Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Mark Your Calendars...

Over the years many people have tried to ascertain the spiritual beliefs of Isaac Newton.  Creationists will often try to claim him on the side of Christianity, while secularists are convinced that he was no more than a deist.  For myself, I try to distance myself from reading the tea leaves of such things, as it can be very difficult to interpret - it's hard enough to know the spiritual state of people who are alive and with us today!  But this was an interesting article, published by CNN, concerning Newton's penchant for making predictions of the end times:

JERUSALEM (AP) -- Three-century-old manuscripts by Isaac Newton calculating the exact date of the apocalypse, detailing the precise dimensions of the ancient temple in Jerusalem and interpreting passages of the Bible -- exhibited this week for the first time -- lay bare the little-known religious intensity of a man many consider history's greatest scientist.

Newton, who died 280 years ago, is known for laying much of the groundwork for modern physics, astronomy, math and optics. But in a new Jerusalem exhibit, he appears as a scholar of deep faith who also found time to write on Jewish law -- even penning a few phrases in careful Hebrew letters -- and combing the Old Testament's Book of Daniel for clues about the world's end.

The documents, purchased by a Jewish scholar at a Sotheby's auction in London in 1936, have been kept in safes at Israel's national library in Jerusalem since 1969. Available for decades only to a small number of scholars, they have never before been shown to the public.

In one manuscript from the early 1700s, Newton used the cryptic Book of Daniel to calculate the date for the apocalypse, reaching the conclusion that the world would end no earlier than 2060.

Personally, I would say that he was much better at physics.  For the full CNN story go here.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Book Review: Darwin's Black Box

Michael Behe's book: Darwin's Black Box, a Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, is one book among many that I have been meaning to read over the years, knowing that it is an important work and yet I have managed to justify a fairly long delay in doing so.  In fact, of the people that I know who have this book in their library, almost all of them admit that they want to read it at some point, and yet they too have been slow to do so because of other reading priorities.  I'm not sure if this is the case, but it seems that while most Christians are interested in the evolution/intelligent design argument, perhaps most of us are caught up with other questions, issues, and battles that challenge the church in the modern day.  But having read this work myself (finally) I would kindly recommend that you do the same as well.  The main reason is this: Michael Behe has delivered an important argument for intelligent design that places yet another dagger deep into the heart of Darwinism.

Behe is professor of biochemistry at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania and a senior fellow of the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture, and it is quite clear that he writes from the pedigree of his academic background.  It is important to note that Behe's opposition to Evolution is not based upon Scriptural grounds; instead, it is based upon the question of scientific data alone.  Therefore I would caution and remind the reader that this is not a biblical defense of creationism, instead it is a secular/scientific critique of Darwinism.  In brief, Behe's key argument can be reduced to the two words that now appear in almost all books dealing with Darwinism, whether pro or con:  irreducible complexity.  Behe takes the reader into the microcosm of the biochemical machines that are utilized in living cells, and shows us that these irreducibly complex structures have no logical precursor from which they could possibly evolve.  To illustrate his point, Behe repeatedly uses the analogy of a basic mouse trap.  A mouse trap (like the biochemical machines in cells) is irreducibly complex - meaning that if any component of the mouse trap were removed (the wooden base, spring, hammer, latch or trigger) then no functional trap would exist.  Such non-functionality is a contradiction to the essential expectation of evolutionary theory.  Evolution is believed to occur because changes/mutations are beneficial to the living organism, therefore a non-beneficial precursor is simply not a Darwinian option.  Behe uses a number of biochemical systems in order to make his point, not the least of which are the cilium or flagellum, whose irreducible complexities reveal that Darwinism is not the product of empirical science; instead it is no more than a theoretical hypothesis; a philosophical hopeful monster if you'll pardon the science-pun.  As stated earlier, Darwin's Black Box is an important read because it has had an important impact on the whole debate surrounding Darwinism.  Frankly, it is difficult to find a book on Evolution, or Creationism, that doesn't address the subject of irreducible complexity any more.  And for those who aren't interested in the debate itself, this book still supplies many wonderful details which disclose God's power and wisdom in creating and sustaining life.  For believers, it can be a great source of edification.

