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Searching for Truth in “The Truth Project” — Lesson 4: Theology — Who Is God?

This will likely be one of the shortest installments in my “Searching for Truth in The Truth Project” series.  There is, I believe, much to commend this particular lesson; but that may be because the question Who is God? is less controversial within the wide swath of Christianity that exists.  Of course, there are finer points of debate, such as the “openness” of God and process theology, but I feel that those discussions are well outside the scope of this series.  I am, for the purposes of this post, comfortable thinking of God in traditional, biblical terms, which is not to say that my concept of how God works His will in the grand scheme of things hasn’t been affected by my move from young-earth creationism to evolutionary creationism.  It’s just that that particular part of my theological journey is much less settled than others.
I appreciate Del Tackett’s humility when it comes to the question asked in this lesson, for the answer to that question is virtually impossible to answer.  I would venture to say that Mr. Tackett would agree with me that, even with the Church’s possession of the Bible and our peek into the person of Jesus Christ through the eyes of His disciples, we’ll have to settle for “partial credit.”  Even if we were to spend time with Jesus face-to-face during His incarnation, we would still be at a loss as to who God really is.  While Jesus reflected the Father perfectly in some aspects of His nature, the very incarnational nature of Jesus’ earthly ministry kept other aspects of God’s nature hidden and shrouded in the mists.
After discussing the grandiosity of the answer, Tackett moves into a discussion about eternal life.  To be honest, I was expecting a discussion dealing with personal eschatology, and I was surprised that Tackett’s take on the answer was much more sophisticated than what usually passes muster in most Evangelical churches these days.  Eternal life, says Tackett, is something that is presently obtained by the establishment of a personal and transformational relationship with God through Jesus Christ, which only increases in intimacy upon passing from this life into the next.
My biggest issue with this particular lesson was the degree with which Tackett hangs his personal theology on the nature of inspired Scripture.  “Ninety percent of the work is done” if we accept (1) the existence, nature, and character of God as revealed in the Bible, and (2) the nature of the Bible as God’s inerrant and infallible written word.  Granted, for the Christian, the Bible is the only source of specific revelation we have about Jesus Christ, whom all true Christians accept as the incarnation of the infinite God in fallible flesh.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, I believe that the Gospel accounts of the person and ministry of Christ are historically reliable; at the same time, I don’t believe it is necessary that the Bible be an inerrant document in order to transmit historical truth.  It is on this very point—the nature of the Bible and the degree to which it is inspired—that Tackett’s worldview is most susceptible to crumbling.
For Tackett, the real battle over what constitutes a biblical worldview is found in the halls of academia.  In what is becoming a usual past time for Tackett, he presents his audience with a false dichotomy:  either the Bible is, in its entirety, perfect and without error, or it is completely unreliable and untrustworthy.  There is no mention of a gradient in between the two opposite conclusions (e.g., my own view of “biblical adequacy”).  There is only mention of the extreme liberal position represented by the infamous Jesus Seminar, which Tackett ridicules.  (While I appreciate and accept many of the advances made in the field of biblical criticism, I do believe the Jesus Seminar went too far in their attempt to reconstruct the so-called “historical Jesus.”)  Tackett also makes mention of the Documentary Hypothesis (commonly referred to as the JEDP Theory), which posits that the Pentateuch was compiled from as many as four separate sources and later compiled by a post-Exile redactor (or editor).  The belief in non-Mosaic authorship of the Torah, that the Bible “evolved over time,” is a hallmark of liberal theology and should be rejected outright, Tackett claims.  This is quite contrary to the research of Evangelicals like Peter Enns and Kenton Sparks, both of whom are quite comfortable with accepting, to a significant degree, many of the results of biblical criticism (see Enns’ Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament and Sparks’ God Word in Human Words: An Evangelical Appropriation of Critical Biblical Scholarship).  Is Tackett really willing to admit that the Books of Moses hadn’t undergone any redaction or editing throughout the centuries?  Even though the authorship of the Torah is attributed to Moses by Jesus himself, is Tackett really willing to claim that Moses wrote of his own death and burial (cf. Deuteronomy 34)? 
That the absolute trustworthiness of Scripture (including places where it touches on science) is foundational to Tackett’s worldview is shown by his admission that alleged contradictions in Scripture (e.g., 2 Kings 1:17; 8:16; and 3:1) “threw [him] into a terrible crisis.”  Without resolution, Tackett says, his entire Christian experience would be thrown into doubt and would very likely result in atheism.  Thankfully, Edwin Thiele came to Tackett’s rescue and, through The Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings and its research regarding differing reign-calculation methods between Judah and Israel, cleared up the apparent contradiction, making right what Tackett feared was wrong.  With Thiele’s scholarship in his back pocket, Tackett sighs with relief, “You can trust the Scriptures.”  No, Mr. Tackett, you can trust the historians who recorded the reigns of the Hebrew kings, just like you can trust secular historians to give you the dates during which Abraham Lincoln occupied the office of the President of the United States.  (This also begs the question whether Thiele’s work is without error.)  And while you can trust that particular portion of 1 Kings, why do you feel that the accuracy of one particular aspect of 1 Kings automatically transfers to the remainder of Scripture?  Moreover, just because one alleged contradiction is resolved doesn’t mean that the resolution constitutes proof of a passage’s inspiration, only its inerrancy.  Even the concept of inerrancy runs into a problem:  a phone book can be free of error, but such a quality says nothing about whether it was God-inspired.  There is danger in Tackett’s line of logic, for the removal of just one card could very well result in the collapse of the entire house.  I find it sad and unfortunate that his worldview is so dependent upon a particular view of Scripture and not on the transforming faith experience he has undoubtedly undergone.
I don’t intend to debate here the finer points of biblical criticism, the nature of Scripture, or the degree to which it was inspired.  What I do want to make clear is this:  Tackett is not giving his audience the full picture and proceeds to restrict the Christian faith to an extremely narrow intellectual path, one fraught with dangerous obstacles and traps of human construction.  In doing so, he diverts the traveler from exploring safer routes that lead to the very truth he so desperately desires to possess.  Once again, Tackett fails to illuminate his audience by providing examples of dedicated Christ-followers in the Evangelical community who disagree with him.  Where’s the truth in that?

