Tough Questions Answered

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  • Have Computer Simulations Proven Darwinian Evolution? Part 1

    Posted By on October 5, 2015

    I remember years ago watching a documentary starring Richard Dawkins. In the documentary, Dawkins spent a lot of time demonstrating how computer simulations have shown that the mechanisms of random mutation and natural selection are capable of generating complex biological organisms. No intelligence was required, argued Dawkins, only the blind evolutionary process. Being a former design engineer who used computer simulations every day of my career, I was immediately skeptical of Dawkins’ use of simulations to “prove” Darwinian evolution works.

    J. Warner Wallace, in his new book God’s Crime Scene: A Cold-Case Detective Examines the Evidence for a Divinely Created Universe, presents evidence and arguments that confirm that the simulations used by Darwinian proponents do not, in fact, prove that random mutation and natural selection can build complex biological organisms.

    Wallace begins with an introduction to some of the more famous Darwinian simulations:

    A number of scientists and researchers have attempted to demonstrate the power evolution has to create irreducibly complex systems (and the appearance of design) by designing sophisticated digital simulations driven by elaborate computer programs. Research of this nature has been ongoing for many years. The Avida project claimed to explore the “evolutionary origin of complex features.” The Ev project attempted to provide an evolutionary explanation for the regions in DNA and RNA (binding sites) where chemical bonds are formed with other molecules. Theoretical biologist Suzanne Sadedin also formulated a geometric model for irreducible complexity and then claimed to have created a simulation to achieve such complexity without the involvement of an intelligent agent. The work of Adrian Thompson is also cited by skeptics who claim Thompson’s digital experiment to evolve frequency-discerning circuits is evidence irreducible complexity can be achieved by evolutionary processes.

    Wallace asks, “Do computer simulations demonstrate evolution is capable of producing irreducibly complex biological structures? While skeptics often cite these efforts, they fail to account for irreducible complexity without the involvement of an intelligent agent.”

    The first problem is that many of these simulations smuggle in an intelligent designer from the beginning.

    Many efforts to create a computer simulation mimicking the evolutionary process are flawed from the onset because they incorporate the involvement of an intelligent designer from their very inception. The Avida programmers “‘stacked the deck’ by studying the evolution of a complex feature that could be built on simpler functions that were also useful.” Sadedin’s geometric model was designed in advance to allow for the easy growth of large geometric shapes. Both Avida and the geometric models do not create true Darwinian processes because they are explicitly and intelligently designed to assist the evolution of an irreducibly complex system.

    In other words, these models of Darwinian evolution contain built-in information that helps the simulation produce more impressive results, but this is clearly cheating. Darwinian evolution in the real world doesn’t have this information built into it.

    In part 2, we’ll look at the second major problem with these computer simulations: even with intelligent intervention by the programmers of these simulations, they mostly fail to produce irreducibly complex systems.

    Why Is the Son of Saul’s Name Different in 2 Samuel Versus 1 Chronicles?

    Posted By on October 2, 2015

    The astute Bible reader will notice that the son of Saul who ruled Israel after Saul was killed is called Ish-Bosheth in 2 Samuel, but in 1 Chronicles is called Esh-Baal. What is going on? Both of these accounts are referring to the same person, so why can’t they get his name straight?

    Walter Kaiser Jr. and Duane Garrett, in the NIV Archaeological Study Bible, offer some interesting thoughts on why there are name differences:

    Some changes in the Biblical text, including euphemistic expressions (intended, e.g., to express something less starkly), are not explicitly marked. One such example occurs with respect to the proper names that contain the element ‘Baal.’ The noun Baal, which originally meant simply ‘Lord,’ came later to signify almost exclusively the proper name of the Canaanite god. Later readers were apt to be offended by the appearance of this name in the Scripture, especially when associated with an Israelite.

    Thus, names that included ‘Baal’ were sometimes changed in order to refrain from speaking even indirectly of false gods. For example, in 1 Chronicles the son of Jonathan is identified as Merib-Baal (1Ch 8: 34; 9: 40), whereas in 2 Samuel he is called Mephibosheth (2Sa 4: 4).

    So what about Esh-Baal/Ish-Bosheth? They continue:

    Similarly, a son of Saul is called Esh-Baal in 1 Chronicles 8: 33 and 9: 39 but Ish-Bosheth in 2 Samuel 2: 8. In both cases the name Baal has been substituted with ‘bosheth,’ the Hebrew noun for ‘shame.’ The change does not appear to reflect a negative judgment on the individual in question, but rather was a way of condemning the name of Baal.

