googlef87758e9b6df9bec.html A Sure Word: 2013

Sunday, September 22, 2013

A Review of Genesis Veracity Foundation

I remember how surprised I was when I first heard a radio advertisement for Genesis Veracity Foundation (visit their site here). What surprised me most was that it advertised on a secular radio station. There are very few creation apologetics groups that advertise on the radio and I don't know if I had ever heard one advertise on secular radio. Even groups like Answers in Genesis usually stick to Christian stations. Besides being surprised to hear them advertising, I was also surprised that I had never heard of them before. It seems to me that a group large enough to advertise would already have a large enough web presence that I would have at least heard of them. Not in this case though.

Their commercials were very appealing. They talked about defending the Bible from the very first book. They asked how would Jesus answer if He were asked about evolution or Noah's Flood. They raised many of the same points that I've raised on my blog. I was very excited for a while – until I actually visited their website.

If you've ever read David Copperfield, you might recall Mr. Dick. He was the eccentric friend of David's aunt who was constantly writing a “memorial.” It seems that no matter how hard he tried, King Charles I always seemed to creep into his writings. This site reminds me of Mr. Dick. It seems that no matter what the subject is, they cannot help but refer to the city of Atlantis. Yes, I mean “the lost city of Atlantis” mentioned by Plato.

On the front page of their website is currently a photo (shown here) of scuba divers exploring what are supposed to be “bronze age ruins”. I believe they want to give the impression these are similar to the ruins of Atlantis.

On the left is a side bar contain links to many of the things you might expect to find on creation website including: Ice Age Hydrology, Earth Measure Geometry (not sure what they mean by this one), and Post Ice Age Migrations. There's even a link titled, Submerged Ruins Atlantis. How much more obvious could they be? As you click on each link, you will find within the articles, references to Atlantis.

Here are a few excerpts:

Under their tab, Ice Age Hydrology, we find this statement: Note that some of the flood stories are records of the sea level rise with the end of the Ice Age, such as the legend of Kumari Kandam off southern India and Atlantis in the Gibraltar region, not to be confused with the clearly global flood legends...

Under their tab, Earth Measure Geometry, we find this statement: And the fact that the ancient fortress at Seville, Spain, which was ancient Tarshish, part of the Atlantean Empire during the ice age....

Under their tab, Post Ice Age Migration, we find this statement: The “sea peoples” invaded the eastern Mediterranean while the deserts of the world were forming, vast tracts of north Africa becoming the Sahara at that time, and southern Spain changing from the lush environ of atlantean times with elephants,....

Even on their blog we find articles that reference Atlantis. On 9/3/2013, they published a blog titled, Basque Language Remnant of Atlantis Similarities Algonquin Lenape Nahuatl Groups Americas. Under the blog, Real Genesis History Proof Knocks Wind Out of Skeptics’ Sails to Face Claims of Jesus Christ, they said, For decades, the history in the book of Genesis has been the whipping boy for skeptics of the Word, saying science has proven the Bible wrong, but now coming to light the submerged ruins, bronze age climate change (at the time of the Exodus and the demise of Atlantis), and the real cause of the Ice Age, the whip is being taken out of their hand.”

I could go on but I've made the point. I love to see Christians standing up for the word of God but I just can't see how insisting there was a real Atlantis defends the word of God. Was Atlantis mentioned somewhere in the Bible and I missed it?

Now, in all fairness, I haven't read many of their articles. I just couldn't get past the “Atlantis” being thrown in my face at every turn. I have some links to reputable apologetics and creationist websites on my side bar to the right. Feel free to visit those sites. However, I won't be adding a link to Genesis Veracity Foundation's site any time soon.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

How to NOT win people with the Gospel

The “Reverend” Birch Rambo (yes, his name is Rambo) offered this insightful explanation of how he reconciles his Christian faith with his belief in evolution:

But enough pert answers and beating around the bush. Let’s cut to the chase.
The Bible says one thing and the theory of natural selection says something else. How can I or anyone believe both?

To be blunt, I can’t. I don’t believe the biblical account of creation.

I can’t believe, not because of my science background, but because the Bible doesn’t say one thing.

It says two. Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 offer two contradictory creation stories. Since the two different stories cannot both be believed, I rely on my God-given gifts of perception and reason for the facts.

I don’t believe the biblical accounts of creation, but I do believe IN them. A story that is not factual, can still show us truth.

The stories of creation teach us that all things find their source in God, that we are made in God’s image, and that creation is very good. We needn’t believe the facts of the stories to believe IN the truth they carry. Facts are to be seen, measured and tested.

The truth, like the Creator, is a person, not a thing to be grasped, but someone with whom to form a relationship — Jesus Christ, the Way, the Truth and the Life.

Does Rambo really believe this is a message that will convict people? Will people come to Christ if we tell them the Bible isn't true but it “teaches the truth”? Such a message doesn't even make sense.

Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). Or did He? The Bible is the only record we have of the words of Christ. If the record of the Bible doesn't give us a factual account, then how do I know that Jesus is THE truth? Rambo claims to believe that Jesus is the Truth, so he must believe it because of John 14:6. But if the words of Moses who wrote Genesis aren't true, then how do I know the words of John are true when he quoted Jesus?

Mr. Rambo said that an account doesn't have to be factual in order to show us the truth. However, in the case of Scripture, I think it does. If Jesus didn't factually say, “I am the truth” then how can we say He is the truth? How can we believe anything the Bible says that He said?

