Posted tagged ‘God’

Have the Spiritual Gifts Ceased?

April 16, 2009

This is my first installment in the current debate on the spiritual gifts.  Specifically, whether or not some of the gifts have ceased.  Coramdeo is taking the Cessationist position while I’m taking the Continuationist position.

However, I want to say that I don’t associate with any particular label on this topic.  Frankly, I’m just not sure I have a concrete position on this issue yet.  I’m sure that there is an entire spectrum of cessationists and continuationists and neither Coramdeo or I would fit all models across the spectrum.

However, for the sake of clarity in this debate I will hold the mantle of “Continuationist” even though it may not accurately describe me. 

We Must Agree on Something First

The Word of God is the ultimate authority on everything that it talks about.  I know that Coramdeo would agree with this and I hope any other Christian following this debate, or just reading this article, would be on board as well.  If this isn’t our starting point, we have our feet firmly planted in thin air. 

My goal, in this debate, is to make sure that we hold tightly to our Ultimate Authority and to not go places it doesn’t.  This presupposition must be committed to even if it means we don’t get a systematic, concrete answer out of the question of spiritual gifts, if it means holding to an uncomfortable doctrine, or if it means letting go of a comfortable one.

Basically, the cessationist position, as described by Coramdeo, is one where certain spiritual gifts have ceased, specifically tongues and prophecy (although Coramdeo does bring healing in the mix a bit as well).  I will respond to his the main points he uses to defend this position.

One Thing Cessationists Can’t Have Both Ways

First, I’d like to comment on a perceived contradiction.  Coramdeo explains that:

Its not like we don’t believe in Miracles (1), we believe God is working Supernaturally, just that He no longer uses some of the Spiritual gifts He gave to the early church

and a paragraph later he says:

Cessationists now rely on scripture alone to hear from God, to prove His Gospel, and to be the catalyst that saves His people.

These two sentences are in direct contradiction to each other and I’m Coramdeo can clear it up for me.  Scripture alone does not drive salvation and confirm the Gospel.  This is the job of the Holy Spirit as much as it is the truth held in the pages of the Bible.  A supernatural change of mind and an indwelling of the Holy Spirit is needed for true conversion. 

In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation–having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.  (Eph 1:13-14)

So which one is it?  Does the Holy Spirit supernaturally speak to God’s children, enter into to them to seal the pledge and confirm our salvation?  Or must those things come solely from the pages of Scripture?

I would assert that even a cessationist relies on this personal, subjective experience from the Holy Spirit to confirm the truth of Scripture.  Just as the Apostles relied on their personal experience of the Risen Christ to confirm what Christ said about Himself, so too does the modern Church rely on the personal experience of the Holy Spirit, however it manifests, to confirm the Word of God.

If a cessationist says they rely solely on Scripture for salvation, confirmation and affirmation, he is fooling himself and he is, ironically, going against what Scripture says about how the Holy Spirit interacts with the Church!

In defense of cessationism, Coramdeo quotes two main passages.  Let’s examine them.

1 Corinthians 13:8-13

8Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away.   9For we know in part and we prophesy in part; 10but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. 11When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things.  12For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.  13But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Coramdeo’s point is that “the perfect” refers to the New Testament Canon and since “the perfect” has come, therefore the gifts have ceased.  Let’s take Coramdeo’s position, and see if substituting “New Testament Canon” with “the perfect” makes sense of the passage. 

Firstly, let’s point out that if Paul is prophecying the coming of the Bible, something he could have no knowledge of apart from a revelation from God, it would be the only prophecy regarding the formation of the Canon. 

Secondly, are we prepared to say that the New Testament Canon is “perfect”?  The Canon is merely a compilation of ancient manuscripts (mss).  Compiled by men.  Several times there are passages (Acts 9, the end of Mark) that are in some mss but not in others.  So to call the New Testament Canon “perfect” we must say that the Council of Nicea got it “perfect”.  Did the Council get it right?  Surely.  Did they accurately preserve the Word of God to be passed down through the generations?  Of course.  But did they get it “perfect”?  Was every single mss copied by hand, passed down to us, copied “perfectly”?  If Paul means to call the future actions of human compilers “perfect”, it would be the first time the actions of humans are described this way.

Thirdly, Paul describes exactly what will happen when this “perfect” will come.  Presently, Pauls says, “I know in part” but when “the perfect” comes “I will fully know just as I also have been fully known.”  This side of the New Testament Canon, can we say that we “fully know” just as God fully knows us?  Of course not.  Surely, this side of the New Testament Canon we have access to God’s truth much more readily than then Corinthians did whom Paul was talking to.  But on the same level that God knows us??  We cannot conclude this. 

My fourth point deals with the same assertion by Paul.  Paul is including himself in the “knowing in part”.  Coramdeo’s position is that the Corinthians lacked the knowledge of the full Council of God as passed down by the Canon.  Paul is including himself in that lack of knowledge that the Canon would give him.  How can we say that Paul lacked in knowledge that the New Testament would give him when he wrote the majority of it, was taught by Jesus Himself for three years in the Arabian desert, and spent extensive time with almost every author of a New Testament book? 

