Author: Ben Jones

Part 7: Substitutionary Atonement

A Series of Responses to Jon Steingard’s Declaration of Disbelief in God Substitutionary Atonement may seem like a big, fancy theological term, but it is at the very heart of Christianity itself. Don’t let the term scare you away! Christians believe that the death of Jesus of Nazareth on a cross ~2000 years ago in Jerusalem somehow frees them from the justified eternal penalty that they would otherwise suffer for their own moral wrong-doing upon death. This is a major claim and comes with many questions, some of which are put forth by Jon in his declaration of disbelief. How does Jesus’ death possibly accomplish such a feat? And why was it necessary? An understanding of ‘substitutionary atonement’ speaks to both the ‘how’ and ‘why.’ As Jon asks, “Why can’t God forgive humans without someone being killed?” and “If God required the death of someone in order to forgive sins, why can we humans forgive someone without human sacrifice?” There are excellent answers to these and a wealth of insight as we gain an understanding of the mechanics of how Jesus’ death paid for mankind’s sin (if applied to their lives) and the necessity of it for salvation. This article is by no means an exhaustive analysis of the concept and theory of substitutionary atonement, or even a complete summary. For that, Dr. William Lane Craig’s newest book Atonement and the Death of Christ is hot off the press and is the most extensive historical and philosophical commentary on substitutionary atonement that I have ever read. I recommend it highly and quote from it a few times below. Here we will briefly discuss substitutionary atonement only in regards to the specific questions asked above. What is substitutionary atonement? The first word refers to Jesus playing the role of a ‘substitute’ in paying the penalty of our sins and wrong-doing. We have seen in a previous article that the existence of objective moral wrong is very real; immorality is obvious when we look at the world today, and most recognize their own personal guilt as well. It is self-evident that punishment is justified for wrong-doing. Since the ‘wages of sin is death,’ paying the wages of sin ourselves would result in eternal separation from God (or ‘hell’). However, if someone else serves as a ‘substitute’ for us, they can pay the penalty in our stead, freeing us from paying it ourselves. It’s important to note that the penalty could not be paid by a substitute who already owed the penalty themselves for their own wrong-doing; thus it could only be paid by someone who was perfect, who had no sin or wrong-doing for which they were already deserving of punishment. This is one reason why only Jesus Christ, who Christians believe to have been sinless, could possibly serve as this ‘substitute.’ The word ‘atonement’ is a Middle English term meaning “at onement,” referring to a state of harmony. In this context, it refers to being “at-one with God.” Whereas sin automatically separates us from a perfectly holy God, and a just God must punish this sin, ‘atonement’ refers to a state of harmony or reconciliation between God and man, something that could only be achieved if sin and its punishment did not stand between them. Many people will attempt to read the Bible starting at the beginning but get bogged down in Leviticus and Deuteronomy with all the detailed laws and sacrifices. However, this system established an understanding of the penalty of sin, which required blood and sacrifice. The Levitical animal sacrifices helped ancient Israel understand that sin has consequences and that forgiveness comes at a price. Similarly, Christ’s death on the cross was a sacrificial offering to God which truly cleansed us from sin, thereby reconciling us with God. The strict and detailed sacrificial system under Moses set the stage for the descendants of this new Hebrew nation to better recognize the necessity and significance of Jesus’ sacrifice hundreds of years later. To help us understand the necessity of Christ’s death, we must better understand the attributes of God Himself and how they interact with one another. For example, how can God be perfectly just and also be merciful? By definition, having mercy on someone is not giving that person what they deserve, which is inherently unjust. Only in Christ is it possible for God’s divine justice to be satisfied and for Him also to be merciful to the sinner. He shows this mercy by allowing someone else to pay the penalty for our sins. However, this brings up another problem. Is it just for God to punish someone who is innocent, as it would be in the case of God punishing Christ? There seems to be nothing just about Jesus being tortured and dying a brutal death as an innocent man. There are two potential answers here. First, God did not punish Christ, but rather Christ voluntarily took upon himself the suffering we deserved. As Craig says, “Christ was not punished but he endured the suffering that would have been our punishment had it been inflicted on us.” Second, if our sins were truly imputed to Christ on the cross, He was no longer innocent at