Biblical Discussions, Intelligent Design

Objective Truth- part three

PART III

We want to know if the facts say that God exists and the Bible is true, for the last time.  To do so, we must be willing to consider the evidence in an honest and impartial manner.

“There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments and which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance-that principle is contempt prior to investigation.” Herbert Spencer, a 19th century philosopher adapted this from an earlier quote by William Paley, an 18th century British theologian, In A View of the Evidences of Christianity, 1794.

As Christians, we do not claim to be Jesus and thus perfect.  Instead, we claim to need Jesus because we can recognize our imperfections.  As we get deeper into the facts and thereby the truth about Jesus, we will not indisputably prove that Jesus and therefore God exist, but instead will attempt to provide confirmation beyond a reasonable doubt.  A reasonable doubt is based on reason and commonsense after an impartial examination of all the evidence.  Very little in life is convincing beyond a reasonable doubt.  If we lived requiring that type of proof before making a decision we would do nothing.  There still is no guarantee that you will not be in a car accident or someone shoot you at a convenience market by accident.

Outright contempt of the matter prior to a thorough investigation and wanting proof  beyond all possible doubt are really about our will and desire to ignore the truth and do what we want to anyway.  I have had many discussions with Atheists and non-believers and the for the most part they claim to know that God does not exist, but they have no evidence to support their beliefs- the saddest attempt is to say “there is no scientific proof.”  Most of what I have discussed and have seen written ends up pretty much being “I just don’t want there to be a God.”  Most of the Atheists and non-believers will NOT look at the evidence impartially- they are just looking for ways to continue to justify their beliefs.

If there is no objective or universal truth, then any claim to have objective truth will be treated as nothing but an attempt by one interpretive community to impose their own limited, subjective perspective on everyone else.  The very concept of objective truth is grounded in the Christian conviction that, an intelligent designer created the universe.  The very idea of objective truth – a truth that is “out there” – makes sense only on the basis of a Christian worldview.  In evolutionary concept of the mind undercuts our confidence in the objective truth of our moral beliefs as well as the objective truth of our mathematical or scientific reasoning.

knowledge-vs-wisdom

Wisdom or sapience is the ability to think and act using knowledge, experience, understanding, common sense, and insight.  Wisdom has been regarded as one of four cardinal virtues; and as a virtue, it is a habit or disposition to perform the action with the highest degree of adequacy under any given circumstance, and to avoid wrongdoing.  This implies a possession of knowledge or the seeking of knowledge to apply to the given circumstance.

Truth is most often used to mean being in accord with fact or reality, or fidelity to an original or standard.  Truth may also often be used in modern contexts to refer to an idea of “truth to self,” or authenticity.

Confirmation bias occurs when we selectively notice or focus upon evidence which tends to support the things we already believe or want to be true while ignoring that evidence which would serve to disconfirm those beliefs or ideas.  This bias plays a stronger role when it comes to those beliefs which are based upon prejudice, faith, or tradition rather than on empirical evidence.  A good example would be how people notice when they get a phone call from a person they were just thinking about but don’t remember how often they didn’t get such a call when thinking about that person.  “Smart people believe weird things because they are skilled at defending beliefs they arrived at for non-smart reasons.” Our biases are some of the non-smart reasons we have for arriving at beliefs; the confirmation bias is perhaps worse than most because it actively keeps us from arriving at the truth and allows us to wallow in comforting falsehood and nonsense.

It is precisely because of the strength, pervasiveness, and perniciousness of this kind of bias that science incorporates the principle of independent confirmation and testing of one’s ideas and experiments. It is the hallmark of science that a claim should be supported independent of personal bias, but it is a hallmark of pseudoscience that only true believers will discover the evidence, which supports their claims.  This is why a Christian’s faith is based upon verifiable facts and evidence.

In a very real and important sense, it is possible to say that, scientifically, God does not exist — just as science is able to discount the existence of a myriad of other alleged beings   All such statements are casual short-hand for a more elaborate and technical statement: “this alleged entity has no place in any scientific equations, plays no role in any scientific explanations, cannot be used to predict any events, does not describe anything or force that has yet been detected, and there are no models of the universe in which its presence is either required, productive, or useful.”   What should be most obvious about the more technically accurate statement is that it isn’t absolute.  It does not deny for all time any possible existence of the entity or force in question; instead, it is a provisional statement denying the existence of any relevance or reality to the entity or force based on what we currently know.  (Not withstanding black holes, black matter, black energy, black light, wormholes, etc which scientists insist cannot be detected, measured or proven- but have to exist to make both sides of their equations equal).

Nothing in science is proven or disproven beyond a shadow of any possible doubt.  In science, everything is provisional.  Being provisional is not a weakness or a sign that a conclusion is weak.  Being provisional is a smart, pragmatic tactic because we can never be sure what we will come across after the next experiment.  This lack of absolute certainty is a window through which many Atheists try to slip their lack of a ‘god’, but that is not valid.

The other reason people deny there is an objective truth is because they are skeptical that we know the truth.  I accept that we never know what the truth is for sure.  We can be mistaken.  But to be mistaken, there has to be an objective truth! The idea of a mistake is that there is an objective truth and we have it wrong.  Denying there are objectively true ideas also denies that there are false ideas and mistakes.  Consequently, it prevents us from finding and correcting our errors, because errors are deviations from the truth and they say there is no truth to deviate from.

Part of the issue is the idea that knowledge is justified, true belief.  It is easy to lapse into relativism with that conception of knowledge because that kind of knowledge is impossible to come by, so one might think that opinions are all we have.  Justificationists pave the way for relativists by denying that imperfect knowledge is knowledge at all.

Here is an argument that objective truth must exist: Communication relies on there being an objective truth.  When I say something, you hear it.  We are in a shared world.  What you hear is not random; it has to do with what I said.  It is not based on your whim or subjectivity.  What you hear is a close approximation of what I actually said, because you seek the truth of what I said and it is there to be found.  Communication is only possible when there is one single truth of what is being said for all the people communicating.

Knowledge is created by imaginative and critical thought.  The key ingredients are both creativity and criticism.  We need numerous ideas, including ones that are not obvious.  In addition, we need error correction to get rid of flaws.  With those two components, we can improve our knowledge and learn new things.

You have a right to believe.  Not just a legal right, but an intellectual right.  Parts of our society, certain vocal Atheists and much of our mass culture, suggest and sometimes even loudly proclaim that belief in God is outdated and somehow intellectually inferior.  That worldview is false.

Just as you have a right to believe, you have a right not to believe.  I’m not out to mock or demean Atheists and Agnostics (but I will certainly exercise my right to free speech and question and poke fun at some of their statements).  Many are careful thinkers, very moral and very responsible.  I will present the evidence, their arguments, and my arguments, and encourage you to decide for yourself.

We all have doubts and beliefs.  When it comes to God, you have a choice.  Atheism is a system of belief, which is why it and the word Atheist will be capitalized throughout the remainders of my writings.  Atheism may not be as detailed as Judaism, Christianity, or Islam, but it can have an equally profound impact on how you live your life.  We will examine beliefs about God using reason. I have spent much of my life trying to resolve reason and belief.

