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)

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)

Deeper Waters Podcast 3/14/2020

What’s coming up? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

One of the questions a parent often dreads hearing from their child is “Where did I come from?” or just the general “Where do babies come from?” It’s a good question, but the really hard question is how do you answer it on a more universal scale. Where does humanity come from? Many people turn to Genesis.

And then the debate begins.

How old is the Earth? Were Adam and Eve real people? Was there death before the Fall? What was the serpent in the garden? Where did Cain get his wife? How did the first humans live hundreds of years as said in Genesis 5? Who were the sons of God? What about the flood? What about the Tower of Babel?

And you thought the first questions kids ask were awkward.

Fortunately, there are those who have addressed these concepts that sadly divide Christians today. While we can be sure the debate will by no means be settled, we can learn what we can and be informed in our own opinions and in what others think. There is a pair that have written the book Origins to discuss this passage, and one of them is on my show Saturday. His name is Douglas Jacoby.

So who is he?

Douglas Jacoby is an international Bible teacher. After serving as a minister on church staff for 20 years, in London, Birmingham, Sydney, Stockholm, Philadelphia, Indianapolis, and Washington DC, Douglas has worked as a freelance teacher and consultant. He has engaged in a number of debates with well-known atheists, imams, and rabbis. Douglas is also an adjunct professor of theology at Lincoln Christian University. Since the late ’90s, Douglas has led annual tours to the biblical world.

With degrees from Drew, Harvard, and Duke, Douglas has written over 30 books, recorded nearly 800 podcasts, and spoken in over 100 universities, and in over 500 cities, in 126 nations around the world. The Jacobys have three adult children. Douglas and his wife, Vicki, reside in the Atlanta area.

We’re almost caught up on back episodes. I hope before too long we’ll have all of those up. I’m also actively working on getting the show to be able to be done live. I hope that will make it even better as people can submit their questions during an interview. Please be watching your podcast feed!

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Richard Dawkins on Eugenics

Should you trust a biology professor on eugenics? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Richard Dawkins has a penchant for saying things that aren’t too bright. Now in all fairness, when he writes a book that focuses on science, it’s really quite fascinating reading. I like reading this Dawkins. Even if I don’t agree with him, it’s enjoyable and I see a great love nature in him.

Yet sometimes he steps out of that and that’s when things go wrong. Think The God Delusion. Think Outgrowing God. (Which my ebook response to is coming out soon.) Think The Magic of Reality. In all of these books, there is talk about theology and it’s consistently bad.

Or think about statements he’s made. Dawkins has said he couldn’t condemn the mild pedophilia that he experienced at a boarding school growing up. (Prediction, within a few years, Dawkins will be seen as someone ahead of his time, though still with bigoted viewpoints in thinking pedophilia is harmful at all. There have already been TED talks trying to normalize this awful practice.) He has also said that if a baby is diagnosed with Down’s Syndrome, abort it and try again. It would be immoral to bring such a child into the world if you have a choice.

So after awhile, you realize that he’s fine when studying zoology, but when he goes outside of that area, disasters happen. Such is the case with a statement he made yesterday on Twitter. Dawkins has decided to talk about eugenics this time.

“It’s one thing to deplore eugenics on ideological, political, moral grounds. It’s quite another to conclude that it wouldn’t work in practice. Of course it would. It works for cows, horses, pigs, dogs & roses. Why on earth wouldn’t it work for humans? Facts ignore ideology.”

I will leave it to the scientists to discuss if eugenics would work on humans or not, but I find this kind of statement disastrous. For one thing, Dawkins overlooks that ideology could be factual just as much. There are moral facts out there. Perhaps it’s a moral fact that one shouldn’t try to farm the human race to breed superior humans and weed out weaker ones and deny them a right to life.

We can also be sure that Dawkins does not see him as one of the humans that would be eliminated with eugenics. Those who advocate eugenics tend to see themselves as the superior ones. It’s the same way I approach the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement. If you believe in your cause, lead by example.

Now to be fair, Dawkins does go on to say that he thinks a eugenics policy would be bad and shouldn’t be done, but quite likely most people will not read the follow-up comments unless they are separate tweets themselves, which they are not. That is their fault if they are not, but sadly, Dawkins will still have stuck his foot in in his mouth and people will run with it.

