"THE FIRST EPISTLE OF PETER" Chapter Five OBJECTIVES IN STUDYING THIS CHAPTER 1) To examine the duties of elders, in their role as shepherds (pastors) and overseers (bishops) 2) To note the importance of submission and humility in our relation to elders, one another, and God 3) To consider how we might best counter our adversary, the devil 4) To glean how Peter sought to encourage his brethren in their suffering SUMMARY The final chapter contains charges to elders and their respective flocks. As a fellow elder, Peter commands elders to shepherd the flock of God among them, serving as overseers. Doing so willingly and eagerly, they were to serve as examples to the flock. The younger members of the flock are then commanded to submit to their elders and to one another, with humility (1-5). They were to also humble themselves under the mighty hand of God and cast their cares upon Him, trusting that He would exalt them in due time because He cares for them. Since their adversary the devil walks about like a lion seeking to devour them, they are to be sober and vigilant, resisting him steadfast in the faith. They can take courage in knowing that other brethren are likewise suffering (6-9). The epistle draws to a close, first with a prayer that God will eventually perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle them. Mention is made of Silvanus, and Peter's purpose in writing. Greetings are sent by "she who is in Babylon" and "Mark, my son". Finally, a command to greet one another with a kiss of love is given, along with a prayer for peace to all who are in Christ Jesus (10-14). OUTLINE I. THE DUTIES OF SHEPHERDS AND THE FLOCK (1-5) A. THE ELDERS' DUTIES AS SHEPHERDS (1-4) 1. As exhorted by a fellow elder a. A witness of the sufferings of Christ b. A partaker of the glory that will be revealed 2. To shepherd the flock of God among them a. Serving as overseers 1) Not be compulsion but willingly 2) Not for dishonest gain but eagerly 3) Not as lords but as examples b. So when the Chief Shepherd appears, they will receive the unfading crown of glory B. THE YOUNGERS' DUTIES AS THE FLOCK (5) 1. Submit yourselves a. To your elders b. To one another 3. Clothe yourselves with humility a. For God resists the proud b. For God gives grace to the humble II. THE DUTIES TO GOD AND SATAN (6-9) A. DUTIES REGARDING GOD (6-7) 1. Humble yourselves under His mighty hand, that He may exalt you in due time 2. Cast all your care upon Him, for He cares for you B. DUTIES REGARDING SATAN (8-9) 1. Be sober and vigilant of your adversary a. The devil walks about like a roaring lion b. The devil seeks whom he may devour 2. Resist your adversary a. Remaining steadfast in the faith b. Knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by brethren in the world III. CONCLUDING REMARKS (10-14) A. CLOSING PRAYER (10-11) 1. May the God of all grace perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you a. Who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus b. After you have suffered a while 2. To Him be the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen B. CLOSING GREETINGS (12-14) 1. Peter has written to them briefly a. By Silvanus, a faithful brother b. Exhorting and testifying that this is the true grace of God in which they stand 2. Greetings from: a. She who is in Babylon, elect together with you b. Mark, his son 3. Greet one another with a kiss of love 4. Peace to you all who are in Christ Jesus. Amen REVIEW QUESTIONS FOR THE CHAPTER 1) What are the main points of this chapter? - The duties of shepherds and the flock (1-5) - The duties to God and Satan (6-9) - Concluding remarks (10-14) 2) How does Peter identify himself as he exhorts the elders? (1) - As a fellow elder - As a witness of the sufferings of Christ - As a partaker of the glory that will be revealed 3) What is the duty of the elders? (2) - To shepherd the flock of God among them 4) How were they to serve as elders? (3-4) - As overseers - Not by compulsion, but willingly - Not for dishonest gain, but eagerly - Not as lords, but as examples to the flock 5) What reward can elders look forward to when the Chief Shepherd appears? (5) - The crown of glory that does not fade away 6) What twofold duty is enjoined upon those who are younger? (5) - To submit to the elders and to one another - To be clothed with humility 7) What were they commanded to do in relation to God? (6-7) - Humble themselves under the mighty hand of God - Cast all their care upon Him 8) Why were they to do this? (6-7) - That God might exalt them in due time - Because He cares for them 9) Who is their adversary? What is he doing? (8) - The devil; walking about like a lion, seeking whom he may devour 10) What should they do in regards to their adversary? (8-9) - Be sober, be vigilant - Resist him, steadfast in the faith 11) What should encourage them in their suffering? (9-10) - Knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by their brethren in the world - That after they have suffered a while, God will perfect, establish, strengthen and settle them 12) By whom has Peter penned this epistle? (12) - Silvanus, a faithful brother 13) What has been Peter's purpose in writing this epistle? (12) - To exhort and testify that this is the true grace of God in which they stand 14) Who sends them greetings? (13) - She who is in Babylon, elect together with them - Mark, his son 15) What final charge does Peter give? What final prayer? (14) - Greet one another with a kiss of love - Peace to all who are in Christ Jesus
Does the Quran Encourage Violence?
|by||Dave Miller, Ph.D.|
Does the Quran encourage violence?
Yes. The Quran—the holy book of Islam that 1.3 billion Muslims believe to be the word of God—is replete with explicit and implicit sanction and promotion of armed conflict, violence, and bloodshed by Muslims. Read Surah 47:4 from the celebrated translation by Muslim scholar Mohammed Pickthall:
Now when ye meet in battle those who disbelieve, then it is smiting of the necks until, when ye have routed them, then making fast of bonds; and afterward either grace or ransom till thewar lay down its burdens. That (is the ordinance). And if Allah willed He could have punished them (without you) but (thus it is ordained) that He may try some of you by means of others. And those who are slain in the way of Allah, He rendereth not their actions vain (Surah 47:4, emp. added).
Many other verses in the Quran forthrightly endorse armed conflict and war to advance Islam. Muslim historical sources themselves report the background details of those armed conflicts that have characterized Islam from its inception—including Muhammad’s own warring tendencies involving personal participation in and endorsement of military campaigns (cf. Lings, pp. 86,111). Muslim scholar Pickthall’s own summary of Muhammad’s war record is an eye-opener: “The number of the campaigns which he led in person during the last ten years of his life is twenty-seven, in nine of which there was hard fighting. The number of the expeditions which he planned and sent out under other leaders is thirty-eight” (n.d., p. xxvi).
Lings, Martin (1983), Muhammad (Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions International).
Pickthall, Mohammed M. (no date), The Meaning of the Glorious Koran (New York: Mentor).
Armchair Archaeology and the New Atheism
|by||Dewayne Bryant, M.A.|
[EDITOR’S NOTE: Dewayne Bryant holds two Masters degrees, and is completing Masters study in Ancient Near Eastern Archaeology and Languages at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, while pursuing doctoral studies at Amridge University. He has participated in an archaeological dig at Tell El-Borg in Egypt and holds professional membership in the American Schools of Oriental Research, the Society of Biblical Literature, and the Archaeological Institute of America.]
Archaeology has an air of mystery about it. Whenever the subject is brought up, many people instinctively think of the iconic Indiana Jones and his adventures on the silver screen. Others think of buried treasure or exotic locations. In the early days of archaeology, European travelers could be seen out in the field in Victorian garb, sitting under lace umbrellas and sipping tea from fine china. The wealthy traveled with all the fineries of home, surveying the scene while native workers toiled under the hot Middle Eastern Sun. There was much less of the scientific rigor of modern archaeology. It was sometimes little more than glorified treasure hunting. Today there is much more to the discipline than romantic visions of danger, intrigue, and golden fortunes.
Archaeology is a scientific discipline requiring dozens of specializations. Despite its complexity, it has the unenviable distinction of being a field in which anyone with sufficient interest and a modicum of experience can claim to be a specialist. Popular examples include self-proclaimed experts who claim to have found chariot wheels at the bottom of the Red Sea, the real location of Mt. Sinai, and the long-lost treasures of Solomon in a hidden cave beneath the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. These claims are difficult, if not impossible, to verify, and are often accompanied by dubious proof and doctored evidence. Archaeology is a field subject to severe abuse by those with too little training and too much imagination.
