Trust, but Verify!

I love watching and listening to debates. Listening to the arguments for and against a position really helps me to see new ways to think and new ways to study God’s Word. When someone challenges my worldview with difficult questions, it’s probably not the 1st time someone has brought up that question or the 1st time someone has answered it. So, viewing debates is a nice way to see how these questions come about and how to answer difficult questions.

Almost always, these debates drive me back to scripture to confirm that someone has answered in accordance with God’s Word. This pattern is called noble in Acts 17:11

Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.

So, let me encourage anyone reading this blog or any other blog to test what is read against the scriptures. Now, we live in a special time in human history as well, because not only are we able to READ the scriptures, but we can dig deep with all of the available tools of the internet. Let me put in an endorsement for Blue Letter Bible. They have a great website and mobile app! My favorite use of this tools is to see the original Hebrew and Greek words in which the divinely inspired texts were written, since I do not speak either language.

This debate caught my interest this week, and I’ve linked to the beginning of the cross examination portion of the debate. It is between old earth theist, Fuz Rana and philosopher Michael Ruse.

In their 1st exchange, Ruse reads Genesis 1:16

[Gen 1:16 ESV] 16 And God made the two great lights–the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night–and the stars.

He then asks where is the sun is for the 1st three days. I’ve got a much better answer than Rana tries to give below

Watching Rana, you can clearly see he is uncomfortable with this line of questioning because he has left the safety of God’s Word and is crafting a new story with new definitions. At 54:57 he says, “We take days as a long period of time…” His yarn includes not 1 but 2 invented transformations of the atmosphere to allow light to pass to the surface of the earth. And then he is either badly mistaken or lying to cover a glaring hole in his worldview. Starting at 56:00 he says:

The text in the original Hebrew doesn’t say that the sun moon and stars were created, it says that let them appear.

Well, let’s check his scholarship of scripture with the tools we have available. If you click here on this link, you’ll see Genesis 1:16 open in Blue Letter Bible. You should see something that looks like the picture below. Notice the English transliteration of the Hebrew word for “made” is ‘asah.

Gen1_16

You can drill down further into the usage of this term by clicking the link H6213. This will show you specifically about this Hebrew word: how many times it’s used in the Bible, and which ways it is translated. Not once is this word (as Rana says) ever translated appear…as though the clouds cleared to show these lights having existed for millions of years prior as Rana sadly believes.

Now if Rana wants to believe this, he then has to account for other times this word ‘asah is used within the context. It is used in

  • Gen 1:7 – creation of the expanse
  • Gen 1:11 – plants making/bearing fruit
  • Gen 1:26 – creation of mankind

So, if we put Rana’s misinterpretation of ‘asah from Gen 1:16 in place of the other uses of ‘asah in the same context, can we say that the expanse, fruits, and humans have existed for millions of years and then the atmosphere cleared so that they became visible to a hypothetical observer. This is a huge problem for Rana and his parent company Reasons to Believe.

Perhaps Rana meant that in Gen 1:14 was when these concocted atmospheric transformations took place, and the sun, moon, and stars “appeared”. But God does not use the Hebrew word for appear (ra’ah) like he did in Gen 1:9. This would have given credence to Rana’s legend had the Biblical text included in Gen 1:14 the Hebrew word ra’ah because its definition is:

  1. to see
  2. to appear
  3. to present oneself
  4. to become visible

Dr. Ruse rightly pushes Dr. Rana and says, “as most of us would read Genesis then, it is profoundly misleading.”

Gen1_16

Yes, Dr. Rana, you are teaching misleading doctrine. This is not the only example of the folks at Reasons to Believe teaching indefensible interpretations of scripture.

Thankfully, we can check their words with context, other parts of scripture, and the tools available to us with the internet. God’s Word can be trusted in all matters.

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The Theory of the Conservation of Sweetness

This is a little different a post than I normally write about, but in my effort to help my fellow man, it’s incredibly kinda important.

I’ve seen it time and again that my friends and family are not able to maximize their eating pleasure when faced with a bowl of mixed fruit. You’ve all seen it. Someone takes a bite of fruit and react with a bitter face.

