Christianity 201

February 21, 2019

Compelling Evidence

Science and Christianity

by Clarke Dixon

Should Christians be afraid of science? Should scientists be afraid of Christianity? We Canadians can tend to be more science-focused than Bible-focused, including those of us who call ourselves Christians. When we fall ill, do we follow James 5:14 and call the elders of the church, or do we call the doctor? As a pastor, I would be pleased to come and pray with you, but I will likely also encourage you to call the doctor if you have not already done so!

There can be a sense of conflict for a Christian. Do we learn from the Bible or science? Do we lean on the Bible or science? Do we lean into the Bible or science? Are we to choose between Christianity and science?

With this apparent conflict, what are we to think?

First, we should be aware that Christianity has provided a good foundation for science to flourish. Belief in a God Who has ordered the universe, creating laws that govern how things work, inspires the investigation of how it all works. Christians were, and still very much are, involved in science.

Second, we appreciate science for what it is, and what it is not. Science is the expectation that things operate according to patterns and laws which are predictable and discoverable. There is no argument with Christianity there. Science is therefore done without explicit reference to God, even by Christian scientists. Let us consider a simple example of how science works. In this past week my youngest son baked a rather large batch of very good peanut-butter cookies. I could run an experiment where I eat twenty cookies a day until they are all eaten, then step on the scales to observe the effect of eating the cookies. If the rest of my eating patterns remained unchanged, we could predict a weight gain. What we will not do is ask how God will intervene in my life based on my cookie consumption. To do so would be to hold a “God of the gaps” kind of theology. The experiment is not about finding God, but finding out how things work.

Science is the belief things operate according to laws, however, it is not the belief that there is no God. As Christians we would say that science is the discovery of how God made things to work. A Christian doing science does the same thing as an atheist doing science. Both are discovering how things operate, but one thinks of the laws of nature, however they came about, the other of God’s Creation operating according to His design. Science is a methodology which does not seek God in the workings. However, to say there is no God is not science, but scientism.

Third, we appreciate what the Bible for what it is, and what it is not. The Bible is God’s revelation of Himself within history with each part written to different people at different times using different genres. The Bible is not a science textbook written to science-minded westerners. Of the many genres used in the Bible, one genre you will not find is a lab report.

It is helpful to remember that the Bible was written for you, but it was not written to you. In Bible studies I often ask “what do you find striking in this passage?” We really should ask how the passage would have struck the first readers and hearers. What were the original readers meant to learn, or what were they likely to learn? To give an example, the prevalent worldview when the Book of Genesis was taking shape held that there were multiple gods who had complicated relationships with each other, the world, and humanity. The original hearers/keepers of the passages in Genesis would have been struck by the fact there is only one God worthy of consideration, that He is a God of order, He is the Creator of everything, and He wants a relationship with all people, which will be worked out in some way through one particular group of people, the people descendant from Israel. No one would have questioned whether the universe really did come into existence fully formed in six literal 24 hour periods. That is a question we ask today when we fail to appreciate the theological poetry of Genesis 1.

Fourth, we learn to navigate the relationship between science and Christianity as we follow the evidence. If our science and theology do not fit together, then our understanding of theology is correct and our understanding of science is wrong, or, our understanding of science is correct and our understanding of theology is wrong, or a wee bit of both. Scientists are not infallible, their interpretations of, and inferences from, the data can be off. We believe the Bible to be infallible, meaning it is exactly what God wanted it to be. However, our interpretations of the Bible are not infallible. With humility in our understanding of both science and theology we follow the evidence.

Consider John chapter 9. A blind man healed by Jesus is willing to follow the evidence. He was blind but is healed, therefore the evidence leads him to the conclusion that Jesus is someone special. The Pharisees are also trying to follow the evidence in figuring out how the blind man was healed. However, they have prior assumptions which affect their conclusions:

The Jews didn’t believe it, didn’t believe the man was blind to begin with. So they called the parents of the man now bright-eyed with sight.  They asked them, “Is this your son, the one you say was born blind? So how is it that he now sees?”
His parents said, “We know he is our son, and we know he was born blind.   But we don’t know how he came to see—haven’t a clue about who opened his eyes. Why don’t you ask him? He’s a grown man and can speak for himself.”   (His parents were talking like this because they were intimidated by the Jewish leaders, who had already decided that anyone who took a stand that this was the Messiah would be kicked out of the meeting place.   That’s why his parents said, “Ask him. He’s a grown man.”)
They called the man back a second time—the man who had been blind—and told him, “Give credit to God. We know this man is an impostor.

