The Age of the Earth and the Age of the Argument

My friend Paul is hilarious.

He is the guy that can post a random status and instantly get close to 100 likes in the first hour. He is no celebrity, so in my eyes that is mighty impressive. He is the social butterfly with the charisma to attract a room. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t love him. One of my favorite things that Paul does (and I promise I haven’t gotten sick of it yet) is when he says that everything is based on a true story. Last week a few of us were talking about going to see the opening show for Guardians of the Galaxy, and then Paul chimes in: “I hear that’s based on a true story.”

The joke is funny, because everyone knows the movie with talking raccoons, personified plants, and outer space awesomeness is anything but non-fiction. Everyone who hears the joke knows this, because they have a firm grasp not only of reality but also of movie genres. One can look at a movie preview and get a feel of where it is at in the spectrum of real and wonder. And even more so than that, people can even watch movies based on true stories and see where there is added drama to make the movie more entertaining – otherwise it would be a documentary. Understanding this doesn’t take away from the historicity of the event. Understanding this is to understand the purpose of the product – whether it is to inform, persuade, or entertain the viewer.

I think this is where the controversy lies with Michael Gungor and the comments he made about his view of the “literal” interpretation of the Old Testament – specifically in reference to Creation and a historical Adam and Eve. Many people read the bible as though it were meant to be historic by our standards, as though the earth can be dated through genealogies, and as though the text was INTENDED to be scientific. The people who hold these opinions strongly and don’t understand why others might think differently do so because they either don’t understand biblical genres or the purpose of biblical texts. I’m not saying that all people who claim to believe in a young earth do so out of ignorance. What I’m saying is that they are being ignorant if they think there isn’t a rational reason to think otherwise.

In Gungor’s response to the recent criticism, he even makes reference that at least some of the biblical authors believed the earth was flat and stood on pillars. Not every passage in the Bible is intended to be taken literally. Many prophecies and psalms and texts use imagery to convey truths in a way that is more engaging. Using anthropomorphic language to describe the attributes of God doesn’t mean that God actually has a physical form, but it is relating God to man in a way that he understands. Does this take away from the legitimacy of the text? No. Does this mean the text isn’t inspired? Not at all. What it does mean is that God’s intention wasn’t to be scientific, and then, like now, God speaks to people in ways that they understand. I don’t understand why Gungor is getting all this heat for telling people they shouldn’t be so quick to judge others. And I commend him for coming out and saying what he believed. I’m sure he knew there would be some backlash. He, like many silent evangelicals, knows that there is a price to sticking by your convictions – especially if you’re in the minority.

Being in the minority and standing by convictions never stopped others from holding the same beliefs that Gungor holds. St. Augustine of Hippo seemed in the middle in terms of the age of the earth. At least to him it wasn’t something that deemed someone a heretic. And there are other early church fathers who hold the same beliefs. There are even more credible people in recent years that hold to a similar belief as Gungor – one being CS Lewis. Lewis was very skeptical of the historicity of the Old Testament and believed that the Creation story wasn’t intended to be taken literally. He even ventured to say that other Old Testament passages such as Job, Esther, and possibly even Jonah were mythologies and stories of fiction. We don’t burn Lewis’ books. We don’t call him a heretic. Because Lewis was a writer, he looked at the Bible as literature and knew that different stories from different time periods of different genres were meant to be read different ways. And most importantly, Lewis’ view of the Old Testament didn’t affect his view of the New Testament. He believed that the Gospels were inspired, and he believed in the resurrection.

Even my own denomination, the Assemblies of God, doesn’t hold to a literal 6-Day young earth interpretation of the Creation account. I’m glad my denomination understands that this isn’t a hill to die on. Even in the past several years, the A/G has invited its members to conferences surrounding “faith and science.” The Assemblies used to hold firmly to a literal 6-Day Creation, but now they just have three truths they hold on to: 1) God is the Creator, 2) He created the universe ex nihilo, and 3) Humanity is the apex of creation. Whether or not one wants to believe God created the earth millions of years ago or several thousand years ago is only secondary to these three points.

If you look at the Creation account in Genesis compared to the creation accounts in other Ancient Near Eastern cultures, you’ll notice something – that they are VERY similar. Maybe the Creation account was meant as a response to other beliefs on the world’s formation. While some people believed that the universe was birthed from both good and evil, the bible says that God’s intention was for creation to be good from the get go. It wasn’t evil that had corrupted creation, it was man that corrupted creation by succumbing to evil. While other cultures worshiped the sun, God made light on day one but didn’t create the sun until day four – the sun ultimately points to the splendor of God and not the splendor of itself.

