"GROWING IN THE KNOWLEDGE OF JESUS CHRIST" Building On Faith INTRODUCTION 1. In the introductory lesson, we noted that growing in the knowledge of Jesus Christ... a. Involves the development of eight Christ-like graces b. Developed in conjunction with each other c. Requiring all diligence -- Thereby creating an octave of spiritual harmony best exemplified in the person of Jesus Christ 2. We observed five reasons why we ought to grow in the knowledge of Jesus Christ... a. Grace and peace are multiplied b. All things pertaining to spiritual life and godliness are provided c. Spiritual myopia and amnesia are avoided d. We will never stumble e. An abundant entrance into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord -- Certainly sufficient reasons to spur development of a Christ-like character in ourselves! 3. In this study, we shall take a closer look at the first of these eight graces: faith... a. The foundation of our spiritual development b. Upon which all other graces are to be "added" [Developing a Christ-like character is therefore built upon faith. But one might ask: "What is faith?"...] I. THE DEFINITION OF FAITH A. THE GREEK WORD IS PISTIS... 1. The definition given by Greek scholars: a. "a firm persuasion, a conviction based upon hearing" (Vine) b. "conviction of the truth of anything, belief" (Thayer) 2. Used primarily in two ways in the NT: a. Subjectively (the faith we have) 1) Such as our faith in God a) "the conviction that God exists and is the creator and ruler of all things, the provider and bestower of eternal salvation through Christ" (Thayer) b) Used this way in He 11:6 2) Such as our faith in Christ a) "the conviction that Jesus is the Messiah, through whom we obtain eternal salvation in the kingdom of God" (Thayer) b) Used this way in Ga 2:16 b. Objectively (the object of our faith) 1) "the substance of Christian faith or what is believed by Christians" (Thayer) 2) Used this way in Jude 3 -- We are focusing on subjective faith (the faith we have) in this study B. AS DESCRIBED IN THE BOOK OF HEBREWS... 1. Faith is "the substance of things hoped for" - He 11:1a a. The NASB reads "the assurance of things hoped for" b. The NIV reads "being sure of what we hope for" c. Faith is being confident that God will give us what is promised, and for which we hope - cf. Abraham's faith, He 11:8 2. Faith is "the evidence of things not seen" - He 11:1b a. The NASB reads "the conviction of things not seen" b. The NIV reads "certain of what we do not see" c. Faith is having trust or confidence in things unseen by the human eye - again cf. Abraham's faith - He 11:9-10 -- Faith is therefore that confidence or trust in God and Christ, regarding things promised or things not seen C. FAITH IS NOT CREDULITY... 1. Credulity in the sense of "blind faith", trusting for no good reason 2. Many have this misconception of faith a. That faith is believing in something without evidence b. As one person said, "You just have to have faith", rather than provide reasons for such faith 3. Yet we shall see later that faith... a. ...while trusting in things not seen, with a conviction regarding things hoped for b. ...is a trust and confidence based upon strong evidence! [With this understanding of faith, one might also ask: "Is faith really that important?" Yes! Consider how faith is demanded of us...] II. THE DEMAND OF FAITH A. IT IS THE FOUNDATION FOR A RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD... 1. Without faith, it is impossible to please God a. We must believe that He is - He 11:6 b. God has no pleasure in those lacking in faith - He 10:35-39 2. Faith is the underlying element in our salvation and service to God a. The key that unlocks the way to salvation - Jn 1:12 b. The motivating force behind our life of service - Ga 2:20 -- Without faith, we can't even get started in our relationship with God! B. IT IS THE CATALYST FOR POWER FROM GOD... 1. There is power available to those who believe - Ep 1:18-20 2. It is power beyond our imagination - Ep 3:20-21 a. Power that enables us to overcome - 1Jn 5:4-5 b. Power that we should be careful about limiting - 2Ti 3:1-5 -- Growth requires power from God, and faith is required for such power! [Can we appreciate why Peter starts with "faith" in defining it what it means to grow in the knowledge of Jesus Christ? It is the very foundation upon which to build a close relationship with God and Christ! But here is another question: "How can we have faith?"...] III. THE DEVELOPMENT OF FAITH A. DEVELOPING OUR FAITH... 1. Remember, faith is not credulity (blind faith with no evidence) a. Instead, faith is based upon the Word of God - Ro 10:17 b. The Word of God provides evidence to produce faith - cf. Jn 20:30-31 c. Besides the testimony regarding the miracles of Jesus, other evidences include: 1) Fulfilled prophecy concerning nations and the Messiah 2) The scientific foreknowledge of the Bible 3) The high moral standard it contains 4) The continuity of the Bible despite it various sources -- While we may "walk by faith, and not by sight" (2Co 5:7), it is not truly a "blind faith" 2. Since faith (i.e., trust, confidence) comes through the Word of God... a. We must be diligent in reading the Bible b. Only then will our faith become stronger -- Do we appreciate the value of the Word of God in producing the faith that pleases Him? B. MAINTAINING OUR FAITH... 1. We must guard against the sin of unbelief - cf. He 3:12-14 a. Many people lose their faith, especially when young b. Faith is maintained through constant reading or hearing of the Word 2. We can also maintain faith through Paul's threefold directive - 1Ti 6:9-12 a. Flee materialism - undue concern for things of this world undermine our faith b. Pursue faith - this we can do by feeding on God's word c. Fight the good fight of faith - the best defense is a good offense; be active in propagating the faith - cf. Jude 3 -- The nation of Israel lost it's faith in the wilderness, are we in danger of losing our faith during our sojourn? [Finally, a thought or two about how faith in God manifests itself today...] IV. THE DISPLAY OF FAITH A. THROUGH OBEDIENCE TO THE GOSPEL... 1. The gospel of Christ requires obedience a. Jesus is the author of eternal salvation to those who obey Him - He 5:9 b. The gospel Paul preached leads to obedience - Ro 1:5; 16:25-26 c. Fearful consequences come to those who do not obey it - 2 Th 1:7-9 2. How does one obey the gospel? By obeying the commands of the gospel: a. The command to believe in Jesus - Mk 16:15-16 b. The command to repent of sins - Ac 2:38; 17:30 c. The command to confess Jesus - Mt 10:32; Ro 10:9,10 d. The command to be baptized for the remission of sins - Ac 2:38; 22:16 -- Have you displayed faith by "obeying from the heart" the doctrine presented in the gospel of Christ? - cf. Ro 6:17 B. THROUGH LIVING FOR JESUS... 1. Trusting in His words a. Seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness - Mt 6:33 b. Doing what He says - Lk 6:46 c. Observing all that He commanded - Mt 28:20 2. Trusting in His promises a. That He is preparing a place for us - Jn 14:1-2 b. That He will return one day for us - Jn 14:3 -- Are you setting an example of one who walks by faith in Jesus, and not just by what they can see with their eyes, or accomplish on their own strength? CONCLUSION 1. Faith is a simple concept, but a crucial one... a. It is simply trusting in God and Jesus b. Regarding things not seen yet hoped for 2. Without faith, it is impossible to... a. Please God, for we must believe He exists, rewarding those who diligently seek Him b. Grow in the knowledge of Jesus Christ, for it is the basis upon which growth is built May we allow the evidences of God's Word to produce a faith that trusts and obeys a wonderful Savior, who in turn provides "exceedingly great and precious promises" as we grow in our knowledge of Him!
