Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Founding Fathers: Faith or Fiction?

Even a casual perusal of recent articles and blogs reveal an increasingly slippery-slope trend towards historical revisionism, especially concerning the issue of the faith of the "founding fathers," or, should I say, the secularism of the "founding fathers."

Consider this quote from an article entitled: The Founding Fathers Were Not Christians:

"One of the most common statements from the "Religious Right" is that they want this country to "return to the Christian principles on which it was founded". However, a little research into American history will show that this statement is a lie. The men responsible for building the foundation of the United States had little use for Christianity..."

Another recent article lamented that a well-educated "Christian" pastor told the congregation: “Our founding fathers were not Christians. They were deists, atheists, and agnostics.”

The real issue at stake is two-fold:
(1) Who were the "founding fathers"?
(2) Were these founders:

(A) men of faith (those who acknowledge the Creator of the universe, as revealed in the Bible)
(B) deists (God exists but has no daily interest in the affairs of mankind, general disbelief in the supernatural and sacred texts/revelation)
(C) secularists/agnostics/atheists (no faith in God, a general disbelief in a personal God)

Before I get too far into this, let me clarify a few personal points:
(1) A nation cannot be "Christian." Only individual people can become Christians.
(2) I realize that there can be a great disconnect between church attendance and true inward belief (which no one can see but God). The following information is only an indication of the philosophy of these men. It is based upon their words, letters, and other pieces of historial information that can be verified.
(3) I am not at all interested in establishing any semblance or form of a "theocracy" in America. I do not want the government legislating matters of worship. That is a denial of the Lord's teaching that faith is a personal matter, and the Bible says "let every person be fully persuaded in their own mind." In other words, you can't force faith--and I wouldn't want to.
(4) But I do believe that one of the most important functions of government is to maintain moral and socially acceptable behaviors, and it should penalize destructive actions (murder, theft, perjury, etc.)

Also, before we get too far into this discussion, a simple statement will clear up volumes of confusion. Here we go:

A few of the most notable of the founding fathers were deists.

There, I said it. And it doesn't bother me in the least. For those who are scratching their heads, let me clarify. Most of the websites, books, articles, and diatribes about how "most of the founding fathers were not Christians," revolve almost exclusively around a handful of high-profile men, namely Thomas Jefferson (liberal-deist, though he identified himself as Unitarian), John Adams (Christian-deist), Benjamin Franklin (Christian/liberal deist), and Thomas Paine (deist).

Some try to include George Washington in the list of deists (he did use deist language at times), but the jury is still out on our first president. Also James Madison and James Monroe are often labeled deist, as well as Alexander Hamilton (though less so) but this is based on very scant evidence, and their lives contradicted that identification in many ways.

The way the secularists use this small, handful of men and extrapolate that out to somehow be the overwhelming majority of the founding fathers, would be like saying that "the overwhelming majority of US Presidents have been assassinated." (There have only been four presidents assassinated). You see, that kind of mathematics doesn't work when people see an analogy they can get a grasp on (faith is hard to pin down, but assassination is a bit more concrete).

Once you accept that fact that there were about 4 confirmed deists (though even some of those had mixed Christian-deist views) out of roughly 204 men (more on that later), you can get on to the truth about this emotionally-charged issue. Let's be generous and say there were 10 deists (double the confirmed number just to be safe)---mathematically that works out to be less than 5%. By the way, there were no atheists (or at least ostentatious atheists) among any of the founding fathers.

Now, how many "founding fathers" are there?
This is somewhat difficult to answer, because many of the men who were involved in the revolution, were also involved in the founding documents, and there are many who are involved in the revolution, but do not impact the future political landscape of the new America. I will consider anyone to be a "founding father" if they had substantial involvement in any of the following founding documents of our nation (this is usually an accepted standard for inclusion):
(1) Declaration of Independence (2) Articles of Confederation (3) US Constitution,
or they were involved in the first US Congress as Senators or Representatives.

If you count those who are involved in multiple documents as still just one founding father (the way it should be) then there are about 204 men in the camp of "founding father."

Here is the breakdown of the known religious affiliation of these men based upon the different groupings (some of the men we do not have any information about their religious affiliation):

(1) FOUNDING FATHERS (any of the 3 documents or a first US Congressman)



















NOTE: Deists from this era are usually labeled as Unitarians, and some deists maintained regular church attendance and never publicly denounced their denominational affiliation, and therefore were included within those denominations. Additionally, some of the founders changed denominations in their lifetime.
(2) SIGNERS OF THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE













(3) PARTICIPANTS IN THE ARTICLES OF CONFEDERATION
















(4) PARTICIPANTS IN THE CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION
















Once the numbers are in black in white, this whole revisionist notion of America being founded by secularists, or primarily by deists, is not only a distortion, if it were a boxing match, then the contest was decided in the first round, and it wasn't even close.

I am not saying that 95% of the founding fathers walked around carrying a Bible everyday and that they went door to door sharing Jesus every weekend. Rather, I am saying that the contemporary notions that America's founders were generally secularists is factually incorrect, and destructive to a sound investigation into our history as a young nation.

When you finally consider that the deism of the late 18th and early 19th century had substantial Christian roots, the imaginary agnosticism and secularism of this amazing group of visionary men vanishes into the very thin air that those baseless charges must have originated from.


SUBMIT A CHALLENGE

Often when discussing different issues of theology, logic, and reasoning, someone will say, "I wish you would put what you just said in writing online, I could use it for such-and-such."

Since the primary objective of this blog is to demonstrate the validity of the Christian faith through sound reasoning involving logic, history, science, and Biblical discussion, I thought it would be wise to ask for future blog entry topics.

Maybe someone at work has asked you a "good question" that you didn't have a quick answer for, or a professor made some anti-Christian salvos in the middle of class and you would like some of your own logical-ammo to (lovingly) lob back towards the podium. Whatever the case, we all experience those moments that we wish we were better prepared to do as the apostle Peter encouraged: "Be ready to give a reasoned defense to everyone who asks you..."

We know that the answers are out there, we know that the evidence and the rational responses are available, but we can't seem to enumerate them as smoothly or as succinctly as we would like to be able to.

Use the comments section directly below to submit questions, problems, and challenges. We will do our best to find the resources, the reasoned responses, and the evidence you need. It is our goal to do this in a new blog entry for those questions we have time to answer.

This blog is here to help, and now, by submitting questions, you can help it help others. (Yes, we said help three times...we just wanted to see if anyone was paying attention)

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Hypocrisy in High Places

As I was perusing blogosphere I ran across an interesting post on the TED site by a blogger who identified himself as a "militant atheist." Many aren't familiar with that term, but don't worry, we all will be very soon.

Atheism and it's offspring (strong/weak agnosticism/skepticism/rationalism) were content for centuries to merely be amused by the intellectually-inferior ramblings of people of faith. But something is changing. A new, almost evangelical breed of anti-dogmatism is becoming increasingly dogmatic.

When the doorbell rings, don't look for a Latter Day Saint, or even those who call themselves "Witnesses of Jehovah." Rather, look for the young and eager faces of a new army of proselytizers, from the most unlikely of camps. They now go by a variety of names, sometimes the really arrogant ones will favor Brights, or others Rationalists, some delineate themselves as the New Atheists.