My four points are summarized with, 1:  It would be the only instance the coming of the Bible being prophecied, 2:  Was the writing of the New Testament “perfect”?  Of course.  But does rationality and the evidence suggest that the compilation of the Canon in 325 CE, and every subsequent scribed translation before and after “perfect” as well?  Accurate?  Sure.  Perfect?  Come now.  3:  Even after the Canon was formed, do we “fully know” just as God fully knows us?  4:  We must believe that Paul lacked in knowledge that the coming New Testament could bring him when he wrote most of it, was taught by Jesus, and spoke with every author of the New Testament. 

On The Other Hand

However, let’s interpret the phrase “the perfect” to be understood as “the Second Coming of Christ”.  If Paul is prophecying about the return of Christ, then it would be another in a long line of prophecies regarding this event, many made by Paul himself.  Also, we will have no problem associating “the perfect” with Jesus Christ as He is the only person we can accurately describe as such. 

“The perfect” being understood to be the Second Coming also makes sense out of the Paul’s assertion that we will “fully know” just as God fully knows us.  When Jesus establishes His Millennial Kingdom, and we’re in our resurrection bodies, will we really lack in knowledge?  This also makes sense of Paul including himself in this “knowing in part”.  Surely, even the great Paul is a limited human being just as we are, a limitation what will cease at Christ’s Second Coming just as it would for the Corinthians.

You can try this exercise yourself.  Interpret the coming of “the perfect” to mean the immenent coming “of heaven” that every believer will experience.  If you go through the trouble spots that interpreting “the perfect” as the Canon brings up, you will see that “of heaven” smoothes them over just as well as “the Second Coming of Christ” does.

The ball is now in Coramdeo’s court.  I only replied to a portion of his article because this post is already long enough.  So if he would like to respond to this rebuttal, or have me move on to another portion, I will do either. 

Please, this debate is not meant for just two people, jump in at any point with any position and we’ll be glad to discuss with you.

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The Ghost of Darwin

February 12, 2009

 Two hundred years ago, in Shrewsbury England, Charles Darwin was born.  Today is Darwin’s birthday. 

Ken Ham wrote a great article that he posted today on the Answers Magazine website. 

The article is in regards to Darwin’s legacy, the world that he left behind. 

The sad part is that his legacy, Darwin’s ghost, had permeated the Church. 

Hundreds of thousands of churches around the world have adopted Darwinian evolution and reinterpreted the history in Genesis to fit with Darwin’s anti-Christian beliefs. Theistic evolution (the belief that God used evolution) has become a dominant position in much of the church in England and has spread from there around the world.

Darwin’s evolution rejects the plain, literal truth of Genesis.  The compromise the church has made has led to subsequent generations rejecting the truth of the Bible.  And can we blame them?  If we can’t trust the Bible when it comes to Genesis, can we trust it with anything?

Observers note that whereas England’s church attendance before World War II was 40–50 percent, by 2003 “only 7.5 percent of the population went to church on Sundays and that, in the past 10 years—billed by the churches as the ‘Decade of Evangelism’—church attendance dropped by an alarming 22 percent.” (“Church will be dead in 40 years’ time,” The Independent, April 16, 2000.)

The Darwinian worldview can be seen in the textbooks of academia and in the humanist thinking of Western society in general.  As a result, Christian morality has disappeared from the Western mind. 

I can’t put in any better than Ken does:

Christians should pray that the Lord rebuilds the foundations of His house that shifted from the firm ground of His Word and compromised because of the works of a man.

As Christians, did we really think that the knowledge of man would “work better” than the knowledge of God?  If you are a Christian who believes in evolution, if you think that Darwinism is compatible with Christianity, read on.

The house where Darwin wrote his On the Origin of the Species, has become a museum of his life and work.  Above the final exhibit is mounted these words:

Many Christians believed that the world and everything in it, including mankind, had been created by God in the beginning and had remained unaltered ever since … . Darwin’s theory made nonsense of all of this. He said that the world was a constantly changing place and that all living creatures were changing too. Far from being created in God’s own image, Darwin suggested that human life had probably started out as something far more primitive—the story of Adam and Eve was a myth (emphasis added)

This is Darwin’s legacy.  As a church, should we really buy into it?

Darwin wrote, in his Autobiography:

I had gradually come, by this time, to see that the Old Testament from its manifestly false history of the world, with the Tower of Babel, the rainbow as a sign, etc., etc., from its attributing to God the feelings of a revengeful tyrant, was no more to be trusted than the sacred books of the Hindoos, or the beliefs of any barbarian.

Faith vs. Science

February 11, 2009

This was sent to me by one of my friends.  This is conversation was reported to have actually taken place.  Whether that is true or not, I think it’s a great illustration of the epistemological and metaphysical problems atheists have.

A science professor begins his school year with a lecture to the students, ‘Let me explain the problem science has with religion.’

The atheist professor of philosophy pauses before his class and then asks one of his new students to stand.

