Saturday, January 27, 2007

The Pledge 

I've signed the pledge. I hope you will too.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Christianity in the China Cupboard 

I know it’s been kind of a one-trick pony around here for a bit, but I can't get this stuff out of my mind right now.

If you've followed this discussion over the age of the universe, one thing you've likely noticed is the prevalence of a particular view of truth. This view is the one that permits people to say that Genesis 1 is religiously, but not historically, true. Essentially this is Kant's old epistemology, dividing the world of truth into the noumenal and phenomenal, where things we see and can reason out and know by science are phenomenal truths on the one hand, and on the other we have religious truths, emotional truths, things like love and spirituality, and these are noumenal truths. I don't mean to condemn by association, but it is helpful to refer to Kant since he did such a good job of explaining his philosophy. And so, Genesis 1 (and Genesis 1-11, all too often) are said to communicate noumenal, but not phenomenal truths.

One of the frequent defenses of this kind of thinking is that a lot of people will never believe in Christianity if the Bible is allowed to make the historical claims that it makes. Ignorant people might believe it, but people who are in the sciences will know better and not become Christians, because they know these things in the Bible could not possibly be true. So we need to protect the Scriptures by not trying to make the Scriptures do things they're not intended to do, like teach science or history.

Whenever you hear someone referring to these stories in the Old Testament as "myths", but try to say that that doesn't mean they think they're false, just true in the mythological sense, this is essentially what they're saying. Genesis 1 is a myth in the sense that it communicates religious but not historical truth.

This concern to protect Christianity from the attacks of modernity was just what motivated Kant as well. He was unable to answer the empiricism of Mill and Hume, and so to preserve some realm of truth, he did what was essentially a tactical retreat, conceded the world of the logical and rational to science (the "phenomenal"), and carved out for himself a realm called the "noumenal" where Christianity could be safe. If Christianity is made to be essentially subjective and irrational, then science could never get it. It was safe.

To put it another way, he thought Christianity was like the good china- really pretty and nice, but not up to the rigors of everyday use. So you put it up in the china cabinet and look at how pretty it is and bring it out for special occasions, but you really didn't use it for all the day-to-day stuff.

One of the big problems with this view (besides the small matter of being completely unscriptural), is the fact that rationalism is never content with the treaty. They keep grabbing more territory. Over time, more and more things that were said to be matters of the noumenal have been seized by the phenomenal. It's like thinking Hitler will be content with the Sudetenland. We gave them science, the understanding of the rational world, and then they came for the miracles. At first those were a matter of religion, but David Hume wrote "On Miracles" and we had to give them that. Then we said morality was a matter of the noumenal but along comes Freud and we had to give them that. Spirituality, right and wrong, love itself- what is there that the rationalist doesn't say belongs to him?

But what Kant failed to realize is that Christianity is not the good china. Christianity is an all-purpose tool and it doesn't need to be protected. It's rugged, durable and very useful. If it talks about history, then we can trust it. If it talks about science then we can trust it.

The doctrine of inspiration does not teach that God's truth is contained in Scripture. This it the way of liberalism. The doctrine of inspiration says that all of Scripture is the very words of God- God-breathed. So if the Bible says that Seth lived five hundred years and then begat Enos, then God says that Seth lived five hundred years and begat Enos. And if we say that people have never really lived for five hundred years, then we're calling the Holy Spirit a liar. Otherwise, the Bible isn't the Word of God, it just _contains_ the word of God, and it's every man for himself to decide which bits are true and which bits aren't. And guess what the next part to go usually is- the resurrection.

The Word of God is a light to our feet. The Word of God is our strong shield and buckler, a high tower, a rock of defense. The word of God is bread and water, a life giving stream. It's not some fragile thing that can only be used for a few delicate tasks but for the most part has to be kept safe up in the china cabinet. Throw it out into the business of life. Use it in every occasion. Get comfortable with it, like your favorite pair of shoes or your work vehicle. Use it all the time for everything you do. You might be surprised at how durable it actually is. It's like those commercials for Ford trucks where they show them doing all kinds of crazy things, in the mud, in the snow, climbing up crazy rock piles. Built Ford tough. That's the word of God, only more so.

