Friday, March 27, 2015

How Many Times are They Allowed to Redraw the Tree?

Have you ever read a headline that says something like, “New Fossils Forces Scientists to Redraw the Evolutionary Tree of Life”? If you are interested in evolution or creation at all, you've probably read that headline dozens of times. I know I have. Evolutionists love to talk about their much loved nested hierarchy and often trumpet it as though it's “proof” of their theory. It's funny (I mean downright hilarious) that seemingly every day, some new discovery pops up which forces them to redraw the so-called “Tree of Life.”

Just this month, National Geographic reported, “Oldest Human Fossil Found, Redrawing Family Tree.” It seems a jawbone found in Ethiopia has been dated by evolutionists as 500,000 years older than the date previously assigned to the genus Homo. A caption from the article says, “[The jawbone], spotted by Arizona State University grad student Chalachew Seyoum, puts the first members of the human genus Homo in the Afar region of Ethiopia half a million years earlier than previously thought.”

Isn't that interesting? It's especially interesting in light of the lie frequently spoken by evolutionists – Richard Dawkins in particular – which says, "Evolution could so easily be disproved if just a single fossil turned up in the wrong date order. Evolution has passed this test with flying colours." Just one fossil, huh? Flying colors, huh? Well here you go! Consider your theory disproved! Alas, they really don't mean it when they say a single, out-of-date-order fossil would disprove their theory thus I correctly identify it as a lie. When a fossil is discovered that upsets their theory of when or where some species evolved, then evolutionists simply redraw their nested hierarchy.

Now, in the fairness of full disclosure, the article goes on to say that this new find supposedly helps fill some gaps in their theory. Homo habilis had long been considered the ancestor of all Homo species. However, there was yet another jaw bone (labeled, AL 666-I), found some years earlier, that “suggests that an even more primitive "ghost lineage" of Homo must have existed.” Ah. I guess that even before this new fossil was found, the evolutionists' precious “nested hierarchy” was already in need of a tuning. It's never the neat package evolutionists tout it as being, is it?

Keep in mind, too, that this new find prompts a need to tweak the tree of life only after a parade of previous finds that were also introduced to us with similar fanfare. Here are a couple more headlines that demonstrate how scientists' previous theories about human evolution also turned out to be very wrong:

New Fossils May Redraw Human Ancestry,” NY Times, 9/8/2011
[I]f accepted, [this discovery] would radically redraw the present version of the human family tree, placing the new fossils in the center.

Fossils challenge old evolution theory,” USA Today, 8/9/2007
The discovery by Meave Leakey... shows that two species of early human ancestors lived at the same time in Kenya. That pokes holes in the chief theory of man's early evolution -- that one of those species evolved from the other.

After more than a century since Darwin said we evolved from apes, the fossil record still hasn't shown us any “clear progression” of such a thing happening. Remember too that these headlines are only dealing with alleged human ancestors – the most desirable of fossil finds. Every fossil primate skull that has ever been found for the last several decades is evaluated for a potential place in the ancestral tree of humans. Yet in spite of all their efforts, no clear lines can be drawn. Scientists only continuously rearrange broken branches that may not even belong on the same bush.

But besides human evolution, evolutionists' theories about the evolution of other species are continuously being upset by new discoveries. Here are a few more headlines for your amusement:

It doesn't sound like they're sure how anything evolved. I guess it's a good thing evolution really has no impact on science.

Are evolutionists never embarrassed by news like this? I've been told ad nauseum that the so called “tree of life” is evidence of common descent. It's one of the 29+ Evidences for Macroevolution, often cited by evolutionists while defending their theory. But how can it be evidence for anything if it has to be redrawn every other day? I understand that sometimes people exaggerate headlines in order to attract readers but when you read many of these type articles, you'll see that in most of these stories, some new find indeed does change the previous understanding of how something allegedly evolved. So how many times do they have to be wrong about the theory before people begin to question the theory itself? How many times are they allowed to redraw the tree until people begin to realize there is no tree?!