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Searching for Truth in “The Truth Project” — Lesson 3: Anthropology — Who Is Man?

 
Philosophizing Monkey (1893) by Hugo Reinhold
The Truth Project’s third lesson is a mixed bag, full of both good and bad theology, cutting philosophical insight, and a plethora of false dichotomies.  It had me both cheering from the couch and throwing mental tomatoes at the screen.  Sometimes even within the same talking point.

Tackett begins this particular session by announcing, “The answer to the question ‘What is man?’ is not simple.”  Man has existed, Tackett explains, in a number of modes, all of which can be readily drawn out of Scripture and thus constitute the “good theology” that I mentioned previously.  Mode #1 is a state of innocence (although I’m not sure how Tackett exegeted man’s state of innocence from Gen 1:27) and mode #2 is our post-Edenic, fallen state (Rom 5:12).  In this state, humanity becomes an odd mixture of “imago dei” (Latin for “image of God”) and a sinful nature (Gal 5:16-17).  Tackett divides mode #2 further into mode #2a, the state of being unsaved and destined for hell (Rev 20:15).  Lastly, there is mode #3, the state of being saved and redeemed, destined to eternal life and eventually glorified, which is mode #3a (Rev 5:9).

Honestly, I have no problem speaking in those terms.  As a Christian, I find that they are biblical terms and the theology couched in those terms is good and true.  However, I admit to finding myself thinking beyond those terms to the soteriological reality conveyed by the anthropologically incorrect proto-history that is Genesis 2-3.  Over the course of the last year, I have come to recognize that the story of Adam and Eve is not an historical account of humanity’s transition from innocence to a fallen state.  Rather, the story was written with an etiological purpose in mind.  Using the genre of myth, which has profound explanatory power, the writer(s) provided the Hebrew people with an apologetic for why man’s nature is sinful.  The sinful state of man is recognized, the question “Why are we the way we are?” is asked, and the cause behind our condition is explained in terms that had meaning for them—terms and meanings that are typically lost on 21st-century Americans by virtue of the cultural chasm that exists between civilizations separated by thousands of years and miles.  Although not historical, I believe the story of Adam and Eve still wields considerable theological power and, in a sense, speaks to each of us individually.  We all are born in a state of relative innocence and, at the same time, have within ourselves the “curse” of our evolutionary ancestors.  Our selfish inclinations and our instinct for self-preservation served us well in the battle for survival in millennia past, yet they continue to rear their ugly heads throughout the course of our lives.  There is, to be sure, a point in each of our lives at which we become cognizant of our actions and their moral implications, and we find ourselves faced with a choice:  to do right or to do wrong.  Unfortunately, 100% of the time, we pick the fruit off the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.  In the eyes of God, we become sinners in need of redemption.

The story of Adam and Eve can also be viewed as the story of humanity itself.  Our personal experiences transitioning from a state of innocence to a state of rebellion can be extrapolated to the history of the human species.  As mankind evolved, our primitive ancestors lived in a state of relative innocence, unaware of their actions’ moral implications.  In the course of time, however, our capacity as a species to distinguish between good and evil arose and, as a result of our gradual transformation into a moral creature, the laws of God were written on the hearts of men (Rom 2:14-15).  Since then, humanity has been in constant rebellion against its Creator, and we forever will be this side of the grave. 

In Tackett’s paradigm, however, to accept such propositions would be to admit that we are “goo-men.”  We are no better than the worms that I cut in half as a child, and no less worthy of a similar fate.  But man is different.  Tackett claims that man possesses unique qualities such as self-awareness, creativity, and moral consciousness.  I think this greatly exaggerates (and quite possibly oversimplifies) the uniqueness of humanity in relation to the rest of the animal kingdom.  Although I have not researched this particular aspect of man’s alleged uniqueness, I suspect that socio-biological literature is replete with examples of self-awareness, creativity, and moral consciousness in relatively advanced life forms other than human beings.  At the very least, I believe it is safe to say that we human beings possess the aforementioned characteristics to a much greater degree.  From a faith perspective, it could be argued that these characteristics evolved in our ancestors to such a degree that God saw fit to reveal Himself and fellowship with them and, by extension, us. 

