Monthly Archives: June 2010

On the old earth – Part 2 of 2

In the previous post I outlined what I believe to be a fairly strong case for the age of the earth being older than 6,000-10,000 years. This was originally written to a private mailing list consisting of some of the brightest and most God-honoring people I’ve ever met or had the privilege of worshiping with. The following is a follow-up to some objections and feedback I received.

I want to first say that the views of a pre-adamac race and Darwinian evolution are not required in order to hold to an old-earth view. While these views certainly do require an old earth view as their basis, an old earth view does not logically lead to these extraneous views. Additionally, one does not need to be driven by evolutionary or extra-biblical presuppositions in order to arrive at an old-earth view. I think it muddies the waters when we presume to preempt arguments by speculating on each others motives and sources as opposed to attempting (at least insofar as we are able to as humans) objectively examine the merits and failings of each view’s ability to explain and account for the various pieces of evidence.

I’ll consider the Biblical case closed as you seem to accept the frailty of the geological evidence used in favor of the YEC view. I am supposing we can at least agree that the Bible does not constrain us to accept one view over the other though I suspect the question of death pre-fall will still come up later and as such I’ll save it for then.

Now on to the science!

Regarding the dating of Mt St. Helens. There is widespread criticism in the scientific community of how the dating method was applied to the rocks from Mt. St. Helen’s. I certainly don’t think that one test invalidates the whole potassium-argon (K-Ar) dating mechanism. Now, if we were talking about carbon 14 (C-14) I might be inclined to agree that the mathematics and calibration involved include a wide margin of error. However this was also noticed by the scientific community themselves and C-14 has subsequently been abandoned in favor of more accurate radiocarbon dating techniques in many areas.

Regarding the salt buildup of the oceans. I think this argument fails to take into account the salt-removing processes that exist within the ocean. Using the same argument we would expect the level of greenhouse gases to smother us within a few short years as well. And while this view is certainly promoted by the global warming alarmists like Al Gore, even climate scientists are forced to admit that they do not understand the biosphere’s role in scrubbing the atmosphere of CO2 and other greenhouse gases. At the end of the day, though, I believe both methods suffer from the disease of “not enough understanding about the system as a whole”. That is, ecological systems are rarely (if ever) closed and we are still not completely sure how large scale systems such as climate or oceans operate so any extrapolations based on them should be taken with a grain of salt at best.

In regards to the evidence for an older earth; you’ll note that my strongest argument for the dating of the universe into the “billions of years” range comes from cosmological evidence which contains several distinct advantages, of which I’ll name two for the sake of brevity.
1.) It is based on universal constants such as the speed of light. This is very important because the speed of light is one of the anthropic principles governing our universe. In other words, it is not something that can change since it is a finely tuned physical constant required for a whole host of other things to exist and function.
2.) It is not subject to the fall of man or the flood. The constants involved could not have changed without affecting the sustainability of life on the planet. And the flood, while providing possible answers for geological changes on earth, cannot account for evidence that appears outside of the universe (such as redshifts, background radiation, etc.)

Finally, regarding scientific inquiry. I don’t think eroding our confidence in our noetic facualties is really helpful. Sure, we are finite beings and can and often do get things wrong. However we also are made in the image of God and have been placed in a world suited to our senses such that we can and should expect to be able to accurately measure and understand (at least to some degree) the world around us.

It is a great mistake, therefore, to pit scientific understanding against the specific and divine revelation given to us in Scripture. As Aquinas taught, there is a book of nature and a book of revelation. Each given for a specific and interconnected purpose of teaching us about God.

Proverbs 6:6 tells us “Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise!” This seems to indicate that we can learn about the universe God has made and derive lessons from it through mere observation of nature.

Further, Romans 1:18-20 seems to indicate that such natural revelation is even accessible by those who are not Christians.

So given all that, I believe we are more than warranted in trusting the senses God has given us. I would further argue that we are even justified in accepting the observations of others regardless of their ideological persuasion.

As I said at the outset, the question here is twofold:
1.) Does the book of revelation speak directly to this issue? I maintain that it does not.
2.) Does the book of nature speak directly to this issue? I believe it does and the overwhelming majority of evidence points us towards an older view of the earth. How old? I must admit I’m not sure, however the vast majority of scientific measurements place the age well past the 6,000-10,000 year range.

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On the old earth – Part 1 of 2

We need to approach the potentially explosive and devicive topic of the age of the earth from two distinct standpoints if we are to make any fruitful headway.

The first standpoint is one of “what does the Bible explicitly teach?” Because if the Bible tells us that the earth is 6,000-10,000 years old then we are certainly obligated to believe God in spite of what we may find by the second question of “what has science been able to prove?”

Of all the theologians who write on this subject, I must admit I have an affinity for Dr John Sailhammer, a messianic Jew, who has written extensively in this area. His best work is Genesis Unbound (I have a copy if anyone is interested) wherein he explores both the actual Hebrew words and grammar used in Genesis as well as the translation history surrounding Genesis.

One of his biggest contentions is that how we understand Genesis today is actually coloured not primarily by current scientific trends, but by a whole translation history stretching back to the Greeks who had a distinct view of the origin of the universe as emanating from some sort of cosmic ooze. The tell-tale signs of this understanding of origins is actually detectable in Genesis 1:2 in the phrase “the Earth was without form and void”. The first question raised here is why God would create anything “formless and void”. Arther Custance’s work “Without form and void” also has a lot to say about this.

