Sunday, February 29, 2004

Decent Darwinism...

Ed the Evolutionist, over at Dispatches from the Culture Wars, has a post on the Religious Right that relishes in the apparent fact that they have lowered their expectations with regards to issues such as gay marriage. What struck me about his post though wasn't that topic, but the way in which he ended the post:
The culture war isn't going well for the religious right. Another victory for true decency.
True deceny? Why is it that Darwinists continue to hold on to ideas such as decency, morality, justice, and rights? Actually, what I should ask is: Why do inconsistent Darwinists continue to hold on to such ideas? If nature is all there is, then all the intricacy within our bodies came about through natural selection working with chance mutations over great periods of time. This Blind Watchmaker is not limited to just the physical aspects of our bodies but, by definition, must apply to our impulses as well. Morality? It cannot be absolute and separate from our minds for that would mean it is not natural, that is, it would be supernatural. Morality, if it exists at all, must be relative in the naturalistic worldview. But if morality can mean anything, then it ultimately means nothing. Watch for Darwinists to trip up in this area... the dreaded word "ought" will be their undoing.

Saturday, February 28, 2004

After seeing The Passion...

I went to see The Passion tonight. You were right Dave, it was a tremendously moving experience.
Genesis 4:4 - But Abel brought some of the firstborn of his flock—even the fattest of them. And the Lord was pleased with Abel and his offering, Genesis 22:6-8 - Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and put it on his son Isaac. Then he took the fire and the knife in his hand, and the two of them walked on together. Isaac said to his father Abraham, “My father?” “What is it, my son?” he replied. “Here is the fire and the wood,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” “God will provide for himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son,” Abraham replied. John 1:29 - On the next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! Revelation 5:6-9 - Then I saw standing in the middle of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the middle of the elders, a Lamb that appeared to have been killed. He had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. Then he came and took the scroll from the right hand of the one who was seated on the throne, and when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders threw themselves to the ground before the Lamb. Each of them had a harp and golden bowls full of incense (which are the prayers of the saints). They were singing a new song: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals because you were killed, and at the cost of your own blood you have purchased for God persons from every tribe, language, people, and nation.

Friday, February 27, 2004

On Tattoos and Earrings...

The book that inspired this website is In, But Not Of, by Hugh Hewitt. In an interview with Greg Koukl at Stand to Reason, Hugh mentioned that the most controversial chapter in the book was Chapter 9 - Tattoos: Don't. It's also, I believe, the shortest chapter in the book being about 2/3 of a page long with only 5 paragraphs. Here's an excerpt:
Fads fade; tattoos don't. These permanent displays of youthful exuberance trigger at best mild amusement, but in some a serious concern about your maturity. Whether or not you believe that concern to be fair, it is real... This rule of tattoos is easily applied to many other areas of your style of living. Do you do anything to call attention to yourself or to make a statement? If so, is the attention worth it?... Serious people do not seek attention except for serious purposes.
I've got some questions for you: In criticizing those with say, tattoos, at what point are we being judgemental? At what point are we simply reflecting an older generation's cultural norms? Does it really matter if those in church leadership roles, whether they be pastors, board members, or deacons, have attention getting displays such as tattoos or, in the case of men, earrings on their person? I would argue that it does and precisely for the reasons outlined by Hugh Hewitt.


Check Matt Powell's post Truth and Systems over at Wheat & Chaff. He gives an excellent commentary on the pitfalls of Post Modern thinking. Here's an excerpt:
What Postmodern Christians do is to assume that their system is superior to ours, or anyone else's. They do this by denying that they have a system, and criticizing us for having one. But everyone has a system, a way that they read Scripture and interpret everything that they see and hear. Everyone does; it's impossible to function without one. I see an animal that has four legs and barks; I call it a dog. I do this because of my system of truth, which has taken a set of attributes and given it the label "dog".
This is an idea that links back towards how we communicate with one another whether it be through personal dialogue, blog postings, or reading literature. We can only effectively communicate if we use public, shared concepts. To use Matt's example: I could go around telling people that I have a pet laxnear but unless they know that I use the term laxnear to refer to dog, they would be clueless as to what I was talking about. The point being that we can't make up meaning for text that someone else has written simply because it appeals to our private concerns. Matt referenced another blogger, named Steve, with which he's having a debate. In one of the posts he links to I read the following:
Modernity sold us a pup. It sold us a belief you needed truth as all-encompassing and systematic. Modernity took truth and wrapped it in culture and then sold it to us as a cultural syncretistic product: truth as pure, abstract, timeless. Yet, the God of the Bible was a God of community … moulding community in the desert, moulding community in the church … urging community through the broken body of Christ…..telling story after story, narrative after narrative of the actions of the communal God … refusing to sieve narrative into doctrinal purity, God took the risk of letting stories serve as the interpretive vessel for the body of God. For where 2 or 3 are gathered in my name, there is Christ … he broke bread and gave it to them … then their eyes were opened and they recognized him …. The God of all, revealed in community… When moderns encounter postmoderns they sniff for a watering down of truth. What they fail to smell is the decaying odor, the rotting carcase, of their modern, all-encompassing, systematic cultural approach to truth. (Note what I said, the cultural approach is rotting, not the truth.) (emphasis in original)
"The God of all, revealed in community..." It sure sounds good and it appears to have scriptural backup doesn't it? But how do we know that is the idea God was revealing? Let's use the very system Steve appears to posit, namely, that stories serve as the interpretive vessel for the body of God. Matthew 18:20 - For where two or three are assembled in my name, I am there among them. (all NET) Is this about community? No. It's about church discipline. Instead of isolating the verse let's look at the paragraph it concludes and the paragraph that precedes it:
Matthew 18:15-20 “If your brother sins, go and show him his fault when the two of you are alone. If he listens to you, you have regained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others with you, so that at the testimony of two or three witnesses every matter may be established. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. If he refuses to listen to the church, treat him like a Gentile or a tax collector. “I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will have been bound in heaven, and whatever you release on earth will have been released in heaven. Again, I tell you the truth, if two of you on earth agree about whatever you ask, my Father in heaven will do it for you. For where two or three are assembled in my name, I am there among them.”
The phrase Jesus chose to use is further indication that this passage is about church legal matters. He references the Old Testament:
Deuteronomy 19:15 - A single witness may not testify against another person for any trespass or sin that he commits. A matter may be legal only on the testimony of two or three witnesses.
Does this mean that God is not the God of all, revealed in community? Certainly not. But that fact should not cause us to disregard the intended, public meaning of a passage.

Thursday, February 26, 2004


In an e-mail discussion with Scott M. regarding God’s Will we touched on the subject of faith. Since the issue of knowing God’s Will seems, for many, to be related to one’s experiences or feelings, I made the statement “that faith is not a feeling but an act of will.” Scott disagreed and wrote,
“Heb. 11:11 communicates that it is a belief (same word). It does not require a feeling or an action. James makes it clear that a claimed belief that does not end up producing a behavioral result is not real faith – “faith without works is dead”. But calling it an act of the will might lead to the position of the Pharisees – a proscribed list of “acts of the will”. These can be faked. Of course, faith can be faked. But I think it is important to speak about this correctly, so that we do not lead a seeker into one of these traps.”
Let’s look at how the Greek word for faith is translated: Pistis – primarily, firm persuasion, a conviction based upon hearing. It’s interesting to note that cross-references are given for assurance, belief, faithfulness, and fidelity. Hebrews 11:1-3 sets the stage for verse 11 by stating,
“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for, being convinced of what we do not see. For by it the people of old received God’s commendation. By faith we understand that the worlds were set in order at God’s command, so that the visible has its origins in the invisible.” NET
Notice that chapter 12 begins with the word Therefore. It’s easy to connect what is written in chapter 12 with what is written in chapter 11 because the writer gave us the connector! Hebrews 12:1-2 states,
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, we must get rid of every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and run with endurance the race set out for us, keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.” NET
I do agree with Scott in that simply calling faith an act, in the manner of a law to be kept, can lead to the position of the Pharisees. But I think that the Biblical view of faith shows us that it is an act of belief which we must choose to perform. In that sense it becomes an act of will. As Hebrews 12:1-2 states, though, we must also understand that our faith is perfected through our belief and growth in Christ.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

1st Amendment...

Another case where the Supreme Court thinks that the 1st Amendment is referring to freedom from religion as opposed to the archaic freedom of religion. Ban on funding religious study upheld, where the court ruled against a student receiving a state sponsored scholarship solely because his chosen major was pastoral ministries. In his dissent, Justice Scalia wrote, "Let there be no doubt: This case is about discrimination against a religious minority."

The Privileged Planet...

