googlef87758e9b6df9bec.html A Sure Word: December 2011

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Did the Ancient Hebrews Believe in a Literal Genesis?

Many liberal theists have made the claim that the ancient readers of the Bible never believed Genesis was meant to be literal. When I hear people make this claim, I've often asked them what literary clues are present that identify Genesis (or other relevant passages) as figurative and how can we distinguish them from simple narrative. The usual responses I get are a swift change of the subject (a red herring), links to liberal scholars who have made the same claim (appeals to authority), or an avalanche of literary terms that have absolutely no substance (argument by verbosity). I intend to write a more detailed discussion of this criticism in the future but on this occasion of New Years Eve, I wanted to point out a simple fact that might shine some light on the matter.

Our Gregorian calender was intended to count the years since the birth of Christ. There was a little goof in our math but, for the most part, it's been approximately 2,012 years since the birth of Christ.

Now the Jews, of course, do not recognize Jesus as the Messiah of Scripture and so their calender doesn't count the years since His birth. Instead, they have counted the years since creation. So, what year is it on the Jewish calender? It's 5,772.

Hmmm. Is it just a coincidence or is that not too far off from the typical creationist's understanding of the age of the earth? The claim has been made that creationists like myself are simply fanatical fundamentalists who take a hyper-literal view of Genesis that is not intended by the text. It seems to me that the Jewish calender agrees with me. If they are counting the years since the creation, they are far closer to my estimate of the earth's age than any evolutionist's estimate. I guess that means the ancient Hebrews were also young earth creationists!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas, 2011

And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. 
(John 1:14)

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Attention Evolutionists: I'm Still Waiting on Evidence for Your Theory

A while back, there was an evo posting under the name of the_elf who challenged me on my claim about empiricism. I had said a lot of things in that conversation but he focused on one quote in particular. I had said, “You seem to believe that truth is obtained by observation and evidence.” He made a lot of hay about it and came up with some ridiculous experiments to “test” if we can learn something by observations. Obviously, he didn't get the point. OK, I admit he quoted me correctly. I wrote that. But I wrote a lot of other things so highlighting this single quote is more like a quote mine. For example, he completely glossed over the part where I said, “Observation and evidence are fine ways to learn about the creation.” Since some people are still having trouble understanding this concept, I thought I'd take a moment and expound on it a little more.

According to Wikipedia, empiricism is the “theory of knowledge that asserts that knowledge comes only or primarily via sensory experience.” It seems that a lot of evos suffer from this worldview. Not only do they demand evidence for my belief, they often ridicule all religion as irrational. In the same discussion, another evo (named “edge”) said, “RK, there is nothing rational about religion. Religion is belief without evidence. That is practically the definition of irrational.”

What strikes me as most peculiar about this attitude is the sheer contradiction of it. Where is the evidence that knowledge is only gained by evidence? It's laughable when you think about it. There are people who believe – without any evidence – that they won't believe anything without evidence. And they say “religion” is irrational? Also, according to this belief, we can never really know anything because we have not been everywhere and observed everything.

Yet an even more fundamental flaw than these is how seemingly obvious it is that there is another way to gain knowledge. I'm going to tell something very personal about my self: I have brown eyes. Now, most of the people who read my blog have never met me nor have they seen a picture of me. There is no way they could know that I have brown eyes except that I have told them. So we can see, knowledge can also be gained by revelation.

Of course, the usual rebuttal to my example is to point out that I could be lying. Maybe I really have blue eyes. So even though I claim to have brown eyes, skeptics wouldn't really know I had brown eyes until they see for themselves. This is rather arbitrary of them because they don't use this same skepticism concerning other evidence. For example, how much evidence for evolution have these skeptics seen first hand? Have they seen the fossils with their own eyes? Very few people have actually laid eyes on any fossils of supposed ancestors. The originals are all sequestered away. Also, have these skeptics done research in a lab? Of all the people who believe in evolution, only a fraction are scientists with training and experience in a related field.

You see, most people who insist on having evidence, rely only on revelation from people who have actually seen the evidence. That is, they believe in evolution because of what others have told them about it, not because they've seen the evidence for themselves. Yet so many evolutionists (even the non-scientist kind) demand evidence from me and then ridicule me for relying on revelation and for seeming to believe something they claim I have no evidence for.

