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Posts Tagged ‘naturalism’

The post-modern world is rather fond of saying that there are no absolutes. A logical counter to this is to ask the relativist whether his statement about absolutes is absolute. He is in the difficult position of refuting his own claim whenever he states it. In rational debates this breaks the law of non-contradiction.

For several years, since reading Christian apologists like CS Lewis and Ravi Zacharias, I have been convinced that there is only one internally consistent worldview, and that is the biblical worldview. All other explanations of reason and existence cut the ground out from under themselves. Either the beliefs themselves are self-refuting, like the man who tried to disprove the existence of air; he was using air as he tried to deny it; or they reduce to absurdities; or they never really deal with the fundamental questions, but rely on borrowed but unadmitted presuppositions from other worldviews. In the final case, we consider their beliefs to be arbitrary, rather than rational.

My explanation could not have been termed with such clarity without first reading Dr. Jason Lisle’s new book, The Ultimate Proof of Creation. Creationists have plenty of evidence for the biblical history of the world. They have evidence contradicting the evolutionary and uniformitarian theories of origins. Bible-believing scientists are even doing real science all the time (science of observation and technological advancement to improve our lives), just as they have done for thousands of years. None of these things convinces a man committed to a naturalist worldview. But no naturalist can debate against the Bible, for evolution, or conduct science of his own without assuming things that can only be true if the things the Bible teaches are true. This is the ultimate proof, to engage skeptics on their worldview.

This method has several advantages. First, it keeps in mind that the motive for Christian apologetics is to glorify God and to invite non-Christians to be saved. Thoughtful meekness is what the Bible directs us to have when responding to critics. The Bible also teaches that if we do not live consistently with our beliefs, our critics have reason to ridicule us and those beliefs. Consistency is a biblical tactic.

Second, the Bible does give instructions for debate. Dr. Jason Lisle has applied two verses in Proverbs to his debating style. Do not let a skeptic convince you to fight on neutral ground when the question you are debating is inherently about the reliability of your ground as opposed to all others. For a Christian to abandon, for the sake of argument, his belief in God and dependence on the account of the Bible, is to surrender before he has even lifted his sword. But we can do an internal critique of the skeptic’s position, making apparent where he contradicts himself or leaves questions unanswered.

Third, and I really appreciate this one, a Christian apologist using these techniques does not need to be a PhD or have memorized an encyclopedia of scientific evidence for Creation. Creation science is valid and interesting, but not every believer is called to that kind of knowledge of the world as he is called to give a reason for the hope that is in him and to preach the gospel to every creature. In my experience, it is great for a philosophical person like me to team up with someone who knows a lot of facts, and to tag-team a discussion. Or I could practice a bit more so that I can have some representative cases of creationism scientifically supported.

The Ultimate Proof of Creation is an interesting book on logic and worldviews, exciting as I think of applying it. Think of watching the Discovery Channel and being able to identify the worldview being used, the presuppositions made, and the logical fallacies committed. This book enables you to do that. Or it can help when you’re trying to stay focused when witnessing to a friend who doubts the Bible. Learn to find ways to tie all questions into a question of faith: do you accept the ultimate standard of God, who created you – or do you reject Him and therefore all that depends on Him (including your will and rationality)?

To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn

The Ultimate Proof of Creation

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Old-Earth Creationism on Trial: The Verdict is In, by Dr. Jason Lisle and Tim Chaffey

In about 200 pages (including footnotes and appendices), the authors present a case to Bible-affirming Christians for young earth creationism.  They follow the rules of logic and point out some commonly applied logical fallacies which they are avoiding.  Topics range from biblical interpretation of Genesis’ creation and flood accounts, descriptions and simple refutations of alternate interpretations (day-age theory, gaps in genealogies, local flood), to a short discussion of the scientific evidence “for” and against an old earth. 

The authors, Dr. Jason Lisle and Tim Chaffey, emphasize the importance of using the Bible as our foundation for science.  Because of this commitment they are able to present a consistent cosmogony and worldview, but they are not in this book writing to skeptics or people of other religions.  Though Old-Earth Creationism on Trial argues that a biblical foundation is the only scientific starting point that is not self-defeating, and therefore the best approach to combating erroneous theories, their objective in this book is to encourage and challenge Christians.   

Through a short examination of history, the authors prove that young-earth creationism is not a reaction to biological evolution, but that it has been the majority interpretation of the church (and plainest reading of Genesis) for thousands of years before Darwin wrote Origin of Species.  In fact, a portion of the church had begun to compromise on the age of the earth earlier in the 19th century.  Thus the debate inside the church has been going on for about 200 years. 

