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A Bone to Pick With the Theory of Evolution

Monday, January 10th, 2011

In April of 2010, the media announced another fossil discovery of an alleged “pre-human species”. The actual find took place in March 2008 during an exploration of the Malapa caves near Johannesburg, Africa. In one article, a paleoanthropologist was quoted as saying, “This (discovery) is a thing that has a unique relationship to us. They are extraordinarily important.”

Despite such grandiose claims by the media, over the past several years I’ve grown increasingly skeptical of the fossil record’s ability to support evolutionary theory. I don’t want to leave anyone with the impression that I’m ignoring the evidence of the fossil record nor do I see it as any sort of “threat” to the Christian worldview. Instead, it’s had the opposite effect. I’m absolutely fascinated with the fossil record because I’m convinced that a closer, more objective examination of it points further and further away from an evolutionary view of history. Rather, it reveals a record of earth history that tells of a sudden, abrupt, catastrophic burial of nearly all life as the result of a global flood of the magnitude recorded for us in the book of Genesis.

The failure of the fossil record to support evolutionary theory is a whole topic in itself that I will address at a later time. What I wish to focus on at this time is the question of why evolutionists place so much confidence in the fossil record. I certainly understand that fossil evidence is not the only evidence offered in support of evolution. I also realize that the fossil evidence, just as with any other evidence in a forensic type of investigation, serves as a vital, available source of information about past events- events that none of us can go back and repeat or observe directly. By the way, it’s important to keep in mind that both the creationist and the evolutionist are using the same science to observe the same fossils, so their disagreement is not about the evidence itself, it’s about how to best interpret that evidence.

When it comes to the task of interpreting the evidence, my concern with those who are relying so heavily on the fossil evidence to “prove” evolution is that it seems much too convenient for a number of reasons. In short, the skeletal remains of an organism are much easier to fit into evolutionary theory than trying to deal with the intricacies and complexity of soft tissue or “soft biology”. In his book, Evolution: A Theory In Crisis, Australian molecular biologist and medical doctor Michael Denton writes on page 177, “To begin with, ninety-nine percent of the biology of any organism resides in its soft anatomy, which is inaccessible in a fossil.” (emphasis mine). The point that he goes on to make is that two organisms which may appear to be related with respect to their skeletal remains alone, often turn out to be radically different, unrelated creatures once you include the other ninety-nine percent of the creature’s biological composition.

Interpreting the fossilized remains of a creature has certain liabilities. For one thing, relying on the skeletal remains alone leaves too much room for conjecture and artistic imagination. In 1995, Creation magazine interviewed medical illustrator Ronald J. Ervin. Ron’s outstanding knowledge of anatomy and his incredible gift as a medical illustrator has kept his artistic talents in such demand that he has been called on to produce medical, scientific, and graphic illustrations for courtroom use, journals, and textbooks, including a major college biology textbook- Raven and Johnson’s Biology. In a very candid interview titled, “Filling in the Blanks”, Ron states that when he was asked to do illustrations that attempt to re-create extinct creatures or alleged “transitional” creatures between ape and man, he explains that “No one knows for sure what they looked like, so the artist has the freedom to “create” with colors and forms.” He further explains that when he was asked to provide a textbook illustration of “Lucy” (a supposed pre-human ancestor), each time he submitted a sketch to the authors, they kept asking him to either add or remove “ape-like” or “human-like” qualities to his drawings in order to conform to their evolutionary bias. It’s interesting to note that even the famous evolutionist Richard Leakey was once quoted as saying that Lucy’s skull was so incomplete that most of it was “imagination made of plaster of Paris” (Weekend Australian, 7-8 May 1983, p.3).

Getting back to my earlier quote by Michael Denton, I believe that the biggest liability of all in relying on fossil evidence alone is that once you take into consideration a creature’s (ninety-nine percent) soft biology, the task of trying to imagine some transitional form or intermediate (i.e.-“missing link”) becomes much, MUCH more difficult. After all, it’s relatively easy to compare the skeletal (one percent) remains of a reptile and a bird and imagine some sort of an evolutionary “link” between them. It is something entirely different to explain in terms of real biology the necessary changes of scales to feathers, hollow bones, flight muscles, and “navigational equipment” (in migratory birds). In addition to this, there must also be radical, necessary changes in the creature’s cardiovascular, central nervous, and respiratory systems, all of which would require changes of unimaginable complexity.

