Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Ham Fisted Sophistry

The other day I saw a Facebook post which had been "liked" by a friend of mine about how Ken Ham (of Answers in Genesis fame) was lamenting the fact that Bill Nye, the fraudulent "science guy," has been smack talking him in the media since their infamous recent debate. At first I thought, "Well, there's a shocker," and moved on. But then, in a moment of admitted weakness, I returned to leave a comment (which has since been deleted ... explanation to follow).

My comment, as best as I can recall, was: "The problem here is that people are left with the impression that the only options they have on this issue are to choose Bill Nye's vacuous scientism or a Young Earth creationism devoid of supporting evidence. Since both are false, the debate has become polarizing."

By the way, my claim that "Young Earth creationism is devoid of supporting evidence," is not just my opinion. It is the admitted position of many of the leading Young Earth scientists themselves, but I digress.

Within a few minutes, Ken Ham himself responded to my comment as follows: "just like choosing to believe in a bodily resurrection [of Jesus] ... polarizing"

Do you see what he did there?

In one snide, snarky line, Ken Ham managed to: 1) illegitimately equate a young universe (for which there is no evidence) with the resurrection of Christ (for which there is plenty of good evidence), 2) construct a false non-sequitur that belief in an old universe is equivalent to denying the bodily resurrection of Jesus, 3) attach that belief to me unjustly, and 4) thereby create a straw man argument against a view that neither I, nor any other believer in an old universe that I know of, holds. 

That's how Ken Ham rolls.

Not one to let such a comment go unexposed for its lack of class and sound reasoning, I responded to point out the unjust and unjustified thinking in Ken Ham's snide remark by relating the same four observations I just noted and asking: "Either you don't know this and are therefore guilty of intellectual laziness and a failure to acknowledge and respond to your opponent's actual position, OR you do know this and are therefore guilty of intellectual dishonesty and bearing false witness against a Christian brother. Which is it?"

Ken Ham's response was to delete my comments and his own responses to my comments and block me from ever commenting again. Ain't that special? This, in the midst of what resulted in more than 440 entries of back and forth debate between atheists who mocked his position and allies who praised it.

In other words, you can kiss Ken Ham's ring, or you can be violently anti-theistic in your opposition, but don't you dare challenge his views or presuppositions from within a Christian view of the world. That makes you a heretic worthy of expulsion. 

That's how Ken Ham rolls ... and that's how little confidence Ken Ham has in his own ability to defend his position. He'd rather cover it up by making it (or you) just go away.

On the heels of my personal experience, I learned that this type of behavior has apparently come to be a little too common for Mr. Ham. It seems that he is taken with declaring those who disagree with him to be "compromisers of God's Word" and that he does so with a special sort of nastiness. The upshot of some of this behavior is that Mr. Ham and his organization, Answers in Genesis (AIG), have been disinvited and banned from future participation in the Great Homeschool Conventions that had welcomed them over the last several years.

From the Great Homeschool Conventions conference organizer Brennan Dean in the email he circulated announcing his dismissal of Ham from their events:
"The Board believes that Ken's public criticism of the convention itself and other speakers at our convention require him to surrender the spiritual privilege of addressing our homeschool audience."
"Our expression of sacrifice and extraordinary kindness towards Ken and AIG has been returned to us and our attendees with Ken publicly attacking our conventions and other speakers," Dean wrote. "Our Board believes Ken's comments to be unnecessary, ungodly, and mean-spirited statements that are divisive at best and defamatory at worst."
Well, at least it's not just me ...

Listen, if you want to believe in a young universe and defend all that goes along with that view, God Bless You. That's your right and, who knows, you may be right. But please, do so with intellectual integrity, a smidgen of class, and respect for the well-thought out and biblically orthodox views of other Christian believers.

In other words, don't do it like Ken Ham ... or at least find someone besides him to do it for you.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Scientism or Intelligent Design?: What's Really Stupid

I had been looking forward to the remake of the Cosmos series this year because I knew the update would include all kinds of wild scientific discoveries that have widened our knowledge in the 30 years since Carl Sagan brought the wonders of the universe into our living rooms. Talk about being disappointed.

