Saturday, December 10, 2005

Creation Defined

If Evolution is the belief that everything came from nothing, what then is Creation?

In news stories discussing the issue, Creation is often referred to as "the Creation myth", or legend or story. See, for example, Live Science's presentation of the "Top Ten Intelligent Designs (or Creation Myths)," in which the Biblical story of Creation is compared to other ancient creation legends such as those from Norse mythology, Zoroastrianism, the ancient Egyptians, and the Aztecs. This definition focuses on the account as given in the Bible of the actual Creation of the universe and man.

Others relate Creationism to such beliefs as geocentrism, a flat earth, and very poor science and academics in general. The article "Dark Ages Primary" by Harold Meyerson of the Washington Post is a good example of this view [though the thrust of his article concerns politics, not science]. Apparently, these people believe that those who are ignorant enough to doubt evolution have no clue about science in particular, nor higher education in general.

Still others refer to Creation as the belief "that scientific evidence exists to prove that the universe and living things were specially created in their present form". While this view (expressed by Bruce Alberts of the National Academy of Sciences in the Preface to the book Science and Creationism) is closer to the correct definition, is still contains some misconceptions.

As was the case with Evolution, none of these common perceptions of what Creation is is fully accurate, though each contains one aspect of the broader picture. By the strictest definition, Creation is the belief that the story given in Genesis 1 and 2 in the Bible is an accurate historical account of the origin of the universe, the earth, and man. But the term Creation is much broader than this concept of special creation alone. Just as Evolution is closely associated with various other concepts and beliefs, so Creation is inextricably tied to many different ideas relating to both science and philosophy. Among them are the concepts of a young age for the earth and universe [about 6,000 years], catastrophism as a major influence in geological history [eg, Noah's Flood], the belief in God [theism], and the belief in moral absolutes. Also included are the religious beliefs that the Bible is the inspired inerrant Word of God, and that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. For a broader summary of Creationist belief, see the booklet "The Seven C's of History", by Ken Ham and Stacia McKeever of Answers in Genesis [PDF document].

[It should be noted here that this is a definition of what is commonly referred to as "Young-Earth Creationism", as opposed to other variants such as Old-Earth Creationism, Theistic Evolution, etc. For the purposes of this discussion, I shall ignore all other variants, since they are simply hybrids, to differing degrees, of Young-Earth Creationism and Evolution.]

As we noted in the discussion about the definition of Evolution, these additional concepts cannot be divorced from the term Creation. They are as strongly linked to Creation as uniformitarianism and the Big Bang are to Evolution. One or more of these other concepts are inevitably drawn into any discussion or debate between Creation and Evolution. If we are to come to any firm conclusion in this discussion, then, we cannot ignore these related concepts.

Our concise definition of Creation, then, is closely parallel to the definition of Evolution. Creation can be defined as the view that everything came from God--the idea that God created nature. It includes such things as: Special Creation as the origin of the cosmos, catastrophism as a major influence in geology, Special Creation as the means for the origin of life, natural selection and built-in variation as the means behind the present variety of living organisms, and by implication the belief that there is something outside of nature (i.e., there is a God and supernatural realm) and that the Bible is God's Word (and therefore provides the moral absolutes by which we are to live).

Of course, there are innumerable other details to both theories, but these general definitions should suffice for our purposes.

To summarize our definitions so far, then, Evolution is the belief that everything came from nothing (with related concepts), while Creation is the belief that everything came from God (with related concepts).

The next step in this discussion is to define science. If we are to determine if something is scientific, we first need to know what science is.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Killing Jesus

John 11:47 So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the council, and said, "What are we to do? For this man performs many signs.
48 If we let him go on thus, every one will believe in him, and the Romans will come and destroy both our holy place and our nation."
49 But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, "You know nothing at all;
50 you do not understand that it is expedient for you that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation should not perish."

Good question--What are we to do with Jesus? Should we let Him keep on performing miracles and drawing people to Himself? Should we let Him keep on doing His transforming work in our lives? Should we let Him continue to make us uncomfortable, guilty, and ashamed of ourselves? Should we let Him take the fun out of our lives? Should we continue to let Him tell us what to do and what not to do? Should we let Him destroy our social lives? Should we allow Him to destroy our reputations and interfere in our careers? Should we allow Him to mess up our families and relationships? Should we allow Him to interfere in our spiritual lives? In short, should we continue to allow Him free reign in our lives?

Or should we do something about this? After all, isn't this getting a little out of hand? What will people say? It was fun at the start, but now He's getting a little too pushy, don't you think? What gives him the right to tell me what I can do and what I can't? Who is he to tell me what to wear or what kind of music to listen to? Who does he think he is, anyway? And besides, what will my friends at church think of me? Suppose they start to call me "goody-two-shoes" or something like that? Suppose they think I'm "holier-than-thou"? Or even worse, suppose they start leaving me out of things because I'm "too good for them"? Or what about my friends at school? Suppose they think I'm ignorant or stupid or something? Suppose they think I'm a fanatic? Or the guys at work? Suppose they start calling me names, or making cruel jokes about me behind my back?

