googlef87758e9b6df9bec.html A Sure Word: March 2016

Thursday, March 31, 2016

The best argument atheists have is that they have no argument!

1 Peter 3:15 commands us to always be ready to give an answer to every man who asks a reason for the hope that is in us. It doesn't say to only answer the easy questions. Indeed, the more difficult the question, the more urgent should our answers be. This is the reason I blog. It's true I devote most of my blog to the creation/evolution debate but that's because I believe evolution is the greatest challenge to the Faith in our time. Even so, I'm always on the look out for other criticisms of the Bible.

In my quest to answer the best arguments against Christianity, I came across a forum with a thread titled, A Library of the Best 40 Atheist Arguments Against God. Woohoo!! The mother-load. If I'm looking to answer the most challenging arguments against Christianity, here are the 40 best ones. At least, that's what the list's author said but as I began reading them, I didn't think the list lived up to its name. Or maybe I'm being too critical and there really aren't any good arguments for atheism. Hmm.

Anyway, in a list of the “best” arguments atheists use against God, what is the first argument – presumably, the “best of the best”? According to the list's author:

The fundamental argument for atheism is that there is no evidence or proof for God. There is no solid or tangible evidence for God nor a logical argument for God. The existence of God is taken on faith and not by evidence.

You can see why I was disappointed in the list. Is the best argument for atheism really that Christians don't have a good argument for God? Let's look at some of the many facets of this flawed reasoning.

First, there's a little hypocrisy going on. When I write about creation or evolution, I sometimes criticize the evidence for evolution. At those times, evolutionists often cry foul saying that criticizing the evidence for evolution is not evidence for creation. That's a valid point. Of course, I often write about evidence for creation but if all I ever had were criticisms of evolution, that's a very weak argument for creation. Now the shoe is on the other foot. When making an argument for atheism, the unbeliever's first resort is to criticize the evidence for God. Yes, it's a very weak argument! And it's their best argument?

There are a few other facets to this weak argument. Implicit in this quote is that unbelief is the default position of any thinking person. I've written about this before. Atheists proudly portray themselves as skeptics who cautiously (but still open-mindedly) examine the evidence and go wherever it leads. This author is making exactly that same point: until convincing evidence or some logical argument is made for God, our starting belief should be atheism.

In my last post on this subject, I gave the analogy of finding a log cabin in the woods. Even if you don't know who built the cabin, you would start with the assumption that the cabin had a builder. You wouldn't start with the assumption that the cabin is just the accidental arrangement of trees that fell into the shape of a cabin. Atheists are welcome to look for some “scientific” evidence to explain the origin of matter, time, and space but I could save them time and tell them that no scientific explanation exists. Their “skeptical” starting point is about as reasonable as insisting a log cabin has no builder.

Notice, too, that the author employs the usual evolutionist tactic of redefining “faith” to mean “blind faith.” How predictable. In my opinion, it is the atheist who exercises blind faith by believing in a purposeless, natural, uncaused origin of the universe (which I call “poofism”) when such a belief flies in the face of everything we know scientifically.

I've talked about evidence for God many times before. Besides the existence of matter, space, and time, I could talk about the existence of absolute morality or the apparent design in nature or the historicity of Jesus or any number of other things... but what does it matter?  It's the position of this atheist – probably most atheists – that they will sit cross-armed and unbelieving without offering any good reason why. They have no evidence for atheism. Their best argument is that they have no argument.

Friday, March 25, 2016

5 [Stupid] Reasons to Suspect Jesus Never Existed

I'm not sure why people reject Jesus as their Lord. Well, I suppose it's because of their rebellious nature and their love of sin. What I mean to say is that I can't understand why they would reject Jesus in the face of such overwhelming evidence that He not only lived but that He demonstrated His divinity through miracles including His own resurrection.