Atheism may not be as detailed as Judaism, Christianity, or Islam, but it does have an equally profound impact on how you choose to live your life. We will examine beliefs about God using reason.  I have been spending most of life trying to resolve the ‘so-called’ discrepancy between reason and belief.  It drove me to alcoholism, drugs, thievery, pornography, and any attempt to destroy the thoughts in my mind.  When I started to truly look at the facts, understand the conflicts and compromises, I began to learn the truth-the truth that was unavoidable.   I I have gotten there with reason and proven scientific facts.  Objective truth!  What is true for me is true for you.

You cannot doubt the existence of God unless you have some faith in the belief that God does not exist. You may say you don’t care about God, or have no need for God. If so, you are betting your life that no God exists that could hold you accountable or provide meaning and hope in your life.  Before you base your life on the belief that no God exists that could make your life meaningful, I urge you to consider the evidence that will follow in future articles.

KnowledgeInformationWisdom

Should we believe in God, or should we believe there is no God?  We are going to look at the evidence, at the facts, at what I will call the “science of belief.”  Many theologians shy away from this type of examination, perhaps in part because of a fear that their faith will be damaged by a negative answer and perhaps in part because they think the world of science and the world of faith do not intersect.  Many educated persons shun this quest, perhaps in part because they have wrapped themselves in a worldview where the existence of God is literally unthinkable.  Many others reject it because, for them, the existence of God would be an inconvenient truth-they do not wish to be held accountable.  I will use reason and modern science, (objective truth, not blind faith), to make the case for God.  You decide.

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Biblical Discussions, Intelligent Design

Objective Truth- part two

PART II

‘If I only had a dollar for every time ….’  Is the typical statement of those who are fed up with the incredibly idiotic statements made by others?  Mine is “Christianity is true for you but not necessary for others.”  The problem with the people who make this statement is they have confused belief with truth.  However, belief alone does not guarantee that the matter at hand is true.  Truth, on the other hand, is not a respecter of any belief that contradicts it.  Truth conforms to reality and the object being referred to.

A pile of dollar bills

When it comes to God, we have a similar situation.  Many people have shown up who claim to know the truth about God.  On the surface, it may seem as if most of them are headed in the same direction.  However, when we look closely, we see that they all contradict each other when it comes to the most important points, like salvation.  For example, Christianity is the sole belief that teaches salvation by God’s grace, through faith alone.  The others teach works (good deeds) and specific conditions as a necessity.

Let us look at some contradictory claims about Jesus, Salvation and Eternity.  This is by no means a comprehensive list and may be wrong in some areas but this is my take on the following:

  • Evangelical Christians – One God, Jesus the Son is God in the flesh; salvation is by God’s grace through faith in Jesus alone; heaven is for believers; non-believers end up in hell. An evangelical Christian is a believer who holds to the inspiration, inerrancy, and authority of Scripture over any other teaching or tradition, the Trinity, the deity of Christ, and salvation by grace through faith alone. I believe to be the one true Faith.
  • Traditional Roman Catholicism – One God, Jesus the Son is God in the flesh; salvation is by God’s grace through faith in Jesus plus “good” works, sacraments and penance here and in purgatory; heaven is the final result for true believers; non-believers end up in hell; claims to be the only true church.
  • Judaism – One God; beliefs about Jesus vary from he was a great moral teacher, a pagan idol or was a false prophet; Jesus was just a man not the Messiah/ Savior that they believe is still to come; Jewish believers can sanctify their lives and draw closer to God by obeying divine commandments and good works; God will reward the good and punish the wicked; the dead will be resurrected; extreme evildoers like Hitler will have an eternal punishment.
  • Islam – Jesus was a prophet; salvation is by belief in Allah, Mohammad and many good works which the local Imam decides; true believers go to heaven; non-Muslims will all be in hell.
  • Hinduism – Jesus was a prophet; millions of gods; salvation through good works and overcoming karma; reincarnation.
  • Buddhism – Jesus was an enlightened man; many salvations possible by the cessation of desire through an eight-fold path and defined works; extinguish your ego to enter nirvana, a form of heaven. Buddha was a raised Hindu and rejected Hinduism because of the caste system.  He was actually an atheist but there are various forms of Buddhism.
  • Higher Power – Whatever anyone believes about Jesus, salvation and eternity is true. Every belief about God is true as long as someone believes it.
  • New Age – Jesus was an enlightened man/ god; salvation not needed because we are all gods like Jesus, but do not realize it; reincarnation in new life based on works; contradictions among adherents embraced so beliefs can vary widely.
  • Mormonism – Jesus is the spirit brother of Satan and was once a man like all men; salvation is by faith in their Jesus, being obedient to Mormonism and good works; non-Mormons get a second chance after death to convert; best Mormons get their own universe and become its god; worst of the worst are cast into eternal darkness; they claim to be the only true church, aka: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints or LDS.
  • Jehovah’s Witnesses – Jesus is the archangel Michael; salvation by faith in Jesus plus works and obedience to JW teachings; most believers live eternally on a renewed Earth since they believe heaven is full; non-believers die and cease to exist; it claims to be the only true church.
  • Atheism/ Humanism – Jesus is just a man; there is no afterlife; you die and get buried and the worms devour you.

World-religions

My list indicates that several of the groups believe in Jesus, but their versions of Jesus contradict the Bible and each other.  Muslims say that Jesus existed, but he did not die on the cross and rise again.  Most religions say that Jesus was just a man, an extraordinary man maybe.  The Bible says that Jesus is God in the flesh and the only way to heaven.  Not everyone can be correct.  To come to a version of Jesus which is contrary to the Bible, people arbitrarily reject parts of the Bible they do not like and build their own Jesus.  Then they add other books with teachings that contradict what Jesus taught, and with no evidence, they claim that these are correct and the Bible is false.

If the evidence shows us that God does exist, we can utilize the law of non-contradiction, to eliminate those beliefs that contradict the truth. I want to reiterate that we should respect others and co-exist with them.  Despite what other person’s state, I do not ‘put down’ other people’s beliefs.  If engaged in a discussion about certain beliefs and they state something that I find not factual I will point it out and generally state my viewpoint.  It is unfortunate that they often take it personally and end the discussion.  Every person has the right to believe whatever they want, and no one has the right to force their beliefs on anyone.  However, the truth of the matter is simply stated in the following quote: “Contrary beliefs can exist but contrary truths cannot.”  Dr. Frank Turek, author, “I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist.

From the above list, you can determine that the concepts of salvation and eternity are exclusive for each belief.  If someone claims (and there are many who do so) that anyone’s belief is true is actually saying that truth can contradict itself, which logically is false.  Therefore, the overreaching question is WHO HAS THE TRUTH.

There is one gotcha idea we have to bring up here.  It is a cop-out for most non-believers to claim that religion is ethno-centric, cultural and dependent upon geographic boundaries.  The claim is made that people believe what they do simply because of their country of birth, so it is not their fault if they are not Christians.  If you were born in Yemen you would probably be Muslim. While there is some validity (very little) to this statement, it does not mean that their belief is true it is illogical.  Using that type of reasoning, we would have to say that the individuals raised in Germany under Nazism were correct in their beliefs.  Or that children raised in families where the father figure was a member of the Ku Klux Klan continued believing racism and segregation is correct – it is not their fault.  The origin or sincerity of their beliefs does not prove that it is true or false.  Only evidence can do that. This fact is supported around the world by the number of individuals who have converted from their country’s primary belief to Christianity. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_converts_to_Christianity read the box on the right side of the page).