Jesus also said in John 14:6 that no one comes to the Father except through Him. How can I “believe in” His words unless I believe them to be factual? If I want to preach a “truth” that is not borne out by the actual words of the Bible, then I could say someone simply has to have “faith” to be saved – not necessarily faith in Jesus.

Once you open the door to saying that the Bible doesn't actually mean what it clearly says, then the Bible doesn't mean anything. Or perhaps I should say it could mean anything. Faith comes by hearing the word of God (Romans 10:17). If you want people to not become saved, just tell them they don't have to believe the Bible.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Explaining Bible Contradictions: The “Lesser Included Details”

Even the most mundane event could be described with verbose minutia. Not every detail, however, necessarily has a point and only the most obsessive writer would attempt to include every excruciating detail when describing some particular event. It's rather ordinary for a writer to include only the points he wishes to emphasize and omit the rest. When there are two different accounts of the same event, yet each includes some different details, there is no contradiction if all the details could be included in the broader event. They are, what I like to call, “lesser included details.”

To illustrate this point, let's use the example of a basketball game. Suppose I went to a ball game with my brother (whose name is Ron) and a co-worker (whose name is Victor). If I later told my mother that I went to the game, I might say, “Ron and I went to the ball game.” I would say that because my mother knows Ron but does not know my co-worker. If I told my supervisor about the same event, I might say, “Victor and I went to the ball game.” Again, I do this because my supervisor knows Victor but does not know my brother. In both cases, I'm sharing the information that I believe is important or relevant to the hearer while omitting trivia. Now, a 3rd party observer who heard both statements might think they're contradictory but we can see that both statements are true.

I'm going to give one more example just to demonstrate how broad this concept can be. Suppose someone asked me if I had a dollar. I look in my billfold and see that I actually have ten dollars so I answer, “Yes, I have a dollar.” Am I lying? Obviously not. Now, if I had said, “I only have one dollar” then I would be lying but that's not the case. If I have ten dollars, then I also have one dollar.

These same things are also true of the Bible. Sometimes, one passage might give a certain detail of an event while another passage gives some other detail of the same event. When this happens, there is no contradiction if both details could be included in the same broad event. We'll look at a few examples of this phenomenon from Scripture:

Matthew 8:28, When He came to the other side into the country of the Gadarenes, two men who were demon-possessed met Him as they were coming out of the tombs.

Mark 5:1-2, They came to the other side of the sea, into the country of the Gerasenes. When He got out of the boat, immediately a man from the tombs with an unclean spirit met Him,

Here are two descriptions of what is certainly the same event. Matthew says that Jesus met two, demon-possessed men but Mark only mentions one. Is this a contradiction? No. It's like my example about having a dollar. If I have $10, then I also have $1. In that same fashion, if there were two men who were demon-possessed, there was also one man. The second man is a lesser detail not mentioned by Mark but included by Matthew.

Why did Mark only mention one man? I can't say for sure but here is one possible theory: Mark 5:19-20 goes on to say, “[Jesus] said to him Go home to your people and report to them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He had mercy on you.” And he went away and began to proclaim in Decapolis what great things Jesus had done for him; and everyone was amazed.

So we see that this man became a sort of celebrity. He went on a crusade in Decapolis (literally meaning “10 cities”) telling everyone what Jesus had done for him. So Mark may have only mentioned this man in his account because he was the better known of the two. It would be like me only telling my mom I went to a ballgame with by brother instead of telling her I went with my brother and a co-worker. Matthew also talks primarily about this man, but included the lesser detail that there was also a second man whom Jesus exercised of demons.

Some other examples of this phenomenon include the number of angels at the tomb on the Resurrection Morning and the names of the women who went to visit the tomb. Each gospel names different women. Luke 24:4 describes two men in dazzling clothes. Mark 16:5 says they saw “a man” wearing a white robe. Obviously, all the women named visited the tomb but likely they arrived at different times. Depending on when they arrived, they met varying numbers of angels. Nowhere is there a contradiction.

Certain details included in a second account of the same event don't contradict the other account that doesn't mention them. It's rather ordinary. We do it now. The writers of the Bible did it as well. If someone cites two accounts of the same event and claims they contradict each other, see if all of the details could be combined into one account. That usually clears up any supposed “contradiction.”

Sunday, September 15, 2013

So now they're experts in religion as well?

I was reading some of my older posts and I came across a broken link. I tried to see if the article still existed anywhere on the net but I couldn't find it. Instead, I found another article that piqued my interest. It's older, but I believe it's still relevant.

It's an editorial from Nature called, “Dealing with design” that deals with the “problem” of students who believe in intelligent design. I've excerpted a couple of points from the piece. Quotes are in blue and are italicized.

Scientists tend to tune out when they hear the words 'intelligent design.

That's rather telling, don't you think? The first instinct of scientists when they hear the words “intelligent design” is usually to just tune them out. Shouldn't they want to explore the idea? Shouldn't they want to test the theories? Where is their scientific curiosity? No, they just tune out.

... [M]any of the students taught in introductory biology classes hold religious beliefs that conflict, at least on the face of things, with Darwin's framework. Professors rarely address the conflicts between faith and science in lectures, and students are drawn to intelligent design as a way of reconciling their beliefs with their interest in science. In doing so, they are helping it to gain a small, but firm, foothold on campuses around the country.

