Archive for the 'Creation' Category

A skeptic of Noah’s flood replies

Saturday, February 8th, 2014

Palais de la Decouverte Tyrannosaurus rex p1050042.jpg

Tyrannosaurus rex, Palais de la Découverte, Paris (image courtesy Wikipedia)

By Spencer D Gear

A fossil find in a northern Brisbane suburb made the news with this heading, ‘Construction work in Brisbane suburb Geebung unearths fossils of 50-million year-old crocodiles, fish and plants’.[1]

Part of the story, according to the Courier-Mail, was that ‘bones of ancient crocodiles’ were found during construction work on a new level crossing overpass at Geebung. The Lord Mayor of Brisbane, Graham Quirk, said that ‘the fossils were found amongst spoil which a piling rig had brought up to the surface’. In addition to crocodiles, this ancient material included fish, freshwater shells and plant impressions. The article said the fossils were dated as 50 million years’ old. The article stated that ‘Queensland Museum Network CEO Professor Suzanne Miller said the find was a significant one for Brisbane and the state’.

I thought this find was so significant that I sent a letter off to my local freebie newspaper The Messenger, that was published under the heading,

‘Phenomenal fossils and northern Brisbane’[2]

Near our region of northern Brisbane there was a rare find in June 2013 and given news coverage in July, thanks to excavations near Geebung railway station last month. We have been told of the finding of crocodile, frog, ­fish and plant fossils. Some horrific event must have killed all these things to be buried under northern Brisbane and about 15 metres underground.

There is evidence that has been around for a long time of a worldwide flood. The most prominent report is that at the time of Noah (recorded in Genesis 6-9) that should have affected the Brisbane region. But I read not a word about that in the reports I read or hear of this fossil find.

Perhaps that’s too Christian or Jewish (in the Hebrew Bible) to be politically correct to mention.

However, there is evidence from the Babylonians, Egyptians and Greeks of a flood in ancient times, but not as specific, as say, giving Noah’s age as ‘in the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month’ (Genesis 7:11) that the flood came. However, we do know from history that one Sumerian king provided a list from about 2100 BC that divided kings into two categories – those who were before the flood and those after it.

Jesus Christ confirmed the existence of Noah and the flood (see Matthew 24:36-39).

When will this type of information make it to our news stories about a new fossil discovery in Brisbane? ‘Fossil find and phenomenal flood’ could be an appropriate headline, but that would not be too popular with a secular media.

SG

It was predictable that an evolutionary anti-Noahic flood view would come. And it did.

   

Saltwater crocodile (Wikipedia); Sarcosuchus (extinct relative of crocodile) [photographs courtesy Wikipedia]

A skeptic replies[3]

Dear Editor,

I (sic) amazed that in this day and age anyone can truly believe that story of Noah’s ark actually happened. But I ­find it appalling that someone who does would take such a marvellous discovery like the 50 million year old fossils at Geebung and then twist the facts to suit their own particularly limited world view when the evidence clearly contradicts it.

To suggest that a wooden boat that would have been roughly half the size of an average cruise ship could fi­t 60,000 animals on it is absurd. It would be standing room only and that doesn’t factor in room for food. Which bring me to the fact that some species have quite restrictive dietary needs, koalas for example will only eat from a limited number of eucalypts and then they must be fresh. Others can only live in certain habitats that we even fi­nd difficult to replicate in our modern day zoos and would have been impossible for someone living in the Bronze Age to construct. These are only two of the many logical fallacies that make the story of Noah’s ark just that – a story.

M

I did send a reply to this letter but it was not published. Here is what I wrote:

Mockers will come[4]

Red Tear Clip Art  Water Drop Clip Art  Img Clip Art  Green Tear Clip Art

A skeptic of Noah’s flood, M (Messenger 10 Aug 2013) puts me into the class of being ‘amazed’ that ‘anyone can truly believe that story’. I am in excellent company with the Lord Jesus Christ who believed in a literal flood and used it as an antitype of what will happen at Christ’s second coming (see Matthew 24:38-39). I agree with Jesus rather than M.

I’m accused of twisting the facts re the Geebung fossils of my ‘limited world view’, but M seems to forget that his/her short-sighted world view rejects this evidence when ‘all flesh died’ except Noah’s family. M also operates from a world view.

As for Noah’s boat not being large enough to fit 60,000 animals, that’s M’s contemporary number inserted into the biblical data, which makes no mention of 60,000.

However, M raises a good point. How could ‘two of every sort’ of animals and birds fit onto the gopher wood ark, sealed with pitch inside and out, whose dimensions were 300 cubits long, 50 cubits wide, 30 cubits high with lower, second and third decks (Gen 6:14-16 ESV)? A cubit is about 45 centimetres. The New Living Translation puts the measurements into the Imperial system:

Build a large boat[5] from cypress wood[6] and waterproof it with tar, inside and out. Then construct decks and stalls throughout its interior. 15 Make the boat 450 feet long, 75 feet wide, and 45 feet high.[7] 16 Leave an 18-inch opening[8] below the roof all the way around the boat. Put the door on the side, and build three decks inside the boat—lower, middle, and upper (Gen 6:14-16 NLT).