‘You’re a Christian, aren’t you, son?’

‘Yes sir,’ the student says.

‘So you believe in God?’

‘Absolutely.’

‘Is God good?’

‘Sure! God’s good.’

‘Is God all-powerful? Can God do anything?’

‘Yes.’

‘Are you good or evil?’

‘The Bible says I’m evil.’

The professor grins knowingly.  ‘Aha! The Bible!’   He considers for a moment.  ‘Here’s one for you. Let’s say there’s a sick person over here and you can cure him. You can do it. Would you help him? Would you try?’

‘Yes sir, I would.’ ‘So you’re good…!’

‘I wouldn’t say that.’

‘But why not say that? You’d help a sick and maimed person if you could. Most of us would if we could. But God doesn’t.’

The student does not answer, so the professor continues. ‘He doesn’t, does he? My brother was a Christian who died of cancer, even though he prayed to Jesus to heal him. How is this Jesus good? Hmmm? Can you answer that one?’

The student remains silent.

‘No, you can’t, can you?’ the professor says. He takes a sip of water from a glass on his desk to give the student time to relax.

‘Let’s start again, young fella. Is God good?’

‘Er…yes,’ the student says.

‘Is Satan good?’

The student doesn’t hesitate on this one. ‘No.’

‘Then where does Satan come from?’

The student falters. ‘From God’

‘That’s right. God made Satan, didn’t he? Tell me, son. Is there evil in this world?’

‘Yes, sir.’

‘Evil’s everywhere, isn’t it? And God did make everything, correct?’

‘Yes.’

‘So who created evil?’ The professor continued, ‘If God created everything, then God created evil, since evil exists, and according to the principle that our works define who we are, then God is evil.’

Again, the student has no answer.

‘Is there sickness? Immorality? Hatred? Ugliness? All these terrible things, do they exist in this world?’

The student squirms on his feet. ‘Yes.’

‘So who created them?’

The student does not answer again, so the professor repeats his question. ‘Who created them?’

There is still no answer. Suddenly the lecturer breaks away to pace in front of the classroom. The class is mesmerized. ‘Tell me,’ he continues onto another student. ‘Do you believe in Jesus Christ, son?’

The student’s voice betrays him and cracks. ‘Yes, professor, I do.’

The old man stops pacing. ‘Science says you have five senses you use to identify and observe the world around you. Have you ever seen Jesus?’

‘No sir. I’ve never seen Him.’

‘Then tell us if you’ve ever heard your Jesus?’

‘No, sir, I have not.’

‘Have you ever felt your Jesus, tasted your Jesus or smelt your Jesus? Have you ever had any sensory perception of Jesus Christ, or God for that matter?’

‘No, sir, I’m afraid I haven’t.’

‘Yet you still believe in him?’

‘Yes.’

‘According to the rules of empirical, testable, demonstrable protocol, science says your God doesn’t exist. What do you say to that, son?’

‘Nothing,’ the student replies. ‘I only have my faith.’

‘Yes, faith,’ the professor repeats. ‘And that is the problem science has with God. There is no evidence, only faith.’

At the back of the room another student stands quietly for a moment before asking a question of his own.

‘Professor, is there such thing as heat? ‘

‘Yes,’ the professor replies. ‘There’s heat.’

‘And is there such a thing as cold?’

‘Yes, son, there’s cold too.’

‘No sir, there isn’t.’

The professor turns to face the student, obviously interested. The room suddenly becomes very quiet. The student begins to explain.

‘You can have lots of heat, even more heat, super-heat, mega-heat, unlimited heat, white heat, a little heat or no heat, but we don’t have anything called ‘cold’. We can hit up to 458 degrees below zero, which is no heat, but we can’t go any further after that. There is no such thing as cold; otherwise we would be able to go colder than the lowest -458 degrees.  Every body or object is susceptible to study when it has or transmits energy, and heat is what makes a body or matter have or transmit energy. Absolute zero (-458 F) is the total absence of heat. You see, sir, cold is only a word we use to describe the absence of heat. We cannot measure cold. Heat we can measure in thermal units because heat is energy. Cold is not the opposite of heat, sir, just the absence of it.’

Silence across the room. A pen drops somewhere in the classroom, sounding like a hammer.

‘What about darkness, professor. Is there such a thing as darkness?’

‘Yes,’ the professor replies without hesitation. ‘What is night if it isn’t darkness?’

‘You’re wrong again, sir. Darkness is not something; it is the absence of something. You can have low light, normal light, bright light, flashing light, but if you have no light constantly you have nothing and it’s called darkness, isn’t it? That’s the meaning we use to define the word.  In reality, darkness isn’t. If it were, you would be able to make darkness darker, wouldn’t you?’

The professor begins to smile at the student in front of him. This will be a good semester.

‘So what point are you making, young man?’

‘Yes, professor. My point is, your philosophical premise is flawed to start with, and so your conclusion must also be flawed.’

The professor’s face cannot hide his surprise this time. ‘Flawed? Can you explain how?’

