Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Does Evolution have more Explanatory Muscle than Design?

Which paradigm – evolution or design (ID) – best explains the findings? Not only does each species reflect profound evidence of design, each displays an elegance of functionality. This is opposed to what evolutionist had predicted - a hodgepodge of non-functional “leftover” organs (“vestigial organs”), accumulated from its ancestral life forms. (If an organ has no function, then it would contradict ID’s prediction/assumption that every organ has a function.)

Evolutionists had identified at least 200 human leftover/vestigial organs as proof of evolution. However, as new findings arrived, proving that these non-functional “leftovers” actually have a function, the definition of “vestigiality” had to be revised. Consequently, Wikipedia now makes a claim that is far less bold - that “vestigiality” is not a matter of non-functionality but of lesser functionality:

  •  Although structures commonly regarded "vestigial" may have lost some or all of the functional roles that they had played in ancestral organisms, such structures may retain lesser functions or may have become adapted to new roles in extant populations.

However, since these vestigials are admittedly serving some use, albeit “lesser functions” – but perhaps we fail to grasp the fullness of their functions – they can no longer be confidently called “vestigial” or “leftover” organs. Instead, they reflect design by virtue of their functionality. Score “1” for ID!

I think that we have become insensate to the overwhelming evidence for design. Bruce Malone offers the woodpecker as one example of intelligently integrated design features:

  • The woodpecker’s beak is unlike any other birds; it is so tough that it won’t shatter when it hammers a tree hundreds of times a minute. The stiff tail feathers create a tripod with its two short legs. The foot of a woodpecker has two toes in front and two toes in back whereas most birds have three toes in front and one in back, allowing the woodpecker to move all around a tree trunk… he has a built-in shock absorber in his head. Special cartilage between his head and beak absorb the pounding… the woodpecker’s tongue is four times longer than its beak. Its long slender tongue is used to probe inside insect tunnels in the tree. When it finds an insect, barbs on the tip of the tongue will poke the insect. To make sure the bug is secure, the tongue is coated with a sticky glue-like substance that glues the insect on. This special glue does not stick to the woodpecker’s beak. (Inspired Evidence)

If any of these features were not simultaneously present, the woodpecker would die. While ID can explain the simultaneity of these features, evolution cannot.

Malone also provides the incredible example of the bat, who finds its prey by echolocation:

  • To make high-pitched sounds, a bat has a specialized larynx which makes intense, high-frequency ultrasounds. From these ultrasonic sound pulses and their echoes, bats can determine the distance, size, shape, surface texture and speed of their prey… Within a few thousandths of a second, the bat has built a mental image of its surroundings – much like we do with our eyes.

However, in order to do this, larynx, ears, and brain all have to be simultaneously fine-tuned and coordinated together in a way that staggers our understanding. Nevertheless, this doesn’t prevent the evolutionist from expecting to find a natural mindless explanation.

If we apply the little we know about the products of design and the products of a chance collision of mindless forces, it would appear that the entire biological world reflects the workmanship of an intelligent Designer.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Unity, Disdain for Theology, and Bishop Tony Palmer

We are overflowing with words, ideas, arguments, worldviews, verbal self-revelations, and i-messages, and yet theology has become a dirty word. This disdain takes many forms, even among Christians. Here’s one Facebook example:

  • I'm done debating theology… I trust in the mercy of The Lord, that he knows I call His name. I can't get caught up in the minutiae of everyone's different theology - everyone tugging in different directions. I have to go with what makes the most sense to me, where I see the most unity and continuity and what speaks to my soul.

This “theology” reflects the thoughts and feelings of many, and their disdain for theology. Okay, theology requires work and much of it is become culturally unacceptable. Besides, Christians disagree, but so do scientists, but nobody uses this as a rationale to reject science. Instead, it should be a reason to do more hard work!

Even more important than this, theology – the truths about God - are not optional. Jesus explained to a Samaritan woman He had encountered at a well that worship had to entail truth:

  • “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, [and because of this] salvation is from the Jews [- the distinctive revelation given to them]. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” (John 4:21-24)

Truth (theology) is a necessary ingredient of salvation and worship. We are not at liberty to conjure up any understanding of God that might feel right to us. I can’t even do this with my wife. She wants to be loved and appreciated for who she is! If I love her because she reminds me of my first flame, our “relationship” is in jeopardy. Instead, love and relationship must be built upon a foundation of truth.

Paul had a similar concern about the Galatians. They were straying away from the truth of the Gospel:

  • I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—  which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse! (Gal. 1:6-9)

Today, a growing number of people believe that they can have Jesus without the Gospel or theology of Jesus. However, Paul passionately argued against such an idea. Turning to a different Gospel is also turning to a different hope and Savior. If we turn to a different gospel, we turn to a different “Jesus” – one that cannot save. Therefore, to embrace Jesus was also a matter of embracing His Gospel – His theology (teachings).

