April 2007

I posted this once before, but no one was willing to bite, so I’m posting it again. I would love to hear your thoughts.

Was human immortality conditional in the Garden? If Adam and Eve would not have sinned, would they have lived forever? I presume that they could have done so, but immortality does not seem to be inherent to their nature even in their sinless state. It was conditioned on them eating the fruit of the Tree of Life—not often, but only once. That’s why God was so concerned about getting Adam out of the Garden after he sinned: He didn’t want Adam to become immortal (the fact that Adam never ate the fruit of the Tree of Life argues for a very short period of time between the creation of man and his fall). It seems that even if Adam had not sinned, he still would have died if He never ate of the fruit of the Tree of Life. Immortality did not inhere within his sinless nature.

The reason I find this topic interesting is because of its application to Jesus. Like Adam, Jesus was sinless. That does not mean, however, that Jesus would have lived forever had He not willingly allowed Himself to be killed. He would have died just like the rest of us unless He ate from the Tree. Humanity needs this tree to become immortal. That’s why it will be in the New Jerusalem.

Speaking of the Tree of Life, what do you think about the whole business of trees in Genesis? We have the Tree of Life (TL) and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (TKGE). Were these trees “magical” or symbolic? I would like to take the symbolic interpretation, but it seems inconsistent. It could be said that Adam’s eating of the fruit of the TKGE caused Him to fall—not because of something in the fruit—but because He disobeyed a command of God, thereby coming to know evil. When it comes to the fruit on the TL, however, a symbolic understanding doesn’t seem to work. It appears that there was actually something in that fruit that would have brought Adam immortality. What do you think?

Scientists discovered a planet 20.5 light years away from Earth that they believe may be similar to Earth, and thus hospitable for life. The planet (Gliese 581c) is slightly larger than Earth, and has a climate similar to our own. Scientists speculate that there may be water on the planet as well. This is a significant find, because until now, scientists have never found another planet like Earth. Interestingly, the author of the news in UK’s The Daily Mail wrote, “This remarkable discovery appears to confirm the suspicions of most astronomers that the universe is swarming with Earth-like worlds.”


People who want to believe in evolution and extraterrestrial life seem to jump on anything that bolsters their faith, this being no exception. How does finding one planet, 20.5 light years away, confirm that the universe is “swarming” with Earth-like planets hospitable to life? For one, the article makes it very clear that scientists know very little about this planet yet, including whether it contains water or rock. Second, this is the only potential Earth-like planet we have found, so how can it be scientific confirmation that the universe is swarming with them? This is an exaggerated claim. We should not be surprised at this, however. The church of Darwin requires that its followers believe in evolution whether it be supported by evidence or not. Most Darwinian claims are exaggerations extrapolated from scant evidence open to multiple interpretations.


See Stephen Jones’ post on the topic for reasons to doubt the claim that Gliese 581c is similar to Earth.

Robert A. Gagnon, associate professor of NT theology at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, wrote a tremendous article on the topic of homosexuality and same-sex marriage titled “Why the Disagreement Over the Biblical Witness of Homosexual Practice?” The article is a response to David G. Myers and Letha Dawson Scanzoni’s 2005 book, What God Has Joined Together? A Christian Case for Gay Marriage.

I must say that this was the single most informative, thoughtful, articulate article on homosexuality I have read to date. It is 130 pages long, so it is no small read, but it is well worth the time. Gagnon does a thorough job debunking the pro-homosexual interpretation of the Bible, makes excellent and articulate arguments against homosexuality in general, and same-sex marriage in particular. If you want to have a well-rounded argument to present to an increasingly pro-homosexual culture, this article is a must read.

Melinda Penner had a terrific post today on the topic of offering prayers in a public, multi-faith setting. Modern notions of pluralism and tolerance, coupled with political correctness have resulted in an assault of criticism against Christians who invoke the name of Jesus in public-lead prayers. Doing so is said to be insensitive, intolerant, and guilty of excluding those who do not share our faith. Penner argues that this perspective is mistaken for the following reasons:


  1. Prayer always involves a recipient. To offer a prayer necessarily entails addressing it to someone, whether that someone is named or not (not “to whom it may concern”). In the case of the Christian, the object of our prayers is Jesus. Speaking the name “Jesus” at the end of a prayer only enunciates to everyone what they already know: that the Christian is praying to the Christian God—“not a committee of generic deities of all faiths present.” No one expects the prayer leader to abandon his beliefs while offering the prayer, so no one should be surprised or offended when we name the person we are praying to.
  2. Offering any prayer at all—even a generic prayer—will exclude atheists. Should we, then, not only be prohibited from addressing our prayer to a specific God, but also prohibited from offering public prayers altogether?
  3. The only alternative is to require prayer leaders to pretend that their beliefs are not true, or only allow religious pluralists to lead public prayers. Both options discriminate against Christians.
  4. It requires that Christians hide their religious convictions in public.
  5. Those who bear the burden of tolerance are the listeners, not the speaker. “Tolerance doesn’t censor, it encourages expression even’t when the belief isn’t shared.”

I would encourage you to read her post.

I was struck the other day by a thought that should have occurred to me many years ago. After Jesus rose from the dead He appeared to His disciples several times over the course of 40 days, until He ascended to heaven. What never occurred to me until now, however, was to ask why the disciples did not proclaim the resurrection of Christ until after His ascension.


I don’t know about you, but that strikes me as odd. Why would they wait? If you saw someone alive who had previously been dead, would you hesitate more than a few moments to proclaim it abroad? Add to this His celebrity, the public nature of His death (many saw Him die), the disciples’ close relationship with Him, and the fact that His resurrection would vindicate His messianic claims, and the disciples had every reason to instantly proclaim to everyone in Israel that they saw Jesus alive. So why did they wait?


N.T. Wright muses that certain unbelieving contemporaries of the disciples must have surely asked this question. It is certainly plausible to think unbelievers would have used this lapse of time between the resurrection of Christ and the disciples’ proclamation of His resurrection as an argument against the resurrection. They might have argued “Why, if you knew Jesus had risen from the dead on X date, did you wait until X+Y date to proclaim it?” Indeed, a delayed proclamation could have been interpreted as time borrowed to fabricate the resurrection story. The longer they waited to proclaim the resurrected Christ the less credible their claim would become.


Wright thinks Mark may have offered an explanation to those critics in his gospel in Mark 16:8: “And they went out quickly, and fled from the sepulchre; for they trembled and were amazed: neither said they any thing to any man; for they were afraid.” This does not seem adequate, however, because the verse describes a time prior to the first resurrection appearance (this particular episode was after the angels’ resurrection announcement), and is limited to some women followers.


Did the disciples delay because they were afraid no one would believe them? Remember, Jesus only appeared to His followers and relatives. While His death was very public, His resurrection and resurrection appearances were not. He did not go the temple and show Himself alive to the chief priests or temple-gatherers. He did not walk the streets of Jerusalem showing the people the nail prints in his hands and feet. He only showed Himself to His close associates and relatives.


Did the disciples delay because they were waiting on Jesus to reveal Himself as Israel’s king? We know that right up to the day of His ascension the disciples were waiting for Jesus to restore Israel’s national sovereignty (Acts 1:6-7). With such an expectation, maybe they were waiting on Jesus to make the next move, fearing that any proclamation of their experience may hinder His plans.


Does anyone else have any suggestions for why the disciples might have delayed their proclamation? Does anyone have any suggestions to explain why Jesus chose to show Himself alive to believers and relatives rather than to unbelievers?


Post script: In my Blessed Are Those Who Believe Without Seeing post I argue that John 20:29 shows that the apostles did proclaim the resurrection to at least some individuals prior to Pentecost.

Back in March I published a post about how extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. While atheists often use this to argue against Christianity, the fact of the matter is that it argues against atheism. The claims of atheism are much more extraordinary than the claims of theism.


An individual responded to this post in the comments section, saying, “Yet, believers in GOD(s) forget that all human thoughts are man-made; thus, so is God.” This is so typical of the lazy and convoluted thinking characteristic of postmodern thought. Here is how I responded:


Your statement sounds like a bumper sticker: nice ring to it, but lacking in critical thought. What does it mean to say human thoughts are “man-made”? If you mean humans have the ability to generate thoughts, then what you have communicated is a tautology. The human ability to generate thought (“man-made”) is the definition of “human thoughts.” So saying human thoughts are man-made adds nothing to your original description. Ultimately, then you’re left arguing that since humans have the ability to generate thoughts about God, God must be a figment of our imagination.