One of my favorite parts of this easy-to-read reference book was the use of Proverbs 26:4-5, which says: “Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like unto him. Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit.”  Therefore, to be consistent in our own position, we do not have to grant the false assumptions of our opponents in order to debate them.  However, it is a valid debate technique to point out the fallacy of their assumptions by showing their logical conclusions (which can be proven to be false).  This is the format, in fact, of the whole book. 

 

Compared to Coming to Grips with Genesis, Old-Earth Creationism on Trial covers most of the same information in a more concise and layman-friendly format.  The authors also do a good job of focusing on the age of the earth (and universe) question, without going too far into the associated questions of biological evolution.  Christians are discouraged from accepting naturalism and uniformitarianism, even in conjunction with other biblical beliefs.  The book is a strong polemic against these two philosophies, which both underlie the theories of evolution. 

 

Old-Earth Creationism on Trial: The Verdict is In

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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Coming to Grips with Genesis, edited by Terry Mortenson, Ph. D. and Thane H. Ury, Ph. D. 

Is the question of the age of the earth too divisive for Christians?  Is your interpretation of Genesis, particularly the first eleven chapters, important?  Are young-earth creationists good Bible scholars or good scientists?  Does Genesis allow for millions or billions of years?  Does the rest of the Bible? 

Comprised of nearly 450 pages written by 16 men dedicated to the literalism, inerrancy, and theological relevance of Genesis 1-11, this book is a resource for scholars and theologians.  Amateur as I am, reading the entire book cover to cover was a challenge.  I learned several new words, my favorite of which is phenomenological – just because it is fun to say!  Most Creationist books are about science.  Some are about the cultural impact of accepting Darwinism.  This book is almost unique in that it addresses the theological reasons for believing in a recent 6-day creation of the Heavens and Earth and life in them, as well as, significantly, a global flood. 

Christians today cannot even be said to be tempted to doubt the authority of Scripture compared to science; it is almost a cultural given that reasonable Christians will submit their interpretations of the Word of God to the supreme truth of scientific evidence as interpreted by a majority of secular and religious scientists.  Coming to Grips with Genesis seeks to show that no compromise on the literal narrative of Genesis 1-11 is based in hermeneutics.  Theologians who promote the day-age, framework, poetic, or gap theories for interpreting Genesis are inspired only by their conviction that “science” has proven an age of the earth billions of years beyond that recorded by the only witness, the God of the Bible. 

Topics include:
– historic interpretations of Genesis and beliefs about the age of the earth from Jesus, the apostles, early church fathers, reformation theologians, and modern commentators
– possibility of gaps in the Genesis 5 and 11 genealogies
– theological implications of death and pain and decay before Adam’s sin
– and discussions of the words, phrases, and style of language in the Creation account of Genesis 1-3, and the Flood narrative in Genesis 6-8. 

Dedicated to Dr. John C. Whitcomb, Jr., a short biography and bibliography is included at the end of the book along with a personal tribute describing his impact on each contributor opening almost every chapter.  John MacArthur and Henry Morris both endorsed this book with their forewords.  Every essay is covered in footnotes, and there is an extensive resource list in the back of the book for more information.  There is also an index.  Several contributors referred the reader to the Institute for Creation Research’s RATE Project conclusions.  As usual, Master Books has maintained a close relationship with Answers in Genesis, and that ministry is frequently cited in the resource list. 

Chapter 8, “A Critique of the Framework Interpretation of the Creation Week” by Robert V. McCabe is 38 pages of introduction, discussion, summary, discussion, summary (etc.), conclusion – all about, in my words, the Hebrew word for “and then.”  If you take my advice, you will read the first two pages and skip the rest.  Trust me that this man looked at every possible detail of this “waw consecutive.”  Much more interesting was the work of Stephen W. Boyd in chapter 6, “The Genre of Genesis 1:1-2:3: What Means This Text?”  He included the results of his own statistical analysis of waw consecutives as a sign of historical narrative, with other considerations for determining genre. 

The chapters that included direct quotes (translated) of church fathers were a helpful and interesting survey of early church theology with the different schools of thought (for example, the way in which most theologians related the age of the earth to their eschatology).  One chapter introduced me to Ancient Near Eastern literature.  Another emphasized the importance of context in (especially Hebrew) interpreting a passage.  A phrase often has a meaning more than the sum of its parts.  Page 120 and 121 are a biblical refutation of human empiricism superceding a faith acceptance of the “special revelation” word of God.  Chapter 9’s play by play description of the Flood with a timeline and occasional phrase exposition is one of the highlights (and I learned about inclusios and chiasms!).  My favorite part (more a reflection on my taste for philosophy than the writing or substance of the rest of the book) was the Epilogue, in which the editors contrast young earth biblical creationism with the Intelligent Design Movement (which tends to compromise the statements of the Bible). 