Finally, Behe has done something in this book that isn't particularly easy:  he has made it so that it can be studied at different levels.  For those who want to explore the biochemical details of his argument, they can proceed through texts that are marked out by Behe as being more technical in nature.  Those who want to avoid the technical sections can still get the main argument of the book without the deeper layers of biochemical analysis.  I would say that this is a must-read for those who desire to go more deeply into the apologetics of Creationism - even though Behe himself is not a young-earth Creationist.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

A Bunch of Lying Fools

As a follow up to the previous post, From the Ashes of Anlong Veng, I wanted to offer a summary statement concerning the strange but very real commonalities that exist between men like Al Sharpton and Christopher Hitchens.  Remember that Hitchens is an evangelical atheist and Sharpton is (oddly enough) both an agnostic and a Pentecostal minister, which is another way of saying that he is among some of the worst kinds religious opportunists there can be.  Now some may ask the question, "How could they possibly have anything in common?"  Very simply put, neither of them believe in the true God (that's God not "god"). 

The only thing that makes them appear to be so different is the manner in which they convey that unbelief. 

My argument for all of this is based upon a text that Hitchens complains a great deal about in his book, god is not Great:

Psalm 14:1-3 :  1 To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David.
1 The fool has said in his heart,
“There is no God.”
They are corrupt,
They have done abominable works,
There is none who does good.
2 The Lord looks down from heaven upon the children of men,
To see if there are any who understand, who seek God.
3 They have all turned aside,
They have together become corrupt;
There is none who does good,
No, not one.   [NKJV]

Now a brief reading of this text might lead some to believe that David is referring to an early form of atheism that openly confessed that there is no God.  But this is not the precise point of the psalm as affirmed by the Apostle Paul who quoted this text in Romans 3 in order to remind us that "both Jews and Greeks are all under sin."  Thus, we need to be careful not to miss the heart of the argument supplied by David and Paul - all lost men have a heart-epistemology which refuses to acknowledge God in every way possible.  This concept of Psalm 14 is affirmed by Hans-Joachim Kraus in his book, Theology of the Psalms:

"This assertion ('there is no God') is not the expression of an atheistic theory, but the summary of a practical attitude.  As one who denies God the rasha' ('wicked') discloses himself in his deceptive activity that brings death and destruction."  Theology of the Psalms, p. 129.

Note the detail of the psalm itself - the fool says in his heart that there is no God.  Clearly this is an internal epistemology that is made evident by the external manifestation of ungodliness in his life.  Thus this truth applies to any man who denies God in his heart.  As well, the fact that Paul employs Psalm 14 for both Jews and Gentiles is significant.  In reality, all unbelievers are practical-atheists whose lives declare this heart-conviction:  "there is no God to whom I must account."  Where the important distinction comes is in how such men mask their practical-atheism. 

The Religionist:  Some men prefer the veil of manmade religion to mask their internal unbelief.  There is certainly no shortage of examples in the Scriptures to illustrate this - Jude lists for us men like Cain, Balaam, and Korah to illustrate that there will always be those who are "hidden reefs in your love feasts" but who are "doubly dead and uprooted" spiritually.  These men may proclaim faith in, and allegiance to, God, but in their heart of hearts they live as though God did not exist at all. 

The Secularist:  Other men will openly confess their denial of God.  In the most extreme example we have the evangelical atheist.  A person such as this may think that he is less of a hypocrite than the religionist, and yet his professed atheism is nothing more than an overt admission to self-deception:  "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness" [Romans 1:18, NKJV].  By suppressing the truth in unrighteousness, the secularist proves himself to be on the same footing as the false religionist.  Thus, while the secularist isn't wearing the embarrassing monkey-suit of false religion, he is in fact wearing "the emperor's new clothes" in all its humiliating disgrace. 

At the end of the day, the only differences between the religionist and the secularist are the masks of deception that they wear.  Arguing over which one might be better or worse is simply an exercise in futility.  Both men need Christ - that is our hope and prayer for any religionist or secularist that we may ever meet. 

I realize that it's a bitter cup of reality from which to drink, but apart from God's redeeming grace - we're all a bunch of lying fools.