People who reject Jesus must necessarily blind themselves to reality. They willingly close their eyes to the truth. They do what critics accuse creationists of doing – they ignore the evidence. I came across an article titled, 5 Reasons to Suspect Jesus Never Existed. These flimsy reasons give us a glimpse at how desperate atheists can be when justifying their unbelief. I thought I'd list the 5 points along with a brief rebuttal to each one.

1. No first century secular evidence whatsoever exists to support the actuality of Yeshua ben Yosef [Jesus son of Joseph].

As odd as it may seem, there is no mention of Jesus at all by any of his pagan contemporaries. There are no birth records, no trial transcripts, no death certificates; there are no expressions of interest, no heated slanders, no passing references – nothing... In none of [the] vast array of surviving writings is Jesus’ name ever so much as mentioned

This criticism is just bizarre. I'm no scholar or anything but I've written before about several 1st century, extra-biblical references to Jesus by people like Josephus, Tacitus, and Pliny the Younger. But even setting those aside, what about Nero? He is notorious for his persecution of Christians. Am I to believe that the first-century church exploded to such a degree as to catch the notice of the Roman Emperor yet no one had even heard the name of Jesus?!

2. The earliest New Testament writers seem ignorant of the details of Jesus’ life, which become more crystalized in later texts.

Paul seems unaware of any virgin birth, for example. No wise men, no star in the east, no miracles. Historians have long puzzled over the “Silence of Paul” on the most basic biographical facts and teachings of Jesus. Paul fails to cite Jesus’ authority precisely when it would make his case. What’s more, he never calls the twelve apostles Jesus’ disciples; in fact, he never says Jesus HAD disciples –or a ministry, or did miracles, or gave teachings.

Another bizarre criticism. Actually, I'm not going to begin all my replies with the observation that the criticism is bizarre and just say in advance they're all bizarre. Anyway, this is a textbook example of an argument from silence. Just because Paul didn't mention a detail like the Virgin Birth, is not proof he was ignorant of the Virgin Birth. Yet even if he didn't know about the Virgin Birth, how is that evidence there was no Virgin Birth or even evidence there was no Jesus?

Keep in mind too that Paul only knew the post-resurrection Jesus. He wasn't there during Jesus' earthly ministry so it's not surprising that he wouldn't write much about it. However, he did write voluminously about the miracle he did witness – the resurrection! He cited it often to make the case for Jesus' authority. In 1 Corinthians 15:6, Paul writes,After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep;It's as though Paul is inviting his readers to go and ask the 500 people if they'd seen the Risen Savior.

3. Even the New Testament stories don’t claim to be first-hand accounts.

We now know that the four gospels were assigned the names of the apostles Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, not written by them. To make matter sketchier, the name designations happened sometime in second century, around 100 years or more after Christianity supposedly began.... But even the gospel stories don’t actually say, “I was there.” Rather, they claim the existence of other witnesses, a phenomenon familiar to anyone who has heard the phrase, my aunt knew someone who. . . .

Mark and Luke were not Apostles of Jesus. However, Luke does begin his gospel with the claim that he compiled the testimonies of eyewitnesses (Luke 1:2). These were not the testimonies of someone who knew someone. Mark 14:51-52 talks about a young man who was there at the arrest of Jesus. When the soldiers tried to grab him, he shrugged off his linen coat and ran away naked. Many scholars identify this young boy as Mark, a disciple of Jesus. If so, then Mark was indeed an eyewitness to at least some of the things recorded in his gospel.

What's most compelling, though, is John 19:35, And he that saw it bare record, and his record is true: and he knoweth that he saith true, that ye might believe. In this passage, John is claiming to be an eyewitness to the death of Jesus. He saw the soldier pierce His side with a spear. He saw Jesus die; later, he saw Him alive again. John ends his gospel with these words, John 21:24-25, This is the disciple who is testifying to these things and wrote these things, and we know that his testimony is true. And there are also many other things which Jesus did, which if they *were written in detail, I suppose that even the world itself *would not contain the books that *would be written.

So, yes, the gospels are the testimonies of eyewitnesses to the life of Jesus. It's bizarre for someone to claim otherwise.

