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Science - Creation/Evolution

On DNA and how "things are seldom what they seem"

Sometimes we forget that scientists like to be amused just as much as other individuals, and the illustration in the November 20/08 issue of Nature is certainly amusing. You see five ducks swimming serenely in a row. Above the water line, they are all identical but below the surface one duck is propelled along by a massive tricycle, one has extremely long legs with webbed feet, one has normal legs, one is propelled by a motorized propeller and the last one sits serenely on top of a gigantic octopus. It all makes one think of the sentiments expressed by “Little Buttercup” in the English operetta H.M.S. Pinafore. She warbles:  Things are seldom what they seem, Skim milk masquerades as cream… Black sheep dwell in every fold All that glitters is not gold. The amusing illustration in the Nature article, was actually promoting a similar idea. Organisms may look similar on the outside, it declares, but on the inside, their genetic information may be vastly different. Why does this matter? Well, it is certainly contrary to evolutionary expectations. Defying expectations As scientists first started building up a database of DNA coding in various organisms, they knew what they expected to find. Based on evolution theory, they expected that organisms that seemed to have a close evolutionary relationship would exhibit similar DNA codes, and those with a remote connection would show much different collections of code. In previous generations, scientists looked for similarities in form and function among organisms to draw conclusions about evolutionary relationships. Thus catlike animals would all be placed in the same group. Obviously the experts expected that the results of DNA coding studies would reflect the relationships already established on the basis of similarity in shape and biology. But often that’s not what happened. The illustration of the ducks, so similar above the water line, represents the form and function of organisms. The vastly different controlling mechanisms below the water represent the here-to-fore hidden differences in the DNA controls inside organisms. The first sign of unfulfilled evolutionary expectations was when the DNA from a spectrum of organisms was compared. Often the most similar DNA coding was not found among organisms that looked the most similar. Similar appearance ≠ similar DNA? This discovery can also be compared to an adult assembling two children's toys. The first box is opened and various component parts fall out along with an instruction sheet. The brave parent duly sets to work and assembles the toy. Now imagine a second box is opened and a similar toy needs to be assembled. The parent thinks this one should be easy, but alas, he discovers the component parts are all differently shaped and the instructions are different too. However in due course the second toy is assembled, and it looks and works much like the first toy. If the parent didn't know that the insides of the two toys were very different, he might have thought they came from the same company. But after seeing the instruction sheet and all the parts, the parent realizes that these two toys must have come from totally separate sources. Even if the first company had wanted to produce a slightly more elaborate model, it would not change the basic components and instructions. It would merely modify the initial program as required. It is the same with DNA coding in an organism’s cells. Even if the end result looks and works the same, if the instructions and component parts in the cell are very different, we suspect that the organisms have entirely separate sources, or lines of descent. Similar DNA ≠ similar appearance The response of the scientific community to this unfulfilled expectation was to change the groupings of organisms so that the pattern of DNA differences once again gave a picture of gradual change. The problem with this solution however is that the new groupings did not make much sense. Now creatures were grouped together as closely related, in an evolutionary sense, that did not have much in common at all. Hence we now have a classic “conflict between molecules and morphology .” As a result, over the past twenty years, we have seen a “radical re-ordering of relationships” among many animal groups (Nature Feb. 12/09 pp. 812 and 816). The same holds true for plants. So scientists have rearranged their groupings, often in illogical ways, to make the DNA fit an evolutionary scenario. The ducky illustration, however, applies more closely to other problems for evolution theory. Biochemists firstly noticed that many creatures which have few characteristics in common, nevertheless have many genes which are “virtually identical” (Nature Nov. 20/08 p 300). This can be made to fit both evolution theory and design. Evolutionists interpret this as showing lines of common descent, even if very remote. Meanwhile creationists understand this as showing God's choosing to use some similar elements in otherwise very different creatures. But at the same time, the experts have found “closely connected species can connect up their genes in very different regulatory networks while keeping the end result deceptively unchanged” (p. 300). Not only have the scientists found that similar organisms may use genes in different ways, but they may even use entirely different genes to produce the same result (p. 301). This discovery of very different codes in organisms that appear so similar is, of course, not predicted by evolution theory. Naturally these experts are looking for explanations that will still fit their theory. Thus: “Now researchers are trying to understand how evolution finds the solutions it does, and why. Some think that this ‘underground’ variation was selected for. Some think it appeared by chance” (p. 300). When scientists appeal to chance for an explanation, it means that they have no explanation. What’s your presupposition? The article in Nature declares that the situation “feels very counter-intuitive.” But is it? It all depends upon one’s basic premises. If evolution is the basis for one’s interpretation of nature, then the results do not make sense: very similar organisms (often microorganisms) using very different molecules to achieve the same result. It is obvious that many DNA data do not fit evolutionary expectations. However, the scientists involved simply look for alternative evolutionary explanations. It seems evident that this irregular pattern of DNA coding better fits an explanation involving intelligent choices by God the Creator. The evolutionist may retort that this does not prove the case for creation. Fair enough. There is no proof to be had in science. The evolutionists claim that all data can be accommodated within their worldview – this is not proof, but preference. Similarly we insist that all data fit Biblical revelation. In the case of DNA, the information from nature does not fit evolutionary expectations very well at all. It does fit the creation model better. Don’t expect ducks, however, to show the scale of internal diversity illustrated in the Nature article. That was merely for purposes of illustration. However, if anyone sees a duck driven by a propeller, let me know! This is an edited version of an article that first appeared in September 2009 issue under the title "On ducks and DNA." Dr. Margaret Helder is the author of No Christian Silence in Science, a book every Christian teen considering a career in Science should read before heading off to university....

Science - Creation/Evolution

The "Watchmaker argument"