So, I have formulated the Theory of the Conservation of Sweetness. Each distinct fruit has its own sweetness value, and if you eat fruit in the correct order, each piece of fruit will yield its maximum level of enjoyment.

Please use the chart below to help make sure you conserve sweetness throughout the bowl of fruit by eating the fruits in order from the top of this chart to the bottom. This list is not comprehensive, so feel free to point out any missing fruits that you think are important.

  • Grapefruit
  • Cranberry (Seriously, who would put cranberries in a fruit bowl?)
  • Cantaloupe
  • Blackberry
  • Strawberry
  • Peach
  • Banana
  • Orange
  • Kiwi
  • Watermelon
  • Apple (I’m ranking Red Delicious. HoneyCrisp would be higher on the list!)
  • Mango
  • Pineapple
  • Grape

 

Should you disagree with the theory, please feel free to post your reasons in the comments. Also, if there is a glaring omission of fruit, please let me know!

 

Evidence for the Almighty

Interact with people long enough online when discussing God, and the inevitable demand for “evidence for your sky daddy” (or other pejorative) will arise. So, let’s talk evidence.

Evidence

That’s a decent definition for evidence. As another prerequisite, how do we define God. God as revealed through his creation, through his Word, and through Jesus as The All powerful, All Knowing, and All Loving Eternal Creator.

We need to talk about three more things before we talk about evidence:

  1. All evidence is interpreted by your worldview. Evidence does not speak for itself. Let me give you an example of how people interpret evidence according to their worldview. The evidence is a fossilized dinosaur bone.
    • A Christian will look at the fossil and interpret it to be exactly what one would expect to find when digging in sedimentary rock layers because the dinosaur was rapidly buried by water-born sediment. Since the animal now exists as a fossil, it avoided decomposition from scavengers/bacteria, so it had to be buried quickly by a massive flood like the one revealed as historical evidence in Genesis 7-9. We know from calculations on ages and historical markers that the flood took place about 4500 years ago, so the bone has been buried for about 4500 years.
    • A non-Christian will look at the fossil and interpret it to be exactly what one would expect to find when digging in sedimentary rock layers because dinosaurs lived millions of years ago and so the rock layer in which the dinosaur is buried is also that old. Because the rock layer has this fossil in it, we know that the fossil was buried about 65 million years ago.
    • Same evidence.Wildly different conclusions. There is no special atheistic evidence, and there is no special christian evidence. There’s just evidence that people interpret within their worldview framework. Can evidence ultimately convince someone of God’s existence? So, we have to ask how valid is it to put out evidence to convince someone that God exists.
  2. What things count as evidence?
    • Laboratory evidence or repeatable evidence. There are all kinds of examples for this, but let’s go easy: Water at sea level boils at 100 degrees Celsius. This is repeatable and consistent. Most of the time, when I have interactions with people online, they want this kind of laboratory evidence to prove that God exists. We’ll talk more later about why a demand for evidence of the Almighty on this level is absurd.
    • Historical or Forensic evidence. Clearly, one cannot go into the laboratory and prove with repeatability the existence of Ghengis Khan or Thomas Jefferson, but one can, with a high degree of certainty, rely on historical records. Biases play a major role in the documentation of historical records, so it’s helpful to recognize bias and read multiple accounts of a historical event to get the truest picture of the past.
  3. This is not specifically about evidence, but the demand that people make of God. “God you appear before me or you’re not real!” To demand this of the Eternal Almighty is audacious, prideful, and dangerous. On a much smaller scale, it would be similar to saying, “The President of the USA better show up to my birthday party and light my candles, or he’s not really the president.” This demand is completely unreasonable for his authority/position, and it ultimately has no bearing on the president’s authority/position.

 

What is the evidence for God?