It seems obvious that M as a skeptic does not want this to be a historically feasible ark/boat to fit two of every kind of animal and bird along with food.

A detailed technical study of this issue, along with other issues, is in John Woodmorappe’s book, Noah’s Ark: a Feasibility Study.[9] It provides detailed data on how 8 people could have cared for approx. 16,000 animals using pre-scientific technology and provides answers for getting rid of the approx. 12 metric tons of excreta (muck) produced daily. It’s not an impossible feat to be done by Noah’s family.

The rainbow in the sky is a contemporary covenant sign to confirm Noah’s flood and that God will never destroy humanity with a flood again (see Gen. 9:13-15).

The Bible not only confirms the historically accurate deluge at the time of Noah, has Jesus Christ affirming its authenticity, and it predicts that ‘scoffers will come’ in the last days who ‘deliberately forget’ that ‘the world of that time was deluged and destroyed’. ‘By the same word [of God] the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly’ (2 Peter 3:3-7).

SG, North Lakes

Unfortunately, The Messenger did not want to continue this discussion and did not print my letter of reply.

Mockers, muck and worldviews

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(image courtesy Creation Ministries International)

What follows is more extensive information that I framed in preparation for the letter above, plus some additional details from research.

So a skeptic regarding Noah’s flood, M (Messenger 10 Aug 2014) puts me into the class of being ‘amazed’ that ‘anyone can truly believe that story’.

What I find even more amazing is that I am in mighty good company. It was the Lord Jesus Christ himself who believed in the literal history of that deluge (Genesis 6-10) when he affirmed in his Olivet Discourse: ‘In those days before the flood, the people were enjoying banquets and parties and weddings right up to the time Noah entered his boat. People didn’t realize what was going to happen until the flood came and swept them all away. That is the way it will be when the Son of Man comes’ (Matthew 24:38-39). I would rather be agreeing with Jesus Christ than M.

As for the charge against me that I did ‘twist the facts’ about the Geebung fossil discovery because of my ‘limited world view’. This is a false allegation. I twisted nothing. I provided an alternate interpretation, based on the catastrophe caused by the worldwide flood in Noah’s time. To show further evidence of the geologic record’s compatibility with a worldwide flood, see Dr Jonathan Sarfati’s article, ‘The Yellowstone petrified forests: Evidence of catastrophe’.

Back to M’s letter: M has overlooked that he/she is supporting his/her skeptical world view about Noah’s flood with the statements in this letter. My understanding is that fossils around the world can be associated with the evidence left by the historical evidence of Noah’s flood when ‘all flesh died’ except Noah and his family.

This article by Steve Cardno, ‘The (second) greatest catastrophe of all time: The Titanic sinking? The Pompeii devastation? What rates as the greatest ‘disaster’ ever?’ provides a photograph of an ‘incredible fossil of an ichthyosaur, buried and fossilised while giving birth, [and] is clear evidence of its having been buried quickly by water-borne sediments. The fossil record is consistent with creatures having been buried suddenly, otherwise most creatures would either rot or be devoured by scavengers’.

So Noah’s boat was not large enough to fit 60,000 animals according to M. There is not a word in the biblical record of 60,000 animals at the time of Noah. That’s M’s contemporary insertion into the biblical data, thus making him/her a perpetrator of eisegesis.

However, M raises a good point. How could ‘two of every sort’ of animals and birds fit onto the gopher wood ark, sealed with pitch inside and out, whose dimensions were 300 cubits long, 50 cubits wide, 30 cubits high with lower, second and third decks (Gen 6:14-16)? A cubit is about 45 centimetres. It seems obvious that M as a skeptic does not want this to be a historically feasible ark to fit two of every kind of animal and bird along with food.

A detailed technical study of this issue, along with other issues, is in John Woodmorappe’s book, Noah’s Ark: a Feasibility Study. It provides detailed data on how 8 people could have cared for approx. 16,000 animals using pre-scientific technology.

Woodmorappe’s assessment was that since most of the animals were small with the median size animal about the size of the rat. Only about 15% of the animals were sheep-sized or larger. It would have been the larger animals which accounted for most of the food intake and production of excreta. Why could not juvenile animals be the ones taken onto the Ark?

As for the excreta (muck), Woodmorappe’s assessment was that approx. 12 metric tons of excreta would have been produced daily by the Ark animals and, using agricultural literature, he was able to show how it was easily possible for 8 people to deal with that much muck on a daily basis.