‘You are working on the premise of duality,’ the student explains. ‘You argue that there is life and then there’s death; a good God and a bad God. You are viewing the concept of God as something finite, something we can measure. Sir, science can’t even explain a thought.’  Science uses electricity and magnetism, but we have never seen, much less fully understood either one. To view death as the opposite of life is to be ignorant of the fact that death cannot exist as a substantive thing. Death is not the opposite of life, just the absence of it.’

‘Now tell me, professor. Do you teach your students that they evolved from a monkey??’

‘If you are referring to the natural evolutionary process, young man, yes, of course I do.’

‘Have you ever observed evolution with your own eyes, sir?’

The professor begins to shake his head, still smiling, as he realizes where the argument is going. A very good semester, indeed.

‘Since no one has ever observed the process of evolution at work and cannot even prove that this process is an on-going endeavor, are you not teaching your opinion, sir? Are you now not a scientist, but a preacher?’

The class is in uproar. The student remains silent until the commotion has subsided.

‘To continue the point you were making earlier to the other student, let me give you an example of what I mean.’

The student looks around the room. ‘Is there anyone in the class who has ever seen the professor’s brain?’

The class breaks out into laughter.

‘Is there anyone here who has ever heard the professor’s brain, felt the professor’s brain, touched or smelt the professor’s brain? No one appears to have done so. So, according to the established rules of empirical, stable, demonstrable protocol, science says that you have no brain, with all due respect, sir.’

‘So if science says you have no brain, how can we trust your lectures, sir?’

Now the room is silent. The professor just stares at the student, his face unreadable. Finally, after what seems an eternity, the professor answers. ‘I guess you’ll have to take them on faith.’

‘Now, you accept that there is faith, and, in fact, faith exists with life,’ the student continues. ‘Now, sir, is there such a thing as evil?’

Now uncertain, the professor responds, ‘Of course, there is. We see it everyday. It is in the daily example of man’s inhumanity to man. It is in the multitude of crime and violence everywhere in the world. These manifestations are nothing else but evil.’

To this the student replied, ‘Evil does not exist sir, or at least it does not exist unto itself. Evil is simply the absence of God. It is just like darkness and cold, a word that man has created to describe the absence of God. God did not create evil. Evil is the result of what happens when man does not have God’s love present in his heart. It’s like the cold that comes when there is no heat or the darkness that comes when there is no light.’

The professor sat down.

To that I say; amen brother.

The Rise of Evolution (Part 3): Evolutionary Metaphysics

February 9, 2009

This series of articles will consider how evolution got to the place of prominence that it now enjoys.  The story goes that Darwin “discovered” evolution on the isles of Galapagos.   While this is popular, it is also untrue.  Darwin’s path to evolution was not governed by scientific discovery, but by his own brand of theology; using the definition of God handed down to him by the modernists and Victorians to reconcile the problem of natural evil.

As expressed in the previous article, it isn’t whether or not Darwin was right or wrong, only that he used such presuppositions about God to formulate evolution.  Similarly, since Darwin, this definition of God has been used to further the metaphysical argument for evolution. 

These articles were inspired by Darwin’s God: Evolution and the Problem of Evil by Cornelius Hunter. 

The purpose of these articles will be to show that, “at it’s core, evolution is about God, not science” (Cornelius Hunter, Darwin’s God).

What is Metaphysics?

There are many different ways to describe metaphysics.  However, I find the simplest to be that metaphysics is merely a method of thought that ponders the state of being of certain things, be it the universe, the world, ourselves or God.  For instance, the modernist definition of God is a metaphysic because it ponders the state of being of God (what God does and does not do). 

For our purposes here, the main point is that since science is only concerned with giving empirical evidence and does not make statements about the state of being, metaphysics are outside the bounds of science.  Put another way, metaphysical ideas and arguments are unscientific. 

The Inherited Modern God

Again the point must be made that Darwin, and the evolutionary thinkers after him, inherited a certain definition of God. 

Goodness is more fundamental than power . . . There is nothing worthy of worship in power as such . . . After all, the object of religious worship is a perfect ideal rather than a perfect power (Edgar Sheffield Brightman).

A less domineering God is not only distanced from evil, but is also more worthy of worship. 

Robert Chamber wrote in Vestiges:

How can we suppose an immediate exertion of this creative power at one time to produce the zoophytes, another time to add a few marine mollusks, another to bring in one or two crustecea . . . This would surely be to take a very mean view of the Creative Power.

In other words, because God would have been forced to be involved in the dirty, mucky trenches of creation, He must not have acted this way.  When considering the issue of God’s divine intervention, the co-founder of evolution, Alfred Wallace, wrote:

As a matter of feeling and religion.  I hold this to be a fair higher conception of the Creator of the Universe, than that which may be called the ‘continual interference hypothesis’

This kind of thinking led to . . .

Religion and Science Are Separate

This is one of the most powerful metaphysical arguments for evolution out there.  Since God doesn’t dabble in nature, and science only studies nature, and religion only studies God, therefore religion and science are of two separate camps.  Though it may be pointless, it’s OK to consider God in religion, but it would never do to insert Him into science.