The next question at Genesis 1:2 is, if we are supposing that Genesis is a recipe for the creation of all the cosmos, when did God create that formless void? Why start with a formless void in the first place? How old is that formless void? What makes this question even more poignant is that in verse 1:2 we are further told that “darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters”.

Wait, where did the deep come from, where did the water come from?

If nothing else, we immediately know from Genesis 1:2 alone that there is far more to the creation story than we have been given.

And here we get to the crux of the matter. Why was Genisis given to us? Sailhammer and almost all other theologians agree that the Pentateuch (first 5 books of the Bible) are written as a literary set. What is the main focus of this set?

The promised land.

It is commonly accepted even among Jews today that the land (erets) in Genesis is not the entire earth but the promised land. This is made explicit in Genesis 2 where the creation narrative is repeated with an even narrower emphasis placed on the creation of man.

Another peculiarity that arises in the text if we read Genesis with the Greek mindset that it is a blueprint for the creation of the universe is that we have to read Genesis 1:1 as a summary or introduction as opposed to an otherwise informative statement. In other words, Genesis 1:1, on the blueprint model (which is required for the young earth view to hold), would make this the only time in Scripture where any author summarizes what they are going to say before they say it.

Conversely, the sentence structure along with the choice of words used here seem to strongly indicate that while God created certain things in the Genesis narrative that did not exist before, many things were “made”, likely from preexisting material. This conclusion we can easily come to because there are two words used in the Hebrew, asa (made) and bara (created) and the word for created is not used exclusively (which is what you would expect to find if Genesis was a blueprint for the original and unique creation of the universe).

I’ll briefly mention yom here as well in order to preempt any further discussion or from being side-tracked. While I think Hugh Ross has a good point that a 24-hour day would certainly be hard to determine before the chronology of the cosmos was established circa day 4, I have no problem accepting that the days in Genesis were literal 24 hour days. Why not? The question here is not what is within the view of the text but what we are not told (which is made clear by the existence of something rather than nothing in Genesis 1:2 where, per the Genesis-as-blueprint model, we should not expect anything to pre-exist the creation narrative.

So, does the Genesis require us to accept a young view of the earth? I don’t think so. It’s at this point that the addition of the genealogies is what constrains us to a younger view of the earth. However this is rather spurious as it is 1. not attested to by the early church fathers or from the Jews prior to the NT (or Jews now). It is surprising that, if this is such a central doctrine, it took until the 15th century before an Anglican Bishop (Ussher) decided it worthwhile to add up the genealogies. Prior to this, the notion that the earth was young was either not considered to frankly be of much import. The few authors who did venture a guess of the age of the earth (like Augustine) only did so in order to combat the prevailing Platonic notion that the essence of the universe was eternal; again, this ancient Greek-based view is what is seen in how Genesis 1:2 is commonly rendered with a “formless and void” substance pre-existing the creation narrative. I also would argue that the notion that any majority of orthodox theologians tacitly accepted a young earth view is, at the least, not very clearly established at all and that many theologians either avoided the question altogether or exhibited the same baggage we know existed at least from the Greek understanding of how the earth was formed.

So, can we (with sufficient epistemic and Biblical warrant) maintain that the earth was created in 6 literal days while still maintaining that the earth and universe could be very old? I believe we can as the text certainly does not constrain us in any fashion in regards to the age of the earth.

Finally (in the Biblical section at least), let’s examine the common claim regarding death before the fall.

First of all, I would point out that the death that comes into the world as a result of the fall of Adam and Even is primarily the death of humans. Even if we were to say it effects all of creation we must still explain how animals existed prior to the fall. The common young earth view is that all animals were vegetarians. While this may be a plausible answer in regards to larger animals like Lions who might choose to be herbivores in extreme circumstances (such as the lions at the London zoo during WWII), it fails to address the animals (specifically insects and arachnids like spiders), whose physiological make-up prevents them from subsisting on anything other than other animals.

I’ll move on to the scientific evidence in a bit but I think this branch of the discussion would prove to be most fruitful going further as the death evident in nature is actually what convinced Darwin himself to abandon his Christian beliefs.

Now to move on towards what Science says.

Regardless of the popular notion among creationists that “the science surrounding the dating of the universe is constantly changing” the reality is that while the estimates do vary, none of them come close to the 10,000-6,000 years of the young earth model. One thing to keep in mind is that any credible competing theory to the older view of the earth needs to adequately account for all findings such as Hubble’s Law and the cosmic background radiation of the universe. The reality is that among contemporary physical cosmologists, the notion that the earth could be less than 3 billion years is regarded as being as improbable as Darwinian evolution. In fact, many proponents of intelligent design are also strong adherents to an older view of the universe.

The real issue here is how we choose to approach science and what we are inclined to accept or reject out of hand as a result of our philosophical presuppositions we bring to the table. For example, why do we, at the outset, mistrust scientific findings? I find this attitude towards science strange indeed considering that most of the greatest scientists have been Christians like Isaac Newton and Francis Bacon (the fathers of modern science) who were able to formulate hypothesis and subsequently test them because they believed that the universe was created according to perceptible laws in such a manner that we could, through careful observation, discover and exploit to our own ends. I believe in the ~400 years since we’ve seen this theory science is based on to be proven time and again. So why is it that only now we are beginning to mistrust the scientific method and the scientists that employ it?