To be sure, the fossil record will always be helpful in providing us some insight in the study of origins. But as Denton reminds us, “The systematic status and biological affinity (relationship) of a fossil organism is far more difficult to establish than in the case of a living form, and can never be established with any degree of certainty.”

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I’m Offended That They’re Offended

Monday, December 27th, 2010

If you’re not familiar with the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), they are an organization of trained legal professionals that specialize in taking on court cases where the rights of Christians have been violated. In recent days, they took on a case in Colorado Springs, Colorado that involved a middle school student named Cainan Gostnell who felt that he had to stop wearing his cross to school for fear of being punished by Mann Middle School where he attends as a 7th grader. It all began when an announcement was made by the school that all students wearing religious jewelry would either have to conceal it or stop wearing it due to the fact that some people in his school are “offended” by it. The ACLJ came to the aid of this young student by sending a demand letter to the school. As a result, the attorney from the school district responded to the ACLJ’s legal team with a letter stating that “Cainan may continue to wear and display his cross at school….”

For the life of me, I’ve never understood why any business or any school would establish its rules and policies on the basis of whether or not it might offend someone. Furthermore, I don’t understand why any state or federal government would pass laws on that basis because it seems rather pointless. A few years ago, during the month of December, a co-worker of mine had approached management and asked if he could decorate his workspace with Christmas decorations. Having received permission to do so, he proceeded to put up the decorations. As I expected, the other employees allowed him to do so without objecting to it. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for many businesses, offices, and schools in America today. When I was growing up, it was not unusual to see a Nativity scene on display in various public places. However, to do so today is almost guaranteed to draw criticism from those who object to it. As is often the case, they might even insist that the display be removed because it’s “offensive” to them.

Looking back on that day when my friend put up his decorations, I’ve tried to imagine what I might have done if someone had gone to management with the complaint that they were offended by his display. I think that an appropriate response would have been for me to follow up by going to management myself and explaining to them that if they make him take it down, then I will be offended! While I’m at it, I would also point out to them that they now have the unenviable position of having to decide which one of us they’re willing to offend and which of us they don’t want to offend. To make matters worse, if they choose to side with the other guy, I’ll be even MORE offended by the fact that they were willing to offend me in order to avoid offending him! Do you see how ridiculous the whole matter becomes?

The lesson in all of this is that it’s unreasonable, irrational, and counterproductive for any business, school, or government to establish laws, policies, rules, and regulations purely on the basis that it might “offend” someone. The fact of the matter is that everything is offensive to someone, and everyone is offended by something- it’s human nature and it’s unavoidable.

Posted in Christianity and Culture | 1 Comment »

It’s Time to Put CHRIST Back in CHRISTmas

Monday, December 13th, 2010

I’m running a little late in getting my Christmas cards out this year.  Normally, I try to send them out right after Thanksgiving, but the past few weeks have been so hectic that I’m just now getting around to it.  So, there I was at the local Christian bookstore looking over the various DaySpring cards that are out this year, when I came across a quote on the front of one card that really stood out to me.  It was a quote by Roy Lessin and it reads as follows:

“If our greatest need had been information, God would have sent us an educator.
If our greatest need had been technology, God would have sent us a scientist.
If our greatest need had been money, God would have sent us an economist.
But since our greatest need was forgiveness, God sent us a Savior.”

In a day when Christmas has become so commercialized and the very word “Christmas” has practically been removed from our culture, we must never, ever forget what Christmas is really all about.  As Roy Lessin has so beautifully stated, God sent his only Son (Jesus Christ) into this world because our greatest need was a Savior.

Why do we need a Savior?

Because:

  1. God is holy and we’re not.
  2. ALL of us have knowingly, willingly, repeatedly violated God’s laws.  Therefore, we are all guilty and we know it.  We are all lawbreakers.
  3. Most people do not see themselves that way.  Instead, most people would describe themselves as “basically a good person”.   The reason they’ve come to that conclusion is because they are measuring themselves by a standard that they invented.
  4. The BAD news is that God is not going to measure us by our own, subjective standard.  He is going to measure us by his standard.
  5. According to God’s standard, all of us have been found guilty, and guilty people cannot and will not escape the justice of a holy God.
  6. The GOOD news (“Gospel”) is that this same God who is perfectly just, demonstrated his love for us in the most profound way by sending his Son into this world to eventually die on a cross in order to pay the penalty for our offenses against him.  God has made us a magnanimous offer:  Anyone and everyone who is willing to humble themselves and receive his Son by surrendering their lives to him will be pardoned on the Day of Judgment.  Their case will be dismissed, all charges will be dropped, and they will be granted the incredible privilege of living in the presence of God forever and ever.

