Around the web 8/31/2013 — Fire-breathing dragons, Dawkins causes skeptics to consider Christianity, and more
READING DAWKINS LEADS THINKERS TO CHRIST — Jay Wile tells of two people who came to faith in Christ through reading the The God Delusion and other works by the New Atheists: Richard Dawkins Produces Another Theist. The woman Wile highlights in his article is a great-great-great-granddaughter of Charles Darwin.
FIRE BREATHING DRAGONS PROVE THE BIBLE IS TRUE? — Naturalis Historia examines the YEC claim that dragons are not the mythological creatures we thought they were, but were really dinosaurs who survived for a while after Noah’s flood: Dinosaurs, Dragons and Ken Ham: The Literal Reality of Mythological Creatures.
Fortunately, most biblical scholars don’t buy into the YEC “dinosaurs in the Bible” argument (see my blog post The ESV Study Bible on creation — Dinosaurs in Job?).
A FLOOD OF DEBT — According to The Huffington Post, the Christian school in South Carolina that made the news for its dinosaur quiz is going out of business for financial reasons. I wrote about the dinosaur quiz several times in the past few months: A 4th grade quiz on dinosaurs that the teacher would have given me an “F” on, More on the Answers in Genesis 4th grade dinosaur quiz, and Dinosaur quiz — part 3.
GEOLOGICAL BULL — Old Earth Ministries got this comment from a young-Earth Creationist who stumbled across their site:
“I have never in my life read such foul lying trash than the trash I read on your website. I will simply say this. I pray to Jesus that you will see the light and stop trying to prove Darwin right. Darwin set out to try to prove that God did not exist and you have been tainted by it and the colleges you all have attended and you choose their words over the words of God. All that geological bull is Satan’s way of turning you from the truth. May God have mercy on your soul.” [emphasis added]
I’ve had a few emails and comments like that over the years as well. Sigh.
Grace and Peace
Skeptics and atheists like to present their side as that of reason, and the religious side as that of faith. But it just isn’t so. It is, in fact, quite reasonable to believe that there is a God who is is spaceless, timeless, immaterial, uncaused, and incredibly powerful.
One of the most convincing arguments for the existence of God is the cosmological argument. One form of this argument goes like this:
1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
2. The universe began to exist.
3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.
This “Kalam” cosmological argument is summarized in a video from Reasonable Faith:
Being that the conclusion (#3) follows logically from the premises (#1 and #2), skeptics try to show that either of the two premises are invalid. In other words, they attempt to demonstrate that something can begin to exist without being caused to exist by something else, or that the universe did not begin to exist; that it has in some sense existed forever. But the evidence from the real world tells us that the premises are true statements.
Everything we know about the universe tells us that premise #1 is valid. Things do not pop into existence out of nothing; we call that magic, not science. I can already hear the skeptics snickering and saying, “that ignorant GeoChristian guy doesn’t even know about quantum theory, which allows particles to come into existence from nothing.” But I am right and the skeptics are wrong, because quantum particles do not materialize into existence from absolute nothingness Those particles emerge from a quantum vacuum, which is the lowest possible quantum energy state, but not nothing. In addition, the particles can only come into existence because there are laws that allow them to, and those laws are part of the cause. Skeptics cannot point to a single phenomenon in nature that would invalidate premise #1.
Everything we know about the universe tells us that premise #2 is valid. Many things point to the universe having come into existence at a distinct point of time in the finite past, such as the second law of thermodynamics, the finite size of the universe, and the expansion of the universe.
If the premises are valid, the conclusion is valid: something outside of the universe caused the universe to exist. That something, to a Christian or other theist, is God.
What is more likely:
1. A universe that was caused to exist by something material but eternal (or timeless) and non-thermodynamic (as in not having to obey the laws of thermodynamics),
2. A universe that was caused by something immaterial and outside of itself, that is a God who is uncaused, eternal (or timeless), and powerful?
Grace and Peace
This week, my “Around the Web” wrap-up doesn’t have anything about creationism, the environment, or geology. I’ve put in a few 100-hour work weeks lately, and it is nice to finally have a little bit of time for The GeoChristian blog.