The Lion of Judah
|by||Trevor Major, M.Sc., M.A.|
The lion has been feared and admired by people through the ages. Today, we can drive into the lion’s shrinking habitat and feel safe in our safari jeep. Or we can stand behind an iron fence and watch the lion pacing in its cage. But the tables were turned in Bible times. Lions were much more common, and humans had to watch out for them. David had to protect his sheep from lions, and he chose an army captain who had a famous fight with a lion (1 Samuel 17:34-36; 2 Samuel 23:20). Others did not do so well. When an unnamed prophet disobeyed God, he was killed by a lion (1 Kings 13:23-26).
It is no wonder that the lion became a symbol of fierce attack. When the apostle Peter was writing to his fellow Christians in Asia Minor, he warned them to be on guard because "the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour" (1 Peter 5:8).
Along with this fierceness came a reputation for being strong. Even the mighty Samson had respect for the strength of the lion (Judges 14:18). When Jacob prophesied about his sons, he described Judah as a lion’s cub who would grow up to establish a mighty kingdom (Genesis 49:9-10). This prophecy was fulfilled because the Southern Kingdom, represented by the tribe of Judah, lasted longer than the other tribes of the Northern Kingdom.
It was into the tribe of Judah that Jesus was born (Hebrews 7:14). He died to save us from our sins, and was raised to reign forever at the right hand of God (Mark 16:19). In that great victory He earned a title of honor: the Lion of Judah (Revelation 5:5). As One so strong, the Son of God could promise Christians that He would give them an eternal home in heaven.
Prophets, Priests, and Kings
|by||Trevor Major, M.Sc., M.A.|
Most of you live in countries called "democracies." In these countries, the government is run by the people, or their representatives. This is very different il from an "autocracy" (aw-TOCK-ruh see) where the country is ruled by a single. ;person. This ruler could be a dictator, or an absolute monarch like the pharaohs of ancient Egypt.
God intended the nation of Israel to be a "theocracy" (thee-OCK-ruh-see). In this kind of government, the Lord God would be king, and He would rule over a ''kingdom of priests and a holy nation" (Exodus 19:6). The law of the land came from God to Moses. It was Moses' special job to carry out God's commands, teach the Law, and settle disputes. After a while, this became too much for one man, so Moses appointed judges to do some of this work for him (Exodus 18:13-26).
Sadly, the Israelites were not good citizens of God's kingdom .When they entered the Promised Land, they did not keep their side of the bargain. God was going to give them victory in battle, but only if they obeyed His commands. But the Hebrews lacked faith, and they started worshiping other gods. They failed to drive the Canaanites out of the land, and made peace with unbelievers (Judges 2).
A faithless Israel was a weak Israel.
When the mighty Philistine army threatened their borders, the Hebrews rejected God as their King (1Samuel 8:7). They wanted a king like the kings of the nations around them. God granted them their wish, but only because He wanted to preserve His chosen people, and He warned them that life would not be rosy under an earthly king.
Saul was the first king of all Israel. He was anointed in special ceremony by Samuel, who was the last judge and the first prophet. This anointing showed everyone that Saul was approved by God. Of course, God still ruled over His people, and sat in judgment over their king. In fact, God sits in judgment over all the nations of the Earth. Whether a man be king, president, or dicta tor, God is Lord of all (Psalm 47).
Famous Enemies of Christ Ancient and Modern
|by||Bert Thompson, Ph.D.|
When the apostle Paul penned his epistle to the Galatians, he made the following observation: “But when the fulness of the time came, God sent forth his Son...” (4:4). For generations scholars have offered insightful opinions on all that they believe to be entailed in this short but powerful verse. Some have suggested that Christ arrived when He did because Greek had become practically a universal language that afforded ease in communicating the Gospel. Others have commented that the spiritual state of the Jewish nation was such that “the fulness of time” had come for their redemption.
While we may not presume to know with certainty all that the apostle Paul had in mind when he spoke of “the fulness of time,” one thing is certain: the life, birth, death, and resurrection of Christ left this planet and its inhabitants reeling. Christianity did not come into the world with a whimper, but a bang. For millennia, Old Testament prophets sent forth their predictions about a coming Messiah. Suddenly, a multitude of those predictions was being fulfilled—before the eyes, and within earshot, of the common man. Christ, and His Gospel message, turned the world of the first century “upside down” (Acts 17:6). Even His worst enemies recognized the impact He was having. When the Pharisees and chief priests sent their officers to seize Christ on one occasion, the officers returned empty-handed. When asked why they had failed in their quest, the only answer they could offer was, “Never man so spake” (John 7:46).
While there were those who were willing to accept the Gospel, there were likewise many who were not. Some of Christ’s most hateful enemies were the Jewish chief priests and scribes. The Pharisees and Sadducees also belonged to that infamous crowd; they wanted no part of this “good news” that shed the floodlight of Truth on their manifold errors. And it was not just groups who opposed the Lord. Even individuals became disenchanted with the Lord’s message. Acts 19 records the efforts of Demetrius the silversmith to incite a riot in an attempt to discredit Paul—because of the impact he was having on the trade of making idols dedicated to the Greek goddess Diana.
As Christianity spread, its enemies no longer were content merely to object to its central tenets or those who espoused them. Eventually, vocal disagreement gave way to physical violence. The efforts of the Roman emperor Nero to obliterate Christ’s message by charging His followers with all manner of falsehoods, and killing them by the thousands, are well documented. Later, the Roman emperor Domitian was even more hostile in his attempts to destroy Christianity. The attacks made upon Christianity, and the deaths of those who had become its faithful adherents, became innumerable (see Revelation 6:9-11).
Try as they might, however, Christ’s enemies could not accomplish their ill-fated goal. While its foes consigned it to die a thousand deaths, the “corpse” of Christianity never remained in the grave. With each persecution, it grew stronger and spread farther. Eventually, Christ’s enemies began to realize that the tactics they were using were not working. Rather than eradicating Christianity, they somehow were infusing it with new growth. It became apparent that new methods of opposition would have to be found. Violence had exacerbated the problem, not solved it.
Christianity had flourished, even amidst persecution, because it had been based on matters of the head and the heart—not of the bow and sword. Thus, its enemies reasoned that perhaps the best weapon would be to address those “head and heart” matters, not with violence, but with something stronger that appealed to both the head and the heart—admonishing the intellect. Wasn’t it Christianity’s teaching that had caused it to be so successful in the first place? Contradict that teaching, show it to be erroneous, disprove it, and then supplant it with other information—and what could not be accomplished through violence could be accomplished through instruction. Ultimately, the pen is mightier than the sword.
And so, eventually a new phase of opposition to Christianity was born. No longer were the prison, the cross, or the sword the instruments of choice. What Christianity’s opponents had been unable to accomplish by bloodshed, they now hoped to accomplish by the written word. Through the millennia that followed, Christianity’s opponents were enlisted from the world’s intelligentsia. While no article of the brevity of this one can do justice to all, or even most, of them, I would like to offer some insight on a few, and on the methods they employed in their attempts to destroy Christianity. An examination of their backgrounds and efforts, in light of their common goal, makes for an interesting and profitable study.