However, whether it would work or not is irrelevant. Why bring it up if it is wrong? I am sure we could come up with a plan of an untraceable murder and it would work, but it should still not be done. It is fine for Dawkins to want to defend science, and really he should, but eugenics is much more an ideology than it is a science. It might be fine to breed dogs or cats or horses a certain way, but humans are different.

It’s important to consider that humans are different and if we agree (And sadly, not all do), then we have to ask what is the basis of this fact? Because we’re smarter or more evolved or something of that sort? Could it be there’s something all humans uniquely share that makes us different? Maybe. Just maybe.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Why I Don’t Debate Evolution

Is this an issue really worth debating? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Over the weekend, I saw some Christian friends arguing on Facebook about evolution. One is open to it if not supportive of it and the other is skeptical. I have also been reading through Richard Dawkins’s Outgrowing God who seems to be of the opinion that if you prove evolution, then you have put God out of a job.

Here I sit then thankful that I don’t debate the issue at all.

Let’s start with Dawkins. Dawkins regularly in his book when he talks about anything outside of science gets things stupendously wrong. I don’t want to be like that. When I get to the science section of his book, it sounds impressive, but then I think that he really blundered earlier. How do I know he didn’t do the same here? I try to give the benefit of the doubt because this is his area, but it can be difficult.

Yet here I am, someone who has not studied science. Do I want to make the same mistake in the opposite direction? Do I want to risk saying embarrassing things about science in a way that when it comes time to the areas I do know something about that people will not listen to me?

Keep in mind this is me saying this is what works for me. If you are someone who has studied science seriously and reads both sides, I have no problem if you want to debate evolution really. I think there are better areas to debate, but I’m not going to stop you.

But what about Genesis? For Genesis, I go with John Walton’s interpretation. In this one, Genesis is not describing the formation of creation in material terms, but in terms of function. It is telling how everything works together in the making of sacred space. The days can then be literal because this is just God making declarations over what He has made.

As it stands then, I have no hill to die on. My worldview then does not depend on modern science. Evolution is true? Cool. I move on. Evolution is false? Cool. I move on.

In my opinion, both Christians and atheists who think evolution is the dealbreaker are misinformed. For one thing, none of this has impact on if Jesus rose from the dead. At the most, it can damage inerrancy. The case for the resurrection of Jesus does not depend on Genesis.

It’s also sad that in some sense, atheists are right when they say we have God of the gaps and science keeps filling in those gaps. The early scientists who were Christians did their science to see how God did something. It was not assumed that He had to do something a particular way and if He didn’t, then He didn’t exist.

Let’s take our own formation. We all believe thanks to Psalms that we are fearfully and wonderfully made and the Psalmist says we are knit together in our mother’s womb. At the same time, many of us do not balk at the idea that we are formed through a process of gestation that takes place in nine months and don’t think this means God micromanages our DNA. God can still form us and a natural process can be involved.

Why not with our original creation?

Also, the existence of God is not on scientific terms, since science can never prove or disprove something immaterial. It’s in the area of metaphysics and here the question goes deeper. It is the question of existence itself. What does it mean to be? It’s not just how the universe came into being, but how does the universe stay in being? What about goodness, truth, and beauty? Where do they come from?

These are questions that are not scientific necessarily, aside from perhaps how the universe came to be. The rest are philosophical questions and God is something that can be studied through philosophy. This is where the real battle lies.

Furthermore, I get concerned that we could be keeping up a stereotype of science vs. religion. This is a big problem I have with Dawkins’s book. At the end, he can describe things like starlings in flight or chameleons catching insects with their tongues or anything like that. I read it and think “How marvelous the way God’s creation works.” Why? Because God is largely in my background knowledge and I see no contradiction between evolution and God.

Thus, if God is in that knowledge and I have no problem with evolution, I, like many others, will interpret knowledge I gain through the lens of what I already hold on what I at least think are good grounds. There are plenty of people who will not think that way, but religion is a deeply important part of their lives.

For those who have science as their background and are atheistic, this will get them to think science and religion are opposed, but the problem is a number of religious people could think the same way. Dawkins could wind up driving people away from science.