THE EXTINCTION OF CHRISTIANITY IN THE MIDDLE EAST? — In the second century, the church father Tertullian stated that “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” It has often been the case in the history of Christianity that intense persecution of the church has purified and strengthened it, leading to explosive growth. This happened during the Roman persecutions of Tertullian’s day, and more recently in 20th and 21st century China. But at other times, persecution has led to the extinguishing of the the church, whether through death, apostasy, or migration. North Africa was once mostly Christianized, but the Islamic invasion of the seventh century led to the demise of the church in all but Egypt. Turkey was once a stronghold of Christianity, but in the aftermath of the breakup of the Ottoman Empire after World War I, Christians were either slaughtered (Armenians) or forced out (Greeks). The same seems to be happening today in a number of Middle Eastern countries, such as Iraq, Syria, Egypt, and to some degree in the Palestinian territories.
Christianity Today: Christians Killed in Egypt Following President’s Ouster
THE SEXUAL REVOLUTION TRUMPS ONE’S FREEDOM OF RELIGION — N.M. Supreme Court: Photographers Can’t Refuse Gay Weddings. Here’s what one of the New Mexico justices had to say:
The Huguenins are free to think, to say, to believe, as they wish; they may pray to the God of their choice and follow those commandments in their personal lives wherever they lead. The Constitution protects the Huguenins in that respect and much more. But there is a price, one that we all have to pay somewhere in our civic life.
Hmmm. So we can privately believe whatever we want, but we better not express our beliefs in any meaningful way. It seems that the freedom of religion expressed in the Bill of Rights might end up meaning little more than this statement from the constitution of a previous great power:
Citizens of [name of country] are guaranteed freedom of conscience, that is, the right to profess or not to profess any religion, and to conduct religious worship… (click here for full text of constitution).
Would this same Christian photographer be required by law to photograph a pornographic wedding starring Miley Cyrus?
OPPOSITION TO GAY MARRIAGE: BAD. SUPPORT FOR MARRYING DOGS: GOOD. — I am not a Glenn Beck fan (a promoter of wild conspiracy theories and clueless on the environment). But I like this article that a Facebook friend pointed to: Conservative professor embarrasses liberal critic with this epic response.
At UNC Chapel Hill, there is a feminist professor who believes that women can lead happy lives without men. That’s nothing new. But what’s different is that she thinks women can form lifelong domestic partnerships with dogs and that those relationships will actually be fulfilling enough to replace marital relationships with men.
At Duke University, feminists hired a “sex worker” (read: prostitute) to speak as part of an event called the Sex Workers Art Show. After his speech, the male prostitute pulled down his pants, got down on his knees, and inserted a burning sparkler into his rectum. While it burned, he sang a verse of “the Star Spangled Banner.”
CHILD PORN AS ART — The article above gives so many good examples of really sordid stuff at North Carolina universities, that it is worth of a second entry in this week’s Around the Web:
A few years ago, a UNCW English professor posted nude pictures of under-aged girls as a part of an “art exhibit” in the university library. The Provost then ordered the nude pictures to be moved away from the library and into the university union. This decision was made after several pedophiles had previous been caught downloading child pornography in the university library just a few yards away from the location of the display. The English professor was incensed so she asked the Faculty Senate to censure the provost for violating her “academic freedom.” The faculty senate sided with the feminist professor. The provost was later pressured to leave the university.
If there are no moral absolutes, then anything is morally permissible.
DEATH TO THE _________________________ (fill in the blank) — From Fox News: Woman receives hate-filled letter asking her to move or euthanize autistic son. There are many in our country who are ethically no better than the Nazis or the Islamic extremists who want to purge their nations of Christians (and Jews and Bahais and Muslim sects and secular Muslims).
A MAP DEPICTING ONE THING THAT IS WRONG WITH HIGHER EDUCATION IN AMERICA
See more fascinating maps at 40 Maps That Will Help You Make Sense of the World.
Come Lord Jesus
Grace and Peace
Around the web — 8/18/2013 — A threat to the faith of youth, threats to the lives of Christians, atheist variations, and more
WHO’S SHAKING THE FOUNDATIONS? — What will shake the foundations of a young person’s faith more:
1. Believing that biological evolution is largely true and not contradictory to the Bible
2. or being told that biological evolution is unbiblical and a lie of the devil and then discovering that much of biological evolution is indeed true?
