Evidence vs Proof

Is evidence the same as proof? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

A lot of people in dialogue, especially on the internet, will regularly state that there’s no evidence for a position. There is also the belief that if a position is false, there will be no evidence for it. Both of these statements are false and show someone has a bad idea of knowledge and truth.

Evidence is data that would lend credibility to a position. Proof is something that makes it absolutely certain. There is very little that we have proof for. Mathematics is one such area. Logic is another. Note with logic however that it alone cannot show if something is true. It can show you something is false.

Logic depends on the data that you give it. Consider the following syllogism.

All dolphins have six legs.
Lassie is a dolphin.
Lassie has six legs.

This syllogism is entirely accurate. If the premises are true, the conclusion follows with certainty. Unfortunately, the data is not true.

Now let’s consider another one.

All men are rational.
Gabriel is rational.
Gabriel is a man.

This one is not valid. Gabriel could be the name of your male neighbor down the street or his son. It could also be the angel Gabriel and even if you’re an atheist reader, for the sake of argument, it can be realized the argument makes sense. You can see this works this way by replacing the terms.

All cats have four legs.
Lassie has four legs.
Lassie is a cat.

The problem is that there are many other things that have four legs that are not cats. Thus, you have to make a statement about the cats and not the legs. The syllogism doesn’t work. Again, this is all based on the data you plug in.

Mathematics is another area that has proof in it. We don’t have to repeatedly test mathematics. It just works that way. Notice one area wasn’t mentioned at all science.

That’s right. There is no proof in science. That doesn’t mean it’s unreliable. There are areas that we can be practically certain of because the data is so good. This does mean that a creationist can say that evolution is not proven, which is true, but that doesn’t mean it’s false or even likely false. It could still mean really good data needs to be presented otherwise. Again, that’s a debate for the scientists and not for me.

The same applies to history. I fully admit this even saying Christianity is a historical claim that depends on history. I think the Thomistic arguments for God’s are certain as they are deductive arguments and if the data put in is right and there are no logical fallacies, which I support, then God certainly exists. Christianity does not have proof in that sense, but I think it does have really good evidence.

Someone could claim there is no proof, for example, that Jesus died by crucifixion. This is true, but the data for it is so good that the burden is definitely on the skeptic to show otherwise. Again, there is plenty of evidence so much so that we are at the area of what is considered practical proof.

Now while I said there is proof I think for God, is there any evidence for atheism? Yes. The problem of evil. Do I consider this convincing evidence? No. There is too much evidence on the other side in my opinion.

This can happen politically as well. Consider when Brett Kavanaugh was being confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court. The question came up if he was guilty of rape in the past. Was there evidence? Yes. There was a claim brought forth by someone heard before Congress and there were many stories later retracted. Saying there were stories doesn’t mean they were convincing stories. Many of us were highly skeptical.

What can we learn from this kind of information? Saying something has evidence for it does not mean that it is true. Anyone who reads a mystery can see this. In a court case, both sides will bring forward evidence. The evidence only works really for one side. The other side is misinterpreting the data or some of the data is just false.

It also means that to say there is no proof of a claim is not a problem. There isn’t proof for scientific claims, but that doesn’t mean it’s ridiculous to believe them. I’m not going to try to walk across the interstate with traffic blazing by because there’s no proof that it will hurt me if I get hit by a car. There is some really good evidence.

It’s also largely atheists going with this. Anyone who says there is no evidence for God or the New Testament just doesn’t understand evidence. At the same time, science is treated as if it’s the strongest area of proof when it isn’t. Science has some of the greatest practical benefit to us, but it doesn’t equal proof.

Be on the lookout for this. Evidence is not a clincher and very little has proof.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

Don’t Stop With A Question

Do some skeptics really want answers? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Have you ever seen a meme like this?

Now I fully agree that reality is interesting and we should not be content with ignorance. Unfortunately, the idea is that religions treat questions as something hideous to encounter and science loves the questions. Also, if you are someone who is scientific, you will want to go and find out the answers.

Now never mind that something like this never defines science or religion, but I can’t expect a meme to do something like that. I do have something to say on the idea I see that leads me to think that many skeptics do not truly have a scientific mindset. Anyone can raise a question, but how many questions are raised that one goes out and seeks the answers?

