Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Emerging truth

By far the biggest charge leveled at the "Emergent Movement" revolves around the subject of truth. Is truth relative or objective? According to orthodox Christianity, truth must be objective. If truth is relative, then the grand metanarritive of Scripture cannot be trusted. David Roach summarizes the post modern problem by saying, "The worldview of postmodernism -- complete with an epistemology that denies the possibility of or need for propositional truth -- affords the movement an opportunity to hop, skip and jump throughout the Bible and the history Christian thought in order to take whatever pieces they want from one theology and attach them, like doctrinal post-it notes, to whatever picture they would want to draw." [1]

Other differences prevail within the post modern "Emergent Movement." Some of the issues revolve around the culture of the "Emergent Movement" as compared to the culture of many traditional churches in North America. Some within the "Emergent Movement" see the North American church as being stale and institutionalized, as if the Church has lost its way in what it means to be a community of believers. Community takes on a large role within the "Emergent Movement." Typically, emergent churches tend to be made up of 20 to 30 year old individuals, with very few that are elderly. Emergent churches are found in large urban areas and tend to have a more liberal view than non-emergent churches. For example, some of the points of contention that differ include: different approaches to sharing the gospel, moral views are emphasized in a different manner, especially the subjects of abortion and homosexuality,and political differences that seem to favor the left as opposed to the majority of North American churches.

One of the biggest leaders in the "Emergent Movement" is Brian McLaren.[2] Although his views do not represent the entire movement he is usually mentioned first as the most influential leader within the movement. In the coming blogs the differences of the "Emergent Movement" will be examined. Much of what the movement offers has been a wake up call to many stagnant aspects of churches, not only in North America, but the entire West.



1. For the entire article see: http://bpnews.net/bpnews.asp?ID=20420
2. Brian McLaren's websight: http://www.brianmclaren.net/
* Interesting dialogue between Brian McLaren and Chuck Colson on the post modern push within the emergent church movement: first is Mclaren's response to a Colson article in Christianity today - http://www.brianmclaren.net/archives/000269.html Second is a response to McLaren by Colson - http://www.brianmclaren.net/archives/000160.html

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The post-modern push



The post-modern era has brought a radical shift within some of the churches in the west today. We do live in a time that is after the modern age. Modernism in many ways sprang from the enlightenment period where much emphasis was put on reason and empirical science. Perhaps the biggest shift dealt with the field of epistemology (how we obtain knowledge). From the modern point of view knowledge could be grounded in absolute or objective truth. In a modern framework, truth could be known. However, those who hold to a post-modern view see truth as being subjective in many ways.

Deconstructionism has played a major role in post-modern thinking. Jacques Derrida, is commonly refereed to as the author of deconstructive thought. Deconstructionism [1] could be simplified as follows, "There is no grand metanarrative." To boil this down further, truth is not objective or absolute. A grand metanarrtive, would therefore, be objective or absolute, which the post-modern's would deny. It is this aspect of post-modernism that scares many Christians today. For when the grand metanarrative (objective truth) is called into question, the whole nature of Scripture and reality becomes incredibly fuzzy.

The post-modern push within the Church today has been explored and will continue to be explored in how it relates to orthodoxy. There are several points to be addressed in the coming blogs. What are the effects of post-modernism in the church today, specifically the "Emergent Church" movement? What views are espoused by the "Emergent Church" movement? Finally, How should the Christian community handle itself in a post-modern society?

1 Jacques Derrida and his views of Deconstructionism

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Do the Crusades Show Christianity to be a False Religion?

A few years ago, I was engaged in conversation with a friend concerning Christianity. During the conversation, he made the charge that Christianity is flawed. His charge revolved around the Crusades and other activities carried out in the Churches’ past. The point he was trying to make centered on not just a flawed religion, but whether or not Christianity is valid. What exactly were the Crusades? How did they come about? Most importantly, do the Crusades show Christianity to be a false religion? Are my friend’s comments valid by calling Christianity into question because of the Crusades?

The sentiment held by my friend is also found among those skeptical of Christianity. Anin Maalouf, a Muslim, puts the blame squarely on Christianity by saying the taking of Jerusalem by the Crusaders was, “The starting point of hostility between Islam and the West.”[1] A scholar within the Muslim community (John Esposito) also blames Christianity for the Crusades. Mr. Esposito accuses the Christian Crusaders for destroying “Five centuries of peaceful coexistence”[2]between Muslims and Christians.

Similar to many Muslim’s charges are those espoused by individuals skeptical of Christianity. Skeptic Alan Woods, like many others blames the Christian community for all the atrocities of Middle age violence. He indicates that Christianity is the sole blame for the development of the Crusading time period. “The true brutal face of Christian Europe was seen in the bloodthirsty escapades known as the Crusades.”[3]

Even Presidents are not immune from calling out the Christian Crusaders. In a speech given to Georgetown University, President Clinton recalled the past act of the initial Crusade by saying, “"In the first Crusade, when the Christian soldiers took Jerusalem, they first burned a synagogue with 300 Jews in it and proceeded to kill every woman and child who was a Muslim on the Temple Mount. I can tell you that story is still being told today in the Middle East and we are still paying for it."[4] Clinton goes on to say; “The contemporaneous descriptions of the event describe soldiers walking on the Temple Mount, a holy place to Christians, with blood running up to their knees.”[5]

It is no wonder that Christianity is marred in some way when the most powerful person in the world puts Christianity in such a negative light; however, the real question that must be asked is, Are the Christians really the sole reason for the evil that many perceive? Additionally, what exactly took place during the Crusades, and more importantly, what led to the development of the initial Crusade?

Pre-Crusade History

One of the major themes often left out when the subject of the Crusades concerns the history that preceded the Crusades. A different picture arises when this aspect of history comes to light.

The Crusades did involve an often-bloody conflict between the Christians of Europe and the Muslims of the Middle East. In order to understand one of the reasons for the Crusade, Islam and its founder, Muhammad, must first be examined. From the beginning (7th century), Muhammad was able to rally the Arab people to the cause of Islam. Islam spread rapidly in the Middle East and started to push its way out. The primary means for the spread of Islam was often by a brutal take over of the lands conquered. Thomas Madden, a historian and scholar of the Crusades, states, “From the time of Mohammed, the means of Muslim expansion was always the sword.”[6] Many of those who were conquered or put to the sword were the Christians. The initial conquest, by force, was an area saturated by Christians. The spread of Islam by force was so rapid that two-thirds of the Christian world had submitted to the aggression of Islam by the beginning of the 11th century.[7]

The spread of Islam by force is consistent with the Koran, the holy book of Islam. Justification for holy wars or Jihad is explicit within the Koran. For example, Surah 2:244 calls for Muslims to, “Fight in the cause of God.”[8] Surah 9:5 is even more forceful, “Slay the idolaters wherever you find them; seize them and besiege them, and wait for them in every ambush.”[9] Lastly, Surah 47:4 calls for Muslim action on the unbelievers by saying, “Smite their necks until you have wounded them heavily and routed them.”[10] Clearly with language so hateful, it is easy to see why Muslims were inspired to conquer by way of the sword. Authors Geisler and Saleeb summarize the Koran’s view of holy war nicely by saying “Such war on and persecution of enemies on religious grounds-by whatever means-is seen by most critics as a clear example of religious intolerance.”[11]

The often-overlooked history preceding the Crusades sheds light on the situation that the Christian community found itself in. Islam never intended to slow in its endeavor to continue to conquer by force. The spread of Islam by force is what prompted the call for help within Christendom. The Crusades, though offensive in many ways, was much more of a defensive stand against the brute force spread of Islam. Even those skeptical of Christianity can see that, “The most immediate cause for the Crusades is also the most obvious: Muslim incursions into previously Christian lands. On multiple fronts, Muslims were invading Christian lands to convert the inhabitants and assume control in the name of Islam.”[12] Reasons exist for the purpose of the Crusades, and when the sole blame is placed on Christians and embellished by a President and others, it is easy to see why some would take offense toward Christianity. As far as Jerusalem’s streets being filled with blood, Madden states, “No historian accepts them as anything other than a literary convention.”[13]

The Crusades: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

The first crusade was called in the late 11th century. Pope Urban the II commissioned the first crusade in response to Muslim aggression in the East. In reality, Urban was responding to a call of help from the Byzantine Empire. Madden comments that, “He (Urban) called the knights of Christ to take up a war of liberation. The Christians of the East must be free from the brutal and humiliating conditions of Muslim rule.”[14] Constantinople was the Capitol of the Byzantine Empire to which the Crusaders responded in an effort to help.