The mistreatment of archaeological evidence is not the sole property of poorly trained apologists. It is also found in the writings of the new atheists. “New atheism” is much like atheism in general, except that it is exceptionally militant and intolerant of everything remotely religious in nature. The term appears to have been coined by Gary Wolf in a November 2006 article in Wired Magazine titled, “The Church of the New Believer.” In the article, Wolf says that the new atheist will “not let us [unbelievers] off the hook simply because we are not doctrinaire believers. They condemn not just belief in God but respect for belief in God” (2006). The new atheist is not merely an unbeliever, but one who promotes disbelief and has no tolerance for anyone who respects religion, whether theist, agnostic, or atheist. For new atheists, it is all or nothing. Incidentally, Wolf—though an atheist himself—ultimately disagrees with the severity of the new atheists’ approach.
The most noticeable of the current leaders in this new and virulent strain of militant atheism include Englishmen Richard Dawkins (biologist) and Christopher Hitchens (polemicist and political journalist), and American Sam Harris (neuroscientist). Their diatribes against religion are both malicious and well publicized. Virtually anything they write is going to secure a place near the top of the New York Times bestseller list. This is not surprising, since their devotees are anxious for any new criticism of Christianity, and believers want to read them to understand the new arguments facing the faithful.
The new atheists frequently appeal to subject areas outside their specialties for proof to support their claims. Such might not otherwise discredit their views, but their level of proficiency in these areas is decidedly inferior, as borne out by the numerous mistakes, misunderstandings, and logical errors that pepper their works. One of the blatant areas of abuse concerns their appeals to archaeology.
While Dawkins, Hitchens, and Harris are gifted with formidable intellects and considerable literary prowess, archaeology lies outside their realm of competency. They would do well to remember that expertise in one area does not immediately transfer into any other area of one’s choosing. Dawkins may be a highly respected biologist among evolutionists, but he is a rather poor student of the religion he so fiercely opposes. In some cases it appears almost as if he reaches for any argument, no matter how poor, to justify his extreme dislike for Christianity. Hitchens is an insightful journalist, but his impeccable prose inadequately conceals a lamentable ignorance of Christianity and the wealth of evidence supporting its claims. Harris is an up-and-coming scientist, but his skills in logic and argumentation are virtually nonexistent and have drawn heavy criticism from nearly all quarters. All three men may be gifted in their areas of specialization, but outside those areas they are like fish out of water. They seem to have gained only enough familiarity with Christianity to generate criticism that will tickle the ears of their adherents. Their attacks on the Christian faith are little more than public proofs of their inadequacy as critics.
The Responsible Use of Archaeology
Archaeology is an exciting field that brings a great deal of information to bear on the study of the Bible. At the same time, archaeologists must exercise caution in evaluating ancient evidence for several reasons. First, the ancient evidence is usually very fragmentary. Not all the evidence from antiquity made it into the ground in the first place, and if it did, the march of time frequently takes its toll on ancient artifacts. This is not surprising since artifacts deteriorate even in climate-controlled environments in state-of-the-art museums. Second, with every season new discoveries are brought to light, adding to the body of information we possess about the ancient world. The next year could well produce evidence that contradicts this year’s conclusions. Finally, the surviving evidence is piecemeal in nature, requiring archaeologists to fill in the gaps with educated guesswork where conclusiveness may be lacking. This is not to say that archaeology cannot reach definite conclusions, but only to say that those conclusions may frequently be tentative in nature. Unlike responsible scholars, the Bible’s critics frequently make grandiose appeals to evidence without the caution employed by those who understand how to evaluate the evidence.
Archaeology has been misused by those wishing to foster a skeptical attitude toward the factual reliability of the Bible. A prime example is an article published in Harper’s Magazine titled, “False Testament: Archaeology Refutes the Bible’s Claim to History.” Author Daniel Lazare writes,
Not long ago, archaeologists could agree that the Old Testament, for all its embellishments and contradictions, contained a kernel of truth…. That is no longer the case. In the last quarter century or so, archaeologists have seen one settled assumption after another concerning who the ancient Israelites were and where they came from proved false (2002, p. 39).
Lazare, a journalist with no archaeological credentials, does little more than survey the extreme left concerning the intersection of archaeology and the Bible. Yigal Levin, professor in the department of philosophy and religion at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, wrote a stinging response to the article in Harper’s. He states: “From his essay, I learned only that Lazare is capable of summarizing The Bible Unearthed, written by my former teacher Israel Finkelstein and his colleague Neil Asher Silverman. Like their book, Lazare’s essay is one-sided and overly dramatic” (Levin, 2002, p. 4).
The book to which Levin refers in his article is The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology’s New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Its Sacred Texts (Finkelstein and Silberman, 2001). Finkelstein’s work has drawn substantial criticism from other scholars—even those who doubt the Bible’s veracity. Virtually no archaeologists have adopted his somewhat radical conclusions, which generally deny a great deal of historicity to the Old Testament narratives. It should be noted that Finkelstein, who once held a relatively positive position on the relationship between the Bible and ancient history, now holds a minority view that finds little acceptance among even mainstream archaeologists. His work has been heavily and publicly criticized by American archaeologist William Dever, who called the book “an archaeological manifesto, not judicious and well-balanced scholarship,” adding, “it will do little to educate the public” (2001, 322:74). It is significant that Dever, one of the most widely respected archaeologists in America, states explicitly that he is “not a theist” (2005, p. xi).
A Classic Double Standard Used Against the Bible
The double standard employed against the Bible is both obvious and pervasive. One such example concerns the conquest of Canaan, which is frequently filed under the categories of fiction and myth. Joshua’s campaign is usually assumed to be fictitious, but there is a parallel example from Egypt that mirrors Joshua’s account. In 1275 B.C., the forces of Egypt under Ramesses the Great, and the Hittite Empire under general Muwatallis II, met at the Battle of Kadesh. Egyptian forces were separated into three units as they traveled northward through Canaan. Two divisions traveled farther inland, while a third made its route close to the Mediterranean coastline. The Hittites, lying in wait near the city of Kadesh, ambushed the Egyptian troops. The Hittite forces overran the first division and shattered it. The quick-thinking Ramesses hastily organized his troops and was able to fend off the Hittite offensive long enough for the third division to arrive. The reinforced troops eventually pushed back their Hittite opponents. In the end, Ramesses won a military victory, but suffered a political defeat since the Hittite Empire either retained or reclaimed lost territory in the area.
In typical Near Eastern fashion, Ramesses returned to Egypt and proclaimed a great victory. Indeed, the famous colossi at Abu Simbel were part of a monument erected near the border of Ethiopia to convince Egypt’s neighbors that Ramesses had won a decisive victory—just in case they heard otherwise. A relief depicting the battle shows Ramesses gunning down fleeing Hittite soldiers with his bow and rolling over others like speed bumps in his oversized chariot. In the written account of the battle, he credits both divine intervention and his own leadership as the main causes for the Egyptian triumph over his enemies (Kitchen, 2000, 2:37). According to the poetic version of the account, Ramesses leaps into battle while the uraeus, the serpent-shaped symbol of protection worn on the forehead of the king, blasts fire at his enemies and consumes the Hittite forces like an ancient flame-thrower.
In inscription we see several parallels between the Battle of Kadesh and the military operations carried out under Joshua as recorded in the Old Testament: (1) both leaders are dynamic military figures, (2) each is said to rely upon divine aid to defeat his foes, and (3) each credits his deity with the victory. While no scholar denies the Battle of Kadesh took place, a majority dismisses the conquest of Canaan out of hand. For Ramesses, scholars simply excise any references to the divine and accept the rest as reliable narrative. For Joshua’s account, the references to Yahweh immediately place the story in the realm of myth. No details are accepted as genuine. While there are other factors at work in this particular case (such as the debate over the available information that bears on the conquest of Canaan), it should be noted that for many people, including scholars, Scripture is virtually the only ancient literature where any mention of the supernatural immediately disqualifies any claim to historical reliability. Other ancient works are filled with magic and divine intervention, yet this fact does not stop scholars from searching them for a core historical truth. Quite the opposite is true in the case of the Bible.
Pseudo-Scholarship in the Popular Press
The popular press has been very active in its attempt to diminish the intellectual respectability of biblical faith, and the new atheists are one of the best examples. Their academic arrogance is nothing short of astounding, and only further highlighted by their lack of understanding of biblical studies. One of the most egregious examples of religious ignorance is found in David Mills’ bookAtheist Universe:
It’s fairly easy to demonstrably prove that the Genesis accounts of Adam and Eve, and Noah’s worldwide deluge, are fables. It’s easier to prove these stories false because, unlike the notion of God, the Creation account and Noah’s flood are scientifically testable. Science may explore human origins and the geologic history of Earth. In this regard, science has incontrovertibly proven that the Book of Genesis is utter mythology (2006, p. 28).