Ultimately, this book is a plea for faithful exegesis of the Bible and a defense of the methods employed and conclusions reached through traditional hermeneutic approach to Genesis consistent with that used on the rest of the Bible.  Coming to Grips with Genesis is an intense work, scholarly and detailed.  Theologians, seminarians, pastors, and Bible teachers – especially those whose view of Genesis is not firmly opposed to all forms of compromise – are the appropriate audience for this book. 

Coming to Grips with Genesis

To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn

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Over the past decade or so, several scientists, authors, and speakers have joined forces to promote their observations that indicate life originated with a designer. Cells are just too complicated, they say, to have arisen by chance. Spontaneous generation, disproven centuries ago, remains the naturalist’s only option for the origin of biological life. Yet the odds against even a simple single-celled organism arising by chance are astronomical. The molecules have to line up all at once to form proteins, which have to line up quickly into the cells. DNA is a complex code for building life: made up of simple proteins, the series communicates a baffling level of information. Intelligent Design usually rests their case for an original designer at this point, picking back up after life has begun to debate Darwinism’s explanation for the variety of life we witness on earth.

But they could take the matter farther. Even if the remotest of far-fetched chances (this is before mutation or natural selection or heredity can have any impact on the process) came true and all the chemicals and molecules lined up, the language DNA writes still had to come from somewhere. It has no meaning without an Author. That age-old question, “Why?” asked by every two year old since humanity began, remains: both inside science and in the realm of philosophy.

According to the theory of evolution, mutations and natural selection account for increasing complexity and increasing variety among living creatures. (Evolutionists have precious little to explain the acquisition of new information in the DNA; all observable speciation, mutation, and variation consists of loss of information, reduced parameters for variety in future generations.) Evolutionists usually posit that all life arose from a single simple organism (which found sufficient nourishment, reproduced, and gave us the definition of life as we know it). Intelligent Design scientists point out that among the known species, there are many examples of features too complex, too perfectly adapted to be attributed to chance. The advent of each of these mechanisms would have been almost as miraculous as the first life, according to the mathematics. Take vision, wings, migration instinct, sex. Some creatures demonstrate irreducible complexity: all the new parts have to be present and perfect immediately to be functional. In some cases, the slightest difference means death for the creature in whom the feature was derived, and we know that dead creatures don’t pass their genes to future generations.

Complexity, information, and observed natural processes and their limitations are the data. Statistical probabilities are the analyses. Impossible is a logical conclusion. But life exists whether we can explain it or not. So some, purely on scientific grounds, conclude that there may be a designer. If we include this intelligence in the list of natural phenomenon; in other words, accept it as an observable* part of our world, humans can keep studying this marvelous, orderly world, drawing conclusions allowing for design and occasional if not constant intervention by a creative and powerful force.

*Scientists observe evidence for design in other fields (outside of ‘natural science’) all the time. Forensic science, for example, searches for clues that will tell an investigator whether a crime was committed. We not only judge whether there was intelligence, but degrees of intelligence using science. Consider archaeology. We may find a rustic clay pot, or a ziggurat aligned with constellations. Both represent intelligence, but of varying degrees.

Nor does it take a scientist to observe evidence for design. You are walking on the beach. Lying in the sand is a watch. With its gears and correspondence to what you call and measure as time, you conclude that the watch was designed, intelligently. Here most people explain our conclusions using a contrast with something “obviously” not designed, like the sand on the beach. The casual observer can see nothing about the form of the sand that stands out, that indicates someone intentionally smoothed it out and drew in ripples. In fact, we can even explain the tiny size of the particles, their smoothness, and the ripples by natural, consistent, observable events.

Here’s where I differ. Just as we have no explanation (using forces exclusive of a designer) for life, so science cannot explain the origin or structure of these tiny rocks. Under a microscope these crystals and substances reveal a mastery of molecular architecture. Each different rock is functional and unique from other kinds of rock. We’re taught that everything is composed of atoms, those busy bits whirling and attracting and repulsing with a reliability that we need every moment. What keeps the atoms together? What gives them weight? Why are there so many different substances? Even if “naturalists” are right, and the universe began with a big bang, what exploded, why and how? Where did the “what” come from, or the energy for the explosion? Why are there laws, and why are they repeatable? Taking our illustration of the sand, how did it get in the sea to be beaten into fragments, smoothed along a beach, and shaped by the waves breaking on the shore? Why do waves break, and how?

I argue that there is no such thing as naturalism without a designer, because every bit of nature is inexplicable without a designer. The laws of the universe represent order and harmony and intelligence. A cell may be more complex than a grain of sand, but only as the ziggurat is to a clay pot. Both are designed. And everything “natural” is so elegantly structured that its aesthetic far outweighs the clumsy pot made by man.

To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn

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