I know God has been working real miracles in my life lately. But what if I'm right that this is going too far to ask that of me? Suppose He starts to ask me to do all kinds of weird things, like going to Africa or something? Or--oh horrors!!--suppose He wants me to witness to my friends? What will I do then? I can't do that! I can never do that! Why, they would think I'm crazy! That would destroy all my friendships!

I know Who you are, Jesus, but I just can't do what you're asking me to do. It would make me much too uncomfortable. It would destroy the peace and order in my life. It would take away all my friends, and even family. It would destroy my religious and spiritual life, really it would. You are just asking way too much. There is no other way out. It's the only thing left to do, if I am to be comfortable and safe in my life. I will have to kill you, Jesus.

The above scenario went through my mind after I read this passage. It's easy for us to condemn the chief priests and Pharisees for their hypocrisy and blindness. We can easily recognize their malice, pride, and jealousy. But how easily do we recognize the same sins in ourselves? We tend to think that we no longer have the option of killing Jesus, but the truth is that we face that choice probably daily.

Either we are crucified with Christ (Galatians 2:20), or we are crucifying Him by our choices and decisions. We either mortify the deeds of the body (Romans 8:13) or crucify to ourselves the Son of God afresh (Hebrews 6:6).

There is a song that asks "Is There Blood Upon Your Hands?", and reminds us that "by the very acts you do, you can crucify Him too." It was our sin that put Jesus on the cross, whether that sin was 20 years ago or within the last hour. We can, and do, kill Jesus.

We do so by choosing self and sin, or even ease and comfort, above Christ. Our souls are kingdoms with only one throne. Either "I" am on the throne, or Christ is. No man can serve two masters. When we become Christians, we put Christ on the throne. As King, He demands unconditional surrender and full and complete obedience. But He also gives us free choice. We can obey Him and kill ourselves, or disobey Him and usurp the throne by killing Him, removing Him from our lives. The choice is ours.

This choice also involves a paradox, "For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it." (Luke 9:24) The Jews thought that by killing Jesus they would save themselves, the Temple, and the nation from the Romans. They died in their sins, the Romans completely destroyed their Temple, and their nation was also destroyed. Those who try to preserve their comfort and pleasure by killing Jesus will lose both comfort and pleasure in the eternal fires of hell. At the same time, the One they killed is still alive, and is King of kings and Lord of all. In the same way, those who choose to crucify themselves will live forever, reigning with Him.

So the question now is, what will you--and are you--doing with Jesus? Are you "killing" Him to save yourself? Or are you "killing" self to live for Him?

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Evolution Defined

Before we can have any meaningful discussion on this subject, we must clearly and concisely define what we mean by the terms “creation” and “evolution.”

What, then, is evolution? Evolution has a wide range of definitions, varying from the very scientific definition, “a process that results in heritable changes in a population spread over many generations” to the very vague generalization “descent with modification” (or even “change over time”). (See What is Evolution?, by Laurence Moran from the Talk.Origins website for a discussion by an evolutionist on the definition of evolution.) Upon inspection, though, it is easy to see that neither of these definitions accurately conveys what is commonly thought of when the word “evolution” is used. The first definition can be more accurately applied to the principle of natural selection (which is completely different from evolution) and includes nothing of the idea of life coming from non-life. “Descent with modification” can describe anything from “goo to you via the zoo” evolution to what happens in succeeding generations of a family to the effect of throwing a banana off the roof of a three-story building.

Educated proponents of evolution insist upon the first definition, pointing out that the origin of life is a separate issue, and the view that life comes from non-life is more accurately called a biogenesis. The general public, on the other hand, uses evolution loosely and freely, applying it to everything from organisms to the cosmos to language to technology. But while both definitions capture a particular aspect of the idea, neither describes it fully or accurately.

For instance, to deny that evolution includes the origin of life is misleading, since Darwin himself titled his book the Origin of Species, and talked about the first simple cells arising out of a primordial slime. Furthermore, textbooks, articles, or general books that deal with evolution commonly contain this idea of the first simple life arising spontaneously from non-living substances. On the other hand, to refer to any change over time as evolution is also incorrect, since the basic theory deals only with the biological evolution of living organisms. Nonliving substances cannot evolve. Furthermore, all change over time in biological entities is not evolution. Natural selection, for instance, is a well-documented principle in which the fittest animals in a species survive to pass on their genes, which provides the potential for great variety within a species.

It should be noted here that natural selection is not evolution. Charles Darwin was not the first to notice the principle of natural selection—it was first described by the creationist Edward Blythe. Even today, natural selection is an important part of creationist models. What Charles Darwin did was take the principle of natural selection and extrapolate it out to the point where it was capable of producing unlimited change, even to the point of creating entirely new species, genera, families, etc. In other words, natural selection is the means by which evolution is proposed to occur—it is not evolution itself. See the article, Muddy Waters, by Carl Wieland of Answers in Genesis for more information.

But while evolution itself applies only to biological entities, it is impossible to deny that there are a host of other theories about the origin of the universe that have become inextricably tied to this one concept—theories such as the Big Bang (“cosmological evolution”), uniformitarianism (“geological evolution”), a very old universe and earth, and other theories. Furthermore, evolution is almost automatically associated with more philosophical views, such as atheism, agnosticism, relativism, and materialism.