  1. Since God is the Creator, all evidence is evidence for God. Romans 1:20 “For since the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities-his divine nature-have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” A key question would be: What evidence would convince you that God exists, even though he says you already have enough evidence?
  2. Without God, you couldn’t prove anything at all. As the Ultimate Truth, He can fulfill the necessary preconditions for intelligibility. To be absolutely certain of something, one must know everything or have revelation from Someone who does know everything. We all know things, therefore God exists.
  3. There are immaterial, invariant, universal entities. Those who believe in a naturalistic worldview cannot account for these entities, because the naturalist is bound by constantly-changing matter. Since God is immaterial, invariant, and transcendental, He can substantiate both the material and immaterial entities. Because there are things like good, beauty, truth, mathematics, and information we know that God must exist to be the source for these things.
  4. The Bible. Scripture claims to be divinely inspired. These claims are internally consistent and continually verified by forensic science. As verification of their divine nature, fulfilled prophecies have been recorded throughout scripture and later come true. Ultimately, the resurrection of Jesus from the dead is the pivotal point in history. Multiple lines of evidence are compelling for this miracle.
  5. Specified Complexity – DNA is a biological code that exhibits specified complexity. It is both highly ordered and elaborate. Scientifically, only intelligence is known to create specified complex code like computer programs. DNA is not just a code, but exhibits informational capacity in multiple dimensions. Complexity of this magnitude requires a magnificent Power.
  6. Irreducible Complexity – “A single system which is composed of several interacting parts that contribute to the basic function, & where the removal of any one of the parts causes the system to effectively cease functioning. An irreducibly complex system cannot be produced gradually by slight, successive modifications of a precursor system, since any precursor to an irreducibly complex system is by definition nonfunctional.” God shows Himself to be a master designer by creating mechanisms that cannot function with any missing parts. Examples of IC are most of the  biological systems: respiratory, circulatory, immune, etc…
  7. Fine Tuning – There are properties of the universe that could have any number of values. If any of these values were different in even the slightest degree, life would not be possible. The universe appears to be not just perfectly fine tuned for life but perfectly designed for the flourishing of life and scientific discovery.
    1. A sub-category of the fine-tuning evidence is the specific evidence for earth being designed for human life:
      1. Perfect distance from the sun provides for liquid water and optimum temperatures for humanity
      2. Unique near-circular orbit prevents massive climate swings
      3. Protective atmosphere – Van Allen belts protect humanity from dangerous radiation. As a secondary benefit of the belts, the beauty of the northern lights can be enjoyed by humanity.
      4. The earth is the perfect size for generating a magnetic field of the right strength, which protects the Earth from all kinds of dangers.
      5. Transparent atmosphere allows us to use the visible light spectrum for vision. Because of this, humanity can observe evidence both inside and outside our atmosphere.
      6. The atmosphere is also the perfect ratio of elements for respiration, combustion, flight, photosynthesis, condensation, evaporation, and UV protection. The atmosphere is also a great medium for passing smell and sound.
      7. The proximity to the moon and sun provide perfect amount of force to control tides and keep the oceans from becoming stagnant.
      8. We can view a perfect solar eclipse because the moon appears to be 400X smaller than the relative distance of the sun, which is 400X further away. Coincidence or design?
      9. The placement of the earth within the solar system protects the earth from most meteor strikes. The large gas planets “vacuum” up most of the dangerous ones.
      10. The placement of the earth within the Milky Way appears to be perfectly designed because it is in a relatively safe part of the bands of stars that allows for the greatest level of discovery.
  8. Symbiosis – Symbiosis is defined as “interaction between two different organisms living in close physical association, typically to the advantage of both.” Unrelated biological systems that cannot exist independently are best explained by a master Designer, who planned their advantageous interactions.
  9. The Moral Argument – While not a specific piece of evidence, the argument that there are ultimate moral laws necessitates a moral law giver. Again, naturalistic worldviews cannot account for universal, immaterial, and invariant moral laws.

This list is not comprehensive, but it is a good start when studiously researching the evidence for the existence of God.

I mentioned earlier that most atheists demand a level of evidence for God on par with 2+2=4 or the repeatable boiling point of water. This demand is absurd, because it is a category error.