What ultimately points to the splendor of God? For Christians, I don’t think it matters whether God created the universe in six days or several billions years – the importance is that God is the Creator of it all. While the scientific naturalist is a slave to his theories in order to explain away a deity, Christians know that God is still miraculous whether that miracle is done in a short amount of time or a long amount of time. Jesus’ resurrection would’ve still been miraculous if Jesus resurrected on day two instead of day three. We don’t take away from the Bible or God’s miraculous power by believing in an old earth instead of a young earth. There is much more that I would like to say. This is one short article, but I know there are countless books written on this subject. Luckily for me, there are many people more qualified than me who have talked about this matter. I just wanted to write a short challenge to think outside the box. Where do you stand, and why do you stand there on the issue?

Science on the Scales, Part Two.

I was recently asked if I considered myself a skeptic…

I guess I do.

So, imagine me at a conference called, “Skepticon.” Hearing the name of this event, I was so excited to go! By the title, one would think that the conference was a place for people to come together and talk about different ideas and theologies rationally, and for them to decide on beliefs themselves based on all the facts considered. So, you can imagine how upset I was to find out that this was not a conference for skeptics. It was a conference for atheists to come and make mostly ad hominem attacks on theism and, more specifically, on God himself.

In my previous blog, I laid down an argument against Naturalism, stating that empirical science fails because it cannot prove itself. I also stated that these “sciences” have at their foundation an atheistic understanding, which most people use to disprove the existence of the supernatural a priori, and with it, God. But, with this philosophical framework crumbling at its foundation, there is lying amidst the rubble an idea that has been long forgotten – buried by time. And though some people in the Western world still believe in God, it is seen as folklore and fanciful, good for some but not to be pressed upon others.

There are people waiting to rebuild from the rubble.

At the crux of Christianity lies the doctrine of the resurrection. In 1Corinthians 15, Paul says that without the resurrection, Christianity would be worthless! Many have used the previous understanding of naturalism to disprove the resurrection, and in doing so, diminish Jesus and his message of a future hope for the world. But is the resurrection rational?

There are few that disagree with the historicity of the Bible – stating that Jesus was merely a myth. Most of them think that 1st century Christians (mainly Paul or Mark) saw prophesies of the past and formed them into this myth of “Jesus.” However, the gospels weren’t written as though they were myths – they were written as historical narratives. There were also no Jews that believed that their messiah would die and resurrect before Jesus came… and just because there is a correlation between these prophesies and what happened doesn’t mean that the material is therefore fabricated. Correlation does not mean causation.

Some people think that the life of Jesus was distorted, and that what we have now is an exaggeration of his life. They go from this hypothesis and try to decide which sections of Scripture Jesus “really did and said.” However, their argument is biased from the beginning, and therefore clouds their vision as they decide arbitrarily what they think is “historical.” There are also almost a countless number of manuscripts that attest to the Jesus of the Gospels. As far as manuscripts are concerned, there is more proof for the legitimacy of Christ than there is for the lives and writings of Aristotle, Plato, and Homer. There are far more documents about Jesus, written closer to the time he lived than there are for many figures in ancient history. But we don’t question these men’s existences.

But what about the Jesus of the Gospels, God incarnate, resurrected from the dead?

There are many things that make the resurrection the most plausible solution for one to consider. Of all the possibilities that are available, the empty tomb is the most likely option. Many Christian Apologists make this claim, and all of my “evidence” will be based from their arguments. I think if one leaves open the possibility for the miraculous, then Jesus makes a whole lot of sense with reference to the world in which we live.

Many people in the New Testament claimed to have seen the risen Christ. Aside from the 12 disciples and witnesses mentioned in the gospels, there are others, such as Paul and James, who have witnessed the resurrected Messiah. Paul is written in Acts as a persecutor of Christians until he experiences a vision from Christ. James is one of the brothers of Jesus, and previously didn’t believe his brother was the Messiah (Mark 3) until after Jesus’ resurrection where after James proclaimed him to be the risen Lord.

Mary Magdalene and Mary, Christ’s mother, were also the first to witness Jesus resurrected. Though this doesn’t seem important, women at the time were not seen as being “higher up” in society. Why would Mark say that women were the first to see Christ if he were fabricating the resurrection? Wouldn’t he want to put someone whose testimony would be more credible in his gospel if he were making it up? He could have put Peter, or any other disciple, or even a Jew high among society as the first witness of the empty tomb, but instead it was two women who first saw the risen Lord.

And let’s consider the changed lives of Jesus’ disciples. There are many people who are willing to die for what they think is true, but the disciples died for what they knew was either true or false. If the resurrection were fabricated, then roughly a dozen men died for something they KNEW was not true. I might die for something I think to be true, but I wouldn’t die for something I knew to be false!