See also the article by Dr Jonathan D Sarfati, ‘How did all the animals fit on Noah’s Ark?’ (Creation Ministries International) Dr Sarfati asks, ‘Was the ark large enough to hold all the required animals?’ His answer is:

The Ark measured 300x50x30 cubits (Genesis 6:15), which is about 140x23x13.5 metres or 459x75x44 feet, so its volume was 43,500 m3 (cubic metres) or 1.54 million cubic feet. To put this in perspective, this is the equivalent volume of 522 standard American railroad stock cars, each of which can hold 240 sheep.

If the animals were kept in cages with an average size of 50x50x30 centimetres (20x20x12 inches), that is 75,000 cm3 (cubic centimetres) or 4800 cubic inches, the 16,000 animals would only occupy 1200 m3 (42,000 cubic feet) or 14.4 stock cars. Even if a million insect species had to be on board, it would not be a problem, because they require little space. If each pair was kept in cages of 10 cm (four inches) per side, or 1000 cm3, all the insect species would occupy a total volume of only 1000 m3, or another 12 cars. This would leave room for five trains of 99 cars each for food, Noah’s family and ‘range’ for the animals. However, insects are not included in the meaning of behemah or remes in Genesis 6:19-20, so Noah probably would not have taken them on board as passengers anyway.

Tabulating the total volume is fair enough, since this shows that there would be plenty of room on the Ark for the animals with plenty left over for food, range etc. It would be possible to stack cages, with food on top or nearby (to minimize the amount of food carrying the humans had to do), to fill up more of the Ark space, while still allowing plenty of room for gaps for air circulation. We are discussing an emergency situation, not necessarily luxury accommodation. Although there is plenty of room for exercise, skeptics have overstated animals’ needs for exercise anyway.

Even if we don’t allow stacking one cage on top of another to save floor space, there would be no problem. Woodmorappe shows from standard recommended floor space requirements for animals that all of them together would have needed less than half the available floor space of the Ark’s three decks. This arrangement allows for the maximum amount of food and water storage on top of the cages close to the animals.

With every storm or other rain event around the world that is followed by a rainbow in the sky, we have a contemporary reminder of the factuality of Noah’s flood. In the Genesis record, God declared the sign of the covenant he has made with all humanity that he would never destroy all human beings with a flood. The sign of that covenant is the rainbow in the sky (see Gen 9:13-15).

M’s kind of skepticism in denying Noah’s flood and calling it a ‘story’ without historical foundation, is predicted in Scripture: ‘In the last days scoffers will come’ and they deliberately forget that ‘the world of that time was deluged and destroyed’. ‘By the same word [of God] the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly’ (2 Peter 3:3-7).

Creation Ministries International (CMI) has published some further online articles dealing with this topic of Noah and the worldwide flood. However, CMI presents only one creationist view among evangelical Christians, i.e. young earth creationism. There are others such as Dr Norman Geisler who support an old earth:

An earth of millions or billions of years is biblically possible but not absolutely provable…. Given the basics of modern physics, it seems plausible that the universe is billions of years old…. There is nothing in Scripture that contradicts this (Geisler 2003:648, 650).

See CMI information about Noah’s flood and the ark:

Conclusion

While the mockers of biblical Christianity will continue until their last breath, their ultimate exposure will be reserved for God’s Day of Judgment.

Be ready to expose the weaknesses in their arguments regarding Noah and the flood by,

(1) Knowing the Scriptures, especially Genesis and its confirmation in the New Testament;

(2) Know the creationist literature that exposes the cynics of biblical Christianity and especially the arguments of those who oppose creationism,

(3) Observe how they use logical fallacies to denigrate creationism and the Scriptures. Please become familiar with theses logical fallacies. The Nizkor Project has a helpful range of definitions for such fallacies.

(4) Be prepared to expose the holes and inconsistencies in their worldviews as they will try do with yours.

Works consulted

Geisler, N 2003. Systematic theology: God, creation, vol 2. Minneapolis, Minnesota: BethanyHouse.

Notes:


[1] Robyn Ironside, Courier-Mail [Brisbane], July 16, 2013. Available at: http://www.couriermail.com.au/news/queensland/construction-work-in-brisbane-suburb-geebung-unearths-fossils-of-50million-yearold-crocodiles-fish-and-plants/story-fnihsrf2-1226680059012 (Accessed 8 February 2014).

[2] The Messenger, North Lakes, letter by Spencer Gear (SG) published in the edition of 27 July 2013 regarding the fossil find at Geebung.  See: http://www.northlakesmessenger.com.au/mags/2013/July27.pdf. It is on p. 18 under ‘Your Say’ and I’m SG.

[3] ‘Response to SG’, The Messenger, Your Say, August 10 2013, p. 22, available at: http://northlakesmessenger.com.au/mags/2013/Aug10.pdf (Accessed 22 August 2013).

[4] This is my letter sent to The Messenger, North Lakes, on 23 August 2013 at: community@northlakesmessenger.com.au. It was not published.

[5] The footnote here was, ‘Traditionally rendered an ark’.

