Abstinence and the Virgin Birth (Which I do affirm)

Is there a problem with holding to abstinence and the virgin birth (Which I do affirm)? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

This one has been going around Facebook a bit and as the main virgin birth guy (Which I do affirm), I figure I should be the one to address it. Looking at this, I do wonder what the main contention is. As is the problem with memes, it’s rarely clear.

So let’s consider if it’s a moral objection. Can you believe in the virgin birth, which I do affirm, and still believe in practicing abstinence? Yes. You recognize that this is a miracle that has taken place and that Mary herself did nothing wrong in this case.

By the way, along those lines, all Christians know that there are other forms of birth control. What we do know also is that when practiced, abstinence is the only one that is 100% effective. For most of the world today, it’s just incredible to think of a person going through life without having sex. The premise of a movie like the 40 Year-Old Virgin is meant to be obvious.

So let’s go the more likely route. It’s meant to poke fun at us for believing in something that is unscientific. After all, this involves a miracle and don’t we know that those never happen.

At this, I think even the most hardened skeptic would not want to try to take on the burden that there has never been a miracle in history and have to demonstrate this. How could you even begin to do that? What is more likely to be argued is that we do not have sufficient evidence to believe that a miracle has taken place in history.

Thus, we get to the first problem. There is really no way to establish that a miracle has never taken place in history so why should it be treated with incredulity that a miracle has taken place. I actually call this the argument from incredulity. The problem is it only works if you accept a worldview at the start that says miracles never happen.

Imagine if I made a similar argument.

Christians: We know Christianity is true.

Atheist: How?

Christian: Because Jesus rose from the dead.

Atheist: And how do we know that?

Christian: Because Christianity is true.

If you take at the start that a naturalistic philosophy is true and a miracle has never taken place, then obviously, a virgin birth, which I do affirm, has never taken place. However, that is the very claim under question. Has a miracle ever taken place?

If you affirm the existing of God and have reasons for believing in such, then you have a basis for believing that a miracle has taken place or at least could take place. If someone wants to mock that because atheism is true or some version of metaphysics that denies miracles, then they need to establish that. Whatever your worldview, it does not work to go to the other side and say “Your position is laughable because it disagrees with my position.”

In the end, I see no reason you cannot both affirm the virgin birth, which I do affirm, and consistently practice abstinence. Issues about birth control can be debated among ourselves. This is just more of the type of argument from incredulity that works on those with the mindset already of materialism, but not much of anyone else. It has strong rhetorical pull, but nothing logical behind it.

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

A Reply to I.M. Skeptical on Thomism

Are Thomism and science incompatible? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Someone sent me this article about Thomism and science by I.M. Skeptical who I will just call IM from now on. In this, he seeks to show that science is not compatible with Thomism. While he is at least quoting the other side, I do not think he really has the issues understood.

At the start, he says in this article that is a response to Thomistic Scholar that Dr. Dennis Bonnette, that since the original article was written, Thomistic scholars are obviously feeling the heat. This kind of armchair psychologizing I find amusing. If a Christian says nothing in response, he has no answer. If a Christian says something, it is obviously because he is scared of what has been stated. This doesn’t put the article at a good start.

As IM continues, he says that there is disagreement on the issue of God, but this cannot really be considered science vs. Metaphysics. After all, there are plenty of scientists who do believe in God. What ends up usually happening in this post of IM’s is that contradiction is asserted when it does not follow. IM does go on to say this:

Science has nothing to say about God, which is a metaphysical claim, so there is no disagreement there.  But metaphysics goes far beyond the question of God’s existence.  It is concerned with the reality of all kinds of things.  In Thomism, movement is explained in terms of the metaphysical paradigm of act and potency.  In science, it is explained in terms of the paradigm of mass, force, and energy, which is no less a metaphysical concept.  But Thomists disagree with that, because they see metaphysics as being separate and distinct from physical reality.  To them mass, force, and energy are science, but act and potency are metaphysics.

All movement in metaphysics is potentiality and actuality, but that can be brought about in terms of mass, force, and energy. It’s not an either/or. Gravity can cause an apple to fall, but that fall is also a case of actuality and potentiality at work. Thus, I don’t see how we disagree with that. While we could debate what a “law of nature” is, that doesn’t mean we don’t see that what is claimed is brought about by them does happen and there are physical consistencies. Actually, we would see this as part of the fifth way.

He goes on to say the following including a quote from Bonnette:

Bonnette attempts to illustrate his thesis of basic agreement by way of an example involving sensation and cognition.  It is epistemological realism – the philosophical notion that the object of our perception has external reality.  But his example goes off the rails with regard to agreement agreement between science and Thomism.  The scientific view is that sensation of an external object creates a neural pattern in the brain, and subsequent cognitive references to the object actually occur by means of neural activity and connections involving that set of neurons.  And Bonnette calls this an epistemological nightmare.  He insists that knowledge of an external object is “direct”:

While an entire epistemology is not possible here, note that we cannot doubt external reality when it is directly confronted. Doubt arises only when we shift our attention to a judgment about the external object in which what we know is not the object itself. For example, if I close my eyes and wonder whether the lion confronting me is really about to attack me, I am no longer looking at the lion, but at some internal image of it.

IM responds with:

Just to get this straight, as I understand it, the point of agreement here is on an issue of epistemology – namely epistemological realism – not on the science of cognition, which Bonnette apparently holds in disdain.  We don’t “directly confront” external reality at all, but the only image we have is an internal image that exists entirely in the brain.  And to the extent that our senses can be fooled, it is possible for a false image to be formed, and we certainly can doubt that external reality.  How this supports his thesis is a mystery to me.