In other words, while a strict definition of evolution would refer exclusively to biological evolution, there is a large amount of baggage that has become attached to the term that cannot be ignored in any meaningful debate on the subject. Even evolutionists recognize that the public’s conception of evolution contains far more than the observable biological theory that they use as its definition. Furthermore, in most of the court cases concerning the teaching of evolution, the main issue is not the current biological process but the question of origins and the existence of God. In addition, when creationists debate evolutionists, the current biological process is only one area of disagreement. In any creation/evolution debate, you are likely to hear a wide range of issues discussed, from biological evolution to geological processes to the origin of life and the cosmos to the age of the earth to the existence of God, and many other issues. Therefore, to ignore all of these issues in a discussion such as this would be inappropriate, due to the universal nature of the issues automatically associated with the word “evolution”.

To come to a clear, concise, reasonable definition of evolution, then, we can say that evolution is the view that everything came from nothing—the idea that nature created itself. It includes such things as: the Big Bang theory as the origin of the cosmos, uniformitarianism as the default process of geology, a biogenesis as the means for the origin of life, biological evolution as the means behind the present variety of living organisms, and by implication the belief that nature is all there is (materialism; i.e., there is no God or supernatural) and that there are no moral absolutes (relativism).

Again, some evolutionists will disagree with this definition, but it is impossible to deny that those and other theories are firmly, automatically, and inextricably associated with evolution, both in the general public and in the creation/evolution debate.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

"It's Not Science!"


I’ve noticed that the Creation/Evolution debate has drawn increasing media attention lately due to the Dover school board Intelligent Design court case. Almost every newspaper you pick up is bound to have some column or editorial or even cartoon either defending or decrying the Intelligent Design (hereafter “ID”) movement. Almost every time you check the headlines on Yahoo or elsewhere on the Internet, some new article or story is out discussing the subject. Even the blogs are buzzing with private debates over which side is right.

In all of this discussion and debate, there is one particular statement that is thrown back and forth probably more than any other. Everyone is using it or commenting on it, whether they be scientist or politician, media or religious leader, lawyer or the guy on the street. The statement is, “Evolution is science; Creation and Intelligent Design are not.” In almost every secular media story or article I have read on this subject, if not every, this statement or something to that effect has been made.

In the next few posts, we will investigate this argument, with all its implications and ramifications, as thoroughly as my time and knowledge of the subject will permit. We will look at the claims of each side and analyze them to see what kinds of claims are being made, and whether those claims are “scientific” or not. We will do all of this without actually examining the truth of the claims themselves, only by classifying the types of claims being made.

But first, we will look at a few specific examples of this argument taken from various sources. We will also define the terms “evolution” and “creation,” as well as take a look at what, exactly, science is and what it is not.

The Argument

One need not look far for examples of the “It’s not science” argument. Almost any article about evolution and creation in the secular media or secular science websites contains variations of it. One of the most concise statements that I have found is on page three of the legal complaint filed by the ACLU on behalf of the parents in the Dover school board case:

Unlike the theory of evolution, however, intelligent design is neither
scientific nor a theory in the scientific sense; it is an inherently religious argument or assertion that falls outside the realm of science.
Or, there’s this more general statement from the National Association of Biology Teachers (taken from a list of such statements from the ACLU website (“What the Scientific Community Says about Evolution and Intelligent Design"):

Scientists have firmly established evolution as an important natural process. Experimentation, logical analysis, and evidence-based revision are procedures that clearly differentiate and separate science from other ways of knowing. Explanations or ways of knowing that invoke non-naturalistic or supernatural events or beings, whether called ‘creation science,' ‘scientific creationism,' ‘intelligent design theory,' ‘young earth theory,' or similar designations, are outside the realm of science and not part of a valid science curriculum.
Other versions of the argument are not nearly as precisely stated, nor as nice. They range from mild condescension--“the alternative reality that is biblical creation science” In Evolution Debate, Creationists are Breaking New Ground by Michael Powell from the Washington Post; also, the September 26 post on the blog Bad Methodist--to outright ridicule--Dark Ages Primary by Harold Meyerson from the Washington Post; also, the October 3 post from the blog The Strongest Note.

And I’m sure that if you read the newspaper or news stories on the web, you can find many more examples of your own. And these are the nicer ones. When you get into atheistic/agnostic/skeptic websites and blogs, things can get really nasty.

Why This Argument?

So, why is this argument used so emphatically, so persistently, and so extensively? Why does everyone feel a need to make sure you know that creation is not science, but evolution is? Why is this argument so important to them?

Furthermore, if this argument is repeated so often and so dogmatically, shouldn’t it be examined and tested closely? After all, since we are talking about science here, shouldn’t we take the time to prove our arguments?

I believe this argument has gone too long in the media without sufficient investigation. I think it is time we critically examine this claim, and see how well it holds up under scrutiny.

But before we do that, we need to take a little time to define our terms, just to be sure that there is no confusion. What, exactly, do we mean when we say “evolution”? What are we talking about when we refer to “creation”? We’ll take a look at the definitions next time.

