googlef87758e9b6df9bec.html A Sure Word: July 2011

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A Logical Argument Against God?

I would never call myself a philosopher but I do enjoy studying logic. While I was looking into some philosophical arguments concerning the existence of God, I came across a video that made the remarkable claim, “How to prove God doesn't exist, in 3 minutes or less!” Needless to say, it piqued my interest. To even say, “there is no God” commits the logical fallacy of a “universal negative” but here is a person who claims to PROVE God doesn't exist. In the description of his video, the maker, Dhorpatan, says, “I have come to the realization, that this may be one of the greatest, if not THE greatest argument for the non-existence of not just the Judeo-Christian God, or Creator Gods, but ALL Gods!!” That's fairly optimistic. Of course, I believe he fails miserably to live up to his claim.

I've included the video below. As usual, I recommend you watch it so you can follow along with what I'm going to say. It's only 2:58 long so at least Dhorpatan did indeed keep his argument under 3 minutes. He sets up his argument around the question, “Is God infinite?” This is a yes or no question and Dhorpatan gives his supposed “proof” to either answer. I believe that God is infinite so I really shouldn't bother with his argument against a finite god but I do anyway for the purpose of illustration, .

If a Christian claims that God is finite, Dhorpatan actually gives three sub-points. The first two may have a certain validity but in his third sub-point he says, If you say your god is finite, then your God is disproved because it can't be called a God. Gods are by definition, supernatural, but finitude [sic] is of the natural world. So, saying your God is finite, means it can't even be called a God ” There are a couple of problems with this. First, Dhorpatan commits the logical fallacy of non sequitur. Non sequitur means, “it doesn't follow.” An example of a non sequitur would be, “birds have feathers so therefore dogs don't exist.” Dhorpatan is trying to claim that “finite” is a defining quality of “natural” thus anything finite is necessarily natural. How can he make that connection? I don't believe in ghosts but, if they were real, most people would agree that are “super natural.” So then, are ghosts “infinite”? There's nothing about being supernatural that requires a thing to be infinite yet Dhorpatan claims just that.

Second, Dhorpatan commits a sort of “No True Scotsman” fallacy when he suggests that gods must be infinite. It's an argument over definition. He is defining “god” as meaning infinite so that he can disqualify any god that is not infinite. Again, Zeus is not real yet, if he were, he would be considered a god. However, Dhorpatan disqualifies Zeus on the grounds that Zeus is not infinite.

I must say again, though, that I believe God is infinite so I'm not really concerned about Dhorpatan's arguments against a finite god. I merely address them to demonstrate his shaky logical footing. We'll turn now to Dhorpatan's arguments against the infinite God.

Dhorpatan's main argument rests solely on the philosophical assumption that an actual infinity cannot exist in the universe. His logic seems valid but even valid arguments aren't necessarily true. Consider this logical argument:

Premise 1: All men have mustaches

Premise 2: John is a man

Conclusion: Therefore, John has a mustache

This is a valid argument but it suffers from a flawed premise – namely that not all men have mustaches. Likewise, Dhorpatan's argument, even if valid, is not necessarily true. It is contingent on the truth of his premise – that is, can an actual infinity exist? This is a much debated subject but Dhorpatan seems to KNOW one can't. If an actual infinity can exist, then his entire argument is undone. I, on the other hand, believe in an infinite God and so I believe an actual infinity can and does exist.

Being finite creatures ourselves, it's difficult for us to conceptualize an actual infinity. We understand a potential infinity reasonably well (as in infinite numbers), but an actual infinity is a little too much for us. However, our inability to grasp an actual infinity is not evidence against one. It is an argument from ignorance where one says that since we don't understand how there can be an actual infinity, there can't be an actual infinity. However, I will use some of Dhorpatan's point to show why there must be an infinite God!

Consider Dhorpatan's arguments against a finite god. Dhorpatan says in the video that, “If they [Christians] say, 'no, that God is not infinite,' then He is not beginningless and will require a cause... Further, He could not be the First Cause Creator, since a non-infinite god is limited and would, thus, not be sufficient to halt infinite regress.” Could not these same points be asked about the universe? Is the universe infinite? If not, then it would require a cause as Dhorpatan so readily admits. Then what is the cause of the universe? And what caused that cause? And that cause? Without a First Cause, then beginning of the universe suffers from infinite regress. And as Dhorpatan also admits, an infinite God is necessary to halt an infinite regress.

If the universe is not created, the alternative is an infinitely old universe. That would make the universe itself an actual infinity. But according to Dhorpatan, an actual infinity cannot exist. So therefore the universe either began via an infinite chain of finite causes or else it doesn't exist! Talk about irony!