Friday, March 6, 2015

Does the Bible say that Pi = 3?

And he made a molten sea, ten cubits from the one brim to the other: it was round all about, and his height was five cubits: and a line of thirty cubits did compass it round about. (1 Kings 7:23)

One of the very first criticisms I remember ever hearing about the Bible is that the Bible teaches that the value of pi is three. Critics who make this claim are referring to this passage from 1 Kings where the Bible is describing a large basin made for the Temple. I wasn't even a Christian when I first heard this claim but even then I thought it sounded a little weak. It wasn't until years later, though, that I began to look at the claim seriously.

The first thing you'll notice is that the passage doesn't really say, “Pi equals three.” In fact, the passages doesn't mention pi at all. I'm pretty sure that at the time this was written, pi had not even been discovered yet. What the passage does do is give the dimensions of a round object and it is from those measurements that people extrapolate backward to calculate pi.

If you remember high school geometry, the circumference of a circle is equal to its diameter times pi (c=dp). In this case, the circumference of the molten sea is 30 and its diameter is 10. So, 30/10 would be exactly 3 – a geometric impossibility. So does it mean the Bible is wrong? Of course it doesn't. There are at least two factors we must consider that aren't included in the text.

First, we do not know exactly what is being measured. For example, exactly what is meant by the word “brim”? I assume the walls of the vessel had a certain width. Is the diameter of the “brim” measured on the inside where the liquid is held or is it measured to the outside? If the diameter is measured on the inside and the circumference on the outside (which is entirely plausible) then we can actually use the measurements of each to determine how thick the walls were.

Knowing what is being measured is not as simple as you might think. Is the altitude of a plane a measure of its height from the ground? Or is it a measure of its height above sea level? Does a plane lose altitude every time it flies over a mountain? If a plane is about to land in Denver, is its altitude only a few feet or is still a mile up? In a drawn circle, the line around the circumference is assumed to have no width. But in reality, the sides of a real world vessel – like a drinking glass – have width. Was the diameter of the brazen sea measured on the inside of the walls or to the outside? It makes a difference.

But besides not knowing exactly where the “brim” was measured, we also cannot forget the very common and acceptable practice of approximating. For example, as I write this, I'm 49 years old. However, I'm not exactly 49 years old – I'm 49 years plus some months, days, hours, etc. My exact age changes by the minute but it's acceptable to only give the year.

We approximate many things. We only ever express our height in feet and inches but our exact height could fall somewhere between the inches. We express our weight in pounds when it is usually pounds plus some ounces. Our driving speed is given in miles per hour. We talk about our income in even thousands.

Even pi is an approximation. When I was in geometry class, we only expressed pi as 3.14. When I was in machine shop, we were always told to use pi to 5 places, 3.14159. But pi is infinitely long so it can never be exactly expressed. No matter how many decimal places you wrote, you are only approximating pi. It would even be correct to say pi is 3 because that's accurate to zero decimal places.

Given the fact that the Bible doesn't use decimal places, it's very likely that the dimensions given for the brazen sea were only approximates. If the diameter of the vessel was 9.68 cubits and the circumference were 30.4 cubits, it would be acceptable to round those to 10 and 30 cubits respectively. There would be no error. Claiming the Bible is wrong for using approximations is akin to calling everyone who expresses his age in years a liar.

For this criticism of the Bible to be valid, the critic must claim to have special knowledge of 2 things: First, he must know with certainty that the dimensions given for the diameter and circumference were both measured on the outside walls of the brazen vessel. He also must know with certainty that the measurements are intended to be exact and not approximations. He cannot possibly know that either is true. In fact, the opposite is more likely the truth in both cases. Which means that people who stubbornly cling to this criticism are liars.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Predestination: A Series on Election, Part 6 – Preservation of the Saints

The final point point, the letter “P” in the acronym, TULIP, stands for the Preservation of the saints or the Perseverance of the saints. It's the idea that once a person is saved, he can never lose his salvation and is sometimes referred to by the phrase, “once saved, always saved.” It's the single point in 5-point Calvinism that I absolutely agree with 100%.