If I'm reading this correctly, Nature is attributing the rise of intelligent design on college campuses to the lack of biology professors addressing the (alleged) conflicts between faith and science. Maybe they're right, but I still haven't seen a problem. I merely detect a sense of alarm among biology professors that intelligent design is gaining traction.

This is bad news for researchers. Unlike 'creation science', which uses the Bible as its guide, intelligent design tries to use scientific methods to find evidence of God in nature.

Still again, I don't see a problem. Yet Nature says this is “bad news” for researchers. As a matter of fact, their alarm only seems to be that proponents of intelligent design “[try] to use scientific methods to find evidence of God in nature.” What's so alarming about that? I distinctly remember being asked about umpteen million times for evidence for my theory or for God. When there are people actually using scientific methods to find evidence for design, the evolutionists go into a tizzy.

This approach makes it less theologically heavy-handed than its predecessor, but it also poses a threat to the very core of scientific reason. Most contemporary researchers believe that it is better to keep science and theology firmly separated.

Oh, I see now. It's because they never really wanted to find evidence for God. They don't want to see evidence for design. They only want to “keep science and theology firmly separated.” We see again the fundamental tenet of science that everything must have a natural explanation.  Could someone please give me a “scientific reason” why it should be the goal of science to separate itself from religion? Anyone? I didn't think so. It's a philosophical premise – not a scientific one.

Well, I can see their concern but what are they going to do about it? One idea might be to challenge the scientific theories of intelligent design in rigorous scientific debate. No. They don't like that idea. Look what Nature says in the next paragraph:

Such events tend to be well attended, but don't change many minds. Furthermore, ill-prepared scientific lectures can sometimes lack the superficial impact of design advocates' carefully crafted talking points.

I've seen many evolution/creation debates and the scientists are usually thoroughly trashed by the creationists. Exit polls after these debates usually show that if anyone's mind was changed, it tends to be toward creation. Evolutionists have been embarrassed in these types of debates so many times they always discourage other scientists away from future debates.

So what advice does Nature give to frustrated professors?

Scientists would do better to offer some constructive thoughts of their own. For religious scientists, this may involve taking the time to talk to students about how they personally reconcile their beliefs with their research. Secular researchers should talk to others in order to understand how faiths have come to terms with science. All scientists whose classes are faced with such concerns should familiarize themselves with some basic arguments as to why evolution, cosmology and geology are not competing with religion. When they walk into the lecture hall, they should be prepared to talk about what science can and cannot do, and how it fits in with different religious beliefs.

There it is. Read it for yourself. The solution suggested by Nature is that professors prepare themselves to explain how science fits in with different religious beliefs. What do you think that means? Do you think that means professors should compromise on certain scientific theories to make them more palatable to a conservative Christian? You know it doesn't. It means they are practicing arguments that might convince students to compromise on their religious beliefs and make them comport better with the scientific theory. Make no mistake, to evolutionists, “reconciling science and religion” always means compromising on the religion.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Mark 12:29: The Lord is One or There is One Lord?

I was following a discussion online the other day about the Trinity and the divinity of Christ when the following verse came up:

Mark 12:29,Jesus answered, The foremost is, ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord.

In this passage, Jesus is quoting Deuteronomy 6:4. From the perspective of believing in the Trinity, I understand that there are three Persons (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) but that They exist as one God so I see this verse as a confirmation of my belief. But when I try to put aside my preconceived notions (which is a difficult thing to do, I confess) I noticed that this verse sounds rather odd in English. What does it mean, exactly? How does it sound to someone who doesn't believe in the Trinity?

I practiced reciting the verse out loud a couple of times and realized it's more than a little ambiguous. It's impossible with the written word to convey different inflections in my voice so I'll try to describe it. What if I stressed “one Lord”? That seems to give the impression there could be other gods and Jehovah is only one of them.

Since I can't inflect my voice in a blog post, let me give an analogy that might help: I teach a Sunday School class. In my church, there are other teachers who teach other classes. So if someone in my class were having a discussion about teachers, he might say, “Our teacher, RKBentley, is one teacher.” Can you see how that might apply to the verse in question?

Since I don't believe that Jesus is trying to teach us that Jehovah is one Lord among many, what else might that verse mean? To refer to God as “one Lord” really doesn't make any more sense than referring to someone as “one person.” It would seem to be the epitome of stating the obvious to say, “RKBentley is one person.” I don't know what that might mean except to say, “RKBentley is one person among many others.” Apart from a paradigm of the Trinity, I can't make any sense of Mark 12:29.

Perhaps Jesus intended the verse to be a validation of the Trinity. Or could there is another translation of verse that conveys a different meaning? That is what I wanted to look at. I can't speak to the Hebrew of Deuteronomy, but here is the passage in Greek. By the way, I'm omitting the narrative and only focusing on His quote of Deuteronomy:

Ἄκουε (Hear/listen!) Ἰσραήλ (Israel) Κύριος (Lord) ὁ θεὸς (The God) ἡμῶν (of us/our) κύριος (Lord) εἷς (one) ἐστίν (He is)

Here is a transliteration of the passage for those who can't read the Greek characters: AKOUE ISRAĒL KUROIS hO THEOS hĒMŌN KURIOS hEIS ESTIV

You may have noticed that I removed the punctuation. The original Greek would not have had punctuation and I didn't want the editor's choice of punctuation to influence my translation.

The salutation, Ἄκουε Ἰσραήλ, is rather simple and leaves little room for interpretation: Hear, Israel! or Listen, Israel!