I don't want to leave Dhorpatan squirming, though. The universe cannot be infinitely old. If it were, it would mean that we would have had to cross an infinite amount of time to reach this point; but it is logically impossible to cross an infinite amount of time so the universe cannot be infinitely old.

I'd love to talk philosophy all day but let's wrap this up. Dhorpatan goes to great lengths to weave a logical web but can't quite tie down all the loose ends. Instead, he hoists himself on his own petard. The very arguments he uses against God, could be used to argue that the universe doesn't exist. It's far more reasonable to believe in the First Cause. He's the God of the Bible. We call Him, Lord!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Second Law of Thermodynamics and Evolution

I believe that evolutionists are in denial about the Second Law of Thermodynamics (SLOT), sometimes known as the Law of Increasing Entropy. Any time a creationist mentions the SLOT, evolutionists have a fit. We'll discuss why in a moment. In the simplest terms, entropy means disorder and the SLOT basically says that over time, systems naturally tend toward disorder. This applies in a many ways but here are two examples:

First, imagine I have a 500-piece, jigsaw puzzle and I put together 250 pieces. Then I take all 500 pieces (both the joined and unjoined) and put them back in the box and shake it for 5 minutes. At the end of the shaking, do you think there will be more or less than 250 pieces put together? Obviously there will be less. The more violently I shake the box, the more pieces are likely to come apart. It would be ridiculous to believe that any amount of shaking will arrange all 500 pieces in order.

Second, the SLOT also applies to the transfer of heat. Heat naturally moves from hotter to cooler areas. Again, imagine there is a room where heat cannot enter or leave. In the room is a hot cup of coffee and a cold soft drink. The heat in the room will not enter the coffee and warm it up. The heat in the soft drink will not leave and make the soft drink colder. Instead, the heat will leave the hot coffee and enter the room; the heat will leave the room and enter the soft drink. Eventually, everything in the room will become the same temperature.

In the origins debate, the SLOT seems to argue against evolutionists' theories. After the Big Bang, matter must have arranged itself into orderly systems. Chaos became the cosmos. Lighter elements, like hydrogen (H), somehow arranged themselves into heavier elements. Here on earth, random chemicals arranged themselves into amino acids, which arranged themselves into RNA, which eventually became the first living cell, which eventually evolved into all the current diverse species. It all sounds very uphill and a direct contradiction to the idea that systems naturally run downhill. This is why evos don't like to hear about the SLOT and this is why creationists like to bring it up.

Of course, evolutionists disagree. The most common reason they object, by far, is on the grounds that the SLOT only applies to closed systems – that is, it only applies where neither matter nor energy can enter the system. They claim the earth is not a closed system because it receives energy from the sun. Hmmm. Let's think about that for a second. If I grant, for a moment, that the earth is an open system, what about the solar system? We are 12 light years away from closest star (besides the sun) so we are far removed from any of its effects. So how did the closed system of our solar system arrange itself into our sun and planets? On a broader scale, our universe is certainly a closed system. There is absolutely no matter/energy entering the universe so how did the random matter at the Big Bang arrange into heavier elements and eventually become the galaxies?

The sophomoric retort that the earth is an open system doesn't solve the problem that the universe – from the Big Bang until now – seems to be a history of order out of disorder. It is not what we would expect if systems tend toward disorder.

But here is the dirty secret about the SLOT: it applies even in open systems. Consider my example above about the jigsaw puzzle. Even though the box is closed, my shaking of the box is adding energy to the system. In that case, it is the energy that is accelerating the disorder. The same is true for the sun. The introduction of raw energy doesn't magically introduce order into a system. Sunlight destroys the roof of my house, it fades my furniture, and ruins the paint job on my car. All of these things that were put together with order, are being destroyed by the sun. Likewise, simply applying heat to random chemicals doesn't arrange them into DNA or living cells. Applying heat to chemicals tends to break them down into simpler chemicals – not more complex chemicals.

For energy to create order, there must be some mechanism that directs the energy. Consider putting gasoline in your car. If you just pour gas on the hood and light it, that won't make your car run. You must put the gas into the tank, which delivers it to the combustion engine, which, through a system of controlled explosions, can make the car move. So you see, it's not just “energy” that moves the car. There must be some mechanism that directs the energy. Simply saying the sun gives energy does not overturn the downhill consequences of the SLOT. For that to happen, there must be some mechanism that converts sunlight into useful energy.