If the word of God addresses the origin of the universe, then we can trust it completely. If it addresses the sinfulness of homosexuality, we can trust it completely. If it addresses the history of the Egyptian nation or the decrees of Emperor Tiberias or whether or not a certain man in a certain time walked on water, we can trust it completely. And just as the Allies eventually realized Hitler wasn't going to stop and had to go to war with him, eventually we are going to have to realize that there is no compromise with rationalism. We must cede no territory at all to it. We are going to have to go to war whether we like it or not, because rationalism is at war with us.

To use another example, it's like wondering whether a chair will really hold your weight if you settle down on it. Those in the sciences, with scientific backgrounds, too often don't seem to think that the chair can really bear their whole weight. So they say, It's really just ornamental, like those old chairs that Dutch people hang on their walls. Useful once upon a time, but now just a reminder of our heritage. I'm challenging you- take the chair down and sit on it. See if it holds your weight. Start doing science assuming the Bible is true in all its details and see where it gets you. Trust His word- I triple dog dare you.

The problem of the scientist is not unique. They seem to think it is, but it's not. All of us have problems trusting it. Are God's ways really the best? Is homosexuality really a sin? Should wives really submit to their husbands? Does it really matter if I go to church or give tithes? Did Jesus really die for my sins and rise from the dead? Is He really coming again?

The problem here is faith. Do we really believe what God said? Can we really trust it?

Proverbs 30: 5 Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him. 6 Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar.

I think that pretty much says it all.

Monday, January 22, 2007

New Bible studies 

The last three chapters of the Romans Bible study have been posted on the SermonAudio site - Romans 4, 5 and 6.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Inerrancy at Stake 

Well, I've about wrapped it up over at the Evangelutionist.

The last statement from GJG, the main guy I'm arguing with:
So it all comes down to that question. How does accepting a scientific approach to natural history in any way compromise fundamental Christian doctrine?
My response:

I already answered you a couple of times, but you didn’t apparently like the answer. And I’m sorry, but I think I’m just about done with the civility you value so much.

The core doctrine you’re compromising is inerrancy and infallibility. You think the Bible has errors, lots of them, beginning to end. And you think that science is possessed of sufficient authority to correct Scripture, when the opposite is in fact the case. You think yourself in a position, possessed of sufficient wisdom, to correct the mistakes of Moses, Peter, Paul, and anyone else in the Bible that doesn’t match up to your level of understanding (even Jesus? He mentions Abel in Matthew 23:35- is Abel a real person?). And you say that the YEC-ists are lacking in humility! Your doctrine isn’t insulting to me. It’s insulting to God.

You are lacking in humility. You are the one confused. You think your little telescope, your Discovery channel special, your Carl Sagan magazine article can correct the Holy Scriptures? You think your test tubes and Geiger counters are a more accurate source of information than the Holy Spirit? Moses talked with God FACE TO FACE (Deut. 34:10), as God said He would never talk to any other man until Christ came, and you think you know better than him. Appalling arrogance, and makes me realize what a waste of time this whole thing is, thinking you’d ever listen to me when you won’t listen to Moses.

Scripture doesn’t need your help. You need its help, because you’re on the path to death. You apparently believe that God, who said that the mythologies of the nations around Israel were abominations, then used those abominations to teach Israel religious truth. Do you think God incapable of telling the the truth about His own creation in a way that they could understand? Do you really think the Israelites were such idiots that if God had told them “the universe is in fact very old” that they couldn’t understand it, despite the fact that other ancient cultures believed that too? That God could have told Moses (face to face, remember), that some of his details about who was whose parents and how long they lived weren’t right?

And maybe Jesus (created all the world, remember) could have dropped a bug in Peter’s ear that Genesis 1 was just a “fable” before Peter would embarrass himself by relying on that fable in the very same passage that denies that he follows fables? Maybe you’d like to rewrite the Bible the way it should have been done? Could have avoided all those poor souls going down to hell because God wasn’t smart enough to write the Bible the way you thought He should have? You should be on your knees asking forgiveness.

I could go into quite a bit of detail, how your doctrine destroys the parallel Paul makes in Romans 5, which wrecks the doctrine of imputation of sin and therefore the doctrine of imputation of Christ’s righteousness. The whole covenantal structure is standing on quicksand when the actual historical events that established the covenant may or may not have actually occurred. Original sin is foundering when Adam’s existence is called into question. Death is supposed to be the penalty for sin according to lots of passages (Romans 6:23 for one), but death is just part of God’s mechanism for progress if you’re right. Another contradiction.

