googlef87758e9b6df9bec.html A Sure Word: November 2016

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

How Young Earth Creationists are not like Jesus Mythicists

It's not very often that I come across a truly novel argument against creationism. Just recently, though, I came across a headline that caused me to do a double-take. On FaceBook, Stephen Bedard posted an article comparing Young Earth Creationists and Jesus Mythicists. It just struck me as odd because I would never have viewed those particular beliefs in the same light. Obviously, I was curious about how anyone would consider them to be similar.

For anyone not familiar with Jesus mythicism, Bedard describes it as the belief there was no historical Jesus and that he is only another form of the common Horus/Dionysus/Mithras myth.” Weird, huh? Any way, as I read Bedard's article I saw that the claims he made weren't really novel at all. //Sigh//.  Before giving my opinion, let me highlight how Bedard sees Jesus mythicism as being similar to young-earth creationism. According to Bedard:
  • Both are views that a person would never get just by looking at the scientific/historical evidence.
  • [B]oth theories are highly suspicious of the scholarly consensus.
  • [B]oth YEC and JM are agenda driven rather than evidence driven. YEC start with their theory and then look to scientific evidence to see how it can be reinterpreted to fit the theory.
Bedard says in the article he was once a young-earth creationist, obviously intending to mean that he no longer is. He tries to deal politely with creationism and concludes his article by saying, I have tried to remain objective here. Either group could be correct.... My point is simply that two groups that have widely different belief systems actually go about their task in very similar ways. Bedard seems to be a nice guy so I will return the favor and not direct my comments toward him specifically. Rather, I will make my own observations of old-earth creationists or theistic evolutionists in general.

I'll start by saying that I agree with Bedard in some ways. For example, I am skeptical of scientific consensus. Just put me in the same category as people like Galiliei who argued against the “scientific” consensus of Ptolemy. Even the majority can be wrong.  Besides, truth is not decided by vote. If we stopped questioning anything after “the science is settled,” where would we be? Scientists are usually proud to say that we should question everything. However, when it comes to issues like evolution or global warming, they want critics to shut up because the science is settled!

At its heart, this is a question of our presuppositions. As people search for the truth, they have to decide what they will accept as evidence.  Personally, I have decided without exception that I will believe the Bible. Romans 3:4 says, let God be true, but every man a liar.  Even if the whole world were to disagree with me, I would like to think I would still stand firmly on God's word. If I'm wrong, then I'm wrong. And when I stand before God in judgment, let my plea be that I believed the Bible too much.

Bedard, apparently, has decided to put more faith in scientific consensus than the Bible. Such a belief has a direct impact on how a person interprets Scripture. An examination of the chronologies in the Bible, for example, suggests that history only goes back about 6,000 years. Of course, old-earth creationists can't accept that because “scientific consensus” says the earth is billions of years old. Therefore, even though the Bible says God made the universe in 6 days, it can't believe it really mean 6 days.

When people start doubting the clear meaning of the words in the Bible, I'm not sure where they draw the line. Hank Hanegraaff – aka, the Bible Answer Man – also believes in an old earth. However, he rejects evolution. That's curious. Why would he accept the scientific opinion on one subject but not the other? I've heard him talk about both subjects and he always appeals to science. He believes that distant starlight proves the earth is old but feels the scientific evidence for evolution isn't as compelling. It seems even the “Bible Answer Man” doesn't necessarily start with the Bible when looking for answers.

Besides the origins issue, what else might these people compromise for the sake of science? The virgin birth? The miracles of Jesus? The resurrection? Where does it stop? And on what grounds can we say science is wrong there but not here? The rate of atheism is a lot higher among scientists than the public. If we trust their opinions, why should we even believe in God at all?

I suppose the ultimate irony in Bedard's article is that it is his views that are more like Jesus mythicism. Neither old earth creationism nor Jesus mythicism are supported by a plain reading of the Bible. Both conclusions are reached by starting with opinions from outside of the Bible and then projecting these unbiblical beliefs onto Scripture. Think about it, Jesus mythicists claim Jesus wasn't a literal person; well, most theistic evolutionists also believe Adam wasn't literal. Neither was Noah. Jesus talked about Adam and Noah as real people from history yet TE folks say they are fictional! Why? Because of science? Many professing Christians also claim Abraham, Moses, and David weren't real. At what point does Luke's chronology from Adam to Jesus stop being fictional characters and start becoming real people?

Let me just say, I agree on a lot of things with folks lot Bedard or Hanegraaff or William Layne Craig and others of that stripe. However, when they allow science to shape their understanding of the plain meaning of words of the Bible, they're setting a terrible precedent. I will paraphrase Martin Luther who said that, if we ever lack understanding of how the Scriptures can be correct, let us merely grant that the Holy Spirit is wiser than we are.