The reality is if you pit these two against each other, people will gravitate towards the one that means the most to them. Jesus means a lot more to a lot more people than, say, knowing how far away the Crab Nebula is from us. They will accept science on basic things, but not on things that really challenge their thinking.

My philosophy now on it is to just stay out of it. I do not know the field well enough to debate it and I could make blunders that would undermine me in other areas. It also does not impact my position on Genesis or Christianity at all. Once again, if you know the science and you think you can give someone a door to Christianity, have at it. God bless you. If you are not a scientist though or someone who seriously studies it, be careful about debating such a topic.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

God And The Origin Of Life

What does the origin of life have to do with God? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Yesterday while surfing through Facebook, I see someone make a post about the origin of life and said something about how it would be good to go ahead and see if we can make life out of non-life so we can finally settle the God debate once and for all. I really think it’s sad that anyone would think such a thing. It would be sad enough if an atheist thought that would settle the debate, but it would be far worse if a Christian thought it would.

Ultimately, if that is what you think, God is just a placeholder for you when you have a question that can’t be answered, and that being a scientific question, and then once it gets answered, well, so much for God. It is essentially God-of-the-Gaps thinking. If you really think such a way, here are some other truths you must already think.

You must think the universe came into existence by its own power.

If you think the universe is eternal in some form or another even if a multiverse, you must think this whole system not just came into power, but also exists by its own power. The universe needs nothing outside of itself not just for coming into existence, but for existing as well.

You must think that once life began, then that’s enough for evolution, which if you’re a Christian and arguing this you likely don’t believe in, could operate from its own power from that point.

You must believe that either good and evil are not objective then or if they are, that somehow those eternal realities exist in a purely materialistic universe.

You must have a belief about human consciousness that can be explained in an entirely materialistic universe.

You must believe there is a non-theistic metaphysic that explains the existence of those realities as well as others like triangularity, beauty, numbers if you think they are real, and existence itself.

You must believe that Jesus, at this point if He even existed, was just a man and nothing about Him was deity whatsoever. You must believe that the event that is claimed to be His resurrection can be explained in purely materialistic terms. You must believe that the Bible may be interesting reading, but it cannot be considered Scripture in any way.

All of this will follow if you place the case for the existence of God on the origin of life.

Now does this mean that the origin of life can be explained without God’s direct intervention? Not for me to say. Even if scientists can do this someday, there is still everything else. This is the benefit of not marrying your worldview to any scientific claim whatsoever. He who marries the spirit of the age is destined to be a widow.

If you’re a Christian, please give God a bigger place in your life than this. There are quite likely aspects I left off of this list. That’s okay. It’s not meant to be exhaustive, but it should be enough to get you thinking.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Why Evolution Isn’t A Problem

Should a Christian live in fear that evolution could be true? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

The new atheism doesn’t really seem to be doing much anymore, but if there’s anything I really remember from them, other than how weak and pathetic the arguments were, it’s to not speak where you don’t know. If these guys are this embarrassing when it comes to Christianity and philosophy and such, do I want to make the same mistake? Do I want to speak about science when I haven’t properly studied science?

To that end, I started rethinking a lot of things. I started pondering how much of my worldview in Christianity depended on science and asked if that needed to be the case. In the end, I even came to realize there was no need to argue against evolution. This was a shift for me since normally I think many of us when we come to the faith seem to automatically think it’s either evolution or Christianity.

I also thought that there seems to be a problem if all of our best arguments for theism depend on modern science. Are we really going to say that before the age of science, theists had no good grounds for believing in God? The greatest philosophers in Christianity history lived before the age of modern science. Why did they believe?

Largely, I have gone with the Thomistic arguments. None of them depend on modern science and I can pull the rug out from under some opponents when I tell them I will grant evolution to them, which sometimes is often their favorite defeater. Sadly, many Christians think the same way as I encountered one yesterday telling me that if we grant evolution, aren’t we undermining some of the best arguments for theism?

That’s only if we have a God of the Gaps mentality, which is really a problem. Are we saying that God’s only job is just working with the pre-existing matter and universe that we have to make creatures? If so, we don’t have the God of Christianity, but we have the demiurge of Plato. God isn’t someone who holds all of existence in His hand, but rather someone who just works with the existence that we have.