But you’ve failed to understand or deal with my arguments from the beginning, just accusing me of illogic and ignorance (even accusing me of being ignorant of the meaning of the word ignorant!). I’ve spilled thousands of words on this already. It’s all there. These are the doctrines you compromise as I’ve said from the beginning.

I mention Bultmann because I thought you might be interested to know whose arguments you’re using, and what bitter fruit those arguments have borne. And just as a personal exercise I’ll try one more time with my argument about 2 Peter:

Peter says that following a myth would be bad, and denies that he does it in verse 16 of chapter 1. Yes, he’s talking about Christ. If your argument is right, then just fifteen verses later, he does just what he said is a bad thing to do by using the flood as proof for his argument- he is following a myth. You seem to think following myths (”religiously, not historically”) is OK, but the word (”muthos”) or the concept everywhere in Scripture is something to avoid. A myth is something that is false, a lie, in Scripture. You say the mythological nature of the flood doesn’t affect his argument, but you apparently don’t understand his argument then. Here it is:

Major: God punishes false prophets. (Proof: Flood, Sodom and Gomorrha)
Minor: False prophets exist today.
Conclusion: God will punish those false prophets as well.

If the proof for the major premise didn’t happen, then the argument doesn’t work.

And also just as a personal exercise, I’ll try this part of my argument again as well:

What bar is there to using your exact interpretive method, as many have, to discount the resurrection of Christ? If historical and religious truth can be separated, couldn’t they be separated there as well? Couldn’t I believe in the principle of forgiveness of sins and resurrection and atonement without needing to actually believe in a virgin birth (which science tells us is impossible)?

Or to put it another way, who are you to decide which doctrines of Scripture can be tossed aside and which are essential? Who are you to decide that any given truth that God saw fit to communicate to us in Scripture can just be discounted?

I say these things for the benefit of anyone else who may be reading. It’s clear to me you’re not going to listen to any arguments I make. Why should you? I’m not greater than Peter. I’m not greater than Moses. You ignore them; you’ll ignore me too.

John 5:44 How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only?
45 Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father: there is one that accuseth you, even Moses, in whom ye trust.
46 For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me.
47 But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?

You appear very much to be more interested in being well-regarded by your fellow “scientists” than being approved by God. I won’t judge your heart, but I will warn you. See the above passage and prayerfully consider whether this applies to you or not.

This is why I believe Genesis 1. I believe it because I love Jesus, my Savior, who died for my sins and rose again. I am not my own. I belong to Him. And He told me to believe Moses, without qualification. So I’m going to believe Moses, and all the “science” of the world be damned. Jesus didn’t tell me to believe Moses “religiously but not historically”. He just told me to believe him. If Jesus thought that belief needed a caveat, He could have mentioned it somewhere.

See, all I care about is what I’m going to answer for myself when I’m standing in front of His holy throne. I don’t care if it turns people off to the gospel. That’s God’s business. He elects, He calls people to Him anyway. It’s not my job to make Scripture more palatable. It’s an offense, a stumblingblock, and it always has been. I’m not ashamed of it.

So, worst case scenario- I’m completely wrong and you’re right. I think I will be able to claim good intentions, that God’s words on this point were a little unclear. I’ve lost nothing, really. I just believed God’s word. I have a hard time thinking God will condemn me for that. But switch it around- I’m right and you’re wrong. What are you going to do when you’re standing in front of God and He wants to know why you didn’t believe the plain teaching of Scripture, and taught other people to do so as well? Whose honor are you interested in receiving?

Again, the essential doctrine is the cross of Christ. What’s the link? Verse 46 above. Jesus says if you don’t believe Moses then you won’t believe Him either. I think there’s a little too much at stake here for you to play your little word games. Just believe Moses. He spoke face to face with the creator of the universe, and he knows more than you. I know that you, in your breathtaking arrogance, don’t think that’s true. But I’m going to take the revelation of God over all your little scientists and rock hammers and telescopes and chemistry sets any day of the week. All who contradict the word of God will be weighed in the balance and found to be nothing, the chaff that is blown away.

Repent, I am urging you. Your doctrine is the doctrine of devils, and leads to death.

UPDATE: His response is here.

