Merry Christmas and Thank You!

Tomorrow marks the 1-month milestone for our new blog site.  In a period of four weeks, we’ve had about 850 hits on our blog, which is not bad at all.  There are clearly readers out there, like you, who are interested in the topics Darrell and I are passionate about, and we want to thank you for joining us at this blog site.  We really appreciate your support and we look forward to many more months and years ahead of growing this community.

On a far more important note, we want to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and we fervently pray that you will renew your love for Christ these next couple days in a more powerful way than ever before.  After all, He is the reason for everything we do.  Our families wish your families a deepening knowledge and love of God through the celebration of Jesus’ birth.

God Bless All of You!

How Do We Distinguish Between Young Earth Creation, Theistic Science, and Intelligent Design? – Part 3

Intelligent Design

Theistic science calls for Christians to search for signs of God’s intervention in the history of the cosmos, but how?  The scientific program of intelligent design (ID) answers this question.  In reality, ID is not a creation hypothesis, but a scientific method used to discover signs of intelligence in the natural world.  According to William Dembski, an ID theorist, “Intelligent Design is the science that studies signs of intelligence.”[1]  ID is not about studying the source of intelligence, the creator behind the design.  It is about studying the signs or the effects of intelligence.  Dembski explains that “as a theory of biological origins and development, intelligent design’s central claim is that only intelligent causes adequately explain the complex, information-rich structures of biology and that these causes are empirically detectable.   To say intelligent causes are empirically detectable is to say there exist well-defined methods that, based on observable features of the world, can reliably distinguish intelligent causes from undirected natural causes.”[2]  One sign of intelligence that ID attempts to detect is called specified complexity.  An event exhibits “specified complexity if it is contingent and therefore not necessary; if it is complex and therefore not readily repeatable by chance; and if it is specified in the sense of exhibiting an independently given pattern.”[3]

ID differs from young earth creation in that it does not presuppose biblical accounts of creation and it is not a creation hypothesis as such.  ID provides a scientific toolset to creation theorists who want to detect signs of intelligence in nature, but as a scientific tool ID cannot be used to draw conclusions about the source of any intelligence it might discover.  Those conclusions must be left to theology and philosophy.

Conclusion

Theistic science is a philosophy of science that integrates Christian theology and primary agent causation with the modern scientific method.  A person practicing theistic science is free to draw upon all that they know, including propositions of theology, to conduct their investigations into the natural world.  Intelligent design provides mathematical and scientific tools for the theistic scientist to detect signs of intelligent agent causation in the natural world.  ID, as such, cannot identify that agent, nor does it try.  Young earth creation is a creation hypothesis which fits comfortably under the theistic science umbrella, but does not exhaust all possible creation hypotheses that a theistic scientist may want to explore.

[1] William A. Dembski, The Design Revolution (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2004), 33.

[2] Ibid., 34.

[3] Ibid., 35.

Faith Versus Works in Mormonism

One of the common conversations that Mormons will have with Christians surrounds the concept of being saved by grace through faith alone. You will find that, depending on the LDS Member you are speaking with, you will get many different viewpoints on this subject. One of the viewpoints that puzzles me the most are the LDS who insist that Mormonism does NOT teach that works are required for salvation.

Let’s look at a couple of things that I believe will firmly establish that the LDS Church DOES IN FACT teach that works are necessary for salvation. In addition, I think you will find that living the works they believe are required is virtually impossible. 

First, a key Book of Mormon Scripture Moroni 10:32 says:

“Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you…”

The LDS member who is seeking Christ’s grace must do two things BEFORE grace kicks in…

1)  Deny yourselves of ALL ungodliness (in otherwords stop sinning entirely!!)

2)  Love God with all your might, mind and strength

I ask those LDS Members who are reading this… how many of you have denied yourselves of ALL ungodliness?  Have you lied?  Had an impure thought?  Thought poorly about your neighbor?  Gossiped?  Gotten angry at your spouse?  Children? Neighbor?  Have you sworn?   If so, then you have NOT denied yourselves of ALL ungodliness and according to your church’s theology Christ’s grace does not apply to you!!

