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The Ultimate Proof of Creation: Resolving the Orgins Debate

by Jason Lisle
2009 / 254 pages

Herman Bavinck (1854-1921) is an important figure from our Reformed heritage. A careful theologian with a love for the Word of God, Bavinck is just beginning to be truly appreciated in North America through the translation of his four-volume Reformed Dogmatics. Even though he isn’t mentioned in it, The Ultimate Proof of Creation owes a debt of gratitude to this giant.

From Bavinck to Van Til to Bahnsen to Lisle

How so?

Well, back in the 1920s, a young student at Calvin Seminary in Grand Rapids became enamoured with Bavinck. Reading him in the original Dutch, this student caught on quickly to Bavinck’s perspective.  In later years, this student would go on to apply Bavinck’s insights to the field of apologetics. Cornelius Van Til (1895-1987) never claimed to be original and never claimed to be doing anything other than standing on the shoulders of the giants who went before him. While at Westminster Theological Seminary, Van Til would teach several generations of Presbyterian and Reformed men how Reformed theology demands a Reformed apologetic and he would offer that apologetic mostly on the basis of what Bavinck had developed.

One of Van Til’s disciples was Greg Bahnsen (1948-1995), a minister in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. Bahnsen was a well-known populariser of the Reformed apologetics developed by Van Til.  He not only taught the theory, he also effectively put it into practice in numerous debates with atheists, the most notable of whom was Gordon Stein in 1985.

Bahnsen is directly credited at the beginning of this book by Dr. Jason Lisle as the one whose writings and lectures provided its inspiration. However, as noted, the credit ultimately goes back to Herman Bavinck.

A presuppositional approach

In this book, Lisle (at the time a research scientist at Answers in Genesis and since then the founder of the Biblical Science Institute) applies Reformed presuppositional apologetics to the question of origins.  Too often, Christians try to “fight fire with fire” when it comes to the debate between creation and evolution. In other words, they use the same methods and approaches that the unbeliever or theistic evolutionist adopts.  This has been a notable problem in creationist literature. Lisle calls this (using the terminology of Bahnsen), the “pretended neutrality fallacy.”

The debate is not over the evidence; rather it is a debate over worldviews. When it comes to method, we need to begin and end with what the Bible teaches. Lisle calls this a “Bible-first” approach, but we could also call it the presuppositional or Reformed approach. It takes the biblical doctrine of sola Scriptura seriously, as well as the related matters of the Bible’s verbal plenary inspiration and inerrancy. In other words, this is an effort to consistently apply what the church confesses in articles 5-7 of the Belgic Confession.

Lisle concretely demonstrates how the biblical worldview (which includes creation as described in Genesis 1 & 2) should be defended. This involves exposing the weakness and irrationality of opposing worldviews (including those of theistic evolutionists) and then demonstrating how the biblical worldview is the only one which can make sense of the world in which we live. Evidence has a place in this apologetic as a tool to drive the discussion forward towards a recognition that worldview differences are key. However, evidence will not in and of itself resolve the issue.

Dealing with logical fallacies

One of the noteworthy features of this book is its attention to logical fallacies. Knowledge of these is important for exposing the weakness of worldviews that do not take what the Bible says in Genesis 1 and 2 at face value. Chapter 7 deals with informal logical fallacies. One of these is a fallacy of presumption known as “begging the question.” Lisle states, “Every old-earth argument I have ever seen commits the fallacy of begging the question.” He gives the example of radiometric dating: they say young-earth creationists are wrong because radiometric dating shows that rocks are billions of years old. This begs the question of whether radiometric dating is reliable – the opponent assumes that it is and that the young-earth creationist is wrong. Chapter 8 goes on to deal with formal logical fallacies. This is more complicated, but Lisle does a good job of making it as understandable as possible. Once again, he reveals the subtle fallacies that evolutionists (secular and theistic) commit in their reasoning.

The book concludes with three appendices. In the first one, Lisle defends a natural, straightforward reading of the Bible. Here he especially has his eye on those who claim to believe the Bible but yet argue that the world is millions or billions of years old and that humans have primate ancestors. In the other two appendices, Lisle gives numerous practical examples of how to put the apologetics described in this book into practice.

Conclusion

I am stoked about this book. It’s been published at just the right time. As I write, there is an ongoing debate in the Canadian Reformed Churches about creation and evolution. This book argues that a consistent Reformed apologetic requires a belief in what the Bible literally says in Genesis 1 and 2. This is the consistent application of Reformed, biblical principles handed down to us from Bavinck and others. I highly recommend this book to one and all, and especially to my fellow pastors and elders in our churches, to our seminarians, to teachers in our schools and to post-secondary students. This is the best book on the creation/evolution issue that I’ve read.

Dr. Wes Bredenhof blogs at Bredenhof.ca. This post first appeared in the January 2010 issue. 


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Science - Creation/Evolution

ON THE ORIGIN OF ARTICLES: You thought this article was designed? How unscientific of you!