John 9:18-24 (The Message, emphasis added)

The blind man does not begin with assumptions:

He replied, “I know nothing about that one way or the other. But I know one thing for sure: I was blind . . . I now see.”

John 9:25 (The Message)

Operating with different assumptions, the healed man comes to a very different conclusion about the identity of Jesus!

Science-minded people may come to an investigation of Jesus and the Bible with assumptions, and so miss the truth. They may have already decided that miracles cannot happen and therefore they have already concluded, before their investigation, like the Pharisees did, who they think Jesus is. In doing so they can miss an amazing opportunity for relationship with God.

The shoe can be on the other foot, however. Notice that in John 9, it is the religious leaders who are the ones with the assumptions. The Christian may also hold assumptions about science and/or the Bible and miss truth. In doing so we can miss opportunities for growth, and importantly, opportunities for witness. The man born-blind follows the evidence and it leads him to worship Jesus:

Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and went and found him. He asked him, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”
The man said, “Point him out to me, sir, so that I can believe in him.”
 Jesus said, “You’re looking right at him. Don’t you recognize my voice?”
 “Master, I believe,” the man said, and worshiped him.

John 9:35-38 (The Message)

One of our goals as Christians is to help others come to know Jesus. If we hold to the view that science and the Bible are at odds, then we may be creating a stumbling block for others. Are we willing to follow the evidence? Do we give the freedom to others to do the same? I believe that if we send our youth off to university with the belief that they need to choose between science and Christianity, we have failed them. Do we give them the tools to follow the evidence?

Do we need to pick between Christianity and science? Far from being in conflict, there is a good relationship between science and Christianity. One can follow the scientific evidence and still be a Christian. In fact many people come to Christianity because of the evidence provided by science. Many religions have fallen by the wayside, some would say thanks to science. However, the fact that science and Christianity can enjoy a good relationship is another reason Christianity is compelling!


This is part of a series called “Compelling” which begins here. The full sermon can be heard on the podcast which is found here.

January 24, 2019

A Compelling Cosmos

by Clarke Dixon

The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Psalm 19:1 (NIV)

You can imagine the Psalmist looking up to the stars in awe, praising God for all creation. But do the heaven’s still declare the glory of God in our day? Do the skies still proclaim the work of his hands to a people as sophisticated and learned as we are? The heavens would compel the ancients to glorify God as Creator. But are we compelled by them today?

It turns out that the heavens still speak. Philosophers and scientists do the talking, but through the study of “the heavens,” the cosmos, we can learn something about the existence and nature of God.

Let us look to three questions inspired by the heavens. Please note that this is all very introductory.

What is behind the beginning of the universe?

Beginning in the last century a majority of scientists have been won over to the view that our universe had a beginning. While some Christians balked at the “Big Bang” theory, others saw the implications for theology. After all, we people of the Jurdeo-Christian tradition have long been saying that the universe had a beginning. William Lane Craig lays out what he calls the Kalam Cosmological argument in this way:

  1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
  2. The universe began to exist.
  3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.

Further, the cause “must be spaceless, timeless, immaterial, uncaused, and powerful.” Sound like anyone you know? God, as revealed in the Bible, fits this cause of the universe perfectly. But then you might object with “who created God?” Consider the first premise, and then note that God does not begin to exist, therefore we do not need to consider what caused his existence. Again, this is all very introductory, but here is a short video from William Lane Craig which explains it in a much better way.

Why are the conditions just right at the beginning of the universe for it to be life permitting?

Scientists tell us that certain physical constants, like the force of gravity, are so very specific, that if they were just slightly different at the beginning, the universe would not exist as we know it. It would not be life permitting. This is commonly called the Fine Tuning Argument.

Just how specific must these constants be? The web resource godandscience.org quotes Dr. Hugh Ross from his book, The Creator and the Cosmos, on one such constant, the ratio of electrons to protons:

One part in 1037 is such an incredibly sensitive balance that it is hard to visualize. The following analogy might help: Cover the entire North American continent in dimes all the way up to the moon, a height of about 239,000 miles . . . Next, pile dimes from here to the moon on a billion other continents the same size as North America. Paint one dime red and mix it into the billions of piles of dimes. Blindfold a friend and ask him to pick out one dime. The odds that he will pick the red dime are one in 1037. (p. 115)

Did this degree of fine tuning happen by necessity, chance, or by design? Design can be shown to be the most reasonable alternative. I am only scratching the surface, but here is another short video from William Lane Craig to give you a better handle on the fine tuning argument.

Why does anything exist at all?

