Marvel at the Design

This is the fourth of six lessons in the God’s Not Dead series:

Evidence from physics and astronomy point to a creator, but biology is a bit more challenging to reconcile with Christianity. Why?

The triumph of the theory of evolution is usually the knockout blow to anyone attempting to maintain an intellectually credible belief in God. But evidence over the past few decades has also seen the fingerprints of God.

Anthony Flew’s There is a God: how the world’s most notorious atheist changed his mind. He was an atheistic philosopher who came to doubt atheism as a result of advances in molecular biology, particularly DNA. Dr. Flew was impacted by the amount of complexity in DNA that could only point to an intelligent designer.

Slide4

Spontaneous formation of a living cell, the odds are 1 in 1o to the 40,000 power. Those zeros could fill a book. Similar chances could be compared to a tornado moving through a junkyard and assembling a fully operational 747.

Not surprising, scientists would never say a cell could have originated by chance, instead they say that somehow the laws of nature could have spontaneously brought together the different building blocks to form the first cell. But we all can observe that nature does the exact opposite: 1) Nature moves from order to disorder: try keeping your house clean, it naturally becomes messy. 2) Nature moves from high energy to low energy: water always runs downhill, never uphill.

A cell is both highly ordered and contains very high energy compared to its separate building blocks. For a cell to come together, it must behave in the opposite direction of its normal course.

Last ditch effort: the sun could have supplied the energy in order to create that first cell, but that is like setting off a stick of dynamite and expecting the energy to create a house. A final ditch effort: life on Earth was seeded by aliens. (ancient astronaut theory).

Take a look at Mike Riddle talking about life and chance / probability…

Slide6

It has been concluded that the more biologists decipher the DNA code, the more they are recognizing its complexity and ingenuity, which is vastly more sophisticated than computer software. Letters in DNA are arranged in very specific sequences to provide the needed information to construct and operate a living organism. So, for nature to blindly produce enough information for even a single gene would be much like a student sitting on their cell phone and accidentally pocket texting the message, “Don’t tell anyone, but I cheated on the test.” Like the letters from a pocket text, it can only come from an intelligent agent.

Imagine a pot of boiling alphabet soup and noticing the sequence of letters to form the sentence, “I hope you feel better soon, and have a nice day.” You CANNOT assume that this happened due to a chemical reaction or the physics of the water and pasta. It can only be explained by intelligence.

This video addresses genetic code and mutations over time…

Slide8

Some Christians, like Dr. Francis Collins, who mapped the human genome, actually argue that Christianity and evolution are compatible. Evolution being the tool that God used to create humanity in his image, but unguided evolutionary process cannot explain the sudden appearance of the fossil record of complex life.

Collins actually addresses ID in his book, the Language of God.

  1. Proposition 1: Evolution promotes and atheistic worldview and therefore must be rejected by believers in God.
  2. Proposition 2: Evolution is fundamentally flawed and cannot account for the intricate complexity of nature (p.184). Bacterial Flagellum (pp.185-186).
  3. Proposition 3: If evolution cannot explain irreducible complexity, then there must have been an intelligent designer involved somehow.

Scientific Objection to ID: is it because scientists bow down at the altar of Darwin? But scientists are attracted to overturning accepted theories.

  • ID fails as a scientific theory (experimental observation).
  • Many examples of irreducible complexity are not irreducible after all – human blood clotting (p.190), the eye (p.191), bacterial flagellum (p.192).

The fossil record does not show life gradually changing over time. It seems that major groups like vertebrates appear suddenly in what is called the Cambrian explosion, which is the most dramatic of a general pattern in the fossil record. The first new types like fish or reptiles typically appear suddenly without a series of identifiable ancestors. THEN, after they appear, they never change significantly.

At a conference at the University of Washington, Dr. J. Y. Chen writes about Chinese scientists who differ from Darwin and question Darwinian evolution. When asked to clarify, he said, “In China we can criticize Darwin, but not the government. In America, you can criticize the government, but not Darwin.”

I showed a clip of Ken Ham addressing the design of creation. [ Go ] Also he addresses the question, Is there really a God?

Ken Ham mentioned about atheists spending so much time and effort declaring there is no God, why do they even care? If we cease to exist, no purpose, no meaning, dead and decaying, and no one remembers or cares after we are gone, WHO CARES?