The Reverend Baden Powell wrote in 1838 (The Connexion of Natural and Divine Truth):

Scientific and revealed truth are of essentially different natures . . . The mistake consists in confounding these two distinct objects together, and imagining that we are persuing science when we introduce the authority of revelation.  They cannot be combined without losing the distinctive character of both

The famous evolutionist Stephen Jay Gould mirrored this sentiment in Rock of Ages:

I do not see, how science and religion could be unified, or even synthesized, under any common scheme of explanation or analysis.

Religion and science are to be kept separate.  Bruce Alberts, when writing for the National Academy of Sciences (Science and Creationism), says:

Scientists, like many others, are touched with awe at the order and complexity of nature.  Indeed, many scientists are deeply religious.  But science and religion occupy two separate realms of human experience.  Demanding that they be combined detracts from the glory of each.

The question becomes, where did Powell get the idea that combining science and religion would lose the distinctive character of both?  Where did Gould get that the combination of science and religion is not unifiable? And how does Alberts know that doing so detracts from the glory of each?  Certainly not from a scientific experiment as such an experiment would be impossible.

So where did they get it?  From their preconcieved idea that God and nature are separate.  Another metaphysical belief untestable by science.  And yet, this argument is used all the time in defense of evolution isn’t it?  Especially when attacking the likes of the Intelligent Design movement.

The Intellectual Necessity of Evolution

Since God was not actively controlling creation, and nature governed by predictable natural laws, scientific inquiry is possible.  If God was constantly changing His creation, how would we be able to tell the difference between the natural law and God’s actions? 

This uniformitarianism that science depends upon is just as presuppositional as religion, and yet, why is it preferred?  For William H. Harvey, it isn’t that evolutionary theory is more true, it’s just that it has more room for advancement.

but . . . they do give you room to reason and reflect at present, and hopes for the future, wheas the old stick-in-the-mud doctrines . . . are all used up.  They are so many stops to further inquiry; if they are admitted as truths, why there is an end of the whole matter, and it is no use hoping ever to get any rational explanation of origin or dispersion of species – so I hate them (quoted in Gillespie, Charles Darwin, emphasis added).

In other words, since evolutionary theory gives us room for further inquiry, it is preferred.  Darwin echoed this sentiment in Origin:

The hopelessness of the attempt has been expressly admitted by Owen in his most interesting work on the “Nature of Limbs.”  On the ordinary view of the independent creation of each being, we can only say that so it is; –that is has please the Creator to construct all the animals and plants in each great class on a uniform plan; but this is not a scientific explanation.

Darwin’s metaphysical extrapolation led him to his ultimate proof against creation.  His main point, that nature fails to show divine design, was now protected from any counter-argument, because any such arguments would be unscientific.  Here, Darwin is able to ignore that he also uses metaphysical arguments to prop-up evolution, just as the design argument does. 

Evolutionists today correctly observe that creation and it’s supporting arguments hinge on one’s concept of God, but conveniently forgot that arguments against creation equally hinge on one’s concept of God.  They find it fair to argue against creation, but not for it.

Since creation cannot be a scientific argument, evolution is the correct scientific theory.  Thus, evolution isn’t proved on it’s scientific merits alone, but by default.

For Niles Eldredge (The Monkey Business.  A Scientist Looks at Creationism) the key responsibility of science is to predict.  This cannot be possible with a capricious God:

But the Creator obviously could have fashioned each species in any way imaginable.  There is no basis for us to make predictions about what we should find when we study animals and plants if we accept the basic creationist position.

Paul Moody also expresses this idea:

Most modern biologists do not find this explanation [that God created the species] satisfying.  For one thing, it is not an explanation at all; it amounts to saying, “Things are this way because they are this way.”  Furthermore, it removes the subject from scientific inquiry (Introduction to Evolution).

Tim Berra (Evolution and the Myth of Creationism) is much more direct in his warning about creation:

Creationism has no explanatory powers, no application for future investigation, no way to advance knowledge, no way to lead to new discoveries.  As far as science is concerned, creationism is a sterile concept

What the evolutionists are saying here, is not so much that creationism is wrong, as it is improper.  Evolution is intellectually necessary because divine creation cannot be investigated and analyzed.  In contrast, Isaac Newton and many of the scientists of his day found the prospect that God created the universe a stimulus to scientific inquiry.  The opposite view it taken by today’s evolutionists.

An Uncritical View of Science

Since creation is seen as being the opposite of science, any attempt to explain phenomena with God is relegated to being a “God-of-the-gaps” type argument.  We are only inserting God where science has yet to find the answer.  The implication here, is that one day science will find the answer.

To hold to the position that one day scientists will find the natural explanation for what we are now filling God with, is to take an uncritical view of science.  The question becomes, how are scientific theories proved, especially to the exclusion of God?  How is such a thing possible?  Where perhaps previous naturalists have been cautious in subscribing to theories that may be true today, and wrong tomorrow, the modern evolutionist has unbridled optimism.