that time. The sin of all mankind rested upon His head; Christ was legally guilty before God the Father and thus legally liable to punishment. Either way, God is able to forgive us our sins and have mercy on our souls because of Jesus’ voluntary sacrifice, thus His perfect justice is also satisfied. So, to answer one of Jon’s questions, under this view, God could not arbitrarily forgive sinners or else this would conflict with His essential attribute of divine justice. Now, the relationship between God and man is entirely different than that of human-to-human interaction involving forgiveness. There is no divine justice to be satisfied when we choose to forgive someone. For example, we must distinguish between a judge in a criminal case and a creditor in a civil lawsuit. From Craig, “…as a litigant in a civil lawsuit, the creditor occupies a ‘private role’ and so does not have an antecedent obligation, required by the rules of justice, to impose harsh treatment by demanding repayment of the debt owed. He is therefore free to show mercy without prejudice to justice. By contrast a judge in a criminal case ‘has an obligation to do justice- which means, at a minimum, an obligation to uphold the rule of law. Thus if he is moved, even by love or compassion, to act contrary to the rule of law- to the rules of justice- he acts wrongly.’ …The overriding lesson is that God should not be thought of merely as a private party to a personal dispute but as Judge and Ruler of the world and therefore responsible for administering justice.” So, in answer to Jon’s second question, humans play a very different role in the world than God the Father. We as humans can forgive someone their wrong-doing to us, or a debt they may rightfully owe us, without any further consequence to the offender. For example, if a friend borrows $100, promising to pay me back, I have the ability to forgive that debt instead of demand repayment. Or when a crime has been committed against us, we have the ability to forgive that person without any obligation to personally punish that person. They need not have asked for forgiveness or even been aware that they have been forgiven. In most cases, forgiveness between humans benefits the forgiver more than the forgiven. To have true peace in one’s soul or to move on from a terrible crime, sometimes a person must forgive an offender, even if the offender is no longer a part of the victim’s life. This may be an estranged parent, convicted felon, or even someone who has already died. Anger, bitterness, resentment, and depression typically increase over time in a victim when there is a lack of forgiveness. True healing can only begin when the victimized finds forgiveness in their heart for the person who has harmed them, even if this forgiveness is completely unbeknownst to the offender. On the other hand, “God’s pardon of us is based on Christ’s fully discharging substitutionally our sentence and so satisfying divine justice.” Craig continues, “…God as Ruler does not merely pardon us but exacts the punishment demanded by retributive justice. He does not exact it from us but from Himself in Christ. We who accept Christ’s substitutionary sacrifice are thereby freed from our liability to punishment and therefore declared ‘not guilty.’ Seeing that Christ has vicariously satisfied the demands of divine retributive justice on our behalf, God can, in turn, pardon us of our sins. It is in that sense that God can be said to have forgiven our sins… Forgiveness in this legal sense is the declaration that the penalty has been fully paid and therefore we are free.” When it comes to the relationship between God and man, certainly the forgiven is the one who benefits. This forgiveness, which is more akin to a legal pardon, is actually effectual in the life of the offender by freeing him from deserved punishment and certain spiritual death. As we can see, the effectual nature of forgiveness is completely different between our forgiveness of others and God’s forgiveness of us. The concept of substitutionary atonement is not without analogy in our own legal system. In owning a legal video firm myself, I’ve witnessed countless cases in which the defendant is not the same as the offender. For example, a FedEx truck driver falls asleep at the wheel and causes a major accident, permanently disabling a child in the backseat of another car. Even though the individual driver of the FedEx truck is at fault, the FedEx company is legally liable for damages. The family may or may not sue the driver, but they will certainly sue FedEx. Why? The individual driver almost surely does not have the financial capability of compensating the family for the harm he has caused or the ongoing medical expenses of the disabled child. On the other hand, FedEx has nearly unlimited resources to compensate the family financially. FedEx may have done everything correctly in the situation: proper training for its drivers, proper maintenance on the vehicle, etc, but yet they are still responsible for appropriate compensation to the injured child’s family. FedEx will legitimately and legally pay for what the