For instance, let’s consider a question in science. Many readers of my blog know I take no stance on evolution. I do not argue for it and I do not argue against it. My interpretation of Scripture doesn’t change depending on the question or does any doctrine of Christianity I hold to.

Yet if I had one question, it would be this. In reproduction, the whole of the male and female systems are essential and have to work together in order to produce a new life. I really don’t know how it is that these could develop independently. I can understand how some body systems could perhaps be formed by gradual steps. This one I don’t see.

At the same time, I know I am not studied in the sciences and so I don’t use that as a reason to disavow evolution entirely and say it’s nonsense. Some I have interacted with who do hold to evolution have presented real research done on this question which I appreciate. I honestly haven’t had the chance to do any of that yet since not too much hangs on this question to me. Before I said yes or no entirely to evolution, I would need to spend a lot of time in study and really, I have other things I want to study more.

Yet it would be a problem if I raised the question and said, “I see no answer to this question and I am not bothering to do the research and I will decide without doing that.” However, I think too many people do this with religion, and not just Christianity, but any religion. Of course, my main emphasis is on Christianity, but if you are fair to any worldview, the same applies.

Every worldview is complex. You are talking about how all of reality works. There will be hard questions and no, not every answer can fit into the Twitter character limit. Some questions require longer and more in-depth answers.

This is not just the way it is for religious worldviews. Theists have a lot of hard questions for atheists and atheists being honest will admit that these are real questions that need real answers if their worldviews are going to hold. The same applies for Christianity and any theistic worldview.

Anyone can raise a question, but if someone raises a question and says that question is keeping them from that position and is not seeking an answer to that question, I have to wonder if it is really an honest question. One such example against Christianity is the problem of evil. I really consider this a more simplistic way to try to eliminate Christianity. However, it does appeal to emotions which can easily override reason.

For one thing, everyone has to answer this question. This is our world together and we all have to deal with it. A skeptic could say that’s just the byproduct of a world of chaos, but at that point, someone like G.K. Chesterton would ask how the problem of pleasure is dealt with. Why is there so much that is good in this world? For some reason, this is not usually considered a problem, but it is.

Not only do we have to deal with evil, somehow we have to ask if there is any hope. Now a skeptic could freely agree and say “I agree that Christianity can provide hope for those suffering in an afterdeath, but there’s no way to prove that.” Sure. There isn’t, but this is about consistency. Is the Christian answer coherent and can it provide hope? Yes. That doesn’t mean it’s true, but it does mean it is consistent. (And no, just because an answer involves God does not mean that it is incoherent)

Anyone can raise the objection, but go and read the best defenses of the problem of evil, people like Alvin Plantinga and Clay Jones. See what they have to say. Maybe you won’t be convinced, but you can at least know what they think.

In the same way, whatever your question is, try to read the best that you can of what you’re questioning. Contrary to what you may think, Christians at least have been asking questions of themselves. If you go and read some of the early church fathers or later thinkers like Aquinas and Augustine, you would be tempted to think they were answering questions we are asking today. You could even say we were sometimes answering questions that weren’t even being asked. I seriously doubt in Aquinas’s day some people were questioning if God even existed, but lo and behold, his five ways are still used today.

Again, anyone can ask a question. Going and getting an answer is something different. It may require work and time, but if you care about a truth like that enough to a central question, it should be worth it.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)
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Science Skepticism

Why are many of us skeptical of the reigning paradigm? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Yesterday, I blogged about Abigail Shrier’s book Irreversible Damage about the transgender movement. In it, I found that if anyone went against the reigning narrative in transgenderism, then they were shut down and not allowed to speak. Color me skeptical then when I hear that all the leaders in thinking on this issue in the world of science go with the movement. After all, if someone in the field who is a leader speaks and disagrees, they no longer qualify, and who knows how many others don’t speak out of fear of losing their livelihood?

Not only that, but many of us today find it absurd to say that the reality of male and female which has been attested to since as long as man has been around, is suddenly no longer real based on that science of the day. It would make as much sense as science telling us that rape is not wrong. It would be like telling me that blue is really red.

This doesn’t help in other areas either as we naturally then have skepticism there. Some of these beliefs that are held to be mainstream could be true. Some could not. The most obvious case upfront is evolution. I am someone who does not care about evolution one way or another, but I do understand the skepticism that many of my fellow believers have.

