Kings 8:35-36; Job 5:10; Job 37:6; Jeremiah 14:22), and she notes that the writers of Deuteronomy, the Psalms, and Jeremiah refer specifically to storehouses of rain and snow (Deuteronomy 28:12, 24; Psalms 135:7; Jeremiah 10:13). Haarsma goes on to point out the natural explanations behind these. She writes "...water evaporates from the ground level, rises to where the air is cooler, and condenses into water droplets that form clouds. We learned how cold fronts and warm fronts and low pressure systems bring rain. When we watch meteorologists on television, we hear that scientists now use sophisticated computer models to help them understand and predict the weather a few days in advance. Their ability to understand meteorology is especially important for farmers, airline pilots, military personnel, and coastal residents. Every year scientists develop increasingly accurate computer models of the weather."

Dr. Haarsma then invites us to imagine heated debates between whether The Bible is correct or whether the natural explanations of weather are correct, and to imagine lawsuits being filed against schools for teaching the natural explanations, and so on. Dr. Haarsma then writes ""The majority of Christians say that when it comes to the weather, both science and the Bible are correct. God governs the weather, usually through the scientifically understandable processes of evaporation and condensation. And the majority of atheists today would also agree that having a scientific explanation for the weather, by itself, neither proves nor disproves the existence of God." Her conclusion is that we would never conclude that natural explanations behind the weather would contradict scripture and leave God with no role to play in the process, so why do it with evolution?

I agree with her. The Bible is correct that God controls the weather, but he uses nature to do it. In the same way, God created all of life. Could He not have used evolution to do so?

We have other examples of God working through the natural laws He created. In the book of Exodus, we read about Moses leading the Israelites to freedom from bondage in Egypt. In chapter 14, when we come upon that famous scene of the crossing the Red Sea, we read that God caused the parting of the waters through the use of a strong wind. Exodus 14:21 says "Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all that night the LORD drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land. The waters were divided," (emphasis mine). God worked through a natural process (i.e the wind) to bring about the parting of the Red Sea.

Evolution Might Possibly Be Ammo For A Design Argument

This last point occurred to me after having a Google Hangout conversation with Zachary Lawson and Richard Bushey recently. Lawson referred to a paper written by Kirk MacGregor in which he argues that evolution is impossible unless a God endowed with middle knowledge exists. And as I was listening to his brief explanation of MacGregor's argument, it occurred to me that a lot of arguments against evolution do hinge on the statistical impossibility for it to occur. But what if the improbability doesn't prove that evolution is false, but establishes a different conclusion. One might be able to mount a design argument that employs Darwinian Evolution in its premises. If Evolution is possible only under a very narrow set of circumstances (i.e natural conditions), and the odds of those natural conditions coming about are extremely low, then perhaps one could argue that God purposefully set up the natural conditions so that nature would be able to get the job done.

Kirk MacGregor seems to refer to this argument in In A Molinist-Anabaptist Systematic Theology, MacGregor writes; “But what kind of God could create a universe in which astronomically improbable mutations would repeatedly occur in the course of nature, as opposed to the special creationist’s universe where these mutations did not occur but where God repeatedly intervened to produce the same long-term effects as if they had occurred? I contend that only a God endowed with middle knowledge would be able to create such a universe.”

According to what Zachary Lawson told me in that conversation, MacGregor is simultaneously making an argument for God's existence and the truth of Molinism using Darwinian Evolution as a key premise.

One could perhaps word the argument as the following syllogism

1: If A God Endowed With Middle Knowledge does not exist, evolution could not have occurred.
2: Evolution has occurred.
3: Therefore, a God Endowed with Middle Knowledge exists.

On this argument, premise 1 would say that God would have to use His middle knowledge (His knowledge of everything that would occur if certain factors are in place) in order to guide evolution. This would not have God causally determining the processes anymore than His use of middle knowledge to orchestrate human history involves causing people to choose what they choose. It's just that God is acting on His knowledge of what would occur if X were in place. So God could be involved in orchestrating evolutionary history and yet be as hands-off as He is when human beings are making free will choices. This would respect the naturalistic nature of the theory but would still require God to make it work. Premise 1 would also say that evolution is enormously unreasonable to believe on an atheistic worldview and non-Molinist theistic views. This would be due to probability argument against it's occurring in the absence of a guiding intelligence. Just as an automated factory putting computers together would be improbable unless someone first created the factory.