This new movement is calling for the end of all things "religious or superstitious." Modern writers have even mockingly identified the leading spokesmen of the movement as the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. This increasingly vocal group is trumpeted by Oxford Professor Richard Dawkins (author, The God Delusion), Sam Harris (author, Letter to a Christian Nation), Christopher Hitchens (author, God is Not Great--he, by the way, identifies himself an an anti-theist), and finally, Daniel Dennett, professor at Tufts University (author, Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon).

Of course, atheism is hardly the new kid on the block. The ancient writer of the Psalms declared over three millennia ago, "The fool has said in his heart, 'There is no God.'" But the ideology has taken on a new boldness and a surprising intolerance, the type usually attributed only to "ignorant people of faith."

Recently Sam Harris has made an international call for the end of all religion, everywhere. He relegates any concept of God as only a primitive superstition, to be cast aside as a hindrance to the true progress of human evolution. Instead of the Biblical declaration that God created man in His image, Harris and his cohorts say that man created God in his own image. Dawkins calls the concept of God a "delusion."

Harris belittles Christians specifically in his indictment, Letter to a Christian Nation. He touts: "The fact that my continuous and public rejection of Christianity does not worry me in the least should suggest to you just how inadequate I think your reasons for being a Christian are." Wow.

Not to be outdone in his criticism of those who acknowledge an intelligence behind the complexities of the universe, Richard Dawkins makes this false conclusion: "Faith is the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence. Faith is belief in spite of, even perhaps because of, the lack of evidence." Astounding. What would the great scientific (and gasp! Christian) minds of the last few centuries make of such pronouncements?

Try to imagine Newton (considered the greatest scientist to have ever lived) listening to such drivel and not responding (though he did not like crowds or a big social fuss). Imagine the famous former atheist-turned born-again Christian and philosopher C.S. Lewis, if he were to encounter these types of intolerant and defamatory proclamations?

Most, if not all, of this new type of evangelical atheism are fundamentalists along certain tenets. Most are Darwinian evolutionists. Science (which really means just knowledge) is the new deity. Their Trinity is Darwin, Freud, and Hubble, or perhaps Russell. They worship at the altar of human potential; in their minds, the thought of a Creator being a tad bit too constricting for the type of freedoms they wish to indulge (as Aldous Huxley admitted). Their ultimate hope is the grave, their passion, self- and universal-awareness, and their newest vocation is to spread this Christ-less gospel to the ends of the earth.

I am a firm believer (gasp) in freedom OF religion. As the scripture says: "Let each one be fully persuaded in his own mind." Religion is really about philosophy, it is about worldview. Everyone is religious in that sense. Atheism is a religion, a worldview that seeks to understand all of life and the universe without an intelligent Creator. I am firmly ensconced in the mindset that people should be free to study and choose their belief system.

I sat on a plane several years back, next to a maritime businessman from the former Soviet Union. We were flying over the Ukraine within a short time after Perestroika (openness) had led to the collapse of Soviet Communism. Our conversation turned to philosophy and worldviews, and discovering that I was a Christian, he sadly lamented that he did not have the mental capability to even think about God. He said that he had been told how to think and what to think for so long, that even the idea of God was difficult to contemplate.

If the new atheists have their way, it would be the abolition of any concept of God. They have even advocated the removal of any faith concepts from education, to rewrite much of Western history to remove the contributions of men of faith, or to deny the faith of the founders altogether. Dawkins has even proposed that it may be tantamount to a crime to allow parents to pass on their faith to their children. He says that "(Sexual molestation of a child) is disgusting. But it may be less harmful in the long run than (Christian) subversion of child minds." Are we at a crossroads? Maybe.

The title of this blog has yet to bear fruit on these pages. Hypocrisy in high places? It is interesting that in the marketplace of ideas or ideologies, it would appear that equal rights and an equal voice should be given to all concepts....except for any that involve an intelligent designer or God, of course. These preachers of godlessness make fun of the concept of absolutes, and then, ironically, claim that there is absolutely no God. Or, in a strange twist, they decry the "god of the old testament" as evil and immoral because people died in various judgments, but then try to assert that there really is no absolute morality, and that evil doesn't really exist. They claim that there is absolutely no evidence for an intelligent Creator. In the name of being open-minded and intellectually honest, they make the most narrow-minded statements imaginable, such as verbalized by Carl Sagan: "The cosmos: all there is, ever was, or ever shall be."

They say that we should be tolerant of all ideas, yet they are completely intolerant of the concept of God or of simple trust in Him. They would mock a Christian who says that Jesus is the only way of salvation, by saying that atheism is the only hope for mankind. Perhaps hypocrisy is not strong enough of a term for this type of duplicity.

If you are reading this, and for whatever reasons, you are skeptical, or an atheist/agnostic, I would encourage you to actually read materials that present the evidence for the Bible and Christianity, instead of re-reading websites that only cater to the masses ready to be confirmed in their unbelief.

I would offer: A Challenge for Atheists and Skeptics as a good starting read (and a short one)

Or read Mere Christianity by former atheist, C.S. Lewis
Or The Case for Christ or The Case for a Creator, by former skeptic and newspaper journalist, Lee Strobel.
Do some reading on the website of Ravi Zacharias.
Read about the dramatic conversion of former skeptic Josh McDowell, especially described in the book, More Than a Carpenter.

Read about the scientific discoveries that have led many scientists to acknowledge God, such as Hoyle, Jastrow, Davies, O'Keefe, Greenstein, Kistiakowsky, Tipler, and others.

The scientific community is coming to the realization of a powerful Creator through branches as diverse as physics, biology, and cosmology. The wonders of DNA, the fossil record of the Cambrian Explosion, and the fine-tuning of multitudes of chemical and physical constants has led to intellectual honesty of many to admit the necessity of God.

How about the rest of us?




Sunday, March 28, 2010

Solving the Problem of God and Evil/Pain/Suffering

Skeptics of Christianity have continually sought to reveal logical, historical, or even theological flaws in the foundations of the faith, especially since early in the 19th century. I do not decry nor discredit the majority of these investigations, for it is only in the testing and proving of the sword, as they say, that its qualities can be truly revealed.

A worldview (and all faiths or the-lack-thereof are worldviews) must be able to withstand thorough scrutiny. In the framework of another analogy: the hammers of skepticism have repeatedly and vigorously beat upon the anvil of truth, and over time, we see the hammers broken, shattered, yet what of the anvil? It remains, fundamentally unchanged, having earned the respect of its opponents, and the confidence of its multiplied seekers.

Among the more common challenges leveled against faith in God (in general) and Jesus Christ (in particular) center around a highly subjective and emotional (yet important) question:

"How can a God that is all-powerful and loving, allow evil, pain, and suffering in the world?"

All of us, believers or not, have probably wrestled with this deep question at one time or another. Many Christians, unfortunately, seem at a loss to respond to this challenge, but it is crucial to remember that one’s inability to completely satisfy the question does not mean that Christianity itself does not offer real solutions, and it certainly does not imply that there are no answers. For a clarifying analogy, let’s consider modern science.