I have struggled for years with how to define my Christian faith- every non-believer and scalawag wants some kind of definition because they have at the ready a putdown or a meme they think will discredit what I have stated. Being the contrarian that I am I have now started to state: “Christian faith is action taken upon established truth.”  That makes it a little more difficult to respond on their part.

The definition implies that something had to have actually happened in history that made the first believers engage in actionable behavior.  Individuals who lived in the Middle East around 15 to 50 AD saw events, talked about them, and listened to others proclaim the miracles that Jesus performed and his resurrection.  They heard him, they saw him, and they may have participated in many of the events.  They believed it was reasonable to trust Him regarding all that He said about eternity.  Trusting in feelings or what others believe is why so many people are led astray.  The Christian faith is not an exercise in imagination.  It is based on real historical events that were seen and reported by eyewitnesses.  And that is just part of the overall proofs of His existence.

If any belief about God is false, then all the faith in the world will not make it true.  Many individuals claim that people do not rise from the dead and miracles are not possible.  Because of that, a Christian’s faith must be in vain.  If the facts say God does exist, you cannot rule out miracles, including the resurrection.  Most non-believers will have stopped reading by now, I hope they at least understood something of what I have written. The next step in trying to obtain objective truth is to examine the scientific facts to see if God exists.

Part three coming soon.

https://larryemarshall.wordpress.com/2016/06/05/objective-truth-part-three/

A Teaser:

We want to know if the facts say that God exists and the Bible is true, once and for all. To do so, we must be willing to consider the evidence in an honest and impartial manner.

Biblical Discussions, Intelligent Design

Objective Truth- part one

Objective Truth

PART I

“Is life a glorified Monopoly game?  When you die, is everything just going back in the box?”  Dr. Frank Turck, www.crossexamined.org.  Life is not about religion, it’s about truth.

  • What is objective truth?
  • It relates to the object referred to.
  • It corresponds with reality.
  • It is telling it like it is.
  • It is true even if no one believes it.
  • Jesus and the Bible claim to be objective truths.

“Truth is true – even if no one knows it.  Truth is true – even if no one admits it.  Truth is true even if no one agrees what it is.  Truth is true – even if no one follows it.  Truth is true – even if no one but God grasps it slowly.”  Paul Copan, Chair of Philosophy and Ethics at Palm Beach Atlantic University.

truth-is-truth

“Truth is incontrovertible.  Malice may attack it and ignorance may deride it, but, in the end, there it is.”  Sir Winston Churchill, www.quotations.about.com.  Truth comes with a built-in check and balance.  It is called the law of non-contradiction.  It is a fundamental principle of thought, which clearly tells us, that opposite ideas cannot both be true at the same time and in the same sense.  As an example, you cannot both be dark and light outside at the same time.  This law is self evident and undeniable.  Having knowledge of this law becomes crucial to understanding that truth does exist and it is opposite is always falls.

A brief example.  It is true that you are reading this article right now.  You are the object of the statement.  Therefore, it is true for everybody, everywhere that you are reading this article right now.  The non-contradiction is that you are not reading it, which is obviously false.  Contradictions in a statement render the claim falls.  A majority of nonbelievers say, “Truth does not exist” and insist that is a true statement.  That statement is obviously contradictory and thereby false.

How do we find truth?  We can stumble across it or we can make a lucky guess.  Generally, the three most popular methods of determining the truth are as follows:

  • Our feelings, if it feels right and gives me purpose. Hope, peace of mind, it has to be the truth.
  • Someone you trust believes that it is true, so therefore it must be.
  • Evidence and consistency that best fits the situation would be the truth.

If you were asked which one of the above items you would pick to make a decision where truth is most important.  When individuals are asked this question over 90% of them pick the third option.  Then the strange “thinking” starts taking effect.  When the same people are asked, do you believe in God, the people who picked choice number three suddenly chose one or two instead.  It would appear that a great deal of people’s belief about God is not founded on actual evidence but on feelings.

There are followers in every belief who will claim to have found the ‘truth.’  So is one belief correct and the only way to God or do all roads lead to heaven?  If we base our premise on subjective evidence such as feelings and personal experience, we will become confused because every faith has those who claim to have reached the eternal ‘truth.’  The only legitimate way to be reasonably sure our faith is placed in the truth is to examine the objective evidence ourselves, as we would with any major decisions.  Objective evidence can be examined by everyone and does not change due to emotions, feelings or personal experience.  An example of objective evidence would be scientific and historical facts.

Feelings are important (especially for ilLiberals: https://larrythecontrarian.wordpress.com/2016/02/21/debunking-illiberal-intellectual-dishonesty/ ) and can be useful when you have verifiable facts and more than one solid option but do not place them above facts.  Every belief includes views about salvation and eternity so finding the truth about God is extremely important, and making a wise decision based on objective evidence is the only sensible decision.

Many people believe faith is more important than what they place their faith in, but they are wrong.  The fact is- the object of a person’s faith is more important than the faith itself.  Faith based on evidence is reasonable faith.  So why would we rely on ‘blind’ faith to make one of the most important decisions in our lives – God’s existence, identity and our eternity?  It only makes sense to check out the facts to see if your belief is supported by evidence. The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines faith as “A firm belief in something for which there is no proof” but it does not say “for which there is no evidence.

When we are confronted with a decision where we do not have one hundred percent proof, some kind of faith is very important.  Therefore, it is essential to Christianity.  Faith connects us to the salvation God is offering through grace; without faith it is impossible to be saved.  However the Bible is speaking about faith placed in the truth, which it claims to be.  The most sincere faith cannot change history (although some try) and it will not make a false belief about God true.  I know I can find atheists who will try to prove that the Greek gods Zeus and Apollo , or the Flying Spaghetti Monster is as real and valid as God, if they are not real, not even sincere faith will make them true.  But idiotic imbecilic moronic attempts will continue to be made by them.

truth_drifting

Stay tuned for part two

https://larryemarshall.wordpress.com/2016/06/04/objective-truth-part-two/

Biblical Discussions, The Science of it All

Why the laws of logic work

Why the laws of logic work

When the non-believer embraces materialism, they literally destroy the possibility of knowledge, as well as science and technology. Materialistic atheism is one of the easiest worldviews to refute-it virtually refutes itself.  A materialistic non-believer believes that nature (what we see, hear, smell, feel) is all that there is. The non-believer believes that there is no transcendent God who oversees and maintains creation. Many non-believers believe that their worldview is rational—and scientific. However, by embracing materialism, the non-believer has destroyed the possibility of knowledge, as well as science and technology. To say it another way, if atheism were true, it would be impossible to prove anything!

Why would I say that?  Reasoning involves knowing, understanding and using the laws of logic. This includes the ‘law of non-contradiction’ which says that you cannot have A and not-A at the same time and in the same relationship.  All of our beliefs, thoughts, and knowledge are built on top of the law of non-contradiction, so when a person tries to deny this foundation, they are bound to go way off track in their pursuit of understanding reality as it really is.   If you have any doubts about this fundamental law of rationality, try to deny it, but then write out your denial in a sentence – “The law of non-contradiction is false” – and ask whether your statement is both true and false at the same time and in the same sense.  If the law of non-contradiction is false, then your statement of denial must be both true and false.  However, if your denial is false, then the law of non-contradiction is true!  By denying the law of non-contradiction, you have just affirmed it.  The more you try to deny the law, the more you will affirm it.

