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Hello, you’ve come to the home of the HillBilly Logician, Tony Vance.  Please take some time to look over the BLOG posts here, there is much on theology and apologetics, as well as church life from a HillBilly’s point of view.

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Defending Your Faith: A Review (PART 1)

I recently came across an apologetics book by R. C. Sproul from 2003 that I think is a valuable and effective tool for learning and understanding apologetics.

“Dr. R.C. Sproul was founder of Ligonier Ministries, an international Christian education ministry located near Orlando, Fla. In addition, he was copastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., first president of Reformation Bible College, and executive editor of Tabletalk magazine.”[i]

Dr. Sproul went to be with Jesus about a year ago (December 14, 2017), but his ministry will continue for many years to come.  He was one of the Reform Camp’s most ardent defenders of Calvinism and the Reformed doctrines, and he was a classical apologist.   His debate with Dr. Greg Bahnsen on classical (Sproul defended) versus presuppositional (Bahsen defended) apologetics is a classic.  The book, Defending Your Faith: An Introduction to Apologetics,[ii] is readily available in bookstores and on Amazon.  A new or used copy is something I would recommend you get, as it can be a very useful resource, especially for newcomers to apologetics.

I will be taking a few weeks to preview the book and hope it encourages someone to use this very valuable resource.  In this review, I will be looking at the first 2 sections (that covers chapters 1-8) of his book.

 

INTRODUTION

Sproul’s purposes for the book are laid out in the introduction, one particular quote is telling;

“My hope is that people will begin to see that both rational inquiry and empirical research serve to support the truth claims of Christianity and do not undermine it. I share the biblical conviction that it is the fool who says there is no God (Ps. 14:1; 53:1). The wise of this world are thereby shown not to be so wise after all.”[iii]

He also lays out the point or purpose of the book;

“In this book I restrict my concern to the two most crucial issues of apologetics: the existence of God and the authority of the Bible. These are not the most crucial questions of all; the issue of the person and work of Christ is more important ultimately than the question of the authority of the Bible. But from the standpoint of apologetics the strategic priority of the defense of Scripture is clear. If the Bible is established as carrying the weight of divine authority, then its teaching on the person and work of Christ is thereby confirmed.

Defending the faith to the best of our ability is not a luxury or an indulgence in intellectual vanity. It is the task given to each one of us as we bear witness to our faith before the world. I hope this book will help the reader to that end.”[iv]

I think Sproul is right that the centrality of Christ is of the UTMOST importance but practically the “authority of the Bible” (I would say reliability) is of the greatest concern of the unbeliever/skeptic.  Of course, if God exists then the raising of Jesus from the dead is of little to no problem.

 

THE APOLOGETIC TASK

The first section of his book is the WHAT of apologetics.  Of course, he goes immediately to 1 Peter 3:14-16 as the introduction of the WHAT.  The first section is divided further into Chapter 1, ‘The task of apologetics’ and chapter 2, ‘Apologetics and saving faith’.  He notes, in regard to 1 Peter 3:14-16, “In this passage we see the reason for and importance of engaging in the task of apologetics.”[v]  Sproul was an ardent defender and champion of the faith.  As we move into the later part of Section 1 we notice his advice;

“Apologetics, however, does not just entail defense. It also involves offense, the positive task of constructing a case for Christianity that shows itself to be applicable to every culture, as well as being the only (and therefore the best) alternative to the world’s philosophical and theological systems of thought. In other words, apologetics can be used to show that Christianity is true and that all non-Christian worldviews are false.”[vi]

I, too, think that apologetics is basically offense and defense, we are either making a case or defending our position.  I think the heart of the man is bore out in his statement here;

“Apologetics, for this reason, is not merely about winning an argument. It is about winning souls. The old aphorism rings true: “People convinced against their will hold the same opinions still.” That is why, for example, if a Christian were to “win” an intellectual debate with a non-Christian, the victory celebration may never take place. The non-Christian might concede defeat, though usually not until his head hits his pillow at the end of the day. This may never translate into conversion, but there is some value to this aspect of “winning” an argument.”[vii]

The second chapter of the first section deals with Sproul’s heart for evangelism, and hopefully the reasons any are participating in apologetics, at all.  He gives us the three ‘levels’ of faith spoken of in the sixteenth century, notitia (sometimes called the notei), assensus, and fiducia.  He explains;

“…fiducia is personal trust and reliance, that aspect of faith that involves a genuine affection for Christ that flows out of a new heart and a new mind. It is the fiducia level of saving faith that can be engendered only by the work of the Spirit. It is with the first two—notitia and assensus—that the apologetic task has to do…

The first element of faith is notitia. When we say that we are justified by faith, the faith that justifies has to have a content…

The second element of faith is assensus. This is simply the Latin word for intellectual assent. If I ask, “Do you believe that George Washington was the first president of the United States?” what would you say? Yes! That doesn’t mean that you have put your personal faith and trust in George Washington. I’ve just asked you if you believe in George Washington in the sense of whether your mind gives assent to the proposition “George Washington was the first president of the United States.””[viii]

I couldn’t agree more than with his statement on how the notitia and assensus aspects of faith work (though we may disagree with the ‘way’ fiducia ‘works’);

“If we gain a correct understanding of the content (notitia) and assent to its truth (assensus), however, this does not add up to saving faith. The devil knows the truth about Christ, yet he hates him. Notitia and assensus are necessary conditions for saving faith (we can’t have saving faith without them), but they are not sufficient to save us.

Apologetics serves a vital task at the level of clarifying the content of Christianity and defending its truth. This cannot cause saving faith but it has a vital role in supporting the necessary ingredients of saving faith.”[ix]

Sproul also deals with an issue we see more and more often; the idea that faith is ‘blind’.

“The Bible never tells us to take a leap of faith into the darkness and hope that there’s somebody out there. The Bible calls us to jump out of the darkness and into the light. That is not a blind leap. The faith that the New Testament calls us to is a faith rooted and grounded in something that God makes clear is the truth.”[x]

Sadly, many Christians DO practice a type of ‘blind’ faith.  Many times, I’ve personally heard some one encourages another, “Just have faith!”  Sproul takes them to task for it;

“Sometimes we would rather duck the responsibility of doing our homework, of wrestling with the problems and answering the objections, and simply say to people, “Oh, you just have to take it all in faith.” That’s the ultimate cop-out. That doesn’t honor Christ. We honor Christ by setting forth for people the cogency of the truth claims of Scripture, even as God himself does. We must take the trouble to do our work before the Spirit does his work, because the Spirit does not ask people to put their trust and faith and affection in nonsense or absurdity.”[xi]

 

PRINCIPLES OF KNOWLEDGE

Section 2 of Sproul’s book deals with epistemology.  Epistemology is the study of *how* we obtain knowledge.  It is a very important aspect of an apologist’s arsenal of weapons.  It matters how one *thinks* he obtains knowledge.  Sproul spends a good deal of the book on the various aspects of knowledge, chapters 3-8.  Sproul states, “Before we can begin formulating a defense, however, we must first grapple with the questions “How do we know what we know?” and “How can we verify or falsify a coherent apology of the Christian faith?” Christians often respond to these questions with an attempt to offer some basis or ground of knowledge (epistemology).”[xii]  With that said, Sproul acknowledges this is debated within ‘Christian Circles’, “One group might argue that the only adequate apologetic method is one rooted and grounded in historical information, that is, facts known through the five senses. Others contend that the senses can often be mistaken, thereby deceiving those who would rely too heavily upon them.”[xiii]

Sproul goes on to explore what he calls four principles of knowledge, which is covered in Section 2.  Sproul uses four areas that atheistic philosophers and skeptics have attacked in one way or another, and he lays out the four principles and their importance;

“1) the law of noncontradiction; 2) the law of causality; 3) the basic (although not perfect) reliability of sense perception; and 4) the analogical use of language. Many of the attempts by atheists to destroy the case for God include a rejection of these foundational laws or grounds of obtaining knowledge. The main reason for my focusing on these nonnegotiable principles is so that Christians may be encouraged not to negotiate them when defending the faith. Rejecting any one of these principles could prove fatal to the believer’s case for God. And many Christian apologists are guilty of doing just this.”[xiv]

Sproul then proceeds in the chapters that follow to lay out the importance (and the *what*) of each principle.  He lays out his ‘game-plan’;

“In chapter 4 we will consider in depth the law of noncontradiction. We will pause in chapter 5 to examine the important distinctions among the concepts of contradiction, paradox, and mystery. Then we will resume our discussion with a look at causality (chapter 6), the basic reliability of sense perception (chapter 7), and the analogical use of language as it relates to our ability to know our Creator and respond to him in saving faith (chapter 8).”[xv]

Sproul then goes into adequate depth to explore the 4 areas that he notes are vital to rational discourse as well as apologetics.  His summary, at the end of chapter 8, is a good place for us to conclude in our review;

“Virtually every attack against theism involves a rejection of one or more of the four basic necessary principles for human knowledge: 1) the law of noncontradiction, 2) the law of causality, 3) the basic reliability of sense perception, 4) the adequacy of human language to communicate. All four of these principles are assumed throughout the Bible. They are also assumed in the scientific method. They are all necessary instruments for knowledge—indeed for all science.

All denials of these basic principles are forced and temporary. People deny them only when they have a vested interest in their denial. But these denials do not last long. They cannot last long, for these principles are necessary for surviving as living creatures.”[xvi]

 

CONCLUSION

I will be returning to Sproul’s work at a future date, sprinkling some other articles in between review articles.  Again, I can’t emphasize enough the value you will find in this book.  The paperback version has 220 pages, so it is not quite an academic endeavor, and Sproul was an academic.  It is long enough, in my opinion, to adequately cover the subject(s) it intends to cover.

[i] https://www.ligonier.org/about/rc-sproul/

[ii] The version I will be using is an eBook in my Wordsearch Bible program, Defending Your Faith: An Introduction to Apologetics, Copyright © 2003 by R. C. Sproul. Database © 2006 WORDsearch Corp. (there are no ‘page’ numbers, but I will reference the chapters and sections any quotes may be in)

[iii] Defending Your Faith: An Introduction to Apologetics, (Introduction)

[iv] Ibid

[v] Ibid (Section 1, Chapter 1)

[vi] Ibid

[vii] Ibid

[viii] Ibid (Section 1, Chapter 2)

[ix] Ibid

[x] Ibid

[xi] Ibid

[xii] Ibid (Section 2, Chapter 3)

[xiii] Ibid

[xiv] Ibid

[xv] Ibid

[xvi] Ibid (Section 2, Chapter 8)

The Bible has the first Zombie story?

One of the most controversial passages relating to the resurrection story, and of all the scriptures, is: “And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose,  And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.”[i]  This passage has been referred to by many skeptics/agnostics/atheists as a proof of the unreliability of scripture as well as a strike against the resurrection narrative.  One of the reasons is that Matthew’s interpolation of this into his narrative has no other independent attestation, or any other Biblical writer for that matter.  The argument can be summed up as, if this happened then it would have been mentioned by others, secular or sacred.  Surely a ‘Walking Dead’ scenario in 1st Century Israel would have caused a great stir.

I think there are at least three common interpretations of this passage, and one additional- I am proposing here (and have proposed before).  Before I get to the common ones, and my idea, let’s look at what the passage said, and more importantly-what it didn’t.  Some have argued that the passage claims others arose before Christ, which it doesn’t say.  Our text states the graves were opened at Jesus’ death, then they arose at His resurrection.  Another common thought is that the “saints” were Old Testament ones.  There is nothing in the text that tends to point to that, and it seems an inference without merit.  Another point that needs mentioning before I get to the explanations, the word “many” which is πολύς (polys) in the Greek is simply a reference to plural, which could have been two or more.[ii]  Let’s look at the four possible meanings of the passage, that are proposed.

 

IT DIDN’T HAPPEN

addition black and white black and white chalk
Photo by George Becker on Pexels.com

This is the most problematic and favorite one of skeptics.  For proponents of inspiration/inerrant/reliability of scripture, this would be the most problematic.  If we believe Matthew was inspired, then what he recorded was actually what happened, or at least a version of it.  Skeptics will often use this passage as a blow against the resurrection story.  Their argument goes something like, “if all these saints were walking around don’t you think someone else would have wrote about it.”  As I mentioned above, the number of resurrected saints is not mentioned in Matthew’s passage, nor how many witnessed it, as the word “many” used could be as few as two or three.  Who these saints are and who they appeared to are a mystery (though good reason to believe that Matthew was one!), and it is a hard passage to use in apologetics.