The idea of using evolution as a simultaneous argument for God's existence and Molinism intrigues me. Like a scientist who only has a faint notion of a theory before it's proven, I would like to investigate and research this further to see if it can developed into a robust apologetic. The thought actually occurred to me before my conversation with Bushey and Lawson, but I wasn't sure if anyone else caught on to it. I'd love to read MacGregor's paper on this.

How gloriously ironic would it be to take the atheist's favorite weapon away from him and then use it on him.

Conclusion

Christians no more need to be afraid of the possible truth of Darwinian Evolution than they do the possible truth of string theory. God is still required for the origin of the universe, the fine tuning of the universe, and the local fine tuning. Secondly, natural explanations don't exclude God's role in a natural process. Otherwise, we would have to conclude that when Exodus 14:21 says God parted the Red Sea with a strong wind, that therefore God Himself did not really part the Red Sea. And as Deborah Haarsma implied, we would have to conclude that God doesn't govern the weather contrary to what The Bible says.

Moreover, evolution could possibly be used as a design argument, if one can show that it's too improbable for evolution to occur unless God exists and guided the process through His middle knowledge.



*5 Reasons Why I'm Open To Theistic Evolution
*Is Theistic Evolution Ad Hoc?
*Is Theistic Evolution Untenable Because There's No Semblance Of It In Genesis? 

Monday, September 12, 2016

On The Frequency Of Miracles


Non-Christians often mock the Christian worldview because it posits that miracles both can and have happened in history. They look at the biblical narrative and see all these miracles seemingly happening all the time, and they ask that if God caused so many miracles to occur in the past, why doesn't He cause them to occur just as frequently today? After all, when you read the book of Exodus or the gospels, it seems like there's a new miracle occurring every minute! How come God just up and decided one day to stop doing any miracles? They imply that the reason is because the miracles in scripture were made up.

There are two problems with this, Number 1: we do have powerful historical evidence for at least one of the biblical miracles: the resurrection of Jesus (see "The Minimal Facts Case For Jesus' Resurrection PART 1" and "The Minimal Facts Case For Jesus' Resurrection PART 2"). Number 2: A careful study of The Bible leads to the conclusion that we should not expect miracles to occur frequently.

Miracles Weren't Common In Biblical History

Contrary to popular opinion, miracles were rare even in The Bible. You won't see miracles occurring in biblical history except for during the lives of a few individuals: Moses, Elijah, Elisha, Jesus, and the apostles. Apart from the narratives detailing the ministries of these few individuals, miracles are scant in biblical history.

Now, they are indeed occurring frequently during these individuals life times. During His 3 year ministry, Jesus was making new miracles occur all the time. But while there were a lot of miracles, they were clustered together. Scripture presents us with only a few clusters of frequent miracles; during the lifetimes of Moses, Elijah, Elisha, Jesus, and the apostles. Moreover, we have to understand that the ministries of these individuals only represents a tiny fragment of biblical history. There were many generations in the biblical genealogies (Genesis 5, 11, Matthew 1:1-17, Luke 3:23-38), and the Old Testament historical narratives tell us a good about about these people, such as Abraham (Genesis 12-25), Isaac (Genesis 21-26), Jacob (Genesis 25-50), etc. etc. And while God was most certainly intervening in the lives of these patriarchs, of David, of Solomon, etc, there weren't that many miracles occurring. Instead what you see in these other narratives are divine providence and intervention in the sort of non-miraculous way that God works in the world today.

The Bible records historical events spanning thousands of years, yet only in the lifetimes of a few individuals do we really see frequent miracles. In the rest of biblical history, they're scant. You may see one or two every now and then, such as Samson's Incredible Hulk-like strength (see Judges 13-16), but most of it is ordinary divine providence.

That's also evident in the fact that whenever Jesus performed a miracle, he took the witnesses by surprise. When you read the gospels, you'll often find the crowds being surprised at Jesus' miracles. They didn't expect to see lepers being immediately cleansed from their disease merely by Jesus' touch (Matthew 8:2-4). Peter knew that whenever someone entered water, they were submerged in it rather than being able to stand on top of it. This is why his faith wavered and he sunk after a single moment of being able to walk directly on top of it (see Matthew 14:25-31). No one expected the dead to rise except for at the universal resurrection at the end of days, which is why everyone was shocked when Lazarus came out of his tomb (John 11:38-44) and why no one was anticipating Jesus' resurrection (Luke 24:5-11) in spite of his repeated predictions of it (Matthew 12:39-40, Matthew 16:11, Mark 8:31-38, John 2:18-22,  John 10:17-18). Those who witnessed Jesus' miracles were astonished because these kinds of things just didn't happen.