Tackett also brings up another aspect of humanity with which I am currently struggling to reconcile: the dualism of man.  Most Christians believe that man is either a tripartite being (body, soul, and spirit) or bipartite (body and soul/spirit, with the differentiation between the soul and spirit being nonexistent).  After coming to terms with the common descent of man from less complex life forms and accepting that the Bible reflects, in many areas, ancient scientific worldviews that are recognized today as inaccurate, I have begun to question the scientific accuracy of those portions of Scripture which teach the existence of man’s immortal soul, distinct from the flesh inherited from his or her parents, and given to each of us by God at the moment of our conception.  Lately, I have been leaning toward monism, a anthropological term that describes man’s nature as holistic.  (On my reading list is Joel B. Green’s book Body, Soul, and Human Life: The Nature of Humanity in the Bible.  If anyone has any other suggestions, feel free to comment.)  In this view, man does not possess separate, supernatural facets of his being that are distinct from his physical body.  I think there is much to commend the view that man does not actually possess a distinct spirit, yet can be granted eternal life by God on a conditional basis.  When our bio-physical “coil” dies, our “identity,” or kernel (1 Cor 15:37), is granted a bio-spiritual body prepared for life in the presence of God, a life that “flesh and blood” cannot inherit (1 Cor 15:50). 

Once again, however, Tackett views the rejection of man’s tripartite or bipartite nature as a highway to hell.  To believe that man does not possess a supernatural and immortal soul is to fall for a “pernicious lie.”  Such a lie, he claims, is a “result of [accepting the findings of] science,” and trusting in science leads to things such as radical environmentalism, a greater suicide rate, and the acceptance of a philosophy that man is no more important than an insect.  What a gross over-generalization.  Tackett seems to having nothing better to do than to highlight the “worst of the worst”—a “minority majority” of sorts—to bolster his claims, and proceeds to lump all scientists and humanists into the same refuse pile.  Surely, there are many individuals who, when rejecting certain presuppositions, fall into the aforementioned philosophies and fates; but I can just as easily blame King James Only-style fundamentalism (a la Peter Ruckman) on one’s adoption of the doctrine of biblical inerrancy.  Falling victim to such philosophies is not a logical result of adopting monism.  Tackett also falsely claims that part and parcel of monism is the concept that humanity is basically good and that it promotes a philosophy of “self-actualization.”  What?!?!  Ever take any theology or philosophy courses in your doctoral studies, Mr. Tackett? 

I believe that monism is what you bring to it.  If you bring to monism the belief that there is no possibility of an afterlife, then there is no afterlife in your monist worldview.  On the other hand, if you bring to monism the belief that God can grant that “kernel,” that part that makes you uniquely you, the gift of eternal life, then where is the danger in holding such a view?  The end result, whether it be Tackett’s tri-/bipartitism or Christian monism, is the same for the Christian believer. 

Tackett then presents another false dichotomy for which his audience falls, to wit, that if man does not have a supernatural and immortal soul, then “man has no purpose, no meaning in life, no free will.”  This is patently untrue.  Those who are Christian monists do not seem to have any problems finding purpose and meaning in life, or freely choosing their course.  Tackett claims that our view of God and man is fundamental to how we live our lives.  I wholeheartedly agree.  Regardless of the reality underlying the debate, our personal worldview affects the outworking of our faith (or lack thereof).  But while Christian monists reject the existence of man’s immortal soul this side of the grave, they still live for Christ.  So is there truly danger in holding to Christian monism?  Even without belief in God, one can find purpose and meaning in life.  Purpose and meaning are generated by self-aware, moral creatures; they are not generated by the mere existence of a soul.  You sell yourself and the rest of humanity short, Mr. Tackett.  Consider this:  If there truly is no God, what are we to make of your sense of purpose, Mr. Tackett?  Is your sense of purpose in life merely illusory?  Of course not. 

These discussions beg the question: Why do our differing theologies come to the exact same conclusions regarding man’s sinful nature and his need for redemption, and the existence of life after death in the presence of God?  Because they both recognize the current state of reality and the future promised state, even though the means differ by which we became sinners and by which we will become glorified.  Unfortunately, Tackett would never accept the possibility that a genuine Christian could accept (much less hold) such views.  I suspect that recognizing the true literary nature of Genesis 2-3 would implode Tackett’s worldview and drive him into severe depression and a false sense of purposelessness.  It is as simple as that. 

I would ask Mr. Tackett this:  Why do you refuse to hold up dedicated Christians like myself as counter-examples, or “third ways,” to your false dichotomies?  Wait, don’t answer that.  I will answer it for you:  Because you can’t hold us up as alternatives for fear that recognizing our existence would destroy all for which you have worked in promoting your particular biblical worldview.

Now that I have trashed Tackett’s logic on several points, I will give him props on one particular point.  One of the questions that Tackett asks is “Why is there evil”?  Although he does not really address the origin of evil, he does catch secular humanists using flawed logic.  When atheistic materialists attempt to argue against the existence of God by appealing to the existence of evil, Tackett presses the question back on them.  Not only can they not answer their own question, the very question rings hollow, for their use of ethical language is not valid given that a godless cosmos is amoral.

