Tag Archives: scripture

Presuppositionalism, Science, and Faith

I know I’m probably going to take a beating for writing this, but here goes, anyway.

I suppose you could say that I’m a “pressuppositionalist”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Presuppositionalist – I tend to follow an apologetic approach that believes it is impossible to find “meaning in anything where man himself is at the center of the pursuit for truth and understanding”:http://www.cmfnow.com/articles/pa210.htm. I carry with me a “certain set of core beliefs and assumptions”:http://open-dialogue.com/blog/2005/04/16/saturday-april-16-2005-at-0812-pm/ that guide and govern, not only those things that I do, but also the way I fit together all knowledge into a cohesive whole.

It’s interesting – when the evolutionist looks around him and witnesses nature, “he sees millions of years of natural selection at work”:http://highlyallochthonous.blogspot.com/2006/10/mountain-musings-2-whats-god-got-to-do.html; when I look around me, I can’t but believe that _something_ had to have put all this in place. This belief is based purely in logic and observation – I just find it impossible to think that chaos at the beginning of time could have somehow found its way into some sense of organization that just naturally progressed over billions and billions of years to what we have now. That, to me, requires a much greater leap of faith than believing in an intelligent creator. From everything I’ve seen and witnessed and studied, the natural state of the universe at large tends toward entropy. Everything that currently exists is moving steadily toward a state of decay and decline, not the other way around. This has ever been the way of things. So I find it much easier to believe that everything started in a state of perfect order that somehow began a downward spiral toward chaos.

Both of these viewpoints are based on a set of presuppositions. For the evolutionist, there is no God, no creator, no intelligent designer, merely a “long process of natural selection”:http://skatje.com/?p=103, with new species adapting to their environments until we have the diversity that we see today. And natural selection makes some amount of sense, since it _is_ directly observable in the world around us – the strongest of the herd survive while the slowest, sickest, and least able to adapt die off, thus strengthening the species as a whole. I just have trouble believing that natural selection could ever have, ultimately, brought humanity into existence from a single-celled bacterium – and I have yet to see compelling evidence that states such. For the creationist (or the IDist), there must have been something intelligent and powerful to have set all this in place, that there is no way for something like this universe in which we live to have come about by chance or some evolutionary process.

Consider this – what if the all that scientific data that has been collected on the origins of the universe and the evolutions of the species can’t be trusted? Secular scientists place a lot of faith in rationality. They place man at the very center of rationality itself by presupposing that systematic, scientific study will eventually unlock all the secrets of the universe – or at least that’s the goal and hope – and this methodology _does_ and has worked in a great many areas of study and research. But what if scientific study as it relates to these two macroscopic issues has been placed in the wrong context? What if, by placing man at the center, by assuming that if we only ask the right questions and study things in as unbiased a manner as possible, what if in doing science in this manner, we are getting it wrong? What if this basic assumption in secular science has led to a great many misunderstandings and misinterpretations of the data we have?

I believe that faith and science _can_, indeed, “complement each other”:http://open-dialogue.com/blog/2007/01/05/christians-and-scientific-discussion/. When “framed in the context of an intelligent designer”:http://www.answersingenesis.org/, the scientific data that seems to lend itself so strongly for evolution yields a very different picture. And contrary to popular belief, scientists who believe in intelligent design _are_ still scientists who work within the constraints of their field. The data I’ve seen on sites like Answers in Genesis is the same data I’ve seen shown on secular science sites, with the same explanations of what it means. The difference is that Christian scientists provide alternative solutions for why some of that data might be misleading. It is unfortunate, in a way, that many of these explanations can never be verified, as they are the result of “unreproducible events”:http://open-dialogue.com/blog/2007/01/05/christians-and-scientific-discussion/#comment-8899. Similarly, neither can secular scientists prove their claims about the origins of the universe for the exact same reason. Despite objections from the secular community, Christian scientists _are_ able to provide a complete, unified response for their conclusions based on their presuppositions. And theirs is a response that makes _much_ more logical, rational sense to me than the origins answers that secular science sometimes provides.

And this is where faith bonds with science. We believe, based on a record given in the Bible, that the Earth looked a certain way during its beginning. Framing scientific data into this context provides an explanation why, for instance, “carbon dating may not be as accurate”:http://www.answersingenesis.org/docs2002/carbon_dating.asp as is generally assumed by the secular scientific community. Because none of these events that various groups believe in – Creation, Big Bang, Great Flood, evolution – can actually be reproduced and examined first-hand, certain things must, by necessity, be taken with a certain measure of faith. This does not stop scientific study itself, nor should it. Mankind is, by his very nature, curious and so there is a great deal of worth to be derived from such pursuits. But the scientific community, no matter what camp, should bear in mind that personal presuppositions are going to greatly influence the way the collected data is interpreted.