I realize that such a message is offensive to many people today.  But, as with anything else in life, it’s not a question of whether we like it or not, it’s a matter of whether or not it’s really TRUE. (By the way, for anyone who may be struggling with some doubts, I would like to recommend an excellent book titled, “I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist” by Frank Turek and Norman Geisler).

It is my hope that you’ve already made a decision to follow Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.   But for those of you who have never made a decision to surrender your life to him,  I would like to invite you to make that decision this Christmas.

From my family to yours,  I want to wish all of you a very merry CHRISTmas!

Posted in Theology | 1 Comment »

Rewriting The Ten Commandments

Monday, November 29th, 2010

On a radio talk show, the host was discussing a court case that involved a Ten Commandments display where a plaintiff, backed by the ACLU, was demanding that the display be removed. A woman calling in to the program told the host that she agrees with the plaintiff that the Ten Commandments have no business in a public place. Furthermore, she was offended by the idea of the Ten Commandments being used as a means of “forcing religion and morality down her throat.” The show’s host, who feels that the display should remain in place, asked the caller a series of questions. He said to her, “Would you be angry if you found out that your husband was cheating on you?” She replied, “You’d better believe it!” The host responded, “So, you really do think that adultery is wrong.” He asked her another question. “Would it upset you if someone deliberately misled you regarding a product or service that you purchased?” The caller said, “Of course” to which the host responded, “So, you really do think that lying is wrong.” Using one real-life example after another, he went right down the list explaining to the caller that she’s contradicting herself when she claims that she is “offended” by the Ten Commandments or that she can “live without them”. She had just admitted through her answers that she personally benefits from and desperately needs the Ten Commandments as a restraining force in society to keep others from doing harm to her.

It’s bad enough that there are groups and individuals today who try to deny the Ten Commandments and who relentlessly pursue the removal of them from public life. But it doesn’t end there. They take it to the next level by trying to replace God’s Law by establishing “ten commandments” of their own choosing. This is becoming more apparent with every conversation that I have with the average person on the street. For example, if I was discussing the topic of same-sex marriage with someone and if I was arguing against it and the other person was arguing for it, I have no doubt that at some point in the conversation the other person would insist that not allowing same-sex couples to marry is discrimination. If I were to ask this person if they believe that discrimination is wrong, I’m sure they would say, “Yes. It’s wrong to discriminate.” This, of course, leads to a follow-up question. When they say that discrimination is “wrong”, what do they mean by that? Do they mean that it’s only wrong for them, or are they saying that it’s wrong for everyone? Obviously, they’re trying to say that discrimination is wrong for everyone.

Here’s my point. Why is it that when I say, for example, that adultery is wrong, others are quick to tell me that it’s only “wrong” for me and that I shouldn’t “force my morality on anyone else.” Yet, when it comes to something that they feel is wrong, such as intolerance, they don’t seem to mind forcing their morality on everyone by insisting that intolerance is wrong for everyone. Do you see what’s going on here? Those who are opposed to the Ten Commandments are trying to remove God’s Law from public life, insisting that there are no moral absolutes. But then they try to replace them by setting up moral absolutes of their own- “Thou shalt not be intolerant.” “Thou shalt not commit hate speech.” “Thou shalt not discriminate.” Again, it’s important to understand that these “counterfeit commandments” are being treated by today’s culture as if they are moral absolutes, written in stone!

The very fact that those who reject God’s Law feel the need to replace them with a different set of moral absolutes bears testimony to the fact that no society can survive for very long without a solid moral foundation. The only question that remains is, which moral foundation provides the best foundation for a stable society? We must either choose a foundation based on arbitrary rules that are derived from man’s shifting opinions that vary from person to person, or else we must base it on the Commandments given to us by our Creator, which have proven trustworthy throughout history. Just in case anyone has any serious doubts as to the answer to that question, all they need to do is ask the woman who called in to the radio talk show that day.

