God's Existence, Science and Faith, Suffering and Evil, Jesus' Resurrection, and Book Reviews

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***Comment Policy Updated for 2021 and beyond***

Before posting a comment, please read my review of the book "Before You Hit SEND: Preventing Headache and Heartache" by Emerson Eggerichs. I highly recommend reading the full book as it is an excellent guide to gentle and respectful communication online.

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This Argument Is Full of Crap!

This is something that is so easy to do when in a discussion with someone. You know, your conversation is heading one direction, then one of you say something that causes it to take a hard left. In normal conversation, this is not a problem; in fact, it makes conversations lively and lengthy. However, in a conversation that involves one or both of the parties defending a position, there are a few things to look out for from your "opponent" and yourself.

They are called logical fallacies. It is advantageous to be able to recognize when your opponent is using one. It is also to your own benefit to ensure you don't use them either. In other words, be able and willing to call "Bull Crap!" on yourself and your opponent.

I'm going to quickly discuss four of the most common pitfalls.

The Genetic Fallacy
The genetic fallacy is committed anytime the truth of a claim is based on its origin. A common example is believing something is true (such as your religion) because your parents said it is true. Though it may be true, just because your parents say that it is, does not make it so.

This fallacy is commonly committed in a debate when an opponent (confronted with solid evidence) says something along the lines of, "You just believe that because that's how you were brought up," or "people believed that hundreds of years ago." From either of these, they try to make the conclusion that what you are defending can't possibly be true. But that does not follow.

If this fallacy were to be committed by your opponent, you can neutralize the attack by applying the exact same reasoning to something that both of you would agree is ridiculous. By way of the examples above, good responses might sound something like these, "I was brought up to believe the earth is a sphere. Should I not believe that either?" and "Hundreds of years ago people believed the sun was the center of the solar system. Am I wrong to believe that also?" Then explain why their attack is useless.

The ad hominem Attack
This is a fallacious attack on the person presenting the argument. Most of the time this takes place in the shape of an attack on the character or the credibility of the person presenting the argument.

Character and credibility have nothing to do with whether or not a conclusion is correct. We would all agree that Hitler is probably one of the persons with the worst character in history; however, if he told us that adultery is wrong, we would be committing an ad hominem attack if we pointed out that he killed over 6 million people, then concluded that we couldn't trust him on moral issues. We know that adultery is wrong, but we could not defend our position based on the character of the person making the argument (Hitler). The reason for this is because someone else whom we may consider to be of a much higher character than Hitler may make the exact same argument, and our counter-argument that we used against Hitler would not work against the new opponent.

The key to preventing yourself from using this kind of attack is to ask yourself if your argument (or counter-argument) could be used no matter who you were arguing against.

If this type of attack were to be made by your opponent, you may want to question its validity by asking them to defend their claim (that your character somehow makes your argument invalid). If they are placed back on the defensive, they are placed into the uncomfortable position of defending a personal attack. They may also accuse you of trying to divert the subject by asking them to defend this position, but you may reply by pointing out that an attack on your character was the diversion first attempted by them- you are just going with the flow.

Check out the Wikipedia article about ad hominem attacks.

The Straw Man Fallacy

The Straw Man fallacy is a favorite among all people. What's tricky about this one is that it can be committed knowingly or unknowingly.

The Straw Man fallacy basically involves misrepresenting the opposing argument in such a way that it is easily destroyed by your counter-arguments. A lot of times, someone setting up a "straw man" will "forget" an important piece of or over-simplify the opposing argument.

The people who commit this fallacy unknowingly typically just haven't done their homework in respect to the position they are arguing against. If someone ever says "You are misrepresenting the facts of my position", you have committed this fallacy unknowingly; you need to admit it, and promise to do more research to adjust your argument to be fighting the "real issue" not a fake issue that is in your head.

The people who commit this fallacy knowingly typically do it without the opposition to correct them. This allows the people attending to "see" why the arguments of the opposition are useless. But, when one of the attendees confront someone of the opposing position, they will be made to be a fool, because of the original presenter's "straw man" representation of the opposing argument.

This fallacy is so easy to fall into. This is why we need to make certain that we understand the opposition's position and the arguments they use to reach their conclusions. Don't spend time fighting against something that is not the actual issue (just a bad representation of it) (the "straw man"). It is best to find the strongest arguments for the opposition and argue against those. If you can successfully argue against your opponent's strongest evidences, you will do considerable damage to their position.