Scientists struggle to explain everyday phenomena such as the fundamental nature of light or gravity, yet, we don't discard the science surrounding these realities, and we certainly don’t reject the research as completely worthless or invalid. Scientists have developed well-supported models that seem to explain most of the common questions about these issues.

But, concerning the problematic areas that do not fit neatly into these models, we realize that there are answers, though we may not have all those answers...yet. The same may be true regarding the issue of God and suffering. Are there good models offering real solutions? Absolutely. Are there specific areas that we still struggle with? Absolutely.

As with any theological question with emotionally-charged consequences, we need to separate two very different aspects of the problem: The first is the intellectual challenge, which is usually framed as:

“HOW could an all-good, all-powerful God and very real evil/suffering co-exist in this world?”

Resolving this intellectual question typically involves using philosophy and carefully constructed logical arguments. But most people aren’t interested in philosophy, and fewer yet have the patience and background needed to dissect logical constructs. Most people are far more concerned with the second aspect of this issue: the emotional challenge.

If the intellectual challenge revolves around the word ‘HOW’, then the emotional challenge centers upon the word ‘WHY.’ This perspective could best be summed up with a simple question:

WHY does an all-powerful, all-good God allow suffering and evil?”

For most inquirers, that is the real question. For them, it's the WHY and not the HOW that matters. We all struggle with the WHY questions in life, "Why didn't I get that promotion? Why doesn't she love me like I love her? Why did my friend commit suicide?" The list goes on and on, as does our incredulity.

With these two very different perspectives in mind, let's consider ten different possible solutions to this difficult and emotionally-charged question. Three of these models primarily focus on the intellectual problem of God and evil, and the remainder offer satisfying emotional justifications for the existence of suffering in a universe created by an all-good God.

1. The Creator’s ways are higher than our understanding.

In reference to His dealings with mankind, God clearly states:

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways My ways,"
declares the LORD.
"As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are My ways higher than your ways
and My thoughts than your thoughts
.” (Isaiah 55:8,9)

Simply put, it is not possible that we (as finite, created beings) could necessarily understand all that an infinite God “thinks” or does. This is simple to demonstrate, evidenced by the fact that God created the complex human brain, with its 100 billion neurons, that we use to contemplate these tough questions. Therefore, He must be nearly infinitely higher than our ability to comprehend.

To illustrate this, think about a young toddler stumbling across the living room, his attention fixated on a small, shiny razor blade laying on a coffee table nearby. His father sees this dangerous attraction, and just as the excited youngster reaches the “toy”, the caring adult intervenes, removes the object, and lovingly swats at the hand of the child, following it up with a firm “No! No!” In predictable fashion, the toddler protests with loud wails and crocodile tears, no doubt completely confused at the sudden contradiction from loving daddy to evil killjoy.

Just as the immature understanding of the toddler’s mind cannot even begin to fathom all the consequences his innocent action (which the parent, though, does understand), our minds and our ability to comprehend difficult questions cannot even begin to compare with God’s understanding. Just as the young child cannot fully understand the reasons that the parent has for such supposedly harsh actions, likewise humanity, in a child-like role in comparison to the Creator, may not be able to fully reconcile God’s reasons for allowing events or conditions that we may consider contradictory.

Setting aside this analogy about differences in understanding for a moment, we also have another disadvantage when it comes to wrestling with this issue. To put it simply, we are too limited, and our lives too short to actually and accurately see the “big picture.” With our limited exposure to the total mass of humanity, and since our life spans are insignificant compared to all of human history, we are incapable of rendering a sufficient judgment about the reasonableness of suffering or evil.

Looking at it logically, since God is dealing in a far bigger picture than just one person's life, or even an entire nation of people, and He is working across a longer time frame than one person's life span, then His ways, almost by default, will seem to be mysterious or even, at times, appear contradictory.

But the truth is, we don’t always have to understand something in order to accept it. Consider gravity, not one physicist in a thousand will say that they understand the real nature or mechanism of gravity. But we all accept (and even expect) that when we drop a rock, it will (almost always) fall down to the ground. Gravity. Do we understand it? No. Do we accept it? Yes.

Now translate that same perspective over to a spiritual example: consider Jesus Christ dying on the cross for our sins. Even His disciples did not understand why He had to die, and the apostle Peter even tried to prevent it. They were perplexed and disillusioned, but afterward, they understood that the tragedy of Jesus' unjust crucifixion was for our good, for our salvation.

Jesus said: "What I am doing now, you do not understand, but you will know after this." (John 13:7) On this side of eternity, we may not understand all of God's allowances and dealings, but it stands to reason that He may reveal His wisdom after this short time here. It is an issue of basic trust, as the distressed patriarch Abraham proclaimed as he contemplated God’s difficult dealings: “Shall not the judge of all the earth do what is right?”

2. We would understand the reasons for suffering, if we had all the information.

Though similar to our first answer, this explanation is fundamentally different. Whereas the first solution revolved around God’s ultimate PURPOSES in allowing suffering, this explanation involves, at it’s heart, our limited appreciation of specific reasons for suffering or evil. What may seem unjust or bad to us, may only seem that way because we do not have all the information about that event or condition.

An example from last century may help. If someone (who knew nothing about World War II) was to read about Harry Truman authorizing the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and nothing else, they might conclude that the US President was a sadistic and truly evil man, and the bombings unprovoked and unjustified.

But, if they understood, in the light of the fact that the US was engaged in the throes of World War II, and that the best estimates of a land invasion of the Japanese homeland would result in multiplied millions of deaths on both sides of the conflict, then a different understanding of the action would be realized. What at first appeared to be unprovoked evil was soon understood to actually be a type of mercy. The bombings, which caused loss of life, were intended to (and more than likely did) lessen the loss of life and minimize suffering.

Consider cancer surgery. Why do people allow a surgeon to cut open and invade their bodies, even carving out entire sections of their brains, livers, or lungs? This will surely result in much suffering and pain, and even loss of function. Why do we allow it? Answer: for the greater good. The cancer may threaten our very lives, but yet, by this painful and difficult decision of surgery, it may cure the condition, or prolong life, or at least prolong quality of life.

But if you walked into an operating room and saw a surgeon with a large scalpel about to slice into what appeared to be an unconscious and helpless victim, you might think that the doctor was a sadistic killer. But, with the understanding that there is a greater good that can be brought out of this painful event, we realize that some suffering is not only warranted, but can actually be for our own good.

Christian apologist and philosopher, Michael Horner, commented about the problem of God and suffering: "It may be too complicated, or, more than likely, we are lacking crucial information that is available to an all knowing God. Therefore, merely because we can't think of a good reason why a particular evil should be allowed, it does not follow that God does not have a good reason, nor does it follow that we are irrational in believing God has a good reason."