Posted in Christianity and Culture | 1 Comment »

“If You Don’t Like It, You Don’t Have To Look At It”- An Argument That Deserves To Be Challenged

Monday, November 15th, 2010

Dr. Francis Beckwith is a Christian philosopher, author, scholar, debater, and lecturer.  He is currently a professor of Philosophy and Church-State Studies at Baylor University.  Dr Beckwith’s credentials and accomplishments (which are too numerous to list here) include such books as “Relativism: Feet Firmly Planted in Mid-Air”, a devastating critique of moral relativism which he coauthored with Greg Koukl in 1998.  In addition to his tremendous knowledge and insight, one of the things that makes Frank Beckwith such an engaging speaker is his dry wit and his uncanny ability to detect and expose a flaw in his opponent’s arguments during a debate.  One afternoon I had the privilege of hearing Dr. Beckwith live as he was speaking on the topic of moral relativism.  At one point, he related a story about an experience he had while sitting on a panel that was debating the issue of pornography.  Dr Beckwith had put forth several arguments to make the case that pornography has been a tragic, destructive force in our culture, leaving countless lives and relationships confused and broken in its wake.  A woman on the panel who sought to defend the porn industry tried to shut down Frank’s comments by saying, “Well, Dr. Beckwith, if you don’t like it, you don’t have to look at it.”  Not to be outdone, Frank immediately shot back, “What makes you think that I wouldn’t like it?  The fact of the matter is that I probably WOULD like it!  That’s the problem with pornography.  That’s what makes it so powerfully deceptive, addictive, and destructive.”  Dr. Beckwith is absolutely right.  When wrestling with social and moral issues, we cannot and must not base our decisions on whether or not we “like” something, because it is oftentimes the very things that we like that turn out to be our greatest downfall.

Still, there’s another problem with the argument that says, “If you don’t like it, you don’t have to look at it” (or any variations of it such as, “You have a remote control- use it”).  The argument is built on the false assumption that if I leave it alone (porn or offensive music, movies, or TV shows), it will leave me alone.  Supposedly, if I choose to avoid such things, my life will not be impacted by them in any way.  That’s the claim, but nothing could be further from the truth.  A case in point- I once heard a family give a heartbreaking testimony to the fact that even though pornography had never been allowed in their home, they still ended up paying the consequences of it.  Apparently, a young boy who lived down the street from them had been viewing pornographic magazines that someone had discarded.  Eventually, he found an opportunity to live out his fantasies by molesting their little girl.  The point is, even IF I “use my remote” and avoid certain movies, music, and publications, the fact remains that all of those things will continue to have an enormous impact in shaping our culture which, in turn, directly impacts my friends, family, and loved ones.

One final thought.  I can’t help but notice that those who use this argument are not consistent in how they apply it.  For example, as I look back over the past several years, I could cite numerous cases where an individual or a small group of people have

complained that they were “offended” by a public prayer, a Cross, or a Ten Commandments display that has been in place for many, many generations.  And so, as a result of one person being offended by it,  the majority ends up giving in to his demands by removing it.  And yet, when thousands of people speak out against something that they find deeply offensive, this same person will respond to them by saying, “If you don’t like it, you don’t have to look at it.”  It’s just one more reminder that those who are quick to give such advice are oftentimes unwilling to follow it themselves when it comes to that which they find offensive.

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Filling in the Gaps

Monday, November 1st, 2010

Earlier this year I needed several repairs done around the house, so I hired a guy to do the work because I knew that he had the skills to do a great job and get it done much more quickly than I could.  Upon completion, he took me outside to point out a concern that he had regarding the new lighting fixture that he had just installed on the exterior.  Apparently, some wasps had managed to squeeze through a gap between the old fixture and the stucco on the wall and had built a small nest in there.  He suggested that a bead of caulking around the new fixture would fill in the gap, preventing this from happening again- and he was right.

Filling in the gaps is always a good idea when it comes to construction.  What isn’t such a good idea is when we try to use God as a “gap-filler”.  Unfortunately, that’s what many Christians are doing today.  That is, they are trying to use God like a tube of caulking to “fill in the gaps” when it comes to knowledge.  In other words, any time they come across something that they don’t understand, rather than trying to understand more about it through careful investigation, they just fill in the unknown by saying, “God did it.”  If you were to ask them where the universe came from, they would say, “God did it,” without offering any further details.  How did life begin?  God did it.  How did biological systems come about?  God did it.