[6] The footnote here was, ‘Or gopher wood’.

[7] The footnote here was, ‘Hebrew 300 cubits [138 meters] long, 50 cubits [23 meters] wide, and 30 cubits [13.8 meters] high’.

[8] The footnote here was, ‘Hebrew an opening of 1 cubit [46 centimeters]’.

[9] Published by Institute for Creation Research, 1996.

 

Copyright © 2014 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 3 September 2016.

God created the universe out of nothing (ex nihilo)

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014

NASA IMAGES - a service of the Internet Archive

(image courtesy Pinterest)

By Spencer D Gear

Some Christians struggle with the view that God created the universe ex nihilo, which is the Latin phrase that means ‘out of nothing’. The Bible begins, ‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth’ (Gen 1:1). From what did God create the universe?

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St Augustine of Hippo (image courtesy Wikipedia)

3d-gold-star St Augustine of Hippo (AD 354-430) wrote that ‘though God formed man of the dust of the earth, yet the earth itself, and every earthly material, is absolutely created out of nothing; and man’s soul, too, God created out of nothing, and joined to the body, when He made man’ (City of God 14.11).

Norm Geisler explains:[1]

The world must have been made out of nothing because it had a beginning; it came to be. It did not always exist; God did. The world is finite, temporal, and changing, while God is none of these. Hence, the world cannot be made out of God’s substance or essence. It must, then, have come into existence out of nothing by God’s power (Geisler 2003:431).

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Thomas Aquinas (image courtesy Wikipedia)

3d-gold-star Thomas Aquinas (AD1224-1274) wrote on the topic, ‘Whether to create is to make something from nothing?’ He admitted that one of the objections is: ‘To create is not to make something from nothing’, to which his response was:

On the contrary, On the text of Gn. 1, “In the beginning God created,” etc., the gloss has, “To create is to make something from nothing.”

I answer that, As said above (Q[44], A[2]), we must consider not only the emanation of a particular being from a particular agent, but also the emanation of all being from the universal cause, which is God; and this emanation we designate by the name of creation. Now what proceeds by particular emanation, is not presupposed to that emanation; as when a man is generated, he was not before, but man is made from “not-man,” and white from “not-white.” Hence if the emanation of the whole universal being from the first principle be considered, it is impossible that any being should be presupposed before this emanation. For nothing is the same as no being. Therefore as the generation of a man is from the “not-being” which is “not-man,” so creation, which is the emanation of all being, is from the “not-being” which is “nothing” (Summa Theologica, I.45).[2]

For an examination of this topic of God’s creating the universe from nothing (ex nihilo), we move from the sophisticated Aquinas in the thirteenth century to an everyday person on a Christian Internet forum in the 21st century.

Difficult to comprehend creation ex nihilo

A poster on a Christian Forum wrote:

I can’t comprehend ex nihilo. I can’t comprehend the “nothing” that God created the world out of. First I think of space as nothing but space is something. God created the universe, everything, out of NOTHING!’[3]

So do I.[4] But I struggle to even begin to reach a beginning understanding of the nature of the Almighty, omnipotent, omniscient, eternal God who bothers to provide salvation to a puny person like me.

As for creating out of ‘nothing’, let’s try. The Hebrew verb bara (created) in Genesis 1:1 expresses ‘something great, new and “epoch-making,” as only God can do it’ (Leupold 1942:40-41), but the verb does not have to eliminate existing material as we know from Isa 65:18b as an example. However, creatio ex nihilo (creation out of nothing) is indicated by passages such as Rom 4:17; Heb 11:3. See also Psalm 33:6, 9; Amos 4:13.

For my understanding, to create out of nothing is associated with the Kal use of bara create, which is only associated with divine creation and refers to the production of something (in this case, the universe – the heavens and the earth) that had no existence before this (Keil & Delitzsch n d:47). There was no word in Hebrew for ‘universe’ so ‘the heaven and the earth’ was the phrase God used. Keil & Delitzsch stated it this way, ‘There is nothing belonging to the composition of the universe, either in material or form, which had an existence out of God prior to this divine act in the beginning’ (Keil & Delitzsch n d:47).

I find it difficult to get my head around this concept, but when God has revealed that this happened this way, I accept it for the way it was because of who God is. The important thing for me to remember is: The universe (heaven and earth, and the first human beings) had a beginning. The universe is not eternal and the Lord God created them. He called the universe into existence because of who he is and the power he exerts.

By the way, this universe at the end of time will be destroyed by the same power of Almighty God (see 2 Peter 3:7; Rev 21). That’s hard to comprehend as well. It’s as certain to happen as the creation out of nothing was.

The person on the Christian forum continued:

It doesn’t make a difference to me as far as my faith is concerned whether God chose to create humans directly, like Adam as a full adult, or whether God chose evolution to develop the physical human body and then put an immortal soul into the body at some point.[5]

Same here. But when God has not told us that he used macro evolution, but created ex nihilo, I believe him rather than the God-denying evolutionists, especially with Darwin’s eminent promotion. We are dealing with the truthfulness of God. Since he is correct about eternal salvation, he is also correct about how he made the universe (limited though the details may be in Scripture).