 

IT HAPPENED

smiling woman wearing white and beige showing thumbs up
Photo by Public Domain Pictures on Pexels.com

Matthew recorded many things we take for granted (Bible-believers, that is), and as a historical document Matthew’s gospel is held in high regard by some skeptics.  The ‘Sermon on the Mount’ recorded earlier in Matthew’s account is regarded as a moral standard by Christians and non-Christians alike.  It seems as if Matthew throws this passage in as a side item, a parenthetical addition to the story.  In context it is interesting.  We have a few things mentioned before our text in Matthew’s account; Jesus crying aloud (vs. 50), the temple veil torn (vs. 52), and darkness (vs. 45), mentioned by other Gospel writers.  Jesus crying aloud, before His death, is found also in Mark 15:37 and Luke 23:46.  The temple veil torn is mentioned in Mark 15:38 and Luke 23:45.  Finally, the darkness, is mentioned in Mark 15:33 and Luke 23:44.  There are other things mentioned by the three synoptic gospels that are mentioned in one or two that are not mentioned in all three.  This is not unusual in and of its self.  The issue, of course, is this a LITERAL resurrection of other saints, no matter who or how many there were?  This leads us to our third interpretation.

 

IT IS A METHAPHOR/APOCALYPTIC IMAGERY

road nature trees branches
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

There are some very highly respected apologists (e.g. Dr.’s William Lane Craig and Michael Licona) that think this passage is not speaking of a literal resurrection of saints (whether they be Old Testament or not) but is a classic example of Jewish apocalyptic writing that the books of Revelations and Daniel are examples of.  We know that there are various things in Revelations (as well as Daniel) not intended to be literal (multi-headed beasts and dragons, for example), but were intended to be shown as symbolic.  Of course, this assumes that the readers would know (and the First Century readers may have) this was meant as symbolism.  This seems the easiest interpretation to defend, yet, it may be the hardest to prove.  It seems as if in context, that is to say as it is placed within the narrative, it is speaking of something that happened-right there in Jerusalem.  This leads me to my most controversial or at least the least supported position.

 

IT HAPPENED (OR WILL), JUST NOT HERE

body of water and gray sky
Photo by Josh Sorenson on Pexels.com

The term “holy city” is used by Matthew only two times, here in our text, and in Matthew 4:5, when satan took Jesus to the pinnacle in His temptations.  It seems reasonable to believe that Matthew did mean Jerusalem in Matthew 4, so we assume it is also the case here in chapter 27.  There is no reason to think that it refers to anything else but Jerusalem, except maybe not the earthly/old one.  In checking how often the phrase “holy city” is used, it occurs only 5 times in all of the New Testament (KJV).  Clearly two, Matthew 4:5 and Revelations 11:2, seem to refer to the earthly Jerusalem while two others, Revelation 21:2 and 22:19, clearly refer to the ‘New’ Jerusalem that will be of eternal existence.  I posit that Matthew may have been, under inspiration, referring to the ‘New’ Jerusalem in our text.  A simple search of other English translations (besides just the KJV) shows one other reference to a “holy city” in Revelations 21:10, which the KJV refers to as the “holy Jerusalem” clearly pointing to the celestial not earthly one.  My only ‘strong’ scriptural support comes from a much-debated passage.  There is a very strange passage, which states very cryptically, “By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison.”[iii]

The context in which the passage in 1 Peter seems to be during the crucifixion (the time frame) and Jesus seemed to be speaking to Old Testament Saints, “Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.”[iv]  Obviously, many will point to the belief that Peter was not speaking of Christ in limbo (between the crucifixion and resurrection) preaching ‘literally’ to OT saints.  No, they will say that Christ ‘preached’ thru Noah to those Peter are referring to, but that seems to not fit “the spirits in prison.”  Many scholars believe prior to Christ’s resurrection there was a holding place, ‘Paradise’ or even ‘Abraham’s bosom’ (some even believe a section of ‘Hell’), in which OT saints were kept until the time Christ triumphed over death.  Jesus referenced some kind of authority over death and even Hell, “I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.”[v]  What if Matthew is actually referring to OT Saints, raised from their spirit prison; a chamber of Hell, paradise, or Abraham’s bosom, entering the ‘New’ Jerusalem.  Now I know one objection would be the New Jerusalem has not yet been created.  First, I’m not sure that is true, and second, if it is a still future Jerusalem, maybe Matthew is speaking prophetically of that event, too.

 

CONCLUSION

I think this passage causes many people difficulty.  Christians find themselves trying to defend the idea that multiple resurrections were not attested to but here in Matthew.  First, because it isn’t spoken of in any other writing doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.  Second, this is not a passage that makes the case of Christ’s resurrection valid or invalid.   Finally, this passage becomes a straw man, a red herring of sorts, to deflect the truth of the resurrection.  Apologists, and other Christians, struggle with this passage, as it is a very perplexing one, hard to discern the exact meaning (but I’ve tried to give at least 4).  Just to be clear, and to be fully disclosed as to my position, I believe in the literal “It Happened” interpretation.  I actually could defend these other positions, except the “Didn’t Happen.”  I think the passage, given to us by the Holy Spirit, has purpose and value.  Don’t let it be a stumbling block to your faith, nor allow it to be an issue that brings difficulty.   We defend the resurrection of Christ and have many evidences to back up our belief.  This Matthew passage in chapter 27 shouldn’t be a problem to our belief in Christ’s resurrection. Hopefully this article gives you some thoughts as to how this passage could be understood.  Take time to think thru these verses, as well as the whole of scripture.  There are always ways to look at passages that you may not have considered before.

[i] Matthew 27:52-53 (KJV)

[ii] Strong’s Talking Greek & Hebrew Dictionary #4183

[iii] 1 Peter 3:19 (KJV)

[iv] 1 Peter 3:20 (KJV)

[v] Revelation 1:18 (KJV)

Tyre: a powerful evidence for GOD

Tyre is a one of the most powerful evidences we have of the inspiration of the Bible and of God Himself.  Prophecy is one of the most outstanding evidences we can point to and demonstrate that if they are true (that they were predicted and were fulfilled) then it is powerful evidence of God’s existence…and that we have His Word!  Tyre has some very clear pronouncements upon it, measurable and falsifiable.  That is to say, the prophecy that concerns Tyre is not very ambiguous in its pronouncements.  We will look at the prophecy, found in Ezekiel 26, that some skeptics claim has not been fulfilled.  We will show how that INDEED it was fulfilled, every last detail.

 

TYRE

tyre modern

Tyre was a Phoenician city founded approximately 4000(+) years ago.  It sits on the coast of modern-day Lebanon and has a long history in the Biblical accounts.   It was an important port for commerce.  Many shops and places of business were found in Tyre up until it was “deserted by its inhabitants in a.d. 1291 upon the conquest of Acre (Ptolemais) by the sultan of Egypt and Damascus.”[i]  Because of its strategic (being a sea port) importance numerous battles and conquest were carried out there, including sieges by Nebuchadnezzar and Alexander the Great, to name a few.

“The name means ‘rock’ and the city consisted of two parts, the main trade centre on an island, and ‘old Tyre’, about a half mile opposite on the mainland. The old city, known as Ushu, was founded c. 2750 BCE and the trade centre grew up shortly after. In time, the island complex became more prosperous and populated than Ushu and was heavily fortified.”[ii]

One of Tyre’s most famous exports was its purple dye. “This purple dye was highly valued and held royal connotations in the ancient world. It also gave the Phoenicians their name from the Greeks – Phoinikes – which means “purple people”.”[iii]  Tyre would serve as a hub of the ancient world even garnering the attention of Jesus, “Then began he to upbraid the cities wherein most of his mighty works were done, because they repented not: Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you.”[iv]

 

PROPHECY

tyre prophecy

One place Tyre is mentioned is a very powerful evidence of the inspiration of the Bible (and thus of God): Ezekiel 26:1-21.  There are very detailed things that God (through the prophet Ezekiel) said would happen to Tyre.  I want to highlight some of the most obvious things that are said that WOULD happen and see if they DID happen.  Interestingly the prophecy even names a particular person that would be part of the fulfillment of the prophecy, “For thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I will bring upon Tyrus Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon, a king of kings, from the north, with horses, and with chariots, and with horsemen, and companies, and much people.”[v]   Side note, Tyrus is the same as Tyre, the Hebrew word actually comes from a word that means rock (presumably because of the land features of Tyre).  It is translated in the English versions (like the King James) both as Tyrus and Tyre.

So, first thing we can ask is, did Nebuchadnezzar actually attack Tyre?  Let’s go to the history books or websites(!).  “The city had once been besieged by Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylon for 13 years without falling.”[vi]  Of course skeptics have noted that the prophecy ‘claims’ Nebuchadnezzar would destroy and overtake Tyre.  Careful reading of the text is important, notice, “Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I am against thee, O Tyrus, and will cause many nations to come up against thee, as the sea causeth his waves to come up.”[vii]  The prophecy claims that “many nations” will rise up against the city of Tyre.  History records multiple attacks from Nebuchadnezzar to Acre (Ptolemais), including one of the most famous generals/military leaders of all-time…Alexander the Great.

Alexander’s siege of Tyre was a work of genius.  Alexander’s actions are directly recorded in the prophecy.  For example, he took parts of the ‘old’ city that were on the mainland and dumped them into the sea to build a causeway to the island section of the ‘new’ city, that had become the main part of the city.  The prophecy states, “And they shall make a spoil of thy riches, and make a prey of thy merchandise: and they shall break down thy walls, and destroy thy pleasant houses: and they shall lay thy stones and thy timber and thy dust in the midst of the water.”[viii]  The causeway Alexander built is still there.  It was used by Alexander to plunder the remaining part of the city (on the island), “After forcing their way through this breach, other forces found access over the walls and through the harbors and the city was quickly taken. Alexander and the men were furious after a long and bitter siege and most of the city was massacred or sold into slavery.”[ix]

 

GONE?

tyre seige

Is Tyre gone?  Let’s look at a particular part of the prophecy, “I will make thee a terror, and thou shalt be no more: though thou be sought for, yet shalt thou never be found again, saith the Lord GOD.”  Many will point to this passage and state that it is wrong.  “Tyre is an ancient Phoenician city and the legendary birthplace of Europa and Dido (Elissa). Today it is the fourth largest city in Lebanon after Beirut, Tripoli, Aley and Sidon.”[x]  Tyre is in existence today!  The prophecy failed!  But let’s take a closer look.  First, what was Tyre?  In Ezekiel’s day it was a Phoenician city, and I will add the most prominent, at least at one point in its history.  Tyre was NOT a Phoenician city in Jesus day, when He spoke of her, “But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you.”[xi]  It was under Roman rule (and arguably an independent city, yet still under their rule).

The idea of a Tyre of the Phoenician’s has long been gone.  Many say since 1291 or even before there has existed no such city!  I would actually argue that Tyre ended much earlier, “After the fall of Tyre, the other city-states followed and surrendered to Alexander’s rule, thus ending the Phoenician Civilization and ushering in the Hellenistic Age.”[xii]   It is important to note the city the prophecy relates to, Tyre of the Phoenicians, not Tyre of the Hellenistic period or Tyre of Lebanon.  Phoenicia never recovered as a nation, though the culture, language, sea-faring trade, and such would be influential for centuries to come.

 

CONCLUSION

Tyre that Ezekiel spoke of would fall as a power and a city as various nations and conquerors sieged their city.  Today you can go to Lebanon and visit a city called ‘Tyre’ which is not the city Ezekiel spoke of.  Phoenicia has long been dismantled, even before Jesus’ day, and the prophecy that we have highlighted was clearly fulfilled.  This is one of the best examples of Biblical inspiration as prophecy was fulfilled.

[i] Smith, William, Smith’s Bible Dictionary: Comprising Antiquities, Biography, Geography, Natural History, Archaeology and Literature, Database © 2007 WORDsearch Corp.

[ii] Mark, Joshua J., ‘Tyre’, https://www.ancient.eu/Tyre/

[iii] ibid

[iv] Matthew 11:20-22 (KJV)

[v] Ezekiel 26:7 (KJV)

[vi] McLaughlin, William, ‘Great Sieges of the Ancient World: Tyre’, https://www.warhistoryonline.com/war-articles/great-sieges-ancient-world-tyre.html

[vii] Ezekiel 26:3 (KJV)

[viii] Ezekiel 26:12 (KJV)

[ix] McLaughlin, ‘Great Sieges…’

[x] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tyre,_Lebanon

[xi] Matthew 11:22 (KJV)

[xii] Mark, Joshua J. “Phoenicia.” Ancient History Encyclopedia. Ancient History Encyclopedia, 19 Mar 2018. Web. 25 Mar 2019.