This isn't exclusive to Calvinism and the idea of “eternal security” could be debated separately from the doctrine of Calvin. Many Christians who don't consider themselves Calvinists will still believe in the doctrine of eternal security. I've written about this subject on a few occasions and I'm sure I will write about it again in depth. However, in this post we will discuss the issue primarily from the perspective of Calvinism.

In the light of Calvinism, the key to eternal security lies in the fact that our salvation is entirely the work of God. That is, He elects us, He gives us the desire and ability to believe, and He preserves us in our salvation. Just like we could do nothing to come to Him, neither are we capable of turning away once we're saved. Such a notion is supported by more than a few Scriptures. Here are three examples:

Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. He will also keep you firm to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Cor 1:7-8)

Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ: (Philippians 1:6)

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. (1 Peter 1:3-5)

These verses seem to make it clear that God does not save us then send us on our merry ways. He saves us and then He keeps us.

Arguments that I've heard contrary to the doctrine of preservation all seem rather weak. Some of them, for example, will take a passage where God promises to not take away our salvation and then use them as evidence that we could lose our salvation. Consider this example:

He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels. (Rev 3:5)

Now, when I read this passage, I understand it to mean that those who “overcome” (i.e. “are saved”) will not be removed from the Book of Life. However, one person commenting on this passage said the following:

Notice that God's pencil, which wrote your name in the Lamb's book of life, also has an eraser at the other end. The name can be erased from the book of life if you don't overcome.”

I think it's rather bizarre when God promises to not do something, some people understand it to mean He might do it! Yet these same people often take passages like this and use them to argue the reverse of what they're saying. They are making sort of a negative argument where they focus on what could have happened rather than what is being promised. Negative arguments aren't necessarily a bad thing. I've used them myself. For example, the Bible commands us to study to show ourselves approved (2 Timothy 2:15); I guess that means if we don't study, God doesn't approve. I'm arguing the negative of what the Bible says.

Here are similar, negative verses “free will” advocates use to defend that it is possible to lose our salvation.

But Christ as a son over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end. (Heb 3:6)

For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end; (Heb 3:14)

These verses say that we are made partakers of Christ and are of His house. Yet some people focus on the negative of the condition and say our salvation is conditional. That is, we are partakers of Christ only as long as we continue in the faith.

Another person used this analogy:

Someone might argue and say, "You are teaching that salvation must be earned through good works." No, I'm not. Salvation is free, but keeping it is costly. Suppose a friend gave me a brand new car which he paid out of his own money, and simply gave me the title and keys and said, "It's yours, Tom. Enjoy it." All I can do is reach for the keys and title and say, "Thank you!" Let me ask you a question. Is the car a free gift to me or did I have to earn it? It's free, right! But let me ask another question. Is it going to cost me money to keep and maintain the car? Sure it is. I'm going to have to put gas, change the oil, give it tune-ups, wax the car, and so on. The car is costly to keep, but it was free when I received it.

First off, the analogy is flawed. If someone gives me a car, sure it costs me to maintain it; if I don't, then the car might stop running. However, even if it stops running it is still my car! If the giver could came back to me and take it away, then the car was never really mine, was it? But besides that, as we have already seen, God not only saves us but also keeps us. I am confident that I will continue in the faith because it is God who works in me and not anything that I'm doing.

Negative arguments and analogies are the first resort when people argue that we can lose our salvation. Since that is the bulk of their argument, I believe their position is very weak.  

As I've already said, I could write more about this but this post has already gone on long enough. I'm getting off the subject of Calvinism anyway. I'll conclude by saying that the preservation of the saints is not only the fifth point of Calvinism, I also believe it is correct doctrine.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Predestination: A Series on Election, Part 5 – Irresistible Grace

Intrinsic to the idea of predestination is the belief in Irresistible Grace. Obviously, the term suggests that if God has chosen us, we cannot turn away from His election. However, irresistible grace runs a little deeper than that. We've already talked about the fact that carnal man does not want to come to God. We are totally depraved – not only are we not able to come to God, we completely lack the desire. However, if God has elected us, we come willingly to Him. So He gives us not only the ability to call upon His name but an irresistible desire to do so.