Why God Doesn't Do Them Often

If miracles happened all the time, they wouldn't be nearly all that noticeable. If they were going on all the time, we might be apt to think of them as unknown laws of physics or something.

The reason why God rarely causes miracles is because they are meant to serve as signs to confirm that His prophets really do speak for him. Aside from accurately predicting future events (Deuteronomy 18:22), this was another way of proving a prophet wasn't a false prophet. Acts 2:22 declares, “Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know.” The same is said of the apostles, “The things that mark an apostle—signs, wonders and miracles—were done among you with great perseverance” (2 Corinthians 12:12). The Bible says in Hebrews 2:4, “God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to His will.”  So, if miracles were common, this wouldn't serve as a good proof of authenticity. If miracles were common, Nicodemus would not have said to Jesus "Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him." (John 3:2).

The Bible also says that Jesus' resurrection was a vindication of His ministry. For example, in John 2:18-22, we read "So the Jews answered and said to him, 'What sign do you show to us, since you do these things?' Jesus answered and said to them, 'Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.' Then the Jews said, 'It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?' But he was speaking of the temple of his body. When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he said this; and they believed the Scripture, and the word which Jesus had spoken" And in Matthew 12:39-40, Jesus said "An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign; and yet no sign shall be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet; for just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so shall the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth." 

If it were not the case that dead people generally stayed dead, Jesus' resurrection would not serve as a vindication of his ministry. If resurrections were occurring on even a monthly or yearly basis, it would diminish the power of Jesus' resurrection to confirm His ministry and claims to be divine. Just imagine a conversation between the disciples of Jesus and some people they're trying to witness to.

"Jesus is the messiah and the Son Of God!"
"Really? How do you know?"
"He rose from the dead!"
"That's nothing. My uncle Carl rose from the dead 2 days ago. That doesn't mean he's the messiah."

So the next time an atheist professor drops chalk and challenges God to stop it as a test of whether or not He exists, just show him how unbiblical this test is. God is not a circus performer. He uses 99% of his miracles to confirm prophets and the ministry of God The Son. He uses nature to confirm His existence (see Psalm 19:1-4, Romans 1:20).

Conclusion

We shouldn't be as surprised that miracles are extremely rare. According to The biblical data, this is exactly what we should expect. The lack of frequent miracles is not an anomaly for the Christian worldview, it's exactly what The Christian Worldview predicts.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Does The Cosmological Argument Entail A Contradiction?


Some atheists have objected to The Kalam Cosmological Argument on the basis that it entails a contradiction. If God existed beyond time, and then He decided to create the universe, and then the universe came into being, this, they argue, is a contradiction. This is because it entails cause and effect, before and after, before time even begins. But that's impossible! How can you have cause and effect and a before and after if there is no time? According to most scientists, time is required in order for cause and effect to take place. Time is the realm of cause to effect relationships. Moreover, don't have to be a scientist in order to know that before and after requires time.

What is the proponent of the Kalam Cosmological Argument to do? Well, it seems to me that the objector is assuming that God's decision to create and God's action of creating occur in a sequence; God decides "You know what? I'm gonna make a universe" and then He uses His omnipotent power to will a universe into being, and then The Big Bang occurs. This view would indeed be a contradiction, because you have an event before the first event. You would have an event before the first event. The first event would be the universe springing into being, and the event before the first event being God's decision to create.

However, who said that these things had to take place sequentially? It seems to me that all of these things could have occurred simultaneously. God could have decided to create a universe, and in that moment of decision, God acted and the universe came into being. This way, 3 things occur simultaneously within that very first moment of time. If this is the case, we don't have an event before the first event. There are no events occurring before The Big Bang.

God’s decision to create the world is simultaneous with the world’s coming into being. This proposition would relieve us from asserting the absurd notion that there was an event before the first event. The first event just was God’s decision to actualize the world. God was able to cause the effect of the universe because that decision was the first event.

In conclusion, The Kalam Cosmological Argument doesn't affirm a contradiction.


*The Kalam Cosmological Argument
*Does The First Law Of Thermodynamics Undermine The Kalam Argument?
*Do We Have Examples Of Things Beginning To Exist?  
*Is The Big Bang The Origin Of The Universe?