GOD SPOKE

There are three sperate incidents recorded in the biographies of Jesus, we call the Gospels[i].  Though not widely accepted by many scholars, for the purpose of this article, we will note for the sake of argument that Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John wrote their respective accounts.  Two of the incidents we will mention are recorded in three of the Gospels, while one is recorded in John only.  I think there is some insightful information in the accounts and what they demonstrate about Jesus of Nazareth and His relationship with YHWH[ii].  Many, such as the authors of the Gospels, were witnesses to these incidents and would later recount them, “For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount.”[iii]

The quote above talks of hearing a “voice” described as coming from “the excellent glory.”  We may say that they heard a ‘voice from Heaven’!  Multiple attestations of the events, especially the first two, gives us good reasons to believe the incidents occurred.[iv]  John records the final time YHWH spoke about Jesus.  This incident, found only in John’s Gospel, is useful also as John’s account is not the ONLY time YHWH spoke about Jesus in an apparent audible voice.[v]  Let’s look at these different accounts and see what they tell us about Jesus.  Admittedly, there is some theological importance in these episodes, but the apologetic value is rich, as well.

 

THE BAPTISM

baptism

All three of the synoptic[vi] Gospels record the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist; Matthew chapter 3, Mark chapter 1, and Luke chapter 3.[vii]  They all record YHWH speaking about Jesus, “And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”[viii]  Also, “And it came to pass in those days, that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized of John in Jordan. And straightway coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon him: And there came a voice from heaven, saying, Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”[ix]  Finally we have, “Now when all the people were baptized, it came to pass, that Jesus also being baptized, and praying, the heaven was opened, And the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon him, and a voice came from heaven, which said, Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased.”[x]

You should notice the similarities in the accounts, each mention “beloved Son” and that in Jesus YHWH said, “I am well pleased.”  I think the idea that YHWH has a Son was a foreign idea to the Jews of Jesus’ day.  I think it is fascinating that God spoke of Jesus as His BELOVED.  YHWH could have simply said, “This is my SON…” and the idea of Jesus as God’s Son is still being emphasized.  Why then use the qualifier of beloved?  This gets to the heart of the importance of the Trinity as a doctrine and concept of God.  That God exists as a Trinity is a doctrine the Christian Church has held, nearly from the beginning.  Most of the earliest heresies condemned in the early Church Councils dealt with the idea of the Trinity.  There is an important aspect of the Trinity that is often overlooked and a strong evidence that God is exactly as the Bible describes.

For love to be a part of God’s nature He must have had a recipient of His love.  If you love yourself, it is usually a form of selfishness, and God is not selfish.  Love could exist if the God-head was composed of three distinct persons.  Jesus spoke of the love between He and His Father, “… for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world.”[xi]  YHWH was informing us that the Son that was now being presented to Israel as their Messiah was none other than the Son He had loved from eternity past!  He declared that it was His “beloved Son” coming out of the water, not someone that just had become acquainted with God.  There was a relationship that was loving and intimate between God the Father and God the Son.[xii]

The second part of YHWH’s declaration is that Jesus was someone the Father was well pleased with.  This seems a little premature, as most argue (Christian’s especially) Jesus’ mission seems to be a trip to a Roman cross and emerging from a borrowed tomb.  In what sense would the Father be ‘well-pleased’ with His Son here?  We ignore the fact that Jesus has already sacrificed much of His ‘God-ness’ in coming to rescue mankind from the sin-stained world He entered.  It seems God is ‘well-pleased’ that His Son has gone thru with the plan that was agreed upon by the God-head from eternity past.  We know this from another place, “And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.”[xiii]  This passage indicates that Jesus’ death, as a symbolic lamb slain in the sacrifice, was intended even before Adam had sinned!

 

MOUNT OF TRANSFIGURATION

transfiguration

The synoptics record in Matthew 17 and Mark and Luke the 9th chapters, that Jesus ascended a mountain and was ‘transformed’ before them, “And was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light.”[xiv]  This incident was witnessed by Peter (as well as James and John the sons of Zebedee) and the quote at the beginning of the article is Peter’s recounting of it.  YHWH offers something different in this ‘speech’, “While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him.”[xv]  We see the repeat of “beloved Son” and being “pleased” with Him.  YHWH adds another component, a command, if you will, “hear ye him.”

The Hebrew writer expresses this idea, “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds.”[xvi]  It seems YHWH had put His ‘stamp-of-approval’ upon Jesus’ ministry, so to speak.  We could say that Jesus was (is) the culmination of God’s plan beginning in the Garden when He declared, “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.”  Many scholars agree that God’s curse here was more than ‘woman-kind’ and ‘snake-kind’ at war with one another.  This was a reference to one (notice the term “seed” not seeds) that would be, yes, “bruised” by satan’s attacks (“heel” as in not necessarily lethal).  In turn, Christ would come and CRUSH (one translation of the Hebrew word translated “bruised”) satan’s head (think power!).

 

BEFORE THE CRUCIFIXION

Jesus-Crucified

The last incident is a few days before the cross, according to the timeline that seems to be laid out for us, “Father, glorify thy name. Then came there a voice from heaven, saying, I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.”[xvii]  In what ways would YHWH “glorify” His name (presumably thru Jesus)?  Jesus, I believe, interprets that ‘cryptic’ message for us, “Jesus answered and said, This voice came not because of me, but for your sakes. Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me. This he said, signifying what death he should die.”[xviii]  The last part of the verse is John’s interpolation into the scene, a commentary of sorts.  Jesus tells us God will be glorified in His being “lifted up from the earth.”  His descriptive language is clearly pointing to the cross, as He would be placed upon a Roman cross and ‘lifted’ up, for all to see.  We know many thought Jesus’ end at the cross was a defeat.

The cross would serve as the “judgement of this world” Jesus noted. We know God’s plan was to have Jesus die for the sins of the whole world.  This judgment would be a ‘marker’, a ‘sign-post’, that “all men” (who are drawn to it, Jesus said) must confront, “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men.”[xix]  No one will be able to deny that Jesus’ death was not enough.  All will be confronted with Jesus’ sacrifice, “For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.”[xx]  Paul declares Christ as the ‘end’ of all, “And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”[xxi]

 

CONCLUSION

Skeptics will push-back that we can’t know that ‘God spoke’ in the incidents we have above.  The first two are clearly reported by multiple sources, while the last was witnessed by multiple witnesses, according to John.  I guess I am asking for a little presupposition here.  As one of the great up-and-coming apologist, Braxton Hunter, has noted, a ‘recalibrated plausibility’ needs to be done sometimes.[xxii]  For if God (YHWH) exists, then communicating with His Son is not at all unlikely.  I would just recommend as YHWH did, “hear ye him!”

[i] The first four books of the New Testament are generally referred to as the ‘Gospel according to; Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John’

[ii] This is the Hebrew name for God, often rendered as ‘Jehovah’ in English translations

[iii] 2 Peter 1:17-18 (KJV)

[iv] I hold to inerrancy of scripture, but from an apologetic point-of-view, we are only using the New Testament as a reliable source of information

[v] The incident in John 12:28 is witnessed by multiple hearers, according to John

[vi] This word comes from a word that means similar-as Matthew, Mark, and Luke record much of the same material, borrowing from a common source (many argue) often designated as ‘Q’

[vii] John records that John the Baptist speaks of Jesus’ baptism but not the voice

[viii] Matthew 3:16-17 (KJV)

[ix] Mark 1:9-11 (KJV)

[x] Luke 3:21-22 (KJV)

[xi] John 17:24b (KJV)

[xii] Even though I am not overtly arguing that God the Spirit (Holy Spirit/Ghost) is also involved in the relationship, there seems no reason to doubt it applies as well

[xiii] Revelation 13:8 (KJV)

[xiv] Matthew 17:2 (KJV)

[xv] Matthew 17:5 (KJV)

[xvi] Hebrews 1:1-2 (KJV)

[xvii] John 12:28 (KJV)

[xviii] John 12:30-33 (KJV)

[xix] Titus 2:11 (KJV)

[xx][xx] Romans 14:11-12 (KJV)

[xxi] Philippians 2:8-11 (KJV)

[xxii] Braxton Hunter in his debate with Matt Dillahunty, see here (especially about the 19 minute mark): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y9Uktg9nLx8&t=713s

WHAT A WASTE!

A recent incident gave me pause and reminded me of the thought I’ve often heard, that being a Christian is just “a waste of time.”  This is what I and many others have thought as we deal with the world around us, especially with natural and moral evils.  ‘Bad things’ happening to ‘good people’ is a common reason for such thoughts and throwing our hands in the air and giving up.  This particular incident involved lots of prayers and the hope for an outcome that didn’t happen.  I recently told my class (and something I’ve said often) that I would not want to worship a God that did EVERYTHING I asked Him to, as I am pretty sure I will get some things wrong.

As I began thinking about other’s response to this recent incident I thought of those that are new Christians, those weak in their faith, and/or unbelievers (skeptic, agnostic, or atheist).  As I pondered (a HillBilly’s perogative) it occurred to me that many would think, “what a WASTE!”  This thought would be related to the outcome not being as THEY anticipated or hoped for.  Then as I began praying and thinking of all involved, and the basis for this article, I thought, “did we really ‘waste’ anything?”  I think there are 4 things that this incident reiterated to me as not wasted, even though there was not a result WE hoped for (yes, I was as disappointed as many of the others!).  Let’s look at 4 things that I think others think are ‘wasted’ on such situations, and I think possibly they are not!

 

PRAYER

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I have seen prayers lifted for many situations and circumstances.  This recent incident, I referenced above, is no exception and may be the most powerful outpouring of prayers I personally ever witnessed.  So, the question then is, did we waste all those prayers, if what we prayed for didn’t happen?  My question in response would be does the world need more or less (or none, for that matter) prayer(s)?  Of course, your answer would depend upon your belief in God and/or prayer.  It would be safe to say that the majority of people (definitely believers and maybe even a majority of unbelievers) think prayer has some worth.

The Bible gives some needed guidance here, “Pray without ceasing.”[i]  I think Paul’s exhortation is full of presuppositions that a prayer that never stops is NEEDED!  Paul also said, “Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.”[ii]  Prayer is meant as the alternative to worry(!).  But we must always keep in mind, “And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us.”[iii]  Again, I will trust God with the results of my prayer, as I am sure He knows best!

 

FAITH

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Is the world better off with more or less faith?  Let us define what we (especially Christians) mean by ‘faith’.  Faith is a word we use to mean a confidence, a trust in something we believe in.    It is not a belief in spite of evidence (or none) but a confidence/trust in something we have ‘reasons’ for.  The Greek Word: πίστις (Transliteration: pistis) is defined as, “persuasion, i.e. credence; moral conviction (of religious truth, or the truthfulness of God or a religious teacher), especially reliance upon Christ for salvation; abstract constancy in such profession; by extensive the system of religious (Gospel) truth itself :- assurance, belief, believe, faith, fidelity.”[iv]

Faith often seems misguided, as in, “I have faith the Lakers will make the playoffs.”  As Christians we are commended for our faith, “First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.”[v]  Faith is not a ‘bad’ thing, on the contrary, we would argue it is a virtue.  Paul spoke of the qualities believers should exhibit and faith is on the list.[vi]  Of course in the incident I earlier referenced many had faith a different outcome would occur than did.  This is more about our expectations and short-sightedness.  The Bible warns about our ‘understanding’ of how things should operate, “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.”[vii]  I think a little more faith in operation is a good thing and not a wasted endeavor.

 

HOPE

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Does the world need a little more hope?  I think only the most hardened cynic would answer that question with a NO!  Most people realize that hope is a quality the world lacks much to little of.  Many times, we have a hope for an outcome that does not manifest, and we feel the weight of disappointment. I have felt this as well, on more than one occasion.  I would argue that the world is full of too many hope-less situations and less hope seems the wrong answer.  Hope, in the world we live in is a rare commodity, and I would venture to say many would agree.