So does secular rationality actually fail when faced with its own presuppositions? We can only wait and see, but I would posit that, yes, it does. Mankind is a “limited”:http://open-dialogue.com/blog/2006/09/05/finite-to-infinite-2/, “finite”:http://open-dialogue.com/blog/2006/04/05/finite-to-infinite/ creature, and as such our abilities to know and understand will always be subject to that limitation. If science, by itself, reveals anything to us with regard to the origins of everything that is, it will be that we can never know everything and that some ‘secrets’, like how the universe began or where mankind came from, will never be answered by science alone.

But don’t mind me – those’re just my presuppositions talking.

Heresy

Heresy is a far broader definition than the one which I am about to apply. “freethoughtmom”:http://freethoughtmom.blogspot.com/ asked this question in “this discussion”:http://open-dialogue.com/blog/?p=317:

bq. Who decides which teachings are considered a heresy?

Ultimately, Scripture itself dictates what is heresy and what is not. It is, in fact, extremely specific on what doctrines are most important, those that are “fundamental”:http://open-dialogue.com/blog/?p=213 to becoming a Christ-follower, a Christian:

  • the fact that all men are born into sin
  • that no man can attain Heaven by his own merits because no man can possibly live up to a holy and righteous God
  • that God sent His only, perfect Son to pay the price for men’s sins by dying on the cross
  • that the Son overcame death by rising from the dead on the third day
  • that the Son ascended back into Heaven to prepare it for His people.

I believe that these basic doctrines are the only ones that are vulnerable to heretical teachings, _per se_, since they are the only ones that are essentially foundational for a person to acquire the salvation of their soul. All other teachings found in Scripture describe what a Christian – already a believer – must do to live a righteous life and what he must do to further the Kingdom of God. These teachings, as such, are not prone to heresy, at least not in this specific definition, though they _can_ be counterbiblical, since they are covered under the doctrine of grace. In essence, if a believer fails to live 100% righteously (an inevitability), he does not lose his salvation or earn the wrath of God (except through repeated, unrepentent violations, and then only punishment that will bring the believer back into a right relationship with God) but can, instead, repent and receive forgiveness and continue on his walk.

In short, I think that the term ‘heresy’ can only be, and should only be, applied to teachings and beliefs that are counter to the basics of the Gospel, to those basic beliefs that are absolutely mandatory for an unbeliever to come to a saving relationship with Jesus Christ, beliefs which are very clearly spelled out in Scripture itself.

Literal Truth

Rushan had a question posed to him recently that requires some attention, I believe:

bq. “I can no longer accept the Bible as literally true, am I still a Christian?”

If you read my “previous article”:http://open-dialogue.com/blog/?p=213, you should already know the answer to this: Yes, so long as acknowledge and accept the message of the Gospel. More specifically, so long as you recognize your inability to attain Heaven on your own and accept the person of Jesus Christ and His work on the cross and subsequent resurrection as your only hope for salvation. If you are able to do and say that, then yes, you are still a Christian.

I might express some concern, however, over what parts of the Bible you consider to be literal and what parts you do not. If you do not believe _any_ part of the Bible to be literally accurate, then we might have a problem, for then what foundation do you have for knowing the only truth that matters, to wit, how to know God and live with Him for eternity? If you cannot believe any part of the Bible to be literally true, then you cannot know whether or not the Gospel itself is true, rendering impotent its power to save. Likewise, you cannot then know that God exists, you cannot then know that He loves you and wishes to have fellowship with you, you cannot then know much of anything except for what your own five senses can tell you – and we know just how deceptive and misleading our senses can sometimes be.

I stated previously, as well, that historical passages of Scripture should be interpreted literally, things like the existence of people who appeared in the various stories (e.g. Abraham, David, Jesus, Paul, etc.) and geographical locations. Archaeology have even been able to verify much of the historicity of the Bible, thus giving it a great deal of authority. The trouble with literal interpretation comes with prophecy and imagery-laden parables. Prophecies are sometimes difficult to interpret, though at least partial interpretations were provided by many of the prophets themselves. But because they are visions of future events, I suspect that some of the prophets could only do their best to describe technologies they had never before seen (such as John the Revelator describing his vision of the end times). Whether we were ever meant to know and completely understand is something of a mystery, but it seems clear that much was given in such visions to provide both warning and hope to those who heard. Christ’s parables were told in such a way as to make those people who would to ruminate over the meaning, but He was also not opposed to providing clear meaning to those who asked (typically His inner circle of twelve).