Please don’t misunderstand me.  In principle, I wholeheartedly agree with them that God did it.  My concern in offering such a simplistic answer is really two-fold.  For one thing, such an answer perpetuates the myth that faith is a “blind leap into the dark” that needs no justification behind it.  (That, by the way, is not a Biblical view of faith).  Secondly, I’m concerned that most people who say that God did it are not saying this as a result of careful, critical thinking.  Rather, they say it out of convenience because they really don’t know what else to say, nor do they feel that it’s worth their time or effort to investigate the issue more fully.

Sad to say, it is this lack of intellectual rigor and discipline on the part of many Christians that draws so much fire from some of the “New Atheists” such as Richard Dawkins.  On more than one occasion, Dawkins has expressed a real disgust for Christians who simply reply in a dismissive sort of way that God did it.  This is one of the reasons that Dawkins and others have arrived at the false conclusion that ALL Christians are content with such shallow answers.  They assume that Christians have no desire to pursue the sciences in order to gain more of an understanding of such issues through careful study and through the discipline of hard, mental work.

Recently, I was having a discussion with a guy who described himself as a “skeptic”.  In an attempt to understand my view a little better, he asked me if I was one of “those people” who tries to use God as a way of explaining something that I don’t understand.  I assured him that I’m not taking that approach at all.  I went on to explain that the reason I’m offering God as an explanation is because the evidence we see around us points directly to God as the best explanation.  Out of all of the competing explanations, God is the most plausible explanation for the origin and fine-tuning of the universe, the information content of DNA, the irreducible complexity of biological systems, and so on.

I mentioned earlier that Dawkins and other well-known atheists abhor anyone who uses the “God of the gaps” to explain that which they don’t understand.  The irony in all of this is that for all of their ridicule, Dawkins and others like him often rely on a “gap-filler” of their own, namely evolution.  If you were to ask Dawkins how the universe came to be, he would say (in effect), “Evolution did it.”  How did life begin?  Dawkins would say, “We’re not sure- but we are sure that evolution did it!”  Where did consciousness come from?  Evolution did it.  How do we explain love?  Evolution did it.  Where did morality come from?  Evolution did it.  So, whether he wants to admit it or not, it seems that Dawkins has a “god of the gaps” of his own-  except in this case, Dawkins’ “god” turns out to be time and chance.

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What Does it Mean to Say That God is All-powerful?

Monday, October 18th, 2010

“Can God create a rock that is so big that he can’t lift it?” It’s a question that has captured the minds of both the philosopher and the average skeptic on the street. I was even confronted with this question by “the campus atheist” at one of the local high schools when I was invited to speak at one of the Christian clubs. I had just finished presenting the scientific case for God when a young man asked this question during a Q&A time. I don’t think that he was asking it purely for amusement or to draw attention to himself. He honestly felt that this was a legitimate question that would somehow push God back into obscurity. It was his attempt to cast doubt on God’s existence and to toss him into the dust bin along with every other “myth”. Whether this question is asked in a serious way or in jest, it’s intended to challenge the notion that God is all-powerful (omnipotent). The reasoning behind the question is as follows: If God can’t create such an object, then he is not all-powerful. If he can create such an object but cannot lift it, he is not all-powerful. Either way, God cannot be all-powerful. That’s the idea, but the question is not as perplexing as it sounds.

I pointed out to the student that the question itself is invalid. It has a fundamental flaw because it contradicts itself. Let’s examine the question more closely. It begins by asking if God can create such an object. Let’s pause for a moment to think about what that means. If God were to create such an object, it tells us quite a bit about the object itself. This object has a beginning to its existence, therefore it must be a finite object by definition. But the remainder of the question suggests that this object would have to be of such mass and weight that God would not be able to lift it. In other words, the object would have to be of infinite mass and weight. We now have a contradiction in the question because it is trying to imagine a finite object of infinite mass and weight- a logical contradiction. Therefore the question itself doesn’t require a response because it’s logically invalid. It violates the law of noncontradiction which states that “something cannot be A and non-A at the same time and in the same relationship”. In this case, something cannot be finite and not finite at the same time and in the same relationship.