Part of the problem with the show is the absolute disdain its host has for considering anything beyond his narrow scientistic view of reality. That, and he's not a very compelling speaker or relayer of information. Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson has become quite famous recently because of the show, but to demonstrate what I mean, check out this video that was suggested to me by the atheist tildeb a while back to show me how stupid Intelligent Design is and how brilliant Dr. Tyson is. Let's just say that when you watch the video, it becomes very apparent that both of those claims are patently and obviously false:

Dr. Tyson wants to make a big deal about the fact that there are an overwhelming number of factors "out there" that seem to be trying to kill us.


I guess I'm not sure how someone so brilliant (and I mean that sincerely) would miss the fact that in spite of all that, here we are.

He says, "That's not what I would call the Garden of Eden." No, Dr. Tyson, it's not what anyone would call the Garden of Eden. The Garden of Eden is a unique place in an already unique world. You have to be able to explain both of those. That's kind of the point of the Anthropic Principle -- that it is highly unlikely that a place could exist anywhere in the universe that should be able to allow for and sustain life. Proponents of Dr. Tyson's view have gone to great lengths to explain that fact away -- such great lengths that their leading proposal is that there are an infinite number of other universes and we just happen to be in the one that allows for us. Never mind that, when it comes to their reliance on scientific observation, all these hypothetical universes are, by definition, unobservable. This small point renders their view unfalsifiable and therefore ... wait for it ... unscientific!

From there he descends into the usual childish mockery we have come to expect from those who have no good argument to offer for how things that they admit look to be designed came to be designed. Instead, he challenges us to "stop looking at all the things that confound [the] revelation" that there is no design and accept the fact that there is no purpose for anything. One example he gives of something that no designer would come up with is "an entertainment complex in the middle of a sewage system" -- his description of the human reproductive and waste elimination systems.

I think this is telling.

Not only does a grade school level statement like that dodge the fact that every system that makes up the human body is exquisitely designed; not only does such a childish statement demand a transcendent, omnipotent point of view that Dr. Tyson most certainly does not have -- the sad fact is that a scientist of Dr. Tyson's stature seems to be so blissfully ignorant of the purpose for what he calls "an entertainment system."

Human sexuality and reproduction have a purpose in this life and that purpose is most assuredly not for "entertainment." Even a diehard, atheistic Darwinist should know that. The human reproductive system is meant for ... reproduction. This is not rocket science, but Dr. Tyson's view of it betrays the fact that his disgust with, and denial of, all things for which one could deduce a purpose stands not on scientific grounds but on a volitional and/or moral view that will not countenance the existence of any Designer who claims to place limits on the extent to which he seeks to entertain himself.


See also: "The Folly of Scientism"

Friday, April 18, 2014

Abraham And Easter

Those of us who share the conviction that Christianity is actually true, believe that a reset button got pushed on the first Easter Sunday when the Old Covenant was replaced by the New Covenant through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus of Nazareth. No argument about that here.

But, as a result of that mindset, many Christians seem to take that view to mean that the Old Testament was therefore rendered invalid, overridden, or somehow not applicable to how we understand our faith. Beyond citing the creation story or the 10 Commandments once in a while, we seem to have disconnected the Old Testament from the New. But doing so strips the overarching story of the relationship between God and man of much of its meaning. The history we see in the Bible has always been leading somewhere. It's all about the same God. It's all one story -- and it's a rich story that gets even richer when you take the time to see the unmistakeable connection between Old and New.

Nowhere is that more apparent than in the life and mission of Abraham and the covenants God made with him that foreshadowed everything that would happen thousands of years later. In the story of Abraham we see all there is to understand about The Plan God put in place from the very beginning to save humanity. In Genesis 12:3 we get the biggy -- "... all the peoples on earth will be blessed through you."

All the peoples.