We care about how others regard us. God too cares profoundly about our thought-life regarding Him. In a dream, He warned King Nebuchadnezzar how he had to think about God. The Prophet Daniel interpreted his dream:

  • “This is the interpretation, Your Majesty, and this is the decree the Most High has issued against my lord the king:  You will be driven away from people and will live with the wild animals; you will eat grass like the ox and be drenched with the dew of heaven. Seven times [or “years”] will pass by for you until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone he wishes.” (Daniel 4:24-25)

Evidently, the King didn’t take this warning to heart. After all, it was just a matter of theology! A year later, while standing on top of his palace overlooking Babylon, the King exulted:

  • “Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?” (Dan. 4:30)

He was immediately struck down with insanity, and for the next seven years he thought he was a cow, until his mind was restored. Then Nebuchadnezzar acknowledged the very theology that God had revealed to Him and was restored to power.

To reject the knowledge/theology of God is to reject God Himself. Therefore, Paul warned that when Jesus returns:

  • He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. (2 Thess. 1:8)

If we have rejected His Gospel, we have also rejected Him. We cannot separate the salvation of God from the truth of God; nor can I separate the love of my wife from knowing about my wife. As I have come to better know about her, our relationship has deepened.

Although we live in an age that pours forth words and communications of various sorts, it is also an anti-intellectual age. The immediacy of experience has trumped the contemplation and acquisition of wisdom and knowledge. In our postmodern age, what is “true” for me might not be “true” for you, but there is a high value placed on self-fulfilling experience – immediate gratification that doesn’t interfere with your lifestyle as doctrine would. Therefore, Peter’s words sound unbelievable to this generation:

  • Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him. (2 Peter 1:2-3)

This is troubling for another reason. Knowledge makes demands and even issues personal rebukes (Prov. 1:29-30). Wisdom also requires work (Psalm 1) and it raises uncomfortable questions about “unity.”

While unity is something that is required (Eph. 4:1-5; John 17:20-23), we cannot create unity where none exists. Even the most skilled midwife cannot bring forth a baby where there is none! Fr. Tony Palmer is an Anglican Bishop, but he is also an official member of the Roman Catholic Ecumenical Delegation for Christian Unity and Reconciliation. In his work to bring about unity – a return to the RCC – he equates the Protestant emphasis on doctrine with “spiritual racism” that “divides what Christ had united.” In a UTube video, he condemned any “doctrine” that would cause division, claiming that in doing this, “we elevate doctrine higher than the cross itself.”

Palmer attempts to separate theology from the cross, as if they are two distinct things. However, the cross is doctrine/theology. When we embrace the cross, we do not embrace a literal tree but instead, the teachings of the cross – the Gospel.

Besides, Scripture often teaches division instead of unity, where there is no Gospel-basis for unity. Paul argued against being “unevenly yoked” and the need to be “separate” (2 Cor. 6:14-18).

Admittedly, Paul didn’t teach separation from other Christians (except in cases of church discipline), but it’s just hard to know where and how deeply to draw the line. Who are the true believers? Should we embrace all who claim Christ as Savior – the New Age Jesus, the mystical Jesus, the Prosperity Ministry, the Televangelists, the Mormons, the Jehovah Witnesses, the Catholics, the Postmodern, Emergent, Agnostic Church? Should we separate completely? When does their Jesus become another “Jesus” and another “gospel?” How do we know where there is a “unity” worth preserving and presenting to the world?

These can be perplexing questions. However, rather than allowing the quest for unity to reduce theology to the lowest common denominator, we have a Scriptural mandate to be faithful to what we already understand about God:

  • So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who does not condemn himself by what he approves. But whoever has doubts is condemned if they eat, because their eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin. (Rom. 14:22-23)

We must remain faithful to our theological beliefs. If we compromise them for the sake of “unity,” we sin. But we must also grow into the doctrines of the Bible, and God gave us teachers and pastors to provide us a theological foundation:

  • Until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. (Eph. 4:13-15)

According to Paul, unity and stability could only be achieved through growth in “the knowledge of the Son of God.” Consequently, we are not at liberty to throw away doctrine and theology for the hope of “unity.” Instead, these are the foundations of unity.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Resolving the Tension between our Freewill and God’s Sovereign Determinations

Here’s the conflict – although the Bible doesn’t mention the word “freewill,” it teaches as if this concept is beyond any dispute. So much of the Bible is about our responsibility to pray, obey, worship, and to study Scripture and the consequences we incur when we fail to fulfill these responsibilities.

However, there are many equally compelling verses that indicate that, through God’s unchanging plan, sovereignty, and oversight over His creation, He exercises even greater control over human events. He brings nations to the exact place He wants them to be to accomplish His purposes. He sets their national boundaries and times of flourishing. Here are just a few verses that we tend to overlook:

  • “And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their pre-appointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings.” (Acts 17:26)

  • The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes. (Prov. 21:1)

  • Lord, You will establish peace for us, for You have also done all our works in us. (Isaiah 26:12)

  • John answered and said, “A man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him from heaven.” (John 3:27)

  • A man’s steps are of the Lord (Prov. 20:24); The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD. (Psalm 37:23)

  • For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. (Eph. 2:10)
These verses don’t mean that God causes everything – He certainly isn’t the Author of sin – but it does mean that He ordains everything (Eph. 1:11), either by causing, guiding or allowing things to happen.