One of the most celebrated enemies of Christ in the ancient past was Malchus (born A.D. 233), who flourished in the second half of the third century. He was, to use the words of McClintock and Strong, “...one of the most sagacious and learned antagonists of Christianity under the Roman empire...” (1879, 8:420). Early in his career, Malchus went to study under Origen in Caesarea. Later, he moved to Athens to study under Longinus, who was so highly regarded that students came to him from all over the world. Longinus commended Malchus as a brilliant student by changing his name to Porphyry—the name preserved by posterity.
At the age of thirty, he went to Rome to study for several years under Amelius, a disciple of Plotinus. Eventually, he studied under Plotinus himself, and established a sterling reputation as a writer, philosopher, and orator. Philip Schaff, in his History of the Christian Church, observed that Porphyry “...made a direct attack upon Christianity, and was, in the eyes of the church fathers, its bitterest and most dangerous enemy” (1910, 2:101). But why did Porphyry become so bitter against Christianity? McClintock and Strong have suggested that “understanding the power of the Christian religion, which was fast superseding the national creeds, he felt the necessity for antagonizing it” (1879, 8:421). Then they added: “...[he] became the most determined of heathen polemics the world ever beheld or Christianity ever encountered” (8:422).
Porphyry wrote a 15-volume series, Against Christians, in which he sought to lay bare alleged contradictions between the Old and New Testaments and to document how the apostles had contradicted themselves. He excoriated the book of Daniel, and charged Jesus with equivocation and inconsistency. His 15-volume series has not survived, however, for in 448 the emperors Theodosius II and Valentinian III ordered all copies to be burned. The writings of Porphyry now extant have come from fragments reproduced by writers contemporary with him, and who opposed his arguments in their texts. Schaff has noted:
...Porphyry was a man of remarkable powers of mind and of high culture.... He brought the resources of a great, a cultured mind to bear against the more vulnerable points of the Christian system, testing it by weapons of the highest temper.... [He] moved in bold attack against the supernatural in Christianity, seeking to disprove, not the substance of the Gospel teachings, but the records in which that substance is delivered... (1910, 2:422, emp. in orig.).
There can be no denying the effect that Porphyry had on early Christianity. That is evident by the fact that men such as Eusebius, Apollinarius, and others spent considerable time and effort offering rebuttals to his arguments. One of the works of Eusebius even was titled, Against Porphyry. Schaff has commented:
It was by no means an easy matter to reply to such a critique as Porphyry adopted, and it may be said that he never was answered as he should have been.... That he made a profound impression on the Church is seen in the fact that to all Christians his name became hateful, odious, the synonym for all that is vile and dangerous in unbelief (1910, 2:423).
Porphyry died around 305-306. The extent of the damage that he caused to the early church is inestimable. With his training and powerful oratory, he was a formidable foe, and one of Christianity’s chief adversaries.
Another man of the ancient past whose name is associated with vitriolic attacks upon Christianity is the Frenchman, Voltaire. Born François Marie Arouet in 1694, he adopted the pen name Voltaire in 1717. He was a riotous young man who spent a portion of his youth in prison for one reason or another. He traveled throughout France, and spent some years in England. At first, he was famous for his stage plays, especially his tragedies.
Under the reign of Louis XV, Voltaire became a candidate for membership in the French Academy. Noted philosopher Will Durant said that “to achieve this quite superfluous distinction he called himself a good Catholic, complimented some very powerful Jesuits, [and] lied inexhaustibly...” (1961, p. 164). In 1765, he began what would consume the remainder of his life (and for which he would be most famous)—his attacks upon the Christian religion. One of Voltaire’s first documents on this theme was his Treatise on Toleration, which attacked the Catholic Church. Durant observed:
The Treatise on Toleration was followed up with a Niagara of pamphlets, histories, dialogues, letters, catechisms, diatribes, squibs, sermons, verses, tales, fables, commentaries and essays, under Voltaire’s own name and under a hundred pseudonyms—“the most astonishing pell-mell of propaganda ever put out by one man.” And so he was read; soon everybody, even the clergy, had his pamphlets; of some of them 300,000 copies were sold, though readers were far fewer than now; nothing like it had ever been seen in the history of literature... (1961, pp. 180-181).
His attacks were both frequent and vicious. He began with what today would be styled “higher criticism,” in which he brought into question the authenticity and reliability of the Bible. He then alleged chronological contradictions in the narratives of the Old Testament. He challenged as incorrect many of the messianic prophecies of the Old Testament, and he stoutly denied any such things as miracles and the efficacy of prayer. He once commented: “It took 12 men to originate the Christian religion, but it will take but one to eliminate it. Within fifty years from now the only Bible will be in museums” (as quoted in Key, 1982, p. 2).
Voltaire lived to be 83 years old, dying on May 30, 1778. The steady stream of written materials that he produced against the Christian religion eventually made him far more famous than his romances, tragedies, and comedies ever could.
David Hume was born in 1711 in Edinburgh, Scotland. Early in his life, because of his mother’s influence, he made the decision to study at the bar. However, after graduating from the University of Edinburgh, he developed a sudden but serious disdain for law, and embarked on a mission to establish his own system of thought. In 1739, while only 28 years old and living in France, he wrote the first two of his three volume set,A Treatise on Human Nature, the last volume being penned in 1740. Many consider this set to be his landmark contribution to philosophy. He published the three volumes anonymously, and only in 1748 reluctantly identified himself as the author.
After approximately 1751, he made no further contributions to the philosophical literature, except for hisDialogues Concerning Natural Religion, which was published posthumously and likely written in the 1750s. In 1775, his health failing, he wrote his autobiography, My Own Life, and died the next year. Fuller has offered the following summary of Hume’s beliefs.
...the entire concept of God as the author of anything is extremely dubious.... In the Enquiry, also, and in the Dialogues on Religion he points out that even granting we could infer the existence of God from the universe, we should have no right to ascribe to him more wisdom or goodness or power than is actually displayed in the universe, which is his work.... As the universe stands, it does not suggest the existence of a Deity both all good and all powerful (1945, p. 171, emp. in orig.).
Hume attacked the idea of the immortality of the soul, and placed the origin of religion on par with elves and fairies.
Today, however, Hume is perhaps best known for his essay, “Of Miracles,” which was tucked away in his work, Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, published in 1748. The essay itself consists of scarcely more than 20 pages, and yet, as Colin Brown has suggested, “No work on miracles penned in the seventeenth, eighteenth, or nineteenth centuries receives greater attention today than Hume’s slim essay” (1984, p. 79). The essay arranges itself into two divisions. The first section draws the conclusion that a miracle is a scientific impossibility; from what we know about the laws of nature, a miracle simply cannot occur. The second section concludes that the testimony regarding miracles is specious, and never strong enough to override important scientific considerations. Thus, Hume’s conclusion was that miracles have not occurred, and cannot occur. In summarizing Hume’s argument, Brown remarked:
In it everything turns on the testimony of the senses and how such testimony should be evaluated. The first Christians believed ostensibly because they were persuaded by the testimony of their own senses. Belief on the part of the subsequent generations is dependent upon that testimony. On that basis, Hume concludes that the evidence for past alleged events can never be greater than it was for the first eyewitnesses. With the passage of time and the attendant questions and uncertainties as to the veracity of that testimony, there arises a corresponding uncertainty as to the degree of credence that may be placed upon such testimony by a subsequent age... (1984, p. 80).