Common Belief Fallacy

I have seen way too many people claim that because "many" people believe something, that makes it true or at least viable. However, this does a great disservice to the definition of "truth". If a "common belief" were to hold any amount of weight for determining "truth", then "truth" would be reduced to being relative to how whims of the people. Absolute "truth" would then never be able to be known, thus destroying any reason for even arguing about the truth of anything, because it might change in the next couple years.

I would also like to know if "many" is a reference to number or percentage. If number, the relative to what other number to define it as "many"? What is the significance of using the word "many" anyway? Why not "some" or "a few" or "tons" or no quantitative (referring to number of) adjective at all? The only conclusion that can be arrived at by a claim of this sort (regardless of the adjective) is that it is in the minds of people, thus needs attention. But nothing more.

Note to All about Fallacies
By committing any of these fallacies, we commit academic dishonesty in our arguments and lose credibility among our peers, the public, and those we wish to debate.

Note to Christians about Fallacies
As a Christian, this is extremely important because the limit of our credibility will be the limit to which people will listen to our message. Also, some people will project our limited credibility onto others who hold our same position (whether or not the others have made the same mistake we did of committing these fallacies). As Christians we should understand the eternal damage we could be causing by even flirting with one of these fallacies.

Now, I'm not trying to say that I never have or never will commit one (read as "all") of these fallacies. I will make mistakes, but when I do, I back-peddle as quickly as I possibly can to maintain my (and my peers') credibility.

Here's a good blog post about intellectual honesty and the Bible:
Integrating Argument and Virtue

For more information about these fallacies and others, Norman Geisler has a great book Come, Let Us Reason.

Here are a couple episodes of Straight Thinking by Kenneth Samples in which he discusses logic and touches a bit on these fallacies.

Need for Dispassionate Analysis

Avoiding the Straw Man

Avoiding the ad-Hominem Attack

Can You Trust Your Senses or Your Logic?

This is quite the interesting question. If we can't trust our senses and/or our logic then we're in deep trouble. We would not be able to trust anything that we experience (not to mention the entire scientific enterprise), nor would be able to trust that we would be able to find any form of truth.

I'm going to look at three different worldviews and what they say about this. Let's start with the eastern worldviews.

The Importance of Learning to Communicate

Communication is key to any kind of interaction with people. It helps us accomplish common goals, empathize with each other, or persuade of another opinion. Communication also informs people around us who we are and what we think.

Communication is an awesome tool, but it can do much damage if not used properly. This holds true in all types of situations.

As (hopefully) everyone knows, communication is a two-way street for the parties involved. If you are attempting to communicate with another person, you convey information, and they convey information. The key is for each of you to accept the conveyed information. I'm not talking about just "hearing" or "seeing", but interpreting and understanding. If one of you interprets the information incorrectly it could be something as small as a simple misunderstanding or as large as an personal insult (that does lasting emotional damage).

Reaching Our Youth to Reach A Dying World

The Scientific Challenge
Throughout the school-age years, our children are constantly bombarded with the idea that science is superior to any religious belief in its grip on reality. They are taught that naturalistic Evolution is the only possible conclusion from the data, and it is proclaimed to be science fact. Of course, we know this to be untrue, but we must equip our children with sound reasons to believe that we are telling them the truth. They are given evidence by the academy for its positions; therefore, we must do the same. When we give our children sound counter-arguments to weigh against the arguments of the opposition, they are less likely to blindly accept the opposition. That will place them on firmer ground and prepare them as ambassadors for the Gospel of Jesus Christ to a polarized(ing) world so deeply in need.

The Philosophical Challenge
Of course, the scientific debate is not the only challenge that our children will face. They will be confronted by other world religions, the cults, and other philosophies. In the humanities at university, they will be guided to believe that there are no absolutes (truth or moral). It is our job, not only to provide our children with a scientifically and logically sound arguments for their beliefs (1 Peter 3:15), but to see that they understand correct Christian doctrine (i.e. about God, Christ, the Trinity, sin, etc...). No one will be forced into the Kingdom by an impenetrable logical argument. In some cases man's pride will cause him to make the most ridiculous and fallacy-ridden arguments before he accepts his need for a Savior. I am convinced that the further man moves away from God, the more illogical he becomes. I also believe that the more illogical man becomes, the further he moves away from God.

Faith is Logical and Emotional
Having said that, we also need to cultivate a love for Christ in our children that burns until they are consumed with it. Christ told us "If you love me, you will obey what I command." (John 14:15) This was not a statement of how to prove to Christ that you "love" him (works-based theology, but that's a different topic), it was a statement of how the world will be able to identify Christ's love in you (see also John 15) and see that you are acting on what Christ taught (in an effort to avoid hypocrisy). Christ summed up all His commands with this simple phrase, "Love the LORD your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and love your neighbor as yourself" (Luke 10:27, Italics mine). Providing an apologetic argument to others is part of loving God with our mind and loving our neighbor enough to help him overcome his doubt, so that he can enjoy the gift that Christ has given to us of the freedom from the separation from God.