However, why is this law true? Why should there be a law of non-contradiction, or for that matter, any laws of reasoning? The Christian can easily answer this question. For the Christian there is an absolute standard for reasoning; we are to pattern our thoughts after God’s. The laws of logic are a reflection of the way God thinks. The law of non-contradiction is not one person’s opinion of how we ought to think, instead it stems from God’s self-consistent nature. God cannot deny Himself ( 2 Timothy 2:13), and so, the way God upholds the universe will necessarily be non-contradictory.

Laws of logic are God’s standard for our thinking. Since God is an unchanging, sovereign, immaterial Being, the laws of logic are abstract, universal, invariant entities. In other words, they are not made of matter—they apply everywhere and at all times. Laws of logic are contingent upon God’s unchanging nature. Moreover, they are necessary for logical reasoning. Thus, rational reasoning would be impossible without the biblical God.

The materialistic non-believer cannot rationally have laws of logic. The non-believer believes that everything that exists is material—part of the physical world. However, laws of logic are not physical. You cannot stub your toe on a law of logic. Laws of logic cannot exist in the non-believer’s world, yet the non-believer will always try to reason with them. This of course is completely inconsistent. The non-believer is borrowing from the Christian worldview to argue against the Christian worldview. The non-believer’s view cannot be rational because they use laws of logic that cannot exist according to their own beliefs.

The debate over the existence of God is a bit like a debate over the existence of air. Can you imagine someone arguing that air does not actually exist? He would offer seemingly excellent “proofs” against the existence of air, while simultaneously breathing air and expecting that we can hear his words as the sound is transmitted through the air. In order for us to hear and understand his claim, it would have to be wrong. Likewise, the non-believer, in arguing that God does not exist must use laws of logic that only make sense if God does exist. In order for his argument to make sense, it would have to be wrong.

A non-believer then continues, illogically, “I can reason just fine, and I don’t believe in God.” However, this is no different from the critic of air saying, “Well, I can breathe just fine, and I don’t believe in air.” This is not a rational response. Breathing requires air, not a profession of belief in air. Likewise, logical reasoning requires God, not a profession of belief in Him. Of course, the non-believer can reason; it is because God has made his mind and given him access to the laws of logic—and that is the point. It is because God exists that reasoning is possible. The non-believer can reason, but within his own worldview, he cannot account for his ability to reason.

The non-believer might respond, “Laws of logic are conventions made up by man.” However, conventions are (by definition) conventional. That is, we all agree to them and so they work—like driving on the right side of the road. However, if laws of logic were conventional, then different cultures could adopt different laws of logic (like driving on the left side of the road). Therefore, in some cultures it might be perfectly fine to contradict yourself. In some societies, truth could be self-contradictory. Clearly that would not do. If laws of logic are just conventions, then they are not universal laws. Rational debate would be impossible if laws of logic were conventional, because the two opponents could simply pick different standards for reasoning. Each would be right according to his own arbitrary standard.

The non-believer might respond, “Laws of logic are material—they are made of electro-chemical connections in the brain.” Then the laws of logic are not universal; they would not extend beyond your particular brain. In other words, we could not argue that contradictions cannot occur on Mars, since no one’s brain is on Mars. In fact, if the laws of logic were just electro-chemical connections in the brain, then they would differ somewhat from person to person because everyone has different connections in their brain and slightly different levels of required brain chemicals.

Sometimes a non-believer will attempt to answer with a more pragmatic response: “We use the laws of logic because they work.” Unfortunately, for them, that is not the question. We all agree the laws of logic work; they work because they are true. The question is why they exist in the first place. How can the non-believer account for absolute standards of reasoning like the laws of logic? How can non-material things like laws exist if the universe is material only?

As a last resort, the non-believer may give up a strictly materialistic view and agree that there are immaterial, universal laws. This is a huge concession; after all, if a person is willing to concede that immaterial, universal, unchanging entities can exist, then they must consider the possibility that God exists. However, this concession does not save the non-believer’s position. They must still justify the laws of logic. Why do they exist? Moreover, what is the point of contact between the material physical world and the immaterial world of logic? In other words, why does the material universe feel compelled to obey immaterial laws? The non-believer cannot answer these questions. Their worldview cannot be justified; it is arbitrary and thus irrational.

Clearly, non-believing is not a rational worldview. It is self-refuting because the non-believer must first assume the opposite of what he is trying to prove in order to be able to prove anything. As Dr. Cornelius VanTil[i] put it, “[A]theism presupposes theism.” Laws of logic require the existence of God—and not just any god, but the Christian God. Only the God of the Bible can be the foundation for knowledge (Proverbs 1:7; Colossians 2:3). Since the God of Scripture is immaterial, sovereign, and beyond time, it makes sense to have laws of logic that are immaterial, universal, and unchanging. Since God has revealed Himself to man, we are able to know and use logic. Since God made the universe and since God made our minds, it makes sense that our minds would have an ability to study and understand the universe. However, if the brain is simply the result of mindless evolutionary processes that conveyed some sort of survival value in the past, why should we trust its conclusions? If the universe and our minds are simply the results of time and chance, as the non-believer contends, why would we expect that the mind could make sense of the universe? How could science and technology be possible?

Rational thinking, science, and technology make sense in a Christian worldview. The Christian has a basis for these things; the non-believer does not. This is not to say that non-believers cannot be rational about some things. They can because they too are made in God’s image and have access to God’s laws of logic. However, they have no rational basis for rationality within their own worldview. Likewise, non-believers can be moral, but they have no basis for that morality according to what they claim to believe. A non-believer is a walking bundle of contradictions. He reasons and does science, yet he denies the very God that makes reasoning and science possible. On the other hand, the Christian worldview is consistent and makes sense of human reasoning and experience.

[i] a Christian philosopher, Reformed theologian, and presuppositional apologist.

Biblical Discussions

The Knowledge of Make Believe

make-believe

Everybody ‘believes’. It is as completely human to believe certain things, just as it is to know certain things, and very often the distinction between the two is very blurry. Even those of you who would tell me that the only things we could know for sure are those things that can be scientifically, empirically shown to be true. These people are expressing a belief. Their very assertion is one of blind faith and it is even self-refuting. It cannot be empirically verified and therefore there is no reason to accept it as true under its own criteria. They believe by faith that their dogma is true, and by that belief undermine the very foundation they attempt to build.

Like it or not, we all believe. Even when the things we believe have been determined by empirical evidence, this is usually based not on our own observations of the evidence, but on acceptance of the findings of others. This is especially so in this increasingly specialized world.

The study of why we believe/know the things we believe/know is called epistemology. We believe some things by social/cultural conditioning, they are the things we have been taught to believe. We believe them because our parents, our culture or someone we respect or who was possibly influential in our lives believed them. We generally call this conformity and so many vehemently reject this label.

We also believe some things out of pure contrariness to what others believe. We might like to label this as non-conformity although some might call it rebellion, often in reaction to beliefs of parents or teachers, regardless of its credibility or lack thereof.

Like it or not, we all believe.

If we are honest, we would have to admit that even some of the things we ‘know’ to be true, are actually beliefs we have absorbed from the common consensus of our family, culture, club, college or congregation. This is knowledge that we have absorbed passively or under pressure. The approval of our peers, acceptance, funding, prestige, promotion and fear can all be powerful influences on what we choose to believe.

Most people will go beyond these factors to personally think through and verify the reasons why they believe certain things- but that is far too few. In regards to the really important questions such as where we come from, purpose in life, existence or extinction beyond the grave and so on we just assume that which has been impressed upon us.