A car, of course, is an open system. I must continuously add fuel. I must also continuously do maintenance because the car will wear out. So even though it is an open system, it eventually will succumb to entropy. At some point, my car will become scrap. Every system, open or closed, will eventually fall victim to entropy. In the meanwhile, every time I create order in the car, I'm creating more disorder somewhere else. Burning the gas creates waste. Drilling for the oil that makes the gas also creates waste as does building the parts for my car. The little bit of order which I gain from a tank of gas in my car comes as the expense of greater disorder in the world in which I live which is another demand of the SLOT. In a large system, there could be pockets of order (when there is some mechanism which arranges it) but the order only comes at the expense of more disorder somewhere else in the system. In the universe, while hydrogen was becoming helium and turning into stars and galaxies, where was the disorder that was being created?

This brings me to still another point: if the universe is running down now, the SLOT would demand that it was more orderly in the past! This is exactly the opposite of what the Big Bang theory (cosmologically speaking) and evolution (biologically speaking) claim. As is always the case, creation is a far better explanation of the evidence. The universe was indeed better in the past. When God initially created everything, He said it was very good (Genesis 1:31). The Bible says that heavens and earth are waxing old and wearing out (Isaiah 51:6).

The SLOT is antithetical to all secular ideas of origins yet is perfectly consistent with the Bible. It makes me laugh, then, when I hear evolutionists complain that creationists are “denying science.” It's easy to see who's in denial about entropy!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Epicurus Riddle: The Problem of Evil

“Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?
Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing?
Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing?
Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing?
Then why call him God?”

The Greek philosopher, Epicurus, penned this famous “riddle” more than 400 years before Christ. While many people acknowledge that he had the Greek god, Zeus in mind when he wrote this, it's still quoted today and applied to the God of the Bible. It's seen by some people as some logical argument against the existence of God. I intend to show why it is not.

To begin to address these questions, one must consider what is meant by the word 'evil' here? Most people have a general idea of what evil is but what are some specific things that are evil? Is murder evil? Most would agree that it is. What about stealing? What about lying? What about “little” things like viewing pornography, drinking, gambling, or smoking? When we start identifying things as evil, we begin to realize that we are evil. The Bible says there are none that does good (Psalm 14:3). If we want God to do “something” about evil, we must realize that we are asking Him to deal with each one of us personally.

What exactly then do we want God to do about evil? Should He immediately remove anyone that commits an evil act? That might have sounded appealing a few minutes ago but if each of us were to be included, then it suddenly doesn't sound so appealing anymore.

Of course, there are those people who excuse their own vices as “not so bad” and only want God to deal with the “really bad” things. I guess that means that something like telling “white lies” is OK but the “bold faced” liars get zapped. This is a sort of special pleading by some people who want some degree of evil to be acceptable – just enough for them to get by. They want God to deal with evil but not their evil. They are saying, “Zap everyone else, God, just don't zap me!” You can see how this doesn't really solve anything because everyone wants to excuse their own sin. The Bible says that everyone is right in his own eyes but the Lord ponders the heart (Proverbs 21:2).

If anyone wants God to deal with evil by removing it, it's an all or nothing proposition.

A second alternative is to restrain people from doing evil. That is, God should simply not allow anyone to do evil. The problem with this is that evil is a free will issue. If we were to use the 10 Commandments as a standard of understanding what is right and wrong, there are some points everyone would agree on. “Thou shalt not kill” (Exodus 20:13), for example, would be one of those things that most people would agree is wrong. We wouldn't have a problem if God took away our desire or ability to kill. But what about the commandment that says, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3)? Would the critic be agreeable if God forced everyone to worship Him? Somehow I think he wouldn't like this option. It's a similar dilemma to the one above where we want God to deal with the evil in everyone else, but we want God to let us continue in our own evil.

To be fair to the critic, though, I wouldn't like this option too much either. If God eliminates our ability to do evil, He also eliminates our ability to choose to do good. I want to worship God. I don't want to be a robot who only performs a task because that what it's programmed to do and it doesn't know anything else. Perhaps God too doesn't want this because He has obviously decided not to deal with evil this way.

A third option is this: give people the free will to decide to do good or evil. Everyone chooses to do evil, of course, and the unrepentant will reap the just punishment for their actions. However, God could make a way of forgiveness available to those who repent of their evil. This is the option that God has chosen. God made this option available at a great personal cost to Himself. In doing so, He has demonstrated that He is both able and willing to do something about evil. He has also demonstrated another characteristic that Epicurus did not mention in his riddle; besides being omnipotent and merciful, God is also just.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Somebody is Lying

With the “drop dead” date on increasing the debt limit fast approaching, we're hearing more and more dire predictions about all the bad things that will happen if we can't borrow any more money. Perhaps the most alarming scare tactic is that Social Security checks will stop being mailed unless the debt limit is raised. Is that true? I guess that depends.