It’s important to notice also that another reason for that skepticism is many Christians get the idea that the matter in science is either/or. You can either keep your belief in God or have belief in science on these issues. For many people, the idea of God is a greater reality to them than the idea of thought that has shown up only recently. In their minds, they have firsthand knowledge of what all God has done for them.

By the way, it doesn’t help when it goes the other way either. It doesn’t help when Christians tell atheists that they have to disbelieve in evolution or some other scientific idea in order to be a Christian. The first step in being a Christian is believing that Jesus died and rose again for your sins. If one has other false beliefs, which they will have and do have, then work on those beliefs later.

Climate change is another one. I can remember a time in my day when the fear was that there would be an ice age that would come upon us all. I am forty years old which means it was not too long ago and yet, that was the science. Today, I am told the exact opposite. Not only that, I am told the measures I have to take to stop this are rather extreme. Consider also that since I believe God won’t let the planet be destroyed this way, I am skeptical.

I am reading a book right now on the Coronavirus panic that echoes many of my thoughts. There was one time I was majorly concerned about it, but it lasted only a day and got help after talking to some knowledgeable friends. Other than that, I have seen a lot of hysteria, but you dare not question the paradigm. After all, if you do that, you don’t really care about the other people do you? This, despite the fact that my concern is those other people have jobs and they need to be able to provide for their families and we’re not helping by keeping them from doing that.

This also can show up in other fields, such as in history. Today, many schoolchildren grow up believing that Columbus sailed to show the Earth was not flat. That’s what I grew up being taught. That’s a complete myth. Many atheists talk about the Inquisition as if it wiped out half of Europe. That’s also a myth.

The difference with the science is we are often told that if anything is true, it must be able to be scientifically demonstrated. Whatever the science shows, this kind of idea is nonsense. Not everything can be scientifically demonstrated. These scientific ideas also, lo and behold, often seem to be tied to the political paradigm of the day as well. Isn’t that convenient?

If anything, I find it amazing that the people I meet who claim to be skeptics are the ones who are least skeptical in these areas. Whatever the reigning paradigm is, they jump right on board with it immediately. The questions that those on the outside have, well those are the questions of the ignorant masses and they’re not really worth taking seriously.

Which cases are wrong and right in science? Not mine to decide. Some I think are definitely inaccurate, such as the transgender movement. Others, I could not speak authoritatively one way or the other, though I have my skepticism of them. Those on that side need to instead of shouting down the skeptics (And this applies to Christians also when we encounter skeptics of Christianity) need to be able to hear our very real questions and concerns and be able to reply. Shutting down the other side for speaking differently never changes their minds. As a recent example, I seriously doubt any conservatives changed their mind on politics just because the Parler app went down. If anything, that only makes our concerns look more plausible. Keep one side from talking, and it looks like the side in charge has something to hide after all.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

Contrary To Popular Belief, Ellen Page Is A Woman

Is society wrong on gender? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Today, I woke up and heard the news that Ellen Page, known for the movie Juno among others, has decided that she is a man. Of course, what hard data is there to present for this belief? None. I went to look her up when I got home to see what news there was and lo and behold, before too long, I found myself looking at Elliot Page.

And Wikipedia is already updated.

Elliot Page (born Ellen Grace Philpotts-Page; February 21, 1987) is a Canadian actor and producer. He first became known for his role in the film and television series Pit Pony (1997–2000), for which he won a Young Artist Award, and for recurring roles in Trailer Park Boys (2002) and ReGenesis (2004). Page also received recognition for his role in the film Hard Candy (2005), and won the Austin Film Critics Association‘s Award for Best Actress.

Page had his cinematic breakthrough with the title role in Jason Reitman‘s film Juno (2007), earning nominations for an Academy Award, a BAFTA Award, a Critics’ Choice Awards, a Golden Globe Award and a Screen Actors Guild Award. He also earned praise for roles in The Tracey Fragments (2007), Whip It (2009), Super (2010), Inception (2010), and Tallulah (2016). Page has also portrayed Kitty Pryde in the X-Men films The Last Stand (2006) and Days of Future Past (2014), produced the film Freeheld (2015) in which he also starred, and made his directorial debut with the documentary There’s Something in the Water (2019). Since 2019, he has portrayed Vanya Hargreeves in the Netflix series The Umbrella Academy.