The answers to these questions are literally a matter of life and death; both physically and temporally; spiritually and eternally, if our existence does indeed continue beyond the grave. But even in these important categories, there are so many facets involved, that to some degree or another, we will always believe certain things to be true based on the authority of others. The reason we choose to believe these authority figures may be due to their academic credentials, their fame, their ability to influence our personal circumstances, their leadership and communication skills, their achievements in life, how broadly their teachings have been accepted by society or many other possible criteria. This is true of both religious and secular belief systems.

These perceived authority figures have included such people as Plato, Aristotle, Hitler, Muhammad, Marx, Darwin, Freud, Oprah and even Jesus Christ. Probably the most common basis of belief, whether the faithful like to admit it or not, is that the ‘majority’ (as in “everybody knows” or “most scientists accept”) believe it. Conforming to the beliefs and biases of our peers and contemporaries is a powerful motivator. Going against the flow of professional or public opinion incurs a cost that demotivates questioning the status quo. There is a feeling of strength and even invincibility in numbers that helps us avoid as unnecessary the need to research something objectively ourselves. In the current age of Facebook and Blogging, one can get many other individuals to echo your point of view and assist you in confronting anyone who dares posit a conflicting opinion. Based on these motives for belief, what are some of the great ‘falsehoods’ that ‘everybody’ has believed at different times in history?

In the religious realm, indulgences and scores of heavenly virgins awaiting martyrs (murderers) come to mind. Nevertheless, there have also been many dogmas in the scientific realm that have in the course of time been proven to be profound mistakes, but were accepted by the scientific elite and therefore by the public at large. These theories were zealously defended and opponents fiercely resisted until the body of evidence against them became too overwhelming for continued defense.

The Ptolemaic and Aristotelian idea of geocentrism, the theory that the earth was at the center of the universe and all the heavenly bodies revolved around it, is a famous case in point, believed for almost 2000 years. Most educated Greeks from about the 4th century BC, believed that the earth was a sphere around which the heavens revolved. As the Roman Catholic Church increased in influence from about the 4th century AD, it did so in a philosophical and scientific environment that had wholly accepted this system. Islamic astronomers later also accepted the model. As the heavens were increasingly explored and discovered, ever more complex models were developed to continue to prop up a geocentric system.

Due mainly to perceived philosophical implications, as Copernicus and Galileo developed their heliocentric models in the 16th and 17th centuries, they were strongly opposed by the Catholic church. It was the creationist Johannes Kepler who hit the final nail in the geocentric coffin with his combination of a heliocentric system and elliptical planetary motion.

Aristotle was also the most influential founder of another scientific view that held sway for 2,000 years before being proven false by another creationist. That theory was the spontaneous generation of life from non-life or abiogenesis. Without the benefit of modern microscopes, he believed that some plants and animals, under certain circumstances, were ‘self-generated’ and ‘grew spontaneously’. This was a theory that was accepted by the early evolution theorists as it provided a mechanism to get the evolutionary ball rolling. It was Louis Pasteur who by empirical experiment and observation finally put the myth of spontaneous generation to rest in the same year as Darwin’s publication of Origin of Species. Since then all biological and medical science, whether by evolutionists or creationists, is done on the assumption of biogenesis, that life only comes from life. This left evolutionists with a quandary of how life, upon which natural selection was to do its magical work, began. An evolutionist today still has to cling to some form of the unscientific notion of abiogenesis.

Big beliefs have big consequences and this is nowhere more evident than in the effect that Darwin’s ideas had on the western world’s perception of race in the 19th and 20th centuries. As the late Stephen Jay Gould, an evolutionist himself, recognized, although racism has always existed in some form or another, it was Darwinism that led to a profound increase in racist ideas and beliefs. Darwin predicted that if his theory were true, a subjugation and even extermination of the ‘lower races’ was inevitable. Most scientists of the late 19th through to the middle of the 20th century were Darwinian in their beliefs and promoted scientific racism as a logical consequence. Scientific racism, imperialism and rapacious colonialism became dominant themes of both sides of the turn of the 20th Century.

If ever a theory deserved to be abandoned based on its fruits, Darwinism is that theory, and yet while racism has been largely discarded, the core ideas remain. I guess in the minds of its adherents, the benefits of the theory, namely, the ‘death of God’, outweigh its inconvenient consequences like the millions killed in racial genocide last century. Darwinian evolution does not even have the benefit of empirical verification.

Perhaps you choose to believe in the dominant ideas of this age, foremost among them being evolution, largely for their cultural dominance. If so, you are in the good company of those who believed in geocentrism, abiogenesis and Darwinian race theory as well as many other ‘scientific’ discards that were once the ruling paradigms of their day.

I choose to believe the teachings of the most qualified and accredited individual to ever walk this earth, Jesus Christ the Son of God. The Creator, an authentic teacher, instant healer of disease and disability, raiser of the dead, calmer of the seas. He was the greatest non-conformer to the dominant ideas of this world and paid for it with His life. But in the most profound of His credentials, He arose from the grave. Millions have also gone against the dominant beliefs of their culture and age, to put their faith in Him and many have paid the ultimate price for their non-conformity.

We all ‘believe’ many things. As you look for solid ground upon which to place your faith, are you looking for reality or acceptance?

Biblical Discussions

Christianity and the ecology

In 1967, Lynn White, an historian from the University of California, published an article in Science magazine entitled ‘The Historical Roots of Our Ecological Crisis’.[i] In the article, White maintained that because modern science and technology are products of Western culture which has at its roots Christian attitudes and principles, and because Christianity is arrogant toward nature and views nature as having no reason for existence except to serve mankind, then Christianity bears a huge burden of guilt for our current ecological crisis.

In 1866, the term ecology was first coined by Ernst Haeckel (remember him- the guy who faked the drawings of embryos), from the Greek oikos, meaning ‘house’ or place-to-live[ii] and ology, study of. The study of ecology concerns the relationship of organisms which include both, interactions with each other and with the abiotic environment. The field is an integration of many sciences including geology, physics, chemistry and biology. These complex biotic and abiotic interactions comprise the ‘ecological system’ or ‘ecosystem’. The ecosystem concept was developed in the 1930s by English ecologist, George Tansley,[iii] and ecosystems can range in size from a drop of water to the biosphere, depending on where researchers want to draw their study boundaries.

As with all scientific disciplines, interpretations of ecosystem dynamics are often dependent on the presuppositions of the researchers, who are ultimately affected by their worldviews. Unfortunately, public school and university educators do this deliberately and end up producing a blend of scientific facts with worldview interpretations. The confused result is a belief that the creation/evolution issue is a war between science (evolution) and religion (creation). All observations are interpreted through the lens of a worldview.

I prefer to take the view that the issues surrounding ecosystem origins are not issues of science verses religion, but worldviews of materialistic naturalism verses biblical theism (supernaturalism).

The environment is understood to provide the selective forces needed in the concept of natural selection. Thus, understanding ecology would seem to be an important first step in understanding evolution. As relationships and conditions vary in a community, different selection pressures are imposed on its members. Thus, a community is dynamic with species varying over both space and time. Nevertheless, the concept of natural selection does not answer the question about how ecological relationships originated, except to invoke co-evolution as a universal underlying theme. It is supposed that as species evolved, so did ecology.