Let’s look at another point… the third article of faith of the LDS Church says:

“We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by OBEDIENCE TO THE LAWS and ordinances of the Gospel.” (emphasis mine)

Those who are not familiar with the Mormon Church might ask… what laws are they talking about?  There are several laws that the LDS Church teaches… the law of Chastity, law of Tithing, etc.  There is one law that is not discussed that much which is taught in the temple.  It is called the Law of Consecration and says…

“…you do consecrate yourselves, your time, talents, and everything with which the Lord has blessed you, or with which he may bless you, to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, for the building up of the kingdom of God on the earth and for the establishment of Zion.”

In order to be saved under LDS Theology you must be “obedient to the laws of the gospel” and this law says that one must consecrate (give) their time and talents NOT to God…. but to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  In order to consecrate your time there are an awful lot of things (WORKS!!) that you must do…

  1.  Do your Home Teaching
  2.  Visiting Teaching
  3.  Magnify your calling
  4.  Attend all your church meetings
  5.  Missionary work
  6.  Go to the temple
  7.  Genealogy work
  8.  Build up your food storage
  9.  Pay a full tithe
  10.  Partake of the sacrament weekly

Etc, etc, etc

Are you doing ALL of these things?  Have you fully consecrated your time and talents to the Mormon Church?  If not, Christ’s grace has not kicked in.

My question is this… can ANYONE possibly do all of this? Can anyone of us say that we have denied ourselves of ALL ungodliness? Can any Mormon say they have fully consecrated themselves to the LDS Church?  NO!! 

That is one of the reasons I truly love the real Grace of Jesus Christ.  It is not based upon my own worthiness… it is a gift from  Christ!!  “For God demonstrates His own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” Romans 5:8   Praise be to my Lord, Savior and God, Jesus Christ!!

Darrell

How Do We Distinguish Between Young Earth Creation, Theistic Science, and Intelligent Design? – Part 2

Theistic Science

The idea of theistic science, as proposed by Christian philosopher J. P. Moreland, is to expose scientific inquiry to the world of Christian revelation.  As such, it does not actually posit a particular creation hypothesis, but instead draws out guidelines for Christians who wish to integrate theology with scientific research.  Thus theistic science, as an umbrella framework, encompasses many kinds of theistic creation hypotheses, including young earth creation.  J. P. Moreland describes theistic science as “rooted in the idea that Christians ought to consult all they know or have reason to believe in forming and testing hypotheses, in explaining things in science, and in evaluating the plausibility of various scientific hypotheses, and among the things they should consult are propositions of theology.”[1]

Moreland continues to explain that theistic science is a research program that relies on the truth of two propositions.  The first proposition is that “God, conceived as a personal, transcendent agent of great power and intelligence, has through direct, primary agent causation and indirect, secondary causation created and designed the world for a purpose and has directly intervened in the course of its development at various times (including prehistory, history prior to the arrival of human beings).” [2]  The second proposition is that the “commitment expressed in proposition 1 can appropriately enter into the very fabric of the practice of science and the utilization of scientific methodology.”[3]  Moreland’s concept of theistic science leaves the mechanisms and details of God’s intervention undefined and open to debate, and so any number of creation hypotheses that invoke God as the purposeful creator of the world fit well within theistic science.  Just as C. S. Lewis attempted to define mere Christianity, Moreland attempts to define mere creation.  What theistic science rejects is any philosophy of science that disallows the activity of a purposeful creator.  It also rejects any theology that denies the empirical detectability of God’s active intervention.  Some Christians hold that God indeed created the universe and the life within it, but they deny that these creation events can in any way be detected from empirical evidence; in their view, God only operates through secondary causes, or natural law.  Moreland allows for secondary causation, but he insists that one be open to primary agent causation as well.

Stay tuned for another post explaining how intelligent design relates to theistic science and young earth creation.

[1] Moreland, J. P, “Theistic Science and Methodological Naturalism,” in The Creation Hypothesis, ed. J. P. Moreland (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1994), 41.

[2] Ibid., 41-42.

[3] Ibid., 42.

How Do We Distinguish Between Young Earth Creation, Theistic Science, and Intelligent Design? – Part 1

There are at least three distinct systems which interact with each other and are often confused when discussion of the creation hypothesis emerges.  First, creation science is often assumed to be referring to a particular set of origin beliefs promoted by Christian fundamentalists – a set of beliefs popularized in the twentieth century.  This creation hypothesis is also commonly called young earth or six day creation because its proponents assert a recent creation of the earth in a literal six day period. 