Looking up to the heavens above on a starry night, we might ask not just how this all began, or how it ended up being so delicately balanced for life, but why is there anything at all? Gottfried Leibniz asked “why is there something rather than nothing?”. He then went on to show how God is the answer. William Lane Craig has formulated Leibniz’s thinking using the following premises:

  1. Everything that exists has an explanation of its existence (either in the necessity of its own nature or in an external cause).
  2. If the universe has an explanation of its existence, that explanation is God.
  3. The universe exists.
  4. The explanation of the universe’s existence is God.

This can be a tricky one to wrap our minds around, but basically the idea is that the universe is contingent, that is, something else was required for its existence. We experience this in daily life as we see that all things have some cause behind them. There is a computer here in front of me because someone built it, and I bought it. This computer did not need to exist, nor did I have to buy it. Its existence and placement is contingent on many things. However, God exists necessarily. Nothing caused God to exist. The only way a contingent universe could exist is if something which existed necessarily caused it to exist. This is consistent with what the Bible teaches.

Here is one more short video from William Lane Craig to help you better understand the Leibniz contingency argument.

Some observations.

  • Some might wonder why not just read the Bible and not concern ourselves with such philosophical pursuits. However, the Bible itself says “The heavens declare the glory of God,” therefore it is worth hearing what the heavens declare. We do this through science and philosophy.
  • The fact that science and philosophy can be found to be in sync with theology reminds us that we need neither leave our brains at the door of the church, nor leave our faith in the parking lot of the university. This in itself is something compelling about Christianity. Many of us would find an “everything you know from anywhere else is wrong” kind of attitude to be off-putting.
  • Each of these arguments from philosophy and science are not a knock down argument for Christianity on their own. However, they are part of a larger cumulative case for the truth of Christianity which goes well beyond thinking about the cosmos.
  • You may feel like you can’t wrap your head around these arguments. As J. Warner Wallace points out, jurors in murder cases make decisions that affect the future of an individual in drastic ways, yet they don’t need to be experts. The jurors listen to the testimony of expert witnesses and consider all the evidence without becoming experts in any one part.

It is compelling that what was written so long ago in the Bible should provide answers consistent with what is being learned in our day. Christianity provides compelling answers to philosophical questions inspired by the cosmos, but far more than that, it speaks about God who loves! May you have confidence that Christianity is true. May you have confidence that God loves you in Christ!


Clarke Dixon is a pastor in Ontario, Canada.

All Scripture references are taken from the NLT. This is part of a series called “Compelling” which begins here. The full 36-minute sermon can be heard on the podcast here.

April 27, 2017

Investigating Jesus: Not Jumping to Conclusions

by Clarke Dixon

Some people see the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus as a matter of faith, and by faith they mean “belief despite the lack of evidence.” However, is this really how we define faith? Consider the things we trust, like a chair when we sit, or a car when we depend on it to get us somewhere. We don’t give much thought to whether the chair or car will let us down because we have evidence; they don’t normally let us down. When they begin to show some wear and tear, then our trust may wane, but here again this distrust is due to evidence. Consider the people you trust and those you do not trust. They have have likely earned your trust or distrust and you can probably point to evidence as to why your trust or lack thereof is reasonable. So too, trust in Jesus is a reasonable step to take based on evidence. Back to Easter, is there any evidence that the resurrection of Jesus happened? Can we put our trust in Jesus, not despite the evidence, but rather based of it?

J. Warner Wallace was an atheist when he became a cold-case detective, so we can rely on him to be very capable in handling evidence and eyewitness testimony. Follow his works in print and online and you will discover that he came to trust in Jesus as Lord and Saviour, not despite the evidence, but based on it. In our current series we are going to lean upon Wallace as we investigate the evidence for Jesus. I encourage you to read his books for yourself, Cold Case Christianity, and God’s Crime Scene and visit his website. For readers from our church family, our Sunday School children will be working their way through Cold-Case Christianity for Kids.

The first thing we learn from Wallace about conducting an investigation, is to never jump to conclusions. Let me give an example. Suppose you are a detective and you are called to the scene of a death. On the way you learn that it is me. Your first thought is “who would want to murder the pastor?” Knowing me well you think you know what happened. You arrive at my house, and, sure enough there I am at a table with all kinds of Easter chocolate wrappings. That confirms what you were thinking; Clarke has died from chocolate poisoning.  Additionally, there are no signs of the windows being tampered with. You conclude that this is not a murder scene and that your work here is done. You think you can explain the evidence by staying inside the room, there is no need to look outside for a murderer. Case closed.