Saturday, September 17, 2005


Why Katrina? Why Rita? Why us? Why now? Why, God, why?

In the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and the devastating flooding of New Orleans--twice--, many might find themselves asking these questions. Or maybe it is the more general question, "How could a good God allow such suffering, pain, and death in the world?" Or maybe even an accusatory, "Why didn't you stop this, God?"

These are some very real questions in need of some very real answers. It's interesting, and enlightening, to note the different responses from people of different faiths. Take, for example, the article "Don't Call Them 'Acts of God'", by Niall Ferguson at the LA Times. In it, Mr. Ferguson laments the fact that most people are quick to apply their particular religious beliefs to the question in a manner that condemns others while supporting their own views. Some radical Moslems rejoiced at the devastation as a just reward for America's crimes. Environmentalists blamed our pollution-happy society for causing global warming, which in turn caused the storm. He also mentions that the traditional Christian response would be to call Katrina a judgement from God, but notes that "few Christian churches risk such strong moral medicine these days."

Mr. Ferguson concludes that "The reality is...that natural disasters have no moral significance." But he then goes on to say that they "should serve to remind us of our common vulnerability as human beings in the face of a pitiless nature," which is itself a statement of moral purpose, and serves to bolster his own naturalistic/humanistic/atheistic beliefs while chiding religious people, at least by implication, for believing in anything higher than "pitiless nature."

But who is right in this matter? Is the death and suffering caused by natural disasters just random occurrences caused by blind forces in a purposeless and pitiless nature? Or is there some higher reason behind all this, some greater force at work?

What answer do Christians have to these important, soul-searching, often pain-filled questions?

First, we need to understand why death and suffering exist in this world in the first place. To do so, we must go back to the beginning--literally. In the book of Genesis in the Bible, God explains to us why we die, and why we suffer pain. God originally created a world that was completely perfect, with no sin, no pain, no death, no suffering. Adam, our first father, and Eve, our first mother, changed all of that by disobeying God's clearly stated command. Because of this disobedience, mankind, through Adam, fell from his perfect relationship with Almighty God, and God placed a curse on His creation for man's sake, withdrawing some of His sustaining power. The effects of that curse are pain, suffering, and death. All humans after that are born with a sinful nature, and actively commit sin from childhood. We are all under this curse of sin. Death and suffering in general is all our fault. No one is innocent.

See "They're Not Connecting It!", by Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis and the articles linked at the bottom of this post for more in-depth discussions.

So ultimately, we are the cause of all the natural disasters like hurricanes and tsunamis, as well as the man-made ones like terrorist attacks and wars.

So that answers the general question of why God allows suffering and death. But more specifically, why did God bring or allow this hurricane to hit where it did? Why didn't He stop it? There are several possible answers to this question.

First, Katrina could have been a specific judgement on a sinful city. Regardless of how the world and even some of the church tries to portray that as a heartless answer, the truth is the truth. God hates sin and cannot abide it. He has promised, warned, and threatened that He will judge those who do wickedly. New Orleans was not exactly the epitome of godly, upstanding, righteous, moral living. God says many times in His Word that the wages of sin is death. Perhaps Katrina was payday for the many who lived their lives as if sin had no consequences.

Second, Katrina could have been a warning to us as a nation. America is becoming more and more ungodly every day and every year. Perhaps God is giving us a taste of what could happen if we do not repent and turn back to Him. Katrina was, after all, relatively limited in scope. It is not, by far, the largest national disaster possible. God does not punish with no warning. He repeatedly warns of coming judgement until we have no excuse. We have already gone through 9/11, huge wildfires, earthquakes, mudslides, numerous hurricanes, droughts, floods, and many other disasters. What will it take for us to wake up? Perhaps Katrina was meant as a warning to an increasingly sinful society.

Third, Katrina could be for our good as a nation. While that may seem hard to understand right now, it would not be the first time a natural disaster turned out for the good. The Great Fire of London cleaned out the old infrastructure so new and better ones could be built. There is already a huge rebuilding effort taking place, and promises are being made that the new New Orleans will be better than the old. For another thing, Katrina has drawn attention to the weakness of the levee system, and we are now putting forth more effort to fix it properly for when a worse hurricane hits. Despite the many doom-and-gloom predictions, the death toll has been much lower than originally expected. Perhaps we would not have been so lucky next time. Still another benefit from Katrina is that it exposed the holes in our emergency response systems at federal, state, and local levels. Perhaps after this we will be better prepared for whatever disaster we may face in the future.

A fourth possible reason for Katrina is to give Christians an opportunity to show God's love to people, and be a witness to the world of God's love. The response across America has been tremendous. Millions of people are giving money, food, clothes, water, medicine, and other physical necessities; while many others are voluteering their time and skills to rescue, clean up, and rebuild; still others are opening their doors to the evacuees, their families, and even their pets. I do not doubt for one minute that many people will be influenced to make decisions for Christ as a result of this outpouring. [Not trying to imply that only Christians have responded--people from all different religions have--but just illustrating the tremendous opportunity for Christians in particular to be a witness.] If even one person were to come to Christ through this hurricane, whether for the first time or in recommittment, it would be well worth all the physical and financial damage it caused. Perhaps Katrina was a blessing in disguise.