Second, in order to allow theistic creation hypotheses (including, but not limited to young earth creation) to flourish, promoters of theistic science attempt to define a general philosophy of science inclusive of Christian theology.  Theistic science opens up science to the propositions of theology in a way that furthers scientific inquiry. 

A third set of ideas which is often conflated with the creation hypothesis, but is not itself a creation hypothesis, is captured in the modern intelligent design movement, a movement which can provide scientific tools to creation theorists.  I will introduce and give brief overviews of each of these views that relate to the creation hypothesis and explain how they relate to each other.

 Young Earth Creation

Charles Darwin’s ideas, popularized in 1859, submerged creationists for almost one hundred years, but in 1961 Henry Morris and John Whitcomb published The Genesis Flood, a work which would sell over one hundred thousand copies by 1980.[1]  In this work and in numerous subsequent works written by creationists in the 1960s and 1970s, the position of young earth creation solidified into a concrete program which in turned spawned the emergence of several institutions and organizations chartered to spread the ideas originated in Morris and Whitcomb’s seminal book. 

In 1981 the state of Arkansas passed a law mandating that the public school curriculum include both the teaching of creation science (young earth creation) and the theory of evolution.  In this law, creation science was defined as “the scientific evidences and related inferences that indicate: (1) Sudden creation of the universe, energy, and life from nothing; (2) The insufficiency of mutation and natural selection  in bringing about development of all living kinds from a single organism; (3) Changes only within fixed limits of originally created kinds of plants and animals; (4) Separate ancestry for man and apes; (5) Explanation of the earth’s geology by catastrophism, including the occurrence of a worldwide flood; and (6) A relatively recent inception of the earth and living kinds.”[2]

Young earth creationists presuppose the scientific accuracy of a particular interpretation of the biblical book of Genesis.  According to this theory, the age of the earth is typically believed to be on the order of six thousand to ten thousand years as opposed to the 4.5 billion years proposed by most geologists.  In addition, a literal six, twenty-four hour day creation period is mandated by the opening verses of Genesis.  The key to understanding young earth creation is that it starts with biblical texts which are understood in a specific literal manner, it applies that understanding to the origins of  the universe, earth, and life, and then it attempts to match the empirical scientific data to those facts based on the Bible. 

The next posts in this series will explain theistic science and intelligent design.  Stay tuned!!


[1]Norman L. Geisler and J. Kerby Anderson, Origin Science (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1987), 19.

[2] Ibid., 20.

What Is the Basic Message of Ecclesiastes?

The book of Ecclesiastes is one of the most misunderstood books in the Hebrew Bible.  The author of the book, called Qohelet, who many believe is King Solomon, appears to contradict many of the teachings of the other books of the Bible.  Ecclesiastes is placed, in the Christian Old Testament, in the wisdom literature section, just after the book of Proverbs.  But Qohelet appears to dismiss the teachings of Proverbs and the overall pursuit of wisdom as meaningless!

How can this be, since many believe that Solomon also wrote the book of Proverbs?  Did he change his mind?

I don’t think so.  A careful reading of Ecclesiastes gives us some clues as to its basic message.  The first clue is a phrase that is repeated several times in the book: “That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil—this is the gift of God.”  This phrase, or something close to it, is repeated five times in the book of Ecclesiastes.  In Hebrew literature, repetition is a sure clue that the author wants you to focus on this phrase.  It is like a signal flare saying, “Look at me!!”  The message seems to be that we should enjoy the pleasures God has given us in this life.

A second clue is the closing of the book in chapter 12.  Here is what it says: “Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.”  I think this ending speaks for itself.

The rest of Ecclesiastes chronicles the attempts of Qohelet to find the meaning of life in various pursuits, all of which fail him.

When you put it all together, according to Dr. Tom Howe, Professor of Bible and Biblical Languages:

Although the tone of the book as a whole seems to be pessimistic, Qohelet is not a pessimist.  Rather, his goal is to demonstrate that life is meaningless, unless one lives it in the fear of God,  keeping His commandments and enjoying life as a gift from Him.  Ultimately, Qohelet is urging the reader not to trust in anything in this life to provide meaning and value.  Rather, one should trust only and always in God, and live life before Him.

"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.

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