I believe we should be cautious here lest we fall prey to another doctrine of Genesis that many (though not all) in the church felt at one time was absolutely required. That is, the heliocentric model or the view that the earth was the center of the universe. We need to understand that if science is forcing their bad philosophy (and I’ll agree with you that much of science now is directed by a philosophical presupposition of naturalism/materialism) on us now, it is only because they are following in the footsteps of religions that have stumped scientific progress throughout history. And this is not limited to Christianity by any stretch. Christianity’s offenses here are actually limited than in other cultures. But there have been offenses propagated by faulty couplings of theology and science. I’m not saying we should never join theology and science (for example, our theology gives us the basis for science AND gives us certain definites such as the universe having a definite beginning), only that we should be very cautious in where we plant our flag on what the Bible constrains us to believe.

Moving on; Sure, there is a lot of junk science out there like global warming and Darwinian evolution. However these share something in common, neither contain any evidence nor are they able to adequately answer competing evidence.

So, to sum it all up. Without explicit Biblical evidence one way or another and given the wealth of scientific evidence against a young earth view, I am inclined to favor an older view of the universe.

Also, in response to the statement “I don’t place my trust in man’s wisdom, but in God’s.” I think a quote from Galileo Galilei will suffice:
I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.

Romans 1 tells us that God wants us to know him through his creation. Scripture tells us that God desires to be known. Why would we think that God would thwart our honest attempts at knowing, at least in part, either?

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Scientific knowledge

“scientific knowledge” is a misnomer in itself as science does not stand by itself but is rather a means by which we may form and fashion our beliefs. In other words, facts are not self-interpreting.

Many say there is not a shred of evidence to support ID, and I would grant that they are correct..

..provided your criteria for acceptable evidence is dictated by your prior commitment to philosophical naturalism as opposed to a truly open commitment to truth regardless of where it may lead. Scientifically speaking, this would not negate the prior formation of a working hypothesis. But it does negate the stubborn refusal to accept the plausibility of an alternative explanation. Especially when that plausible alternate explanation carries with it more answers than questions (which is the unfortunate case in regards to all Darwinian theories).

Many also amusingly claim that theists like myself believe in magic. Well nothing is more magical than the claim that the universe suddenly sprang into existence uncaused out of nothing. All I am positing is that the universe suddenly sprang into existence out of nothing by a cause that transcends natural (which includes recurring) phenomenon.

As Plantinga also notes in a recent debate of his, the question really comes down to whether evolution was guided by an outside force or whether it was unguided. Coincidentally we have more than enough evidence to claim that the process was guided and that consequently strongly points to an intelligent being that did the guiding. I find it interesting that even astrophysicists (like Hawking) will grant that the process appears to have been guided, but then react so viscerally when the concept of an intelligent designer is posed. It’s not surprising, however, as we all know what such an admission of an intelligent designer would mean to how we conduct our lives and see ourselves in relation to the Cosmos (with a capital C, Sagan would be so proud).

In terms to the damage you (this was, as usual, part of another conversation, apologies for the rough transition here) think Christianity has done. I would like to remind you that Christianity is what gave birth to modern science. No other world view (even a naturalistic one) can rationally sustain the belief that the universe contains order and that we, through the proper application of our epistemic faculties, can accurately understand it (something Darwinism has no rational basis for).

I would also like to point out that we just emerged from the most secular, and consequently most bloody century in human history. The cold reality is that it is atheism, not Christianity nor any other religion, that offers such an unrestrained view of mankind’s moral obligations (indeed, as Ivan eloquently noted in The Brothers Karamazov, without the promise of immortality anything is permissible). This unhinged view of moral obligation has led to bloodshed on an epic scale in the 19th century. I find it amusing how you like to bring up admitted failings of Christians throughout history but you give a gloss to atheistic regimes. Yes, I know some will claim that Hitler claimed to be a Christian, but take a minute and ask yourself whether his actions matched the words of Jesus Christ or Friedrich Nietzsche.

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Another primer on Molinism/Middle Knowledge 2 of 2

Here is a follow-up to the exchange I posted on earlier wherein I received and answered a question from someone interested in learning more about the Biblical doctrine of Molinism/Middle Knowledge.

“Now, I may be incorrectly understanding Craig’s explanation of how middle knowledge is supposed to have worked, but I believe he detailed a scenario in which God looked out before creation and saw an infinite host of “parallel universes” (my phrase) encompassing all possible individual choices of his creatures and “picked one.””

There aren’t an infinite number of parallel universes. Middle Knowledge is of possible universes, the vast majority of which are not actualized. For example, one possible universe would be a universe with nothing in it except for empty space. Another possible universe might be one in which I married someone other than the woman I am currently married to. However there is no possible universe where 1+1 does not equal 2.

As for the choices entailed in each logically possible world, you also have to keep in mind that God’s own actions (or possible actions) are also contained within the mind (through divine omniscience) of God. I am confident that once you dwell on that for a little while you’re mind will be as blown as mine was when I first began to plumb the depths of what it means to say that our God is “the only wise God” (Romans 16:27).

