Friday, November 7, 2008
Thursday, July 10, 2008
How many of you can recall the words:
The toe bone connected to the foot bone
And the foot bone connected to the ankle bone
And the ankle bone connected to the leg bone
Hear the word of the Lord!
Sunday, April 27, 2008
- A miracle is a violation of the known laws of nature.
- We know these laws through repeated & constant observation (empiricism).
- The testimony of those who report such miracles contradict the known laws of nature.
- Consequently, no one can rationally believe in miracles.
At a glance, we should see a couple of problems with this. First, how can we know the limits of these so-called laws of nature? The human mind is a finite thing. Thomas Edison once said that "we don't know even a millionth of one percent about anything." The more that true science discovers about the boundless nature of our universe the more accurate Edison's statement becomes. The laws of nature simply cannot be defined in any concrete way.
This brings us to another problem with Hume's proof. The second precept suggests that our knowledge of said laws is based upon experience and observation only, what we call empiricism. But as we stated in the last post, many of the ideas within the context of the "laws of nature" cannot be empirically observed. Concerning the origins of life and the universe, nobody was around to see them, but even common events in nature cannot be confirmed empirically. Why? Two reasons: 1) There will always be exceptions, and 2) The number of observations will always be finite.
For example, one of the most prominent fossils discovered by early paleontologists were of an order of fish called the coelacanths. For decades, they were studied, classified, and widely believed to be extinct since the end of the Cretaceous period, supposedly about 65 million years ago. Then, in 1938, a South African fisherman hooked a living coelacanth out in the Indian Ocean and reeled him in. Now that's a fish story. So much for the extinction theory. What this tells us is that we cannot know an infinite truth from finite observation. Even Hume insisted that we cannot be 100% sure that the sun will rise on the morrow.
All such arguments against miracles can be similarly refuted. Yet, they are persistently offered. Why? Because ultimately they are arguments against the existence of God. If miracles occur, then God exists. That is why I say that miracles represent the battle lines. "Miracles are improbable," said Hume, "and their possibility is so remote that no thinking person should consider them." But, we can make a great argument that, not only are miracles possible, they are indeed probable, and as we shall see, actual.
Modern atheists put forth the notion that the universe sprang into being randomly, by chance (one of their favorite terms). But chance can only tell us about the likelihood of events. It is a concept of statistics and probability. Only a force or a power can cause an event. Chance has no power, and thus cannot cause anything.
When we study life and its limitless boundaries, we see system upon system of sophistication and complexity beyond our ability to comprehend. Every minute thing in this maze of incredulity is the product of some cause. Even Jefferson said that "it is impossible for the human mind not to perceive and feel a conviction of design, consumate skill, and indefinate power in every atom" of life. Creation represents the effect of some greater reality. An effect cannot be greater than its cause, nor can it be more complex or more intelligent.
We as Christians call this cause God. The atheist will respond with countless intellectual absurdities as to why He cannot be, but the fact remains that the great design of our universe implies a Designer. This incredible process of design is an act, and if there is an God who can act, then there are clearly acts of God. Because of this, it should be imminently more logical to look at human history with the clear expectation of the miraculous, rather than a dim, unwarranted skepticism of the same.
Following this line of thinking, let us examine three famous miracles of the New Testament which are routinely considered preposterous by modern skeptics. First of all, would the God who spoke the universe, with all of its irreducible complexity, into being, have any particular difficulty in by-passing a single biological component of conception (a process which He, too, created) to produce one very unique child. "What! A virgin birth? No way, not possible," The skeptic stammers in reflex. But, look at who we are talking about here. Can not the Designer tinker with the design? When you think of it that way, there is nothing improbable about it.
How much of a problem would it be for such a being, who created everything we see ex nihilo, from nothing, to produce a large quantity of food from, say, five loaves and three fishes. Does it really seem like such a stretch?
And what of the Resurrection? "Could not possibly have happened," says the atheist. "No sir ree Bob." The separation of the Resurrection from the Gospel is the founding principle of modern Bible criticism. But, again, given that the Creator we are discussing brought a complete human being from the dust of the ground, just how difficult would it be for such a being to simply re-animate a body previously formed and whole? Hmmm?
We human beings have a particular tendency to ignore the common place and to question the unique. The miracles of the Bible are unique. An event such as the sun standing still in the sky in Joshua 10:12-14 (In actuality, the earth pausing in its rotation) goes against the normal pattern of nature. Those who witness such an event marvel and wonder. But when they attempt to tell others of what they have seen, it is normal to expect skepticism and ridicule.
The truth is, there are miracles about us each moment, everywhere we look. We could spend every waking second, if we desired, in the close observation of these wondrous things. But, because there are so many that take place at any given time, they appear commonplace to us, and sadly, are taken for granted. We do not notice them.
The great Russian novelist, Fyodor Dostoeyevsky, once observed that everywhere he saw people praying and hoping for a miracle so that they could have faith. But "it is not miracles that generate faith," he wrote, "but faith that generates miracles." In many ways, miracles are a problem of perception. If we disavow God, then we have already precluded the miraculous. But if we believe in an omnipotent Creator, then we should see the specific miracles of the Bible as confirmation of His message to us, and we should perceive the miracles of the natural world as evidence of His eternal power and majesty.