Hope in scripture is a unique concept.  In the world today, many will use the word ‘hope’ to mean a wishful thing like, “I hope I win the lottery.”  Hope in the Bible is an expectation of something.  The coming of Jesus is spoke of in such a term, “Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.”[viii]  The Greek Word: ἐλπίς (Transliteration: elpis) is unique and is defined as, “from a primary elpo (to anticipate, usually with pleasure); expectation (abstract or concrete) or confidence :- faith, hope.”[ix]  I understand that we often ‘hope’ for things that do not occur, and we are crushed that God did not intervene (as WE thought He should!).  Yet, if it is healing we expected, and death occurred…healing DID happen, and it will never be any better for those that trust in Christ.

 

LOVE

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“All we need is love…” the Beatles sung long ago!  Does this world need less or more love?  This would seem quite self-evident that the world is better off with more and more love.  “Love makes the world go around,” someone once said, and I agree that the world without it is a much worse off world.  The incident I keep referencing back to may have been one of the greatest examples of prayer I have ever seen but the outpouring of love was as amazing as well.  Strangers exhibiting love, one for another, is a sight to behold.  Seeing first hand the ways people could show their love to one-another has bolstered my faith and hope, as well!    I would hope no one would think that the outpouring of love they gave to another- true, pure love- was not worth the effort!

We don’t read anywhere that God is…hope, faith, or prayer.  We do read, “God is love.”[x]  The writer even noted that those that are showing love are exhibiting a quality that makes them more like God.  We approximate God when we love.  Of course, we must understand that this is not the kind of ‘love’ that the world often promotes.  The Greeks used 6 separate words for love; eros, philia, ludus, pragma, philautia, and agape.  Each was a nuance of what we would call ‘love’.  The last word, agape, has often been described as self-sacrificing or unconditional love.  Many have argued it is only possible for God to have/use.  I think Jesus described it well, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”[xi]

 

CONCLUSION

In a world of pain, hurt, tragedy, and yes, evil, we can use a little more prayer, faith, hope, and love.  This article is not about the apologetics against the problem of evil or the theology of pain, but it is more about the reality that when confronted with something so painful and troubling what we do in response, such as prayer and love, are not wasted!

[i] 1 Thessalonians 5:17 (KJV)

[ii] Philippians 4:6 (HCSB)

[iii] 1 John 5:14 (KJV)

[iv] Strong’s Talking Greek & Hebrew Dictionary, #4102

[v] Romans 1:8 (KJV)

[vi] See Galatians 5:22

[vii] Proverbs 3:5 (KJV)

[viii] Titus 2:13 (KJV)

[ix] Strong’s, #1680

[x] 1 John 4:8 (KJV)

[xi] John 15:13 (KJV)

The HillBilly Logician Answers Questions that perplex SOME

I recently came across an article I thought had an interesting title; ‘10 Unanswerable Questions that Neither Science nor Religion can Answer’.[i]  The writer is apparently a futurist.  He also has some impressive credentials and background.

“Before launching the DaVinci Institute, Tom spent 15 years at IBM as an engineer and designer where he received over 270 awards, more than any other IBM engineer. He is also a past member of the Triple Nine Society (High I.Q. society over 99.9 percentile).”[ii]

According to his bio he has done TED talks, spoke to Fortune 500 companies, and spoke in numerous settings and events.  The article is pithy (I like getting to the point) and-as the name implies-rather controversial.  I think I  will give the ol’ HillBilly try and see if I can answer the questions that have stumped academia, science, theologians, and religion!  I grant I may fail but try I will.

Let’s first look at the 10 questions:

1.) Why is there an exception to every rule?

2.) Why do logic and reason fail to explain that which is true?

3.) Is the universe finite or infinite?

4.) Why does anything exist?

5.) Why does time exist?

6.) Why do humans matter?

7.) Why are humans so fallible?

8.) Do human accomplishments have long-term meaning?

9.) Why is the future unknowable?

10.) What is the purpose of death?[iii]

 

Our task will be rather grim, and surrender is always an option(!), but that there are NO answers seems daunting, at best.  I want to tackle Frey’s questions, as he frames them, and not strawman them, if it can be helped.  His explanation of these questions is rather brief, so I am sure he could have expounded, in greater detail, on each of these.

 

Q1

person holding brown card
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I think this maybe a little levity Frey sticks in to get one interested.  It is one of those chin scratching, curious thoughts many have probably thought.  He notes, “Why is it that all of our rules, theories, maxims, and models all have an exception? This is precisely the way the world works, except when it doesn’t.”[iv]  He said “all rules” have an exception, and I am not sure I can answer one that doesn’t, on first reflection.  He gives an example, “Even with our basic understanding of math, 2+2 does not always equal 4. It depends on what type of measurement scale you are using. There are four types of measurement scales – nominal, ordinal, interval, and ratio. Only in the last two categories does 2+2 = 4.”[v]

I can remember as a young boy my daddy working with me on a math problem and it so happens 2+2 was the exact one (it was first grade, mind you!).  He said, “son, 2+2 is always 4, it will never be 5 and it will never be 3, 2+2 is always 4!”  I’ve never had an occasion that there is an exception to this rule!  I’m afraid Mr. Frey has changed the rules, as the math equation ‘2+2’ is about simple arithmetic and it will never be anything but 4.  Bringing in the idea of nominal (a number that represents something) or ordinal (a number that represents a place in an order of things) does not change simple math facts, and there is no exception to the idea of 2+2=4…

 

Q2

alphabet black and white business child
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He states, “In many scientific circles, the only truths are those that can be explained with logic and reason. Religious people use a different metric, but they too have a way of calibrating their truths with logic and reason.”[vi]  Logic is well defined, and I am sure Frey means what ordinary people mean by logic.[vii] His use of the word “reason” is much more curious.[viii]  Reason is defined as, “A cause, explanation, or justification for an action or event.”[ix]  He states, “Everything perfect has a touch of that one secret ingredient known as chaos.”[x]  There is a sense of order that the universe has; such as logic, mathematical regularity, and regularity of the past extending into the present (and the future seems to follow, as well).  Yet, I agree that the universe seems to have a sense of ‘chaos’ about it, though.  Christianity, does, answer that.

The Bible tells us in the third chapter of Genesis that our parents sinned, bringing the world into a bondage, “For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.”[xi]  There is a brokenness that is clearly shown to be the result of Adam and Eve’s disobedience to God’s perfect creation, “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.”[xii]  The human race was inflicted with a sense of chaos that was not intended, and we are clearly shown in scripture WHY this is.

 

Q3

sky space milky way stars
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Frey’s question here seems easily answered by science and religion!  “All the evidence seems to indicate, that the universe has not existed forever, but that it had a beginning, about 15 billion years ago. This is probably the most remarkable discovery of modern cosmology. Yet it is now taken for granted. We are not yet certain whether the universe will have an end.”[xiii] “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.”[xiv]  Science and religion (especially Christian theism) are not at odds of a beginning, but there is debate on *how* it came into existence.  I think Frey is misunderstanding what exactly infinity is.  That something extends, forever, into the future from a point, is not an infinite time line.

 

Q4

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Again, I’m amazed at Frey’s ignorance (and that is meant in the most charitable way).  He said, “We know things exist, but why?”[xv]  Admittedly, science has a harder time with this question than religion.  That there is something rather than nothing baffles science.

“I wouldn’t go so far as to say that nothing could not in theory “exist,” but seems to me that it hasn’t. We’ve never been that dialed down, folks. Just didn’t happen. We live in the something universe, either in our tidy little Big Bang universe or in a Big Bang bubble within the Multiverse, and no amount of deletion of the elements and forces of this universe would ever get us to a condition of absolutely nothing.”[xvi]

Yet, religion (and again specifically Christianity) explains, most logically, how it all came into existence.  An infinite, all-powerful, personal God could, if He exists, make a universe-ex nihilo.  The Bible declares that “God created” all that we see and all that could be, “For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him.”[xvii]  Science generally doesn’t agree with our answer, but they’ve yet to produce a more viable option.

 

Q5

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This question made me scratch my head, “we have a very poor grasp of our most immersive of all substances – time.”[xviii]  To this I give a hearty AMEN!  Time is one of the most basic concepts that humans learn to live with and function by and have the least ability to explain it.  Some have argued it is strictly an illusion-our way of explaining the way things occur.  This seems preposterous, as I can show evidence of the past, present, and (as each moment passes) the future.  But why is it even there? As we noted above, science agrees that time had a beginning.  I think religion agrees, as the Bible seems to indicate God gave a way to measure it.

“And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years.”[xix]

Time seems a necessary part of reality; what time we must be at work (okay, maybe we don’t need it!), when is the pizza done (okay, maybe time is VERY important!), and other very significant matters rely on time as a way to navigate from one point in reality to another.  It seems the answer to Fry’s question is that it must.

 

Q6

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I think Frey’s bias is coming thru very loudly in this question.  Humans are unique and even ethicist that think animals and humans are morally equivalent agree that humans possess some ‘other’ quality.  Science has some answers, as evolution is used to explain that humans are the highest form on the evolutionary tree.  Religion also has ‘good’ answers to why humans matter.  The Bible declares, “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.”[xx]

Frey’s question points to the fact that humans DO matter.  Frey, as a part of humanity, knows right well that there is something unique about humanity.  He belies his own bias that we are more than other ‘creatures’ of this world.  He states, “Does the fact that we can ask questions like these, ponder the unponderable, think the unthinkable, and accomplish things that no other species can accomplish, somehow give us a higher purpose?”[xxi]  Of course, a religious answer points back to God’s original purpose of man, “And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.”[xxii]

 

Q7

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This question is related to the last one, at least in a way.   If humans are so important, then why aren’t they infallible?

“Of all species on planet earth, humans are the least predictable, most destructive, require the longest nurturing period, and consume the most food. At the same time, we are also the most curious, most aware, most innovative, and the most likely to waste countless hours playing video games.”[xxiii]

I have no disputes with Frey’s statement, and I am pretty sure I’ve never seen a panda play a video game.  Science may have a hard time answering this one, but religion- especially Christianity- does not.  The Bible plainly explains where sin, the source of fallibility, came from, “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.”[xxiv]  God had warned of sin’s (more accurately, man’s sin) consequences, “And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life.”[xxv]

The world was plunged into a state of chaos, a broken and cursed world.  God had declared His creation “good”[xxvi] -even Adam and Eve- and yet the world we live in now is full of fallible people! Christianity is the only worldview that explains the condition the world is in and WHY it is so.

 

Q8

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I think this question has been asked in a variety of ways and simply comes back to the idea, “why am I here and does my life matter?”  I guess the answer depends upon the idea of what “long-term” means?  “But are those things that human’s consider to be great accomplishments really significant in the bigger scheme of things?”[xxvii]  Again, what exactly does one mean by “bigger scheme of things?”  For the sake of argument, Frey is talking long term, like thousands even millions of years.  Does what we do today, even really ‘big stuff’, really matter in that span of time.  I would ask, in what way do we mean, accomplish?

The discovery of vaccinations for Polio, measles, and other deadly diseases has had a great impact on humanity’s survival.  Other discoveries such as; the internet, drive-thru banking, and microwaves may not be as significant, but life is ‘easier’ with them than without.  Yet, is there really any reason to believe 100,000,000 years from now the iPhone will be thought of as a milestone?  Religion does better here than science, as the factor of eternity is put into the equation.  “For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.”[xxviii]

 

Q9

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Do I know if the Reds will make the playoffs this year?  Will it rain Thursday?  These are questions, depending on your perspective, that matter to some extent or another.  Frey thinks knowing the future is out of our reach, “The pace with which the future is unfolding is constant, and at the same time, relentless. Will the future always remain unknowable?”[xxix]   I think many in science (for example meteorology) would say science can ‘predict’ the future but ‘knowing’ what will happen is not possible by science.  I think religion (and again I am biased towards Christianity) would answer much different.

God claims, “Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure.”[xxx] Prophecy in the Bible is used often as evidence for God’s existence, as well as the Bible’s reliability.  Many prophecies in the Bible relate to the Messiah and some have claimed Jesus fulfilled almost 200 separate prophecies.  There are other prophecies that are very detailed and give a clear predication of the future.