    The cumulative evidence of the Hebrew Bible shows that such emendations were not carried out systematically. It is also important to emphasize that most early scribal emendations are explicitly identified as such by marginal notations that preserve the text of the original reading. Viewed in this light, such changes provide insight into the religious sensibilities of various readers of the Bible rather than reflecting an attempt to alter the actual wording of the sacred text.

    Commentary on 2 Samuel 5-6 (David Becomes King over Israel)

    Posted By on September 30, 2015

    Following the death of Saul in 1 Sam 31 (around 1010 BC), David is anointed king over the tribe of Judah. The other tribes, however, give their fealty to Saul’s remaining son, Ish-Bosheth. This is the situation for 7 years, until Ish-Bosheth is killed by two assassins. It is important to note that David has nothing to do with the assassination and he, in fact, has the assassins executed for their deed.

    This brings us to chapter 5 in 2 Samuel. In verses 1-5, the leaders of the northern tribes agree to anoint David king over all Israel, citing both his military career and, more importantly, that God Himself had chosen David to rule Israel. David had ruled over Judah for 7 years and would rule over all Israel for 33 years.

    After David becomes king over Israel, he decides to move the capitol to a neutral site between the northern and southern tribes of Israel, to Jerusalem. However, Jerusalem is still occupied by the Jebusites in a seemingly impregnable fortress. David and his commanders figure out how to get into Jerusalem, apparently, by climbing through tunnels that carry water to the interior of the fortress. The over-confident Jebusites are defeated and David renames the fortress the City of David. All of this success comes because God is with David.

    David’s power and prestige grow so much that at some point during his reign, the king of Tyre, a distant city on the Mediterranean coast, sends a team of builders to construct a palace for David in Jerusalem! The only reason the king would do this is out of fear and respect for David.

    Unfortunately we also learn that David followed the conventions of the day by taking numerous concubines and wives in order to secure treaties with neighboring rulers. Recall that Deut 17:17 forbade kings of Israel from taking many wives, a command that David is clearly disobeying and that will lead to great suffering during his rule.

    Finally, in verses 17-25, David scores two major victories against Israel’s long-time enemy, the Philistines. In each case, David first inquires of God what he should do before making a move. God gives David specific instructions to defeat the Philistines and David exactly follows those instructions and meets with overwhelming success.

    In the first battle, the Philistines are beaten so quickly that they leave behind their official idols which represented the gods they worshiped. How the tables have turned! It was the Israelites who were beaten badly years before by the Philistines (see 1 Sam 4:11), and who left behind the Ark of the Covenant.

    Chapter 6 tells the story of how David brings the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem, the new religious and political capitol of Israel. Recall that after the Philistines returned the ark to Israel, it had been kept in a private residence, the house of Abinadab.

    David decides to send a large military escort to move the ark, no doubt because he was afraid that the escort would be attacked. Remember that the ark contained the written contract between Israel and the Lord, was a place of divine revelation, and was the Lord’s throne. Robert Bergen, in 1, 2 Samuel, The New American Commentary, writes, “An object of such overwhelming significance would certainly make a valuable prize for the Philistines and was worthy of the massive protective force called up by David.”

    Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, guide the ark along the road, as oxen pull the cart on which the ark rests. Tragically, in verses 6-7, Uzzah reaches out and touches the ark to keep it from falling when the oxen stumble. God strikes Uzzah dead because of his “irreverent act.” Why did God kill Uzzah for his seemingly good deed?

    Dale Ralph Davis, in 2 Samuel: Out of Every Adversity, Focus on the Bible Commentary, writes:

    We must recall that Yahweh had long ago given specific instructions to Moses and the priesthood about how the ark, among other items, was to be transported (see Num. 4:4–6, 15, 17–20; and 7:9). The rules were: no touch, no look, no cart. The priests were to cover the sacred furniture after which they would assign Levites of the Kohathite clan to carry such items (hence, implicitly, no carts). The Kohathites were not to touch or look upon the sacred items ‘lest they die’ (Num. 4:15, 20). Clearly, Yahweh did not want them to die; his kindness was written all over that warning. So it was not as though David and Uzzah and company had had no warning. Yahweh’s blow was scarcely arbitrary.

    David, fearing God’s wrath, halts the parade and sends the ark to the house of a man named Obed-Edom for safe keeping until David can figure what went wrong. For three months the ark resides there and blesses the household.

    When David hears of the blessing of Obed-Edom’s household, he assumes that the timing is right to move the ark again. Even though the text does not explicitly say, we are to assume that the ark is transported correctly this time.

    Take note of David’s role in the moving of the ark. He wears a priestly ephod, he dances and rejoices in front of the ark, he places the ark in a specially made tent, he sacrifices burnt and fellowship offerings before the Lord, he blesses the people of Israel in the name of the Lord, and then he gives bread and cakes to everyone present at the celebration.