Mills provides a priceless example of just how badly militant atheists misunderstand ancient literature. Within a mere paragraph, Mills uses the terms “fable,” “mythology,” and (false) “story” interchangeably. None of these terms are synonyms. A fable is a whimsical tale, usually containing a moral or teaching point, in which talking animals frequently play primary roles.Aesop’s Fables immediately comes to mind. This is quite different from the term “mythology,” which centers on stories of the gods and often has a religious or cultic function. These stories also have varying degrees of contradiction with other myths within the same corpus in which the deities are represented. Incidentally, this is also different from a “legend,” which is an embellished story about a human figure containing at least a kernel of historical truth.
Unlike myths, fables, and fictive stories, the Old and New Testaments are concerned with reporting factual details. The historical books frequently reference other sources such as theBook of Jashar (Joshua 10:13; 2 Samuel 1:18), the Book of the Wars of the Lord (Numbers 21:14), and the Book of the Kings of Israel and Judah (2 Chronicles 27:7). It appears that the divinely-guided Hebrew writers worked with sources in similar fashion to modern historians. The writers often used source material and on occasion point the reader to those sources where additional information could be found at the original time of writing (e.g., 1 Kings 14:19). Luke makes it clear that he conducted an extensive investigation of the sources in the composition of his gospel account (Luke 1:1-4). His attention to geographical detail, long recognized by scholars for its accuracy and thoroughness, is quite out of keeping with ancient myths, which had no concern for this type of information. Finally, Paul (1 Corinthians 15:5-8), Peter (2 Peter 1:16), and John (1 John 1:1-2) all offer eyewitness testimonials, presupposing their readers had the ability to verify their claims.
It is important to note that the ancients rarely believed their myths actually happened in real time and space. Actual history is of very little concern in mythology, which may come as a surprise to many moderns. It seems to be just as surprising to the critics of the Bible, who invariably equate myth with fiction. The new atheists assume that Jesus is a mythological creation of the early church, missing the point that the early Christians actually believed that He walked the Earth, performed miracles, and rose from the dead. Unlike the pagan populace of Greece and Rome, early Christians were willing to die for their convictions. This attitude made them a target for the Greek satirist Lucian of Samosata, who mocked their belief in eternal life. He wrote in “The Death of Peregrine”:
The Christians, you know, worship a man to this day—the distinguished personage who introduced their novel rites, and was crucified on that account…. You see, these misguided creatures start with the general conviction that they are immortal for all time, which explains the contempt of death and voluntary self-devotion which are so common among them… (n.d., 4:82-83).
Since martyrdom was virtually unknown in the Greco-Roman world, why did it become so common in the Christian community? Simply put, no one else believed in the exclusivity of religion. The ancients were polytheistic and inclusive. Not only were other gods recognized, but initiation in one of the mystery religions did not exclude membership in other cults. As long as one had enough money for the expensive initiation rites, he or she could be a member of any number of the secretive mystery cults in the Greek world.
In his book God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, Christopher Hitchens spends a few pages alluding to Jesus as merely one of many virgin-born, crucified messiahs (2007, pp. 22-23). Many critics have argued Jesus is nothing more than a plagiarized myth from other world religions, adapted for use by the earliest Christians. Allegedly, the virgin birth is found in Mithras worship, and other gods such as Attis and Osiris were crucified and resurrected. Critics do not appear to realize that in the mystery cult of Mithras, the god was born from a rock, and that the earliest stories come from over a century after the time of Christ (cf. Butt and Lyons, 2006). Further, Attis and Osiris were never crucified. Attis killed himself and Seth drowned his brother Osiris in the Nile River. Further, the two never truly resurrected. Attis remained in a comatose state where his hair still grew and his little finger twitched. Osiris is said to have been brought back to life but did not rejoin the land of the living. He instead remained in the underworld as the lord of the dead (the story also explains mummification, which is decidedly different from the Christian view of resurrection). One would be hard-pressed to find a true resurrection outside the Bible. All of this information is readily available in popular translations of the ancient myths that seem to have escaped the attention of Christianity’s most popular critics. In their haste to relegate the Bible to the realm of myth, the new atheists have failed to realize that the Bible records actual persons, places, and events that can be located in the archaeological record.
Embarrassment in the New Atheism
The new atheists are quite skilled at parroting critical scholars in the popular media, but give little evidence of having done any real research into the archaeological concerns surrounding the Bible. Their mistakes are so elementary that, if one did not know that they were ranked among the world’s intellectual elite, one would simply consider them part of the lunatic fringe. The dogmatic conclusions reached by Dawkins and company are unjustified for several reasons. First, none is well-acquainted with the material he cites. Their specialties lie in unrelated fields, and their conclusions are frequently unsupported or even contradicted by the archaeological artifacts. Second, none possesses a basic, reasonable knowledge of Christianity. They often make basic mistakes that could have been easily prevented by spending time doing minimal research into basic biblical teachings. Finally, they make very few attempts at formulating arguments, and those they make are peppered with logical errors and fallacious reasoning.
Apologists for disbelief have noted the criticism of their leading spokesmen and have rushed to their defense. In a blog called the “Black Sun Journal,” editor Sean Prophet writes:
The flimsiest of all the rhetorical devices used by religious writers is the accusation that atheists lack scholarship on religion. That they supposedly “don’t even understand what they have rejected.” This dismissive attitude is repeated ad nauseam in the popular media. While it’s true that few atheists have doctor-of-divinity degrees, it’s completely false that they therefore can’t understand theology (Prophet, 2008, italics in orig.).
Prophet argues that it is false that atheists cannot understand theology. Yet, he misses the fact that critics such as Dawkins and P.Z. Meyers defend their refusal to engage Christian thought, sometimes crudely, as in the case of a Meyers’s piece titled, “The Courtier’s Reply” (2006). Georgetown professor John Haught critiques them, saying, “Given all their bluster about the evils of theology, why do they wade only ankle deep in the shallows of religious illiteracy? A well-thought-out military strategy sooner or later has to confront the enemy at its strongest point, but [Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens have—DB] avoided any such confrontation. Unlike the great leaders in war, these generals have decided to aim their assaults exclusively at the softest points in the wide world of faith” (2008, p. 63, bracketed item added). While he criticizes the supposed myth of ignorance surrounding the militant, atheist movement, Prophet appears to have as little understanding of religion as those whom he defends. Indeed, his assertion that “[r]ank-and-file atheists are far more facile with scripture than rank-and-file Christians” is so laughable and outrageous as to be absurd. A cursory survey of militant, atheist literature from those who are considered its greatest scholars quickly reveals a host of misunderstandings readily apparent to any unbiased observer.
One example of Dawkins’ many academic sins concerns the Gnostic gospels. In The God Delusion, he argues that Thomas Jefferson advised his young nephew to read the other accounts of Jesus’ life, which Dawkins claims are the Gnostic writings such as the “Gospels of Thomas, Peter, Nicodemus, Philip, Bartholomew, and Mary Magdalen” (2006, p. 95). It would be quite impossible for Jefferson to have recommended the Gnostic gospels to his nephew since they were unknown in his day. So it is with the apocryphal gospels. Those of Thomas and Philip were among the cache of documents discovered in 1945 in Nag Hammadi, Egypt. The gospels of Peter and Mary were both found in the late 1800’s. The gospel of Bartholomew has yet to be positively identified. In every case, these non-canonical writings date much later than the time of Christ and provide no evidence of offering genuine accounts of Christ’s life.
Christopher Hitchens follows in Dawkins footsteps when he misunderstands the nature of the Gnostic writings. He says that the gospels “were of the same period and provenance as many of the subsequently canonical and ‘authorized’ Gospels” (2007, p. 112). Yet, Gnostic beliefs arose shortly after Christianity, and the documents produced by Gnostics date from the second century to the fifth century and later. As a marriage between Christianity and Neo-Platonic philosophy, Gnosticism reached its height in the second and third centuries, but its incipient form is implicitly condemned in several New Testament passages (Colossians 2:9; 1 John 1:1; cf. 1 Peter 2:24).