The nation of Israel was a "chosen people" only insofar as from that nation, and from the House of David within that nation, would come the Messiah for all the peoples. Israel was never meant to be the only nation God would save. It was simply the nation through which He would make a way to save Israel and everyone else.

The way He would do it was through a covenant relationship like nothing anyone had ever imagined before. It would be a covenant of law and love that was both conditional and unconditional simultaneously. If that sounds weird, it is. It is "weird" because the God who fashioned it is like no other God and the way in which He offered to save mankind was unlike what any other god could offer. He demonstrated it to Abraham in Genesis 15 when God showed Abraham the meaning of Easter.*

In covenant agreements between kings and peons of those days, it was customary for the great king to demand an animal offering from his peons. This was done by killing and cutting up the animals, then laying the pieces out on the ground. The king would promise to protect the peons if the peons would abide by the terms of their agreement with him. In such a case, the agreement was conditional on the part of the king. To "sign" the covenant, the servant who was promising to be loyal to the king would walk between the pieces while swearing an oath that in essence said, "If I do not live up to this agreement, may I be cut up in pieces like these animals." (OK, that's weird too. I'm not defending the practice, just relaying what it was).

And then came Abraham.

At first the ceremony commemorating his covenant relationship with God looked the same as it always had. He was instructed to prepare a heifer, a goat, a ram, a dove, and a pigeon. Abraham did as he was told, spread the pieces on the ground, and waited for further instruction; but no instruction ever came. What came instead was the "thick and dreadful darkness" of judgement. Abraham was overwhelmed and fell into a deep sleep. But when he awoke the most astonishing turn of events up to that point in human history occurred right before his eyes.

A pillar of smoke and fire just like the one that would later lead the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt appeared. It was the manifest presence of God himself. As Abraham watched, the pillar of fire and smoke moved between the pieces to guarantee the agreement. The God who created the universe -- the King himself -- passed through the pieces with a promise to bless the peon Abraham. This was exactly backwards from the way things were supposed to be, but it didn't end there. Just as startlingly, Abraham was never asked to walk through the pieces himself. He was never called to make an oath of loyalty.

God was promising to take the curse that would result from a broken covenant on himself and making the pledge to honor the covenant relationship for both parties. As Timothy Keller puts it, God was promising, "Not only will I be torn to pieces if I don't fulfill the covenant, but I will be torn to pieces if you don't fulfill the covenant."

And we didn't. And He was.

The Gospels record three hours when the darkness of judgement smothered the world from above a wooden torture post at Golgotha as Jesus, the promised Messiah ("Anointed One"), suffered for us because we had broken the covenant. An immortal King submitted himself to the same kind of physical mortality that his peons had brought on themselves. The King of the universe fulfilled His promise to Abraham in Genesis 15. Judgement for the sins of the peons had come and the Judge stepped down from the bench to take the peons' sentence for them. A New Covenant -- one that had been promised in Jeremiah 31 -- was put in place. But the new covenant cannot be seen in isolation from the older ones. The overarching story of salvation is one story. The whole story leads to Easter. Looking backward, it all makes sense.

To see the foreshadowing of Genesis 15 is to understand the story of Easter. It is the story of an infinite gap between an infinitely perfect God and His rebellious peons that could only be filled by the infinite sacrifice only God himself could provide. It is the story of the unconditional love of a God who abides by the conditions of a covenant He didn't break. If someone were to ask whether our covenant relationship with God is an unconditional or conditional covenant the answer is, "Yes."

Easter is the culmination of The Grand Story of the relationship between God and man being brought to its unanticipated, majestic conclusion. God fulfills all the terms of both sides of a covenant agreement by suffering the punishment we deserve, then overcomes a death He didn't deserve three days later to verify to us that He is God ... and that we are not.

The King walked through pieces with Abraham in anticipation of our being at peace with Him on Calvary.


* For an excellent treatment of this idea, listen to Timothy Keller's podcast, "A Covenant Relationship," of October 9, 2013. That sermon brought this all together for me in a way that nothing I had ever heard previously had done. I credit it with the central idea of this post.