Lastly, there are several conversational crumbs I wish to highlight:

  1. In an interview clip featuring R. C. Sproul, Sproul claims that “atheism is in our nature.”  Really, R. C.?  I guess that explains why the vast majority of the world’s population worships God or some other deity/deities. 
  2. Tackett holds up Ernst Haeckel’s allegedly fraudulent embryo illustrations (first published in 1874, not 1876, as TTP states) as evidence against evolution by using the “why-fake-an-illustration-if-evolution-is-true” argument.  He also claims that if one falls for the “ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny” concept, then one cannot help but reduce humanity to the level of an amoeba, voiding mankind of any importance or special quality.  Firstly, Haeckel—genuineness of the illustrations notwithstanding—was not off the mark one bit.  Check out these resources.  Secondly, does the use of fraudulent evidence in certain circles of Christian apologetics invalidate Christianity by virtue of their use?  Of course not.  Don’t be so obtuse, Mr. Tackett.  It doesn’t become you. 
  3. Tackett came up with another anti-evolution epithet: “imago goo.”  I just about peed my pants when he said that.  “Imago Goo” would make a great title for a blog.

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Searching for Truth in “The Truth Project” — Lesson 2: Philosophy & Ethics — Says Who?

In Lesson 2 of The Truth Project (TTP), Del Tackett begins to establish the foundation of what he labels “The Truth Temple,” a “framework of foundational concepts.”  Two pillars of this temple are (1) philosophy and (2) ethics, both of which I believe to be absolutely essential to a profitable worldview.  Philosophy, Tackett argues, must comport with truth, which, in turn, must accurately depict reality (as discussed in Lesson 1).  Thus, there is, in Tackett’s mind, only one true philosophy derived from one true religion.  I agree.  The only problem is that Tackett assumes his philosophy—one of the pillars of his conception of a “biblical worldview”—is correct, exclusive of all others that exist within Christianity.

Tackett then quotes from Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language.  “True religion,” Webster writes, “and true philosophy must ultimately arrive at the same principle.”  I believe this is true.  However, as I aim to show in later installments of this series, Tackett’s foundation is cracked and, ultimately, does not comport with reality as he demands it should do.  My point in bringing this up is not to tear down the pillar of philosophy, but rather to highlight Tackett’s penchant for quoting from Webster as if it were Scripture, as if Webster’s definitions were eternally valid from time to time everlasting.  (He did this a number of times in the first two lessons, and I suspect he’ll continue this practice in future lessons.)  It’s as if Tackett doesn’t recognize that Webster’s dictionary was as much of a product of its time (i.e., early 19th-century America, which was heavily influenced by Christianity) as today’s more secular Webster’s 3rd New International Dictionary.  It is Tackett’s tendency toward narrow-mindedness that blinds him to the environment from which his worldview sprung which constitutes one of TTP‘s greatest weaknesses.  (I doubt highly that Tackett even recognizes from where his own particular brand of creationist philosophy is derived.  See chapter 6 of Timothy P. Martin & Jeffrey L. Vaughn’s Beyond Creation Science.)

The truth is, the only true philosophy may very well not be Tackett’s.  It reminds me of a parenting course that my wife and I began to take (and quickly abandoned) prior to having our first child.  It is titled Growing Kids God’s Way.  How arrogant.  As if the Ezzos, who developed the approach, had finally discovered a one-size-fits-all method of parenting that God endorses, complete with allowing the Ezzos to add His name to their project.  As much as I agree with Tackett regarding the importance of possessing a correct philosophy derived from a correct religion, and as much as my ethics may align with Tackett’s, I can’t agree that Tackett necessarily possesses the correct philosophy.  The mere claim implicit in the title of Tackett’s DVD series smacks of pride.  (God knows I’ve been guilty of the same many times in my life.)

As Tackett continues the lesson, he spends a considerable amount of time drawing attention to the philosophy of Carl Sagan, focusing on his famous declaration that “the Cosmos is all there is, all there was, and all there ever will be.”  He also highlights Sagan’s equally famous quip that we humans are made of “star-stuff,” which is why our species feels so drawn to discover what I call our “solar heritage.”  “Our contemplations of the Cosmos stir us,” Sagan said, toward obtaining a greater understanding of our place in this universe, pushing us to recognize and meditate on our connectedness to everything else around us.  “Some part of our being,” Sagan continues, “knows this is where we came from.  We long to return and we can because the Cosmos is also within us.”  While neither Tackett nor I believe that Sagan’s “cosmos” tagline, nor his implicit pantheism, is correct, Tackett ridicules Sagan’s “star-stuff” comment, following it up with the anti-evolution epithet “goo-man,” referencing evolutionary biology’s assertion that human beings, along with the rest of the living world, have their origin in lower, less complex lifeforms.  Science aside, I don’t think “dirt-man” has a flagellum to stand on.  Ever read Genesis 2:7, Mr. Tackett?

Tackett then goes on to list a bunch of –isms that he believes constitute “hollow and deceptive philosophies,” such as materialism, idealism, empiricism, rationalism, naturalism, determinism, relativism, mentalism, mechanism, solipsism, subjectivism, institutionism, and hedonism.  Again, I agree that all of these –isms are hollow and deceptive, especially if not complemented by theism.  (No disrespect intended to my atheist or agnostic friends!)  One of the –isms that Tackett contends against relentlessly in TTP is atheistic humanism, represented by science historian William B. Provine, the living, breathing “straw man” that Intelligent Design founder Philip E. Johnson had been waiting for his entire life.  After playing a clip from a debate between Provine and Johnson, Tackett pounced upon Provine’s personal declaration of Darwinism’s implications, to wit, that “there are no gods or purposes, no ultimate foundation for ethics, no free will, no life after death, and no ultimate meaning in life.”  Provine is dreadfully wrong, for Darwinism implies none of those things.  Rather, Provine’s philosophical end game is a direct result of adopting an atheistic  and philosophically materialist worldview, and not a result of accepting evolution as fact.  Unfortunately, Tackett knows nothing about evolutionary biology and proceeds to take Provine at his word, holding him up as a paragon of non-virtue, and attacks the very science that I and many other Christians believe represents accurately the truth about the mechanisms by which life’s diversity arose. 