4. The gospels, our only accounts of a historical Jesus, contradict each other.

The gospel of Mark is thought to be the earliest existing “life of Jesus,” and linguistic analysis suggests that Luke and Matthew both simply reworked Mark and added their own corrections and new material. But they contradict each other and, to an even greater degree contradict the much later gospel of John, because they were written with different objectives for different audiences. The incompatible Easter stories offer one example of how much the stories disagree.

Claims of contradictions are perhaps the most often employed criticisms of the Bible. The article didn't cite any specific, alleged contradictions besides a vague claim to “incompatible Easter stories.” I've dealt with some specific claims surrounding the resurrection of Jesus like the death of Judas and the women visiting the tomb but supposed contradictions pretty much have to be addressed in context. There were none mentioned here so there are none to address. I will say, however, that I've yet to see any “contradiction” that hasn't been answered 100 times already.

5. Modern scholars who claim to have uncovered the real historical Jesus depict wildly different persons.

They include a cynic philosopher, charismatic Hasid, liberal Pharisee, conservative rabbi, Zealot revolutionary, nonviolent pacifist to borrow from a much longer list assembled by Price. In his words (pp. 15-16), “The historical Jesus (if there was one) might well have been a messianic king, or a progressive Pharisee, or a Galilean shaman, or a magus, or a Hellenistic sage. But he cannot very well have been all of them at the same time.”

Speaking of contradictions, how can modern scholars claim to have uncovered the “real” historical Jesus when question 1 says no 1st-century reference to Jesus son of Joseph exists? Just curious.

Anyway, Jesus was the zealot who called the Pharisees a den of vipers. Jesus was the servant who washed the feet of His disciples. Jesus was the friend who mourned with the sisters of Lazarus. Jesus was the forgiving judge who showed mercy on a woman caught in adultery. Jesus was the imposing figure of whom His disciples asked, What sort of man is this that even the wind and sea obey him?

The “real” Jesus is the Jesus of the Bible. He was a lot of things but He was not imagined.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

What are the odds?

A few weeks back, I wrote about the voodoo science that evolutionists invoke when they estimate the number of extinct species. You might pop over there real quick and read it if you haven't already but I'll recap my point briefly. You've probably heard it cited that more than 99% of all species that have ever lived are extinct. According to Wiki, there have been an estimated 5 billion species throughout the history of the world. However, only around 2 million species have been identified – either currently living or known through the fossil record. There is no fossil trace for more than 99.9% of the species evolutionists claim have existed. Their vastly inflated estimate is merely the consequence of assuming an ancient earth which virtually demands countless generations to fill all those millinea.

One major weakness of evolution is the glaring lack of transitional forms in the fossil record. Darwin himself said that innumerable transitional forms must have existed.... [J]ust in proportion as this process of extermination has acted on an enormous scale, so must the number of intermediate varieties, which have formerly existed on the earth, be truly enormous.” Why are there so few candidates for transitional forms when so many must have lived? Evolutionists blame the lack of transitional forms on the extreme rarity of fossilization. In a real sense, they are hiding the transitional forms that must have existed among all those imagined species that must have existed but never left any fossils. How convenient.

A couple of days ago, I was listening to a debate on YouTube between a creationist and evolutionist. The evolutionist was making the usual straw man arguments and appeals to authority but he finally did trot out some real “evidence” by showing a series of alleged transitional forms representing whale evolution. I reject the evolution-of-the-whale story, by the way, but I'll save my criticism of the series for another post. Anyway, having just written about how few fossils there are compared to the number of species evolutionists claim have lived, I remember thinking how unlikely it should be for such a complete series to exist. Suddenly, another realization hit me that pokes another huge hole in the story of evolution.