For Hume, and those who agree with him, there is no evidence strong enough to suggest that a miracle actually had taken place. Brown continued: “...as Hume’s argument proceeds, it becomes clear that no amount of historical evidence, past or present, is allowed to count, because miracles are judged to be violations of the laws of nature, and as such are by definition impossible” (1984, p. 91).
Hume’s attack upon biblical miracles had serious consequences upon religion generally, and Christianity specifically. Today many refuse to accept Christianity because of the Bible’s instruction regarding miracles.
In more recent times, one of the most vicious attacks upon Christianity was spearheaded by Joseph Ernest Renan. Born in 1823, he was a French historian who attended seminaries in Paris with the intent of becoming a priest. However, his study of German theology led him to reject Christianity. W.M. Simon stated: “Just as he banished all traditional metaphysics from philosophy, Renan rejected any supernatural content in religion” (1967, 7:179).
In 1860, while on an archaeological dig in Palestine, he wrote The Life of Jesus, in which he repudiated all supernatural elements in Christ’s life and ministry. He went even further, however, to depict Jesus as a poor-but-charming itinerant preacher whose claims to be the Son of God were little more than the result of his own delusions. The book was a frontal assault upon the deity of Christ, and received much attention throughout Europe.
On the one hand, it found immediate acceptance among a skeptical European audience that was increasingly displeased with Catholicism. It also assured Renan of the fame that heretofore had eluded him. Subsequently, he authored a book on the apostle Paul, and a five-volume set on the history of the people of Israel. On the other hand, the book was viewed critically as asserting nothing more than unfounded claims—from a former religionist who had an axe to grind in the first place. In January of 1862, Renan had been appointed a professor of Hebrew at the College de France, but the storm created by the publication of The Life of Christ led to his removal in 1864. Today, his place in history has been ensured as a result of his strident attacks upon Jesus.
Perhaps no individual has had an impact upon Christianity equal to that of Charles Darwin, who was born in England in 1809. Robert Darwin, Charles’ father, like his father Erasmus, was a physician, and was determined that his sons follow in his footsteps. Charles, however, abandoned his studies at the University of Edinburgh, eventually transferring to Cambridge University to study for the ministry. Oddly, the only earned degree that Darwin ever held was in religion.
While at Cambridge, Darwin developed a friendship with professor John Henslow, who urged him to study simultaneously not only theology and eschatology, but geology and entomology as well. Darwin took the professor’s advice, and eventually found himself on the H.M.S. Beagle, a British ship that set sail in December 1831 for a five-year voyage to collect scientific data. While on the voyage, Darwin’s thoughts about the theory of evolution gelled. He returned to England in October 1836, eventually married, and by 1842 had become a semi-invalid, although no organic disease ever could be diagnosed as causing his feeble condition.
Nevertheless, he intended to publish a set of books on the theory of evolution, based upon his studies while aboard the Beagle. However, around 1858 Alfred Russel Wallace, a friend of Darwin’s, was suggesting that the possible mechanism for evolution was natural selection—a concept on which Darwin had worked for over twenty years, and that was going to provide the mechanism of the theory of evolution propounded in his as-yet-unpublished set of books. In 1859, Darwin rushed into print with The Origin of Species, a small-but-powerful book that would change forever the way many people viewed their origin.
John Koster, in The Atheist Syndrome, suggested: “By this time—after two decades of bad health and clinical depression—his antireligious bias had become fairly intense...” (1989, p. 55). Darwin began with a belief in God, but by the time The Origin of Species was published, that belief had all but disappeared. In the closing sentences of the first edition of the Origin, Darwin made a passing reference to a Creator. In subsequent editions, however, even that sop had been removed.
The damage Darwin’s ideas have caused cannot be overstated. It would be impossible to estimate the number of people who have had their faith in God damaged, or who have lost their faith entirely, as a result of the theory of evolution that Darwin made popular. While it is true that Darwin did not invent the theory, he did popularize it by giving it an alleged mechanism. His works appeared at a time when skepticism was in vogue. As George Bernard Shaw once stated, “The world jumped at Darwin in an attempt to rid itself of the idea of God.” Darwin gave them the jumping-off place. Many availed themselves of it, and lost their faith in the process.
Robert Green Ingersoll was born in Dresden, New York on August 11, 1833, the youngest of five children of a liberal Presbyterian minister. At the age of 20 he became a lawyer, and in 1858 set up his law practice in Peoria, Illinois. Four years later, he married Eva Parker, daughter of one of the wealthiest men in Illinois. In 1866, at the age of 33, he was appointed to the position of Attorney General of Illinois.
In his legal work, Ingersoll did not hesitate to defend the most heinous of criminals—individual or corporate. In Ingersoll the Magnificent, Joseph Lewis stated: “Here we have a man who wrote poem after poem and gave many an impassioned speech about honesty, integrity, propriety, and a host of other virtues—leading the defense of some of the most notorious swindlers of his day” (1985, p. vii, emp. in orig.). Madalyn Murray O’Hair, while serving as director of the American Atheist Center in Austin, Texas, characterized Ingersoll as follows:
He was a superb egotist. And, he engaged in more than one drunken public brawl.... Not withstanding all of the anomalies of his character, he was magnificent when he did get going on either religion or the church.... He was a very rich and powerful man, with close political ties to greater power. As such, he could speak out as he desired (1983, p. vi).
What he desired, of course, was to speak out against things he hated. Koster has commented that “What he hated was organized religion” (1989, p. 123).
Shortly after he went on the lecture circuit in about 1877, he began to include in his repertoire such topics as “Heretics and Heresies” and “Ghosts”—both of which were undisguised attacks upon religion generally, and Christianity specifically. By 1878, he expanded his lectures to include “Hell” and “Some Mistakes of Moses,” both of which were favorites of atheists of his day. He died in 1899, having established himself as a fervent enemy of Christianity.
John Dewey was born in Burlington, Vermont in 1859. Sixteen years later, he entered the University of Vermont, where his interests in philosophy and sociology were piqued. He completed a doctorate at Johns Hopkins, and in 1884 began teaching at the University of Michigan. In 1894, he was appointed chairman of the department of philosophy, psychology, and education at the University of Chicago. In 1904, he left Chicago and moved to Columbia University, where he remained until his retirement in 1930.
More than any other individual before or since, Dewey’s views have altered American education. Will Durant observed: “...there is hardly a school in America that has not felt his influence” (1961, p. 390). This is somewhat strange because “...Dewey was not a brilliant lecturer or essayist, although he could be extremely eloquent. His writings are frequently turgid, obscure, and lacking in stylistic brilliance” (Bernstein, 1967, p. 380). Why did he have such an impact on education? Durant suggested:
What separates Dewey is the undisguised completeness with which he accepts the evolution theory. Mind as well as body is to him an organ evolved, in the struggle for existence, from lower forms. His starting point in every field is Darwinian.... Things are to be explained, then, not by supernatural causation, but by their place and function in the environment. Dewey is frankly naturalistic... (1961, p. 391).
