We cannot see Him, hear Him, touch Him, or put Him in a test tube. How can we know anything about Him, or even be sure He exists? It is widely asserted, and accepted, that this is impossible, and therefore God’s existence and nature are unknowable. This agnostic position commits a major fallacy of omission, already briefly mentioned in ch. 5. Let me explain.
First consider another question: How do we know there is a wind? We cannot see it or hold it. But we can see its effects: things blow around, tree branches move back and forth, we hear noise. The only reasonable explanation is that the wind is blowing. If someone refuses to believe a wind exists, we consider him crazy! This is not exactly the same as God, but it is similar in some respects: We cannot see God, but we can see some things He has done. There are many things and events for which the only reasonable, simple explanation is that God caused them. We do not have a right to demand that God show Himself to us when, where, and how we ask Him to. Making such demands is an act of presumption that has already implicitly rejected the existence of a God Who is really sovereign. As for objective experiments, anything you can cram into the proverbial test tube is not God, so that is not a reasonable way to look for evidence of His existence either. This reveals the foolishness of the Soviet cosmonaut who looked out of his spacecraft and reported that he didn’t see God. In the vastness of this universe, any human space-flight thus far is totally insignificant, and anything we found that way would not be God. If the cosmonaut really wanted to see God, the way to do it would be to take off his space suit.
So, how can we know anything about God? If He really is God, He can choose when, where, and how to reveal Himself. This is the major and fatal omission committed by those who adopt the agnostic position: it is true that we cannot find God by our own ability and effort, but He can take the initiative in finding us and placing certain events and objects in our path. If He has done so and we refuse to see what He has done, we cannot complain that He did not do something else, nor sit obstinately with our eyes closed insisting that there could be no such things. Well, we can, but it doesn’t make sense.
Many people object to this, saying that any explanation that mentions God is not reasonable or simple, but is unscientific, irrational, religious, an escape from finding a natural cause, a step backward toward the Dark Ages, and a hindrance to scientific research. We have already discussed this objection (ch. 5, V); it is reductionism, “nothing but science.” When we say that some things indicate that God exists and has acted, this is a conclusion from research, and is always open to further research. It is not escaping anything. If some facts really are the result of God’s actions, is science forbidden to discover that truth? Isn’t science supposed to be an open-minded search for truth? How can anyone say before we even begin research that we must not conclude that some things are the result of God’s actions? Who seems to be trying to escape something? Who is limiting the progress of research?
This approach avoids the danger of finding only a “God of the gaps” who explains the gaps in our present ability to understand nature. This error was often committed in the past, to explain comets, lightning, disease, etc. The God of the gaps has far less work to do now than he used to, and is approaching retirement. But the God of the Bible is the God of what we do know, not just what we don’t. What we know points to something beyond nature and its laws. Some such things were already introduced in ch. 3, IV, D, and ch. 5, V, responding to materialists’ reductionist explanations of religion and human nature. Now we will find several more such things even within the physical, material realm where many modern people think God’s activity has been excluded by scientific knowledge.
Atheists capitalize on Christians’ past errors, and refer derisively to any mention of God’s work as a repetition of the “god of the gaps” fallacy. There are at least two fallacies in this association. First, it is not a fact that all the gaps in our understanding have been filled by science in the past. This book emphasizes some still-unfilled gaps. Thus atheists are invoking a seriously biased data sample in drawing their conclusion. This is like saying that because some rocks can be dissolved in water, therefore all rocks can be.
The second fallacy is the pretense that it is only religious believers who indulge in various strategies of filling gaps. The only way in which atheists are different is that they have a “no-god of the gaps” policy. They simply fill the present gaps with unknown “laws,” which we are assured will be discovered sooner or later by continuing research; these could be described as “laws of the gaps.” The fact is that there are gaps in our understanding, and there always will be. Some are eventually filled by scientific discoveries, while others are increasingly found to be unfillable in that way. Such gaps include ones discussed in ch. 2, IV, and the mysteries of human consciousness, ethical standards, and sense of purpose, as well as the ones discussed in this chapter, the origin of the universe, of living things, and of the Bible. It takes just as much faith to believe in yet-unknown laws to explain all these as it does to believe in a personal God.
Some Christians are so fearful of repeating the “God of the gaps” error that they insist we must not find any scientific evidence for God anywhere; this amounts to the separation of faith from fact, ch. 5, I, F, 1. They go so far as to assert that God must have created the universe so as to require no physical intervention forever after, and even claim that it is a lack of faith, or clarity of thought, to believe He would do so. This is treading on dangerous ground, putting our thoughts in God’s mouth, constraining Him to conform to our opinions. The question is what He has in fact chosen to do, and the Bible seems to clearly state that He has chosen to continue acting within His universe. So, while being careful not to imagine such action where it has not occurred, we also must not hamstring God by denying it where it does occur. There is no simple answer, but we must investigate each purported case with a skeptical but open mind.
Earlier chapters discussed the Bible’s outlook on science. This chapter uses the scientific outlook on the Bible. So our starting point is that facts about the universe, ourselves, and the Bible exist, and that we are rational, logical beings. We do not begin by assuming that God exists (though there is no other basis for assuming that facts exist and that we are rational!). We simply do not assume that God does not exist, nor even that He can be omitted in the explanation of our life and world. This is the only truly open-minded approach.
The facts that show us that the God of the Bible exists may be summarized in four main points as follows, and each point tells us something relevant to the question of the existence and nature of God.
The first three are factual, objective. They are in this order because they tell us progressively more about God. The fourth point is partly subjective, and some aspects were already discussed in the section on social sciences versus Christianity, which talked about psychological and sociological effects. We will have more to say.
One final comment before we begin discussion of these points: Since the emphasis here is on finding things that God has done, this is not a repetition of the classical purely logical “proofs” of the existence of God which occupied so much of the energies of pro- and anti-Christian thinkers for centuries. These were called ontological, cosmological, teleological, and so on. These had some validity, but also seemed to contain enough loopholes to be insufficient as “proofs.” A modern-day incarnation of this approach is Cornelius van Til’s presuppositional viewpoint, insisting that it is impossible to be a rational human without at least implicitly believing in the existence of God. I of course believe he is right, but I am not convinced such an argument is logically airtight, and many others both Christian and non-Christian share that lack of being convinced. This is related to the topic of ch 5, V, A, 3, about our inherent personhood, which I consider as something which is simply felt, and beyond logical proof. Be that as it may, I am intending here to stick to observed facts, or truths, though conclusions unavoidably must also draw in some assumptions and logic along the way (ch 5, III).
I The characteristics of the universe
There are at least four important facts about the universe that indicate it had a beginning, and that its beginning cannot be explained by the presently known laws of nature.
This is a very important conclusion. It gives our first valuable clue from science in our search for the correct religious faith. It means that materialism, the belief that matter and energy are all that exists and are either eternal or self-created (whatever that means), has no scientific basis and in fact contradicts what we can observe. This belies materialists’ claims to a scientific basis for their beliefs.
Agnostics also have a hard time coping with this fact. While they do not deny the existence of a realm beyond the physical universe, they deny that it has any interaction with the universe, and a beginning certainly is an interaction. Perhaps some agnostics grudgingly concede the possibility of an act of creation, and then no further supernatural intervention. This makes them equivalent to the position of deists.
For pantheists and animists, the question of ultimate origins is mostly ignored as unknowable and distant to the point of irrelevance. The existence of our environment, and ourselves, is simply given, and attention is centered on coping with life here and now. There are creation myths, but they are not regarded as serious historicalaccounts. Hinduism has a concept of a cyclic universe, but that seems ruled out by known physical laws.
Deists accept creation; no problem there.
Some Christians conclude that the discovery of a beginning of the universe confirms that the God of the Bible exists and was the cause of the beginning. It does not prove that much. It does mean that there is nothing unscientific about believing the Bible’s story of creation: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Modern Christians need not be ashamed to admit that they believe it. In fact its consistency with recent scientific research can be viewed as a confirmation of faith in the Bible; it is the only religious tradition that seems closely parallel to what is now known. All others are unrelated or contradictory.
What are the four characteristics of the universe that indicate a beginning?
A Olbers’ Paradox: The sky is dark and coldWhy does the sky get dark at night? Only an idiot or a genius would ask this question; we normal people take it for granted. But it really is a profound question. From the time of Galileo and his telescope until the discoveries described in the next sections, the scientific community assumed that the universe is infinite and eternal. But given these assumptions, any line of sight should eventually intersect the surface of a star, just as any line of sight from a point in a large forest intersects a tree. Therefore the entire sky should be as bright as the surface of the sun. Obviously, and fortunately, it is not, and therefore one or both of the assumptions is wrong, and this is the so-called paradox. One proposed explanation was that the light from distant stars is blocked by interstellar dust, but energy must be conserved and can’t simply vanish, so that dust would eventually heat up to thesame temperature as the stars and re-emit an equal amount of light, so this explanation fails. The universe must be finite in space, or in time, or both.
This question is named after Heinrich Olbers, who stated it in 1826. But whoever thus named it had not done his homework, because the question had previously been raised by Thomas Digges in 1576, Johann Kepler in 1610, and Edmond Halley in 1721.
B The Second Law of ThermodynamicsThermodynamics was one of the great scientific breakthroughs of the 19th century (see ch. 1). The Second Law means disorder is increasing, or order and usable energy are decreasing. This can be restated in terms of statistics and probability: the state of a system is most likely to change toward a more random, more probable, condition. In any real system with a large number of particles, “most likely” is an overwhelming certainty.
This may sound very complex, but the principle is familiar to all of us. We are all experts on the Second Law; we just don’t know the Second Law when we see it. We straighten and clean our room today, but tomorrow it is less orderly and less clean. A more scientific example is that heat always flows from hot to cold, not cold to hot. A folded piece of paper will never again be flat, and clothing fresh out of the dyer needs to be ironed. Mixed liquids will never separate themselves back into different liquids, or into hot and cold parts. And so on. If someone tells you that his room just cleaned itself, the wind blew all the dust into the wastebasket and the clothes into the closet, you know that person needs to see a psychiatrist.
This has some very profound implications. The universe is a system which is not in a totally random state. It is very non-uniform in density, temperature, and composition. There is a large amount of energy available to do work, and the stars are busy using that energy to shine. Sunlight that streams into space will never again be regathered to heat the Sun. This means that the process of randomization has not yet reached completion, therefore either it has been continuing for only a finite time, or the universe is infinite in size and the part we see is an infinitesimal pocket where the process is not yet complete. This second option is a dubious play of degrees of infinity. Also, an infinite universe does not explain many other things we will mention later about living things and the Bible. If the universe has been here a finite time, then that is the same as saying it had a beginning, which was an ordering process or event, which was different from the processes which we now observe. We will not now discuss whether this beginning should be called “supernatural,” or “creation,” . For now, we will just say “a beginning.”
C The General Theory of RelativityThis set of equations was published by Einstein in 1915. It is a mind-stretching theory that deals with the nature of space and time itself, not merely of objects in space and time. One of its important implications is a non-zero acceleration of space itself, which means the universe cannot simply be stationary forever. Any change leads to the conclusion of a beginning. Einstein considered this impossible, because for generations the scientific world assumed that the universe is eternal and unchanging. So he assumed there should be another term in his equations, the “cosmological constant,” to cancel this acceleration. But that constant had no physical basis, only a philosophical basis in a materialistic world-view. Einstein later abandoned the constant, and called it “the greatest blunder” of his life, because of a discovery that was made in the 1920’s: the expansion of the universe, which is the topic of the following section.
An interesting side-note is that in recent years the cosmological constant has been resurrected, but not as a return to the concept of an eternal universe. It is a possible factor in the development of the universe since the beginning. In the motion of the distant, early objects seen by the largest telescopes, there are evidences of another force besides the four presently known, because the expansion of the universe seems to be accelerating, instead of decreasing as it would if gravitational attraction were the dominant force. This is still an active area of research and there is no firm conclusion yet. Whatever the conclusion, it is a confirmation not a denial of the concept of a beginning.
D The expansion of the universeEdwin Hubble and others discovered in the 1920’s that the light from distant galaxies shows a red shift. This does not mean that their apparent color becomes red, but that their entire spectral pattern is shifted toward the red, or longer wavelengths. He estimated their distance by making the reasonable assumption that smaller, fainter galaxies are more distant. The red shift seems to be proportional to the distance; it is larger for more distant galaxies. The only reasonable explanation thus far proposed for the red shift is that it is a result of the expansion of the universe and in fact of space itself. The distant galaxies have a recession speed, moving away from us, and the further they are the faster they are receding. Notice that this does not say that there is a unique center point anywhere. No matter where you are, everything distant from you will be receding.
This means that Einstein’s equations were (perhaps) right the first time. At least he was not wrong in allowing for an expanding universe. The universe is not stationary and eternal, but apparently had a beginning a long but not infinite time in the past. Given a distance and a speed, it is simple to estimate the time of travel. Estimates of the distances of galaxies still have some uncertainty, and the speed should decrease with time if gravitational attraction is the main factor affecting it. Or it may increase if the cosmological constant overcomes that attraction. To estimate this we need to know the average density of the universe, which is not at all well known. So the estimate of the time of expansion of the universe is uncertain, probably between 10 and 20 billion years.
This expansion is only important on the largest scale of the universe. It won’t make you taller. Within a cluster of galaxies there are local motions, so that a galaxy is approaching some of its near neighbors and receding from others. For instance, M31, the Andromeda Galaxy, is approaching us. It is the nearest large spiral galaxy, “only” a little over 2,000,000 light years away, virtually our next-door neighbor, a member of the Local Group of galaxies. Also, the expansion of the universe has no significant effect on the motion of stars within a galaxy, so half the stars we see in our Milky Way are moving toward us and the other half are moving away, mostly due to the rotation of the galaxy.
Scientists in Hubble’s time still did not accept the concept of a beginning of the universe, because science could not explain such a beginning. Such remote questions of origins were simply unknowable, and thus ignored. But by the 1940’s a few physicists saw that the developing field of high-energy particle physics could be applied to the possible conditions in an explosion that produced the present expanding universe. Around 1950 George Gamow and several others worked out the basic implications of such a theory.
Calculations from the known properties of high-energy particle interactions indicated that such an explosion would produce mostly H (hydrogen, the lightest element, with only one proton) with a little He (helium, the second element, with two protons and two neutrons) and a very small amount of a few more of the lightest elements. They also could explain that all the heavier elements were later produced in fusion reactions in the cores of stars, which finally explained the long-standing question of the origin of the stars’ tremendous energy output. These elements in the cores of stars were then mixed into interstellar gases when large stars exploded as supernovae, or ordinary stars lost their outer layers in their final stage as a red giant. Another conclusion of the theory is that the initial explosion would produce heat radiation, which would cool as the universe expands, and should now be everywhere, with a temperature of a few degrees above absolute zero, which places it in the microwave range.
This theory has come to be called the Big Bang. Fred Hoyle, a British astronomer, gave it this name in derision, but it was such an appropriate description, and no one could think of a better one, that it quickly became the standard terminology.
There are several important confirmations of the Big Bang theory. First, it correctly predicts the observed chemical composition of the universe, which is in fact (by mass) about 3/4 H (hydrogen), 1/4 He (helium) and about 1% all the heavier elements. However, this alone was not sufficient to win general acceptance for the theory. The predicted heat radiation could neither be confirmed nor disproved in 1950, because at that time there was no equipment that could observe it. So most scientists could still ignore the subject.
Hoyle and others who opposed the Big Bang in the 1950’s proposed a “steady-state” theory of continuous creation of H in an eternal universe. Such creation violated the known laws of conservation of matter and energy, but the estimated rate of creation is so low that measurements cannot prove it does not occur. It was a choice between one sudden big creation or a continuous slow one that could be considered normal, a new law of nature. The second choice became popular for a few years, but failed to account for the facts that became apparent as astronomical observations continued to progress. If the universe is steady, or unchanging, then we should see galaxies in various stages of development, both old and new. But research showed that all galaxies close enough to see clearly have similar ages, and there are no signs of new ones in process of formation. This confirmed the concept of a beginning, and began to shake confidence in the steady state theory.
Then in 1965 the “3K microwave cosmic background radiation” was observed by Penzias and Wilson of Bell Labs. The steady state theory then quickly fell out of favor, and almost all scientists accepted the Big Bangtheory. No alternative explanation of this radiation has gained general acceptance. Hoyle and a few others still advocate a modified form of their theory, and cite some observations in support of it, primarily the nature and distribution of some quasars. But that is getting beyond the scope of this book. In the early 1990s, COBE satellite measurements of this radiation provided further confirmation of the Big Bang theory. See ch. 1, VI.
Progress in astronomical instruments has enabled astronomers to see galaxies further and further away, which means we are seeing their condition longer and longer ago. The history of the universe is not merely a matter of theory and deduction from the observed present, as is true of history on the earth. The history of the universe is actually set before our eyes, but the early parts of it are very distant and difficult to observe. As we see it increasingly clearly, it is apparent that galaxies long ago were different than they are now. There were super-bright quasars, rapid bursts of star formation, and a large proportion of spiral galaxies. All this once again confirms that there is change with time, and a beginning.
It also finally solves Olbers’ paradox. The sky is dark for two reasons: the universe visible to us is limited in both space and time, because there has not been sufficient time for light to reach us from points beyond a certain distance. Also, the expansion weakens the light from the more distant parts that we can see.
The presently known laws of nature can be used to calculate from the present back to a moment (about 10-43 sec) after the beginning of the expansion. Before that time the density and energy is beyond the range of known laws. Either that was a beginning, or there are other laws we do not know yet. But even if there are other laws, that only pushes the question of the beginning back further, and we still must ask where that material and those laws came from. It is doubtful if our research can possibly find out what happened before that, but I won’t venture a“never”: prediction on this point. Science is simply silent about the exact moment of beginning, and “before the beginning” has no scientific meaning within the presently accepted theories of science. There are some interesting recent (2000) developments in “string theory” that claim to circumvent this limitation; stand by to see how this develops in years to come.
Hugh Ross’s books discuss several attempts to escape the conclusion that there was a beginning. Some scientists have speculated that the universe may be cyclic. They assume that the expansion will eventually slow to a stop, and the universe will then begin to contract, ending finally in a “Big Crunch.” They also assume that the universe could then “bounce” back, and thus continue expanding, contracting, and bouncing back again and again forever. But the second law of thermodynamics means that the bounces could not be the same each time, but could only happen a finite number of times. So, this only pushes the beginning further back, but still does not escape the fact that there must have been a beginning. Another problem is that there is no known scientific principle which could cause the bounce. Also, it means there is no scientific confirmation of the Hindu-Buddhist concept of an eternal, cyclic universe. Finally, as already mentioned, it seems that the expansion of the universe is accelerating not slowing down.
Some theorists have referred to a “cosmic egg” which “became unstable” and exploded. This too has no scientific basis, but is only another attempt to escape the concept of a beginning. It is merely a personal speculation of scientists trying to evade the implications of a beginning, and has no role in the Big Bang theory.
So we conclude that the universe began between 10 and 20 billion years ago, and that at present science cannot explain the cause of that beginning. This will always be the most that can be said on the basis of science: We haven’t yet found a natural cause. But the longer this continues to be true, the more credible is the conclusion that there is no natural cause, but that this is an example of an interaction with a larger realm of reality beyond the physical universe. Such interactions are represented by the arrow in the diagram at the end of ch. 2 and discussed in ch. 5.
For more details on the age of the universe, see ch. 7, II, C.
Another conclusion is that compared to the universe
we are extremely small and short-lived. Humans and human life seem insignificant
in this vast and ancient universe. Something inside of us needs to believe
that there is more value and purpose in life than just this little bit
of time and space.
II. The characteristics of living things
In our search for things that might be indications that there is a God, we continue on to the consideration of living things.
Most people believe that science has proved there is no God who made living things, including us, and therefore there is no purpose for life. However, many facts about living things indicate that they are the result of intelligent design. Design implies a designer. This means that naturalistic materialism, which denies the existence of a designer, is not supported by science. In fact naturalism is refuted if it cannot account for the origin of living things. They do exist, and did have an origin. If the facts support the conclusion of intelligent design, then there is no objection to faith in religions that teach a concept of creation by a higher being. This need not be a barrier to such faith.
As just explained in sec. I, the currently known evidence indicates that the universe had a beginning, which is called the Big Bang. The source of the power and laws of the Big Bang is not necessarily personal, but a designer is, so this is progress in our quest for guidance from science in the selection of our religious faith. If we have a designer, he or she no doubt has a purpose for his work, which might not be the same as some of our plans. He might still be around, and be concerned about what happens to the things he designed. If so, this is an important consideration in the choice of our philosophy of life and values, in other words our faith.
This reinforces the rejection of atheism and agnosticism indicated by the characteristics of the universe. As for pantheism, a designer is more personal and purposeful than a vague universe-god, and it attaches more importance to the physical universe and our bodies than considering it all a mere illusion. So it is difficult to reconcile pantheism with the evidence for precise and intricate design. Animism in many places contains a creation myth, and a supreme God with whom people at first had a relationship, then lost it, so animism seems at least possibly still compatible with the clues from science. 18th-century deism accepted the creation of living things, but modern-day liberalism prefers to keep this creation very fuzzy and indirect.
Christians sometimes assume that this proves the God of the Bible was the designer, but it does not prove that much. It does not even prove that the cause of the Big Bang is the same as the designer of living things. We must have further information before we can make that conclusion. Sec. III will provide that information.
A. The suitability of the universe and the earth for lifeNot only do the characteristics of the universe indicate a beginning, they also indicate very precise and intelligent design without which our existence would be impossible.
The basic constants of physics, such as the coefficients in the laws of electricity and magnetism, strong and weak nuclear forces, and gravity, describe all the known properties and interactions of particles and atoms. There are dozens of such constants. But there are also many relationships between them, based on the known laws of physics. According to current analysis, there are seventeen more constants than relationships. This means it is impossible to choose a particular set of seventeen constants and say that they are the basic ones, only that there are seventeen “degrees of freedom” or directions in which the whole interconnected set of constants can be adjusted. There is a special commission whose duty is to collect all measurements of these constants, and combine them with the known laws and produce the best estimate of the values of all the constants.1. The basic constants of physics
If these constants were only slightly different, the universe would be totally different, or probably not exist at all, and the existence of living things of any kind would be impossible. It is impossible to make any meaningful quantitative estimate of the number of combinations of values these constants that would yield a habitable universe, but it is certain that the probability is very small that a random choice of values for these constants would be any such combination. Even if it was up to us to tune them properly, with seventeen adjustments to make all at once we might never find the right combination. Why do these constants “just happen” to be so precisely “just right”? This is called the anthropic principle, that the universe seems somehow required to be suitable for us to be here.
Examples are endless. Here are a few important ones. The constants are just right so that the Big Bang produced hydrogen and helium and a small amount of a few other light elements, as summarized in the previous section. These materials and conditions were suitable for the formation of stars. Stars can form, and all but the largest shine for billions of years. In earlier generations people took the existence of stars for granted, because they did not understand what stars are. Now that we have a fairly accurate understanding of the structure and processes of a star, we realize that it is amazing that they can exist. Nearly all the laws of physics are involved in forming a star: gravity, thermodynamics, nuclear reactions, electromagnetic radiation, gas behavior, static and dynamic balance of forces. It is not easy for a solution of all these equations to exist. If gravity were a little stronger, all stars would simply collapse under their own weight into a black hole never to be seen again. Or if gravity were a little weaker, or nuclear reactions a little stronger, the fusion reaction at the center of a forming star would be explosive and destroy it; there would be no steady state. It is truly remarkable that a stable solution exists which satisfies so many constraints. Don’t take sunshine for granted, nor all those stars at night.
The story continues. The largest stars form heavier elements in their core through fusion reactions, and then explode as supernovae which places these elements in space where they can form future stars and planets. Solid planets can form and keep an atmosphere. One of the more abundant elements collected into these planets is carbon. All forms of life on earth are based on the ability of carbon atoms to form long chains and link to other atoms. Many other elements have special chemical characteristics that serve special purposes in life processes: oxygen, hydrogen, iron, calcium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, nitrogen, etc. The formation of these elements is determined by the nuclear physics of fusion reactions in stars, but the chemical properties are determined by the quantum mechanics and electrodynamics of the electrons circling around the nucleus.
Water is an unusual material, important to our life in many different ways. It makes up most of our body, is an almost universal solvent, and all the chemical reactions that keep us alive occur in water solution. Liquid water has a large specific heat and latent heat, and water vapor in the atmosphere is a strong absorber and emitter of infrared radiation and therefore plays an important role in the greenhouse effect; these characteristics have a major role in stabilizing the global climate. Water expands when it freezes, instead of contracting like almost every other liquid does; this means that oceans and lakes do not freeze solid from the bottom up, but instead an insulating ice cover forms over lakes, rivers, and polar oceans.
We cannot say that water was especially designed for all these roles. All these characteristics are of course determined by the few basic laws of physics. Those laws just “happen” to produce a substance like water, along with all the countless other substances around and in us.
One other number is not a basic constant, but determines the nature of the universe: the initial expansion rate of the Big Bang. It must be exact within at least 1050, or in other words correct to at least 50 digits. Outside of this range, the universe would either quickly re-collapse under its own gravitation, or disperse too rapidly for galaxies and stars to form. This seems to be fine-tuning to an incredible degree. A solution to this problem has been proposed in terms of a period of rapid “inflation” during the early instants of the expansion, due to certain high-energy particle interactions. One result is that the universe may be 10100 times as large as the part that is visible to us. This inflation would guarantee the establishment of the correct expansion rate. If this is correct, it does not refute the evidence for design, only rephrases it: The initial explosion was designed with exactly the right basic laws that produced this type of inflation period.
The basic constants of physics do not determine the particular structure of the earth and the solar system. The earth-moon-sun system in which we live has many characteristics which are necessary for our life: the earth’s surface temperature, surface gravity, length of day, length of year, inclination of axis, tidal force and period of the moon, mass and composition of the atmosphere, composition of the surface, distribution of dry land and water, and many more, including some characteristics of the Sun and other planets in the solar system, our solarsystem’s location in the galaxy, and the galaxy’s environment. All these characteristics must be within fairly narrow limits in order for us to live here.2. The characteristics of the earth-moon-sun system
Hugh Ross, in his book listed below, considers 33 characteristics that are necessary for living things to exist on the earth. Making very optimistic assumptions, he estimates that the probability of all of these being just right by chance is 10-42. The number of planets in the visible universe, up to about 10 billion light years away, is estimated to be at most 1022. This too is extremely optimistic, based on virtually no actual data. It simply assumes that the number of planets is approximately the same as the number of stars, in other words that one every several stars has a system of several planets. Recent (since Hugh Ross made this estimate in 1993) observations of planets of other stars indicate that planets are in fact numerous, but the formation of a stable solar system with an Earth-like planet is exceptional. So is such a system’s long-term survival without disruption by passing stars and massive nebulae. This conclusion will become clearer in the next few years as observation methods continue to improve and more such planets are discovered. Finally, the probability that random chance could produce one planet in the universe suitable for life is very closely approximated by the product of these two numbers, which is 10-20! It is more reasonable to say that it happened by design than by accident.
In recent years, moons of giant planets have also been proposed as habitable sites, but this has many serious shortcomings, and in any case it at best multiplies the odds by a factor between 1 and 10, which is insignificant.
There is some apparent hope for escape from this dilemma. If cosmologists are correct that the universe is 10100 times as big as the part that is visible to us, then that easily overcomes the factor of 10-20. But this number came from consideration of only 33 characteristics. Dr Ross’s more recent material lists nearly 100 factors required for a habitable Earth. The probability of all these factors being correct is of course far lower than the above figure. Progress in this field of research does not make the prospects for life in the universe look more optimistic. The resulting decrease in the probability estimate can easily offset an additional 10100 increase in the number of opportunities. Furthermore, all this is irrelevant to the possibility of extra-terrestrial life anyway because as discussed below, favorable circumstances do not at all guarantee the production of life, and the existence of life does not at all guarantee the appearance of advanced intelligence. The improbabilities involved in that process hopelessly overshadow even this number.
Even if it could be demonstrated that there is a
high probability of the existence of a planet suitable for life and inhabited
by an advanced civilization somewhere in a very vast universe, it still
is ridiculously optimistic to expect to find it in our nearby neighborhood.
But this is precisely what the SETI (Search
for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) program hopes for. It was funded by
the US government National Science Foundation for a few years, until deleted
by Congress. One Senator is recorded to have remarked that it is hard enough
to find intelligent life in Washington, DC, let alone outer space! The
program continues on with private funding, the primary promoter being the
The theoretical basis of this program is expressed in the Drake equation, produced by Frank Drake. This equation is an excellent analysis of the factors that determine the likelihood that technologically advanced extraterrestrial civilizations exist. I will not write it in symbols, but just describe the factors. The desired answer is the expected number of technologically advanced civilizations in the Milky Way Galaxy whose messages we might be able to detect. We can for now assume that signals from other galaxies would be too weak to detect. This number is the product of the following factors: the rate at which solar-type stars form in the Galaxy (number per year), the fraction of those stars that have planets, the average number of Earth-like (habitable) planets per planetary system, the fraction of habitable planets on which life does in fact appear, the fraction of those planets on which life forms evolve into intelligent species, the fraction of those species that develop the technology to send messages into space and choose to do so, and the average lifetime (in years) of advanced civilizations. Most factors in this equation are interesting subjects for research. The crucial ones are the number of Earth-like planets, and the fractions that produce life and intelligent life. As we have discussed, a good planet is extremely hard to find. In the following sections we will find that given a suitable environment the probability of life appearing by chance is hopelessly infinitesimal, and given a simple life form the probability of randomly evolving into advanced and intelligent forms is far smaller than even that probability. Thus no matter what the other factors in the Drake equation may be, two or three zero factors yield an answer of zero.
The optimistic estimates on which the program was originally based in the 1970s only considered a few characteristics required for habitability, less than 10. They also assumed that given a habitable environment the probability of the appearance of life is not small, in fact almost certain, and so is the evolution of advanced intelligent forms. These estimates were then inserted in the Drake equation, giving the optimistic result that there must be at least a few, perhaps millions, of advanced civilizations in our own Milky Way Galaxy, just waiting for us to notice their signals. One reason that federal funding was discontinued was that more realistic information was provided to the congressmen considering it. But the advocates and especially participants of the SETI program seem to disregard these more realistic estimates. No doubt one factor in this oversight is that doing so would leave them unemployed. But they also express a deep psychological investment in the search, a longing to find that we are not alone in the universe. If only they would accept a relationship with the God Who created them and the universe, this need would be met. But they would still be looking for another job.
Books that discuss this subject include:
The Universe: Plan or Accident?, by Robert
E. D. Clark. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1949, revised 1961, republished
1972. The only thing that is out of date in this book is some pre-space-age
speculation about conditions on other planets. The author is a Christian.