This is what happens when people try to explain “who Jesus really was” or try to “get back to the historical Jesus” from a  purely naturalistic viewpoint. There are many books, documentaries and other media that do this. They evaluate the evidence but only allow for explanations that don’t include the possibility of any kind of supernatural occurrence or “Anyone out there”. Evaluating the evidence for Jesus without allowing a supernatural explanation  is to begin the investigation with a conclusion. Beginning with a conclusion is not a good way to discover truth.

The policewoman who was first on the scene asks you what you think about the gunshot wound. Oops, you missed some evidence. She also points out that no gun was found and the front door was unlocked. When I said you were a detective, I didn’t say you were a very good one! The evidence is pointing “outside the room” for an explanation. This is now a murder scene and someone out there is responsible.

Is there “Someone out there” when it comes to Jesus? Should the truth seeking person consider all the explanations for the resurrection of Jesus including the supernatural one? But we all know dead people don’t rise from the dead, you say. Yes, that is true, but when you understand the story of God as related in the documents that make up the Bible, then you will know that we should not expect to see people raised from the dead to a new kind of life in past history except for this one time. Can we rule out the supernatural? Can we rule out God’s involvement? Can we rule out God’s existence?

J. Warner Wallace has written a second book where he writes about the evidence for the supernatural, and indeed not just for the supernatural, but for the existence of a personal God. I encourage you to read the book for yourself, as I cannot explain adequately here the eight lines of evidence pointing to the existence of God. All I can do is whet your appetite:

  1. Science and philosophy point to a beginning and if there is a beginning – then something or Someone caused it.
  2. The universe gives the appearance of being “fine-tuned” for life. So many different circumstances are “just right” for life to be possible on earth.
  3. Life had a beginning, and a lot of information is involved with proteins and DNA. The existence of God as creator is the best explanation for the beginning of life.
  4. There are signs of design in biology with living creatures and even the smallest of cells demonstrating complexity, intricacy, and purpose. This points to a Designer.
  5. We have an experience of consciousness. How do we get from brain matter to mental states? No one has been able to figure out the relationship between the two, however this is not a quandary for God.
  6. We experience free will. Purely naturalistic explanations do not allow for free will. This does not fit with our experience, or our legal system.
  7. We appeal to moral absolutes. Moral truth is grounded in the reflection of the nature of a perfect Being.
  8. We experience evil. Evil can only exist if there is a Divine Being who is Good.

All this evidence found within the universe points to a Being outside the universe. And what’s more, each of these add to our understanding of that Being as Wallace relates:

The evidence we’ve identified in the universe is best explained by an external suspect, and given the nature of this evidence, our suspect is clearly nonspatial, atemporal, nonmaterial, and uncaused. Our suspect is also powerful enough to create everything we see in the universe and purposeful enough to produce a universe fine-tuned for life. Our suspect is intelligent and communicative, creative and resourceful. As a conscious Mind, our suspect is there personal source of moral truth and obligation and the standard of goodness. (J. Warner Wallace God’s Crime Scene)

This is what we understand from looking at the universe. Please note that we have not even cracked open a Bible yet! That being said, does the description fit with Someone you may have heard about?

In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, 2 the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. 3 Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.Genesis 1:1-3 (NRSV)

For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made. So they are without excuse; 21 for though they knew God, they did not honour him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their senseless minds were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools . . .Romans 1:19-22 (NRSV)

Since studying what we find in the universe points us to the supernatural, we should not be ruling out the possibility of a supernatural explanation for Jesus, his teaching, his miracles, and his resurrection. Even more precisely, what we see by looking the evidence in the universe points us not just to the “supernatural” but to a Supreme Being that fits the description of God in the Bible. Therefore, when that grand story of the Bible includes the resurrection of one man from the dead, we will want to pay particular attention to the possibility of the supernatural in his case. You might acquiesce with “I suppose anything is possible, but it is still not probable.” Hold onto that thought for now and allow the possibility. Next week we will begin looking at the proposed explanations of the resurrection of Jesus and start thinking about what we may consider to be “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Please don’t assume that the only way I could die would be by chocolate poisoning. And please do not assume that nothing supernatural ever happens and Jesus is not risen. Let’s not jump to conclusions too quickly!


Read more from Clarke at clarkedixon.wordpress.com

June 17, 2015

Deliver Us From Deception

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, ‘Did God say, “You shall not eat from any tree in the garden”?’ (Gen 3:1 NRSV)

Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others.
Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil.” (Luke 11:4b MSG)

and forgive us our sins, for we forgive anyone who owes anything to us; and keep us clear of temptation  (Luke 11:4b Phillips)

YouthGroup

This week’s Wednesday column by Clarke Dixon tied into a youth emphasis at his church this past weekend — which makes it timely after yesterday’s devotional here — but I feel the four principles listed could apply to all of us. Click the link to read at source.