Finally, Katrina was meant to bring glory to God. We don't know how many, which ones, or to what extent the purposes above apply to this hurricane, but we do know behond a shadow of a doubt that it was meant for God's glory. He is the Creator of the universe, and Controller of the weather. The sheer size and power alone of the hurricane dwarfs man and all of his inventions and accomplishments, blowing away huge buildings like so many matchsticks. Yet that is nothing for God to create, for the very clouds are the dust of his feet (Nahum 1:3). God is also glofified in each of the four purposes discussed above. We can rest assured that God is in control, and that His purposes are always for the best. He sees the bigger picture. He sees what is down the road for us, both in this life and in eternity. In the end, whatever the specific purpose behind Katrina, the main purpose is to glorify God. [While to us it may seem to be mean of God to take the lives of so many people just to bring glory to Himself, we must remember that we are we and God is God. See Job 38-42 for God's response to one who questioned His right to do as He pleased.]

Ultimately, however, whatever is for God's glory is also for our good. Remember the curse of death that was brought on by sin? What if God had not made that curse? Then man would have lived on forever in his sinful state, completely separated from God. For God is a holy God and cannot tolerate sin. Nothing sinful and unholy can enter His presence. So God, in His love, provided a way in which man can escape his cursed body--through death. Yet even in death, his soul lives on, and would be in eternal separation from God, had he not provided a way to become free from the curse of death--namely, His Son Jesus Christ, who is the Life. Christ paid the penalty of sin on our behalf--He died in our place, so that if we believe in Him and accept Him as our Lord, we too can die to sin. Christ also rose again from the dead, breaking the chains of death, so that we too can "walk in newness of life"--both eternal life and spiritual life. So ultimately, death is a way of making it possible for fallen man to be restored to a relationship with his Creator.

The curse actually contains a blessing in disguise. So, for Christians, as we look at death and suffering around us, we can let it remind us of what Christ did for us so that we can be free from such pain. Death is not just a natural condition, one that has always been around and will always be around. It is the "last enemy", and will be abolished once it has fulfilled its purpose. As Christians then, we have hope of a future without death, without pain, without suffering. There is hope! Even in the midst of the darkess times, there is hope!

So, why Katrina? It's our fault--we deserve it--but God will work it out for good in the end. We don't know how, but we do know that He has His glory and our eternal good in mind. And praise God, death is not final--The Life killed Death so the Dead could live! Hallelujah!


For further reading on the proper Christian response:

"A Lesson From a Hurricane", by Ken Ham at Answers in Genesis

"Why is There Death and Suffering?", by Ken Ham and Jonathan Sarfati from AiG

"Why Us?", by Ken Ham, from Creation magazine

See also the other articles at the Death and Suffering Q&A page.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

What's in a Verse?

Sometimes I think it would be better for us if we had to experience trying to live the Christian life without a Bible. We too often take it for granted. Even aside from the Bible as a whole, certain passages have become so familiar to us in our church culture that we often rattle them off without really stopping and thinking through what they are actually saying. Take John 3:16, for instance. Practically everyone can recite that: "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." But how often have you taken the time to really read this verse, and see what it says? Why don't you take some time right now and do that.

Here's a question that will help you: How many major doctrines of the Christian faith are contained in the 25 words in this verse? Let's start counting and see.

1. There is a God--"For God"

2. God is a God of love--"so loved"

3. The world is broken and unlovely (the Fall)*--"so loved the world that He gave"

4. God took the initiative--"He gave"

5. Salvation is a gift--"He gave"

6. The Godhead includes more than one person--"His...Son"

7. God's Son was physically born (virgin birth)--"His...begotten Son"

8. There is only one Son of God--"His only begotten Son"

9. God has other sons*--"His only begotten Son"

10. Salvation is open to all--"whosoever believeth"

11. Man's part is believing--"whosoever believeth"

12. God's Son is only way--"believeth in Him"

13. There is punishment for not believing (hell)--"should not perish"

14. God's Son is way of escape from hell--"should not perish"

15. Eternity is real--"everlasting life"

16. Life after death--"everlasting life"

* by implication

Amazing, isn't it! And I'm sure you can find more too. I'm beginning to realize that many of the verses we tend to read over quickly contain much, much more truth and spiritual gold, if we would only take the time to dig for it. Not necessarily even just in the overall picture, but in the details of the words used. Notice that most of the doctrines above are contained in individual words themselves; relatively few of them are directly involved in the overall picture, at least the usual overall picture.

Too often, at least for me, I tend to almost subconsciously assume that some of the words are just thrown in to make the main phrase sound better, and have no real meaning. For instance, take the phrase "His only begotten Son." We tend to think that the "only begotten" part is just for embellishment, but when you look at them they actually have profound meaning in themselves, and add much to the meaning of the phrase of a whole. We tend to read "His only begotten Son", but think "His Son." In doing so, we miss out on some real insights and inspiration.