Dawkins, Hitchens, and Harris appear to draw their notions about the supposed legendary nature of the gospel accounts from Bart Ehrman’s Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why. All three heartily recommend Ehrman’s book and give him high praise for his journey into unbelief, which he never seems to tire of describing (2005, pp. 1-15; 2008, pp. 1-19; 2009, pp. ix-xii). The new atheists are apparently unaware that Ehrman’s work has drawn heavy criticism because of its tendency to sensationalize, overplay the evidence, and present ideas that few of his academic peers affirm, regardless of their religious orientation or lack thereof. That the trio—as non-specialists who know relatively little about Christianity—would lean so heavily on a scholar like Ehrman is, perhaps, understandable, but remains inexcusable.
Hitchens claims that the existence of Jesus is “highly questionable” and there is a “huge amount of fabrication” in the details presented in the gospel records (2007, p. 114). The only genre into which the gospel accounts could possibly be forced would be legend, but even then, there was insufficient time for Jesus to reach legendary status. As the acclaimed classical scholar A.N. Sherwin-White pointed out, it takes time for legends to accumulate about a historical person (1963, pp. 188-191). The gospel records are clearly non-mythological and give no evidence of being legendary.
The biblical ignorance of the new atheists is on full display when David Mills begs for Christians to defend why they believe in mythical creatures such as unicorns (Job 39:9-10; Psalm 22:21), cockatrices (Isaiah 11:8), and satyrs (Isaiah 13:21). He embarrasses himself when he writes:
I also find it revealing that, in the newer, modern-language translations of the Bible, these ridiculous passages of Scripture have been dishonestly excised, rewritten or edited beyond their original translation in the King James. So not only are the Great Pretenders forsaking long-honored and long-held Christian beliefs, but the Bible itself, under their supervision, appears to be experiencing a quiet, behind-the-scenes, Hollywood makeover as well (2006, p. 150).
The words rendered “unicorn” (re’em, “ox”), “cockatrice” (tsepha`, a type of serpent), and “satyr” (sa`ir, “goat”) have nothing to do with mythological creatures. In fact, these creatures did not even exist in ancient Near Eastern mythology. The last 400 years has seen an explosion in the knowledge of the biblical languages. Scholars now have the benefit of the numerous manuscripts and inscription discoveries that have greatly expanded our knowledge of the languages. The work at the ancient city of Ugarit alone has provided a wealth of information on the Hebrew language through the study of the closely related language of Ugaritic. Mills’ objection evaporates when we understand that the change in English translation is not due to a dishonest makeover, but to a better and truer understanding of how the original text should be translated. To his discredit, he mistakes dishonesty for intellectual progress, which only further underscores his unfamiliarity with the Bible and its ancient context—and his extreme prejudice.
Christopher Hitchens says the material from the Exodus to the Conquest of Canaan “was all, quite simply and very ineptly, made up at a much later date…. Much of the evidence is the other way” (2007, p. 102). Elsewhere, he says the Pentateuch is an “ill-carpentered fiction, bolted into place well after the nonevents that it fails to describe convincingly or even plausibly” (p. 104). Here Hitchens alludes to the Documentary Hypothesis which claims the books of Moses were compiled from different sources much later than the time of the Exodus. Again, Hitchens does not seem to know that recent discoveries have presented the Documentary Hypothesis with significant challenges that have yet to find plausible answers (cf. Garrett, 2000; Kaiser, 2001). While much of modern scholarship believes in the hypothesis, it must be noted that professors essentially pass on the theory to their students as a body of dogmatic teaching and rarely require them to actually question the theory (cf. evolution). Moreover, archaeology has consistently produced evidence that implies the writing of the Pentateuch is genuinely ancient.
Just when things could not get any worse, Hitchens further destroys his own credibility by claiming urban myth as fact. He states: “the Pentateuch contains two discrepant accounts of the Creation, two different genealogies of the seed of Adam, and two narratives of the Flood” (2007, p. 106). The two creation accounts are intentionally written for two different purposes and are complimentary, not contradictory. This is similar to the way in which a person might take a photograph of an object from two different angles in order more fully to explore the subject in view. Critics seem fixated on digging this old chestnut out of the wastebasket where it rightly belongs (cf. Jackson, 1991). Also, genealogies in the Bible are selective by nature, so differences in genealogical lists are inconsequential (cf. Miller, 2003). The alleged two narratives of the Flood in Genesis 6-9 refers to the artificial separation of the story into two constituent parts, which falls under the purview of the Documentary Hypothesis. This allegation, too, has been shown to be fraught with problems.
The Plausibility of the Biblical Record
Archaeology demonstrates solid connections between the biblical record and ancient history, in contrast to Christopher Hitchens’ assertion that it is an implausible record. Consider the following:
Critics often malign the patriarchs without just cause. They insist that camels were not domesticated during the patriarchal age, thus constituting an anachronism in the biblical text. Yet evidence of camel domestication appears as early as 2000 B.C. in several places in Mesopotamia, concurrent with Abraham—if not slightly preceding him (Kitchen, 2003, p. 339). Another point of confidence is the names of the patriarchs. While God selected Jacob’s name, they all highlight the Mesopotamian roots of Abraham since the names of Isaac, Jacob, Ishmael, and Joseph are all of Amorite origin (pp. 341-342). These names were at the height of their popularity when the patriarchs lived in the early second millennium and quickly fell into disuse in subsequent centuries.
A vital piece of evidence is the structure of covenants in the Bible. Covenants made in antiquity evolved over time, and each period has a distinct structure for the covenants made at various times and particular locations. Kenneth Kitchen has surveyed a wide range of covenants used from the third millennium through the first millennium B.C. (Kitchen, 2003, pp. 283-289). He found the Abrahamic covenant made in Genesis 15-17 fits securely in the early second millennium, while the covenants in Exodus, Deuteronomy, and Joshua 24 fit only in a late second millennium context.
The Life of Joseph
In the very section of the Bible that Hitchens questions is found some of the most compelling evidence for the historicity of Scripture. As Egyptologist James K. Hoffmeier demonstrates, the story for Joseph rings true with numerous details (Hoffmeier, 1996, pp. 77-98). The 20-shekel price paid for Joseph (Genesis 37:28) is consistent with the price of a slave c. 1700 B.C. Egyptian mummification took about 70 days once the period for mourning was included, which matches the time given for the mummification of Jacob (Genesis 50:3). Examples of non-Egyptians becoming viziers is known from Egyptian sources. Further, it appears that the story of Joseph was put down in writing during the 18th-19th Dynasties in Egypt, the very period during which Moses lived. This idea is borne out by the fact that the Pentateuch uses the name “Pharaoh” (Hebrew phar’oh, Egyptian per-`3) when referring to the king of Egypt. During this time, the term was a generic one referring to the king, similar to referring to the U.S. President as “the White House,” or to the British monarch as “the Crown.” Prior to this time, the name of the king was used, and afterward sources mention the monarch as “Pharaoh X” or “X, king of Egypt”—as in the case of pharaohs Shishak (1 Kings 11:40; 2 Chronicles 12:2) and Neco (2 Kings 23:29).
The United Monarchy
David’s existence has been questioned frequently. Examples of petty monarchs ruling miniscule kingdoms in the Near East find rare mention in ancient sources, yet generally their historicity is taken at face value with minimal skepticism. Even Gilgamesh, the hero of the Epic of Gilgamesh, is thought to have been a historical figure ruling in Mesopotamia between 2600-2700 B.C. based on a reference in the famous Sumerian king list. Yet, David’s historicity is viewed with extreme suspicion, even though there are references to David found in the Tel Dan Inscription and the Moabite Stone, as well as numerous references in the Hebrew Bible. Indeed, Gilgamesh is thought to have been a real person despite being the semi-divine hero in a mythical composition, which also includes such fantastic details as a beast-man named Enkidu, a divinely sent creature of destruction called the Bull of Heaven, and a plant that can grant the person who eats it eternal life. David is frequently labeled a myth despite the solid evidence in favor of his existence.
The Divided Monarchy
Archaeology has vindicated the Bible’s mention of several figures that were once thought to have been fictional. The existence of Sargon (Isaiah 20:1) was questioned until a relief bearing his image was found in the throne room of his capital city of Dur-Sharrukin (“Fort Sargon”). Belshazzar (Daniel 5:1) was likewise questioned because Babylonian documents listed Nabonidus as the last king of the Babylonian empire. Scholars uncovered ancient evidence showing that Belshazzar co-ruled with his father Nabonidus, ruling from the city while Nabonidus sat for 10 years in self-imposed exile. Balaam (Numbers 22-24) has been located in an extrabiblical source called the Deir ‘Alla Inscription written during this period (Mazar, 1990, p. 330).