Furthermore, this is marrying our theism and/or Christianity to the modern science. So let’s suppose your best argument for the existence of God is the complexity of life and how did life come about naturally? What happens if one day science does find a naturalistic pathway including the origin of life? If you are consistent, then you will have to say your best argument for theism is undermined and your theism will be in danger. You will also give your opponent more grounds for their atheism.

This is not to say there are no scientific arguments for God’s existence or that the design arguments are entirely worthless. It is saying that you should not make your theism or Christianity dependent on them. This is especially the case if you don’t understand the science and wind up arguing something that you don’t understand, which will be disastrous when you meet someone who knows what they’re talking about. As has been said

“Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he hold to as being certain from reason and experience. Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn. The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men. If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods and on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason? Reckless and incompetent expounders of Holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by those who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books. For then, to defend their utterly foolish and obviously untrue statements, they will try to call upon Holy Scripture for proof and even recite from memory many passages which they think support their position, although they understand neither what they say nor the things about which they make assertion.”

Who said this? It wasn’t a modern writer commenting on the “warfare between science and religion.” It was Augustine said around 400 A.D. or so. The claim is old, but the information is just as relevant today as it was then.

If you are a Christian who knows science well and wants to argue against evolution after reading both sides, have at it. If not, I really urge you to stay out of this field. Please don’t be like the new atheists. Stick to what you know.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 11/10/2018: Kyle Greenwood

What’s coming up? Let’s plunge into the deeper waters and find out.

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the Earth. In due Christian fashion, we have been debating it ever since. I suspect that the two most debated books in the Bible are Genesis and Revelation and when it comes to Genesis, it’s largely the first 11 chapters and especially the first two.

So if we have been debating this for so long, and our Jewish friends before us have been debating it, what have we been saying? It might be too much to ask one man to go all throughout history and see what people are saying about Genesis, but fortunately, our guest this week took the path of editing a volume on it. By doing this, he allowed a number of people to look at the text and how it was interpreted throughout history.

He’ll be here with us today to talk about that book. We will look throughout history. Has it been the case that everywhere people have been talking about this book it was believed that the Earth is young and that only changed when evolution came along? How have people seen Adam and Eve? All these questions and more will be discussed with my guest, Kyle Greenwood.

So who is he?

According to his bio:

Kyle Greenwood earned the Master of Divinity from Hebrew Union College and the PhD from Hebrew Union College—Jewish Institute of Religion. He taught nine years at Colorado Christian University and is now an associated faculty in Old Testament at Denver Seminary and Fuller Theological Seminary. Greenwood is the author of Scripture and Cosmology: Reading the Bible between the Ancient World and Modern Science, is the editor of Since the Beginning: Interpreting Genesis 1–2 Through the Ages and just submitted a manuscript to Zondervan titledDictionary of English Grammar for Students of Biblical Languages. Kyle has been married to his wife Karen for over twenty-five years and they have three teenage children. When he’s not teaching or writing, he enjoys exploring the outdoor playgrounds of Colorado and serving in his local church.

We’ll be discussing the interpretation of these passages throughout the ages. We’ll talk about how the Jews interpreted it, how the Fathers interpreted it, how the medievals interpreted it, how the Reformers interpreted it, and then how it is interpreted in our times. We will discuss the different ways the text can be approached. Some people will like and think are treating the text properly. Some will be thought by a few out there to be a horrible way to approach the text. Some approaches could actually just make us laugh.

For those wondering where the show has been the past few weeks, we have had cancelations beyond my control and things like that. We hope to be back on an even schedule before too long. Please do realize I am trying to do all that I can to make this show the best that I can for you. I hope you’ll go on iTunes and leave a positive review of the Deeper Waters Podcast.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Why I Don’t Debate Evolution

Is it wise to take up every battle? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Sometimes I get asked why I don’t debate evolution. Do I just accept the reigning paradigm and that’s it? It’s a good question and one that deserves an answer.

Let’s start with something. I don’t accept purely naturalistic evolution. That is the idea that there is no God and all that we see came about by chance. I find that position untenable. Fortunately, that is not a scientific position. That is philosophical since science cannot prove or disprove naturalism.

I can also read books written by evolutionists and see criticisms that I think are good criticisms of the theory. However, in light of all of this, I realize that I am a novice in the area and do not know how to debate the topic. I do not understand the terminology that is used and if I was pressed, I could say nothing more on the issues than what I read.