The possible worlds God possesses foreknowledge of, and what primarily constitutes what we call the middle knowledge of God is the knowledge of counterfactuals. These are facts or truthful statements of “what might-have-been”. They are not a part of God’s free knowledge

“That in some sense (and this is where my understanding may be flawed) human free will is pre-existent to the Creative Decree”

This is actually a variant on what is formally known as “the grounding objection”. The short answer to this apparently problem is that God’s foreknowledge of future free events is not based on the agents themselves but on God’s knowledge of himself (specifically his omniscience or knowledge of all things). His foreknowledge couldn’t be predicated on the agents whose choices are foreknown since the agents that are foreknown did not exist at some point in time (which would mean that God’s knowledge would be limited and finite). Rather, such future free actions of causal agents (which includes angels along with humans at the least) are whats known as “brute facts” which are logically along the lines of facts such as mathematics like the concept of 1+1=2.

So when God laments in Genesis 6:6 he is not lamenting the actualizing of a world wherein free creatures would rebel in stunning (though not surprising) ways. But God’s lament is expressed within space and time (which is another rich topic) over the actualization of sin and rebellion. In short, just like Lazarus’s death was foreknown and even foreordained, Jesus still weeps in John 11:35 not because of a lack of knowledge in the formal sense (that is, being aware of facts) but because of a lack of experience (that is, the actualized event that was previously foreknown).

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Another primer on Molinism/Middle Knowledge 1 of 2

I recently received the following via a Facebook message (reposed with permission):

Wes

Pardon the unsolicited message–and I see that with your 3K+ friends, your ability to reply may be limited–but I’m a long-suffering “anti-Calvinist” who’s only now beginning to study Molinism.

I noticed through Facebook’s VERY unprivate data search mechanisms that you are a fairly outspoken Molinist of sorts and some random comments I’ve read of yours lead me to believe you might be prepared to shed some light on a couple of things for me.

Previously, I’d developed a general aversion to any system of theology simply because I saw all “sides” of this or that debate simply bypassing a reconciliation effort in favor of a “these verses mean what they say, those don’t” approach. Now that I’ve dipped my toes in Molinism (via WLC’s defense of it in the book I’ve linked to), I’m at least hopeful. Now, I’m still trying to wrap my mind around some of the hermeneutic’s particulars, but there are two verses, one a proof text for the reformed crowd and one for the openness crowd, that I’m wondering how Molinism addresses.

Reformed: Eph. 1:11

Openness: Gen. 6:6

Whenever you could get back to me, that would be super. Thanks in advance for whatever time you can dedicate to it.

Sincerely
Josh Lowery

Since I love the doctrine of Molinism/Middle Knowledge I decided to try and give Josh as much information on the subject as I could in a single Facebook message. What follows, then, is sort-of the fire-hose method of discussing an otherwise deep and rich subject in a relatively short amount of time.

Hey Josh,

Thanks for the message, unsolicited or not 😉

I am indeed a huge fan of Molinism. As Thomas P. Flint mentions in his excellent work “Divine Providence: The Molinist Account”, Molinism’s twin pillars are God’s sovereignty and mankind’s limited free agency.

As to the specific verses you mentioned. I would argue that Eph 1:11 is primarily referring to Christ and how our redemption is worked out ahead of time in him. Thus the “all things” are directly referring to the salvation brought about in Christ. Calvinists often point to this verse by way of saying that God causes all things. However the idea of causal determinism has some very serious flaws.

The most significant of which is that it ends up making God culpable for all sin, evil, and suffering in the world. You can study more on this vein of thought through Alvin Plantinga’s Free Will Theodicy, (my favorite) Bruce Little’s Creation Order Theodicy, and (ok, another favorite) Udo Middleman’s Innocence of God.

I must admit I haven’t encountered Genesis 6:6 used in the open theistic sense but having read a lot of Boyd I can certainly see how it could be portrayed that way.

Basically open theism is, in my estimation, the perfect opposite of the Calvinistic view. However the reason for this is that they both have a wrong understanding of what free will is. Both systems have a view that if God contains foreknowledge of future-free events then that somehow means that men are not free. WLC has an excellent book on this very subject entitled “Only Wise God” wherein he refutes this flawed understanding of free agency in connection with supreme sovereignty and by destroying the linkage of premises in the argument (that is, that 1. God’s foreknowledge inevitably means that 2. men cannot have free causal agency) he, in my estimation anyway, manages to utterly demolish both erroneous views while upholding what a plain reading of the text seems to indicate (that is, that God is sovereign and men’s choices are their own).

So yes, God can lament over the choices of men in Genesis 6:6 and Exodus 32:1-14, as well as change the course of events in 2 Kings 20 in response to prayer all without sacrificing God’s foreknowledge, omnipotence, or without damaging God’s predestined plan for the universe.

How can this be? I believe you’ve rightly discerned what many people have believed intrinsically, even without knowing the formal theological system cobbled together initially by a Jesuit priest. That is the doctrine of Molinism or Middle Knowledge (as many prefer to call it now).

Unfortunately there has not been very much work done on the doctrine on Molinism/Middle Knowledge until recently. Now, however, there has been quite a flurry of work done from a very diverse theological crowd including some staunch Calvinists (like Alvin Plantinga!). In fact, one of the reasons I hold to the system of Molinism is because it has been such a unifying force along such a diverse group of orthodox Christians. I am forced to conclude that, like the extra-Biblical doctrine of the trinity, Molinism is a solid Biblical framework for understanding the interplay of God’s sovereignty and Mankind (and Angelic kind)’s limited free agency.

At any rate, here is a link to the best resources I’ve found on the subject of Molinism/Middle Knowledge.

Also, here is a brief outline I wrote on the doctrine of Molinism a while back. And here is a post I wrote on the biggest objection to Molinism (the grounding objection).