I couldn't find a stat about how many living species are also found as fossils but I know there are several. There are bats, frogs, fish, turtles, sharks, crocodiles, and scores of other modern species that I know have been found in the fossil record (in some cases they're even called, “living fossils”). There are about 1.5 million living species that have been named. There are another 250,000 or so species only known from fossils. All together, there are less than 2 million identified species out of 5 billion believed to have existed. So more than 99.96% of all the species claimed to have lived have left no fossil trace. Not a single fossil! Are you still with me? OK, let me get to the point:

According to Wikipedia, More than 50 specimens of Tyrannosaurus rex have been identified, some of which are nearly complete skeletons. I find it incredibly odd that 99.96% of all the species that have supposedly lived left no fossils yet this particular species has left dozens. I mean, what are the odds? It doesn't stop there, though. On website, we read that Australopithecus afarensis is one of the longest-lived and best-known early human species—paleoanthropologists have uncovered remains from more than 300 individuals!If you agree that it should be unlikely to find t-rex fossils by the dozens, you'll agree it's downright queer that we find A. afarensis by the hundreds! Keep in mind too that these are larger, terrestrial creatures – the least likely to fossilize; we find trilobite fossils by the millions! If evolutionists are right, why are some species so over-represented in the fossil record when billions of other species aren't found at all?

As I've said, the billions of species claimed by evolutionists are merely a consequence of their belief in an old earth yet their claims don't square with the facts. What we observe in the fossils is the exact opposite of what evolutionists allege. They say there have been billions of species, the vast majority of which left no fossilized individuals. What we observe are relatively few species abundantly represented by dozens, hundreds, or even millions of fossils.

There is no longer any room for billions of years in the fossil record. The missing links are still missing. The storytelling is over. Their billions of species is a lie. What we observe (aka, “the evidence”) is much more consistent with a recent creation and a catastrophic flood.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Maybe Ken Ham is wrong but Bill Nye is more wrong!

Ken Ham, of Answers in Genesis, holds that there are two types of science: observational science and historical science. His point is simply that there are things we can observe in the here and now and there are some things that happened in the past that can't be observed. It's not a hard concept to grasp, really, although I wouldn't necessarily use the terms myself.

Ham made this point very clearly in his debate with Bill Nye. Nye, indeed, most critics of creationism, utterly reject the idea of any distinction between studying something in the present and studying something that happened in the past. During the debate, Nye said, “So here tonight we are going to have two stories, and we can compare Mr. Ham's story to the story from the outside, what I call mainstream science. The question here tonight is, does Ken Ham's creation model hold up? Is it viable? So let me ask you, what would you be doing if you weren't here tonight? You'd be home watching CSI TV show, CSI-Petersburg. I think that's coming. And on CSI, there is no distinction made between historical science and observational science. These are constructs unique to Mr. Ham. We don't normally have these anywhere in the world except here.”

Like I've already said, I wouldn't use the terms “historical science” and “observational science.” The simple fact of the matter is that all science is conducted in the present. Even in the case of forensic science (as in the CSI crime show), we still examine the evidence in the present. For example, if I have a suspected murder weapon, I can fire a bullet from the gun and compare it to a bullet found at a crime scene. If they are similar enough, I might conclude the suspect weapon is the same weapon used at the crime scene. So even though I'd be making a conclusion about a past event, it's based on science being done in the present. We can draw conclusions – even correct conclusions – about something that happened in the past but we can't observe the past. We only ever conduct science in the present. Get it?

Now, while I may disagree with Ham on his use of the terms “observational” and “historical” science, I disagree even more with critics like Nye who would have us believe we can observe the age of the earth in a similar way that we can observe the earth is round. In their haste to dispel any distinction between “observational” and “historical” science, folks like Nye intentionally blur the distinction between facts observed in the present and conclusions made about the past!

In an appearance on Larry King Now, Bill Nye made this following comment:

My concern has always been you can't use tax dollars intended for science education to teach something akin to the earth is 10,000 years old. To... 'cause that's just wrong. It's very much analogous to saying the earth is flat. I mean, you can show the earth is not flat; you can show the earth is not 10,000 years old.