Another good example can be found in the Bible in the life of Joseph. His jealous brothers conspired against him and sold him into slavery in Egypt. Joseph suffered greatly in his slavery and eventual, wrongful imprisonment. But later, through the providence of God, Joseph provided the key wisdom needed to help Egypt survive a multi-year famine, and indirectly saved many other peoples, including his own brothers who had earlier plotted against him. When Joseph confronted them, he was forgiving and declared: "You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good" (Gen. 50:15-21). If someone had stopped reading the account too early, they would have wondered “Why is God letting his faithful servant Joseph suffer so unjustly?” But, once all the facts are in, we marvel at God’s timing, wisdom, and His ability to redeem even the most painful of events.

3. We live in a fallen world cursed because of sin.

This is usually the first generic type of answer that most offer when the question of God and suffering comes up. And though it is sound intellectually and can even be proven experientially, it is an emotionally unsatisfying answer. Let’s restate the premise from a different perspective: We live in a world that is in rebellion against it’s own Creator, therefore, we would expect events and circumstances to be at odds with our sense of the way things ought to be. In other words, things aren’t right, because WE aren’t right in our relationship to our Creator.

One does not have to look too far to realize that the universe (generally) and this planet (specifically) is not the perfect place it once was in the beginning. Violence, wars, sickness, suffering, hatred, tragedy, and ultimately death are external witnesses to an undeniable inward realization that something is wrong, very wrong. There is an abiding and universal understanding that we were never meant to have to stand by the casket of a deceased loved one, or witness the abuse of innocent children, or to feel the emotional pain of a society filled with racism, cruelty, or indifference.

We feel the sting of injustice, and we know that some things are just not right. Phrases such as “It just isn’t fair” or “But that’s not right” are found in every language, every culture. The concepts of morality, of right and wrong, inexplicable by evolutionary models, are universally experienced. Universal effects are the result of universal causes.

Imagine a classroom filled with men and women, all ‘devout’ atheists. At the end of the course the instructor stands before the class and announces: “I have posted your final grades, but there is no need to look at the roster. All women get an ‘A,’ and all the men get an ‘F.’” A sense of indignation and injustice would, no doubt, manifest in the minds of all of the men present. “But, wait, that’s wrong, that’s not fair!” one of the gentlemen would protest. The wise professor would turn to the enraged student and say: “I’m sorry, sir, your complaint is illogical, because right and wrong, fair or unfair, cannot exist in a universe with no God.” The teacher is correct. But, whether convinced atheist or committed Christian, universally we find a fundamental law of morality, not identical between all cultures, but foundationally similar.

Just as the fruit of the apple tree can be traced all the way back to its tiny seed, to understand the modern fruit of evil and suffering, as well as the common sense of morality we all share, we must also go back to the beginning, the origin.

The Bible repeatedly decrees that when God had first made the cosmos, He declared that everything was “good” and even “very good.” The scripture records that there was no death, no pain, no suffering, no animosity, no injustice. Our original parents were placed in an environment that was perfectly suited to them, and they to it, but more importantly, they existed in a state of perfect relationship with their Creator. Mankind was given the privilege and responsibility by God to be the caretakers, the superintendents if you will, of God’s physical creation.

But something went terribly wrong.

The ability to have a sincere and real relationship with mankind required God to create something even more amazing than massive galaxies or minute strands of DNA. For there to be true love and a willing relationship, God had to give mankind a FREE WILL. Without free will, the obedience and love of mankind would have been an illusion, a hollow drama with only the appearance of substance. A logical consequence of the gift of free will is the possibility of rebellion, of rejection, of disobedience…of sin. Unfortunately the possibility turned to reality, and the rest is, as they say, history. Mankind abused its free will and turned against the Creator.

Even the critics of Christianity admit that the presence of sin and evil in the world are verifiable and undeniable realities. Strangely enough, evil in the world is one of the strongest arguments for both the reality of God and the truth of Christianity. Bertrand Russell, one of the foremost opponents of Christianity in the 20th century espoused what is called the “Correspondence Theory of Truth.” This logical argument states that, for something to be TRUE, it must CORRESPOND to what we actually observe in the world. Ironically, Bertrand’s pet axiom can be used to help verify the faith that he despised.

Since God placed mankind as the custodians of His creation, and we rebelled against Him, He has allowed suffering and tragedy into His creation as proof, evidence that something is indeed wrong...and that something is US. We are all in a state of open rebellion against the God Who created us, Who desires for us to know Him the way mankind once did. God promised, from the very beginning, that disobedience would lead to horrible consequences, and eventually death. Not only us, but all of God’s created natural order, was placed under God’s judgment.

Therefore, suffering and evil are the inescapable results of our rebellion against the good God Who created us. Instead of allowing us to have the illusion that everything is still “OK,” God gave us continual reminders that we are not right, and that we are under the condemnation of our own evil.

4. Suffering is often the best way to cause us to seek after God.

Comfort and pleasure are rarely the motivating factors that move people to evaluate their lives and turn back to God. Indeed, ease and prosperity often cause people to live lives indifferent to (and even hardened against) God. In the “good times” we can often become arrogant and self-sufficient, not realizing that the purpose in life is not about gathering up things, but about having a relationship with the Creator Who made us and loves us.

When is the last time you met someone who had become a Christian because they had won the lottery, or had landed that dream job, or found that perfect spouse? Probably never. But, often the rule rather than the exception, are those who have found Christ in the midst of suffering, tragedy, or heartache. Pain and tragedy have a way of getting our attention far better than blessing or comfort. And this is unfortunate. We should turn to the Lord because of His goodness and blessing, but instead, like the unthankful prodigal son, we arrogantly take God's gifts without honoring the One Who gave them, and go on our merry ways.

But when did the prodigal son realize the true situation, and make things right with his father (a picture of the sinner being reconciled to God)? It was not when he was partying and ‘living it up,’ it was when he had lost everything, and was suffering. The suffering was a justifiable way to bring him (representing us as sinners) back to the father (representing God). Just as God does not like to see us suffer, the father of the prodigal son felt no joy from hearing about his son's horrible lifestyle, but the repentance and reunion brought on by the suffering made the suffering (which was for only a short time) worth it eternally.

Have you ever heard an alarm clock that used soothing and soft sounds to waken it’s owners? What about tornado or fire alarms, do they use gentle methods to create awareness? No. Alarms use loud, harsh, even annoying sounds or flashes to gain our attention. Why? Because often that is what it takes to get us to “wake up,” to become aware of the actual danger around us that we are either ignoring or indifferent to. If we, as mere people know this, then surely the Creator of the universe knows that unpleasant things are far faster ways of getting our attention, evidently far more efficient than comfort, pleasure, or prosperity. If it is for our good, then God in His love and care, will allow us to be inconvenienced, if it can or will cause us to quit ignoring Him, and to even seek Him out.

This solution also applies to the suffering experienced by God’s people. Born-again Christians are not immune from the trials and tragedies of life. Earlier we spoke of the value of suffering in causing a person to realize their need for a saving relationship with Jesus Christ, but what of those already saved? The apostle Peter grants us valuable insight when he shared this about why Christians suffer:

…you have suffered in various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith…may be found…”
(I Peter 4:6,7)

Also, the apostle Paul encourages us with these words:

…but we also glory in trials, knowing that trials produce perseverance; and perseverance (produces) character; and character (produces) hope.”
(Romans 5:3,4)

In a very real sense, sufferings tend to produce faith, or better, tend to produce trust in God. For those who do not know Him as Lord and Savior, sufferings drive them to seek Him out. For those who are saved, trials should cause them to lean on Him more, to trust Him for the strength to persevere, which leads to maturity and growth.