I must also take exception to Tackett’s presupposition that God has revealed Himself in only two ways.  The first method is through nature, or “general revelation.”  Score one for Tackett, for I, too, believe that God’s nature is reflected by the orderliness and beauty of the cosmos, inasmuch as we understand it accurately (i.e., correct science).  The second method, Tackett declares, is through the written Word, the Bible.  While I believe that the Bible is, in a sense, revelation from God, I don’t necessarily believe that it can provide us with a correct “worldview” when taken as a whole, especially considering that there exists, within its very pages, inaccurate scientific concepts.  If Tackett were truly bent upon adopting a worldview exclusively from the Bible, he’d join the ranks of the Flat Earth Society.  Not to the exclusion of the written Word, I much prefer to recognize Jesus Christ as a superior method by which God revealed/reveals Himself, Jesus being the God-man about whom the Bible testifies.  Only insofar as the testimonies of the New Testament writers reflect the true person of the Christ—and I believe those testimonies to be reliable and trustworthy—can we begin truly to develop a biblical correct “worldview,” one based upon the Living Word whose theology derived directly from the Father.

Lastly, I want to draw attention to something of which Tackett warns his audience:  assumptive language.  According to Tackett, assumptive language is a “powerful and deceptive use of words in which a seemingly simple statement is made, hoping the hearer will buy the simple statement without recognizing the huge assumptions that come with it.”  If I may be so bold, Mr. Tackett, you are not innocent of manipulating assumptive language, and your audience is clearly not immune to falling prey to it.  Being a dyed-in-the-wool Evangelical doesn’t mean your “goo” don’t stink.  Can I get an “Amen”?


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Searching for Truth in “The Truth Project” — Lesson 1: Veritology — What Is Truth?

In the first The Truth Project (hereafter, TTP) session, Dr. Del Tackett asked the question, “What is truth?”  Under my breath, I whispered, “An accurate understanding of reality.”  Ten minutes later, after a montage of various definitions from a rotating cast of interviewees, Dr. Tackett revealed, using Webster’s 1828 definition, what he believed to be the correct answer:  “Conforming to fact or reality.”  It was then that I knew Dr. Tackett had just painted himself into a corner.  While I wholeheartedly agree with Dr. Tackett’s assessment of what Jesus’ mission was (“to testify to the truth”; cf. John 18:37) as well as the definition of truth (“conforming to fact or reality”), I found myself, time and time again, calling him out for obscuring the very thing which he attempts to defend in TTP.

One method Dr. Tackett used (consciously or unconsciously only God knows) to obscure the truth from his audience was prefacing much of what he said with the phrase “Most scholars believe …”  To be sure, Dr. Tackett made a number of points, theological or otherwise, with which I agreed.  However, more often than not, the phrase was, when compared to the much larger body of Christian theology, a demonstrably false statement.  It may be an accurate statement amongst those who share Dr. Tackett’s particular theology, which is decidedly not “most scholars,” but his all-too-casual use of the phrase only served to ruin his credibility in my eyes.  When one is executing a “truth project,” I’d venture to say that it’s best not to say things like that.

At the end of the session, I asked the small group, “Why do you believe the Bible is true?”  One individual, formally trained in theology, was taken aback by the question and laughed aloud, “Because the Bible says it’s the Word of God!”  I looked at him and said, “That proves absolutely nothing.  The Book of Mormon makes the same claim for itself.  So does the Qur’an, even more explicitly than the Bible does.”  (I almost added, “Don’t make the Bible a self-licking ice cream cone,” but I thought better of it.)

I followed up with a challenge for everyone to really reflect and think about why they believe the Bible is true.  In other words, how can it be demonstrated to be true?  Are there objective criteria by which we can measure the truthfulness of the Scriptures?  What if, in the process of using these objective criteria, we discover that the Bible contains scientific or historical error?  Should we be suspect of the entire Bible’s veracity, as most Evangelicals claim?  For the sake of argument, let’s assume there is a single, solitary historical inaccuracy in the Bible.  Does that error, then, invalidate the accuracy of the rest of Scripture?  Is the entire thing to be rejected and thrown out based on a single wrong date?  A wrong census number?  A wrong name?  My answer was, of course not.  Others in the group weren’t too keen on that answer.