Perhaps what Nye means to say is that he can show us things like the decay rate of radioisotopes and explain how scientists use this to estimate the age of the earth. But that's not what he is saying. What's he's saying is that he can show us the age of the earth just like he can show us its shape and I'm saying no he can't. We can observe the shape of the earth from space. We can watch it rotate in real time. We can sail, fly, and for the most part even drive around the entire earth and see it has no edges anywhere. We can observe many features about the earth but we cannot observe its age. No way. No how. “Age” is simply not a substance you can hold against a ruler, put under a microscope, or weigh on a scale.

In their rush to condemn any distinction between historical and observational science, evolutionists happily conflate observations we make in the present with conclusions we draw about the past. They should be embarrassed that they seem completely unable to grasp a point that should be painfully obvious. Of course, I don't care that evolutionists embarrass themselves. I do care that people like Nye, and groups like the National Center for Science Education, seem bent on teaching kids that we can observe molecules-to-man evolution or billions of years.

How can we trust people like Nye to educate our kids when they seem less interested in teaching them to think critically and more interested in indoctrinating them into evolution? Does Bill Nye understand the difference between making observations and drawing conclusions? If he doesn't, then he's not the scientist people think he is. If he does, then he's just a liar. Either way, I don't want his influence in schools.  

Monday, March 7, 2016

Why must “faith” mean “blind faith”?

While doing research the other day – I like to call surfing the net, “research” – I came across a blog titled, Counter Apologist. One post on the blog was, Faith is Belief without Good Evidence. In the opening paragraph, the author states he is critiquing the Christian definition of faith by Tom Gilson. Unfortunately, the author did not link to Gilson's definition nor even attempt to summarize it so I have no way of knowing how good his criticism is. For that matter, I can't even say how good Gilson's definition of faith is. I found some of Gilson's writing online but I still can't be sure which article the Counter Apologist is addressing. Oh, well.

Anyway, the two definitions of faith offered by the Counter Apologist are:
  1. Belief without good evidence.
  2. Pretending to know what you don't know.
One atheist, while commenting on Jerry Coyne's Blog, actually said,[E]vidence by definition cannot support faith. That is the definition of faith... [I]f you need evidence to support your religious beliefs it is not faith. Period.”.

So we have several examples of atheists attempting to redefine faith in such a way as to mean having no evidence for what we believe. They even go so far as to say if we have evidence, we can't have faith.

It's typical for critics of Christianity to want to define words in their favor but they usually limit it to more technical terms like science or evolution. Faith, however, is a word they otherwise seek to separate from science. If scientists have the right to define evolution (actually they don't have the right but they think they do), then the correct meaning of faith should be determined by the religious community, right? No. Skeptics of faith also think they have the right to define our terms as well.

On, we find these definitions of faith:
  1. Belief; the assent of the mind to the truth of what is declared by another, resting solely and implicitly on his authority and veracity; reliance on testimony.
  2. The assent of the mind to the statement or proposition of another, on the ground of the manifest truth of what he utters; firm and earnest belief, on probable evidence of any kind, especially in regard to important moral truth.
So, one definition of faith is to believe something declared by another based on his authority and veracity. One thing that strikes me about that definition is that it describes a lot of people who believe in evolution. Most people aren't biologists or paleontologists or geologists or scientist of any kind. They have not seen the alleged evidence for evolution. Instead, they rely on the authority and veracity of the scientists who have studied the evidence. Their belief in evolution is nothing more than their faith in the opinions of people who they think should know. Mind you, too, that most of them have faith in people who they have never even met. Do you know who writes the science textbooks used in the schools in your neighborhood? What's his name? Where does he live? Where does he work? Where did his get his degree? The students – even the teachers – don't know either. Kids read a science textbook and believe in evolution because... well... it's in the science textbook!

Some of the critics reading this right now are seething. They're ready to tell me how the material in the textbooks isn't just the opinions of some random nobody who snagged a book deal. It's the end result of decades of research, conducted by countless scientists, and compiled by experts in the field. Never mind that the errors it contains will have to be corrected in the next edition – the current edition is cutting edge! My point in raising this is that it's not necessarily wrong to have confidence in a book authored by someone you've never even met. Faith doesn't necessarily mean blind faith. It's also having confidence in the testimony of another based on his authority and veracity.