I do believe that the Bible is a wholly trustworthy document. It’s accuracy has been verified time and again all the way back to the earliest manuscripts, and as such, it holds a great deal of authority and power. It continues to change lives merely by the simplest reading of its pages, further demonstrating that the Holy Spirit has preserved it and uses it to bring God’s children to Himself.

A Better Man Than Me

Listening to the Gospel of John, as recited by Jason Nightingale of “WordSower International”:http://www.wordsower.org/index.htm, I realized just how much patience our Lord Jesus had for the people to whom He ministered. Again and again, he performed miraculous works and wonders that proved His divinity and validated His message, and again and again the people asked, “By what sign can we know that you are the Son of God? Show us a sign so that we may believe.” And again and again Christ responded by saying, “I have already told you who I am. You ask for a sign not so that you may believe but so that you may be fed.” (How like so many people even today.) Even Christ’s own disciples did not fully believe until that fateful night when he was betrayed, and then their faith was limited by their understanding, since they did not know (a shortcoming of the religious leaders of the day?) that He meant to rise again three days after His death. Listening to Jesus interact with the people, I knew that my patience would have given out long before. There would have come a point where I would have responded in anger and frustration, and I probably would have written off the followers completely and ended my ministry in despondency and burnout. Yet, Christ persisted, preaching His message over and over again, knowing then that most would not understand, let alone believe, knowing what He was facing for a people who would be ungrateful and unforgiving. With this knowledge He continued His ministry all the way to the cross and gave His everything to save His people. I would have given up long before. This Christ, this Yeshua, this Jesus of the Jews, Messiah, Savior of the world, was, and is, a better man than I.

Response to a Blog

You can find the blog in question here. Discussion can be found here.

*sigh*

Once again, it is the hatred, ignorance, and bigotry of the fanatical minority that earns the vast majority an undeserved label and stigma. It is exactly because of this reaction that I sometimes wish to distance myself from those people who call themselves Christians, yet somehow use those beliefs to justify their hatred and bitterness toward anyone who does not believe exactly like them.

Unfortunately, the instances of behavior cited in this blog are examples of people who have little to no understanding of the Scripture and of the work of Christ. The author himself demonstrates his complete unfamiliarity with the teachings of the Bible (and historical and
archaeological evidence), yet somehow considers himself informed enough to comment. Seems ironic to me, somehow.

I understand and appreciate the fact that Christians are going to be hated by the world. I have accepted the inevitable. People simply do not like to be told that they are sinners, that their self-indulgent behaviors are wrong and damaging, that ultimately a life lived without God is a complete waste, utter vanity. And as such, they voice their scorn and exercise their displeasure at every point possible. They do hold valid points, so far as they go — there are some Christians who obviously violate the teachings of their own belief system. They are the only ones, however, who ever make headlines, who anyone ever hears about. As a result the entire Christian faith is characterized by those few individuals who really messed up. It’s not fair, but it is the way it is.

The rest of us have to work ten times harder to share our faith. Persecution increases, though in the US we have yet to see it escalate to physical violence. Partly, we as Christians have brought this on ourselves; partly, it is the ‘natural’ order of things as we share a message that many simply do not wish to hear. The only way for Christians to overcome the stigma assigned to us is to be even more open and obvious in our lifestyles about the TRUE message of Christianity, so that those who hate in the name of Christ are exposed as the true minority. We must share our Message, we must love more strongly than others can hate, we must sacrifice and serve and care so that others can see that Christ truly is the Son of God and that God
is, in actuality, a God of love and justice.

It is things like this article that sometimes make me wonder if we as Christians have a chance of influencing the world for Christ. Yet, I am reminded that we cannot change the world all once. It can only be changed one person at a time, and sometimes I feel like that is much
too slow for me. But Christ’s focus was always on the relationship, and so to change the world, we must have relationship with those of the world and demonstrate Christ’s love through that relationship.

Blessed Be…

3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7so that the tested genuineness of your faith–more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire–may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
I Peter 1:3-9 ESV (emphasis added)

Misunderstanding the Gospel

I am of the opinion that the Gospel is the single most misunderstood topic in the history of mankind (even among Christians themselves). It has incited Crusades of death and persecution and yet has inspired millions to give their lives to Christ.