When I first jotted down these observations on Facebook, one friend of mine, more thoughtful than the “because the Bible says so” individual, used a certain line of logic to prove the truth of the Bible, namely apologist Norman Geisler’s “The 12 Points That Show Christianity Is True”:

  1. Truth about reality is knowable.
  2. The opposite of true is false.
  3. It is true that the theistic God exists.
  4. If God exists, then miracles are possible.
  5. Miracles can be used to confirm a message from God (i.e., as an act of God to confirm a word from God).
  6. The New Testament is historically reliable.
  7. The New Testament says Jesus claimed to be God.
  8. Jesus’ claim to be God was miraculously confirmed by: (a) His fulfillment of many prophecies about Himself; (b) His sinless and miraculous life; (c) His prediction and accomplishment of His resurrection.
  9. Therefore, Jesus is God.
  10. Whatever Jesus (who is God) teaches is true.
  11. Jesus taught that the Bible is the Word of God.
  12. Therefore, it is true that the Bible is the Word of God (and anything opposed to it is false).
Does anyone else see what’s wrong with this list?  I have no problems with points 1 and 2.  However, I can’t help but be skeptical about the use of point 3 in this line of logic.  It’s quite presumptive, no?  Or is there some scientific proof of God’s existence of which I’m unaware?  Don’t misunderstand me:  I am a theist, and a Christian at that.  But you won’t catch me using the “fact” of God’s existence as a linchpin in any argument, especially with skeptics or atheists. 

There are other weak links within these 12 points that require one to make certain assumptions; for example, point 6 (the New Testament is historically reliable).  Unfortunately, accuracy in the recording of certain historical facts (e.g., that Herod was king during the birth of Jesus) says nothing about whether the acts of Jesus really occurred.  In fact, a document can certainly appear to be securely grounded in history, giving the illusion of historicity; just think of modern works of historical fiction that place a completely untrue account within the wrappings of a genuine place and time.  (Even the Epic of Gilgamesh, the Babylonian version of Noah’s Flood, rings “truer” in its conversations and in its descriptions of the ark’s construction than does the biblical account.)  Don’t get me wrong:  I believe that the Gospel accounts are reliable testimonies to the words and acts of Jesus Christ, but there is, in the end, no proof of Jesus’ acts that can be examined under a microscope.  Even the resurrection of Jesus, which I believe to have occurred, cannot be definitively proven.  They are, like all historical events, trusted and assumed to have occurred based on the weight of certain lines of evidence, not “proofs.”

Countering my challenge, a friend of mine on Facebook asked me, “Why do you believe the Bible is true?  [Answer the question] as if it were being asked of you by God himself.”  Honestly, I can’t answer that question because, in my case, the line of questioning is wrong.  For one thing, I don’t believe the Bible is without error.  Point in fact: the Bible possesses and declares an ancient Near Eastern conception of the physical cosmos and how it came into being.  In fact, the Bible is replete with examples of its three-tiered cosmos paradigm in both the Old and New Testaments.  Most Christians don’t even realize it.  Why?  Because their heliocentric paradigm, informed by the findings of modern science, was foisted upon them prior to a serious reading of the Scriptures.  As a result, what they read as phenomenological or poetic language was, to the ancient Hebrews, a scientific depiction of reality!

But I digress.  To me, the Gospel accounts are convincing enough that I believe them to be historically trustworthy.  In concert with my (admittedly subjective) experiences with the living Word and the Holy Spirit, I believe that the New Testament can be relied upon to accurately portray who and what Jesus is claimed to be by those who encountered him.  I don’t require an inerrant document to convince me of who Jesus is and what he did.  Reliable human testimony should be enough to convince, just as reliable human testimony is used every day in our court systems to convince juries of the truth.  Just as was done throughout the early Church, which did not possess any New Testament writings for several decades following Jesus’ ascension.

My final words to the small group were that I hoped each individual would dig deeper into the question of what the foundation of his or her faith really is.  If his faith is based on fiction or faulty reasoning, that is a serious problem.  She may have arrived at the correct destination, but only a fool would walk 24,901.55 miles to reach a goal that was, in truth, one step behind her.

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Searching for Truth in “The Truth Project” — Introduction

As a result of my recent move from beautiful Monterey, California, to the Middle East, where I’m experiencing an extremely high workload, this blog has been considerably quiet since my graduation from the Defense Language Institute last November.  It’s extremely tough to find the time to sit down and untie the various threads of thought generated by the several books on evolution and theology I’ve been reading in what little spare time I have.  So, the very fact that this blog has any new content at all since fall 2009 has everything to do with the prodding of Undeception‘s Steve Douglas.  As Steve wrote to me, “[something’s] usually better than nothing.”  So please take an excursion over to his wonderful blog and thank him personally.  😉
This new series that I’m launching, which features my takeaways from Focus on the Family’s The Truth Project, doesn’t focus solely on the creation/evolution debate.  The Truth Project, hosted by Dr. Del Tackett, is about the importance of discovering and holding to a biblical worldview.  I’m inclined to agree with Del and I’m fairly confident that there is much in the DVD series onto which I can comfortably hang my hat.  However, the question is begged, What does it truly mean to possess a biblical worldview?  Surely, there are just as many “biblical worldviews” as there are Christian denominations.  And certain of those myriad of “biblical worldviews” will impact one’s views on the creation/evolution debate directly.  It just so happens that the “biblical worldview” suggested by The Truth Project (hereafter, TTP) to be the biblical worldview rams headlong into a denial of both scientific truth and objective reality (especially when it comes to discerning the true nature of the Bible).
The group with which I’m watching the series meets weekly on Friday nights, so you can expect a new blog post every week (Insha’allah!) for the next 3-4 months.  Hang on to your hats, folks.  This should be an interesting ride …

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The Return of the Evolutionist?