The first Crusade, in many ways was the most successful. The Christians were able to capture Jerusalem and other parts of the Holy Land that had been taken from them in the past. The divide between the Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church was patched somewhat during the early Crusade. There were still theological differences between the two groups, but this marked a breakthrough whereby the two could work together for a common cause. Islam was halted temporarily from spreading further into the Christian community. The Christian Crusaders did experience victory, though many times the odds were against them. Also of interest, were the perceived miracles that seemed to have occurred during the first Crusade that lifted the spirits of Christendom.[15]

After the first Crusade, the Christian community had a hard time maintaining some of the momentum and unity that had developed. Even during the first Crusade problems had arisen. The first Crusaders to camp in Constantinople started to pillage for food before setting out for Jerusalem. Also of note, was the attack on various cities of Jews along the Rhine River. Albert of Aix described the killing of Jews along the Rhine: “They killed the women, also, and with their swords pierced tender children of whatever age and sex.”[16] The Crusades were not immune from the ugly. One of the saddest moments came about during the fourth Crusade. It was in the town of Constantinople, which first appealed to the Christians of the West. This was perhaps one of the greatest atrocities that occurred during the Crusades. In 1204, the fourth Crusading army sacked Constantinople. Though the Byzantine Empire lasted 192 years later, the divide between the Catholic Church of the West and the Eastern Orthodox Church of the East was severely damaged. The differences where only enhanced and a further wedge was driven between the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church after the fourth Crusading army’s destruction of Constantinople.

Long before the sack of Constantinople problems developed within the Christian community. Jerusalem fell 88 years after its recapture and the entire Christian influence had collapsed in Palestine some 192 years after the first Crusading victory. There were many victories and defeats during the Crusading years. Power, greed and the inability of the Christian community to unite for a common purpose ultimately destroyed the efforts that were initiated by Pope Urban II. If one victory can be claimed during this time, it has to be the fact that the crusades slowed considerably the advance of Islam by force into Christendom.[17]

There is much to be said about the history of the Crusades. Much of the history is comprised of both good and bad. Because the focus of the Crusades involves warfare, many have raised the question that revolves around justifiable warfare. What exactly is a just war?

Is Just War Just?

A just war involves “The justification of how and why wars are fought.”[18] The principles of a just war, of which there are six, are referred to as jus ad bellum. The six principles include: just cause, right intention, proper authority and public decleration, last resort, probibility of success, and proportionality.[19] Although this criteria may not be agreed upon by all to be universally true, most would agree on just cause and last resort as being the foundation for which a just war is fought. There are many who would vehimently disagree that war can ever be justified. “Against the just war (justum bellum) are those of a skeptical persuasion who do not believe that morality can or should exist in war.”[20]

Looking at the Crusades, how exactly can they be justified? First and foremost, the Crusades were implemented due to the fact of Muslim incursion by force upon Christendom. The Christians were certainly justified in their cause to defend themselves. “By the eight century, Muslim expeditionary forces were crossing the Pyrenees and marching into the heart of Catholic Europe.”[21] Pope Urban described the atrocities that were upon the Christian Community:

They [the Turks] have completely destroyed some of God’s churches and they have converted others to the uses of their own cult. They ruin the alters with filth and defilement. They circumcise Christians and smear the blood from the circumcision over the altars or throw it into the baptismal fronts. They are pleased to kill others by cutting open their bellies, extracting the ends of their intestines, and tying it to a stake. Then, with flogging, they drive their victims around the stake until, when their viscera have spilled out, they fall dead upon the ground. They tie others, again, to stakes and shoot arrows at them; they seize others, stretch out their necks, and try to see whether they can cut off their heads with a single blow of a naked sword. And what shall I say about the shocking rape of women?[22]

From the description of Pope Urban and the relentless drive of the Muslims into Christian Europe, a strong case can be made for justifiable warfare.

In modern times, similar wars have been justified by Heads of State to stop the atrocities of others. President Clinton hailed the Americans past involvement in World War II, in a speech he made in May of 1999. Speaking of the past, the President remarked, “The World War II veterans here fought in Europe and in the Pacific to prevent the world from being dominated by tyrants who use racial and religious hatred to strengthen their grip and to justify mass killing.” President Clinton also justified why Europeans and Americans needed to rise up to confront the atrocities of then President Milosevic of the former Yugoslavia. “If the European community and its American and Canadian allies were to turn away from and therefore reward ethnic cleansing in the Balkans, all we would do is to create for ourselves an environment where this sort of practice was sanctioned by other people who found it convenient to build their own political power.”[23]

The Crusaders were justified in defending themselves. Justification can also be made for the taking back of land that the Christian communities were living on peacefully in the past. The reconquista (reconquest) of Spain was just a part of the reason for why the Crusades could find justification. One of the criteria for a just war, as listed above, includes, “As a last resort.” When peering back into history, a strong argument can be made that the Crusades were justified against the brute force spread of Islam.

What the Crusades Were Not

Many have the impression today that Crusaders were blood - thirsty monsters that indiscriminately killed for sport. Not only did they kill the innocent, but they were after the Jews as well. This view as expressed by Clinton and Woods could not be further from the truth. The Jews that were killed during the Crusades were never a direct target of the Crusading army. In fact, Pope Urban II and others spoke out strongly against such atrocities. Also, those Jews that were attacked were not attacked from the primary armies that were formed. Those who did the attacking were offshoots of the main Crusading army.[24] Concerning the first Crusade to capture Jerusalem, Clinton was incorrect in his description of blood filled streets and an indiscriminate massacre of all. The facts show that though much life was lost, not every person was put to death. Some individuals were set free.[25]

Clinton also referred to a common misconception that the story of the Crusades is still being told, and we are paying for those past mistakes, as if the Christians are the sole bearers of blame. Again, Clinton is drawing from a modern, historical interpretation that does not square with actual historical accounts. It is only in recent history that the Crusaders were viewed in such a dark light. The Enlightenment brought about harsh scrutiny focused on not only the Crusades, but Christianity as well. According to Madden, “During the Middle Ages you could not find a Christian in Europe who did not believe that the Crusades were an act of highest good. Even the Muslims respected the ideals of the Crusades and the piety of the men who fought them.”[26] It is now easy to see why individuals, like my friend, would question the validity of the Christian faith. With a constant reinterpretation of the Crusades through the years, the actual historical story has been turned upside down, putting the Christian community in a defensive position. Madden, states: “The Muslim world remembers the Crusades about as well as the West–in other words, incorrectly. That should not be surprising. Muslims get their information about the Crusades from the same rotten histories that the West relies on.”[27]

Conclusion

Jesus said: “you will hear of wars and rumors of wars” (Matt. 24:6). The point is that there will always be wars, as well as rumors, but not all rumors bear the truth. The reinterpretation of Crusading history has served in many ways as a continued attack upon Christendom. Sure, those who called themselves Christian committed atrocities, but it should be remembered that the Christian community did not initiate the Crusades without purpose. The Crusades were launched as a call to help and to defend themselves from the aggressions of Islam.