In summary, I'm not interested in the evidence for evolution (at least not in this post). I'm more interested in the evidence for the philosophic underpinning for your brand of secular science. If you're only interested in evidence, then where is your evidence that knowledge is only gained by evidence? Where is your evidence that everything must have a natural explanation? Where is the evidence that only “scientific” evidence is valid evidence? Edge said religion is a belief without evidence. I'm still waiting on the evidence for your theory.

Some Christmas Cheer

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Extra-Biblical References to Jesus

Critics of Christianity attack the faith on many fronts. Certainly they disparage the Scriptures with claims that the Bible was written by men, it is not inspired by God, it is rife with errors, and it has been revised so much that we cannot possibly know what the original texts even said. Some other outrageous claims leveled against Christianity is that the Person of Christ is, Himself, a mythology that was invented and embellished centuries after He “supposedly” lived. The integrity of the Bible is far beyond any other book of antiquity (which will probably be the subject of a future post). The Bible is certainly the greatest witness we have to Jesus. Yet even beyond the Bible, we have other historical sources that attest to the historicity of Jesus as well as other people and events from the Bible.

Because the passages themselves are longer, I will let them speak for themselves with little commentary from me. Even so, I know this will be a longer post than usual. I apologize in advance.


Flavius Josephus (aka Joseph ben Matthias) was a 1st century, Jewish priest and renowned historian. In his important work, The Antiquities of the Jews, Josephus made this very famous reference to Christ, which has come to be called the Testimonium Flavianum (the testimony of Flavius):
Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews, and many of the Gentiles. He was the Christ, and when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men among us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day; as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him. And the tribe of Christians so named from him are not extinct at this day.
Now, many skeptics are suspicious of this passage. The usual claim is that it is not authentic but was added later by some Christian interpolater. Some of the arguments I've heard supporting this position seem compelling. However, the majority of scholars hold to a “partial authenticity” view of this passage; that is, they believe even the original text contained a reference to Christ, albeit much less spectacular. They agree on something similar to the following reconstruction:
At this time there appeared Jesus, a wise man. For he was a doer of startling deeds, a teacher of people who receive the truth with pleasure. And he gained a following among many Jews and among many of Gentile origin. And when Pilate, because of an accusation made by the leading men among us, condemned him to the cross, those who had loved him previously did not cease to do so. And up until this very day the tribe of Christians (named after him) had not died out.
Even in this more tame version of the Testimonium Flavianum is remarkable. It attests not only the person of Jesus but also that He was a great teacher of truth, popular among both Jews and Gentiles, and that He was crucified by Pilate yet continued to be loved by His followers who called themselves “Christians” for His namesake.
Another passage from the Antiquities of the Jews, also mentions Jesus and is not disputed:
But the younger Ananus who, as we said, received the high priesthood, was of a bold disposition and exceptionally daring; he followed the party of the Sadducees, who are severe in judgment above all the Jews, as we have already shown. As therefore Ananus was of such a disposition, he thought he had now a good opportunity, as Festus was now dead, and Albinus was still on the road; so he assembled a council of judges, and brought before it the brother of Jesus the so-called Christ, whose name was James, together with some others, and having accused them as lawbreakers, he delivered them over to be stoned.
We see in this passage, James, the half-brother of Jesus and the author of the Epistle which bears his name. Josephus states clearly that Jesus is commonly identified as the “Christ” (the Annointed One).
On a final note from Josephus, we have another passage that does not mention Jesus but does discuss another well known character in the Bible, John the Baptist. This too is undisputed:
Now some of the Jews thought that the destruction of Herod's army came from God as a just punishment of what Herod had done against John, who was called the Baptist. For Herod had killed this good man, who had commanded the Jews to exercise virtue, righteousness towards one another and piety towards God. For only thus, in John's opinion, would the baptism he administered be acceptable to God, namely, if they used it to obtain not pardon for some sins but rather the cleansing of their bodies, inasmuch as it was taken for granted that their souls had already been purified by justice.
Tacitus was a Roman Senator and historian whose two major works – the Annals and the Histories – examine the reigns of Roman Emperors Tiberius, Claudius, and Nero. From the Annals, we have this passage:
Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular.
We see here that Tacitus attests to several details in the Bible including the crucifixion of Christ at the hand of Pontius Pilate.
Better known as Pliny the Younger, here was a lawyer and imperial magistrate under Roman emperor Trajan. In a letter he wrote to Trajan seeking advice, we find the following:
[T]hey [Christians] were accustomed to meet on a fixed day before dawn and sing responsively a hymn to Christ as to a god, and to bind themselves by oath, not to some crime, but not to commit fraud, theft, or adultery, not falsify their trust, nor to refuse to return a trust when called upon to do so. When this was over, it was their custom to depart and to assemble again to partake of food--but ordinary and innocent food.
Here is a glimpse at a first century worship service. In this quote, Pliny attests to the fact that the early Christians (whom he persecuted) would not worship idols nor the emperor, yet would sing songs to Jesus “as to a god.”