The rest of the translation turns upon the use of predicate or attributive adjectives. In English, an example of a predicate construction would be “The dress is red.” In that sentence, “red” is a predicate adjective modifying “dress.” If I put “red” in the attributive position, it would change to “The red dress...”

Κύριος ὁ θεὸς is a simple predicate construction. It's taught in Greek 101. Since the article modifies θεὸς we know that it is the subject noun. The verb is implied by the construction so we have to provide a verb in English but, by itself, this clause too leaves little wiggle room in translation: God is Lord or The God is Lord.

Now, since ἡμῶν immediately follows θεὸς, it most certainly modifies θεὸς so we must keep it with θεὸς: Our God is Lord.

The last clause is the tricky one: κύριος εἷς ἐστίν. Εἷς is an adjective modifying κύριος but κύριος lacks an article. Εἷς must be attributive rather than predicative. It's in the same position as ἡμῶν in the previous clause. He is “our God” (attributive). It wouldn't make any sense to say, “God is ours” (predicate). I don't know why, but some English translations, like the NIV, treat εἷς as a predicate predicate adjective: “the Lord is one.” If we move εἷς to the attributive position, the clause would become, “He is the one Lord.”

It may be terribly presumptuous of me to say I have a better translation that the majority of English Bibles but here is what I propose:

Listen Israel! Our God is the Lord. He is the one Lord.

Hopefully, this translation conveys the meaning of the original text better than some of the other versions. We could even paraphrase it a little and say, Our God is the Lord. He is the only Lord. The mainstream translations could be understood this way, but I don't think they convey this meaning clearly. Does the verse still affirm the Trinity? I think so. But I believe my proposed translation removes any possibility of a pantheon of gods.

There is only one God; His name is Jehovah!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Special Pleading by Christians

Over the years, there have been many attempts by secular sources to ascribe natural explanations to certain miracles in the Bible. A few notable examples surround the 10 Plagues of Egypt (Exodus 7-11) and the Parting of the Red Sea (Exodus 14). In 1957, Greta Hort, a Dutch physicist published a “chain reaction” theory explaining how a massive amount of red algae and red clay in the Nile turned it “to blood,” which drove out the frogs, killed livestock, bred mosquitoes, and caused all the other plagues described in Exodus. A similar phenomenon occurs occasionally when describing New Testament events. For example, a few people attempt to explain the darkness at Jesus' crucifixion as an eclipse (an impossibility since the Passover occurs at the time of a full moon).

A few, well-meaning Christians have adopted Hort's explanation (and other, similar explanations) as “scientific evidence” supporting the Biblical account. However, the vast majority of these explanations are rejected by mainstream Christians. The 10 Plagues of Egypt were not natural events that merely coincided with God's judgment. They were supernatural events, intended not only to bring God's wrath on the Egyptians but also to demonstrate God's Lordship over nature and His superiority over the false gods of the Egyptians. The Egyptians worshiped the Nile; God turned the Nile to blood. The Egyptians worshiped the sun; God turned the sun black for three days.

This desire to appeal to natural explanations for miraculous events is curious. When a passage obviously refers to a miraculous event, why would any Christian seek a natural explanation instead? It's precisely because such an event defies a natural explanation that we know it's the work of God. If God only performed His miracles in the guise of a natural event, then God would be completely indistinguishable from dumb luck. He would seem to me to be a god of coincidences – a charlatan who exploits rare but mundane events as examples of his “power.”

Like I've said, the vast majority of these natural explanations are rejected by mainstream Christians. However, one natural explanation still endures and is accepted by a sizable percentage of Christians. It is the natural explanation of our origins. Why is it that many of the same Christians who reject ideas like Hort's, will embrace the Big Bang and evolutionary views of people like Hawking and Dawkins? It's a sort of special pleading. They will believe that Jesus literally turned water to wine but they refuse to believe God literally spoke and the universe appeared. It almost seems that they have too low an opinion of God where He is able to do “little” miracles in an instant but creating the universe must have taken billions of years!

What makes it especially odd is that Hort's views seem more plausible than the far fetched ideas like the Big Bang which proposes everything came from nothing. If I were to believe any natural explanation for a miracle, I'm sure I would be far more apt to believe the credible explanations. God creating life is far more credible and scientific than life simple appearing from a random mix of nonliving chemicals. What's odder still is how these Christians will reject the explanations that fit well with a plain reading of the text (like red algae and clay turning the Nile blood-red) but then resort to a tortured reading of the text to make it fit the natural explanation (like “day one” in Genesis 1 really means “billions of years”).

Why should I believe that some passages of the Bible describe miracles while other passages are merely fantastic descriptions of natural events? Why should I believe that the Hebrew children, who could understand that the parting of the Red Sea was a supernatural act of God, couldn't have also understood “millions of years” if God explained it to them? Why should I believe the supernatural explanation that God raised Jesus from the dead after 3 days and not the supernatural explanation that God created the world in 6 days? It all seems rather arbitrary to me. When critics pull tricks like this, I accuse them of special pleading. When Christians do it, I also call it special pleading.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Explaining the Observation or Observing the Explanation?

In scientific circles, the word, “theory” has a technical meaning (unless you're talking about the origin of life, in which case “theory” means “wild guess”). According to Wiki, a scientific theory is, “a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world, based on a body of knowledge that has been repeatedly confirmed through observation and experimentation.” I'm not going to quibble over the definition. Instead, I want to highlight to word, “explanation.” Technically, a theory starts with a hypothesis but, again, I'm more interested in the explanatory aspect of theories so I'm going to use the word theory a little more casually. In less formal words, a theory is an attempt to explain what something is or why it is that way. Sometimes, evolutionists chide creationists over the latter's use of the word, “theory.” However, the common understanding that theories are attempts to explain data, is the bottom line in the understanding of both sides.