That last part is an exception. If you’re a Christian who reads science and wants to do this, then I have no real problem. I simply ask that you make your argument scientific. It should never be the Bible vs. science. If we do that with our unbelieving friends, then we know which way they will go.

One aspect that brought the problem of this home to me was reading the New Atheists. Just look at the arguments they make against God and Christianity. Now there are informed atheists who can make good arguments. The New Atheists were not those atheists. Those arguments sounded convincing to other atheists who did not study the issues. As someone who does study them, I saw them as embarrassing.

What if I was doing the same?

It was worse that by arguing science I did not understand, I was embarrassing myself. I was also embarrassing Christianity. I was giving the impression that being a Christian would mean that I knew everything and I would believe it even if my opinion was uninformed.

Hence, I came to do some more study. I also decided that my theistic arguments didn’t need to be built on grounds other than science. That’s fine. After all, science is not the final arbiter on if God exists or not or if miracles are true or not. I find the five ways of Aquinas do that for me.

I also have an interpretation of Genesis that doesn’t rely on science as well, which is that of John Walton. I think we in a scientific culture have too often assumed the Bible is speaking science because that is our culture, not realizing that it was not their culture. We need to try to understand the text the way that they would.

Again, I am not saying that you cannot debate evolution. If you are a scientist and can make the case, then by all means go for it. Maybe you’re right. I don’t know. I just know that I don’t want to go against a reigning paradigm in an area I am ignorant of, much like mythicists go after the reigning paradigm of history in an area they’re ignorant of. If you’re not trained in science, I invite you to join me on that. You don’t have to debate everything.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Evidence Considered Chapter 28

Can we believe miracles took place? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

In chapter 28, Jelbert decides to take on Craig Blomberg on miracles in the Gospel tradition. At the start of his response, Jelbert says that we need to avoid circular reasoning.  We can’t say that a god or a demon accounts for some miraculous events and then when we see those events, that’s evidence.

First off, this isn’t entirely accurate. Scientists do this kind of thing regularly. If such and such object existed, then we would see X take place. We see X take place. Therefore, the object exists. It’s just fine to say “If an immaterial reality exists, we can expect to see miracles take place. We see miracles take place. Therefore, an immaterial reality exists.

Second, and this is more important, circular reasoning works both ways. If there are no immaterial beings, then miracles would not take place. Then when we see something that looks like a miracle, well, it can’t be a miracle. Why? Because no immaterial beings exist. That is truly arguing in a circle.

Jelbert says that in general, it is difficult to imagine any account being sufficient to convince us of a supernatural event. First off, I question the use of the term supernatural. Second, this could be said of anything one is skeptical of. The creationist could say, “It is difficult to imagine any account being sufficient to convince us that life came from non-life.” Yet on both counts, why should we think that? Can you give an answer on both counts that is not question-begging?

On the contrary, I think it’s quite simple. Imagine attending the funeral of a dead friend. Then lo and behold, three days later you see him alive again. Perhaps you are skeptical and you go to a doctor. It’s him. The DNA is the same and everything. Would this not be sufficient?

Suppose you have a friend who is blind. You go and pray for them and then in the end pray that in the name of Jesus they be healed. All of a sudden, they open their eyes and have perfect 20/20 vision? Perhaps it wasn’t a miracle, but could you not be justified in thinking that it was?

Jelbert also says that in our modern age, there is a great lack of evidence for miracles. Search a miracle claim and at rock bottom the evidence evaporates. Naturally, there is no interacting with someone like Craig Keener whose book Miracles here I reviewed and I interviewed him here. Good luck for Jelbert disproving all of those.

That’s something else to point out. For Jelbert to be right, he has to be right on every single miracle claim there is. Are a number of them fraudulent? Sure. Are all of them in Keener’s work true? Probably not. Yet by necessity, they have to be for Jelbert. Hypothetically, they could all be false and that still would not prove that miracles cannot and have not taken place.

Jelbert also says we are told to have faith. He does not say if Blomberg says this or not, but he presents a paragraph on faith which relies on a false definition. Faith is not a way to know things but a response to known things. Those interested can see more here.