God is by definition beyond nature, so demanding a natural evidence for a supernatural event/entity does not make sense. As an example of this, a miracle was recorded in the Bible where Jesus changed water into wine. Jesus did not use a law of nature or mathematical formula to perform this miracle. It is by definition supernatural and does not produce evidence that can be repeated or the process described step-by-step. It’s very much like the character in a video game who demands that the video game designer bring himself into the video game to prove his existence.

So, if your limited worldview has barriers that ignore/suppress/disallow the supernatural, no evidence will ever be good enough.

To know the Creator, you must admit and repent of your rebellion against Him. He is faithful to forgive and only faith in his Son can bring the mercy and peace that we all need.

Read the Word: The More You Read, the Less You’ll Regret

We need to combat the imitation, shallow, out-of-context verse worship that substitutes for genuine Bible study!

The Domain for Truth

You probably heard the saying “the more you sweat the less you bleed.”

Well with sermon prep and lecture prep for going overseas to teach the Word I felt the discipline of reading the Word and books on the Word helped and paid off in terms of things remembered, books highlighted that can now be easily referenced, etc.

It made me think of another saying concerning Bible reading: “The more you read, the less you’ll regret.”

The Marine in me couldn’t help but make this meme:

But then I realized that’s a true principle for generally with the Christian life.

For help to encourage you to read more check out our post “How to Read More Books When Life Gets Busy.”

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Let Bygones Be Bygones

pexels-photo-210205.jpeg

It’s one of my hobbies to discuss origins with people. If you’ve read my blog long enough, you know that I have a strong stance in the veracity of the Bible because it is the inspired Word of God.

So, one of the conversations I was having with someone, who believed in a universe that is 13 point something billion years old and an Earth that is about 4.5 billion year old, went like this:

  • OldEarther: If God created the sun on day 4 like it says in Genesis, how could there have been days 1, 2, and 3 prior to that?
  • Me: I’ve got two answers for you. First, your “time problem” is much bigger than my perceived problem. In a “long-age” view, the sun doesn’t emerge from condensed gases until 8-9 billion years after the Big Bang and the Earth doesn’t emerge until about a half a million years after that. How do you get years prior to the earth revolving around the sun? I’ve only got to account for 3 days; you, on the other hand are stuck trying to account for billions of YEARS without a calibration for a year!
  • OldEarther: ….
  • Me: Secondly, God was very clear about the purpose of the sun. Shine light on the Earth, and be a time keeper on Earth. So, your question to me about the rationality of days 1, 2, and 3 doesn’t make sense. The definition of a day is one earth rotation on its axis. There’s no need for the sun to exist for there to be days. Genesis 1:1 says, “In the beginning God created the Heavens and the Earth.” Day 1 the Earth was there spinning and on day 4, God created the sun, so that mankind (day 6) would be able to tell time. Your question is very much like asking, “How could there have been time before watches?” Time existed prior to the invention of chronographs. It’s just much easier to see the passage of time with a watch (the sun).
  • OldEarther: Well, if that’s the case, then your first answer to me fails too!
  • Me: Not so. Since I believe the Bible’s historical account, years began to be measured at the very latest only 4 days after creation…a negligible amount. But for you, the calibration for a year is now ambiguous prior to the measurement of one revolution of the earth around the sun.

 

We can trust God’s revelation about the history of Earth, so we can trust Him with our future!

Culture of Irrationality

Recently a young man took his firearms into a local high school and killed 17 students and teachers. This horrible act of atrocity has raised many questions and debates. Some of the debate has centered on whether this should be a culture that should be allowed to have firearms at all. Perhaps restricting ownership of firearms only to the government would prevent such terrible tragedies. Another view is that having teachers/police officers in the school carry firearms to be a deterrent against mass shootings would keep the cowardly criminals at bay. There are good and bad arguments on both sides.

Let me take this in a different direction that requires a little back story first.

Last night my teenage son and I sat down to watch a movie called Assassin’s Creed. I knew the movie was based on a video game, but I had no idea of the etymology of the story. What was revealed in the first 5 minutes of the movie horrified me. I’m so glad I was able to watch this movie with my son rather than him watching it with his friends. What horrified me was not just the killing (although that in itself is terrible enough), but the doctrine by which this coven of assassins lived. The speaking was in Spanish, but the sub-titles revealed the complete irrationality of their mantra. There are three main mantras that the coven of assassins repeated that I will cover.