Old Earth Ministries has a review of Ray Comfort’s new video Evolution vs. God, which repeats a common theme of The GeoChristian:
Finally, the subtitle “shaking the foundations of faith” is tragically accurate. According to view presented in this video, to believe in any kind of Darwinian evolution is to reject the God of the Bible. As long as people believe this is true, people will reject the God of the Bible once they are exposed to the evidences supporting evolutionary theory. Thus, the video actually can “shake the foundations of faith” by inadvertently causing people to stray from the Gospel when they encounter perceived “contradictions” with science.
For a quick summary of the biblical teaching about evolution, go back to my What the Bible says directly about biological evolution. It won’t take you very long.
CERTAINTY AND CERTITUDE — On a scale of 1 to 10, how certain am I that God exists? That Jesus rose from the dead? That the Earth is billions of years old? How certain am I that atheism, Hinduism, or Mormonism are wrong? C. Michael Patton of the Parchment & Pen Blog offers some insights: Why I Lack Certainty About Christianity. Patton is not advocating some sort of wishy-washy, agnostic, we-cannot-really-know-anything philosophy. He is simply being honest in saying that our levels of certainty aren’t at the 100% level on most things, but that is OK. We can have strong convictions even if our level of certainty is less than God’s level of certainty.
NOT ALL ATHEISTS ARE FUNDAMENTALIST DAWKINSITES — Christianity Today has a brief article on The Six Types of Atheists.
1. The Intellectual Atheist/Agnostic: Sees his/herself as intellectually too advanced for religion and seeks to engage with other likeminded individuals through writings, YouTube videos and talks.
2. The Activist: Proactively works for issues connected to naturalist or humanist causes.
3. The Seeker-Agnostic: Considers the metaphysical a possibility but is comfortable with uncertainty as it concerns the interaction of science and the metaphysical.
4. The Anti-Theist: Believes religion to be evil, thus actively works against religion and religious influences.
5. The Non-Theist: Does not have much interest in religious concepts.
6. The Ritual Atheist/Agnostic: Does not have otherworldly beliefs but regularly attends a religious ceremony, finding that this meets some social or psychological need.
Just as Christians can have varying degrees of doubt about their beliefs, I have no doubt that atheists have varying degrees of doubt about their beliefs. At least those atheists who are at least slightly open-minded (most “free-thinkers” are anything but open-minded).
ONE WAY TICKET TO MARS — More than 100,000 want to go to Mars and not return, project says. My beautiful bride won’t want to go, so I don’t want to go either.
PERSECUTION OF CHRISTIANS IN EGYPT — Christians in Egypt and Syria tend to side with the dictators. My understanding is that they consider it better to live under the tyranny of a dictator who lets you be a Christian than to live under the tyranny of Islamic radicals who would rather see the Christians dead or gone. See Coptic Christian churches, buildings targeted in Egypt for second straight day. Based on what happened in Turkey in the 1920s and Iraq in the 1990s and 2000s, the Islamists just might succeed in clearing the Middle East of Christians.
WOULD YOU LIKE SOME SPAM? — There have been 2,941 comments posted on The GeoChristian since its inception. My spam filter has removed an additional 97, 947 comments, most of which I have glanced at for the one-in-a-thousand that is a legitimate comment.
Grace and Peace
One cannot have a complete biblical doctrine of creation without incorporating what one believes about the future of creation. Some Christians believe in the utter annihilation of the present world when Christ returns; that God will completely destroy Earth before establishing the eternal order. This doctrine can, unfortunately, lead to what some have called “disposable earth theology.” In the perspective of some Christians, it really doesn’t matter what happens to planet Earth because it is going to be destroyed anyway.
I believe the disposable earth teaching is biblically wrong for a number of reasons. It is more gnostic than Christian in that it teaches that only what is “spiritual” goes on to eternity, while everything physical gets wiped out. It is more biblical to say that there is a good amount of continuity between the present world and the eternal world. For example, our bodies will somehow be changed when we are resurrected, but we will still be ourselves. I will still be recognizable as Kevin Nelstead, though with some much-needed improvements. Likewise, planet Earth will still be planet Earth.