The Anthropic Cosmological Principle, by John D. Barrow and Frank J. Tipler. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1986. This huge book lists many things that must be just right for life to exist. The authors are agnostics, so they do not believe this is a result of intelligent design. They suggest that there must be a large number of universes with different laws of nature.
The Creator and the Cosmos, by Hugh Ross. Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1993. An excellent discussion by a Christian astrophysicist of the origin of the universe and of living things, showing evidence that it was all carefully designed, and the designer was the God of the Bible. It contains the above-mentioned estimate of the number of habitable planets in the known universe.
Rare Earth, by Peter D. Ward and Donald Brownlee. New York: Copernicus (Springer-Verlag), 2000. ISBN 0-387-98701-0. The authors firmly believe evolution, but they face the facts that a habitable planet is hard to come by.
B. The information content and complexity of living thingsThere is no such thing as a simple form of life; this phrase is self-contradictory. Apparent simplicity is only an index of our ignorance. In the 16th century people believed that insects had no organs, and the material of plants and animals was just that, material. With the invention of the microscope in the early 17th century, a whole new level of structure was discovered, down to the cell and its constituents, which were of course assumed to be simple. Into the 20th century it was believed that the cell is a simple blob of soup in a bag. With the invention of the electron microscope, x-ray diffraction, etc. in the 20th century, another whole world of structure was discovered, down to the level of molecules and atoms. This is the field of molecular biology. Below this level of structure, it is no longer biology but physics and chemistry. The structure of life has been pursued to its lowest level, and that level is not at all simple. This is the theme of Michael Behe’s book, Darwin’s Black Box.1. The “simplest” living things
A so-called simple cell is incredibly complex. It contains thousands of different proteins, which are huge molecules made of many thousands of atoms grouped in units called amino acids. Each protein performs a special function, because of its special shape. It is like a tool, or a robot. This shape and function is not determined by the natural laws of reaction of the amino acids in it, just as the nature of iron does not determine the shape of a screwdriver, hammer, wrench, key, etc. This is why chemistry is divided into inorganic and organic chemistry; the interactions between these ultraminiature organic robots must be explained on an entirely different level than the simple forces and energies which are sufficient to account for inorganic reactions. The processes of metabolism and reproduction consist of many processes which are carried out by these complex proteins. If one of them is missing, the entire cell cannot live or reproduce.
All this is interdependent. The DNA in a cell contains the blueprint determining the structure of all the other proteins, including ones called RNA. But RNA contains the code for interpreting and executing the blueprint, including producing more DNA. It is a classic chicken and egg arrangement. Even the simplest imaginable living system would have to be extremely complex, containing a large number of proteins which in turn are extremely complex.
The processes that go on in actual living cells are incredibly complex, and we will probably never finish research to understand them. For example, photosynthesis involves a huge protein and several steps in the physical process of converting energy from sunlight into chemical energy. Vision is also a complex process, converting light into an electrical signal in a nerve cell. The ability of muscles to contract depends on protein molecules which are linear electric stepping motors. And many bacteria actually have reversible rotary electric motors only a few nanometers in diameter (a few dozen atoms), which power their motion.
The simplest known object that can be considered “life” is a virus, which is a single giant protein, and the smallest known virus contains over 1000 amino acid units. Some theorists have estimated that a minimum of 400 units is required to possess the most rudimentary capabilities of reproduction and metabolism. But viruses in the present world are not independent. They survive only by invading and exploiting the vast resources of existing cells. No known truly self-reproducing molecule exists in the real world, only in the imagination of writers of articles and textbooks on the origin of life.
2. Complex systems, which are useless unless completeThe first point introduced the levels of molecules, then cells. But this is only the beginning. Here we go on to the levels of organs, then systems, and finally local and global ecology. Examples are countless.
In a plant or animal, many organs form systems which must work together in order to live and reproduce. A comparatively simple example is a poisonous snake. Its poison gland produces several different complex poisons. This gland, a sac, tube, hollow tooth, control muscles, nerves, and the brain’s ability to operate this system all are necessary for the system to have any use; if any one part were missing it would all be useless, and ifmisconnected it would kill the snake itself. And the snake must not be poisoned itself when it eats the animals it has killed with its poison. A spider has a web gland and knows what to do with it. A mosquito’s bite is a complete tool set, with saws, a suction tube, and a thinner to make blood thin enough to flow up such a tiny tube. Some mosquito species even have a pain killer to keep you from feeling their bite. Butterflies go through their complex process of metamorphosis from egg to adult. Many other insects have similar and even more complex processes. A woodpecker has an unusual long tongue, a sharp beak, and a cushioned brain, all essential in order to drill holes in trees to get insects. Most animals have intricate systems of vision, hearing, touch, smell, taste, and in fact there are very different forms of these systems in different animals. They cannot all be derived from one very early common ancestor.
Our bodies possess the ability to heal injuries, resist diseases, become conditioned to increased demands, and grow from small to large. These processes are so common that we take them for granted. It seems that living things “just naturally” have these capabilities, because they are essential for the very survival of life. This attitude may be considered a case of “familiarity breeds contempt.” Research shows that each one of these abilities is not merely simple and natural, but is accomplished by an extremely complex and very specific mechanism. Even the researchers seem to forget to wonder at their discoveries, and blithely trust random mutations and selection to be able to produce such marvelous solutions to these problems. Michael Behe is one researcher who has not forgotten the sense of wonder, and expresses it eloquently in his book, Darwin’s Black Box.
Finally, there is the realm of ecology, the interaction and interdependence of all the different living organisms inhabiting this planet. This too contains endless wonders, which fill magazines and TV documentaries.
A bag of loose clock parts does nothing, and shaking the bag is unlikely to assemble them. Even in an infinite time period, it simply will not happen. This is dramatically illustrated by the shy repentant nun in “The Sound of Music” confessing that she has stolen a single wire which immobilized an entire automobile. In our modern technological life we constantly deal with devices disabled by one small malfunctioning part. Similarly, complex biological systems work only if they are complete and precisely assembled. Our bodies are vastly more complex than any man-made device could ever be. Hospitals are filled with people whose bodies are 99% perfectly healthy; in fact so were most of the people who now fill the cemeteries, with the exception of victims of massive injuries or destructive diseases like cancer. Even the lowly proverbial mousetrap is a classic example of a complex system, emphasized in Dr. Michael Behe’s book. Half a mousetrap will not catch half a mouse. He cites this and many other examples of complex systems which cannot be simplified without completely losing their function. He has a chapter each on the chemical reaction involved in vision, the bacterial cilium and flagellum (powered by a two-directional electric motor!), the process of blood clotting, transport proteins within a cell, and the immune system. There is one more chapter on systems which could conceivably be assembled; they are not irreducible. But even these systems would have to survive an insurmountable obstacle course of improbabilities to achieve their current form. He likens this to road kill, like a blind ground hog trying to cross a ten-thousand lane freeway.
All these examples are on the level of molecular biology, so there is no lower level of structure in which simple laws and patterns can explain the complexity higher up. What to Darwin was a “black box,” a mysterious entity whose inner workings were unknown, has now been opened. Darwin assumed there must be something simple inside. It is not.
He calls all this “irreducible complexity,” and reports that he changed from faith to doubt about evolution when he searched the technical literature for proposed solutions to the problem of the origin of such complexity, and found to his amazement that almost no one has even attempted to give one. He specifically searched the Journal of Molecular Evolution, which began in 1971. The very few attempts he did find in that journal and a few books were totally inadequate, and his personal conclusion is that there cannot possibly be any naturalistic solution. Only intelligent design could produce such systems.
Behe’s concept of irreducible complexity, and the scientific community’s failure to account for its origin in terms of Darwinian theory, is a strictly scientific critique of the theory of evolution. Behe is a Roman Catholic, with no religious objection to evolution as the process by which God acted to produce living things. But he concludes that the evidence indicates that there is no such process in action.
All these amazingly complex systems in living things must have an explanation, an origin. They do exist, and they have not always existed. Something happened in the past to produce them. And whatever it was could not have been gradual; a complex system’s function is all or nothing. The simple, obvious conclusion from the existence of such vast complexity should be that it was designed. That is the unquestioned explanation of all such systems in the nonliving realm, from paper cups to supercomputers.
No-one could deny that even something as simple as a paper cup must be a product of design. There is no paper cup tree. Consider a hand holding a paper cup. Which is more complex, the hand or the cup? The hand is, of course. It is the most precise tool in the world, capable of swinging a hammer, playing a piano, painting a picture, making and repairing a watch, calming a baby, or knocking out a heavyweight boxer. If the paper cup is designed, surely the hand is. But as everyone knows, virtually all the scientific world at present rejects that explanation for the hand. Why? Because it is a living thing, living things reproduce “naturally,” and living things are not believed to have come into being by design. Instead, scientists offer the theory of evolution. So we must now discuss evolution in considerable detail, before we can draw our own conclusion on the matter of our origin. Can we believe that the cup was designed but the hand holding it was not? This is the crucial question in the following lengthy discussion.
There are many possible explanations of the origin of living things, but they all fall into one of two categories: those events either did or did not involve intelligent design. Though there are countless variations in detail in theories of origins, this is a watershed criterion which divides them all into two mutually exclusive categories. Only one of them can be correct. The alternative to design is called evolution.3. The theory of evolution
I am not criticizing evolution just for the sake of criticizing evolution, or only because it has a perceived conflict with my belief in the authority of the Bible. We need to understand our origin, because where we came from largely determines why we are here, which in turn determines how we will live in our daily actions, words, and decisions. The two possible explanations, accidental impersonal evolution or intelligent purposeful design, lead to vastly divergent worldviews, and therefore different lifestyles in every facet of daily life. This is not merely an issue for theologians and biologists.
First we must clearly define what evolution is. One definition is that any small change in living things is evolution. This is sometimes more precisely called “micro-evolution.” But a broader definition is an envisioned process in which all living things were produced by natural processes alone, time plus chance, not supernatural activity or intelligent design, only continuous descent and modification from less complex to more complex. These natural processes are the interactions of physics and the reactions of chemistry. This envisioned process is called “macro-evolution,” and it is what is usually meant by the term “evolution.”
The key point for our present discussion is the words “natural processes alone,” specifically excluding any role for intelligent design, planning, or purpose. As stated a few paragraphs above, evolution is the alternative to, and denial of, design. The theory of evolution is in practice an application of the agnostics’ diagram in ch. 5, I, B, the exclusion of any intrusion into the natural world from outside. The National Association of Biology Teachers in the early 90s prepared guidelines for teaching biology. In one point they stated that there is no conflict between science and religion, but in a following point they asserted that the origin of living things was “unsupervised, impersonal,” which is very clearly in conflict with at least some religions, particularly those based on the Bible. The NABT leaders seemed unable to comprehend why this was a problem to anyone, and finally under considerable pressure in October 1997 they deleted the offending words, still not sure what the problem is. It is this: Is our existence fore-ordained for a purpose, or are we an accidental meaningless byproduct of an impersonal process?
According to the naturalistic theory of evolution, it is random mutations, natural selection, environmental changes, and other natural factors that have produced increasingly complex living things, including you and me. If this is true, then we are the direct descendants of a clump of lifeless rocks and mud on the early earth 3 or 4 billion years ago. In discussion of evolution, the focus is often placed on the question of whether humans are descended from monkeys. This is a minor issue; the big question is whether we are descended from a mud puddle.
This theory was first popularized by Charles Darwin’s book The Origin of Species in 1859. He later published several other books, most notably The Descent of Man in 1871. The Origin made no mention of humans. The laws of heredity, or genetics, had recently been discovered by Mendel but were not yet widely known. Darwin had a copy of the journal containing Mendel’s article in his office, but after his death that journal was found still sealed shut. The modern theory of evolution including genetics and molecular biology was not developed until the 20th century, and is called the neo-Darwinian synthesis.
The proposed sequence of development is told in countless textbooks and television programs, with the certainty of proven fact. We have all heard it countless times, so we only need give a very brief summary:
The earth’s earliest atmosphere was composed mostly of ammonia, methane, water, and carbon dioxide. Organic molecules were produced by reactions in the atmosphere, ocean and/or shore, assisted by energy from some combination of volcanoes, undersea hot-water vents, lightning, solar ultraviolet radiation, and perhaps comet impacts. These molecules randomly combined, producing some amino acids, which randomly combined into larger molecules until one molecule was able to reproduce itself. This first part of the process was molecular evolution which, because it did not involve reproduction, did not involve genetics and natural selection, but proceeded by random chance reactions alone. Thus to call it evolution is really a misnomer.Many outstanding scientists have spent their lives studying living things and writing and speaking about why they believe evolution: from Darwin’s advocate Thomas Huxley, down through several generations to Julian Huxley, Theodosius Dobzhansky, George Gaylord Simpson, Ernst Mayr, Peter Medawar, Stephen Jay Gould, Niles Eldredge, Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins, and many more. Nearly all of these scientists are non-Christian, and they consider the theory of evolution as an important proof that there is no God, or if there is He is irrelevant to our lives. A few profess some form of religious faith, but not a conservative belief in the God of the Bible.
The power of reproduction was a revolutionary breakthrough, allowing new characteristics to arise bymutation and be multiplied almost endless. Natural selection rejected the harmful mutations and retained and accumulated the beneficial ones. These self-reproducing molecules thus rapidly became more plentiful, and combined into larger and larger units, producing viruses and simple cells. Some cells developed the process of photosynthesis, using solar energy to produce growth. Other cells were able to use these cells for food. Some single cells combined into simple organisms. Some of these organisms became increasingly complex. Some became plants, and others became animals. The most complex ones developed bisexual reproduction, which was another revolutionary breakthrough allowing far more interchange and variation in genetic makeup. Some plants and animals became able to live in the tidal area on the shore, and then some became independent of the ocean and able to live on dry land. They began spreading over the land surface. Much later, some plants developed flowers and pollen as their means of reproduction. Some animals developed hard skeletons. Some had these hard parts inside their body (vertebrates), and some had it outside. Early vertebrates were fish. Some fish developed into amphibians, which can live on dry land as adults. Some amphibians developed into reptiles, able to live completely on land. Many invertebrates also became able to live on land. Some reptiles changed into birds with wings and feathers. Others changed into mammals, the most recent and advanced of which are you and me.
They have written several books specifically trying to prove evolution and disprove creation. Stephen Gould has written much. Other books include:
Abusing Science: The Case Against Creationism, Philip Kitcher. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press, 1982
Science on Trial: The Case for Evolution, Douglas Futuyma. New York: Pantheon, 1983
The Blind Watchmaker: Why the evidence of evolution reveals a universe without design, Richard Dawkins. New York: W. W. Norton, 1987. 0-393-315703
The Selfish Gene, Richard Dawkins. New York: Oxford University Press, 1989. 0-192860925
Darwin’s Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meanings of Life, Daniel C. Dennett. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1995
River Out of Eden, Richard Dawkins. New York, Basic Books, 1995. 0-465016065
Climbing Mount Improbable, Richard Dawkins. New York: Norton, 1996. 0-393-039307
Unweaving the Rainbow: Science, delusion, and the appetite for wonder, Richard Dawkins. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1998. 0-395883822
The idea that the human race is descended from a primeval mud puddle is by itself preposterous, in the same category with fairy tales about frogs turning into princes. But this is no fairy tale. It is told with all seriousness and erudition by brilliant scientists, and accompanied with a long list of evidences:4. Evidence to support the theory of evolution
These are considered to be proof that different species are descended from a common ancestor. There is no other explanation for all these similarities. Why would a creator create things this way, with such an appearance of descent from a common ancestor?a. Similarities between different species
These are a particular type of similarity. Some animals, including ourselves, have organs that seem useless, but are similar to useful organs in other animals. This is considered as proof that these animals descended from ancestors in whom the organ was useful. The human tailbone is considered a relic from ancestors with tails. Whales have small floating bones similar to leg bones in land mammals. Some fish in dark caves have degenerate, useless remnants of eyes. And so on.b. Vestigial organs and imperfect structure
Imperfect structure is also cited as evidence that the process of formation was one of random chance, not planned design. Stephen Jay Gould named one of his books after the panda’s thumb, which is not a true thumb but a spur of a wrist bone that pandas use to strip bamboo to eat it. Dr. Gould considers this a poorly arranged mechanism, surely not something an intelligent designer would produce. Another example is the human eye, in which light has to pass through the retina to be detected, which seems backwards, and some animal retinas are in fact the other way around.
This is at least another type of similarity. At one time the development of embryos was also interpreted as a replay of the history of evolution, but when the details became better known this interpretation proved to be impossible.c. Embryology
These two phenomena are observed in countless examples in the laboratory and in nature.d. Mutations and natural selection
The study of genetics is very advanced, with theories of population genetics, genetic drift, recombination, adaptability, and variability. The experts have worked long and hard, and express confidence that such principles can account for the vast variety of living things in the world today.
There are cases which are considered as examples of evolution in action. All such observed examples are instances of micro-evolution. European moths turned darker when the Industrial Revolution produced a darker environment in which dark coloring made them less visible. In recent years they have become lighter again as pollution has been reduced. Darwin’s finches in the Galapagos Islands, near South America, were a major influence on his thinking. There are many types of finches, with different-shaped beaks adapted to different kinds of food. They must all be descended from a few finches who were blown to the islands long ago. Bacteria and viruses mutate to become able to overcome the immune systems of plants and animals. These immune systems mutate to develop immunity to the new bacteria and viruses. This is why there are flu epidemics every few years. Human breeders also produce hybrid plant types with improved resistance to disease. By mutation insects develop resistance to insecticides, and bacteria and viruses become resistant to antibiotics.e. Many examples
Similar climatic environments in widely separated locations contains widely different collections of plants and animals. This shows that different types of life-forms developed in geographically isolated areas.f. Geographical distribution of living things
Fossils indicate that many species of plants and animals have existed in the past which no longer exist. The order in which these fossils are buried indicates the sequence in which they existed; those buried in lower layers existed earlier than those buried in higher layers. There is a very consistent pattern of earlier species being simpler than later ones.g. Fossils
Some people consider fossils to be the most important evidence for evolution. All other evidences are inferences from the present to the past, but the fossils are an actual record of the past which proves that evolution did happen and tells us a lot about how it happened. The later, more complex species must have descended, and evolved, from the earlier, simpler ones.
These experiments were first done by Stanley Miller in Chicago in the 1950s. They showed that electrical sparks and ultraviolet light in a mixture of methane, ammonia, hydrogen, and water vapor (the assumed composition of the early earth’s atmosphere) produce amino acids and other organic compounds. Therefore similar reactions could have happened on the earth long ago, and made possible the origin of life. One reason this composition was assumed is because it is the only one that could possibly produce these reactions, but it is also true that these gases are common in the outer planets of the solar system and in interstellar gas clouds, so it seemed reasonable to Miller to assume that that was the composition of the early Earth’s atmosphere.h. Origin-of-life experiments
These have been detected by radio telescopes, in gas and dust clouds, proving how readily these compounds can form from the simple constituents of methane and so on, and perhaps explaining one source from which they came on the early earth.i. Organic molecules in space
In addition to all these factual arguments, evolutionists often use the argument that creation, or any intelligent intervention in natural events, cannot be proven or tested, is a hindrance to research, is religious, supernatural, miraculous, and unscientific. Evolution has been a fruitful theory, leading to much good research for more than a century. It gives structure to biology, which otherwise would have no structure. Evolution is science, but creationism is religion, and never the twain shall meet.j. Philosophical arguments
Christians react to evolution in two different ways. Some are convinced that evolution does disprove God’s existence and the Bible’s authority if it is true, and so they try to disprove evolution. Other Christians think it is no problem: if evolution is true, then it is the way God made living things. This is called theistic evolution, which is not in itself a threat to belief in the existence of God. If the physical world really does have characteristics which make it capable of producing living things through “natural” processes, then that is one more instance of the marvelous design of the original creation. It only puts intelligent design at an earlier stage, but does not reject it. God is as much glorified by creating a universe that can produce intelligent life, as He is by creating life in the universe by more direct means. So this is not an issue of whether or not there is reason to give God glory for the outcome. One illustration I have seen is a takeoff on the watchmaker parable. It takes as much intelligence, in fact more, to make a machine that can make watches as it does to simply make watches. Howard vanTill is currently one of the leading advocates of this viewpoint, and he even criticizes other Christians who believe in God’s continuing creative activity, for having a deficient concept of God’s creative power and acts.5. Christians’ response
This must, though, still assume some sort of providential guiding of the process so as to reach its goal, people who can become God’s children. If a person is satisfied that this viewpoint resolves any apparent conflict between science and the Bible in this area, I am not anxious to disturb his/her satisfaction immediately. But of course I feel uncomfortable leaving people with an answer that I believe is false, and therefore will sooner or later become a problem to them. So I hope for an appropriate occasion to introduce a different viewpoint which is more satisfactory.
Three separate questions are often scrambled together in this discussion: what God could do, must do, and did do. Frequently a question about one of these is answered with a statement about a different one, which is not progress. There are interesting things to be said about what God could or must do (we will return to this question in ch. 7), but the present subject is what He did do. I am not convinced that the scientific evidence supports evolution. I have not seen convincing (to me) evidence that the physical world is capable of producing life, nor that this is in fact what has happened in the past. I also do not think that fits several details in the Bible’s story of creation. When someone says he/she considers evolution to be in conflict with the Bible and asks me what I think, I will give the reasons why I feel evolution is scientifically unacceptable. These are discussed below.
Christians have written many, many books against evolution and advocating belief in God’s creative activity. Most of them are poorly written, with many factual mistakes and logical weaknesses. Another big problem is that most of them mistakenly connect evolution with the Big Bang and billion-year time-spans, and so they try to oppose both at once (as discussed in detail in ch. 7).
There are a few that are better: (in chronological order)
Why Scientists Accept Evolution, R. T. Clark and James D. Bales. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker, 1966. A collection of statements by leading advocates of evolution, clearly indicating their philosophical presuppositions.
Darwin before and after, an evangelical assessment, Robert E. D. Clark. Exeter, Devon, England: The Paternoster Press, 1966, and Chicago: Moody, 1967
The Case for Creation, An Evaluation of Modern
Evolutionary Thought from a Biblical Perspective, Wayne Frair and P.
William Davis. Chicago: Moody Press, 1967
Evolution: Nature and Scripture in Conflict? by Pattle P. T. Pun. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1982
The Mystery of Life’s Origin: Reassessing Current Theories, by Charles B. Thaxton, Walter L. Bradley, Roger L. Olsen. New York: Philosophical Library, 1984. This is specifically about the origin of life. The authors are scientists and Christians, but they do not mention anything religious until the appendix. This classic book is considered the beginning of the intelligent design movement.
Biology Through the Eyes of Faith, Richard T. Wright. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1989. ISBN 0-06-069695-8. Begins with an excellent introduction to the general subject of science and faith, then evolution in particular, accepting more of evolutionary theory than I do.
Of Pandas and People: The Central Question of Biological Origins, Percival Davis and Dean Kenyon; Charles Thaxton, Academic Editor. Dallas, Texas: Haughton Publishing Company, 1993. Kenyon was once a leading researcher on the origin of life, and through his research came to the conclusion that it could not have occurred without intelligent intervention. He has been involved in some landmark legal battles over his right to say so in his biology courses at UC Berkeley.
Darwin on Trial, Phillip E. Johnson. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1993. ISBN 0-89526-535-4. A UC Berkeley law professor turns his critical eye on the logic of evolution.
The Impact of Evolutionary Theory: A Christian View, Russell Maatman. Dordt College, 1993. ISBN 0-932-914-28-4
The Creation Hypothesis, Scientific Evidence for an Intelligent Designer, J. P. Moreland, editor. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity, 1994. ISBN 0-8308-1698-4
Darwin’s Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Michael Behe. New York: The Free Press, Simon & Schuster, 1996. ISBN 0-684-82754-9
Defeating Darwinism by Opening Minds, Phillip E. Johnson. Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1997. 0-8308-1360-8
Mere Creation, ed. Bill Dembski. Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1998. 0-8308-1515-5 Proceedings of a conference.
The Design Inference: Eliminating chance through small probabilities, Bill Dembski. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998. 0-521-62387-1. A massive, expensive, technical presentation of the evidence and reasoning involved in determining the presence or absence of intelligent design.
Intelligent Design: the bridge between science and theology, Bill Dembski. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1999. 0-8308-1581-3. The layman’s version of his big book, giving extensive philosophical and logical background.
Creation & Evolution. 4455Torrance Blvd., PMB 259, Torrance, CA 90503: Rose Publishing, 1999. ISBN 1-890947-01-6. A laminated fold-out sheet with a remarkably compact and neutral (but obviously not evolutionist) summary of facts and opinions by evolutionists, old-earth and young-earth creationists. The sections are astronomy, geology, paleontology, genetics, biochemistry, and mathematics.
What’s Darwin Got to Do with It? A Friendly Conversation About Evolution, Robert C. Newman & John L. Wiester, with Janet and Jonathan Moneymaker. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2000. 0-8308-2249-6. Would you believe a comic book from the scholars at IVP?!
A few non-Christian scientists have also written books pointing out the weaknesses of the neo-Darwinian synthesis:6. Criticisms from non-Christian scientists
The Neck of the Giraffe, Francis Hitching. New American Library, 1982
Evolution: A Theory in Crisis, Michael Denton. Bethesda, Maryland: Adler & Adler, 1985. 0-917561-05-8
Origins: A Skeptic’s Guide to the Creation of Life on Earth, Robert Shapiro. Bantam, 1986. 0-553-34355-6
Information Theory and Molecular Biology, Hubert Yockey. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1992. 0-521-35005-0, ppbk …903-1
Computer Viruses, Artificial Life, and Evolution, Mark A. Ludwig. Tucson, Arizona: American Eagle Publications, 1993. 0-929408-07-1
Nature’s Destiny: How the laws of biology reveal purpose ion the universe, Michael Denton. New York: Free Press, 1998. 0-684845091
Not by Chance! Shattering the modern theory of evolution, Lee Spetner. New York: Judaica Press,1999. 1-880582244
These authors do not accept creation either, but they are telling other scientists to admit that the neo-Darwinian theory of evolution fails to explain the origin of living things. It takes a lot of courage and a very secure position to make such statements. There are many others who agree but do not dare say so, because it would cost them their position and career. That is exactly what has happened in several instances. That is another long story beyond the scope of this book.
In considering evolution, we must begin with the philosophical arguments. They are the same “nothing but science” assumptions which were discussed earlier. The experts in biology are not experts on these assumptions. We are qualified to disagree with their beliefs, and to choose different ones. These assumptions must first be challenged, or it is no use proceeding to discuss the facts. If people are convinced that creation and design have been proved impossible, they cannot really listen to anything that advocates that conclusion. We might as well be trying to prove the earth is flat, and that is exactly the comparison that evolutionists sometimes make with those who challenge naturalistic evolution.7. Considering the “evidence” for evolutionj. Philosophical
This is a glaring instance of the fallacy introduced at the end of ch. 2 and discussed in ch. 5, V, the disguising of metaphysical naturalism as equivalent to methodological naturalism. This is what the experts mean when they state that evolution is science and creationism is not. They are defining science so as to exclude any trace of intelligent design, and furthermore claiming that the limits of the scientific method thus defined are equal to the limits of reality. We should voice strong objection to such manipulation of definitions and assumptions.
One symptom of this prejudicial treatment is the very terminology usually used: notice, it is evolution versus creationism. We must at least insist on parallel nomenclature, either evolution and creation, or evolutionism and creationism. Why is creation an ism but not evolution?
Anything else is relegated to another realm, which they are willing to politely tolerate as material for the study of comparative religions. The Biblical creation account is lumped in with all “creation myths” of other religions and cultures, and its origin and significance is thus considered fully dealt with and removed from further consideration in polite scientific discussion. Ch. 5, V, B already discussed this naturalistic outlook on the origin of religion. It never occurs to them that the modern scientific establishment with its metaphysical naturalism is also a culture and a religion, and that neo-Darwinian evolution is that culture’s creation myth. Thus if there is some reason why all creation myths must be disregarded, then evolution goes out with all the rest.
The question of whether intelligent design occurred is not a religious question but a historical one. It is a simple question of what in fact happened. Belief in a designer can be a conclusion from research and a motive for more research, not an obstacle. The only religious question is, if there is a designer, whether the designer is the god of one or more religions, but that is no reason to forbid asking the historical question. Whether there is design, and who the designer is, are two separate questions. Of course, it is natural to consider the gods of various religions as the foremost candidates for the role of designer. Forbidding the question of design for this reason is like restricting the police from investigating a murder because it might turn out that the murderer is someone in a high position. That would be called obstruction of justice, and is itself a serious crime.
Speaking of police investigations, that is one of many fields of scientific research which are explicitly devoted to discerning evidence of intelligent design, sometimes with no knowledge of the identity or purpose of the designer. Archaeology and cryptanalysis are other such fields. The SETI (search for extra-terrestrial intelligence) program has a sophisticated criterion for distinguishing signs of intelligence in a radio signal. Yet it never occurs to them to apply their criterion to their own DNA. Actually, it does occur to them. Evolutionists consistently talk about the appearance of design in living things, they just insist that this is not really the product of design, but of Darwinian evolution.
Evolutionists complain that creation is not scientific because there is no test that can prove or disprove creation or design. This statement is false; see the discussion below of information and its production. Be that as it may, can they name a test that can prove or disprove evolution? Actually, it is possible to study an object and conclude that it is extremely, overwhelmingly, improbable that it was produced without design. There are things all around us that were obviously designed by someone for a purpose: paper cups, tables, chairs, lights, cars, watches, computers, books, words on the blackboard, posters, etc. If someone insists that we must explain all these things by natural laws alone without design, he’s simply crazy. Design is not a miracle; we see it all around us, and we do it ourselves all the time. At least the process of design and manufacturing does not involve any apparent violation of known laws of nature. On a different level, there is the question of whether our thoughts that produced the design and guided the manufacturing are a strictly natural process in our brain cells or something beyond, and if so whether that could be called a miracle. But that is another deep subject, which was discussed in ch. 5, V, A, and will be further pursued below in sec. d on mutations and natural selection.
According to evolutionists’ own principles, how can they account for the existence of all the obvious products of design around us? We have experience with designing automobiles and paper cups, but not with designing universes and living things. There is only one universe, and we have no recollection nor direct record of its origin. Therefore, what basis is there for ruling out the possibility of design in the universe, and living things?
The real problem is that the design of living things is not supernatural, but is superhuman. There were humans involved in the design of automobiles, but not of living things. In fact, that is an awesome project that no one on this Earth could possibly begin to accomplish. Perhaps the reason people do not believe there is such a designer is not that they are unconvinced but that they are unwilling to acknowledge that possibility, and accept the further implications it might have. The questions of design and designer are separate, but the first leads inescapably to the second. If we have a designer, he of course had some plans for his design, and those plans might be different from some of our own plans and wishes. So it might be preferable to believe there is no designer. As was asked in ch. 5, V, B, who is dreaming? We ourselves are living things, so it is impossible to have an objective, scientific attitude about this question; it is not a neutral, safe topic about things “out there,” like the origin of the physical universe. But, as noted earlier, even that subject makes a lot of people nervous.