He was a prolific writer, and eventually authored A Common Faith in which he discussed religion. He made it clear that “He wished at all costs to be scientific; for him the processes of science are the most obvious and the most successful methods of knowing. Therefore if science neglects something, the something is nothing” (Clark, 1957, p. 519). Because religion was not scientific, it therefore was “nothing.”
He opposed religion of any kind, and insisted upon the teaching of evolutionary thought as the correct view of the origin of the Universe and all living things in that Universe. In his writings, he stressed that “moral laws” were not absolute or inviolate. In effect, “situation ethics” was the basis of his belief system. Dewey died in 1952, having altered forever the landscape of American education. Had he lived just a few years longer, he would have seen his ideas on the naturalistic origin and basis of all things take hold in a way that perhaps even he never dreamed.
Once infidels realized that violence only caused Christianity to grow, they understood that their methods had to be altered if they were going to succeed in destroying it. What methods did they change, and what new tactics were employed in this battle?
First, it may be said that the methods eventually shifted from a physical approach to a non-physical “battle for the mind.” Christianity’s enemies found that the best way to win was to prevent belief in Christianity in the first place, or to undermine any belief that might already be present.
Second, those opposed to the Christian religion learned that the most effective way to accomplish this was to alter men’s perceptions or convictions, or both. And the only way to do that was through teaching. Thus, Christ’s opponents became dedicated orators, professors, and authors. People read; so Christianity’s opponents wrote what could be read. People listen; so Christianity’s opponents spoke eloquently what could be heard. People learn; so Christianity’s opponents taught what could be understood. People choose; so Christianity’s opponents painted a picture that left only one choice—anything but Christianity.
Even a cursory examination of events occurring around us provides ample evidence of the success enjoyed by the enemies of Christianity. Evolution is taught as fact in many public schools. Numerous textbook publishers reinforce our children’s supposed animalistic origin. Television programs often ridicule absolute morals. Newspaper and magazine articles sometimes present as “normal” perversions such as homosexuality, adultery, etc. Hollywood’s moviemakers at times do not hesitate to glamorize filth of every kind. Can anyone doubt the success of Christianity’s opponents in our day and age?
This is one reason, we believe, that the work of Apologetics Press—in proclaiming and defending the Gospel—is so vital. The battle is being pressed upon us from every side. We dare not shrink in the face of it. We must learn what our enemies have learned about winning the “battle for the mind.”
People read; so we must write what can be read. People listen; so we must speak eloquently what can be heard. People learn; so we must teach what can be understood. People choose; so we must paint a picture portraying the evidence that establishes Christianity as the one true religion of the one true God.
We must never forget—even for a moment—that men’s souls are at stake. Success is critical, and failure is eternal.
Bernstein, Richard J. (1967), Encyclopedia of Philosophy, s.v. “Dewey, John,” ed. Paul Edwards (New York: Macmillan and the Free Press), 7:179-180.
Brown, Colin (1984), Miracles and the Critical Mind (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Clark, Gordon H. (1957), Thales to Dewey—A History of Philosophy (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1980 reprint).
Durant, Will (1961), The Story of Philosophy (New York: Simon & Schuster).
Fuller, B.A.G. (1945), A History of Philosophy (New York: Henry Holt), revised edition.
Key, Bobby (1982), “Sin Is a Reproach to Any People,” Four State Gospel News, 21:2, December.
Koster, John (1989), The Atheist Syndrome (Brentwood, TN: Wolgemuth & Hyatt).
Lewis, Joseph (1985), Ingersoll the Magnificent (Austin, TX: American Atheist Press).
McClintock, John and James Strong (1879), Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1970 reprint).
O’Hair, Madalyn Murray (1983), “Introduction,” Sixty-Five Press Interviews with Robert G. Ingersoll (Austin, TX: American Atheist Press).
Schaff, Philip (1910), History of the Christian Church (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons).
Simon, W.M. (1967), Encyclopedia of Philosophy, s.v. “Renan, Joseph Ernest,” ed. Paul Edwards (New York: Macmillan and the Free Press), 4:179-180.
Can the Book of Mormon Pass the Test?
|by||Brad Bromling, D.Min.|
Is the Book of Mormon from God? The four million members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day-Saints (Mormons) claim that it is. They believe that Joseph Smith Jr. (1805-1844) was a prophet commissioned by God to translate the book from golden plates delivered to him by an angel. As such, the Book of Mormon is one of a relatively few number of books in the world that are considered Holy Scripture. The Bible teaches us to “Test all things; hold fast what is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21). The Book of Mormon claims to be inspired; when tested on this claim, does it pass or fail?
Since God is by definition all-knowing and all-powerful, we would expect a book from Him to be free from mistakes. Humans often err; God does not. When tested on this point, the Book of Mormon faces serious difficulties. It contains numerous errors that may be discussed under two categories.
First, when it was issued from the press in 1830, the book was riddled with thousands of grammatical mistakes. An occasional error of this kind might be attributed to the typesetter, but the grammar problems of the first edition were systematic in nature, indicating that its author simply lacked education. Note these few examples:
“And he beheld that they did contain the five Books of Moses, which gave an account of the creation of the world, and also of Adam and Eve, which was our first parents...” (p. 15).“And thus ended the record of Alma, which was wrote upon the plates of Nephi” (p. 347; see also pp. 49,66,195, et al.).“but behold, the Lamanites were exceeding fraid, insomuch that they would not hearken to the words of those dissenters” (p. 415; see also pp. 354,392).“yea, if my days could have been in them days...” (p. 427).“and behold, we have took of their wine, and brought with us” (p. 379).“And when Moroni had said these words, he went forth among the people, waving the rent of his garment in the air, that all might see the writing which he had wrote upon the rent, and crying with a loud voice...” (p. 351).
[NOTE: The above quotations from the 1830 edition of the Book of Mormon are from the 1958 reprint issued by Mormon historian Wilford C. Wood under the title Joseph Smith Begins his Work: Volume 1. All emphases added.]
This challenge to the Book of Mormon might be met with the response that it was God’s will to employ the vocabulary of Joseph Smith since his lack of education is proof that he could not have composed the book without divine guidance. This response is problematic, since Mormon writers like historian Brigham H. Roberts have argued that the “plates have been revealed by the power of God, and they have been translated by the power of God. The translation of them is correct...” (1930, 1:54-55). Besides, the Mormon Church has carefully removed most of these imperfections in subsequent editions. If it was the will of God to employ Smith’s vocabulary in the original translation, by what authority was it changed? Did God make a mistake that men had to correct?
Second, the Book of Mormon contains many blunders of content. Some are merely oddities. For example, the Nephites are said to have used a compass about 550 B.C. (1 Nephi 18:12); but the instrument was not invented until ca. A.D. 1100. Another anomaly of this nature is the appearance of the French word adieu in Jacob 7:27. It strains credulity to believe that this is the correct English translation of a “reformed Egyptian” word written upon metal plates by a Hebrew living on American soil in 421 B.C. (which is the claim being made by Mormonism).
Other errors are more serious since they contradict the Bible. Notice these few examples:
Alma predicted in about 83 B.C. that Jesus would be born in Jerusalem (Alma 7:10). However, in keeping with Micah’s prophecy, Jesus was born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2; Luke 2:4).