Jelbert also says Blomberg is wrong about miracless being in every layer of the tradition. After all, Paul never mentions them. For one thing, in 2 Corinthians 12, Paul tells us in verse 12 that the signs of an apostle were done including wonders and signs in the midst of the Corinthians. When you write a church questioning your reputation, you don’t make a claim like this unless you know that your opponents will agree to it.

For another thing, Blomberg, of course, knows about Paul and Jelbert should have considered that. What Blomberg is talking about is the Gospel tradition. When we study even down to the layer of Q, we find miracles. The same grounds that allow many facts to be known about the historical Jesus are the same grounds that would allow for miracles. Even skeptical scholars today admit Jesus was known as a miracle-worker and an exorcist.

He also says that Jesus telling people to not say that He healed them would explain why people did not know about the miracle accounts, but this again begs the question that they did not know. Much more likely is that Jesus is doing this so that He can avoid grabbing at honor for Himself and avoid trouble with the authorities at times.

Jelbert then says it comes down to credibility and that the birth narratives destroy the credibility. Yes. Well, I suppose if you look at accounts, don’t bother to look at counter-scholarship on them and throw your hands up in the air and say I can’t reconcile them, then yes, credibility is shot. Fortunately, most scholars don’t do things this way. If we decided an ancient author could not be believed when he got one thing wrong, we would know far less about the ancient world than we do.

This could also work against Jelbert. Let’s take our creationist who is skeptical of evolution again. He comes to Jelbert who wants to argue about fossils that support evolution. “That’s nice, but you see, Piltdown Man and Nebraska Man were thought to be real by Ph.D.s and yet now we know they were hoaxes and besides that, science changes its mind most every week so science like yours has lost all credibility with me.”

Not only this, if we did throw out Matthew and Luke, we still have Mark and John and Blomberg would say even Q has miracles. How is Jelbert going to avoid them? Does he want to keep using this all-or-nothing thinking? Down that road lies mythicism.

Jelbert also relies on Wells who relies on Strauss. Wells is kind of scraping the bottom of the barrel though at least he has changed his mind on mythicism. Why do we have these miracles that are like the Old Testament? Because the authors are trying to depict Jesus as superior to Old Testament prophets.

Yet even if we went with a time of 70 A.D. for Mark, there would still be people around who knew these did not happen if they were false. What we have to assume for Jelbert is that everyone suddenly had total amnesia about what Jesus did and an entirely new story was created and totally replaced what really happened within a generation. Good luck with that.

Going along the path of Wells quoting Strauss, we get the old chestnut of not knowing who the Gospel authors were. Well, I suppose if you have books and all our earliest sources closest to the time say the same thing about authorship and these writers saying these claims of authorship being in different places, it’s really difficult to figure out.

Why would the early church choose Matthew, a name not well-known in the Gospels and a tax collector? Why Mark, who was a sissy boy who ran back home to his mama in the first missionary journey and caused a rift between the first two great evangelists? Heck. You could have named it after Peter who Mark was supposed to be the interpreter of? Why Luke, a Gentile not even mentioned in the Gospels. Interestingly, the only figure you could understand is John, and that is the one disputed the most. Was it John the apostle or John the elder? Many other works from the ancient world are anonymous. What methodology does Jelbert have to identify them?

He also says Luke used Mark and at times edited him so Luke doesn’t see him as completely reliable. First off, no one is arguing for complete reliability. Second, that a source edits some of what is said doesn’t mean the original is seen as unreliable. There could be any number of reasons. Luke might just want to stress something differently than Mark does.

Finally, Jelbert says we do not know how well the Jesus in the Bible reflects the historical Jesus, but we do know that no miracle anywhere has sufficient evidence to accept it. We should all marvel at the wonder of Jelbert with this one. What a remarkable man. Somehow, he knows that all miracles all over the world do not have enough evidence. Somehow, he has investigated all of them. Perhaps there were new miracles said to take place today. Worry not dear readers. Jelbert knows the evidence is insufficient!

That, my friends, is circular reasoning.

Jelbert in all of this nowhere gives any argument against miracles at all. He can say there is no argument for theism (Though he never counters the way of Aquinas), but even so, miracles are an argument for theism. It would have been good for Jelbert to follow his own advice and avoid circular reasoning, but alas, that is not done.

We shall continue next time.

In Christ,
Nick Peters