    David’s actions portray him as both king and priest. Was he overstepping his authority? Dale Ralph Davis explains:

    David is not arrogantly infringing on the priests’ office; clearly, he views himself as ‘the humble and serving priest of the true King.’ Nevertheless, we should not miss this glimpse of the king in a priestly role, for we will meet it again in prophecy (Ps. 110:1, 4, and Zech. 6:12–13), and yet again in person, in Jesus, David’s Descendant, our reigning king and interceding priest.

    In verses 16, 20-23, we read about the reaction of Michal, Saul’s daughter and David’s wife, to his dancing in front of the ark. She accuses him of “disrobing in the sight of the slave girls” and acting in a manner unfit for a king. David reminds her that he was chosen by God, not her father, and that he was celebrating before the Lord, not before slave girls. Robert Bergen provides further commentary:

    David rejected Michal’s slanderous accusations; ‘it was before the LORD’ (v. 21)—not the young women—that David was celebrating. Furthermore, his actions were appropriate for one who had been ‘appointed’ by the Lord as ‘ruler over the LORD’S people Israel.’ David’s celebratory acts earlier in the day expressed the king’s unbridled joy in having been selected by the Lord for such significant service. Besides, assuming he was dressed as a properly outfitted Yahwistic priest, David’s energetic dancing could not have exposed his nakedness and so violated the Torah’s requirements (cf. Exod 20:26) since he was wearing a linen undergarment. In rejecting David, Michal was also rejecting the Lord because it was he who ‘chose’ David in preference to Michal’s ‘father or anyone from his house’ to lead Israel. More probably, Michal’s rejection of David actually was symptomatic of an underlying problem in her relationship with God. . . .

    As a result of this incident ‘Michal daughter of Saul had no children to the day of her death’ (v. 23). In the Torah a blessing associated with obedience to the Lord is a fruitful womb (cf. Exod 23:26; Deut 7:14; 28:11). To an audience knowledgeable of the Torah, Michal’s unproductive womb would have been interpreted as a curse sent against a disobedient wife—not as evidence of a husband’s neglect of a marital duty. Michal’s lack of faith would mean that the house of Saul would be forever separate from Israel’s eternal royal dynasty.

    Commentary on 1 Samuel 30-31 (Death of Saul)

    Posted By on September 28, 2015

    During the time covered in 1 Samuel 18-29, David built up a small army of 600 men from the outcasts of Israel, while Saul continued to hunt David down in order to kill him. When we finally get to chapters 30-31, David and Saul are both facing armed conflicts, but with separate enemies. The narrator places these conflicts one after another to contrast how different Saul and David, with respect to their relationships with God, truly are.

    Chapter 30 opens with David and his army returning to their home base at the village of Ziklag (they had been away for some time). When they arrive, they discover that Israel’s ancient enemies, the Amalekites, have burnt down the village and taken everyone prisoner, including all of the wives and children of David’s army. David and his men are devastated at their loss, to the point that the men blame David and contemplate killing him for what has happened.

    David, however, seeks God’s wisdom and asks the priest Abiathar to bring him the priestly ephod. He asks God whether he should pursue the Amalekites and God responds that he should. Note that David seeks God’s decision in the matter as prescribed by the Torah. David is consistently shown as obeying the commands of the Torah in contrast to Saul who seems to know nothing of the Torah.

    David and 400 of his men pursue the Amalekites, without knowing exactly where they have gone. However, David happens across an Egyptian servant who was left behind by his Amalekite master because he was ill. He agrees to take David to the Amalekite camp if David will spare his life. The reader is meant to understand that finding the Egyptian is no accident. This is the hand of God ensuring David’s success in his mission.

    David’s army finds the Amalekite camp where all the soldiers are intoxicated, celebrating their recent ill-gotten gains. His forces engage the Amalekites, who greatly outnumber him, and win decisively, with only 400 Amalekites escaping when the battle is over. Not only that, but all the women and children taken from Ziklag are rescued, along with all the possessions stolen by the Amalekites during their recent marauding campaign.

    In stark contrast to David’s successful campaign, chapter 31 reveals the disaster that is Saul’s battle against the Philistines. Before we see what happens in chapter 31, let’s review chapter 28 briefly. Since Saul has no access to God (Samuel has died and God had rejected Saul’s reign as king years earlier), Saul instead seeks the guidance of a sorceress/medium, an activity which is clearly forbidden by the Torah. The medium summons the deceased Samuel who reminds Saul that God has rejected him and given the kingdom to David. She then ominously warns Saul that the Philistines will kill Saul and his sons the next day.