Michael Ruse, a philosopher of science, has been one of the outstanding defenders of evolution as the only truly scientific explanation of our origin. He was one of the most influential witnesses at the 1982 Arkansas trial about teaching an alternative to evolution in the public schools, and Judge William Overton’s ruling closely followed his position. That ruling stated that creation is a religious concept and evolution is scientific, basing that on some definitions of science and religion. This has been extensively criticized in the years since, not only by Christians but also by non-Christian philosophers of science. But in 1993 Michael Ruse himself shocked the annual convention of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Invited to give a speech specifically “to refute Phillip Johnson’s book Darwin on Trial,” he instead stated that he had come to agree with one of the book’s primary conclusions: that evolution is in fact as much a philosophical assumption as it is a scientific deduction. He attributed this change of mind largely to his personal contact with Phillip Johnson, especially in their encounter at a conference on Darwinism at Southern Methodist University in Dallas in 1992. Ruse of course still staunchly supports belief in evolution, but at least he has come to admit to himself and to others why he does so.
It is true that in many cases evolutionary theory has motivated a lot of interesting research, but in many other instances it has also often been a hindering and misguiding influence. For example, it has caused an overemphasis on competition between species, and a slowness to notice cooperation. It encouraged a mistaken interpretation of embryology. Paleontologists (fossil researchers) “must” find fossils that show evidence of gradual change, or at least that is the only kind they can publish articles about.
Evolutionists say that any theory is better than none, and evolution is the only possible scientific theory; does evolution really need such a defense?! Aristotle’s astronomy was better than nothing too, but it waswrong. Is there really no alternative to evolution? Why is intelligent design not an acceptable alternative, a suitable subject for research?
The questions are not restricted to the origin of life on the Earth. There is also the question of the origin of the Earth with all its just-right characteristics, and the origin of the universe with its just-right physicsconstants. If intelligent (superhuman) design is not an acceptable explanation of all this, then what is? For the formation of the Earth, naturalism can only offer blind faith in blind chance. However improbable it may be, they can only say that it did somehow happen. For some people, the anthropic principle has been transmuted into an inversion of cause and effect, claiming that the universe and the Earth are like they are because we have to be here. It is a clear-cut example of the fact that the only way to reject God is to make yourself God. This is unavoidably connected with new-age concepts of guiding spirits and a pantheistic universe. Somehow that seems to be acceptable to most scientists, or at least they feel it is not polite (or politically correct) to criticize it. But the idea of a personal intelligent God Who designed it all is firmly rejected. Why?
The only alternative scientific explanation for the universe’s characteristics is to propose that there is a huge number of other universes, all with different characteristics, and of course the one we see is the one in which it is possible for us to exist. Therefore it is not a result of design, but an observational selection effect. But this merely pushes the question back one step, by assuming there is a higher level of laws governing the formation and characteristics of multiple universes. The question then becomes why those laws exist. But another question is why we should prefer this explanation over intelligent design of the one universe we see. There is by definition no possibility of evidence for the existence of other universes, let alone for their characteristics; can this be considered science?
The issue thus boils down to the logic of explanation, first introduced at the end of ch. 2. What is the “best” explanation of the characteristics of living things? That depends on our definition of “best.” If we accept metaphysical naturalism, then some form of evolution is the only player on the field. If we do not accept that philosophical assumption, then the field is still open to other players, and intelligent design is a very qualified contender. In fact that contender seems the overwhelming winner by all objective logical standards when we finish looking at the evidence in the following sections.
Now that we have discussed the philosophical arguments which are often used in support of evolution and against intelligent design, we can discuss the evidence.
The argument from similarities contains three hidden assumptions, at least they are never stated explicitly:a. Similarities
1 That we know what characteristics would result from an evolutionary process,Simply stating the logic this clearly reveals the fallacy in it. Point 1 is false. Evolution is by definition an unguided, random process. In evolutionists’ hands it is sufficient to explain even the most unusual plants and animals. It can explain anything, and predict nothing specific, only that there should be a broad variety of living things with both similarities and differences.
2 that we know what characteristics would result from design, and
3 that the characteristics of actual living things fit evolution and not intelligent design.
Point 2 is debatably false, and is certainly false as evolutionists state it. Evolutionists claim that the result of design would not be so many similarities between different life forms. Why not? We will pursue this point in the next paragraph. But now, to be as generous as possible, let’s say that we just do not know what would result from design, since we did not design living things. For now, we can at least conclude that we do not know points 1 and 2, so this gives us no basis for point 3, deciding whether living things fit one theory better than the other. Thus, giving evolution every possible benefit of the doubt, similarities prove nothing in choosing between evolution and design. They are irrelevant.
In fact we do have vast experience with design; we all do it every day, and see it all around us. Products of human design display many points of similarity, with differences in details. One good idea deserves many applications. Automobiles have many common features, because they have many common functions. But no one argues that they therefore must be lined up into a family tree of evolutionary descent. The same is true of airplanes and teaspoons. If the incredible complexity of living things is not evidence for design, what would be? Why would a creator not make things with many similarities? We make things that way.
One evolutionist many years ago made an often-quoted remark that it is difficult to understand the capriciousness of a deity who would create things with so many similarities, and thus the deceptive appearance of evolution instead of creation. It is difficult to understand the capriciousness of an undeniably intelligent man who would make such a statement with the deceptive appearance of stupidity.
Even evolutionists are not sure similarity always proves a common ancestor. Many similar-looking plants and animals are obviously not closely related; this is called convergence or mimicry. There are similarities in shape and color, and in functions like vision, flying and swimming. Mimicry is in fact difficult to explain by evolution.
Some very similar organisms must be related, but this does not prove that less similar ones must be related more distantly. It is a huge extrapolation to say that micro-evolution proves macro-evolution. Micro-evolution is an observed fact; the question is where its limits are. This is a subject for research. The assumption of design does encourage research.
An example of extrapolation helps to emphasize the importance of this point. Suppose I am severely out of condition, due to my sedentary lifestyle as a university professor. Finally one day I become concerned about my physical condition, enough to get into action. I decide to begin by completing one mile, four laps around the track. That first time, it takes me 15 minutes to trot/walk/stumble one mile. But my body takes notice of the event, perceives that I may be raising my expectations of the service my body should provide, and makes some improvements in the necessary systems just in case. The next day I try it again, and am able to finish the mile in 14 minutes! Two days in a row is really a stimulus to my body’s conditioning capabilities. My heart, arteries, and lungs hold a meeting and decide that two days in a row means the boss is really serious. They agree to further upgrade their condition, and the third day I complete the mile in 13 minutes. Now, based on these three days of data, can I extend the straight line on the graph and predict that on the fifteenth day I will complete the mile in 1 minute? That is analogous to using micro-evolution, changes in the beaks of finches and colors of moths, to prove that macro-evolution is possible, and could transform mud into man, legs into wings, reptiles into mammals and birds, mice into bats, cows into whales.
There are many dissimilarities that do not fit the predictions of evolutionary theory. Michael Denton, author of a book listed above, is a molecular biologist. He says (and so do others) that molecular biology is finding many dissimilarities among living things that evolution cannot explain, and is not finding the pattern of varying degrees of similarity that evolution predicts there should be. A few examples that do fit those predictions have been widely publicized, while the many that do not are ignored.
We who are not experts can observe that some experts say that other experts have not reported the facts accurately or completely. We can also conclude that the logic of this argument is unconvincing. Familiarity breeds contempt; the experts seem so familiar with the wonders of life that they take it all for granted. We non-experts who are not so familiar with the endless intricacy of living things are still amazed to learn about a little of it, and incredulous that anyone could assert that it all came about by accident.
These organs are not necessarily useless. Over one hundred organs in the human body were once considered useless, but then were discovered to have an important function: tonsils, appendix, tailbone. The list of alleged human vestigial organs is now less than ten. Considering them unfunctional was only an indication of our ignorance, not their actual operation. Doctors are no longer as quick as they once were to remove troublesome tonsils or the appendix; they are now known to be an important part of the immune system. If you injure your tailbone, as my mother once did, you will suddenly discover that nearly every muscle in your body is attached to it. Useless?!b. Vestigial organs and imperfect structures
Another famous example is small bones in whales that are claimed to be useless remnants from walking ancestors of whales, and thus proof that whales are descended from land mammals. This is a very interesting example. It raises several questions. Are those bones really useless in whales, or do they still serve some purpose, for instance for muscle attachment? Or perhaps in the process of development of the embryo. Perhaps a designer did begin with a land mammal and do an extensive editing of its DNA to produce a whale, and the intricate interactions of the DNA structure required leaving this little bit there.
As for supposedly imperfect structures, this is a very subjective statement. When one person considers another stupid, it means they have a widely different degree of understanding of the matter at hand, but which is which requires further investigation. In this case, where one is a human and the other is the Maker of heaven and Earth, I’ll put my bet on the latter. What seems imperfect in one regard may be the best solution of several interrelated requirements. There is no such thing as perfect design, only satisfactory fulfillment of many often-competing requirements. I have seen articles claiming that the structure of the human retina is not inverted but is in fact very effective and better than the other way around. So which expert am I to believe?
But this still misses the point. Intelligent design is not necessarily perfect design. Imperfect design is still design. This questions the intelligence, not the existence, of the designer. When a model of tire is found to be faulty and recalled, no one concludes that that proves those tires were all found congealed in a river downstream from a rubber plantation. In the case of living things, purported imperfection does not prove the nonexistence of a designer but only leads to questions of the identity, ability, and nature of the designer, which is another whole subject of theological questions, and ends up connecting with the problem of evil that is discussed in ch. 4, IV. Once again, separate questions must be dealt with separately.
Even if in some cases an organ really is useless and proves descent from an ancestor in which the organ was functional, this is evidence of regress, not proof of the possibility of progress! Something has gone astray in the logic (see “Facing the Experts” ch. 5, III) when examples of degeneration are used as evidence to prove the possibility of development. It takes little time or skill to destroy something, but great effort and ability to create something new and useful. Destruction is the one thing that time plus chance can accomplish very well. You don’t need a license to work on a demolition team, except in some exceptional circumstances where it is important to avoid unwanted damage nearby. A small guerilla force can bring a strong army to its knees, as in Vietnam. Two teenage boys with guns can devastate a high school in a few minutes, but it takes a large team of professionals many years to build one.
This point does not need further discussion. It has been largely abandoned by evolutionists themselves. It is not a crucial point, and whatever merit it may contain can be regarded as one aspect of similarities.c. Embryology
This is the crucial point where the entire Darwinian model of origins stands or collapses. The fundamental level of life is molecules. I wrote most of this chapter long before I read Michael Behe’s and Bill Dembski’s books, honest! I recommend their books highly, and have recently incorporated their key concepts. If you want all the details and references to support my summary of the subject, it is all there in their books.d. Mutations and natural selection
We must ask whether the assumed random, unguided, unplanned processes of evolution can account for all the life forms we see in the world today. Specifically, can this account for the countless complex systems of which living things are constructed? Can DNA molecules, randomly disrupted by various chemical, mechanical, organic, and radioactive agents, generate the genetic code for all these new structures for natural selection to preserve and accumulate? Can this process ascend from mud to man?
Can it ascend at all? There is a dilemma here, because the vast majority of mutations are destructive, a few are neutral, and a vanishingly small proportion could in any way be considered as introducing something with a really new function beneficial to survival. There is not yet a single observed mutation which can be claimed to do so. Too many mutations will overload the population with defects and lead to its extinction, but too few will fail to supply the assumed rate of development. It is not even theoretically proven that a balance exists between these conflicting requirements.
In considering random events, this must boil down to an assessment of probabilities. But in such complex systems, that is impossible to do with any meaningful precision; any attempted estimate is doomed with fatal flaws in its relevance to the real world. Advocates of evolution are quick to point out such flaws. But those flaws consist of erring on the side of simplicity. If even a simple model fails to confirm the principle, it gives little encouragement to confidence that the principle could be successful in the vastly more complex real world.
There have been attempts to write a computer computation that at least demonstrates the principle of progress by random mutation and natural selection. Some such attempts have failed, and evolutionists respond of course by claiming the model does not adequately represent the real world, and this is a valid objection. But other attempts have succeeded in displaying change that meets some criterion of “progress,” such as Richard Dawkins’ famous “blind watchmaker” program (discussed a few paragraphs below). Evolutionists are strongly inclined to feel these models do have some relevance to reality, although they may be even simpler than the ones that do not show progress. This seems to be a double standard, and further evaluation is needed before any convincing conclusions can be drawn. The computations that “succeeded” have been criticized as having the result built into them, thus actually demonstrating intelligent design instead of random evolution. It seems that for the foreseeable future, a really meaningful computer analogy to biological evolution is beyond the reach of any computer facility. This leaves the concept of development by random variation and selection an unverified and unverifiable speculation.
Actually, the very existence of computers and programs is an unintentional experiment in evolution, a point which is the subject of an entire book by Mark Ludwig. He analyzed the structure of computer viruses, managed a contest for the smallest possible virus capable of certain functions, and evaluated the possibility of evolution of such viruses in their ability to evade virus scanning programs. All of this is precisely parallel to the standard Darwinian natural selection scenario. Ludwig, not at all a Christian let alone a creationist, comes to the conclusion that mutation and natural selection produces absolutely nothing that could be called improvement in the world of computer viruses, and that this is highly relevant to the theory of biological evolution. The argument can be extended to all computer hardware and software. How often is an accidental modification an improvement? The answer is never, at least not in this world. No one, not even an evolutionist, wants a computer that has a certain rate of random malfunctions in the hope that it will sometimes lead to improvement in either the hardware or the software. It is of course imaginable that it could occur, but the improbability vastly overwhelms the finite number of computers and time spent doing computation. And evolution requires not just one such instance but a fairly abundant and steady supply of them.
We can at least evaluate evolutionists’ attempted defenses of this theory. Richard Dawkins has become one of the foremost participants in this debate in the 1990s. He has produced a “blind watchmaker” computer program which can by random changes quite rapidly produce a designated sentence from any given initial string of random letters. Is this relevant to our origin? Notice the detail “a designated sentence.” Here is where the intelligence is in fact inserted at the beginning. The random changes are “selected” according to their progress toward or away from the destination sentence, and all such progress is retained as the starting point for further variation. In the evolutionists’ unguided world, where did the genetic designated destination sentences come from, with which to compare the products of mutational variation?
But this is the least of Dr. Dawkins’ problems. To be a true analogy of evolution, his sentence must be a correct meaningful sentence at every step. It is not. Even if evolutionists can imagine a gradual process which would produce functioning complex systems in the end, we still must ask what would make the process go on. When the system is only half-complete, the animal is not fit to survive, and natural selection, the survival of the fittest, will reject it. What will make reptile scales keep changing until they become bird feathers? What good is a fuzzy scale? What will make reptile feet keep changing until they become wings? If they are neither feet nor wings, they are useless and unfit to survive. A snake’s poison system with just one part missing is worse than useless. A hollow tooth by itself will only cause cavities. Without an intelligent designer why does the process go on? With an intelligent designer, what need is there for a process? Not only is it difficult to propose a process to explain the origin of flying birds; there are also bats, and many different types of flying insects. Evolutionists themselves estimate that the power of flight arose not just once but over a dozen separate times. Rather than taking this as evidence that some intelligent design must be occurring, they take it as evidence of how easy it is for flight to be produced by evolution!
In the survival of the fittest, anything less than fitness is extinction. Survival is the definition of fitness. Genetic “sentences” must not only make progress toward being meaningful, but must be meaningful at every stage along the way. This is an interesting exercise with a single word; try changing “dog” to “cat” one letter at a time, so that it is a valid word at every step. There are several possible solutions which you can find fairly quickly, getting there in three (can you find that one?) or a few more steps. But how would a random process find them? It could be restricted to changing a letter into any other letter, so there are 25 choices at each step. So it would take at least about a hundred attempts to reach the answer, and that includes smuggling in your intelligence in knowing a valid word when you see one. A dictionary search at each step is a vast increase in the computing necessary, and of course introduces the information content of the dictionary. In a really random selection process, we quickly run into millions of possibilities, in which the successes constitute a very tiny fraction. (More about these fractions a few paragraphs later.)
Now try changing the Declaration of Independence into the first chapter of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, one letter at a time, keeping it meaningful at every step (whatever that “means”!). And now we have capitals and punctuation, so there are a lot more than 25 possible changes of each letter. Changing it a word at a time might seem to promise faster progress, but that vastly increases the number of choices and lowers the probability of survival at each step; remember this is done randomly. Or to change the analogy from sentences to computer programs, try to transform a Microsoft program into a Gameboy game, let alone into a Macintosh program (all registered trademarks, just for the record), with the requirement that at every step it is a functioning program (on what computer?). Or to think in terms of machines, convert a functioning VW beetle one part at a time into a Rolls Royce, let alone into an airplane, or a radio telescope. Even if you could do it, who would buy a Volks Royce? And what does “function” mean for something halfway between a car and a radio telescope? Or even between things as closely similar as a VW and a lawnmower. And if you did by great ingenuity devise a successful conversion process, would you expect a random process to be able to duplicate it, let alone improve it?
It is impossible to attach any meaningful numbers to these hypothetical conversions. But it is possible to prove that the numbers are unimaginably huge, making astronomical numbers infinitesimal in comparison, and it a matter of sheer common sense that these incalculable numbers amount to simple impossibility. Yet this is precisely the kind of conversion we are talking about in assuming that a four-footed scaly cold-blooded reptile was the ancestor of a flying feathered warm-blooded bird, or a walking mammal the ancestor of a swimming whale or a flying sonar-equipped bat, or that an egg-laying reptile produced a live-birth furry mammal, and that these conversions were accomplished by a long series of small random modifications. We should ask the same kind of questions about such conversions that we asked about the Volks Royce.
It would seem reasonable to say that these key transitions in the theory of evolution are as impossible as the mechanical examples just given, but hope springs eternal, and the fact that we cannot think of a solution does not prove one does not exist. We are surrounded by things we could not figure out how to make, but obviously somebody did. I can’t even figure out how a split-ring key ring could be made. Crocheting boggles my mind, but many illiterate people have mastered it. A chess grandmaster might be able to get out of a game situation that ordinary mortals would consider hopeless. But we are not talking about a grandmaster rescuing evolution; we are talking about random mutations. Even assuming that a solution exists which our most intelligent research cannot discover, what is the probability that a random search would find it before it self-destructs instead?
Some evolutionists admit that slow change like this is impossible, and also lacks evidence from fossils, so they assume a giant mutation produced major changes. For example, they say the first bird hatched from a reptile egg. The best-known example of this suggestion was Richard Goldschmidt’s “hopeful monster,” for which he was mercilessly ridiculed. The ridicule was probably correct, but the only alternative is gradual change, and he was trying to point out that this too seems hopelessly improbable. But even if the hopeful monster appeared, notice that it is a single individual. Where would this lone creature find a mate?! With such a major alteration, surely it would not be inter-fertile with its relatives. If it were inter-fertile, what kind of offspring would it have? Does the literature contain any attempts to answer such questions? If there are a few attempts, are they convincing? Would you dare ask Michael Behe to give his considered opinion of them?
With either gradual or giant changes, once again we are up against assessing probabilities, and evolutionists invoke the vast times and populations of the ancient earth. But vast is not infinite. We can attach numbers to the generations and DNA locations involved. There are tens to hundreds of thousands of locations, and 20 different amino acids to substitute at each one, and all this is assembled in a flexible three-dimensional structure. In estimating the number of random possibilities in such cases, authors criticizing evolution can easily come up with numbers that are ten to the power of many hundreds or thousands, in fact ten to powers that are that big. These are numbers that you could not even finish writing from the Big Bang to the present, let alone imagine what they mean. You could not even finish writing the exponents. The age of the universe, 15 billion years, is a fleeting 1017 seconds or so, and the visible universe only contains is a scant 1080 electrons. So the known universe, not to mention the early earth’s beaches, is far too tiny and young to give much comfort to the stories of evolutionists.
We now see why there is little encouragement to be found even in the cosmological theories which say the universe may actually be 10100 times bigger than the 10,000,000,000 light years or more that we can see. Even this factor pales to insignificance next to the numbers required in evolutionary theorizing. What is needed is an infinite universe and eternity, plain and simple, in which our existence is an incredibly unlikely fluke occurrence leaping up the powerful waterfall of improbability and decay, which will inexorably soon carry us back downstream. Some like Stephen Jay Gould have in professional publications discussed the lack of a definition of progress, and insisted we cannot really talk about higher or lower life forms. Most change is neutral, sideways, drifting. But that is not at all the way evolutionists routinely view our existence. In their confident moments with a trusting audience, evolutionists give firm assurance that life arose quickly and naturally on the early earth as soon as conditions were suitably favorable, and that the process of evolution continues inexorably upward and onward all around us at this very moment. And that it surely can and did happen anywhere else in the universe where conditions are suitable, for instance perhaps on Mars long ago when it possessed liquid water, or right now in the dark ocean under the icy crust of Jupiter’s moon Europa.
I recently (in 1999) heard a radio interview with an “expert” confidently proclaiming that “Biology has taught us that wherever there is water, life arises.” And as near as I could tell on the radio, he said it with a straight face. What biological research has taught us this? What biology has taught us is that wherever there is life there is water, not the other way around. One of the (no pun intended) watershed advances in the history of biology was the realization that life does not arise from non-life. But somehow in evolutionists’ hands that fact becomes inverted into a reason to reject intelligent design by a living God, in favor of an origin-of-life model of random production on a sterile early earth. This sounds to me like saying precisely that life arose from non-life. It is time to make a critical evaluation of these experts’ assumptions and logic (see ch. 5, III).
Another common fallacy in assessing probabilities is the assertion that “something must happen.” This reveals a common error in both defense and criticism of evolution. Critics estimate the probability of a given protein structure forming by blind chance, giving the astronomical numbers referred to above. It is usually presented as if this is the only possible structure, and therefore of course impossibly unlikely for a random process to produce this particular one. Evolutionists retort, rightly, that this is not the only possible structure, but one of an essentially infinite number of structures that would be successful living things. Evolutionists basically assume that out of all these vast possibilities surely one will occur, so “something must happen.” The only question is what it will be. But this defense is as false as the criticism it answers.
Analogies evolutionists often use are winning a lottery, having the particular people in the audience at a particular performance or lecture, or a golf ball landing on a particular blade of grass. These are all exceedingly improbable, yet they do occur. Someone wins the lottery. Some audience is present. The golf ball lands on some blade of grass.
The flaw in these analogies is so obvious that explaining it is like proving two plus two is not five, but apparently it must be done. The flaw is of course the assumption that “something must happen”. We cannot assume that there will be a winner in the origin-of-life lottery, or an audience for the origin-of-life lecture, or a blade of grass in the origin-of-life golf course. It is true that there is an infinite number of living protein structures. But there are ranks of infinities. Similarly, there is an infinite number of possible meaningful 500-page books, or even just one page or paragraph, but there is an infinitely larger number of meaningless ones, and therefore an essentially zero probability that the proverbial monkey at a keyboard will produce one of the meaningful ones. He won’t even produce a meaningful 50-letter sentence, any sentence, let alone one from Shakespeare. Life is not like a golf ball landing on a golf course but like a meteor landing on the Sahara Desert, which may contain a large number of blades of grass, but if the meteor lands on one of them the only reasonable explanation is that it was extremely carefully aimed.
In yet another analogy, there is an infinite number of possible computer programs, but what fraction of all possible random computer codes are functioning programs? Computer programmers earn most of their living not by writing new code but by searching for the “bugs” in what they and others have already written. What was written was not, at some tiny point, what was meant, and the computer, high-speed moron that it is, knows no better than to do as it was told.
There is an infinite number of possible ways to design a microprocessor, but what fraction of all possible random patterns on a silicon chip would be a functioning microprocessor? No one would expect to ever see even a single successful chip produced in this way, and the probability is impossible to estimate without some detailed constraints on how the “random” patterns are generated.
I have read about a personal conversation with James Sire in which Dr. Dawkins criticized Dr. Behe for being too lazy to figure out how irreducible complexity can be produced by natural processes. If nobody else has done it yet, then Dr. Behe should work on it. But Dr. Dawkins obviously assumes that there is a solution, that it is what actually happened. What if there is none, and it is not what happened? Dr. Dawkins is too lazy to develop an objective criterion for distinguishing intelligent design from random formation. On what basis could he assert (as he surely would) that a paper cup is a product of design but the hand holding it is not? Bill Dembski’s newest book, The Design Inference, claims to present exactly such a criterion, and deserves careful evaluation. By his criterion, living things indicate design.
It is significant that Dr. Dawkins does not challenge Dr. Behe’s assertion that the literature does not contain any attempts to solve this problem. He does not claim he was too lazy to find it, so he apparently agrees that none exists. If the entire world biological community has not produced an answer in several decades, it is hardly laziness on Dr. Behe’s part to be unable to single-handedly plug this gap, or to even hope to do so. I have recently read articles by others claiming that Dr. Behe did not look far enough in his search for attempted solutions. But it still must be questioned whether those solutions are adequate, and why there were so few attempts, and those so unsatisfactory, where Dr. Behe did look. If the Journal of Molecular Evolution had no answers, why not, and where should they be? Also, stung by the publicity his statements have attracted, some biologists have attempted to rise to the challenge, and in some cases they claim to propose a possible series of steps leading to a system which Dr. Behe considers irreducible. This too must be carefully scrutinized. And as I already asked earlier, even if an extremely clever person can think of a series of steps leading to a particular complex system, would a blind-chance world ever successfully stumble through that series?
This dialogue no doubt has a long and interesting future, and is well worth watching. Even if Dr. Behe turns out to be wrong in a few specific instances, which is probably inevitable given that no-one is infallible, that still does not overthrow his overall conclusion.
Humans have always had an inborn need to account for the origin of living things, especially ourselves, and before Darwin all creation accounts contained some element of intelligent design. It seemed intuitively obvious. Arguably the clearest statement of this was given in William Paley’s writings 200 years ago at the turn of the 19th century. He originated, or at least popularized, the analogy of the watch, arguing that a watch found in a field is obviously a product of design to serve a particular function. The conclusion of a study of the watch is that there must be an intelligent watchmaker. Critics in the 19th and 20th centuries have pronounced his arguments refuted, because they can find a few points on which his enthusiasm somewhat exceeded the actual evidence and rigorous logic. But they have never really faced or refuted his basic point. Behe’s book discusses this subject in detail.
One final argument used in defense of the possibility of naturalistic evolution is the principle of “self-organizing systems.” These occur in various circumstances, most notably in chaotic systems and non-equilibrium thermodynamics, for which Ilya Prigogine won a Nobel prize. But Dr. Prigogine himself states that the relevance of this to living systems is still only a remote speculation. Stuart Kauffman has been an advocate of the concept of self-organization, but his theories too seem to have fallen out of favor for lack of connection with the real world. Even Scientific American, which published some of his articles, has since published comments critical of his theories, calling them “fact-free science.” Michael Behe’s book discusses this.
Christians and other critics of Darwinism have been accused of incompetence for not expressing more awareness of work like that of Kauffman and the artificial-intelligence program. This is no doubt true; our competence is severely limited, and it always would be nice to know more than we do. A few of us did make responses, myself not included. One life is too short to learn everything, and perhaps most of us had the common sense to know that such things must be barking up the wrong tree, and that that would sooner or later become evident without our devoting a lot of time to making it happen. Anyway, who would listen to us with our disqualifying bias on the subject?
Another point often overlooked is that order is not what is needed or observed in living things. Life is not ordered, it is complex. Order is repetition and contains little information; life is not repetitive and its complexity has vast information content. The structure of DNA is called the genetic code. A code is written and used by a coder.
Information can be related to entropy; much information is low entropy. And thus the Second Law becomes relevant. Critics of evolution have often attempted a quick victory by stating that the theory of evolution proposes an increase in order, which violates the Second Law. It is not that simple. Increases in order occur frequently, such as whenever a liquid freezes into a solid by known mechanisms of inter-atomic forces. It also occurs whenever we clean up or manufacture something. But this occurs because the system is not closed; it is interacting with some other part of the universe, and that other part’s entropy increases more than this part’s decreases, even with the intervention of intelligent manipulation. The earth is not a closed system, but constantly flooded with energy input from the Sun. So the question is not whether an increase in order (information, to be precise) on the earth violates the Second Law; it does not. The question is whether mutation and natural selection is a sufficient mechanism to harness the energy input so as to bring about this local increase in information content. The conclusion of this discussion is that it is not. Only intelligent design is sufficient to that task.
That is my conclusion, and that of common sense and a number of experts. It is not the conclusion of the large number of experts constituting the scientific establishment. We are thus left with a stalemate between subjective opinions about what is believable, with some very intelligent and well-informed people (myself not included in that category) on both sides. We need something more objective. Help has arrived in recent years.
In recent decades the sophisticated field of information theory has developed. Among its concepts is the term “entropy,” a direct generalization from its meaning in thermodynamics. Hubert Yockey is one of the experts in this area; see his book. Bradley, Olson, and Thaxton, in The Mystery of Life’s Origin, raise some simple, preliminary arguments about thermodynamics and order. This is the theme of most of the books listed above as critical of evolution.
The most recent and penetrating contribution to this subject is by Bill Dembski. He develops the concept of complex specified information, and equates this with Michael Behe’s irreducible complexity. Dembski reports that it is a mathematically proven conclusion in information theory that information cannot be produced by any natural law, nor by blind chance, nor by any combination of the two. Information can be produced only by intelligent choice and action. Meanwhile the biological community universally recognizes that living things contain a large amount of information, primarily in their DNA but also elsewhere. But biologists believe they can imagine this information being produced by a Darwinian process of mutation and natural selection, which are chance and a law respectively. Dembski points out that information theorists and biologists need to compare notes, and they will then realize that Darwinian theory is in the same category with perpetual motion machines; it violates a well-established principle, and therefore is impossible. The Patent Office will not waste its time looking at a purported design for a perpetual motion machine, but the biological community has devoted thousands of lifetimes to the learned study of the proposition that the Earth’s biosphere is an information-producing machine. And they defend this as a great breakthrough and stimulus in science, and resist any alternative as a setback and hindrance.
An important distinction is between information and data. Information is defined as the result of a choice among equally possible options. Computers generate data in massive quantities, but not information. The output of the computer is pre-determined by the input; it is not making choices among equally available options. Computers generate information only in the sense that they work through the complex implications of given principles much more rapidly than the human brain is capable of doing. The brain gave it the principles, and considers the implications.
A fascinating implication of this is that even human design becomes nothing short of supernatural. If information cannot be generated by any natural law nor chance, but intelligent choice can generate it, then that process of generation is not natural, which it would seem only leaves the alternative that it is supernatural. This point has thus far not been explicitly developed.