truly guilty cannot. Likewise, a good judge could not simply forgive the defendants and dismiss the case. The analogy should be clear. God the Father, the ultimate Judge, must be just, which requires that the guilty be punished. However, it is not too great a stretch to conceive that if we are followers of Jesus and He ‘owns’ us, He can also pay our penalty. A penalty that would require eternal separation from God in hell, were we to pay it, but that God the Son, Jesus Christ, can pay with His death on the cross and subsequent resurrection three days later. In fact, the infinite value of Christ’s suffering and death is so great, that it can cover the penalty due any and every person who turns to Him in repentance- past, present, and future. The sacrifice of God the Son covered all the sins of the godly men that came before His death and resurrection, and it continues to cover all the sins of those who accept his free gift of salvation today. This helps us understand the mechanics of how Christ’s suffering and death so many years ago can still apply to us and still has the power to save us today. The value of that suffering transcends time itself, and thus Christ still awaits the opportunity today to place any repentant sinner’s deserved punishment on Himself should they be willing to accept Him as Lord of their life. However, for anyone who rejects Christ and His representation of us before God the Father, they are liable and responsible for paying the penalty of their own sins. And for a sinful human, this penalty is eternal separation from God in hell. Many will object that this punishment seems too harsh, but we underestimate the significance of sin in the face of a perfect and holy God, a God who must judge sin. Because we are not truly capable of paying the full penalty ourselves, this separation from God extends into eternity. Christ, on the other hand, as God the Son, proved He could fully pay the penalty of all our sins by defeating death itself through His resurrection. We have only scratched the surface of understanding the different theories surrounding substitutionary atonement, but hopefully this sheds some light on some of the preliminary questions regarding God’s forgiveness of us through the work of His son, Jesus Christ. Certainly we can say with the Apostle Paul, “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” – 1 Corinthians 15:56.
Posted by Ben Jones

Part 6: Understanding God’s Commands in the Old Testament

A Series of Responses to Jon Steingard’s Declaration of Disbelief in God Old Testament ethical challenges have long been used as ammo against the character of the Christian God. Making matters worse, and to the detriment of Bible-believers, many pastors and Christian leaders avoid tackling this difficult topic. Whether it be God’s command to Abraham to sacrifice Isaac (which was rescinded) or to slaughter every Canaanite man, woman, and child, these commands can stop the uninformed Christian dead in his tracks when hit with these objections by the skeptical. In fact, the challenge needn’t come from the atheist; doubt can form in the believer’s mind about the moral nature of God simply by reading the text themselves. Without a better understanding of the text, these doubts can eventually lead to disbelief, as they did for Jon. Today, for the sake of time, we will specifically address the three items that Jon brings up in his post: the slaughter of the Canaanites, the command to kill Isaac, and a less common objection dealing with Job’s suffering. The conquest of the Canaanites is among the most challenging passages in the Bible for modern readers, and most are not equipped with the necessary literary and historical knowledge to understand such verses in context. Because of this, the issue has been addressed by countless theologians, and thus one need not look far for a better understanding of these commands. Probably the most thorough and accessible book addressing this topic is Paul Copan’s Is God a Moral Monster? which I recommend highly. However, if you don’t have the time to read an entire book on the topic, others have summarized the issue. Greg Koukl, founder of apologetics ministry Stand to Reason and probably my favorite Christian apologist, explains the nature of these commands. If this issue has ever given you pause, please read his relatively short article here: – (if the link above is not clickable, be sure to include the final dash ‘-‘ at the end). This article so closely mimics my initial writing on the topic, that if you will excuse my passing of the baton on this one, you are truly better served to read his excellent summary of the issue. As Koukl and Copan articulate, there is plenty of evidence that few, if any, women and children actually would have been killed in the conquest, due to usage of hyperbole/idioms, the fact that the attacks targeted military outposts, and the purpose of driving the inhabitants out, among others. Even if there were women and children killed, the purpose was judgment on a civilization which had descended into the depths of evil (think pre-flood society or Sodom/Gomorrah) for hundreds