Much has been said in error to put the blame on Christianity and to even discredit the faith, but what has not been done is to show that Christianity is false and left wanting. Christianity has survived 2000 years of attacks and still stands strong. Attacking Christianity by way of the Crusades through a reinterpretation of history is about as intolerant as it can get.

Jesus once chastised one of his closest followers for striking another with a sword.[28] Christianity, based upon faith in Jesus, is a religion that advocates peace. The Crusades were fought as a just war, by helping fellow Christians and defending themselves against Islam. If Christianity is ever to be proven false, it will happen with the discrediting of Jesus and the story of Christianity, not the Crusades.





Works Cited

A Struggle for the Soul of the 21st Century, Available on-line from:
http://archive.salon.com/news/feature/2001/11/10/speech/index.html.
Accessed 14 March 2008

Al-Jibouri, Yasin T. (editor). The Koran. Lake Mary, Florida. United Muslim
Foundation. 2005

Cline, Austin. Causes, History, and Violence of the Crusades. Available on-line
from: http://atheism.about.com/od/crusades/a/crusades_3.htm. Accessed
14 March 2008

Geisler, Norm and Abdul Saleeb. Answering Islam. Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Baker Books. 2002

Hammond, Dr. Peter. The Crusade and Jihad. Available on-line from:
http://www.frontline.org.za/articles/JihadAndCrusades.htm. Accessed
13 March 2008

Madden, Thomas F. Crusade Myths. Available on-line from:
http://www.ignatiusinsight.com/features2005/print2005/tmadden_crusades_print.
html

Madden, Thomas F. The Real History of the Crusades. Available on-line from:
http://www.thearma.org/essays/Crusades.htm. Accessed 14 March 2008

Madden, Thomas F. The New Concise History of the Crusades. Lanham, Maryland.
Rowan and Littlefield. 2005

Moseley, Alexander. Just War Theory. Available on-line from:
http://www.utm.edu/research/iep/j/justwar.htm. Accessed 18 March 2008

Orend, Brian. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy – War, Available on-line
from: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/war/. Accessed 18 March 2008

Thompson, Frank Charles (Editor). Bible – New International Version.
Indianapolis, Indiana. 1990

Transcript: Clinton Justifies U.S. Involvement in Kosovo. Available on-line from:
http://www.cnn.com/ALLPOLITICS/stories/1999/05/13/clinton.kosovo/transcript
. html. Accessed 18 March 2008

Woods, Alan. George W. Bush and the Crusades. Available on-line from:
http://www.marxist.com/MiddleEast/bush_crusades.html. Accessed 14 March
2008


[1] Hammond, Dr. Peter, Accessed from: http://www.frontline.org.za/articles/JihadAndCrusades.htm, Acquired 13 March 2008
[2] Ibid
[3] Woods, Alan, Accessed from: http://www.marxist.com/MiddleEast/bush_crusades.html, Acquired 14 March 2008
[4] Assessed from: http://archive.salon.com/news/feature/2001/11/10/speech/index.html, Acquired 14 March 2008
[5] Ibid
[6] Madden, Thomas F., Accessed from: http://www.thearma.org/essays/Crusades.htm, Acquired 14 March 2008
[7] Ibid
[8] United Muslim Foundation, The Koran, P. 28
[9] Ibid, P. 131
[10] Ibid, P. 375
[11] Geisler and Saleeb, Answering Islam, P. 179
[12] Cline, Austin, Accessed from: http://atheism.about.com/od/crusades/a/crusades_3.htm, Acquired 14 March 2008
[13] Madden, Thomas F., http://www.ignatiusinsight.com/features2005/print2005/tmadden_crusades_print.html, Acquired 14 March 2008
[14] Madden, Thomas, The New Concise History of the Crusades, P. 8
[15] Ibid, pp. 24-34
[16] Ibid p. 18
[17] Ibid, P. 244
[18] Moseley, Alexander, Accessed from: http://www.utm.edu/research/iep/j/justwar.htm, Acquired 18 March 2008
[19] Orend, Brian, Accessed from: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/war/, Acquired 18 March 2008
[20] Moseley, Alexander, Accessed from: http://www.utm.edu/research/iep/j/justwar.htm, Acquired 18 March 2008
[21] Madden, Thomas, The New Concise History of the Crusades, P. 4
[22] Ibid, pp. 8-9
[23] Accessed from: http://www.cnn.com/ALLPOLITICS/stories/1999/05/13/clinton.kosovo/transcript.html, Acquired 18 March 2008
[24] Madden, Thomas F., Accessed from: http://www.ignatiusinsight.com/features2005/print2005/tmadden_crusades_print.html, Acquired 8 April 2008
[25] Ibid
[26] Ibid
[27] Ibid
[28] John 18:36

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The moral claim of the new atheist

The last point in John Haught's book, God and the New Atheism is:"Morality does not require belief in God. People behave better without faith than with it." Again, as covered in the previous post, atheism has no way to measure morality without the existence of God, therefore, they have no right in claiming moral superiority over those who would call themselves Christian. Also, as mentioned earlier, atheism presents a much more troubling world if the philosophical outworking of atheism are followed through to their logical end. Stalin, Mao, and Hitler are just three names by which atheism has left its brutal and horrific mark on the last century.

The "new atheist" presents nothing new except a more blatant hatred toward anyone who would call herself religious. The "new atheist" are getting a free pass in our society by the secular media and it is now the Christian view that is not tolerated. When the "new atheist" claims that they are morally superior in their beliefs, the statement or claim is purely subjective. When all is said and done, the "new atheist" offer nothing new, but only the dreadful outlook of gloom and hopelessness in an indifferent world passing through the darkness of space.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The hypocritical evangelist

Point 6 of John Haght's take on the "new atheist" belief system is: "Faith in God has resulted in untold evil and should be rejected on moral grounds." Little needs to be said concerning the subject of evil. From an atheistic worldview, evil and morality are irrelevant points. Why should atheism be concerned with morality in a meaningless universe? With the mention of evil/morality the logical question that needs to be asked is, "Where does evil come from?" If evil exists then a moral law exists by which one can measure what is good verses evil. So it seems odd that the "new atheists" would make a statement concerning religions as being evil or immoral. The atheist has no answer to the problem of evil1, whereas the Christian does.

One of the other misconceptions is that Christianity is the source of evil.2 When you examine the world today and see the evil acts being committed in the name of religion, I think it is easy to see why some would conclude that religion is evil. Christianity has been blamed for numerous atrocities in the past and has even been called to account for what some would see as an evil God in the Old Testament. However, the big mistake of the "new atheist" is to clump all religious groups together as opposed to evaluating each one on its on merits.

If examined fully, it is the atheist worldview that has resulted in one of the most brutal centuries (2oth) on record. It is the atheistic worldview that can potentially lead to chaos and brutality if followed through to its logical ends. Again, on the atheist worldview morality simply does not exist. A consistent atheist would see no difference between a maggot and a human baby, both would be the process of a blind, indifferent, material organisms that exist for a short time with absolutely no purpose or meaning. The "new atheists", therefore, have no right to argue for what is good/evil or moral without implying the existence of God.