The Life of Christ
Archaeology does not always mention any one individual, and in the case of Christ, more substantial evidence comes from history rather than archaeology. One significant find is the 1990 discovery of the ossuary (bone box) of Joseph Caiaphas, high priest at the time of Jesus’ trial and crucifixion (John 11:49-53). Jesus is mentioned by the Roman writers Suetonius and Tacitus, the Roman governor Pliny the Younger, and is indirectly referenced by the Greek satirist Lucian of Samosata. He is also noted in a Jewish composition from the fifth century called the Toledoth Jesu, which gives an alternate explanation for the empty tomb from a hostile source. Jesus is far from the “myth” critics claim Him to be.
The Early Church
Inscriptions have revealed the names of numerous individuals mentioned in the New Testament. Gallio, proconsul of Achaia (Acts 18:12-17), is mentioned in an inscription found at the city of Delphi. Paul’s friend Erastus (Acts 19:22) is likely mentioned in an inscription found at Corinth. Sergius Paulus, mentioned as the first convert on the island of Cyprus, was proconsul (a Roman governor) when the apostle Paul visited the island (Acts 13:7). He is mentioned in an inscription found near Paphos (Reed, 2007, p. 13).
After the evidence is surveyed, it is apparent that much of the criticism of the Bible arises—not from intense scrutiny of the evidence—but from ignorance of it. The overwhelming weight of the archaeological and historical evidence firmly places the Bible in the sphere of reality rather than myth.
Knowing Should Lead to Knowing How Much One Does Not Know
Part of the problem with secular science is that it focuses on empirical data, but has little to no interest in epistemology: the study of how human beings know what we know. This great divorce has become clearer over the past couple of centuries, and is on full display in books like The God Delusion, where Richard Dawkins commits dozens of logical errors. Many of his arguments fail because he is not conversant with religion. They also suffer from his lack of understanding how evidence outside his specialty is to be interpreted and applied.
Journalist David Klinghoffer points out: “A favorite strategy of such groups has long been to attack cartoon versions of older rival religions” (2007). He cites as evidence Dawkins’ now-infamous phrase about the God of the Hebrew Bible being “arguably the most unpleasant character in fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully” (Dawkins, 2006, p. 31). No believer in the Judeo-Christian tradition would ever agree to this assessment, nor would anyone familiar with the Bible defend it. While Prophet argues that contrarians like Dawkins should not be labeled as ignorant of religion (2008), the evidence argues powerfully against him.
The unmitigated vitriol that pervades the works of Dawkins, Hitchens, and Harris is a clear indicator that their intolerance of Christianity is not motivated by objective reason. These men give every appearance of being desperate to artificially maintain a hatred of God. They fail to demonstrate sufficient familiarity with the Bible and fail to understand the ancient evidence supporting it.
Christians everywhere should be reminded that grandiose assertions, unsupported by adequate evidence, can be dismissed safely. This is the case with much of the material produced by the new militant breed of atheism—which makes many bold claims and offers remarkably little proof. Such is certainly the case with the facts concerning the reliability and historicity of Scripture. Boisterous claims do nothing to bolster their case when Dawkins, Hitchens, and Harris find themselves contradicted by the evidence. If these three are the best that militant atheism has to offer, Christians have nothing to fear.
Butt, Kyle and Eric Lyons (2006), Behold! The Lamb of God (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press).
Dawkins, Richard (2006), The God Delusion (Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin).
Dever, William (2001), “Excavating the Hebrew Bible or Burying It Again?” Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research, 322: 67-77, May.
Dever, William (2005), Did God Have a Wife? (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Ehrman, Bart (2005), Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why (New York: HarperSanFrancisco).
Ehrman, Bart (2008), God’s Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question—Why We Suffer(New York: HarperOne).
Ehrman, Bart (2009), Jesus Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (and Why We Don’t Know About Them) (New York: HarperOne).
Finkelstein, Israel and Neil Asher Silberman (2001), The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology’s New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Its Sacred Texts (New York: Free Press).
Garrett, Duane (2000), Rethinking Genesis: The Sources and Authorship of the First Book of the Pentateuch(Geanies House, Fern: Christian Focus Publications).
Haught, John F. (2008), God and the New Atheism: A Critical Response to Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens(Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox).
Hitchens, Christopher (2007), God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything(New York: Hachette).
Hoffmeier, James K. (1996), Israel in Egypt: The Evidence for the Authenticity of the Exodus Tradition(Oxford: Oxford University Press).
Jackson, Wayne (1991), “Are There Two Creation Accounts in Genesis?” http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/2194.
Kaiser, Walt C. Jr. (2001), The Old Testament Documents: Are They Reliable and Relevant?(Downers Grove, IL: IVP).
Kitchen, Kenneth A., trans. (2000), “The Battle of Kadesh—The Poem, or Literary Record,” The Context of Scripture, Volume Two: Monumental Inscriptions Form the Biblical World(Leiden: Brill).
Kitchen, Kenneth A. (2003), On the Reliability of the Old Testament(Grand Rapids: Eerdmans).
Klinghoffer, David (2007), “Prophets of the New Atheism,” http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/opinion/2003653502_klinghoffer06.html.
Lazare, Daniel (2002), “False Testament: Archaeology Refutes the Bible’s Claim to History,”Harper’s Magazine, 304/1822:39-47, March.
Levin, Yigal (2002), “Let There Be Light,” Harper’s Magazine, 304:4, June.
Lucian of Samosata (no date), “The Death of Peregrine,” in H.W. Fowler and F.G. Fowler (1905),The Works of Lucian of Samosata (Oxford: Clarendon Press).
Mazar, Amihai (1990), Archaeology of the Land of the Bible, 10,000-586 B.C.E.(New York: Doubleday).
Meyers, P.Z. (2006), “The Courtier’s Reply,” http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2006/12/the_courtiers_reply.php.
Miller, Dave (2003), “The Genealogies of Matthew and Luke,” http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/1834.
Mills, David (2006), Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism(Berkley, CA: Ulysses Press).
Prophet, Sean (2008), “Pastor Acknowledges Arguments of New Atheism,” http://www.blacksunjournal.com/atheism/1397_pastor-acknowledges-arguments-of-new-atheism_2008.html.
Reed, Jonathan (2007), The HarperCollins Visual Guide to the New Testament: What Archaeology Reveals about the First Christians (New York: HarperOne).
Sherwin-White, Adrian Nicholas (1963), Roman Society and Roman Law in the New Testament(Oxford: Clarendon).
Wolf, Gary (2006), “Church of the Non-Believers,” http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/14.11/atheism.html.
A Review of the PBS NOVA Television Documentary Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial by Jerry Fausz, Ph.D. Michael G. Houts, Ph.D.
A Review of the PBS NOVA Television Documentary Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial
|by||Jerry Fausz, Ph.D.|
Michael G. Houts, Ph.D.
[EDITOR’S NOTE: The following article was written by two A.P. staff scientists: Dr. Houts holds a Ph.D. in Nuclear Engineering from MIT and serves as the Nuclear Research Manager for NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center; Dr. Fausz holds a Ph.D. in Aerospace Engineering from Georgia Tech and serves as Engineering Project Manager in the Space Systems Development Division of a subsidiary ofSAIC.]
On September 26, 2005, a trial began in the federal court of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, in which 11 parents charged the Dover Area School District with violating the establishment clause of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, thus infringing on their civil rights. Partly at issue was a resolution, passed by the Dover Area School board by a 6-3 vote, that stated:
Students will be made aware of gaps/problems in Darwin’s theory and of other theories of evolution including, but not limited to, intelligent design. Note: Origins of Life is not taught (Jones, 2005, p. 1).
The board passed this resolution on October 18, 2004. Also mentioned in the suit was the board’s vote on November 19, 2004, to require that the following statement be read to all 9th-grade students in the Dover Area School District, beginning in January, 2005:
The Pennsylvania Academic Standards require students to learn about Darwin’s Theory of Evolution and eventually to take a standardized test of which evolution is a part.Because Darwin’s Theory is a theory, it continues to be tested as new evidence is discovered. The Theory is not a fact. Gaps in the Theory exist for which there is no evidence. A theory is defined as a well-tested explanation that unifies a broad range of observations.Intelligent Design is an explanation of the origin of life that differs from Darwin’s view. The reference book, Of Pandas and People, is available for students who might be interested in gaining an understanding of what Intelligent Design actually involves.With respect to any theory, students are encouraged to keep an open mind. The school leaves the discussion of the Origins of Life to individual students and their families. As a Standards-driven district, class instruction focuses upon preparing students to achieve proficiency on Standards-based assessments (Jones, 2005, pp. 1-2).
