"Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed" Review

I finally saw this movie last night with a group of friends I invited over to the house.  To get right to the bottom line, I thought it was very good and would highly recommend it.  The movie is not about explaining intelligent design, but about pointing out the persecution of those who think intelligent design may be a scientific hypothesis worth pursuing.  If you want a good explanation of the ideas of ID, this is not the movie for you.

The movie highlights several cases of people losing their jobs, losing tenure, and/or having their research shut down at major universities and institutions, including the Smithsonian.  I was already familiar with all of these cases because I follow the ID movement, but the folks who came to my house were all shocked and surprised at the level of persecution.  None of them were familiar with the controversy and it frankly fired them up.

I don’t think this movie will change any minds in the anti-ID camp, but I do think that folks who have never thought about this controversy will be impacted by the movie.  The producers and Ben Stein made a potentially dry subject quite entertaining.  It’s definitely not a boring documentary.

I’m interested to hear what others thought of the movie, so leave some comments if you’ve seen it, but only if you’ve seen it.

Why Do We Think the Bible is the Word of God?

Below is an excerpt from Norm Geisler’s Systematic Theology Volume 1 (P. 495):

  That the Bible is the Word of God can be discerned from several biblical affirmations:

(1)     that it is God-breathed;
(2)     that it is a prophetic writing;
(3)     that it has divine authority;
(4)     that it is what God says;
(5)     that it is called “the Word of God” or the like.
The Bible Is God-Breathed
Paul declared that “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16).
This Word, often translated “inspired” (cf. kjv), means to be spirated—breathed—from God. A kindred idea is found in Jesus’ words: “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4).
The Nature of a Prophet
As previously elaborated, the Bible claims to be a prophetic writing (Heb. 1:1; 2 Peter 1:20–21); prophets, as mouthpieces of God, spoke only what God put in their mouths (Deut. 18:18; 2 Sam. 23:2; Isa. 59:21; cf. Deut. 4:2).
The Divine Authority of the Bible
That the Bible is the Word of God can also be determined from the fact that it has divine authority (Matt. 5:17–18); Jesus said it was exalted above all human authority (Matt. 15:3–6).
The Bible Is “What God Says”
Often the words of the authors of Scripture are equated with the words of God. For example, cross-reference Genesis 12:1–3 with Galatians 3:8, and Exodus 9:16 with Romans 9:17—it is verses like these (see chapter 13) that give rise to the statement “What the Bible says, God says.”
The Bible Is Called “The Word of God”
This very phrase or its equivalent is used many times of the Bible in part or as a whole. Second Chronicles 34:14 speaks of “The book of the law of the Lord given by the hand of Moses”; Zechariah 7:12 refers to “The words that the Lord Almighty had sent by His Spirit through the earlier prophets.” (See also Matthew 15:6, John 10:35, Romans 9:6, and Hebrews 4:12.)

Norman L. Geisler, Systematic Theology, Volume One: Introduction, Bible (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2002), 495.

Is Your Religious Belief Similar To Your Favorite Ice Cream Flavor?

Often when I speak to people about my Christian faith, they respond by saying things like, “I’m so happy for you!” or “I’m glad you found something to believe in!” or “It’s great that Christianity works for you!”  Years ago, these kinds of statements puzzled me as it seemed like these people weren’t really understanding what I was saying.  I was telling them something that I thought was objectively true, and they were acting as if I was telling them about my favorite flavor of ice cream.

“I’m so glad you like Rocky Road!”  “Vanilla is a great flavor for you!”  “It’s important to have a favorite flavor!”  I now understand that this is what our secular western culture thinks of religion, by and large.

A favorite ice cream flavor, however,  is a subjective preference.  It says something about you, the subject, and nothing about the ice cream, the object.  You would never seriously argue with someone over their favorite ice cream flavor.  It’s just a personal taste, and no argument can ever sway the other person because the preference is within them and not moveable by evidential argument.

Same way with sports teams.  It’s hilarious to me that some people try to argue with each other over what team you should like.  It’s just a personal preference that is subjective.  In today’s sports world, if you root for a specific city’s team, you’re basically rooting for a uniform, because the team uniform is about all that stays the same.  The players and coaches constantly change.

When I make an objective statement, like “Raleigh is the NC state capital,” this statement can be argued by presenting evidence.  You can convince someone of this fact by showing them documentation that Raleigh is, indeed, the capital.  If I told you that George Washington, the first American president, was born in AD 1250, you could check that out, too.  It’s an objective statement.  Its says something about the object, George Washington.