Lastly, I think it is important to notice that there is continuity in Jesus’ character in the gospels. If you read the life of Jesus, a man performing miracles and teaching the way he did, and even claiming his own divinity, you shouldn’t be surprised to read that later he would be resurrected from the dead. Not to mention that Jesus predicted his own death and resurrection.

Maybe you thought that Jesus was a great teacher but never before considered him to be who he claimed to be – Lord. C.S. Lewis does a great job explaining that there are only three options of Christ’s character: that he was a lunatic, a liar, or the Lord. If you have never considered Jesus to be Lord, I ask that you look into it. Read the bible. Listen to some debates. Truly seek for what might be true, without having any presuppositions.

And if you are a Christian, remember to have some tact if you are telling someone about Jesus. We can win some arguments but lose the person in the process. We have at our hands the message of hope to the world! Let’s not have our pride or let condescending remarks get in the way. The world should know who we are by our love.

Be challenged – whether it is to know more or to love more. And maybe through that we can change the world.

Science on the Scales

“Those today who claim that science or historiography denies the possibility of miracles are repeating not scientific observations but philosophic premises stemming from Hume.” … “Examining the philosophic underpinnings of these modern assumptions is important, since those who reject the possibility or miracles often assume that they are working on the basis of scientific discovery, when in fact the issue is one of the philosophy of science rather than empirical data per se.” – Dr. Craig S. Keener, “Miracles”

Most people spend their Friday nights hanging out with friends or going out on the town. I spent this past Friday sitting on my couch watching a live stream debate between Dr. William Lane Craig (Talbot) and Dr. Alex Rosenberg (Duke). Their topic was: “Is Faith in God Reasonable?”

By the end of the night, Craig was unanimously crowned the victor, which came as a shock to me. This is mostly because Craig is a theist and Rosenberg an atheist. But regardless, a panel of professionals (4-2), the live audience at Purdue (1390-303), and the people watching online (734-59) voted Craig victorious in the debate, by a majority vote.

I think where Rosenberg was the weakest was in his idea of the power behind science, scientific naturalism, and the scientific method. One of Rosenberg’s main points was that science alone could disprove the existence of God. The problem with this though is that science cannot do this. His main point was self-refuting. Rosenberg was trying to prove philosophically that God didn’t exist but claiming it in the name of science. I see this problem with a lot of atheists in today’s society.

Talk to some people on the street. I am sure you’ll hear some say, “I only BELIEVE in science.” Saying you “believe” in anything is not only a presupposition, but it is also a statement grounded in philosophy rather than science. This is because it cannot be tested. Beliefs cannot be tested. It is sad that most people do not realize that science itself has philosophy at its foundation. Scientific Naturalism (or Modernism or Empiricism), especially, has at its core an atheistic understanding that God doesn’t exist, and since God doesn’t exist, miracles don’t exist either.

And though this understanding is circular and nonscientific, it is deemed as both. It is viewed this way not only by the lay person but also by many professionals worldwide. This is something that Dr. Craig Keener addresses in his book “Miracles.” It is shocking to know many progressive scientists throughout history were theists – men who knew that God could work within nature despite of norms, since it was He that made the “laws” of nature. Nature was subject to God, not God to nature. These men include such greats such as: Boyle, Galileo, Pascal, Newton, and Kepler.

So what can science prove? Science can’t deductively prove or disprove anything that cannot be tested empirically – it can just make observations, create norms, and come to conclusions inductively. To make any deductive conclusions or beliefs from these norms would no longer be what we call “empirical science” but would jump into the realm of “philosophy” or more specifically, the “philosophy of science.”

And that is fine. I love philosophy. Humankind couldn’t survive without “logic” or “ethics.” Nothing would make sense without philosophy. But to say it is “science” alone would be naïve and not fully true in the way we view and define science today.

So is faith in God reasonable?

We can use science as evidence, but to base our beliefs on this evidence alone would seem lacking. Science itself remains agnostic. Science has been found wanting, and the world needs to know that having “faith” in God can be “reasonable.”

If you are seeking and trying to decide whether God exists, I ask that you will wipe your presuppositions clean. I ask that you learn how to properly harmonize faith and reason. And I ask that you search every caveat possible until “sufficient reason” is found. I pray that those who know God will strive to know him more. I pray that you will realize that Evolutionary Theory cannot and does not disprove God, and neither does the Big Bang Theory. We can be scientific and still hold on to our convictions.

Christians and Atheists alike can be close-minded if their arguments are “unfalsifiable.” Christians need to realize that if God is Truth, then if we seek truth, we are ultimately seeking God Himself. Let us seek to know God together, hand in hand, and take those who disagree with us along for the ride. It’s a scary adventure, but ultimately that is our aim. By knowing God, we glorify Him. By Glorifying Him, we are honoring Him.

To Him be the glory, and honor, forever and ever. Amen.