As we think about God’s omnipotence, it’s important for us to begin with a proper understanding of what it means to say that God is all-powerful. It’s often thought to mean that God can do anything, but that’s not the case. God cannot do anything that is contrary to his nature. (For example, God cannot lie and he cannot cease to exist). I think that a more accurate definition of God’s omnipotence is to say that there is no power which exists that is greater than God.

God’s omnipotence is clearly seen in that which he has created, and just a moment’s reflection on it is enough to fill us with a sense of awe and wonder. Take our sun, for example. Our sun is considered to be a medium-sized star, yet its energy output is staggering. In order to appreciate just how powerful it is, let’s compare it to something that we are more familiar with. In the last ten years, the Hoover Dam has generated about 4.8 billion kilowatts of energy. In terms of horsepower, this would mean that it has generated about 6.4 billion horsepower over the past ten years. Suppose that we were to combine the total amount of hydroelectric power worldwide. Let’s add in the total amount of energy produced by all of the nuclear power plants worldwide. In fact, let’s combine the total amount of any and all forms of energy produced on the earth since the beginning of time. The total energy combined is still less than the amount of energy that the sun produces in one second! Now, multiply that times the seemingly innumerable stars in the observable universe. No wonder David wrote in Psalm 19, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.”

Posted in Theology | 1 Comment »

If Life Only Exists on Earth, is the Rest of the Universe “Wasted Space”?

Monday, October 4th, 2010

If the success of a movie at the box office is any indicator of what the general public shows an interest in, then it’s pretty safe to say that the topic of UFOs and extraterrestrials rates pretty high on that list since many of the top grossing films of all time were based on that theme.  I won’t take time here to specifically address the question of whether or not extraterrestrials exist.  Instead, I want to focus on a related question that is often raised whenever the topic of ETs comes up for discussion.  It is usually asked in the following manner, “If our planet is the only one that is inhabited by life, then why did God create such a vast universe?”  I must admit that it seems like a perfectly legitimate question, especially since scientific discoveries have revealed to us that there are billions of galaxies in the universe, each one containing billions of stars.

I’m sure that many of you remember the 1997 movie ‘Contact’, starring Jodie Foster.  In that movie, Foster plays an astronomer by the name of Ellie Arroway.  Early on in the movie, we are taken back to a moment in her childhood when she asks her father, “Hey Dad, do you think there’s people on other planets?”  Her father replies, “ I dunno’, Sparks.  But I guess I’d say if it is just us, it seems like an awful waste of space.”  Just to make sure we didn’t miss the point, this same line is repeated two more times.  It comes up again at the end of the movie and in an earlier conversation when Ellie is stargazing with her friend, Palmer Joss (played by Matthew McConaughey).  Ellie says, “..and if just one out of a million of those had intelligent life, there would be literally millions of civilizations out there,” to which Joss replies, “Well, if there wasn’t, it would be an awful waste of space.”

At first glance, this idea of “wasted space” sounds like a reasonable argument. The problem with this line of reasoning has to do with the word “waste” and to whom it is applied.  It’s one thing for us to talk about “wasting” something from a human perspective.  It’s quite another thing to apply such limitations to God.  It makes perfect sense to speak in terms of something being “wasted” when you’re dealing with finite human beings who are limited, both in strength and in material resources.  However, it’s a non sequitur to apply those same restrictions to a Creator who has no such limits in power, ability, or resources.

Still, the question remains. Even though God has the power to do so, why would he create such an immense universe if life only exists here on earth? Keep in mind that God knows the heart of man, and he knows that in our rebellion against him and in our attempt to declare our independence from him, we will look for every opportunity to get rid of him, to explain him away, and to push him out of our thinking.  This rebellious attitude that people have toward God certainly came through in the movie, as the writer (the late Carl Sagan) took several swipes at God throughout the film.   From beginning to end, Sagan seemed to go out of his way to make the point that God doesn’t exist, that the Bible is a myth, that faith and reason are diametrically opposed, and that ‘religious’ people are not only a hindrance to science, they are a threat to scientific discovery and progress.  Let it suffice for now to say that nothing could be further from the truth. The point is, Sagan is certainly not the only one out there who has shown this sort of antipathy toward God.