However, IMs statement would be a science killer if believed. Why not be a solipsist? You could point to the data you get from the world around you, but how do you know that is really from the world around you? Perhaps it is all a hallucination? If the place you start is inside your head, you can never get out. This is why Thomism has been called the common sense philosophy.

Do we know about hallucinations and senses being wrong? Of course, but we start out with the idea that all things being equal, our senses are generally reliable. IMs position is more of a Kantian position which is probably the strongest reply to Aquinas, though I still find it problematic. If IM starts in their head, then all the data that comes in to them supposedly could still just be part of the hallucination. You could never know otherwise.

IM goes on with another quote from Bonnette:

The next area of agreement that he discusses is “metaphysical first principles”, such as the principal of non-contradiction and the principal of sufficient reason.  Again, he gives examples that don’t seem to support his own thesis.  On non-contradiction, he says:

Even the smallest phenomena must be read as what it is and not as its contradictory – otherwise, the reading would be useless. Claims of contradictory phenomena, such as wave-particle duality, rely on such observations. If a subatomic entity appears as a wave, that same exact reading cannot say it is a particle.

He evades the real issue here.  Yes, it’s true that observations of particles only measure one of these properties at a time, but the more fundamental issue is not that these properties are contradictory, but that the subatomic particle is something that exhibits both characteristics.  So rather than clinging to concepts of physical substance that are contradicted by observation, we need a metaphysical concept of substance that agrees with what we observe.

All that is being said is contradictions can’t be true. Again, if it is thought that contradictions can be true, then we can all go home. IM is right and Bonnette is right and I am right and if you disagree you are right. Again, reality will all break down. What about the Principle of Sufficient Reason?

Likewise, on the principal of sufficient reason, he reverts to a theistic definition of causation:

Causes are merely reasons for things that do not explain themselves.

Which is just another way to say that everything has a cause except for God.  And he insists that scientists always have to find causes for everything.  But that’s not really true.  At a macro level, things can be said to have causes (in terms of objects interacting with one another according to Newtonian or relativistic physical laws), but at the quantum level, things happen on a stochastic basis, and there is no notion of causality in quantum physics.  As it happens, this is a major point of disagreement between science and Thomism, despite Bonnette’s denial.

I love that first line of dismissal as if what Bonnette is saying is all about God. No. It’s not. There is no interaction with the four traditional causes of Aristotle. There is also nothing wrong with finding causes for things. Am I to think that scientists look at the quantum level and say to themselves, “Well, that looks uncaused. Let’s go get a drink.” At this point, my thinking is wait and see what will happen in the future in science.

Moving on:

He also takes care to separate the metaphysical principles at the heart of Thomism from science.

Potency and act, matter and form, finality, essence and existence: Most other Thomist principles are so clearly philosophical that natural science properly says little about them. The exceptions would be materialist denials that substantial forms and final causes exist in nature. Still, those are clearly philosophical, not scientific, claims.

He has no choice but to make this separation, because these metaphysical principles are in direct contradiction to modern science.  Act and potency do not explain how things move.  They provide a teleological account of movement that was incorporated into the physics of Aristotle, which was the science of the day, but no longer have any explanatory value.  Essentialism and forms are a reflection of man’s propensity to classify things, but they are purely conceptual, and don’t even stand up to philosophical scrutiny, let alone scientific.  (As modern philosophers note, how many grains of sand can you remove from a dune before it is no longer a dune?  As scientists note, at what point in evolutionary history does an ape give birth to a man?)

I always find it amusing that when science has a question, it’s always “Let’s go and find out the answer!” When the question exists in philosophy, “See? That’s proof that it’s false.” Every position has hard questions to answer. How many grains of sand make a dune? Granting evolution, when does an ape become a man?

These are all great questions worthy of study, but none are a defeater. They’re just reasons to keep studying. The same applies to science. He also says potency and actuality do not explain how things move. No one said that they do.

So why is it that Thomists place metaphysics as primary? IM has the answer!

“There is only one reason Thomists hold metaphysics above and separate from science.  Metaphysics is the thing that stands between science and theism.”

Again, it has to be fear. Right? Nope. Metaphysics is first because it comes first in order of being. Science is second because it covers specific kinds of reality. Note that in the time of Aquinas, science as we know it would be called natural philosophy. Theology would be called a science for Aquinas seeing as it was a body of knowledge, which is essentially what is meant.

Thus, I find IM’s position not strong at all. He has at least interacted some, but the armchair psychology is the problem. I could just as easily turn it on him and say that he wrote a reply because he is feeling the heat of Thomism. That could be true, but it cannot be demonstrated and is only an ad hominem.

Finally, as a Thomist, I have no problem with science. Whatever is true in science we should affirm. Reality does not contradict.

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

Book Plunge: The Big Picture

What do I think of Sean Carroll’s book published by Dutton books? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

This is a book an atheist reader of the blog suggested I should read. Naturally, I jump at such an invitation. (Keep this in mind atheists I interact with who make it seem like you might as well commit ritual suicide before reading any Christian academics.) I found the book to be a good one to read, thankfully not hostile for the majority towards Christianity, and nothing struck me as an emotional rant of any kind.

However, I did not find it persuasive. The science was fascinating, but not being a scientist or playing one on TV or studying in that field, I choose to not debate that point. Generally, when I come across something I’m skeptical of in science, I accept it for the sake of argument and see if it does any damage. Note that this is the science itself and not the philosophical conclusions some atheists draw from the science.