So when I say I’m a Christian, am I just saying that I have a personal preference for Christianity, that I like their team better than other teams?  Is that all I’m saying?  If so, then it would be ridiculous of me to try to convince people of other religions to convert to my team.  Why bother?  You like chocolate and I like vanilla.  There’s no point in trying to convince you vanilla or Christianity are better.

Those of us who are serious about our faith understand that we are not talking about favorite teams, but about reality and what is true.  We are making objective truth claims.  Every religion makes claims about man’s origin, morality, meaning, and destiny.  Many religions also make historical claims.  If you are trying to judge a religion, then you need to evaluate the claims they are making about the empirically verifiable world, and then investigate those claims to see if they are true.

For example, if a religion denies that pain and suffering are real, that they are just illusions, then run away!  It is the universal experience of every person who ever lived that life is full of pain and suffering, so a religion better explain where that comes from.  Just denying it’s there is totally inadequate and incomprehensible.

If a religion makes claims of history that are patently false, then run away!  Any religion that gets major historical events wrong is untrustworthy.  If they can’t get verifiable history right, then how can we expect them to get heaven and hell right?

Bottom line: treat each religion as a real and testable hypothesis.  Do the research and see for yourself.  If you think that religions are just personal preference, you’ve completely missed the point.

What is Inerrancy?

Many people misunderstand the doctrine of inerrancy, so I thought I would try to clear up some of the confusion.

The doctrine of inerrancy teaches that whatever the Bible affirms to be true, is true.  Put another way, nothing that the Bible affirms is false.  Inerrancy basically means “without error.”  If the Bible teaches that Jesus was an actual historical figure who came back from the dead three days after he was killed, then we believe that really happened.  If the Bible teaches that the nation of Israel escaped Egypt through a series of miracles of God performed through a man named Moses, then we believe that really happened.

God, in essence, made sure that the truths He wanted to be communicated by the various human authors of the Bible were successfully and truthfully communicated.  Nothing the human authors wrote was false or mistaken.  Inerrancy affirms that God does not make mistakes.  Here is a simple syllogism:

  1. God does not err.
  2. The Bible is the Word of God.
  3. Therefore the Bible does not err.

If you deny inerrancy, then you admit either that God errs or that the Bible is not the Word of God.  Take your pick.

When we refer to the Bible in any discussion of inerrancy, we are always referring to the original writings in the original languages, or the autographa.  We are not referring to any copies made of the original writings.

What about errors in the copies of the Bible manuscripts? It is true that there are copyist errors that accumulated over 1,300 years of New Testament copying and 2,700 years of Old Testament copying.  These errors amount to an approximate 99% accuracy for today’s Greek New Testament and an approximate 95% accuracy for the Hebrew Old Testament.

However, Christians who believe in inerrancy don’t use these errors as an escape hatch.  We believe that the teachings of the Bible are mostly intact in our present-day translations, and the verses where scholars are unsure of the original writing are clearly marked in footnotes.

A person can learn everything they need to know about God’s revelation by reading a good modern translation.  The doctrine of inerrancy gives us the assurance that God’s Word in the Bible can be counted on.

A Former Mormon's View of The Bible – Part 2

As a continuation to Post 1, I would like to discuss another principle that is used in the Bibliographical Test.  This principle involves looking at the time span between the original manuscript in question and the oldest surviving copy.  The principle behind this is, obviously, the shorter the time span, the more reliable the copy is deemed to be.  How does The New Testament compare to other literature of antiquity?  Let’s look at a few notable works…

  1. Caesar – Gallic Wars – 1000 year gap
  2. Pliny Secundas – Natural History – 750 year gap 
  3. Tacitus – Annals – 1000 year gap
  4. Plato – 1300 year gap
  5. Herodotus – History – 1350 year gap

Notice how LONG the time frame is!!  But wait… let’s look at one more.  Historians and scholars consider Thucydides to be one of the most accurate historians of antiquity.  How many copies do we have of his works and what is the time span?  We only have 8 surviving manuscripts and a 1300 year gap!!!  Yet, despite this he is considered by many to be THE MOST ACCURATE IN ALL OF ANTIQUITY!!  WOW!!  

How does this compare to The New Testament?  Remember from my previous post that we have 24,970 surviving manuscripts… compared to only 8 for the most accurate historian from all of antiquity.  Here is where it gets even more amazing.  We have portions of books of The New Testament that go back to within 100 YEARS of the original!!!  This is compared to a 1300 YEAR GAP for the most accurate historian of all of antiquity!!  Not only this… we have an entire copy of The New Testament that goes back to within only 225 YEARS… again, compared to 1300 years for one scholars and historians consider to be one of the most accurate in all of antiquity!!  Wow!!  God is good.