Page publicly came out as a gay woman in February 2014 and subsequently as transgender in December 2020, announcing his new name as Elliot Page.

I also saw someone on Twitter commenting on someone posting about this and saying “It doesn’t cost you anything to use proper respect and the pronouns they want.” Well, yes. It does cost us something. It costs us reality.

Reality is too many women are going out even earlier in their lives and declaring that they’re transgender. This is also going against the trends. Gender Dysphoria is a real thing, but it usually happens predominantly among men. This is happening in greater numbers with women and often in groups and often after spending a lot of time on social media or hearing a speaker at a school.

The problem is this is based on how the person feels. We don’t do this in other areas. Suppose you’re a doctor and you have a girl come to you who weighs looking at her about eighty pounds or so. She to you is apparently skin and bones. She is telling you she is hideous because she is so fat and she asks if you can give her weight loss medicine. Are you going to do it? She feels fat. She really does.

Do it you and you could be responsible for her death and sued for weight loss. Anorexia is a serious condition and the person’s feelings do not match reality. They are in no way fat.

A person with Cotard Delusion is not really dead and we don’t treat them by putting a tag on their toe and sending them to the morgue. A person with Jerusalem Syndrome is not helped by declaring that they really are the Messiah. If someone believes that they can fly, we do not throw them off of a skyscraper to prove otherwise.

Yet here we jump right on board and say the person’s feelings are accurate when all the physical evidence we have from their body and DNA says “No.” We’re also told that this is the science of the day. If some people wonder sometimes why so many people are skeptical of science on topics like evolution or climate change, this is one reason.

This is certainly not to say that people who believe this are to be condemned or treated harshly. They are to be loved just as much, but if a person has a delusional belief, you do not show love to them by enabling them in that delusion.

We are also saying that a person’s emotions dictate reality. They don’t. You do not get to hold reality hostage by your feelings. Because you feel like you are the opposite sex, I should in no way be forced to agree with that belief. You can think you are the Messiah all you want, but I will not be forced to bow down and call you Lord.

So we will wait and see what Ellen Page does to mutilate her body if she goes that route, but remember the old question. How many legs does a dog have if you count the tail as a leg? Answer. Four. Counting the tail as a leg does not make it a leg. You can call Ellen Page whatever you want, but it will not change reality. She is and always will be a woman. The more we find ourselves trying to push against reality, the more it will push back until one day it breaks. I dread seeing what will happen when it does.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

Book Plunge: The God Virus Conclusion

How do we end this? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Our final look starts with chapters on science. Basically, it looks like at the beginning Ray is saying “Theology doesn’t have a testing method like science does so science is better.” No. Not better. Just different. If we assume that the material world is orderly and things work in an orderly fashion, then we can test things repeatedly. Other fields though are not the same way. Philosophy, literature, economics, history, and many other fields of study do not have a methodology like science because of the subject matter they study.

At the same time, this gives me good reason to actually NOT put as much trust in science. After all, what we accept as proven science today could be what historians might look on in the future and say “What were they thinking then?” On the other hand, moral truths like “It is wrong to torture babies for fun” are not known through science and will quite likely stand the test of time.

Because of the way science is, nothing in science is known with absolute certainty. Everything is subject to change. What is far less subject to change are the philosophical principles science is founded on. Some things are surely more certain in science than others, some that at least now it would be ridiculous to deny, but proof is not there.

On p. 223, Ray tells us there have been many crucified saviors. There have been many who had virgin births and were of royal lineage. Problem is, he never names one. That’s a shame. I would have enjoyed seeing such a list. Spoiler alert. There aren’t any others.

This is something important to point out. We have seen many misquotations of people by atheists, including Ray. This kind of argument about crucified saviors is a really bad one mainly find on the internet. Ray wants us to treat science seriously, but he’s not willing to do the same for beliefs outside of his field.

