Science, Assumptions and Intelligent Design – Part 1: Towards understanding the question.

Yesterday was interesting, two incidents brought to mind some things about Creationism and Intelligent design. I’m a young earth Creationist, (though perhaps some will doubt that, since according to many people, reading and writing should be beyond the abilities of any young earth creationist – it is so sad that in America the primary retorts one hears on such a serious debate are ad hominem attacks rather than thoughtful replies – ad hominem discourse being the last resort of the uncritical).

First, the last question of my interview at Southern Seminary was on my thoughts about ID, I’m not wholly satisfied with the answer I gave, largely because I was not completely sure about the question’s ultimate point. I addressed honestly, however, that the real challenge isn’t the meaning of Genesis, it’s are we willing to concede important assumptions to those outside of the faith. Ultimately I noted that ID only took us so far in this discussion, though it has provided valuable insights.

The second was the first comment on the Truth in the Trenches facebook page in a significant period of time of time, complimenting one of my kindle publications – The Tragedy of Compromise, which is an argument that the need for Christian thought to be consistent with our core principles is a moral necessity, not merely an epistemological question to be examined.

This raises the questions of how Christians should view science at all in this controversy. The problem as I’ve noted elsewhere is that naturalists have confused the metaphysical elements of their philosophy with the proper assumptions that science makes, or perhaps more precisely with the limits of scientific inquiry. Some, for example, now discuss natural selections in terms of an axiom rather than in terms of an observable, testable phenomenon because past attempts to defend the concept have proven to be tautological. Yet, axioms are elements of deductive reasoning, science as I understand it, is primarily inductive – making observations, forming conclusions and rigorously testing those conclusions, and even then, it must hold them not as proven facts but as theories that have not been disproven (otherwise science would be an exercise in affirming the consequent).

As Christians, we respect science in its strictest sense, but we don’t accept materialistic philosophy – if Christ rose from the grave, then naturalism is false, why then would we concede ground to naturalism in regards origins?

I approach my discussions on evolution therefore as a theologian. Thus, I may refer to Behe or to the cosmic fine tuning of the universe, but that does not mean I assume that ID is the full answer to the question (though I consider them an important and providentially provided evidence to demonstrate the universe is consistent with Christian assumptions). One of the key elements in the discussion is not the science, but the materialistic assumptions underlying evolutionary theory. So if I question the assumptions of Evolutionists, where does that leave room for ID? To address that question first, I believe we should start by mapping the battlefield, which will be our topic next time.

The Problem of Evil Part 5: The Personal Problem of Suffering

I’m currently reading for an entrance exam, in the usual fear and trembling that my efforts will not be enough, and yet God tells me not to fear but to trust Him. Before I get in the car, listen to Crime and Punishment on my way to the mall for a walk, followed by a trip to the library to continue reading (I’m off from work to prepare for the test) it hits me that my current situation is the problem of evil in Microcosm. That is my feelings and my understanding that God is in control appear to be in conflict. So it is with the intellectual problem of evil and the emotional problem of suffering.

I will likely come back to the problem of evil at a later date, but I have given in my last few articles what I consider a rough outline of the issue. Specifically, I have noted that the problem of evil has an emotional and an intellectual component. The intellectual component is answered fairly easily by remembering a few basic elements – 1. According to Christian doctrine, God gave man freewill, and it is not free if man has no choices. 2. Just because God has not dealt with the problem of evil yet does not mean that he will not. 3. God may very well have allowed evil into the world to bring about a greater good 4. God is adept at using evil to create good in the lives of his children and 5. It is an unfounded premise to confuse “good” and “evil” with “not suffering” and “suffering,” Moral good requires justice and suffering for the unbeliever, while not desirable (even by God who “takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked”) is by Christian understanding, just. This does not prove Christianity is true or atheistic arguments to be false, it simply demonstrates that Christianity is logically consistent and atheistic arguments then to be based on assumptions that do not match Christian thought – they are a strawman. Some of this I elucidated, some I did not.