Coevolution is defined as: ‘… joint evolution of two or more non-interbreeding species that have a close ecological relationship; through reciprocal selective pressures, the evolution of one species in the relationship is partially dependent on the evolution of the other [emphasis added].’[iv] The problem is, since coevolution requires already existing ecological relationships, it cannot account for the origin of ecology.

It is possible for two species in close ecological relationship to refine their relationship through mutual selection, but this does not explain how they came to be ecologically related in the first place.

evolution vs creation timeline

Figure 1: Two views of the origin of ecology. In the evolutionary origin, there is little ecology at the beginning. It develops along with the proliferation of species. In the creationary origin, ecology is highly developed from the beginning, but it degenerates over time to where we are today.

Accumulating evidence from ecology and biodiversity studies suggests something quite different from gradual evolutionary accumulation of species and step by step development of what would eventually become essential ecological relationships. The current indispensable nature of many ‘ecological services’, and the relationships that provide them, suggests that, just as ecological services are necessary now, past ecosystems would also have needed them, but not necessarily in identical ways. Moreover, the essential nature of ecological relationships now does not appear to allow time for evolutionary development of ecology. Ecosystems would have failed many times over without the full range of ecological services (see Figure 1).

Biodiversity refers to the collection of species in ecosystems, different populations of those species with their genetic variations (estimated to number as many as 220 populations per species for an estimated total of between 1.1 and 6.6 billion populations world-wide[v]). In its greatest sense biodiversity is the collective ecological services all the populations provide. Taken together, these three entities produce an enormous amount of structural and functional variation and interdependence. Ecological linkages between organisms in ecosystems make it difficult to remove just one species.

No organism lives independently, but both gives to and takes from its environment. Thus, there is a range of interdependent organisms. Just as an individual body depends upon a division of labor among its cells, so an ecosystem depends upon division of labor across a diversity of organisms. Without biodiversity services, there would be no ecosystem and probably no life.

As the value of species in ecosystems started to became evident, then the complexity of services and the interdependence of species derived from those services, speak beyond the immediate needs of ecosystems to the origin of ecosystems and ecology and even of life itself. However, very few individuals have made such connections; the immediate conservation problem of the ‘endangered species of the moment’ has been the primary focus. In recent decades biodiversity information has been accumulating. Unfortunately, much of the information has come from ecosystem damage and destruction.[vi] That is, after species become extinct or rare, it has been easier to guess at what their ecological roles might have been. But only a short-sided ‘snap-shot’ can be produced, because we are unable to assess the entire biodiversity interactions of that species over a long period of time.

The portion of Scripture most quoted by critics who consider Christianity to be arrogant toward nature is found in Genesis:

And God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky, and over every living thing that moves on the earth”’ (Genesis 1:27–28).

These two verses tell us three critical points about the Christian and Biblical bases of land conservation and stewardship.

  1. Human beings did not evolve from non-human primates, but were created in the image of God. Men and women possess physical attributes that are not shared by animals, such as an erect posture, hands with a highly developed opposable thumb that can do work, faces capable of expressing great emotional feelings, and a brain and tongue capable of articulate speech. In addition humans posses spiritual attributes not present in animals, such as a moral consciousness, the ability to think abstractly, an understanding of beauty, emotion, and the capacity to know and worship God.
  2. Human beings are commanded by God to be fruitful and to populate the earth. Men, women and children are this world’s greatest resource, not its greatest liability. Estimates of the world’s human carrying capacity, that is, how many people this world can sustainably support, are meaningless unless we answer the question of how many people can be supported at what level of material affluence and habits of consumption. While the six-fold increase in world population over the past two centuries has been alarming (nothing as bad as Paul Ehrlich postulated), a clear picture of the worlds population and density can be found here. http://larrythecontrarian.wordpress.com/2014/05/28/todays-loser-2/ Be sure to look at the link at the bottom for graphic images.
  3. God entrusted humans to be the Earth’s stewards. To subdue the Earth and rule it, while not stated in today’s ‘required’ politically correct speech, is similar to the process of gardening. Gardening involves subduing and ruling a small patch of wild nature to yield a benefit useful to people. The Scriptures even tell us that it was God who planted the Garden of Eden as a home for the first man and woman (Genesis 2:8)—as if providing an example for us to follow. Humankind has been given the honor and privilege of managing and administering God’s creation, with the expectation that we will do it responsibly.

If Christianity is not to blame, then what is the root of our ecological crisis? Interestingly, the answer to that question—and a solution—can be found in an examination of the historic roots of the environmental movement itself.

George Perkins Marsh published Man and Nature, the first book to attack the myth of the superabundance and inexhaustibility of the earth. His legacy is honoured at Woodstock’s Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park in Vermont, the only US national park to focus on the theme of conservation history and the changing nature of land stewardship in America. The best known quote from Man and Nature is, ‘Man has too long forgotten that the earth was given to him for usufruct alone, not for consumption, still less for profligate waste.’[vii] Except for the use of the obscure legal term usufruct (in Roman-based legal systems, the temporary right to the use and enjoyment of the property of another, without changing the character of the property.), Marsh’s words are as powerful and relevant today as they were 137 years ago. They are also Biblically and theologically correct. Having defined the symptom, Marsh also correctly defined the cause as human indifference, short-sightedness, selfishness and greed.

Biblical Christianity, far from being the root of our ecological crisis, in fact offers not only a credible explanation for our ecological crisis but also the very solution to our ecological crisis. As the popular author Wendell Berry has stated it, our ecological crisis is a crisis of character, not a political or social crisis.[viii]

God’s command to have dominion and subdue creation has been misunderstood.[ix] People have used this verse as a justification for wonton environmental harm. In biblical theology, Christians are to manage and take care of that which is God’s. The Hebrew for ‘have dominion’ is רךה (radah) and ‘subdue it’ כבש(kabash), both carry the idea of being in charge.[x]

Why does Christianity not have the earth in perfect condition every where? Two reasons for it as far as I am concerned.

The first reason deals with Christianity’s unqualified embrace of the current economics of growth and consumerism. Traditional capitalism’s emphasis on work and the rewards of honest labor, restrained by Christianity and the Bible’s many admonishments against greed and covetousness, has produced great benefits for the good of society.

With Christianity now relegated to the edges of society, the economics of growth and consumerism are spiralling upwards, unchecked, driven by relentless advertising. It is putting forth a worldview based upon dissatisfaction and a craving that tells us we will be happier if we buy more things that wear out that we don’t really need, that provide only fleeting pleasure, and ultimately leaves us in greater debt. This has been at a disastrous cost to the human spirit and world ecology.

The second reason is a false assumption that this world does not matter in the eternal scheme of things. The minds and hearts of Christians (rightly so) should focused less on this life and more on the life to come. Biblical prophecy predicts the destruction of this world and the creation by God of a new heavens and a new earth. If this world and everything in it is headed for destruction, then why should we worry about some ecological degradation along the way? And that lays in the fault of many pastors for concentrating their focus more on the goodness of God and on living an obedient life than on sin. They are trying to teach Biblical principles in a simple way, emphasizing the power of love and a positive attitude.

Christian stewardship is based on the concept that everything we have was given to us—our health, our emotions, our intellect, our talents, the social and economic benefits into which we have been born, and all we do or earn or make with what God has given us—all ultimately are gifts from God for which we cannot take credit. In fact, because God created everything, He owns everything and they are only on loan to us. We are not owners but caretakers. And as the Biblical parable of the Talents[xi] tells us, we will be held accountable to God for what we do with the resources He has entrusted to us.