In the end, that’s really what we have. No taking seriously of outside beliefs. Ray doesn’t quote any Christian scholars or historians or philosophers or anything of that sort. Ray says he grew up in a fundamentalist movement and it shows. He has never left that mindset. Now, instead of serious interaction, he can just claim people have a virus. Christians might say that atheists have a demon. Ray has just come up with a fundamentalist atheist counterpart to that.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

Book Plunge: The God Virus Part 7

What else is happening in the God Virus? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

For now, we’re going to move a bit faster through the book. There really isn’t as much to say as most chapters seem to just be echoing later chapters. No. There are no real arguments in the book.

He starts off with talking about how many members of the National Academy of Sciences believe in God. However, Rob Bowman answered this years ago when Victor Stenger brought it up. As he said,

Assuming that’s true, how does one get into the NAS? Here’s what the National Academy of Sciences website says: “Because membership is achieved by election, there is no membership application process. Although many names are suggested informally, only Academy members may submit formal nominations.” In other words, it’s an exclusive club that decides who may even be considered for membership. According to a 2010 article in Scientific American, about 18,000 American citizens earn PhDs in the sciences or engineering every year. There are only about 2,200 members in the NAS, and no more than 84 new members are inducted each year. Even the geniuses in the NAS can figure out that its membership does not represent an adequately representative sampling of well-trained scientists.

Much more of what is said is about how Ray thinks the “virus” spreads. This is still more of the same about secret techniques used in evangelism and the like. I personally think atheist evangelists do the same kinds of things. He also has a section on living rationally in a non-rational world. After all, it should be obvious that anyone who is theistic in any sort of way must be irrational. Right?

There is a section on the new atheists where he says that people see Richard Dawkins and others and think they’re angry atheists. Ray says he doesn’t see that at all and thinks it’s just projection and proceeds to tell us that Christians saying that are angry Christians. Does he not even notice that he could be doing what he just said Christians are doing?

Now I personally think that sometimes Dawkins and Hitchens at least can come across as angry. Projection on my part? Doubtful. More of their accusations just usually make me laugh. Still, their emotion makes no difference. What matters is the data, and their data just isn’t there.

Much of what happens after this is simply also personal coping strategies with suffering and death and about how to talk to people who are “infected.” Naturally, there’s nothing in there about “What happens if you meet a theist who knows what they’re talking about?” It’s things like this that will do more damage to the atheistic movement. It’s easier to just psychologize your opponent instead of dealing with his arguments. I find it happens when opponents in a debate tell me I really know XYZ, when I really don’t.

We’ll continue next time.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

Book Plunge: The God Virus Part 1

What do I think of Darrel Ray’s book published by IPC Press? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Oh my! There are atheist books out there that actually try to make a convincing argument, but this is not one of them. At least, that’s not the way I see it. It’s as if today atheists want to compete to see who can write the worst one out there.

This one is an older one published in 2009, but while age might improve wine and friendships, it doesn’t always improve books. I was asked to read this by someone and thinking them someone I want to take seriously if I remember rightly who it was, I ordered it. Going through this one has been funny at times, but a labor at others.

Ray writes the whole time as if religion is a virus and he uses metaphors for viruses throughout. It really doesn’t work well. The work comes across as very depersonalizing and instead of really treating religion seriously, it looks like Ray, who apparently has a Master’s in religion, doesn’t really know much about it.

For one thing, he never even defines the term. He just comes out of the gate talking about religion and I’m sitting here wondering “What do you mean by the term?” This is especially problematic when later on he gets to movements like Marxism and the rise of Lenin and those get treated like religions too. Those are atheistic movements and yet somehow an atheistic movement is a religion.

Ray also says he starts with an experiment. You talk with a deeply Christian friend (Assuming you’re not a theist) about Muhammad. You agree he was delusional thinking he was talking to God and the Koran is definitely his work and he didn’t fly to Heaven on a horse, etc. Then he says imagine you wrote a transcript of the conversation and gave it to them.

“During the conversation you bother agree that Jesus was probably delusional to think he could talk to Jehovah. The Bible was clearly written by men and not by Jehovah. You both agree that it is ludicrous to claim that he is the last prophet and that all later ones are false. Neither of you can believe that he rose from the dead nor flew to heaven. It all sounds too crazy, and it is difficult to see how someone could believe such a religion. At the end of the conversation, you both agree that Christians did not choose their religion; they were born into it. Anyone who was exposed to both Christianity and Islam would see that Islam is the true religion.”