Two hundred years ago a bishop, by the name of William Paley, wrote a book in which he used a watch to illustrate how clear it was that God is real. He pointed out how many intricate parts a watch had; and how only a skilled watchmaker could put these parts together. He described how the watch was designed so that each small part had a purpose. He then argued that the watch, because it had so many parts, had to have a planner and that, because the watch had a purpose – to tell time – it had to be an intelligent planner. And then Bishop Paley also pointed out that there were many creatures much more complex and wonderful than the watch. Consider the woodpecker One of these creatures is the woodpecker — a bright, feathered hammerhead, whom we often nickname Woody. And if we look at the complex, awesome parts of the woodpecker, we cannot help but stand in awe of our Creator. 1. Shock-absorbing beak The woodpecker, is a marvelous bird and far from ordinary. Take his bill, for example. Isn't it amazing how he can ram it into a tree thousands of times a minute without having to replace it or getting a terrific headache? Well, his head is equipped with shock absorbers. And these shock absorbers cushion the blows so that the skull and brain of the woodpecker do not suffer. 2. Feet that grip Now consider his feet. Have you ever wondered how this bird could stand sideways against the tree for such a long time without slipping off? Well, God equipped the woodpecker with very stiff tail feathers with which he can brace himself. Also, his feet have four claw-like toes. Two toes point up and two point down — so that he can get a good grip on bark. 3. Glue the grips Now, once he's drilled his little hole, how does he manage to reach inside the tree for his supper? Again, our God and his Creator has equipped him well. The woodpecker has a wonderful tongue. It's long, with special glands on it which secrete a substance that bugs stick to like glue. When the woodpecker pulls his tongue out of the drilled hole it's covered with a smorgasbord of insects. 4. Tongue that curls The woodpecker's tongue is worth even closer scrutiny. Most birds have tongues that are fastened to the back of their beak. The woodpecker would choke if this was the case because his tongue is far too long. So do you know where God fastened it? In his right nostril. Yes, when the woodpecker is not using his tongue, he rolls it up and stores it in his nose. Coming from the right nostril, the tongue divides into two halves. Each half passes over each side of the skull, (under the skin), comes around and up underneath the beak and enters the beak through a hole. And at this point the two halves combine and come out of his mouth. You have to agree that the woodpecker's tongue is a most intricate and complicated piece of equipment. Blind to the wonder Not everyone believes that God created "every winged bird according to its kind." (Genesis 1:21b) Some evolutionists believe that birds were first reptiles. A 1980 Science Yearbook states that "paleontologists assume that the bird's ancestors learned to climb trees to escape from predators and to seek insect food. Once the 'bird' was in a tree, feathers and wings evolved (grew) to aid in guiding from branch to branch." Isn't it funny to think of so-called scientific men who believe this? If evolution were really true, why don't we see lizards sitting in trees today sprouting little feathers? Doesn't the thought alone make you chuckle? Actually, some evolutionists themselves are even aware that this is not really true. In 1985 an evolutionist named Feduccia said, "Feathers are features unique to birds, and there are no known intermediate structures between reptilian scales and feather." So why do people continue to believe and teach evolution? Romans 1:18-20 tells us why. Some people choose to suppress the truth. They have no faith in God's marvelous creation, even though it is all around them, and these people are "without excuse" (v. 20) before God. No, we are wise to stick to our faith in Scripture. The complexity of birds, certainly including the woodpecker, point to an intelligent Creator. And Bishop Paley's argument is good because today, 200 years later, we can point to many other living creatures also, (even tiny microscopic forms of life are infinitely complex), who could never have come about by any chance process of evolution. We praise and thank God for His marvelous creation. With the four and twenty elders of Revelations 4:11 we can say: "You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for You created all things, and by Your will they were created and have their being." Christine Farenhorst is the author of many books, including her new historical fiction novel, Katharina, Katharina, about the times of Martin Luther. This article first appeared in the February 1991 issue of Reformed Perspective. ...


Did the Church fathers take Genesis literally?

In this 49-minute lecture, Dr. Todd Wood answers the objection that "scientific creationism" is only a recent phenomenon. As he shows by going to the works of the Church fathers, they thought the opening chapters of the Bible communicated real history, not metaphor. This lecture is one of 60 that made up the "Is Genesis History?" Conference earlier this year, and all 60 can be had for $10 here:

Assorted, Science - Creation/Evolution

Not all humility is humble

John Marks Templeton wanted Christians to be “humble” about the Bible and look to Science for direction. And his Foundation is handing out millions to groups trying to mesh Science with Religion. ***** Sir John Marks Templeton (1912-2008) is best known as the creator of the Templeton Growth Fund, an investment fund established in 1954, which made him a very wealthy man. Two years before his death in 2008, Templeton found himself in 129th place on the Sunday Times' "Rich List" of the wealthiest Brits. But Templeton was not only an investor and moneymaker; he was also well-known as a philanthropist, through the work of his charitable organization, the Templeton Foundation. Established in 1987, the $3 billion Templeton Foundation offers over $70 million worth of research grants each year. The Foundation is currently headed by Templeton's daughter, Heather Templeton Dill, and it is an important source of funding for organizations that include the BioLogos Foundation and the Canadian Scientific and Christian Affiliation. One of the Templeton Foundation's purposes is to advance what Templeton called "humility-in-theology." This was the subject of his book, published in 2000, Possibilities For Over One Hundredfold More Spiritual Information: The Humble Approach in Theology and Science. Templeton’s humility How would this 100-fold increase in spiritual knowledge happen? He thought we would get it: “…every two centuries…by encouraging people of all religions to become enthusiastic (rather than resistant) to new additional spiritual information, especially through science research, to supplement the wonderful ancient scriptures" (p. 180). "Humility" was an important word for Sir John Templeton, as can be seen from the title of this book, as well as throughout its pages. Templeton's philosophy of humility, and the way it shaped his thinking and his philanthropically efforts, is exemplified in the following extended quotations. In order to present these quotations in context, and in an effort to avoid misrepresentation of Templeton's message, I present this (rather lengthy) representative sample of his thoughts (I must note that throughout his writings, Templeton writes the word "god" without capitalizing the G, so this is not an error in transcription, and likely reflects Templeton's philosophy): 1. Man isn’t that special "Although we seem to be the most sophisticated species at present on our planet, perhaps we should not think of our place as the end of cosmogenesis. Should we resist the pride that might tempt us to think that we are the final goal of creation? Possibly, we can become servants of creation or even helpers in divine creativity. Possibly, we are a new beginning, the first creatures in the history of life on earth to participate consciously in the ongoing creative process"  (p. 41). 2. Creeds restrict progress "Do theologians need to be humble and open-minded? Leaders may be tempted to think that conformity and control are required for the orderliness of religion and for faithfulness. Most religions have developed creeds, doctrines, dogmas, liturgy and hierarchies of laypeople and clergy. Order and tradition of course do help groups to live as an organization of people whose ideals are compatible and link together the generations in mutual ideals. However, because of a lack of humility, have we observed throughout the history of most religions a tendency for dogma or hierarchy to stifle progress? If the members and clergy become more humble, could they re-form dogma in a more open-minded and inquiring way as a beginning point for continual improvements?" (p. 41). 3. We should humor theologians and rely on the sciences "Let none of us have any quarrel with any theologian. Let us happily admit that his or her concepts and doctrines may be right. But let us listen most carefully to any theologian who is humble enough to admit also that he may be wrong - or at least that the door to great insights by others is not closed. Let us seek to learn from each other. Let us try to use sciences to help verify or falsify new concepts. Let us always keep trying many methods to discover over 100 fold more about divinity" (p.50). 4. We can be wrong, so we should be humble about everything "Egotism has been a major cause of many mistaken notions in the past. Egotism caused men to think that the stars and the sun revolved around them... that mankind was as old as the universe. Egotism is still our worst enemy. In fact, things are still not what they seem. Only by becoming humble can we learn more... Are those who believe only what they see pitifully self-centred and lacking in humility?" (p. 59). Humble to the point of heresy So where did this understanding of "humility" lead Sir John Templeton? To ideas such as these: "Many religious concepts come directly or indirectly from ancient scriptures. An unavoidable limitation of utilizing such texts as a total basis for contemporary faith is that they were written within a context which may no longer be appropriate for ours today. Recent sciences reveal a universe billions of times larger and older and more complex than the one conceived by the ancients. The creative challenge is to enrich understanding and appreciation for the old with a welcoming of concepts and perspectives which may represent truly new insights and creative improvements, which can leverage the power of the past into a forward-looking adventure of learning more and more about the wonders of god and his purposes through ongoing creativity. Can it be an inspiring challenge to read the Bible in this way, which can help each generation of god’s people to search for far more of divine realities than can ever be contained in the language and thought patterns of any age? Should we not be able to give a fuller and wider interpretation of divine revelation today, now that the range of our understanding of the universe has been so vastly enlarged? Why should we often try to express spiritual truths using obsolete words, limited concepts and ancient thought patterns? If some scholars think that Jesus himself wrote nothing, could this suggest that what he had to teach should not be frozen into words, even in his own age? Thus, he did not limit for future generations their range of spiritual concepts and research" (p. 47-48). Ideas have consequences. While Templeton was an elder in a Presbyterian congregation (Presbyterian Church - USA), and even sat on the Board of Princeton Theological Seminary, he did not "limit" himself to the doctrines of orthodox Christianity. His "humble approach" led him to declare, "I have no quarrel with what I learned in the Presbyterian Church. I am still an enthusiastic Christian," and then to ask, "But why shouldn't I try to learn more? Why shouldn't I go to Hindu services? Why shouldn't I go to Muslim services? If you are not egotistical, you will welcome the opportunity to learn more." The sad fact is, however much one claims to be "an enthusiastic Christian," believing that the teachings of religions that deny Christ can be positively appropriated by a Christian makes one, for all intents and purposes, anything but. And this unfortunate truth is also clearly revealed in Templeton's book. While Templeton denied being a pantheist (one who believes that the universe is God, and God is the universe), his understanding of the nature of God can only be described as a form of panentheism, which declares that God and the universe are distinct, but that the world is "in" God. Or as Templeton wrote: "Traditional pantheism can serve a useful purpose in suggesting the co-terminacy of spirit and matter and a personal relationship between the creator and creation. But it may not be compatible with the Christian concept of a personal god vastly greater than material things and who loves all of us and numbers the hairs of our heads. Profound mutual indwelling between man and divinity may be better stated by the Unity School of Christianity, 'God is all of me: and I am a little part of him.' Such a notion implies an inseparable relationship between god and us. As even 'a little part of him,' we may realize the mutual unity of god and his creation. We may conceive that our own divinity may arise from something more profound that merely being 'god's children' or being 'made in his image'" (p. 86). True humility is submitting to God’s Word At this point, it must be said that, for all his self-proclaimed "humility," Templeton's foundational beliefs are, in Christian perspective, anything but humble. True humility is expressed in Psalm 8: "O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens... When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man, that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?" (Ps. 8:1,3, ESV). True humility is expressed in humble submission to the LORD, the Creator, who has revealed himself clearly and completely in his Word - those "ancient Scriptures" which we humans have not outgrown, or surpassed, with all of our scientific understanding. True humility is acknowledging our origins as the direct creation of God, acknowledging the reality of the Fall into sin, and its enduring impact on humanity and all of creation, God's provision of a Way of salvation, and the fact that we can do nothing in ourselves to merit that salvation. We are created in God's image. That image has been badly marred by sin. But in Christ, that image is being restored among God's people. True humility is submitting ourselves to Jesus Christ, who declared that he, and only he, is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Templeton's "humility" is, at bottom, and however unwittingly, the height of human arrogance and pride in disguise. In refusing to submit to God's perfect Word, Templeton set a man on the throne in God's place. And now, through the work of his Foundation, Templeton's utopian vision for human society, based in anything but the Word of God, is continuing to be spread. Templeton’s vision looks to science to show the way Templeton foresaw a "glorious" future, and thanks to his great financial savvy, his legacy lives on. His Foundation has three billion dollars in its reserve fund, and that money is being spent to promote that legacy, with a very definite, and very long-term, goal in mind. Templeton's vision of the future is summed up in two citations in his book. He first cites Marceline Bradford: "...Millions of intellectuals the world over have become disenchanted with backward-looking religious institutions... In order to recapture the great thinking minds of the world, the clergy must turn their heads 180 degrees from past to future. With feet planted squarely in the present and eyes directed to the future, leaders can find factual bases in science for viable, solid, dynamic doctrines. For science and rationality are enemies not of religion - only of dogmatism" (p. 47). Next, he cites Ralph Wendell Burhoe, who was awarded the Templeton Prize in 1980: "It is still my bet that at several points in the next few years and decades the traditional theological and religious communities will find the scientific revelations a gold mine, and that by early in the third millennium A.D. a fantastic revitalization and universalization of religion will sweep the world. The ecumenical power will come from a universalized and credible theology and related religious practices, not