The advocates of materialism of course retort that the human mind is in fact a pre-determined computer, or at most as indeterminate as allowed by the laws of physics. But we have discussed that already in ch. 5.
The criterion which Dembski proposes for inferring design as the best explanation (review the discussion of explanation at the end of ch. 2) is to draw the line of probability at one in 10150. That means 1 with 150 zeroes after it. Anything with a probability less than this will be considered impossible as a product of random chance, and therefore must be a result of intelligent design. This is a very generous criterion; review the examples of such numbers given a few paragraphs earlier. This test for design may result in false negatives; it takes intelligence to recognize intelligence, and we may fail to discern the telltale pattern, function, etc. Sometimes it is deliberately disguised, as in codes. And intelligence may produce things that are not quite this improbable, for instance much of modern art. But the test cannot give a false positive; whatever is considered to be a product of design must in fact be exactly that. The information content of DNA unquestionably gives a positive result, far beyond even Dembski’s criterion. Ask any gambler whether he would put any money on Darwinism’s chances.
Dembski’s work thus breaks the longstanding stalemate between some experts’ subjective opinion that living things could not result from a random process, and many other (Darwinian) experts’ opinion that they could. We now have an objective, quantitative criterion by which to conclude that living things are the product of intelligent design, not chance and selection. Thus far the scientific community has responded only by ignoring this “intelligent design movement” as long as possible, and then ridiculing it as “scientific creationism in disguise.” This is their only alternative to facing the inescapable conclusion of work like Dembski’s. But the leaders fortunately do not control the reading or thoughts of every individual. Hopefully more and more will surreptitiously read these intelligent-design arguments and become convinced, and one day their number will become sufficient so that general recognition of the significance of these arguments will become impossible to suppress.
The design in living things has been obvious to most of the world’s population, but millions of university professors cannot see it. The neo-Darwinian emperor’s dependents are not willing to admit he has no clothes. It takes a whole team of Ph.D.s in the “intelligent design movement” to prove what should be obvious.
I find it truly amazing that the theory of evolution by descent with random modification continues to survive. We don’t need to be experts in thermodynamics and information theory to be suspicious of such a theory. We all spend much of our lives battling Murphy’s Law, and many service and administrative professions are fully devoted to cleaning up, organizing, and repairing things, institutions, and people. Research scientists spend most of their time untangling cables, debugging computer code, calming down personnel, hunting for their notebooks and dropped screws, etc. Yet they can believe they themselves, the untanglers, debuggers, calmers, hunters were assembled by a series of random accidents. Despite all their experience in the everyday world, they somehow maintain a faith in the ability of matter to organize itself in the case of biological structures in the remote unobserved past. People who can believe such a thing should be committed for therapy consisting of three months of dressing babies, untangling coat-hangers, and repairing automobiles.
This is the crucial point of this entire subject. The remaining points are mere footnotes, but fossils also merit considerable consideration.
Some of them are not even micro-evolution. European moths always had various different colors; the influence of the change in the environment only selected them in different proportions. The same is true of some bacteria resistance to antibiotics and insect resistance to insecticides. Even where the observed change is a new mutation, it is only a modification of one detail of their chemistry, not a basic change that could lead to a new species. Scientists have studied several thousand generations of fruit flies in the laboratory, and have seen millions of mutations; but fruit flies are still fruit flies.e. Examples
This does raise some interesting questions about the time and place of origin of different animals and plants, but it does not prove the theory of macro-evolution.f. Geographical distribution
They are a big subject. Fossils are evidence of similarity; we have already discussed similarity. The existence of more and more complex organisms with the passage of time is not a surprise to people who believe in an orderly creator God. But a crucial fact is that fossils cannot prove one form was actually descended from another form, only that they existed in a certain time sequence. (Some Christians do not even accept that conclusion from fossils; this is discussed in ch. 7.) As with living organisms, research is needed to determine the degree of similarity which really proves common ancestry, and the question is probably impossible to answer with precision.g. Fossils
An alternative explanation of the sequence of life forms on the Earth is given in sec. 9 below.
The fossils only record the last small fraction of the assumed process of evolution, the last 500,000,000 yr of a 3,500,000,000-yr story. The first 6/7 or more, the transition from a simple cell to complex invertebrates, has almost no record at all, except fossil traces of one-celled organisms. The evolutionists’ explanation is of course that during that time there were no hard parts to produce good fossils. This may be partly reasonable, but evolutionists themselves point to many fossils of soft body parts. The fact remains that many steps in the assumed evolutionary process are an assumption, with no evidence from fossils.
There are many major gaps in the sequence of fossils, major differences between the most similar forms found. Darwin could say that that was because there had not been enough study of fossils, but over 140 years laterthat cannot be said. The gaps are still not filled, though of course there is controversy over exactly how many gaps there are, and where. But if they were in fact all filled, then it would not frequently be news when some new discovery supposedly helps fill one of them, such as in the origin of birds, or whales, not to mention humans. It is often dubious whether the new discovery really does fill any of the gap. And the name of the Cambrian Explosion (see below) would be changed if its origin could be accounted for.
Evolutionists concede that there are still some gaps, but they say that many transitional forms have been found, for instance fossils that are similar to both reptiles and mammals, and therefore are interpreted as the ancestors of mammals. Other experts are on record stating that there is a systematic absence of transitional forms. There is apparently a problem of definition here; transitional forms are in the eye of the beholder. What is our definition of a transitional form?
The first question is how big the changes are from one to the next. How dissimilar can two fossils be and still be considered evidence for an evolutionary transition from one type of animal or plant to another? This is merely another application of the question of how close similarity must be in order to be evidence of a common ancestor. For instance, one change is from one bone in each ear and five bones in the jaw (reptile) to three bones in each ear and one bone in the jaw (mammals). This is a major change. I have not seen anyone claim to find a fossil with two bones in each ear and three bones in the jaw. But even that is not the crucial question. How can there be a gradual process moving a bone (or two) from the jaw to the ear? And how can an accidental, undesigned process do it? The mammal ear is very complex. It is actually one of the outstanding evidences of intelligent design.
For many years the fossil archaeopteryx was considered to be the link between reptiles and birds. But it had fully developed feathers, and other bird-like features. In recent years geologists have found completely bird-like fossils which they date earlier than archaeopteryx, so it can no longer be considered to be the link. The origin of birds continues to be the subject of widely-publicized discoveries, which are re-interpreted a few months later with much more subdued fanfare. The subject is in too much of a state of flux to attempt any conclusive evaluation at present, except that there is still no convincing evidence that birds were produced by gradual evolution from reptiles. The most recent incident was widely publicized in 1999 by National Geographic and others, the discovery in China of a feathered reptile fossil. This later was discovered to be an outright fraud, a counterfeit made of two fossils glued together. This is an example of how the pressure to find confirmation of evolution not only hinders but subverts the progress of science.
The second question about purported transitional fossil forms is their detailed structure and sequence. Are they really evidence of a transition? Or are they a variety of mosaics, for example each with a different mixture of some reptile characteristics and some mammal characteristics? Can they be lined up in a sequence of steady accumulation of specific mammal characteristics? A process of accumulation of new characteristics would have to go through such a sequence, at each step retaining the earlier traits and adding a new one. I have never seen anyone claim that there is any such sequence, so there must not be one. Evolutionists would surely emphasize it if it existed. A variety of mosaics indicates a designer having fun, and it is evidence against a continuous process of modification. Even if there were such a sequence, it still would not be proof of random variation instead of design. It could also very reasonably be interpreted as a well-planned sequence carried out by a designer with a specific goal in mind. Would an unguided random process progress steadily toward a goal? Evolutionists often insist that the question is only how evolution did it, not whether evolution did it. It seems more reasonable to say that the question is only how the designer did it, not whether there was a designer.
The same seems to be true of the link between land mammals and whales, or bats. And there is not even a proposed link between fish and anything earlier. The advocates of evolution themselves speak of the “Cambrian explosion” about 500 million years ago, when all the present major groups of plants and animals (and many others that have since vanished) suddenly appeared in the fossil record within the geologically brief period of a few million years with no known ancestors. The extent and suddenness of this explosion has only been re-emphasized by recent discoveries at a site in China, where a multitude of fascinating, previously unknown types of fossils are being discovered. It remains a mystery (apart from the activity of a designer) how and why they all appeared as they did.
We all have a personal interest in the origin of the human race. Evolutionists point to fossils of “cave men” as our ancestors. Time-Life books have widely propagated a painting that shows a very ape-looking small animal hunched over at the left, and a series of taller and more human-looking creatures ending with modern man standing erect on the right. But the external appearance of all these creatures is supplied by the artist, and cannot be well determined from incomplete skeletons. The series is not in fact a progression of small changes from one to the next. For example, at one point there is the major change from a bone structure suited to walking on four feet to a structure suited to walking upright. There are no fossils representing an intermediate between these two structures.
All the known fossils of “hominids” could be placed on a single table, and their interpretation includes a large number of assumptions. The theories are constantly being rearranged as to which fossil represents an ancestor of which others, and which ones are or are not our ancestors. The datings also are not at all precise. DNA sampling from a few fossils has just become possible in the late 1990’s, and already has overthrown some previously confident assertions, such as the nearness of our relationship to the Neanderthals. Stand by for further developments.
The most direct interpretation of Biblical genealogies gives a date for Adam somewhere near Archbishop Ussher’s famous 4004 BC. There may be gaps in the record, but I find it difficult to stretch this far beyond, say, 10,000 yr. 1,000,000 yr. or more seems out of the question. It is often claimed that there is evidence of humans far older than 10,000 yr. But the definition of “human” is arguable, and as already mentioned the datings are also uncertain.
Since this entire field of research seems to remain in a state of rapid change, I will not attempt to describe or criticize the current viewpoint. Any detailed comments now would soon be out of date.
These are no help to the theory of evolution. There are three serious problems.h, i. Origin-of-life experiments, and organic molecules in space
First, the experiment is mis-named; it was in fact only an “origin of amino acids” experiment. These and the organic molecules in space are very simple molecules, and are arranged quite naturally according to simple laws of reaction. They are not at all as complex as the huge molecules of the simplest living things. This is like finding a few toy alphabet blocks and claiming this explains the origin of a dictionary or Shakespeare’s plays. Actually it is not even as sensible as that; alphabet blocks assume the existence of an alphabet. Living protein is composed of 20 amino acids, out of a vast number of chemically possible amino acids, which would presumably all be present and interacting in a primeval ocean. Of these 20, 19 occur in left- and right-handed symmetric forms; all living things contain only the left-handed forms. So the origin of life from random chemicals is comparable to producing a dictionary from the drawings in an abstract-art gallery. Thaxton’s book discusses the origin-of-life experiments in detail. They did not in fact give consistent results, and are difficult to reproduce.
Second, these compounds are quite fragile, and easily destroyed by the same energy that helps form them. They would not naturally accumulate in the apparatus, but would quickly reach a small steady concentration with a balance between destruction and production. In the experiments the organic compounds were quickly withdrawn from the experiment. But the early earth had no human experimenter controlling the experiment so as to withdraw and protect the products.
Third, geologists have found no evidence in the rocks that there ever was an early reducing atmosphere of ammonia and methane, so there may have never been such conditions on the Earth.
A related question is what kind of origin of life we are trying to explain. Would the first self-reproducing molecule be DNA or RNA? Obviously, not quite either one, because they are dependent on each other. As stated earlier, no one has ever seen a self-reproducing molecule; none are known to exist at present except in textbooks. It is only a theoretical concept, in the same category as physics textbooks’ frictionless planes and massless pulleys.
Some research projects are attempting to produce man-made living things in a test tube. If they succeed, will this disprove the Bible’s story that living things were created by God? No, it will confirm the Bible’s story that living things are a product of intelligent design. If we say it proves that living things can be produced without intelligence, that is an insult to the scientists who do it! If the experiments succeed, they will only produce something like a very simple virus, and will be copying existing viruses. It will still be far, far simpler than any plant or animal.
After we finish listening to experts about evolution, we have many questions that are still unanswered, discussed above. To gather and summarize these crucial questions:8. Questions that are still unanswered by evolution
In conclusion, the theory of evolution is nowhere near a proven fact. Evolutionists are not able to explain how the process could have begun, nor suggest or even imagine specifically what process could have produced the many living things we see, nor explain why the process would happen, nor prove that it did happen. It is arguably not even a conceivable scenario; it is debatable whether a theory of evolution even exists.a. Why do they assume that there could not possibly be a designer? There seems to be neither philosophical nor scientific justification for this assumption, but on the contrary much philosophical and scientific reason to reject it.9. Conclusion
b. What was the origin of the first, simplest living thing?
c. How can the transition be bridged between major differences, e.g. transforming a foot into a wing? Even if a series of transitional forms can be imagined, how can such a transition be fit to survive at every stage along the way, and what propels it forward toward completion of the transition? Could the Volks Royce company keep selling automobiles while the overhaul progresses bit by bit?
d. Is there really any conceivable, let alone believable, series of steps that could produce large, complex systems that are useless unless complete? “Believable” is in the eye of the beholder-believer. This point overlaps with the previous one.
e. Could random genetic variations possibly accomplish all these wonders, select and preserve them, without first destroying the species with the countless accumulated harmful variations?
This is an example of facing the experts, as was discussed earlier in the section on conflicts between science and faith. We who are not experts on biology and geology are able to consider the experts’ philosophical assumptions and their logic, and we conclude that there are some serious weaknesses in both areas. We even suspect that the experts are not being completely objective about the facts within their areas of expertise. Therefore we are unconvinced that evolution is an adequate explanation of the origin of all living things, and we prefer to find a different explanation.
Finding that different explanation is unavoidably linked to our choice of a religious faith, since it is our own origin and purpose that is determined by the answer. The explanation we find will provide considerable guidance in our choice of religious faith, rejecting some and reinforcing the credibility of others. Review the discussion way back at the beginning of this long sec. II.
Let me suggest an alternative version of the history of the Earth, and of life on it. An intelligent power supervised the formation of the Earth less than five billion years ago, so that it possessed all the characteristics required for life to survive. Perhaps an observer would have been able to discern some events in this formation process which clearly violated the usual “laws of nature,” perhaps not. It may have consisted entirely of ordinary events, which only with hindsight could be seen to have a remarkable, purposeful result, which we would call “providential.”
When the sterile early Earth was ready, perhaps a little more than three billion years ago, this intelligent power, or designer, formed some “simple” life forms in the ocean, with the capability of photosynthesis and reproduction. This event of formation would certainly be discernible to an observer. There is no intermediate series of natural-looking steps. These life forms produced oxygen, and changed the composition of the atmosphere slowly over many millions of years, and also in some locations accumulated their decayed organic material. As oxygen accumulated, it produced an ozone layer in the stratosphere, absorbing the sun’s near-ultraviolet radiation before it reached the surface. This made it possible for some slightly more complex plants, and perhaps very simple animals, to survive on the surface of the water and the land, and these were then designed and introduced on the scene. They further modified the environment, until the conditions were suitable for still more complex life forms. And thus the process proceeded, step by carefully planned step, each one essential, until a few thousand years ago a pair of human beings was formed and placed in a home specially prepared for them. First the man was created, given a cram course on survival, and then finally provided with a woman for a mate. Apparently the Creator couldn’t top that, or at least chose not to for now. As far as we know, that was the last such step, the completion and objective of the entire plan of the universe.
The steps in this scenario would have been discernible to a (slightly) trained human observer who happened to be on the scene and paying attention. I leave it unstated precisely how the new forms were constructed. Perhaps each new, more complex life form was produced “from scratch” incorporating many features similar to earlier forms. Perhaps it was done by performing a major editing operation on the DNA of an existing life form, so that for instance the first bird (well, actually at least a mating pair of them) hatched from a reptile egg (well, two eggs). That would seem to be more efficient, utilizing the large amount of similarity to earlier creatures, though of course an intelligent power would have no difficulty accomplishing the job in whatever manner he chose. Such modification is just as much an act of creative intervention as starting all over would be. And this is not what is usually meant by the term “theistic evolution.” I consider it to be clearly in the category of “progressive creation.” This distinction is further discussed in ch. 7.
This scenario also leaves unstated the extent of modification imposed at each instance of intervention, and the extent of modification produced by diversification from a common ancestor. That is to be determined from research, primarily of fossils. Therefore even finding a series of genuine intermediate fossil forms, or missing links, say between reptiles and amphibians, does not answer the question of whether the steps of that transition were brought about by random Darwinian evolution or by intelligent design. That question must be answered by studies of genetics and probability, and the point of this section is that such studies point overwhelmingly in the direction of intelligent intervention as the only feasible explanation.
The origin of Adam and Eve is a particularly sensitive point for those who believe the Biblical creation account as an inspired, accurate historical record. There are many legitimate questions about its precise interpretation, but it clearly emphasizes the separate origin and unique status of Adam and Eve as specific historical individuals, the ancestors of the entire human race. This is reinforced by many references to them later in the Bible, especially by Jesus Himself. It seems especially impossible to interpret the Genesis account as referring to the gradual development of an entire population of pre-human monkeys into a human community, as evolutionists assume, and some Christians propose. Could “the dust of the ground” mean that God produced Adam’s body by editing the DNA of a human-like monkey, instead of starting totally from scratch? Perhaps, but then the statement that God breathed into him the breath of life does not mean he was dead prior to thatmoment. Instead it must refer to placing within that living body a spiritual nature that transcends anything possessed by animals. The subject of human-animal distinctions was bypassed in the earlier discussion of the distinctions between humans and computers. Be that as it may, the account of the creation of Eve from Adam’s rib while he took a nap seems especially incompatible with the idea of the gradual transition of an entire community from animal to human. Instead, it supports the idea that God worked through a process of DNA editing. Eve was the first human clone, with extensive genetic engineering.
There is nothing in this story of the universe and life that is inconsistent with logic or with any scientific discoveries of which I am aware. This scenario also has no conflict with the Biblical account (see ch. 7). Science has not given us any reason to doubt the Bible’s story that God formed the Earth and living things. Science is not a barrier in anyone’s path to faith in the Bible, including its account of the creation of heaven, Earth, life, and the human race. In fact, the progress of science has given us many reasons to conclude that there must be an extremely intelligent designer of the universe and living things. If so, then it is important for us to know who the designer is and why He created all this, including ourselves. Science cannot answer these questions. The Bible claims to answer them.
But the Bible is not the only answer on the market. It is impossible to predict the outcome of the debate over the validity of Darwinian evolution. The scientific establishment is still vehemently rejecting intelligent design and defending naturalistic materialism. But there are many trends already in Western society toward a pantheistic, or New Age, paradigm of a deified universe and a living Mother Earth, with unabashed connections to spiritism. Eastern society has already been there for millennia, waiting for the West to join it. Perhaps when the facts and logic against Darwinism become overwhelming, there will finally be a paradigm shift in the scientific establishment. But it probably will be to the New Age, rather than to the Bible. Intelligent-design thinkers like Bill Dembski and Phillip Johnson talk optimistically about the overthrow of naturalism, but if the result is the dominance of New-Age spiritism we may wish for the good old days of atheistic naturalism. When society falls into the hands of Satan himself, we will prefer the tender mercies of the Nazis and communists.
It is important for us to find the correct answer,
if there is one, and therefore to know whether the Bible’s answer is true.
That is the subject of the next section.
III. The characteristics of the Bible
The physical universe cannot tell us about the power that caused its beginning, only that there was one. Living things cannot tell us about their designer, only that there was one. Is the “power” personal? A designer surely is. Are they the same? We cannot be sure, based on our own logic alone. Science cannot tell us about the designer(s). If he/she/they want us to know more, or establish a relationship, then he (shall we settle for a single generic pronoun for simplicity?) must take the initiative to communicate verbally. This would give us much more specific and personal information about himself and his plans and requirements for our relationship with him. How would he do this? That is hard to say; we are not entitled to give him orders. He could arrange the stars in a message, but in which part of the sky, and which language? It could, of course, be translated for those who could not read it, but for them it would feel very second-hand. He could appear directly to everyone, or some selected few, but that would be quite subjective, and easily counterfeited by both human and supernatural abilities. A written form would be most objective, and permanent from generation to generation. Again, a language must be chosen, but it could be translated into others, and printed so that everyone could hold it in their own hands and read it first-hand. A written revelation would need to contain many unique characteristics to distinguish it clearly from the countless other excellent (and not so excellent) books in the world, which are written by wise and helpful (or malicious) people but are not a revelation from our maker. Is there such a book? It is worth at least considering the possibility, and looking for a likely candidate.
There are a number of books claiming to be exactly that: The Koran, the Book of Mormon, perhaps the vast library of Hindu and Buddhist “scriptures,” although their entire concept of deity and truth is very diffuse. And of course there is the Bible. I will focus on it, because I know of no other book that begins to compare with its credentials to claim the title of “God’s Word.” See also further reasons in sec. A. When you have finished reading the following, you are of course free to make any comparisons you wish with any other book. The advocates of the Koran and Book of Mormon also attempt to present a convincing case. A detailed response is beyond the scope of this book, but is readily available in other books.
The Bible says its source is God, and He says He is also the power that began the universe and the designer of living things. He says the Bible is His letter to us, and that there is no other such letter, telling us about Himself and about our own origin and purpose. The reason we believe there is only one God, and only one Bible, is not merely that the writers, or modern-day believers, say there should only be one God and one such message from Him, or think their religion is better than others’. It is because we believe God has said so Himself. This section explains why we believe that.
If this conclusion is valid, then it further narrows our choice of religious faith. We have already left atheism and agnosticism behind, as unable to account for the origin and characteristics of the universe and living things. If there really is a verbal communication from a spiritual being, it puts the final nail in the coffin of these two religious options. It also is incompatible with the impersonal deity/universe of pantheism. It makes most animist deities either fictitious or impostors, either way an impediment in our relationship with a higher deity. Even deism’s absentee Creator cannot be reconciled with a God Who is still acting and speaking in our world.
Chapters 4 and 5 considered the Bible’s outlook on science. This section is the scientific outlook on the Bible. To do this, we must collect all the objective facts about the Bible: its contents, history, andpreservation. Then, to explain these facts we must propose a theory which is consistent, simple, reasonable, etc.
This discussion leads to the conclusion that the Bible is a supernatural book, which the human writers could not possibly have written using only their own talents and resources. There must have been a supernatural power behind them guiding their writing process in some way. This is a scientific conclusion, which is never an absolute proof. At best it can only be beyond reasonable doubt, producing overwhelming improbabilities comparable to those encountered in the discussion of evolution. Also, science cannot tell us what, or who, the source of the Bible is. So this approach alone is not sufficient basis to make a commitment of faith in the God of the Bible, but only an important confirmation of a decision or desire to make such a commitment. On the other hand, the lack of absoluteness of scientific conclusions, including this one, is not an excuse to reject or ignore it. Every decision we make in this life is based on this kind of reasoning.
It is not necessary to know all these facts in order to believe. Most Christians do not know most of them, nor feel they need to. For people who are interested in the reasons for faith in the Bible as God’s word, they are important. They are available for those who need them. See the discussion of step 3 in the steps to faith, ch. 3, III.
Many other explanations for the Bible’s origin, besides a supernatural power, have been proposed during the past 2000 years. But all such explanations contain incredible exceptions to normal human behavior, overwhelming improbabilities, etc. The reason many people believe such theories anyway is that they are unwilling to believe that the Bible is from a supernatural source, and these other theories are the only alternative.
We must use our minds to study these facts and conclusions, and to understand the Bible’s contents. Then we must use faith to trust and obey the God of the Bible. This is Biblical faith, not blind faith or superstition. We are not able to produce this faith by ourselves. The Bible tells us God will give it to us, if we are willing to receive it. He will also help us to understand more and more of the Bible, if we pray and ask Him to. Review ch. 3.
Many things in the Bible are beyond our ability to understand completely, but nothing is against our understanding; the Bible does not say black is white, up is down, the earth is flat, or anything else about history or science which we can prove is in fact not true. If it contained such statements, they would destroy its credibility. See topics E, F below.
It is true that many, but not all, Christians are narrow-minded, bigoted, prejudiced against other cultures, imperialistic, unloving, and in many ways disobeying the Bible’s commands. But this does not prove theBible’s teaching is untrue. If Christians were all like this, that would be reason to doubt the Bible’s teaching that God loves us and can change us to be more like Him. But Christians are not all like this, though of course no one is perfect (more about Christians’ character in sec. N).
Believing the Bible does not mean believing everything a missionary or pastor says or writes. It does not mean becoming completely like them, especially if they are from a foreign country. Countries outside the West must be reminded that Jesus Christ was not an American, and the Bible is not a Western book. He lived in Asia, and the cultural background of the Bible is much closer to the East than to the West.
The facts about the Bible can be listed under 15 topics. The 15th one is listed separately, as the fourth way we know that the God of the Bible exists: the experience of believers. In most of these topics, the Bible is unique among the world’s “holy books.”
In logic there are necessary and sufficient conditions for the truth of a conclusion. Necessary means that if the condition is not meant, the conclusion is certainly false, but if the conclusion is met, the conclusion only may be true but is not certain. Sufficient means that if the condition is met the conclusion is certainly true. How should we classify the following topics about the Bible?
These topics do not all directly prove the Bible is God’s word. Some are almost sufficient, very strongly suggesting that conclusion, and difficult to account for in any other way. But a really sufficient proof exists only in the abstract world of logic, not in the complexity of the real world. Some of the topics are only necessary, not sufficient; their being true does not prove the Bible is from God, but if they were untrue, that would prove the Bible is not from God. Some of them do not directly prove anything either way, but indirectly make it difficult for any other explanation to succeed. We will wait until the end to decide our conclusion about the source of the Bible.
There is a large number of books which discuss the information about the Bible that leads to the conclusion that it is from God. Some of them are listed at the end of ch. 5. Perhaps among the best for the average non-technical reader are:
Evidence that Demands a Verdict, by Josh McDowell, originally written in 1972 and 1975, and later republished.
Evidence for Faith, edited by John W. Montgomery.
There are many books specifically about the origin and accuracy of the Bible. Here are a few of the best:
A Survey of Old Testament Introduction, Revised, Gleason L. Archer. Chicago: Moody Press, 1964, 1974
Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties, Gleason L. Archer. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1982
Is the New Testament Reliable? Paul Barnett. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity. ISBN 0-8308-1834-0
The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? F. F. Bruce. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 5th ed. 1960, later Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity. ISBN 0-87784-691-X. A classic; progress in research since it was written has only strengthened the conclusions.
Scripture and Truth, D. A. Carson, John D. Woodbridge, ed. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1983. ISBN 0-85111-571-3
A Survey of the New Testament, Robert H. Gundry. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1970
The New Bible Commentary: Revised, ed. D. Guthrie, J. A. Motyer, A. M. Stibbs, D. J. Wiseman. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1970. Also London: InterVarsity Press
Inspiration and Canonicity of the Bible, R. Laird Harris. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1957
More Evidence That Demands a Verdict, Josh McDowell. Campus Crusade, 1975
Can Archaeology Prove the New Testament? Ralph O. Muncaster. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House, 2000. ISBN 0-7369-0367-4. A very small book with a thorough summary and lots of references.
A brief summary of the Bible
For those readers who are not already familiar with the contents of the Bible, I provide a very brief summary. Many details are mentioned where relevant below. The Bible consists of two major parts, the Old Testament and the New Testament. The distinction is simply that the Old Testament was written before Jesus Christ, and the New was written after. The Old Testament contains 39 books, the New Testament 27, for a total of 66. The Old Testament constitutes about 4/5 of the thickness of a Bible. The Bible is actually a library in a single volume, not intended to be read consecutively from beginning to end. The Old Testament gives much background that makes the New Testament comprehensible, and the New Testament gives much explanation that makes the Old Testament meaningful. Comprehension of the parts grows with familiarity with the whole.
The Old Testament has as one of its major themes that God will one day send a very special person, called in Hebrew “Messiah,” which means an anointed one. This person will rule the whole world based in the nation of Israel, and bring blessing to the entire world. The New Testament says that Jesus Christ was this promised Messiah, fulfilling part of the prophecies by providing salvation through His death and resurrection, and will return again to complete the fulfillment.
The Old Testament begins with the five books of Moses, who the Bible says lived around 1400 BC. These books record events from creation to the end of his life, including the Exodus from Egypt. The following books from Joshua to Esther continue the history of the nation through many ups and downs, ending about 400 BC during the Persian Empire. Next come the books of wisdom, from Job to Song of Solomon. The remainder is the prophets, divided into major and minor according to the volume of their writings. The position of prophet came into existence at the beginning of the monarchy under Saul and then David around 1000 BC. Not all the prophets mentioned in the historical books left writings.
The New Testament also begins with historical books, recording the life of Christ in the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Then follows The Acts of the Apostles, which was originally written together with Luke, and was separated off in the second century as the church began collecting the gospels into a unit. Acts continues the history to around AD 60, first focusing on the early church in Jerusalem, then on the ministry of the Apostle Paul. These five books are about half of the New Testament. The second half is mostly epistles, many written by Paul to various churches and individuals, a few by James, Peter, and John. The author of Hebrews is unknown. The last book is the Revelation, by John, with much symbolism representing the future up to the end of the world and final judgment. The New Testament was entirely written between AD 40 and 100, so its writers can all be considered contemporary.
The very fact that the Bible has human writers is often cited as a reason not to believe it is God’s word; how could it be both a human and a divine book? I do not follow the logic of this question. What else could it be like? What other means could God use to give us a book? Do these people mean that they would only accept it if a meteorite from outer space landed somewhere, and lo and behold it broke open and revealed a book inside it? Some details of how the Bible can be both human and divine, through inspiration, were discussed earlier in ch. 5, I, F.
A. The Bible writers’ claims
It is a simple fact that the Bible writers claim to give us the only accurate revelation from the one real, personal God. Old Testament prophets often said, “Thus says the Lord,” “The word of the Lord came to me,” etc. Jesus quoted parts of the Old Testament, and referred to all of it, as “scripture.” Jesus told the Apostles that the Holy Spirit would teach them, thus authorizing in advance their writing of the New Testament. Paul said God gave him his teaching, and Peter referred to Paul’s epistles as scripture. This by itself is not sufficient reason to believe their claim. But this is a fact that we must include when we try to explain the origin of the Bible.
This fact narrows the range of possible explanations. It rules out politely respecting the Bible as one “good book” among many others. The world is full of good books that we can admire, appreciate, and benefit from, and still partly accept and partly reject. But when someone claims to give us a message from God, we have a hot potato on our hands.
Our options in handling this hot potato can be analyzed under three choices, as shown in this diagram. All proposed theories of the origin of the Bible, and there have been many, must fall into one of these options. The Bible writers claimed to have a message from God; this claim was either true or false. If it was false, then either the writers knew it was false or they believed (mistakenly) that is was true. So the writers were either prophets and apostles, or liars, or lunatics. Such claims rule out considering them ordinary thinkers with whom we can respectfully disagree. That does not appear on the chart.