One post I made early on on my Facebook about the book was as follows:

However, I do comment on the other areas. Sean tells us that all that we have ever seen in our lives is material stuff and the material stuff is all that exists and that our knowledge of the world comes through observation.
I can agree to a large extent with the latter, but it doesn’t lead to the former. Let us take one example. As I sit here on my bed, I see to the left of me my cat Shiro. Now note that all I see when I look there is Shiro, one type of creature. I have in my mind the idea of an animal, and that concept of animal includes me in it, but yet the animal I am is not the animal that Shiro is.
Now you could take me to a pet store and I would see several people and several cats. I would not assume that each person is a whole different species or each cat a totally different animal. There are different races of people and different breed of cats, but all would fall under the category of humans or cats. However, I cannot observe the idea of human, animal, or cat. I observe many humans and cats and derive from those observations the idea of human, animal, and cat. Those concepts are immaterial concepts.
In the same way, Carroll can write about how we determine to be good people, and yet while I fully believe goodness is real, it is certainly not something I see with my eyes or detect in any way with my senses. Now we could say those essences aren’t real, but that leads us to nominalism which I think is even more difficult for science.
I could go on and list other concepts. Numbers. Triangularity. Existence itself. We notice things that are triangles and things that exist, but we don’t notice triangularity and existing itself.
Much of naturalism is just reductionism and ultimately, unlivable. Just as when Carroll talks about something being good, it is smuggling in something that is not scientific and trying to include in the rubric. It doesn’t work.
And this is a problem that many scientists have. It’s easy to take an idea like goodness or something and run with it assuming it is real. We don’t stop to think about what cats and humans are. How is it that even a small child can recognize catness in several cats while noting that they are all different? Again, just because knowledge begins with observation, it doesn’t mean it ends there.
Also, as I said later in another post, which I share again because there’s no need to reinvent the wheel:
Still going through Sean Carroll’s “The Big Picture.” It’s not a bad book really. There are many parts that I agree with. He talks about events that could lead scientists to think the best explanation is beyond the natural world, such as the Second Coming of Jesus taking place and the dead being resurrected.
He then says it’s not that science presumes naturalism, but it has concluded that naturalism is the best picture of the world. He then speaks of all that we do and weighing out the evidences and then weigh out the conclusion and naturalism is ahead of the alternatives.
But there’s a little bit of sleight of hand going on here. It’s subtle and I think a lot of unwary readers would not grasp it, but here it is.
Carroll is speaking of science as if science is an authority doing its own study and coming to its own conclusions. No. Science doesn’t study anything. Science doesn’t say anything. Men and women who use science study and speak.
Carroll is also assuming that people who agree with him speak for all of science and all scientists. This is not so. I am not saying anything here to shoehorn in ID or creationism or anything like that, but there are plenty of intelligent scientists past and present who see no problem with holding a Christian worldview and agreeing with scientific study.
The same could apply if we replaced science with history, philosophy, theology, literature, or anything else. These are all fields that we study and different people in the fields come to different conclusions. I am convinced a study of history shows that Jesus rose from the dead, but it would be foolish to say that as if all historians agree with me.
Science is a wonderful tool and Christians should support it, but Carroll is speaking beyond science here. Science studies material means and low and behold, that’s the judgment many scientists make. You might as well conclude there is no paper buried on the beach because the metal detector can’t find it.
And this is something that does happen consistently and we must be on the watch for it. It’s too easy to throw out science as if it was speaking for itself. This can happen with any field other than science, such as history or philosophy or economics. Science doesn’t say anything. Scientists say things using science.
Later, I wrote something about what he said about NDEs.
On p. 219-220 of Sean Carroll’s The Big Picture, Carroll is making an argument that there is no soul and he is talking about NDEs. He refers to the book “The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven.” Is that book a known fraud? Yes. The boy who was the source said he made it all up. Unfortunately, that’s the only book Carroll interacts with and ignores all the others.
Suppose I said “Now if you study evolution, take a look at Piltdown Man. Piltdown Man was a fraud. What does that tell you about the case for evolution?” That would be a shoddy argument. Even if you disbelieve in evolution and think it’s false, it should be accepted that pointing to one case that is a fraud is not a good way to argue against it.
Someone who does accept evolution would come and rightly say, “Yes. That was a fraud, but what about all this other evidence such as XYZ?” Now at that point, you can argue that evidence and see if it makes the case and that’s not for me to decide, but if you just present one fraud and ignore everyone else, that’s not really being honest.
Carroll also talks about cases where people put objects in a room in case an NDE takes place so that the person can see them. He says this has never happened though. So let’s assume that’s true. So what? That means all the other cases that happen, such as the dentures case You can see about that here: https://michaelprescott.typepad.com/…/an-nde-to-sink…

That’s just one. There are plenty of others. You can pick up most any good book on NDEs and find several documented cases.
Like the problem of evil, it’s easy to make your opponent look weak if you argue and ignore all the positive evidence and just put in all the evidence you want. However, if your opponent is familiar with the data, he can easily show you up. The downside often though is that people don’t fact check what they read if it already agrees with what they want or think to be true.
So could it be still that NDEs are false and there is no soul? Perhaps, but this is not a good way to show it.
No one would accept in science a case where you cite one false occurrence and then throw out all the data on the side of that occurrence. It would be totally invalid to look at just one evolutionary fraud and then say all evolutionary science is bunk. Unfortunately, Carroll has done that here and hasn’t even looked at an evidential NDE at all.
There is also something worth being said about evolution:

Still going through Sean Carroll’s “The Big Picture” and reading a lot about evolution. The main point being stressed is that the language is difficult because agency language and intentional language is hard to avoid as evolution acts without intent.
Now you all should know by now I’m not going to argue for or against evolution here. That’s for you all if you want to. I leave that to the readers who want to comment. I am not a scientist and I do not play one on TV and if I tried to speak on a subject I didn’t do reading on, I would embarrass myself.
However, I can speak about the philosophy of science and I do notice that evolution is often spoke of in terms of agency, which is really difficult to avoid as I think it’s part of the human tendency. At the same time, the biggest loss in this is really the removal of final causality. Some of you might be wondering what that is.
Aristotle listed four kinds of causes overall and the final cause was the reason something exists. What is the goal? What is the endgame? That doesn’t have to be an intentional goal. An iceberg floating through water makes it colder and does not turn it into cotton candy. The iceberg is not intending to make cold water, but that is what happens.
And evolution does not make sense without final causation.
After all, what is the point? That the fittest and best might survive and reproduce. This is not saying evolution if real is an intentional agency. It’s saying that that is the result when left to its processes just as the iceberg all things being equal will make the water colder.
For Christians, this is also the way we need to really look at design. You can go with an ID route all you want, but I prefer this route. This route that says there is a way that things consistently act in the universe, so much so that we practically expect it and can build scientific theorems around it. Imagine doing science in a world where one day water boils at 212 degrees F, the next day at 163 degrees F, and the next day at 34 degrees F. The world would be chaos.
And yet, it isn’t. There is consistently order in the universe which needs to be explained. Things act, intentionally or unintentionally, towards ends, and that needs to be explained.
If evolution is true, well that’s just the way God did it and cool. If it is not, God chose another way and cool. Either way, our system is set for working towards an end and for the Christian, even if the system is not intentional in its working, which we do not think it is, the mind behind the system and the rest of the universe is.
Again, I leave it to you all if you want to debate evolution. God bless Christians who do, provided you show it’s false science if it is. That’s not for me to determine. I just don’t want it to be we go to skeptics and tell them to choose the Bible or science. Too many will choose science, and sadly many Christian youth will do the same.
There’s also the section in the book where he said Quantum Field Theory is how we know we can’t bend spoons with our minds.
Just a guess, but I think many of us don’t have a clue about that theory and yet have full confidence we can’t bend spoons with our minds.
On p. 203, he says theists think they have a better explanation of the universe because they root it in a necessary being, but then says that there are no necessary beings.
And that’s it.

Glad we got that settled.

Imagine if I said, “Evolutionists say they have a better explanation based on common descent, but there is no common descent.”
Ridiculous? Yep. True? How should I know? Bad argument either way. It would have to be demonstrated on my part and I am nowhere close to making such an assertion let alone demonstrating it.
Finally, let’s look at one section definitely worth quoting verbatim.
“You’re telling me that judging right from wrong is just a matter of our personal feelings and preferences, grounded in nothing more substantial than our own views, with nothing external to back it up? That there are no objectively true moral facts out there in the world?
Yes, but admitting that morality is constructed, rather than found lying on the street, doesn’t mean that there is no such thing as morality. All hell has not broken loose.
The Big Picture by Sean Carroll pg 409-410.

As I contended in earlier blog posts such as here, this is a highly dangerous claim to make. If morality is not real, why don’t we live accordingly? If we are making it up, we can make it to be whatever we want. Anyone can set their own rules. Nothing is right and wrong. We just hope other people will play the game the same way we do and the only way to back it up is might makes right.

Fortunately, we live in a world where good and evil are real. I suspect we all know it to some extent not by our actions so much as our reactions.
Carroll’s book is good, but I do not find it persuasive. It is a step above many atheist writings, which sadly isn’t saying much, and he does strike me as a reasonable fellow, but I walked away not finding any major challenge.
In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

What Is A Woman?

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

For all interested, my Dad is doing much better. He actually got to come home Tuesday of last week. I was betting on him being in there a lot longer, but no. We have also been regularly been having some fun with him on things he said and did when he was delirious such as asking me if I was an angel when he didn’t recognize me and how he was watching HGTV and asked my Mom if she had remodeled the house.

Over the week, we also had the fun of a new meme featuring Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson in that she said she could not answer what a woman is because she is not a biologist. Funny? Yes. Many of my fellow conservatives were glad to see that she went to biology for the answer, which is something seen as being objective.

So yes, we all should know what a woman is. However, I also think we should ask in some ways what a woman is and I think this shows a deeper problem in philosophy today. It is a problem of not understanding essences.

Consider a small child. The child does not generally have training in philosophy, He sees his family has an animal that has four legs and tends to bark a lot and he is told this is a dog. He is out walking in the neighborhood with his parents and he sees several animals in the lawns of the neighbors. These creatures he sees are different sizes and colors, but yet he is told that they are all dogs. In the windows, sometimes, he sees these small delicate animals and if he could hear them, he would hear meows from them. These would not be dogs, but they would be cats.

The boy is not a philosopher per se, but he is learning something about reality. He is learning about essences. There is something essential that all these creatures have in common that makes them dogs and not cats, but they differ in other areas called the accidents that are non-essential. These are conditions such as size and color. A dog could even lose a leg and still be considered a dog.