For a long time, I've spoken out against the ponzi-scheme like funding of Social Security. What some people call “pay-as-you-go”, I call a “pyramid.” Social Security benefits being paid out now are coming from the Social Security taxes being paid now. When today's workers eventually retire, they will have to rely on other people paying into the system to pay the retiring people's benefits.

For many years, there was far more money being paid into Social Security than was being paid out. The difference was set aside in a “Trust Fund” to be available for future demands on the system. On the Social Security website, you can find this quote:

The Social Security Trust Funds are the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance (OASI) and the Disability Insurance(DI) Trust Funds. These funds are accounts managed by the Department of the Treasury. They serve two purposes: (1) they provide an accounting mechanism for tracking all income to and disbursements from the trust funds, and (2) they hold the accumulated assets.

Whew! It's comforting to know they've been holding onto these “accumulated assets” because, just recently, the cost of benefits payments has begun to exceed the total receipts. No worries though, because we should be solvent for many decades to come. Consider this quote from the same website:

In the annual Trustees Report, projections are made under three alternative sets of economic and demographic assumptions. Under one of these sets (labeled "Low Cost") the trust funds remain solvent for the next 75 years. Under the other two sets (the "Intermediate" and "High Cost"), the trust funds become depleted within the next 25 years. The intermediate assumptions reflect the Trustees' best estimate of future experience.

You see then, we should have enough funds in the SS “trust fund” to remain solvent for at least 25 years – maybe even 75 years. So why is Obama saying the SS checks will stop unless we increase the debt limit? Before you answer, keep in mind that people will still continue paying their SS tax even if the debt limit isn't raised so that can't be used for an excuse as to why SS checks might stop.

If SS checks stop, then we know there was never really a trust fund that held all these decades of overpayment into the SS system. On the other hand, Obama certainly is aware of this supposed trust fund. If he believes there's such a fund, then he knows the checks aren't going to stop. Either way, somebody is lying.

Of course, if the debt limit is increased then it will be business as usual. The Social Security Administration will continue promoting the falsehood that it will remain solvent for many years to come. Obama will continue to scare seniors by telling them Republicans want to take away their monthly checks. However, the truth is now out. This budget crisis has shone a light on the fragile Social Security system. It's a house of cards. They're just lying about it.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Does “And God Said” Mean God Didn't Do?

I came across a mildly interesting article called, “Plain Reading of Genesis 1.” It's by a theistic evolutionist, Glenn Morton, who tries to make hay of the term, “And God said...” I think it's most amusing that Glenn Morton titled it, “Plain Reading of Genesis 1” since Morton's reading of Genesis is anything but plain. His point in the article is that the “plain” reading of passages like Genesis 1:11 do not say that God made the grass, for example. He points out that God only “said”, “Let the earth bring forth grass.” Here's how Morton explains the “plain” meaning of that passage:

Oh, God is saying things, he isn't creating things, but anti-evolutionists miss that subtlety. Where is the verb Created that applies to God? It isn't there. What is inside the quote? ¶"Let the earth bring forth grass and herb yielding seed." ¶Where is God in that phrase? Who or what is bringing forth? A simple grammar teacher would tell you that the earth is the subject of that sentence and is the thing doing the action--which is, bringing forth.!!!! God didn't bring forth, the earth DID.

I'm not sure where to begin. Morton's “plain” reading is truly incredible.

To Morton's point that the term “And God said...” somehow has removed God from being “directly” involved in the creation, I would direct your attention to the miracles performed by Jesus in the New Testament. Jesus often performed His miracles by merely speaking the words. For example, Jesus said in John 11:43, “Lazarus, come forth.” So I ask, was Jesus “directly” involved in the resurrection of Lazarus? If not, exactly who brought Lazarus forth? Was it Lazarus? Was it the tomb? Did the molecules in Lazarus' body somehow rearrange themselves over vast eons of deep time until Lazarus finally came forth alive again?

Morton also has a very selective way of reading Genesis. It's true that the phrase “And God said...” is used frequently in Genesis. However, Morton glosses over – with barely a mention – other passages that say, “And God made...” or “And God created....” Genesis 1:25, for example, says, And God made the beast of the earth...” John 12:1 attests that it was Jesus who raised Lazarus from the dead and He did so by merely speaking the words. Just as Jesus was directly responsible for raising Lazarus with His word, so also God was directly responsible for the creation with His word.