The most current example of this misunderstanding is the criticism of the release of The Passion of the Christ. One news periodical criticizes the movie harshly, saying, “The Reporter also says that the movie’s violence is so intense and more important than character development that audiences may have trouble with that.” I’ve not yet seen the movie (though I hope to this weekend), but the point of this particular movie is NOT to provide quality character development or shield us from the violence of that moment in history. Quite the opposite in fact. It is to show us the very graphic nature of what Christ went through to atone for our sins. And quite frankly, if you want character development, take some time to read through the Gospels for the complete view of Christ and his earthly ministry.

A local talkshow host advocated the movie during his broadcast last night, pointing out that many of the critics of this movie have yet to see it. His advice to said critics was to go see the movie and then form an opinion. And while he advocated the movie and was so close to being correct, he was also soFAR from being correct. He made the statement that Gibson’s goal in producing this movie was marketing and that local churches also are using it as marketing to get people into the pews. This is both correct and not correct (and here is a facet of the misunderstanding). On one hand, it is marketing insofar as it is intended to draw people. But that is NOT the primary goal. The primary goal is to share the Gospel, using a clear depiction of what Christ went through in His final hours to drive home the weight of that moment that has forever impacted and changed history. This is the thing that the unsaved world simply cannot understand. It is not marketing that we care about — it is souls. We desire to bring others to Christ so that they, too, may be spared from eternal damnation, as we have been. And the ONLY reason this movie has been so criticized so harshly even before its official release is because it is a religious movie, and a Christian religious movie at that. No one complains about the intense violence and lack of character development in a Jean Claude Van Damme movie (or any other movie or television show, for that matter).

..edit.. This website is a prime example of the Christian contribution to the misunderstanding of the Gospel. While I respect this organization’s attempt to exhort and correct a perceived wrong, it is Christian ‘wackos’like these who inspire hate and disgust of all those who bear the name of Christ while at the same time taking the Scriptures out of context in order to suit their own purposes and interpretations of the Bible. And it is exactly this kind of ‘Christian’ that makes me want to distance myself from everyone who claims to be a follower of Christ so as to avoid tainting my own ministry to others and to cleanse this bitter taste from my mouth.

Bupkus

Ok, I promised I would come back and revisit this book I’m reading. I’m working my way through it (slowly!). It’s an intense read, to say the least, and I am finding that I just don’t have much time for ‘casual’ reading with my current class schedule. But I just finished the introductory chapter, so let me summarize it.

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The author is a physicist who originally started as an atheist. Throughout his work, he eventually came to the conclusion that God exists and that a future resurrection of the dead to eternal life will occur (and that this is all provable). He states that the universe has already been existence for at least 10 billion years and will continue for at LEAST another 10 billion, but more likely for another 100 billion+ years in the future. God, in his theory, is in actuality something called the Omega Point, basically the end of time/space/etc. He claims that as a necessity to his theory (and by implication proven through his calculations), God is not yet fully Being, that His Being will actually only occur in the future, at this Omega Point event. He does claim that his God is personal and that his God loves us, and thus will resurrect us. Heaven and Purgatory exist (or will exist, to be more precise), and Hell might exist, depending on a future condition (a.k.a. variable) of the Omega Point event (i.e. the end of all time and space). According to the author, the resurrection of the dead will occur for all those who have died in the past (but not for another few billion years, at the end of time), but that it will occur as an emulation performed through the computers of the future. The dead will be resurrected to this state of being (which he claims can be proven to be identical to our current state of being), and that it will be a state of “continued individual becoming.” Additionally, he states that neither Western Christianity, nor any other major world religions, fits well into the Omega Point Theory. He states that the Omega Point Theory merely proves the two things that every religion shares — that God exists and that He will grant immortality to us. The rest of the book will be used to flesh out these thoughts/theories more fully.

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Already, I’m barely out of the introduction, and I’ve discovered that what this scientist postulates does not match up with the God that the Bible proclaims. I would not say that this scientist is a Christian (and based on his own words, I do not think he himself would claim to be a Christian, necessarily, either; in fact, I think it would be far safer to say that physics is his religion), though he believes in God, because his view of God (and his view of an inevitable and undiscriminating resurrection of all to essentially the same place) does not match the Scriptural proclamation of the Gospel. I plan to continue working my way through his book because I believe in giving everyone a fair chance to voice their opinions (and frankly, I curious to see where he goes with this).