One thing that has helped me some in looking at what the verse is actually saying is to take a phrase by itself and repeat it several times, putting the emphasis on a different word each time. It really makes you think, as you recognize the difference in meaning and importance when read in those ways. Then, when you put them all together, it gives you a fuller picture of all that the verse is saying. Let's take the same phrase again as an example. Think about the implications given to the phrase by emphasizing each word.

"His only begotten Son"

"His only begotten Son"

"His only begotten Son"

"His only begotten Son"

Now as a whole:

"His only begotten Son"

See what I mean? I hope you have been challenged, as I have, to read your Bible more carefully, and pay more close attention to the "insignificant" details. As you do so, I know that you will find that there is more than first meets the eye in verses you thought you understood completely.


The epistles of Paul and the other apostles are great places to start, particularly Romans and Hebrews.

Monday, September 05, 2005

KJV only?

I recently came across a ministry on the web called Dial The Truth Ministries. I found the few articles I read quite interesting and informative, and the authors made some very good points on various issues. [I did find the tone of most of the articles rather disturbing, however, since it tended to be rather dogmatic, sarcastic, and almost arrogant.]

One of their beliefs that I found particularly interesting was that the 1611 Authorized Version [King James Version, or KJV] is inspired and inerrant. Not that the Bible is inspired, but that the translation itself is inspired.

I greatly respect the KJV. I believe it is a very accurate translation, and I use it 99% of the time. But I don't believe the translation itself is inspired.

At first I thought this was just another rather weird group with radical ideas. But they do bring up some very logical and very important points in support of their belief in the inspired KJV. The articles I read caused me to think about this for a while, which is good. Here's what I concluded.

The first question we must ask is, "Were the original manuscripts inspired?" I think most Christians would answer yes, since this is what the Bible itself teaches.

The next question is, "Are there any differences between the KJV and the original documents?

Upon this question lies the entire issue. If there is a difference, the fault must of necessity lie with the KJV, lest the originals be considered less inspired than the translation. If there is absolutely no difference, then the KJV is indeed inspired, but only because it exactly reproduces the originals.

This is assuming we have the originals with us. But we don't, which makes matters a little more complicated. All we have are copies of copies.

To ascertain how accurate the copies are, we must ask the same question of them--"How accurately do they repeat the originals?" We cannot answer this with complete certainty, since we don't have the originals. However, we can figure out with reasonable certainty what the originals said, by comparing the thousands of individual copies we do have. Since all of the copies don't have the same mistakes, or say the exact same thing, we can cancel out the errors by combining the different copies. (For more on this, see this excellent article by Ron Rhodes.)

Once this is done, we have a reasonably accurate idea what the originals said. Since the translations are based on this aggregate composition, we can be reasonably sure that the different versions are accurate also, though the accuracy and honesty of the translation work can affect the outcome.

In other words, the accuracy--and hence inspiration--of a particular verse in a particular version of scripture is based on the accuracy of the translation, which is based on the accuracy of the copies, which are based on the inspired originals. In this situation, the inspiration of a particular version is dependent on the accuracy of the step-by-step process. Since there are varying levels of accuracy in the translations, there will be varying levels of inspiration in the versions. The most accurate translation would produce the most inspired version. But since we cannot be 100% sure of the accuracy, no single version can have absolute authority or claim complete inspiration.

The only way we could claim inspiration for a particular version would be to say that both the copies and that particular translation were preserved 100% accurately by direct Divine intervention during the process. In other words, we would have to claim direct inspiration for both the copies and the version.

We run into major problems when we try to make such claims, however, since all such copies and translations were completed after the Bible was written. We would need to rely on information outside of the Bible itself to support such claims. While God promises that He will preserve His Word for all generations, that is a more general promise, and can be interpreted in various ways. (For example, we could say that the amazing number of copies that we have today is part of that preservation.) This promise does not and cannot endorse any particular copy, translation, or version. Again, we would need to use extra-Biblical information to support such claims.

But that would be, for all intents and purposes, to claim "special revelation." The Bible explicitly says that nothing can be added or subtracted from scripture. Thus, any claim of special or additional revelation should be regarded with suspicion and examined with utmost care.

So now we have two possibilities that are both rather troubling. One the one hand, the first solution leaves you with a version that is not completely inspired as it is written, and allows for other versions with comparable inspiration. The other solution holds up one particular version as completely inspired, but relies on extra-biblical information to do so.

Personally, I choose the first option, since it allows for very nearly complete accuracy--and hence inspiration--without relying on outside proof. The way I see it, the other option opens the door to new revelation and inspirations, a condition which I find very troubling, dangerous, and contrary to scripture.

I would rather say that the version I have is not quite 100% inspired than to say that it is the result of new revelation. For all that goes, the vast majority of the differences that are present are minute--only changes in spelling or word order. No major doctrine is affected in the least. Thus, I can be sure that what I read and believe is practically identical to what the original authors wrote down.

Yes, the King James Version is a very accurate translation--but it is not the only authoritative one.

Besides, God's Word is ultimately not written on paper, but rather it is "forever settled in the heavens." Furthermore, I have a personal relationship with the Living Word, and have the One who inspired the original documents dwelling within me and helping me to understand them. Manuscripts may be altered and copies may be wrong, but the Son abides forever.

