googlef87758e9b6df9bec.html A Sure Word: September 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!