Nothing is true

As Frank Turek likes to point out when someone makes a claim; turn it back on itself, to see if it is self-refuting. “Nothing is true.” Is it true that nothing is true? Self-Refuting. But in this wildly popular video game and Hollywood movie, young people blindly accept this claim. The “conclusion” (if such a terrible premise can lead to a conclusion) that a young person can get from this mantra is that there is not a moral truth by which one must abide. Moral relativity. Absurdity.

Everything is permitted

If everything is permitted, why shouldn’t people gun down their peers for fun or a political view or a religious view? This preaching by the movie, video game, and book series give full license for young people to behave however they want to please themselves. Why should our culture expect anything else than for young people to act selfishly? It is again this idea that there is no Creator, who gave moral standards, so do whatever you want.

For those who recognize this phrase from the Bible, did Paul say that everything is permissible too? I’ll not get into the purpose of Paul’s commands to the Corinthian church here, but I do implore you to apply the proper hermeneutic of contextual analysis. Paul clearly lists behaviors that are not permissible just prior and subsequent to this phrase.

We work in the dark to serve the light.

Another example of cognitive dissonance that is preached to the young people of our culture. These fictional assassins repeat these mantras in order to justify their behavior of killing Catholics and others who would attempt to live by God’s revealed standards.

After seeing these three mantras play out on the screen for 30 minutes or so, my son and I talked about the irrationality of those dogmas and turned off the movie. It had lost all appeal because of its absurdity. But that is what is being preached to the young people of today in movies, video games, and other media.

So, how do we combat people using guns against their neighbors?

  1. Men must be involved in the lives of their children. No longer can men selfishly impregnate women and move on to the next conquest. Single-parent households are fertile grounds for lawlessness, poverty, and spiritual illness. When men take the selfish path by fulfilling their own needs without first taking the responsibility of a lifelong commitment to one woman and then raising their children with discipline and love, the culture degrades into barbarism. Men must disciple their children and love their wife.
  2. Stop glorifying absurdity in video games and movies. Every movie and video game has some sort of agenda. Learn to recognize the agenda by comparing it to the revealed truth of God’s Word.
  3. Teach people how to think. Use presuppositional apologetics to analyze claims. Don’t accept someone’s worldview just because they strongly believe it.
  4. Teach your children the value of human lives comes from being made in God’s image.

 

Ultimately, the source of mass shootings is a sin problem. Jesus fulfilled the scriptures and came to free mankind from the curse of sin. If the problem is sin, the solution is God’s grace through faith.

Suppress the Truth at Your Own Peril

I’ve listened to Shermer debate several different Christians, and his debate style has grown tiresome.
In this debate, Shermer declared victory in the opening paragraph and spent the rest of his time “killing” straw men, showcasing red-herrings, and refusing to provide justification for his assertions. It was terribly frustrating to hear Shermer, who failed miserably at defending atheism, declare victory in the closing remarks when Hernandez chose not to join Shermer outside the debate boundaries. His entire argument (as Hernandez correctly pointed out) was “I don’t like God.”
It’s time for Shermer to retire from debate. He was never able to understand the depth of Dr. Hernandez’s transcendental argument. Shermer continued to “argue” against tired classic Christian apologetics, which Dr. Hernandez never employed.
I find similar responses from atheists with whom I interact. They do not understand the depth of their philosophical dilemma, and they resort to scientism (“we have evidence….you don’t”), wild accusations (“stone adulterers and children!”) and vicious circularity.
In many ways, Christians must do better at framing the debate, so that atheists can at least try to tackle the real philosophical problems rather than fighting on the surface. But it’s certain that those outside the church who continue to suppress the truth will bring on themselves the “futile thinking…with foolish darkened hearts.” (Romans 1)…and thus never be able to understand the freedom of Truth (John 8:32).
It comes down to authority. The atheist chooses dirt (material) as the eternal authority. The follower of Jesus chooses the revealed Creator (and his Word) as his authority.