1 The Free Will defense in response to the problem of evil (a rebuff of the free-will defense is given as well, but the general argument for the problem of evil is provided): http://www2.gsu.edu/~phltso/freewillD.html
2 Article dealing with the problem and origin of evil (also listed is a free-will defense to the problem of evil): http://www.catholiceducation.org/articles/religion/re0019.html

Sunday, November 29, 2009

At the alter of Darwin

Point 5 of the 'new atheists" according to John Haught is: "All living things are the result of Darwinian evolution." While it is true that evolution takes place (evolution in the sense of change or microevolutionary adaptations), the question really is to what extent? On a Darwinian scale all life has evolved from a single celled organism. Multiple problems exist with Darwin's view. First, how did this first organism appear from non-living material? Second, what evidence exists in the fossil record? Third, How do you add new genetic material? Fourth, How does a cold blooded organism (which is more primitive) develop a warm blooded system by way of small gradual changes? Fifth, what about the Cambrian explosion?1 Sixth, what about irreducible complexity?2 Seventh, what do you do with the appearance of design and the rise of consciousness?

Today, however the theory of evolution is being presented as settled fact. Much of what is being presented by the "new atheists" is nothing more than religious philosophy. Evolutionary changes cannot be denied, but are we talking of macroevolutionary changes where all life springs from a single life form (i.e. tree of evolution) or are the changes merely adaptations (microevolution) within the various phyla of organisms?

1 ( a secular article that addresses the Cambrian explosion)http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/evolution/library/03/4/l_034_02.html
2 http://www.answersingenesis.org/tj/v17/i2/admissions.asp

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Only the empirical god

The fourth point of the "new atheist" states: "All explanations can be understood from the position of scientific naturalism."1 First, a few definitions are in order before proceeding. Naturalism is the position that believes all that exists or is real must belong to the natural world. On this view, supernaturalism is a moot point. Therefore, science becomes the kingpin in understanding the natural world. Scientism is the belief that science is at least king (weak version) or the only way (strong version) by which knowledge can be obtained.2 All answers must therefore be phrased naturalistically, since the supernatural can't give us any answers to what should count for knowledge. According to scientific naturalism, any talk of God would be ridiculously silly. A God or gods simply cannot exist on a naturalist view.

Scientific naturalism becomes a kind of god, whereby science is the theological text. Science is always empirical. Empiricism is the belief that knowledge is only derived from sense experience. All that can be known is only contained within the natural world. This is why some individuals mock any type of theistic belief. The only way to discover is by way of the empirical sciences. This is done and justified by way of testing or through the use of the scientific method.

The problem with the "new atheists" revolves around the fact that they have limited themselves to what can be known. Also, contradictions exist within this particular way of obtaining knowledge. First, if a supernatural realm does exist, the "new atheists" will never be able to find it. They have limited themselves to the natural world and have closed their minds to the possibility of obtaining knowledge by way of an inference to the best explanation. Anthony Flew left atheism for theism exactly because he was able to follow the evidence wherever it led. He had this to say about the evidence of DNA and its' supernatural implications, "It now seems to me that the findings of more than 50 years of DNA research have provided materials for a new and enormously powerful argument to design."3 When the "new atheist" limits knowledge to only the natural world and the discovery thereof, it is like fighting with both hands tied behind your back.

The second big problem with this naturalistic argument is that even the "new atheist" can't meet there own criteria for how one makes discovery. For example, "How do you prove the scientific method is the best way to obtain knowledge by way of the scientific method?" Additionally, problems exist concerning, the meaning of life, moral values, and humans as possessors of intrinsic values.

On the "new atheist" view, moral meaning simply does not exist. Atheist Michael Ruse notes, "Morality is a biological adaptation no less than are hands and feet and teeth...Morality is just an aid to survival ...and any deeper meaning is illusory."4 Atheist J.L. Mackie says, "Moral properties constitute so odd a cluster of properties and relations that they are most unlikely to have arisen in the ordinary course of events without an all-powerful god to create them.4 I think C.S. Lewis best sums things up by saying, "Consequently atheism turns out to be too simple. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be without meaning."5

Moral values provide another problem of that can't be scientifically tested. On the atheistic view, without God, morals are irrelevant. Therefore, there is no reason why we should behave in a morally responsive way. If the atheist says, "we should be morally responsive," an answer should be provided as to why we should. On a strictly Darwinian mindset, we are to operate according to the mechanical law of survival of the fittest, without regard for our fellow accidentally created beings. Anytime a moral law is admitted to by the atheist, then the whole game changes. For with the moral law comes the moral law-giver, God.

Lastly, humans do seem to process intrinsic value, which would run counter to the results of naturalism. Again, here is another issue that does not seem to lend itself to what science cannot give an answer to. Atheist Peter Singer, rightly justifies that when an individual recognizes humans with intrinsic values, it is proper to "argue that humans were created in the image of God."6 So,why would Singer and others conclude that humans are no more special than an ant? This seems to be a ludicrous view without any supporting evidence.

Scientific naturalism cannot measure up to its own standards and can't give us answers to some fundamental truths. When scientific naturalism is the accepted way to access knowledge, only the god of empiricism can be worshiped. By stating that understanding is only acquired by way of scientific naturalism is not only closed minded, but the possibility to discover knowledge is severely hampered and eternally dangerous to the soul.

1 John Haught, God and the New Atheism, xiii - xiv
2 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientism
3 Interview of Anthony Flew: http://www.biola.edu/antonyflew/flew-interview.pdf
4 Michael Ruse as quoted in, Kingdom Triangle, p. 51
5 C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, p. 46
5 Peter Singer as quoted in, Kingdom Triangle, p. 53

Monday, November 23, 2009

No meaning, no purpose, and no hope

The third point of the "new atheist," according to John Haught1 is: "The universe has no purpose or meaning." It is true that, without God the universe is without purpose or meaning. I would also add that this life is without hope on the atheistic worldview.

What I find puzzling is the passion of the "new atheist" in wanting to spread this message. First, it seems they (new atheist) are trying to give meaning to their view by saying that it has no meaning . Why give meaning to meaninglessness? It seems to be a contradictory view. Second, the message being promoted does nothing to further the condition of humankind in a morally responsive way. I am not denying that atheists can't be moral, but am saying that a message of purposelessness and meaninglessness is one that has the potential to bring not only disorder, but untold terror.2 When man is supreme without any moral grounding, then why should we even consider the good of others? Good is, in fact, an obsolete term on an atheistic worldview. On a purely Darwinistic view, survival of the fittest becomes the only guiding force for moral values and decisions.

The "new atheist" are correct about meaning and purpose without God in the picture, but trying to force this position on others will only cause the degradation of society.3 If this view ever becomes the dominant view, you can count on two things, the world will truly be without hope and a scary world filled with unimagined terror will ensue.

1
John Haught, God and the New Atheism, Introduction pages xiii-xiv
2 Good article dealing with the logical moral outcomes of atheism:http://www.leaderu.com/orgs/arn/pearcey/np_centuryofcruelty1299.htm

3 Great story by Nietzsche depicting the condition of man without God: http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/nietzsche-madman.html

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Beginning

The second point of the "new atheist" is, "the natural world is not the product of the supernatural, but nature organized itself." It is now known that the universe came into being by way of the big bang some 14 billion years ago. The universe, therefore, had an origin. As William Lane Craig has stated, "from nothing, nothing comes." In other words, the universe did not just pop into existence by some unknown, chance, natural process. There must be an explanation for the beginning of the space-time universe.