As I have already said, the Bible is the greatest witness to the Person of Jesus. However, these few historical sources quickly dispel the weak argument that Jesus was a myth.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

What Do Scotsmen and Creationists Have in Common?

I've written before how the evolutionists' demand for “evidence” is usually nothing more than special pleading. We're accused of having a faith bias for our theory (which we do) but they also have a philosophical foundation for their brand of science that is very “faith-like” in practice (which they deny). Just recently, though, I've spotted a No True Scotsman spin thrown into the mix. The illogical argument has been there all along, I just failed to correctly identify it before now. How embarrassing for me.

Anyway, I'm in another forum discussing the philosophical foundations of science while being insulted in return (as usual), when one of the nicer evos (who posts under the name GrannyM) made this comment:

What you [RKBentley] say here is absolutely true and it illustrates convincingly why Creationism is not science and can never be considered science: We do not know, and can not know, what an omnipotent deity could do, or would do. Where such a being is in play, there can be no science at all.”

GrannyM is referring to the philosophical, faith-like assumption of methodical naturalism which underpins all of secular science. Her point seems to be that if God were to perform a miracle, then all of nature is suspect. We could never be sure if something truly occurs naturally or if God simply made it appear that way.

I fail to see how a miraculous creation has any impact on science. If Adam were alive today, we could study him “scientifically.” We could take his pulse, temperature, blood pressure, etc. We could take blood samples, x-rays, study his DNA, and submit him to a battery of medical tests. We could have him run obstacle courses, take IQ tests, and test his abilities in a variety of ways. There is nothing about his supernatural origin that shields him from scientific inquiry. The same is true about the universe. So a refusal to consider a supernatural origin is a philosophical choice and not a scientific one.

Curiously absent from GrannyM's comments is any demonstration that creation is false; she only argues that it's not “scientific.” That's where the “No True Scotsman” argument lies.

I've written before how the No True Scotsman argument is a fallacy. In summary, it's an arbitrary qualifier that some people impose to disqualify their opponent's argument without having to deal with it. In this instance, the evolutionist is disqualifying creation from being “scientific” on the arbitrary grounds that it holds to a supernatural explanation. The demand for a natural explanation is a tenet of secular science and not an objective standard. There is no scientific evidence that says only natural explanations are scientific!

The word “science” means “knowledge” and not “natural.” It seems to me, people should be more interested in what is true than what is natural. If God created the universe by fiat, than that is what is true regardless of whether or not it is “scientific”.

The militant evolutionist says, Real science only looks for natural explanations.” Yep, that's a No True Scotsman argument alright. It's text book. I just can't believe I didn't catch it before.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

We Should Have Zero Tolerance for Stupidity

OK all you guys out there, did you ever once think one of your school teachers was cute? I remember the first teacher (perhaps it was the only teacher) who I thought was cute. It was my fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Beagle. I started school young so, in the fifth grade, I would have been about 10 years old. Since I was prepubescent then, I certainly didn't think of her in an overtly sexual way. I just thought she was “cute”. Maybe I would have even described her as pretty. I don't recall ever telling anyone I thought she was cute but maybe I did. You know how boys are.