“An amazing prediction in the Bible is the succession of the world empires of Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome by Daniel. Interpreting the metallic man in the dream of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, he told Nebuchadnezzar”: ‘You, O king, are the king of kings…. You are that head of gold. After you, another kingdom will rise, inferior to yours. Next, a third kingdom, one of bronze, will rule over the whole earth. Finally, there will be a fourth kingdom, strong as iron—for iron breaks and smashes everything—and as iron breaks things to pieces, so it will crush and break all the others'” (Dan. 2:38-40).”[xxxi]

 

Q10

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This last question has haunted science and religion for centuries, and I would argue that Christianity gives the most plausible explanation of it.  “People fear death. We spend millions on vitamins, health food, fitness programs, and doctors all to avoid the unavoidable. Or is it unavoidable? Why are we so terrified of the unknown?”[xxxii]  Death is shrouded in mystery and terror, especially if one is not sure what it holds.  This has been demonstrated to be both not feared and avoidable.   But Christianity explains, best, why we are bound by it, “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.”[xxxiii]

Jesus Christ came, was crucified, and rose from the dead.  This demonstrates that death can be overcome, and we need not fear it, “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?”[xxxiv]  Jesus predicted his own death, but He also said He would rise, as well, “Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also.”[xxxv]  Christianity gives the hope for what death seems to take, an end to our existence.

“For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.”[xxxvi]

 

CONCLUSION

Many before Frey and many after will claim science and/or religion cannot answer certain questions.  I’m not sure anyone can answer why many things happen or has happened, why some things exist, and/or what is the purpose/reason for this or that.  The 10 questions posed here are answerable, but some will reject the answers outright, giving no consideration.  The idea that God exists, especially the God of the Bible, best explains many of the questions that life gives us.

““I believe in Christianity as I believe that the Sun has risen, not only because I see it but because by it, I see everything else.”[xxxvii]

[i] Frey, Thomas, ‘10 Unanswerable Questions that Neither Science nor Religion can Answer’, https://futuristspeaker.com/futurist-thomas-frey-insights/10-unanswerable-questions-that-neither-science-nor-religion-can-answer/#

[ii] https://futuristspeaker.com/thomas-frey-bio/

[iii] Frey, “10…”

[iv] ibid

[v] ibid

[vi] ibid

[vii] I am curious how scientist and religious folk could have a different ‘metric’ for logic

[viii] My above note applies as well to reason, what different ‘metric’ is being used

[ix] https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/reason

[x] Frey, “10…”

[xi] Romans 8:22 (KJV)

[xii] Romans 5:12 (KJV)

[xiii] Hawking, Stephen, ‘The Beginning of Time’, http://www.hawking.org.uk/the-beginning-of-time.html

[xiv] Genesis 1:1 (KJV)

[xv] Frey, “10…”

[xvi] Achenbach, Joel, ‘Why There’s Something Rather than Nothing’, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/achenblog/wp/2013/05/14/why-theres-something-rather-than-nothing/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.9db2e4519339

[xvii] Colossians 1:16 (KJV); note, the “him” in this passage refers to Jesus

[xviii] Frey, “10…”

[xix] Genesis 1:14 (KJV)

[xx] Genesis 1:26 (KJV)

[xxi] Frey, “10…”

[xxii] Genesis 1:28 (KJV)

[xxiii] Frey, “10…”

[xxiv] Romans 5:12 (KJV)

[xxv] Genesis 3:17 (KJV)

[xxvi] Many believe God’s use of the term means ‘proper’ or in ‘order’-See Genesis chapters 1 and 2

[xxvii] Frey, “10…”

[xxviii] 1 Timothy 4:8 (KJV)

[xxix] Frey, “10…”

[xxx] Isaiah 46:10 (KJV)

[xxxi] Geisler, Norman, ed., Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics, © 1999 by Norman L. Geisler. Database © 2008 WORDsearch Corp.

[xxxii] Frey, “10…”

[xxxiii] Romans 5:12 (KJV)

[xxxiv] 1 Corinthians 15:55 (KJV)

[xxxv] John 14:19 (KJV)

[xxxvi] 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 (KJV)

[xxxvii] Lewis, C. S., ‘Is Theology Poetry?’, http://www.samizdat.qc.ca/arts/lit/Theology=Poetry_CSL.pdf

Three arguments against abortion

Abortion is a hot topic in the news once again.  The ‘Pro-Life’ movement has made little head-way in eliminating abortions, though a few victories here and there are noted.[i]  I think too much nuance has been allowed to creep into the debate as the decades have progressed.  Meanwhile, close to 2400 abortions are done on a daily (!) basis.[ii]  Thankfully, the abortion rate in our country continues to drop but that one abortion is done is a stain on the American soul.  Abortion is the act in which a human life is terminated in the mother’s womb.  I think there are three strong arguments for why this is wrong and why abortion should be eliminated as a viable option for birth-control.[iii]

 

SCIENTIFIC

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I want to propose a simple syllogism based on scientific facts for why abortion is wrong.

Premise 1: Abortion terminates a fetus/embryo

Premise 2: A fetus/embryo exhibits all characteristics of human life

Conclusion: Therefore, abortion is termination of human life

This argument is aimed at those that argue abortion is not the ending of a *person* but a ‘potential person’.  Of course, with a scientific argument we are less worried about philosophical issues of *personhood* but is the fetus a *human life*.  Our first premise is probably the least controversial, as having an abortion is INTENTIONALLY terminating a fetus.  An embryo is defined as, “anatomical parts that make up an organism in the early stages of development.”[iv] A fetus is defined as, “unborn young of a viviparous mammal, in the postembryonic period, after the major structures have been outlined. In humans, the unborn young from the end of the eighth week after CONCEPTION until BIRTH, as distinguished from the earlier EMBRYO.”[v]  We know that;

“Although life is a continuous process, fertilization is a critical landmark because, under ordinary circumstances, a new, genetically distinct human organism is thereby formed…. The combination of 23 chromosomes present in each pronucleus results in 46 chromosomes in the zygote. Thus the diploid number is restored and the embryonic genome is formed. The embryo now exists as a genetic unity.”[vi]

Thus, it is a scientifically known fact that a zygote (a term often used for the immediate product of human fertilization), embryo, fetus, or whatever term you use for the entity that arises from a sperm and an egg uniting, is, in fact, a human.  Genetically, if we could examine each cell of this pre-born human we would see that the genetic markers in EVERY single cell, from the first to throughout the multiplication process the pre-born human is in fact human.

Life or living is defined as, “the essential condition of being alive; the state of existence characterized by such functions as metabolism, growth, reproduction, adaptation, and response to stimuli.”[vii]  The pre-born human exhibits ALL the characteristics mention in the above definition.

“Glucose is the principal energy substrate for the placenta and the fetus and is essential for normal fetal metabolism and growth. Not surprisingly, therefore, its supply to these tissues is regulated by a relatively complex set of mechanisms that tend to keep its metabolism relatively constant.”[viii]

Thus, a pre-born human is metabolically active, leading to growth.  The definition includes the idea of “reproduction” and “adaption.”  A pre-born human cannot reproduce (at least in an active sense) in the confines of its mother’s womb, we ADMIT, but know it is POTENTIALLY able to do so at a certain level of growth.    Stimuli reaction is well documented and even used as a test of the pre-born’s health.

“The fetus is clearly able to respond to various external stimuli. The nature of the response is related to gestational age, intact neurologic function, and also the behavioral state of the fetus. Of the various modalities described herein, vibroacoustic stimulation utilizing an artificial larynx appears to be clinically useful in both ante- and intrapartum management. The positive predictive value is excellent (greater than 99 per cent). The fetus who responds to the stimulus with an acceptable acceleration is uniformly nonacidotic. Like many other tests of fetal health, vibroacoustic stimulation is less useful in predicting fetuses in distress, as many fail to respond and yet show no signs of compromise. It is evident that there is no single test that is without false-positives; thus accurate assessment of fetal health will depend upon utilization of a variety of biophysical parameters.”[ix]

It is hard to argue, from a scientific point-of-view, we are not terminating (the conclusion to the above syllogism) a human life, with abortion.  Again, at this point we are not arguing any ethically, moral, or otherwise types of arguments, but what we are doing when an abortion occurs.  This level of argument, the most basic I would argue, doesn’t address the issue of a woman’s life or health (however that may be defined) or fetal compromise (whether that is an abnormality or a potential birth defect/condition -such as Down’s Syndrome).  This argument soundly demonstrates that the ending of a pregnancy is the ending of a human life.

 

PHILISOPHICAL

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This argument, too, has a simple syllogism.

Premise 1: Killing an innocent human life is immoral

Premise 2: Abortion kills an innocent human life

Conclusion: Abortion is immoral

This argument gets into deeper waters and we still need to defend our premises and see if they are valid.  The first word that would seem to be ‘problematic’ would be our use of the word “innocent.”  For the sake of this argument I think the idea is that innocent should mean; not having done anything worthy of death.  A separate argument could be made for what one may mean by ‘guilty’ or ‘worthy of death’ but it would be hard to argue that a pre-born human would be classified in either category under any justifiable notion.  There are legal definitions that could be helpful in establishing what innocent means, as well.

“Innocent typically refers to a finding that a criminal defendant is not guilty of the charges, but may also refer to a finding that a civil defendant isn’t liable for the accusations of the plaintiff, such as being found not negligent in a personal injury case.”[x]

The first part of the above definition seems quite non-controversial, while the second addresses an argument  I’ve encountered a little more frequently.  Some abortion advocates argue that the pre-born human is an invasion of the woman’s right to her own body.

“A pregnancy to a woman is perhaps one of the most determinative aspects of her life. It disrupts her body. It disrupts her education. It disrupts her employment. And it often disrupts her entire family life…  And we feel that, because of the impact on the woman, this … is a matter which is of such fundamental and basic concern to the woman involved that she should be allowed to make the choice as to whether to continue or to terminate her pregnancy.”[xi]

This is one of the most foundational decisions in American jurisprudence (Roe v. Wade).  The argument of women’s rights is a paramount part of the abortion advocates fight.

“…a great deal turns for women on whether abortion is or is not available. If abortion rights are denied, then a constraint is imposed on women’s freedom to act in a way that is of great importance to them, both for its own sake and for the sake of their achievement of equality; and if the constraint is imposed on the ground that the foetus (sic) has a right to life from the moment of conception, then it is imposed on a ground that neither reason nor the rest of morality requires women to accept, or even to give any weight at all.”[xii]

Does the pre-born human then become ‘guilty’ of violating a woman’s right to her own body?  Abortion advocates will often use an illustration of a person strapped in some way to another against their will.[xiii]  The argument goes that the person ‘strapped’ to you is relying on you for some type of life-saving/sustaining purpose, again, totally against your will!  The argument then asks, if one is obligated to continue the imposition for, say…9 months.  Is there a ‘moral’ obligation for one to be imposed-and it can be of the most extreme impositions possible-upon by their ‘leech’?

This argument seems to hinge on the definition we have already looked at; innocent.  What exactly could we argue the pre-born human is guilty of?  To legally be responsible for one’s actions a motive, means, and liability must be shown (at least all the good ‘cop/lawyer/legal’ shows seems to point this out).  Is the pre-born human able to make the decision to not be or be conceived?  One must consider the parties responsible for the conception of a new human life.[xiv]  The mother is not an innocent bystander suddenly ‘tethered’ to another human being in becoming pregnant, though granted it may be a surprise she *is* but not that she *could* be!

The second premise seems a lot less controversial, as the idea of what a human life is, is a well established scientific fact, as we described above.  Many abortion advocates readily acknowledge that the termination of a pregnancy is a termination of human life, but the argument falls back to our first premise, as we have already discussed.  Of course, if the premises are true, and I think we have demonstrated that they are, then the conclusion logically follows.

 

THEOLOGICAL

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This third level is our higher level of argument and will be the most rejected and dismissed of the three.  The syllogism would look something like;

Premise 1: All human life posses the imago Dei

Premise 2: Murdering those with the imago Dei is prohibited by God

Conclusion: Therefore, abortion is prohibited by God

This argument rests on the idea of the existence of God.  I am pretty sure all the monotheistic religions of the world would agree with the idea of God condemning murder.  Our first premise includes the notion of human life having the imago Dei.  This comes from the first few pages of the Bible, “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…”[xv]  There are two different Hebrew words used here.  Image is ‏צֶלֶם‎ (Transliteration: ṣelem), “from an unused root meaning to shade; a phantom, i.e. (figurtive) illusion, resemblance; hence a representative figure, especially an idol :- image, vain shew.”[xvi]  An easy way to distinguish, I think, is to think of a statue.  The other word, likeness, is the Hebrew Word: ‏דְּמוּת‎ (Transliteration: demût), meaning, “resemblance; concrete model, shape; adverb like :- fashion, like (-ness, as), manner, similitude.”[xvii]   There is a nuanced difference as דְּמוּת‎ seems to say that we were made, in some sense, similar to God.