What is a fossil? How old is it? Why are rocks laid down in layers? What are stars? How far away are they? Why do bird wings resemble reptile claws? These are the types of questions some people ask and our theories are our attempts to answer them. When we come up with our explanation, we want to consider every relevant piece of data. Your theory should explain how all the available “evidence” fits together.  A good theory should explain all the data well. 

Evolutionists, of course, think their theory is the best explanation of all the available evidence. That's why they think their theory is the correct explanation. A problem arises, though, when they start saying that there is evidence “for” their theory. That implies that the evidence is somehow exclusive to their theory. It's as though they want to claim a monopoly on fossils, or rock layers, or the oceans, or the stars, etc.... Once this happens, the theory of evolution becomes barely more than a circular argument.

I've used this example before but I think it illustrates this phenomenon well. Suppose you and I were walking along on a beach and we find an unusual looking rock. It's black with uniform, purple lines on it. I propose a theory: “I think aliens painted these lines on this rock.” You answer, “What evidence do you have for that?” I answer, “Well, there's the rock and there are the lines. That's certainly evidence for my theory!”

Can you see how circular that is? Evolutionists do exactly the same thing. How many times have you heard some evolutionist ask (or, if you're an evolutionist, how many times have you asked), “What is the evidence for creation?” Actually, they usually ask, “What is the evidence for creationism?” Anyway, such a question reeks of circularity. The evidence for creation is the exact same evidence as the evidence for evolution. We merely have different theories to explain the evidence.

FACT: The bones in human arms/hands resemble the bones in chimp arms/hands.
THEORY 1: The bones are similar because chimps and humans share a common ancestor and the modern limbs are modified adaptations of the primitive limbs in the ancestor.
THEORY 2: The bones are similar because they were both designed by a common Creator Who purposely made them that way because they perform similar functions.

In this example, what is the evidence for creation? It's that there is similar design in unrelated creatures. However, evolutionists will not consider it evidence “for” creation but will insist the similarity is evidence “for” common descent. In other words, it can't be evidence for creation because it's already evidence for evolution. They do this every time. It's why they say there's no evidence “for” creation.  They assume their explanation is true so the evidence can only support their explanation.

Circular arguments are notoriously self-fulfilling. Evolutionists have become so convinced that their theory is the correct explanation that they have become blind to any other possible explanation for the same evidence. To them, everything in heaven and earth is now evidence for evolution. It's as though the evidence is literally speaking to them, telling them “evolution is true.” When they see the rocks and trees, birds and bees, they see “evolution.” Their explanation of their observations has flip-flopped into becoming their observation of the explanation.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Acts 20:28: The Blood of God or the Blood of His Son? An Argument of Exceptions

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.” Acts 20:28

I was online the other day, discussing this verse. It's one of special, theological importance. A plain reading of this verse shows that God purchased the church, “with His own blood.” Obviously, it was Jesus who shed His blood on the cross so this verse seems to affirm the divinity of Jesus. That is, Jesus is God.

The person with whom I was discussing this verse took exception to that understanding. He resorted to a “mistranslation” argument. I've had dealings with this individual before and his Greek is not really that good. However, in this case, there is a certain amount of ambiguity in the Greek that he was leveraging to bolster his point.

The Greek reads, διὰ (through) τοῦ (the) αἵματος (blood) τοῦ (the) ἰδίου (His own).

The most obvious translation of this verse is the one rendered in most Bibles, “through His own blood.” Another translation, which is a little more awkward in English, is “through the blood which is His own.” But there is still another possibility: “through the blood of His own (Son).”

The latter translation is not the most likely but it is still possible. The question is, which is the intended translation of the three? Since the critic I was conversing with online did not believe Jesus is God, he argued the 3rd translation, the least likely one, is the correct one. He hooted and cheered that even RKBentley, a conservative Christian, acknowledged that “through the blood of His own” had merit as a possible translation. Of course, he ignored that I said it is the less likely one. As far as he was concerned, it is THE translation because Jesus is not God.

From there, we began discussing some other verses that referred to Jesus as God. Here are a few that I cited – please excuse my frequent use of the word, “clearly,” I was making a point:

In John 20:28, Thomas clearly says to Jesus, “The Lord of me and the God of me.”

John 1:1c clearly says, “the Word was God.”

Titus 2:13 clearly says, “the great God and our Savior, Jesus Christ”

2 Peter 1:1 clearly says, “our God and Savior, Jesus Christ”

In John 10:11, Jesus clearly said, “I AM (ἐγὼ εἰμι) the good shepherd” while Psalm 23:1 clearly says, “Jehovah is my shepherd.”

In Matthew 3:3, John the Baptist said he was preparing the way for the Lord (who is clearly Jesus) just like Isaiah said. Isaiah 40:3 clearly said the prophet will prepare the way for Jehovah.

Joel 2:32 clearly says that whoever calls upon the name of Jehovah will be saved. Roman 10:13 clearly says whoever calls upon the name of the Lord (Jesus) will be saved.

Revelation 1:8, we clearly see that God is the Alpha and Omega. In Revelation 1:17, Jesus clearly says He is the first and the last. In Revelation 22:13, we clearly see that the Alpha/Omega and the first/last is the same Person.

