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Question for Humanists

I was just thinking about this concept, and it struck me as something that theists get asked all of the time, but it’s never really asked of non-theists.

My question is this: “Why is there evil in the world?”

The reason I ask is because humanism is predicated on the belief that man is basically good. But if man is good and there is no God, then why is there evil? And if man is good and all selections we make are not determined by us (determinism), then how could we determine to do evil if we’re basically good? It seems too simple, but I want to know how such a view is reconciled. It’s a sincere asking, so any humanist reading this blog, please feel free to share your response. Thanks.

The Two Witnesses, Part Deux

A year and a half ago, I posted this blog post about the two witnesses of Revelation 11. I posited that potentially these two would be Elijah and Enoch, since these are the two men that have never tasted death (Hebrews 9:27). But I heard a talk recently that makes me think that a more popular view is correct. Let me explain.

At the Transfiguration of Jesus (Matthew 17), two men appear with Jesus. One is Elijah, whom is prophesied as a forerunner of Christ’s kingdom in Malachi. Jesus even references this question from Peter in confirming that Elijah would come back. I think it’s safe to say that Elijah would be one of these witnesses.

The other is Moses. He’s more of an interesting character, because he died before entering the Promised Land, but we don’t know where he is buried. Why? The Lord Himself buried Moses. In fact, Jude 9 tells us that Michael was sent to contend with Satan for the body of Moses. Why would He do this for a dead body? Perhaps because He had plans for that body, and didn’t want it desecrated.

But there’s one other thing that in my laziness I never read until it was brought up in a message I heard today. In Revelation 11, these two witnesses are given two distinct powers: 1) “They have power to shut up the heavens so that it will not rain during the time they are prophesying,” and 2) “They have power to turn the waters into blood and to strike the earth with every kind of plague as often as they want.” (Revelation 11:6).

For those of you who know your Old Testament history, who was given the power to shut the heavens and keep it from raining in Israel. Answer: Elijah. Who was given the power to turn the waters into blood and cast plagues? Answer: Moses. Seems rather convenient that these guys have the same power, no?

So I think it’s safe to say I’ve amended my position a bit, and believe that the two witnesses of Revelation 11 are Elijah and Moses. It doesn’t mean this is for certain the way it’s going to happen, but the pieces of the puzzle fit rather nicely together if this is how it were to happen. Man, God is awesome. We ought to remind ourselves of that more often than we do.

God Is Working! Are You Becoming?

“God’s will has far more to do with who you are becoming than it has to do with what you do for God.” –Afshin Ziafat

At my church this weekend, we continued our study of the Crimson Thread through the Old Testament by discussing the Passover story in Exodus 12. While there are many clear parallels between what happened at Passover, the Passover seder held by practicing Jews, and the death of Jesus Christ, one thing stuck out to me as I was reading, and the original language of the text bore an awesome discovery.

Exodus 12:5 (NASB) says thus: “Your lamb shall be an unblemished male a year old; you may take it from the sheep or from the goats.” Now the easy way to read this is to point to the “unblemished male” and parallel it to Christ that way, because Christ is “the Lamb, unblemished and spotless.” (1 Peter 1:19) Only a man without any blemishes (i.e. sin) could be the sacrifice needed to bear the sins of man. This makes perfect sense.

However, what I found goes a step further, and I hope it makes sense to you, the reader, as well. The Hebrew word for “unblemished” is tamiym, which means “complete, whole, entire, sound.” This hit me as rather striking, given Christ’s final words on the cross, “It is finished.” (emphasis mine) Christ had made His purpose and sacrifice complete, the same way the Passover sacrifice was to be complete.

I pointed this out to WIFE, and she took it one step further by pointing out Philippians 1:6 — “…being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (emphasis mine) This same completion, this unblemishing that was true of both the Passover lamb in Exodus and of Jesus Christ as He became the sacrifice for all mankind, is being worked out in us! What an awesome picture of both the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit and the ultimate glorification we will see upon passing from this life into eternity. We are being made “unblemished” and “complete.” How can you say anything but “Hallelujah! Praise the Lord!” to that kind of awesome promise?

So when we are seeking out God’s will for our lives, let’s take to heart both the quote above and the promise that follows. We should make it our aim to focus less on doing and more on becoming, so that God’s sanctifying work is evident in us.

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” — Ephesians 3:20-21

Evidence For God’s Existence – The Teleological Argument

In continuing with the second argument supporting the existence of God or a supernatural deity, I will turn my attention to the teleological argument, or the argument from design. I have already touched on this one a bit in a prior blog, but I will attempt to be a bit more thorough in my evidentiary support of this argument. However, we need to hit on what the logical statement of the argument is first:

1) If the universe is fine-tuned, then its complexity in design implies a supernatural Designer.
2) The universe is finely-tuned.
3) Therefore, the complexity in the universe’s design implies a supernatural Designer.

The teleological argument is often used interchangeably with the term “intelligent design,”; that is, there is an Intelligence that designed the universe to give us the necessary pre-conditions for life to exist on the Earth. However, one must be careful not to count “intelligent design” with “creationism.” While believers in one are typically believers in the other, the two are not synonymous. Creationism is the school of thought that the Christian theistic God created the universe and everything in it. Intelligent design merely posits the strong likelihood that an Intelligent Designer is responsible for the creation of the universe. As Stephen Meyer puts it, “Intelligent design is an inference from empirical evidence, not a deduction from religious authority.”