We are told that evolution is fact and this unguarded confidence has simply bolstered the rejection of the God-of-the-gaps argument.  We used to believe that God created life, but now we know that natural phenomena will suffice.  This conclusion hinges on the success of evolution, which in turn hinges on one’s concept of God.  A God who must be distanced from the world and it’s evils was assumed so now we conclude with a God who must not stand in the way of naturalistic explanation.  The original assumption feeds right through and becomes the final conclusion (Hunter, Darwin’s God). 

We may not have all the answers now, but if we just give science time, we will provide a naturalistic story.  Surely, if we look hard enough, we could find a plausible naturalistic explanation for anything.  But that doesn’t make it scientific.

Conclusion

Two powerful metaphysical beliefs are being used to support evolution:  That religion and science are separate and intellectual necessity.  God is properly distanced from creation, and humans are properly motivated to explore creation.  Evolution is true, not because of it’s science, but because the opposing view point isn’t scientific at all.

Evolutionists are blind to their own hypocrisy regarding this:  they are able to use metaphysics to argue against creation, but no one can argue for it.

The point isn’t wether they are right or wrong, the point is that they are using unscientific, metaphysical beliefs to support evolution.

The Rise of Evolution (Part 2): Darwin’s Problem with Evil

February 4, 2009

This series of articles will consider how evolution got to the place of prominence that it now enjoys.  The story goes that Darwin “discovered” evolution on the isles of Galapagos.   While this is popular, it is also untrue.  Darwin’s path to evolution was not governed by scientific discovery, but by his own brand of theology; attempting to reconcile the problem of natural evil.  Even in this regard, Darwin’s theology was not unique, only his method made him stand out.  In this article, I’ll explain the great influence the problem of evil had upon Darwin’s forming of evolution.

These articles were inspired by Darwin’s God: Evolution and the Problem of Evil by Cornelius Hunter. 

The purpose of these articles will be to show that, “at it’s core, evolution is about God, not science” (Cornelius Hunter, Darwin’s God).

The Modern View of God

As was discussed in the previous article in the series, the popular view of God that developed in the two hundred years leading up to Darwin was a God that only acted through natural laws.  God’s actions could be rationally explained and God could be logically verified.  A God that acted through the natural laws, instead of just arbitrarily breaking them at whim, had much more wisdom and power.

However, what was not discussed was the view of God that the pious Victorians held.  This article does not have the space to contain even a sufficient summary of Victorian thought, so a simple statement will have to do.  The consensus among Victorians of the purpose of science in the early 1800’s was to demonstrate “the Power, Wisdom and Goodness of God, as manifested in the Creation” (Bridgewater Treatises).  The focus is on the clean parts of God, completely to the exclusion of God’s judgement, wrath and use of evil.

Where the apostle Paul saw nature groaning, the Victorians looked only for signs of a pleasant Creator.  

Where David declares that “Our God is a consuming fire”, the Victorians declared that God must be omni-benevolent.

Although Isaiah proclaimed that God creates calamity, the Victorians focused on where Isaiah proclaimed God’s glory.

Darwin, on the other hand, could not reconcile what he saw in nature with this “all-nice” Creator.

Darwin’s Problem with Evil

The general premise of the problem of evil is “if a benevolent God exists, therefore evil shouldn’t exist”. 

Darwin wrote to Asa Gray in 1860:

There seems to me too much misery in the world.  I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent and omnipotent  God would have designedly  created the [parasitic wasp] with the express intention of their feeding within the living bodies of caterpillars, or that the cat should play with mice.

The definition of God that the modernists and Victorians had laid down, the definition of God that Darwin subscribed to, did not fit with what was so easily observable in nature.  Since God had to make rational sense, then why should species cross so easily if they were created separately? Also, seemingly specialized and unique fauna flourished in foreign environments (Charles Darwin and the Problem of Creation, Neal C. Gillespie).  It just didn’t follow.

And there were the mal-adapted species; land animals with webbed feet and the marine creatures with non-webbed feet.  Why was there just so much wasted pollen?

Nature seemed to lack precision and economy in design that was “inexplicable on the theory of creation”.  Darwin observed that different species used “an almost infinite diversity of means” to accomplish the same task and that this is inconsistent with the design of independent, special Creation.  Yet, on the other hand, Darwin viewed that different species used similar methods for different tasks.  To Darwin, this too argued against special creation.  (The Origin of the Species, 6th edition).  

What Darwin expected Creation to look like, we’ll never know.  The point is that Darwin was greatly influenced by non-scientific arguments against special creation.  Especially the ones that boil down to “God would not have done it this way”.  He had a specific idea of God, defined by the modernist thinkers and Victorian naturalists, that informed the direction of his thinking.

Paradise Lost

John Milton’s Paradise Lost was one of Darwin’s favorite works (The Autobiography of Charles Darwin, Charles Darwin).  Not only was Paradise Lost a favorite of Darwin, but it was supremely popular in Victorian England to the point of being almost church doctrine (God’s Funeral, A.N. Wilson).  The point of Milton’s work was to “Justify the ways of God to man”.  Specifically, in regards to evil, God had to let man choose between good and evil, so that He could separate the good from the bad.  This absolved God of any responsibility of evil, but it also made God passive and somewhat aloof from the events of history.