I hope that at least helps point you in the right direction. Let me know if you have any additional questions/thoughts/concerns. Even with 3k friends on Facebook I can always find time to talk about this topic (and many more).

Blessings,
Wes

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Prayer changes things

One of the unfortunate side effects of reformed theology is that the view that prayer is actually able to induce change (from God of course) is often sacrificed due to a poor understanding of predestination. Often prayer is portrayed in reformed theology as something we do in order to “get attuned to God” and it is often taught that prayer can’t possibly change anything (that would be heretical and arrogant don’t cha know?). I’m not sure what “get attuned to God” really means for reformed folk, especially since most proponents of this view also hold to a view of God’s sovereignty which results in a belief that all things are causally determined. However I do know that prayer does, in fact, change things.

Here’s the biblical evidence for such a notion (though it seems to me that such a notion ought to go without saying):

In 2 Kings 20 Hezikiah’s prayed and God added 15 years to his life (he was certainly going to die, or else we have issues with God telling a lie). Many reformed (or pseudo-reformed) theologians like to point out that the resulting 15 years were disastrous for Hezikiah and they go on to extrapolate from that that Hezikiah ought not to have prayed for those additional 15 years. From this they like to further say that this passage serves as a warning to us not to ask for more than what God has given/provided.

Sadly, their conclusions simply don’t hold water. Even though it is true that Hezikiah’s apparently lost his mind in the extra years he was given, the fact remains that 1. God told him in no uncertain terms that he would surely die 2. Hezikiah prayed and 3. God heard Hezikiah’s request and added 15 more years to his life. To say Hezikiah’s prayer was not the catalyst in God’s granting the additional years is to say that God lied when he initially told Hezikiah that he was about to die.

Further, in Exodus 32:1-14, God tells Moses that he has had enough of the Hebrew people and is planning to wipe them out and start over through Moses. This passage is often glossed over in most sermons but it raises some very interesting questions. Either God is lying (not just bluffing, but outright lying) since we know that such drastic actions were never taken, or else the pleading and intercessions of Moses were actually effective in causing God to change His mind in space and time. This actually takes on even more meaning when we factor in the fact that his pleadings and intercessions were arch-typical for Christ’s pleadings and intercessions for us. Therefore, the only viable means of preserving God’s integrity in this passage in my estimation is to accept that there was a point in time where God did indeed plan on wiping out the nation of Israel and that through the pleading of Moses, God “changed his mind” and did not do what he said he would do. Does this mean God’s plans are not predetermined? Hardly, but that is a topic for another time.

In closing; Given these two examples in Scripture alone (though more could certainly be given) along with Jesus’s statement that we “have not because we ask not” (Matthew 7:7), not to mention a host of related verses, I believe we are justified in the belief that it is logically possible for God to change his mind as well as events and circumstances without changing his plan.

In short; Prayer indeed changes things.

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Whence cometh reason?

Can atheists Trust the truth detecting ability of their own minds?

By that I mean; In a theistic universe we are given reason to trust that our senses are capable of accurately detecting the world around us because we hold to the notion that they were properly designed to operate in the environment in which we employ them.

The naturalistic alternative here is that our senses simply evolved through random chance and mutation towards an undirected end. In this case we simply cannot reasonably trust our senses, much less our cognitive abilities to understand the world we find ourselves in. In this model, we might as well be protoplasmic lumps in a cosmic vat that is manipulating our synapses into forming sensory perceptions of a purely artificial environment.

“Fittest” does not entail the production of true beliefs. I think this can be made abundantly clear by simply pointing out how many animals (and humans) posses faulty or flat out false beliefs and who nevertheless manage to survive and thrive.

I believe Idiocracy makes this point quite clearly. (Welcome to Costco, I love you.)

One example would be how easily animals are trapped in the wild. Sure, some figure out the traps and manage to avoid being caught or eaten, but only for a while. If the production of true beliefs were integral to the survival of the species or a criterion of “fittest” in the evolutionary sense of the word we should expect that animals today would not be so easily overcome by traps designed in the stone ages.

Another example would be human malice, greed, evil, etc. According to philosophical naturalists like Sam Harris our collective morality has grown up because it is somehow evolutionarily beneficial. That is contributes to “the survival of the species”. However if this were true then we should expect fewer and fewer systems propagating false beliefs such as obscure cults, Scientology, etc.

No one, to my mind, doubts that natural selection is a mechanism that operates in the world we find ourselves in. We are merely want to point out that what natural selection “selects for” is still hotly debated even among the Darwinist crowd1, and nevertheless not aimed at the production of true beliefs (and to my mind no naturalist has ever tried to make the claim that it was either).

The fact is also that evolution must be seen as random in order for it to avoid the sticky implications, if a system existed, of a guided evolutionary process. You can’t have your cake and eat it too, though many like Dawkings try, either evolution is thoroughly random or else it is guided. And not merely guided by a system that conveniently “selects for” what we, at the end of the process, deem to be evolutionarily beneficial. That is not scientific observation any more than it is wishful thinking or blind faith (which is why many like myself make no distinction between Darwinian evolution and other systems of faith).

At any rate; I believe this, the inability to ground or explain the origins of our cognitive faculties, will ultimately be the Achilles heel of Darwinian evolution.

Well, along with the sheer lack of evidence, massive changes in the underlying theory, and general disagreement on rather large details such as the definition of evolution, selection, and qualifications of “fittest”.