"For centuries scientists and philosophers have marveled at an eerie coincidence. Mathematics, a creation of human reason, can predict the nature of the universe, a fact physicist Eugene Wigner referred to as the "unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics in the physical sciences." In the last three decades astronomers and cosmologists have noticed another, seemingly unrelated, mystery. Contrary to all expectations, the laws of physics seem precisely "fine-tuned" for the existence of complex life. Could these two wonders actually be isolated pieces of a wider pattern? Both are prerequisites for science, yet what about the process of scientific discovery itself? What are its necessary conditions? Why is it even possible? For some reason our Earthly location is extraordinarily well suited to allow us to peer into the heavens and discover its secrets."
The Privileged Planet, co-authored by Dr. Guillermo Gonzalez and Dr. Jay Richards should be released in early March. It will definitely be on my reading list for this year.

The Passion...

I have tickets to see the Passion on Saturday night. There have been, of course, a plethora of reviews and commentaries on the movie so far, but note the following from Touchstone Magazine's blog site:
The negative reviewers don’t seem to realize that they are in the film too: the shadowy figure that tempts Christ, saying that no human being can bear all the sins of the world, the negative, carping spirit that sneers at suffering. - Leon Podles ...I have this worry that as with most cultural fads these days many people will get their fill of the Passion, and then move on to the next thing. For some, that may mean starting to go to church, and that we would think is a good thing. On the other hand, is it always? If we manage to get more people into pews, will that be enough? There are some churches where being in the pew may be hazardous to your spiritual health. The content and quality of what they hear and see and do once they are there is critical. I get the impression from some pastors that Gibson’s film is opening up the Passion to them in a new way. Hence I ask, How so? And what were you preaching before this? I ask this, which I think is a fair question, because the preaching of the Cross and Resurrection is not simply first in priority, but the sine qua non of the Church’s preaching. - James Kushiner

A Scheduling Nightmare...

I have written a few posts on the aspects of a schedule or, a plan, and how those aspects relate to an intelligent design. Although I will continue to write on this subject I’d like to close off this particular series with a final look at one way a schedule implies design and how such an implication proves problematic to evolutionary theory. The Summer Olympics typically start on a certain date. The date that they start is usually set well in advance of the actual Olympics and the date is usually considered fixed (i.e., the Olympics WILL start on that date). Have you ever considered the logistics nightmare involved in planning for and executing all that is necessary just to get to the Opening Ceremonies of the Summer Olympics? Anyone involved in such an endeavor surely understands the need for a well laid-out plan. Inherent in laying out the plan is the need for a complete understanding of the activities required to achieve the target date, whether they be the details of material availability, purchasing cycles, workforce availability, weather issues, etc. These expected constraints determine the optimum timing of the various activities in the schedule. As I’ve written previously, a good analysis of a schedule will reveal this essence of fine tuning which, in turn, is an indicator of design. But what about unexpected constraints? We all know that things don’t always go as planned. Take a look at virtually any construction project and you will find this to be the case. Craft go on strike, the rainy season lasts longer than expected, a material supplier goes belly up, there is a fire on the project, etc. Is the schedule thrown out or ignored simply because these things occur? No. What happens are what we call workarounds. Those people in charge of running the project take a look at the impacts of the unexpected constraints, assess the damage, and recommend a workaround solution - all with the original intent of meeting the target date. An excellent example of this process was found in the movie Apollo 13 where a CO2 filter for one system had to be co-opted to work in place of a CO2 filter from another system. It was an unexpected constraint and required a workaround to solve. Note clearly what is happening: when the target date for an overall schedule completion is impacted by an unexpected constraint, intelligent agents devise workaround plans with which to ensure that the optimally timed target date is achieved. This is problematic for evolutionary theory. The reason it is problematic is that evolutionary theory mandates that change will only occur through the effects of chance and natural selection accumulating over long periods of time. If this were the case then, when we lay out the schedule of life’s history and do an analysis, we should not expect to see optimum timing. Yet we do see evidence of optimum timing from the Big Bang event to the present. More about that later…

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Check these two...

Mark Roberts has just finished an article titled, How Can We Know Anything About the Real Jesus? In it he strives to show "why we can believe that the NT gospels are reliable historical sources." Mark is thinking ahead as, with the release of The Passion, he anticipates that "In the next few days and weeks we'll be hearing all sorts of things about Jesus, including, I'm sure, claims that the historical evidence for Jesus is faulty or wrong. With this article I'm hoping to equip Christians (and instruct non-believers) about some of the truth that is basic to our faith." Also, please check Rev. Mike's post Things That Make you Say, "Hmmm." for a whimsical look at how PoMo's might relate to the latest release of What's So Amazing About Grace?

Is it Junk or isn't it?...

Ed at Dispatches has responded to my post A Test for Testability. Before I respond I should clarify that I am not a scientist. The intent of my posts on science related topics is not to provide a detailed analysis of the scientific data but, rather, to provide a summary analysis of current discoveries in the scientific realm. Another intention of my writing is to show how the philosophy of naturalism affects the interpretation of data within the scientific community. That said, there may be some skeptics out there that will immediately cry foul and accuse me of skirting the meat of the issues at hand. They are certainly entitled to their opinions. As a point of clarification to Ed’s response let me re-quote the testable prediction that I (and not Reasons to Believe) stated:
Further research will reveal function for so-called Junk-DNA sequences. Although considered by evolutionists to be a closed case, the Creation Model predicts that currently held scientific opinion on this issue will eventually concede that function is inherent in the Junk-DNA sequence. The failure of this test would be a devastating, if not killer, blow to the Creation Model.
Note that I did not state that there should be 100% function in the DNA code with no regards to potential errors in the code. Am I back-pedaling? No, and here’s why. Ed must surely understand that we live in a world with certain laws of physics and that one of the results of those laws of physics is that systems will break-down. Mutations are a part of the natural order we exist in. I would no more expect function in a broken piece of DNA code than I would expect function in a broken piece of code for MS Word. However, if analysis is done on a pure genome (i.e., no errors in coding) then yes, I would expect 100% functionality. Ed has presented a good deal of evidence that posits that the supposed Junk-DNA sequences evolved and mutated into the functionality we see today. That’s nice, but if pressed I could find evidence to the contrary. What ends up happening is that I find scientists who disagree with the conclusions of the scientists that Ed references. I suspect this will happen in his upcoming response to my claim regarding the merits of irreducible complexity: The evolutionist side presents someone like Ken Miller refuting Michael Behe, then the ID side presents Michael Behe refuting Ken Miller’s refutation, then the evolutionist side presents Ken Miller refuting Michael Behe’s refutation of Ken Miller’s refutation, and so forth and so on. Not being a scientist myself I will not attempt to address the specific issues that the likes of Miller and Behe (and Ed, for that matter) bring up. One can search or and read for themselves the debates that go on between these scientists. Suffice it to say that the initial response of the evolutionary community to the concept of Junk-DNA sequences was that it was expected in the evolutionary paradigm. Hit and miss mutations, with no anticipated goal, should produce a bunch of junk along with some function – according to neo-Darwinian evolution. Yet, according to Ed’s post, we now know of function to various forms of so-called Junk-DNA:
So what we're left with is this. A sizable portion of the genome is made up of pseudogenes, which are produced through processes that we've observed, and which are explainable only through evolution. A sizable portion of it is made up of transposable elements that help drive evolution by providing mutations that can be preserved through natural selection. And a sizable portion of it is made up of just random repetitive sequences, which Paul Myers says results from the fact that "the polymerase 'stutters' as it is making copies of long stretches of repeated stuff." And all told there is about 49 times more of that stuff than there is of active DNA.
Here we hearken back to the post I did on Evolutionary Just-So Stories. Evolutionists love to accuse Creationists of appealing to a God who can do whatever He wants, thereby allowing any evidence to be evidence for Creation. Yet here is an example of the evolutionists (in general - not Ed specifically) pulling the old switch-a-roo. “Junk-DNA?... Sure! It’s what we’d expect from evolution through chance mutations.” vs. “You found some function?... Sure! It’s what we’d expect from evolution since we observe mutations occurring real-time.” What we end up with is the use of self-referential logic. Essentially it is stated that we know that mutations can evolve functional Junk-DNA because we see mutations occurring in DNA sequences. Finally, tracking back to the issue of testability and “finding function for every single bit of this stuff” (i.e., so-called Junk-DNA), I will leave that to Ed for that is not what I am stating. Understanding how to detect design in conjunction with intentions and attributes is the issue here. If the percentage of functional so-called Junk-DNA is now at 3% (just to grab a number) and next year it rises to 5%, and the next to 10%, well I think that Ed understands the implications of the trend-line - and that is the point. Whether he will admit to it is another story.

Links for the day...