I believe that Moses witnessed the plagues on Egypt. I believe he saw the Egyptian army drowned in the Red Sea. I believe he ate the manna that God provided for His people daily. I believe he heard the voice of God in the burning bush. And I believe the accounts of the creation and the flood that were revealed to him.

I believe the apostles knew Jesus; that they saw Him turn water into wine, heal lepers, give sight to the blind, walk on water, calm the storm, and raise the dead. I believe His words they recorded: that He is the way, the truth, and the life and that no one comes to the Father except through Him. I believe they saw Him die and saw Him alive again!

I believe the Bible for many of the same reasons skeptics believe in evolution; I have been convinced of the truth of it. It's not unreasonable. It's not blind faith. I will not let some tortured definition of faith shame me in questioning my faith nor trick me into trusting only “scientific” evidence.

For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report? So then FAITH cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. (Romans 10:11-17).

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Wouldn't there have been a Grand Canyon on every continent?

I wonder if Bill Nye wishes he hadn't debated Ken Ham. I've heard that his friends were generally telling him that it was a bad idea – lots of risk with very little upside. After the debate, die-hard evolutionists breathed a sigh of relief, thinking he'd done a good job defending Darwin's theory while sufficiently bashing creationism.

I have a completely different opinion. A lot of the points Nye made were epic fails. He wasn't just a little wrong; he blew it. I've written before about his flimsy, 11-new-species-per-day argument. I've exposed his failed Tiktaalik prediction. There is also his blatant argument from ignorance when he said Noah could not have built a wooden boat to the dimensions given in the Bible. And some people think he won? I'm struggling to think of one thing he said that was factual. Oh, wait! I know one...

About 50 minutes into the video, while he was trying to attack the creationists' position that the Grand Canyon was carved out catastrophically at the time of the Flood, Nye made this comment:

And by the way, if this great flood drained through the Grand Canyon, wouldn't there have been a Grand Canyon on every continent? How could we not have Grand Canyons everywhere, if this water drained away in this extraordinarily short amount of time, 4000 years?

In this comment, Nye is making a prediction. Remember that successful predictions are the mark of a good scientific theory. His prediction is that, if the Flood really happened, we would expect to see canyons the size of the Grand Canyon on every continent. Am I lying? Isn't that what he said? OK, let's move on.

I'm going to put his prediction to the test. It's not hard, really; I simply consulted Wikipedia. You can read the article for yourself but let me just point out a few highlights:

The Grand Canyon is big, but it's not even the biggest canyon in North America. Mexico's Copper Canyon is both longer and deeper.

Two canyons in Peru, the Cotahuasi Canyon and Colca Canyon, are both deeper than the Grand Canyon. Each one is over 3,500 meters deep while the Grand Canyon averages only 1,600 meters deep.

The largest canyon in Africa is the Fish River Canyon. Its gigantic ravine is about 100 miles long.

National Geographic reported a giant trench discovered under the snow in western Antarctica that is deeper than the Grand Canyon. It is 15½ miles across and up to 1.9 miles deep.

Another subglacial canyon was found in Greenland in August 2013. Named, Greenland's Grand Canyon, it is believed to be the longest canyon in the world.

Australia has the Capertee Valley which is wider than the Grand Canyon, though not as deep.

Some of the deepest canyons in the world are found in Asia. They are the Indus Gorge, the Kali Gandaki Gorge, and the Yarlung Tsangpo Gorge. All are deeper than the Grand Canyon with the latter also being longer.

Nye made his comment out of ignorance. He obviously wasn't aware that, everywhere in the world, we do find canyons that are longer, deeper, and wider than the Grand Canyon. In his own words, it is exactly what we would expect to find if a deluge of water drained off the continents in a short amount of time.

Yeah. Nye has to be kicking himself over that one.