This does not guarantee that the transmission of the text is flawless (sec K), that translation is perfect (which is impossible), nor that our understanding now is always correct (also impossible). But at least our confidence that the original meaning was correct greatly reduces the variables we must, or may, consider in determining what is truth. Liberal theologians have performed the experiment of abandoning this restriction, and the result is unrestrained speculation.
The Koran, the Book of Mormon, and many other books claim to add to the Bible’s revelation, or make corrections. Hindu and Buddhist holy books claim to give religious truth, but do not claim to be the only ones.
Conservative Christians do not accept any of these other books. The reason we do not accept anything else as an addition to the Bible is not that we believe God lost His voice 1900 years ago, nor that He could not have spoken elsewhere. The problem is that all other books we have seen which claim to be such an addition have teachings that are contradictory to the Bible’s teachings (including those in Deuteronomy and Revelation, discussed in the next paragraphs), have errors and contradictions, and do not have the kind of evidence of God’s power that the Bible has.
Moses, the first Bible writer, predicted that there would be many more prophets sent by God, but also that there would be many false prophets. He gave criteria for distinguishing true from false, in Deut. 13:1-3; 18:21,22. The basic requirement is that predictions must be fulfilled; any failure is fatal to his claims to be a prophet. But even if predictions are fulfilled and he can produce other miraculous signs, if he portrays a different God from that of Moses, he still is false. The Bible contains all the writings of which we are aware that fulfill these criteria.
Some Christians quote Revelation 22:18, 19, at the end of the Bible, which says no one can add to or take from “this book.” They say that “this book” means the entire Bible, and therefore that the Bible is finished. We cannot prove that it means this. Some people who advocate acceptance of something else (for instance, Mormons) interpret this verse as referring only to the Book of Revelation, and this cannot be proven false, though there is written evidence that a student of the Apostle John, the author of Revelation, said that John taught him that this verse referred to the entire Bible and meant that there would be no more. But even John’s opinion is not necessarily authoritative. On the other hand, there are similar warnings given by Moses nearly 1500 years earlier, in Deut. 4:2; 12:32, and obviously there was much more added to the Bible after that. So the principle is that God can add to His Word, but mankind dare not do so. And what God adds will not contradict what He has said before.
Be that as it may, there is nothing in the Bible that leads us to expect or need more to follow our present New Testament. The Old Testament constantly predicts more to come, but the New Testament does not. In many places it refers to Jesus as the final step in God’s plan of salvation, and it tells us to hold on to the things we have been taught about Him, but nowhere does it tell us to watch for more teaching revealed through apostles or prophets yet to come. The Son of God Himself is a tough act to follow. For example, Jude 3; Hebrews 1:1, 2; Matthew 21:33-46; I Timothy 6:20; II Timothy 1:13. The basic revelation is complete. As for personal specific direction, we now have the Holy Spirit within us.
This point is not necessary, let alone sufficient, for faith in the Bible as God’s Word. A divine message need not directly state its claims. For example, not every book in the Bible makes such claims. The name of God is not even mentioned in the book of Esther, and no direct claims of revelation are made in the historical books of the Bible. But where they do occur, such claims are simply a fact that must be included in our conclusion.
B. The Bible’s concept of God and His standardsSome philosophers, and some religions, hope to make room for acceptance of their own different concepts by claiming that to say anything definite about God is to limit Him. But this is itself a very definite statement about God, which limits His ability to possess definite characteristics, or at least to tell us about them. Their God is mute, speechless. These philosophers are excluding the possibility that God Himself has spoken, in the Bible or elsewhere. But that is merely an assumption, for which they give no basis.
The Bible writers say that God told them He is infinite, holy, just, loving, merciful, omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, unique, eternal, self-existent, and many more things. Everything was created by Him. Humor is rarely mentioned in theology books, but it must also be an attribute of God. There is humor throughout the Bible, once you begin to notice it. Our sense of humor could only have come from our Creator. He must have a sense of humor; He made people.
The God of the Bible is perfectly loving, wise, and powerful. All three are necessary to give us peace of heart. If God has wisdom and power but not love, we could only fear Him but not trust that He is doing what is best for us. This is the way we often feel about big leaders in business and government, and unfortunately the way some small children feel about their parents. If He has love and power but not wisdom, we could only appreciate His good intentions but not trust that He really understands us and knows what is best for us. This is the best we can hope for from our friends, parents, employers, officials, etc., and the way they feel about us. If He has love and wisdom but not power, we again could appreciate His good intentions but not be sure He can always carry them out. This is also the way we and those around us often feel about each other. But the God of the Bible possesses all three, and so is perfectly suited to our needs. Does any god of any other religion even dare claim to be perfectly wise, loving, and powerful?
If we want to please the God of the Bible solely on the basis of our own efforts and attainments, His standards are very high. We must be absolutely pure and perfect, as He is. The only passing grade on His examination is 100%. 99% is not perfect, which is total failure. If we fail to please Him, He has total power to do with us whatever He wishes. This places an impossible challenge in the way of the viewpoints discussed in ch. 4, II, A and B, which assume that a certain standard, far short of perfection, should be “good enough.”
This makes us confused and uncomfortable. This God is loving and merciful, but also unapproachable, uncontrollable, in fact frightening. A theory of the origin of the Bible must explain why the writers produced such a unique, unpopular teaching. It certainly was not what any other religion had ever taught, what they liked to think, or what they hoped others would accept. Many of the writers suffered martyrdom for spreading their teachings. Yet their message survived, and in later centuries the Jews added these prophets’ writings to their Bible, which is the Old Testament of our Bible.
This point is not sufficient to prove the Bible is God’s Word, nor even directly necessary. But it is unique among the world’s religions, and difficult to explain in any other way. We would at least expect a true revelation to be unique; if it only duplicates ideas already common, then a revelation is unnecessary.
C. The Bible’s concept of human nature and salvationReview ch. 3, II, B and C; V, F; and ch. 4, II, B, and IV, about Adam and Eve, sin, salvation, and human nature. This is one of the Bible’s basic themes, and relates to many different questions.
Fortunately, the Bible does not end on the hopeless note of the previous section, but provides an alternative. The Bible tells us we can be accepted by this powerful, holy God. It tells us He still loves us. But it also tells us that before we can become acceptable to Him and experience His love, we must admit that we are sinful and accept His plan.
The Bible says we cannot make ourselves good enough to be acceptable to God. We are “dead in sin” (Ephesians 2:1). What can a dead person do? Our grade on His examination is 0. We do many things that He commands us not to do, we do not do what He commands us to do, and even our “good” actions come from wrong motives that reject Him. When we demonstrate love and kindness, it is only because we feel like it, not because God commands it.
Most people dig in their heels at this point. “What do you mean I’m a sinner? I’m not perfect, but I’m not so bad. I haven’t murdered anyone, or robbed a bank.” In many cultures, the only concept of sin is violation of the law that gets caught. So if you are smart enough, you are guiltless.
God’s first and greatest commandment is to love Him totally (Matthew 22:37, 38, where Jesus quotes Moses’ words in Deuteronomy 6:5). We do not love Him at all, let alone totally (Romans 3:10-18, all quotes from several Old-Testament prophets). So we all have broken the greatest command, which is the greatest sin. So much for comparing ourselves with others and feeling safe because their sins are bigger than ours.
We are born this way; this is what theologians call “original sin.” We have a sinful nature. Soon after we are born, before we can talk or walk, we begin to demonstrate this nature when we behave selfishly and angrily. The only reason small children do not kill each other and adults is that they are not strong enough. They do not need to be taught to act this way. As we grow up we continue to hurt others, steal or damage their possessions, and lie. These are sinful actions, the result of our sinful nature. We do not become sinners because we commit sinful actions. We commit sinful actions because we already are sinners. A duck is not a duck because it quacks; it quacks because it is a duck. We cannot blame our circumstances for our misbehavior. A sinless nature would not produce sinful actions no matter what the circumstances. Pressure only squeezes out what is already inside.
If we are born this way, then is it fair for God to punish us for being this way? This is not what God punishes us for. What God asks us to do is admit we have this problem, and need His help. If we refuse to admit it and to accept His help, then we are responsible for that choice and the consequences.
It is amazing that people even dare question God’s justice. This only became common in the 20th century. Earlier people were concerned about how they could prepare to face God’s judgment, but now they expect God to prepare to face their judgment!
Even if we could reform ourselves so that we would never sin again (we can’t), this is already too late. What is already past cannot be redone. What can we do about our past sins? Can good actions pay for bad ones? Stopping at a red light fifty times does not mean it is all right not to stop forty-nine times. If you tell a policeman that, he will laugh, but that is exactly what most people tell God. (see ch. 4, II, B)
If we try to pay for our sins, what can we pay? No amount of money, or work, or suffering, is enough. Any sin is a personal insult to almighty God. The punishment is death, both physical death and eternal separation from God. God’s holiness demands that this punishment be done, but His love wishes to forgive us and restore our broken relationship with Him. How can He do both at once?
He did it by sending His own Son to the world to become a human being, Jesus Christ. Jesus had no sin of His own, and so He was able to pay the penalty for our sins in our place. This is a mystery beyond our understanding, but we still can accept it. And He not only died; He rose from the dead, proving He was God’s Son and completing His victory over sin and its consequences. The Bible says that because He rose, we can have a new nature, or a new life, and can become able to be the kind of person God wants us to be. Eternal life begins now. We do not have to wait until after death to receive it. This also is a mystery.
As long as we are in this life, we still have a lot of old sinful habits in our mind, which are opposed to the behavior God commands, and it is a constant battle to resist and replace these habits (Romans 8:7, 8; Galatians 5:17). The Bible does not say we will ever become perfect in this life, but it tells us that God’s power is greater than anything else, and we are able to keep making progress in this battle.
This means that God does not change His actions in order please our wishes, but changes our wishes to agree with His actions. Some people object that this is a loss of our freedom. Why? God does not force this on anyone against their will; He only does it for believers, and believing means wanting and requesting this change. We are not even able to make ourselves willing to accept God’s will, but we can choose to ask Him to make us willing. As long as this is what we have chosen, and we are content, receiving what we wish, isn’t that freedom and peace? Does any other method succeed, or have any hope of success?
Many people complain that when God makes us His servants, or even children, in order to increase His glory, we are being exploited and not free. Once again, if it is what we choose, it is freedom. This is a problem only in our modern democratic age, where we are taught to expect to be independent and self-centered. When kings were highly respected, it was a privilege to be the king’s servant, especially a good king’s. Perhaps those generations understood something that we have lost. Heaven is not a democracy, but a kingdom. God is good. He treats His servants and children very well. It is a privilege, a benefit, not exploitation, to be even the lowest servant of this kind of God. Perhaps hell is democratic.
We no longer honor kings. But we accord near-divine esteem to sports and entertainment superstars, in reward for their ability to perform some outstanding feats of agility, or dexterity in manipulating balls of various sizes and shapes, or ability to duplicate the sounds of being carsick in a dishpan demolition derby. Many of them behave in ways that not long ago would have been considered foolish at best, in fact immoral and decadent. In return for such ability and behavior, endow them with global fame and wealth beyond the dreams of any king. Maybe we were better off when we accorded our devotion to kings. Some of them at least made some positive contribution to society. But neither kings nor superstars are really worthy of our worship. The God of the Bible is.
When a believer dies, he or she finally is released from sinful habits and influences, and goes to be with God in heaven forever after. (John 14:3; II Corinthians 5:6-9; Philippians 1:21-24) I do not know whether our assurance of spending eternity in heaven means we will become unable to sin, or able to be sure we will never choose to sin. Either way, it is a wonderful hope to look forward to. No other religion dares to even dream of anything like it.
Why do we have the opportunity of forgiveness and restoration, but as far as the Bible tells us angels who rebelled can only await certain condemnation? The Bible does not tell us why. Perhaps it is because they chose to depart from the direct presence of God. But Adam and Eve knew Him closely too. Whatever the reason, we certainly should treasure our privilege.
A person who still has only the old nature cannot live with God, but must be separated from God forever. This is the purpose of hell. Review ch. 4, II, B and IV, B.
We can be sure right now whether we have this new nature. The requirement is simply to admit we need it, and tell God we want it. God promises that He will hear us and accept us. All we need to do is believe that Jesus can save us, confess our sins and repent, commit ourselves completely to Him, and trust and obey Him. We may or may not feel anything unusual at that moment. Some people have strong and wonderful feelings, some have none. I didn’t. The Bible does not promise anything about feelings. But we can believe it is true even if we don’t feel it. Our certainty is based on God’s love and promise and Jesus’ actions, not on our own ability, behavior, or feelings. We cannot get 100% on God’s examination, but Jesus did, and God will put His grade on our report card if we ask Him to.
Sometimes people object to this, saying “This is too simple, too cheap. This means that no matter what our behavior has been, we just need to say a few words and we can escape punishment and get an entrance ticket to heaven.” This objection in itself is correct. If salvation was like this, it would be unreasonable, but they have misunderstood the Bible’s meaning. See the explanation of the meaning of “believe,” in ch. 3. It is a sincere change of heart, not mere magic words. We say faith is simple, which means that we do not have to first do many things or difficult things, such as reform ourselves to become deserving of God’s acceptance. The Bible’s message is that we cannot do so, and that thinking we can is putting the cart before the horse. All we can do is believe first, and then God Himself takes responsibility to begin changing us, as we cooperate with Him.
We do not like to hear this. Most people become angry when they hear it. Their anger proves that the Bible writers did not naturally invent and teach this concept, nor expect others to like it either.
Our theory of the origin of the Bible must explain why those writers believed and wrote such unpopular and unusual things. If we say that it was natural for them to do so, then why are all other religions different?
This point, like B, is neither necessary nor sufficient, but very significant, in deciding whether the Bible is God’s Word.
D. The Bible’s internal unityThe Bible was written by at least 30 writers over a period of 1500 years (sec. J). These writers were farmers, shepherds, kings, priests, musicians, etc. Some were highly educated in Egypt, Babylon, Persia, Greece, Rome, or Israel; others were uneducated. They wrote history, poetry, and sermons. Each writer added his unique new aspects to the Bible. They did not simply repeat what had been written before. Some may not even have been familiar with all the earlier writings. Yet their writings fit together, all consistently presenting the same God and teachings.1. Contents
It is not possible to prove the Bible has no contradictions. Conservative Christians believe that the Bible was free of errors when it was written. This belief is not mere blind faith or bigotry. We believe this because the Bible claims this for itself, and because we have found overwhelming reason to believe it is God’s word, so it is possible that it is free of error. It has survived every attempt in 2000 years to prove it has errors. This is the subject of section 2.
Were the writers prophets, liars, or lunatics? (see section A above) Most of them throughout the Old Testament lived at different times, and so could not possibly work together with other writers to avoid contradictions. Many of them died for their teachings, and were known for their conviction and courage. So the writers do not seem to be liars or lunatics, which only leaves prophets and apostles as the reasonable explanation.
Many people challenge the assertion of the Bible’s internal unity. They say that the Bible is not consistent, but is full of contradictions. The Bible is undeniably a large, complex book. If the Bible were so simple that there were no problems, then we could not believe it is God’s message to us. Of course God’s thoughts are beyond our ability to completely understand. We must admit that there are many places where we are not sure about the Bible’s meaning. No one completely understands the Bible.2. Questions
But inability to completely understand is not the same as complete inability to understand. There are many important teachings in the Bible which are clear beyond any doubt about their meaning: about God, the human race, salvation, and Jesus Christ.
In places where there are several possible interpretations, some people always choose the ones that produce contradictions. But in every case I have seen, there are other interpretations that are at least as reasonable, usually more so, and do not produce contradictions. So I ask why those people want to choose the interpretations that make the Bible look inconsistent.
Even if we accepted all the contradictions that some people think they find in the Bible, we still could ask why there are so few, and why they are such small details. Even in the hands of its worst critics, the Bible ends up looking far better than any collection of philosophers’ writings could possibly be. Can we find any other collection of writing of more than 30 ancient teachers, whose ideas fit together in this way? The philosophers of Greece, or of China, had many different ideas. A collection of their writings would be just that: a collection of different ideas, not a consistent whole like the Bible.
In studying the problems of the meaning of the Bible, the method we must use is called “grammatico-historical interpretation.” This is simple common sense, the same way we interpret any other written or spoken communication, ancient or modern. It includes understanding the context, the original language, cultural and historical background, and figures of speech.
We often talk about “literal interpretation,” but that does not mean stupid interpretation. It means we believe that the original meaning of the writers is correct, instead of trying to guess some sort of hidden “real meaning” behind what they said. Those who practice this kind of guessing can guess anything they want to, and in fact people have suggested every imaginable (and unimaginable!) idea as the Bible’s “real meaning.” This is the basic principle of what is called “liberal Christianity.” It also was a common practice in the Middle Ages, when theologians assumed there were several levels of meaning in every passage.
For us who understand neither Hebrew nor Greek, we must carefully read the best translations we can find, and compare them with each other. We must learn what we can from reference books written by scholars who are experts on original languages, culture, history, and archaeology. But we must not become over-dependent on them, and must distinguish solid information from mere opinion. We are still responsible to study the Bible and form our own understanding of it, depending on the Holy Spirit’s guidance. We must be careful to find “plain Scripture and plenty of it” before we dare say with confidence “The Bible says..... “
Conservative Christians are not unaware of questions or unwilling to consider them. Problems are discussed honestly and carefully by conservative Bible scholars in countless articles in theological journals, as well as many books. I believe they more than adequately answer the criticisms of skeptical scholars, pointing out their unjustified assumptions and misuse of facts. I have read some of the basics, but cannot claim to have studied this topic deeply, nor to retain the details of what I have read. One life is too short. Many of the books listed at the end of ch. 5 discuss questions related to this topic. Most of the books listed at the beginning of this chapter, sec. III, are at least partly devoted to this subject.
This is the field of “higher criticism.” “Lower criticism” is the technical term for analysis of the content and meaning of the text; this is criticism in the technical sense, not in the combative sense. Higher criticism is the attempt to determine how the text came to be what it is. It began in 18th-century intellectual European circles, and is a long story which is discussed in some of the books listed above.3. The Documentary Hypothesis
Many scholars have claimed to find in the Old Testament a progressive development from an early Hebrew tribal religion, worshipping a local god, practicing racial prejudice and vengeance, to a later development of monotheism and high ethical standards. They also find the products of a political power struggle between the monarchy and the priests. But in order to “find” this development process, they have to cut up the Old Testament into hundreds of pieces and put the pieces back together differently to fit their theory and “reconstruct” the assumed original documents. This is called the “documentary hypothesis,” developed in the 18th and 19th century. It claims that the five books of Moses were actually written centuries after Moses, by an editor using at least four different documents, virtually all of which were not written when they claim to be, and are politely referred to as “pious forgeries.” The four documents are called J, E, D, and P, representing Jehovah, Elohim, Deuteronomy, and Priestly. The rest of the Old Testament is subjected to similar explanation.
There is no conclusive evidence that any of the Old Testament was not written when it claims to be. Some experts claim there is such evidence. They claim that there are some words which were not in use at the traditional date of writing, but indicate a later date. Such arguments are at best inconclusive, and in many cases they prove to be false as research continues.
Many Bible-believing scholars have studied and replied to this theory in detail. Its starting assumption is the rejection of genuine divine revelation and miraculous events. The theory itself is based on historical and literary assumptions which were proven wrong before the end of the 19th century, and the different scholars who proposed it continuously disagreed and pointed out the contradictions in each other’s theories. While it is true that a society and religion develop with time, and that any society has power struggles, the specific details of the documentary hypothesis are pure imagination. But the theory still lives on anyway, because it is the only alternative to accepting the Bible’s authority as God’s Word.
One major example of apparent contradictions is in the four Gospels, which record many of the same events and teachings of Jesus. This is the “synoptic problem,” applying mostly to Matthew, Mark, and Luke. John contains mostly different material, except for the week of the Crucifixion. We cannot prove that the gospel records are mistaken, nor that they are not. The gospel accounts are too different to be the result of deliberate cooperation by the authors in order to deceive us, but too similar to be the result of separate imagination or deceit. If they had tried to lie, they would have avoided so many apparent differences in their stories. And they would not have written a story in which they themselves are often portrayed as mistaken and failing. Also, the writers were all willing to die for the story they told. The only reasonable explanation is that the four gospels are honest, accurate eyewitness records. This is also discussed in sec. H on the record of Jesus’ life.4. The Four Gospels
Another big example of apparent contradiction is between the (assumed) Old Testament Jewish local tribal God of ethnic war, sacrifice, and killing, and the New Testament God of love and forgiveness for the whole world. This is a serious misunderstanding of the Bible. Most people who make this statement have not actually read the Bible. Scholars who choose this viewpoint are distorting the facts.5. The Old Testament and the New Testament
Why did God choose the Jews, (or Hebrews, or Israelites) as His “chosen people”? The Jews assumed, as we would have in their position, that it must mean they were especially capable and deserving, and that He loved only them. Skeptical scholars assume that the Jews made up the idea that they were God’s chosen people. But this is not the Bible’s explanation. It did not mean He loved others less. Beginning from their first ancestor Abraham, God promised to bless the whole world through them. When they had become a nation and Moses led them out of Egypt, He told them He did not choose them because they were great (they were not), but because He loved them (Deut. 7:7), so that what He did for them would show His power not theirs. He could not have done that through a great and strong nation, for instance China.
Was it a privilege to be the chosen people? It was a special opportunity, but also a burden. They had many laws and duties. Their failure was recorded in detail in the Bible for the whole world to read ever since, and it brought them especially severe punishment. Do we really envy that?
The Old Testament records many times when God punished people and nations for disobeying His laws. After Israel became a nation, He instructed them to destroy several other nations who disobeyed Him. But He was impartial in His justice; Israel had no special privileges. When Israel similarly disobeyed Him, He brought other nations to punish them. In fact, because their privileges were greater, their sin was more serious, and their punishment needed to be a lesson to the watching world. But the messages of the prophets are full of calls for repentance and offers of forgiveness. God did not punish His people until He sent them many prophets for many generations. Are we that patient?
There is something perversely contradictory in the simultaneous complaints that God does not seem to do enough to restrain the evil practices in this world, and also that He is unjust or unloving when He does deal retribution to some perpetrators of evil. Perhaps the complaint is specifically centered on the means He used to deal the retribution, but even on this point it seems that there is an objection to every possible means. If impersonal “natural events” are involved, that is called unjust, and if human agents are involved, that too is unjust!
The specific case of the Canaanites deserves discussion. The people of Canaan, whom God told the Israelites to destroy, had been there for centuries. In the time of Abraham, around 2000 BC, the city of Salem had a king named Melchizedek, who was a priest of God to whom Abraham offered a tithe (Genesis 14:18-20). God told Abraham that his descendants would one day possess that land, but not yet because “the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.” (Genesis 15:16) When Joshua and the Israelite army entered the land 500 years later, there were no more priest-kings, and the religion of the people involved many practices that are horrible and embarrassing to even think about. They included much sexual immorality and perversion, and cruel human sacrifices. One religion used a hollow metal statue, with a fire inside it to make it red-hot, and a living baby was placed in its hands to be burned to death. The child’s own mother was forced to do this. Various other means of excruciating human sacrifice were practiced, which we need not describe here in further detail. It is no wonder that God eliminated such people. A God of love and justice must do something about such evil practices!
On the level of nations, the status of the Old-Testament Israelites as God’s chosen people was by definition a unique case not transferable to any other ethnic group or conflict. Unfortunately some Europeans and Americans from the 18th to early 20th centuries took it as just such a precedent, with tragic results for other people with whom they came in contact, especially the native people of Africa and America. The New Testament church, unlike Old-Testament Israel, is not a political or ethnic entity, and the commands and promises given to it are spiritual and eternal. This is not an inconsistency, but a process God planned from the beginning, predicted throughout the Old Testament, though few Israelites grasped it. The status of war is not clearly stated in the New Testament, and is a moral dilemma in a depraved world, with which each individual must deal on a case-by-case basis as he understands the issues and God’s guidance. Both blatant imperialism and radical pacifism seem to me to have no Biblical basis, but that leaves a broad gray area in between.
Of course, most people consider the Israelite invasion of Canaan as just that, an invasion, ruthless territorial expansion at others’ expense, like the infamous “ethnic cleansing” in the Balkans in the 1990s and tribal conflicts in Africa. It is assumed that the Israelites just projected their warlike ambitions onto their tribal deity, ashas happened in countless other cases, and were not carrying out a command from the one true God as they claimed to be doing. That is a remarkable claim on the part of the Israelites, and we rightfully require remarkable evidence before accepting it. That is a larger issue, to which this entire chapter is devoted. There is remarkable evidence.
As for the New Testament, does it only talk about God as loving and forgiving? No. It talks much more about hell than about heaven. Jesus talked sternly about the errors of the Jewish religious leaders, and the judgment they would receive from God. The New Testament ends with the Revelation, which predicts the end of the world with global catastrophes, final judgment, and eternal hell-fire.
In conclusion, the God of the Old Testament is the same as the God of the New Testament; there is no basis here for claiming inconsistency in the Bible. God loves us, and gives us many opportunities and reasons to repent and begin trusting and obeying Him, but if we refuse too long He does not wait forever. There is a last chance. To be holy and just, He cannot let sin go unpunished indefinitely. He has the legitimate right, in fact is duty-bound by His own nature, to dispense life and death to individuals and nations, by whatever means He chooses.
Our theory of the origin of the Bible must explain how this collection of writings has such consistency. It is impossible to give an airtight proof of consistency, and even if possible it would not be an airtight sufficient evidence that the Bible is God’s Word. But it is certainly necessary; a revelation that is contradictory is worthless. Within the limitations of the real world the Bible’s consistency is very impressive, somewhere between necessary and sufficient. The only reasonable, simple explanation is that there was a superhuman source behind the human authors.
E. The Bible’s historical accuracyThe Bible is full of historical details. There is a widespread impression that the Bible contains many historical errors, and therefore is untrustworthy. This is an unnecessary obstacle to faith, and in fact the Bible’s historical accuracy is an evidence in support of faith in its message.
Many Christians have tried to separate the Bible’s religious teachings from its historical record. They claim to be trying to protect the Bible, so that in case many of the stories are proven untrue we can still believe what it teaches. They profess to be well-intentioned, and we can only accept that profession. In the case of some liberal theologians, though, I can’t help suspecting that they do see clearly the destructive conclusion to which this leads, and which they quite cheerfully advocate.
Most of the Bible’s teaching is based on, and inseparable from, historical events which are interpreted as acts of God. Also, if it is not reliable about earthly events that we can check on, how can we trust it about spiritual and heavenly truths that we cannot check on? If God did not really do what the Bible says He did in the past, can we be sure He can do anything now? So those who try to “protect” the Bible in this way have actually destroyed it, making it irrelevant because its God is impotent. Opponents of Christian faith see this clearly enough, and claim to find historical errors in the Bible and then use these as reasons to reject its teaching.
Direct and indirect evidenceWe have direct evidence of only a few of the major events and people recorded in the Bible: wars, kings, construction and destruction of cities. What is most important is indirect evidence. Historians and archaeologists have been able to learn much about the background details of the stories in the Bible: when cities were and were not inhabited, existence and political structure of nations and empires, what names of people and places were used when, range and means of travel and trade, items of trade, coins, style and material of construction of houses and other buildings, clothing, food, technology, social customs, laws, etc.
In a court trial, an eyewitness’s testimony stands or falls with the accuracy of background details which can be checked independently: time of day, weather, clothing, nearby objects and events, etc. If these all agree with what is known to be true, then his testimony is very convincing about what cannot be known otherwise, which is the reason the eyewitness is called to testify in the first place. But if these details are mistaken, his testimony is rejected.
If the Bible writers invented their stories, they could not possibly anticipate, or even care, what things we could discover by research several thousand years later. If they wrote down legends which had been transmitted orally through many generations, such legends cannot retain all the kinds of correct details listed above.
Historians one or two hundred years ago said that the Bible is full of historical errors. But further research has proved the Bible is right and the historians were wrong. Bible reference books give many such examples.
The Bible contains thousands of historical details which can easily be proven right or wrong by modern research. We can imagine many such details being proven wrong. But there is not one proven error yet. It is of course impossible to prove every historical detail in the Bible.
A theory of the origin of the Bible must explain this amazing accuracy. The only simple, reasonable theory is that the writers recorded true events, with God’s guidance to prevent mistakes.
This point is, like consistency, somewhere between necessary and sufficient.
F. The Bible’s scientific acceptabilityThe Bible is not as directly related to science as it is to history. But if God makes mistakes about scientific things we know about, how can we be sure He is right about spiritual things we do not know about? There were many incorrect scientific ideas in the time the Bible was written; how did the writers avoid putting these ideas in the Bible?
The Bible does not use modern scientific terms. If it did, earlier generations would not have understood it, and neither would generations after us. It simply describes events as they appear: the sun rises, the surface of the earth appears flat, the ground feels solid and stationary beneath our feet, diseases appear with no visible reason. This is not a mistake; we still speak in the same terms.
The only major “problem” between science and the Bible at present is the creation/evolution issue, including the date of creation. These are discussed in several other places in this book, mostly sec. II of this chapter and ch. 7, with the conclusion that neither one is in fact a conflict between the Bible and nature. Therefore they are not a barrier to faith.
All these cautious “no problem” disclaimers notwithstanding, there are some positive things to be said. There are some amazing hints that the Bible comes from a source who knew things that scientists have only recently discovered. For example, Moses gave the Israelites many laws of living and food. These are now known to follow principles of sanitation and nutrition. God promised them that if they obeyed His laws they would not have the diseases the neighboring nations suffered. This cannot be attributed to Moses’ educational background in Egypt. Scholars have found medical documents from ancient Egypt, and they describe some truly frightening treatments. If you weren’t sick before you went to an Egyptian doctor, you would be afterwards, in fact lucky to survive. Nor did any other nation in the area have practices like those Moses taught. If we assume he learned them from observation, then he was truly unique in the entire known ancient world.
The Bible talks about the uncountable number of stars and their great age. It mentions the water cycle. The design of Noah’s Ark is consistent with the modern theory of ship stability and efficient use of materials. And so on. We are not sure how much was generally known about such things at that time.
This topic too is somewhere between necessary and sufficient as a condition for concluding that the Bible is a revelation from God.
G. The Bible’s fulfilled propheciesThe Bible contains at least several hundred predictions of future events, and not one has yet failed to be fulfilled. In the Bible God Himself mentions this as one of the most important proofs that He is the one true God as distinguished from all other gods, which are not gods at all but are false gods. It also proves that the Bible writers really had a message from Him as distinguished from all the false prophets (for instance, in Isaiah 40 to 50). God is outright sarcastic, challenging the other gods and prophets to foretell events as He has done. Therefore the stated purpose of Biblical prophecy is the authentication of the genuine message and messenger. A secondary purpose was to prepare people for coming events. It was rarely given as a response to an inquiry about the future. It was not fortune-telling, nor entertainment. It was not given to satisfy our curiosity.