In John 5:21, Jesus clearly says He gives life just as the Father gives life.

In John 5:23 Jesus clearly says we should honor Him in the same way we honor the Father

In John 10:30, Jesus clearly said, “I and the Father are one.”

We also have many clear instances of people worshiping Jesus; The man born blind (John 9:38), the magi (Matthew 2:11), the disciples in the boat (Matthew 14:33), et al.

So we see time after time where the Bible clearly identifies Jesus as God. The response from my critic friend online was to cite William Barclay:

But we shall find that on almost every occasion in the New Testament on which Jesus seems to be called God there is a problem either of textual criticism or of a translation. In almost every case we have to discuss which of two readings is to be accepted or which two possible translations is to be accepted.

Note that Barclay said, “almost every occasion.” If the Bible says even once that Jesus is God, then that would clear up the ambiguous verses but never mind that now. What struck me was that the rebuttal I usually hear to seemingly clear references of Jesus' divinity is to say that the Bible doesn't really mean what it clearly seems to be saying.  Each and every time the Bible seems to identify Jesus as God, they say a more obscure translation of the verse is the correct one.

Is that the best they have? Their only response - ever - is to say, “what that really means is....”  We argue rules and they argue exceptions. How odd it would be if God gave us His revelation in code. How are we expected to understand any part of the Bible if the most ordinary meaning of any verse is never the correct one?

Monday, July 8, 2013

The Appendix: Evidence Against Evolution

Ordinarily, I would never consider a sit com to be representative of any group but I'm going to use a scene from The Big Bang Theory as the backdrop for a discussion about the appendix. I'm doing this for a couple of reasons. First, I don't think anyone would argue that a vast majority of evolutionists consider the appendix to be vestigial so it's not like the show misrepresents this attitude. Second, it's just a funny scene and I'm going to exploit it for the sake of making my blog more interesting.


Isn't that hilarious? Anyway, back to business. As I've already said, the appendix is touted by evolutionists as the champion of vestigial organs. The theory of evolution virtually demands that there be vestigial organs and so, when the label of “vestigial” can be attach to some structure, they are quick to trumpet it as evidence for their theory. I cannot recall ever having a discussion of vestigial organs without the appendix being used by evolutionists as an example.

By way of definition, a structure is considered vestigial if it has lost all or most of its original function. Even if the structure has function, it can still be considered vestigial if it doesn't perform its original function. The wings of a bat, for example, could be considered vestigial forelimbs because they are no longer used for walking but are now used for flying. Every definition I've heard of vestigial suffers from a range of weaknesses which I've talked about on my blog before. I'm not going to quibble over the definition of vestigial now. Instead, I'm going to question the idea that the appendix is evidence for evolution at all.

According to evolution, the appendix evolved in some ancestor of humans and once served an important function (or at least it evolved to serve some function). Since we are descended from this supposed ancestor, we have inherited that structure but, over the many generations of mutation and selection leading from the non-human ancestor to us, the appendix has lost its original function. For this reason, it's sometimes called an “evolutionary leftover.”

Humans are not the only creatures with an appendix. Dozens of mammals have appendixes – but not every mammal. Here's where the theory starts to get thorny. According to the theory of common descent, we should be able to trace the appendix along the so called “nested-hierarchy” where all the animals which have an appendix also share a common ancestor. The problem is, there is no predictable pattern among the mammals with appendixes. The appendix appears in some species of primates, rodents, and even marsupials but is absent from the intermediate groups linking these species. It's not at all what we would expect if evolution were true.

Failed predictions are usually considered evidence against a scientific theory. However, the fact that the presence of the appendix follows no predictable pattern hardly raises an eyebrow among evolutionists. As is often the case, they invent ad hoc theories to explain the failed prediction. Here is a quote from Science Now:

In a new study, published online this month in Comptes Rendus Palevol, the researchers compiled information on the diets of 361 living mammals, including 50 species now considered to have an appendix, and plotted the data on a mammalian evolutionary tree. They found that the 50 species are scattered so widely across the tree that the structure must have evolved independently at least 32 times, and perhaps as many as 38 times. [Bold added]

Give me a break. The structure “must have” evolved 30+ times? There's another possibility, you know. Namely that the seeming random appearance of an appendix is evidence that the creatures on the “tree of life” are not related in an evolutionary sense. I wonder if the scientists even considered that possibility.

When creatures that aren't closely related share similar features, it's attributed to “convergent evolution.” As the story goes, there is sometimes a “best” solution to make a creature better adapted to its environment and “nature” will happen on that same solution time and time again. In the case of mammal digestion, the appendix must have fit some important need so well that “nature” created one on at least 30 occasions! But that “just so” story, that the appendix evolved so often because it was the “best solution,” stretches credulity if the appendix is now considered vestigial in most of the creatures that have one!

So let's wrap this up: The appendix appears in no discernible pattern on the so called, “tree of life” which calls into question the entire concept of common descent.  We have to believe the appendix is so important that it evolved independently 30+ times but it's also so unimportant that most creatures that have one don't need it.

Hmmm.  Please explain to me again: how is the appendix evidence for evolution?

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Happy 4th of July

O beautiful for halcyon skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the enameled plain!
America! America!
God shed His grace on thee,
Till souls wax fair as earth and air
And music-hearted sea!