Friday, November 4, 2016

God is evident in what we DO know

Answers in Genesis has a list of arguments they feel creationists should avoid using. I too have heard Christian apologists making very weak points and I just shake my head wishing they'd stop. I've thought about making a list similar to AiG's but many of the items would overlap and AiG has a much bigger audience than I so what would be the point? There is one particular argument, though, that I've heard used frequently and no one is telling them to stop. The argument goes something like this:

A Christian will hold up a piece of paper or draw a circle on a whiteboard. He asks an atheist to pretend the circle or the paper represents all the knowledge there is in the universe. He then asks the atheist to draw another circle inside the larger circle to represent all the knowledge we actually possess. I've never really seen an atheist actually draw a circle; usually an answer is provided by the apologist. The apologist might put a tiny circle or even a dot, meaning we only know a tiny, tiny bit of everything there is to know. In other words, of all the things there are to know in the universe, we probably know less than 1% of it. The Christian then delivers the “death blow” by saying, “If this paper represents everything there is to know, and we only know this little bit, how can you be sure there's no evidence for God among everything you don't know?!”

This video shows Glyn Barrett making this very argument, recounting a supposed debate he had with an atheist. I've seen other videos where Christians make the exact same argument and I don't want to embarrass them by calling them out. Here, however, Barrett sufficiently embarrasses himself by obviously inventing the entire debate so if he should object to my using it as an example, I say he's brought it on himself. But I digress.

I guess the teeth of this argument is that it illustrates the fallacy of claiming a universal negative. That is, I really can't say a certain thing doesn't exist anywhere in the universe unless I already know everything that exists in the universe. Note – many people claim it's impossible to prove a negative but that's not true. For example, I can prove I don't have $100 in my pocket by turning my pocket inside-out and showing you it's empty. I can prove I don't have $1,000,000 in my checking account by showing you my account balance on my smart phone. However, I can't prove life doesn't exist anywhere else in the universe because I can't show you everything else in the universe.

Most atheists understand the impossibility of proving a universal negative and so won't claim to know that God doesn't exist anywhere. Instead, they simply say that they've never seen evidence for God. In that case, what does the argument above accomplish? We're just basically telling the skeptic there could be evidence we haven't found yet and he'll probably say, “OK, I'll look at it when you find it.” You see? There's nothing compelling in just saying there could be evidence out there somewhere.

Besides not being convincing, this argument actually reinforces some of the criticisms of Christianity made by atheists. For example, critics often claim that Christians only have blind faith and not evidence. This illustration tacitly admits that the evidence for God still hasn't been discovered, we just believe it's out there. Critics also accuse Christians of believing in a god-of-the-gaps; this argument seems to do just that by saying the evidence for God exists in what we don't understand.

Instead of saying the evidence for God can be found in what we don't know, I assert that God is clearly evident in what do know! We know that everything that begins to exist has a cause. We know that life cannot rise spontaneously from non-living matter. We know that nature displays design and purpose which are characteristics of created things. From everything we know scientifically, there must be a transcendent, powerful, intelligent Designer who made it all.

Another claim made by skeptics is that our advances in understanding have continuously pushed back the need for God. Ha! If anything, we see more and more the need for God. Darwin, for example, believed a single cell was a “simple” blob of goo that could just fall together by a fortunate arrangement of amino acids. However, we now know that even a single cell is enormously complex. The more we learn about a cell, the more we realize such a thing requires a Creator.

The irony in all this is that it is the atheists who have put their faith in what we don't know. We know, for example, that matter/energy cannot be created naturally. How then can all the matter/energy in the universe have just appeared out of nothing? Even space and time had to appear out of nothing. So what must have happened flies in the face of what we already know can't happen yet atheists still cling blindly to the belief that an answer lies somewhere in what we haven't discovered. Neither have we observed a living cell form from non-living chemicals. Neither have we observed novel features appearing in a population. Many things necessary for secular theories of origins to be true have absolutely no evidence yet atheists sincerely believe the evidence for these things are going to be found someday.

I would say to all atheists that it's OK to ignore arguments that ask you to think evidence for God exists in what you don't know. Instead, I would ask you to think hard about what you do know and seriously question the evidence for what you believe. Do you have evidence that matter/energy/space/time can just appear out of nothing? Do you have evidence that life can rise from non-living matter? You know that you don't. Can you see that design and purpose are evidence for a creator? You know that it is. There's no need to wait around, wondering if clear evidence for God will someday be discovered. I'm saying that God is clearly seen in what you already know is true!