    As we return to chapter 31, we learn that the Philistines have overtaken the Israelite army and pressed hard after Saul and his sons. Three of Saul’s sons are killed in battle, including Jonathan. Dale Ralph Davis, in 1 Samuel: Looking on the Heart, Focus on the Bible Commentary, writes:

    Here then is Jonathan’s obituary. He remained a true friend to David and a faithful son of Saul. He surrendered his kingship to David (18:1–4); he sacrificed his life for Saul. In this hopeless fiasco Jonathan was nowhere else but in the place Yahweh had assigned to him—at the side of his father.

    Saul is wounded by archers and asks his armor-bearer to kill him so that the Philistines will not have the opportunity to torture him. The armor-bearer refuses to kill him, so Saul commits suicide with his own sword. The armor-bearer then takes his own life. The results of this military defeat are disastrous for Israel. Several Israelite settlements near the Philistines are abandoned in haste because the army and their king has been defeated.

    As if this isn’t bad enough, the Philistines remove the valuables from the bodies of Saul and his sons and then fasten their corpses on the wall of a city called Beth Shan. They also spread the word around their cities that Israel has been defeated. This defeat is profound. Here is how Dale Ralph Davis describes it:

    Yahweh has been defeated. Saul’s armor is in the adversary’s temple; Yahweh could not protect his king. No question about how the media would construe it. If Yahweh’s king and people were trounced, so was their God. . . . The sadness of our text is due not merely to the fact that Israel is crushed. That is sad. But there is a deeper sadness in that Yahweh is mocked. Every true Israelite mourns over that. Worse than Israel’s defeat is Yahweh’s disgrace.

    A daring nighttime mission by the Israelite soldiers of Jabesh Gilead reclaims the bodies of Saul and his sons, and they are cremated, except for their bones, which are buried.

    How can we summarize the end of 1 Samuel? Robert Bergen, in 1, 2 Samuel, The New American Commentary, writes:

    On the one hand, David was here fulfilling the mandate of the Torah regarding the Amalekites and receiving the resulting blessing of a restored family and the increase of possessions. On the other hand, at the very moment David was enjoying success and blessing, Saul was experiencing the full force of a Torah curse, including the loss of his family and possessions.

    Both David and Saul were fighting traditional enemies of Israel in the events recorded in this section, and both men sought divine guidance in their respective undertakings. To the south, David consulted the only form of revelation sanctioned by the Torah before going forth to slaughter the Amalekites, who had temporarily dispossessed David and his men of their families and worldly goods during a lightning raid on Ziklag. To the north Saul sought insight from a medium, a revelatory means expressly forbidden by the Torah, before waging war against the Philistines. As a result of Saul’s sinful actions, the Lord used the Philistines as agents of divine judgment to bring down on Saul’s head the just punishment for his rejection of the Torah (cf. 1 Chr 10:13–14). When this pivotal series of events concludes, Saul and all his credible heirs to the throne are dead; David, on the other hand, is poised to become Israel’s king and to establish a dynasty as all of his heirs are restored to him.

    How Did Tiny David Defeat Giant Goliath? Part 2

    Posted By on September 16, 2015

    As David faces Goliath, what is his plan? How will he defeat Goliath? Malcolm Gladwell, in his book David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants, argues that David had no plans to fight Goliath in hand-to-hand combat, as this wouldn’t play to his strength. David is a projectile warrior, not an infantryman. Gladwell writes:

    He runs toward Goliath, because without armor he has speed and maneuverability. He puts a rock into his sling, and whips it around and around, faster and faster at six or seven revolutions per second, aiming his projectile at Goliath’s forehead— the giant’s only point of vulnerability.

    Eitan Hirsch, a ballistics expert with the Israeli Defense Forces, recently did a series of calculations showing that a typical-size stone hurled by an expert slinger at a distance of thirty-five meters would have hit Goliath’s head with a velocity of thirty-four meters per second— more than enough to penetrate his skull and render him unconscious or dead.

    In terms of stopping power, that is equivalent to a fair-size modern handgun. ‘We find,’ Hirsch writes, ‘that David could have slung and hit Goliath in little more than one second— a time so brief that Goliath would not have been able to protect himself and during which he would be stationary for all practical purposes.’ . . .

    Twice David mentions Goliath’s sword and spear, as if to emphasize how profoundly different his intentions are. Then he reaches into his shepherd’s bag for a stone, and at that point no one watching from the ridges on either side of the valley would have considered David’s victory improbable. David was a slinger, and slingers beat infantry, hands down. ‘Goliath had as much chance against David,’ the historian Robert Dohrenwend writes, ‘as any Bronze Age warrior with a sword would have had against an [opponent] armed with a .45 automatic pistol.’