The support for the teleological argument comes from two different branches, both of which have been attacked by critics of the argument. The first is irreducible complexity. This is the notion, based on a comment by Darwin, that if such an entity exists that cannot have parts removed and still have it function, it is irreducibly complex, making evolution of such an entity impossible. Michael Behe of the Discovery Institute made this view popular among proponents of ID. His most basic explanation was of a mousetrap, which consists of five parts that are all essential to the working nature of the machine. The important thing to note is that his statement was that if any one of the parts is removed, the entity ceases to function as is. So a mousetrap that can work as a tie clip does not defeat irreducible complexity; a mousetrap that works as a mousetrap should (snapping shut and breaking the neck of a mouse when the cheese is moved) without one of the parts would defeat irreducible complexity of the mechanism.

Some further examples of irreducible complexity as related to biology are the natures of blood clotting (no middle ground where life would continue if the clotting process where incomplete) and of the flagellar motor (which would cease to move and fight bacteria if pieces were removed). While a subset of the flagellar motor has been discovered, keep in mind two pieces of that argument: 1) It doesn’t explain how the 10 proteins necessary for the TTSS formed together–so creating a different potentially irreducibly complex organism, and 2) The TTSS subset doesn’t function as a flagellar motor. Irreducible complexity, though at times poorly worded, only states that the organ in question cease to function without all of its pieces. The TTSS to the flagellar motor is like a bicycle to a car. While they both possess many of the same pieces, the bicycle won’t work without the centripetal force provided directly from its occupant. It needs an engine to perform that task, which it doesn’t have. Therefore, it ceases to have the functionality of a car. While a car is not irreducibly complex, the analogy is appropriate.

So the truth about irreducible complexity is that has yet to be defeated. The scientific community has attempted to discredit it by citing a lack of peer-reviewed articles (an argument which Ben Stein’s “Expelled” exposes remarkably well) and that a judge ruled that its scientific credibility was lacking in a court case (based, of course, largely on the lack of peer-reviewed articles), but the truth is that its tenets still hold. While not the strongest piece in support of the teleological argument, it is a common one and still contains merit.

The more appealing aspect of the teleological argument is the evidence of the fine-tuning of the universe, otherwise known as the anthropic principle. This is the concept that the overwhelming evidence of design in our universe points to an Intelligent Designer, something that exists outside of the universe with the ability to create such an existence so that life would be possible in a specific area for a specific instance. The other term for this is “specified complexity.”

Now when we are looking at things that may be “specifically complex,” we can’t necessarily use methodological naturalism, which by definition excludes supernatural hypotheses. We must use the evidentiary method, which is rooted in abductive reasoning. The problem is that in abductive reasoning, the logical fallacy of affirming the consequent is possible. For example, no one doubts the existence of Napoleon. Yet we use abductive reasoning to infer Napoleon’s existence. That is, we must infer his past existence from present effects. But despite our dependence on abductive reasoning to make this inference, no sane or educated person would doubt that Napoleon Bonaparte actually lived. How could this be if the problem of affirming the consequent bedevils our attempts to reason abductively? Philosopher and logician C.S. Peirce: “Though we have not seen the man [Napoleon], yet we cannot explain what we have seen without” the hypothesis of his existence. Peirce’s words imply that a particular abductive hypothesis can be strengthened if it can be shown to explain a result in a way that other hypotheses do not, and that it can be reasonably believed (in practice) if it explains in a way that no other hypotheses do. In other words, an abductive inference can be enhanced if it can be shown that it represents the best or the only adequate explanation of the “manifest effects.”

In modern times, historical scientists have called this the method of inference to the best explanation. That is, when trying to explain the origin of an event in the past, historical scientists compare various hypotheses to see which would, if true, best explain it. They then select the hypothesis that best explains the data as the most likely to be true. But what constitutes the best explanation for the historical scientist? Among historical scientists it’s generally agreed that best doesn’t mean ideologically satisfying or mainstream; instead, best generally has been taken to mean, first and foremost, most causally adequate.

Now let’s look at some things that appear to have the marker of complexity on them. For example, the fundamental constants (i.e. gravitation, weak force, strong force) seem extremely fine-tuned. For instance, the change in either gravitational constant or electromagnetism in one part in 10 to the 40th power would have caused either all red dwarfs, which would be too cold to support life-bearing planets, or blue giants, which would burn too briefly for life to develop. Or looking at the cell, which was described by Richard Dawkins as “uncannily computer-like” and by Bill Gates as having a DNA structure that is “like a computer program but far, far more advanced than any software ever created.” The inference to the best explanation for the structure of the cell is intelligent design. Why? Two reasons: 1) materialism fails to explain the origin of such information, but more importantly, 2) we know that intelligent beings can and do product information of this kind (computer-like). When we see these types of complex structures in our world, we are not surprised to see an intelligent designer is the cause. Yet why is that such a stretch of the imagination when it comes to our own design, both cosmologically and biologically?

It really is the inference to the best explanation. Complex structures infer design, and design implies a Designer. The teleological argument stands firm against both scientific and logical critique, and can only be discredited in scientifically invalid ways. This is evidence IN FAVOR OF supernaturalism as the most plausible worldview.

I will it cut it off here, but more evidentiary support is available in certain areas if requested/debated.