You might think that someone wrote this article. But of course, you would be mistaken. Articles are not written by people. They are the result of chance. Every intelligent person knows it. There might be some people who want you to think that articles are written by people. But this view is totally unscientific. After all, we cannot see the person who allegedly wrote the article. We cannot detect him or her in any way. The claim that this article has an author cannot be empirically verified, and therefore it must be rejected. All we have is the article itself, and we must find a scientific explanation for its origin. IT JUST SEEMS DESIGNED Since no intelligent source can be empirically detected within this article, empirical science must look to the chance processes of nature for its formation. In other words, we must not allow ourselves to think that this article came about from a mind; for this would be unscientific. Since it is not the result of a mind, it follows logically that this article is the result of chance. The article has not been designed – it is not the result of some unseen conscious forethought. Naysayers might suggest that this article bears evidence of design. They might point out that it has a logical flow, that its sentences are coherent, and that it contains creative information. True enough. But this is only evidence of apparent design at best. We must certainly grant that many articles appear designed, as if they had been planned by a mind and written with creative forethought. But to assume that the design came from some unseen, undetectable author would be unscientific. ALL THIS GENIUS IS JUST GLITCHES What then is the true origin of articles? We know that articles can be copied. Articles on paper can be duplicated using a Xerox machine, and electronic articles can be copied from one computer to another. We also know that errors can occur in this duplication process. A simple glitch in the computer can result in a letter being changed, or a sentence or paragraph being duplicated or removed. Most of these random changes would make the article less readable than the original. But such variations would not be copied. (Who would bother to Xerox a bad article?) And so eventually they would be lost. We must assume that occasionally, very rarely, a mistake in the copy would actually improve the quality of the article – making it more readable and more interesting. In such cases, the improved article would be much more likely to be copied than the original. In this fashion, articles gradually improve, often growing in length, complexity, and interest. It stands to reason, therefore, that all articles started out as a simple word, or perhaps even a single letter, which was gradually changed as it was duplicated due to errors in the duplication process and selection of the more readable variations. COMMON ORIGINAL ARTICLE It is also sensible to conclude that all articles have diverged from a common original article which itself consisted of nothing more than a single word. This is obvious by virtue of the fact that all articles have certain things in common. For example, all articles use words. And in all cases these words are organized into sentences. Many of the words used in many articles are exactly the same! For example, the word “the” appears very commonly in almost all articles. Are we to believe that this is just a coincidence? Clearly not. It is evidence that these articles share a common source. They have each diverged from a common article in the distant past. Naysayers argue that articles are written by people. But would people use the very same words in different articles? The common words, common grammar, and common sentence structure clearly point to a common origin for articles. It is reasonable to conclude that articles which share more common words and sentences are more closely related than those that have fewer common words and sentences. Clearly this extends to larger works of literature – books for example. Books are the most advanced form of literary diversification, and so they must also be the most recent. WE HAVEN'T SEEN IT HAPPEN BUT... Critics of our position (“authorists”) might object that we have never seen one article transform into a completely different article. In other words, all observed changes have been only minor transformations. But is this really surprising? After all, it would take a very long time for an article to have accumulated enough changes to be classified as a completely different article. And people simply don’t live long enough for this to happen within our lifetime. But the fact that all articles share common words is positive evidence that it has happened, even though the process is too slow to see it in its entirety today. We do see minor transformations today. And it is reasonable to conclude that these minor changes will add up to major changes over long periods of time. Some readers might be bothered by the fact that we do not have a complete record of how the simpler articles diversified into the wide variety of complex articles in our present world. But this does not in any way disqualify our basic thesis that articles do share a common original source. After all, considering the trillions of variations that must have existed and been destroyed in the vast time necessary for this process, we would expect that the record of links in the chain would be fragmentary at best. And we do know of some links. For example, there are several minor variations of the book The Hobbit. These are known to exist, and it is obvious they stem from a common original. So it is perfectly reasonable to conclude that all works of literature share a common source. THIS WOULD TAKE A LONG TIME Given the slowness of the diversification of articles, it is reasonable to conclude that articles are far older than “authorists” assume. The process of an article becoming longer and more interesting likely takes millions of years – perhaps even hundreds of millions of years. It may even happen in spurts, rapid diversification followed by long periods of relative stasis. This may account for the fact that we find so few intermediate forms in ancient libraries. NO IRREDUCIBLE SENTENCES One objection to our position is the idea that some sentences in some articles contain a degree of “irreducible complexity.” This is to say that even a minor change of any kind would make the sentence unclear or unreadable. However, this notion fails to consider that multiple simultaneous changes – though rare – can occur in the process of time. The fact that we cannot conceptualize an intermediate sentence does not actually prove that no such intermediate is possible. The process by which articles diversify from a common source is still being studied, and so we do not have the answers to every detail yet. But this does not mean that such answers will not be forthcoming in the process of time. The formation and diversification of articles from a common source is a scientific fact and well supported by the evidence even though some of the details are not yet understood. BELIEVING IN AN AUTHOR IS BLIND FAITH To assume that articles have an author is a faith position. It is a belief in something that cannot be perceived with the senses. As such, it is unscientific and should be rejected. If some people feel that they must believe in an author, that’s okay, but please remember that your view is religious and not scientific. Please don’t force it on others or teach it in school. Just think about it. This very article which you are now reading is the result of countless copying errors which gradually increased its length and complexity over time. How amazing that such a process of nature has resulted in so many wonderful works of literature! Such literature is not the result of some mysterious, unseen, undetectable “author.” It is simply the inevitable result of the mindless duplication process working over unimaginable periods of time. This article was first published on JasonLisle.com and is reprinted here with the permission. Dr. Jason Lisle is the founder of the Bible Science Institute.   QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION How do you go about telling the difference between an object formed by chance and one that has been designed? What distinguishes the designed object? How can you know this article was designed? Do we seem like the sum total of countless copying errors over millions of years? Or do we seem “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Ps. 139:14)? Why might even non-Christians agree? Evolutionists see common elements of design – like the fact that many animals have four limbs (or like the word “the” that appears in this article and many others) – as evidence of a common origin. How would a creationist respond? Creationists and evolutionists both agree that “copying errors” (mutations) can cause changes within a species. But if we agree that mutations can cause minor variations, why don’t we believe they can, over millions of years, turn molecules into Man? What is irreducible complexity and why is it a problem for evolution? Is it more reasonable to think this article was designed, or crafted by chance? Which position requires blind faith? ...


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