O beautiful for pilgrim feet
Whose stern, impassioned stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat
Across the wilderness!
America! America!
God shed His grace on thee
Till paths be wrought through wilds of thought
By pilgrim foot and knee!

O beautiful for glory-tale
Of liberating strife,
When once or twice, for man's avail,
Men lavished precious life!
America! America!
God shed His grace on thee
Till selfish gain no longer stain,
The banner of the free!

O beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears!
America! America!
God shed His grace on thee
Till nobler men keep once again
Thy whiter jubilee!

Original Poem, Katherine Lee Bates, 1893

Monday, July 1, 2013

Discovery: 10 Examples of an Evolutionist Spouting Nonsense

Some media cater to what could be called, “pop science.” They present shows and articles on scientific subjects but package them in a way that is interesting to an unscientific public. I understand this happens and I'm usually not too critical on the groups that produce pop science so long as the information is correct. When the subject is evolution, however, I've usually found that the information presented is garbage.

This is the case in an online article published by Discovery called, “10 Examples of Natural Selection.” The piece is so poorly written that I could make a series of 10 posts – one on each example – explaining how wrong is the information contained in each example. I won't do that, though. Instead, I'm going to merely point out a few of the more egregious errors since these are the same errors that I've seen evolutionists make before. Below, we'll look at just the first two paragraphs. Text that is blue and italicized is quoted directly from the article.

First, the article terribly conflates natural selection with evolution. The title of the article says it is intended to be 10 examples of natural selection, yet the author starts by talking about evolution.  Read it for yourself:

When we think of evolution, we usually think of primates evolving into humans, and of the evolutionary changes that were made over thousands and thousands of years...”

Yes! That's exactly what I talked about in a recent post. The most common understanding of the word “evolution” is ape-to-man or dino-to-bird. Scientists have a more technical meaning and they want to harp on the fact that the majority of people don't use the word the way evolutionists have defined it.

But the truth is evolution is at work all the time.

In this context, the author is using “evolution” to mean “populations change.” He doesn't mean that one kind of animal changes into another kind of animal “all the time” - he's merely taking the word most people understand to mean “common descent” and using it to mean any kind of “change.” It's equivocation at its worst.

Sometimes the changes are small and appear insignificant at first glance, but they all play a part in natural selection and the survival of the species.”

Did you notice it? The author has now slipped in the term, “natural selection”? He was not careful to distinguish between evolution and natural selection. He starts out talking about one, then starts talking about the other. If he went on to explain the difference, that would be one thing. He doesn't.

But natural selection doesn't lead to the development of a new species. In most cases, the process simply allows a species to better adapt to its environment ...”

I'm not sure what this person means by saying that natural selection doesn't lead to the development of a new species. Does he mean, “never” or “not always”? Never mind. Even as a lay person, I understand that natural selection does indeed allow a species to adapt to its environment. It does this by selecting from existing traits only those that are conducive to the environment (see my last post on this subject). However, this author doesn't seem to understand how it works. See here how he explains it:

In most cases, the process simply allows a species to better adapt to its environment by changing the genetic make up from one generation to the next.[bold added]

I'm not sure if there's a technical meaning to the term, “genetic make up.” If he means that existing genetic variation is continuously reshuffled to create the best possible combination of traits, then OK. If he intends “genetic make up” to mean “new genetic material,” then we have a problem. Natural selection does not create anything new. It can only select from existing traits. But I'm pretty sure this author means to say that natural selection creates new genetic material. Look at his next point:

And the process is actually quite predictable. If a species lacks a certain trait that will allow it to survive, there are two options: Either the species dies out or it develops the missing trait.

There are so many errors contained in these two statements that I don't think I can adequately cover them all. Still, I will try.  

Mutations are random. The process of evolution is not "predictable."  If dinos had really changed into birds, no one living contemporaneously with the dinos could have predicted it. Of course, maybe the author means that “natural selection” is quite predictable which has a little more substance. I might predict that gray mice are better suited to wooded environment than white mice. But I still couldn't say with certainty what effect something like introducing a new predator might have on the indigenous species there. Even natural selection is not “quite predictable.”

But the worst error lies in the comment, If a species lacks a certain trait that will allow it to survive, there are two options: Either the species dies out or it develops the missing trait  If a species lacks a certain trait, why must it necessarily die out unless the trait evolves? Why can't it just continue in stasis? What trait are humans waiting to acquire, for example? Are we doomed for extinction or are we “working” to acquire this necessary trait? This is a classic example of bifurcation.

What makes it the worst, though, is that this wording gives the impression that evolution is a directed process. If a species needs some particular trait, somehow, natural selection will work toward acquiring that trait.  That's absurd! Yet time and time again, this author gives the impression that natural selection will do just that. For example, while discussing the Rat Snake, the author said, As a result, rat snakes have had to adapt to their local environments in an effort to avoid detection and hunt more effectively. In the case of nylon-eating bacteria, the author said, This is a very simple example of natural selection, where the most basic forms of life can adapt to whatever food the environment offers. Isn't that a hoot? According to this logic, if only birdseed is available in some area, then the crocodiles there can adapt to eat birdseed!

The hilarious quotes keep coming when the author talks about humans. He begins with the following:

Are humans still evolving? The simple answer is yes, even if the changes are not obvious.”

Wait a minute. I thought we were talking about examples of natural selection. You can see yet again how careless evolutionists shamelessly conflate natural selection with evolution as though they are the same thing. Tsk, tsk. If this were the only time I've heard that, I might chalk it up to misspeaking. However, this is rather ordinary for evolutionists and I've discussed it many times before.