As you may have noticed, this blog has been relatively quiet lately, due in no small part to my Persian Farsi language studies. With every week of the year-long program (squeezed into 18 months due to last year’s ruptured disc), the demands of the program increased and the amount of time to put down on my thoughts on “paper” dwindled. The most I had time for was posting links to online news bites and articles on my Facebook account and occasionally interacting with those that stopped by to comment.
This Tuesday, however, I graduate from the Army’s Defense Language Institute with an AA in Persian Farsi, so I’m happy to announce the imminent “return of the evolutionist”! Now, don’t expect things to heat up too quickly, as I’m in the process of preparing for a move overseas to the lovely Kingdom of Bahrain for a year-long tour, and I fully intend to engage in quality “family time” during my 30-day leave period; but once I get to my new desert home and acclimate to the time change and work schedule, things should start getting busier around here.

The New Year is looking quite promising …

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How the Discovery of Saturn’s Eighth Ring Threatens the Science of Astronomy

As I was surfing the web during my lunch period, I came across several articles that detailed an amazing discovery. According to these articles, astronomers have discovered a previously undetected ring around Saturn, a find which, I believe, threatens the entire science of astronomy. Now, before I get into why I believe this to be so, please read these brief articles.

In the Telegraph article, Douglas Hamilton of the University of Maryland, College Park, believes that the discovery of Saturn’s heretofore undiscovered ring answers a mystery regarding one of Saturn’s moons, Iapetus:

The ring also may answer the riddle of another moon, Iapetus, which has a bright side and a very dark side. The ring circles in the same direction as Phoebe, while Iapetus, the other rings and most of Saturn’s other moons go the opposite way.

Scientists think material from the outer ring moves inward and slams into Iapetus. “Astronomers have long suspected that there is a connection between Saturn’s outer moon Phoebe and the dark material on Iapetus,” said Hamilton. “This new ring provides convincing evidence of that relationship.”

Professor Carl Murray, in the BBC article, agrees:

“We’ve got a ‘smoking gun’,” said Professor Carl Murray, a scientist working on the US-European Cassini probe, which is currently touring the Saturnian system. “We know now that this is where this coating at Iapetus [one of Saturn’s moons] comes from. Phoebe is the source. Something has hit Phoebe, produced lots of material that moves around the orbit of Phoebe and then gradually spirals in. We’ve solved several mysteries with this observation,” the UK researcher told BBC News.

Now, for my take on this discovery. The fact that scientists must now revise their theory regarding how many rings Saturn could actually have, what causes certain of Saturn’s moons’ features, in addition to the obvious need to rewrite “scientific” textbooks in order to accommodate the “new discovery,” proves that cosmic evolutionists’ current theories of planetary, satellite, and ring formation is ENTIRELY wrong and should be abandoned in favor of some other theory, preferably one in which an Intelligent Ringer is involved.

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The Sufficiency of the New Living Translation

An odd title for a TCOAE post, I know. Truth is, it’s not actually a TCOAE post. “Polycarp” from The Church of Jesus Christ blog invited me to guest blog for his 24-hour New Living Translation (NLT) blog-a-thon. Despite the fact that I’m 6 weeks away from taking the Defense Language Proficiency Test, I found a precious hour to comment a bit on the sufficiency of “dynamic” Bible translations, specifically the New Living Translation (NLT), to faithfully transmit theological truth; I also used my journey into ANE cosmology to prove a point about unreasonable approaches toward Bible translation and unwavering commitment to using only “essentially literal” translations of Scripture.

If anything, you might gain some insight into the inner workings of my mind on this topic and understand how my acceptance of modern scientific findings regarding evolution has had an effect on my views regarding the sufficiency of various translation and transmission methods of the Bible through the millennia.

Feel free to comment at the original post or, if you are so inclined, swing back over here to speak your mind.


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PZ Meyers’ Visit to Answers in Genesis’ Creation Museum

Image courtesy of Mad magazine, via Pharyngula

Trust me. I’m no fan of PZ Meyers. But his review of Answers in Genesis’ Creation Museum, located in Petersberg, Kentucky, is phenomenal (with the exception of some of his atheist ranting, of course, as well as his unsubstantiated charge of racism on the part of AiG).

Here are a few excerpts:

It’s an ongoing theme throughout the “museum” that there are these two views in opposition, and it’s often stated quite unashamedly that the conflict is between God’s word and . . . human reason. It’s also quite clear that human reason is the enemy to Ken Ham and his crew.

. . .

[Ken Ham] hurtles along heedlessly pretending that the evidence simply doesn’t exist, so he doesn’t need to argue against it, and it’s enough to back up his claims by quoting Bible verses. I suppose it works well for the gullible attendees, but for those of us looking for some ideas with which to wrestle, the impression left is one of credulous vacuity. It’s an empty “museum,” with no real ideas, no evidence, just a collection of props to illustrate an unquestioned myth. When they do make plain statements that contradict the science, they don’t bother to provide a reason to accept their view over the scientific one — reason is the enemy, you may recall. It’s enough to simply declare that this is GOD’S WORD, therefore it is true. Never mind that it is only one narrow interpretation of their god’s awesomely vague words, that many of their fellow Christians can interpret it differently, or that the evidence of nature (which, presumably, is their god’s creation) says something completely different.

. . .

The various exhibits that have gotten a fair amount of press, such as the models of Adam and Eve, the construction of the Ark, the consequences of the Fall, etc., etc., etc., just sit there. There isn’t any evidence for them, other than a few sentences in an old book, so the construction crews in Kentucky just let their imaginations run loose and built improbably scenes out of the fabric of quaint myths. But there they are, solid and visible, and that’s their sole purpose — to solidify Bible scenes in the minds of the faithful.