Two talented men in my local church have started producing a web tv program called Dead Reckoning TV, which I highly recommend. In episode 17 for their first year, Dr. Brian Mattson and Jay Friesen focus on the future aspect of the doctrine of creation and how that should effect our day-to-day living in the present age. For the core part of his argument, Dr. Mattson states:
When you have a robust doctrine of creation in your Christianity, when you realize that the God who made all things good is restoring this good world that’s been corrupted and destroyed by sin, it’s actually quite impossible to be so heavenly-minded you’re no earthly good. You know, our eternal hope of the new heavens and the new earth empowers—is the engine that drives—our current living. In Romans chapter 8, which is one of the greatest chapters in the Bible, when Paul talks about how our present sufferings aren’t worth being compared to the glory that is going to be revealed in us; it is in that very context, when he is talking about future glory and the liberation of creation that he talks about us presently having the resurrection spirit so that we don’t follow the old way of doing things, we follow the new way of doing things. The kingdom of God, by the Holy Spirit, is breaking into the world as it is right now, and enabling us not to be slaves of sin but to be slaves of righteousness. It’s that future day; it’s that next world that is actually empowering us in the present world.
You know, the idea of a new creation—not going to heaven, not life after death like I said a couple episodes ago, but life after life after death, the restoration of all things, the new heavens and the new earth, as the Bible puts it—it means that the present world matters. I mean, think about that, a renewed creation means that creation matters. It’s not an ejection seat, we’re not just piling into a lifeboat to bail out of this place. God still loves his world, it’s the world he made. A renewed creation means creation matters. How can we be “heavenly minded and no earthly good” if that’s true?
I encourage you to watch the entire episode: Ep. 17: Making All Things New. The Future.
ANOTHER REASON WHY GOING TO COLLEGE INCREASES YOUR CHANCES OF RETAINING YOUR CHRISTIAN FAITH — A couple weeks ago I reported on a study that showed that going to college, even a secular state university, actually increases one’s chances of keeping one’s Christian faith (see Staying Christian at the university). The Gospel Coalition suggested three reasons why this might be so (the presence of Christian organizations such as InterVarsity Christian Fellowship and Campus Crusade for Christ; intellectual relativism, and more Christian faculty members than in the past). I proposed a fourth reason based on my own experience: A Christian at the secular university is forced to think through challenges to his or her faith. Dr. Jay Wile, on his Proslogion blog, suggests another reason why having a college education tends to correlate with perseverance in one’s faith:
The vast majority of intellectual and scientific data support a belief in a personal God. Thus, it is not surprising to me that the more people learn, the more likely they are to remain engaged in their faith!
Jay makes an excellent point—Students tend to keep their Christian faith because they discover that the Christian faith is indeed true!
CHRISTIANITY — ROOTED IN REAL HISTORY — C. Michael Patton writes about how Christianity is based on events that happened in history in a way that other religions, such as Islam, Mormonism, Buddhism, Hinduism, and even atheism, are not. Read about it on Parchment & Pen Blog: Christianity, the World’s Most Falsifiable Religion.
A SECULARIST ARGUMENT FOR THE PRO-LIFE POSITION — From Stand to Reason Blog: No Stable Rights without Intrinsic Human Value.
How is [being pro-life] “religious” when there are millions of pro-lifers in the United States with no religion? It can’t just be because there are religious folks who agree with us; most religious people also agree that human trafficking is immoral, but we don’t call human trafficking a religious issue.
Hazzard recognizes that human value and rights are objectively real, and she can argue for them by appealing to our moral intuition (see here, for example), but not by appealing to science. Universal human rights depend on a shared human nature and intrinsic human value, which can’t be verified scientifically because the scientific method is not capable of detecting things like intrinsic value. Unfortunately, in a society infected by scientism, people have all the wiggle room they need to illegitimately dismiss a scientifically unmeasurable idea they disagree with from the public square by labeling it “religious,” since they can count on our culture interpreting that to mean “a subjective matter of preference.”
NESSIE NO LONGER SWIMS IN YEC TEXTBOOK — From The Christian Post: Christian Publisher Removes Loch Ness Monster From Biology Textbook. But according to Answers in Genesis official Mark Looy, there are still plenty of other good candidates for dinosaurs in historical records, such as the dragon in Beowulf. I’ll stick with my position that there are no dinosaurs in the Bible, and there is no evidence that dinosaurs and humans ever coexisted.
HT: InternetMonk: Saturday Ramblings.
Grace and peace