The Danger
Unfortunately, I have seen too many youths who considered themselves Christians, then lost their faith when they got into the world. Most of them state that a college professor was able to reason them away from a belief in God altogether. Or a coworker with a different worldview quickly convinced them that there are many ways to God. I have also asked kids (before they get to this point) why they believe in Jesus Christ. Many of them simply say "because the Bible says so". If I was an unbeliever, why would I accept that as a valid reason if I didn't accept the Bible as a valid source of truth in the first place?

To Youth Leaders
I have seen in many of our churches that the youth group is spending too much time trying to "babysit" youth rather than teach them to understand the reasons and foundations for their faith or equipping them with sound tactics for evangelizing to the skeptics. I'm not saying that we aren't teaching our children about Jesus and all the stories in the Bible. What I am saying is that we spend too much time stressing memorization, and not enough time understanding how and why our Faith is coherent, logical, and most importantly, TRUE.

I also don't see (anywhere) where our youth are taught to appeal to extra-Biblical sources in their witness. Unbelievers don't accept the Bible as a source of truth (I found that out the hard way in my early college years); so the witnessing Christian who only uses the Bible is at a great disadvantage and limits the work of the Holy Spirit. Yes, the Holy Spirit pushes people toward the Gospel, but it is ultimately the person's choice whether to accept it or not. Yes, the Holy Spirit works through the believer to witness to that person. But, our knowledge and understanding limits what we can do. God works through Christians, but we place limits on how God can use us by limiting our knowledge and understanding. God gave us a mind. He commands us to use it. He also commanded us to make disciples of all people. Therefore, we should use our mind to make disciples of all people.

Our youth have the opportunity to be the most powerful ambassadors for Christ in the academy. If they can soundly challenge the crap that is being force-fed to them, they not only strengthen themselves, they strengthen other (less knowledgeable) believers, and they sow many seeds of doubt about the alternatives in the minds of unbelieving students. Imagine how the Holy Spirit could use our youth who choose not to place intellectual limits on themselves.

Christianity is different from every other religion, not just because it is the truth, but it can provide the Believer with spiritual, emotional, and intellectual fulfillment. If we allow God to work through us to show our children how fulfilling knowing the One True God can be, there is no end to how God can and will use them to reach this dying world.

Jesus made the most radical claim in history: "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life; no man comes to the Father except through me." It is time we teach our children how to defend that statement.

How Did It All Begin- Clarification

I want to make it clear that I do not consider the conclusions of this particular series (How Did It All Begin? Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4) to be anywhere near essential for Salvation. I know there are some Christians who believe that their particular position on Creation, Evolution, or the age of the universe to be essential, but I am not one of them. Since I do not believe these to be essential, I don't believe that these issues are grounds for termination of fellowship or discrimination within the Church. I believe that anyone who does believe that is in direct conflict with traditional Christianity.

Rather, I believe that this is something that needs to be debated with gentleness and respect in the Church. Read my early post "Nature vs. Scripture" for more info.

How Did It All Begin? Part 4- Evolution? Really?

If you have not already, please read my post "Nature vs. Scripture" before continuing.

In Part 1 of this series, I showed some basic evidence about the Big Bang theory. In Part 2, I separated the Big Bang from Evolution. In Part 3, I showed how the Bible is compatible with billions of years and answered a couple objections. In Part 4, I'm going to go more into the theory of Evolution.

Okay first, I need to define a couple terms: "evolution" (little-e), and "Evolution" (big-E).
Simply put, "evolution" is a change with respect to time. And "Evolution" is the theory that states that all life changed over time from simple to complex.

Little-e evolution is pretty much a no-brainer. These types of changes are extremely small changes within a species that allow the species advantages. This level is well established scientifically. An example would be a change in camouflage or Darwin's finches. It does take place via random gene mutations that natural selection acts upon. Keep in mind that the overwhelmingly vast majority of random mutations are harmful to the organism. It is rare that they actually help- but it does happen. "Natural selection" is really a fancy scientific phrase for explaining the process by which organisms are eliminated (killed) because of the disadvantage of a random mutation. This level of evolution does not lead to new species nor does it have any form of genuine creative power. If I refer to it again, it will be called "microevolution" (meaning- small scale). Microevolution is also referred to as "adaptation".