Update: the reader named Michael is the one and only Rev. Mike! A reader named Michael e-mailed me a link to an article by Edward Feser titled, The Opium of the Professors. Feser, a Visiting Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, writes:
The assumptions central and indispensable to the traditional Western religious view of the world are in fact not the origins of human beings qua organisms, nor the position of the earth relative to other heavenly bodies, nor any other matter of purely scientific concern. They are rather metaphysical in nature, and their truth must accordingly be determined, ultimately, by philosophical argument rather than empirical investigation. The immateriality of the human mind -- or the soul, to use the more traditional language -- is but one of these assumptions (an assumption usually referred to as dualism). Another is the existence of a Necessary Being who serves as the ultimate explanation or First Cause of the world of our experience and of the scientific laws that govern it: the existence, that is to say, of God (belief in whom is referred to by philosophers as theism). A third is the reality of a realm of abstract entities (mathematical truths, Plato's Forms, and the like), i.e. of objectively existing, immaterial, unchanging essences or natures of things, of which everyday material objects and organisms are merely imperfect realizations (an idea known as Platonism). If each of these assumptions were established, the Judeo-Christian religious worldview would be largely vindicated, whatever empirical science might discover; and if each of them were refuted, that worldview would itself be decisively refuted, even if the biologists all got de-converted from Darwinism tomorrow. So the findings of science per se are in fact irrelevant. (emphasis added)
Check Bill's post Presumption of Constitutionality, at WalloWorld, in which he continues his part of the discussion with Ed from Dispatches regarding the 9th Amendment. The topic, at least for me, is actually broken down into two parts that I would simply state as: 1) de-constructionism vs. constructionism and, 2) how the 9th Amendment relates to unenumerated rights. Bill addresses point #2. I try to watch NBC's Law & Order series when I get the time (which usually means "not very often"). I missed last week's SVU episode. Evidently it was, in the opinion of the HSLDA, derogatory towards the Home School movement. Check their statement at NBC's Law and Order SVU Smears Homeschooling.

Monday, February 23, 2004

Some more on God's Will...

Along the lines of my series on Finding God's Will, Focus on the Family has an answer to the question "How can we determine God's Will for our lives?" Also, check this link as well, Why be a Woman of the Word?, where author Pam Farrel, writing directly to women, states, "Our world has become so feelings-based and experiential, women are hopping from one emotional high to another. Sadly, this thinking is also creeping into the church, and into church leadership." My thinking exactly.

A Response to Ed on the 9th...

Ed at Dispatches responded to my post The Right to?... He states,
Let's try a specific example and see how it plays out. Rusty is a staunch advocate of homeschooling. Nowhere in the constitution does it mention that you have a right to homeschool your children. So let's say that Congress passed a law declaring that all children must attend school and cannot be homeschooled. I am assuming, based on what he has said so far, that he would consider this a "right" but not a "constitutional right". But what exactly does this mean? Does that mean that it can be overridden by legislatures? By judges? By legislators but not judges? Is there some standard that should be used to determine which rights (not constitutional rights, just "rights") can be violated and by whom? If so, where does this standard come from? I think I'll have to wait for Rusty's answers to those questions for the moment, because I really don't understand what exactly it is that he is arguing here.
Let me clarify that I was comparing inalienable rights with constitutionally protected rights. Hence my example:
The examples listed of rights we enjoy, but which have not been enumerated in the Constitution, do not reveal valid rights inasmuch as they reveal the rulings of judges. They remain and will always remain the opinions of the court. One wonders what outcry would arise were a court to rule that young mothers have the right to torture their children in the privacy of their own home? Yet how far removed from that scenario was the dreaded whip of a slave owner in 1850 splitting open the back of one of his slave’s? Rulings are fallible – inalienable rights are not.
In other words, simply because a judge or a court has the power to grant a slave owner the right to own another human being in no way makes that right inalienable. I think Ed would agree that such a right is not inalienable even if it were to be declared constitutional. So the question becomes not whether a declared right falls into the not enumerated category of the 9th amendment, but whether such a declared right is, in fact, a right. The right to wear sneakers? The right to homeschool? The right to party? The right to belch when the need arises? Do we really consider these to be constitutionally protected rights? Ed continues,
He seems to think that if it's in the constitution it's "inalienable", but if it's not in the constitution, it's....what? That was the question I asked above and I'll await that answer. But I think it also should be said that merely because it's a part of the constitution as originally written, it isn't necessarily inalienable.
I agree that simply because a right is listed in the constitution does not make it inalienable. But then I end up asking Ed the question he’s asking me: What kind of right is it then? He claims we have the right to wear sneakers. What kind of right is that? Is it a right that can be removed? Wouldn’t that then make it a privilege? But the issue at this point heads towards author’s intent which is the gist of my original post. It seems that Ed and Kyle approach the topic of textual interpretation from a relativistic standpoint. This is not surprising as we live in a relativistic culture. I run into this when discussing Biblical passages with friends and relatives when I hear responses such as: “Well, that’s just your interpretation!” This is what I see essentially going on in posts such as Ed’s and Kyle’s. Ed states,
I think what Kyle is arguing is not that we can't know the intent of the framers at all, but that because it is often difficult to know it for the reasons he stated, it's not the "holy grail" or constitutional law that many conservatives think that it is. And Kyle is right when he points out that the diversity of opinion among the founders often makes it very difficult and requires that we pick and choose among the views. I'll give one perfect example of why this is true... In 1798, only 7 years after the ratification of the Bill of Rights, many of the same men (the founding fathers) who framed the first amendment guaranteeing freedom of speech and of the press passed a law called the Sedition Act. This law was pushed through and signed by one of the most prominent founding fathers, John Adams, and it got a majority of the votes in a Congress still led by several other prominent founders. Under this act, publishing anything that "defamed" the government was punishable with fines and imprisonment. And in fact, many of the nation's most prominent newspaper publishers were imprisoned under this law, including Benjamin Franklin's grandson. Another of the prominent founding fathers, Thomas Jefferson, ran against Adams in 1800 and when he won he pardoned everyone convicted under the Sedition Act and led the fight to repeal it because he considered in violation of the first amendment. Now tell me, given this situation, which position represents the "original intent" of the framers? It obviously isn't that simple. So while I disagree with Kyle when he says that original intent is "not worth bothering with" (though I doubt he really meant to make such a sweeping statement), I disagree even more with those who say that the original intent of the founders is the only thing that matters in judicial matters. (emphasis added)
Herein we see an example of the relativistic understanding I referred to above. Ed claims that we must pick and choose among the views of the founders with regards to original intent. He then does an analysis of events immediately after the Bill of Rights to conclude that determining the framer’s original intent is difficult, if not impossible. But there are least two problems he doesn’t seem to be aware of: 1) The fact that there was a disagreement regarding the 1st amendment of the Bill of Rights does not detract from the fact that there is an original intent inherent in the document, regardless of how difficult it may be to ascertain, and, 2) If we cannot ascertain the author’s original intent in a document such as the Bill of Rights, we do not then have license to create meaning within the text based on picking and choosing among the views.

When Church becomes frivolous...

I saw something in church yesterday that I'm still trying to figure out. Evidently there is a push to get "small-groups" going, which is a good thing. Of course, in keeping with the seeming current trend, they weren't referred to as small-groups. Rather, they were called connecting-groups. Okay, no big deal, a rose is still a rose... What I really had a difficult time with was the way in which the idea was pitched. A team of potential ministers, all college age kids, presented several skits with the intention, I think, of explaining to us what a good connecting-group looked like. Unfortunately the skits were high on entertainment and low on content. One connecting-group got together to simply gossip, while another got together to watch Monday Night Football, and yet another wired group met at Starbuck's. You get the idea. Comedy ruled the show and even resulted in whoops and hollers from the congregation. A Reality Show based mentality was also present as, at one point in the show, one of the pastors entered the sanctuary with a large snake draped over his shoulders. After several skits of this caliber we were left with someone commenting that maybe they should get together to go over that book The Purpose Driven Life. I guess that was supposed to be the hook, the point, the reason for all the flippancy we had just witnessed. And I thought I had come to a worship service. I really shouldn't be surprised at this I suppose. In our MTV, experience-centered culture, unless something is made visually appealing while also providing you with a pleasurable experience, it isn't considered important.

Saturday, February 21, 2004

Al Mohler on Post-Modern Evangelicals...