    After taking a closer look at David’s victory, we can see that it isn’t far-fetched at all. The true puzzle is why nobody else in Israel’s army realized what David realized! The text indicates that David’s faith in God and his devotion to God’s commands are what gave him his courage and his willingness to face the giant, when the rest of the army cowered in fear.

    How Did Tiny David Defeat Giant Goliath? Part 1

    Posted By on September 14, 2015

    Some critics have questioned how 5 feet tall David could have defeated 7 (or 10) feet tall Goliath. Isn’t this story a little far-fetched? A stone from a sling killing a giant of a man in a single blow? How can this be true?

    The text of 1 Samuel 17 indicates that God is with David, but it does not indicate that God supernaturally intervened to perform a “slingshot miracle” to kill Goliath. Although David credits God with his victory, God’s assistance seems more providential than miraculous. God places the right man with the right heart with the right skills at the right place and the right time to do his bidding.

    If there is no indication of a miracle, then we are left with the puzzle of how David was able to kill Goliath so easily. Malcolm Gladwell, in his book David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants, takes a close look at this famous battle and discovers that David’s victory was not at all a fluke, but something that could have been predicted. Gladwell explains:

    Ancient armies had three kinds of warriors. The first was cavalry— armed men on horseback or in chariots. The second was infantry— foot soldiers wearing armor and carrying swords and shields. The third were projectile warriors, or what today would be called artillery: archers and, most important, slingers.

    Slingers had a leather pouch attached on two sides by a long strand of rope. They would put a rock or a lead ball into the pouch, swing it around in increasingly wider and faster circles, and then release one end of the rope, hurling the rock forward. Slinging took an extraordinary amount of skill and practice. But in experienced hands, the sling was a devastating weapon.

    Paintings from medieval times show slingers hitting birds in midflight. Irish slingers were said to be able to hit a coin from as far away as they could see it, and in the Old Testament Book of Judges, slingers are described as being accurate within a ‘hair’s breadth.’ An experienced slinger could kill or seriously injure a target at a distance of up to two hundred yards.  The Romans even had a special set of tongs made just to remove stones that had been embedded in some poor soldier’s body by a sling. Imagine standing in front of a Major League Baseball pitcher as he aims a baseball at your head. That’s what facing a slinger was like— only what was being thrown was not a ball of cork and leather but a solid rock.

    Gladwell continues:

    The historian Baruch Halpern argues that the sling was of such importance in ancient warfare that the three kinds of warriors balanced one another, like each gesture in the game of rock, paper, scissors. With their long pikes and armor, infantry could stand up to cavalry. Cavalry could, in turn, defeat projectile warriors, because the horses moved too quickly for artillery to take proper aim. And projectile warriors were deadly against infantry, because a big lumbering soldier, weighed down with armor, was a sitting duck for a slinger who was launching projectiles from a hundred yards away. . . .

    Goliath is heavy infantry. He thinks that he is going to be engaged in a duel with another heavy-infantryman . . .  When he says, ‘Come to me, that I may give your flesh to the birds of the heavens and the beasts of the field,’ the key phrase is ‘come to me.’ He means come right up to me so that we can fight at close quarters. When Saul tries to dress David in armor and give him a sword, he is operating under the same assumption. He assumes David is going to fight Goliath hand to hand.

    In part 2, we’ll continue with Gladwell’s analysis of this famous Bible narrative.

    Commentary on 1 Samuel 17-18 (David and Goliath)

    Posted By on September 11, 2015

    The events of chapter 17 occur several years after David is invited to stay at King Saul’s residence. It appears that at some point, Saul’s condition must have improved and David was allowed to go back and help his father with his sheep.

    In verses 1-3, we learn that the Philistines have assembled an army only 15 miles west of Bethlehem. The Israelites respond by amassing an army to confront the Philistines, and they both encamp facing each other across a valley, atop two ridges.

    Rather than initiating a full-on assault of Israel, the Philistines elect to send their mightiest warrior, Goliath, down to the valley to invite a champion from Israel to face him in combat to the death. The losing side would surrender to the winning side and the battle would be avoided. This form of representative combat was not unknown in the ancient near east, although the Israelites rarely, if ever, practiced it. Goliath seems to have to explain to the Israelites how it will work in verses 8-11, which implies the Philistines were familiar with the concept and had even put it to use before.