And thus is the experiment. Present this to your Christian friend and they will turn defensive (Imagine that. When you question what someone believes, they might actually defend what they believe! Gasp!) Will they make elaborate arguments that have no factual basis? Will they cut you off and terminate your friendship?

Some of us will give arguments and if Ray wants to say they have no factual basis, it will be up to him to demonstrate that. Good luck. Without that, he’s just engaging in presuppositional atheism.

However, on this very page after talking about a friendship enduring, he goes on to talk about an associate of his who lost a father to cancer. After that, he became a Christian and any time they talked religion crept in and before too long, Ray stopped seeing him altogether. This on the very same page as the above questions.

So if you challenge a Christian, your friendship might not endure. However, when Ray hears someone talking about Jesus so much, their friendship can’t endure. How is this not seen?

In just three paragraphs, Ray deals with near-death experiences. Does he look at any with evidential claims in them? Not a one. Does he mention any researchers in the field that endorse such arguments? No. He points to one doctor who says it’s the brain trying to make sense of an experience. He also tells us that we can bring about the emotion of NDEs by stimulating certain parts of the brain. This is likely true, but irrelevant. We can stimulate many things, but that doesn’t mean that we aren’t stimulating real things.

But again, without dealing with real evidential cases, Ray is not doing his proper work. Throughout the book Ray will talk about theists shutting off logic and critical thinking. Physician! Heal thyself!

On p. 30 in a footnote he says that during witch trials in Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries, historians estimate that 200,000 people died. Inquiring minds want to know who these historians are. Ray never tells us. Too many atheist readers will lap this up and believe it instantly. Those of us who actually care about evidence want to know more.

In a footnote on p. 32 he mentions Bruno as one who questioned the suppositions of religion and paid a price for it. Another such example he mentions is Galileo. People who make this claim have likely never read anything by Bruno. As for Galileo, he questioned Catholic interpretations, but he never once questioned the truth of Christianity.

On p. 39, he speaks about fundamentalism where people are immune to influence and ignore any evidence that contradicts their beliefs. Note, this is from a man who at least halfway through the book has not interacted with one opposing scholar so far. Ray also regularly writes about his fundamentalist upbringing. I do not question he had one. I also do not question that he has not escaped it. His thinking is still very much the same way.

On p. 42, he says Christians early on were instructed on how to take over political institutions. I would love to know where he sees this, but he does not say. Maybe all those things about honoring the emperor and praying for him and things like that. That’s how you take over government after all.

When we get to p. 48, he describes Marxism as a god virus. How this is a god virus when it is inherently atheistic is not explained. It’s a convenient way though to avoid having to question your own movement. Any movement that has mass death behind it must be a religious movement. It can’t possibly be atheistic!

Naturally, on p. 51, he says science education is the answer to religion. There is never a connection made here. There are plenty of fine scientists who have no trouble with being theists at all. Ray gives no arguments here.

When we return next time, we’ll start with the chapter on American Civil Religion, which is definitely a hideous chapter as far as evidential claims are concerned.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

Book Plunge: Retrieving Augustine’s Doctrine of Creation

What do I think of Gavin Ortlund’s book published by IVP? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Gavin Ortlund is a pastor and a scholar.

Yeah. I know. I didn’t realize that was legal either. Pastors can actually be well-educated and write scholarly books?

Thank God they can and we need more like that. This book is on Augustine and his doctrine of creation. What can we learn from him on this? After all, he did not know about Darwin and the theory of evolution. He did not know about what modern science says about the age of the Earth. He did not know about Einstein and cosmology. We also have about 1,400 years of biblical exegesis on him now.

If we think we cannot, we miss out. As Ortlund tells us, Augustine’s time was a different time and they had different issues and debates going on which can cause them to see our issues and debates in a new light. Imagine a table where you have Francis Collins from BioLogos, Hugh Ross from Reasons to Believe, and Ken Ham from Answers in Genesis all sitting together debating creation. Augustine comes and joins them. What will he add to the conversation? What will he take away from it?

Let’s start with one of the first lessons he can teach everyone at the table. Humility. Augustine did hold strongly to his positions, but when he wrote, he also said “This position that I disagree with now could be right.” He is not dogmatic in his stances and does not hold only one position on the matter of creation as the Christian position. While we debate how long it took, many might be surprised to hear what Augustine would say. Young-earthers sometimes ask old-earthers about God taking so long to create. Augustine would say the same to young-earthers since he held that creation was instantaneous and Anselm even said that was the most common view in his time years later.