Check Al Mohler's post, Here Come the Post-Evangelicals, for an excellent commentary on Post-Modern Post-Evangelicals. He reviews a book by Dave Tomlinson titled, The Post-Evangelical. Here's an excerpt from Mohler's post:
The foundational issues for Tomlinson are cultural and philosophical. He is absolutely convinced that the emergence of a postmodern worldview requires Christians to make a fundamental shift in the way we conceive the Christian faith and the best means of communicating Christian truth. "Post-modernity," argues Tomlinson, "has become the new context in which the integrity and credibility of [the faith] must be tested." Rather than critiquing post-modernism, Tomlinson and his allies openly embrace this new worldview. Post-evangelicals, he argues, "are more comfortable with the mysteries, ambiguities, and paradoxes of faith," and are thus quite at home in the postmodern milieu.
This has been the basis of my arguments against PoMo Christianity. I have posited that the post-modern philosophy is not one to be embraced but rejected, and that the Em-Church fad seemed to be too focused on the experiential aspect. Mohler continues:
The evangelicals "are lodged in a cultural time-warp," Tomlinson accuses, "still interpreting their faith using the language of, and in the shadow of, the modernist 'big story'." According to Tomlinson, the post-evangelicals have escaped this trap and no longer try to present the Gospel as a meta-narrative or comprehensive truth claim. At this point the true contours of post-evangelical thought become clear. For traditional evangelicals, he asserts, "truth is rarely seen as problematic." As Tomlinson explains, post-evangelicals "feel uneasy with such a cut-and-dry approach and find themselves instinctively drawn towards a more relative understanding of truth." This "more relative understanding of truth" includes an open rejection of absolute truth or the appropriateness of expressing truth claims in propositional forms. According to Tomlinson, "post-evangelicals are less inclined to look for truth and propositional statements in old moral certainties and more likely to seek it in symbols, ambiguities, and situational judgment." How convenient. The post-evangelicals envision a Christianity free from all claims of absolute and comprehensive truth, liberated from the Bible's restrictive moral commands, and severed from awkward claims of revealed truth.
This is truly an unfortunate situation we seem to find ourselves in now isn't it? If Tomlinson is correct in that we can no longer expect to find propositional truth but must now rely on a relativistic understanding of truth, then what we have done is simply painted ourselves into a corner. We're left with two unacceptable options:
1) We cannot accept Tomlinson's assertion that there are no propositional statements because his assertion is in itself a propositional statement. 2) Yet if we do accept the assertion that truth is relative, then we're left standing with an assertion that, by definition, has no meaning.
Why is this so difficult for post-moderns to see? They proclaim from the mountaintop that "the meta-narratives of the past are no longer comprehensive truth claims!" Yet they ignore the footnote at the bottom of the page which reminds us that their very proclamation is a meta-narrative. For further analysis of propositional revelation I suggest you read Ron Nash' The Word of God and The Mind of Man. In it he argues that the Evangelical push away from Reason and towards Experience actually began with people like Kant and Hume.

Friday, February 20, 2004

Examples of earliest Human Art?...

Update / Clarification:
This post is in response to a debate I had with Ed the Evolutionist from Dispatches from the Culture Wars. During that debate I argued that modern humans have been on earth no more than 40,000 - 50,000 years and that art expression testifies to that. Ed responded that human art goes back to at least 200,000 years ago and possibly further. He included a link in his post that I recently had the chance to reference. My immediate take on the evidence of human art from +200,000 years ago is that we're looking at nothing more than a bunch of rocks (see pics below).
I still haven't concluded research on the Golan Venus, but here are some additional examples of so-called Human Art that supposedly date back beyond 50,000 years ago. A beardless human head The description on this one was given as Human head bearded, frontal view side B and on the back on the left share of the head beardless side A Two-faced anthropomorphic lithic sculpture found by LICIA FILINGERI in the 2002. It represents two human heads joined by the nape with look in opposite direction. In the current typology, it is classified like human head without the neck, in frontal version with opened wide mouth. Okay. Just for the sake of argument let's say that some creatures, not modern humans mind you, but that some primates made the examples above. But what happens when they are compared with the example below (from 30,000 years ago)? What we see is that a virtual explosion of artistic creativity appears suddenly, with no predecessors.

One Man's Ceiling...

is another Man's Floor. So goes the Paul Simon song. In an earlier debate with Ed from Dispatches over the appearance of modern humans he claimed that human artwork goes back at least 330,000 years. This contradicts the claims of Old-Earth Creationists that humanity began no more than approximately 50,000 years ago. I searched for this purported 330k year old artwork and found that it is referred to as the Golan Venus. Here is a photo: Evidently
The figurine was found in 1981 by Prof. Na'ama Goren-Inbar of the Hebrew University between a "sandwich" of basalt strata, the lower one 800,000 years old, the upper one 233,000 years old. Goren-Inbar reported that more than 6,800 worked flints were found at the site, but the grooved figurine was the only one in basalt.
Further tests were done to determine whether the so-called artwork was carved. Also, potassium-argon dating was done on the layers of rock the piece was found in. I will not comment on the proposed dating for the actual specimen until I do a bit more research. For the time being let's just be content with contrasting that find with this one: This is reported to be 30,000 years old and is carved from ivory. The article states:
Other scientists studying human evolution have a couple of theories about these and other early artifacts found at four different German archeological sites. The objects are considered the oldest examples of figurative art in the world. (emphasis added)
At first blush... which of the two really look like a designed piece of artwork? There are at least two questions that need to be answered: 1) Is the specimen shaped the way it is due to intelligent action and, 2) What is the most reliable dating for the specimen? In the meantime, here's another comparison to make: "Thor's Hammer" vs. Mt. Rushmore

Some interesting links...

Bill at WalloWorld has some good comments regarding my discussion with Ed regarding Constitutional Rights. Check his post titled, Outlawing Sneakers.
Whether we utilize the word "penumbra" or not (as Justice Douglas did in crafting the "right of privacy" in Griswald v. Connecticut), the truth remains that we have to be able to tie our "rights" to some enumerated principle, and a law - whether a bad one or not - is only unconstitutional if it either (a) is outside Congressional power or (b) infringes upon a recognized right.
Keep interrupting my discussions Bill! Schwarzenegger: Gay marriage licenses illegal -
San Francisco's city attorney Dennis Herrera said his city and county are "going on the offense"... Herrera said the city's case will assert that the state law banning same-sex marriage goes against California's constitution because it violates the equal protection and due process clauses. Schwarzenegger's statement said California citizens generated, and passed, Proposition 22 -- the marriage law -- and it will be defended.
Bush 'troubled' by same-sex marriages -
"I have watched carefully what's happening in San Francisco, where licenses were being issued, even though the law states otherwise," Bush said. "I have consistently stated that I'll support law to protect marriage between a man and a woman. Obviously these events are influencing my decision."
Potential backlash? Rep. Frank opposes gay marriage effort -
"I was sorry to see the San Francisco thing go forward," said Frank, an openly gay congressman from Massachusetts who shared his concerns with fellow Democrat and San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom before the city began marrying gay couples last week. In an interview with The Associated Press, Frank expressed concern that the image of lawlessness and civil disobedience in San Francisco would lead some in Congress to support a federal constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.
Update: Also check Totem to Temple's Conversation with an ‘emergening’ Christian.

Thursday, February 19, 2004

Response to Ed on the De-constructionism...

Ed over at Dispatches from the Culture Wars posted a response to my critique The Right to ? (a few posts below). I think part of Ed's issue is that he really doesn't understand what I'm saying, or that I'm not communicating it clearly enough... or a little of both. He seems to think that I'm advocating that we have no other rights other than those enumerated in the Constitution.
All of these are examples of rights that you and I - and Rusty, I would bet - take for granted, yet they are not listed in the bill of rights. Obviously, the founders could not list every single right that the individual enjoys. You take for granted that you have the right to choose what kind of shoes to wear and that if the legislature passed a bill banning the wearing of sneakers in the US, you would assume that such a law was unconstitutional, right?
Well, NO, I wouldn't consider a law that banned the wearing of sneakers in the US unconstitutional. I would consider it a frivolous law without merit, but that's a far cry from attempting to tie it to a Constitutional right. Ed must understand this as he later states,
But the bill of rights doesn't mention footwear at all and nowhere in the text does it say that you have such a right. Does that mean that the legislature can pass a bill outlawing sneakers? Of course not. This is an example of an unenumerated right, one that is not explicitly laid out in the text of the constitution, yet remains valid.
So if we take that logic to its conclusion then all rights are, by definition of the 9th amendment, Constitutionally mandated rights. But if that is so, then why the need for those rights already enumerated in the other amendments to the Constitution? If the intent was to make sure that we had the right to, as Ed states, wear sneakers, then why bother with listing anything at all and just save paper? Flippancy aside, the answer lies in the fact that I stated in my original post - "The examples listed of rights we enjoy, but which have not been enumerated in the Constitution, do not reveal valid rights inasmuch as they reveal the rulings of judges. They remain and will always remain the opinions of the court." I emphasized a portion of the one sentence because Ed left it out when he quoted me in his post:
If he were to apply his argument consistently to every ruling that recognized an unenumerated right, he would reject all sorts of rulings that I'm sure he would consider perfectly valid, yet he has explicitly stated that all rulings involved unenumerated rights "do not reveal valid rights".
So we have a little problem here. If all rights not listed in the Constitution are covered anyway, and if those rights become Constitutional, then when a court declares that a slave owner has the right to own a slave because the slave is not a human but because he / it is the slave owner's property, what are we to do? The right is Constitutional - right? It must be inalienable - right? The court creates meaning - right? Wrong. Ed is also confused about whether de-constructionists think we can know the intent of the framers of the Constitution. I claim that Kyle's post declared it to be patently impossible. Consider Kyle's words again:
While original intent is a Pandora's Box that is really not worth bothering with, because a) times change, b) the Founders set up a system that allowed for the evolution of legal interpretation through the Ninth and Tenth Amendments, and c) the Founders were such a broad, diverse, and compromising group it's impossible to determine what their "intent" on any single issue was in any manner even approaching precision, I would venture to file that they would support the right to privacy. (emphasis added)
In any mannner even approaching precision. Truth be told, Kyle is trying to have it both ways. He sets up his reasons why he thinks original intent is difficult, if not impossible, to attain, and then promptly indicates what he thought the framers original intent was. This confusion is not surprising in that many people have swallowed the relativistic idea that interpretation lies with the reader alone. I ran into this mentality many times as I taught a study on how to interpret the Bible. "Well, that's just you're interpretation of the passage," or "How could we know what the original author intended?" The issue remains not whether we have rights, but whether judges can create meaning within text they did not author.