Consider these two verses:

Ephesians 2:8-9, For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

John 1:12-13, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”

According to Ephesians, not only are we saved by faith, one understanding of the verse is that even the faith is not your own – it is the gift of God. So even the ability to call on Him comes from Him.

The verse from John suggests something similar. Note that it says those who believe in His name were not born of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man. Instead, it says rather clearly that God Himself gave them the right to become His children. In other words, we believe in Him not because of our will but because of His will.

I would not describe myself as a Calvinist but certainly I'm sympathetic to Calvinism. It's a doctrine that is not completely without merit and there are many verses that have caused me to seriously consider the issue. However, there is one verse especially that gives me pause. I find it completely incompatible with Calvinism in general and the point of irresistible grace in particular.

Matthew 23:37, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling.”

Jesus uttered those words before making His triumphant entry into Jerusalem. He knew that the crowds who flocked to see Him and hail Him as their Messiah would soon be shouting for His death. It says very plainly that Jesus longed for those Jews to embrace Him and that it was they who rejected Him.

Yet men wiser than me have read this same verse and still view is as compatible with Calvinism. While commenting on this verse, Charles Spurgeon wrote:

The great destroyer of man is the will of man. I do not believe that man’s free will has ever saved a soul; but man’s free will has been the ruin of multitudes. “Ye would not,” is still the solemn accusation of Christ against guilty men. Did he not say, at another time, “Ye will not come unto me, that ye might have life?” The human will is desperately set against God, and is the great devourer and destroyer of thousands of good intentions and emotions, which never come to anything permanent because the will is acting in opposition to that which is right and true.

I agree with his comments to a point and I can see how this verse could be used in defense of Calvin's first point, the total depravity of man. Yet I still can't see how this verse can be reconciled with the idea of irresistible grace. Matthew still says that Jesus desired them to come and they, by their own will, would not.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Predestination: A Series on Election, Part 4 – Limited Atonement

The third point in Calvin's acronym is Limited Atonement. According to this belief, Christ's death on the cross was only to redeem those who God had already chosen to be saved. The forgiveness found in Jesus' blood is not available to the un-elect. In other words, Christ's atonement for sins is limited to only the elect. Of the five points, I believe this is definitely the weakest but it's not entirely without merit. First, there are some Bible verses cited in defense of this position.

Matthew 1:21, She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.

On its face, this verse could be understood to say, “He will save only His people from their sins.” This same sentiment is found in Acts.

Acts 20:28, Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.

Again, it seems like Christ's blood was shed to purchase only His church.

Finally, some people try to make hay out of the Bible's frequent use of the word, “many.” Consider the following verse, for example:

Matthew 26:28, “for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins.

The use of the word “many” here could be understood to mean “a large number but not all” - that is, the verse means, “poured out not for all for the forgiveness of sins, just many.” However, the use of the word “many” is ambiguous and can refer to the number instead of the percentage. For example, I could say, “There are many people in the world.” In that case, “many” includes all; I'm saying there are a lot of people. Likewise, a large number of people (i.e. “many”) are saved through Jesus' blood.

In contrast to the idea of limited atonement, we could consider John's words:

1 John 2:2 He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.

The phrase, “the whole world” seems a lot less ambiguous than the term, “many.” Yet even though the term “whole world” seems to include everyone, we must still be on guard against the false doctrine of universalism. The Bible is clear that not everyone is or will be saved. Revelation 20:15 warns sinners that when the dead are judged by their works, anyone whose name is not written in the Book of Life will be cast into the Lake of Fire.

As is always the case, we must reconcile those verses which seem to suggest a limited atonement with the verses that suggest universalism. I believe the solution is rather obvious: Christ died so that He might make salvation available to everyone but only those who repent and accept His forgiveness are saved. In that sense, atonement truly is limited to the elect.