Nowadays, we don’t know that. We have philosophies today that can question if the world is really real. The east has often had this, but it hasn’t been as common in the west. Now, it is becoming more and more so. I personally see this as coming largely from the influence of Descartes. Centuries ago, there was no field known as epistemology. Now there is.

So we come to the question of “What is a woman?” There are many ways we can explore this. It has been said that many a man asks himself the question “Am I a man?” There is no indication that he is talking about his biological features. He’s not going to take off his pants and look and say “I guess I am. Good to know.” Instead, when he asks this, he is more asking if he has the character that a man is supposed to have in his mind.

We can also go another way and just simply ask “What is a human?” Aristotle said it was a rational animal, but if we found another animal that was rational, would we say that was a human? Fans of science fiction and fantasy can easily think of material creatures that are rational, but they would not be considered human.

The problem in our culture is we don’t really think such essences exist anymore. Nominalism has taken us over and most of us don’t even know what that is. It’s one reason we think you can surgically alter a man enough and lo and behold, he becomes a woman and starts winning swim championships.

I’m not saying no one is talking about it this way, but I haven’t seen it. For most teenage boys, I suspect they would say “I may not be able to define in that way what a woman is, but I know one when I see it and I like it.” Perhaps beyond biology, we should have a deeper conversation about philosophy, something our culture has sadly lost sight of. When that happens, it’s not that we cease to do philosophy, we just do it exceptionally poorly. (Consider how a great intellect like Stephen Hawking can say “Philosophy is dead” in a statement teeming with philosophical nuances and all of it bad.)

I’m quite certain that some people will comment on my post at least on Facebook who hold to a sort of scientism. They often think they’re making powerful arguments, but they’re not. This is not to attack the sciences, but to reailze science has limitations and when it comes to essences, that is a limitation of science.

In no way also does this held the so-called transgender ideology. If anything, it tells us we can’t change our gender any more than I could take my little cat Shiro and do mass operations on him and turn him into a dog. We can change the appearance all we want, but it doesn’t change the reality.

Perhaps this would then be a good time since everyone is asking to think “What really is a woman?” What do all women have in common that is absolutely essential to them? What do all men? What do all humans? If someone wants to say “Nothing. It’s all subjective”, then there is no feminism or transgenderism any more at all. After all, if being a woman can be made to mean anything, then it really means nothing. (This is one of the dangers of trying to change what marriage is. If it can be made to mean anything, then it really means nothing.) We already started down this road decades ago when we decided to redefine what a human baby is and allow abortion. It’s not a shock that when one people group wants to destroy (The Nazis) or enslave (Slavery in America) another group, they often dehumanize them.

So in one sense, Judge Brown got a softball question and she failed miserably at it. On the other hand, she also got a complex question that we should all consider asking ourselves and pondering. Perhaps it’s time to return to Plato, Augustine, Plotinus, Augustine, Anselm, Aquinas, etc. and see what we can learn. Maybe the past can actually inform us today.

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

Book Plunge: Three Views on Creation and Evolution Conclusion

What are my final thoughts? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

So having reached the end, I want to lay out some thoughts on the matter. While I have my views, I want to focus on what I think we should agree on. All of what I say will be that which I think should be agreed on by all Christians in the debate.

First, whatever is shown to be true by science and Scripture should be accepted. Christians should have no problem with whatever method God chose to use. If the evidence showed He used evolution to create, then we accept that. If we find evidence that shows that the Earth is much younger than we thought, then we accept that.

If we hold to inerrancy, this should not be a problem. We would realize that if Scripture is true then whatever is shown by science will align with it. To say otherwise is to keep going on with the outdated conflict hypothesis.

Second, we should not try to fill in gaps with God. When the medieval scientists did their work, they were filling in gaps of knowledge and thought by explaining more, they were giving more glory to God. They were discovering how the creator chose to work and tended to want to use materialistic explanations. They really did not do appeal to miracle.

If we put God in as just someone to stop a gap, then we have a very different view of God. We often have it that we think the universe can exist just fine on its own and is not dependent in any way on God, despite Scripture regularly telling us otherwise. This is where we get to the internet atheist idea that if evolution is true, God is out of a job. This is itself a theology that does hold that the universe can exist on its own. How it exists needs to be answered.

Third, that doesn’t mean there could never be gaps where miracles could occur, but a miracle should not be occurred to just because there is a gap in knowledge. I would think we would need some indication from Scripture that a miracle took place and a problem clearly insurmountable by materialistic means. Unfortunately, no one will agree entirely on what that means, which means it is part of the debate.

Fourth, we need to stop telling everyone why they’re holding the positions that they hold unless they say otherwise. Atheists will tell Christians they hold their views for a fear of death, for example. Christians will tell atheists they just want to live in sin. Now in some cases, this could be true, but we need to realize that saying that doesn’t deal with the arguments.

Meanwhile, between us, something I saw in the book was various appeals to why someone held their view and the reasons were never good. It was a psychological motive that the other person would always deny. No matter who is doing this, it doesn’t help our debate any.

Fifth, we need to realize there are going to be gaps in our knowledge always no matter our viewpoint. I said I would have some of my own questions for evolution and here is a big one I wonder about. I wonder how sexual reproduction came about. I can understand single-celled organisms reproducing by themselves. It sounds like a complex process, but that is within onesself.

I have a hard time understanding how through small incremental steps a system evolved between the two sexes in species where they would reproduce in such a method. I would be willing to accept that this is just an unknown at the time, but for me, it is a big unknown. That brings me to my next point to discuss.