On December 20, 2005, United States District Judge John E. Jones III delivered a 139-page ruling in favor of the plaintiffs. Not only did the judge give the plaintiffs the declarative relief (stating that the establishment clause of the First Amendment was violated) and injunctive relief (forbidding the Dover Area School District from maintaining their ID [Intelligent Design] policy) that they asked for, he also stated in his ruling the monumental conclusion that Intelligent Design is not a scientific theory.
Almost two years after the conclusion of these federal proceedings, the PBS science seriesNOVA devoted an episode to a discussion of this landmark case, originally broadcast on November 13, 2007. The program may occasionally be re-run on PBS and other networks, but is also viewable in its entirety on the NOVA Web site (NOVA, 2007b). This article will examine the reasons given by the NOVA executive producer as to why she saw fit to draw attention to this anecdote in U.S. history, discuss the impact of the Dover decision on society and education, as related in the NOVA episode, and critique the substance of the program, which NOVA has titled Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial.
PURPOSE OF THE PROGRAM
On the same Web site where Judgment Day can be viewed (in 12 parts), there is a “Q&A” mock interview with Paula S. Apsell, Senior Executive Producer of NOVA. This Q&A provides a fortuitous opportunity, before viewing the program, to understand what motivated its production. The first question to which Ms. Apsell responded was, “This program tackles a contentious issue for many people, particularly for many devout Christians. Why did NOVAand Paul Allen’s Vulcan Productions, your coproducer, take it on?” Ms. Apsell stated:
I think the real reason that we made that decision is because evolution is the foundation of the biological sciences. As Theodosius Dobzhansky, one of the great biologists of the 20th century, once said, “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution” (NOVA, 2007a).
Ms. Apsell also responded to the question, “Why is this topic—and the teaching of evolution—so important?” Her full response to this question was:
Recent polls tells us that 48 percent—almost half of all Americans—still question evolution and still believe that some kind of alternative should be taught in the public schools. What happens when half of the population doesn’t accept one of the most fundamental underpinnings of the sciences? Evolution is the absolute bedrock of the biological sciences. It’s essential to medical science, agriculture, biotechnology. And it’s critical to understanding the natural world around us.We’re a country built on our command of the sciences and technology. But we now face a crisis in science literacy that could threaten our progress in these areas and ultimately threaten our quality of life. So, at NOVA and at Vulcan, we feel that understanding the importance of evolution, and enhancing science literacy in general, are more crucial than ever (2007a).
Understanding what motivates someone to exercise their creative energy can be very useful in deciphering elements of their product that may be otherwise difficult to analyze. This is especially true when considering a controversial subject like ID. Ms. Apsell’s comments indicate a strong bias towards evolution (i.e., against ID), which will prompt us to look for that bias in the program content. Correspondingly, this review will be equally blatant in responding to both the motivation and content of the NOVA program.
For example, Ms. Apsell quotes one of Theodore Dobzhansky’s statements, which is actually the title of one of his papers (Dobzhansky, 1973). The quote does faithfully represent Dobzhansky’s view, as evidenced by the following excerpt from that paper:
The organic diversity becomes, however, reasonable and understandable if the Creator has created the living world not by caprice but by evolution propelled by natural selection. It is wrong to hold creation and evolution as mutually exclusive alternatives. I am a creationist and an evolutionist. Evolution is God’s, or Nature’s method of creation. Creation is not an event that happened in 4004 BC; it is a process that began some 10 billion years ago and is still under way (3:127).
In the first place, the idea that creation was either by “caprice” or by evolution is a textbook example of the logical fallacy of a “bifurcation” or “binary argument.” By creating the image of a capricious God as the only alternative to evolution, Dobzhansky thereby makes the godless theory of evolution appear more attractive. The idea that God would have created the Universe impulsively and without purpose (as implied by “caprice”) is completely foreign to the minds of most creationists, who believe that He created deliberately and with full design intent (purpose)—a third option Dobzhansky ignored. In addition, Dobzhansky does not appear to be sure whether evolution is God’s method, or “Nature’s.” Should we conclude from his statement that nature is, in fact, Dobzhansky’s god? One paragraph prior to this quote, he also states: “Only a creative but blind process could produce...the tremendous biologic success that is the human species....” On the one hand, he infers purpose and direction, calling evolution a “method” of God (or nature?); then, on the other hand, he states that it could only be a “blind” process. These statements suggest that Dobzhansky may have been highly confused, indeed.
Dobzhansky’s mental confusion notwithstanding, there are many who we believe would take great issue with Dobzhansky’s philosophy, as well as Ms. Apsell’s proclamation that “evolution is the foundation of the biological sciences.” For one, Louis Pasteur would certainly disagree. Pasteur formulated and thoroughly tested the germ theory of disease, invented inoculations, as well as the cure for rabies, and developed the process of pasteurization. Did Pasteur give credit to “the light of evolution” for his overwhelming scientific contributions to the welfare of mankind, as Dobzhansky implies that he must? On the contrary, Pasteur stated, “The more I study nature, the more I stand amazed at the work of the Creator” (as quoted in Tiner, 1990, p. 75).
Pasteur also empirically established, to the dismay of naturalists, the Law of Biogenesis, which states that life in the natural world only comes from life. With regard to this accomplishment, Pasteur stated: “Never again shall the doctrine of spontaneous generation recover from the mortal blow that this one simple experiment has dealt it” (1864), and it has not “recovered” to this day. Pasteur further confounded the spontaneous generation crowd, now called chemical evolutionists, with a discovery involving the phenomenon of chirality. This is the observation that certain organic molecules exhibit asymmetry, dubbed right- and left-handedness, and are mirror images of each other. With respect to this asymmetry, Pasteur discovered that all molecules associated with living things are single-handed, instead of a 50/50 mix of both types, as with most substances. Pasteur identified this as a defining characteristic of life, a characteristic that remains an enigma to scientists (evolutionary scientists, anyway). This discovery rendered the idea of life emerging from non-life, as hypothesized by the chemical evolutionists, statisticallyimpossible.
It is also interesting that Ms. Apsell equates a lack of belief in evolution with “a crisis in science literacy that could threaten our progress in these areas and ultimately threaten our quality of life.” We have already mentioned Louis Pasteur, a “science illiterate” by Ms. Apsell’s definition, who has contributed overwhelmingly to “our quality of life.” Other “science illiterates” (a.k.a. creationists) who have significantly benefited mankind in their work include Francis Bacon, who first postulated the scientific method utilized by all scientists today, Carolus Linnaeus, developer of the classification system used by all biologists today, Johannes Kepler, who formulated the laws of planetary motion and confirmed the heliocentrism of our solar system, James Clerk Maxwell, father of the modern science of electrodynamics, and Isaac Newton, who formulated the law of universal gravity and formalized the field of dynamics with his laws of motion. The list of “science illiterates” who have contributed substantially to “our quality of life” is neither short, nor cloaked in obscurity. Thus, the motivation behind this NOVA production reveals either the naiveté or deceitfulness of those who blindly accept the philosophical premises of evolution, and eagerly embrace the movement to establish Darwinian evolution as the dogma of science education.
AN EPIC BATTLE
With their agenda firmly set, the makers of Judgment Day proceeded to cast the judicial proceedings that culminated in Judge Jones’ December 2005 decision as a conflict between the gallant forces of (scientific) truth and the wily imposter of creationism, deceitfully clothed in the disguise of “Intelligent Design.”
Chapter 1 of the on-line version of Judgment Day begins with the narrator stating: “In October 2004, a war broke out in the small town of Dover, Pennsylvania” (NOVA, 2007d). Following a few innocuous statements by ID proponents, the narrator further states:
But many Dover residents and an overwhelming number of scientists throughout the country were outraged. They say intelligent design is nothing but religion in disguise, the latest front in the war on evolution (2007d).
Shortly thereafter, Judge Jones appears, stating, “It was like a civil war within the community, there’s no question.” The word “war” is used three times within the first 10 minutes of the program. In addition, the word “battle” is used four times in this same segment.