The poster continued:

I always liked science. I was a biology major with minors in math and geology (long time ago) but I still try to keep up on things by subscribing to some magazines like Scientific American, etc. That stuff fascinates me because I can see the Hand of God in it,[6]

I’m a maths and science major from high school but didn’t pursue it further, although I went into university to become a science teacher but didn’t finish the course. It’s encouraging that you see the hand of God in science. Many scientists do not. In my recent 5th valve replacement heart surgery and an ICD (like a pacemaker) implant revealed the intricate nature of the heart’s electrical system. One nurse told me: ‘The heart has an amazing electrical system but there is no motor to drive it’. My response was that we are fearfully and wonderfully made, but that zoomed right past her.

The poster brought Darwin and God into the conversation:

I realize Darwin wanted to remove God from the equation but that’s just Darwin’s opinion. What counts — to me anyway — is that God won’t remove ME from God’s Equation![7]

It’s not just Darwin who wanted to remove God from the creation equation. Many other scientists and journalists do it, Richard Dawkins[8] and Christopher Hitchens[9] are overt examples of this anti-God attempt in the scientific world. Let’s check out what Dawkins and Hitchens thing.

Richard Dawkins Cooper Union Shankbone.jpg

Richard Dawkins (photograph courtesy Wikipedia)

6pointblue Richard Dawkins wrote: ‘I never take part in debates with creationists’. His footnote at this point was, ‘I do not have the chutzpah to refuse on grounds offered by one of my most distinguished scientific colleagues, whenever a creationist tries to stage a formal debate with him (I shall not name him, but his words should be read in an Australian accent): “That would look great on your CV; not so good on mine”’ (Dawkins 2006:318).

So what’s Dawkins’ view of God and creation since he is the one who wrote The God delusion (2006)? Of natural selection of Darwinian evolution, Dawkins wrote that ‘it shatters the illusion of design within the domain of biology, and teaches us to be suspicious of any kind of design hypothesis in physics and cosmology as well’ (2006:143). Dawkins endorses other authors in what they write about God and creation. He favourably cited physicist Leonard Susskind who wrote, ‘Modern cosmology really began with Darwin and Wallace. Unlike anyone before them, they provided explanations of our existence that completely rejected supernatural agents’ (in Dawkins 2006:143).

He also referred to the prose poetry of Peter Atkins’ hypothesis of a ‘lazy God’, Dawkins summarised: ‘Step by step, Atkins succeeds in reducing the amount of work the lazy God has to do until he finally ends up doing nothing at all: he might as well not bother to exist’. Then Dawkins added what I, as an evangelical Christian, consider is a blasphemous statement, ‘My memory vividly hears Woody Allen’s perceptive whine: “If it turns out that there is a God, I don’t think that he’s evil. But the worst that you can say about him is that basically he’s an under-achiever’ (in Dawkins 2006:144).

Opposition to the Dawkins’ view of god

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Alister McGrath (photograph courtesy Wikipedia)

6pointblue Alister & Joanna McGrath examined the validity of Dawkins’ arguments in The God Delusion (Dawkins 2006) in The Dawkins Delusion? (McGrath & McGrath (2007). Their comments include these:

Whereas [Stephen Jay] Gould[10] at least tries to weigh the evidence, Dawkins simply offers the atheist equivalent of slick hellfire preaching, substituting turbocharged rhetoric and highly selective manipulation of facts for careful, evidence-based thinking. Curiously, there is surprisingly little scientific analysis in The God Delusion…. Dawkins preaches to his god-hating choirs….

Many have been disturbed by Dawkins’s crude stereotypes, vastly oversimplified binary oppositions (science is good; religion is bad), straw men and hostility toward religion…. Dawkins relies so excessively on rhetoric rather than the evidence that would otherwise be his natural stock in trade clearly indicates that something is wrong with his case. Ironically the ultimate achievement of The God Delusion for modern atheism may be to suggest that this emperor has no clothes to wear. Might atheism be a delusion about God? (McGrath & McGrath 2007:11, 97).

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Christopher Hitchens (photograph courtesy Wikipedia)

6pointblue This was Christopher Hitchens’ view:

It’s, as I say in my book, it’s an optional belief now. It’s been optional ever since LaPlace, when demonstrating the workings of the universe, was asked well, there doesn’t seem to be a God in this design of yours, he said well, it actually operates perfectly well without that assumption. So you can make it if you want, but it’s completely superfluous. It can’t be integral to it. It doesn’t explain anything. Einstein did say he was not an atheist, but he went on to say that he had no belief whatever in a personal God. He was a spinozist, which is a very exact way of saying that you do not believe that God intervenes in human affairs….