There are only two choices here concerning the origin of the universe: either some unknown cause brought everything into being by a natural process or the universe is the product of a supernatural being. William Lane Craig, has also revived an ancient argument called the "Kalam Cosmological Argument." The argument is as follows: 1.) Whatever begins to exist has a cause. 2.) The universe began to exist. 3.) Therefore, the universe was caused. Since, it is impossible for things to pop into existence and since the universe shows incredible design, it is only logical to believe that the universe was caused by a supernatural being, who is unlimited in power, immaterial, and personal. The "new atheist" can posit no position as to how the universe began to exist. All they can do is make incoherent statements without any type of support.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

New atheism and naturalism

The first tenant of the "new atheist" is: "Nature is all there is. There is no God, soul or life beyond death."1 Naturalism entails that the natural world is all that exists. Knowledge, therefore is limited to the natural world. This also ties into a view called "Scientism." The strong form of "Scientism" sees science as the bearer of all knowledge. Science is the only true way by which knowledge can be obtained. Weak "Scientism" will allow other forms of knowledge, but science itself is superior to all the other forms of knowledge.

The naturalist, Wilfred Sellers, announced back in the 60's that, "Science is the measure of all things."2 On this view, the supernatural is inconceivable. As the late Carl Sagan so stated, "The universe is all there is, or was, or ever will be." Christopher Hitchens believes, "Religion has run out of justifications. Thanks to the telescope and microscope, it no longer offers any explanation of anything important."3 Any view of the supernatural is therefore ridiculous according to the "new atheists." In the end, any religious believer is laughed off the stage by the "new atheist" as anti-intellectual and ignorant.

1 John Haught, God and the New Atheism, introduction pages xiii - xiv
2 Sellers as quoted in J.P. Moreland's, Kingdom Triange, p.41
3 Hitchens as quoted in John Haught's, God and the New Atheism, p. 53
* Various debates and discussions with Christopher Hitchens: http://apologetics315.blogspot.com/search?q=christopher+hitchens

Monday, November 2, 2009

Sam Harris and the New Atheists

The "new atheists" differ in their outlook from the old atheist because of their fervent passion to see all religions, not simply be quiet in their religious claims, but that all religions are extinguished. Sam Harris is leading the charge. He is quoted as saying that, "If anyone has written a book more critical of religious faith than I have, I'm not aware of it."1

There are seven tenants of the "new atheists." Some of the tenants seem to overlap one another. The seven tenants are as follows:
1. Nature is all there is. There is no God, soul, or life beyond death.
2. Nature organized itself, it is not the product of a Supernatural Being.
3. The universe has no purpose or meaning.
4. All explanations must be understood from the position of scientific naturalism.
5. All living things are the result of Darwinian evolution.
6. Faith in God has resulted in untold evil and should be rejected on moral grounds.
7. Morality does not require belief in God. People behave better without faith than with it.2

It is the belief of Harris that only "the end of faith" holds any promise for saving the world.3 In the coming blogs I would like to examine the 7 tenants of the "new atheists" in John Haught's book, God and the New Atheism. I will also examine some of the other major players within the movement.

1 Sam Harris - An article titled "Radical Mysticism" which can be accessed on-line at:
www.secularhumanism.org/index.php?section=library&page=harris_25_6
2 John Haught, God and the New Atheism, Introduction pages xiii-xiv
3 John Haught, God and the New Atheism, p. 8

* for a good review of Sam Harris and others in the new athiest movement: http://www.garyhabermas.com/articles/J_Evangelical_Theological_Soc/habermas_JETS_Plight_of_new_atheism_critique.htm

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Arguments against God - 5

The last and final argument from Ron the realist is, "There's no good physical evidence for god's existence." Well, what if God is not physical as descried in the bible (John 4:24, Acts 17:24)? Ron's problem is that he is not able to follow the evidence wherever it leads. He rejects the possibility of the supernatural a priori, because his mind is made up that only the natural world exists.

If the supernatural exists, which Ron denies, then he is in no position to find the answer to truth, because of his flat out denial of the supernatural. It is interesting that the bible describes that God can be discovered through natural revelation (Psalm 19:1-2, Romans 1:20). And, if this God, who is a spirit, exist, then it is perfectly logical to explain how the created order came to be.

We know the universe started with a big bang, but it would be impossible for the created order to come from nothing. Things don't just pop into existence. God is described as an eternal, non-material being. It is therefore, logical to believe that the universe is the product of this uncaused causer of all. Until someone is willing to forgo preconceived assumptions, like Ron's belief that the physical is all their is, then they will never be able to consider all the possible evidence in order to arrive at the best conclusion. Ron and other naturalist simply do not want the truth, because as the famous movie line goes, they "can't handle the truth."

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Arguments against God - 4

The fourth argument against God, by Ron the realist is listed as follows, "Religions never make testable claims about god."* He further states, "Every scientific claim is made specifically to be disproved, so that the right answer can be deduced logically." Ron makes two separate claims that I would like to address.

Claim number one is a popular claim concerning religion. Many today say that Christianity or any religious claims are invalid a priori because it does not fit within the realm of testable science. For the record not all scientific claims are testable. For example, Darwinian evolution is itself non-testable. I am not inferring that evolution does not not take place, for we have evidence of evolutionary changes through genetic manipulation. There is also evidence of evolution within the fossil record (look at horses as an example). What I'm discounting as a testable claim deals with the big picture of Darwin's view, that all life has started as a single celled organism. How is this big picture of Darwin's view of biological evolution ever going to be tested? The biggest problem with Darwin's view is how did life suddenly appear from non-life. This view of spontaneous generation has been tested already and found wanting.

The second point is that science makes claims that can be proven or not proven and that logic can be used to determine truth. Well, it seems to me Ron wants to have his cake and eat it too. How do you test logic empirically? One of the big assumptions of some naturalistic thinkers is that if the scientific method cannot be used then the claim itself cannot be tested and should not count on how we obtain knowledge. What about the scientific method? The scientific method cannot even stand up to its own scrutiny. The scientific method itself is not testable.

What needs to take place is an examination of all the evidence and to argue for the position that best fits the evidence and matches up with what we know to be true. You are aiming at truth here, not what can only be explained from a naturalistic standpoint. Intelligent design is not considered today, because the claim is made that it cannot be tested. The naturalist rejects any supernaturalism from the get go and this hinders their ability to find the best explanation. Any investigation should revolve around the best evidence and not be blocked by any assumptions, such as only naturalistic explanations are acceptable.

Today, as we discover more and more about the universe, the picture is becoming more clear that the universe springing into existence by chance is just not a viable option. If Ron or others are not willing to accept the argument that best explains reality, I say they are fighting a battle with both arms tied behind their back. It is like arguing from a position that you have already accepted as true and at the same time you are never willing to follow the evidence where it leads. This is exactly what is wrong from a naturalist perspective.

* Houston Chronicle, Belief section, June 26, 2009

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Arguments against God - 3

The third argument against God from, Ron the realist, revolves around "religious inheritance." The argument basically states that if someone grows up in a Catholic family, they will most probably gravitate toward the Catholic faith or if someone grows up Buddist, they will in fact accept Buddism as a worldview.

Ron is absolutly correct in his statement, but once again this is no argument. If this logic is followed through then an individual who grows up in an atheistic home will most likely turn out to be atheist, but again this does not argue for one's worldview. The real question that needs to be addressed by Ron is which view best corresponds to truth or which worldview has the best expanitory power. Ron has basically put forth three statements as opposed to arguments that support his belief that God does not exist.

* Houston Chronicle, Belief section, June 26, 2009

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Arguments against God - 2

Continuing with the top five arguments against God, Ron the realist offers this second jewel: "Inconsistencies with religions. The only consistent claim is that they are all the one truth." While it is true that Christianity is offered as the truth (see John 14:6), not all religious claims are the same. Some worldviews posit that truth cannot be know or that there are multiple truths. Christianity's truth claim was made by Jesus (John 14:6) and his followers (Acts 4:12). The truth claims of Christianity primarily deal with the path of salvation, in that, salvation is only found in the person of Jesus Christ.