Here is one example of how we struggle to combine these concepts of our freewill responsibilities and God’s unchanging plan and providence over our lives.

  • If God has really prepared for me the good works I am to do and has promised to direct my steps, I shouldn’t have to look around for a job. Instead, He will provide it. Nor would I even have to pray about this since He has even determined beforehand how my life will play out! (Psalm 139) 
Although we know that this reasoning is faulty - and that we must assume responsibility for our lives and our sins - it is hard to find fault with simply trusting God, if God is truly in control of our lives. But there is really a very “easy” resolution to the conflict between our responsibility (human freewill) and God’s all-embracing, providential and immutable plans. Accept them both! If we trust God, we will do as He says!

This is the Doctrine of Compatibility. It affirms that our freewill responsibilities are somehow compatible with God’s control of His creation. This is one of the truths about our infinite God – like the Trinity – that we finite beings cannot fully rationally understand. However, we believe in these truths because they are so deeply reflected in Scripture.

In fact, we already do believe in Compatibility! We believe that Scripture is fully the product of God – fully God-breathed (2 Tim. 3:16). Yet we also acknowledge that, to some extent, it is also the word of man.

Paul claimed that his teachings were actually the Word of God:

  • And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe.(1 Thess. 2:13) 
Nevertheless, Paul’s writings reflect his own humanity, style, focus, experiences, emotions, and choices in many ways. He wrote about friends, enemies, and gave personal greetings. He chose to include certain personal references as freely as I choose to order a slice with pepperoni instead of mushrooms. (I cannot doubt my free choice without also doubting everything I think and understand. Such skepticism undermines all thought.)

However, I suspect that Paul, as he taught and wrote, always prayed that God would guide his choices, thereby acknowledging that he freely made choices as God directed him – Compatibility!

You will probably respond, “That just doesn’t make any sense. These two concepts cannot be compatible.” However, Scripture consistently regards human responsibility as compatible with God’s providential control. Paul put these two concepts together this way:

  • Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. (Phil. 2:12-13)

While we have the responsibility to work out our salvation, this is because our Lord is at work within us to give us the right desires and thoughts, to convict us of sin and to illuminate Scripture. Therefore, even if we have labored mightily to understand His Word, He gets all the credit: 

  • But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. (1 Cor. 15:10)
Paul even credited God with his hard labors and everything good that he had accomplished. Paul believed in Compatibility! After “many days” at sea on route to Rome in the midst of a great storm, the sailors lost hope of survival. Paul informed them of the revelation he had received from his God: “There will be no loss of life among you, only the ship” (Acts. 27:22).

Coming from God, this prophecy was written in stone, but:

  • Paul [subsequently] said to the centurion and the soldiers, “Unless these [sailors] men stay with the ship, you cannot be saved.” (Acts 27:31)
This revelation seems to conflict with Paul’s first revelation that absolutely no life would be lost, period! However, God’s providential outcome and Word are somehow compatible with intermediate human choices to accomplish this outcome. Rather than cancelling out our will, our thinking, or our actions, our God is somehow able to work through these human means to accomplish His infallible purposes, as He had done through the writing of Scripture.

Admittedly, we cannot get our minds around Compatibility, but we mustn’t reject it for this reason. To reject it is to reject our very faith.

The Prophecies of the End: Gloom or Glory?

Not all news is good news. In fact, the vast portion of it downright bad. As society further rejects its biblical roots in favor of immediate personal gratification, it is also rejecting its out-of-step source-Book. recently announced:

  • Bible skepticism is now “tied" with [faithful] Bible engagement [at 19% of respondents]. This year's research reveals that skepticism toward the Bible continues to rise. For the first time since tracking began, Bible skepticism is tied with Bible engagement. The number of those who are skeptical or agnostic toward the Bible—who believe that the Bible is "just another book of teachings written by men that contains stories and advice"—has nearly doubled from 10% to 19% in just three years. This is now equal to the number of people who are Bible engaged—who read the Bible at least four times a week and believe it is the actual or inspired Word of God.

Although these findings are deeply disturbing, they also mirror the pattern of end-times prophecy. The Book of Revelation presents a more-than-gloomy picture of the world prior to Christ’s return. Jesus’ portrait is no more encouraging:

  • “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come… For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equaled again.” (Mat. 24:9-12, 21)

Instead of an invitation to reign in glory, He advised flight in the midst of persecution prior to His return. Paul didn’t give us any more hope about the end-times:

  • But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power… everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. (2 Tim. 3:1-5, 12)

The New Testament seems to speak with one voice about the coming end-times crisis. Peter warned:

  • In the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” (2 Peter 3:3-4)

Although the events of our day seem to be eagerly following in the steps of the prophetic warnings, this gives us little comfort. Some place in our mind, we had the mis-expectation of His present and tangible glory now that Christ had established His church. Instead, we await His crucifixion – something already being experienced by tens, even hundreds of thousands of our brethren in Muslim and Communist countries as many of our professing brethren have chosen the world and its strategy of silence.

We might be able to understand these events, but Lord, help us to live for You proactively, wisely and confidently in the midst of them!