    Goliath is described as being almost 10 feet tall in some ancient manuscripts, and almost 7 feet tall in other manuscripts. Regardless of which is correct, the average Israelite soldier would have been about 5 feet tall, so Goliath would have seemed like a giant at either height. Goliath is dressed in the armor and weaponry of a heavy infantryman. Robert Bergen, in 1, 2 Samuel: An Exegetical and Theological Exposition of Holy Scripture (The New American Commentary), describes Goliath:

    Protecting his trunk was ‘a coat of scale armor weighing five thousand shekels’ (= 126 pounds). Completing his body armor were ‘bronze greaves’ (v. 6) or knee and shin protectors. A covering of this weight and composition would have drastically reduced Goliath’s ability to respond with quickness and agility in close combat and suggests that he did not expect a skirmish involving hand-to-hand combat.

    Goliath’s weaponry was as overwhelming in appearance as his height and armor. He had ‘a bronze scimitar’ (Hb. kîdôn; NIV, ‘javelin’), a curved sword, ‘slung on his back.’ In addition, he had a spear whose ‘shaft was like a weaver’s rod.’ This description may relate to the size and weight of the spear’s shaft or, more probably, to the fact that it had a loop of cord attached to it. At the head of Goliath’s spear was a massive ‘iron point’ that weighed ‘six hundred shekels’ (= 15.1 lbs.). Iron was the preferred metal for implements of warfare because it was strong, nonmalleable, and could retain a sharp edge much better than bronze. A weapon of this massive weight, while intimidating in appearance, would have been quite awkward to use; it was apparently designed mainly to intimidate.

    For forty days, the Israelites, led by King Saul, do not send a representative forward because they are scared and intimidated by Goliath. Meanwhile, young David, who is under the age of 20 and unable to serve in the military, is bringing supplies to his three brothers and their unit since Jesse’s home is only 15 miles away. When David arrives at the front lines with his supplies, he asks his brothers what is happening. They explain to him the situation and he is greatly upset that Goliath has been allowed to insult the God of Israel.

    Due to his outspoken anger, David is invited to see King Saul, and he offers to fight Goliath himself. Saul counters that David is only a boy, but David explains that since God has been with him, he has been able to kill a lion and a bear who attacked his sheep. Saul relents and allows David to fight Goliath, hoping that God is still with David.

    Rather than fight with Saul’s armor and sword, David decides to only bring his shepherd staff and a sling to the battle with Goliath. As David descends into the valley and approaches Goliath, Goliath mocks him and curses David in the name of David’s gods. Here is David’s response:

    You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the LORD will hand you over to me, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. Today I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the LORD saves; for the battle is the LORD’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.

    For David, this is not just a military engagement, but a solemn religious duty. Leviticus 24:16 commands the death penalty for anyone who blasphemes God. Goliath had repeatedly blasphemed against God for 40 days, and did it yet again when David came to face him. This demonstrates one way is which David is a man after God’s heart, because he takes the words of the Torah (the Law) so seriously. In David’s mind, God Himself would help David carry out the commands of the Law.

    In verses 48-51, we witness one of the quickest battles in the history of combat. As Goliath lumbers toward David, David runs toward Goliath, places a stone in his sling and whips it at Goliath’s head. The stone hits his forehead, breaking Goliath’s skull, and he drops dead. David takes Goliath’s own sword and decapitates him, making it clear to the Philistines that Goliath is dead.

    Instead of honoring the deal they had made with Israel, the Philistine army turned and fled. The Israelites followed after them, chasing them back to their fortresses at Gath and Ekron. The Israelites then came back and plundered the camp that was abandoned by the Philistine army.

    What happened to David after this great victory? Saul invited him to his home permanently, whereupon David and Saul’s oldest son, Jonathan became best friends. In fact, Jonathan symbolically cedes his right to the throne of Israel by giving David his robe, tunic, sword, bow, and belt.

    Saul gives David a high rank in the army and whenever David goes out to fight, he is successful against his enemies. In fact, he is so successful that the women of Israel would chant, “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands.”

    Saul becomes extremely jealous of David and in one episode at Saul’s house, Saul enters an ecstatic state and twice throws a spear at David with the intent to kill him. Both times he misses, however. From then on, Saul is constantly plotting how to ruin David. He sends him on numerous military campaigns, hoping he will die in battle, but David is always successful and is never harmed. For the next 10 chapters of 1 Samuel, Saul would plot to kill David and David would always escape.

    The contrast between David, a man indwelt by the Spirit of God, and Saul, a man rejected by God, is illustrated over and over during the remainder of 1 Samuel. David wins battle after battle and Saul descends into madness as each day goes by.

    Does a Multiverse Explain the Fine Tuning of Our Universe? Part 2

    Posted By on September 9, 2015

    We continue with J. Warner Wallace’s analysis of multiverse theories in his new book God’s Crime Scene: A Cold-Case Detective Examines the Evidence for a Divinely Created Universe.

    The second reason multiverse theories fail to explain the origin of fine tuning is that rather than explaining the origin of fine tuning, the multiverse theory requires fine tuning to first exist.