What Ron fails to realize is that Christianity or any worldview can be tested to see if the claims that are put forth match with reality, or they don't. Those views that do not correspond with reality can be discounted as false views. His second great argument turns out to be no argument whatsoever. In fact, his argument contradicts his own view. He is trying to argue that you can't claim exclusive truth, when the heading of his article is, "The top five reasons to believe that God does not exist." In other words, Ron is making a truth claim himself while implying in his second argument that no truth claims can be made.

Ron's second argument turns out to be self-refuting and does nothing to help his cause. So far, Ron's first two arguments are no arguments at all and no valid reason has been given to show the non-existence of God. That's two pitches and two strikes Ron. It makes me wonder if Ron is being truthful in calling himself the realist?

* Houston Chronicle, Belief section, June 26, 2009

Friday, October 16, 2009

Arguments against God - 1

In the June, 2009 Belief section of the Houston Chronicle, Ron the realist gives 5 reason why someone should not believe in God. His first reason is, "the steady increasing naturalistic explanations," which use to be attributed to supernaturalism, such as lightning and the rising of the sun. Let's think about this; does this prove that God does not exist? Absolutely not, for any one can see that this is not even close to an argument. It seems to me Ron should change his name to "Ron the worshiper of naturalism without a clue of how to present an intelligent argument against the Creator of the universe."

There is great evidence of design in the universe today. In fact, I would say that science is doing more to support the case that the universe is the product of a Designer, than the contrary. Ron's view is that science will answer all questions, but this in itself is not an argument. This "science of the gaps" view does nothing to argue against the existence of God. Science, today is actually revealing more of how the universe was designed, as opposed to contradicting the existence of God. The design evidence for the existence of God is so powerful today that one the the most prominent atheist (Anthony Flew) converted to Theism (belief in God) due to the scientific evidence alone. The bottom line is that Ron's first argument against God is actually not an argument at all, but special pleading.

* Houston Chronicle, Belief section, June 26, 2009

Monday, October 12, 2009

Bart's blunder

Recently, I listened to a debate between Dr. William Lane Craig and Dr. Bart Ehrman. The debate took place a few years ago and revolved around the question, "Did Jesus rise from the dead?" Craig took the affirmative position while Ehrman the negative position. Ehrman's big hang up with the resurrection dealt with the fact that miracles are out of the question. He pointed out that any natural explanation should be considered over the supernatural explanation, because the supernatural explanation is always the least probable. Ehrman seemed to reject the possibility of miracles a priori.

Ehrman's rejection of miracles is somewhat like David Hume's argument, in that, miracles should never be believed unless 100% certainty could be given. For the record, 100% certainty is rarely needed in today's culture. Craig, on the other hand, was interested in what best explained the evidence of the empty tomb.

The debate was spirited, but I did notice one thing about Ehrman's presentation during the debate. Ehrman never explained what we are to do with the empty tomb until his closing comment, and he only did this for a minute. Most of Ehrman's effort was to question the biblical documents, without addressing the best explanation for the empty tomb. When Ehrman did finally put forth a theory for the missing body of Jesus, it was a view that has been repudiated already. Ehrman put forth the story that the body of Jesus was put in a common burial site and decayed rapidly. This would explain the empty tomb. Some of the followers of Jesus later had hallucinations of seeing Jesus, and presto, you have the beginning of Christianity.

This ludicrous view has been debunked time and time again, but Ehrman's big blunder was that he never presented his view until the very end. Ehrman's main offensive was to attack the documents of the past in order to show that they can't be trusted. His other big offensive was the denial of any supernatural explanation. While Ehrman was very good and passionate in the debate, he did nothing of substance to help his cause. Craig was able to give solid points in order to show that the best explanation for the empty grave and start of Christianity was most likely that Jesus rose supernaturally from the grave.

You can listen to the debate here: http://www.bringyou.to/CraigEhrmanDebate2006.mp3

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The burden of proof

A new article* by Gary Habermas highlights the hypocrisy of a group referred to as the new atheist. The new athiest are called so because of their almost evangelistic passion for the atheist worldview. Some of the major players in the movement include: Christopher Hitchens, who wrote a book called "God is not great," Richard Dawkins, who penned "The God delusion" and Sam Harris who's book is called "Letter to a Christian nation." Although, I have not read the books, Habermas does an excellent job of critiquing the books of Harris and Hitchens (see link below).

I have noticed a common thread that runs through every person who calls himself an atheist, the arguments for the atheist worldview simply do not exist. Harris tries to dodge the fact of the atheist worldview by saying that atheism is a non-worldview because it denies the existence of God, but as Habermas points out, "The truth is that all views have an agenda, atheism included," and that is exactly the point. Atheism has strong views, especially the new atheist', as to how thing are in the world, but there is a void of any explanation or argumentation as to why atheism should be accepted as the best explanation.

This brings me to the central point of the new or old atheist. If you are willing to tell the world how things really are, especially with the passion of the new atheist, then you better be ready to defend your view. The fact of the matter is, the atheist' has nothing of substance, as far as arguments go, to hang his hat on. Again, if you want to tell other how this universe works, you better be ready to give specific evidence to that means. Pete Townsend, of "The Who," once wrote, "Meet the new boss, same as the old boss," and like the lyrics of Townsend, the new atheist offers no evidence as to why anyone should accept the atheistic worldview. If the new atheist wants to be taken seriously, then they must assume the burden of proof as the Christian apologist does for the Christian worldview.

* http://www.garyhabermas.com/articles/J_Evangelical_Theological_Soc/habermas_JETS_Plight_of_new_atheism_critique.htm

Saturday, October 3, 2009

What kind of God?

People's idea of God is many times hindered by their own creation of who God can be. For example, Bart Ehrman, who is the head of the religious department of the University of North Carolina and a skeptic can't fathom how Jesus could be raised from the dead. According to him, dead people don't rise, so therefore miracles are out of the question. In other words, only naturalistic explanations will suffice. He is following in the same path of the philosopher David Hume, who himself would not concede that miracles are even possible.

C.S. Lewis once commented on an individual that stated, "I can believe in a God all right, but what I can not swallow is the idea of Him attending to several hundred million human beings who are all addressing Him at the same moment."* To be honest, I can't fathom that either,If I could, God wouldn't be God, would He?

We live in a time today where more and more individuals craft their own God in their image. For the atheist, their God is the natural world, because how could the supernatural exist? For many who call themselves Christian, their God is sometimes crafted according to their own personal beliefs. If you don't like Hell, well then the God of Pluralism is for you. If you like to promote abortion or homosexuality and still call yourself a Christian, then the God of this world is for you (John 8:42-47). So the question becomes, what kind of God do you serve?

* C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, Ch. 3, P. 145

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Can't we all just agree?

In the interview of Robert Wright* (on his book The Evolution of God), he seems to imply that any exclusive claim is just flat out mean spirited, because it is intolerant. The goal of any religion according to Wright is to "make people better" and this is done by not making any exclusive claims. Wright from the outset defeats his own argument in two ways. First, he assumes that truth does not exist, for if it does, then there is only one way. As stated in a previous blog, truth by its very nature is exclusive and therefore it would also be intolerant.

The second mistake of Wright is that his assumption is self-refuting. Wright seems to claim that taking an exclusive stance is intolerant, but his statement itself is intolerant, for he is telling an individual how things really are from an exclusive position. Wright is claiming it is intolerant to be intolerant, when he, himself, will not tolerate any position but his own. It is self-refuting and like saying, There are no sentences longer than 3 words.