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

A Test for Testability...

Ed the Evolutionist, over at Dispatches from the Culture Wars, has another post on the topic of scientific testabiltiy titled A Brief Return to Testability. In the post he quotes from Doug Theobald a biochemist from the Univ. of Colorado at Boulder:
Scientific theories are validated by empirical testing against physical observations. Theories are not judged simply by their logical compatibility with the available data. Independent empirical testability is the hallmark of science—in science, an explanation must not only be compatible with the observed data, it must also be testable. By "testable" we mean that the hypothesis makes predictions about what observable evidence would be consistent and what would be incompatible with the hypothesis. Simple compatibility, in itself, is insufficient as scientific evidence, because all physical observations are consistent with an infinite number of unscientific conjectures. Furthermore, a scientific explanation must make risky predictions— the predictions should be necessary if the theory is correct, and few other theories should make the same necessary predictions. As a clear example of an untestable, unscientific, hypothesis that is perfectly consistent with empirical observations, consider solipsism. The so-called hypothesis of solipsism holds that all of reality is the product of your mind. What experiments could be performed, what observations could be made, that could demonstrate that solipsism is wrong? Even though it is logically consistent with the data, solipsism cannot be tested by independent researchers. Any and all evidence is consistent with solipsism. Solipsism is unscientific precisely because no possible evidence could stand in contradiction to its predictions.
We need to be careful about splitting hairs here. Scienctific theories are, indeed, validated by empirical testing against physical observations but one must never forget that there is no empirical data that proves that this must be the case. Evolutionists will typically appeal that this empirical testing process has proven itself to be reliable, but this is nothing more than self-referential logic for the only measuring stick they can use is the very measuring stick we are testing. They cannot escape the fact that the validity of the empirical testing process is, and will always remain, an assumption (i.e., scientists must take it on faith). We also need to be careful about how we view scientific testing vs. scientific analysis of historical evidence. Testing whether water boils at 212 F at sea level is not the same as testing the evidence to determine whether Rocko was the hit-man responsible for taking out Don Corleone's son. To be sure, science is used in both scenarios, but the latter deals with the detection of intelligent design or, as William Dembski puts it, a Design Inference. But in the strictest sense of the term testability, a falsifiable prediction must be made in order for a scientific theory to be considered valid. Fair enough. So, although I am not associated with Reasons to Believe, I think I can make the following testable prediction from their model:
Further research will reveal function for so-called Junk-DNA sequences. Although considered by evolutionists to be a closed case, the Creation Model predicts that currently held scientific opinion on this issue will eventually concede that function is inherent in the Junk-DNA sequence. The failure of this test would be a devastating, if not killer, blow to the Creation Model.
Now for the evolutionist's side of the fence. Consider the following testable prediction:
If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down.
Charles Darwin made this prediction in his book, Origin of Species. I would argue, and I'm sure that Ed would completely disagree, that this test has failed and that continued research will provide further proof for the complete inability for the evolutionary paradigm to account for irreducibly complex structures

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Clarifications on Expropriationism...

Matt Powell posted a comment on my Expropriationism post below. Here is an excerpt of his comment:
My problem with the chain of reasoning in 1-5 is that the reasoning only works if there is no qualitative difference between a robber and a government agent.
It is a subtle difference, but the issue I was pointing out dealt with the fact that the government was taking our money for purposes beyond its proper scope. J. Budziszewski points out that many Christians miss the point because they think that expropriationism is wrong simply because the wrong groups want the money for the wrong reasons. In essence, they think that if the causes are good then the taking of our money by the government is justified. But J. B. disagrees, and that is the reason for the 1-5 progression he describes. Here is additional text from J. Budziszewski:
But how, one may ask, can government steal? We live in a republic; aren't we therefore just taking from ourselves? No, not even in a republic are the rulers identical with the ruled; nor for that matter are the ruled identical with each other. If we were just taking from ourselves, there would be no need for the taking to be enforced. Then is it wrong for government to tax at all? No, government may certainly collect taxes for the support of its proper work; that work, however, is not the support of all good causes, but merely punishing wrongdoers and commending rightdoers (1 Pet. 2:13-14). This establishes a strong presumption against all the other things into which government likes to stick its fingers; under no circumstances may they be considered part of its appointed task. (italic emphasis original; bold emphasis added)

Check out the Christian Carnival...

Link to it here.

The Right to ?...

Ed from Dispatches at the Culture Wars posts on Gay Marriage and comments on the aspect of criticism that conservatives have on the court inventing rights. In another post he links to another blog post titled The Right to Privacy and the Ninth Amendment by Kyle. Ed states,
The issue at question is one of law… and in court the arguments made are legal ones. The comparison I am making is between the legal arguments and the reactions to the rulings in these two issues, not between the two types of marriage specifically. Let's look at the legal arguments being made about gay marriage and compare them to the legal arguments made in response to the ruling in Loving v Virginia, the 1967 case that struck down laws banning interracial marriages. …in both cases, the reaction from conservative legal scholars, legislators and activists has been identical. Let's examine those arguments:… The court is inventing a "new right" that wasn't there before This is an argument that is often heard from conservatives on a wide range of legal decisions. They argue that since the constitution doesn't enumerate a specific right, courts are wrong to apply broader concepts like a right to privacy to specific areas not explicitly mentioned in the text. This argument has been made against Griswold v Connecticutt [sic] ("there is no right to buy contraception mentioned in the constitution")… Well guess what? They're right. None of those things are mentioned in the constitution specifically. But that's where the 9th amendment comes in, the one that Bork and his ilk want to pretend is just an "inkblot" on the constitution.
Kyle states,
The fact that many of the rights we as Americans enjoy are not expressly mentioned within the Constitution is a well-known and indisputable fact. One source lists thirteen basic rights that we all take for granted, but are not discussed in the Constitution. Those are: "(1) The right to retain American citizenship, despite even criminal activities, until explicitly and voluntarily renouncing it (Afroyim v. Rusk, 1967);… (7) The right to enjoy a zone of privacy (Griswold v. Connecticut, 1965);… I'm sure you all noticed the seventh right in this list, guaranteeing us as citizens protection from invasions of our privacy by both the government and private individuals… Surely this is a right that even the most conservative constructionist can square with his beliefs, except for the small problem of the word "privacy" not being expressly mentioned in the Constitution. No matter for the Courts, however. Different courts have construed a right to privacy from some of the various amendment. Some judges have found an implied right of privacy in the First Amendment's right of freedom of association. The logic behind this is that the government has no right constrict or regulate our private relationships and interactions and hence cannot enter into other spheres of our private lives. …So we've gone through the arguments for an implied right of privacy, backed by the First, Third, Fourth, and Fifth Amendments of the Constitution. And it all sounds pretty good. Hmm . . . nowhere yet, however, have we crossed the word "privacy" in the text of that hallowed document. Surely this is a problem for a strict constructionist, isn't it? Well, the answer is (or it should be) "no." Embracing a constitutional right to privacy does not require a person to drop his constitutional views. Why, you ask? Because the Founders already took care of the situation with a handy little thing called the Ninth Amendment. …The Ninth Amendment reads: "The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people." In other words, the Founders are saying, "Just because we didn't list a certain right doesn't mean the people don't have that right." The right to privacy is one of these constitutionally protected rights. …Some may have doubts of whether or not the Founders intended to allow for a right to privacy. After all, they did not explicitly grant it. While original intent is a Pandora's Box that is really not worth bothering with, because a) times change, b) the Founders set up a system that allowed for the evolution of legal interpretation through the Ninth and Tenth Amendments, and c) the Founders were such a broad, diverse, and compromising group it's impossible to determine what their "intent" on any single issue was in any manner even approaching precision, I would venture to file that they would support the right to privacy. (emphasis added)
There are at least two things that should be addressed here: 1) The inherent difference between enumerated rights in the Constitution and all other rights, and 2) the double-speak regarding author’s intentions and how to interpret the meaning of a text. The examples listed of rights we enjoy, but which have not been enumerated in the Constitution, do not reveal valid rights inasmuch as they reveal the rulings of judges. They remain and will always remain the opinions of the court. One wonders what outcry would arise were a court to rule that young mothers have the right to torture their children in the privacy of their own home? Yet how far removed from that scenario was the dreaded whip of a slave owner in 1850 splitting open the back of one of his slave’s? Rulings are fallible – inalienable rights are not. What happens when this right to privacy is attached to the act of abortion? A new “right” suddenly emerges, popping into existence at the judge’s bidding – the so-called Woman’s Right to Choose (to end the life of her unborn child). This is possible because, as Kyle stated, “times change” and it is “impossible” to determine, with precision, what the Founder’s intent was on any single issue. Of course, he doesn’t seem to have a problem determining that “the Founders set up a system that allowed for the evolution of legal interpretation through the Ninth and Tenth Amendments.” This leads into the sloppy interpretive skills within analyses such as those of Ed and Kyle. With regards to specific issues we are told that it is impossible to know the intent of the framer’s of the Constitution. It appears that he attempts to get around this self-imposed hurdle by referring to an implied intent that the courts have found or construed. But this just raises another hurdle for only the author of the text can imply intentions within his text. Either the intent is there or it is not. So, what is it going to be? On the one hand, the courts construe or find implied rights within the Constitution, while on the other hand they adhere to a mentality that there is an “evolution of legal interpretation” based on the changing times. The result is that they end up actually creating of the meaning of the text. The meaning then, comes not from the author nor even from the text – but from the reader! Like it or not, the Constitution is not living – it is static. It says what it says and no amount of legalistic gyrations can make it say anything more or anything less. Update: Check Breakpoint's commentaries for Feb. 16 and Feb. 17 for topics related to this post.