Love in Christ,
Monday, March 24, 2008
Friday, February 29, 2008
A blog? A monthly column? Me write a monthly column? I wasn't sure why God stuck such an elaborate idea in my head, but it has certainly been floating around up there for the past several months. Like many of you, I pray that God will open doors for me, that He will show me ways to do more to serve Him. Was this an answer? In spite of my consistent placement of the notion on the backburner, I was finally convince that it was. I have been a sometime writer in the past; occasionally contributing an article here and there, and I must confess that I do enjoy the activity, but what could I write about that some poor, unsuspecting soul would want to read? And how could such an exercise serve to edify my fellow believers in Christ?
In pondering such questions, I kept returning to a word that I must admit I found a little distasteful. It had a sinister, Orwellian quality to it that seemed incompatible with the message of Jesus Christ. It was one of those trendy, overused terms that float about from mouth to mouth like a bad virus. Yet, I could find no other designation to adequately describe what I felt led to write about. The word was worldview.
Most of us are at least vaguely familiar with the idea, and I'm sure, if asked, we would certainly say that we indeed had a Christian worldview. I am less certain that we would actually know what that means, and why it is so important. So what exactly is a worldview and how does it apply to us?
"Worldview" is a term borrowed from the German idea of weltanschauung, literally meaning "a view of the world." It originated in nineteenth-century German Romanticism, and can be loosely defined as the "overall perspective in which we see and interpret life."
The idea of worldview found particular attraction with the Nazis in the 1930s, who eagerly applied it to represent their twin philosophies of Teutonic largesse and Aryan domination. (Incidentally, the Nazis were never the creative people that most people think they were. They didn't invent racial supremacy, or anti-semitism, or even concentration camps, but they did invent the Volkswagen.)
In more recent years, the idea has been pilfered by secular humanist forces to bunk up the unsteady pillars of moral relativism. The humanists believe that every person's own delicate experience is equally valid, no matter how depraved. Consequently, all worldviews, identified in their terminology as identity narratives, must be equally true. In such a line of thinking, for example, a person could make up whatever standard of morality he desired, and then confidently believe, ridiculous as it sounds, in its equivalence to Christianity. He believes what he believes. We believe what we believe. Everything is warm and fuzzy. But all moral absolutes, such as the big absolute, truth, go out the window.
"Not so," says the Christian, or so he should. Worldview, by its very definition, means overall perspective. It is worldview we are talking about, not point of view. It is therefore comprehensive, all encompassing. In other words, uh oh, it is absolute. It is, and spread your arms out wide when saying this, "The Big Picture." It applies not only to theology, but also to art, science, music, history, literature, ethics, law, and education. Anything you can think of can be viewed with accuracy from our perspective as Christians, because our perspective is absolute. You see, we as Christians have something that no other belief system has. We have the truth. The only way to see the world in such completeness is through the lens of Christ.
Now obviously, we are still talking about faith, which the bible defines as "the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen." It is by grace through faith that we receive Christ. Yet, it is not a blind faith. It is, in fact, very reasonable. The Apostle Paul tells us in Romans 1"19-20 that what "may be known of God is manifest" in us, and that "the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen." We Christians are pretty certain of what we believe through our faith. In fact, we know the who, what, when, where, and how of it. But sometimes, we're not really sure about the why.
Allow me to illustrate. I heard a story about a guy who was raised in a small town Baptist church very much like our own. He grew up learning about the great themes of the bible in Sunday school and worship service. He made a decision for Christ as a pre-teen and was soon baptized. Never the most eager among the youth of the church, he nevertheless attended regularly and was considered in all respects to be a good boy.
At age eighteen, he went off to college, participating in that convoluted rite of passage known as registration day. He quickly chose the subjects he would require for his major, and then scanned the catalog for an easy elective. There it was, something he already knew about, or so he thought. It was a course entitled Introduction to the Old Testament. He signed up.
Imagine his surprise the first day, when he was told that Moses did not write the Pentateuch, as the bible says, and that it was instead compiled and edited hundreds of years later from various sources. He spoke up, saying that the bible, which clearly identifies Moses as the author, has great validity and could not be wrong. The course instructor, a gray-bearded gentleman in a tweed jacket, chuckled at the remark, and very quickly, the young man found himself ridiculed and marginalized for his candor. What could he do? How could he respond? He knew he was right. He knew he had the truth, but he could not explain why.
As you may have already guessed, that young man was yours truly. Startled by what I was being taught in a major university, I slowly began to investigate for myself. What I found was surprising. The hard evidence for, what we were told, was modern bible scholarship, was actually paper thin, highly speculative, and quite pitiful when compared to the actual documentation of traditional bible historiography.
Yet, every autumn, our young people go off to college and run into a similar experience. In 2nd Corinthians 10:5, Paul speaks of "casting down," or destroying, "every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God." In practically any subject imaginable, these days, do we find such "high things," or worldly opinions, which are put forth as to be superior to the truth of God. Sometimes these opinions can cause us to doubt and to question. But we must never forget that all truth is God's truth. The purpose of this column is to apply God's truth to such "high things," and to help us to construct a Christian "Big Picture" by, as Paul says, "bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ." It is my prayer that this will become an interactive space and that we may open a dialogue concerning the onslaught of the secular world upon that which we know to be the truth; the gospel of Jesus Christ. So please, comment and ask questions. Let's have fun with this.
Love in Christ,