Slide10As an example, the eye demonstrates incredible levels of sophistication for the single purpose of vision. To see properly, countess individual pieces have to be properly arranged and come together perfectly… lens, cornea, iris, retina, nerve cord connecting to the proper part of the brain. The whole system would fall apart and not work if all this is not wired up correctly.

This is the illustration for irreducible complexity; biological structures that are composed of many parts. Such structures cannot come together part by part because if all the parts are not present, nothing works. Which part of a mouse trap can you remove and the trap still work?

This is another evidence of a predetermined design of an intelligent designer.

Slide11

Some of these features are: advanced communication skills (depends upon advanced brain power, vocal cord ability to make various sounds, regions of the brain designed for sound and language). Our hands are capable of making tools and handling tools with great precision. Our upright posture enable us to use highly advanced tools like scuba gear and space suits, driving, flying, and sky diving.

Science would say that all the human advantages come from our advanced brain capacity, but why would the brain of other organisms not develop just as much over the same span of chance and time?

Science has a philosophical attachment to Darwinian Theory, so Christians need to have wisdom on when and how to challenge the topic. Maybe you need to learn some challenges to the theory to help people break free from the false view they have accepted. Many will respond in anger and refuse to listen to anything. Perhaps start with other topics, like last week’s lesson before addressing this bombshell, which confronts their entire philosophical framework.

Teenagers: how can we expect better behavior (sex, drugs, violence) if they are no better than an ape that made it? When one is a special creation in the image of God, we have a higher calling.

The evidence of design in physics points to an all-powerful creator who exists outside of time and space.

The evidence of design from biology reveals that God has been intimately involved throughout the history of the world; each cell demonstrates that God was involved in our creation at the level of properly arranging the atoms in our DNA.

This demonstrates that the God revealed through science matches the God of the Bible.

Another video I showed that evening was Dr. Georgia Purdom on, Is Intelligent Design Christian? [ Go ]

Embrace the Evidence

This is the third of six lessons in the God’s Not Dead series.

Josh begins by putting God on trial, CS Lewis used the phrase, “God in the dock” which was the British way to say, “God in the witness stand.”

Josh begins by showing that the creation itself points to the reality of a Creator. Science is a natural place to start by observing the tremendous order in the universe is without a doubt. Skeptics are not impressed with this since they demand to see direct physical evidence over a clearly designed logical argument. But we would not find physical evidence for God by observing the universe, just as we find no physical evidence for Steve Jobs by looking into an iPhone.

Let’s take a look at some evidence, beginning in Romans 1:20…

Slide4

Josh begins his presentation with the Cosmological Argument for the existence of God (argument from creation). The basic idea of this argument is that, since there is a universe, it must have been caused by something beyond itself. It is based on the law of causality, which says that every limited thing is caused by something other than itself. Plato is the first thinker known to have developed an argument based on causation. Aristotle followed.

  • Norman Geisler Information: (Download the PDF)
  • Stephen Hawking Information: (See the Geisler download) Hawking wrote, that the laws of physics breaks down before the Big Bang, and I know why. Creation is where time and space all began!

The laws of nature seem to be carefully designed with human life in mind. Our universe is fine-tuned for life. Gravity slightly stronger or lesser, what would happen?

Let’s talk about details that cannot be accidental…

Slide5

  • The distance from the earth to the sun.
  • The earth’s rotation rate and length of year.
  • The amount of water on the earth’s surface.
  • The types and amounts of gasses on the earth.
  • The size of our moon and its distance from the earth.
  • The location of the earth in this galaxy.
  • Properties of light that allow photosynthesis. The properties of the lenses in our eyes that allow focused and detail images.

The change of all these details being so perfectly set by chance is unimaginably small, given the number of planets in our universe.

Other factors that allow us to live on the earth: to advance culturally and scientifically. The atmosphere has the right gasses for us to breathe, yet transparent so we can study the stars. The amount of O2 allows us to produce fire and all its uses, but not combust uncontrollably and destroy most of the forests.

Slide6

Skeptics suppress the truth by appealing to several excuses:

  • The universe could have created itself.
  • There are plenty of other larger universes.
  • Ignore evidence and simply science and faith are inherently in conflict.
  • But these proposals are not based on evidence, but blind faith…
  • Many would accept ANY explanation no matter how unlikely, in order to avoid God.

Richard Dawkins brings up the question of “who created God?” which leads to absurd thinking. He is saying we must have an explanation for our explanation to offer it plausible. Think about the turtle on the fencepost, you don’t have to know how it got there, you simply know that it did not get there by itself.