Big-E Evolution is where things get hairy and must not be confused with microevolution. There are two kinds: Naturalistic and Theistic.
Naturalistic Evolution relies totally on nature. There are three components responsible for complex life: Common Ancestry, Random Mutation, and Natural Selection.

Both Naturalistic and Theistic Evolutionists accept microevolution. However, Theistic Evolutionists accept only one of the three portions of Naturalistic Evolution to explain life's changes beyond what microevolution's limits. That is Common Ancestry. Theistic Evolution states that God intervened to do what Naturalistic Evolutionists rely on random mutation and natural selection to accomplish.

Dr. Michael Behe puts together a pretty solid case against random mutation and natural selection for being responsible for complex life in his book The Edge of Evolution. Behe does support common ancestry, so he would fall under the category of Theistic Evolutionist. He provides some evidence, such as common genes, common "junk DNA" and common anatomical features. Behe believes, though, that a Designer is responsible for the precise mutations and jumps that natural mutations cannot do in order for life to arrive at its current level of complexity.

Dr. Fazale Rana pointed out in his book "Who Was Adam" that the problem with common genes being evidence for common ancestry is that even though humans are "98% ape" (we share 98% of our genes with the great apes), we are also 30% daffadil (we share 30% of our genes with the daffodil). Unless you are willing to admit that you are one-third flower, this means nothing. Dr. Rana goes into detail of some of the "Junk DNA" in his book "The Cell's Design"; in there he points out that scientists are actually finding uses for "junk DNA". Dr. Rana argues that these and common anatomical features can also be explained via "common design". He also explains that the fossil record actually shows that life was complex from the beginning; and shows "explosions" of speciation rather than a "gradual climb from relatively simple to complex". Dr. Rana argues that these "explosions" would be expected if a God was creating animals already in their complete form.

In his book "Creation as Science", Dr. Hugh Ross shows that the fossil record actually goes against any form of Evolution (naturalistic or theistic). So, Evolution loses that piece of evidence. Creation gains it. Now granted Common Descent has not lost all its evidence, but the evidence can be explained by Creation also. So, Creation is ahead of Evolution when it comes to the evidence.

Microevolution has been argued as part of God's great design to allow for variety and changing environments for His creatures. An animal's ability to adapt to a changing environment is perfectly compatible with God's nature. Much like engineers make certain designs optimal for multiple conditions, the Designer of the creation did the same.

What is not supported by the evidence is Macroevolution (Naturalistic or Theistic). We are left only with Creation.

Dr. Fazale Rana was recently interviewed on Stand to Reason with Greg Koukl. The name of the show is "What Darwin Didn't Know". Here is the complete recording (about 2 hours); Dr. Rana's interview starts about halfway through.

So to conclude this series: Based on the physical evidence and the Biblical evidence, it is safe to conclude that God created the universe about 14 billion years ago, and did not rely on mutations to "create" His creatures. Biblical inerrency is upheld and our observations of nature are verified to be accurate. We maintain consistency throughout the theory.

If you would like me to go into more detail about any specific topic discussed in this series, email me.

For more information, refer to the books, DVDs, and websites linked to throughout the series.

What's So Great About Gold?

Happy Valentine's Day!

Today is the day that many people will do all sorts of things to show those closest to them how much they love them. Some guys do it by purchasing jewelry for their wives/girlfriends. We all know how expensive buying pure gold can be. The main reason is because of its rarity. But do you know just how rare gold is in the universe? Did you know that gold was required for man to get to the "technological" Bronze Age? Did you know that the very existence of gold on our planet is powerful evidence for a Designer?

If you give your loved one gold this Valentine's Day, you can let them know that it is much more. It is a way to initiate conversation about the Christian faith and point the listener to the greatest act of love. Listen to this episode of Science New Flash to find out more. Its only about 13 minutes, so it won't take too long.

How Did It All Begin? Part 3- The Bible and Billions of Years

If you have not already, please read my post "Nature vs. Scripture" before continuing.

In Part 1 of this series of posts, I defined what the Big Bang is and provided a few things that point to it in the Bible. In Part 2, I separated the Big Bang from Evolution. In Part 3, I'm going to show what Biblical evidence convinced me that the Bible has no incompatibilities with the Big Bang's claim of billions of years.

Until about five years ago, I was a strict young-earth creationist. I believed that the Bible had no room for interpreting that the earth was older than about 10,000 years. I was (and still am) a strict inerrantist (I'll publish a post on this topic in the future). I believed (and still do) that the Bible must be taken literally, unless the context leads us to otherwise (i.e. Jesus' parables).