A study of these prophecies may lead to dissatisfaction at first. Prophecy is not simple to interpret. It is not as direct as having tomorrow’s newspaper today, but is mostly figurative and symbolical. Different subjects are mixed together. It is neither totally clear nor totally unclear. People were usually not able to understand exactly what the prophecies meant at the time they were given, but later when events happened it was plain that they fulfilled the prophecies. Thus it is the most convincing possible kind of evidence that it is from God. If it were totally unclear, we could not even be sure that events fulfilled the prophecies. If it were totally clear, we could not be sure that people did not just read it and figure out a way to stage it themselves and deceive people. As it is, only God could have written the prophecy and produced the fulfillment.
I classify prophecies into three types, which I call short-range, long-range fulfilled, and long-range unfulfilled. This is strictly my own terminology; it is not in any reference book I have seen.
1. Short-range prophecies
Short-range prophecies are ones which we cannot now prove were written before the events they described. In some cases the Bible says the prediction was made only hours before the event. In other cases it was several centuries. Examples include battles, weather, famine, birth, death, fates of cities and nations. Examples include Genesis 41; II Kings 7, 9, 10; Jeremiah 28:16, 27; Ezekiel 26; Daniel 11; Nahum 1:8, 14; 2:6, 13; 3:17.
For short-range prophecies, there are only four possible explanations. They were written either before or after the events. If they were written before, the author was either receiving a genuine message from God or he was not. If he was, he was a prophet. If not, the fulfillment was just good luck, and the writer was either a lucky lunatic or a lucky liar. If they were written after the events, the writer was an ordinary liar.
This means prophecies which were certainly written before the events they described. The largest group of this kind of prophecies is in the Old Testament, predicting things that were fulfilled during Jesus Christ’s life. These are listed at the end of this section.2. Long-range fulfilled prophecies
One fascinating prophecy is not included in the list below. Daniel 9:24-26 predicts a time period of 70 weeks of years, or 490 years. The first 69 weeks begin with the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem, and end when the Messiah will be cut off. The 70th week is described separately, and is generally believed to be the still-future end of the world. The book of Daniel claims to be written more than 400 years before Christ. Whatever one may believe about that, the Dead Sea Scrolls prove it was written at least 200 BC (sec. J). Some scholars have analyzed the dates in such a way that it demonstrates that Daniel predicted the crucifixion of Jesus precisely to the day. There is some uncertainty in the date of issuing the decree to rebuild Jerusalem, and in the date of the crucifixion. But this prediction undeniably comes remarkably close.
Another type of long-range fulfilled prophecy is the prediction that a certain city will be destroyed and never rebuilt; that is a dangerous prediction to make! Examples are Ezekiel 26 about Tyre; Jeremiah 50, 51; Isaiah 13:19-22 about Babylon. Actually, since “never” has not yet ended, these prophecies could also be placed in the third type. Actually, prophecies about Babylon do refer to its being rebuilt in connection with events just before the end of the world, which has not yet occurred.
Another type of long-range prophecy is related to the Jewish race. Many promises were given to Abraham and David, and to the nation. Many of these have been fulfilled, while others have not yet been fulfilled. Many Christians throughout past centuries decided that these unfulfilled promises were not meant literally, and applied them in a spiritual sense to Christianity. However, since many of the promises were fulfilled literally, it does not seem to make sense to say that some of them were not meant literally. It makes better sense to say the fulfillment is still future. We cannot yet prove that these prophecies are true, but if the Jewish race had been destroyed these promises could not possibly be fulfilled. The Jews have survived, and their survival is one of the most amazing stories in history. It appears that God is not finished with them yet, and all the promises could yet be fulfilled.
For long-range prophecies, there are only three possibilities: the writer was a prophet, lucky lunatic, or lucky liar. He was not an ordinary liar.
Is this category actually a loophole through which we “explain” prophecies that failed? No, these prophecies have very specific subjects: the end of the present world system, the Second Coming of Christ and His rule of the world for 1000 years, the peace and prosperity of the nation of Israel, the final judgment, and eternity in heaven.3. Long-range unfulfilled
For centuries these prophecies were considered impossible, and even many Christians assumed they must only be figurative. But in 1948 Israel was reestablished as a nation. Global disasters are no longer laughed at, but it is feared that it is impossible to avoid them. We are capable of accomplishing them ourselves, and this may be how the fulfillment will be accomplished, though of course God is capable of doing them more directly Himself. The prophecies are not yet fulfilled, but the world seems to be getting ready for it.
Those who say the writers were lunatics or liars must explain why they produced the world’s highest moral standards, and in many cases willingly died martyrs’ deaths for saying what they did. And they must also explain why the Jewish nation, after killing the writers, carefully preserved and honored their writings as a holy message from God.
Those who say that the fulfillment of prophecies was just lucky must estimate the probability of this good luck. The improbability of all these prophecies being good luck, by any estimate, is an astronomical number which is equivalent to impossibility. The alternative is that there is a God Who knows the future and has sometimes told us about a little bit of it. On the range from necessary to sufficient evidences about the supernatural origin of the Bible, fulfilled prophecy comes very close to the sufficient end. The probability of any other explanation is infinitesimal.
Good books that give further information on this subject include:
Prophecy, Fact or Fiction, by Josh McDowellMany Old Testament prophecies were fulfilled by Christ during His life and death. Here are some of the clearest ones. Could there possibly be another person in the history of the world who even came close to fulfilling all these predictions? Could it all be coincidence, or even pre-meditated plan on Jesus’ part? These are quoted in the New Testament, so their meaning and fulfillment is certain for those who accept the inspiration of the New Testament:
Evidence for Faith, edited by John W. Montgomery, Part 4.
Deuteronomy 18:15 - a prophet like Moses (John 1:45; 6:14; Acts 3:22-24)Some others are not directly quoted in the New Testament but are beyond question:
Psalm 16:8-11 - will not leave my soul in Hades, not let the Holy One see corruption (Acts 2:25-28)
34:20 - no bone broken (John 19:36)
68:18 - ascended, gave gifts to men, led captivity captive (Ephesians 4:8)
69:9 - the zeal of your house has consumed me (John 2:17)
78:2 - speak in parables (Matthew 13:35)
110:1 - The Lord said unto my Lord,... (Matthew 22:43, 44; Acts 2:34)
118:22, 23 - rejected stone is chief cornerstone (Matthew 21:42)
Isaiah 7:14 - virgin birth, named Immanuel (Matthew 1:22, 23)
9:1, 2 - Gentiles have seen a great light (Matthew 4:14-16)
35:5, 6 - blind see, deaf hear, lame walk, dumb talk (Matthew 11:5, 6)
40:3 - a voice in the wilderness, forerunner (John the Baptist) (Matthew
3:3; Mark 1:3)
42:1-4 - my servant, gentle, hope of the Gentiles (Matthew 12:17-21; 17:5; Mark 1:11)
53:4 - took away our diseases (Matthew 8:16, 17)
61:1 - good news to the poor (Matthew 11:5, 6; Luke 4:16-21)
62:1 - say to Zion, your king comes (Matthew 21:1-5)
Jeremiah 18:2; 19:2, 11 - potter’s field a place for burial (Matthew 27:9, 10)
31:15 - Rachel weeping for her children (Matthew 2:16, 17)
Hosea 11:1 - out of Egypt have I called my Son (Matthew 2:14, 15)
Micah 5:2 - born in Bethlehem (Matthew 2:5, 6)
7:6 - enmity within families (Matthew 10:35, 36)
Zechariah 9:9 - king comes riding on the foal of an ass (Matthew 21:1-5)
13:7 - strike the Shepherd, the sheep scatter (Matthew 26:31)
Malachi 3:1 ? the Messenger sent ahead (John the Baptist) (Matthew 11:10; Mark 1:2)
4:5 - Elijah who is to come (John the Baptist) (Matthew 11:14; 17:12, 13)
Psalm 22 - detailed description of the crucifixion, written long before it became a common form of executionMany people simply do not believe these stories, especially the resurrection. But that is blind unbelief. The resurrection story is the crucial point of Christian faith, so we will concentrate on considering it carefully. The story exists, so it had an origin. No matter whether we believe it is true or false, we must explain its origin. But we must begin with at least a summary of the origin and content of the record of Jesus’ life, as the background of that story.
69:21 - vinegar to drink (Matthew 27:48)
Isaiah 50:6 - slapped his face, etc. (Matthew 26:67)
53 - despised, rejected, considered as stricken by God, suffered for our sins, did not open his mouth before his killers, buried with the rich, innocent, prolong his days, numbered with the transgressors
Zechariah 11:12, 13 - bought for thirty pieces of silver, thrown to the potter (Matthew 26:15; 27:3-10, quoting Jer. 19)
H. The record of Jesus Christ’s life, miracles, and resurrection
This story was preached by the apostles (which simply means messengers) beginning from the time and place of Jesus’ life, first-century Palestine. The apostles claimed to be eye-witnesses of these events. They were not mystics who saw a vision many years later in a faraway place, nor recorders of legends transmitted through many generations. According to historical traditions that are probably correct, all the apostles except John died horrible martyrs’ deaths because of their preaching, and John also was willing to die but was supernaturally protected. He was then imprisoned on an island, Patmos, where he wrote the book of Revelation, the final book of the New Testament.1. The facts
The New Testament was all written before the end of the first century, and there is no direct evidence against accepting it as having been written by the apostles and their close associates (sec. J). The earliest known church leaders accepted the four gospels as written by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Matthew and John were disciples during Jesus’ preaching ministry. Mark was an assistant of Peter, considered the leader of the disciples, so this gospel is a summary of the teaching of Peter. James and Jude were probably Jesus’ younger brothers who did not believe Him until after the resurrection, and then became leaders of the early Church. They are the mostly likely authors of the epistles bearing their names, but there is some uncertainty because those were common names at that time. There were also disciples with those names. Paul arrived in Palestine shortly after Jesus’ death, and was the first active leader of persecution of Christians but then suddenly became a believer a few years later and wrote many of the epistles (sec. I, following). Luke was an assistant of Paul, and says he did a research project interviewing many eyewitnesses, producing his gospel and the Acts of the Apostles.
Thus we have a variety of types of writers: direct eyewitnesses, a follower of an eyewitness, and a latecomer who collected information from numerous eyewitnesses. Anyone who finds none of these acceptable is being very hard to please. The writers do share the common trait of being believers when they did their writing. But this cannot be used as grounds for rejecting them as hopelessly biased. Why did they believe? They certainly gained no profit, or even comfort, from their believing and teaching. Who would be acceptable as unbiased? A non-believer is either inadequately informed, or has a bias too. Belief alone is not proof of incompetence; these writers at least deserve a hearing and fair evaluation.
Jesus’ friends and enemies agreed that He did many miracles. Their only disagreement was over the power by which He did them, God or Satan.
After He was gone, His friends said that He lived a perfect life; He never sinned. They said He claimed He was the one true God, Creator of heaven and earth, on earth as a man, and they believed it. They believed that after being executed on a Roman cross He conquered death by returning to life. These people had lived with Him day and night for at least three years, and a few were relatives who knew Him from childhood. Also, they were Jews whose previous beliefs about God seemed to rule out such a thing. It would have taken some very strong reasons to overcome all their barriers to such an idea. He did not at all fit the Jews’ accepted job description for their expected Messiah, yet these people believed He was exactly that.
No one else in history has made the impression on his closest followers that Jesus did. Jesus was only a traveling teacher, unknown outside His own country, opposed by local religious leaders. Others were great leaders, teachers, soldiers, artists, etc., were admired and respected, and many of them deserved this recognition. But no one ever believed in them the way Jesus’ followers believed in Him.
It is commonly claimed that the concept of Jesus’ deity was invented by His followers posthumously, and that He Himself made no such claims. It is pointed out that He is never recorded as stating explicitly “I am God,” though He comes close in His statement to the woman at the well (John 4:26) and at His trial (Luke 22:66-70). But it is contradictory to assert that the disciples invented this concept but failed to insert it in their accounts. It is in fact a natural, almost unconscious implication of many recorded incidents. He taught with His own authority, not quoting others. He forgave sins, a prerogative of God. He accepted worship, especially after the resurrection. Perhaps the greatest proof that He claimed deity is that His enemies understood His claims more clearly than His followers did, and this is precisely the crime for which He was sentenced to death. All He would have had to do to avoid a horrible death is say “Wait a minute, you misunderstand. That is not what I mean.” But He did not say that, and His followers immediately, in the very place where it all happened, began preaching that He claimed deity and proved it.
No one has even imagined a perfect person in fiction. No other religion makes such claims for its gods or leaders. Where did such unique concepts come from?
There have been countless attempts to explain the origins of Christian beliefs about Jesus Christ, trying to disconnect the Christ of faith from the Jesus of history. The latest well-publicized one is the Jesus Seminar, a small group of “scholars” who picked from the gospels the small part that they considered authentic history, based on their anti-supernatural preconceptions. Their methods and conclusions never did represent the scholarly community as a whole, and have been thoroughly criticized by both Christian and non-Christian experts.
The resurrection storyWhat theory best explains the origin of the resurrection story? There have been many theories in the last 2000 years. A theory must explain the historical background, the lives and deaths of the apostles, and the contents of the story: It must be simple, consistent with all the facts, and reasonable.
Jesus’ predictions before His death that He would be crucified and would rise from the dead the third day
The role and attitude of the Jewish leaders who demanded His crucifixion by the Roman authorities
Peter’s denials of Jesus during His trial
The other disciples’ panicked disappearance
Professional Roman executioners
His side pierced with a spear, blood and water running out
The women watching while He was placed in a nearby tomb before sunset
Professional (Roman or Jewish) soldiers guarding the tomb
The stone rolled away from the door of the tomb when the women arrived early Sunday morning
The empty tomb
The empty grave-clothes, still there, neatly folded, just empty
The appearances: to individuals and groups, men and women, many places, day and night, unexpected, including to Paul on the road to Damascus several years later.
The Ascension, rising to heaven while the disciples watched
The disciples’ transformed lives and preaching, beginning in the city of the crucifixion a few weeks later
James, Jesus’ (half-)brother, who thought He was crazy during His preaching years but was a leader of the early church and probably author of the Epistle of James in the New Testament
The Jewish leaders’ inability to disprove the resurrectionThere are only four basic possible explanations. Accepting the account of His crucifixion and burial, the first question is whether He was later alive. If so, either He had died or He had not. If not, either the apostles knew He was not alive, or they did not; they were either lying or believed it.2. Discussion
First, consider the possibility that the apostles were liars. It would be impossible for eleven men all to face horrible deaths for something they knew was a lie. Also, if they were lying about the story, they would not make up a story in which they themselves were cowards who ran away, and Peter denied that he even knew Jesus. Lying also does not explain the empty tomb or the appearances. Finally, if the apostles were liars, how did they practice and preach the world’s highest ethical standard?
The New Testament says the Jewish leaders bribed the guards at the tomb to say they went to sleep and the disciples stole the body (Matthew 28:11-15). This story is obviously suspicious. It is ridiculous to say professional guards all went to sleep, and if they did, how did they know who stole the body? Even if they went to sleep, the disciples were not the kind of people who would take the risk of sneaking past armed soldiers. This story was obviously concocted in a panic before the leaders had thought it through adequately. This is really a variant of the theory that the disciples were liars.
No one (except the contemporary Jewish leaders) has ever seriously promoted the theory that the apostles were liars. It is included here only for logical completeness. So we can proceed to the other three possibilities.
If it was true that He was alive, then either He had died or He had not. The theory that was popular among 18th-century intellectuals in Europe was the “swoon theory.” They said Jesus only lost consciousness on the cross, and revived after a couple of days in the cool, quiet tomb. This must reject the item about the spear in Jesus’ side, and blood and water flowing out. If true, this means the membrane around His heart was pierced, if not His heart itself, and only immediate modern emergency surgery and intensive care could have saved His life. It is unlikely that professional Roman executioners would be mistaken in saying that He was dead. This story does not explain the stone rolled away from the door of the tomb. Even if Jesus regained consciousness with no food or water for three days in a cold, dark tomb, it is unlikely He could even stand up and walk out at all, let alone remove the heavy stone. And He would need to tear apart the grave clothes in which He was wrapped, leaving Him with no clothes at all. If His disciples found Him in such a condition, they would have honored and cared for Him, but would not be convinced that He had conquered death nor worship Him as their Lord andGod. So we can eliminate the swoon theory. This leaves two possibilities.
If it was not true that Jesus was alive, then could the apostles be mistaken? There are many suggestions; this is the only open-ended aspect of this subject. If you want to invent a new explanation of the resurrection story, work on this possibility.
One theory is hallucination, to explain the appearances. But this cannot explain the groups of people who saw Him all at once, nor all the different times and places. Nor can it explain the empty tomb, empty grave-clothes, open door, or ascension. The apostles did not act like they were mentally unstable.
Perhaps the women went to the wrong tomb. Perhaps the “angel” was actually the gardener, pointing at the empty tomb saying, “He is not here,” then pointing at another tomb and saying, “See the place where they laid Him.” But this leaves out the angel’s words “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is risen.” (Luke 24:5, 6) It does not explain the appearances, nor the Jewish leaders’ inability to disprove the resurrection story. If the body was still somewhere available, they would have found it and that would have ended the apostles’ preaching. Finally, the Bible emphasizes that the women watched while Jesus was buried before sunset; they would be unlikely to make a mistake.
Perhaps someone else stole the body. Who? Why? How did they get past the armed guards? It certainly wasn’t the Jewish leaders; if they knew where the body was.... And there are the appearances to explain.
Many other theories could perhaps be invented. But each would need to be evaluated in the same way we have evaluated these. None has ever earned general acceptance. Any attempted explanation or combination of explanations must contain highly incredible assumptions about human behavior and/or fortuitous circumstances.
That leaves only one other possibility. The only theory that is simple, reasonable, consistent with all the data, etc., is that the story is true: Jesus died and returned from death. The only basis for rejecting this as improbable beyond credibility is to make restrictive assumptions about the existence and activity of God, which we have already discussed extensively in previous chapters.
The Bible says the resurrection story has sufficient evidence: Acts 1:3; 2:23,24,32; I Corinthians 15:1-8; I John 1:1-3. This comes as close to sufficient evidence as it is possible to get. The resurrection of Jesus proves Jesus’ claim to be the Son of God, Romans 1:4, and God’s power to care for us now and forever, Ephesians 1:18-20. Jesus conquered death for us. If this is true, then the only reasonable thing to do is to believe Him.
We must briefly point out that Jesus’ resurrection is unlike the concept of reincarnation which is taught by some other religions. After His resurrection He was still Jesus; He did not return as someone else, or as some sort of animal.
Several of the books listed at the end of ch. 5 have a chapter on the record of the life of Jesus, and specifically the resurrection account. So do some of the books listed in sec. D, 3. Many books have been written specifically about this subject. A few examples are:
Ben Hur, by Lew Wallace. Many editions. This author was a Civil War general. He did not start out disbelieving, just unsure, and began studying the subject in response to a challenge from the atheist Robert Ingersoll. The result was a confirmation of his faith.
Who Moved the Stone? by Frank Morrison. London: Faber & Faber, 1930. Later editions by Zondervan and InterVarsity. Raised on skepticism, he intended to use historical research to disprove the resurrection, but to his surprise became a believer by the time he completed his research.
Christianity: the witness of history A lawyer sifts the evidence for the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, J. N. D. Anderson. London: Tyndale Press, 1969. SBN 85111-305-2
Evidence that Demands a Verdict, by Josh McDowell, has a chapter on the resurrection.
The Resurrection Factor, Does the historical evidence support the resurrection of Jesus Christ? Josh McDowell. Campus Crusade, 1981. ISBN 0-918956-72-2
He Walked Among Us, Evidence for the Historical Jesus, Josh McDowell & Bill Wilson. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1993. ISBN 0-8407-4277-0
The Historical Reliability of the Gospels, Craig Blomberg. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity. ISBN 0-87784-992-7.
Cynic Sage or Son of God? Recovering the Real Jesus in an Age of Revisionist Replies, Gregory A. Boyd. Wheaton, Illinois: Victor Books, Bridgepoint, 1995. ISBN 1-56476-448-6. An exhaustive response to the claims of the Jesus Seminar.
Jesus Under Fire, Modern Scholarship Reinvents the Historical Jesus, ed. Michael J. Wilkins, J. P. Moreland. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1995. A detailed reply to the theories that question the historical accuracy of the New Testament account of Jesus’ life.
The Truth about Jesus, ed. Donald Armstrong. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1998. ISBN 0-8028-3855-3. The contents of the 1997 Anglican Institute Conference, Birmingham, Alabama.
The Resurrection Report, A Journalist Investigates the Most Debated Event in History, William Proctor. Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1998. ISBN 0-8054-6372-0
The Case for Christ, A Journalist’s Personal Investigation of the Evidence for Jesus, Lee Strobel. Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 1998. An excerpt from
The Case for Faith. ISBN 0-310-23653-3
Faith on Trial: Would the testimony of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John stand up in court? An attorney analyzes the evidence for the death and resurrection of Jesus, Pamela Binnings Ewen. Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1999. ISBN 0-8054-2026-6
Finally, so as not to be totally one-sided, one book representing a viewpoint definitely sympathetic with the Jesus Seminar, though not quite totally agreeing with it:
When History and Faith Collide: Studying Jesus, Charles W. Hedrick. Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, 1999. ISBN 1-56563-235-4The resurrection of Jesus is the center of Christianity. If this is true, then everything else about Jesus Christ and the Bible is easy to believe. If it is not true, then everything else is amazing but not important, and Christianity is merely a package of pious principles with no essential distinction from other religions. Buddhists make great ado over a few purported teeth of Buddha. If a tooth of Jesus is ever found, Christianity will collapse.
I. The conversion and ministry of the Apostle PaulSome Bible experts consider this the second-most-important evidence, after the resurrection of course. My personal vote for that position would go to fulfilled prophecy. These two are strong contenders for second and third place.
Paul was originally Saul of Tarsus, a committed, well-trained, brilliant Jew, devoted to following and defending Judaism, the first leader of persecution of Christian believers, violently opposed to the new teachings of the Apostles. He sincerely believed they were in conflict with the teachings of the Old Testament, and therefore heresy, infidelity, an evil cult which must be stamped out for the good of the people and the glory of God. Suddenly he became the greatest missionary in the history of Christianity, the writer of many of the epistles of the New Testament, and finally a martyr. Paul made such a dominant contribution to Christian teaching and propagation that many skeptics claim Paul invented Christianity! What could have produced this 180 degree turnaround in his life? His own explanation was that Jesus Christ appeared to him one day as he was on his way to Damascus to arrest any Christians he could find there. No one has yet thought of a better explanation. So this must be placed near the sufficient end of the necessary-sufficient scale.
J. The date of writing of the original documentsFrom here on we leave the contents of the Bible and discuss its process of recording and transmission down through the centuries to the Bibles on our bookshelves. However authentic the revelation may have been at that time in the ancient world, how much do we know about it now?
The earliest writing in the Bible was probably the book of Job, about 2000 BC. The five books of Moses were written about 1400 BC. The Old Testament was almost all written in Hebrew. A few of the last parts were written in Aramaic, about 400 BC. These are the traditional dates, taking the text at face value. What evidence is there to confirm or dispute these dates?
The Dead Sea Scrolls (written 200-100 BC, discovered in 1948) prove the Old Testament was written well before 200 BC. The accompanying books express belief that the books of the Bible were ancient, authentic writings, and nearly all the evidence indicates they were in fact originally written long before 200 BC. See also comments on the documentary hypothesis, sec. D, 3.
The oldest existing copies of parts of the New Testament were written soon after 100 AD. Probably the earliest is a small piece of the Gospel of John, the John Rylands fragment, found in southern Egypt, dated 130 AD. This may be a copy directly from the original. Its being found in such a remote location indicates that it had already been in circulation for a period of time. John was the last of the gospels, and the one which most clearly teaches the deity of Jesus. Many skeptics claimed that it therefore must have been written several generations after the actual events of Christ’s life. The discovery of this fragment disproved that theory.
Many other fragments prove that the entire New Testament was written before the end of the first century, within the lifetime of Jesus’ friends and enemies. The evidence confirms what Christians have always believed, that the New Testament was written (in Greek) between 40 and 100 AD.
There is a strange double twist in skeptics’ theories about the writing of the four gospels. On one hand they once asserted as fact their assumption that the New Testament must have been written much later than the traditional first-century dates, because that would make its accounts questionable. On the other hand, Matthew, Mark, and maybe Luke have so much similarity in some parallel accounts that it is widely assumed by scholars, including conservative ones, that the writers must have obtained some of their material from an earlier document, dubbed Q. This places the earliest written account even closer to the original events, yet skeptics portray this as reason to doubt the accuracy of the story. Neither inspiration nor eyewitness authorship precludes use of reference material.
This point is neither necessary nor sufficient. By itself it proves nothing about whether the Bible is from God. Many other documents are also preserved from ancient times. But almost all skeptical theories of the origin of the Bible do not fit this fact of the date when the originals were written. Most theories assume the miracle stories and doctrines developed slowly during several centuries following the time of Christ. It is difficult to believe that they all developed within a fraction of a lifetime.
K. The preservation of the original textChristian faith is based on the contents of an ancient book, which claims to be a message from the God who created us, and therefore has the right to supreme authority in our personal life (see above, sections A, B, C). We are supposed to make all our important (and unimportant) decisions according to its teachings, even when that leads to apparent loss at the moment. Even given faith that the original events and writings were genuine divine revelation, are we sure enough now about the contents of those ancient documents to justify such strong faith in it? People facing martyrdom need to be sure enough about it to suffer and die for it!
We do not have any of the original manuscripts written by the authors themselves. We have many copies of copies of copies ..., written during the centuries after the original, some only small fragments, some complete. Of course what we now have is only a tiny fraction of the copies that were made; most have been wornout and thrown away. Only very exceptional conditions would allow an early copy to survive this long. Those few that now exist were lost for centuries in places with a very dry climate, fallen down behind a bookshelf or within a wall until finally discovered.1. Material
To determine what was written in the original manuscript, many scholars have spent their lives studying and comparing thousands of ancient copies, translations, and quotations in other books. Those who oppose faith in the Bible point to all the differences and problems, and claim that we cannot be certain what was originally written. However, the complexity of all this material is not a problem, but a solution. No other book from the ancient world has anywhere near as much material, with as short a time between the writing and the existing copies, as the Bible, especially the New Testament.
If only one copy had been made of the original, we could only wonder how accurate it was, and we would have no way to know. But there is no reason to doubt that several copies were quickly made of most of the original manuscripts, and sent to different places. We now have many copies of copies of…, and they were found in many different places, as indicated in this inverted-bush diagram. There was never a bottleneck, never any one person or place which possessed all the copies from which we obtain all of our present New Testament, and therefore there was no one who could have gotten away with altering its contents however they wished. We cannot make quite such a certain statement about the Old Testament. The final editing into its present form was probably done around 400 BC, perhaps done or supervised by Ezra. But as stated in connection with the Documentary Hypothesis (sec. D, 3), there is no basis for assuming that there was wholesale alteration and forging of the contents by these later editors.
Most of the thousands of differences among the manuscripts are trivial, unavoidable copying errors, and raise no question about the meaning. Comparison with other copies eliminates most of these errors. In the New Testament, there are only about 400 places where there is any question about the meaning of a doctrinal statement. Only about 50 are important questions. All of these are about a subject which is discussed in another place where there is no question. The essential doctrines of Christianity are all based on New Testament teachings, which of course extensively quote and interpret the Old Testament.
There are more uncertainties about the content of the Old Testament, but the Jewish scholars were amazingly careful in their copying. We do not have as much information about the meaning of Hebrew words as we do for Greek. Hebrew numbers are very easy to copy incorrectly. But the Old Testament is still by far one of the best-preserved ancient books in existence, second only to the New Testament.
As a condition for belief in the Bible, this point is necessary, but not sufficient.
This should be enough said on this subject, but there are two related questions on which there is often considerable confusion.
Canonicity means the status of a document as authoritative: When and how were these particular books chosen to become a part of the Bible?2. Canonicity
The Old Testament was accumulated through the generations of the Jewish nation, and accepted in that form by the early church. The New Testament and early church leaders quote from all parts of the Old Testament except a few of the smallest books, and often refer to it all as “the Scriptures,” which is God’s word. Jesus is recorded many times as referring to parts and the whole as God’s word.
Soon after AD 100 most churches were using the four Gospels, Acts (written together with the Gospel of Luke), Paul’s epistles to churches, Hebrews, James, I John, I Peter, and Revelation. The smaller epistles, written to individuals, were slower in being circulated. By 200 AD, almost all the present New Testament was widely accepted, with some question about the authors of Hebrews, James, and Jude.
Some early churches accepted some other books, written by their favorite leaders. Some of these still exist, and are valuable historical documents. But many have serious historical errors or other problems.
The church councils of Hippo Regius in 393, and Carthage in 397, made a list of the 27 books which make our present New Testament. They were representing long-established practice, not giving orders to change it. The choice was made on the basis of apostolicity, general acceptance, and the widespread sense of the HolySpirit’s confirmation as these teachings were believed and applied. No books outside the present 27 ever gained wide acceptance. They were clearly different from everything else. They were widely accepted, and nothing else even came close. There was discussion and even controversy at the voting councils, but there were no close calls, where some books narrowly missed acceptance and other narrowly gained it.
The Apocrypha is a collection of books which were written during the time between the Old and New Testaments. The (Roman Catholic) Council of Trent, in 1546, decided to make them part of the Bible, because they contained the basis for some of the Catholic Church’s doctrines which were rejected by the Protestant Reformation (beginning with Martin Luther in 1517). The Jews never accepted them, nor did the early church. There are no known quotations from them in the writings of the Church Fathers.
In the Apocrypha, I Maccabees 4:46; 9:27; 14:41 says there were no prophets at that time, so the writer certainly was not claiming to be one himself. This adds confirmation to the Jews’ and early Christians’ opinion, but this alone does not prove these writings are not inspired, because Ps. 74:9 in the Bible says the same thing, and Jesus accepted the entire Old Testament as inspired.
There are historical errors in some of them: Nebuchadnezzar is described as being in Nineveh (instead of Babylon), and a man who died in 758 BC is described as seeing both the revolt under Jeroboam (925 BC.) and the fall of Samaria (725 BC.).
This is a contentious point in some circles. To answer the first question, there are many reasons why there are so many English translations of the Bible, some of them good and some of them not so good (referring to both the reasons and the translations!). There is simply a very large market, and that market is affluent, educated, and blessed with political freedom and leisure time to do and say almost anything. It is true that no translation is perfect, and translation is at best a subjective process on which there is a wide variety of legitimate opinions and practices. I will not even try to begin here to list the best-known English translations, or compare them.3. Why are there so many English translations? Is the King James still the best?