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Inheriting the Hot Wind: Mind Control and Young-Earth Creationism

As I lined up with hundreds of others to get inside Petersberg, Kentucky’s famed Creation Museum to visit its new anti-evolution exhibits (“secular” scientists are celebrating Charles Darwin’s 200th birthday this year), I couldn’t help but wonder: Was this going to be some kind of attempt at mind control? After I went through the exhibition, there was no doubt!

The anti-evolution exhibits reminded me of one of those bizarre science fiction movies where people line up to be placed in a special machine and emerge like robots; these people now can’t think for themselves, and they end up being like those people who brainwashed them.

In a related way, I found the anti-evolution exhibits to be a very clever form of mind control, basically consisting of:

  1. Setting up straw-men arguments that totally misrepresent what many intelligent and devout Christians accept.
  2. Showing how wrong some Christians are for believing the things they supposedly believe (which they believe for good reason!).
  3. Convincing visitors that special creationism is true, and that one is a fool to believe otherwise (and certainly foolish to believe the undisputed scientific evidence).

Actually, this kind of mind control is already being used constantly on America’s children, especially through the private education system, the Christian media, and science museums (even in many Christian schools and colleges, sadly). Using Answers in Genesis’ anti-evolution exhibition, let’s look at how they are using mind control:

  1. Visitors read this display:

    Before Henry Morris was born, most people in America accepted certain ideas about the natural world as given. Species were linked in a single family tree. They were connected, related, and changed since the moment of the first one-celled organism’s appearance, and earth itself was thought to be so old, perhaps billions of years old, that there would have been plenty of time for species to change. . . . Before Henry Morris, it was impossible to see the world as young, being created in an instant only 6,000 years ago, and unchanging.

    Wrong. That’s a straw man. People who know and understand science are aware that the earth has indeed changed because of what’s recorded in the fossil record (e.g., the rise of complex multi-celled organisms, the transition of some species of fish into amphibians, and the evolution of horses). Those who believe the geological sciences know that two of every “kind” (seven of some) of land-dwelling animal weren’t saved from a global flood. All the different species (special creationists can’t even scientifically define a biblical “kind”) of land animals that are alive today descended from a small group of one-celled organisms. Yes, animals have changed—and the earth has changed drastically since the formation of the earth.

    In fact, before Henry Morris came along, natural selection was producing all different sorts of fish, reptiles, mammals, humanoids, and so on. Even in the anti-evolution exhibit, it is stated that “he [Henry Morris] refused to believe that nature selected organisms with desirable traits and that over time the fossil record preserved some of these transitional creatures. . . . Dogs were always dogs, even though a tiny lap dog and a large lean greyhound look nothing alike.” I just wonder how many visitors noticed this gross inconsistency.

    Of course, everyone knows that animals change. The exhibition’s straw-man argument—that Bible-believers must believe that animals can’t evolve—is set up so that the trustworthiness of human observation can easily be knocked down.

  2. Now that the museum visitors are beginning to have their minds controlled to believe that Bible-believers must not accept that things have evolved, the exhibition’s mind controllers state:

    Discoveries in geology have challenged the idea that the world and all its species had evolved over the last 4.6 billion years. Fossils clearly show that in past ages the world has been inhabited by the same species as those existing today . . .

    So, scientists believe animals change, but Henry Morris figured out that they don’t, proving modern science wrong. This absence of change was his evidence of special creationism (e.g., instantaneous creation of man).

    This, too, is designed to make the Creation Museum’s visitors think that they have to reject the “secular” scientific account of origins and an ancient earth.

  3. Now, here was the final step in indoctrinating visitors to disbelieve modern science through mind control. They are indoctrinated to believe in an additional straw-man: Christians can’t accept that new species can form. But we can and do. We have stated innumerable times that speciation occurs—and that natural selection happens (as they show in a new Darwin exhibit at London’s famed Natural History Museum). We declare that natural selection can result in evolution—the idea that one totally different species of creature (not “kind”), over the course of multiple generations that experience gene mutation, genetic drift, and environmental pressures, can change into a totally different species (e.g., reptiles becoming birds). The anti-evolution exhibit says:

    Henry Morris’ theory of special creationism is the only biblical and scientific explanation for the spectacular diversity of life on earth. It provides a powerful framework for understanding nature and is one of the essential theories of the very core of science. . . . As Morris himself anticipated, some Christians have held to the conviction that species are the result of natural, evolutionary processes divinely ordained and sustained by the Creator. We find incompatible with our religious beliefs the concept that humans share a common ancestry with earlier primates and that humans and other species evolved over immense spans of time. Creationism, including Intelligent Design, offers a scientific alternative to the theory of evolution by invoking the intrusive acts of a Creator or an Intelligent Designer as the explanation for large diversity.

    Sad, isn’t it?

The Bible warns us about such mind controllers at the anti-evolutionist exhibition: It is they “who suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (Romans 1:18). Now I ask: To what extent have the mind controllers of this age influenced you and your family, and not just with the creation/evolution question? Think about it. Then make sure you keep supplying yourself with answers to defend our integration of Christian faith and modern science!

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For the original article, click here. 😉

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