There are two main pieces of evidence that convinced me that an old-earth interpretation is perfectly acceptable- without compromising biblical innerrancy or a literal reading.

First, the word translated as "day" in Genesis 1 is yom. In ancient Hebrew, there only existed about 3000 words (for perspective, English today includes over 2 million). Many words were used to refer to many similar things. The word yom has three literal meanings:
1. A 12-hour period, from either sunset to sunrise or sunrise to sunset.
2. A 24 hour period from sunset to sunset.
3. A long, but finite, period of time. (There's another word for an infinite period of time).

Now this only allows for an old-earth interpretation, it does not prove anything. We know that it is possible, but possibility does not equal true. Is there any evidence that yom actually refers to a long, but finite period of time in the text? The second piece of evidence builds this case.

In the original Hebrew each of the days of creation were completed with the statement "evening was, morning was, day X". This is true of all the days with the exception of Day 7. This leads us to believe that we are still in God's day of rest. This would be an example of Day 7 being a long period of time. Revelation tells us that Day 7 is finite (God will create again- the New Creation).
Genesis 2:4 use the word yom to refer to the entire creation period described in Genesis 1.

These two pieces of evidence opened my mind to the interpretation being biblical. Here's a few more that had solidified this idea for me:

1. Adam did way too much (naming all the animals and tended the garden) before God created Eve for that one day to be just 24 hours.
2. When Adam saw Eve, he exclaimed, "At long last!" (in the original Hebrew). Unless Adam was extremely impatient, he would not have said "long".

The most common biblical objection that I run into on this is that God compares His creation week to our work week of 6 days + 1 rest (Exodus 20:11). The claim here is that this verse proves that our days are identical to God's days. I have a couple of counter arguments for this.

The first is just from basic reading of the verse by itself. If you were to replace the word "day(s)" with "period(s) of time", would it make sense? Since another literal definition of yom is "period of time" this is completely acceptable to do as a test. The answer is "yes". Once again, this does not prove anything, it just let's us know that it would be an acceptable interpretation if other evidence is found that pushes us that way.

Second, read it in context. This is the commandment to keep the Sabbath day holy. Nowhere is the equivocation of the length of our days made equal to God's. At best, this is an analogy. An analogy is a description that is used to connect similar ideas, not exact ideas. Considering the fact that the focus is not on the days themselves, but the fact that God rested, makes this a weak analogy, even if you want to take that position. However, whether Ex 20:11 is taken as a literal definition of the length of the day or analogous to the length of the day, it contradicts another scripture.

At this time, I will invoke Psalms 90:4 "For a thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by..." If God's day equals 24 hours (as claimed above) and it equals 1000 years, we have a problem. Exodus and Psalms now conflict. Obviously, Psalms is an analogy (indicated by the word "like"). But that doesn't get us out of the contradiction. 1000 years is not analogous to 24 hours, no matter what kind of mathematic gymnastics you attempt. If we are to assume that Ex 20:11 is an analogy too, then we still have a contradiction.

Whether Ex 20:11 is accepted as literal or analogous, young-earth creationists have a contradiction. The only way to avoid the contradiction (and maintain biblical inerrency) is to recognize that Ex 20:11 is not saying anything about the length of God's days and only that "He rested after six periods of time, therefore we should also".

Third, God established a pattern in The Law of "work six, rest one". He did this in the proper care of farm land. God states that Israel is to work the land for six years, then allow it to rest a seventh year. This pattern is also recognized in God's acts of creation, and in his establishment of man's week (Exodus 20:11). God was only continuing his pattern of 6+1 in the commandment.

The second most common objection is that the text uses the phrase "evening was, morning was, day X". It is claimed that "evening" and "morning" refer to a 24 period. My rebuttal to that is this: evening to morning is at the most 12 hours (unless creation took place near one of the poles). If this was referring to 24 hours, it would have been stated like this: "evening was, morning was, evening was, day X". "Evening" and "morning" are simply referring to the fact that the days began and ended (finite period of time).

For more information on this topic Reasons to Believe has a complete section of their website and several books devoted to it.

Reasons to Believe "Age of the Earth" Web Page
Reasons to Believe "Does Old-Earth Creationism Contradict Genesis 1?" Web Page
Matter of Days by Dr. Hugh Ross
The Genesis Question by Dr. Hugh Ross

Here is a series of blog posts by Billy Pratt from the Ankerberg Theological Research Institute about the issue:

"What is the Meaning of the Word 'Day' in Genesis" Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.

In Part 4, I'm going to go a bit more into the theory of Evolution. Did God use evolution as the mechanism for His creation?