As I said, man in his arrogance is always looking for any number of ways to explain God away and to reduce him to nothing more than a myth, an invention of man.  Knowing this to be the case, and knowing that man would someday explore space, imagine what would have happened if God had created a much smaller, more modest “puny-verse”.  I could well imagine the moment when researchers finally “conquer” space by reaching the boundaries of our puny-verse.  The celebrations begin, and they pat each other on the back, congratulating themselves on finally putting the god-myth to rest.  “After all, if there really was a god, he certainly could have and would have created something much grander than this,” they tell themselves.

But that is precisely my point.  The further we reach out into space through our explorations and through our telescopes, the more jaw-dropping it becomes.  Just when researchers think that they’ve discovered all that there is to discover, they are silenced by the realization that they’ve barely scratched the surface of space.  The point is, the BIGGER we find the universe to be, the more inadequate and the more ridiculous all materialistic explanations become.  At this point, all naturalistic, atheistic explanations of the origin of the universe must be taken by faith- and lots of it.

The immensity of our universe is unmistakable testimony to the existence of a self-existent Creator who had the power and the authority to give a divine command and bring space, matter, and time itself into being.  So, why did God create such an immense universe if life only exists here on earth?  I guess you could call it “the Awe Factor”.

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Is God Simply a “Higher Power”?

Monday, September 20th, 2010

There you are, having dinner with uncle Bob, as the conversation suddenly turns toward things of a spiritual nature.  When asked if he believes in God, uncle Bob confidently replies, “If you’re asking me if I believe in organized religion or that kind of God, the answer is no.  However, I do believe in a higher power.”  This type of response has become quite common these days whenever someone is quizzed about God’s existence.

I suppose that there are several reasons why the Biblical view of a personal God has been replaced in the minds of so many by the idea that God is nothing more than an impersonal force or power that is pervasive throughout the universe.  Hollywood and the media have certainly played a significant role in promoting such a view.  The Star Wars trilogies, some of the biggest blockbusters in movie history, introduced moviegoers to the notion that there is a “force” which exists all around us, which we can gain access to and experience for ourselves.  Although this idea was not original, having been borrowed from some of the Eastern religions, it was, nevertheless, popularized by the movie.  A lot of credit for the popularization of this view must also be given to celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey who has used her tremendous appeal and her long-running and much loved TV show as a “pulpit” to reach the masses with her New Age message that god is a force or energy that we can tap into.

It’s not hard to understand why this New Age version of God has been embraced so quickly by so many people.  For one thing, it satisfies our thirst for something of a spiritual nature.  I’m convinced that most people have a natural hunger or thirst for something that is higher and greater than what we are currently experiencing in this present world.  We yearn for some ultimate purpose or meaning to our lives that will take us beyond this fleeting, temporary, earthly existence.  From a Biblical perspective, this longing, this hunger for something transcendent not only bears witness to the fact that the relationship between God and man has been broken, that same hunger encourages us to search out this God who has attempted to restore that broken relationship.

For some people, the Biblical view of God poses a real problem.  A personal God who created us is seen by many as a threat to their personal autonomy and their freedoms.  After all, if I’m hoping to define for myself what is right or wrong, how can I “write my own rules” about life if God is a personal being who “has the final say” in this universe?  Furthermore, a personal God who is holy and righteous means that we will be held accountable at the end of our lives for the manner in which we lived while here on earth.  As you can see, someone who considers this view of God as a threat to them would take great comfort in, and have an ulterior motive for selectively choosing to believe in a vague, impersonal force that makes no demands on their life and which does not hold them accountable at the end of their life.  Taking this approach gives the appearance of allowing them to have the best of both worlds- it satisfies their hunger for something of a spiritual nature, yet frees them from any accountability.  For those reasons and more, many people have opted for a belief in a lesser, “higher power” version of God.  But, as I’ve pointed out on previous occasions, simply believing something doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s true.

The real question, then, is whether there is good reason for us to think that God is nothing more than some sort of force or power.  I don’t think that such an idea is supportable.  I think that such a view of God comes up way short as an explanation and here’s why.  Gravity is a force, yet no one would be willing to say that gravity has the ability to choose anything.  Electricity is a power, but electricity lacks the ability to make decisions about anything.  Yet, in contrast to this, everything around us reveals the work of a Creator who is much more than a force- he must be a personal being who has the ability to decide and to choose.  He obviously had the ability to choose and decide how, why, and what to create.  In addition to this, he must be a personal being in order to create personal beings such as us.  Personal beings cannot come about as the result of random, impersonal forces at work.