Verses that point to the idea of a pre-born human having the imago Dei are numerous.  The idea of a pre-birth fetus as being human life is expressed here, “Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.”[xviii]  A pre-born human was one of the first to recognize the pre-born Messiah, “And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost.”[xix]  Other verses include; Isaiah 44:2, Jeremiah 20:17, Psalms 138:13-16, Ecclesiastes 11:5, Job 10:19, Exodus 21:22, Psalms 51:5- just to name a few.

The second premise has strong scriptural support, such as here, “Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.”[xx]  This verse was God’s command to Noah and his descendants after the flood.  It is a command prior to the Mosaic law and supersedes it.  We can even argue that the idea of *murder* being wrong was evident to Cain after he slew his brother Abel, “And Cain said unto the LORD, My punishment is greater than I can bear.”[xxi]  And of course, if there is a ‘top-ten’ worse sin list, it is included, “Thou shalt not kill.”[xxii]  The command to Noah is very relevant to our discussion as God justifies the command AGAINST murder being based on man having the image of God (imago Dei).[xxiii]

Our conclusion will get push back that there is no basis for thinking that the Bible prohibits abortion.  One of the earliest Christian text is full of prohibitions and advice and it said, “thou shalt not kill a child by abortion, neither shalt thou slay it when born…”[xxiv]  This teaching was in direct response to the practice in Greco-Roman society of killing infants and apparently abortion.

“Infanticide was universal in ancient Greece and Rome. Babies would often be rejected if they were illegitimate, unhealthy or deformed, the wrong sex (female for example), or too great a burden on the family. Female infants were particularly vulnerable.”[xxv]

Abortion is the ending of a pre-born human life.  Does scripture indicate that life is at a certain point?  There seems to be numerous examples, such as, “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.”[xxvi]  We see there is a clear demarcation that begins at conception.  Also, “If men strive, and hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit depart from her, and yet no mischief follow: he shall be surely punished, according as the woman’s husband will lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges determine.  And if any mischief follow, then thou shalt give life for life.”[xxvii]  Many think that this passage, part of the Mosaic code, demonstrates that a premature birth coming from an injury to the mother that results in the child dying (“mischief” Hebrew Word: ‏אָסוֹן‎ which seems to mean causing hurt[xxviii]) is punishable by death, “life for life.”  And of course, Elizabeth-mother of John the Baptist-speaks of Mary’s greeting, “For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy.”[xxix] This seems to answer the ‘person-hood’ question of a pre-born human.[xxx]

 

CONCLUSION

I think as you progress through the arguments I have presented here the case against abortion gets stronger and stronger.  We now have mounds of scientific evidence and data that tells us at the moment of conception that there is a unique human life with all its own DNA structure.  Philosophy tells us that, logically speaking, 8 inches on one side of the birth canal to the other we are as human as the other side.  Finally, and it is the most controversial, we know that abortion violates God’s standards!  The most troubling proponents of abortion, that I often hear, are those that readily acknowledge that abortion is killing a human life, but the rights of the woman must supersede the rights of the un-born.  This argument is being pushed past bodily autonomy to ‘parental-rights’ (more the WOMAN’S right), as we have recently seen in some abortion advocates desire to commit post-vitro abortions.

“Now we have to face the fact that these arguments apply to the newborn baby as much as to the fetus. A week-old baby is not a rational and self-aware being, and there are many non-human animals whose rationality, self-awareness, capacity to feel and so on, exceed that of a human baby a week or a month old. If, for the reasons I have given, the fetus does not have the same claim to life as a person, it appears that the newborn baby does not either. Thus, although my position on the status of fetal life may be acceptable to many, the implications of this position for the status of newborn life are at odds with the virtually unchallenged assumption that the life of a newborn baby is as sacrosanct as that of an adult. Indeed, some people seem to think that the life of a baby is more precious than that of an adult… If these conclusions seem too shocking to take seriously, it may be worth remembering that our present absolute protection of the lives of infants is a distinctively Christian attitude, rather than a universal ethical value. Infanticide has been practised in societies ranging geographically from Tahiti to Greenland and varying in culture from nomadic Australian aborigines to the sophisticated urban communities of ancient Greece or mandarin China or Japan before the late nineteenth century. In some of these societies, infanticide was not merely permitted but, in certain circumstances, deemed morally obligatory. Not to kill a deformed sickly infant was often regarded as wrong, and infanticide was probably the first, and in several societies the only, form of population control.”[xxxi]

This is the only scientific, philosophical, but NON-Christian (he admits as much) stance that is defensible, in my opinion, in the abortion debate.  No one can really defend that the dismembering of a pre-born human is NOT the killing of a human life.  The danger, of course, is that the ethic that is espoused above could one day be used on the poor, disadvantaged, and dehumanized members of society from conception to their elderly years.  Only an ethic based on the imago Dei will preserve ALL human life.

[i] Legislation like partial-birth abortion bans, heart-beat laws, and election of pro-life candidates are examples

[ii] https://abort73.com/abortion_facts/us_abortion_statistics/

[iii] According to a survey of ALL abortions in Florida (2015) 92% were elective (less than 1% each for rape, incest, life of the mother, and fetal abnormality) see: https://abort73.com/abortion_facts/us_abortion_statistics/

[iv] https://www.online-medical-dictionary.org/definitions-e/embryonic-structures.html

[v] https://www.online-medical-dictionary.org/definitions-f/fetus.html

[vi] O’Rahilly, Ronan and Muller, Fabiola. Human Embryology & Teratology. (2nd edition. New York: Wiley-Liss, 1996), pp. 8, 29. {This textbook lists “pre-embryo” among “discarded and replaced terms” in modern embryology, describing it as “ill-defined and inaccurate” (p. 12)}

[vii] https://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/life

[viii] Hay, William W. “Placental-fetal glucose exchange and fetal glucose metabolism” Transactions of the American Clinical and Climatological Association vol. 117 (2006): 321-39; discussion 339-40.

[ix] J Shaw, K & H Paul, R. (1990). “Fetal responses to external stimuli”, Obstetrics and gynecology clinics of North America. 17. 235-48.

[x] https://definitions.uslegal.com/i/innocent/

[xi] Sarah Weddington in Roe v Wade, http://www.bbc.co.uk/ethics/abortion/mother/for_1.shtml

[xii] Ibid, (Judith Jarvis Thomson quote)

[xiii] See ‘Thomson’s Violinist’ here: https://spot.colorado.edu/~heathwoo/Phil160,Fall02/thomson.htm

[xiv] As rape accounts for less than 1% of most abortions, I am not including it as a part of this syllogism

[xv] Genesis 1:26a (KJV)

[xvi] ‘Strong’s Talking Greek & Hebrew Dictionary’, #6754

[xvii] ‘Strong’s’, #1823

[xviii] Jeremiah 1:5 (KJV)

[xix] Luke 1:41 (KJV)

[xx] Genesis 9:6 (KJV)

[xxi] Genesis 4:13 (KJV)

[xxii] Exodus 20:13 (KJV); the Hebrew Word used is: ‏רָצַח‎ (Transliteration: rāṣaḥ) which means “properly to dash in pieces, i.e. kill (a human being), especially to murder”, ‘Strong’s Talking Greek & Hebrew Dictionary’ #7523

[xxiii] Killing another human is not prohibited, as the command includes capital punishment for those that commit murder

[xxiv] The Didache: The Teaching of the Lord to the Gentiles through the Twelve Apostles

[xxv] Gruber, Joanie, “Orphan Care in the Early Church- A Heritage to Recapture”, https://www.nacsw.org/Publications/Proceedings2011/GruberJOrphanCareE.pdf

[xxvi] Psalm 51:5 (KJV)

[xxvii] Exodus 21:22-23 (KJV)

[xxviii] ‘Strong’s’, #611

[xxix] Luke 1:44 (KJV)

[xxx] Elizabeth was 6 months pregnant at this point, maybe less than 24 weeks

[xxxi] Singer, Peter, Practical Ethics, (Cambridge University Press. NY. NY. 1980) Third Edition. 2011. Pgs. 151-152

Finding Molinism and loving the Bible even more

My journey to Molinism may be quite different than many others (and this is not an argument that others aren’t as unique).  In talking with other Molinist and studying it for the past few years, I discovered many Molinist have been won by its philosophical argument, while I was convinced of it theologically.  I consider myself a ‘Mere Molinist’[i] and am fully convinced the two tenets, middle knowledge (hereafter, MK) and libertarian free will (hereafter, LFW), are true and how God operates in creating the world we live in.  Molinism was a system that finally satisfied all the ‘boxes’ I had checked as I looked at scripture.  I was fully convinced of God’s sovereignty and man’s ability to make choices (at least some).  When Molinism was introduced to me, I thought its explanation of God’s MK and His use of our LFW made the most sense theologically/biblically.

 

RAISED GENERAL BAPTIST

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I began my Christian life in a denomination steeped in the General Baptist tradition.  The General Baptist get their name from the idea that Jesus died for everyone ‘generally’ as opposed to the Particular Baptist, who believed Jesus died for a ‘particular’ group of people (the Elect).  These two Baptist groups would commonly fall into the two camps we refer to as Arminian (General) or Calvinist/Reform (Particular).  I was not fully convinced of Arminianism, at least with God’s foreknowledge and how they understood it.  It seemed to me that Arminianism had issues with God’s sovereignty as simple foreknowledge seemed to be God reacting to our choices, before the fact, so to speak.  Simple foreknowledge, as taught by Arminians, is God perceptually ‘seeing’ what would happen.  Foreknowledge, as the Bible seems to describe, is conceptual, and Molinism holds to the idea that God *KNOWS* what the future will hold, as well as what would it have held otherwise.  Arminianism was not satisfying my understanding of scripture, and Calvinism’s dependence on divine determinism was unsatisfactory as well.

 

A MOLINIST

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A few years ago.  I heard a young man, Rob Johnson, explain Molinism.  He was describing ‘Mere Molinism’ and the podcast in which he was featured had a Calvinist host who jokingly said, “like multiple-universes,” in trying to understand MK.  Needless to say, my Star Wars/Star Trek/Full-On-Geekiness-Side was intrigued with the idea of multiple choices of worlds.  In time, I came to understand that Molinism speaks of feasible and possible worlds and that they are not all in existence (though it is cool to imagine so).  I had never heard of MK and the ramifications of it theologically were rich with possibilities.  It wasn’t so much the philosophical arguments (though good theology can’t be done without good philosophy) that convinced me as it was the biblical/theological ones.  I soon stumbled across Tim Stratton’s ministry and found his thinking and articles helpful[ii].  Even though Calvinism never appealed to me as a theological system (as I fully rejected divine determinism), Tim’s article on ‘The Petals Drop’[iii] was the most robust argument against Calvinism (as divine determinism) that I had ever encountered.

 

I’M A MOLINIST

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What I came to realize was that I wasn’t ‘converting’ to Molinism as I was discovering that I was a Molinist!  LFW was a concept that I was fully convinced of as Arminianism, especially Classical Arminianism, teach and embrace, and believed it explained the scriptures commands to ‘do this not that’.  It seemed quite clear to me that the scriptures implied LFW and it was not hard for me to embrace Molinism’s implications of this doctrine as well.  LFW is not unique to Molinism as Arminianism and Traditionalism (as espoused by some/many Southern Baptist) both incorporate Libertarianism into their theological systems.  I’ve even encountered some Calvinist that espouse some form of LFW.  This was never a sticking point I had to overcome, and the other pillar, MK, would not be as well.  I had never heard of Luis de Molina or his doctrine of Scientia Media (Latin for ‘Middle Knowledge’) till a few years ago but soon realized it was something I had believed all along (at least in part).

 

I remember explaining to an unbeliever many years ago how God could work around our choices, long before I had heard of MK.  I said something to the effect, “I believe there are realms of possibilities, and God is aware of all the possibilities that we have before us, and not only that, God KNOWS what choices we will make in those possibilities and does what He needs to do to accomplish His plans.”  I didn’t know then that what I was describing was a (very) poor representation of MK.  Scripture seemed to indicate that MK (though I didn’t have a name for it then) was how God operated.  The clearest example in scripture that had me imagining “realms of possibilities” (what I came to understand to be MK) was 1 Samuel 23:10-13.  David was running from Saul and asked God an ‘if’ question.  He wanted to know ‘if’ he stayed ‘would’ Saul capture him.  God stated that ‘if’ David stayed ‘then’ Saul would capture him.  This idea of an ‘if-then’ statement implies LFW, as David had a choice to do A or not A, but it also describes the “realms of possibilities” I thought God had to work with, later I came to understand to be MK.