Similarly I noted that Atheists have no basis to make an argument – if man has evolved then he has no innate value, if he has no innate value than he has no rights. While morality might be a means of preserving the race (as atheists contend) this gives them an argument that some system of morality is necessary for society, but no reason to regard society’s needs as greater than my own individual desire to survive or even to regard society’s needs as greater than my own happiness. Thus, to rape, pillage, murder, rob, steal, commit perjury or adultery are ultimately, within any atheistic framework, a matter of personal preference. Nietsche seems to have been consistent in realizing that atheism ends in ethical niehlism that he at times despairs of, and at times delights in. Existentialist and post modern philosophers have posited answers to this dilemma, but they cannot connect these to their worldview – they are simply writing in the tradition of Plato’s noble lie – man needs meaning (ultimately such as can only be found in a relationship with the living God of heaven, our Creator) but atheism provides no such basis for meaning, so existentialists and post modernists invent meaning subjectively to satisfy the longing in their souls.

All this answers, though, are the intellectual questions. I came to understand the intellectual problem of suffering in Seminary, but I came to understand the emotional side of that dilemma through life. I do not need to completely reiterate, but I was a pastor who through no fault of my own was ousted from a church, and then my wife and I proceeded to lose our first child to an ectopic pregnancy – and I questioned not whether God was real or whether the God of the Bible was real, but whether He was actually good – after all, I was on His side, wasn’t he supposed to bless me? I struggled with this question for over a year, forgetting my books, my understanding and lived a meaningless existence, as bare perhaps as the one the existentialists seek to shelter from. I was a fool, and yet, we all are at times. The answer to the emotional issue of suffering is more deeply rooted because it is innately selfish, it makes the same confusion between good and “not suffering” (or to Christians who should expect to suffer, “not suffering beyond my perceived breaking point”) that the atheist version of the argument makes.

Waking up from that nightmare, I realize a few things that theologians sometimes forget: knowledge must be applicable to life. The solution to the emotional side of the problem of suffering is to realize that without God our suffering is meaningless. If the emotional problem of evil is the personal form of the intellectual problem of evil, then the solution is to personalize the intellectual answers. If man is willfully evil, well as a Christian I am merely a sinner saved by grace, and one who cannot claim to walk perfectly before my God (the freewill theodicy) – I deserve worse, hard as it is for me to admit. 2. In Christ, we have tears today, but expectation for an eventual tomorrow. 3. God has allowed pain to bring about a greater good, my children who have not seen the light of this World have been spared its pains and see the Light of His face. 4. By faith, I realize that God can take this pain and do something good in my life with it – in fact, perhaps if this article helps someone with these struggles, He has done just that already. Indeed I am more aware of my dependency on Him after these encounters than beofre 5. Distinct from my fifth point on the intellectual discussion, justice was exercised on my behalf on the back of Jesus Christ, my Savior, the God who my sin offends and so greater than justice I have received Grace.

I cannot say this is an easy answer, but the irony of the Christian position is that the emotional suffering we receive now brings us greater joy later. If God is in control, my suffering becomes meaningful rather than pointless.

The problem of Evil 4: The Atheists Dilemma part 1

So we’ve taken some time away from our discussion of the intellectual problem of evil and the emotional problem of suffering for matters. In quick review, we noted previously that these are, in fact, two separate issues. To answer the second problem, the emotional one, is the difficult one, but it is solved ultimately in bringing our feelings into line with out thinking. To answer the first question a Christian must only present a worldview that is self-consistent and flows naturally from its premise.

What I presented previously is an extreme reduction of the Christian answer that evil comes down to man’s misuse of the freewill God has given him This meets the test above.

Now, however, comes the other side of that coin, while Christians can present a self-consistent one that flows from the premises of the Christian worldview, the atheist is unsuccessful in that endeavor. It is no so much that atheists are necessarily more immoral than other human beings (as we are all fallen), but rather that they have no adequate basis in their philosophy for ethical decisions.

For Christians, morality is based in discussions of God’s holiness and love – for instance the concept of justice is based in holiness. Yet, naturalism believes that man is a cosmic accident as the result of another cosmic accident. As this is the case, human beings ultimately have no rights because there is nothing special about man. As such, it becomes difficult to find some transcendent basis for morality.