5. Tragedy and disasters do not increase the amount of death in the world.

At first glance, that statement seems ridiculous. Earthquakes, tornadoes, tsunamis--multiplied millions have died due to their destructive effects. But think about it, every person will die at one time or another. Death is still at the same rate it has always been...one death per person. It is just shocking or jolting to us when we hear of or see tragedies, perhaps because it is so many deaths in such a short time. But most people aren't aware that each day about 160,000 people die in the world, mostly due to illness or accident. Setting aside huge disasters, such as earthquakes, we still lose 160,000 people EVERY DAY. That's over a million per week. Disasters do not increase the amount of death, it is still one per person.

Admittedly, this answer is not actually a direct solution to the question at hand of God and suffering. But the inevitable fallout of large disasters is the predictable tirade of skeptics who use these events as a platform to launch fresh attacks against the character of God. But, regardless of the emotional pleas, natural or unnatural disasters do not increase the amount of death in the world.

6. The reality of death is a great motivator for spiritual action.

It is an odd thing with the human race---they say that one of the only two certain things in this world is death (the other being taxes). And yet, most people live their lives in complete denial of their own eventual death, they avoid coming to terms with their own mortality. Since every person will die one day, and since the real purpose in life is to come to a personal relationship with our Creator, then if God can use death as a way of causing people to think about their own mortality, then even death can turn out for good.

It was the tragic death of my very young cousin that caused my oldest brother to consider his own mortality, and this contemplation led him to turn his life over to Jesus Christ. Every person will die one day, so if God can take that death and turn it into an opportunity for someone else to look at their own spiritual condition, then even death can be a blessing.

Think of organ donors...their death is a tragedy, but the gift of their healthy organs can mean life for someone else. This can also be true spiritually, in a way. Coming face to face with the reality of someone else’s death may cause us to find spiritual life. Death is, unfortunately, a teacher like no other. His lessons are inescapable, his conclusions undeniable. Neither I nor God says that death is (in itself) good. But God is so powerful and His wisdom so complete, that He can even take that which is evil and cause it to bring forth blessing.

7. Tragedies allow opportunities for God to show His love and kindness through His people.

There is an old expression: “God is good, all the time.” Even though we should see the good times of life as direct evidence of the goodness of God, honestly, most of the time we don't. Often, it is when hard times, suffering, pain, or tragedies come, that we see and realize the goodness of God demonstrated through His people. The Salvation Army, Samaritan's Purse, Operation Blessing, World Vision, and many hundreds of other Christian relief organizations exist to demonstrate God's love and care in the very center of need and tragedy.

Untold millions have found a personal relationship with Jesus Christ after coming face-to-face with the compassion of God revealed in the physical presence of a Christian relief worker or missionary. Many countries that do not allow religious liberties or missionaries, will open the door to Christian relief workers during times of crisis and suffering. God can use these opportunities to get His gospel into these hard to reach places of the earth. In some places in the world, the only Christians some could ever hope to meet will be representatives of Christian relief agencies.

God, though He is in control of all, often humbles Himself to work His compassion through people. Sometimes He can even work through those who care nothing for Him. There is the story that is told of a destitute widow woman who was praying aloud to God in her apartment. She besought the Lord to provide just enough food for her to survive. Unknown to her, an atheist from the apartment next door overheard her cry to God. The unbeliever went to the store and bought several bags of groceries and placed them at her door and rang the doorbell. The widow opened the door, and seeing only the food, immediately fell to her knees and said: “Thank you, Lord, for my answered prayer!” Just then, the atheist jumped out of hiding and scoffed: “God didn’t provide you that food---ha, ha, it was me. I bought it and put it here!” The woman then looked up and said: “And, Lord, not only did you provide…you got the devil to pay for it!”

8. Tragedies can motivate Christians to fulfill God's purpose in their lives.

There is a funny (and sadly, too true) song from back in the early 90’s that said: "Lord, please don't send me to Africa, I don't think I've got what it takes.” It goes on to remark: “I love my life here in suburbia." This chilling observation of lukewarm Christianity reprimands us for our lack of compassion and rebukes us for failing to get outside of our neat little lives and share the love of God. I know of hundreds of fellow Christians who have been emotionally moved by the awareness of the suffering of others, and who have left "suburbia" to visit the sad, the needy, and the desperate places of the earth to demonstrate God's love.

As followers of Christ, we should be reaching out daily to those around us, but we get caught up in the illusion of comfort and the danger of complacency, and we become jaded to the real needs in this world. There are many passages of God’s word that encourage us to go to “the ends of the world” to help our fellow man. But, sadly, most of us have a hard time just walking across the street to help a neighbor in need, much less to travel across the world. But sudden tragedies can be powerful wakeup calls to fulfill our reasonable service for our God and Savior.

Let’s be clear: we are NOT saved BY our good works, but the Bible says that, if we are truly saved, if we really do have Christ dwelling within, it will be evidenced by His works in and through us. If it takes suffering to get God’s people to reach out with His love, then we can see that suffering can indeed, be justified.

9. To stop all evil and suffering, God may have to deny us our free will.

For our final two solutions, we turn the discussion to intellectual, logical answers to the problem of God and suffering. Consider a searching question: What causes most human suffering? Is it really earthquakes or tsunamis? No. Most of the evil in this world is in the daily interaction of people toward other people. Therefore, since most human suffering and evil in the world is due to the greed and wickedness of people toward each other (murder, rape, torture, kidnapping, racism, etc.) then, to stop all suffering, God would have to deny us our free will.

Are you ready for Him to do that?

God created us with the ability to choose and make decisions, to create, to destroy, to love, and, to hate. We can accept God's gift of salvation, or we can reject it. We can help our fellow man, or we can take advantage of him. In order to have a true, free will in this world, the possibility must exist for rebellion and sin. We are not robots, merely automatons that can only repeat a carefully programmed mantra: "God I love you.” (repeat)

Freedom is a precious thing, indeed, people have died so that we can enjoy it. Even Jesus died for our freedom, so that we could have the opportunity to come to know the forgiveness and salvation of God. Most suffering is caused by the sin of people towards each other, and not just horrific evil such as Hitler, Stalin, or Osama Bin Laden, but also the multitudes of small and hurtful injustices we all commit toward each other, even daily. Racism, unkindness, envy, lying, and greed, all necesssarily lead to tragedy and suffering. To price to prevent all of this comes at the infinite cost of our freedom of will.

10. It may not be logically possible to have a universe without suffering.

Some would argue: "But couldn't God create a world that does not allow for the possibility of evil and suffering?" The answer is surprising...but then again, maybe not. Even the atheist philosopher Evan Fales admits, "Not even an omnipotent being can guarantee the best of all possible worlds, for if such a world must contain created free beings, it will be partly up to them what transpires." To say that God is all-powerful does not mean that everything imaginable is possible. God cannot make Himself not exist. God cannot sin. God cannot make a round square.