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Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Evidences of an Old Earth 

From this discussion:

Touchstone and GloverGJ,
I just can't leave it alone. I've learned from past experience not to say I will not reply to an argument anymore, because often I can't resist.

So. The OT says that a legal matter could be decided on the evidence of two witnesses. You've implied I must be ignorant of the scientific evidence. So I'll tell you this, to make you aware of my educational background and capacity to understand your argument: I'm not a scientist. But I have received a B.A. degree from a secular university, including classes in physics, astronomy, chemistry and calculus. I have taught calculus, geometry and trigonometry on the high school level. I am trained in logic. I am aware of the arguments regarding the speed of light, the distance of stars and the Doppler shifts we have observed. I am also aware of the arguments regarding radiometric dating of rocks, though to a lesser degree.

So let me ask you- what are, in your minds, the strongest two arguments for the old age of the earth? What are the two witnesses you would appeal to? Please don't make it lengthy- let's just name the evidences and briefly summarize them. If I need to do research to understand the arguments, I know how to do that research. You will know from my replies whether I understand well enough or not.

Update: Here is the discussion on Evangelutionist's site. It's quite lengthy. The discussion revolves not so much around the specific evidences, but on the question of epistemology, the basis for our knowledge and understanding of things.

I am endeavoring to show that belief in old or young earth is a choice you make. Judge for yourself whether I am successful or not. The evidence does not compel belief in an old earth as there are possible explanations for the evidence. Even if the evidence says what they say it does, there is simply the possibility that God created it that way six thousand years ago, with some processes already advanced:

All of the data you presuppose could have simply been created in that state by God six thousand years ago. I know that such a solution is usually mocked, but really, why should it be? There’s a perfectly good reason why God would create the light of the stars already on earth, and that’s that He wanted us to see the stars. Stars are very useful for navigation and other things. And all of these heavy elements and radioactive isotopes must have their purposes too. Just because we don’t know why God would do something like that doesn’t mean He didn’t do it, or that there isn’t some reason of which we are unaware. Can you prove that it’s impossible for God to have created everything six thousand years ago with some processes already advanced? It is necessary for you to prove this in order to make your case.

And there’s another possible reason that He did it that way, and that is the real possibility that He did it in order to test people, to see whether they would believe Genesis 1-11 or the theories of God-hating idolaters. Unworthy of God, perhaps you might say? Isn’t that deceptive, dishonest? But God told us He would do exactly that:

Deuteronomy 13:1 “If there arises among you a prophet or a dreamer of dreams, and he gives you a sign or a wonder,
2 “and the sign or the wonder comes to pass, of which he spoke to you, saying, ‘Let us go after other gods’ — which you have not known — ‘and let us serve them,’
3 “you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams, for the LORD your God is testing you to know whether you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.

This isn’t the only passage that tells us God would do this. Revelation mentions it several times. Many passages speak of God clouding the minds of people with madness and giving their minds over to lies to punish them for their rebellion. It’s not really deception when God told us He would do it for the purpose of testing us, and provided the truth in clear and unambiguous language as well. He said He would introduce misleading and difficult evidence into play to see whether or not we would believe what He has clearly told us. I think that’s exactly what’s going on here.

Another example of this exact thing is the story of Micaiah and King Ahab in 1 Kings 22, where the prophet tells Ahab that God sent lying spirits to deceive him through his false prophets so that he would go to war against Syria and be killed. God at the same time provided the true witness in the form of Micaiah, telling him the truth, so that Ahab would be tested, to see whether he would follow God or not.

His response:

“Can you prove that it’s impossible for God to have created everything six thousand years ago with some processes already advanced?”

Absolutely not - such a thing is impossible to prove. Neither can you prove that the earth was creation this morning and all of our childhood memories are false. You can never prove these things. As a result, the “appearance of age” argument is the only logical YEC argument out there. If you agree to this, then we can stop all of this silly arguing over the “evidence” because it will always favor an old earth, and you will always have a logical way to dismiss it - since the “actual” age as revealed by God is much younger. If this is your position, why concern yourself with the evidence for an old earth in the first place?

The point is to show the fact that this belief is a choice you make. The evidence does not require it. It may be a hard choice in the face of the pressures the world puts on us. But everything about Christianity flies in the face of the world. This is no different. Christians must make hard choices and suffer the scorn of the world.

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