Monday, February 16, 2004

Attributes of the Designer...

In “What are your intentions?,” I argued that the more one knows about the intentions of a designer the more one can understand the actions of a designer. If the God of the Bible is the Intelligent Designer responsible for the creation of the cosmos, then the next step in our analysis would be to determine whether we can ascertain the intentions of Yahweh by virtue of His attributes. From the Bible we can gather at least the following:
that we are created in the Image of God – the Imago Dei (Genesis 1:26-27; 9:6 ). Part of what this entails is our ability to reason and think rationally. If we reflect the rationality of God it follows that God is rational in His thought and in His actions. that God is intimately involved in His actions as they pertain to His creation (Genesis 1 & 2; Job 38). The God of the Bible is not some god that kicks-off creation and then lets it run by itself. We expect to see God’s involvement. that God has a Plan He is working to (Genesis 12:1-3; 22:15-18; Acts 10:34-43; Galatians 4:4-5). This Plan transcends the boundaries between science, philosophy, and theology, encompassing the totality of our existence. Walt Russell, Associate Professor of New Testament and Literature at Biola, describes the Biblical Worldview that is derived from God’s Plan as such: 1) God has a Plan He is working out through human history, 2) first through Israel and now through the Church, 3) to bless all peoples through faith, 4) maximally glorifying God. that the culmination of God’s acts of creation was mankind (Genesis 1 & 2; Isaiah 45:18). His actions indicate that He had us in mind throughout the whole process. that events in which God acts occur at His timing, within His Plan (Matthew 24:3-14, 36-44; Ephesians 1:9-12; Galatians 4:4-5). Given that God has a Plan and a goal, and that He is not wasteful (see below), we should expect that events in the history of the cosmos occur not only when He wishes but that they occur at the most opportune time. This is tantamount to saying that God scheduled divine events to occur as soon as possible to support the ultimate goal of mankind. that God is Sovereign over the laws of physics which He established (Genesis 1:1; Colossians 1:16-17, Hebrews 11:3). This also indicates that from His point of reference there are no “supernatural” acts that He performs; they appear supernatural only from within our constrained frame of reference. that as part of His being Sovereign over nature He can perform at least two types of miracles – one involving the suspension of the laws of physics (Matthew 14:22-33) and the other involving the occurrence of a highly improbable event (1 Samuel 6:1-12). Further analysis of God’s use of miracles is that He does not perform them to simply impress mankind; they are fit for purpose – God does not waste miracles.
What can we make of this brief list of attributes with regards to God’s intentions and whether those intentions should be evidenced in the record of nature? We should expect to see that God did intend to create in an orderly, efficient, well-timed manner in step with His goal of creating mankind. We should see miraculous acts used either where specifically mentioned in the Bible or where their occurrence is expected in keeping with the goal of preparing a proper environment for mankind. These are but a few of the guidelines to use when addressing questions regarding God’s intentions. For instance, take the three questions I posed as typical of coming from the skeptic: 1) An omnipotent designer is not constrained by the laws of physics so why should purported evidence of precise timing be an indicator of divine design? We understand God to be the creator of the laws of physics in our universe. As such we understand that from His point of reference any action He takes is natural – it only becomes supernatural when viewed from our vantage point. Precise timing points towards an intended goal or culmination – an attribute of a good plan. 2) If an omnipotent designer could create in any way he desired, then virtually any evidence we find in the record of nature could be proposed as evidence for intelligent design. How is this falsifiable? This may be true for a generically defined omnipotent designer but it is not true for the God of the Bible. The Bible records His nature as being that of rationality and order. We should not expect disorder in His actions. As one is able to review a human made plan for evidence of design so one is able to review the record of nature for evidence of design. The issue is one of finding design characteristics and not one of viewing any evidence as positive evidence. For example: we should expect to see templates used which take advantage of excellent structural design principles, such as evidenced in mammalian body structures, as opposed to a hodgepodge conglomeration of plans; we should expect to see an information-rich code such as DNA to also use the rational design characteristic of template similarity, thereby revealing design, as opposed to a revelation of haphazardness, such as is posited by the Junk-DNA scenario. 3) If this omnipotent designer is so powerful then why didn’t he just zap everything into existence? God, if Omnipotent, is certainly capable of that act, but the record of the Bible and of nature indicate He chose not to act in that manner. We are given no specific reason why He chose to act in that manner. An analysis of the record of nature and that of the Bible indicates that such a display would not have been consistent with His attributes, as described above. Note that this question delves into the theological aspect of God’s actions and should be answered as such. In the final part to this series I will take a look at human designed schedules in how they model intelligent design and how they prove problematic for the evolutionary scenario.

Sunday, February 15, 2004


Joe @ Evangelical Outpost has a post titled, The Crimson Tax: Matt Yglesias on Christian Libertarianism, in which he addresses a post by Matt Yglesias essentially posits that the state should force us, "by hook or by crook," to give to the needy and that our personal virtue in the matter is irrelevant. Joe does a good job of posing a question back to Matt, but I'd like to expound on the idea of Expropriationism as described by J. Budziszewski in his book The Revenge of Conscience. J. B. states, regarding expropriationism:
According to this notion I may take from others to help the needy, giving nothing of my own; according to Christianity I should give of my own to help the needy, taking from no one. We might call expropriationism the Robin Hood fallacy. Many Christians seem to miss the point, thinking that expropriationism is wrong just because the wrong groups are in power... ...But expropriationism would be wrong even if each of its causes were good. Consider the following progression: 1. On a dark street, a man draws a knife and demands my money for drugs. 2. Instead of demanding my money for drugs, he demands it for the Church. 3. Instead of being alone, he is with a bishop of the Church who acts as bagman. 4. Instead of drawing a knife, he produces a policeman who says I must do as he says. 5. Instead of meeting me on the street, he mails me his demand as an official agent of the government. If the first is theft, it is difficult to see why the other four are not also theft.
Is it really so difficult to envision that if any government defined excess money we have is taken from us that we will quickly determine to simply earn only that which we will be left with anyway?

Saturday, February 14, 2004

Weekend Link...