Nephi called the Savior “Jesus Christ, the Son of God” almost 600 years before His birth (2 Nephi 25:19). This is curious since the angel told Mary: You “shall call his name Jesus” and he “shall be called the son of God” (Luke 1:31,35). Further, “Christ” is not a name; it is the Greek word that means “anointed”—corresponding to the Hebrew word “messiah.” Joseph Smith is asking us to believe that the correctEnglish translation of a reformed Egyptian word is the Anglicized Greek word Christ. This is asking too much.
A century before the resurrection of Christ, some Nephites were praised for being “firm in the faith of Christ, even unto the end” (Alma 27:27). They even were called Christians (Alma 46:13-16). Related to this is the contention that the religion of Alma was called the “church of Christ” almost 200 years before Jesus built His church (Mosiah 18:17; cf. Matthew 16:18)! These teachings contradict the Bible which says, “the disciples were divinely called ‘Christians’ first at Antioch” (Acts 11:26, McCord). Besides, how could people living during the Mosaic Covenant be Christians and in the church of Christ (which implies their part in the New Covenant)? It was necessary for Christ to die before His Covenant could come into effect (Hebrews 9:11-17).
In about 600 B.C. the prophet Nephi is shown a vision of the virgin Mary. According to the 1830 edition she is called “the mother of God,” and her Son is called “the Eternal Father.” However, in the modern editions these statements read: “the mother of the Son of God” and “the Son of the Eternal Father” (1 Nephi 11:18,21). These “corrections” convey a different meaning from the original. Changes of this nature strongly contradict Mormon inspiration claims.
Any book that purports to be from God should be able to pass a test for accuracy. Since God does not make mistakes, no book from His hand will contain factual or doctrinal errors. Like all humans, Joseph Smith erred. Unfortunately, his assertion that the Book of Mormon was divinely translated implies that God is the author of its mistakes. That claim is self-contradictory.
Roberts, Brigham H. (1930) A Comprehensive History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints(Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret News).
FOR FURTHER READING
Brodie, Fawn M. (1976), No Man Knows My History (New York: Alfred A. Knopf).
Bromling, Brad T. (1992) “The Book of Ether—A Mormon Myth Examined,” Reasoning from Revelation, 4:21, November.
Crouch, Brodie (1968), The Myth of Mormon Inspiration (Shreveport, LA: Lambert).
Fraser, Gordon H. (1978), Joseph and the Golden Plates (Eugene OR: Industrial Litho).
Ropp, Harry L. (1977), The Mormon Papers (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity).
Tanner, Jerald and Sandra (1972), Mormonism—Shadow or Reality? (Salt Lake City, UT: Modern Microfilm Company).
Is Creation Science?
|by||Trevor Major, M.Sc., M.A.|
On June 22, 1633, Galileo confessed to the “heresy” of believing that the Earth orbits the Sun. With that statement in hand, the Holy Office of the Roman Catholic Church prohibited the aging scientist from discussing the Copernican view of the Solar System, and sentenced him to house arrest for the remainder of his life (Hummel, 1986, pp. 118,123).
And so began the long conflict between faith and science, at least according to the popular view. From that day forward, Galileo became a martyr for free thought, sacrificed at the altar of an ignorant, authoritarian church.
More than two hundred years later, the church and science faced off again, this time over the writings of a certain Charles Darwin. It took place on a balmy June day in 1860, at the annual meeting in Oxford of the British Association for the Advancement of Science. The protagonists were Samuel Wilberforce, Bishop of Oxford, and Thomas Huxley, professor of natural history at the Royal School of Mines. Bishop Wilberforce mounted the floor first, giving a critique of Darwin’s new book, The Origin of Species. Apparently he ended his speech by inquiring of Huxley whether it was through his grandfather or his grandmother that he claimed his descent from a monkey. Huxley got up to defend Darwin’s views, adding that if the choice was between an ape for a grandfather, or a man who ridiculed science, his preference was the ape (Blackmore and Page, 1989, pp. 102-103).
No one knows exactly what was said at that meeting, but in later years the exchange achieved powerful legendary status. The scientist had beaten the bishop publicly, and in his own diocese. Again, the popular picture has reason triumphing over blind faith as it pushed the church aside in its unrelenting pursuit of scientific progress.
This view gained momentum in the remaining decades of the nineteenth century. In 1874, John William Draper wrote a book titled History of the Conflict Between Religion and Science. Then in 1896, Andrew Dickson White published A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom. Both books received wide distribution, and helped sustain the tension into the modern era (Russell, 1985, p. 193).
Many historians of science now reject this simple view of conflict (Lindberg and Numbers, 1986, p. 6). To be sure, great minds clashed through the centuries, but what they were saying about science and religion often reflected only the currents of social change swirling around them. Yet the origins issue remains a topic of intense debate. Few people speak of the creation/evolution “discussion” or “dialogue.” Even after making a case for a kinder, gentler consideration of the issues, Numbers lapses into military language in his analysis of creationists. He talks about the fundamentalist “crusade” against evolution (1986, p. 394), and the “battle” to get scientific creationism into public schools (1986, p. 413).
Part of the problem is that there are no ground rules for a reasonable discussion of origins. Creationists would like an opportunity to give scientific reasons for why they believe what they believe. However, many evolutionists fear that creationists must necessarily abuse science to use science. Creationism, they claim, is a religious dogma, and therefore closed to the usual rigors of scientific investigation. Hence Stephen Jay Gould has labeled “scientific creationism” an oxymoron—a contradiction in terms (1987, 8:64). Also, many evolutionists claim that evolution is a fact, while admitting that they do not understand the mechanism and details completely. This elevated view of evolution prompts creationists to hurl the accusations of “religious dogma” back on the evolutionists’ side.
To complicate matters, some Bible believers are uncomfortable with the idea of defending creation on the field of science. A few have retreated, seeing science as a threat to their faith. Some fears may stem from the conflict described previously; scientists are seen only as adversaries. It also may come from the perception that science has been the source of many evils: atomic weapons, death-camp experiments, ethically questionable medical practices, and so on. Still others object outright, claiming that science and religion are on two different planes separated by a distance equal to a “leap of faith.” In other words, they believe it is impossible, or improper, to present any rational proof or evidence that would lead anyone to a belief in the Creator (Sproul, et al., 1984, p. 34).
The results can be unfortunate. In a world of ever-increasing technological complexity, where scientism often reigns supreme, retreat only serves to alienate the Gospel from people seeking genuine reasons to believe, or continue believing, in God. And placing science and religion into separate compartments, with scientists determining truth in one area, and theologians determining truth in the other, can lead ultimately to the compromise of theistic evolution (Moreland, 1989, pp. 12,217).
THE GROUND RULES
There is a need to step back from this debate and look for a better way to present the wealth of evidence in favor of creation. Opponents still may not agree with the conclusions, but it should allow creationists to present a consistent, scientific case. Perhaps the best approach is to put creation and evolution on an equal footing. This is not an attempt to dodge the issue by saying both ideas are true. Rather, it is an effort to set up a reasonable framework for discussing the origins issue. The first place to begin, however, is among those who profess a belief in God.