As the renowned philosopher and college campus speaker, Michael Horner, explained: "It is entirely possible that it is not within God's power to create a world containing moral good without that world also containing moral evil. When free moral agents are involved it is entirely possible that a good end could not be achieved in any other way."
Some skeptics attempt to put the challenge this way:

1. An all-good God and evil cannot co-exist.
2. Yet evil exists.
3. Therefore, an all-good God does not exist.

As we have seen, even dedicated atheists, such as Evan Fales, deny this challenge as being illogical. The missing piece of the puzzle is the reality of free will. As the recent commercial slogan puts it: "This changes everything." And, indeed, our free will is the game changer in this debate. We could put the logical statements in this order instead:

1. An all-good God created everything.
2. Free will exists.
3. Therefore, evil is possible because of free will.


And since human-to-human evil is the primary cause of suffering and tragedy, as demonstrated earlier, then we see that our free will, and not God's lack of ability (or His supposed non-existence) is the primary culprit.

In conclusion.

The perplexing problem of God and suffering is a difficult one. It involves, not just logical or intellectual issues, but deep-seated and troubling emotional ramifications. This short treatise is not meant to be the final word on this topic. Rather, it is set forth as a demonstration of the earlier premise of this discussion, namely that a valid worldview: (1) must be able to provide real answers. (2) it must “correspond to the truth” of actual human experience, and, finally (3) it must be able to withstand rigorous criticism and investigation.

When it comes to the issue of resolving the difficult problem of God and suffering, even the small sample of solutions presented here substantiate all three of these basic conditions.

These solutions have shown, that what at first appeared to be a serious challenge, rather serves to validate the claims of Christianity instead of casting doubt upon them. They have revealed that the existence of evil does not contradict the existence of God, but rather provides verification of free will and of the consequences of sin as recorded in the Bible. They have demonstrated that suffering, instead of being a challenge against the character of God and His love, provides the backdrop against which God can not only demonstrate His care through His people, but also draw people to Himself for salvation. They have shown that suffering can even be a mechanism to drive growth and maturity, and that evil may be unavoidable in a perfect universe containing free will.

To sum it up, former atheist and famous Christian apologist, C.S. Lewis proclaimed:

God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world”.

The Hiddenness of God

The famous mathematician and atheist, Bertrand Russell (co-founder of analytic philosophy), was asked about what he would say if he had to stand before God one day to give account for his unbelief. His answer:

"Sir, why did you take such pains to hide yourself?"

In a survey of the top reasons that skeptics tend to reject God, in the top three, is the challenge embodied in Russell's complaint:

"God, if you are there, why are you so hard to find?"

 
In theological or philosophical terms, this dilemma is called The Hiddenness of God.

Perhaps the most quoted of all skeptics, Friedrich Nietzsche, also fired salvos against Judaism and Christianity with similar attacks. He wrote there should be "a Duty of God to be truthful towards mankind and clear in the manner of his communications." In other words, WHY isn't God more clear, more obvious, more open in His dealings with mankind?
With Nietzsche in the 19th century, and Russell in the 20th century, I would like to suggest a radical answer here at the outset of the 21st century (actually this answer goes back to the very beginning, at the origin of humanity).

Here goes:
God is not hidden, and if He were any more open, then belief in Him would border on coercion instead of free will.

Wow. Not only do I reject the premises of earlier skeptics, but I posit the opposite. That's a pretty significant gap between our positions. Where am I coming from? To put it simply: logic, science, history, and the Bible.



Imagine walking up to the famous painting of the Mona Lisa at the Louvre in Paris. As you admire this incredible and mysterious work of art, you turn to the person standing next to you, and you say: "Isn't it amazing that no one painted that painting." With an incredulous stare, the person (and rightly so) turns to you and exclaims: "Excuse me?" "Yeah," you continue, "no one painted that. It is the result of random processes over vast ages of time, through well-known chemical and other natural processes." With raised eyebrows and head-shaking, the crowd around you would, no doubt, slowly disperse.



Why would you be rejected in your position? For several well-founded reasons, including:
(1) the complexity of the painting
(2) the form and function of the image
(3) testimony of historical sources confirming the origin of the painting
(4) comparison with other known works of man-made art 

(5) improbability of natural processes arriving at such a product.

What is my point in all of this regarding the supposed hiddenness of God? It is simply this: if something as simple as a (basically two dimensional) painting PROVES there was a painter, then surely an incomprehensibly complex and ordered universe demands that there is a transcendent creator, a God that made it and set its natural laws into motion.







Let's look at just ONE facet of creation: DNA.
The DNA in your cells contains the complete instruction manual of how to build and maintain---YOU. It defines organs, systems, and life-processes that make YOU possible. It is an unimaginably complex, encoded system of information storage, averaging over 3 billion bits of data.



Francis S. Collins is the director of the National Human Genome Research Institute. Once an atheist, he looked into the evidence for God in nature and became a Christian. Concerning DNA, he said:

"When you have for the first time in front of you this 3.1 billion-letter instruction book that conveys all kinds of information and all kinds of mystery about humankind, you can’t survey that going through page after page without a sense of awe. I can’t help but look at those pages and have a vague sense that this is giving me a glimpse of God’s mind."

Werner Gitt, a professor of information systems, states:
"The coding system used for living beings is optimal from an engineering standpoint. This fact strengthens the argument that it was a case of purposeful design rather than a [lucky] chance".




Whether we look inward, to the very small and microscopic world of chemicals and DNA, or outward to the vastness of space and the beauties of the galactic landscape, we are confronted with the reality of not only a superintelligent God, but a super-creative God, a God of unimaginable power.



The late Sir Fred Hoyle, considered one of the greatest astronomers of the modern age, made this observation:
"A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a superintellect has monkeyed with the physics, as well as with chemistry and biology, and that there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature. The numbers one calculates from the facts seem to me so overwhelming as to put this conclusion almost beyond question."


What conclusion was he speaking about as being "almost beyond question"? The conclusion that there is a super-intellect, a God who has designed the laws of nature. So, everytime we look at another person, or any living thing, or we look up into the heavens, and witness the sun, the moon, the stars, we are looking directly at the undeniable handiwork of God, the creator.



Hidden
? God is not hidden at all...perhaps only to those who would rather imagine that He doesn't exist. Perhaps the reason that some skeptics don't find God is the same reason most criminals don't "find" a policeman--they aren't looking for Him, and, in fact, have a great vested interest in NOT finding Him. Everything complex and beautiful in life and in nature is explained away almost as quickly as the sleight of hand of the skilled magician.



So, the next big question comes:
"Why doesn't God just say something, audibly, or write a message in the sky, or do something fantastic for all to see?" This is a common query. It supposes that just such an action would immediately satisfy every skeptical doubt, and move humanity into the "God" column. I was struck recently when I paid attention to the words of a song written by Carolyn Arends. She cries out:

"I was hoping you would write to me a message in the stars.
As if the stars themselves were not enough."


