Archive for August, 2010

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Are Christians Narrow-Minded?

Monday, August 23rd, 2010

I want to begin by stating unambiguously that I am convinced that Jesus Christ is the only way to God and that there is salvation in no one else.  I’m fully aware of the fact that for me to say something like that is to invite accusations of everything from “hate” to “intolerance”, “bigotry”, “narrow-mindedness”, and “arrogance.”  I suppose that one of the reasons that people react this way is because so many people have bought into the idea that truth is “relative”- that everyone “has their own truth.”  Another reason has to do with the fact that in today’s world, the term “tolerance” has been radically redefined to suggest that everyone’s view is correct and that no one can ever say that someone else’s view is wrong.  As a result of such confusion, whenever someone comes along and suggests that some views are wrong and that some ideas are more true than others, that person is immediately labeled as narrow-minded.  Given that such misguided views of truth and tolerance are so pervasive in our culture today, how do we, as Christians, respond to such charges without compromising the truth of the Gospel?

I believe that there are at least three points that need to be made when addressing this accusation of narrow-mindedness.  First of all, it’s important to point out that we are not the ones who came up with the idea that Jesus is the only way.  Jesus is the one who made that claim.  So, whenever someone asks me if I believe that Jesus is the only way to God, I often tell them that I am convinced, after looking at the evidence, that Jesus was telling the truth when he made the claim that he is the only way to God.  Stating it this way makes it clear that their struggle is not really with us, it’s with him. If they feel that such a claim is arrogant, narrow-minded, and intolerant, then they’re going to have to take that up with him, since he is the one making the claim.

Secondly, when someone accuses us of being narrow-minded on this issue, it’s important for us to point out that if they are not willing to give an open, honest, unbiased examination of the evidence supporting Jesus’ claim, then they are being closed-minded themselves.  Interestingly enough, it is often those who are the most vocal about open-mindedness and tolerance who turn out to be the most intolerant and closed-minded people of all!

Thirdly, it is extremely important for us to understand and to point out to our critics that truth, by definition, is narrow and exclusive. It always is.  For example, suppose that I make the truth claim that my keys are in my right front pocket.  If that really is the case, then that statement is absolutely true.  And not only is it true, but that truth is also narrow and exclusive.  Think for a moment about just how narrow that truth really is.  Out of all of the infinite possible locations in the entire universe where they could have been or may have been, we have narrowed it down to only ONE location that is true.  Furthermore, not only is that truth extremely narrow, it’s exclusive as well, because in telling you where the keys are, it’s also telling you where the keys are not. It is excluding all of the other locations as false. As I said, truth, by definition, is always narrow and exclusive.

One final point.  If anyone is going to accuse Christianity of being exclusive, it’s only “exclusive” in the sense that it’s making a truth claim.  But, as we’ve just seen, this is the case with any truth claim.  On the other hand, Christianity is NOT exclusive with regard to the extent of its invitation and to whom it is offered. This becomes clear as we consider a few of the passages of Scripture referring to God’s offer of salvation.  Jesus said, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink.” (John 7:37).  “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16).  “(God is) not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”  (2 Peter 3:9b).  “(God) wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.”  (1 Tim. 2:4).

The message of the Gospel is clear.  God is offering his salvation to anyone and everyone who is willing to come to him.  Our refusal to do so and our insistence that God should have come up with a plan that meets our approval, only goes to show that we are the ones who are being narrow-minded, not God.

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Chimp vs Human DNA- The “Ninety-Eight Percent” Myth

Monday, August 9th, 2010

As we enter the month of August, it’s time once again for students to head back to school.  That being the case, there’s a good chance that in science classes all across the country, as teachers cover the topic of evolution, sooner or later they will make mention of the “98 percent similarity” between human DNA and chimpanzee DNA, thus implying common ancestry.  Over the past several years, this idea of 98 percent similarity has been repeated so many times that it is now widely accepted by most people as a “scientific fact.”  But is that really the case?

To begin with, it’s really important to understand that this whole idea of comparing DNA can be rather tricky business and we must exercise a great deal of caution when it comes to the conclusions that we draw from the data and how we interpret that data.  For example, compare the two sentences below:

“You are going on an all-expense-paid trip to the Caribbean aboard a luxurious cruise ship.”

“You are NOT going on an all-expense-paid trip to the Caribbean aboard a luxurious cruise ship.”

Even though these two sentences have 98 percent homology (similarity), they have  opposite meanings- the difference between going and not going!  In a similar way, since DNA is all about information, a high degree of similarity between two DNA sequences does not necessarily mean that they have the same meaning or function.

Another pitfall that we must avoid in comparing DNA is that we have to be careful not to assume that genetic similarity necessarily points to some sort of ancestral-descendant relationship or relatedness.  After all, some studies have shown that humans and daffodils share a 35 percent genetic similarity.  But I don’t think that anyone is prepared to interpret that data to mean that humans are “related to daffodils” or that humans are “over one-third daffodil.”

Getting back to the claim that humans and chimps are 98 percent similar, the most damaging evidence of all was revealed in more recent studies as reported a few months ago in the journal Nature.  (see Nature. 463 (7280):536-539)  The article’s title alone speaks volumes about what researchers found: “Chimpanzee and Human Y Chromosomes are Remarkably Divergent in Structure and Gene Content.”  In other words, chimp and human Y chromosomes are surprisingly different.  The results of this more recent research contradicts the initial findings from the 2005 chimpanzee genome project which ultimately led to the idea of 98 percent similarity.  As it turns out, one of the underlying problems with the 2005 study was that it was extremely biased toward an evolutionary view.  Rather than trying to determine whether or not chimps and humans are related, researchers in the 2005 study began with the assumption that chimps and humans are related.  When they began the process of assembly and orientation of the sequences gathered from the chimpanzee genome, they did so based on a map of the human genome rather than basing it on a map of the chimpanzee genome.  Taking this approach allowed their evolutionary bias to influence the outcome of the study.

So, the long and short of all of this is that the idea of “98 percent similarity” is a myth.  According to the latest, more accurate study, the overall similarity turned out to be 70 percent or less.  It will be interesting to see whether or not this latest information is mentioned at all in our high school science classes this year.  If not, it should be a reminder to all of us that those who knowingly disallow such information are more interested in pushing their ideology than they are about doing good science.

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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.