However if you can’t even lay a proper epistemic framework I don’t see how you can reliably build anything at all. Without a proper ground for our cognitive facilities we might as well be howling at the moon for who’s to say we are any better off cognitively than our ancestors?

  1. In fact, there is a rather large debate as to whether it is even legitimate to claim that natural selection “selects for” anything as such would entail guided as opposed to unguided evolution. []
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Children in House Church

As a mother of children currently ages 4, 2, and 6 months; at the first mention of meeting in homes as a body of believers, I thought “What do we do with the kids?” and I often still wonder “What do we do with the kids?”.

When we met with two other families with young kids in Augusta, we started off hiring a teenager from the neighborhood who worked as a Mother’s helper. We quickly found that especially the kids under 2 kept making their way back to their mothers. Since we all lived next door and our kids played together almost every day and knew the rules of each house, we finally decided to all have a meal together and then let the kids play on their own while we studied the bible. Of course babies stayed in the room with the adults and all the kids were welcome to come quietly sit in on the study with their parents. On most occasions this set up worked really well for enabling the adults to study, but we never focused on prayer, worship, or teaching the kids anything about God. We were meeting as friends and neighbors doing a bible study and we all went to our respective churches where we worshiped and our kids were taught on Sunday mornings.

When we moved to Marietta, we began to meet exclusively with a house church group that had no young children other than our own. Especially in the beginning, there were many occasions where I just didn’t want to go. It was so much work to keep the kids inline in someone else’s home that wasn’t set up for young children. It took forever to get out the door with food for a potluck meal, materials for our study, toys and books for the kids, diapers and sippy cups and two kids who really didn’t want to go. Then we had a another baby so we added at least one more bag and a heavy baby carrier to our list of supplies. There was so much prep just to get there and once we got there, I was so tied up setting up a spot for the kids to play, fixing their plates, making sure they didn’t spill or drop food all over the place or break anything, and trying to keep them still and quiet during the main study time that I came home more frustrated than ever. But with all of the frustration from the kids, the group of believers that we met with was great. We truly worshipped the Lord and even though I was never really able to participate much in the study and discussion I saw the benefit of talking through things as group instead of having one presenter on a pedestal.

One day a family with two boys ages 3 and 5 visited our group, adding a few challenges to our meetings. We had been with Breaking Bread for several months, so my kids were accustomed to rules that I had given for each house and the routine of the meeting. But just like my kids a few month previous, these boys and their parents had never met with a body believers in someone elses home. Having four children playing was a much more chaotic. While this family unfortunately only met with our group for a few weeks before deciding to go back to an institutional church, it provided an excellent opportunity for the entire group to evaluate how to incorporate children into the meeting more and support parents so they could interact more in the study. After a few weeks of discussion, the group decided to add a short children’s devotional,  a couple of children’s songs to the singing time, and have people sign up to take the children out do a lesson with them during the main discussion time. We tried this schedule for a few weeks and decided to take out the children’s devotion because they listened more in a one on one setting during the lesson and my oldest child in particular would not speak in front of the whole group. The kids really enjoyed the one on one lesson and it was great not to have to pack so much stuff to entertain them and be able participate more in the discussion. Unfortunately, we moved soon after starting this idea so most people were only able to sign up once.

Now we have moved to Roswell, too far away to travel to several of the houses in the Breaking Bread group. We haven’t found a closer group to meet with yet, so we are looking at starting a new group. Given the opportunity to revaluate how to best teach our children who God is and how we relate to him, we have tried going to a few nearby institutional churches. I think especially preschool age children learn better in groups where they can do more hands on activities and play games related to a lesson. We’ve tried this for two weeks now and I don’t know that it is the best decision. Will it be too much to try to go to an institutional church on Sunday’s and have home church on some other day? Can Wes and I really sit through the Sunday morning production every week without being cynical? Today at the end of the prayer just before the closing song a couple gave their 9 or 10 year old son the ticket to get his sibling out of the nursery. When the boy started to walk our during the song, the parent quickly shooshed him, sent him back to his seat, and the father told him just watch the last song then you can go. Will we end up like that? The production isn’t over yet and they better watch whether they care to or not.

If the house church model is best for adults, why shouldn’t it be for kids too? Maybe it’s just important to have a group with other kids in it? If everyone in the group thinks of it as a family, coming together to worship would  the group as a whole be willing to be dedicated to teaching the children?

I think each group will have to find their own way of handling children in an organic house church. Church is a living organism and the needs and strengths and each group will be different and charge from season to season. As we start to seek a new body of believers out in Roswell, we are going to try to find a group of people who intends on truly treating the body as a family with a commitment to love and strengthen all members of the family. As long as we come with that mindset, the rest will work itself out.

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More on homosexual marriage.

I ran across a image post on Facebook recently which stated:

A reminder of what happens when we make love a crime.

In reference to the following picture:

My initial reaction was the simple comment that: Interracial marriage and same sex marriage aren’t even close to being the same thing.

After a little bit of flack for daring to bring up the apprently taboo position that same-sex unions are not the same as interracial unions I recieved the following comment:

I think we’re a little mixed up. You said that interracial marriage and same-sex marriage are not the same thing. I agree; that’s obvious.

Unfortunately, you’re completely wrong when you say that “it is the favorite refrain from the GLBT community.” I’ve never heard anyone say that, and I’ve been looking at the GLBT community for years.