from the politics of dying institutions seeking strength in pooling their weaknesses. I cannot imagine a more important bonanza for theologians and the future of religion than the information lode revealed by the scientific community... It provides us with a clear connection between human values, including our highest religious values, and the cosmic scheme of things. My prophecy, then, is that God talk, talk about the supreme determiner of human destiny, will in the next century increasingly be fostered by the scientific community" (p. 103). His favorite charities In the conclusion of his book, Templeton lists a number of the "founder's favorite charities," which also provides real insight into Templeton's agenda. Some we might find agreeable. He is interested in the promotion of entrepreneurship, and the enhancement of individual freedom and free markets. Others included supporting research and publications in genetics; supporting education and other help in voluntary family planning; supporting character development research, and also: "Supporting the publication and dissemination throughout the world of the religious teachings of the Unity School of Christianity of Unity Village, the Association of Unity Churches and of closely similar organizations, provided that major support for such organizations shall continue only so long as the Trustees of the Foundation... determine that such organizations adhere to the concepts of: usually pioneering in religion and theology with little restrictive creed, usually teaching that god may be all of reality and man only a tiny part of god and generally accentuating the positive ideas and attitudes and avoiding the negative" (p. 183). With friends like these Such were the goals of Sir John Marks Templeton, and such are the goals of his foundation. A serious examination of Templeton's guiding philosophy, and the philosophy of the Templeton Foundation, in the light of Scriptural principles, should lead us to a sense of genuine concern about any organization that the Foundation chooses to support financially. And it should lead us to question the ultimate motivation behind this support, and the fruits that this foundation is bearing in the numerous organizations that receive its funding. "The Humble Approach" of Sir John Marks Templeton has absolutely nothing in common with the genuinely humble approach of the Lord Jesus Christ. Templeton’s utopian vision has nothing in common with the eschatological vision of God's Word. Follow the money Now, those who receive large amounts of financial support from the Templeton Foundation may do so "with no strings attached," and perhaps some recipients may be unaware of the totality of the Foundation's founder's spiritual vision. But could it be that they are unwitting victims of a larger, and more nefarious, agenda, which has at its base a desire to proclaim a different gospel, by denying the explicit teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ and his exclusive claims? We are warned against keeping company with the wicked (1 Cor. 15:33, Psalm 1:1, Prov. 13:20) and it doesn’t seem that much of an extension to think how this applies to accepting funding from a group with a wicked agenda. Science, science, and more science A little research shows the incredible reach that the Foundation's money has. And an examination of the nature of the grants that the Foundation provides, as well as the purpose behind these grants, is telling indeed. One of the Foundation's main funding areas is "public engagement," and a representative sample of grants (ranging from tens of thousands to millions of dollars) clearly shows the Foundation's goals. Here is a small sample of grants that have been made over the past three years: Vatican Observatory Foundation - "Building a bridge between faith and astronomy" John Carroll University - "Integrating science into college and pre-theology programs in U.S. Roman Catholic seminaries" Union Theological Seminary - "Project to develop a spiritual worldview compatible with and informed by science" Cambridge Muslim College - "Developing religious leaders with scientific awareness" American Association for the Advancement of Science - "Engaging scientists in the science and religion dialogue" Luther Seminary - "Science for youth ministry: The plausibility of transcendence" Christianity Today - "Building an audience for science and faith" Other grants have been made to train Roman Catholic teachers and preachers to engage the dialogue between science and religion, to promote science engagement in rabbinic training, and to measure science engagement in Roman Catholic high schools and seminaries. Further investigation in the nature and purpose of these grants reveals a common thread. For example, La Jolla Presbyterian Church received a grant from the Templeton Foundation for a program that "seeks to engage young adults (college and post-graduate) in a discussion of science and faith with leading scientists who are Christians." The McGrath Institute for Church Life at Notre Dame University received a $1.675 million grant for their Science and Religion Initiative, which "seeks to frame science education within the broader context of Catholic theology." According to the Institute's director, "The perceived conflict between science and religion is one of the main reasons young people say they leave the Catholic church... this grant allows us to address this misperceptions and help high school teachers create pedagogues that show that science and religion - far from being incompatible - are partners in the search for truth." Multnomah Biblical Seminary has received a Templeton grant (as well as a grant from the American Association for the Advancement of Science, itself supported by the Templeton Foundation), to "equip pastoral studies majors to become more effective in engaging our scientific age." Among a number of other Christian theologians, Niels Henrik Gregersen, professor of Systematic Theology at the University of Copenhagen, received a Templeton research grant for his work on the constructive interface between science and religion. Another recent recipient of the Templeton Foundation's largesse is Regent College in Vancouver, which this year received a grant funding a program called "Re-faithing Science at Regent College." The program will seek, over the next two years, to address this question: "How can the relationship between Christian faith and scientific endeavour be conceptualized and communicated in a way that effectively engages diverse audiences?" The detailed description of this particular grant on the Templeton Foundation website is insightful: "Sir John Templeton recognized that science and spirituality should be neither sealed in separate boxes nor positioned at opposite ends of a battlefield, yet even a cursory glance at contemporary culture reveals that the supposed incompatibility and even hostility between faith and science is something of a truism in much of Western society. Regent College believes that this widespread perception is a significant threat to the development of theology and science alike, as well as to the spiritual and intellectual flourishing of countless individuals." So, utilizing Templeton's funds, Regent College's project team will "propose an alternative model for the relationship between faith and science: mutual coinherence, or existence within one another." Their goal is to communicate this proposal "in an accessible form" that will encourage and enable further exploration of science, theology, and their interaction, using academic publications, public lectures, graduate-level courses, and an online presence, to "target different audiences with the same basic narrative, a story of one world, created by one God, who can be known and worshipped through both theology and science - and who is best known and best worshipped when theology and science work together." Science in the driver’s seat What can we learn from all of this? If we were unaware of the foundational principles behind the Templeton Foundation, perhaps all of this would appear to be somewhat innocuous. After all, who could argue against Christians being involved in the sciences? Why oppose efforts aimed at developing "scientific awareness"? Certainly we shouldn't want to bury our heads in the sand, and ignore what the sciences have to offer, as if science were somehow "off-limits" to the faithful Christian, should we? But remember this important fact: the Templeton Foundation has a very clear agenda – a utopian, panentheistic philosophy that has an ecumenical goal of uniting the religions of the world around a synthesis of "science" and religion, with "science" seated firmly in the driver's seat in this relationship. This agenda is being promoted by the lavish dispersal of funds to Islamic, Roman Catholic, Jewish, and other religious organizations, including, sadly, many evangelical Christian groups, many of which are making their influence felt in Reformed churches as well. Standing in Templeton’s way Two popular sayings come to mind: "Follow the money," and "He who pays the piper calls the tune." The money trail leads us to Sir John Marks Templeton. And clearly, Templeton's agenda is making headway in many places, although it is also clear that this agenda faces many obstacles. 1. Reluctance among religious leaders First of all, there is reluctance to accept the premises of this movement among religious organizations, as can be seen from the numerous grants being made to support efforts to decrease the resistance of religious leaders and members of religious groups, including evangelical Christians, to this religious/scientific paradigm. But that reluctance is being overcome, as the Templeton agenda makes inroads through a judicious use of funding. Efforts to reach youth, and those who teach the young, are effective means of dissemination for any propaganda effort, whether political, cultural, or religious in nature. Young people are more easily influenced, and they are most definitely being targeted, in a well-funded, concerted effort. 2. Reluctance among unbelieving scientists But there is also resistance from the other side - from unbelieving scientists who reject all religion, any idea of transcendence, and the idea that anything exists beyond the physical. This group is also being addressed by the outreach efforts of the Templeton Foundation, as it works toward fulfilling its long-term goals. Conclusion A spiritual war is being waged against God's people, using that ancient question, "Has God really said?" This is not novel; every generation of Christians faces this reality, in different ways at different times in history. The battle is being played out in a world in which money talks, and a lot of money talks loudly. We cannot afford to be naive on this issue. That’s why we need to be on our guard against the influence of the Templeton Foundation's money, even if it's being spent by organizations that may have been respected among us. That money is being spent to promote an agenda that is radically different from the agenda of God's kingdom. Our allegiance to the One True God must lead us to reject alliances with organizations like the Templeton Foundation, whose agenda is completely incompatible with that of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. Rev. Jim Witteveen also blogs at where this article first appeared in two parts....