Well, I guess boys haven't changed too much since I was young. In North Carolina recently, a 9 year old boy was suspended for calling his teacher “cute.”1 Actually, he didn't “call” her cute; he was overheard telling a friend she was cute. A substitute teacher overheard the comment, reported the “offense,” and 9 year old, Emanyea Lockett was suspended for 3 days. “What “offense” had occurred?”, you might ask. It seems the school has a “zero-tolerance” policy concerning sexual harassment. Keep in mind that he had not said anything to the teacher – his comment to a friend that she was “cute” was itself considered harassment.

We've gone a little overboard with sexual harassment claims. The idea that harassment occurs in the mind of the victim without regard to the intent of the “assailant” is an invitation for abuse. But in this situation, the supposed victim wasn't even being harassed. She was merely being discussed. And she was being discussed in the most benign of terms. “Cute” might be used to describe pretty girls but it also applies to puppy dogs. It's certainly not a sexually charged term.

The story doesn't end there, though. School officials investigated the “incident” and determined Emanyea had done nothing wrong. THAT required an investigation? Anyway, they apparently felt the incident was so outrageous that the principal had used extremely poor judgment. They gave the principal, Jerry Bostic, an ultimatum: step down or be fired. Bostic, who had enjoyed a 44 year long career, stepped down.

After his resignation, Bostic spoke out against school superintendent, Reeves McGlohon, who had given him the ultimatum. Bostic said, I admit I made some errors in what I did, but to fire me or to demote me with 44 years in it, it just doesn't make sense. To me he [McGlohon] was a very heartless man, and he did it because of politics.” Now that's funny. He thinks McGlohon did this because of politics?

Why exactly did the school adopt a zero-tolerance policy in the first place? I suggest it precisely was because of politics. Bostics mistakes didn't begin with little Emanyea's comment but when he first bought into political correctness. He then painted himself into a corner by adopting a zero-tolerance policy. Bostic had made a series of bad judgments and stacked them up like a line of dominoes just waiting for some innocent comment, like the word “cute”, to tip them over.

Let this be a lesson to schools who adopt zero-tolerance policies. No matter how noble sounding the cause, it's always a bad idea. We've seen how zero-tolerance for sexual harassment can be abused but so can any other policy. A student who draws a picture of a gun gets suspended because of zero-tolerance for violence. A student who has an aspirin in his backpack gets suspended because of zero-tolerance for drugs. Where exactly do we draw the line?

Well, maybe there's one policy I might adopt. I think we should have zero-tolerance for stupidity.

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Dinosaur Death Pose: Just Add Water

Answers in Genesis posted a great find in their weekly News to Note. They've highlighted a gem from New Scientist titled, “Watery secret of the dinosaur death pose.” Here's the gist of the article: when scientists are lucky enough to find the complete skeleton of a dinosaur, there's a good chance it will have its head thrown backward and its tail arched upward. The position is so common, it has earned its own name, the “opisthotonic death pose.

What causes the pose has been much speculated. An enduring opinion has been that the pose is the result of the dying creature's death throes. A team from Brigham Young University recently attempted to recreate the condition. Leaving the carcasses of plucked chickens on a bed of sand for three months did not produce the muscle contortions. However, when the scientists placed seven chickens in cool, fresh water, their head was thrown back in seconds.

The article ends saying, “Cutler has confidence in her freshwater study: "Although the roads to the opisthotonic death pose are many, immersion in water is the simplest explanation.”

Needless to say, the finding is significant to the creation theory. Creationists have long held that the majority of fossils were created during the global deluge described in Genesis. These results seem to support that idea. It could be that the dinosaurs were immersed in water (the Flood), their muscles contorted as did the chickens, then they were buried rapidly in sediment – forever preserving their grim posture. And since the pose is so usual and is found everywhere in the world, it suggests the cause was global.