One suggested example of “natural selection/evolution” among humans is how people with “sickle hemoglobin” are resistant to malaria. As before, the author hints that the trait was somehow created by a need when he says, The mutation probably happened over hundreds of generations as a result of the constant exposure to malaria and people contracting and surviving it. That sounds rather Lamarckian, don't you think? That's about as ridiculous as believing my children could inherit my resistance to chicken pox since people have been contracting chicken pox for thousands of years!

Besides that, “sickle hemoglobin” is better known as “sickle cell disease” or “sickle cell anemia.” Granted, it's true that someone who suffers from sickle cell is resistant to malaria but sickle cell comes with its own list of complications. Sufferers of sickle cell usually have life expectancies much less than normal. And by way of analogy, consider this: if I lost both arms, I would be resistant to handcuffs. That might be preferable if I faced the possibility of spending life in prison if I were ever arrested but all other things being equal, I'd rather have my arms.

I could go on but this post is too long already. Let me close by reminding you of the quote I cited recently from Laurence Moran of TalkOrigins.

Scientists such as myself must share the blame for the lack of public understanding of science. We need to work harder to convey the correct information. Sometimes we don't succeed very well but that does not mean that we are dishonest. On the other hand, the general public, and creationists in particular, need to also work a little harder in order to understand science. Reading a textbook would help.”

Mr. Moran, I don't think we should “share” the blame; If the public is confused about evolution, all the blame could be laid squarely at the feet of your cohorts for their intentional conflation and equivocation when discussing the subject. Furthermore, I'm skeptical that reading a textbook would help if it were written with the same attention to details as this article.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Some evolutionists get it... but then they still don't get it

Evolutionists are a curious lot. As I've engaged them over the years, it has always been my sincere hope that I can help them see the truth. Many times, I've raised points that are so blatantly obvious that I'm surprised they can deny them with straight faces. Yet they do deny them. When they deny them, it's usually through their conscious effort; that is, evolutionists stubbornly object to reasonable points because they are committed to their worldview and therefore will patently reject listening to anything that might contradict it. However, there have been a few occasions when evolutionists come so close to seeing the truth that I think they could stumble right into it – even without my help.

I came across an article online that talked about Darwin's Finches. Here is a paragraph from the article talking about speciation.

[I]ndividual organisms having a phenotype characteristic providing an advantage in staying alive to successfully reproduce will pass their phenotype traits more frequently to the next generation. Over time and generations the traits providing reproductive advantage become more common within the population. Darwin called this process "descent with modification". Adaptive radiation, as observed by Charles Darwin in Galapagos finches, is a consequence of allopatric speciation among island populations.”

I believe this may be the best summary of natural selection that I've ever read from an evolutionist. The only suggestion I would make to improve it would be to change, “descent with modification” to “natural selection.” I could even almost live with “descent with modification” except that the term has been too closely identified with “evolution” for too long. Of course, the author was quoting Darwin's description of the process so I can understand why it's written the way it is.

Organisms adapt to their environment. Natural selection occurs by “nature” sifting through traits present in a population and eliminating those which are not conducive to that environment. Eventually, all the individuals within a population will begin to look alike and could be called a “species.”

What really struck me by this evolutionist is the next paragraph:

Darwin also correctly understood that the variability allowing adaptation already existed in the finch population, though its genetic (genotype) reason was not yet known by science at the time. Nature was NOT "producing" the variation within the finch populations - it already existed. Rather, nature "selected" from among the population variation the traits that better fostered survival and reproduction, a process known as "natural selection".

Wow! This evolutionist has nailed it. Natural selection can only act upon traits already present in the population. In other words, natural selection can make several species from a single kind, but it cannot create novel features for the kind. Natural selection – at best – is only a mechanism that can rearrange already existing traits.  Using one of my favorite animals, bears, as an example, natural selection can shuffle existing bear-kind fur color to make different combinations – like all black, all brown, all white, black/white, and black/brown. However, natural selection cannot add new fur colors – like green or blue.

At last, here is an evolutionist that seems to get it. However, he fails to grasp the obvious problem this presents for evolution. If natural selection can only select from existing traits, the obvious implication is that all the potential for variation must have already been present in the ancestor. That comports well with creation; it's the opposite of evolution.

The theory of evolution is supposed to be a progression of simple to complex.  The supposed common-ancestor-of-all-things did not have fur. Neither did it have scales or feathers or even skin. It didn't have bones or blood or organs of any kind. Evolution, therefore, requires that organisms acquire new traits. You can't get from an amoeba to a man without adding new features every step of the way and natural selection simply can't do that.

If you want to promote the story of evolution as history, you need to be talking about a mechanism besides natural selection. If I were an evolutionist, I would be talking non-stop about trait adding mutations. Mutation is the only mechanism that makes evolution seem viable. However, trait adding mutations are exceedingly rare – if any exist at all. Therefore, evolutionists dishonestly conflate natural selection and evolution like they are the same thing. They trumpet any example of “change” as though it's evidence for common descent. Shame on them!

In the end, this evolutionist, who was so close to the truth that he could touch it, walked right by without seeing it. He went on to say, “The process [of natural selection] guides evolution across the entire Tree-of Life.” Natural selection did not turn fins to feet nor feet to wings. It's rather dastardly to talk about the beaks of birds and turn it into a discussion of molecules and men.