Sixth, either way, we definitely have to avoid making people think, no matter their worldview, that they must choose between Christianity and science. When atheists tell Christians they have to accept either evolution or Christianity, a great many will choose Christianity because it gives them greater benefits in their lives and sadly will become hostile to science and not make great contributions that they could make.

Christians, meanwhile, will not reach atheists if they say it has to be one or the other. This should be seen as an in-house debate. Whatever one thinks of evolutionary creationism, I really don’t think it should be labeled a heresy. Heresy is a very serious charge that puts someone outside of salvation.

Ultimately, perhaps we should all just listen to one another more. Instead of saying why we think the other person believes X, let them tell us why they believe it. What is their evidence? Maybe we should then respond to that.

I would like to see this debate get along better and have us realize we are Christians debating an issue that is really secondary. We all unite on Jesus, which is the most important aspect.

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

Book Plunge Part 3: Three Views on Creation and Evolution

What do I think of Howard Van Till’s view? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

This chapter is easily the longest one in the book, and that’s understandable. Van Till is taking on a position that is seen as a negative in much of the Christian community. There are too many times when a Christian says that they are open to evolution and immediately the hounds of heresy come out ready to devour.

So let’s get some positives.

First off, I fully agree with this aspect of Van Till’s essay. We don’t need to make it the point to anyone that they have to choose either evolution or Christianity. That does harm both ways. An atheist who is convinced by science, rightly or wrongly, that evolution is true, but is told he has to abandon that to become a Christian is not going to be able to easily do this.

For the Christian, if they see evidence that convinces them that evolution is true, rightly or wrongly, they could be ready then to abandon Christianity. This is especially so if we don’t give them reasons for thinking Christianity is true other than their emotional feelings. Now add in also that for young people in college, they could be more easily tempted to give in to strong sexual desire and have more emphasis to abandon Christianity.

The focus of Christianity is not creation. It is Jesus. I would rather have someone have the wrong view of creation and the right view of Jesus, rather than have the right view of creation, such as a Jewish person who treats the Old Testament like Scripture, and is wrong on Jesus.

Second, I appreciate his points on supposed gaps that we sometimes seem to want to see in evangelicalism. We often give the impression that the more questions science answers, the more God is out of a job, but what a poor view of God for both the Christian and the atheist. A God who is just a stopgap? Both the atheist and Christian have poor theology and yes, every atheist has a theology. They have a doctrine of the deity or deities they don’t believe.

Van Till says that a universe that has all of this seamlessness needs its own explanation. Something I notice in the book is I can’t remember one time Aquinas is cited. For Aquinas, the idea of sustaining of the universe would be essential to him. The existence of God is shown by something as simple as change in the universe.

I also appreciate that Van Till did spend some time in Genesis. I think he spent more than the others, but again, I wish he had spent a lot more. He did stress the importance of taking the text seriously.

Some negatives here?

I would have liked to have seen more of the evidence of evolution that he finds convincing, rightly or wrongly again. I do grant though that for those of us who are not scientifically minded, this could be difficult. We more often just hear that the majority, even Christian biologists, accept evolution, and this could be true, but I want to know why they do.

Second, I want to know how prayer works in his world. Van Till believes in miracles, but he doesn’t seem to explain them. What are we wanting God to do? Van Till can sometimes make God be too transcendent just as his opponents can overemphasize immanence.

Third, I would like to have had something explained about the soul in creation. How does man get one? Now it could be that Van Till holds to anthropological monism. Okay. Say that then. If he doesn’t, then explain what does happen.

Overall though, I think Christians need to listen to this position and don’t have the hounds of heresy come out. Making a war of science and religion only hurts both sides. These need to be viewed as allies and not as enemies and anyone who says they are enemies is doing a disservice to both. I am sure that is not the intention of many, but that is often the effect.

Next time, I plan to give some concluding thoughts.

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

Book Plunge: Part 2 — Three Views on Creation and Evolution — OEC

What do I think of Robert Newman’s view of Old-Earth creationism? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Regular readers of the blog know I’m someone who is on the fence in a way between Old-Earth Creationism and Fully Gifted Creationism, OEC and FGC respectively, using the latter term as that is the term used in part three and I wish to be respectful to the one who uses it. I have some qualms about what evolution can explain, but if I was convinced it was true, it would not change my interpretation of Scripture or my beliefs about Jesus.

Thus, when I read Newman’s essay, I found much that i agreed with. I saw that he wants to be faithful both to Scripture and science. Regularly, it is said that if we are handling both correctly, they will agree. This should be a statement that all three camps in the debate should be able to agree to.

I did like that he paid some attention to Genesis 1-2, but sadly again, not much. Now I realize the book is about creation and evolution and not necessarily Genesis, but if you’re talking about Christians, you eventually do have to get to Genesis if you’re talking about creation. Howard Van Till in part three will spend the most time on this, but again, he is sorely lacking in spending a lot of time on it.

One major point of disagreement I had with Newman, however, is that in his chapter he talked about how he gets concerned when some Christians say the Bible does not have anything to say to us about science. Well, maybe it does. But then again, maybe it doesn’t. Why should I go to the text assuming that it wants to answer modern science questions any more than I should go to it to get a strategy guide for the latest video game or learn how to do algebra?

Now I realize that seems a bit playful. After all, video games and algebra weren’t really in practice when the Bible was written, but yet in the same way, modern science as we know it wasn’t being practiced. Why should I think that Genesis is trying to give me a scientific account? It could be that it is, but that needs to be argued and not assumed. We have often thought some places in Scripture were giving scientific accounts and it has not ended well.