Do we hear the logic of her lyrics? How insensible and outrageous is it to imagine that "if only" God would arrange the 100-billion stars in each of the estimated 100-billion galaxies into the shape of some words, then, and finally then, we would have some type of proof of a powerful creator. How ridiculous. Instead of something arbitrary like patterns in the stars, consider the mind-boggling wisdom of God in designing the nuclear fusion process that takes multiple hydrogen atoms and fuses them into helium, with the by-product being incredible amounts of energy radiated out in the form of not only visible light, but all the electromagnetic spectrum, without which life would be impossible.



How about if God would write a message in the clouds? This ignores the fact that incredible engineering was required to create those clouds in the first place. Not realizing that amazing planning that went into utilizing solar radiation to heat the surface of the oceans, causing billions of tons of sea water (now purified from various salts and other pollutants) to rise into the air, and then to come into contact with the jet stream (itself a wonder caused by temperature gradients in the atmosphere) and carried over land where the cooling masses of vapor will descend to the ground with a substance that no living thing can live without. But, it does not end there, for that same water, first as puddles, then creeks, then mighty rivers, all flow back to those same oceans, completing the hydrologic cycle.


Let me restate my earlier premise: God is not hidden, and if He were any more open, then belief in Him would border on coercion instead of free will.

Those who continually challenge Christians to provide "substantial evidence" of God's existence (which, of course, conveniently overlooks small things like DNA, nuclear fusion, the hydrologic cycle, etc.) will always ask for things of God that simply will not prove anything. Let me give a few examples, and then demonstrate why they are completely inadequate, and how God has already provided everything necessary to establish His existence.


In my many debates with atheists and skeptics, I have often asked a simple question: "What evidence would you accept as conclusive proof of God's existence?" Almost immediately you will get one of the following "standards" of evidence:
1-God would do something supernaturally visible, like appear to them in the sky, etc.
2-God would speak to them audibly, perhaps announce that He is there and that He loves them.
3-God would give some physical object would supernatural abilities, and let us see it, touch it, use it.
4-God would do something medically impossible, maybe raise the dead, heal an amputation, etc.
I will show how each of these supposed "faith-clinchers" would do no such thing, at least, not for long.

1-God would do something supernaturally visible, like appear to them, or an angel, etc.
This would be impressive, but that is all. After a few minutes or hours, the "vision" would soon be explained away as fantasy, illusion, perhaps a hallucination caused by high fever. For those who could hold the zeal of the experience for a few days, they would first begin to question and then soon dismiss this event in the face of ridicule from their peers. After the seventh or eighth person saying to them: "Well, I didn't see it," or "You've been talking with too many crazy Christians!" or "Well, of course, we know that's impossible because God doesn't exist," the conviction of it's reality would evaporate into the air. A vision, like anything historical, is difficult to hold, and impossible to prove. What about if a group or a bunch of people saw the vision? Pretty much the same result, maybe with a bit longer period until rejection since you would have an instant support group. But, then again, maybe it was mass hysteria, group hypnosis, who knows?

2-God would speak to them audibly, perhaps announce that He is there and that He loves them.
This is very similar, if not the exact same, as number one above. Visions, voices, and feelings are all far too subjective to be retained or proven.

3-God would give some physical object with supernatural abilities, and let us see it, touch it, use it.
You know, like a healing stone, or a crown of thorns that glows in the dark, or a crystal that sees into the future. Interesting. Imagine if you could take a computer back in time, even only one hundred years ago. It would have been seen as supernatural, divine, etc. No doubt, if God were to give us some object with supernatural abilities, it would be relegated as a machine from the future, or perhaps left here by advanced aliens, anything except divine. People can rationalize anything away, rather than face the truth.


4-God would do something medically impossible, maybe raise the dead, cure cancer, etc.
This is an interesting, but predictable hypothesis. If someone were to be "raised from the dead" then the obvious conclusion would be that they weren't really dead in the first place, perhaps only in a deep coma. Healings would be almost identical, such as a cure from cancer. Critics would say that the person didn't really have the disease, a medical misdiagnosis, or incorrect test or lab results. Amputations or other outwardly visible types of healing would be dismissed as new medical technology, perhaps from stem cell technology or other genetic research.

The human mind is amazing in it's ability to reject anything that does not neatly fit into it's preconceived notions of reality. The story goes of a man in a mental hospital who continually assured everyone he met that he was indeed dead. Finally, a wise doctor asked him a simple question: "Do dead men bleed?" The patient thought for a moment, and then replied, "Absolutely not." The doctor then pricked the man with a small needle, and a trickle of blood began to ooze. The patient looked at the red rivulet on his finger and exclaimed: "Wow, dead men DO bleed!"



You see, it is not really about the evidence, it is usually more about the preconceived notions, in other words, the presuppositions that form the basis of our worldview. If we do not find God to be a logical concept, then nothing could ever convince a mind that has been set on not accepting His reality.

I had a friend several years back whose wife was unfaithful to him and was lying to him to explain away her behavior. One by one, his friends confronted him about her actions, giving him a long list of evidences and eyewitness accounts of her infidelity. One by one, he rejected all of our testimony, sadly causing many of his friends to turn away. It was only several years later, when she left him and abandoned her own children, that he woke up and realized what had been going on all along. But, at the time of his denial of the evidence, nothing could convince him. Her unfaithfulness seemed an impossibilty to him, it did not even appear as a possible reality on his moral radar screen.




Many skeptics are in that same condition, since they have already decided on the implausability of God's existence, no evidence can surmount their prior assumptions. Any evidence can be explained away, any proof can be rationalized away, and any logical argument can be dismissed as flawed...somehow, because, well, IT MUST BE.
As the late Carl Sagan once said, revealing his immovable prior assumptions:

"The cosmos is all that is, or ever was, or ever will be."

Wow. Now there's an open mind.





This may seem to be a strange turn, but stay with me. What if one of NASA's rovers on the surface of Mars found a circular pattern of perfect arrowheads in the Martian soil? Every newspaper across the globe would herald the find on their front pages:

PROOF OF LIFE ON MARS
,
or, WE ARE DEFINITELY NOT ALONE, or, MAN ISN'T THE ONLY INTELLIGENCE IN THE UNIVERSE.


You could easily write the headline.


But let me ask you, what is an arrowhead? It is a rock that has been shaped by an intelligence to have form and function, usually symetrical down the long axis. So, if the finding of an arrowhead on Mars would PROVE that there was intelligent life on Mars that had to make the arrowheads, then how do you explain things infinitely more complex than arrowheads here on earth, like DNA, the human brain, cellular mitosis, symbiotic relationships, genetic transcriptioning, photosynthesis, autoimmune systems, migration patterns, multicellular organization, etc?
Look at your hand. So, it requires an intelligence to make an arrowhead, but no intelligence is required to design the HAND that makes the arrowhead? The smallest cell in your hand is infinitely more complex than the most intricate and elaborate of arrowheads, but the simpler one (the arrowhead) is intelligently designed, and the complex one (the hand) is the process of millions of years of random chemical events?



The leap of faith and the denial of logic required to accept this is staggering, almost to the point of being funny if it weren't so sad, and so prevalent.

So, is God hidden? Absolutely not. His handiwork and proofs of His intelligence, design, and care are everywhere we look. The fact that we can intelligently discuss this intelligent matter proves prior intelligence in the Universe. Think about it.