For further reading, see

The Inspiration, Inerrancy, and Authority of the Bible, by Ron Rhodes

The Textual Reliability of the New Testament, by James Patrick Holding

Saturday, August 13, 2005

The Resurrection of the Un-Dead

I just came across an interesting article in the Yahoo News about the recent sightings of a number of birds previously thought to be extinct. Among them are the ivory-billed woodpecker, the storm petrel, and the rusty-throated wren-babbler. It also talked about birds that have not been seen for decades, but were recently sighted.

This raises the question, "How do you prove an animal is extinct?" In short--you can't! Sure, you can determine beyond reasonable doubt that a certain species no longer exists, but the only way to know 100% for sure is to be able to check every single square inch of planet earth at the same time without finding that particular species anywhere. All it takes is one live specimen to keep the species from being extinct.

The article ended by quoting a representative of a conservation group as saying that "There is no chance of a dodo turning up." Which might very well be true. But what about other animals that we have believed all along were extinct? Animals such as...dinosaurs? Is it conceivable that an animal that is supposed to have been extinct for millions of years could still be living on earth today?

Before you make a quick answer, think a moment. Have you ever heard of the coelacanth? It is a fish that was thought to have become extinct 60 million years ago [and we thought 60 years was long!], but was found alive and kicking [well, flipping] in the 1930's. How about the "dinosaur tree", the Wollemi Pine? It too was though to have died out with the dinosaurs, but was recently found growing in Australia. Then there's the Gladiator insect, also supposedly extinct for millions of years, but found recently in Namibia. And this is just an introduction to a growing list of "living fossils", creatures alive today that are virtually identical to their fossilized counterparts that are claimed to be millions of years old.

Even more sensational is the discovery of several huge elephants in Nepal that have startling similarities to mammoths.

So the next question is, why not dinosaurs? If you can find a fish, a tree, an insect, invertebrates, even mammals that were thought to be extinct for thousands or millions of years--why would it be unthinkable to find a living dinosaur?

Think for a moment of all the dragon legends of longer ago. They come from a large variety and distribution of cultures and geographic locations. It is said that there is some truth to every legend. Why could not those dragon legends be referring to actual encounters with live dinosaurs? There are also numerous recent and even contemporary accounts of sightings of dinosaur-like creatures, from places as varied as the United Kingdom, Papua New Guinea, and the heart of Africa. There have even been several scientific expeditions into Africa in search of a strange animal called Mokele-Mbembe, that from all accounts is similar to a sauropod dinosaur.

"But," you say, "that is impossible. Dinosaurs died out millions of years ago." Think again! Remember our discussion above about proving an animal extinct? We said that the only way you could do that was to search the whole world over at the same time an not find anything. Well, people are searching the world--and they are finding things! Obviously, if you find a live dinosaur, they are not extinct!

"But we're talking 60 million years!" you object. Sixty million years or six decades--what difference does it make? Remember that the coelacanth, the Wollemi Pine, and the other living fossils were also thought to be millions of years old, but they were found alive and well, just as the ivory-billed woodpecker was found alive and well after 60 years. Again, why not dinosaurs?

In addition to sightings and legends, which admittedly can be questionable, there is recent fossil findings that would support that dinosaurs were alive at least into the recent past. For instance there have been a number of findings of unfossilized dinosaur bones [some of them weren't recognized at first, since they were so "fresh" they resembled bison bones]. Not only that, red blood cells and even soft tissue have been found in dinosaur bones! Though evolutionists have tried their best to explain this away as some kind of freak preservation, it stretches credibility to the limit to believe that these flexible soft tissues could last for 60 million years.

So there you have it--legends, cave drawings, recent sightings, other "resurrected" species, unfossilized dinosaur bones, soft tissue and blood cells in dinosaur bones--all point to the conclusion that dinosaurs were living at least into the recent past. So while the dodo may be out of the question, maybe, just maybe you might one day read about the resurrection of the dinosaur in your local newspaper headlines. Imagine the headscratching that would follow in evolutionist circles! But such a finding would be just what we would expect if we based our thinking on the Bible.

Interesting, isn't it, how recent disoveries support the Bible, which is supposed to be long dead and gone, at least by skeptics' predictions. Perhaps, along with the other recent "resurrections" of the un-dead, there will be a resurrection of belief in the Bible, which is most certainly not dead.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Welcome, 2003 UB313

How many planets are there in our solar system?

Until recently, if you had answered "Nine" you would have been correct. But that number is now wrong--a tenth planet has been discovered!

This planet, called "2003 UB 313" is about twice as far from the sun as Pluto is, and is slightly larger. The new planet seems to have a similar composition to that of Pluto, but also has some rather interesting characteristics. For one thing, it's plane of orbit is tilted 44 degrees to that of the other planets. It's orbit is also highly elliptical, and takes 557 earth-years to complete.