The first lesson that Augustine would want to teach us I think is that we need humility to be able to listen instead of just try to respond. What are the concerns of the intellectual opponents. Why do they hold their position? Should we really be calling their faith into question over this topic? You cannot tell someone’s commitment to Christ solely based on how they answer questions on evolution or the age of the Earth.

Augustine could also tell us a lot about the literal interpretation of Genesis. He wrote a book called that and yet we today would not think his interpretations are very literal. He’s got figurative and allegorical meanings in his understanding of creation. Yet despite this, he also does pay attention to the historical matters in the book. He does tend to want to take it to be historical, but his main concern is how we see the Scriptures. Augustine would have more understanding to someone who takes the passages in a figurative or allegorical sense and yet holds to inerrancy than one who rejects them because he thinks they don’t cohere with modern science and that the Bible just got it wrong thinking the Bible requires one interpretation.

What about animal death? This is a big one and we can be tempted to think that modern science again has caused many people to think animal death was going on before the Fall and Augustine would be unfamiliar with that debate. We would be inaccurate. Augustine spoke about animal predation. He would tell us it’s unwise for us to critique the design of the universe in this area like it would be unwise for a layman to go into an engineer’s office and see many of the tools and be critical not knowing what the tools represent.

For Augustine, creation is a key doctrine and the one that gets him the most enthralled quite likely. He has endless praise for even the simple worm. He does see something beautiful in even predation. The way the system works together is amazing as he says old life needs to pass away to make room for new life. Augustine also lived in a time before the world was touched by Disney. We can automatically think hunting is evil after hearing the story of Bambi after all.

The chapter on evolution is wonderfully named. Can we evolve on evolution without falling on the fall? This chapter deals with how we should see evolution. Ortlund doesn’t take any side in this actually, but he says many of the debates aren’t new. For this one, it usually comes down to the historical Adam and there are evolutionary creationists who think Adam is historical.

Yet even before the coming of Darwin, many interpreters of Genesis were suggesting that Adam was not the only human being on Earth. When the story of Adam and Eve took place, there were other humans there. This explains where Cain got his wife, Cain building a city for inhabitants, and the avoidance of inbreeding to bring about new people.

I am not saying this is what Ortlund says happened as he admits he doesn’t know enough of the science to comment, but I think he just wants us to be more open. Even if we can’t agree in dialogue, is there a way we can have better dialogues? If all three organizations could meet at the table, have a heated debate, and in the end shake hands and leave as fellow Christians and friends though still disagreeing, I think Ortlund would be pleased and even more, I think Augustine would as well.

Those interested in the debate about creation and evolution and Genesis should read this book. Again, I think the main lesson to learn is humility. Reading Augustine could cause us to look with new eyes at creation.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

Another Bad Atheistic Argument

Does the size of the universe prove there is no God? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I check writings of atheists often and I got a blog notification this morning of an atheist blog that will remain nameless. I commented once in response to a post here and soon found my comments being moderated while my opponents got to keep going on. Underhanded movements in comments are something that cause me to ignore someone very quickly.

But today, I see a post about proof of atheism. Hey. I gotta see what this stellar argument is. As I expected though, I was gravely disappointed. This argument as not stellar at all, other than that it was about space.

The idea was about how vast the universe is and we can’t explore it all and how many stars there must be out there. Why would a being of omniscience or omnipotence do this? Now that is a good question. I leave it to the more scientifically minded to address it. However, the author made no attempt to answer and just said that we don’t know what brought about the Big Bang, but it sure wasn’t God.

Because, well, reasons I guess.

Now notice this. This argument just points to something we don’t know and assumes right off that there can be no good reason for this. Considering how limited our knowledge of the universe really is, isn’t that a hasty conclusion to make? Why should we think there’s no good reason for it?

Not only that, suppose I have several philosophical arguments for God, like the Thomistic arguments, that are deductive arguments such as the conclusion is reached with certainty from the premises. If so, then those arguments trump an “I don’t know” argument any day of the week. I can just as well say back, “I don’t know either” and still have my strong case for theism.