But speaking of the plain meaning, where exactly is Morton's explanation of the plain meaning of the phrase “evening and morning” or the ordinal numbering of days - “first day,” “second day,” etc? If he is so interested in the plain meaning of the text, I maintain the most ordinary meaning of these terms in Genesis 1 is that the earth was created in six days. To believe that “the evening and the morning were the first day” plainly means “billions of years” seems more than a little stretch.

Another thing that is very odd about Morton's article is that he somehow suggests that Genesis “plainly” endorses evolution. Do you really think that the phrase, “And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature...” plainly means that over billions of years a single-celled creature, through mutation and selection, over countless generations, eventually evolved to become all the diverse land animals? The plain meaning seems far more likely to say that God spoke and all of the land animals came forth in a single day. The Bible is describing an event, not a process.

Finally, Morton seems to acknowledge that the creation of man was unlike the creation of the animals. The Bible states overtly that Adam was formed from the dust of the earth and not descended from a non-human animal. Thus, the plain meaning of the text is that Adam was created fully human in a moment and not the product of evolution. So, does Morton exclude man from evolution or does he ignore the plain reading of the Bible when it conflicts with his theory?

What Morton claims is the “plain” reading of Genesis is little more than quote-mining and special pleading. God made the world and everything in it in six days. The plain meaning of the Bible needs little explanation.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Genesis 3:22-24, The Tree of Life

And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever: So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life. (Genesis 3:22, 24 KJV)

At first hearing, most people equate the casting of Adam and Eve from the Garden with God's pronouncement of the Curse upon them – that is, they believe God cursed Adam and Eve, then cast them from the Garden as part of the same Judgment. Because the passages appear together, it's a reasonable understanding. However, I believe it is an incorrect understanding.

I think the key to understanding this verse lies in Paul's confession found in Romans 7:18-19

For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want.”

Paul ends Romans 7 with this lament (v. 24), Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?”

I can certainly empathize with Paul. There are things I know I should do and yet I don't do them. There are also things I know I shouldn't do and yet I do them. I hate it. Our flesh is literally at war with our spirit and thus it will always be as long as we dwell in our fleshly bodies. There are times I long to be rid of the flesh and leave the strife of this world behind.

When Paul asked who would free him from his body of death, he was asking rhetorically. We have a Savior who has promised just that. He is the One who makes all things new (2 Corithians 5:17). One day, our fleshly bodies will die but we have eternal life with Him in a place free from the Curse. That is God's desire for us and that was His desire for Adam.

God would have known that Adam would feel the same way that Paul felt. The Bible says that Adam knew right and wrong and so he would face the same battles as Paul. Adam would know those things he should do yet would not do them. Adam would know those things he should not do and he would do them. God did not want that for Adam. If Adam ate from the Tree of Life he would live forever in his body of death. God had a better plan!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Time Off for Good Behavior?

There’s not a lot I can add to the Casey Anthony ordeal. It’s already being covered non-stop in the news by people whose full time job is to talk about current events. I didn’t follow the trial as closely as others might have but I understand the prosecution’s allegations and Anthony’s defense. Even if I believed everything Casey Anthony claimed (through her attorneys), I would have to say that she hasn’t acted appropriately.

So the verdict comes down today on the sentencing for the four counts of lying to the police which she was found guilty on: four years in prison. Yet even though she was sentenced to four years, she’s getting out in less than a week. That seems odd. My first thought was that this was a genesis-like interpretation of the sentence where “four years” really means “one week” but that isn’t it. She has been given credit time served and “good behavior.” Really?! I understand that she’s already been in jail for a while but exactly what has been good about her behavior?

I’ve always thought the term “model prisoner” had a certain oxy-moron sound to it. A prisoner can be a model for whom? When someone is found guilty of a crime, his sentence is the punishment for his crime. So then he should serve the entire sentence regardless of how well he behaves afterward while in prison. While someone is in jail/prison, we should expect him to abide by the rules for the entire time of his sentence. It seems ridiculous to let someone out early simply for doing what he is expected to do. Think about this: if someone is uncooperative while in prison, his "punishment" for his bad behavior is that he still gets out when he was supposed to?

I know what critics of my argument will say; the possibility of an early release is an incentive for prisoners to cooperate. I see the logic of that but where is the justice in it? He should serve the time to which he was sentenced. We have it backward. Prisoners should work hard to rehabilitate and prepare to reenter society at the end of their sentence. Prisoners who do not do this could be considered un-rehabilitated and may look at spending more time in prison even after their sentence ends. This would accomplish the same incentive and be just at the same time.

Hearing the Casey Anthony sentence really drove home the irony of crediting criminals for good behavior. “Casey Anthony” and “good behavior” are words that one wouldn’t normally use in the same sentence.