Deliver Them From Evil: Prayers for Our Youth

Since Sunday was “Day of Prayer for Youth Sunday” we can look to making our prayers for youth more specific than a simple “bless ‘em Lord.” The Lord’s prayer in it’s entirety is a great prayer to pray over our youth, but consider especially: “deliver us from evil.” A better translation would be “deliver us from the evil one.” What does the evil one do? We do not need to read too far in our Bibles to find out. The very first thing we find him doing is asking Eve, “did God really say . . .?”  (Genesis 3:1). He sought to deceive, to sabotage Eve’s relationship with God. And he will be whispering in the ears of our youth, “Did God really say? Is that really true?” Perhaps not as a serpent in a tree, but through media, social media, friends, enemies, and yes, in schools, colleges, and universities. This is a key reason youth have been falling away from the Christian faith as they grow into adulthood. It is not staid music, or boring sermons so much as the deceptions of the evil one.

Here are four prayers for our youth reflecting four key areas where the evil one seeks to deceive. (I thank J. Warner Wallace for pointing me in the direction of these four categories in a recent podcast):

1. Deliver our youth from the deception of the evil one when he whispers “Is it really true for everyone?”

Our youth will hear things like “it is true for you, but it is not true for me.” Or put another way, “there is no absolute truth.” There is a very relativistic way of looking at things these days. Let me correct that, there is a very relativistic way of looking at religion these days. This is something we rarely do elsewhere in life. Under normal circumstances the freezing point of water is zero degrees Celsius. But suppose I should say “that’s true for you, but for me it is minus fifteen degrees Celsius.” Being a motorcyclist in Canada how I wish that were true! But if I were to head out in minus fourteen weather, I think you would be quick to point out that I might encounter ice. The point is that truth is real and really important. We depend upon things being true every day. But when it comes to spiritual realities people do not want to commit, and so they pretend truth is not real. That Jesus is Lord is either true for everyone whether they believe it or not, or it is not true for anyone. To quote C.S. Lewis: “Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important.” Lord, may our youth know the nature of truth. 

2. Deliver our youth from the deception of the evil one when he whispers “Can you really know anything beyond what science teaches?

Here is a common thought: “Science is the only way to know anything.” But is that true? Science works by studying what is, and so that in itself limits its knowledge. I think it was John Lennox who used the analogy of a car, so I’ll use that too, though I’ll not say it as well as Dr. Lennox. Suppose you were to give my Mitsubishi Lancer to a group of scientists to study. They might eventually be able to explain how the whole thing works, and they may point out that it works without the need for engineers or factory workers. But you and I know that engineers and factory workers were essential for the very presence of this car. As you study nature you will not find God under the ground pushing up daisies. Yet the daisies would not exist without Him. What the scientists cannot tell you by studying the car itself is anything substantial about the history of the car, the manufacturer, or the people involved in the development of the car and the company. They might come to some knowledge about how that particular car was put together but for anything beyond that you need a historian who will work with other sources of truth. The scientists may make take a stab at the history by an inference that somewhere along the line there was a Mr. Mitsubishi involved in the development of the car. While inferring a founder would be correct it would still be very lacking in truth as there was no Mr. Mitsubishi, it is a Japanese word meaning “three diamonds.” The historian knows this. The scientists cannot tell the historians what to believe about everything. And neither can the scientists tell the theologians what to believe about everything. Their scope of study is too limited. Lord, may our youth enjoy both science and theology.

3. Deliver our youth from the deception of the evil one when he whispers “Can you really trust the Bible?”

All too often people say things like “the Bible has changed so much from the original it cannot be trusted, therefore you can have no assurance that anything in Christianity is correct.” There are two perspectives on this. First there is the perspective of faith. If God is going to reveal Himself we can trust that He will also ensure that the record of His revelation will be accurate and trustworthy. God was not just involved in the original inspiration of the works we know as the Bible, but the editing, collecting, and preservation. Second, there is the secular perspective provided by something called textual criticism. Any work you read from before the invention of printing press has hand written texts in libraries and collections that scholars work with to best determine what the author originally wrote. More often than not the originals themselves have been destroyed or lost, and the copies always have some inconsistencies between them. Sometimes the earliest copy we have of an ancient text was written hundreds of years later than the original. Sometimes scholars have very few texts to work with. Yet no one reads Herodotus or Aristotle and thinks “this is unreliable to the point of being useless.” The amazing thing is that with the New Testament we have thousands of texts to work with and some of them are dated quite close to the original writing. The evidence that the texts are reliable is overwhelming. Lord, may our youth have confidence in the Bible.