What all this adds up to is this… we can hold The New Testament in our hands and have an intelligent faith in it because we have the evidence!!  We can rest assured based on evidence that what it says is what was originally written down.    As scholars  Norman Geisler, William Nix and Bruce Metzger have concluded, we have a text that evidence shows is 99.5% pure!

For the Mormons who are reading this, how does this compare to The Book Of Mormon?  Your church teaches you that it is the most correct book on the face of the earth and that The Bible is filled with errors.    Yet, how many changes has your church made to The Book Of Mormon since it was first published?  What proof do we have of it’s historicity?  I will deal with these issues in future posts.  In the meantime, I would encourage you to research this to find out for yourself if The Book of Mormon is really what your church claims it to be.

In addition, in some upcoming posts I will also address the historical reliability of The Old Testament.


The Fear In "Happy Holidays"

Every year during December, someone says to me “Happy Holidays” and I cringe inside, knowing that this person has bought into a climate of fear.

We know that 80% of Americans are Christian and we know an even higher 95% of Americans celebrate Christmas. If the dominant American holiday during the month of December is Christmas, and the traditional way to wish someone well during this time of year is to say “Merry Christmas,” then why not say that? What are we afraid of? Worst case, 1 out of 20 people will take offense. It’s actually a much smaller number than that because the vast majority of the remaining 5% will not mind someone saying “Merry Christmas” if they know the person is just ignorant of their particular beliefs.

We’re wishing each other well, after all. We’re not hurling insults at someone by saying “Merry Christmas” but that’s the way many of us act. In a meeting the other day, I suggested that we adorn our company website with pictures of outdoor Christmas trees and snow for the month of December, and you would have thought I was advocating genocide! Three people almost immediately jumped on the idea as offensive to some employees. This is a climate of fear and hypersensitivity.

If you know someone doesn’t celebrate Christmas, then wish them well in the way they prefer, but please stop cowering in fear by wishing everyone “Happy Holidays.” It degrades everyone’s beliefs.

A Former Mormon's View of The Bible – Part 1

 The 8th Article of Faith of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints states “We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God”.  Notice the caveat for the Bible of “so far as it is translated correctly”.  I remember many times as a Mormon I would tell people about this article of faith and explain to them how many “plain and precious truths” have been removed from the Bible… how the Bible has been mistranslated throughout history, does not contain the fullness of the Gospel, and cannot be trusted.  I would tell them how we need The Book Of Mormon and modern day prophecy to clear up the confusion caused by the mistranslations in the Bible.  However, when I started questioning the truthfulness of the LDS church, I began to research the history of the Bible, how we got it and how it has been transmitted to us throughout history.  I wanted to find out for myself whether or not the Mormon claim that the Bible is “mistranslated” is true. What I found out amazed me. 

Historiography is the the study of ancient documents.  It is used to determine the authenticity and validity of documents of antiquity.  One of the tests used in Historiography is called the Bibliographical test.  One principle of the Bibliographical test is to look at the number of surviving manuscripts of any document of antiquity.  Obviously, the more copies we have the easier it is to determine errors in copying and determine what the original text said.  So, the question is, how many copies do we have of the New Testament?

For the New Testament alone we currently have 24,970 surviving manuscripts!  This makes The New Testament the #1 document in all of antiquity in manuscript authority!  Despite being Number 1 in manuscript authority it’s accuracy is questioned more than any other document of antiquity.  You don’t hear many college professors questioning the reliability of Caesar’s Gallic Wars… yet we only have 10 surviving manuscripts for it!!

What is really amazing is the gap between The New Testament and the #2 document in manuscript authority, Homer’s Iliad.  There are only 643 surviving manuscripts for it!!.  The New Testament has 24,970 and # 2 HAS ONLY 643. What a gap!!  God is good!!   

In part 2 I will discuss the 2nd principle used in the Bibliographical Test and how these principles lead one to a reasoned conclusion that the New Testament we hold in our hands today is an accurate transmission of what was originally written down.

Jesus' Resurrection an Early Belief

There is an interesting post detailing historical evidence for an early belief in Jesus’ resurrection.  Why is this important?  Critical scholars have often held that belief in Jesus’ resurrection was a later development after legends grew about Jesus’ life decades and even centuries later.  Evidence of early belief helps defeat this claim and show that the resurrection was a real historical event.

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