    If there is a multiverse vacuum capable of such creative activity, it would be reasonable for us to ask how the physics of such an environment could be so fine-tuned to create a life-permitting universe. As Oxford philosopher Richard Swinburne observed, any proposed multiverse mechanism “needs to have a certain form rather than innumerable possible other forms, and probably constants too that need fine-tuning in the narrow sense … if that diversity of universes is to result.” Eternal inflation, for example, requires a precise relationship between cosmological constants of gravity and the other forces of quantum physics. In other words, the vacuums proposed in multiverse models are equally fine-tuned.

    Third, multiverse theories rely on speculative notions of time.

    Theorists who propose a preexisting vacuum must account for the nature of time in this setting. All descriptions of this vacuum describe it as temporal (with bubble universes emerging or quantum events occurring over time). But the Standard Cosmological Model (as we described it in the prior chapter) indicates time, as we know it, began with our universe. Multiverse explanations must provide an account for the temporal nature of the vacuum lying at the core of their theory.

    Fourth, multiverse theories result in absurdities.

    Like string theory models, multiverse proposals result in a number of interesting (and disturbing) absurdities. If there are an infinite number of universes in the multiverse collection, and there exists a remote chance one of them could have a set of laws like ours (and a history similar to our own), we must accept (given the infinite size of the multiverse) an infinite number of universes resembling ours. In fact, if there’s a small chance any of these similar universes might have precisely the same history as our own (with someone exactly like you reading this book at this very moment), there are an infinite number of universes precisely the same as ours in every possible way.

    The absurdity of this proposal has been noted by a number of physicists and philosophers. Multiverse models describe an ensemble of universes both identical and slightly different from our own. As Alan Guth admitted, “There is a universe where Elvis is still alive.” The incredulity of such a proposal seems a high price to pay to accommodate a theory yet unproven by the evidence. As Paul Davies said, “The very notion that there could be not just one, but an infinity of identical copies of you, leading identical lives (and infinitely many others leading similar but not identical lives) is deeply unsettling.”

    Worse yet, if the multiverse model is true, we may not even be living in a “real” universe at all. If there is even a small chance our universe is simply a Matrix-like simulation (and this possibility certainly exists), the infinite number of universes assures there are also an infinite number of such “computer simulation” universes. While this probably seems absurd (and it ought to), it is the zany, inevitable consequence of multiverse theories.

    While multiverse theories fail to explain fine tuning, one thing they concede is that the fine tuning in our universe must have been caused by something outside of our universe. There is nothing inside our universe that could have done the job, and this is a major concession. As Christian theists, we agree that something or Someone outside the universe is the cause of its fine tuning.

    Does a Multiverse Explain the Fine Tuning of Our Universe? Part 1

    Posted By on September 7, 2015

    J. Warner Wallace, in his new book God’s Crime Scene: A Cold-Case Detective Examines the Evidence for a Divinely Created Universe, investigates the causes of the fine tuning of our universe. One of the most popular explanations is that there exists multiple universes (the multiverse) and ours is just lucky enough to have the fine tuning that permits life.

    Wallace presents the multiverse theory as an explanation for fine tuning as follows:

    Multiverse explanations, however, point once again to an external causal agent: a mechanism capable of creating an incredibly large number of universes, each with its own set of physical laws. Most of these universes in the multiverse collection are incapable of permitting life. Our universe, however, through “a series of cosmic accidents,” just happens to support our existence.

    Multiverse theories overcome the incredible odds against life (and explain the appearance of fine-tuning) by increasing the chances of such a life-permitting universe. Multiverse theorists have proposed the creation of multiverses through a number of mechanisms, most commonly by way of “eternal inflation,” or “quantum tunneling.” Some physicists suggest the existence of an eternal, primordial vacuum (as we discussed in the last chapter).

    According to proponents of eternal inflation models, if an infinitely old vacuum has been experiencing inflation, and the tiny bubble universes we described have emerged, each bubble universe might have its own characteristics and physical laws. Other physicists (such as Alex Vilenkin) propose “quantum tunneling from nothing” to explain the existence of an ensemble of universes without eternal inflation. In these quantum tunneling models, diverse universes pop into existence, because in “quantum mechanics the behavior of physical objects is inherently unpredictable and some quantum processes have no cause at all.”

    In both eternal inflation and quantum tunneling models, the universes (some older than others) emerging from the vacuum coexist within the larger multiverse. In each of these proposals (eternal inflation, quantum tunneling, and even string theory models), the existence of a vast array of universes makes one like ours an inevitability.