It seems to me, though, that the really unbelievable thing, the thing that cannot be believed, is that we on this very tiny speck of a planet in a solar system that has otherwise only dead planets, and the death of which we can all anticipate almost to the hour, the heat death of our known universe, that it’s on the very, very edge of a whirling, unimaginable space with other galaxies, that we are the point of all this creation. It’s just not possible for me, at any rate, to believe that….

Many people of high intelligence and fervent conscience have been devout believers. I say that I think the belief is stupid and unfounded and false, and potentially, latently, always wicked, because it is both servile in one way, and arrogant in another. And that’s why I dare to say that it’s ab initio, a poison. But I certainly do not say of people who have faith that they are dumb. Isaac Newton was practically a spiritualist. Alfred Russel Wallace, who did a lot of Darwin’s work for him, had weird, supernatural beliefs as well. These things are compatible with high intelligence and great morality. But we would be better off if we left them behind….

You know, if there’s a God, why have I got cancer? What a silly question. It would be, I wouldn’t have any idea why He would want that. I would just have to accept it. But I mean, I don’t, I do not go in for this game at all, and I don’t know why anybody does. (Roberts 2007).

Mark D Roberts (photograph courtesy Patheos)

In his debate with Christopher Hitchens, Dr Mark Roberts concluded:

I think what I would want to say is that we can look at the wonder of Creation, or that’s perhaps begging the question, of the universe as it is, and we can get to the point of saying either that’s all there is, and it is wonderful, or we can get to the point of saying there must be something beyond this, some sort of God, can’t be proved, but one can’t say that it doesn’t matter whether there is that God or not (Roberts 2007).

portrait of R. Douglas Geivett

(R Douglas Geivett, photograph courtesy Talbot School of Theology)

6pointblue Christian apologist, William Lane Craig debated Christopher Hitchens at Biola University, California, on April 5, 2009. Christian apologist, Doug Geivett was at that debate and recorded his comments on the night of the debate in, ‘William Lane Craig vs. Christopher Hitchens: First Report’. The topic of the debate was, ‘Does God exist?’ These are a few grabs from Geivett’s early assessment:

  • In the rebuttal, cross-examination, and response portions of the debate that followed, Bill Craig pressed Christopher Hitchens on his conception of atheism, his reasons for being an atheist, and his responses to the arguments presented in Craig’s opening speech. In this respect, Craig was in greater control of themes in the debate. This was helped immensely by the clear progression, crisp identification, and repetition of his original arguments. Hitchens resisted Craig’s efforts to extract a more precise definition of Hitchens’s atheism than his simple denial that there is adequate evidence for theism. Hitchens claimed that if you believe the universe is designed, then you also have to believe the designer is short on the excellence attributed by theists to God. There is a tension between there being a god who is completely indifferent to human suffering, or a god who provides a bizarre remedy in the form of having “someone tortured to death during the Bronze Age” and Roman rule, a god who demands conformity to his requirements in order to be saved from damnation, and, in any case, who leaves countless individuals without opportunity to hear about and accept this remedy.
  • The most noteworthy difference between these debaters consists in this: preparation. One may agree or disagree with Bill Craig’s claims, but there can be no question that he was thoroughly prepared for every aspect of the debate and never faltered in his response to objections by Hitchens. Christopher Hitchens, on the other hand, dropped several of Craig’s opening arguments, and seriously misunderstood or distorted the moral argument, the argument from the resurrection of Jesus, and Craig’s appeal to experience. I think Craig was most successful in demonstrating the error in Hitchens’s discombobulated rendition of Craig’s moral argument. Whether the audience followed the competing interpretations of N. T. Wright’s historical argument concerning the probability of the resurrection is another matter. But I can vouch for Craig’s construal of Wright’s argument, and, for that matter, for Hitchens’s confusion on the point. As for the appeal to experience of God (and the witness of the Holy Spirit), I might have put the point differently than Craig did and treat it as a kind of evidence that serves the subject of the experience without the need for argument. But Bill Craig and I may have a different view of the epistemology of such experience….
  • Returning, finally, to something I mentioned previously, this debate exposed a difference in preparation on the part of these two debaters. This is far more significant than it might seem at first. William Lane Craig has debated this topic dozens of times, without wavering from the same basic pattern of argument. He presents the same arguments in the same form, and presses his opponents in the same way for arguments in defense of their own worldviews. He’s consistent. He’s predictable. One might think that this is a liability, that it’s too risky to face a new opponent who has so much opportunity to review Craig’s specific strategy. But tonight’s debate proves otherwise. Hitchens can have no excuse for dropping arguments when he knows—or should know—exactly what to expect. Suppose one replies that William Craig is a more experienced debater and a trained philosopher, while Christopher Hitchens is a journalist working outside the Academy. That simply won’t do as a defense of Hitchens. First, Hitchens is no stranger to debate. Second, he is clearly a skillful polemicist. Third—and most important—Hitchens published a book, god Is Not Great, in which he makes bold claims against religion in general and Christianity in particular. With his book, he threw down the challenge. To his credit, he rose to meet a skillful challenger. But did he rise to the occasion? Did he acquit himself well? At one point he acknowledged that some of his objections to the designer argument were “layman’s” objections. His book, I believe, is also the work of a layman. It appears to have been written for popular consumption and without concern for accountability to Christians whose lives are dedicated to the defense of the Gospel (Geivett 2009a).