Not unexpectedly, the producers of the program do not leave us in the dark as to who they think the “good guys” are in this “war.” Consider the following sequence of statements from the program transcript, also posted on the NOVA Web site:
BILL BUCKINGHAM (Dover School Board Member): To just talk about Darwin to the exclusion of anything else perpetrates a fraud.NARRATOR: But many say intelligent design is the fraud.KENNETH R. MILLER (Brown University): Intelligent design is a science stopper.KEVIN PADIAN (University of California, Berkeley): It makes people stupid.NARRATOR: Eleven Dover residents sued their school board to keep intelligent design out of the classroom. And almost overnight, Dover was catapulted to the front pages of the nation’s newspapers and the front lines in the war on evolution (NOVA, 2007c).
Note that the statement of Bill Buckingham, one of the Dover School Board members in favor ofID, is countered by three statements, including one by the narrator himself, while the outrageous statement, “It [ID] makes people stupid,” is not even challenged. In fact, every statement by an ID proponent in the introductory segment is countered, while statements by evolutionists are more numerous and simply left to stand at face value. Though in her Q&A, Ms. Apsell insists that “it [ID] gets a fair shake in this program,” the introductory segment alone casts significant doubt on the veracity of this claim.
The characterization of ID as an enemy in the “war on evolution” worsens, however. Chapter 3 of the on-line version of the program, titled “Introduction to Intelligent Design,” begins with the story of Lauri Lebo, a journalist covering the trial:
NARRATOR: Lebo began reporting on the controversy. But her interest in the issue was not just professional, it was also personal. Lauri’s father had been the owner of a local radio station, but the oldies format wasn’t paying the bills, and the electric company was about to put him off the air.LAURI LEBO: The next day a gentleman came in who belonged to a local church...wanted to lease programming on the radio station and offered to pay a decent sum of money. And overnight the radio station became a Christian radio station. My father became born again (NOVA, 2007f).
Later in the program, this story is revisited with the following:
NARRATOR: As the legal teams battled it out in court, the clash between intelligent design and evolution was taking a toll on Dover.Local newspaper reporter Lauri Lebo sat through every day of testimony, and the conflict began to drive a wedge between Lauri and her father.LAURI LEBO: He believed that God really should be in science class. He did not believe in science, and he was all worried about me and...because I believed in evolution. And he said, you know, “Well, do you really believe that we came from monkeys?” At that point, I was pretty burned out from the trial, and I didn’t really have the patience that I probably should have had with him, and I just said yeah, I mean, you know? “Yeah, I do believe in evolution, Dad,” you know? And so we’d fight every morning.If you believe in heaven and hell, and you believe you have to be saved, nothing else could possibly matter. Not the First Amendment, not science, not rational debate. All that matters is that you’re going to be rejoined with the people you love most on this Earth (NOVA, 2007i).
The narrator’s leading statement that the “clash” was “taking its toll on Dover” makes the reason for including this anecdote more than clear. Not only ID, but Christianity as well, was portrayed as a subversive element—a plague spreading through Dover, driving “a wedge” in Lauri Lebo’s family and in the Dover School Board. According to the program producers, the enemy in the “war on evolution” is apparently not just ID, but also the Christian faith that drives it. It should come as no surprise that one of the final comments in the program, made by ACLU lawyer Witold “Vic” Walczak, is: “The issue is certainly not over. One of the things that we’ve learned is that the opponents of evolution are persistent and resilient. And they’re still out there” (NOVA, 2007j). Ominous words, indeed!
SCIENCE VERSUS RELIGION?
A core issue in this conflict, as well as in the trial itself, is the question of what constitutes “science.” Clearly, evolution is portrayed as being scientific, while ID is not, according to the program producers and Judge Jones’ decision. The judge’s ruling explicitly stated that ID is not a scientific theory; but is that really the issue? Since Darwinian evolution holds a monopoly with regard to the study of the origins of life within most of our classrooms, perhaps the more relevant question is whether evolution is truly science, or, as Judge Jones described ID, religion in disguise.
For example, a fundamental premise of evolution is that life spontaneously arose from non-life. This premise goes against every related fact we know about biology, especially the Law of Biogenesis, empirically and brilliantly established by Louis Pasteur. This point and others demonstrate that evolution, far from being “one of the fundamental underpinnings of the sciences,”is, in fact, a complete affront to science. Unfortunately, our society has become so willing to sacrifice anything (including science) on the altar of atheism that we now teach as scientific “fact” an atheistic theory that we know does not fit the facts.
The simplest life is far more complex than anything man has ever created. Would we allow our schools to teach as scientific “fact” that space shuttles randomly assemble and launch themselves? As absurd as that may sound, it would be more logical than teaching as scientific “fact” that life spontaneously arose from non-life. With great effort and expense, people assemble and launch space shuttles. However, with even greater effort and expense people have been unable to create anything close to what is considered “simple” life.
Ironically, NOVA and other pro-evolution organizations that claim to be “scientific” typically do not even mention this obvious problem. This fact is glaring when Judgment Day features three different segments designed to overwhelm us with the alleged evidence in favor of Darwinism: Chapter 2, “What is Evolution?” (2007e), Chapter 5, “The Fossil Record” (2007g), and Chapter 6, “A Very Successful Theory” (2007h). Yet, not one of these chapters mentions the fact that Darwinism requires spontaneous generation, nor discusses how it could have happened in spite of infinitely impossible odds. Evolutionists’ strong desire to suppress evidence and discussion, evident in their vigorous opposition to the decisions of the Dover School Board, is yet another indicator that their belief system has little to do with science, and is merely another false religion.
When dealing with evolutionists, it may be more useful to point out that the theory of evolution isnot scientific, rather than trying to convince them that biblical Creationism is scientific. No theory of origins is observable, testable, and repeatable, which places the theories outside the realm of operational science, as the NOVA program and Judge Jones claim regarding Intelligent Design. Even though the evidence strongly favors biblical Creationism, as defined, we cannot claim that it is operational science.
It is also interesting to note that most of the arguments currently put forth by evolutionists and the media are completely irrelevant to the debate. The most prevalent example is the use of natural selection as supposed evidence for molecules-to-man evolution. Both biblical Creationists and evolutionists rely on natural selection, so the process is not a discriminator between the two worldviews.
CHURCH AND STATE
The crux of the legal case in the Dover trial was the accusation that the Dover School Board had violated the establishment clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution—at least, the recent “separation of church and state” interpretation of that clause. It is outside the scope of this review to delve deeply into questions of constitutional interpretation (see Miller, 2006;Miller, 2008). Nevertheless, the Framers of our Constitution never intended for this amendment to impact the decisions of popular government at the Dover, PA (state or city) level. In any case, we will consider the issue of violation of the establishment clause within the context of the liberal First Amendment interpretation that is prevalent today.
The most remarkable statement in the NOVA program was in Judge Jones’ ruling:
Both defendants and many of the leading proponents of intelligent design make a bedrock assumption which is utterly false. Their presupposition is that evolutionary theory is antithetical to a belief in the existence of a supreme being and to religion in general (NOVA, 2007j).
It may be within the scope of the judge’s authority to make a determination that ID is not science, and that the Dover School Board members who introduced the issue were motivated by religious purpose, but to make a statement regarding fundamental religious and theistic belief goes far beyond any semblance of judicial prudence. It is crucial for every American to understand the full implications of this statement. According to the judge’s statement, now law, the idea that evolution could be considered antithetical (an opposing theory) to religion “in general” is “a bedrock assumption which is utterly false.” This is absolutely stunning—and frightening.
The Founders of our nation believed that religion is essential to the survival of popular government (see Miller, 2008). The recent liberal interpretation of the First Amendment seeks to remove this influence from government—to the detriment of our society. Judge Jones takes this one step further, however, asserting that the authority of judicial review (government) should have influence over religious thought in telling literal Genesis creationists, who reject evolution, that the bedrock foundation of their religious belief is false. Realizing that religion has been made impotent to challenge liberal constitutional interpretation, the legal ramifications of the ruling are positively alarming, as the ruling turns the intent of the Founders regarding freedom of religion on its head. It is no wonder that Judge Jones predicted that he would probably be labeled an activist judge because of the ruling.
Shortly after reading the statement above, Judge Jones made another statement in the program:
In an era where we’re trying to cure cancer, where we’re trying to prevent pandemics, where were [sic] trying to keep science and math education on the cutting edge in the United States, to introduce and teach bad science to ninth-grade students makes very little sense to me. You know, garbage in garbage out. And it doesn’t benefit any of us who benefit daily from scientific discoveries (NOVA, 2007j).