Newman’s repliers seemed to be friendly to him and briefly, this is something I had a problem with in this book. It seemed that most every reply was from someone who held to the OEC position. J.P. Moreland was a lone exception who holds to it, but admitted that he sometimes thinks YECs have a good case. I would have either liked to have had the writers reply to each other, or else had a Christian who was YEC, one who was OEC, and one who was FGC all replying. The problem was you have four replies and all seem to come from the same camp.

Overall, I don’t have much to say about Newman’s essay as I agreed with a good deal of it. For me, the question of whether evolution happened or not is a non-question and that will be covered more in part three where I do plan on giving some ideas that do give me qualms still about being willing to sign on the dotted line. At the same time, I realize I am approaching this as a non-scientist and there is only so much time to study any given field. I like to admire it as an outsider, but I don’t take parts in debates of science as science. The history and philosophy I will do, but not the data itself.

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

Book Plunge Part 1: Three Views On Creation and Evolution — YEC

What do I think of the argument presented here for YEC? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I am going through the book Three Views on Creation and Evolution and the YEC position is the first one. This one is done by John Mark Reynolds and Paul Nelson. Readers of this blog know I move somewhere between OEC and evolutionary creationism. For this part, I am only commenting on the chapter of Nelson and Reynolds (N&R from now on). I might say something on the responses to their essay and their response to the responses. Time will tell.

So let’s start with the positives.

I do appreciate that there doesn’t seem to be dogmatism on the part of N&R. They do condemn any name-calling on any side of the debate, even on their own. They also do admit that there are problems with their viewpoint that need further exploration and they emphasize scientific exploration.

I also definitely agree with them that science should be open. Too many times, naturalistic assumptions that are simply bad philosophy can impede research. Whatever happened, it must not be XYZ after all, because that could lead to theistic claims. This was something that happened when science started to conclude that the universe had a beginning.

That having been said, there were a number of problems in their essay that in some ways left me surprised. Let’s go over them.

For one thing, I was surprised with how little argument there was on the main subject matter. It’s only towards the end of a long essay that they start making an argument for their position. Unfortunately, their argument was simply going with what they called a plain reading and nothing about the scientific arguments that they could use and no interaction that I recall with the contrary position.

Now my problem with a plain reading is, plain to who? Why assume that the question that a 21st century American brings to the text is the one that the text itself is addressing? It could be that the author was writing to address scientific questions, but that needs to be argued and not assumed.

If anything, I would be extra cautious about reading the Bible as a scientific text since the people it was written to did not think in those terms. These were not people who were going out and doing experiments, not because they would necessarily oppose that, but more because they were often just trying to survive. Science really got going when we had developed enough agricultural means that we didn’t have to work as long for food.

Many times when a text has been read scientifically, it has led to embarrassment since the text was never meant to be that way. Let’s consider how the text tells us to love the Lord with all our hearts. Now we could say “This makes no sense. The heart is not an organ of love, but it is one of pumping the blood throughout the body and keeping it functioning.” Yes. We know that today, but even still, we often use that expression. There needs to be a reason given as to why one should think the text is speaking scientifically.

Second, the writers seem to have a problem with secondary means. Psalm 139 tells me I was knit together in my mother’s womb. However, everyone would also know that was a nine-month process. God can be behind something and it be a process as well.

Third, there were too many false assumptions on the part of N&R. When they spoke about theistic evolutionists, they often said that they cannot allow an act of God in any way into their system. Unfortunately, I know a number of TE’s who would have no problem with that. TE’s who are Christian do hold to miracles after all, such as the resurrection of Jesus.

When I saw a statement like that on their part, I wound up getting dismissive. If you are presenting a case and claiming your opponents believe or know X, you’d better make sure they do. I’ve had a number of atheists tell me that I know XYZ, when I know no such thing.

I also thought they were too dismissive of ideas such as God sustaining the universe. It was presented as if to say “What does this even mean?” and then it was not really discussed. For me, God’s sustaining of the universe is something incredible that shows how active He is in the universe. Elihu told Job that if God removed His breath, all life would perish.

God’s sustaining the universe means right now, everything you and I do depends on Him. It means that the universe doesn’t exist on its own, which is something that I think is a problem for materialism. Existence is treated as if it’s a brute fact. Yes. The universe exists. How? It just does. What does it mean to exist? Why do you ask such stupid questions?

By giving up this ground, I fear N&R have conceded too much to atheism with this position. Very few people today seem to have a doctrine of existence. Atheists often want to ask if God exists without first asking what it means to exist.

Finally, N&R gave the sound of one hand clapping. I get that they do not agree with other positions, but they needed to seriously interact with them. I did not see this take place.

The next chapter will be on Old-Earth creationism.

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

Book Plunge: Hitler, the Holocaust, and the Bible

What do I think of Joseph Keysor’s book published by Athanatos Press? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I know I haven’t done a book plunge in awhile. It’s not because I haven’t been reading. It’s because I was reading books on the virgin birth, which I do affirm, and I didn’t plan to review those but to save them for a future ebook. If I read books relevant to future debates I have planned or future ebooks, I will not review those, but i will try to review books that aren’t relevant to those.

This is one I decided to get after Hitler came up in a discussion on my Facebook page. I was reading David Robertson’s Magnificent Obsession where he just casually recommended this one and being a fan of his, I decided I would get it. I thought it sounded like it would be a quick read at first. Not complaining, but I was sure wrong about that.