4. Deliver our youth from the deception of the evil one when he whispers “Did Jesus even exist, never mind rise from the dead?”

Here is another common deception “you can’t prove that anything Christians say about Jesus is true.” On his existence, if you deny that, then practically everything you think you know about ancient history ought also to be denied. Some people are happy enough with that, but very very few serious historians will take that route. As for the resurrection of Jesus, if you come to the Bible with a belief already in place that miracles can never happen, that a dead man could never rise from the dead, then of course no evidence will be sufficient for you. You will be left, however, with a group of documents we collectively call the New Testament, with no real understanding of how they came to be, or how or why the writers came to write them. The existence of so many divergent theories about Jesus is evidence that scholarship is at a loss for explanation. However, if the door is open even a crack to the existence of a miracle working God, then the resurrection of Jesus becomes the simplest explanation as to why the writers of the New Testament wrote what they did. All the things written, all the things believed, and all the lives changed and laid down in service of Jesus, it all comes together and just makes sense. The evidence we have leads to the resurrection as the simplest and best explanation. Lord, may our youth know that Jesus lives . . . and loves.


Image: Youth Alive, Pottsdown New Life Assembly of God, Pottsdown, Pennsylvania

July 1, 2013

Nature’s Splendor Necessitates Accountability

One of the toughest things with which theologians have two wrestle with is the destiny of the unevangelized. In several places however, scripture challenges our ability to consider the idea of anyone existing outside an awareness of God, in passages such as “The heavens declare the glory of God,” and also our passage today.

Greg Laurie, pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, California kicks us off today with a post from his daily devotional blog entitled A Master Designer:

For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.Romans 1:20

God has revealed Himself in many ways to every person, everywhere. He has given us the testimony of His own creation. Romans 1:20 tells us, “For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. . . .”

To say that all of the beauties of God’s creation came about randomly is ridiculous. The person who believes in the theory of evolution makes a choice to believe it. I believe they make that choice because the lifestyle they want to live has no place for God. If there is a Creator, then there is a God. If there is God, then there is a Judge. If there is a Judge, then there is a judgment. And if there is a judgment, they will have to stand there one day. So they have to try to find a way to write God out of the script.

But I think we know intuitively there is a Master Designer behind it all. To look at this world and say that it all just came about randomly borders on the absurd. It would be like saying the 747 aircraft was not the result of the engineering efforts of countless engineers, designers, and workmen at Boeing, but came into being because a tornado swept through a junkyard, and after it was done, there it sat in all its glory.

Yet people will look at something as intricate and amazing as the human body and the creation around us and say it all came about randomly. The Bible says, “Only fools say in their hearts, ‘There is no God’ ” (Psalm 53:1).

God has given us the witness of His creation.

Go deeper with some quotations on this verse from the website Bible Verse Reflections:

Fine tuning of the universe calls for a Fine Tuner
Not only did the universe explode into being out of nothing.
It did so with extreme precision.
In other words, the Big Bang was not a chaotic explosion but an incredibly precise event.

Source: Frank Turek


Our universe operates according to some very specific numerical values. We have the speed of gravity, speed of light, the weak force, the electromagnetic force, the strong nuclear force.

One physicist who teaches at Princeton said it is sort of like this.

It is like God is sitting at a big desk and He has got loads of different dials each representing one numerical constant each set precisely to a fixed number.

Now what one of the dials were moved? For example what if light were not to travel at 186,000 miles per second but 200,000 miles per second.
What if the values of the universe were a little different?

This question was described by Stephen Hawking in his book a Brief History of Time.
If you move one of the dials not 1% (one percent) but 1 part in a hundred thousand million million you would have no universe and you would have no life!

The entire universe has to be as big as it is and as old as it is and contain precisely the numerical values it does because if it didn’t we wouldn’t be here.
The universe is a giant conspiracy it seems to produce us.

Now this argument has put modern atheism completely on the defensive.
Why?
Because it is an argument utterly immune from Darwinian attack.
We are talking why, not just our planet, but the whole universe has the values it does.
I would suggest that the idea of a Creator is the best available explanation.

The universe is fine tuned for life.

The fine tuning of the universe suggests a fine tuner.

I am calling that finer tuner “God”

Source: Dinesh D’Souza vs Dan Barker – The Great God Debate.mp3


The fine tuning of the universe for intelligent life makes Gods existence highly probable.

During the last 30 years or so scientists have discovered, that the existence of intelligent life depends on a complex and delicate balance on initial conditions simply given in the Big Bang itself. We now know that our existence is balanced on a razors edge.