of years, and adult women would have been just a culpable in this degradation as men. Children, on the other hand, who had not reached the age of accountability would have gone straight to heaven, as opposed to reaping the eternal consequences of joining the evil Canaanite masses in adulthood. To sum up, let me quote from Koukl as he questions the validity of the skeptic’s complaint: If the conquest took place as the narrative describes, what precisely is evil about the destruction of the Canaanites? Was it evil for God to command it, or was it evil for Israel to obey it? It certainly seems that if God does exist, and if He were to have morally sufficient reasons for decreeing the destruction of a group of people (which He had in abundance), then the means by which he carries it out would be somewhat inconsequential. Whether God chose famine, wild beasts, pestilence, or sword, if the authority to destroy is there, then the means of judgment is incidental. Thus, if it was right for God to command the conquest, it seems right for Israel to obey the command. It is a curious argument that God may not exist because He gave these commands. Few people question God’s existence because of His choice to send the Flood to wipe out almost all of humanity or send fire from heaven to consume Sodom and Gomorrah. Righteous judgment can come in any form. Seeing as how there are a plethora of answers to the Canaanite question, let us turn to God’s initial command to Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. We know that God abhors child sacrifice, specifically outlawing it in Deuteronomy; in fact, it was one of the primary evils of the Canaanites for which they were judged. So what is going on here? First, we must remember that God prevented the sacrifice from occurring and did not desire it for any reason other than to test Abraham. Second, we must remember that at this point, Abraham was fully trusting in God’s promises. Though Abraham had faltered before, God had truly come through for him when Isaac was born to his wife at 90 years old. He had been reassured that nations would specifically come from Isaac. This was God’s test of Abraham to see if he so fully trusted in God’s promise that he was willing to give up his son. He passes with flying colors. The Apostle Paul reiterates that “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness” (Rom. 4:3) and that he knew God would raise Isaac from the dead (Heb. 11:17-19). In fact, Abraham even tells his servants before leaving that both he and Isaac would be returning to them. Abraham had faith that God would either call off the sacrifice or raise Isaac from the dead so that God’s specific promises to him regarding Isaac would be fulfilled. Third, God has a right to give and take human life as He sees fit, ergo He also can command life to be taken as well. Had Abraham decided on his own without a command from God to sacrifice Isaac, it would have been wrong and God would have condemned it. However, considering God’s infinite knowledge and wisdom pertaining to the timing of one’s death, we as finite humans cannot possibly dictate to Him whether His command was morally permissible in a given situation. Thus, God was neither acting against His good moral nature, nor being contradictory, and in the end Abraham was spared the sacrifice rather than wait for a resurrection. But that’s not all. Throughout the Old Testament, we see practices and stories which foreshadow future events, and in fact, help us better understand those future events when they occur. The law of Moses gives extensive instruction to the newly-freed people of Israel regarding how animal sacrifice should be implemented. The overarching universal ‘rule’ being presented here is that sin can only be paid for through sacrifice, or death. (Why this is the case is another of Jon’s questions that will be dealt with in a future article). Because of the detailed sacrificial system given to Israel from the very beginning, this runs to the core of the Hebrew people throughout history. This prepared the Jewish people to better understand the necessary sacrifice and bloodshed of Jesus’ crucifixion for mankind’s sin many centuries later. In the same way, the story of Abraham and Isaac parallels the sacrifice of God the Son on the cross and brings home the reality of a father giving up his son. Instead of asking “Why would God do this?”, we should ask “What can we learn through this?” Look at the parallels. Both Isaac and Jesus were long-awaited and born under miraculous circumstances; both carry the wood on which they would be sacrificed; both make reference to the sacrifice being a “lamb.” And finally, both were innocent sons being led to their death. We can’t imagine the sorrow Abraham felt as he was obedient to God in preparing to sacrifice his son (even if the death would be temporary). How much more so would God the Father be sorrowful over the death of His only Son (even if the death would be temporary)? Jon’s third question in this category regards the suffering of Job and is a more uncommon issue regarding God’s existence or at least the questioning of His character. Here, it seems Jon’s claim is that God was playing a game with Satan at the expense of Job. However, in reality, Job’s story is not terribly unique. Throughout human history, God has allowed suffering and trials in peoples’ lives and they are better for them. Check out 2 Corinthians 12:7-10, 1 Peter 1:6-7, Romans 5:3-4, and James 1:2-4. We are told that ‘tribulation brings about perseverance, and perseverance proven character, and proven character, hope’ and that ‘testing of faith produces endurance.’ The verse continues ‘and let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.’ Just as with Job, Satan is surely at work causing much of the suffering, trials, and tribulations that we experience today. But when Job lost everything, he continued to worship God saying “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21). In the end, everything and more was given back to Job. Surely Job appreciated what he was given more after he had experienced everything being taken away. Job’s personal character and resilience would have only been increased, and his trust and reliance on God only made stronger. The dialogue between God and Satan seems to be a bit irrelevant in light of this, but even then, the literal nature of that interaction could be questioned. Regardless, how is God’s moral nature (much less existence) called into question because He allows Job’s faith to be tested by Satan? God even gave the parameter that Job’s life may not be taken, and as stated, Job is surely a much stronger man of faith for it. We are not able to tackle every facet of the overarching claim that God seems more harsh in the Old Testament and more loving in the New Testament. Yes, the love of God for humanity does ultimately culminate in the death of His son on our behalf in the New Testament, but the entire Old Testament anticipates this event. I also believe that the dichotomy between the God of the Old Testament and the New Testament is primarily superficial. God’s moral commands and judgments in the Old Testament are reflections of His just nature and apply just as strongly in the New Testament. His laws are also far more fair and moral than those of surrounding nations in the Ancient Near East. God’s mercy is on display constantly in the Old Testament, as He relents time and time again when justice should have required obliteration. His patience is displayed regularly with both Israel and other nations, such as giving the Canaanites 400 years to turn from their rampant evil before judging them. On the other side of the same token, Jesus was not all ‘love and mercy.’ Time and again, He railed against the Jewish leaders and other hypocrites of the day. He plainly spoke of condemnation in the pits of hell and ultimate judgment for the enemies of God. Just as the God of the Old Testament interacted with love, mercy, and grace alongside justice, wrath, and judgment, Jesus did the same in His interactions with people. Different aspects of God’s perfect moral nature may be more promptly displayed in certain situations than others, but make no mistake, the same God who created us from dust, is the same God who gave His life for ours so that we could spend eternity with Him. For further reading on the “slaughter” of the Canaanites, see the following book/links: 1Copan, Paul. Is God a Moral Monster? Baker Books, 2011 Dr. William Lane Craig: https://www.reasonablefaith.org/writings/question-answer/slaughter-of-the-canaanites/ https://www.reasonablefaith.org/writings/question-answer/the-slaughter-of-the-canaanites-re-visited/ The Bible Project: https://bibleproject.com/blog/why-did-god-command-the-invasion-of-canaan-in-the-book-of-joshua/
Posted by Ben Jones

Part 5: Women and the Bible

A Series of Responses to Jon Steingard’s Declaration of Disbelief in God Our next Steingard issue to tackle is the assertion that the Bible seems oppressive of women. He indicates that women are treated more like property than equals. He also questions whether the instructions given to women apply today or if they were only applicable in the culture of the day. Since this is one of the reasons that Jon gives for his disbelief in God, or at least the Christian God, then his greatest concern must be how God perceives women. His understanding of this perception is based on God’s laws and rules regarding women. There are some important distinctions to be made here. First, we must differentiate between the way society treated and viewed women in the ancient Near East, and the way God views women. Second, we must recognize that some of the instructions and limitations placed on women were (1) cultural, and (2) pertaining to the biblical roles in the marriage relationship. It is made explicitly clear from the creation account that God created men and women as having equal value, both being made in the image of God (Gen. 1:27). Though normally translated as ‘helper’ in Gen. 2:18, the more accurate translation would be “a strength corresponding to him.” She is an equal partner in worth and value, a companion in exercising dominion over the earth. There is no indication of women being subordinate