Science - Creation/Evolution

The Galileo myth as a universal solvent

What do theistic evolutionists and church-attending gay activists have in common? Both think Galileo makes their case. Theistic evolutionists have long loved the story of Galileo - how he corrected the Church, and was persecuted for it, when he proved that the Earth went around the Sun, and not, as the Church said, the other way around. The moral of this story, they propose, is that just like Galileo corrected the Church in his time, the Church today needs to reinterpret it's understanding of Genesis 1 and 2 in light of what Science has discovered about our origins. Church-going gay activists are taking up Galileo as their champion, too, to argue that the Church needs to re-examine its stance against homosexuality and gay marriage. In his book God and the Gay Christian, Matthew Vine writes: ...remember that Christians in Galileo's day....did not change their minds about the solar system because they lost respect for their forebears or for the authority of Scripture. They change their mind because they were confronted with evidence their predecessors had never considered.... Does new information we have about homosexuality also warrant a reinterpretation of Scripture? (his emphasis) Galileo as the universal solvent There is a problem though. This version of the Galileo story can be used by more than evolutionists and gay activists - it's infinitely adaptable, and can act as a universal solvent to dissolve orthodoxy of every kind. Yes, the Bible says we are conceived and born in sin (Psalm 51:5). But that's not what many psychologists contend, so isn't it about time the Church learned its lesson from the "Galileo incident" and re-examined Original Sin in light of what we now know about human nature? The Church once thought God created them male and female (Mark 10:6). But now we know gender is a social construct with dozens (71 to date on Facebook) to choose from. So why wouldn't this new information about gender also warrant a reinterpretation of Scripture? Evolution, homosexuality, Pelagianism, gender fluidity, polygamy: Galileo is a friend to them all. Or what if Galileo taught a different lesson? But what if the Galileo story doesn't prove what so many want it to prove? What if a better moral to the story might be something along the lines of, it is very dangerous to let outside sources tell us how to understand Scripture? The truth is, it wasn't a biblical view that Galileo overturned, but rather a Greek one. As Philip J. Sampson explains in his book 6 Modern Myths, "Aristotle – not the Bible – taught explicitly that, 'everything moves around the Earth.'" The Church held to a Earth-centered cosmology because they were influenced by Aristotle, and, as one author put it, read the Scripture "through Greek spectacles." They were wrong to do so. Of course, it certainly is possible for the Bible to be misinterpreted by the Church – that's one of the premises behind the Protestant Reformation! But the story of Galileo has been used by evolutionists, and is now being used by gay activists, to argue that it is self-evident that what we are discovering today, particularly in the field of Science, is far more reliable than the Bible, and thus we should readily reinterpret even the longest-standing biblical doctrines in light of what these new findings tell us today. Not only is that not a lesson we can draw from Galileo, we could very readily draw the opposite: the moral to this story should be that the Church's big mistake was interpreting Scriptures in light of the Greek Science of the day. Hat tip to Gary DeMar's "Kirsten Powers Jumps on the Pro-Homosexual Bandwagon"...