This conclusion has certain implications.  It means that many of the world’s religions cannot be true.  The New Age religion, and every other religion which believes that god is an impersonal power, immediately disqualify themselves on the basis that they do not fit with the observable evidence around us.  Furthermore, it means that whether we like it or not, whether we believe it or not, we will be held accountable to this Creator who is sovereign over his creation.

So, while uncle Bob may wish that God will turn out to be an impersonal power that cannot hold him accountable, reality dictates that wishes don’t always come true.

Posted in Theology | 1 Comment »

DNA: The Information Molecule

Monday, September 6th, 2010

Imagine a setting in the old west.  An old rancher named Gus needs some help on his ranch, so he’s got to try and find a way to contact his longtime friend Benjamin who is now living in a remote area far away.  Gus travels to town where he arrives at the telegraph office.  He verbally dictates the following message to the clerk:  “Ben, I need you to come help me on the ranch.  -Gus.”  The clerk writes the message down on a piece of paper, and then begins tapping it out on the telegraph.  The message travels over the wire until it reaches a clerk in another town who receives the message.  The second clerk writes down the incoming message on a sheet of paper and hands the letter to a courier on horseback who rides up into the mountains where he finally delivers the message to Ben.

It’s a pretty simple story, yet something very significant was taking place.  Even though nothing of a physical nature made the journey from beginning to end, there was obviously something that traveled all the way from Gus to Ben.  What was it?  It was the message- the information. The information was able to travel all the way from Gus to Ben even though the material means by which it traveled was constantly changing.  This fact alone reveals two very important principles about the nature of information:

1)  Information is not the same thing as matter. Information is something that exists separately and independently from matter.  Even though information requires a physical medium to store it or to carry it, information, in and of itself, is a non-physical, immaterial entity.

2)  Information always comes from a mind. It is never the product of a purely material process.  Whether the information comes in the form of computer software, text, some type of code, or hieroglyphic symbols, it always comes from an intelligent sender.

These two concepts are extremely important to grasp, because our understanding of the nature of information raises some very profound questions regarding DNA.  DNA is an incredibly complex information molecule that is tightly coiled up inside the center of the cells of your body.  It is the molecule that carries the “assembly instructions” necessary for life.

How much information does DNA carry?  Dr. Werner Gitt, professor of information science gives us some insight into this question in his thought-provoking presentation, “In the Beginning was Information.”  Dr. Gitt points out that the DNA molecule has the highest density (storage capacity) of information of any system known to man.  As an illustration, he shows a small 32mm x 33mm slide on which the entire Bible is printed.  That is amazing enough.  But Dr. Gitt points out that the DNA molecule is 7.7 million MILLION times more density of information than his 32mm slide. He goes on to point out that if you took just one pinhead of genetic material and converted all of its information into text, it would fill so many books that if you were to stack them up, the stack of books would be 500 times the distance from the earth to the moon!

As you can see, the storage capability of DNA is nothing short of mind-boggling.  But as it turns out, the most crucial thing of all about DNA isn’t the molecule itself, it’s the information that it carries.  Without that information, DNA is a dead molecule.  Again, it’s important to keep in mind that the information carried by DNA does not reside in the molecule itself.  That information exists independently and separately from the physical medium of DNA.  In many ways, it’s similar to the ink on your newspaper.  Ink does not posses any information in and of itself.  Ink that is simply spilled onto a sheet of paper cannot arrange itself into information.  In order to get an intelligible message, information must be imposed upon the ink by an intelligent source outside of it, who already has that information in his or her mind.

This brings us down to the most important question of all:  How do we account for the ORIGIN of the information that is carried by DNA?  Since information is a non-physical, immaterial entity that only comes from an intelligent source, this question proves to be an insurmountable problem for the atheist, materialist, or evolutionist who accepts, by faith, that all of reality can be reduced to a physical/material explanation.  However, this question is not a problem for those who hold the view that the universe and everything in it is the product of an eternal, omniscient, omnipotent Creator.

Posted in Science | 4 Comments »

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  • In today's world, there is a great deal of confusion when it comes to matters of truth, meaning, morality, our origin, and our destiny. The purpose of Renewed Thoughts is to bring clarity to such issues by examining them in light of a Biblical worldview, using the tools of science, philosophy, and critical thinking.