Clearly, Judge Jones has strong feelings that impacted the scope and language of his ruling, and may have even influenced the decision itself. Richard Thompson, a Thomas Moore Law Center attorney and representative of the Dover School Board in the case, commented:
I think, first of all, you have to say we had a fair trial. I’m just disturbed about the extent of his opinion, that it went way beyond what, what [sic] he should have gone into deciding matters of science (NOVA, 2007j).
This observation is an understatement. And we should not be less concerned about the extent of the ruling regarding matters of science, than we are about its precedent for judicial interference in matters of religion. Judge Jones stated in his ruling, “Those who disagree with our holding will likely mark it as the product of an activist judge” (2005, p. 137). We mark it as such because the facts presented above justify that claim.
THE WAGES OF COMPROMISE
Judge Jones not only believes that evolutionary theory is consistent with belief in God and “religion in general,” but also sees no problem with establishing his belief via the federal judiciary. How did we get so turned around in our society that religion is not allowed to have any influence on government, or public life for that matter, but a judge can dictate what creationists should believe (or not believe)? Consider the following statement from the Q&A with Ms. Apsell (NOVA, 2007a):
Q: Is evolution inherently anti-religious?Apsell: Not at all. The view that evolution is inherently anti-religious is simply false. Evolution tells us that the diversity of life on this planet could have arisen by natural processes. But for many people of various faiths, this is perfectly compatible with their belief in God as the creator of all nature. I personally believe that the beauty of evolution can enhance your belief in a creator and God.By definition science cannot address the realm of the divine or supernatural. This doesn’t mean that science is anti-religious.And our program, Judgment Day, doesn’t promote either a religious or an anti-religious viewpoint. It accurately covers a trial. And the trial itself did not have an anti-religious viewpoint. I think it’s worth noting that both the judge and the majority of witnesses—including scientists on the plaintiff side—are people of faith (NOVA, 2007a).
Notice that Ms. Apsell does not claim any personal religious belief. In fact, when she says, “this is perfectly compatible with their belief in God,” and “I personally believe that the beauty of evolution can enhance your belief in a creator and God” (emp. added), she leaves the impression that she shares neither of those beliefs. Notwithstanding, she feels perfectly justified in prescribing religious belief to others: “The view that evolution is inherently anti-religious is simply false.” And with respect to the program not promoting “an anti-religious viewpoint,” significant evidence to the contrary has been given above.
Now consider the following excerpt from the first chapter of the on-line version of the program:
ALAN BONSELL: I personally don’t believe in Darwin’s theory of evolution. I’m a creationist. I make no bones about that.NARRATOR: Creationists like Bonsell reject much of modern science in favor [of] a literal reading of the Bible. They believe the Earth is less than 10,000 years old, and that God created everything fully-formed, including humans, in just six days.Although most mainstream religions made peace with evolution decades ago, many creationists still see evolution as incompatible with their faith (NOVA, 2007d).
Notice how the narrator claims that “Creationists...reject much of modern science” (emp. added) and “most mainstream religions made peace with evolution decades ago.” Unjustifiable, unsubstantiated generalizations such as these are often used to marginalize specific groups—in this instance, Bible-believing creationists. We are told that we are outside the “mainstream” and that we reject “much of modern science.”
No doubt, some religious evolutionists truly believe that there is no conflict between creationism and evolution. Perhaps though, there are some who hold no religious views, yet see no conflict between evolution and creation, because they desire a non-confrontational, subtle method of subjugating religious belief to modern scientific thought. Judgment Day wraps this viewpoint in a blanket of anti-Christian sentiment.
Those who first compromised biblical creationism with evolution have, without a doubt, opened a Pandora’s box of anti-religious abuse. Indeed, they have catalyzed the very process that has flipped our society on its head, giving place to scientists, judges, TV producers, and even atheists, who desire to dictate to devout people what their view of creation ought to be. We are paying a severe price for their compromise of the simple truths of God’s Word. And what we have witnessed until now is certainly only the beginning.
The conflict between evolution and creation is a very real clash of worldviews that has highly tangible implications for society, the church, and the very survival of our form of government. The NOVA program Judgment Day explores this conflict from the perspective of an evolutionist worldview. This fact is clear from the statements of Paula Apsell in the Q&A segment on the NOVA Web site. In light of her bias, we should not expect the program to be fair to Intelligent Design, much less to a creationist worldview, even though it alleges objectivity. The program’s lack of fairness to ID, creationism, and even Christianity, has been documented in this article by examples from the program’s own transcripts.
This leads to the conclusion that the purpose behind the making of Judgment Day was to build on the momentum of the Dover Trial to gain further ground in promoting Darwinian evolution in opposition to biblical creationism. This intent is evident in Ms. Apsell’s lament that so many people still reject Darwinian evolution in spite of its domination of public education for decades. In the spirit of true Orwellian doublespeak, she refers to this rejection of evolution as “scientific illiteracy.”
In support of its purpose, Judgment Day goes to great lengths to marginalize those who dare to question Darwinian evolution and those who choose to believe in biblical creation. Momentum for this purpose is derived from the presiding judge of the Dover Trial, Judge Jones, who stated that the creationist views of the Dover School Board members who supported ID were “utterly false” because those beliefs are based on the “assumption” that evolution is “antithetical” to a belief in a supreme being, or religion itself. By establishing a judicial view of “religion” as defined by that which is not antithetical to evolution (“establishment” in First-Amendment verbiage), NOVAis empowered in their pursuit to further marginalize those who disagree with them by the full authority of the U.S. government.
It cannot be overstated that a major contributing factor in the ability of evolutionists to marginalize creationists is that many creationists have marginalized themselves by accepting evolutionist views, in spite of empirical and biblical evidence to the contrary. NOVAcapitalizes on these compromises as primary means to promote its agenda through the Judgment Day program. The most important thing Christian creationists can do, while engaged in this clash of worldviews, is accept God at His word, and esteem His Word above “science falsely so called” (1 Timothy 6:20)—and to encourage others to do the same.
Dobzhansky, Theodore (1973), “Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution,”The American Biology Teacher, 3:125-129, March.
Jones, III, John E. (2005), “Tammy Kitzmiller, et al., v. Dover Area School District: Memorandum Opinion,” [On-line], URL: http://www.pamd.uscourts.gov/kitzmiller/kitzmiller_342.pdf.
Miller, Dave (2006), “America, Christianity, and the Culture War (Part I),” Reason & Revelation, 2641-47, June, [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/2942.
Miller, Dave (2008), “Christianity is in the Constitution,” [On-line], URL:http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/3800..
NOVA (2007a), “Intelligent Design on Trial/Senior Executive Producer’s Story,” [On-line],URL: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/NOVA/ID/apsell.html.
NOVA (2007b), “Intelligent Design on Trial/Watch the Program,” [On-line], URL:http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/NOVA/ID/program.html.
NOVA (2007c), “Transcripts/Intelligent Design on Trial,” [On-line], URL:http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/NOVA/transcripts/3416_ID.html.
NOVA (2007d), “Transcripts/Intelligent Design on Trial Chapter 1,” [On-line], URL:http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/NOVA/transcripts/3416_ID_01.html.
NOVA (2007e), “Transcripts/Intelligent Design on Trial Chapter 2,” [On-line], URL:http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/NOVA/transcripts/3416_ID_02.html.
NOVA (2007f), “Transcripts/Intelligent Design on Trial Chapter 3,” [On-line], URL:http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/NOVA/transcripts/3416_ID_03.html.
NOVA (2007g), “Transcripts/Intelligent Design on Trial Chapter 5,” [On-line], URL:http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/NOVA/transcripts/3416_ID_05.html.
NOVA (2007h), “Transcripts/Intelligent Design on Trial Chapter 6,” [On-line], URL:http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/NOVA/transcripts/3416_ID_06.html.
NOVA (2007i), “Transcripts/Intelligent Design on Trial Chapter 9,” [On-line], URL:http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/NOVA/transcripts/3416_ID_09.html.
NOVA (2007j), “Transcripts/Intelligent Design on Trial Chapter 12,” [On-line], URL:http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/NOVA/transcripts/3416_ID_12.html.
Pasteur, Louis (1864), “An address delivered by Louis Pasteur at the ‘Sobonne Scientific Soiree’ of April 7, 1864,” [On-line], URL: http://shell.cas.usf.edu/~alevine/pasteur.pdf.
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