But how does that follow? The implicit premise of your argument (that which is needed for your conclusion to follow your stated premise) is that if humans generate a thought about something, the object of our thought must be a figment of our own creation/imagination. Does this premise hold true for objects other than God? Do you apply this logic to food? I would imagine that you have had thoughts of eating pizza. Does this make the object of your thought (pizza) a figment of your imagination? Of course not. How absurd would it sound to argue that “all human thoughts are man-made; thus, so is pizza”? Pizza is an objective part of reality, and your ability to generate thoughts about it doesn’t make it any less so.

As a human thinker, you have the ability to generate thoughts about reality. If God exists in reality, then you would have the ability to generate thoughts about His existence just as you do pizza. I’m not saying the ability to think about God proves that God exists in reality, but rather that the ability to think about God cannot possibly be used to argue for His non-existence anymore than your ability to think about pizza argues for its non-existence. Your observation about the human ability to generate thoughts simply has no bearing on the question of whether God exists or not.

Using your logic, for God to be real we would have to lack the ability to think about Him. For the moment we were able to think about His existence He would cease to be real. That makes absolutely no sense at all.

From the editors of National Review Online:


“Partial-birth abortions are not really worse than other methods of late-term abortion. There is indeed something irrational about concluding that a method [I would add ‘the morality’] of killing a seven-month-old fetus should depend on the location of his foot. But just who is responsible for making a fetish of location in the first place? It is the Supreme Court itself that has declared — with no support in the Constitution — that what distinguishes a fetus with no claim to legal protection from an infant with such a claim is whether it is in the womb.”<!–[if !supportFootnotes]–>[1]<!–[endif]–>

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<!–[if !supportFootnotes]–>[1]<!–[endif]–>National Review editors, “Partial Victory”; available from http://article.nationalreview.com/?q=NzMxZWQ0ZGM1NjdjYmZlZDBiYjRlMDc3NzAxOGU2M2Y; Internet; accessed 19 April 2007.

Yesterday the Supreme Court of the United States decided the controversial case regarding partial birth abortion, Gonzales v. Carhart. By a 5-4 majority the Court upheld a 2003 Congressional ban of the procedure.


Pro-abortion advocates are up in arms over the decision. But why? The ban only pertains to a particular method of abortion. There are other methods for killing late-term babies that are still legal (namely, D&E). The fact of the matter is that there will be no fewer abortions now that the law is in effect than there were before the law went into effect. It does not restrict a woman’s right to kill her baby. It only restricts the methods doctors may employ to carry out the woman’s desire. Now abortionists have to utilize nicer ways to kill babies! So the next time a pro-abortion advocate complains that this law restricts a woman’s “right to choose”, ask them to explain how it does so.


So why are pro-abortion advocates so upset? I speculate that the reason for their anger is fear. Any law that does not expand abortion rights, chips away at abortion rights. They are afraid that eventually, with enough chipping, the whole edifice will fall. That fear is justified, and I hope their worst fears come true!

In recent days my attention was drawn to an article written by an abortion-choice broadcaster from England, Miranda Sawyer. The article details her recent re-examination of her abortion-choice views. Its significance is twofold. First, Ms. Sawyer is honest and candid about the inadequacy of many of the arguments advanced in behalf of abortion-on-demand. Secondly, it reveals just how far people are willing to go to preserve their point of view. The will often trumps the intellect.

Ms. Sawyer was prompted to re-examine her view of abortion after she became pregnant.

“My mind kept returning to the pregnancy test. If my reaction to those fateful double lines that said ‘baby ahead’ had been horror instead of hurrah…then I would have had little hesitation in having an abortion. But it was that very fact that was confusing me. I was calling the life inside me a baby because I wanted it. Yet if I hadn’t, I would think of it just as a group of cells that it was OK to kill. It was the same entity. It was merely my response to it that determined whether it would live or die. That seemed irrational to me. Maybe even immoral. … when you’ve experienced the out-and-out weirdness of pregnancy and birth and the fantastic beauty of the resulting child, it’s hard not to question what a termination does, or is.”

So why not abandon her abortion-choice position in favor of a pro-life one? According to her, it’s because she is “not religious.” This is revealing. Apparently she believes that opposition to abortion could only be justified on religious grounds. This is an indictment on the pro-life movement. We have a responsibility to make a case against abortion that does not appeal (at least primarily) to a religious grounding.