Check WalloWorld for a couple of good posts: What Don't You Understand about that "No Praying" Thing?, and Original Sin. Bill does a good job exposing the double-standard we find in public schools that prohibit self-expression when it pertains to religion. He also analyzes the concept of Original Sin and how many in our culture seem put-off by it. This is a topic I've been wanting to hit for some time now... thanks for covering it Bill!

Mark is on a roll...

Check Mark Roberts' latest series, What Language(s) Did Jesus Speak and Why Does It Matter?. This is not just an academic analysis of what languages Jesus may have spoken. Knowing this information goes beyond, as Mark states, the Trivial Pursuit level. Understanding the intricate matters behind the Scriptures helps us in our ultimate goal of Spiritual Formation. The words we read now, in English, are certainly important, but the more we research into the culture, the history, the personalities, the literary genres, the cohesiveness, and the languages, the closer we get to understanding God's Word. To quote Mark:
What difference does this make to us? It reminds us of Jesus' Hebrew roots. These roots grew deeply into the fertile soil of the Hebrew Scriptures, especially the prophets, and most pointedly the prophet Isaiah. Christians are often familiar with the idea that Jesus fulfilled the prophets, understanding this to mean that he did things the prophets predicted. But Jesus' fulfillment of the Hebrew prophets goes much deeper than this. His way of thinking about God's work in the world, his view of his divine calling, his fundamental message, and ultimately his understanding of the necessity of his death all come from the prophets. I have known this for most of my adult life. But I had never fully grasped the extent to which Jesus' ministry must be understood in light of the Hebrew prophets until I wrote Jesus Revealed. In preparation for this project I re-read the prophets and was astounded by how much their message was continued by and fulfilled in Jesus. I concluded more than ever before that we will never truly understand Jesus until we immerse our minds and hearts in the Hebrew prophets. There we find expression of the yearning for restoration that Jesus offers. There we find hope for the coming of God's kingdom, that which was inaugurated in the ministry of Jesus.

Thursday, February 12, 2004


Besides Abraham Lincoln's birthday today, it is also Charles Darwin's birthday. It is significant when one realizes that after more than 150 years since the publication of Origin of Species, the scientists who hold to Neo-Darwinism are still no closer to demonstrating how the mechanism can actually work. Celebrate by going out and buying: or Hat tip to Dispatches from the Culture Wars for reminding me of this date.

Positive Report on Homeschooling...

Check Many Parents Turn To Homeschooling For Kids: Homeschooled Students Score Higher Than National Average, per Raleigh, N.C.'s NBC17 television station via the Home School Legal Defense Association. Here's an excerpt:
About 68 percent of universities now accept parent-prepared transcripts. In 1999, Stanford University accepted 27 percent of homeschooled applicants. Homeschooled students at Boston University had an average GPA of 3.3.

Go get 'em Colin!...

Powell Scolds Hill Staffer At Hearing, per the Washington Post. Thanks to Hugh Hewitt.

Gay Marriage...

Per CNN, Massachusetts debate on same-sex marriage heats up,
U.S. Rep. Barney Frank, D-Massachusetts, one of the nation's most prominent gay lawmakers, told CNN that gays are "not diluting the marriage between a man and a woman. "The marriage between two heterosexuals who love each other, the overwhelming form of marriage, will be exactly unchanged," he said. "This does not alter marriage one iota for the overwhelming majority of people."
This is pure nonsense. Marriage has always been understood as between a man and a woman. The two are complementary. The two complements can join, procreate, and raise a family. It is not only obvious in a cultural sense but in a natural sense as well. Homosexuality is about the act of sex. If you doubt that then just watch any gay pride parade. The act itself, to paraphrase J. Budziszewski, takes a part of the body reserved for life's creation and forces it into a part of the body reserved for the expulsion of waste. It means, to quote him directly, "Life, be swallowed up by death."

School Vouchers...

The National Education Association (NEA) has an action-alert on a bill to re-introduce vouchers in the public school system in D.C. In the alert they state:
There is no solid evidence that vouchers improve student achievement. Vouchers would not expand the options available to parents in the District. Vouchers lack accountability. Vouchers do nothing to improve opportunities for children in D.C. public schools.
It would be interesting to see the results of a census on the public vs. private schools in the D.C. area to see a comparison between the two student demographics. Liberals typically refer to the haves and the have nots... wouldn't vouchers grant the free-market system of competition the power to level the playing field?

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

What are your intentions?...

In “I didn’t Plan it that way…” I posited that a plan, a well made plan, is the product of thought (i.e., a mind). Since I am a planner I took a look at some of the features within the process of planning that are indicative of intelligent design. Critics usually have at least three questions with regards to this line of thinking: 1) An omnipotent designer is not constrained by the laws of physics so why should purported evidence of precise timing be an indicator of divine design? 2) If an omnipotent designer could create in any way he desired, then virtually any evidence we find in the record of nature could be proposed as evidence for intelligent design. How is this falsifiable? 3) If this omnipotent designer is so powerful then why didn’t he just zap everything into existence? Of course there are variations of these questions, but these three pretty much cover the gist of the criticism I’ve run up against. These are valid questions. The key to understanding the answers to these questions, though, is to see that they ultimately focus on the intentions of the proposed divine designer (e.g., Why would an omnipotent designer do X when he could obviously do Y?). Let’s take a look at our plan for the construction of a cogeneration power plant. An outside auditor reviewing the plan notices that a critical piece of equipment is not being set as soon as it is ready but, instead, is planned to be set a few months after its most optimum time. This seems to run flat up against our tenet that a plan that is intelligently designed should have activities occurring as soon as possible. The planner on the job responds that the equipment setting is, in fact, occurring at the most optimum time. He then informs the outside auditor that the owner, besides being concerned with the overall completion of the power plant, is also concerned with his internal cash flow. The owner does not wish to incur the cost of the piece of equipment at its earliest possible time but would rather incur the cost a few months later. Due to this additional parameter, the setting of the critical piece of equipment was shifted to satisfy the requirements of the owner. After hearing the explanation the outside auditor withdraws his complaint. The designers of the plan had intentions that the outside auditor was unaware of. Once he was made aware of these intentions he understood that what at first appeared to be an anomaly in the plan was actually an integral part of the plan. The better we understand the intentions of a designer, the better we can understand the actions of a designer. Therefore, in contemplating the skeptic’s questions we see that our answers will be based upon our understanding of the omnipotent designer’s intentions. The skeptic may immediately raise a red flag and ask: How it is possible that you could know the intentions of an omnipotent designer? Good question. It is here that we must depart from our friends in the ID movement that prefer the Big-Tent approach, which allows all ideas of intelligent design to be posited without actually attempting to identify the identity of the alleged designer. For now we move from speaking of a generic omnipotent designer to Yahweh, the God of the Bible, as the only Omnipotent Designer. The Christian posits that it is well within our rights to know the mind of God and, in the process, His nature. The Christian believes that besides rationality and reason, the ability to know of abstract concepts such as equality, or numbers, is only possible in a mind. We argue that while these concepts come from a mind they are also eternal; therefore, if these concepts are eternal, then it logically follows that they must come from an eternal mind. Consider this quote from Ron Nash’ in his book, The Word of God and the Mind of Man:
…God has endowed humans with a structure of rationality patterned after the divine ideas in His own mind: we can know truth because God has made us like Himself. This helps explain how we can know not only the eternal Forms but also the creation that is patterned after these Forms. We can know the corporeal world because we first know and understand the intelligible world. As an inherent part of our rational nature, we possess forms of thought by which we know and judge sensible things. Because God has created humankind after His own image and continually sustains and aids the soul in its quest for knowledge, human knowledge is possible. God is the original source of the light that makes knowledge possible because He is the reason or logos of the universe. All the truths of reason have their ground in His very being; they subsist in His own mind. Because humankind was created in the image of God, the human mind is a secondary and derivative source of light that reflects in a creaturely way the rationality of the Creator. A harmony or correlation exists therefore between the mind of God, the human mind, and the rational structure of the world.
As Christians we believe that the Bible is God’s Word – His Special Revelation. Whether or not the skeptic believes this is of no concern in our argument for we have been tasked with producing what we consider to be God’s intentions as the Intelligent Designer of the universe. So in addressing the “why” in, Why would God do X when He could obviously do Y?, we first need to understand some of the attributes of God as revealed to us in Scripture. More to follow…

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

I didn't Plan it that way...