Obviously, Milton and Darwin were on opposite sides of the spectrum with Darwin leaning farther towards naturalism as his life went on, and Milton having God as the ultimate source of creation.  However, both men were dealing with the problem of evil; Milton with moral evil and Darwin with natural evil.  And both men found solutions that maintained the purity of God but more importantly, both men had similar views of God.

The Evolution Theodicy

A theodicy is a branch of  theology/philosophy concerned with explaining the problem of evil.  Just as Milton’s Paradise Lostwas a theodicy for the problem of moral evil, evolution is a theodicy for the problem of natural evil.  While Milton’s theodicy removed God from the choices of human beings, Darwin’s theodicy removed God from the workings of nature.  If everything could be explained by natural phenomena, and all things could come about through natural processes, then surely God was not responsible for the misery, death and waste that was so obvious to Darwin. 

The added affect of this is that God became unnecessary.  Separating God from creation and it’s evils meant that God could have no direct influence or control over the world.  The gruesome, wasteful and chaotic world – the world observed by naturalists of Darwin’s day – did not fit with the modern definition of God.  Creation was irrational, therefore there was no benevolent Creator, or at least not one who was involved in the world.

In his autobiography, Darwin summarized:

Suffering is quite compatible with the belief in Natural Selection, which is not perfect in its action . . . A being so powerful and so full of knowledge as a God who could create the universe is to our finite minds omnipotent and omniscient.  It revolts our understanding to suppose that his benevolence is not unbounded, for what advantage can there be in the suffering of millions of lower animals throughout almost endless time?

The obvious implication is that suffering is NOT compatible with an all-powerful, all-benevolent God, therefore “all organic beings have been developed through variation and natural selection” ( Autobiography).  

Darwin summarized his position in his letter to Asa Gray:

I am inclined to look at everything as resulting from designed laws, with the details, whether good or bad, left to the working out of what we may call chance.

From what Darwin saw in nature, God needed to be absolved of responsibility for the suffering and misery apparent in it.  Evolution allowed Darwin to reconcile his observations with his definition of God.

A Theodicy is Not Empirically Verifiable

The point isn’t whether Darwin was correct or incorrect, logical or illogical in his explanation for natural evil.  The point is that the arguments he found “convincing”, and are still convincing to evolutionist today, are not scientifically testable.  Darwin’s argument, which basically boils down to “God wouldn’t and couldn’t do it this way”, is not only immune to empiricism itself, it is also based upon presuppositions laid down by the modernists and Victorians and how they defined God.  Since God is limited to working only through benevolent means, then surely God is not involved in this world in the slightest.

As we’ll see in the rest of the series, these kind of negative theological arguments are used to support of evolution all the time.  In fact, they’re what give evolutionary evidence it’s power and what brought evolution to where it is now.  Nature doesn’t seem very divine, therefore evolution must be true.

The Rise of Evolution: Darwin’s Modernism

January 27, 2009

This series of articles will consider how evolution got to the place of prominence that it now enjoys.  The story goes that Darwin “discovered” evolution on the isles of Galapagos.   While this is popular, it is also untrue.  Darwin’s path to evolution was not governed by scientific discovery, but by his own brand of theology; attempting to reconcile the problem of natural evil.  Later articles will be dedicated to further developing that argument.  This article will focus on the intellectual environment that allowed Darwin’s theology and theodicy (a branch of philosophy dealing with the problem of evil) to thrive.

These articles were inspired by Darwin’s God: Evolution and the Problem of Evil by Cornelius Hunter. 

The purpose of these articles will be to show that, “at it’s core, evolution is about God, not science” (Cornelius Hunter, Darwin’s God).

Notions About God

In theological thought, all doctrines are built upon the doctrine of God.  Similarly, in secular thought, there is an underlying view of God.  Charles Darwin, his contemporaries and even today’s modern evolutionists make many mentions of the Creator.  Their notions of God are part of their basic reasoning. 

The question becomes:  How did the evolutionary notion of God become so widely accepted that it now needs no justification?  When they mention God, their definition of Him is unexplained and unquestioned.  How did it get like this?  The answer to this lies in. . .

The History of Religious Thought

I obviously can’t get close to specific about this topic, so the basics will have to suffice.

The trend, in the modern age, is to think of God as being comprehensible.  And if a certain aspect of God is incomprehensible, then that part must either be irrelevant or not truly part of God.  God’s acts of creation and intervention are being thought of as things that can be understood, reasoned about and even scientifically modeled.

Centuries before Darwin, thinkers began to scrutinize God according to rules of reason and began seeking to describe creation in accordance with natural law, not just divine intervention.  Since the Middle Ages, nature has been seen as having a certain level of autonomy.  Sure, God may have started it all and arranged things the way they are now, but nature has, since then, operated according to uniform, unchanging laws that need no divine maintenance. 