What are ethical Christians—as stewards of God’s creation—to do in light of the environmental challenges thrust upon us? We certainly are supposed to be taking care of creation, but I doubt that means that industrial and agricultural development should be stopped or severely restricted. Nor does it mean that the needs of human beings should be subjugated to the desire to maintain a pristine environment.

With respect to the environmental challenges mankind now faces, and with a fair assessment of what needs/should to be done, I believe the following principles should be taken into account:

  1. Is the problem definable. Can it be empirically and scientifically verified? Is the perceived problem really a problem or just a reaction to a ‘perceived’ problem? Is the scientific and factual basis still in dispute?
  2. Is the problem caused directly or indirectly by human action, or is it a result of natural processes or a combination of both?
  3. Is the cost (in money or human life, of human suffering) of fixing the problem greater than the cost of coping with the problem?
  4. Is the environmental impact or damage insignificant when compared with the overwhelming benefit it provides to human beings? For example, if we build a powerstation that services a city of several million people, does it really matter, in the grand scale of things, if we destroy the habitat of some obscure bird or animal?

These principles are based on the Christian belief in, and respect for, objective truth, and that human beings are God’s image bearers and the pinnacle of His creation

 Since the early 1960’s the “Precautionary Principle” has been the environmentalists best friend. The precautionary principle infers that if an action or policy has a suspected risk of causing harm to the public or to the environment, in the absence of scientific consensus that the action or policy is not harmful, the burden of proof that it is not harmful falls on those taking the action.

The principle implies that there is a social responsibility to protect the public from exposure to harm, when scientific investigation has found a plausible risk. These protections can be relaxed only if further scientific findings emerge that provide sound evidence that no harm will result.

On closer inspection, however, the Precautionary Principle makes little sense. One of the most basic principles of logic is that every effect has a cause. Yet the Precautionary Principle absurdly assumes that we can be absolutely certain of the effect, even though we are unsure about the cause. Further, the claim that the cost of drastic action to reverse the perceived problem is much less than the cost of not acting, is not only dubious in the extreme, it is totally myopic. Who exactly will be bearing this cost, and how much will it be? In has in the past lead to a much lower standard of living and massive unemployment.

In my opinion, environmentalists, both Christian and non-Christian, seem far too eager to make radical changes in governmental policy to affect the environment without any careful consideration of the impact on the lives of the people affected of those policy changes. Their demands for virtually immediate action without respect to the cost, both financial and in human life, appear, in many cases, to be motivated by a sense of moral superiority. Such people appear to be more interested in feeling good than actually doing good!

When Noah stepped out of the ark 4,500 years ago, the world had just gone through the most drastic change yet (except fot the Creation). God’s judgment on the his people, the land and its creatures was devastating and complete. That judgment has implications for how we interpret the current mechanisms of geologic processes, organism diversification and distribution (biogeography), and complex biological interactions. Insights learned from understanding the land within a biblical creation model have biblical implications and applications in origin of life assumptions, godly stewardship, human relations, world hunger, sustainable agriculture, and energy use among many more.

The more humans understand complex ecological inter-relationships within a creation ecology model, the better managers they will be of it. The potential is there to create opportunities for representing God, in the management of his resources, for the benefit of all.

[i] White, Jr., L., The historical roots of our ecological crisis, Science 155(3767):1203, 1967.

[ii] Spurr, S.H. and Barnes, B.V., Forest Ecology, 2nd Ed., John Wiley and Sons Inc., New York, p. 3, 1973

[iii] Floyd, D.W., Forest Sustainability: The History, The Challenge, The Promise, Forest History Society Issues Series, Durham, NC, p. 83, 2002.

[iv] Smith, R.L., Elements of Ecology, Harper Collins, New York, p. 3, 1992

[v] Calculations by Hughes, J.B., Daily, G.C. and Ehrlich, P.R., as cited in Science News 152(17):260, 1997.

[vi] Daily, G.C., Introduction: what are ecosystem services? in: Daily, ref. 9, p. 5

[vii] Marsh, G.P., Man and Nature (1864), Lowenthal, D. (Ed.), Harvard University Press, Cambridge, p. 36, 1965

[viii] Berry, W., The ecological crisis as a crisis of character; in: The Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture, Sierra Club Books, San Francisco, 1996

[ix] Genesis 1:28–30

[x] Wieland, C. and Sarfati, J., Earth day: is Christianity to blame for environmental problems? <creation.com/earth>.

[xi] See Matthew 25:14–30.

Biblical Discussions

Distinguishing Mystery from Contradiction

Each human language (both existing and extinct) has (or had) strengths and weaknesses. The size of the English vocabulary gives it great strength. Nearly 4 million words (including species names and biochemical terms) compared to just several thousand each for biblical Hebrew and Greek.

This great strength is also a weakness with respect to Bible translation, however, because English is rapidly changing. This can require an ocassional retranslations from the original biblical languages, while the huge difference in vocabulary size can sometimes require several different translations to faithfully and fully communicate the rich meaning, thought, and emotion in the Bible’s original texts. By no coincidence does the creation-day controversy rage most fiercely among English-speaking Christians. Such readers of the Bible may be unaware of the nuances of meaning in the various Hebrew verbs used to describe God’s creative activities in Genesis 1 and 2. With so many words available in English to describe long time periods (having specific start and end points), many readers don’t realize that in biblical Hebrew only one such word exists. Likewise, English readers may not know that many Hebrew nouns possess multiple, literal definitions. So to effectively understand the inerrant Word of God, one must study and be aware of the subtleties of biblical Hebrew and their impact on our understanding of Scripture.

As a computer software developer trained in logic, one fact of historic Christianity that leaves me intellectually wanting and desiring answers. That is the concept of mystery found within Christian theology. It is not the idea of mystery that troubles me, but rather my finite human nature that—by definition and according to historic Christianity—limits me from fully fathoming certain truths about God.

Nevertheless, my intellectual limitations afford me an opportunity to distinguish between the concepts of a logical contradiction and a theological mystery. As you continue to read my blog writings, I’ll gradually end up revealing the knowledge I have gathered to come to terms with the challenging dilemma that God defies complete human comprehension.

Logical Contradiction

A logical contradiction refers to two statements that negate or deny one another (A cannot equal A and equal non-A). Two contradictory statements cannot both be true at the same time and in the same way. Here’s an example of a logical contradiction:

Larry Marshall is a human being.

Larry Marshall is not a human being.

These two statements cannot both be true because they directly deny or negate one another. If one of these statements is true, then the opposite statement is necessarily false. Thus, we say in logic that they have opposite truth value. Contradictions are always false by their very nature. In other words, contradictions equal nonsense.

Theological Mystery

A theological mystery, on the other hand, is something very different. A mystery in Christian theology refers to something that is true but the finiteness of the human mind cannot fully comprehend it. The idea is meaningful and to some degree understandable, but ultimately defies full human comprehension. Here’s an example of one mystery from Christian theology:

Jesus Christ has a divine nature.

Jesus Christ has a human nature.

Both of these statements reflect Scriptural teaching and, according to theology, they also reflect orthodox Christian truth. While Christians believe these statements to be true, no one knows exactly or precisely how they are true. Finite creatures cannot fully comprehend how a single person can have two distinct natures (one divine and one human). The two natures that are one person (namely Jesus Christ) can be understood in a way that avoids contradiction.