Keysor has definitely taken an in-depth look at Hitler and asked about his influences. Some people like to say that Hitler was heavily influenced by Martin Luther, but Keysor notes many many other people at the time that were more influential to Hitler. Now there is a downside here in that when Keysor introduces people and places, he doesn’t always explain them. The reader who doesn’t know will be lost at these parts.

However, he does quote numerous authorities in the area of Hitler research. He doesn’t hide at all that he is a Christian and is striving to show how much Nazism was opposed to Christianity. At the same time, he freely, and I think correctly, argues that Hitler wasn’t an atheist. If anything, we could say his god was more like a will to power that was vaguely pantheistic I think. His god agreed with him on the need of a pure race and the greatness of the German nation.

Keysor largely starts his work looking at the history of anti-semitism. This includes looking at various passages in the New Testament that are claimed to be anti-semitic. From there, he goes through history, of course with an in-depth look at Martin Luther, and then up to modern times. As one sees later in the book, there are a surprising number of German thinkers who had anti-semitic tendencies, including Kant and Nietzsche.

He then looks at Christians in Nazi Germany. Not all that was called Christian was Christian. There was a movement called Positive Christianity that was built around the alleged greatness of the Aryan Race claiming that Jesus Himself was an Aryan who decided to fight against the Jews. He also looks at Christians who stood up to the Nazi regime and points out times where the Catholic Church did as well, even though they get a lot of scorn for how they handled Hitler, and answers questions like why the Church handled Hitler the way it did, even though Keysor is definitely not a Roman Catholic.

From there, he looks at those who were influences on Hitler, including Wagner, Chamberlain, Nietzsche, and Haeckel. Mentioned also throughout regularly will be Darwin. At times, I thought Keysor was way too hard on philosophy and seemed to get preachy. I also think he too often made a split between evolution and Christianity, as if you couldn’t believe in both.

I do think he rightly points out that Hitler was not an idiot. He read well and had many influences on his thought, though he didn’t name them since he was to be the self-made man. He was also a politician through and through. He knew that if he came out and made several public anti-Christian statements that he would not get the support he wanted, so he would make a promise to the churches, they would accept, and the next day he would break it.

Nazi Germany was also incredibly scientific. The problem was they had no moral basis to guide their science and the science was used for whatever was good for Nazi Germany and if that meant gassing Jews and others, well that was what would be done. After all, humanity had to eliminate the undesirables.

Is some evolutionary thinking involved here? It would be hard to deny otherwise. That doesn’t say anything about the truth or falsehood of evolutionary theory. It does show that we shouldn’t try, if we believe in it, to force the process alone ourselves.

If there is any near comparison today, it is, of course, abortion. The unborn are made to be less than human and thus able to be killed and then this is done for the good of the rest of us. For many of us, this shows how far we have lost our moral grounding.

So this is still a good book, aside from the caveats of sometimes getting too preachy, downing philosophy at times, and making evolution and Christianity an either/or. I also suspect the writer is more in the Calvinistic camp as I did see some presuppositionalist tendencies. However, there is still a lot here to ponder and one will get introduced to other works, some I plan to get to someday.

If you want to study Hitler then, this is a good place to start.

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

Is Doing Science Good?

Is our science necessarily a blessing? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Yesterday, I went to the doctor again having a sore throat and some lightheadedness. Turns out, I have strep. I am supposed to be able to go out into the world again on Thursday. For now, I am feeling a bit miserable.

Last night then, I was doing some gaming while listening to N.T. Wright. That’s something that usually always gets me thinking. Wright talked about Paul and the world he lived in and why he did what he did.

As I took my medication last night for Strep, I started considering it. What did people do in the time of Jesus when they had a sickness like this? There weren’t really medications that they could take that were as effective as what we have today. I really am thankful to live in this world where I can have medication available.

That got me considering about the nature of science. We have done this with medication and that is certainly a good use of the science that we have. However, why should we develop the science to work on this problem? We could just as easily poison everyone with a medication as we could cure them.

We have many things we could do with science, and sure, we do use science for weapons of war, but even when we do that, we don’t go out full throttle with them and unleash them on anyone else who disagrees with us. Had we wanted at one time, we could have taken over much of the world being militaristic.

Let’s imagine that we could go back to ancient Rome and give them the means to launch a nuclear weapon. Do we have any reason to think they would not have nuked Carthage in the Punic Wars? We could say that they would have made medication also and given it to all their people, but why think that? Rome wasn’t known for taking care of the poor. It would be better to take care of the elites and the military.

Today, we don’t really have this concern. It seems like a given to us that you care for the poor among you. It seems like a given that you try to use nonviolent means before going to violence. Why do we think differently?

It’s because before science became the force that it is on the scene, Christianity became a force as well. Our values were drastically changed by Christianity and most of us don’t realize that there is a background Christianity behind much of our moral thinking even if we don’t recognize it. Because of that, when we developed science, we thought of the ways that we could use it to help us and to explore the cosmos. We developed weapons of war so we could defend ourselves, but never with the intention of a militaristic takeover of the rest of the world. Again, ancient Rome would likely have done the opposite.

We are often told that we have a lot of blessings today because of our scientific enterprise, and I agree with that. However, if we didn’t have the moral categories we have, we could easily turn most any place we wanted to into Hiroshima or Nagasaki. We could easily infect the world in biological warfare and kill billions. It’s a blessing that we have this science today, but a better blessing that we have the moral teachings of Jesus that guide us.

Yet what will happen if we ever abandon that heritage and the morality that has been given to us?

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

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