Adult non-fiction, Science - Creation/Evolution

The Galileo myth: Stories that we all know, often ain't so

As we grow up, receiving instruction at home and at school, we hear many stories that are enduringly imprinted on our minds. Even years later, an adult is often able to recount in detail that vivid scene in the court of King Solomon when he had to rule in the case of the two prostitutes and the one baby, or is able to describe the story of our Lord and the little man Zacchaeus who waited for him in the sycamore-fig tree. But Scriptural stories are not the only ones imparted to us as we go through the years of our elementary and secondary education. We also hear other “timeless tales,” stories that everyone knows through one source or another. We all know, for example, the story of the flat earth; in the Middle Ages, people believed that the earth was flat and believed that those who went too close to the edge would fall off. It is usually said that this was the official teaching of the church, and was something that restricted any voyages of discovery. The church’s ignorance on this point is considered another aspect of the superstition and intellectual decline that typified the so-called Dark Ages. But though the “villains” of this story, the ignorant ecclesiastical leaders, tried to squelch any exploration, the “hero” Columbus bravely stood against the power of the church and its feared Inquisition, and ventured out onto the high seas – and lived to tell about it. Other familiar tales from the past could be added to this one, stories that have been told so often and so widely that they attain the status of “myth.” The purpose of a Myth When we say “myth,” some might automatically equate this with fiction or fable. But “myth” in a wider sense is a grand story, sometimes true, sometimes not, that explains who we are and how we fit into the universe. A tale told and re-told and perhaps re-enacted on television becomes part of the understanding of our past and of our position today. In the tale of the flat earth, we are confirmed in our view of the Middle Ages as a period of ignorance and superstition. The church was blindly opposed to scientific progress, while intelligent sailors courageously showed the conventional understanding to be wrong – a well-known story, but one that is not true. Contrary to the details of this tale, historians have long recognized that all educated people of the medieval period knew that the earth was round, and that the account of the church’s suppression of the intrepid Columbus is pure fiction. And yet this myth is still retold, for it nicely contrasts for our minds the rational modern world with the foolish bigotry that preceded it. It is the place of modern myths that Philip Sampson examines in his book, 6 Modern Myths About Christianity and Western Civilization. After providing the example of the flat earth in his introduction, he looks at other tales that are less innocuous, larger stories that influence the perception of a whole culture – myths that invariably assault Christianity and misrepresent the Scriptures, while lauding humanism and reason. Sampson has selected six grand stories, the most common value-conveying tales. “ are the modern mind’s way of communicating its beliefs about the fundamental problems of origins and meaning…A myth presents values and beliefs to us as though they were facts and history.” He observes that myths are not necessarily invented with the conspiratorial intention of obscuring the facts, but are told as reflections of the society that tells them. The pattern of a Myth Before beginning his work of showing how several “meaning-carrying” modern myths are truly fictional, Sampson summarizes their general characteristics. The vocabulary connotations in each diverse story are remarkably similar: religion is typically associated with belief, omens, ignorance, superstition, heresy, excommunication, torture, and blood; science is always associated with enlightenment, scholarship, intelligence, open-mindedness, and observation. Each story will also have a plot (usually the struggle of a free-thinking underdog against the ignorant church), a hero (an independent thinker), and a villain (the representative of the powerful church). These stereotyped characteristics already betray the selectivity and bias that underlie each myth. In the book, six modern myths are first retold, often in the very words of the philosophers and historians that perpetuated these falsehoods and their intended cultural meanings. Sampson then carefully debunks these ideas, telling the real, more complex stories. In addition to Galileo, he tells of: Darwin and how his ideas were received in "A Story of Origins" Christianity’s impact on the environment in "A Story of Mastery" how missionaries treated native peoples in "A Story of Oppression" Scripture’s view on the human body in "A Story of Repression" the Church’s treatment of witches in "A Story of Persecution" Let’s join Sampson as he deals with the first of the six myths, Galileo. Galileo: a story of a hero of science! The story of Galileo tells us how we fit into the modern world: “We occupy a small planet circling an average sun of one galaxy among many.” “The Received Version” is probably familiar to our readers: the setting is Renaissance Italy; the plot is the warfare between science and religion; the characters are the plucky Galileo, armed only with a telescope, and the cruel Inquisition and her thumbscrews; the story’s end is that Galileo was tortured, condemned as a heretic, and left to rot in a prison cell, while science floundered. A geo-centric or "Aristotelian" model of the universe from Oronce Fine's 1549 book "Le Sphere du Monde." The contrast is between the high ground of reason and observation and the cramped cell of religious dogma and truth. As many schoolchildren learn, “The Bible said that everything moves around the earth but Galileo’s observations showed that the earth moves around the sun.” It’s a familiar tale, but as Sampson observes wryly, “The main drawback…is that most of it is untrue.” So what is the truth? Sampson then does some “demythologizing.” The dominant model of the universe in western Europe up to the late Middle Ages was derived from Aristotle, who reasoned that the heavens, a perfect, unchanging realm, would also be unchangeable in their physical qualities and motion. The earth is at the centre (lowest point) of a universe of concentric spheres, but while the heavenly bodies are ever-perfect, the earth is made of imperfect, changeable matter. This Aristotelian cosmology was essentially the standard view, until the “revolution” of Copernicus (who died twenty years before Galileo was born), who revived the ancient Pythagorean hypothesis that the sun, not the earth, is at the centre of the universe. A common sub-plot in this “cosmic” myth had to do with how man’s importance was tied to where the earth was placed in the universe. It is usually asserted that the pre-Copernican men had an exaggerated and arrogant sense of human importance and that was why they placed earth as the center of the universe. Then, when it was discovered that we are only “the third rock from the sun,” man was humbled, and simultaneously Scripture was undermined: “If man’s abode was not at the centre of things, how could he be king ?” But, as we have seen, the pre-Copernican cosmology was no compliment to earth’s occupants, for in that model the earth is the least important and most transitory place in the universe. Indeed, it was the Copernican system that elevated humanity, lifting the earth to the ranks of perfect heavenly bodies and its inhabitants to heavenly creatures. Far from engendering humility, the end result of the Copernican view was a proud glorification of man and his ability. Mock the Pope at your peril The question must be asked, though: Why Galileo as the hero? Why not Copernicus, who had earlier made the key contribution to the “new” cosmology? Sampson notes that Copernicus is not an appropriate character, for he was a canon of the church, he enjoyed the support of the pope, and his book circulated without problem for many years. But Galileo – he was condemned by the church for teaching that the sun is the centre of the universe, and his book confiscated. The retold modern tale features the persecuted Galileo as scientist and hero. It is said that he invented the telescope, discovered how the earth moves around the sun, conducted his famous experiment on the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and asserted, even in the face of the powerful church, that it is the earth that moves. The truth is, he didn’t invent the telescope, likely didn’t drop cannon balls from the Tower, and didn’t discover the dynamics of the pendulum. He did make major contributions to astronomy, but could not prove that the earth moves around the sun. Indeed, there was insufficient evidence at Galileo’s time to prove the Copernican view. Copernicus had been hesitant at first to publish his opinions, not for fear of church punishment, as is said, but for fear of being ridiculed by fellow astronomers who still maintained the dominant Aristotelian cosmology. Galileo feared the same rejection, but persistently asserted that the earth literally moves around the sun, “and popularized his views in snappy Italian rather than the arcane Latin of the universities” His book on cosmology became a bestseller. Galileo’s relations with the (Roman) church at this time were cordial. Most of the church leaders favored his view over Aristotle’s, though they acknowledged that more evidence was needed to establish his case. They judged that Galileo’s view made excellent sense “as a hypothesis.” But Galileo then began to push the envelope; to prove that the earth revolves, he proposed an ingenious but erroneous theory of tides, he argued that comets were a form of optical illusion, and he reinterpreted certain Scripture passages in the light of Copernican reasoning. Then the last straw: he also wrote a “dialogue” in which his view and the Aristotelian view are represented by two characters. In the dialogue, he put a favorite cosmological argument of his friend Pope Urban VIII in the mouth of the conversation’s simpleton. As Sampson notes: “this was not a wise move, and the rest is history.” The major cause of Galileo’s troubles was then not his view of the earth’s motion as such, but that he had made fun of his Holiness. Sampson notes that today most historians accept that the events surrounding Galileo’s troubles with the church involved complex intrigues of politics and patronage rather than “dogmatic reservations” about Biblical teaching. The dialogue was confiscated and Galileo summoned to Rome in 1633. But the stories of dank prison cells and torture are modern embellishments; he was detained, and forced to abjure heliocentrism, but he was given his own room and servants, in keeping with his position of favor in the Roman church. In the end he did not die a lonely and broken man, as the Received Version runs, but returned to his home with a church pension to live out his years in peace. It is said that a larger result of the imagined escapade was that science long floundered under the church’s domination. But Sampson, having dispelled the modern myth of a brave Galileo resisting an ignorant church, now points out another historical fact: rather than warfare between science and religion in this period, there are direct positive connections between them. The Reformation churches, in particular, replaced Aristotelian reasoning (still persistent in the Roman church) with insights from the Bible, and so provided the soil that enabled science to grow. The relationship between Biblical Christianity and the rise of science is a complex one, but Sampson identifies four basic aspects of it in the Reformation. Firstly, there was a restoration of the perspective that nature is created and not divine, and is therefore open to free inquiry and investigation. Secondly, the principle of man’s God-given dominion over creation, not domination, was rediscovered. Thirdly, reason was properly demoted as dependent on God and not vaunted as a “key” to unlocking God’s secrets, thus encouraging again the study of creation. Fourthly, God’s sovereign care for creation was again recognized, with the corollary that certain God-ordained laws in the universe could be discovered through science. The theme of conflict between religion’s ignorance and science’s enlightenment is at the heart of the Galileo myth. A proper historical study demolishes the oft-repeated tale that lauds free science and mocks repressive religion, and affirms instead the positive framework that Biblical Christianity affords to free investigation. Postmodern stories Modernity asserts that reason, facts, and scientific achievements underpin its self-confidence, yet it is persistently told fables that in reality receive the central place in the communication of its worldview. Indeed, it is nothing new that stories are used to pass on modernity’s core beliefs – many societies have used narrative in this way. The question must be asked though, says Sampson: why do the modern myths have such a negative focus, concerned with the warfare between science and religion, reason and superstition? He suggests that this myopic view represses another story, “one less congenial to the modern mind,” namely that of the damage science has done (e.g., the Chernobyl disaster) and of the brutal reality that confronts the idea of human progress (e.g., two world wars). “Modern myths constantly reinvent a superstitious image of religion in order to brush it aside and with it modernity’s role in oppression.” A well-told story provides an opportunity to neglect the facts and distract attention from corporate shortcoming and guilt. Postmodernism has recognized the unrealities in modernism’s vision of the world, but the familiar stories have not disappeared. Rather, modern stories are still used, but now selectively, and with strange bedfellows. The modern myths’ presentation of enlightening science is combined with elements of “spirituality” (e.g., the tale of Galileo is accepted by the same person who puts credence in his daily horoscope). Today, tradition and religion are not rejected, but are incorporated with science, in accord with postmodernity’s spirit of eclecticism. And so the falsehood of retold myths will continue to confront us in this postmodern age. On the book At first blush one might think that Sampson’s book is only another example of “revisionist history,” where historical events or periods are radically reinterpreted, usually to conform to the historian’s implausibly slanted thesis. But a consideration of the great amount of research carried out by Sampson, also in primary sources, should dispel any fear of revisionism. Indeed, every historian will write from his own perspective and presuppositions, making “objective” historiography impossible. At the same time, we can be honest and careful with the historical evidence that we examine and interpret. Sampson’s honesty is observable throughout his book. Though depicting the modern myth as invariably characterized by stereotyped features, he resists the temptation to do the same in his retelling. For example, though refuting the image of an ignorant and repressive Christianity, he acknowledges where churches and popes were autocratic; though disputing the extent of the witch hunts (also in Salem, Mass.), he concedes that many women were wrongly killed by Christians for exaggerated charges or suspicions of witchcraft. 6 Modern Myths About Christianity and Western Civilization is relatively short, but bursting with the fruits of Sampson’s research. A slight criticism would be his use of endnotes, which necessitate the use of two bookmarks (which aren’t that scarce, I know) – the interested reader always has to flip to the back of the book to read his often fascinating footnotes, as Sampson digs up varied and obscure sources. The book is not a light read, but it is a stimulating and exciting one, as we accompany the author to the courts of Renaissance Italy, to the jungles of South America, and to the colonial towns of New England. He also provides an abundance of “signposts” for the reader to follow him to his startling conclusions. Sampson clearly works from a perspective that values the historicity and authority of the Bible. Though he has much to say that is negative about modernity’s credos and their narrative expression, he also makes positive statements about the value of a truly Christian worldview, one that touches all of life and offers a proper approach to all we encounter. This book would be eminently helpful for any thoughtful Christian reader. Its appeal is broad because the stories Sampson treats are well-known to many of us – familiar stories, but ones whose values and bases are not usually recognized for what they are. With the help of this book we may continue to assert in the world the relevance of the Scriptures for everyday life and may continue to witness to the true freedom that the gospel of grace affords. Rev. Reuben Bredenhof is pastor of the Mt. Nasura Free Reformed Church in Western Australia. You can find a Dutch translation of this article here. For more on the Galileo myth, see also this excellent article on First Things....