6pointblue Elsewhere, Geivett reviewed Hitchens’ book, god is not great (Hitchens 2007). Part of that review stated:

Ignoring Reasonable Christianity. To begin chapter 5, Hitchens quotes (without attribution) several Christian thinkers to the effect that Christianity is opposed to reason. He quotes Thomas Aquinas as saying, “I am a man of one book” (63), for example, and includes other similar quotes. This misleads the unsuspecting reader into thinking that Christianity always pits religious faith against reason. This is laughably false in the case of Aquinas, who is famous for his rational arguments for God’s existence. There may be rough strands and pockets of anti-intellectualism in Christian history, but there also is a rich and deep current of vigorous intellectualism, as evidenced by historic Christian thinkers such as Augustine, Anselm, Aquinas, Pascal, and Edwards, as well as by modern intellectuals such as G.K. Chesterton, C.S. Lewis, Francis Schaeffer, Alvin Plantinga, Richard Swinburne, J.P. Moreland, and William Lane Craig. Rather than engaging Christian theism (or any other religion) at its rational best,8 however, Hitchens scavenges around for the worst examples of illogic, ignorance, and outright stupidity in religion. The straw man makes many loud-mouthed appearances in god Is Not Great (Geivett 2009b).

Peterhitchens.jpg

(Peter Hitchens, photograph courtesy Wikipedia)

There is an interesting perspective that is provided by Peter Hitchens, Christopher’s brother and a Christian. I encourage you to read this article, ‘Old Answers to the New Atheism: An Interview with Peter Hitchens’ (Ligonier Ministries 2014). On the death of his brother, Christopher, on 16 December 2011, the British newspaper, Mail Online, published Peter’s article, ‘In Memoriam, my courageous brother Christopher, 1949-2011’. In this article, Peter recounts:

Here’s a thing I will say now without hesitation, unqualified and important. The one word that comes to mind when I think of my brother is ‘courage’. By this I don’t mean the lack of fear which some people have, which enables them to do very dangerous or frightening things because they have no idea what it is to be afraid. I mean a courage which overcomes real fear, while actually experiencing it….

People sometimes tell me that I have been ‘courageous’ to say something moderately controversial in a public place. Not a bit of it. This is not courage. Courage is deliberately taking a known risk, sometimes physical, sometimes to your livelihood, because you think it is too important not to.

My brother possessed this virtue to the very end, and if I often disagreed with the purposes for which he used it, I never doubted the quality or ceased to admire it. I’ve mentioned here before C.S.Lewis’s statement that courage is the supreme virtue, making all the others possible. It should be praised and celebrated, and is the thing I‘d most wish to remember.

God’s plan for the present and future

God doesn’t remove any human being from the equation (we all will have to answer to him), but the new heavens and new earth also are in God’s plan for our future. The person on the Christian forum stated:

Theories change. New ideas pop up and people work on them and research them and argue them. Some are proven and some can never be proven. God doesn’t change. God is, was and always will be.[11]

I say, ‘Amen’, to the last 2 sentences. But I agree that theories change but God doesn’t. That’s why I’m so pleased that God has revealed his nature and actions – past, present, and future – in Scripture, on a limited scale.
To this person, I stated that this sure reads like she is convinced by the awesome revelation of God in creation and Scripture. I urged her to continue promoting it on the forum.

Dr Norman Geisler responds

6pointblue I checked what Norman Geisler said of ‘creation out of nothing’ as his understanding of issues has had input from Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, since the time of Geisler’s PhD in philosophy that he earned from Loyola University, Chicago. Geisler wrote:

Aquinas argued that creation must be out of nothing. By definition, “Nothing is the same as non-being.” However, “when anything is said to be made from nothing, the preposition from does not signify a material cause, but only an order” (Summa Theologica 1.45.2). Likewise, we speak of midday coming from morning, meaning after morning but not literally out of it.
To create from nothing is really a negative concept: “The sense is … it is not made from anything; just as if we were to say, He speaks of nothing, because he does not speak of anything” (ibid., 1.45.2). The ancient dictum that “nothing comes from nothing” is not to be understood absolutely: It means that something cannot be caused by nothing, but not that something cannot come after nothing. That is, something can be created from nothing but not by nothing (Geisler 2003:432-433).

I had never thought of and understood creation ex nihilo that way, but this helped me get a better understanding on some of its meaning, thanks to Aquinas and Geisler.