It is interesting to note the rather heavy evolutionary emphasis in the secular reports about the new planet. For one thing, there is a rather strong debate going on about whether the new astronomical body should be considered a true planet, or only a large "Kuiper Belt Object" (KBO). According to one astrophysicist, "The Kuiper belt is a hypothetical massive flattened disc of billions of icy planetesimals supposedly left over from the formation of the solar system." Note that it is only hypothetical. Yet nowhere in the three articles I read (from Sky and Telescope, Astronomy Magazine, and does it give any hint of the Kuiper Belt being only hypothetical. Rather, it is regarded as fact, despite the fact that the objects they have discovered differ considerably from what such a belt would contain, according to the first source above.

Also, the article from Sky and Telescope almost automatically assumes that the planet's orbit was not as tilted originally, calling upon "an encounter with some massive object " "at some point in its history" to explain the tilt. Interestingly enough, such a tilt would raise questions for the standard evolutionary explanations of solar system formation, were it indeed original. The same kind of impact is drafted in the article from Astronomy Magazine for explaining the unusual tilt of the axes of Uranus and Neptune.

Such imaginary and highly problematic explanations for our observations of the heavens would not be needed were we to just take God at his word when He said that He created the heavenly bodies on Day 4 of Creation week.

It is exciting to think of the new discoveries that are being made in astronomy today. Truly indeed, "the heavens declare the glory of God."

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Trampling the Temple

I was reading in Isaiah last night, and came across this passage:

Thy holy people possessed thy sanctuary a little while; our
adversaries have trodden it down. We have become like those over whom
thou hast never ruled, like those who are not called by thy name. O that thou wouldst rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains might quake at thy presence—as when fire kindles brushwood and the fire causes water to boil—to make thy name known to thy adversaries, and that the nations might tremble at thy presence!

Isaiah 63:18 - 64:2

I was struck by the resemblance to what is happening in our culture today, especially in regard to the Ten Commandments in public places issue. In a sense, it can be said that God's people--Christians--possessed the "sanctuary"--public forum--for a while, since the founding of this country. Now, that is being reversed, and the "sanctuary" is being "trampled" by those who do not share our values, but rather are trying to destroy them. The unfortunate part is that many are reacting to this in the wrong way, becoming just like those "over whom [God] never ruled", like those "who are not called by [God's] name." They are, in effect, trying to call down the fire of God upon their adversaries [albeit through the roundabout way of political clout]. They seem to think that by forcing that "sanctuary" to remain in the public forum, it will ensure a godly society in the future. [I know they don't actually believe that, but that is what their actions imply.]

But what did Jesus say about this? Didn't He promise that such things would happen, that we would be rejected by the world, that God's message to man would be ridiculed and outlawed? We live in the last times, and things are going to get a whole lot worse in the long run, not better. And it certainly won't get better through politics. What is happening in our culture today is a reflection of a shift in foundations--from the Word of God to the word of man. Nothing short of another foundation shift will change it back to the way it was. And foundation shifts don't happen through the courts or the legislature--they happen in the hearts, minds, and lives of the people. This is, after all, government by the people. To change the government, you need to change people. To change the people, you need to touch their hearts--not bang their heads!

Finally, we each need to realize our own iniquity and uncleanness, as shown in verse 6 of chapter 64, and allow the cleansing fire of God to purge our lives, so we can be moldable and usable in the hands of the Master Potter. Only then can the sanctuary be restored, and we can truthfully say, "we are all Thy people."

Wednesday, July 27, 2005


Hello, and welcome to my blog.

Now what? Hmmm...

I am quite new at this, so please bear with me as I learn in the weeks and months ahead.

Let me briefly introduce myself, and this blog. You can call me Nate. That's not my real name, but I've been using it on some web forums elsewhere, so I'm rather used to it by now. I am a young-adult male, and I live in the midwest [which I think should properly be called the mid-east, considering it's location on the continent; but anyway]. Other than that, there's not much to say about me.

Ok, so why start a new blog, when there are already millions out there? Well, of the many things I enjoy doing, the top three [or somewhere right in there] are reading, writing, and argui--I mean, debating. This blog is a way to hit all three birds with one stone. The idea is to take what I have read, am reading, and will read and write my thoughts about it up here; and hopefully we can have some stimulating discussions in the process.

I must warn you beforehand, though, that I come from a rather unique position, being a young-earth creationist Mennonite Christian. I believe the Bible is the ultimate authority in every area of reality, and I strive to understand anything and everything in light of its inspired teachings. Hence, the name of this blog. So, whether I'm reading the newspaper, or National Geographic, a devotional book, or a novel; I always go back to God's Word to get a proper understanding of the issues involved.

A few more words of warning. I have a very hit-and-miss style of writing, meaning I might write every day for a week, then miss a whole month. I'm working on that, but don't hold your breath. :) Also, I tend to use sarcasm a teensy bit too much. Just so you know ahead of time. I'm working on that too, so feel free to tell me to "chill". One more warning, and this might be the most important--my posts tend to get very, extremely long. Yeah, I'm working on that too [hey, nobody said I was perfect!]. Just don't say I didn't warn you.

Now, let's post this and see what happens. If nobody shows up, I guess I'll just have a stimulating conversation with myself. :)


a newbie blogger