Slide7

  • Since he created time and space, he must be beyond time and space.
  • Since every detail was designed for his purposes, he must be very intelligent.
  • Since creation came into existence out of nothing, he must be very powerful.
  • Since he has created a place to benefit people, he is personal, involved, and caring.
  • Since he is able to do miracles, act in ways that are atypical and special, atheists deny the possibility of miracles. But they require their own miracles to explain the universe coming to existence out of absolutely nothing.

Only an intelligent being can create Mt. Rushmore, so a geologist would not have to abandon his science to recognize that fact.

Slide8

Some people encounter all this evidence, it undermines the foundation of their belief that the universe is all that exists.

When they recognize that they were created, they can somehow have a relationship with this Creator God.

People act like animals because of evolution. If we came from apes, we should have no problem denying moral accountability, so sex at all cost is OK, theft and murder are right because it is the survival of the fittest.

We must help people to sense the Holy Spirit and allow him to convict them of the truth, that they have violated the law in their hearts.

People will either respond in anger, change the topic, or they will come to terms with their denial of God’s existence.

The evidence from science is one of the best ways to begin speaking about Christianity with agnostics and atheists. It dispels the myth that science and faith are in conflict, and supports many truths we find in the Bible.

The Bible is not a book of nature but is not in conflict with nature. Evidence can challenge the very foundation of an atheist’s worldview and can grant them space to consider the reality of God.

How is the Bible God’s Word?

How does one convince a nonbeliever that the Bible is the Word of God?

Before I try to answer that question directly, let me make a distinction that is important at the outset. There’s a difference between objective proof and the persuasion or conviction that follows. John Calvin argued that the Bible carries both persuasion and conviction in terms of its internal testimony—the marks of truth that could be found just by an examination of the book itself—as well as external evidences that would corroborate that substantial evidence to give solid proof for its being the Word of God.

Yet the last thing people would want is a book telling them they are in desperate need of repentance and of a changed life and of bowing in humility before Christ. We don’t want that book to be the truth. Calvin claimed that there is a tremendous bias and prejudice built into the human heart that only the influence of God the Holy Spirit can overcome. Calvin distinguished between what he called the undicia—those objective evidences for the trustworthiness of Scripture—and what he called the internal testimony of the Holy Spirit, which is necessary to cause us to surrender to the evidence and acknowledge that it is the Word of God.

But I think this is a critical issue upon which so much of the Christian faith depends. The Bible makes the claim that it is the unvarnished Word of God, that it is the truth of God, that it comes from him. God is its ultimate author and source, though indeed he used human authors to communicate that message.

In speaking with people about this, we have to go through the laborious process of showing first of all that the Bible as a collection of historical documents is basically reliable. The same tests that we would apply to Herodotus or Suetonius or any other ancient historian would have to be applied to the biblical records. The Christian should not be afraid to apply those kinds of historical standards of credibility to the Scriptures, because they have withstood a tremendous amount of criticism from that standpoint, and their credibility remains intact.

On the basis of that, we come to an idea. If the book is basically reliable, it doesn’t have to be inerrent or infallible; it gives us a basically reliable portrait of Jesus of Nazareth and what he taught.

We move from there in linear fashion. If we can on the basis of general reliability come to the conclusion that Jesus Christ did the things that history claims he did, it would indicate that Jesus is more than an ordinary human being and that his testimony would be compelling.

I would move first to a study of the person of Jesus and then ask the question, what did Jesus teach about Scripture? For me, in the final analysis, our doctrine of Scripture is drawn from the teaching of Jesus and from our understanding of who he is.

From That’s a Good Question! Copyright © 1996 by R. C. Sproul.

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Ancient Astronaut Theory?

I watched a show on the History Channel this evening because the topic aroused my curiosity; it was called Ancient Aliens. Here is a brief summary about the program:

Unearthly visitations… Heavenly messengers… Close encounters… Accounts of humans interacting with celestial beings have existed since the beginning of mankind. Many of these encounters resulted in moral, philosophical and artistic inspirations. But did these contacts involve ethereal beings from heaven or extraterrestrials from other worlds? Are holy books the word of God, or guidebooks passed down by more advanced civilizations? Who told Joan of Arc how to defeat the English Army–saints or extraterrestrials? Could a young boy from India have learned advanced mathematical formulas from a Hindu goddess? What message did an American serviceman receive while touching an alien aircraft? If the Ancient astronaut theory is correct, then are beings from other worlds communicating with us for our benefit… or theirs? Just what is the purpose of these alien contacts?