Descartes (1596 – 1650) is considered, by many, to be the first of these thinkers.  However, many like Thomas Burnet (1635 – 1715), Edmund Halley (1656 – 1742) and William Whiston (1667 – 1752) all added their brand of natural explanations for God’s creation and intervention.  Could God have miraculously started The Flood?  Surely.  However, isn’t it more amazing, and doesn’t it use more wisdom and power, to cause these events to come about by secondary means?  A God who just changes things because He can is certainly less impressive.

Hume’s Attack on Miracles

David Hume’s (1711-1776) argument against miracles is considered by many to be the pinnacle of this line of thinking; that God does not dabble in His creation.  Hume turned the notion of miracles around from being a point of evidence for the believer to being a liability. 

Hume argued that as we observe the natural laws all around us, we must weigh the evidence of the natural law being broken just once, against all the instances of the natural law working just fine.  Since this is the case, the evidence for that single instance of a miracle would have to be compelling indeed.  The report of a miracle becomes a case of “proof against proof”.  Needless to say, Hume looked into history and never found evidence of a miracle to be compelling.

Hume’s Uniformitarianism

Of course, Hume’s argument has a problem.  C.S. Lewis pointed out that Hume argued in a circle because he must presuppose that nature is absolutely uniform to begin with (Beckwith, David Hume’s Argument against Miracles:  A Critical Analysis).  Half of the “proof against proof” statement is the proof of nature’s uniformity.  Yet, this cannot be proven by science, so Hume must assume it. 

The other assumption is that the natural laws do not leave room for any exceptions to the rule.  By attempting to limit exceptions that would make science useless, scientific thought has ruled out exceptions altogether, no matter the cause.  Again, Hume must assume this.

That Hume’s argument fails because of these assumptions is not what we’re concerned with here.  What is important to this article is that Hume’s proof against miracles was widely accepted in his day, and continues to be.  In the vast majority of instances, the presupposition of uniformity and simplicity are transparent or purposefully ignored by practicing scientists. 

Hume’s proof against miracles highlights these unspoken assumptions that are no longer questioned.  That these assumptions are taken for granted as fact, shows just how deeply they have been internalized in the modern scientific mind.

What Affect Did This Have?

Many theologians in the centuries before Darwin used logic, reason, and scientific inquiry to provide arguments for God.  The logical conclusion is that if the existence of God can be argued for in this way, then so can His non-existence.  If God only interacts with His creation through natural laws, why not just describe phenomena according to natural laws?  Why “add” God?

In attempting to rationalize God, modernist thinkers also distanced God from His creation.  Darwin started his work in this theological climate.  His definition of God needed no explanation, because it was already accepted.  Darwin merely pushed God further from His creation, and provided a coherent scientific framework in which to do it.  How and why Darwin was able to do this will be further explored in the future articles in the series.

The Problem of Evil, I Want In Too!

January 7, 2009

I haven’t been keeping up much on my “blog surfer” tab as of late.  However, I had some free time tonight, and I wondered what was going on with those who I had neglected as of late.  I found that there is a very interesting conversation going on between Brooks, Sirius, Eric Burns and Cubik’s Rube.  I’ve had the pleasure of conversing with Cubik on several occasions and he has always formed an intellectual argument, even if it wasn’t always rational.  I won’t attempt to recreate the conversation in any fashion here for two reasons: 1) it would take up too much space and 2) it’s irrelevant to the point I want to make and the question I want to ask.

It will suffice to say that the conversation has entered into the realm of the problem of evil, one of the most legitimate arguments any thinker can take upon themselves.  As it stands, Eric Burns, and an astute commentor on his blog named “Pilgrim”, have pointed out that . . .

1.  “Evil” is not a commodity in itself that was created by God, rather it is the absence of good.

2.  Taking away evil would also require God to take away all Free Will. 

These are both excellent points in and of themselves, and I can’t wait to hear what Cubik has to say in response.

My Point

I want to bring to light the statement/belief that is simmering beneath the surface of Cubik’s belief system, especially his stance on evil.  Cubik’s premise that, “If there is an all-powerful, all-loving, all-knowing God then there would be no evil”, is ignoring what his true argument is.  We can’t let him get away with it.  Can’t you hear it underneath the surface?  What Cubik is really (and arrogantly I might add) saying is, “God wouldn’t do it this way”.  Cubik’s theological belief is that God wouldn’t do it the way Cubik thinks Cubik would have done it.  Is this really an argument based in logical deduction?

My Question

In order to abolish all evil on Earth, God must force all human beings to act all good all the time.  Here it is:

If God created you a moral zombie, who had no choice but to obey Him at all times, wouldn’t you be more angry at Him for this? 

If true, then either way you will be angry with God.  Either for allowing evil to exist or for forcing evil to not exist.  The truth, then, becomes that you prefer to live your life as if God doesn’t exist, or at least is incompetent.  This preference overrides any intellectual reasons for denying His existence, or competence.  Instead, your intellect get’s put into overdrive with the task of justifying your preference.