We’re also often told that religion stops people from answering questions and science goes “Let’s find out!” Well where is that scientific attitude here? Instead, it’s just “I don’t know” and then “It’s not God.”

The argument is also actually theological. “If there is a God, He would not create this way.” Really? How is that known? Where is this data coming about that if a god exists of any kind, He wouldn’t create in such and such a way?

Even if we granted the challenge to monotheism, couldn’t we hypothetically say that perhaps polytheism is instead true and atheism is still false? After all, the world of comic books is a world populated with several planets and universes and such, and yet it is often a world teeming with gods. Of course, I don’t think that is true, but that would still be enough to show atheism still has work to do.

If you’re an atheist, please don’t engage in such lazy thinking. If you want to make a claim about how God would or wouldn’t do something or why He would or wouldn’t, bring some data. Where do you get this knowledge of God and what He is like? Also, it is not effective to say, “I wouldn’t do it this way.” Okay, but I think we can all agree you’re far from omniscient and omnipotent and it’s just ridiculous arrogance to think you can come anywhere close to that.

A lot of self-respecting atheists would not make this kind of argument out there. They’d actually be agreeing with a lot of what I say in this post I suspect. There are bad arguments for theism and bad arguments for atheism. We should make it a point to eliminate both wherever we see them.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

Book Plunge: Seeking Truth

What do I think of Timm Todd’s book published by TT Publishing? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

This was one of those rare occurrences for me when I was given the book by someone I knew in person. He mailed it to me, but we met beforehand and he didn’t have a copy then. It’s always intriguing to read something by someone who isn’t as well-known in the field and is willing to step out and take a step in that direction.

So Todd’s book is arguing mainly for intelligent design as showing that there is a creator. On this, I must say I cannot really comment. I do not really go for scientific arguments for theism and that includes intelligent design. I cannot really speak then to the arguments for ID at the start of the book. They could be great or they could be terrible. A scientist would need to evaluate them.

From there though, we get into more philosophical arguments that I prefer like the moral argument. Readers of my work know that my problem with the moral argument is that it’s fine insofar as it goes, but it needs to go further. I don’t just want morality explained. I want goodness itself explained. That includes morality, but it is not limited to it.

Todd also gives some interesting anecdotes from his personal experience of things that has happened in his life that he thinks are moments of God working in his life. They could be, but I always get skeptical of such stories. I am not skeptical in the sense that I think they’re made up or anything like that, but I have seen stories where people are convinced God is telling them something and it’s bunk. Still, I do know some people will find this convincing and if it leads them to Jesus, well and good.

I appreciated the part on the reliability of Scripture some, but not entirely. I do think a scientific look at Genesis 1 can be interesting, but I find John Walton’s proposal for Genesis much more convincing where the account is a functional account of a cosmic temple being created. The archaeological backing of the Bible is certainly something I agree with, but when we get to prophecy, I again demur from Todd’s approach. I really don’t think a futurist approach to prophecy is tenable.

I definitely appreciated the sections on Jesus as Todd tries to show the intelligent designer is Jesus. From there, Todd goes on a much more pastoral approach and here is where I truly think Todd’s strength lies. Todd’s writing is really down-to-earth and simple to understand and not in your face at the same time. It is very evangelistic without being simplistic. It is not a recycled approach either. Todd hasn’t copied the Romans Road or the four spiritual laws. He’s his own person.

At the end, I was also skeptical of the idea that all the apostles were willing to die for their faith. They could have been, but as Sean McDowell has shown, we don’t have the best historical data for all of them. Still, many of Todd’s arguments are the kind that can put a rock in someone’s shoe to borrow Greg Koukl’s term.

One area that did puzzle me going through the book some was seeing God referred to as a force. I could understand this at the start if you are trying to show an intelligent designer and you don’t know much about Him, well you can certainly use impersonal pronouns or say a force, but I kept hoping we would move past that terminology eventually.

Still, when you read the book you see someone passionate about their Christian faith and we need more of that. This could be a good work for someone open to scientific arguments, though I don’t think it would be the best for someone academically inclined. Give it to someone who wants a more popular-leveled approach to coming to Jesus and it could very well shine for them. I certainly am thankful that people like Timm Todd are out there wanting to do something more for the kingdom and we need more of that.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)