Thursday, October 28, 2010

First Do No Harm [Intro]

In response to the article I recently had published in The Lookout (you can read it in my last post here), I received a small package in the mail from a reader who took exception with a couple of points I made in the piece. I will not identify the reader but I will address the points he makes because I think they are vitally important to our approach to apologetics and a commitment to being effective ambassadors for the Truth.

Before I begin to respond, I want to point out that the tone of the cover letter he sent with the material was polite -- he even said he enjoyed my article -- so I don't want to make too much of the attitude behind his disagreement. Though it is impossible to tell if his "enjoyment" was sincere, my previous encounters with those who hold similar views have been anything but polite. For that reason, I want to commend the reader for not being "nasty." He ended his note by saying "comments are welcome" -- so I will offer some.

The fact is that we hold completely different views on the topics I will address but I hope that he (and others) will take my comments with the same spirit of charity with which I accepted his.

The reader sent me a small booklet, a pamphlet, and some individual essays/comments that related to each. There was quite a bit of information in the packet but I can boil it down to three main points he wanted me to consider :
  1. That the Earth is less than 10,000 years old.
  2. That the King James Version (KJV) is the only "authorized" translation of the Bible. The accompanying pamphlet urging me to order a book, In Awe of Thy Word, was meant to convince me of this fact and is available at: A.V. Publications Corp.
  3. That the commonly accepted view of heliocentrism is false -- the Sun is not at the center of the universe. The Earth is actually the center of everything and the entire universe rotates around the Earth.
I want to point out that each of these three views is closely intertwined. They stand in mutual support of one another. As such, showing that any one of them is obviously false should compel those who accept any one of them to seriously question all three. That is, if they are pursuing the truth and not just demanding a dogmatic acceptance of some self-defined test of orthodoxy, a thinking person should at least consider the fact that they may be wrong in adhering to any one of these claims.

Tackling all of this at once would take too much space so I will devote a separate post to each. My aim is modest: Though I think each of these is demonstrably and obviously false, I only hope to show that disagreeing about any one of them does not disqualify one as a legitimate Christian.

There is an important reason why I say this. Many who hold to these views believe that those of us who do not hold to them could only disagree because we ...
  1. Believe in Evolution (where 'Evolution' is never precisely defined)
  2. Do not hold a high view of Scriptural Authority
  3. Do not believe in Biblical Inerrancy
  4. Accept the claims of scientists above the claims of the Bible and, therefore, God Himself
As you can see, the stakes are high. Many times, those who hold to these types of views actually believe that those of us who don't are not "real believers." We are headed to hell. Some are quite belligerent about it and some are nice about it, but the fact is that many of them believe it. Because it is so important to those who hold these views, I think we owe it to them to show that we are serious too.

Case in point: A few weeks ago, a friend told me that he met a guy who was also interested and involved in Christian Apologetics. He asked if he could have him contact me because, living in the same area, he thought we might be able to work together on some teaching/speaking projects. A few days later, I received an email introducing the fellow apologist. I responded with a list of my affiliations -- one of which was Reasons To Believe, an organization that makes a strong case for the Old Earth view. I said that I would be glad to work with him and hoped we could do so while concentrating on the primary issues that every Christian apologist should hold in common. Here is a portion of his response:
While Reasons to Believe does have many things in common biblically with what I believe there are some key differences that deal with the authority of Scripture such as, death before sin, the extend (sic) of the Genesis Flood, the order of created events and logic, … These I could not compromise on since they affect the foundation for the Gospel and the character of God (emphases mine).
You see the not-so-hidden implication: because I work with an organization that promotes the old earth view of creation I have "compromised" on the authority of Scripture, the foundation of the Gospel, and the character of God.

I never heard from him again ... apparently because, in his mind, we are not on the same team.

I understand the concerns of these kinds of people -- and I share them. They are important questions that must be addressed. But our disagreement about interpretations is an internal debate that should never be thrown down like some kind of gauntlet that demands one view as an uncompromising test of orthodoxy.

Believing in full-blown Darwinian 'Evolution' (a materialistic path from non-life, to life, to conscious human thinkers) denies the obvious work of the Creator as it is clearly outlined in the Bible -- which is why I reject full-blown Darwinian Evolution.

I too hold to a high view of Scripture and a classical view of Biblical inerrancy.

I deny that any scientist speaks with greater authority than Scripture. But the fact is that there are some scientific things Scripture simply does not talk about at all! In those cases, or in cases where Scripture's voice is ambiguous (it never talks about nuclear physics or the process of cellular reproduction for instance), the legitimate study and discoveries of science are perfectly reasonable to accept with proper discernment. Science is simply the human attempt to understand the world God has created. So, when we engage in science we are seeking to understand the truth about God's natural revelation. That is not my opinion. That is Biblical:
"The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their [the heavens] voice is not heard. Their [the heavens] voice goes out into all the earth, their [the heavens] words to the end of the world." ~ Psalm 19:1-4
"For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities -- his eternal power and divine nature -- have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. ~ Romans 1:20
Before I begin to critique the three points my reader wants me to consider, I want to make this crystal clear. I respect and trust the Bible just as highly as those who hold these views. I do not elevate science above Scripture. I believe that, properly approached, science and Scripture complement one another perfectly. So let's do away with all the pious claims to spiritual superiority. We agree on those points. Instead, let's look at the facts in question and see if they are reasonable to accept.

Let's seek the truth and use it to compel others to do the same.

The fact is that the dogmatic promotion of the three points my reader wants me to consider (above) does violence to the Scripture ... which diverts us from the truth ... which serves to turn people away from the Gospel altogether.

That is a compromise I am unwilling to make.

The next three posts I will address each of my reader's points ...

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