The existence of intelligent life depends on a conspiracy of initial conditions which must be fine tuned to an accuracy and degree that is literally incomprehensible and incalculable. It has been calculated that a change in the strength of gravity or the weak force by one part in 10 to the 100th power would have prevented a life permitting universe.

There is no physical reason why these constants and quantities should possess the values they do.

Source: William Lane Craig debate

September 13, 2012

Why Didn’t He Call The Light “Light”?

For several weeks now at Thinking Out Loud, I’ve been encouraging people to check out the Phil Vischer podcast.  Phil’s name may register with those of you with children as the creator of Veggie Tales.  There are 16 podcasts so far, and Phil is joined each week by Skye Jethani, a name familiar to both bloggers and readers of Christianity Today, and by producer Christian Taylor. Phil is a naturally funny person, and the whole show has a “radio morning zoo” feel to it; but Skye, as a pastor is more focused and while he often adds to the levity, he also rarely wastes words.  Many weeks they are joined by a guest. But why are we mentioning it here?

This past week, the guest was John Walton who teaches at both Moody and Wheaton, and specializes in Old Testament studies. Apparently he and Phil have had some previous conversations regarding Phil’s newest children’s series, What’s In The Bible, especially about the creation narrative in Genesis.

One of the comments was about this verse:

Gen 1:3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.

John then asked, “Why didn’t God call the light, “light.”?  He said that what we’re seeing in this verse is not the creation of light, but the creation of the separators or periods of separation between light and its absence, that what we’re witnessing in this book is the creation of time.  You could say, “And God said, “Let there be time.”

I’d never thought about that before.

Much discussion early on also had to do with the apparent ongoing tension between theologians and scientists on the creation of the world.  John compares this to the difference between you telling your friends about the origins of your house versus the origins of your home.  The former has to do with land, and construction and the physical features. The latter has to do with family, and usage, and traffic patterns.  They are two entirely different stories, and he says that the Bible does not attempt to answer the house questions, and we shouldn’t expect the Bible to serve as a science textbook, because those issues are not raised in its pages.

There was also the issue of death coming into the world. John looked at the creation narrative again and told of having his students focus on this verse:

26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

He then asked them if Adam was clothed in skin, and reminded them that skin is epidermis and epidermis is dead cells. In other words, there was death from the beginning.

This then led to a discussion of predation. That was a new word to me.  The question is whether or not in a “new earth” — a doctrine that’s a given when you get academics together — animals would survive through killing other animals or whether as Phil asked “whales would strain plankton.” John responded that the new earth would involve a new order, and that he does not believe this will be a replication of what existed in the garden, but will involve an entirely new set of possibilities.

This particular podcast — their longest — is 67 minutes long. After the usual banter, John Walton is introduced at around 22:00, and the interview really kicks in at 23:15.  You also have to endure Phil playing the ukelele at the beginning and end of the show; once in children’s ministry, always in children’s ministry, I guess.  So even if you skip the frivolity at the beginning, you’re still looking at 45 minutes; but well worth it.  (We listened to it twice already.) This is the kind of material I love personally; what this blog’s tag line is all about: Diggin’ a little deeper.

…You might also enjoy the previous episode (# 15) which deals with the issue of heaven and the issue of the rapture. You can find that easily enough once you’re at the site; and I also wrote a set-up for that piece Tuesday at Thinking Out Loud.

Time to Re-Address The Issue of Comments
It’s been awhile since I discussed this on any of my blogs, but the time has come to revisit this thorny subject.  What we’re looking for here is comments that stem from the content of the day’s topic, and that then add something to what’s being said.  I call it “added value comments.” We’re also looking for comments that will form part of a discussion that others will want to join. If you disagree with what’s being written, say so politely; at least you will be engaging the written material. If you do agree, don’t just say “That was very good,” because Akismet, the filtering system at WordPress will shut you down every time. (Some day I’ll copy and paste a bunch of spam comments at TOL so people know what not to do.) Instead, say why a particular verse or commentary resonates with you.  If you posted something in the last month, check back, it may not be there because it was just a bunch of random verses, or it did not seem to tie in to the day’s topic. And if you find it’s not there, but you feel you have something to say, may I encourage you to start a blog of your own.

August 29, 2011

Why Did God Make Poisonous Snakes?

When your blog is called Christianity 201, you have the freedom to delve into all kinds of “deeper” questions, but today’s is, I have to admit, a little different than what normally appears in this space.  Still, before you can answer even a child’s question like, “Why did God create mosquitoes?” you have to at least do some serious consideration about creation, including what you believe about the earth in a pre-fall condition [Adam’s fall, not pre-autumn!] versus its state in a post-fall condition. 