Ancient alien theory grew out of the centuries-old idea that life exists on other planets, and that humans and extraterrestrials have crossed paths before. The theme of human-alien interaction came into view in the 1960s, driven by a wave of UFO sightings and popular films like 2001: A Space Odyssey. The space program played a part in this as well: If mankind could travel to other planets, why couldn’t extraterrestrials visit Earth?

In 1968, the Swiss author Erich von Däniken published Chariots of the Gods?. He writes that thousands of years ago space travelers from other planets visited Earth, where they taught humans about technology and influenced ancient religions. He is regarded by many as the father of ancient alien theory, also known as the ancient astronaut theory.

Most ancient alien theorists point to two types of evidence to support their ideas.

  1. The first is ancient religious texts in which humans witness and interact with gods or other heavenly beings who descend from the sky (sometimes in vehicles resembling spaceships) and possess spectacular powers.
  2. The second is physical specimens such as artwork depicting alien-like figures and ancient architectural marvels like Stonehenge and the pyramids of Egypt.

If aliens visited Earth in the past, could they make an appearance in the future? For ancient alien theorists, the answer is yes. They believe that, by sharing their views with the world, they can help prepare future generations for the inevitable encounter that awaits them.

The pyramids, Stonehenge, Atlantis, the Mayans… all advanced for the times. The program mentioned another example of an ancient alien visit; a mythical island called Brazil, or Hy-Brazil (sometimes called the other Atlantis). It is a phantom island mentioned in many Irish myths. It was said to be cloaked in mist, except for one day each seven years, when it became visible but could still not be reached.

From a non-biblical perspective, they would have us believe that the encounters we read about in the Bible where angels (or a pre-incarnate theophany) are visiting God’s faithful would actually be encounters with E.T. For example:

  1. Noah (Genesis 6:13): God approaches Noah about destroying the world by a flood. The Gilgamesh Epic records that he is to transform his own house into the ship he would save himself and the animals; it’s even shaped like a cube (could it be Borg? Resistance is futile). The point is that alien technology (far more advanced than the times) was utilized to save mankind.
  2. Abraham (Genesis 18:1, 2-3, 19:1): God visits Abraham at his tent, and some angels go to visit Lot in Sodom and Gomorrah.
  3. Job and Isaiah (Isaiah 40:22, Job 26:7): When Isaiah wrote this verse he used a Hebrew word to describe the shape of the earth. Although the word is commonly translated into the English word “circle,” the literal meaning of this word is “a sphere.” In the Job passage, when we consider that twenty-eight centuries ago the prevailing view of the earth was that it was flat and resting on the back of an animal or Greek god, the biblical view of a spherical earth suspended on nothing is astonishing. The point is, how would this be known unless these men were taken up in a spaceship to see the Earth from orbit?
  4. Moses (Exodus 3:2, 34:29): The burning bush experience and the shining face from being with God up on the mountain.
  5. Joshua (Joshua 5:13, 14, 15): The captain of the Lord’s army with a drawn sword.
  6. Paul (Acts 9:3, 4-5): Paul’s encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus.

Why is it so difficult to accept the fact that God actually exists, yet it is so easy for someone to promote the notion of extra-terrestrials from other planets? The Christian seems to be the one with a foolish belief system? The origin of life coming from alien DNA makes more sense than the supernatural creation of God? If people can be convinced about the existence of aliens coming back to earth, what better explanation for the rapture, when Jesus returns and takes his faithful home?

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The Grounds for Faith

This Sunday we continue in Second Peter, which begs the question as to why would we have faith at all? How can we know God’s plan for us? Can we really trust what is recorded in Scripture? Peter will also address his thoughts as he nears the end of his earthly life. How can we know that what we have followed all these years was right? If you could convey a final message to people whom you hoped would continue and persevere in the Christian faith, what would you say? What would you want them to know?

This letter is in many ways Peter’s farewell address. He reminded them of their source of faith. It was not built on the apostles, but upon another source.

Invoking His Memory

What God revealed to Peter: Peter wants to remind his readers of what they already know, Peter was not holding anything back (2 Peter 1:12). These believers have been established in the truth. He mentions that stirring them up, teaching and encouraging them was the right thing to do, even though his execution was drawing near (2 Peter 1:13, 14). Jesus made it clear that he would not live to a ripe old age, but a martyr’s death (John 21:18, 19).