I like NewScientist's opening line, “Recreating the spectacular pose many dinosaurs adopted in death might involve following the simplest of instructions: just add water.” That should be on the mind of every scientist as they examine the world around us. As they consider why the world is as it is, they need to add water to the equation. They need to add the Flood!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Plain Meaning of Words

As usual, I was discussing the creation and evolution debate online when an evolutionist who posts under the name HRG starts questioning my interpretation of the Scriptures. Here are a few of his comments:

The plain words of the Bible tell us that the Earth is stationary and flat, covered with a solid dome. It took science to tell Christians not to interpret them literally.... Start with the objective evidence for an old Earth and common descent, and if you believe that the Bible is the word of a non-deceptive god, let this evidence be your guide to interpret it and distinguish myth and metaphor from reality.... Which interpretation of the Bible should we start with ?.... Are you infallible when interpreting a particular text ?

The omitted parts represented by the ellipses are primarily my comments that HRG was responding to. You can see that he means to say that the Bible can't mean what it plainly says and actually questions my ability to correctly interpret Scripture. I found a couple of things curious about HRG's comments.

First, nowhere does the Bible “literally” say the earth is stationary, flat, and covered with a solid dome. HRG is confusing terms here. There is a difference between “plain meaning” and “literal meaning.” If I said someone has a heart of gold, would most people understand plainly what I am saying? I suspect so. On the other hand, we all know that no one “literally” has a heart made of gold so it's a straw man to say that Christians mean the Bible to be taken “literally.”

The plain meaning of Genesis 1 needs little interpretation. If we can't understand the plain meaning of the words, then I would maintain it would be impossible to understand ANY part of the Bible. When the Bible says, for example, that Jesus rose in three days, how do I know that means three days? How can I be sure it even means He rose? How can I be sure it means Jesus is even a real person? If Adam is a metaphor then maybe Jesus (the second Adam) is a metaphor as well. It's no secret that some passages in the Bible are difficult to understand. However, I don't believe there's any passage in Genesis 1-11 that fits in that category.

But there's a glaring irony in HRG's comments. HRG is questioning my ability to correctly interpret Scripture and is trying to convince me that the words of the Bible do not mean what they plainly say. At the same time, however, he is counting on my ability to understand the plain meaning of his words! HRG seems to think I'm able to understand his arguments but just not able to understand words of the Bible.

What kind of discussion could anyone ever have if words don't mean anything? What if we applied the same standards toward critics of the Bible that they ask us to apply to the Bible? According to the critics “six days” can mean billions of years. OK then, when a critic “says” he doesn't believe the Genesis account of creation, I know he really means to say Jesus is the Creator of the universe.

Friday, December 2, 2011

No Intelligent Designer Would Have Done It That Way

I hear from evolutionists all the time that the human body is riddled with poorly designed structures. The most commonly cited example is probably the “backward wired eye” but I've heard many, many other examples. Their allegation is that no intelligent designer would ever create such a structure. On the other hand, since evolution is all about “descent with modification,” it makes perfect sense that these structures were piecemealed together over many generations and so their “poor” design is evidence of evolution.

I've always scoffed at these arguments. To me, it seems much like armchair quarter backing. How credible is it when an overweight couch potato screams at the TV telling the professional quarterback how to play football? It's easy to ridicule the design of the eye but even with all of our technological advances, we aren't able to produce anything that even comes close to it. Nothing we have built can compare to the human body. No lens is as perfect as the eye. No computer is as powerful as the brain. No tool is as versatile as the hand.

Of course, technology is improving all time. Maybe someday, we will be able to build a computer that can compete with the brain. When that day comes, I'll welcome it. It's more evidence that the brain is the product of design!

But there's another flaw in this argument. Is seemingly poor design really evidence against design? Let me tell you a true story. My daughter just recently moved her bedroom into the basement. She has a nice, 29 inch, flat screen TV mounted on one of the walls. When I was unhooking the cable from the TV, I realized there was a plastic tab right next to the cable jack. I'm not sure what purpose it served by being there but its presence presented a problem. I could barely get my fingers around the cable to unscrew it. While I was unscrewing it, I could only turn it a fraction of a turn each time. I got so frustrated at one point that I almost grabbed some pliers to break the tab off but I was afraid it might crack the back cover.

So I ask you, what intelligent designer would put a piece of plastic right there whose only purpose seems to be to impede screwing and unscrewing the coaxial cable? The only reasonable conclusion then is that the TV evolved.