I’m a planner and scheduler. I’ve worked on everything from petrochemical plants to software implementations. I think most people understand the planning process even if they don’t follow it formally. For instance, in planning jargon there is what’s known as a Finish to Start relationship between two work activities. This essentially means that the first activity (the predecessor) must finish before the second activity (the successor) can start. In a cogeneration power plant the boiler is housed in a frame made up of structural steel columns and beams. The installation of the structural steel, also known as hanging steel, is performed by ironworkers (you've seen those crazy guys that like to walk across 10 inch wide beams hundreds of feet in the air). Yet before they can begin hanging steel they obviously need a foundation on which to put the steel. So the installation of the concrete foundation must be finished before the hanging of the steel can start. The foundation has a finish to start relationship with the hanging of the steel. You can see this relationship in many everyday activities: I heat the pan and then fry the egg; I spray the starch and then iron the shirt; and so on. Now you’ve probably driven by many a construction project, and even though it seems like they take a very long time to complete, there is usually an incentive to finish them as quick as possible. After all, the sooner a power plant is on-line the sooner the owner is making money. So when the project is being planned out, and a schedule created, it is in the best interest of those involved to plan activities to take place as soon as possible. If the concrete foundation has been poured and is ready for structural steel, but the steel is still weeks away from being fabricated and even more weeks away from being delivered… well, don’t expect the Construction Manager to be on the job much longer. An interesting feature of these two activities is that even if the foundation was not ready for the steel to rest on, the steel could still be delivered to the site and placed in a laydown yard until needed. The point is that a well planned schedule must take into account the timing of activities that, although they have a finish to start relationship, may have no necessary relation to each other. Although the steel must rest on the foundation, the pouring of the foundation has no direct relation to the fabrication of structural steel. But do we need to have everything on site as soon as possible? Not necessarily. There are some items that we don’t want to have on site as early as possible. The fact that they show up precisely when needed (as opposed to precisely when available) is another feature inherent in the design aspect of the plan. Take, for instance, the computer driven control system for a power plant, typically known as a Distributed Control System (DCS). Now like the foundation / steel scenario, the installation of the DCS is a successor to the construction of the control room; but the fabrication of the DCS is not dependent on the construction of the control room. However unlike the foundation / steel scenario, if the DCS were completed weeks prior to the construction of the control room it would not be delivered to the site. The reason for this is that the DCS, being delicate computer equipment, is much more susceptible to the environment than structural steel. It would be detrimental to have it arrive early at a jobsite where there was no safe environment to store it. Its proper arrival time is an indicator of an additional constraint based on its physical characteristics. So what I’ve laid out here is this: 1) A well made plan takes into account the objective, the culmination of the project, and is designed to achieve that culmination in the least amount of time, 2) Within a well made plan we should see instances where successor activities start as soon as possible after their predecessor activities, and 2.1) Although certain activities may well start earlier than planned, there survivability mandates that they start only when the prescribed environment with which they were designed to operate is ready. How do these aspects square with what we know about the history of planet Earth? If our Plan scenario is correct, then we should expect to see events within the history of life on Earth to be carefully timed. We should expect to see events within the history of the formation of our solar system and that of the universe to also be carefully timed. This careful timing should have a goal or a culmination – mankind. It is the argument of those at Reasons to Believe that the 13.7 billion year age that our universe is understood to be is, in fact, the shortest amount of time required for advanced life to show up – given the constraints of the laws of physics. If our Plan scenario is correct, then we should expect to see events occurring in the record of nature as soon as they are physically possible regardless of the probability of their occurring. The appearance of life on planet Earth is testament to this. The Earth was in a molten state up to about 3.85 billion years ago yet life first appeared at 3.86 billion years ago. This is definitely a finish to start relationship and bears the characteristics of a well made plan. If our Plan scenario is correct, then we should expect to see critical events occurring in careful synchronization with independently occurring events. The Cambrian Explosion, approximately 543 million years ago, is evidence of an event that was carefully timed. In it we see entire new phyla of advanced life forms appear in a geologic instant. This after approximately 2 billion years of surface preparation by bacteria and plate tectonics. Critics complain that an omnipotent Designer should not be constrained by physics and that he could zap everything into existence at his bidding. Therefore, they say, virtually any data we discover would constitute evidence for a Divine Creator. I’ll address that in a future post.

Monday, February 09, 2004

On Debating Creation...

My posts on the upcoming book by Hugh Ross & Fuz Rana, Origins of Life: Biblical and Evolutionary Models Face Off, generated a mini-debate between myself and Ed the Evolutionist over at Dispatches from the Culture Wars (actually, another couple of debaters joined the fray - PZ and DS). I had been hoping for a good dialogue between Ed and Co., and it did start out that way but then fell apart mostly, in my opinion, due to mutual misunderstandings. I really shouldn't be surprised at the outcome since I've seen it before in debates between other Creationists and Evolutionists. Still, it's too bad, because the gist of Ed's initial question is valid - How do you posit a Scientifically Testable Creation Model? I hope that in the near future Reasons to Believe will garner the resources to clarify specific testable predictions that their model makes. If we can address specific predictions then we can possibly get around the tap dancing, false accusations, and obstinacy that prevailed in my recent discussion. As point of fact: I was accused of avoiding one question in particular and, thereby, being dishonest and disingenuous; in fact I answered their question in detail - just not to their liking. I was accused not only of not accepting evidence presented but that I would, in fact, not accept any evidence they may happen to provide; well let's be clear here - evidence is evidence - I accepted their evidence as evidence. What they don't seem to understand is that some evidence may be disputable, some evidence may be scant, and some evidence may be interpreted in multiple ways. As to what I may or may not do in the future with some evidence they may provide me? - well, provide it and we'll see what happens. That, after all, is the answer I gave them that they refused to accept. I was continually asked for specific, falsifiable predictions from the Creation Model and when they weren't satisfied with what I gave them, I then referred them to the scientists responsible for developing the Creation Model; the sounds of silence were all I heard on that account. One wonders what they're afraid of? For an excellent guide on the line of attacks that go on during a debate with skeptics, read Ed's posts for yourselves: A testable creation model - does it exist?, then Testable Creation Model part 2, then Reply to Rusty on Testable Creation Model, then Final Response to Rusty on Testable Creation Model, then Response to Rusty's comments below, then Continued Responses to Rusty, then Two questions for Rusty, then Final note on transitional forms, and finally the Rusty Saga continues. Be sure to check out the comment's sections as well.

Comments by J. Budziszewski...

I've just started J.B.'s What We Can't Not Know and already I recommend it. On Human Nature he writes:
If God has designed and endowed us with our nature... then we can be confident that we have the nature that we ought to have in accord with His good purposes. Let us imagine someone who denies the premise. He admits that human beings have a nature... he only refuses to allow that we were endowed with this nature by God. We are to regard the direction of the grain as the result of a meaningless and purposeless process that did not have us in mind. I think it follows that had the process gone a bit differently - had our ancestors been carnivores instead of omnivores, had they laid eggs instead of borne live young, or had they never left the oceans for land - then we would have a different nature. Given the nature that we do have, certain things go against the grain, hence the natural law. Honor your father and mother. Do not kill. Do not covet. Given some other nature, other things would have gone against the grain - hence some other natural law. It might have been anything. Supplant your father. Chase away your mother. Eat your neighbor and covet his mate. What for our nature is a sin, would for that one be the norm.
Here we have an excellent commentary on the logical consequences of naturalism - the thought that nature is all there is, that determinism and chance are all that rule the universe. Try as we might, we just can't get away from declaring human actions as either right or wrong. The naturalist is forever trapped into explaining away why we make the moral choices we do. He is forever locked into an infinite regression of explanations having to do with pragmatism, yet never able to explain just where this idea of pragmatism ultimately came from.

Sunday, February 08, 2004

Link of the Weekend...

Check Mark Robert's series on how Christians should be or should not be involved in the secular culture of the world around us. So far there have been 4 posts with the first one titled, Super Bowl Decadence & the Challenge of Culture. This is an interesting series because Mark addresses what I consider to be the crux of the matter with regards to not only the PoMo / Emergent Church movement but to any other movement that wishes to sincerely address how Christianity should react to secular culture. Consider this quote from part 3 in his series:
What Paul demonstrates in a few verses of Philippians is his willingness to engage the culture of his day, to grasp its concepts and employ its language. Yet, at the same time, he is not dominated by that culture, but reshapes it in light of Christ. When secular values are consistent with Christianity - as in the case of things being truly pleasing or commendable - then these values can be embraced. But when secular values are inconsistent with Christianity - as in the case of Stoic self-sufficiency - then these values are either rejected or fundamentally reinterpreted.
Mark is right on target. A problem inherent in a reaching the culture mentality is that the message is too easily transformed into a feel-good sentiment. However we relate to the culture we must strive to be clear with the Gospel message: Admit you have sinned (Romans 3:23), Believe in Jesus (John 3:16) and, Confess and leave your sin behind (1 John 1:9).