After Evolution: 4 Reformed figures who accepted evolution and kept on moving

What follows are very brief bios of four prominent Reformed figures who have accepted evolution and gone on to accept increasingly unorthodox positions. Peter Enns Enns once taught at Westminster Theological Seminary (1994- 2008) from where the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC) gets many of their ministerial candidates. After accepting evolution, he now has a very different understanding of the Bible, claiming, “God never told the Israelites to kill the Canaanites. The Israelites believed that God told them to kill the Canaanites.” He's also promoted homosexuality on his blog, and noted that embracing evolution and homosexuality both require the same sort of "disassembling" of how we once read the Bible. Howard Van Till Van Till taught at the Christian Reformed Calvin College (1967-1998) and was for a time one of the best-known Reformed defenders of evolution. He no longer holds to the Reformed confessions and, according to a 2008 piece in The Grand Rapids Press, seems to have migrated to some form of pantheism, seeing “God not as a transcendent, separate creator, but an active presence within and inseparable from creation.” Edwin Walhout Walhout is a retired Christian Reformed Church (CRC) pastor, and was once the denomination’s Editor of Adult Education. In 1972 he suggested: …it may well be that science can give us insights into the way in which God created man, but it can hardly discover or disclaim that man is an image of God. In a 2013 Banner article "Tomorrow's Theology," he was far more definitive, proposing that in light of evolution, the CRC needs to re-examine the doctrines of Creation, Original Sin, the Fall and Salvation, as well as whether Adam and Eve were real historical people. Deborah Haarsma Haarsma was a professor at Calvin College from 1999 until 2012. In 2007, along with her husband, she authored a book that discussed various views on origins and, while endorsing none, treated evolution as at least credible. She is now the president of Biologos, a think tank that aggressively promotes evolution as true and that questions Original Sin, the Flood, the Fall into Sin, and whether Adam and Eve were actual historical people. Moving in just one direction? Does this mean that accepting evolution always leads to liberalism? Couldn’t we counter this list by coming up with one made up of Reformed luminaries who have accepted evolution and stayed generally orthodox? We could come up with such a list and maybe we'd place the still unborn-defending, homosexuality-opposing Tim Keller on it. But how many others can we think of? And the problem is that a few decades ago Peter Enns might also have been on such a list. He didn't reject orthodoxy immediately. Any such "counterlist" might simply be a list of evolution-believing Reformed figures who don't reject orthodoxy yet. Only time will tell. No, if we're going to try to make the case that evolution and orthodoxy are a natural fit, then the better counterlist would be that of liberals who, after embracing evolution, moved in a more orthodox direction. That would be a good answer to this list. But does that ever happen? A Dutch version of this article can be found here. This article first appeared in the April 2016 issue....

Book excerpts, Book Reviews

Book excerpt: "How Should Christians Approach Origins?"

Evolution is just a theory. Then again, so is gravity.  – as seen on a t-shirt. Is the theory of evolution like the theory of gravity? How are they different? This is just one of the topics that professors John Byl and Tom Goss cover in their book, How Should Christians Approach Origins? In this excerpt they You can right-click on the cover to download it for free. note that there are two very different sorts of science happening here. ***** It is sometimes argued that it is inconsistent to use modern medicine and technology origins while rejecting evolution, since both are products of mainstream science. However, we must be careful to distinguish between two types of science: operational science and historical science. OPERATIONAL SCIENCE is the experimental science done in the lab or in the field. It investigates repeatable events in the present. This concerns most of physics, chemistry, and biology, as well as observational geology, astronomy, and the like. It gives us all the science needed for technology, such as in developing smartphones, satellites, cars, planes, cures for diseases, and so on. It studies the present material reality and how it normally functions. HISTORICAL SCIENCE, on the other hand, is concerned with extrapolating from present observations to the distant, unobserved, and unrepeatable past. This includes various theories and explanations in archaeology, cosmology, historical geology, paleontology, biological evolutionary development, and so on. These two types of science differ significantly: Operational science aims to discover the universal laws by which nature generally operates, whereas historical science aims to establish ancient conditions or past causes. Operational science explains present events by reference to general laws, whereas historical science explains present events in terms of presumed past events. Operational science calculates forward, deducing effects from causes, whereas historical science calculates backwards, inferring past causes from present clues. One problem here is that more than one possible historical cause can give rise to the same effect. For example, in a murder trial, the prosecution and defense may present very different historical scenarios to explain the material evidence. Operational science assumes methodological naturalism. Since it is concerned with what normally happens, in the absence of miracles, it is reasonable to consider only natural causes. Historical science, on the other hand, seeks to find what actually happened in the past. Constraining ourselves to natural causes amounts to metaphysical naturalism – the further assumption that no miracles have in fact happened in the past.¹ The well-known evolutionist Ernst Mayr acknowledged, Evolutionary biology, in contrast with physics and chemistry, is a historical science – the evolutionist attempts to explain events and processes that have already taken place. Laws and experiments are inappropriate techniques for the explication of such events and processes. Instead one constructs a historical narrative, consisting of a tentative reconstruction of the particular scenario that led to the events one is trying to explain.² In short, the scientific know-how needed to make smartphones is much better established than, say, the claim that humans evolved from . End notes ¹ Stephen Meyer, Signature in the Cell (New York: NY, HarperCollins, 2009), 150–172. ² Ernst Mayr, “Darwin’s Influence on Modern Thought.” Scientific American, November 24, 2009 ( This excerpt reprint with permission. How Should Christians Approach Origins? can now be downloaded for free here....

Adult non-fiction, Book Reviews, Teen non-fiction

No Christian Silence on Science

SCIENCE FROM A CHRISTIAN PERSPECTIVE by Margaret Helder 2016 / 110 pages From the title onward, No Christian Silence on Science is a clarion call to Bible-believing, six-day creation upholding Christians to stand up and be counted. It's much more than that too. The author, Margaret Helder, has written for Creation Science Dialogue and Reformed Perspective  for years, and if you've read her there, then you know Dr. Helder approaches God and His creation with awe, and teaches us how to tackle evolution without fear. This book is very much an outgrowth of that work. This, then, is intended to equip us, so we will be able to give a ready defense of our faith, and fortify us, so we will continue to trust in God, even when we face that attacks that will come in this predominantly Darwinist and secular field. That's a big task to tackle in a book that's just 110 pages. That's why, while this is a great book, it is no light read - there is a lot packed in here. In the five sections Dr. Helder addresses: Science from a Christian Perspective How Design in Nature reveals God's Character and Work Christian vs. Darwinian Ethics The Christian Student: Meeting the Challenge of Secular Institutions Impact of Evolution Thought on Church and Society My favorites were the last two. They are worth the price of the book all on their own, and if I was giving this to a university student I'd tell them to head to Chapter 4 first, to hear Dr. Helder's advice on how to interact with evolutionary-minded professors. At one points she gives an example of a find that seems to prove evolution, and she then shows how a Christian student could respond. She suggests students be ready to ask questions, and starting with the 5 Ws is always a good idea (in Science, and journalism too!). A question-asking student will often find that this new, exciting, revolutionary find, is being really over-hyped. That's not to say creationists have all the answers. As Dr. Helder notes, in the early and mid 1900s Christians holding to a six-day creation had little supporting scientific evidence available to them, so it was only because they were so confident in the trustworthiness of the Bible that they weren't swayed by evolution. Today many problems with evolution can be pointed to, but there will still be occasions where a challenge to the biblical explanation is presented that we cannot answer. And perhaps we won't be able to answer it for several decades. But we, too, should hold to the Bible, because it is trustworthy. Who should read No Christian Silence? This will be of interest to anyone, but for the young high school graduate heading into the Sciences this is a must. If they were to read it before heading to their first university science class, and really work through it slowly and thoughtfully, they would be well-prepared. There are other books they should read too, but this is a very good place to start because Dr. Helder covers all the key controversies, and gives good solid direction on how to meet and deal with the opposition. No Christian Silence on Science is us available through the Creation Science Association of Alberta website or can be had by sending a $20 check ($14 for the book and $6 for shipping) made out to the CSAA, at 5328 Calgary Trial, Suite 1136, Edmonton AB  T6H 4 ...