How did Ms. Sawyer resolve the conflict between what she wanted to believe, and what she was being led to believe by both experience and reason? By accepting the abortion-choice philosophical claim that there is a difference between being alive, and being human (or stated by others as a distinction between being human and being a person). In her words:

“In the end, I have to agree that life begins at conception. So yes, abortion is ending that life. But perhaps the fact of life isn’t what is important. It’s whether that life has grown enough to take on human characteristics, to start becoming a person.

“In its early stages, the foetus clearly hasn’t, so I have no problems with early abortions. … But once an embryo has developed enough to feel pain, or begin a personality, then it has moved from cell life into the first stages of being a human. Then, for me, ending that life is wrong. … That’s why late abortion will always be tricky. Who are we to say whether the life inside is a person, or not?”

Her escape hatch is the personhood theory of human value. If the unborn look enough like those of us on the outside of the womb, and if the unborn behave enough like those of us on the outside of the womb, then they are valuable and should be protected. The question is, Who gets to decide how much one must looks and act like us before they are valuable? And who gets to decide what qualities are to be measured. Different people have different lists. Where is the objective basis for determining this? Ms. Sawyer seems to recognize this, but ignores what she recognizes. For while she says we cannot say whether the life inside the womb is a person or not, she has said who is and who is not a person. Those who feel pain and exhibit personality are persons; those who don’t aren’t. What people won’t put their mind through in order to keep their will on the throne!

I am on Skeptic Magazine‘s email distribution. In the April 4th edition, David Ludden reviews Victor Stenger’s new book, God: The Failed Hypothesis. Stenger, a physicist, tries to refute some of the common scientific arguments for God’s existence. 

To tackle the problem of how the universe came into being fully charged with energy (the only known violation of the first law of thermodynamics), Stenger argues that there is a “close balance between positive and negative energy” so that “the total energy of the universe is zero.” I heard Peter Atkins make the same claim in a debate with William Lane Craig. This is absolutely nonsensical. If the total energy is zero, then there is no energy. And yet energy exists. How do explain the origin of energy by saying the value of energy is zero? Besides, even if there is positive and negative energy, and these two opposing forces cancel each other out, one still has to explain the origin of positive and negative energy at the point of singularity (Big Bang). Where did it come from?


What about the second law of thermodynamics (disorder increases over time)? If our universe is moving from an ordered to a disordered system, it must have been ordered in the beginning, and this would require a designing intelligence. Not so says Stenger. He says the universe began in a maximum state of disorder, but since it is expanding, that disorder is spread out throughout the universe, giving the appearance of order. Really? If I take a bag full of garbage, and empty the bag of garbage into a large field, I don’t get order when the wind starts dispersing the garbage throughout the field. I simply have lots of space between the garbage. That space is not ordered. It’s simply the lack of garbage. Disorder spread out over a large area cannot create order, or the appearance of order.


Stenger gets bold when he tries to tackle the most important philosophical question of them all: Why is there something rather than nothing? According to Ludden, Stenger argues that “the laws of physics tell us that nothingness is an unstable state and will soon ‘undergo a spontaneous phase shift’ to a state of somethingness. …A state of continuous nothingness is so improbable that it could only be maintained through divine intervention.” I’m not sure what physics Stenger is appealing to. Since so much of physics has become a metaphysical discipline of philosophical speculation, I’m inclined to think the physics he is appealing to are little more than mental gymnastics, having no basis in empirical verification. Be that as it may, notice how he is treating nothing as something. He calls nothingness a state that “undergo[es] a spontaneous shift.” Nothing cannot undergo anything! There is nothing to act, or be acted on. It makes sense to say a caterpillar undergoes a phase shift into a butterfly, but it makes absolutely no sense to say that nothing undergoes change into something. Indeed, if there is nothing, what could cause the phase shift? It can’t be the laws of physics because there is no such thing as physics in a state of nothingness. There are no causes either. There is nothing! Only something can cause something else to come into existence.


It never ceases to amaze me how people who claim to be so intelligent and rational can believe such inane things. There’s no end to the amount of self-deception one can generate when they subjugate the truth to their will. Paul was right. People would rather believe a lie than the truth. They willingly suppress the truth. They would rather believe that energy is zero, and nothing can become something than admit there is a God.