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.

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.


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