Some might argue moral ideas developed as a means of perpetuating human population groups, but this does not adequately explain concepts such as property rights, and even if we did accept this principle, does it really matter if human population groups survive a few more years, or more to the point the human race as a whole. After all, if naturalism is true, the question of human survival is not if humanity will survive, but for how long. Eventually man will die, the sun will burn out, and the universe will expand into cold death, therefore human survival cannot justify moral objective principles. Nor is there a compelling reason why anyone should practice the group morality, after all, individuals clearly have self-determination and to abide by societal ideals or reject them is ultimately a matter of personal preference.

President Obama’s Dilemma: Isis, the Crusades and Politicians

Since President Obama first seemed to link Evangelicals with those democrats don’t like in his interview with Tim Russert on November 11, 2007, or his often quoted comment about people bitterly clinging to guns, God and religion, it has been no surprise that he has been no fan of traditional Christianity. Yet his recent comments at the prayer breakfast comparing Christianity in a tit-for-tat basis to Isis, while based on factually correct information, is ultimately intellectually indefensible.  It is factually true that some atrocities were committed during the crusades by at least nominally Christians, but the implications the president fails to address are the key distinctions between Christians and Isis.

The real question, as I’ve noted in the past is not whether someone does something in the name of Christianity or some other religion, but whether their actions are logically consistent with the beliefs they claim to espouse. As I reiterated several months ago, in the case of the crusades the atrocities of the crusaders makes them inconsistent monsters, but the Isis terrorists are, sadly consistent monsters, similar to Soviet communists and Robespierre’s great terrors during the French revolution. The atrocities of American slavery and Jim Crow, similarly are inconsistent with a Biblical worldview. While the Bible never condemns slavery, it clearly establishes that slaves had rights and regulated slavery to prevent inhumane treatment. This is why the Christian community was so central in taking action to end slavery – Wilber Wilberforce and other Christian leaders realized that the institution of slavery cannot exist without the implied inhumanity being allowed to thrive. Similarly, Christian acceptance of Jim Crow was largely based on compromise with Darwinism and Social Darwinism, and highlights the dangers of Christian compromise on principles of truth.

It takes very little time to find references to the Quran or in the Hadith (authoritative commentaries on the Koran and Islam similar to the Talmud in Judaism) such as the Quran’s “Kill them wherever you find them,” (2:191). I will not address the debates on the underlying source material as I am not an expert; though I believe the comments in the Hadith would indicate that the interpretation of Isis and those who have “hijacked” Islam (per several recent presidents’ comments) appears to be more consistent with Islamic source documents; ISIS is made up of true Islamicists. Unlike the Old Testament (in which God used Israel judicially in a specific discussion of specific groups), Islamic discussions of conquest are open-ended.

Yet, the Crusades were not really comparable to ISIS in one major, crucial sense; the Crusades, however wrong they may have gone, began with altruistic purposes. The Crusaders were not pulling out the Bible and looking for a reason to conquer the Holy Land. Rather, the Holy Land was taken over by Seljuq Turks – the ISIS of their time, from a more moderate muslim faction, and Christians were being murdered and raped. The Eastern Church requested aid from the West because they were being threatened by the Seljuq Turks, and the Turks were likely planning to continue their conquest into Europe.

Thus the Crusades began as a defensive action, but they went off track, largely because of mercantile and political interests. The Spanish inquisition was almost a wholly political action (the purpose being to secure the reign of Ferdinand and Isabella) that used religion for propagandistic purposes; the same is true of Hitler’s references to Christianity (as we known he was not a practicing Catholic). Jim Crow was ultimately a means of maintaining a democratic power base in the South (and the Klan who used Christians symbols were basically the Democratic parties military arm, similar to the relationship between the SA and the Nazi party).

As a Baptist, I find this last point interesting; Baptists have long argued that politicians influence on the Church is almost universally negative, and argued on this basis for a formal separation between the Church and State (this differs from American liberals who insist on a formal and informal separation). It appears then, that it is not Christians who should be apologetic, but self-aggrandizing politicians pushing sweeping regime changes, President Obama, as a member of said group, should perhaps be apologizing for his own house, instead of criticizing Christianity. Perhaps it is politicians not Christians we should be fearing.