Historic Christian theology holds that these two statements constitute a divine mystery. Thus the teaching of the Incarnation (Jesus Christ as God in human flesh) is a truth that conveys a meaningful reality but ultimately defies complete human comprehension.

All logical contradictions are mysterious nonsense, but not all mysteries are contradictions.

Contradictions are necessarily false while mysteries are true but cannot be fully fathomed. Christian theology is not alone in positing a variety of beliefs as true but unfathomable. For example, the scientific phenomenon of quantum mechanics, among other realities in the universe, is real and true but still lies beyond our full, finite human comprehension.

Furthermore, virtually everything that the God of the Bible has revealed about himself to human beings involves mystery. Such is the case because God is an infinite and eternal being while humans are finite and temporal beings. Here is a partial list of essential Christian theological beliefs entailing mystery: God’s attributes (such as his self-existence, immutability, and infinity), the Trinity, creation, the image of God in man, the Atonement, reincarnation. Whether we like it or not, all of God’s dealings with humankind involve some mystery.

Here are four points that has helped me attempt to understand the fact that God eludes my total comprehension:

1. God’s perfections make me aware of my need for humility.

2. The limitations of being human reminds me I need to pay careful attention to all that God has in His world and His Word.

3. Being made in the image of God allows me to appreciate God’s infinite perfections and my inherent finite limitations.

4. Knowing that God exceeds human comprehension means I cannot be dissatisfied in him or by him.

We can know and experience the one true and living God as he has made himself known to us—and still appreciate the truth that God, as an infinite being, will always defy human comprehension.

How’s that for a mystery we can all live with.

Biblical Discussions

Jonah and the ‘great fish’

jonah_and_whale

Is the story of ‘Jonah and the whale’ true history as Bible-believers claim, allegory as liberals allege, or nonsense as sceptics sneer? The Bible treats the story as true history. The book of Jonah is written as though it is real history. Jonah was a real prophet and is mentioned in 2 Kings 14:25. Jesus Himself believed the story of Jonah; He not only asserted that the Ninevites repented at the preaching of Jonah, but He also compared His own future death and resurrection to Jonah’s experience (Matthew 12:39–41; Luke 11:29–30). Henry Morris writes, ‘One cannot deny the factuality of Jonah’s experience, therefore, without charging the Lord Jesus Christ with either deception or ignorance, either of which is equivalent to denying His deity.’[1]

So we have to determine if it is really possible for someone to survive in the belly of a great fish in order to prove the Bible is a historical text. Since we were not there to evaluate it in person, we have to make some assumptions from existing evidence. This is similar to what evillutionists use to try to prove that certain animals lived millions of years after/before other animals, to prove that certain particles that make up matter can’t be measured but exist because their equations return the same values on both sides of the equal sign. We will do nothing more than apply the same techniques to reach our conclusion.

First we need to determine if there are any other credible reports of people surviving inside a large fish. If so, then the Biblical account would be possible.

There is no doubt that there are sea creatures with jaws large enough to swallow a man whole. See photograph taken at Underwater World, Mooloolaba, in Queensland, Australia. And in the movie Jaws the fishing-boat owner Quint is swallowed whole by the shark, but no one seems to have taken exception to this.

Jonah_jaws

There is an oft-quoted story concerning a certain James Bartley, when he was a harpooner on the whale-ship Star of the East, in 1891, under the command of Captain Killam, near the Falkland Islands. In the course of a whale hunt, Bartley fell into the sea and disappeared. The whale was killed and the next day, when the sailors cut it open, they were amazed to find Bartley still alive in the whale’s stomach. He was revived and in time recovered from his experience. The report says, ‘During his sojourn in the whale’s stomach Bartley’s skin, where exposed to the action of the gastric juice, underwent a striking change. His face, neck, and hands were bleached to a deadly whiteness, and took on the appearance of parchment. Bartley affirms that he would probably have lived inside his house of flesh until he starved, for he lost his senses through fright and not from lack of air.’[2]

This story is said to have first appeared in October 1892, in the English newspaper Great Yarmouth Mercury. It was then reprinted in other papers, and was included by Sir Francis Fox in his book, Sixty-three Years of Engineering, Scientific and Social Work, published in 1924.

Dr Harry Rimmer, D.D., Sc.D., tells of personally meeting a sailor who fell overboard from a trawler in the English Channel and was swallowed by a gigantic Rhincodon whale shark. The entire trawler fleet set out to hunt the shark down and, 48 hours after the accident, the shark was sighted and slain with a one-pound deck gun. The carcass was too heavy for the ship’s winches to handle, so the crew towed it to shore, intending to give their friend a Christian burial. When the shark was opened, the man was found unconscious but alive. He was rushed to hospital, where he was found to be suffering from shock alone, and was later discharged. He was on exhibit in a London museum at a shilling admission, and was advertised as ‘The Jonah of the Twentieth Century’.[3]

If you took first-year zoology at a university you would learn that sharks are able to control their digestive systems—not automatic like ours—and something swallowed was not necessarily digested for days, even a week.

So there we have it! Two separate and well documented instances of a human surviving in the “belly of a great fish.” Therefore the Biblical account of Jonah is possible, other-other similar events have occurred since. That is something that evillutionists don’t have- reproducibility. Not only do they have no evidence in written history of any one species morphing into another species; they insist on us believing them (by faith) about the huge hypothetical particles that ‘would form giant globs of “fuzzy” cold dark matter’ that makes our universe work.

Jonah is probable because it is written about and verified from different points of view in the scriptures.

The Hebrew word translated ‘fish’ in Jonah 1:17 and 2:10 is ‘dag’. Scholars understand this word to include the whales, marine reptiles, and other sea creatures, many of which were (and some still are!) large enough to swallow a man whole.

Suppose someone today were to be swallowed by a great fish and later regurgitated alive. Some might consider it a ‘miracle’, though many might attribute it merely to fortuitous coincidence. But what if the sea changed from tempestuous to calm immediately upon the man going overboard (Jonah 1:15)? And what if he was in the fish for days (Jonah 1:17b)? And what if the fish went right up to the shore before vomiting him out (Jonah 2:10b)? Factors like these show that Jonah’s experience was no mere chance coincidence of natural events. In fact the Scriptures explicitly record God’s supernatural intervention in this sequence of events (Jonah 1:17a, 2:10a). There is no real need to make the account ‘fit’ the capabilities of any of today’s sea creatures, since the Bible tells us that God specially prepared this creature (Jonah 1:17a).

Why should God have gone to such extraordinary lengths, humanly speaking, with respect to Jonah? The answer has to be that good and sufficient reason is seen in the necessity of God’s getting the message of redemption to the people of Nineveh. Indeed, the whole story prefigures the lengths to which God went in order for Him to be able to redeem us, namely the sacrifice of His only Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, upon the Cross of Calvary and His resurrection from the dead, that we might be reconciled to God (1 Peter 1:18–19).

[1] Henry Morris and Martin Clark, The Bible Has the Answer, Creation-Life Publishers, El Cajon (California), 1976, p. 74.

[2] Sidlow Baxter, Explore the Book, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, 1966, Vol. 4, p. 153

[3] Harry Rimmer, The Harmony of Science and Scripture, Eerdman’s, Grand Rapids (Michigan), 1952, pp. 188–189.