Tolerance assumes that someone is willing to listen to an other's view while at the same time disagreeing. You can't be tolerant without disagreeing. Wright states, "Saying one possesses the unique path to salvation creates potentially deadly friction." What Wright assumes is that disagreement can lead to deadly friction, as if, disagreement is bad. It is not that disagreement is the villain here, it is the heart that is at issue. I can respectfully disagree and not want to destroy anyone, so agreement is not the issue.

Wright's overarching problem is his unwillingness to face up to the truth question. Being tolerant is the proper position to take, but dodging the truth question is the real mark of intolerance (in my opinion).

*interview with Robert Wright in Houston Chronicle Belief section (July 31, 2009)

Exclusive truth

Robert Wright, the author of The Evolution of God claims in an interview that individuals who claim an exclusive view of salvation must forfeit this view in order to lessen friction. He claims that society would be made better if individuals would give up their exclusive views. He states that God would not be concerned if individuals gave up exclusive views.

In essence, Wright is arguing for two points: truth and tolerance. I will argue for exclusive truth in this blog. First, it must be noted that truth by its very nature is exclusive. For you can't have two truths as this would violate the law of the excluded middle. Secondly, it seems that Wright wants to have his cake and eat it too. He, himself, claims that individuals should give up exclusive views of salvation, but he does so by making an exclusive truth claim. He is essentially claiming that truth is found only in non-exclusive truth claims, and in turn, he becomes the one who is exclusive.

Wright cannot get away for the fact that truth by its nature is exclusive. You can run from truth, but you can't hide. He might do better by trying to claim one worldview over another, but by relativising truth he only locks himself in his own cage.

Monday, September 28, 2009

The evolution of God

In Robert Wright's book, The Evolution of God, the primary point is made that God or Gods in all religions have evolved throughout the centuries. In an interview*, Wright contends that Monotheism (belief in one God) and the nature of God changed in the religion of Judaism. It is Wright's belief that Theism (belief in God) is a human construct. In other words, God is an invention of Man. The interview sheds no light to back up his statement of how things are. Perhaps the book sheds light on this statement, but Wright himself needs to be able to defend any truth claim that is being made, and believe me this is a significant claim. If he could give evidence to support the claim that God is, in fact, an invention of Man then the whole game changes. If God does not exist, then life is ultimately without hope, purpose, or meaning. So, why would he even bother trying to say God is an invention of Man, Isn't he essentially trying to give meaning to meaninglessness?

* interview with Robert Wright in Houston Chronicle Belief section (July 31, 2009)
* a review of Wright's book: http://www.godandscience.org/apologetics/evolution_of_god.html#2g0BlsIq4bMC

The flood of Noah (part 11)

The biblical and scientific evidence against a universal catastrophic flood is virtually an open and shut case. Only when one takes a literal interpretation in the English language could one possibly conclude the flood was universal. The Hebrew is clear that the flood was not universal or global in nature. The use of the word "world" also seems to indicate that Moses was not talking of a global event, but speaking of the flood in the sense of the known world.

The scientific evidence against the flood being global is overwhelming. We do have evidence of a catastrophic event that wiped out the dinosaurs some 65 million years ago. The evidence that exists for an asteroid impact is clear in the impact site (Yucatan, Mexico area) and the layer which contains iridium (a rare element found in abundance in asteroids) the world over. If the flood were global in nature and relatively recent, wouldn't you expect to find a mountain of evidence for its occurrence? The simple fact is no evidence for a global catastrophic flood can be found anywhere in the rock record.

The flood of Noah does appear to be a local or regional event. Whether or not all mankind was wiped out during this flood is a subject of a different debate. There is evidence of a flood that occurred 7,600 years ago in the region of the Black Sea. Perhaps this local flood is, in fact, the flood of Noah.*

* Svitil, Kathy, Forty days and forty nights, more or less, (Discover, January 1999), p. 69

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Flood of Noah (part 10)

One of the big problems with a world wide flood is the water left behind and erosional features. Where did all the water go? If the flood took place relatively recently then we should see evidence of this in erosional features and in the rock record. The Grand Canyon is often pointed to as the result of the flood, but clearly the canyon was the result of a slow process over time. There is no scientific evidence that the Grand Canyon was the result of a flood.

We do have evidence of a flood in the recent geologic past. This flood, the Missoula flood, flooded the Pacific Northwest of the United States. One of the features that resulted is the Burlingame Canyon. This canyon is 1,500 feet long, 120 feet deep and 120 feet wide. If the erosion rate which quickly carved the Burlingame Canyon during the Missoula flood were equal to the Grand Canyon erosion rate, then one would still have to wait 1.5 million years for the formation of the Grand Canyon. As has been noted earlier, the Grand Canyon is clearly not the result of a flood.


Burlingame Canyon

Another problem with a world wide flood deals with the lack of surface erosional features. If the flood was indeed worldwide and recent (within the last 5,000 years), then there should exist a bevy of evidence supporting the flood. For example, the Missoula flood is clear and can be found all over the Pacific Northwest. It is believed that this flood took place some 13,000 years ago. One of the unique features of the Missoula flood are the abundance of giant ripple marks. If the flood of Noah were universal we should find similar features worldwide, but this is not the case. Also, a flood layer worldwide should be evident, but this too is lacking. The lack of surface erosional features is one more strike against the flood being universal in nature.


Monday, September 7, 2009

The flood of Noah (part 9)

Probably the biggest evidence against the Grand Canyon being flood formed centers around the fossils present in the canyon itself. It is important to note that flood waters always mix the sediment up. It is easy to discern in rock strata (rock layers) when water was moving rapidly(such as a flood) or slowly (such as a lake bed) . The Grand Canyon shows no evidence of mixing, but instead the fossils are sorted in different layers. For example, two brachiopods (marine fossils) are found in the Grand Canyon called eosphirs and olenothyrus. Both are similar in density and size. The differences are subtle in the markings and shape of the shell. These two brachiopods are not found mixed in the Grand Canyon and are separated by 1000 feet of rock.1 If the Grand Canyon is flood formed and the flood was universal we should find evidence throughout the canyon of fossil mixing, but this is not what is present. Instead the fossils that are present show a succession from bottom to top. If Noah's flood caused the Grand Canyon, then why do we see no evidence of mixed fossils?

1 http://www.doesgodexist.org/NovDec03/AmericasCanyonlandsTellOfGodsHandiwork.html





Strata layers of the Grand Canyon. There is no evidence of fossil mixing or that the canyon was the result of a flood. The sedimentary rock layers were all formed slowly over time.

















Notice how the fossils are sorted in this diagram. This is exactly what we see in the Grand Canyon. If the Grand Canyon was the result of a flood we should find the fossils highly mixed, but this is not case in any of the layers of the canyon.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

The flood of Noah (part 8)

One of the hotly debated issues about the flood of Noah revolves around the geology of the earth. If the flood was global then geologic evidence can be discerned. And, if the flood were global and recent (within the last 10,000 years) then evidence should be easy to discover the world over. The problem is, we have no markings anywhere of a flood that covered the entire earth. There is no universal flood layer.

Many that say the earth was covered by a global flood point to the Grand Canyon as evidence. Was the Grand Canyon, indeed cut by a flood? First it is necessary to say that floods are responsible for carving the earth in a specific way. Floods, especially a flood that covered the entire earth would never meander, unless the water had receded and slowed substantially. Floods usually carve relatively straight paths and would not be responsible for menders, as meanders represent a slow moving water source. Below are photos of what a meandering (winding) stream looks like and also a photo of the Grand Canyon which is an entrenched meander. In other words, the Grand Canyon is not caused by a flood, but is in fact due to a slow (meandering) body of water that carved it way through the rocks over time as the land was uplifted. Next I will consider more evidence to show that the Grand Canyon can not possibly be the result of a flood.