On Science and Religion
Faith need not exclude science. Yes, faith involves an emotional or heart-felt response to God, but it also involves an intellectual response. Abraham, Moses, and the other children of God listed in Hebrews 11 were faithful, with no help from modern science. Noah’s building of the ark, for example, was not based on his personal study of marine engineering or hydrology, but rather a decision to obey God’s command. However, surely some of Noah’s faith came from the knowledge that God could and would work in nature to achieve His ends, including sending a worldwide Flood and preserving Noah and his family on the ark.
Throughout the Old Testament, God invited His people to compare His miracles and prophecies with the claims of pagan religions (e.g., Isaiah 41:21-22). Then in the New Testament, Christ and the apostles sought a spiritual response from a reasonable consideration of what people had seen and heard (John 5:36; Acts 2:14-41; 17:16-34). Peter gave Christians explicit instructions to defend the reason for their hope of eternal salvation (1 Peter 3:15).
Further, God appealed to the creation as a demonstration of His existence and power (e.g., Job 38-39; Isaiah 40:26; 45:12). That God’s revelation of His will to Moses began with the account of creation is no coincidence, for it established His unique nature and role in the faith of Israel. The apostle Paul told Christians in Rome that unbelievers always have had the opportunity to recognize the existence of a Creator by studying the creation (1:20). Of course, it is not possible to come to a saving knowledge without special revelation (Romans 10:17), but it is possible to understand the need to seek out the Creator by looking at His natural or general revelation. Although salvation by grace is a gift of God (Ephesians 2:8), it does not follow that faith is irrational—that it has no tangible ground in “right reason,” as Warfield put it (1977, 1:236-237). This “right reason” may include an investigation of natural revelation using the tools of modern science.
Christians need not fear science. Nature and Scripture have a common Author, which means that the facts of nature will complement the statements the Bible makes about the physical world. It is not a matter of making one the servant of the other, but of interpreting both correctly. Scientists may disagree with theologians, but true science and true religion never should be in conflict (see Thompson, 1984, 1:17). Finally, Christians should understand that science itself is not evil. Rather, the application of science or technology for immoral purposes is evil, although this improper use is not always perpetrated by the original researcher or inventor.
Thus, science interacts with religion not only through a study of natural revelation, but also through a consideration of broad issues such as philosophy and ethics. This does not mean to say that the relationship always will be harmonious. To say otherwise is to suggest that someone has answered all the questions. What it does mean is that faith and science can interact in useful ways.
On True Science
Creationists appeal to a supernatural cause to explain a unique event: the origin of the Universe, the Earth, and all life. For many evolutionists, that explanation is just plain unscientific. The late Judge William Overton expressed his agreement by striking down the Arkansas Balanced Treatment Act that required the teaching of both creation and evolution in the State’s public schools. In his 38-page decision, Overton dismissed creation theories because they do not conform to what scientists think and do. His opinion is worth examining in greater detail, not because he is a scientist or philosopher of science, but because he based his criteria on the testimony of people in these fields. Judge Overton concluded that a theory is truly scientific when:
(1) it is guided by natural law; (2) it has to be explanatory by reference to natural law; (3) it is testable against the empirical world; (4) its conclusions are tentative, i.e., are not necessarily the final word; and (5) it is falsifiable (as quoted in Geisler, 1982, p. 176).
While the decision disappointed creationists, Overton’s definition left some philosophers of science aghast. Chief among them was Larry Laudan, who found fault with all five criteria. “The victory in the Arkansas case was hollow,” he complained, “for it was achieved only at the expense of perpetuating and canonizing a false stereotype of what science is and how it works” (1988, p. 355). Nonetheless, most anticreationist publications refer positively to Overton’s ruling, and others certainly share his characterization of science (Futuyma, 1983, pp. 168-174; National Academy of Sciences, 1984, pp. 8-11). Grouping the first two criteria under one heading, the problems with Overton’s criteria are as follows.
Science Does not Have to Have Natural Explanations
As Blackmore and Page noted: “In a previous age the essence of science was to discover God’s ways of working. Miraculous interventions were perhaps rare, but certainly permissible. They would have found Overton’s dismissal of miracles presumptuous” (1989, p. 161). A century or more ago, many scientists had no problems seeking natural causes, while recognizing that supernatural causes may be necessary in some cases (Moreland, 1989, p. 226). In today’s controversy, evolutionists have limited themselves to purely natural causes; creationists have not. Neither choice makes one more or less scientific than the other.
Science is not Always Empirical
People can observe or experience the same phenomena, but come to quite different conclusions. For example, the Ptolemaic idea that Earth is at the center of the Universe directly contradicts the Copernican idea that the Earth and other planets orbit the Sun. Unfortunately for Galileo, more convincing evidence for Copernicus’ view would have to wait for the superior observations and analyses of scientists like Brahe, Kepler, and Newton. In the meantime, empirical science could not judge one theory better than the other. Both models fit the data available at the time, and made fairly accurate astronomic predictions.
Also, empirical science cannot test the central claims of creation and evolution directly (e.g., the creation of man, or the Big Bang). However, it still is useful in two ways. First, as the next section will show, empirical science can provide analogies on which to test these central claims. Second, origin theories make other peripheral claims that empirical science can test directly. For example, creationists suggest that most seemingly vestigial organs have genuine functions. This claim is based on the belief that God created all major animal types, the organs of which should show evidence of purpose, not degeneration from a completely different ancestral form. Empirical science can discover whether a given vestigial organ is functional. Laudan suggests that evolutionists disprove such empirical claims, rather than pretending that creationism makes no such claims at all (1988, p. 352).
Science is not Always Tentative
At any one time in history, scientists hold to core beliefs—ideas that need to be true if they are going to function in their work. Such dogmatism can be useful, although there is a fine line between consensus and censorship.
The reasoning behind this criterion goes back to the idea that creationists cannot practice true science because they base their beliefs on a doctrinal statement. In other words, it unfairly accuses creationists of intellectual dishonesty. This is nothing more than an attack on creationists themselves, which is not the same as defining science (Moreland, 1989, p. 230).
Science is not Always Falsifiable
As a criterion of science, falsification is the idea that scientists have to disprove alternative, related ideas before they can call their theory truly scientific. Unfortunately for evolutionists, this nullifies all scientific arguments against special creation because, they say, creation cannot be falsified (Numbers, 1992, p. 248-250). The obvious contradiction (that creationism is both false and unfalsifiable) reveals the limitations of such a test.
In summary, all these practices have a place in science, but ultimately they are not reliable in distinguishing science from nonscience.
Laudan grants that creationism satisfies the last three of Overton’s requirements (1988, p. 354). He even takes the first two criteria to task, arguing that not all scientific ideas can be explained by natural laws. For example, Galileo and Newton described gravity before anyone explained it. And Darwin discovered the phenomenon of natural selection before anyone understood the laws of heredity on which it depended. By Overton’s rules, “we should have to say that Newton and Darwin were unscientific” (1988, p. 354). Yet the issue still remains: can science seek non-natural causes? Were great scientists of the past justified, or merely naive, in their willingness to allow divine intervention in nature?