What Peter requires of us: Peter wants these believers to remember the great spiritual truths he has written in these letters, especially after “his departure” (2 Peter 1:15).

Identifying His Majesty

Here, Peter reviews what we call the Transfiguration (Mark 9:2-13, Matthew 17:1-13). He and the disciples did not follow cleverly devised tales or stories about Jesus; he proclaimed that which he experienced. He was an eyewitness to the glory of Jesus (2 Peter 1:16, 17). The glory faded on the mountaintop, but the Word of God will never fade (1 Peter 1:24, 25). There was a sight (2 Peter 1:16) and there was a sound (2 Peter 1:17, 18). Peter experienced Christ, he did not just believe the right stuff about Him. Peter had a first-hand faith rather than a second-hand faith.

Inspiration of His Message

First Peter addresses the accomplishments of the Bible, moving toward giving us hope for the future (2 Peter 1:19). God’s Word is a light that shines in the darkness. As Galadriel spoke to Frodo giving him a gift of the special lamp, she said, “May it be a light in the dark places, when all other lights go out.”He challenges us to “make more sure” about the prophetic Word, which we “do well to pay attention.”

Then Peter moves to the author of the Bible (2 Peter 1:20, 21). So we beg the questions… can we trust the Word of God? How has it been preserved for us to read today? Is it reliable? Do we interpret the text properly? What does the word inspiration mean anyway? The message did not come from human writers, but from the power of God, people moved by the Holy Spirit.

Questions to Consider this Week:

  1. What people and events does Peter remind his readers (2 Peter 1:16-21)?
  2. What responsibilities did Peter seem to feel he had for his readers (2 Peter 1:12-15)?
  3. What phrases indicate Peter’s view of death?
  4. What can we assume was his attitude toward death?
  5. What do you hope will be your own attitude when death approaches?
  6. What could you be doing now to build toward a “good death?”
  7. In what ways did the transfiguration reveal the majesty of Jesus?
  8. What difference does it make to know that Peter’s teaching about Jesus came from eyewitness testimony?
  9. What difference does it make that the Father said of Jesus, “This is my Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased. Listen to Him.” (Matthew 17:5)
  10. What does this passage tells us about the design and purpose of Scripture (2 Peter 1:19-21)?
  11. What are some ways we can show respect for the Bible?
  12. Other verse to consider about the Messiah: Isaiah 40:1-11, 53:1-12, Micah 2:2-5, Zechariah 9:9, Revelation 21:22-22:7

Commentary:

Peter’s readers needed a reminder that rested on apostolic authority that was in harmony with other Scripture.

The Need for a Reminder (2 Peter 1:12–15)
Returning to the subject of God’s promises (2 Peter 1:4), Peter developed the importance of the Scriptures as the believers’ resource. This was designed to enable his readers to appreciate the value of the Scriptures and to motivate them to draw on God’s Word so they would grow in grace.

Peter’s previous words were a reminder to his readers, not new instruction. 2 Peter 1:3–11 contain basic truths about the Christian life. Peter apparently believed that he would soon die as a martyr. He said he wrote this epistle so that after his death the exhortation in it would be a permanent reminder to his readers.

The Trustworthiness of the Apostles’ Witness (2 Peter 1:16–18)
Peter explained that his reminder came from one who was an eyewitness of Jesus Christ during His earthly ministry, which would have heightened respect for his words in his readers’ minds. This section begins Peter’s defense of the faith that the false teachers were attacking, defense which continues through most of the rest of the letter.

The apostles had not preached myths to their hearers, as the false teachers were doing. They had seen Jesus’ power in action as God’s anointed Messiah. God had clearly revealed that Jesus is the Christ at His transfiguration when God had announced that Jesus is His beloved Son (2 Peter 1:18).

The Divine Origin of Scripture (2 Peter 1:19–21)
The prophetic Old Testament Scriptures confirm the witness of the apostles. That witness is similar to a light shining in a darkened heart and world. Until the Lord returns, we should give attention to the Old Testament and to the apostles’ teaching. That is the only real light available to us. What we have in Scripture originated not in the minds of men but in the mind of God (2 Peter 1:21). The prophets did not simply give their interpretation of how things were or would be. They spoke as God’s mouthpieces, articulating His thoughts in words that accurately represented those thoughts. The Holy Spirit “carried along” the prophets to do so.

The next lesson we will take a look at false teachers. Have a great week.