Perhaps it is not that He is hidden, as much as it is that we are biased in our search, with many skeptical presuppositions that form the boundaries of what we will accept. If we erect walls of unbelief, and surround ourselves only with those of a similar pre-disposition, then it is no wonder that we see and find only what we expect to see and find.


Beware of that jaded state of mind that looks at significant evidence and says: "Wow, dead men DO bleed." Don't laugh at that as being ridiculous, it happens everyday. It is happening right now, all over the world.

Creation and Evolution Part 1

Many create a strawman argument by positing a challenge for a creationist hypothesis or mechanism. Evolution is an attempt to explain the diversity of life based upon purely naturalistic conditions (which could be a false term, since, if a higher power created all things, then nothing is "natural" per se), and creationism is an explanation based upon the actions of an intelligent designer.

To request the processes by which an intelligent designer composed life (DNA for example) is a mocking strawman. It is like asking "How many corners are there on a circle?" or "What does the color blue taste like?" You can ask the question, but by virtue of it's own premise, it is a failed endeavor at discovering any meaningful answers.

I could take a computer program, and then ask you to explain how that computer program came into being without any intelligent agency (evolution) and then tell you that a programmer designed it (creation). To then ask about how the programmer, through the myriad complexities of the programming process, arrived at the decisions in the logic, the order of the code, the purpose of various subroutines, etc. is to go beyond investigation, for that deals with decisions made that are outside of the mere existence of the code.

We can study the results of the creation event, and the implications of various design features AFTERWARDS. It would be like a cosmologist discussing what occurred before planck time, its all very fun and, sometimes even stimulating, but not meaningful. To demand that a creationist propose the methods and strategies of an intelligent designer is a disingenuous request.

As creationists, we would be glad to discuss the cambrian explosion, the bushes of life (not "tree"--a variety of bushes is a much better graphical illustration of the record of life, the "tree" died years ago), the problem of information technology and DNA, common design (not common descent), the impossibility of abiogenesis from a biochemical standpoint (including left-handedness, reducing atmosphere, etc), mathematics, and the well-demonstrated tendency of lab induced "evolution" to achieve stasis within a short generational period.

We could also discuss the built-in error correction in DNA, and the fact that DNA contains not only the encoded language of building life, but that the ability to decode (read) the code must have been present from the beginning (an impossibility "naturally"). You cannot have an "intangible language" that reads the code of the DNA without an intelligent source. Transcription though codons in a 20-amino acid system utilizing 4-bases has been demonstrated to be an ideal, designed process. Werner Gitt (professor of information systems) said: "The coding system used for living beings is optimal from an engineering standpoint. This fact strengthens the argument that it was a case of purposeful design rather than a [lucky] chance".

The only reason that the letters in this sentence are meaningful to you, is because you already possess an understanding of the rules, the grammar, and the vocabulary of the written English language.

Show that previous sentence to a remote tribesman in the Polynesian chain and they will shake their heads, and perhaps shrug their shoulders. The letters (A-G-C-T) in a certain order (AAA+ACT+CAG, etc) define words and phrases (proteins and processes) and some even encode for starts (beginning of a sentence) or the stops (end of sentence or command for protein synthesis).

Point is, the information encoded into DNA is meaningless without a PREVIOUS language to interpret and execute the encoded information. This is an impossible barrier to cross without intelligence, because LANGUAGE is intangible (not natural/physical) and DNA is encoded information (again, not purely natural, due to its specified complexity).

Now, to discuss the various examples of micro-adaptation (which almost always involve the loss of genetic information, not the arrival of optimized, new information) which we have seen in nature, and to then extrapolate in a manner inconsistent with mathematics and known biological boundaries and to postulate that these equivocate into the appearance of new, advanced structures or systems over time, which the fossil record does not support, and then ask those who see irrefutable and demonstrable evidence of intelligent design to discuss the merits of either theory---we will be glad to do. (editors note: that may be the longest run on sentence in this thread---in bio terms, was it merely "junk" DNA???)

Remember: just because you can IMAGINE a process to explain something, does not mean that you have an ACCURATE explanation. Let's say that we find a wooden chair in the middle of desert. Im sure that given enough time, Mr. Naturalist could write up a purely naturalistic explanation for how that thing arrived there (you know, starting from a tree long ago, and through various natural forces eventually ending up in something that looks like a chair) and then, you know, a simple moron walks up and says, "Whoa, dude. Look here on the bottom, there's a sticker and it says 'Made by #4 in China.'" The naturalist scoffs at the simpleton, noting internally that "if this intellectual ant were at my level, he would at once abandon such simple and only-superficially obvious explanations, and would see the infinite merits of my gradual processes!"

The fossil record could best be summarized as: abrupt appearance, stasis, and extinction. Current genetic studies involving multi-generational, induced mutations, again demonstrate limited variation (even marginal) and then stasis. Geologic research reveals a reducing atmosphere during the period mandated for abiogenesis. All major body plans appear in the Cambrian explosion.

"The paleontological data is consistent with the view that all of the currently recognized phyla had evolved by about 525 Ma. Despite half a billion years of evolutionary exploration generated in Cambrian time, no new phylum level designs have appeared since then." ("Developmental Evolution of Metazoan Body Plans: The Fossil Evidence," Valentine, Erwin, and Jablonski, Developmental Biology 173, Article No. 0033, 1996, p. 376.)

"Modern multicellular animals make their first uncontested appearance in the fossil record some 570 million years ago - and with a bang, not a protracted crescendo. This 'Cambrian explosion' marks the advent (at least into direct evidence) of virtually all major groups of modern animals - and all within the minuscule span, geologically speaking, of a few million years." (Gould, Stephen J., Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History, 1989, pp. 23-24.)

Dr. Paul Chien (chairman of the biology department at the University of San Francisco) "A simple way of putting it is that currently we have about 38 phyla of different groups of animals, but the total number of phyla discovered during that period of time adds up to over 50 phyla. That means [there are] more phyla in the very, very beginning, where we found the first fossils [of animal life], than exist now."
Stephen J. Gould has referred to this as the reverse cone of diversity. Evolution predicts a single source developing into more phyla over time, and the fossil record shows many phyla originally, and less now (extinction not evolution).

The case for creation hardly ends there, though it is enough evidence. Let's consider DNA. DNA requires both a language and the message to be present simultaneously. This type of system requires intelligence, for it contains specified complexity---something never demonstrated to occur naturally.

I would posit then, that a straight-forward review of the evidence would favor creation.

Now, to discuss the ability of species to adapt based upon environmental factors (which is not evolution, per se) still falls neatly into the creation model. For example, if an architect designed a building for the northeast, he/she would no doubt, design both heating and cooling systems to be present. In certain colder times of the year, the environmental conditions would mandate that the heating system "activate" and in the warmer times, the cooling system would "activate." It is logical that an intelligently designed lifeform would follow similar parameters. The DNA of the creature would contain a range of variation necessary for life in expected climates. Nuff said.

Returning to my opening statement--Be careful of the strawmen you create, they may end up catching on fire and incinerating presuppositions that many hold dear.