What we might have said is that bigotry against the two are very, very similar. The point of this statement is that every negative statement about interracial marriage in that clipping is also stated, word for word, about same-sex marriage now.

To which I replied:

And that, Chrisopher, is the basis for my response. The two are simply not the same thing. One does not oppose same sex marriage for the same reasons that interracial marriages were opposed.

One was based on the premise that some races of humans are inferior to others (as mentioned in the article) whereas the other is not (no one is claiming that homosexuals who choose to lead a lifestyle opposed to biological design are subhuman).

Additionally, the article makes clear that the moral basis for supporting interracial marriage (indeed, the very notion that all humans are created equally) is only supported from within a Biblical moral construct.

In fact, the article’s very notion that the two were able to conceive a child gives credibility to the naturalness of their union (ie. that racial differences are merely an arbitrary preferential prejudice and not one based on hard biological facts). Ironically, it is exactly the thing that this article condemns (the creation of a “mixed” child that gives rise to the strongest (imo anyway) line of argumentation against same-sex unions. Namely, that the very concept of a same-sex union is contrary to our natural biological design.

Reply to me:

It just looks like you’re trying to start a fight instead of join us in contemplating how far we’ve come in protecting people’s freedom to love each other.

Me:

Nope, just pointing out that the horse you are trying to ride to sexual liberation will not take you very far. The facts are that “free love” is not free even if the participants freely consent.

What we should be asking is where we ought to draw the line when it comes to sexual activity. I imagine few (if any) would want to take up that challenge.

Reply to me:

Well, if you want to come join me in my bedroom and make sure I’m doing it right, you’re welcome any time. 😉

Me:

Sorry, but an appeal to privacy doesn’t work here either. There are a lot of things we don’t allow people to do even if it is done in private. Like murdering people or abusing their own (often consenting) children.

Reply to me:

Um, what are you talking about? People talk about “where we ought to draw the line when it comes to sexual activity” all the time. Most people don’t apply strict logic and critical thinking to it, as you’re demonstrating so clearly, but …

You are the one who insisted on reminding everyone how wrong we all are to think that queer folks shouldhave rights. Sorry, but we’re all pretty much just going to make fun of you until you give us a decent reason for that nonsense (and no, “straight folks can make babies” isn’t a good argument at all).

Me:

Queer folks don’t have rights? That’s news to me.

And yes, the fact that homosexuals are incapable of procreating is quite a very good argument against same-sex marriage considering one of the major purposes of marriage is the attachment of children with parents (and each other). Same sex unions are built on the fundamental redefinition of a naturally occurring biological entity (the family) so the onus is actually on proponents of same-sex unions to show why we (as a society) should prefer to walk down the road of redefining marriage and family to be something that the state declares rather than something the state merely recognizes.

Reply to me:

1. Your literal position here is that queer folks should not have rights that heterosexual folks do have.

2. Your argument is unambiguously wrong: Firstly, homosexual and bisexual people are absolutely capable of procreating. How the hell have you concluded that they aren’t? Secondly, many heterosexual couples are incapable of procreating and/or don’t intend to do so. My own mother has had the tubes tied, and my father has gotten the bits snipped. I take it you conclude that their marriage should be dissolved, due to their complete inability to procreate?

3. “The family” as you define it isn’t a biological entity. Human beings are, at least occasionally, biologically poly-amorous, as are many, many other mammals closely related to us. I take it, then, that you support polygamy?

4. The state already does “declare” a type of marriage to be legitimate, and other types to not be legitimate. Are you saying that the state and federal governments should cease this discrimination?

Me:

1. No, my literal position here is that queer folks DO have the same rights that everyone else has (heterosexuals included). My position is actually in opposition to giving them special rights that no one else has or could have (unless they chose to live in a homosexual lifestyle).

2. Biology my dear friend. Homosexuals simply do not posses the parts necessary to procreate. Your parent’s present condition is actually an argument in favor of the traditional definition of marriage based on biology. You see, your parents had to go to such great lengths to prevent something that occurred naturally whereas a homosexual couple has to go outside of their union to artificially produce something that they could never produce between themselves. And even if they do have a child the child’s biological parents are not the homosexual couple. This brings us back to the state’s role in determining parentage vs. it’s role in simply acknowledging parentage.

3. You are assuming that poly-amorous is the base condition of men. Based on what anthropological evidence? I find it curious that all cultures in human history have held a view of natural marriage as between one man and at least one (sometimes more) woman. However the view of two members of the same sex being involved in an intimate fashion has historically been seen as simply a perversion of natural biological processes.

4. Wrong. The state does not declare anything. The state merely recognizes a natural union between a man and a woman for (among other things) the proactive safety of any children produced by their union. Marriage is also the only institution that does not need to be ratified if a couple decides to move to another country. It is actually a curious fact that even in the most diverse cultures marriages are merely recognized as a pre-existing and pre-governmental union. It’s not really surprising either considering the fact that families (as defined by a marital union) are the building blocks of societies.

Sorry, an assault on marriage is an assault on nature. And just as it is foolish to whine about the naturally occurring law of gravity it is foolish to whine about the naturally occurring laws of biology. Sure, you could change the law to decree that square circles really do exist, but that simply doesn’t make it so.

At this point I took off for a few hours during which the conversation ran off without me (actually, I received quite a few comments) so rather than address them each individually, I decided to simply provide a summary in closing.

Me:

Wow, I took off a few hours to play with my kids and miss most of the conversation.