There is of course a legitimate place for comparison and criticism of translations, and for personal preferences. The contention arises when some groups make the claim that the King James Version (of 1611 originally, with later revisions) was and still is the best English translation, to the extent of claiming for it some unique status as virtually inspired. They also cast aspersions on all other translations as unnecessary at best, in fact based on ulterior and heretical motives. In support of such allegations they list verses in which newer versions omit some words or phrases that are in the KJV, and this is interpreted as maliciously removing key biblical doctrines related to the Trinity, Jesus’ deity, and so on. They also ridicule the huge number of new versions, the questionable process and marketing of some of them, and the ongoing periodic revision of a few of them. All this is considered evidence of motives that are mercenary or worse, and admission of failure in accuracy of translation. In response I will make only some brief comments in principle; we cannot possibly get into the details here.
First, the issue is not what we think are important doctrines and passages on which they are based, but what the original authors wrote. When the critics of newer versions list these “lost” words and phrases, they forget to mention whether there is evidence that those words were in the original manuscripts. Thus they run the risk of claiming to correct the original authors, to whom these defenders of the KJV themselves attribute the authority of divine revelation.
The critics reject not only the English translations but the Greek (and Hebrew, but the focus is on the New Testament Greek) text from which it is translated. This text is the product of the complex scholarly comparison of ancient manuscripts, which is described above. Critics of newer versions extol the virtues of the Greek text used in 1611, and claim that although there have been many more and earlier ancient manuscripts discovered after that time, they do not in fact give a more reliable reconstruction of the original text, but rather are less reliable and should be disregarded. They also claim evidence of liberal bias in the process of comparison of manuscripts and revision of the “standard” Greek text, which has been ongoing in the 19th and 20th centuries.
In response, we must note that the ancient manuscripts are mostly available to qualified scholars, not held in secret somewhere, and there are many conservative scholars qualified to review them. No one could get away with a really serious distortion of the material. There may be some truth in allegations of bias in the research process, but the critics seem to be seriously overstating the problems.
Second, before we accept an accusation of deliberate sabotage of the Bible’s teaching, we must ask whether all the key texts on these points are distorted. The answer is “definitely not”; all the basic doctrines are still clearly supported in the current Greek text and in any reputable translation. So if there really was an attempt to delete these doctrines from the Bible, it was not successful.
Third, we must ask whether there are examples in the other direction, in which the newer translations include words and phrases not present in the KJV, supporting doctrinal points. The answer is that there are many such examples, so the critics’ own criterion could be turned against the KJV.
Fourth, stepping back slightly from this confrontation, we must ask how it could possibly be so important to defend a particular English translation. Those who speak English, while numerous and influential, are still a small minority in this world, and the entire debate is irrelevant to the vast majority. There could not possibly be a Spanish KJV, or French, or German, or Chinese (the world’s most widely-spoken language!), let alone in the languages of the thousands of small tribes in isolated locations. We who speak English are certainly blessed to the point of surfeit, with our shelves full of Bibles, while most of the world still waits for even one complete Bible in their mother tongue. This privilege is also a responsibility, which is not served by nasty squabbles about our versions. Such squabbles only confuse most bystanders, and give them the impression that no translation is reliable.
Fifth and finally, although it does seem inexcusable to have so many translations in one language while so many others have none, and some of the translations are seriously flawed, there is still legitimate cause for at least a certain number of translations, and ongoing revision of the ones we have. The English-speaking world is far from monolithic, spread across several countries and many social classes, and changing with time. A small part of that world can still be much larger than most of the still-untranslated language groups, if our priorities are to be guided by numbers alone. Having a limited number of translations done with varying, but still all competent, philosophies of the translation process, we thus have a valuable means of reference and cross-checking for the vast majority of us who have no hope of becoming competent in the original language.
I am a member of the last generation that grew up on the KJV, back when it was “the Bible,” and everyone carried a copy. We learned many Bible verses simply by osmosis, from sheer frequency of hearing them quoted from Sunday school to the Sunday service, as well as our own reading. This is what is still embedded in our memories, even if we have not read a KJV for years. Our children and grandchildren have an obstacle of profusion in the way of their Bible memorization, not hearing any one version often enough for osmosis to succeed, and uncertain even what version to choose when they deliberately set out to memorize. This is a considerable price to pay, and it would be desirable to achieve a broad convergence on a particular newer version.
However, I must point out that the good old days weren’t all good either. Sermons almost always required considerable time devoted to the explanation of archaic words or phrases, and the KJV is not above criticism in its accuracy of translation. There had come to be such a gap between “Bible language” and current speech that it was a significant barrier to those new to it. Even prayer for some reason had to be done with “thee” and “thou” and “thy” and “wouldst”, and those who hadn’t yet acquired this skill felt unqualified to pray in public or even in private. It contributed to the general impression that Christianity and God Himself had somehow gotten left behind in the 17th century and does not really understand the 20th let alone the 21st.
I am not aiming to degrade the achievement of the KJV Greek scholars and translators, but they weren’t perfect or inspired. I am not aiming to uphold any particular newer version, but language and culture do change, and there is a legitimate need for continuing production of new versions, and for ongoing revision of those versions. Such revision may be an indication of competence, not of subversion or failure.
If a particular new translation is especially suited to some types of people, and as a result they read the Bible more, and with more understanding, than they would have with some other translation, even a “better” one, then thank the Lord anyway. I would rather see people read a mildly flawed version that still leads them to the basic truths and a saving faith in God, than not read a perfect version (if one existed). And that is the reason this whole subject has been brought up in a book on science and faith. The legitimate debates on the relative merits of various translation methods and versions of the Bible need not be a barrier to anyone’s faith in the teaching and the God of the Bible.
This topic perhaps ought to be placed at the end of ch. 5, blind alleys. But it requires the background of this section.4. The Bible Code
Briefly, the Bible Code story is the claim that information is encoded in the text of the Bible, especially the Old Testament, that anticipates later and even modern events. The encoding consists of being spread through the Bible text in the form of choosing every n-th letter, with n from a few dozen to a few hundred. Some truly amazing things do turn up, such as the names of the apostles in a passage that is a Messianic prophecy, as well as information about the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Rabin, and the death of Princess Diana. The author is careful to clarify that this is not capable of producing fortune-teller type predictions, but only becomes apparent after an event has occurred and we know what to look for. This was published in a reputable journal of statistics in the mid-90s, very reluctantly, after first being rejected by the editor and referees, and reviewed extensively. The author challenged anyone to produce writing in which similar information is hidden, or find a similar phenomenon in anything besides the Bible, and the reviewers were unable to do so. In addition to that journal article, several books have been published by different writers. The conclusion is that only a superhuman intelligence could produce such coded information, especially about the distant future. This is the kind of thing that believers like to hear, and of course we believe that the God of the Bible is capable of encoding such information. The question is whether He did.
However, an article in early 1999 in the same journal contains an apparently effective refutation, specifically meeting the author’s challenge and finding exactly such amazing things in other books. Thus it seems that it is after all merely a matter of looking hard enough and long enough, and by chance something that looks relevant will turn up anywhere. The code is in the eye of the beholder. The details of this are in the book by Jeffery Sheler listed at the end of ch. 5.
One point made in that book is worth stating here. It is incredible that the precise original text could be preserved exactly down to the precise letter throughout passages of at least hundreds of letters, especially in the existing Old Testament manuscripts. This is what is necessary for such a code to be possible; a single misplaced letter would destroy the entire coded message. There are even different methods of writing ancient Hebrew. So it actually is rather embarrassing to find such a code apparently successful, and it is a relief to find the whole thing seemingly debunked. No doubt this is not the end of the story yet.
L. The survival and growth of ChristianityThe early Christians had no political power, position, wealth, organization, or weapons. From the beginning they were divided internally by argument and confusion about doctrine and behavior. Such conflicts were described and opposed as early as the later epistles of the New Testament. Christians were opposed at first by the Jewish government and religious leaders. Rome at first protected Christianity as a branch within Judaism, an approved religion. But the recalcitrant Jews wore out Rome’s patience, and the Empire destroyed Jerusalem and the Jewish system in 70 AD. Even before that it began attacking Christians, and continued to do so in various times and places through the next three centuries.
Why did the government turn against Christianity? They preached and practiced respect for rulers, honesty, marital faithfulness, kindness, and many more virtues. What more could society want? It wanted worship of Caesar, the emperor. The prescribed expression of patriotism was worship of the emperor, and refusal was considered as treason. The rest of the population saw no problem in adding the emperor to their already-long list of gods, or in giving insincere assent to his worship. But these strange Christians placed themselves in harm’s way by insisting that they could only worship one God, and it wasn’t Caesar. Christians’ refusal to participate in emperor worship was used as an excuse to kill thousands of them in many brutal ways. The problem was compounded by widespread rumors that the mutual sharing and caring within the Christian community included sexual orgies, and that their communion services used real blood from human victims.
Roman society was skeptical, materialistic, pleasure-seeking,
proud of its culture and philosophy - just the same as present-day Eastern
and Western society. People can have their opinions on whether the Bible
is suitable to modern society, but at least they cannot say that modern
or even “post-modern” society is basically different from the society in
which Christianity started and grew. Many people do say this, but it is
a baseless excuse for unbelief. It reveals ignorance about the Roman world.
The Roman Empire is long since gone, but Christianity is still growing. It is still divided, arguing, confused; the term “Christianity” is claimed by so many groups and ideas that it is almost meaningless. It has seemed to be on the verge of collapse for 2000 years, and many branches of it have risen and fallen. Church history is a catalog of constant chaos. Its greatest danger has actually been from its friends, not its enemies. But the basic teaching of the Bible has continued to spread, and it is the only truly world-wide religion.
How can the survival and spread of Christianity be explained except as God’s work, guiding, protecting, and using His word and His workers? Its survival is of course a necessary condition for belief, and it is so amazing that it approaches sufficient.
M. The opposition it has faced, physical and intellectualFirst, there has been physical opposition, direct attack on the property, body, and life of Christians.
From the Roman Empire until the present, Christians have been accused of every possible crime, and ridiculed and killed. No other religion has faced this kind of opposition and still survived. Islam spread with a sword in its hand. Communism grew with a gun in its hand - and has mostly collapsed anyway in less than a century. There have been more martyrs for their Christian faith in the 20th century than in all previous centuries combined.
We must confess that Christians have also used a sword on some occasions: during the Crusades in the Holy Land, during the late Middle Ages in the Roman Catholic Inquisition, during some much smaller persecutions by Protestant groups, and in present-day ethnic battles in Ireland and Lebanon. But in all these cases the battles were actually politically motivated, with religion borrowed as an excuse, directly against the teachings of the Bible. It made no contribution to the spread of genuine Biblical Christian faith, and in fact has driven a large number of people away from belief in Christianity. The abominable actions of the Crusades a thousand years ago are still the Moslem world’s largest objection to Christianity. And the Jews have been widely persecuted in the name of Christ, with predictable reaction in their opinion of Christianity.
A brief comment is in order at this point to correct a widespread misapprehension, namely that attacks between Catholics and Protestants were nearly a tit-for-tat draw. Notice the comment above that persecutions by Protestants were much smaller. The respective body counts differ by at least one hundred to one. Any such persecution by Protestants at all is reprehensible, and tragic for its victims. No one denies that some occurred. But there was nothing comparable to the virtual genocide carried out by Catholic forces against Protestants, such as the massacre of the Huguenots in France. Notice that nearly all the early immigrants to America came to find religious freedom, specifically Protestants seeking refuge from Catholic attack. Catholic refugees from Protestant attack were a tiny minority.
Second, there has been much intellectual attack, ridiculing and attempting to disprove Christian faith. One major purpose of this book is to respond to such attacks.
Believers do not hide from society, but attempt to explain their beliefs and answer all questions. There have been outstanding scholars among conservative Christians through all generations, experts in every aspect of philosophy, history, language, and science. As mentioned in the introduction to ch. 4, many people seem to assume that there has not been a single thinker or scholar in 2000 years of Christendom. But I have not yet seen an “expert” critic of the Bible who mentions and refutes all the facts listed in this course. This indicates to me that the open-minded, reasonable conclusion is to believe the Bible.
At first this point seems to be neither necessary nor sufficient for belief. Any viewpoint will be criticized. But it is at least necessary, because the absence of opposition would prove that the Bible is not God’s word. The Bible says there is a devil, Satan, who has a large number of other, lesser, fallen angels in his service, and whose most important goal is to destroy the plan of God for this world and the human race. If we looked around and saw no opposition occurring, that would be a reason to doubt the Bible.
N. The Bible’s influence for good in societyThis point is too subjective to classify as either necessary or sufficient. The reader must judge its significance.
In the first place, what is “good”? Good is in the eye of the beholder. And yet there are many things that virtually everyone agrees are good: love, comfort, development of personal abilities, and freedom from violence, disease, and other generally recognized evils.
Furthermore, it is arguable whether the Bible has promoted good in the world. Many professing Christians have done many things that most people do not consider good, from arguments in the early church, to medieval Crusades against Moslems in Palestine, to religious wars in medieval Europe, to two world wars started between “Christian” European nations, to the faults of your Christian friends and neighbors and the churches in your home town.
The simple response is of course that we trust Christ, not Christians. Nobody ever said Christians are perfect. But there is more to say. The faults of Christians are not so easily excusable.
Most people consider the Bible to be the world’s highest moral standard. But this raises two objections. Is this just Christians’ prejudiced opinion? And even if it is true, is it helpful in practical life?
To answer the first question briefly, non-Christians have made statements agreeing that the Bible contains the highest moral standard of all. Who but Jesus Christ could teach us the Golden Rule, to love our enemies and do to others as you wish them to do to you? Perhaps the world’s second-highest standard is Confucius, with his famous exhortation “Do not do to others what you do not want them to do to you.” But even that is a negative statement, which falls far short of actually loving our enemies, blessing those who persecute us, returning good for evil, and leaving vengeance up to God.
Also, Christianity is unquestionably regarded as requiring conformity to its standards, not mere mental assent. You often hear comments about “How could a Christian do that?!” but when does anyone wonder “How could a Buddhist (or Moslem, Hindu, animist, agnostic, atheist) do that?!”
But the second question then comes: is it practical? It is no use to set a standard that no one can attain or intends to. But it seems that this is all that is expected in most people’s minds. Religion is a set of moral rules, and people are proud of their possession of a set of rules, yet pay little attention to following them. Anyone who does so is remarkable, a holy person, devout, set apart from ordinary life and society. We have often been told by Chinese people that they do not need Christianity, because they already have a moral standard. And we are commended for our exceptional devoutness in choosing a lifestyle and career centered around obeying and spreading our faith, even if that faith is considered narrow and prejudiced. The average Chinese person does not “have time” to be a Christian, expressing the concept that real practice of a religion requires withdrawal from society.
Christianity does require obedience in everyday life. The problem is that so many Christians do not obey the Bible. Does this mean the Bible is useless? It would if all Christians were seriously disobeying it. But not all of them do. Some Christians are outstanding, respected, loved, trusted. They do not withdraw from society. Though they refuse to be controlled by its standards and values, they are part of it and contribute to it. It is intensely practical; society would function far better if more people were like them, although that would result in unemployment for most of the police, lawyers, jail wardens, and locksmiths, and close down the liquor, gambling, tobacco, and sex industries.
When someone complains about all churches being imperfect, I tell them, “When you find a perfect church, please don’t join it. Then it won’t be perfect any more!” We of course cannot use this as a reason to excuse the faults of Christians, but on the other hand one important function of the church is for Christians to love and care for each other even though we are still less than perfect. It is people who have problems who are most likely to realize they need God and become believers. The church’s reason for existence is to accept and care for such people. Jesus said He came to call sinners, not the righteous (Matthew 9:13), though the Bible clearly teaches that no one is really righteous. Jesus was replying sarcastically to self-righteous critics.
You don’t blame the hospital because all the people who go into it are sick or injured, but judge it by how their condition is improved during their stay. Don’t judge Christians by comparing them with other people who have fewer faults; compare them with what they themselves used to be like. Give God credit for their progress, not blame that they still aren’t perfect. This is the balance between excusing all our faults and demanding perfection. Of course, some things demand a radical change; there is no virtue in murdering fewer people today than you did yesterday.
People outside the church tell us about the church’s faults; do they think we on the inside don’t know about a lot more faults than they do? Do they think that if we knew we would stop believing?
From the time of Christ onward, the influence of Christianity on society has mostly been what anyone would consider “good.” It has promoted the value of every individual, particularly respect and care for children, women, the poor, handicapped, and minorities. At the time of Christ a large proportion of the population of the Roman Empire were slaves; it was a slave-based society and economy with no concept of human rights. Within 300 years slavery had been abolished. This was not because Christians protested it, or revolted violently, or demanded their rights. The New Testament does not approve slavery, but neither does it condemn slavery or teach a specific doctrine of civil rights or democracy. In fact, it tells slaves to do their best to obey their masters. It teaches that all people are of equal value in God’s sight. A slave-owner who became a believer might find himself in church on Sunday alongside his slave as a brother in the Lord, perhaps even as a leader in the church. This unavoidably affected their relationship during the week too. Gradually the Christian way of thinking influenced the entire society, and slavery became unacceptable.
Christians were the leaders in almost every social reform movement before the 20th century in the West or anywhere else. No other philosophy or religion has successfully rescued so many people from the control of alcohol, drugs, crime, broken marriages, family conflict, and other conflicts. The only really effective way to change society is to change individuals, which is the subject of the next section. Modern scientific research, the concepts of hospitals, public education, personal counseling, and democracy all developed and spread in the Western world when it was most strongly influenced by Biblical teaching, even though the Bible does not specifically teach any of these things.
These liberating social concepts and services were spread around the world by Christian missionaries beginning in the 18th century, reaching its peak in the late 19th and early 20th. They started most of the schools and hospitals in Asia and Africa, especially those that provided services for women, children, the handicapped, and other disadvantaged groups. Most of these missionaries worked sacrificially, motivated by their love for God and His love for others. We must admit that they made many mistakes in misunderstanding and rejecting the native culture and way of life. A few so-called missionaries exploited the people and resources, and thus became personally wealthy and influential. But those who blame missionaries for all these faults must also admit that most of them suffered poverty, rejection, and sickness. Many of them and their children died and were buried there. 19th-century missionaries to some parts of Africa knew that 19 out of 20 of them would be dead within two years from tropical diseases, before they even had time to learn the language and spread the gospel. They brought their belongings with them in a casket, not expecting ever to return home. Some other places were almost as deadly. Yet they went.
Many of their national students and patients became believers, and leaders not only of their churches but of their nations and further social reform. It was Chinese Christians who banished the excruciating practice of foot-binding for girls from their society, and led the beginning steps toward democracy. The staff of early missionary hospitals and schools throughout Africa and Asia were mostly national believers, because no one else was willing to perform these services. Christianity brought compassion and care to societies that previously had nothing better than heartless and superficial handouts motivated by the givers’ desire to accumulate merit for themselves. Because Christians are not living for this world’s benefits, they are the most free to care for it, free to give to it without expecting to receive anything in return from it.
I do not belittle the commitment and sacrifice that has been demonstrated by many non-Christians in social reform efforts, particularly in the 20th century. But I do wish to point out that an objective, balanced evaluation shows that the origin of most of these movements was based squarely on a Christian heritage. Review the descriptions of “heathen” life in sec. D. Those customs went on for centuries, and their native religions seemed to have no interest in opposing them. The rare protesters were extremely counter-culture. It was only under the influence of Christian teaching and concern that reforms were begun. There have of course been many abuses in “Christian” societies as well, but these are mostly due to departure from Biblical principles, and would be corrected by a return to those principles.
It is actually quite amazing that the Bible has had a good influence on society. It does not discuss any basic philosophical issues as such, but it gives a comprehensive world view and value system. It gives no specific instructions for government or economic systems, not even opposing the Roman Empire or slavery, but the countries which have been most influenced by it have been the world’s most politically stable and economically prosperous. It tells us how to live under any system and improve it by improving people. There is no simple solution for the world’s political and economic problems.
Democracy requires brief specific comment. Most Western Christians consider democracy to be a basic Christian concept, and many tie capitalism into the package as well. This is a faulty, even dangerous, viewpoint. When built on a foundation of Biblical principles, democracy and capitalism have brought many benefits. But without that foundation both become chaos and oppression. No system is good if people’s heart is wrong, not even democracy, which will soon collapse into anarchy if most people use it as an excuse for selfish, destructive activity. This has happened in most of the formerly communist countries, and is happening also in Western and Eastern capitalist countries that reject Biblical principles. Societies prosper when they follow Biblical principles (even when they do not believe the Bible, such as post-war Japan), and collapse when they do not, which is happening before our eyes in post-modern society.
Hell cannot tolerate democracy, and heaven does not need it. Democracy is a fragile, highly inefficient balance between restraint of human evil and development of human virtue. When people have no self-restraint, they need imposed restraint to prevent anarchy. Science and freedom grew in the soil of Biblical beliefs, and Western society is now determinedly pounding that soil off the roots. How long can the plant survive? (See also the discussion of current trends in ch. 5, V, B.)
The Bible also has no direct instructions about the environment, but it produces respect for the world as God’s handiwork entrusted to our care. It forbids cruelty to animals, forbids greed and destruction, and gives value, purpose, and restraint to both work and pleasure. If we all followed these principles, the environment would be getting better, not worse.
Along with the benefits of the Bible’s influence on society, we must compare this with the influence of the lack of Biblical influence in many societies, including much of our own.
Sec. D, 5 discussed the lifestyle of the Canaanites whom the Israelites were instructed to eliminate. No doubt those people lived much like similar primitive modern-day idol- and spirit-worshipping tribal societies do throughout the world, with constant fears of the unknown spirits and darkness around them, and of neighboring tribes with whom they are constantly battling. They live an exploited, troubled, and usually (mercifully) short life, and many of them are extinct or nearing extinction due to murder and disease. Disease is common due to unsanitary and outright injurious practices entwined in their religious and social customs, aggravated by home-brewed liquors and inadequate nutrition. Worst of all, and very strangely, these miserable people influence everyone around them to join in their misery. Beyond a certain degree of severity, this is like cancer, which must be removed before it destroys the entire body. That is precisely what God intended to do with the ancient Canaanites, who exceeded the tolerable severity.
Superstitious folk-religion practices blame many events on malicious spirits, and it is not uncommon for a string of events to be traced by the village shaman to the spirit of a particular person in the village. That person then faces the instant alternative of death or banishment, often resulting in the breaking of a family because a parent must flee never to return. It is unfortunately often the mother, and her subsequent life as a fugitive is difficult to imagine, as well as that of the suddenly bereft children and father. Or the person may get off “easy” with some sort of sacrifice that is ruinous to their already destitute financial condition, or else some sort of taboo that restricts their already insufficient nutrition. There is no such thing as the “happy heathen” who would be very well off if they were just left alone, and whom missionaries do more harm than good; that is a figment of anthropologists’ imagination. Anthropologists’ television documentaries somehow fail to mention these aspects of life, and instead blame missionaries for disrupting and damaging their culture. They are strangely less zealous in reporting the disruption brought by logging and other development, not to mention “modern” entertainment and social behavior. In most primitive areas nowadays, it is the missionaries who are in the forefront of efforts to preserve languages and cultures from extinction under the onslaught of the global village, as well as rescue them from the devastation of their original practices and bring them the positive aspects of modern health and services.
Much of this is also true of many technologically modern societies, and was worse until the recent past. What goes on in many societies around the world is not widely known in more prosperous and educated circles. Children are widely abused and exploited, especially orphans and girls, and infanticide is common. However much this may be extenuated by conditions of poverty and lack of birth control, the casual and fatalistic outlook on it is still shocking. Women are deeply second-class members of many societies, hardly considered more than property and baby machines, and subject to destruction if they prove unsubmissive or incapable, or even simply inconvenient. Many baby girls were either actively killed or passively exposed to the wild in many primitive societies, as well as highly cultured China and India. The centuries-old practice of excruciating non-anesthetized “female circumcision” is still widespread in Moslem society. Millions of Chinese girls were kept under virtual house arrest until their wedding day, arranged without their consent by their parents and others, at which they met their husband for the first time, and thereafter were a prisoner in his house. In “preparation” for this role, many of them endured the torture and handicap of bound feet beginning in their early childhood. Fortunately, that ended in the early 20th century, and only a few elderly women could still be seen tottering on tiny feet when we arrived in Taiwan in 1976. In India for centuries widows were burned alive on their husband’s funeral fire, and often thesewidows were young girls. The forced marriage of these young girls in the first place is a gross abuse which still continues, even though fortunately the burning has been eliminated. But sexual exploitation in temples and tourist centers continues unabated in many countries around the world. There is no country in which sexual abuse of children does not occur, but there are countries in which it is flagrant and the government and society seem not to care.
While we are considering the condition of the “heathen,” (a term used in past generations by Christians to refer to all others, often pejoratively) it is worth pointing out what is becoming of our “modern” society which is turning away from respect for a higher authority. It also seems to be heading toward extinction, just like primitive heathen; the only difference is that our weapons of mutual murder and self-destruction are guns, industrial pollution, or even nuclear weapons, and our fatal diseases are mostly sexually transmitted.
Abortion is one of the primary battlefronts in the transformation of our society. We practice infanticide shortly before birth instead of shortly after, but that distinction is being zealously blurred by the practice of abortion, particularly the grisly barbarism of partial-birth abortion. It is amazing that even the advocates of abortion are willing to call their opponents “pro-life.” What is the opposite of life? But rather than call themselves pro-death, they call themselves “pro-choice.” The problem is, whose choice? It is not merely a matter of a woman’s body and reproductive freedom. There are at least two other persons involved in this choice. The smaller of them is unable to speak, and is given no participation at all in the choice. The larger one, the father, often is absent and irresponsible, or even present and irresponsible, but there are cases in which he is opposed to the abortion but ignored.
The pro-choice movement exploits the legitimate concerns of involuntarily exploited and abused women, and makes that an excuse for attempting to evade the consequences of voluntarily practicing a promiscuous lifestyle. The professed compassion of pro-choice advocates will be more convincing when they stop evading the question of when an embryo becomes an individual, and particularly when they acknowledge the problems of post-abortion syndrome experienced by most women who have an abortion. They experience depression and feelings of guilt and loss, and no effort at all is made to help them anticipate or deal with this. Only Christians are making efforts to provide an alternative to abortion, and provide compassion and support in all problem pregnancies whether aborted or completed.
The value of children after birth is being dragged down along with that of the yet-unborn, with rising rates of abuse and even death. It is no wonder that such a society is displeased by the idea that God exercises discipline of nations according to their behavior. If God does not do something, He will have to apologize to Sodom and Canaan.
The departure from Biblical concepts also opens the door to redefinition of marriage and the family. Is the drastic increase in divorce and remarriage resulting in greater happiness? That may be difficult to answer, because of the amount of unexpressed unhappiness in past, more traditional, generations. Be that as it may, the experiment does not seem to have been much progress. As for departing even further from Biblical norms, into same-sex marriage, that was discussed briefly in ch. 4, IV, B, 1, and more in sec. IV below.
These problems are of course not a pretext for us to presume to eliminate any individual or group, by murder or war, for our own purposes (see also ch. 4, IV, B, 3 on the results of suffering). According to the Bible, government is established to provide justice through due process. Individuals are forbidden to carry out personal revenge. There is no conflict between Biblically authorized capital punishment and the Biblical command “You shall not kill.” Government is authorized, and responsible, to provide justice and protection, and those in authority are placed there by God and will give account to Him for their performance. This Biblical teaching was almost all given in a context of monarchy, not democracy, but we discussed that already.
Not only does the Bible not directly address political issues, it seems not to answer the basic philosophical questions, at least not in the terms in which the philosophers ask them, about ethics and epistemology and so on. But if this is used as a reason to reject the Bible, it seems that naturalism does not answer any of them either, but has led to despair over finding any answers. The Bible does give information about the origin, condition, and destiny of the universe and human life; if those are not philosophical questions, then the philosophers are asking the wrong questions.
We need standards, but no other religion or philosophy has successfully provided a basis for its ethical standards, nor power to change the human heart to enable us to obey it. They have standards, and goals, and many people accept them, but they have no ultimate answer to the question “Why?” Why should we do good to others, serve society, etc? They can only appeal to our feelings, in which case you either feel like agreeing, or you don’t. If you don’t, they have no more to say. And even if you agree, you often are unable to do as you wish you could.
Ancient philosophy in both East and West had no basis for absolute standards. Only the Hebrew Old Testament and Christian New Testament taught that there is one true God Who is absolute. European culture for a few recent centuries accepted this, and during that time produced modern science, prosperity, and (to a limited extent) successful democracy. But they soon began trying to reject the basis but still enjoy the benefits, and those in power committed much exploitation both within their own countries and elsewhere in the world. They even often linked it with their professed Christian faith. Among those openly renouncing the Bible, the history of Western philosophy in the 18th and 19th centuries was a series of unsuccessful attempts to build a standard of truth and ethics on reason and science alone, without being based in God. In the 19th century some like Nietzsche realized it could not be done, and in the 20th century this realization became widely accepted. Nietzsche went insane, and the “free” world at the beginning of the 21th century is following his example. But they still are unwilling to return to faith and obedience to God, the beliefs on which progress was once built, preferring the “freedom” of hopelessness and relativism. They can only cling to a baseless optimism that we can somehow, someday, solve our increasing problems. Or they resign themselves to pessimism.
It is frightening but true that not only Nazism and Marxist communism, but also modern non-Christian Western “free” society, is based on these ideas, hoping we can solve all of our problems using education, science, technology, and government. It is a curious and dangerous phenomenon in modern society, that there is widespread simultaneous assent to two mutually exclusive principles: the individual’s right to unrestricted freedom of action and choice, and the government’s duty to protect everyone from any harm or danger due to her own or others’ behavior. This ambivalence appears in many forms. People talk about tolerance, pluralism, and relativism, but as soon as they experience personal injury or loss they make some very absolute statements about their “rights,” “should,” “should not,” etc. We demand freedom of thought and expression, yet expect our educational system to mold our children’s thoughts and values. And that contains a double contradiction, because the thoughts and values which are permitted to be propagated in public schools aggressively exclude anything remotely approaching Christianity’s standards of absolute right and wrong, let alone an explicit Biblical basis for them. Atheistic naturalism is the established religion of the US today, in the guise of avoiding offense to anyone’s beliefs (except of course Christians, who deserve to be offended). And in the application of this policy, it is forbidden for teachers or students to mention in the science classroom or anywhere else that there are any legitimate doubts about the theory of Darwinian evolution as the explanation of our own origin (ch. 6, II). So much for academic freedom, let alone freedom of speech. Once again, when we remove God from our life we must make ourselves God.