Rick Oliver has a PhD from the University of California and is a bit of an expert on rattlesnake venom.  In the article you’re about to link to, he poses questions about the nature of snakes, which seem to be ‘born to kill.’

Other aspects of snake design don’t have any obvious use in the original creation. They seem clearly designed for this cursed world. So we can probably rule out mutations or changes in habitat.

  • Did God add these features to snakes at the Curse?
  • Did God design the original snakes with these features, knowing that Adam would sin and that snakes would soon need them in a fallen world?
  • Did God place these designs in the original snakes’ genes, but they were not expressed until after the Curse as snakes had offspring and spread over the earth (mediated design)?
  • Did these designs arise in other ways, which we have not yet considered but are consistent with Scripture? Perhaps we’ll never know.

Some believers don’t like to be drawn into the creation-science debate, considering it peripheral to serious Bible study. However, I think it’s necessary — without being a science expert — to have a ‘take’ on this issue; I see at as part of our mandate to “always be ready to give an answer [or account]” for what we believe.  I Peter 3:15

So click this link with me, and spend a few minutes seeing where your theology meets up with spiders, mosquitoes and snakes.

[Thanks to the blog, Strengthened by Grace for highlighting this topic.]

October 2, 2010

Christianity 201: The Book (By Someone Else)

You can imagine my surprise in browsing new release book lists this week to discover a new title releasing under the same title as this blog.   So, I thought we’d take today’s space to include the rather lengthy publisher write-up on it.   I obviously haven’t read it; I’m just working on the theory that great minds think alike when it comes to titles.    The author is Amos Tarfa and the publisher is Deep River Books.

Christianity 201: The Pursuit of Excellence is written to those who believe the Christian message and those who don’t. The book begins with Christianity 101- a section that helps the reader to understand what Christianity is and is not. It helps to remind people of the basics of the Christian worldview and how this worldview helps us in understanding reality as it is. Serving as an introduction for someone who does not know what the Christian message is, Tarfa explains some important themes and concepts within the Christian faith.

With many people today believing that their Christian faith should be kept separate from everything else they do, Christianity 201: The Pursuit of Excellence reminds them that they are supposed to have one life and that ‘the world ought to recognize us by our fruits’. Focusing on who God is, as revealed in His Word, and what He has done for us, this book explains practical ways that we can grow and learn more about God.

With the emergence and growth of the postmodern philosophy, many people hold to the view that truth is relative. Tarfa shows the firm foundation of the Bible and why its truths are absolute. He sheds light to the different areas where we can apply God’s word in our friendships, leadership opportunities, actions, and thoughts, and how God’s Word should shape how you view the world and these areas.

Taking a looks at some practical places where we could glorify God, Christianity 201 challenges the reader to excel in all areas including education, careers and other extracurricular activities. Tarfa examines the life of Daniel, a man who excelled at all he did for the glory of God, showing that the Bible is just as true and relevant in today’s world as it was then.

The book shows ways that we can grow and be more like Christ in a world where many don’t place value. Tarfa says, “It saddens me when I see people looking for worldly things to build their lives on. The Bible clearly shows us how we ought to live our lives. The more we learn about God through His word, the more we learn about ourselves and the world. And the more we learn about ourselves, the more effective and efficient we can be. It is only when we start pursuing after God that we know we are on track to achieving excellence. He expects us to live for Him while we are here on earth. If we choose to live for anything else, we will have wasted our lives.”

Christianity 201: The Pursuit of Excellence shows the limits of science and why this is important with regards to Christianity. Scientific discoveries and advancements in technology has not, and cannot take the place of God in our lives. Science by its nature cannot do that. Science proposes explanations for phenomena without giving justification for why it has the ability to provide these explanations.

The more we learn good science, the more we realize that there is a high level of precision and specificity which comes only from a being capable of producing these effects. In Christianity, it is the God of the universe who made things the way they are. As Kepler, Newton and many of the early scientists mentioned, science is the study of what God has made. Even though these scientists lived a long time ago, their words and propositions are still as important and are worth considering in world where people want science and theology to be in different categories without any relationship. Science is a gift from God which we should not be using against Him. In this book Tarfa points to the Word which is logic and truth that ultimately leads us back to the Source of all Truth, Jesus Christ.

Christianity 201: The Pursuit of Excellence is for Skeptics, new believers and believers that want to grow.

~publisher marketing

Christianity 201 is available through Christian bookstores, for whom the book is distributed through STL and Ingram.    We’ll get back to regular devotionals tomorrow, and remember if you want to submit something for publication, use the “contact” page at Thinking Out Loud for my address.