Monthly Archives: January 2014

Which Science Do You Trust?

Who would you trust the most? An astronomer guy who peers into his telescope in the wee hours of the morning? A physicist who draws up mind-blowing math formulas and rambles on about some Higgs Boson thingie? A chemist who mixes up crazy concoctions in her lab? Or a biologist who plays with frogs and fruit flys?

I was listening to the latest podcast from MoodyRadio’s Up For Debate program this week. The topic was “Should Christians Embrace Theistic Evolution? featuring a discussion between Dr. Ard Louis, a scientist at the University of Oxford, and Dr. Paul Nelson, a Fellow of the Discovery Institute. At one point during the program, the host of the show, Julie Roys, played the following clip from Phillip E. Johnson, perhaps the father of the modern Intelligent Design movement. Here Johnson argues that “evolution” as generally understood by the educational and academic community is inherently atheistic in orientation. In other words, theistic evolution is an oxymoron, a contradiction in terms.

I get the impression that according to Phillip Johnson, he would pick and trust the astronomer, the physicist or the chemist over the biologist any day. Sorry frog and fruit fly lover!!

This raises an interesting set of issues and I will tell you why.
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Oxymoronic: On How (Not) to be a Moron

Snow falling on the sundial, in front of Swem Library on the campus of William and Mary, early evening, January 28, 2014.

Light snow falling on the sundial, in front of Swem Library on the campus of the College of William and Mary, early evening, January 28, 2014.

It is snowing in Williamsburg, Virginia this evening. We do not get that much snow here, so when it does snow it can be memorable. But some memories can trigger some other embarrassing memories.

It was another rare snowy night last year when I went with some friends to hear Terry Mortenson of Answers In Genesis speak at the College of William and Mary defending his position for Young Earth Creationism. The title of the talk was “Was Darwin Right?” (Check here and here for the YouTube videos recorded elsewhere from an earlier presentation). As the snow was melting down my neck in the auditorium, I was captivated by a back and forth dialogue between Mortensen and a skeptical college student who obviously knew more about genetics than I did. I had read enough of Francis Collins’ The Language of God to follow along in the discussion at a modest level, but it became apparent that after about 15 minutes…. this was the longest engagement during the entire hour-plus Q&A period… that Mortensen was completely out of his league here. Mortensen is a historian of science and theology, but he is not a genetic biologist. Mortensen was gracious and kind… but not very persuasive.

John Paine this morning left a thoughtfully engaging yet brief response to my last, and not-so-brief, Veracity post on “An Evolutionary Creation: Oxymoron? I could not simply respond with a brief comment (John gives me a lot to think about… there goes my lunch break), so with the snow as a tickler to my thoughts, here goes the rest of my rejoinder…..
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An Evolutionary Creation: Oxymoron?

How good a pool player is the The Lord of all Creation?   Does God sink all of the balls in one shot, or does He take multiple shots to demonstrate His Glory?

How good a pool player is the The Lord of all Creation? Does God sink all of the balls in one shot, or does He take multiple shots to demonstrate His Glory?

When most Christians think about “evolution” and “creation”, they think of things that simply do not mix: Oil and water. Vinegar and milk. The Red Sox and the Yankees. Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins. Me and mornings. Forget it.

When I was a young Christian studying science in college, I was repeatedly told that I had to choose between what evolutionary scientists have to say with what the Bible says about creation. Now, if the choice was between what atheists like Richard Dawkins have to say and what the Scriptures teach, well OK then, I would have to clearly agree that there is a serious conflict here.  Atheism masquerading as science is clearly incompatible with the Bible.

The problem is that while outspoken atheists like Richard Dawkins tend to hijack the public discourse on evolution, they represent only a small slice of the debate. Most practicing biologists are not terribly interested in atheistic ideologies (at least in my experience). They just want to study plants and animals and they happen to do it within the context of Darwinian evolutionary theory.

So, the question remains:  is modern evolutionary science today completely opposed to the God of the Bible?
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End of the Beginning

“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”
Genesis 50:20

Tale Of Two Cities


“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness….” Charles Dickens’ famous opening line, from the top-selling fictional work of all time, is about dualism.