 

MOLINISM IS BIBLICAL

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Tim Stratton has rightly described Molinism as Biblical[iv], and it was the Biblical argument that lead me to (or better, helped me see that I espoused) Molinism.  Molinism is not a doctrine explicitly taught in scripture, and many of the most profound ones aren’t (like the Trinity), but it is a doctrine that explains MOST of the difficulties we have with reconciling free choices of men and God being in complete control.  I feel I have only begun to scratch the surface of Molinism’s full potential as a theological/biblical system.  I have used the Molinist answer to the problem of evil on numerous occasions with skeptics and seekers.  I teach a young adult small group and Molinism is often discussed (as I bring it up!) as I explain passages that are difficult to reconcile in an Arminian or Calvinist understanding.  Molinism is the most satisfactory system I’ve encountered and it has answered many questions.  I will readily admit that the ideas of weak-actualization and strong-actualization, feasible and possible worlds, and stochastic process and divine determinism, and how Molinism accounts for them, is above my pay-grade, but I am finding it (Molinism) to be a powerful theological systematic way of studying God’s Word and the workings of His WILL!

 

CONCLUSION

I am not called to be a disciple of Molina.  I was called to be a follower of Christ.  I desire to be as Paul, For I decided that while I was with you I would forget everything except Jesus Christ, the one who was crucified.”[v]  I have no desire to ‘destroy’ Calvinism or Arminianism, or any other theological system for that matter.  I do seek truth and an understanding of the world around me.  It seems ‘true’ that truth corresponds to reality, and that is not only true of the world we see around us but how God operates.  Trying to make sense of it ALL sometimes can be overwhelming, but I also believe it is important to seek to know God and His Son and to know them better, “that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.”[vi]  Molinism is the best explanation to the facts as I see them revealed in scripture.  I readily admit that I am a Molinist, and I am seeking to understand it more clearly, but I seek to know

[i] Stratton, Tim, ‘Mere Molinism: Proving the Two Pillars’, http://freethinkingministries.com/mere-molinism-proving-the-two-pillars/

[ii] See: http://freethinkingministries.com/

[iii] Stratton, Tim, ‘The Petals Drop: Why Calvinism is Impossible‘, http://freethinkingministries.com/the-petals-drop-why-calvinism-is-impossible/

[iv] Stratton, Tim, ‘Molinism is Biblical’, http://freethinkingministries.com/molinism-is-biblical/

[v] 1 Corinthians 2:2 (NLT)

[vi] Philippians 3:10 (ESV)

There are reasons to believe Jesus rose from the dead, here’s a few

Are there good reasons to believe Jesus rose from the dead?  I think we have some very reliable and available pieces of evidence for the fact that Jesus DID rise from the dead.  Christianity rises(!) and falls on the idea that Jesus of Nazareth, in 1st Century Judea, died, was buried (or entombed), and came back to life.  The earliest Christian Creed, some historians believe that was being spread as early as 5-20 years after Jesus’ death, proclaims;

“For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.”[i]

Let’s look at some of the reasons of why I think we can have reasons, and good ones, that Jesus did rise from the dead.  Paul emphasizes the importance of it, emphatically, “But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.”[ii]  It is of “first of importance” that this is what Christianity is based upon, a historical event that is able to be investigated and falsifiable.

 

THE OTHER THEORIES

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The Church has always believed Jesus rose from the dead (“This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses.”[iii]).  It must be pointed out that there have been theories that have tried to explain ‘away’ the resurrection.  There are generally a few theories that have had strong support and are known as:

  1. The swoon theory (resuscitated)
  2. Theft theory
  3. Wrong Tomb theory
  4. Hallucination theory
  5. Impersonation theory
  6. Spiritual resurrection theory

This article is not intended to refute these theories, and they have been generally refuted to the satisfaction of many, especially Christians (and many non-theist, as well).  Briefly, the ‘swoon’ supposed Jesus was merely unconscious on the cross and revived (resuscitated) in the coolness of the tomb.  The ‘theft’ posits that the disciples stole Jesus’ body and lied.  The ‘wrong’ theory imagines the disciples could not find Jesus’ actually burial spot.  The “hallucination’, as the name implies,  believes the disciples actually only ‘believed’ they seen Jesus.  While the ‘impersonation’ thinks someone was substituted in Jesus’ place, especially on the cross (the Islamic idea).  While finally, the ‘spiritual’ is an idea that the resurrection was metaphorical (or something like it).

Again, these theories are mostly easily dismissed, in my opinion, and the only two that still seem often asserted is the ‘hallucination’ and the ‘spiritual’.   This article is not intended to give the reasons why these theories are not well supported.[iv]  No, my point is that even ASSERTING these particular theories points to ‘something’ happened.  Take for example the ‘hallucination theory’ which supposes the disciples saw the resurrected Jesus in a hallucination.  This still allows for what is called the ‘Minimal Facts Approach’ (pioneered by Gary Habermas) or the ‘Minimalistic Approach’ (as used by William Lane Craig) that are apologetic methods that rely on some basic facts agreed upon by most scholars; secular, atheistic, agnostic, religious, and/or Christian. Two of these facts are Jesus died on a Roman cross and the disciples believed they encountered the risen Jesus.  Matter-of-fact, if we notice, these two simple facts are not disputed by any of the theories I cited above(!).

Again, I am pointing to the reasons why we can believe Jesus rose from the dead.  This first point is simply that we know SOMETHING happened in the 1st Century Judea and the life of an obscure carpenter/rabbi had enough impact to merit attention nearly 2000 years later.  These ‘theories’ that have been argued for centuries are meant to counter the idea that Jesus truly rose from the dead.  Few if any theories exist to dismiss the Easter Bunny or the Tooth Fairy, and I am sure that when you take a sincere look, you would be moved to investigate why a theory was needed to dismiss an event that didn’t happen.

 

CHRISTIANITY

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One of the reasons we can have confidence that Jesus rose from the dead is the beginnings of Christianity.  Unlike Buddhism or Islam (and most religions for that matter), Christianity is based on a historical event.  Most religions are based on the ‘ideas’ (be they called creeds, doctrines, or teachings) of their founder(s).  It is not to say Christianity has no ‘teachings’ for it does but as Paul notes, “And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.”[v]   Jesus’ words are of little to no consequence (in my opinion-and Paul seem to think so as well!) if He had not raised.

The witness of the 1st Century ‘first’ followers is significant.  Some of the first followers and evangelists for the fledgling enterprise were those that had first-hand information on the reliability of the events.  One must account for men like Peter and Paul risking their lives (and eventually executed) to proclaim a message they would have known was true or not.  James (Jesus’ half-brother) is a powerful witness to Jesus’ resurrection as he came to believe Jesus was who He said He was, and he was a doubter (like Paul), “For neither did his brethren believe in him.”[vi]  Yet, James became a follower and Jewish historian Josephus tells us about him and his being condemned for being a Christian by Ananus, High priest under Rome’s authority;

“…so he assembled the sanhedrim of judges, and brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James, and some others, [or, some of his companions]; and when he had formed an accusation against them as breakers of the law, he delivered them to be stoned…”[vii]

James, Paul, Peter, and many of Jesus’ first followers were martyred for their beliefs.  This is a powerful reason to think that the resurrection was true.  These first few followers, like Peter and John, would have known if the tomb was empty and if they truly believed they saw the risen Jesus.  It is hard to imagine that these men (and a few women[viii]) would risk their lives (some did die) for a lie they KNEW was.  One could argue, as some have (see above), that they simply were hallucinating, but research has shown mass hallucinations are nearly impossible.

“The problem with mass hallucinations, though, is that they don’t actually exist – at least not as we understand them. Although tossed around in everyday conversation, there is hardly any mention of mass hallucinations in the scientific literature. Some have speculated on the possibility, but there is very little scientific basis for the idea that multiple people could individually generate the same visual imagery and auditory information.”[ix]

 

HISTORICAL ACCOUNTS

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Another reason to believe in the resurrection is the historical accounts that describe the event.  We rely on ancient documents from the past to help us understand the lives (and deaths!) of Alexander the Great, Augustus Caesar, George Washington, and many others that we have very small amounts of historical documents (or copies of) available to study.  It is hard to imagine the criticism the Bible endures as it is one of the most well-documented pieces of ancient history.  Remember the Bible was originally written as different ‘letters’ or ‘books’ documenting historical events (like Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), addressing doctrinal issues (like Paul’s epistles), and other genres and was later compilied into *the* New Testament (and the entire Bible).

We can look at one of the most important historians of ancient Rome, Pliny the Elder.  His historical accounts were written from between 23-79 AD (and thus a contemporary of New Testament writings) and we know that about 200 manuscripts (copies, not the originals) survive, the earliest dating to about 1000 AD which is 900+ years after Pliny wrote his accounts.  In comparison, the New Testament was written between 40-100 AD and we have 5795 (and this number continues to increase) in GREEK manuscripts alone (almost 8000 in other languages still within 100-200 years after the originals).  The earliest manuscript (a fragment) is from 117 AD (Bart Ehrman dates to “125– 130, plus or minus twenty-five years.”[x]) within 20-50 years of the original.[xi]  When other languages are added the numbers reach the tens of thousands, some think as much as 60,000 manuscripts.

“How many manuscripts of the New Testament do we have today? It is a very large number that has not remained static— it grows even larger as new discoveries are made. Accordingly, researchers and historians are constantly revising their estimates. Without question, the New Testament boasts the best-attested manuscript transmission when compared with other ancient documents. The bibliographical test validates and confirms that the New Testament has been accurately transmitted to us through the centuries.”[xii]

 

GOD

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The final reason I will address in this article is I think one should believe the resurrection happened because the idea that God exists.  This is not a circular argument like God exists≫Jesus rose from the dead≫God exists.  Rather it is the presupposition (I admit) that if God exists then the resurrection of Jesus is really not that hard to believe!  I think there is some powerful evidence for the truth that God exists found in science and philosophy, often described as Natural Theology.  These arguments are powerful evidence for the existence of God.  There are cosmological (see here), moral (see here), fine-tuned (see here), and ontological (see here) arguments for God’s existence, just to name a few.  All these arguments I have mentioned (and previously dealt with) fall into the Natural Theology category.

There are other arguments that point to God’s existence, such as an argument from scripture (prophecy), desire, and religious experience, just to name a few.  An argument from scripture could be said to show that mere human ingenuity could not fabricate such a document.

“Authored by approximately forty different people (some known, some unknown) and edited and preserved by countless scribal schools and communities, the Bible preserves for us the writings of a vast array of different personalities from widely divergent social circumstances.”[xiii]

There is also the argument from prophecy, as pointing to the Bible being from God-thus an argument for God.  As one blogger has noted;

“So the Bible claims that at least one way in which people can know the Bible came from God is that it contains fulfilled prophecy. It now remains to be asked why fulfilled prophecy is a mark of the divine. An answer can be seen in Isaiah 41:21, 23-24, where God mocks false idols: “Set forth your case, says the LORD; bring your proofs, says the King of Jacob… Tell us what is to come hereafter, that we may know that you are gods … Behold, you are nothing, and your work is less than nothing.” God describes himself, on the other hand, quite differently: “I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning” (Isaiah 46:9-10). According to God, the way in which one can discern the difference between the true and living God and all counterfeits is through his ability to know the future.”[xiv]

Space will prevent us from going into all the prophecies that are mentioned in scripture that have been fulfilled, such as Jesus’ birth, his death, and resurrection-all of which are prophesied and fulfilled.  Other prophecies that are verifiable deal with places like Tyre, the history of the Gentiles (kings and kingdoms), and the Jewish nation.  These are hard to rectify as ‘lucky’ guesses, especially in light of the enormity of prophecies that are in the Bible.

An argument from desire as formulated by Peter Kreeft would look something like:

  1. “Every natural, innate desire in us corresponds to some real object that can satisfy that desire.
  2. But there exists in us a desire which nothing in time, nothing on earth, no creature can satisfy.
  3. Therefore there must exist something more than time, earth and creatures, which can satisfy this desire.
  4. This something is what people call “God” and “life with God forever.”[xv]

Kreeft explains, “In other words, the only concept of God in this argument is the concept of that which transcends concepts, something “no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived” (1 Cor. 2:9). In other words, this is the real God.”[xvi] Admittedly, it is a more ‘philosophical’ and even based on a strong intuitive notion, but C. S. Lewis was compelled by this argument.

“Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for these desires exists. A baby feels hunger; well, there is such a thing as food. A dolphin wants to swim; well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire; well, there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”[xvii]

An argument from religious experience is a very intuitive argument, as well.  It would be based on the idea that all cultures, across races, and on every continent have a common idea of ‘religion’ (not an argument that they all get it right!).  “Some sort of experience lies at the very core of most people’s religious faith… That realization is not itself an argument for God’s existence; in fact, in the light of it you would probably say that there is no need for arguments. But there is in fact an argument for God’s existence constructed from the data of such experiences. It is not an argument which moves from your own personal experience to your own affirmation that God exists.”[xviii]

Admittedly some arguments for God’s existence are stronger than others.  Actually, with a cumulative case for God’s existence-using multiple arguments-on balance, it points to the reality that God exists.  Lest we forget, this article is about reasons to believe the resurrection occurred.  Coming to a place where one believes that God exists (even if that belief is only a small percentage) will help one see that God raising Jesus from the dead is not that difficult to comprehend if the God that created all things is our starting point.

 

CONCLUSION

I have given numerous ‘reasons’ I think we can be confident that Jesus rose from the dead.  The ‘other’ theories to explain away Jesus’ resurrection seems a strange thing, if there wasn’t something that needed ‘explained-away’.  There are good historical grounds for thinking Jesus rose and the very idea of Christianity based on fables and fairy-tales seems implausible, at best.  Finally, believing in God makes believing in the resurrection a more likely proposition, admittedly.  The very foundation of Christianity rests on the idea of Jesus dying and rising from the dead, and Christianity admits that it has nothing if this was not true…”If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.”[xix]

 

 

[i] 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 (KJV) (some believe the last sentence was not part of the then known creed)

[ii] 1 Corinthians 15:13-14 (KJV)

[iii] Acts 2:32 (KJV)

[iv] Here is a good article that deals with each theory; https://bible.org/article/false-theories-against-resurrection-christ

[v] 1 Corinthians 15:14 (KJV)

[vi] John 7:5 (KJV)

[vii] The Works of Flavius Josephus, Book 20, Ch. 9

[viii] See; Matthew 28:1-10, Mark 16:1-10, Luke 24:1-10, and John 20:1-18

[ix] ‘The myth of “mass hallucinations”’, http://www.thinkanomalous.com/blog/the-myth-of-mass-hallucinations

[x] McDowell, Josh; McDowell, Sean. Evidence That Demands a Verdict: Life-Changing Truth for a Skeptical World (pgs. 47-48). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.,

[xi] Dugan, Teri, ‘Case-Making 101: How does the Bible compare to other ancient documents?’, https://truthfaithandreason.com/case-making-101-how-does-the-bible-compare-to-other-ancient-documents/

[xii] McDowell, Evidence, pg. 47

[xiii] Ibid, pg. 4

[xiv] Apodaca, Jordan, ‘The Argument from Prophecy: Intro’, https://www.rctoolbox.net/recent-posts/the-argument-from-prophecy-intro

[xv] Kreeft, Peter, ’20 Arguments for God’s Existence’, https://strangenotions.com/god-exists/#16

[xvi] ibid

[xvii] Lewis, C. S., Mere Christianity, Bk. III, chap. 10, “Hope”

[xviii] Kreeft, ‘20 Arguments…’

[xix] 1 Corinthians 15:19 (KJV)

“I’ll concede if it helps you…” How doing apologetics needs common ground

This article is meant for two very different groups of people.  First, this is for those who are skeptical, atheistic, or just agnostic, I’ll call them ‘non-theist’, towards Christianity.  The second group, I’ll call ‘evangelists’, are those trying to reach the first with the truths of the Christian faith and worldview (regardless of using evangelism or apologetics).  There are vast differences of opinions, ranging from one end of the scale to the other, yet I want to point out some things to each group, I think would be helpful in furthering discussions.

Often, there are barriers to communication, many could be avoided if concessions on both sides were given.  I’m going to describe a few things that often hinder productive discussions, as these things become a deterrent to the matter at hand.  For the ‘non-theist’ and ‘evangelist’, conceding some points may lead to more useful discussions and hopefully bring the considerations to more weighty matters.  In a court case, one side will concede some points, evidence, or theories, which they may not agree with, but the argument of such would be of no value to the OVERALL case.  I hope to show some conceding points, and thus move the discussions forward.  I am using only three examples of areas we could give and take on, there are many others that could be found.

 

UNIVERSE

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Scientist throw around the word ‘billions’ when describing the age of the Universe.  Depending on the ‘expert’ you read or listen to, it is safe to say they will describe the age of our Universe as 13 billion years (give or take a million), or at least the beginning of what we know of it now.  Many Christians, especially the ‘young-earth’ types, argue with the ‘non-theist’ on this point, and it seems to me that there is no point to argue.  Moses, in describing the Creation account, is not careful to give us a ‘starting’ date of the UNIVERSE.  He is more concerned with the ‘who’ than the ‘what’ or ‘when’ of it.  There is many who would argue, plenty of Bible believing scholars, that Moses account was a polemic treatise rather than a thorough point by point description.

Gordon H. Johnston, Professor of Old Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary discusses why the Genesis account of creation is more about the theology than the science, “Genesis 1 appears to be a literary polemic designed to refute ancient Near Eastern creation mythology…”[i] he states, and concluded that this account, “…was originally composed, not as a scientific treatise, but as a theological polemic against the ancient Egyptian models…”[ii]  His point does not detract from the point of Genesis 1:1, that is to say, God created it all, whether it was 13 billion or ten thousand years ago.

For the ‘evangelist’ I would say, concede the age deal, matter-of-fact, the Big Bang Theory is not anti-theistic in its application, as there is the idea that everything began at a moment, a singularity, that God CAN account for.  My ‘non-theist’ friends, I would ask concession on this point, too.  There is nothing in the age of the Universe that precludes there being a Divine origin.  As many great philosophers and cosmologist have stated, anything that begins to exist must have a cause, there is no uncaused causes, which begin to exist.  That God could do it 10,000 years ago or 13 billion is of no consequence.  The claim is, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”[iii]   It is a cosmology argument not a mathematical one.

 

EVOLUTION

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If there is a more contention issue between Christianity and science (in reality those who are ‘religiously’ bound to evolution), evolution has few rivals.  A while back my own son in a college class (not a science class but sociology) challenged the professor on ‘evolution’ as valid.  Of course, by evolution he was speaking of Darwinian Evolution.  “Darwin’s Theory of Evolution is the widely held notion that all life is related and has descended from a common ancestor: the birds and the bananas, the fishes and the flowers — all related.”[iv]   This is the idea that one species ‘evolves’ into another, that many reject on scientific grounds, and some philosophical and biblical, too.  Evolution is not invalidated if we define it as, “any process of formation or growth; development.”[v]  This is one of those areas that concession should be given by my ‘evangelist’ friends, as God can and does (given the more moderate definition) use evolution to diversify the world we live in.  ‘Non-theist’ should concede as well, God can use whatever mechanism, function, or process he wants to bring about life and its diversity.

Some may disagree with some things theistic evolutionists believe, but believing God can use it, shouldn’t be one, “Theistic evolution is the proposition that God is in charge of the biological process called evolution. God directs and guides the unfolding of life forms over millions of years. Theistic evolution contends that there is no conflict between science and the Biblical book of Genesis…”[vi]   Scientist disagree about theories and processes, constantly, but the pursuit of truth should not be hindered by the assumptions of anti-Darwinism or Darwinistic evolution.  Again, if God used evolution, He still is the first cause, which science has no answer for.

Of course, evolution causes (especially Darwinism) huge issues with the story of Adam and Eve.  If you believe Christ was God in the flesh, you know He referenced them, “But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’”[vii]  Again, this does not preclude evolution.  What it does say, and this is significant, that humans were created by God as a ‘special’, very different entity, which my ‘non-theist’ friends could surely concede (that humanity is above the animal kingdom in a variety of ways-which could be accomplished by special creation or evolution).    The ‘evangelist’ friend would do well to concede, their animosity to evolution (even Darwinian), as it is not a hindrance to the idea of God, as I see it.

 

WORLDWIDE FLOOD

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There are many flood stories in antiquity, “The flood myths or deluge myths are, taken collectively, myths of a great flood. These accounts depict global flooding, usually sent by a deity or deities to destroy civilization as an act of divine retribution. Flood stories are common across a wide range of cultures, extending back into prehistory.”[viii]

On the page cited there are many similar ‘flood’ or ‘deluge’ stories, including:

  • 1 Africa
  • 2 Americas
    • 2.1 North America
    • 2.2 Mesoamerica
    • 2.3 South America
      • 2.3.1 Canari
      • 2.3.2 Inca
      • 2.3.3 Mapuche
      • 2.3.4 Muisca
      • 2.3.5 Tupi
  • 3 Asia
    • 3.1 Ancient Near East
      • 3.1.1 Sumerian
      • 3.1.2 Mesopotamia
      • 3.1.3 Abrahamic religions
    • 3.2 China
    • 3.3 India
    • 3.4 Korea
    • 3.5 Malaysia
    • 3.6 Philippines
    • 3.7 Tai-Kadai people
  • 4 Europe
    • 4.1 Classical Antiquity
    • 4.2 Medieval Europe
      • 4.2.1 Irish
      • 4.2.2 Welsh
      • 4.2.3 Norse
    • 4.3 Modern era folklore
      • 4.3.1 Finnish
  • 5 Oceania
    • 5.1 Polynesia and Hawaii [ix]

With so many similar stories, it seems that it is possible there was some ‘flood’ somewhere, which was carried in the collective memory of many different cultures across many different continents.  Our ‘non-theist’ friends should concede that there is some basis (outside the Biblical narrative) to the story that many Christians take as a part of our human history.

Many of our ‘non-theist’ friends are now asking what I am asking the ‘evangelist’ to concede.  I would ask that the ‘evangelist’ concede the ‘world-wide’ and ‘every animal in the ark’ parts.  The point of the story, it would seem (the Biblical as well as many of the other ancient stories) is God was angry with mankind’s evil and brought judgement down on them.  This is what we (‘evangelist’) should be concerned as the theme and not, as with the Universe, Creation, and/or Adam and Eve, the scientific explanation of the way the world was and is now.

 

MY THOUGHTS

Looking at the concessions I have asked from both sides, there is maybe a misunderstanding of where I stand on these issues myself.  So, as for the age of the Universe: I am convinced that the Universe is old, as in billions of years, but God begun the special creation of Mankind around 10,000 years ago.  I guess that makes me an ‘Old-Universe-Young-Earth (inhabited)’ kind of guy.  As for evolution, I am thoroughly convinced that Darwinism is false, it is hard for me to accept anything that seems as far-fetched as a monkey becoming a man, by any means that have been shown to me.  Is it feasible that evolution occurs? Yes, if you mean by that animals adapting to their environment.  Finally, I am without a doubt a ‘world-wide’ flood believer.  I believe God destroyed mankind for the rampant sin and evil present at the time, beginning the new world with Noah and his family.  I also believe, the whole world would have been much different than the one we have now (possible all one continent).

Again, I am willing to concede (not necessarily change my mind) the above points, but to be open and honest I wanted the reader to be aware of where I stand on each of these issues.  I am fully committed to reaching any and all for Christ.  I think it is much more important to talk about what you think about a man that would rise from the dead and what it is the significance of that.  The other issues, many of which I have enumerated here, are of little or no consequence outside of that truth.

As a bit of clarification, I tried to spell out my thoughts on each subject.  But bear in mind that I am willing to concede my position for the sake of getting to the weightier issues of morals, ethics, and values in discussing our worldviews.  I think it is much more important to discuss sin, Christ’s death (and resurrection), and salvation- in light of our souls.

[i] Bibliotheca Sacra 165 [April-June 2008], pg. 178-94

[ii] ibid

[iii] Genesis 1:1 ESV

[iv] http://www.darwins-theory-of-evolution.com/#sthash.vxOciHRt.dpuf

[v] http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/evolution

[vi] http://www.theistic-evolution.com/theisticevolution.html

[vii] Mark 10:6 ESV

[viii] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_flood_myths

[ix] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_flood_myths#References