Creationists have realized that the only way to resolve this issue is to find the common ground between evolution and creation. This may seem a fruitless task at first, seeing that they represent two quite different world views. But they share this fundamental belief: that the Universe and life are the products of one or more unique events. In particular, evolutionists speak of the Big Bang, and the origin of life from nonlife. Neither event is occurring today. Life is not arising spontaneously from nutrient-rich environments and, fortunately for humankind, Big Bangs are not rending space asunder on a regular basis. Similarly, creationists believe that the Universe and life are the products of a divine creative act, and further, that a worldwide Flood shaped the present world. These events also are unique. God finished His creation on the seventh day (Genesis 2:1), and promised that He never again would destroy mankind with a Flood (Genesis 9:15).
What people imagine as “science,” including Overton’s caricature, cannot begin to deal with these claims, but they still are open to scientific scrutiny. While the answers may not lie directly under the lens of a microscope, or in a test tube, they may come by testing the claims against knowledge gained by empirical science. In an effort to refine this distinction, Charles Thaxton and his colleagues suggested separatingoperation science from origin science. The first deals with the recurring phenomena of nature, such as eclipses, volcanoes, reproduction, etc., while the second deals with singular events, such as the Big Bang, creation, etc. (1984, pp. 203-204).
Origin science may be a new term, but it works by the standard principles of causality and uniformity, which always have been a part of doing science. The principle of causality says that every effect must have a prior, sufficient, necessary cause. The principle of uniformity (or analogy) says that similar effects have similar causes.
Still, evolutionists may argue that creationists have done themselves no service by making a separate science out of singularities. Defining a nonempirical science is one thing; proposing supernatural causes is quite another. For this reason, they always will view creationism as unscientific. But the idea that history consists of an unbroken stream of natural causes and effects is merely a presumption on their part. Perhaps they fear a new generation of doctoral students invoking God when they cannot explain something in their research projects. Yet this fear is unfounded. As stated earlier, most scientists of the past had no problem with divine intervention. Indeed, one of the driving forces of early Western science was the idea that the Universe, as God’s creation, was open to rational investigation. In doing good operation science, these scientists would seek natural causes for regularly occurring events. Many of them recognized, however, that unique events may require a cause beyond nature. Only analogy with the present can determine whether the cause is miraculous or naturalistic (Geisler and Anderson, 1987, p. 16).
WAS PALEY’S WATCHMAKER STILLBORN?
In 1802, William Paley applied analogy in full force through his book, Natural Theology. Paley tells a story of a man who finds a stone. From the natural appearance of the stone, and its lack of purpose, the man assumes it is the product of nature. Later he finds a watch, and because of its inherent purpose, he assumes it is the product of a watchmaker. What is the difference between the rock and the watch? “Wherever we see marks of contrivance,” Paley wrote, “we are led for its cause to an intelligent author” (1802, p. 232, emp. in orig.). Paley concluded that design in nature demands a cause that exists beyond and before the natural world. That cause he identified as God—Designer and Creator.
Yet many skeptics believe that Paley’s work was defunct before he ever put pen to paper. More than fifty years earlier, David Hume had argued that miracles cannot be true because the world normally operates using natural causes. For example, if a man says he witnessed someone being raised from the dead, which of the following is most likely: that a man can deceive or be deceived, or that a person can be raised from the dead? Hume would take the first option, because (for him at least) it is easier to believe than the second (1748, p. 657).
Belief, Hume argued, derives from the guiding principles of uniformity and causality. Are these not the same guiding principles of origin science? Then how is it that Paley could allow miracles, while Hume could not? In part, Hume was reacting to a popular idea of his day that God not only designed the Universe, but also operated the Universe like a machine. God was every cause, not just the first cause: He maintained the Moon in its orbit of the Earth, and made the apple fall to the ground. Hume found this idea totally unpalatable and, as often happens, swung to the opposite extreme in response. God never could causeany effect, because that would violate all reasonable human experience about the way nature normally operates. If God could intervene at any time, then experience is useless, and science has no value. Hume’s uniformity gave rise to uniformitarianism, and thence to the contempt for miracles among so many scientists of the modern era.
The problem with this view is that miracles are supernatural, not antinatural; they are beyond nature, notagainst nature. Further, they explain certain unique events, not all regular events. Paley appealed to a divine Creator because no known natural cause was sufficient to explain the design he saw in the living world. Ironically, Paley said he founded his conclusions on “uniform experience”—precisely the same phrase coined by his skeptical predecessor (see Geisler and Anderson, 1987, p. 145).
Yes, creation is science. Judge Overton’s answer was to redefine science, with dire consequences for science itself. In fact, there is nothing about science that prevents a Bible believer from practicing good science, or even investigating the existence of God.
However, miracles remain the sticking point. Some scientists feel very uncomfortable with the idea that an effect might have a supernatural cause. Note that this is only a feeling, a presumption, on their part. Creationists have no interest in making God a capricious, meddlesome Agent Who works to achieve every natural effect. Rather, He is the Cause of unique events that cannot be explained by recourse to purely natural explanations. Origin science provides a consistent way to test this claim, along with the central claims of evolution—claims that are not amenable to testing under empirical or operation science. Yes, there is more than one way to do science.
When people belittle the scientific status of creationism, they attack its believers, not its claims. Prejudice, not truth, sustains the idea that faith and science must be in conflict. Christians can use science to defend their belief in the Genesis account of creation, and should not be intimidated into thinking otherwise.
Blackmore, Vernon and Andrew Page (1989), Evolution: The Great Debate (Oxford, England: Lion).
Futuyma, Douglas J. (1983), Science on Trial (New York: Pantheon).
Geisler, Norman L. (1982), The Creator in the Courtroom: “Scopes II” (Milford, MI: Mott Media).
Geisler, Norman L. and J. Kerby Anderson (1987), Origin Science (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Gould, Stephen Jay (1987), “Darwinism Defined: The Difference Between Fact and Theory,” Discover, 8:64-65,68-70, January.
Hume, David (1748), “An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding,” The English Philosophers from Bacon to Mill, ed. Edwin A. Burtt (New York: Random House, Modern Library edition, 1939), pp. 585-689.
Hummel, Charles E. (1986), The Galileo Connection (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity).
Laudan, Larry (1988), “Science at the Bar—Causes for Concern,” But Is It Science?, ed. Michael Ruse (Buffalo, NY: Prometheus).
Lindberg, David C. and Ronald L. Numbers (1986), God & Nature (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press).
Moreland, J.P. (1989), Christianity and the Nature of Science (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
National Academy of Sciences (1984), Science and Creationism (Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press).
Numbers, Ronald L. (1986), “The Creationists,” God & Nature, ed. D.C. Lindberg and R.L. Numbers (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press).
Numbers, Ronald L. (1992), The Creationists (New York: Alfred A. Knopf).
Paley, William (1802), Natural Theology, ed. John Ware (Boston: MA: Gould, Kendall & Lincoln, 1850 edition).
Russell, Colin A. (1985), Cross-Currents (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Sproul, R.C., John Gerstner, and Arthur Lindsley (1984), Classical Apologetics (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan).
Thaxton, Charles B., Walter L. Bradley, and Roger L. Olsen (1984), The Mystery of Life’s Origin (New York: Philosophical Library).
Thompson, Bert (1984), “How Does Science Work?,” Essays in Apologetics, ed. Bert Thompson and Wayne Jackson (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press), 1:11-17.
Warfield, Benjamin B. (1977), “Apologetics,” The New Schaff-Herzog Religious Encyclopedia, ed. Samuel Macauley Jackson (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, reprint), 1:232-238.