Culture Clashes, Theology

Did Adam have a belly button?

Why we need to clarify Article 14 of the Belgic Confession In the fourth century a big battle was fought over a one-letter difference. The Church professed that Christ was homoousios – “of the same substance” – as God the Father, while the Arians argued that Christ was homoiousios, or merely “of a similar substance.” The two Greek terms used differed by only a single iota (the Greek “i”) but what was at stake couldn’t have been bigger: the Arians said Christ was like God but was actually a creature. Today we’re contending with an issue that seems quiet small: our battle is over a belly button. On the side are those that profess Adam had no belly button, because he had no mother and because he was never born. As the Belgic Confession Article 14 puts it, ...God created man of the dust from the ground… On the other side or those who say Adam may well have had a belly button and a mom, and ancestors, and may have shared one of those ancestors with the chimpanzees. So this belly button battle quickly shows itself to be about matters much more important. It comes down to whether Adam brought death into the world through the Fall into sin, or whether God used death – millions of years of creatures evolving up from the primordial slime – to bring about Adam. The issue here is every bit as big as Christ’s nature: it’s about the character of God. That’s why Hamilton’s Providence Canadian Reformed Church has proposed amending Article 14 of the Belgic Confession to clarify that Adam has no ancestors. They propose that the Article begin with these two new lines: We believe that God created the human race by making and forming Adam from dust (Gen. 2:7) and Eve from Adam’s side (Gen. 2:21-22).  They were created as the first two humans and the biological ancestors of all other humans.  There were no pre-Adamites, whether human or hominid. Their addition would add about 40 words to the confession, and remove any doubt as to what should be believed. But is the change needed? Is there really anyone in our church circles that’s confused about Adam’s origins? Yes, and yes. Not only is there confusion in our churches, this same confusion exists in other Reformed churches including the OPC. Canadian Reformed confusion One prominent member of the Canadian Reformed Churches, Jitse Van Der Meer, was asked how he could square man and chimpanzees having a common ancestor with what we confess in the beginning of Belgic Confession Article 14 about man being made from the dust. Prof. Van Der Meer answered: I am not sure why you think there is something to square between Article 14 and the idea of a common ancestor for chimpanzees and humans, but let me make a guess. Some have taken Gen. 2:7 to mean that God acted like a potter. If you take that literally you might see a contradiction with the idea that chimpanzees and humans have a common ancestor. But other biblical scholars reject the literal “potter” interpretation because they see this as coming close to disrespect: Did God fashion the liver, the lungs of clay? My conclusion is that the text neither justifies nor excludes the possibility that humans and chimpanzees had a common ancestor for the obvious reason that it is not a scientific text. Prof. Van Der Meer manages to take both Genesis 2 and Belgic Confession Article 14 and read them in such a way as to allow for the possibility that humans and chimpanzees had common ancestors. According to this perspective, Adam may have been crafted from the dust, but may still have had a belly button, a mom and dad, grandparents, and much, much more. Confusion in the Christian Reformed churches The Christian Reformed churches also hold to the Belgic Confession. But it hasn’t served as a sufficient safeguard against evolutionary inroads. Almost 25 years ago, in the CRC’s 1991 Statement on Origins they wrote in “Declaration F”: The church declares, moreover, that the clear teaching of Scriptures and of our confessions on the uniqueness of human beings as image bearers of God rules out the espousal of all theorizing that posits the reality of evolutionary forebears of the human race. That sounds good, right? But this was part of a minority report. The majority had recommended that there be no statements made about human evolution because, “much research remained to be done in that area.” So the majority of the committee, even back in 1991, didn’t want to go as far as to rule out ancestors for Adam. Synod did adopt Declaration F, but attached two notes which rendered the Declaration meaningless. Note 1: Of course, private research, theorizing, and discussions are not addressed by this declaration Note 2: Declaration F is not intended and may not be used to limit further investigation and discussion on the origin of humanity. In other words, even as the 1991 Synod of the CRC took a stand against Adam having ancestors, they specifically allowed for their academics to talk about Adam having ancestors. What the right hand giveth the left taketh away! In 2014, the CRC did away with Declaration F altogether. They still hold to Belgic Confession Article 14, but that is not being understood as an impediment to speculation about Adam having ancestors. Confusion in the OPC Closer to home, confusion about Adam’s origin also exists in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. Our sister church was running into trouble way back in 1992 in a case that involved a Calvin College biology professor by the name of Terry Gray. Dr. William VanDoodewaard gives an account of Gray’s case in his book The Quest for the historical Adam: Terry Gray…proposed that both the increasingly accepted hermeneutical alternatives to the literal tradition and what he viewed as the realities of the record of natural history should allow for the possibility that Adam and Eve were created through a process involving primate ancestors. How did Gray address Genesis 2:7, where we are told “…the LORD God formed a man from the dust of the ground…”? Disagreeing with John Murray’s literal reading…Gray argued that the “dust of the ground” was “a non-technical term” that simply referred to “the physical-chemical constituency of the human body” and that the verse did not address the process by which God formed man. When complaints were first made about Gray’s stance, his session (the OPC term for consistory) “held that the charges were unwarranted.” Fortunately his Presbytery (similar to our Classis) ruled against Gray, and the 1994 OPC General Assembly also ruled against Gray. So the OPC stood strong, right? Not so fast. Gray was suspended from his office as a ruling elder, but as he explained in a blogpost titled “Being an Evolutionary Creationist in a Confessionally Reformed Church” he was restored in 1998 after he admitted “…I did not know how to hold my views about human evolution together with the uniqueness of Adam as taught in the Confessions and in Scripture.” Gray found that what Scripture taught conflicted with his views about evolution. But that did not lead him to reject evolution. Instead he simply stopped trying to revolve the conflict, continuing to hold to evolution, but no longer suggesting as to how it could be fit in with Scripture. That the OPC thought this an acceptable resolution to the issue underscores the need for clarity. If something is found to conflict with Scripture then it needs to be rejected, not sequestered! That’s what it means to live by God’s Word. Gray eventually left the OPC, joined the CRC, and worked with others there to get Declaration F rescinded. Conclusion In the fourth century you can be sure that many wondered what all the fuss was being made over. Just one letter! But the fight was about the very identity of Christ – Who He is – so it wasn’t possible to compromise. The same has to be true today. Some want to position this as only a minor matter. Maybe Adam had ancestors; maybe he didn’t. Can’t we all just get along? But the issue of Adam’s origins impacts every aspect of what we know about God. If Adam had evolutionary origins then he came about through a process of death, disease, and dead ends. Then, rather than Adam bringing death into the world via the Fall, it was death that brought about Adam. If God created using the tooth-and-claw, survival-of-the-fittest, process of evolution which He then called “good” and “very good” that completely changes our understanding of what good is. It changes how we understand our good God. What’s at stake here is our understanding of God’s. So no, we can’t all just get along. We need to help the confused and stop those who are causing the confusion. One very good way to do so would be to adopt Providence’s proposal to revise Belgic Confession Article 14. This article first appeared in the June 2015 issue of Reformed Perspective....

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