A meandering stream. These streams only form when the water has slowed substantially. Floods are the result of fast moving water as opposed to slow mendering waters.


This is an ariel shot of the Grand Canyon. It is clear that the canyon is an entrenched mender and not the result of fast moving waters from a flood.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The flood of Noah (part 7)

One of the big divides between the global and local/regional view has to do with the issue of time. Can the scientific dating methods be trusted? Those who hold to a global catastrophic view many times come from the Young Earth camp. These Christians view the flood as occurring in the recent past since the earth is usually dated no later than 10,000 years old.

According to one source (J.Osgood) from the YE camp, the flood of Noah occurred around 2304 B.C. This, of course, would place the flood some 4,300 years ago. This is important to understand given that geologic history can be discerned in the rock record. Everyone understands that fossils, rocks, and various events (such as a floods) can be interpreted by looking at the rock record.

Let's say the flood took place up to 10,000 years ago. In geologic time, this would be a relatively recent event, for those who accept current scientific dating methods. The Cretaceous-Tertiary asteroid, which struck the Yucatan peninsula some 65 million years ago is believed by most scientist to have wiped out the dinosaurs. If you accept this age, then the impact occurred much later, geologically speaking, than Noah's flood. The point here is, if we can find evidence of a global catastrophic event in the rock record that is older than Noah's flood (By the way, the evidence for this asteroid impact is virtually indisputable) then the flood of Noah should be easy to discern given its recent history and global nature. Herein lies the problem, there is no evidence whatsoever of a global flood. There is much evidence of local and regional floods of the past and that is what I would like to examine next.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The flood of Noah (part 6)

One of the passages commonly referred to concerning the flood of Noah is Psalms 104. The passage reads: "5 He set the earth on its foundations; it can never be moved.6 You covered it with the deep as with a garment; the waters stood above the mountains.7 But at your rebuke the waters fled, at the sound of your thunder they took to flight;8 they flowed over the mountains, they went down into the valleys, to the place you assigned for them.9 You set a boundary they cannot cross; never again will they cover the earth."

For those who espouse a global catastrophic view, these verses directly tie into the flood of Noah. However, a local or regional interpretation would see these verses as pertaining to the creation story and having nothing to do with Noah's flood. For example, the earth being completely covered with water would refer to Genesis 1:6. The mountains forming in the Psalms passage would refer to Genesis 1:9. If this is in reference to the creation account, the flood must have been local or regional since the reference is made in the passage that the waters would never again cover the earth.

In the coming posts, I will examine the scientific evidence of Noah's flood.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

The flood of Noah (part 5)

Tebel is the third important Hebrew word that surrounds the flood story. As noted previously, the flood account of Genesis 6 uses only the words kol erets when speaking of the flood.

Tebel occurs some 37 times in the Old Testament. When the word tebel is found, it can properly be translated to mean the entire world. The facinating aspect of tebel is that it is never used once to describe the flood of Noah. In fact, kol erets which is used exclusivly to describe the flood of Noah in Genesis 6 signifies a local area in over 80% of the times it is used in the Old Testment. If we just work with percentages and look at the context of the flood story, then perhaps Moses (the author of Genesis) is trying to say that the flood was indeed local or regionl in nature.

Next time, I will consider other passages outside of Genesis 6 that some say refer to the flood of Noah.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Flood of Noah (part 4)

There are three keys words in the Old Testament that surround the flood story of Noah. The three words are: kol, erets, and tebel. The word kol can be translated to mean "all." Erets can be translated to mean "earth," "land," "country," or "gound." So, taken together (kol erets) as found in the flood story seems to indicate a global catastropic flood. Kol erets are the two Hebrew words that are used exclusively when the flood story of Noah is told in the book of Genesis.

The catch is kol erets are used elsewhere to describe an area of ground that does not mean the entire earth. For example, In Genesis 2:13 kol erets is used to describe the Gihon river, which clearly does not encompass the entire planet. Both words are also used in conjunction in Genesis 41:57 when describing all of the earth's inhabitants coming to buy grain in Egypt. One again, this is a clear example where kol erets can not apply to the entire earth. If this were to be translated literally to mean all people of the earth, then how did they all get to Egypt from the six inhabited continents?

The New Testament, which was written in Greek also has some examples where the terminology of "all" can not be taken in a literal sense. In Acts 15:21, in making reference to Moses, Luke states that Moses had preached in every city. In Colossians 1:23, Paul comments that the gospel has been proclaimed to every creature under the heaven. Again, the word "every" can not mean every single person on the face of the earth. There are clear examples in both Testaments to confirm that "all" or "whole" are not to be taken in a global view.

Next time we will look at the significance of the Hebrew word tebel and how it relates to the flood of Noah.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

The Flood of Noah (part 3)

Genesis chapter six provides the opening to the flood story of Noah. It is here where division exists between the the Global Catastrophic view and the view that I believe to be most consistent, the Universal Flood view. Recall, that the catastrophic view has the entire earth under water, where the universal view has only a large region of the earth under water.

The catastrophic view sees verses such as verse 7 (wiping man off the face of the earth), verse 13 (I (God) will destroy the earth), and 17 as being critical for their view. Verse 17 is particularly interesting and reads, "I am going to bring floodwaters on the earth to destroy all life under the heavens, every creature that has the breath of life in it. Everything on earth will perish." From this one verse it appears that the case is shut and closed for all views that are not in line with the catastrophic view.

In the coming blogs I will look at the Hebrew words and consider their importance in trying to decipher which of the three views is most consistent with Scripture.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Flood of Noah (part 2)

One of the evidences for the flood of Noah comes by way of cultural tales around the Black sea area. Although it is possible that some of these stories have been embellished a bit by missionaries, there is actually much support for some type of catastrophic flood from various cultures of the past. Some of the cultures that relate a flood story include: Sumerians, Babylonians, and Hurrians.

One interesting part of the stories involves the commonality they share with the Genesis story. For example, the name of Noah is similar within the Hurrian culture. The birds being released in the Sumerian story closely matches the Genesis account. The Summarian account even has a story of how long the people lived before the flood took place, which is again consistent with the Genesis account.

There is outside support for some type of cataclismic flood. Although cultural stories are somewhat similar to the Genesis account, a solid case cannot be made solely on these past stories. However, it is interesting that past cultures have recorded a story like Noah's account and with other scientific evidence, a strong cumulative case can be made for the flood story as recorded in Genesis 6 and following.

* Bowman, Robert, Scripture: Outline Studies in Authority, Canon, and Criticism, p. 62

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Flood of Noah (part 1)

I would like to begin a somewhat lengthy series on the flood of Noah. Is their evidence for the flood? Was the flood a global flood? The Judeo/Christian view for the most part is that the flood of Noah was literal, though some might say that it is a mythical story. If you believe that the flood literally took place in the past, then the second question is the one that is usually hotly debated.

There are actually three views concerning Noah's flood. The first, called The Global Catastrophic Flood, is a view that states the entire globe was covered with water. The second view, called The Universal Flood, sees the flood covering a large region, whereby only those on the ark survived. According to this view, all mankind was living in this region and therefore was wiped out. The third view is called, The Local Flood view. The Local Flood View has a flood again covering a large region, but some survived that were not part of Noah's world.

I am probably opening a can of worms with this series, but I believe that the evidence from the Bible and from science, both strongly support the Universal Flood View. I will provide evidence from various sources and refer to a paper that I wrote on this subject as part of my Master's degree in Christian apologetics.