All genuine efforts at improvement of laws, society, and environment should be done, and there is certainly room for improvement, but there is no hope that they will succeed in improving individual human nature, and society is composed of individuals. With the Biblical conceptual base largely rejected, it is doubtful whether science, prosperity, and democracy can long survive in Western society, let alone grow in other societies where the attempt has been made to transplant these concepts and systems without any such conceptual base. The world news is not encouraging as I write this in 2000.
This rejection of absolutes extends not only to moral issues but to the very concept of truth itself. Post-modernism is the assertion that there is no absolute truth of any kind, that what is true for you is not necessarily true for me. In response, I ask (for the umpteenth time) “Is there absolutely no truth?” and assert that that is not true for me. Tolerance and diversity are the current supreme virtues, but they are given a contradictory definition that tolerates no possession or assertion of convictions. In the US there are now even laws against “hate crimes,” which were passed on the pretext of responding to some truly shocking incidents of violence against people of different races, religion, or sexual preference simply because they are different. But these laws are sometimes being applied as outlawing the expression of one’s own religious beliefs, and particularly of sharing them in a way intended to influence others to adopt the same beliefs. The most grievous offense of course is to express Christian beliefs, and many suspect that this was the real goal for which these laws were formed in the first place. All this in the name of tolerance, in “the land of the free and the home of the brave.” To pass and apply such a law is itself a hate crime.
These laws are a legal can of worms that lawyers will spend years disentangling, if it can be disentangled. They make a special offense out of harming particular groups of people, thus giving less protection to those who are not included in such groups, and this is an obvious case of unequal rights. The outcome will be interesting to watch, and in the meantime make sure you are neither in a hated group nor in an unprotected group…
Post-modernism even undermines the use of language. It includes the principle of deconstruction, in which literature can mean anything to the reader, unconstrained by the meaning the author had in mind. Therefore words do not really mean anything. And post-modernists really mean this! Such a glaring self-contradiction is of course suicidal, and is obvious to many thinkers who have no Christian convictions at stake, only their own sanity and civilization which is being dismantled in the “culture wars” going on throughout the academic world, and expressed so pervasively in our “entertainment.” Logical or not, it is being applied to our life and society with disastrous consequences.
Post-modernism will no doubt before long pass into the philosophical history books along with many similar predecessors, only to be succeeded by similar lunacy in still another new guise. Without a concept of truth, where else can our society go? This is a dead end. It is not an argument about accuracy of different maps, but the rejection of all maps.
As applied to legal questions, this is the basis for the current trend toward a “living constitution” and legislation by the courts, handing down decisions based on the judges’ personal philosophy with little regard for the meaning intended by the authors of the Constitution let alone other laws or elections. This is a subversion of the entire structure of democratic government and legislation, but that is to be expected when the basis for democracy has been jettisoned.
This is the alternative to the Bible’s influence on society, occurring before our eyes.
Given these 14 points about the Bible (plus one more below), how can we explain the writing and survival of this book? The authors were either prophets (or apostles), liars, or lunatics. The only simple, reasonable, consistent theory is that they were prophets, and that there is a power far greater than the ability of the human writers, which guided them in writing the Bible. This power is the God of the Bible, who claims to be the Maker of heaven and earth and us. Throughout history He has been changing the lives of those who believe in Him, and He continues to do so today. That is the following, final point.
IV. The experience of believers in the God of the BibleThis can also be considered as the 15th fact about the Bible: Its power to change individual people’slives. This was partly discussed earlier, in ch. 5, V, B, on psychological challenges to Christian faith, and also in the previous section which focused on the Bible’s good influence on society as a whole. Here the focus is on individuals.
The experience of believers is in many ways subjective, unlike the objective facts of the universe, living things, and the Bible. It is impossible to compare different people’s experiences and feelings directly and quantitatively. But it is an objective fact that so many people report certain types of experience in connection with the Bible. As was mentioned in ch. 3, VI, on other religions, there is also a power in them, and various types of experience of that power. It can only be left to the reader to make his or her own comparison of the accounts of believers of various religions, and perhaps also personal experience of various worldviews and the resulting lifestyle and state of mind. That comparison was begun at the end of the previous section.
In this book I have often criticized Christians’ mistakes in thinking and behavior, but I do not want anyone to be afraid to become a Christian for fear of associating with Christians as I have described them! My purpose is just the opposite, to prevent these things being an obstacle in the way of people believing in Jesus Christ. I hope that if we Christians admit our faults, and aim to correct them, this will make it clear that our faults should not be blamed on the Bible and God.
Also, in this section I want to balance those criticisms with an emphasis on the virtues Christians have demonstrated. Despite all their faults, joining a group of Christians should be, and often is, one of the benefits of believing in Jesus Christ. This has been my own experience, particularly among Chinese Christians who are willing to accept me despite the difference in language and cultural background. Five minutes after I have met a Chinese Christian whose work and interests are far different from mine, I feel closer to him or her than to a non-Christian American whom I have known for years and with whom I share many common interests. Christians are the family of God.
The Bible not only teaches a high standard. It puts us in touch with God, who has power to enable us to change toward conformity to that standard. It produces a life of contentment, responsibility, and honesty. It gives guidelines for both structure and love in family relationships and child-raising, in work and government, in joy and sorrow.
This includes not only Christian believers, but also all believers during the Old Testament period before Jesus Christ. Thus it includes many who would be called Jewish or Hebrew, Catholic, and Protestant, but not all of them; membership rolls do not reliably reflect heart commitments. It even includes some who are members of cult groups (ch. 4, I) but do not fully understand or accept all the deviant teachings of the group. There are many such members who simply, humbly acknowledge their sin and trust Christ for forgiveness; what more does the Bible require? The tragedy is that these groups do not teach their members about the deliverance and blessings that are theirs through faith in Christ. And I include among “believers” those who have no contact with the Biblical revelation, but sense the presence and love of God and respond to Him to the extent of their understanding (ch. 4, II, A). Their experience is limited by their limited understanding, but it is still significant. In the rest of this section I use “Christian” as a brief generic label for all such believers, briefer than “believers in the God of the Bible.”
Christians report many experiences of God’s care and guidance in their personal lives. When Christians read the Bible, they feel there is a power beyond their own, a supernatural power which moves, helps, changes, and teaches them. Some have experienced unmistakable miracles of various types. This seems especially necessary in societies dominated by fear of spirits, where there is common experience of the power of spirits to both reward and punish the behavior of the people. In such circumstances, people rightly want to see a demonstration that the power of the God of the Bible is greater than that of the spirits, before they dare disregard the spirits and commit themselves to faith in God. This is the legitimate function of a “power encounter,” a clear-cut demonstration of God’s power to evict other spirits from people and objects, and restrict their activity.
The danger of course is that we must not regard God as our servant, in competition with other spirits to court our patronage, and expect Him to respond to a “But what have you done for me today?” attitude. He has not promised that believers in Him will never experience persecution, illness, failure, disappointment, or accidents, in fact He assures us that such things will occur. Christian faith is not a magic charm. So the need and provision of a “power encounter” demonstration is subject to His decision, not ours. Books by Neil Anderson emphasize that the crucial issue is a “truth encounter.”
Many including myself have not seen obvious miracles, but have seen provision, protection, “fortunate” events, and answers to prayer that are not miracles in themselves, but happen so often and so precisely that it is impossible to explain as mere coincidence.
The term “answer to prayer” is usually used to refer to instances in which God acts as we request. This is too narrow a definition. He always answers, but often His answer is either “not yet” or “no.” We must accept His right to follow His wisdom which is far higher than our short-sighted wishes. Review ch. 4, III.
Supernatural events are an important and essential aspect of life in touch with God, but they are not the central issue, so they will not be further discussed until later in this section. The focus must be placed on everyday life. Christianity seems to have a very negative image in this regard. Many people think being a Christian means enduring many restrictions and constantly feeling guilty and worthless. Christianity is often portrayed as kill-joy, ascetic, even masochistic, repressive, psychologically unhealthy. Unfortunately, many Christians seem to think so too! “Why can’t Christians drink, dance, smoke? What’s wrong with some kinds of books, magazines, movies and TV programs? Isn’t it hard resisting so many temptations? What do you do for fun? It seems like everything that is fun is either illegal, immoral, fattening, or causes cavities.”
These questions show a basic misunderstanding. Christians are not restricted; in I Corinthians 6:12; 10:23 Paul says all things are lawful for him, but not all are profitable, and he will not be controlled by anything. “Why not?” is the wrong question; the correct question is “Why?” When you choose the best things first, you don’t have time to finish them, let alone ask the “Why not”s, nor have any interest in them. It is too much fun doing the most profitable things; anything else would be boring, a waste of time when there is so much else you would rather do. To those who drink, dance, smoke, etc., I ask “What do you do for fun?”
The Bible does not mention smoking. Fortunately they had not yet discovered it. The Bible definitely accepts moderate drinking of wine, though distilling alcoholic drinks had not been invented. What the Bible forbids is being controlled by anything but God, including being drunk. Smoking also controls people; they cannot stop, even when they very much wish to. In their teenage years people prove their “courage” by starting to smoke, and in their 40s by stopping. In fact some people have so much courage that they have stopped many times.
In modern society smoking and drinking are almost always done in places and ways that are an expression of a way of life that a Christian cannot join in. Drinking and smoking have either a sedating or stimulating effect on our emotions; Christians do not need this kind of peace or happiness.
Smoking and heavy drinking are definitely harmful to our bodies. A Christian’s body belongs to God, so he or she does not have the right to damage God’s property. Also, the Holy Spirit lives in a Christian, and it is very bad manners to blow smoke or pour excessive alcohol in His face! If there is a genuine medical problem, there are far better ways to treat it.
Both practices have a strong influence on the health and well-being of those around us and related to us. The physical effect of second-hand smoke is just the beginning. This is not merely a personal matter.
Now for what is probably currently the hottest potato. Modern society seems preoccupied with physical pleasure, and often specifically sexual activity. Christianity is often considered to be opposed to sex in general. Some comments were made about this in ch. 4, IV, B, 1, in connection with AIDS. There always are numerous examples of Christians now who take a very negative view of sex, and those who were even more so in medieval European monasteries, or in Victorian England. It is popular to take these as representative of all of Christianity and the Bible, in order to try to justify the opposite extreme. But the Bible does not support this repressive view of sex, in fact it gives sex an important role in life as one of God’s good gifts. And that is precisely why restrictions are placed on it, to protect its value and benefits as a good aspect of marriage, not to suppress it as something inherently wrong. We do the same with anything we consider valuable and meaningful in our life and closest relationships. There have been surveys about sexual satisfaction carried out by both Christian and non-Christian organizations. Even the latter, to their surprise, had to grudgingly report that the highest rate of satisfaction was reported by those adhering to Biblical principles. The Bible’s teaching is intended to increase, not decrease, our enjoyment. God loves us and aims to increase our happiness, not make us miserable. By the way, this was the view of the 17th- and 18th-century Puritans in England and America, the popular prudish caricature of them notwithstanding. The Puritans were not puritanical, but Biblical.
This is why Bible-believing Christians are opposed to pornography, public nakedness, premarital and extramarital sexual activity, and homosexuality. Such things damage the intended and possible benefits, and thus damage the people who do them. There is no such thing as a victimless crime or strictly personal matter; everything one individual does affects him or her, and therefore affects relationships with others. Ask the spouses of men hooked on pornography or women hooked on romance dramas and books. Anything that derails one person’s capacity for a healthy married life produces devastating waves in the lives of those who are, or who would have been, involved in that person’s life. The most visible examples of this are the stars of entertainment who are unable to behave in a mature, stable manner, and suffer the consequences which are reported throughout the news media. Millions of other examples occur every day, with little publicity but great cost to society.
The very people who accuse the Bible of having a negative view of sex, themselves use as a swear word a four-letter word referring to sexual activity. It is not Bible-believing people who invented such words or attitudes. It is not the Bible that considers sex as disgraceful, but such abuses of it that degrade it. And this is why Bible-believing people oppose those abuses.
A conspicuous aspect of this vast experiment is the “sexual revolution.” Actually it is nothing revolutionary at all. Hollywood and sociologists did not invent lust and indulgence. It was a highly developed skill in ancient Greece and Rome, and in Canaan and Sodom long before that. Most who participated in this revolution in their youth are willing to say they now regret it, but of course that statement is somehow not spotlighted in the news.
It is a one-way street, an irreversible process, to change from a person who has not experienced pre- or extra-marital sex to one who has. You can never return, only repent, be forgiven, and make a change “from now on,” but the results and regrets are still there. See the discussion of sinning and repenting in ch. 4, IV, B, 1. I have never heard anyone who followed Biblical guidelines and now regrets it. My wife and I did, and don’t. Both experiments have been done, and the results are in. Which one would you prefer to repeat? See also further comments later about happiness.
It takes love and commitment to make sex meaningful, not vice versa. That love and commitment is expressed and formalized in marriage. Not all marriage contracts do express that, which is often used as an excuse to bypass such a contract. “Our relationship doesn’t depend on a piece of paper.” This is true, but lack of such a piece of paper certainly can indicate that something crucial is lacking in the relationship. A partner who equates love with sexual activity does not understand love, and anyone who has such a partner will be much better off without him/her. Those with no partner at all often think one, any kind, would be better than the loneliness with none, but the divorce courts are full of those who have one and wish for the good old loneliness again. Heaven help those for whom children have come along to further complicate the situation, not to mention those children themselves who are enmeshed in such a mess through no fault of their own.
This is a disproportionate amount of time spent on the subject of improper sex, because it seems to be the current preoccupation. The Bible does not lay so much emphasis on the subject, but has much more to say about proper, healthy relationships.
I saw a cartoon somewhere years ago. In the first frame, a person is peering between bars shouting “Let me out!” In the second frame the viewpoint is backed up quite a ways, and it is apparent that the bars are a curving fence, and the person is on the outside of it. The third frame backs up further, showing that the fence encloses a small area, and behind the person is a vast plain stretching to the horizon. The final frame shows the entire fence, and enclosed within it a smoking volcano crater.
The secret of resisting temptation can be summarized as “Minimize the benefits and maximize the consequences.” (This comes from Bill Gothard.) An action seems attractive if it seems to have greater benefits than consequences. If we see clearly how little and brief the benefit is from a certain action, and how much and how long the undesirable consequences will be, then it is not even a temptation any more.
Satan is a master salesman; he has been very successfully selling a totally destructive product for thousands of years! Satan’s strategy is ingenious, already well-developed in the Garden of Eden and refined with practice ever since. He tantalizes us with the attractive side of a certain object or behavior. “Just once. That won’t hurt you. Try it. You can always quit. Satisfy your curiosity. God didn’t really say don’t do it. He doesn’t object. In fact, He wants you happy, and this will make you happy. Be smart. Find out what you’re missing.” That is the voice that spoke in the Garden of Eden, and we should learn to recognize it. So we do it just once, thinking that will be that with no consequences. But it is an irreversible transition from never to once. Those who haven’t done it can become ones who have, but those have can never becomes ones who haven’t. And of course once is never enough; if it was pleasant once, twice will be even better. And a third time. And soon we can’t quit. Curiosity becomes habit which becomes compulsion which becomes obsession, and by the time we are no longer enjoying it and honestly wish to stop we are trapped. It may be smoking, drinking, abuse of other drugs, overeating or other eating disorders, pornography, sexual affairs before or during marriage, homosexuality, gambling, stealing, shopping, gossiping, anger, physical abuse of others, controlling others, or many other things, some of them “respectable” in society and even among Christians.
But the voice that initially whispered “It won’t hurt you” now has reversed his tune and shouts within you “You’re ruined, hopeless, helpless, guilty, stupid. God could never love or accept you again.” And most people believe this lie just as much as they believed the first one.
Other religions and therapy methods can report success stories in changing people’s lives for the better, and solving their problems. Any system and principle is better than none. Psychiatry is effective in observing and classifying problems and apportioning blame on others, but it has little help to give when you have lost control of yourself, let alone of the situation. Radical feminists also are right about many of the problems, but seem unable to advocate any better response than for women to behave as brutally as the men they criticize; this is not progress.
An approach based on obedience to and dependence on the God of the Bible can easily produce successful examples outnumbering all other methods one hundred to one. Millions of people have been delivered in this way from all of the above-mentioned compulsive, antisocial behaviors and restored to constructive members of their society and family. Jesus said “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.” John 8:32. Seeing the deception of Satan’s temptations, and the reality of God’s love and eternal plan for us, we are free to choose what is best.
This does not mean that all temptation and failure is instantly magically gone forever after. There are some stories that come close to that ideal, but they are exceptional. The problem is that because they are exceptional they are noticed and publicized, and because all that is publicized is that way we get the impression that it is normal ? a very contradictory state of affairs, but true nonetheless! Long-ingrained habits are not usually changed easily or quickly, nor their sources and consequences totally removed. In this life there is always the opportunity for reversion. But progress can be made, helpless control by the old habit can be broken, and freedom can be experienced a moment at a time. This is the testimony of countless former slaves of all the sins listed above.
The currently hot topic is, once again, promiscuous sexual activity. There is great resistance to the concept that this is something that we need to be delivered from, let alone that deliverance is possible. It is especially not “politically correct” in the US to say this about homosexuality. But with all due kindness and compassion to those involved, the Bible requires it to be said. And so do the facts.
To say so is even placed in the category of “hate crime,” and associated with incidents of violence against homosexuals. Such an association with hate crimes is unjustifiable, and the news media practice a glaring double standard in their emphasis on incidents of violence against homosexuals but not on such actions by homosexuals. The Bible condones no such violence, and the well-publicized few who claim such a basis for their acts against homosexuals are only using it as a pretext for their own mental instability. There does seem to be considerable hate in this situation, but from whom against whom?
As for the facts, the truth is that those who practice homosexual behavior are desperately seeking secure and fulfilling relationships, but never finding them, which is tragic. Their quest for happiness (next topic) is never successful. It is not a happy lifestyle, as many of them admit, and especially as reported by those who have experienced escape from it. And there is the further fact of sexually transmitted diseases which decimate the population practicing such behavior. These are preventable diseases; the prevention is a simple change in behavior, not billions of dollars of research and treatment, though of course the research and treatment should be done for the benefit of those already suffering, and for other benefits that will no doubt result. But there is no such thing as “safe sex” outside of monogamous marriage, and this will continue to be true even if research does one day find a cure for these diseases. Unrestrained behavior will still continue to be ruinous to psychological health and personal relationships. It is not hate but compassion to attempt to lead its victims to a different way.
There was a well-publicized research project which claimed to find a genetic connection with homosexuality, and thus indicated that it is a legitimate physical condition for which the individual is not responsible. There is also homosexual behavior among animals, and this is sometimes cited as a justification for such behavior by humans. However, the research project was done by a homosexual, which raised immediate doubts about its validity, and a few years later one of his associates admitted that the data had been altered, so that the results were not valid. That fact has somehow not been so well publicized. As for animal behavior, do we really want to take their behavior as our standard?! They are brutally amoral, with many other behaviors very few would dare advocate imitating. What assumptions are implied in such an argument?
Happiness is not found by seeking it. When Christians first become believers, it does remove some of their problems, but it also brings new ones, probably more than before (review ch. 3, III). But they have peace and happiness anyway. They do not seek their own happiness, but God’s and others’, and as they do so they find their own happiness, or rather it finds them. Of course, one reason they seek the happiness of God and others is that they believe it will in the end be best for themselves too, but this does not mean we “serve God” only for a selfish motive. There is such a thing as genuine love for God and for others that is not simply a disguised selfishness, and is not seeking immediate or even long-range reward for its own sake. We feel we are capable of that kind of love for other people, so why not for God? He is most worthy of such love. Motives are always complex, and it is probably impossible for us to understand our own motives, let alone others’. We must beware of obviously wrong motives, and beyond that not get bogged down with endless self-analysis. It will spoil our peace of mind and happiness!
The quest for happiness for its own sake is the great experiment of the late-20th century “free world.” The United States Declaration of Independence claimed the right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” but this generation assumes the right to possess it. The remaining totalitarian states of the world are rightly reluctant to join in experiencing the decadent consequences that are so evident, though of course that does not legitimize their oppressive practices. There is no simple answer, short of a change of heart in each individual. The results of the experiment are ghastly, though very few of the participants seem willing or able to see the connection between cause and effect. In fact they often blame the problems on purported restrictions, and claim the solution is still more “freedom.” But it is plain nevertheless in statistics, the nightly news, movies, songs, your neighborhood, school, street, and sadly even church. Has seeking happiness made us happier? The facts say no. Movies and songs betray the failure of the experiment, filled with loneliness, heartbreak, emptiness, anger, and despair. Portrayals of pleasure-centered “happiness” in movies and books are wildly unrealistic and fleeting at best. The experiment is obviously a disaster, yet the rest of the world and the next generation are stampeding to repeat it and do even worse. Why? Only because they are unwilling to find the better alternative offered to those who become obedient children of the God who created heaven and earth. Satan’s swindling salesmanship continues to succeed.
Jesus emphasized His paradoxical teaching that happiness is not found by seeking it. Several times He taught that whoever saves his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Him will find it. Mt. 10:39; 16:25; Mk. 8:35; Lk. 9:24; 17:33. Something repeated this many times must be important.
What about feelings of guilt and unworthiness? Psychologists teach us to ignore guilt as an illusion, a product of our background and society, but the Bible says there is real guilt. The Bible emphasizes our guilt as sinners, and our unworthiness of God’s grace. That is the bad news, but there is good news. God does not leave us there. Guilt can be dealt with on the basis of Jesus Christ’s payment for sin in our place (ch. 6, III, C). Guilt is a good place to begin a commitment of faith in Christ, but a Christian who spends his entire life burdened with unrelieved guilt and unworthiness has failed to progress. We are infinitely valuable in our relationship to God as His loved, eternal children. He does not wish to leave us forever miserable under a burden of unrelieved guilt.
We have all done things we cannot forget, which injured ourselves and others, for which we are really guilty. It is not only the murderer, child abuser, drunk driver, or bank robber who has a problem. Only the Bible offers hope for this, a genuine escape for “big” sinners and all the rest of us. No other religion can do this, or dares even offer it. Most deny that it could be possible. We need not be trapped forever feeling undeserving of good, deserving of punishment, never knowing how much punishment is enough, in fact knowing there can never be enough. Jesus paid enough.
This does not bypass the need for appropriate apology and restitution to the persons involved if possible. In fact this is one test of the sincerity of our repentance in our heart before God, and is an essential aspect of the healing process. Nor does it bypass natural consequences, nor legal penalties where applicable. Forgiveness does not mean pretending the sin never happened, only that the wrath of God will not fall on us for it. It means God is now on our side in dealing with the unfortunate consequences. We are relieved of our fear of God, and of our sense of alienation from Him when we most need His care and comfort. We are not waiting for Him to “cool off.” He is waiting to respond instantly to our repentance and confession.
However, there is also false guilt, an unnecessary sense of blame for things which we in fact did not choose, and cannot control. This is a trap, and God does not place us in traps, so that tells us where this does come from: Satan, who is intent on finding ways to spoil God’s plan of blessing for us. He has many helpers. Parents blame their children for their own problems, and expect small children to solve adults’ unsolved problems. Teachers and parents blame children for being normal active easily distracted human beings with limited and varying abilities. Cultures set up impossible standards of heroic achievement and behavior, and give no help in achieving them or accepting failure.
Only the Bible gives an absolute standard, on the basis of which we can consider all other standards as false, and therefore be freed from them. God accepts us now, requiring only childlike trust, not impossible demands as prerequisites for acceptance. This gives us hope and power to begin to change. Forgiveness is a prerequisite for change, not vice versa. With the problem of guilt and punishment solved, we can have a positive outlook on the evil and suffering we experience, as explained in ch. 4, IV, B, 2 and 3.
As was discussed in ch. 3, VI, on other religions, some types of supernatural experiences are not unique to Christianity. The spirits behind other religions also have supernatural power. But Jesus’ authority is highest, so Christians need not fear these spirits, but can escape their control. Other spirits must obey when obedient Christians command them in the name of Jesus and His precious blood, but no other spirit has ever been able to assert authority over the Holy Spirit of God or the name of Jesus Christ.
The effect of supernatural experiences from other spirits is sooner or later to produce fear, loss of self-control, hopelessness, and helplessness. The effect of supernatural experiences from God on Christians is unique, causing them to trust God’s love and care for them, giving joy and peace of heart. This is based on a confidence that God has a good plan and is accomplishing it, and there is a coming day when all problems will be solved and we will understand the purpose of the events God has caused and allowed to occur. On that day we will consider that the price was an incredible bargain for what we receive (Romans 8:18). Review the discussion of evil and suffering in ch. 4, IV.
Speaking of Christians’ supernatural experience, however, there is one problem area: many Christians talk about being “filled with the Spirit,” or “baptized with the Spirit.” These phrases are in the Bible, but many Christians’ definition of them is based on their own experience, which is a special occasion and feeling, often very emotional and involving speaking in an unknown language (or at least ecstatic sounds unintelligible to anyone present), and perhaps also other unusual actions such as rolling on the ground. Many people watching this find it frightening, especially if they see similarities between it and the activities of the demon-possessed mediums in folk-religion temples.
I have not had such an experience, and I am not comfortable with seeing it either. I cannot deny that it is in some cases genuinely from God and beneficial; I have some friends to whom it has been a great help in their sense of relationship with God. Churches that emphasize such experiences are called Pentecostal, full-gospel, or charismatic, and they include most of the fastest-growing churches throughout the world, especially in Latin America, Africa, and Korea. Supernatural experiences have been the crucial turning point to faith, or to understanding God’s love and grace, in many people’s lives, including some of our friends. For all this we are of course thankful, and cannot deny that it must be a work of God. But this must not be the primary basis of our faith or our sense of relationship with God. In Mk. 12:38, 39 Jesus said wicked people ask for miracles so they can believe, and this statement is also recorded several times in other gospels. It must be important. Jesus did many miracles, but He did them at His choice, not theirs, and if they still did not believe they had no excuse.
The problem is that such experiences are so easily misunderstood, and their outward manifestations can so easily be counterfeited by evil spirits, that it is a very complex situation and must be handled very carefully. No one needs to fear becoming a Christian because they think all Christians must have this kind of experience. The Holy Spirit does not “possess” us against our will like evil spirits do to some people. Such experiences are the subject of I Corinthians 12 to 14, which is virtually all devoted to warning against abuses that result from emphasis on such powers, and ch. 13 teaches the superiority of emphasizing love.
There is a large number of people for whom such experiences,
or the lack of them, have been a hindrance to faith, if not a major life
crisis. They were told, or at least had the impression, that this is the
standard God intends for everyone, so they sincerely sought it, often at
a highly emotional meeting surrounded by many people experiencing such
manifestations. They experienced nothing. This left them concluding that
God rejected them, which must mean they were unfit to become a Christian
or at least enter into this more advanced level of contact with God. A
sizable proportion of patients in mental institutions in the US connect
their emotional breakdown with such an experience. They were already weak
and desperate, and if God Himself rejected them it was just too much to
cope with. Contact with such patients is one reason many psychiatrists
are opposed to Christianity. This is an unnecessary tragedy for both the
patients and the psychiatrists.
This has unfortunately become a controversial subject among conservative Christians. The Holy Spirit is supposed to be the source of our mutual love and unity! Some people take the position that such miraculous activities were a unique work of God in the first-century church, and ceased in that generation, so that all present-day instances are a work of the devil. The other extreme is that it is certainly God’s will for every Christian now, and some even make it the criterion by which to determine whether or not you have obtained salvation. I find no Biblical basis for either extreme. What the Bible does teach is balance, caution, the sovereignty of God, and mutual respect and acceptance.
It is a serious misinterpretation to connect such experiences with the Biblical terms “baptism of the Spirit” and “filled with the Spirit.” It is not supported by the passages in which these terms occur. This is not the place to go into a study of this subject, but only to point out that it should be studied. We must interpret our experience by the Bible, not the Bible by our experience, saying “This is what happened to me, so it must be what that phrase in the Bible means.” We also cannot make others’ experiences our standard, not even events in the Bible, unless the Bible explicitly teaches that God has made it a general principle.
Life’s final supernatural experience is death. If they are not drugged into unconsciousness, many Christians in their final moments express peacefulness, happiness, and often even describe seeing heaven, angels, and other sights. Non-Christians usually die in fear and despair, sometimes describing demons and the terrors of hell. There are no reliable statistics, but this was common knowledge of doctors and nurses of earlier generations (but see ch. 3, VI, E).
Christians are as reluctant as anyone else to face the pain that may precede death, but they do not fear the aftermath. In fact they look forward to it. It is a conflict of emotions, torn between separation from loved ones here and finally joining Jesus whom they love even more, and others gone before in heaven, e.g. Paul’s feelings in Phil. 1:23-25. And we cannot even imagine the joy of entering heaven, forever freed from this world’s cares, pain, disappointment, loss, and decay. For those left behind there is of course the grief of separation, but it is not the hopeless grief of those who do not believe, I Thess. 4:13. A Christian funeral is a farewell party, not the outpouring of grief, mourning, and despair that is the best all other religions can offer. We who die as believers will all be together forever, and will finally be able to get along with each other, which unfortunately seems so difficult here.
This is an endless subject, which must end here for now. It is sufficiently subjective that most things I have said cannot be quantitatively proved. But millions of believers from the time of Adam onward have experienced the benefits of faith in the Bible’s truths. The unique authenticity of the Bible as God’s Word is confirmed by the experience of those who believe and obey Him, and of those who do not. The reader must make his or her own comparison between these two alternatives. Does our modern society demonstrate a freedom and happiness that is worth passing up the peace and purpose experienced by Bible-believing Christians? Who is making a sacrifice?
If you are not yet a believer, this should be a strong reason for you to at least hope that the Bible’s claims are genuine, that it is our instruction manual for life from our Creator. You can seek answers to whatever factual stumbling-blocks may stand in the way of your acceptance of its message, and submission to its God; that is the subject of most of this book. But for many people its ability to meet our everyday needs is by itself sufficient evidence on which to base a step of commitment.
Given these four sources of information about God (the universe, living things, Bible, and believers’ experience), the only simple, reasonable, consistent explanation is that He exists, and is like the Bible describes Him.
The only reasonable response to this fact is to trust and obey Him, accepting the opportunity to become His children now and forever. Romans 1:19, 20. If this is not sufficient basis for faith, what would be? If we wait until we are directly coerced into submission to God, that will not be faith, and we will have forever missed our chance. The Bible says there is such a day coming.
This is the conclusion of this long chapter. I hope this book thus far has helped you to understand yourself, the Bible, and God better. If you are a Christian, I hope it has helped you understand what the Bible teaches, and why we believe it. You will then be able to answer questions better when others ask you what you believe and why. (I Peter 3:15)
If you are not a Christian yet, I hope this has helped you to understand the Bible and Christianity better, and most important to understand the God of the Bible. I hope it helps you overcome the barriers which have made it difficult for you to believe, and helps you begin your own personal relationship with Jesus Christ.