I must admit that it doesn’t look like I’ll be able to address most of what has been brought up at this point but I did want to say, in closing (this will be my last post on this thread, I’ll give yall the last word), that while I appreciate your zeal for righting what you perceive to be a wrong. That is, I know many or most of you firmly believe that homosexuals truly are being denied a “right” and that such a “right” has no bearing on anyone else. I must again reiterate a few key facts:

1. Marriage is a natural state determined by biology and upheld by human society. There are many reasons for this, ONE of which is the rearing of children. Note the singular case among a plural backdrop for those of you who seem to think this argument lends itself to a reducto ad absurnum once reproduction is taken out of the picture. Men cannot father children by themselves (asexually) or with other men and neither can women bear children without the aid of men.

“Wait, I don’t possess the parts necessary to procreate? Then how the hell did I have a son?”

No, you do not posses the full 46 chromosomes necessary for the production of human life. You posses only 23 chromosomes which can not be conjoined with 23 chromosomes from another woman. So in order for you to have had a son you had to have either had intercourse with a man or you had to have received genetic material from one. One thing is certain, however, and that is that both a man and a woman were involved in the production of human life.

2. Marriage consisting of a man and a woman is the ideal institution for rearing children. Studies have conclusively shown that children need both sexes of parents. Ideally, the biological parents who, as I mentioned above, must be male and female anyway. Alternate forms of family such as foster homes, adopted parents, and even single parent households all exist as exceptions to the rule and all require, among other things, heavy government intervention in order to function properly (or at all). This leads me to my third point which is..

3. Marriage is the basic building block of society. Many ask why we have marriage at all if there are many instances where children may not be the result of such a union. However this is rather narrow and short sighted since, as Christopher’s example of his parent’s measures of preventing further conception above clearly demonstrate, heterosexual union is the only type of union that results in the production of new life. So the question is really more along the lines of what we should do about it. We could expect people to just “do the right thing” but that, as history has proven thanks to the sexual revolution, is naive at best and willfully negligent at worst. It also neglects the clear rights of the children to both their parents (which were, again, a male and a female). So marriage exists to proactively answer not only the rights of the child but also the demands of the state since a state with an inordinate amount of broken homes will inevitably spend more on mending the fissures of broken homes (of which homosexual unions are at the outset) than they would otherwise.

Many like to raise the question “what does it matter to heterosexuals if homosexuals are allowed to marry”. Well the answers are many but here are two:

1. Governments, under societies that allow homosexual unions, necessarily step into the role of assigning parentage rather than merely recognizing it. When my children were borne no one asked my wife who we wanted to assign parentage to (for either of our distinct and separate roles), rather they merely recorded what had happened 9 months earlier.

2. Since homosexual marriage is being pushed as tantamount to racism (or, as the initial post implies, opposing interracial marriage) those of us who continue to oppose homosexuality as the perversion of nature it is will necessarily be seen and treated in the same manner as racists are today. Not that I really mind the social stigma (on the contrary, I consider it an honor to be considered backwards and a bigot for my defense of traditional, natural, marriage), but the problem comes in with additional laws that attempt to “weed out” what society has deemed to be “intolerant”. Specifically, being branded a “sexual racist” (a term that is incoherent but which characterizes the GLBT community’s strongest, or only, positive argument) would necessarily place one in legally precarious situations in a whole host of areas Just imagine, if you will, how racists are treated in the workforce, in government, etc. If the argument were “we want the right to have sex with whomever/whatever we want in the privacy of our own bedrooms I may not be as vocally opposed.

However to form a “movement” around it with the express aim of making a sexually deviant practice a socially accepted norm is to draw a line in the sand and declare war. Simply put, there are no neutral sides to this issue. Ideas and movements have very real consequences.

For those of you who are shocked with people like me who vehemently oppose the GLBT agenda I simply want to ask; What did you expect would be the response? Did you honestly expect people like me to simply roll over and accept a wholesale change in societal (moral, religious, etc.) norms?

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Unable or unwilling?

A Calvinist friend of mine recently asked me the difference between “unwilling” and “unable” and why I consider the two to be mutually exclusive when talking about mankind’s ability to sin or not. Here’s my reply

If I am unable I cannot be unwilling because my inability precludes my willingness either way. I know you tire of hearing it, but it’s an apt description. If I am unable then I am no better off than a robot preprogrammed to run a certain course and as such I cannot rightly be held accountable for that which I have no control over.

On the other hand, if I am unwilling then I logically have the ability to act in a manner other than that which I choose. That my actions are foreknown is not the same as saying that my actions or choices are less free. In fact, you could even say that my actions are predetermined so long as you account for my freedom to choose at some point (aka, in eternity past as part of God’s omniscience as a brute fact per Molinism).

You see, either I am truly free to choose to sin or not to sin (as the Bible teaches) or else I am unable to choose not to sin (a concept foreign to Scripture).

If I am unable to not sin then I cannot logically be held accountable or responsible for choices that are, by definition, beyond my control.

If I am unwilling to not sin then I am not only responsible for my choice but, in light of the holy standard of God, I am unable to bridge the gap I freely created.

I realize that inability and unwillingness have been tossed around the Reformed world as if they were somehow comparable but the truth is that they aren’t.

The bottom line is that we are either free and responsible or else we are not free and therefore not responsible.

Only one leaves God unstained by the sin and evil that exists in the universe since only one allows for other causal agents who had the ability to freely create and choose to sin against the will of God.

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