 
Have you ever thought about how Joseph (the son of Jacob, the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham) could have just given up and succumbed to his circumstances? Times when he must have felt he was at the end of his rope? Times when everything and everyone seemed to be working against him? Times when his story could have been told and that would have been the end of it?

The beginning of the Bible—the book of Genesis—ends with the biography of Joseph. More than one-third of Genesis is devoted to telling his story (so it’s important), and it’s full of the kind of details a family would prefer to forget. If you don’t remember the story of Joseph, give it a read here, or get this app and listen on your mobile device.

Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers (who debated whether to kill or sell him). He became the servant over an Egyptian household. He was framed and sent to prison. He became the inmate-overseer of the Egyptian prison. He was left behind in a dungeon and forgotten for two years after correctly interpreting the dreams of Egyptian officials. But eventually Joseph was brought before Pharaoh and put in charge of Egypt—where he was able to save many lives. His descendants (Joshua, Gideon, and Samuel among others) became leaders of the Hebrew people, writing significant portions of the Old Testament.

There’s a tremendous amount of dualism in Joseph’s life. That dualism gives us a clear picture of the providence (and sovereignty) of God. God can and does use bad situations and circumstances to accomplish good.

In case you haven’t noticed, lately on Veracity we’ve been paddling a bit around Calvinism and what goes with it. I’ve had more than a dozen offline (and very interesting) discussions with friends and readers, and received several emails on the topic. But this isn’t a post about Calvinism.

Our home church has been through a tumultuous year.

If it were solely up to me everything would work out well for everybody, all of the time. No controversy, just happy faces in the pews, all singing in perfect harmony. But that’s not how life works. As Jim Davis notes, “Sometimes it’s going to hurt.” God has a plan for our lives, and that plan includes having to deal with trouble—to accomplish God’s purposes (there’s that Calvinism thing again). Ultimately we can trust God or not.

So…as wearisome as discussions about our tumult have become, we clearly have quite a lot to be thankful for. God cares for and about us. God has blessed us richly.

Our church has a mission statement that says, in part, we are “called to make disciples of Jesus Christ by meeting people where they are on their spiritual journey.” We are all on a spiritual journey. Truth be told, we often can’t tell the beginning of the end from the end of the beginning. The biblical pattern is not to dwell in the difficulties, but to overcome them just as Joseph did by trusting that God is in control.

Joseph’s Tomb

Here’s an aside for those who are interested in seeing how the Bible fits on the ground.  We’ve written previously about the Cave of the Patriarchs, the second-most venerated site in Judaism, which has indisputable historical ties to the text of the Bible and to Joseph’s family (drill deep into the hyperlinks contained in that post and you’ll see how Old Testament Scripture about the Hebrew patriarchs and matriarchs fits in Hebron).

Joseph's Tomb in Shechem

Joseph’s Tomb in Shechem (photo credit: Ferrell Jenkins)

The Bible tells us that Joseph was not buried with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but that his bones were buried at Shechem in the tract of land that Jacob bought for a hundred pieces of silver from the sons of Hamor, the father of Shechem.

Shechem has a violent history, and violence continues to plague the site of Joseph’s tomb.  Here’s a 2009 video that documents recent events at the site from a Jewish perspective, and another from 2013 inside the tomb featuring Joel Kramer, a well-known tour guide and videographer (who’s not a Mormon).


Shibboleths

Doctrine that’s right in our wheelhouse! Want to see what systematized theology looks like in person? Here’s an example of the power of the “Fifth Gospel.” HT: Bobby Conway

4SpiritualSecrets

“… ‘Then say, ‘Shibboleth’!’ And he would say, ‘Sibboleth,’ for he could not pronounce it right. Then they would take him and kill him at the fords of the Jordan. There fell at that time forty-two thousand Ephraimites.”  (Judges 12:6)

Although we Americans have a common language we all have accents that show our origins to a discerning ear.  The above incident demonstrates how thousands of years ago different regional accents caused the death of 42,000 people.

There had been a civil war among people of the same ethnicity.  As the victors captured survivors, the only way to tell if they were the enemy was to force them to say “Shiboleth.”  When prisoners could not pronounce the “sh” sound because of their regional accents, 42,000 of them were executed.

What does all this have to do with us today?  Metaphorically speaking, when we meet people we often have a…

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