    Given a vast array of universes, one of them was bound to support life, goes the argument. The different forms of the multiverse theory each attempt to describe the mechanism for the creation of all these universes, but the outcome is the same: a massive number of universes.

    But do these multiverse theories truly explain the fine tuning of our universe? Wallace thinks not. First, he argues that the multiverse theory lacks evidential confirmation.

    Like string theory or M-theory proposals, multiverse models lack observational or experimental evidence. Scientists can’t access other universes in the multiverse because they are separated within the vacuum by too great a distance (and according to these theories, this distance is growing).  As a result, many scientists, especially string theorists, are suspicious about the existence of a multiverse. Some call it a “fantasy”; others call it “intellectually bankrupt” or a “cheap way out.” Lacking evidential support, many physicists see the multiverse theory as deficient when compared to efforts to find unity within the laws of physics.

    But eternal inflation models face an even greater barrier. Our expert witness Alexander Vilenkin has already testified (along with Arvind Borde, Alan Guth, and Audrey Mithani) against the possibility of an eternal, uncaused, expanding vacuum. According to these experts, if inflation (expansion) has been occurring in this vacuum, it must have had a beginning and therefore cannot be eternal.

    In part 2, we will look at 3 more reasons multiverse theories fail to adequately explain the origins of fine tuning.

    Did Saul Kill All of the Amalekites?

    Posted By on September 4, 2015

    In 1 Samuel 15:3, Samuel commands Saul, “Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.” As we read the rest of the chapter, Saul tells Samuel, after the battle, “I have carried out the LORD’s instructions” and “I completely destroyed the Amalekites.”

    Samuel’s only disagreement with Saul is that Saul kept some of the livestock for himself, a clear violation of God’s command. Saul was not to have financial gain from this battle, which was intended to be an execution of divine justice against an exceedingly vicious group of people.  Samuel seems to agree that Saul totally destroyed everyone, “men and women, children and infants,” just as God commanded. But how should we understand this command to “put to death men and women, children and infants,” coupled with Saul’s claim that he did indeed kill every Amalekite?

    Did Saul literally wipe out every living Amalekite or is this command hyperbolic in nature, referring to a decisive military victory? We know that other ancient near eastern cultures used the same kinds of descriptions of military victories, such as “totally destroying” the enemy, or killing “every man, woman, and child.” But these are figures of speech which literally mean “we won a decisive military victory against our enemy.” What about in this case?

    The easiest way to decide whether Saul literally killed every living Amalekite is to see whether the Amalekites are ever mentioned in the biblical record again. When we do that, we see that the Amalekites lived on!

    In 1 Sam 27:8, we see that David fights Amalekites, so at least some of them are alive and well. Paul Copan and Matt Flannagan write in Did God Really Command Genocide?: Coming to Terms with the Justice of God:

    This text affirms not only that the Amalekites still existed, but the reference to Egypt and Shur states that they existed in the very same area where Saul ‘utterly destroyed’ every single one of them (15: 8, 20). What’s more, David took sheep and cattle as plunder. Clearly, in terms of what the narrative says, the Amalekites were not all destroyed— nor were all the animals finally destroyed in Gilgal in chapter 15. Instead, many people and livestock from the region had survived Saul’s attack.

    In 1 Sam 30, the Amalekites show up again! This time they attack the Israelite settlement of Ziklag, burn it to the ground, and carry off everyone as prisoners. Copan and Flannagan write:

    So even though Saul ‘utterly destroyed’ the Amalekites (15: 8, 20), the text makes clear that many Amalekites remained so that David would not only— once again!— fight against them so that ‘not a man of them escaped,’ but after this battle, four hundred Amalekites fled on camels (30: 17 NASB).

    Amalekites continue to be mentioned in the Bible:

    Even beyond this, the Amalekites continue to remain, and we come across another Amalekite in 2 Samuel 1: 8, a passage where one of them takes credit for killing Saul— presumably a tall task if Saul had ‘utterly destroyed all the people’ of Amalek. And in 1 Chronicles 4: 43, the nation of Amalek is still around during the reign of Hezekiah. And then in the book of Esther, we encounter a descendant of the Amalekite king, Agag— Haman ‘the Agagite’ (8: 3), also called ‘the son of Hammedatha the Agagite’ (3: 1)— who was determined to wipe out the Jewish people. Amalekites were around well after both Saul and David.

    It seems clear that Saul did not totally destroy all of the Amalekites, men, women, and children. Yet Samuel, and presumably God, were satisfied that Saul obeyed God’s commands, except for keeping alive livestock and the king of Amalek. Therefore, it seems that we should take Saul’s claim that he “completely destroyed the Amalekites” as a hyperbolic statement that would literally mean, “I won the decisive military victory that God commanded me to win.”

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