Works consulted

Aquinas, T 1947. Summa Theologica (online). Tr English Dominican Province. Bensinger Bros edition, available at: http://dhspriory.org/thomas/summa/ (Accessed 28 January 2014).

Dawkins, R 2006. The God delusion. London: Black Swan (Transworld Publishers).

Geisler, N 2003. Systematic theology: God, creation, vol 2. Minneapolis, Minnesota: BethanyHouse.

Geivett, D 2009a. Doug Geivett’s Blog, ‘William Lane Craig vs. Christopher Hitchens: First Report’ (online), April 5. Available at: http://douggeivett.wordpress.com/2009/04/05/william-lane-craig-vs-christopher-hitchens-first-report/ (Accessed 28 January 2014).

Geivett, D 2009b. god is not great: How religion poisons everything (book review), Christian Research Journal, June 11. Available at: http://www.equip.org/articles/god-is-not-great-how-religion-poisons-everything/ (Accessed 28 January 2014).

Hitchens, C 2007. god is not great: How religion poisons everything. New York, NY: Twelve (Hachette Book Group, Inc.).

Keil, C F & Delitzsch, F n d. Commentary on the Old Testament: The Pentateuch, vol 1. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Leupold, H C 1942. Exposition of Genesis, vols 1 & 2. London: Evangelical Press (The Wartburg Press USA)
McGrath, A E & McGrath, J C 2007. The Dawkins delusion? Atheist fundamentalism and the denial of the divine. Downers Grove, Illinois: IVP Books.

Roberts, M D 2007. Christopher Hitchens: Our three-hour debate (online). Patheos. Available at: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/markdroberts/series/christopher-hitchens-our-three-hour-debate/ (Accessed 28 January 2014).

Notes


[1] On the homepage of Dr Norman L Geisler, it states:

Dr. Norman Geisler, PhD, is a prolific author, veteran professor, speaker, lecturer, traveler, philosopher, apologist, evangelist, and theologian.  To those who ask, “Who is Norm Geisler?” some have suggested, “Well, imagine a cross between Thomas Aquinas and Billy Graham and you’re not too far off.” Norm has authored/coauthored over 80 books and hundreds of articles. He has taught theology, philosophy, and apologetics on the college or graduate level for over 50 years.  He has served as a professor at some of the finest Seminaries in the United States, including Trinity Evangelical Seminary, Dallas Seminary, and Southern Evangelical Seminary.  He now lends his talents to Veritas Evangelical Seminary in Murrieta, California, as the Distinguished Professor of Apologetics (available at: http://www.normgeisler.com, accessed 28 January 2014).

[2] This is from Aquinas’s ‘Treatise on the creation [Qs 44-49]. Question 45, ‘The mode of emanation of things from the first principle (eight articles)’, St. Thomas Aquinas 1947. Summa Theologica, transl. by Fathers of the English Dominican Province, Benziger Bros.edn. Available at: http://www.sacred-texts.com/chr/aquinas/summa/index.htm (Accessed 28 January 2014).

[3] Christian Fellowship Forum, The Fellowship Hall, ‘Dinosaurs’, charma#36, available at: http://community.compuserve.com/n/pfx/forum.aspx?msg=122590.36&nav=messages&webtag=ws-fellowship&redirCnt=1 (Accessed 28 January 2014).

[4] The following includes my response as ozspen#41, ibid.

[5] Op cit., charma#36.

[6] Ibid., charma#36.

[7] Ibid., charma#36.

[8]From 1967 to 1969, Richard Dawkins, a scientist, was an assistant professor of zoology at the University of California, Berkeley. From 1995-2008, he was the Charles Simonyi Professor for Public Understanding of Science, Oxford University. At the time of writing The God delusion, Dawkins also was a fellow of New College (Dawkins 2006:1). Alister McGrath (D. Phil., Oxford University) is the primary author of a response to Dawkins’ atheism, The Dawkins Delusion? (McGrath & McGrath 2007). McGrath is professor of historical theology at Oxford University. ‘After studying chemistry at Oxford, he did research in molecular biophysics, developing new methods for investigating biological membranes. He then studied Christian theology, specializing in the history of Christian thought and especially in issues of science and religion’ (McGrath & McGrath 2007: inside back flap).

[9] The late Christopher Hitchens was an author, polemicist and journalist. He died in 2011 at the age of 62. He was a prolific writer and prominent in his promotion of the evolutionary cause. One of his most famous books was titled, god is not great: How religion poisons everything (Hitchens 2007).

[10] According to The New York Times, Gould, a Harvard University evolutionary theorist, died in 2002 of cancer at the age of 60. See ‘Stephen Jay Gould, 60, Is Dead; Enlivened Evolutionary Theory’ (Accessed 28 January 2014). Hitchens labels Professor Stephen Jay Gould as a ‘celebrated atheist’ (Roberts 2007).

[11] Op cit., charma#36.

 

Copyright © 2014 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 3 September 2016.