to men, or for one to be superior over the other. Even within marriage, they are ‘united’ and ‘one flesh,’ made of the same substance (since woman was created from man’s rib). Yes, in the family structure, God created a husband to be the ‘head’ of the family and to lead spiritually, but this in no way diminishes the value of the wife. God lays out the ideal view of women in Genesis 1-2. In the rest of the Old Testament, we must be careful to recognize that a description of how women were viewed and treated in the ancient Near East does not reflect an endorsement of the same. Ancient Israel was a patriarchal society, and this often distorted the many strong biblical affirmations of female equality and dignity. As author Paul Copan states: “…laws regarding women in Israel take a realistic approach to fallen human structures in the ancient Near East. In Israel’s legislation, God does two things: (1) he works within a patriarchal society to point Israel to a better path; and (2) he provides many protections and controls against abuses directed at females in admittedly substandard conditions…  Yes patriarchal structures strongly influenced the mind-set of Israelite society. Yet we see undeniable affirmations of equality in the Old Testament from theological, historical, and legal perspectives.1” The rest of the Old Testament promotes gender equality throughout, such as equal punishment for moral crimes and God’s blessing on many women in leadership roles. In fact, the only lead role they don’t play is that of priestess, which is primarily because of the association of priestesses in some heathen cults with prostitutes or cultic sexual rites, which Deuteronomy prohibits. God forbade people from giving the appearance of following the immoral practices of surrounding nations (and this also heavily influences the instructions to women in the New Testament, as we will soon see). The New Testament only continues to affirm gender equality. Jesus’ words and deeds defied most of the customs of His day by indicating that women should be treated equally to men. He respected their intelligence and spiritual capacity in teaching them and encouraging them to be disciples as well. He taught them great truths (i.e. the Samaritan woman) with the expectation that they would help spread the Gospel. Paul continues this trend by praising many women in ministry positions. In 1 Cor. 11:11 and Gal. 3:28, Paul explicitly states that there is no distinction between men and women in the Lord, and that they are ‘one.’ There are numerous exemplary verses which both implicitly and explicitly affirm the equality of men and women in God’s eyes. Any degradation or oppression of women in the Old or New Testament certainly has no foundation in God’s perception of women. Now we must turn to gaining a better understanding of the limitations and rules placed on women (especially wives) of the day. These may be what Jon indicates seem “oppressive” and as if women are being treated as property. However, if they don’t indicate inherent inequality, then how do we understand them? The gender roles described in Scripture can be somewhat controversial. Many of these passages seem to use particularly strong language, so it’s very important to navigate those waters carefully in the 21st century. But there’s also danger in not addressing them at all. A misunderstanding of these passages can be detrimental to both sexes. Upon a misinterpretation, men can develop an overly dominant spirit, or worse, use them to take advantage of women. Likewise, the 21st century woman could inappropriately choose to disregard these Scriptural passages entirely due to their nature. The first thing I want to make abundantly clear is that properly understood, the relational gender roles in the Bible are referring primarily to a husband and wife. Not men and women in general. Not a boyfriend and girlfriend. Not fiances. Women have no obligation to someone to which they are not married. We must recognize the roles laid out for a husband and wife and not thrust those roles onto men and women in general. The role of a husband and wife exemplifies the relationship between Christ and His Church. A proper understanding absolutely revolves around that parallel, and the direct correlation is made obvious in Ephesians 5:22-33: 22Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. 24But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything. 25Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, 26so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. 28So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; 29for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, 30because we are members of His body. 31FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND SHALL BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH. 32This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church. 33Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband. The instructions to the wife cannot be ignored, but the second a husband starts to claim that his wife is not submitting to him or respecting him, a husband must look at the far greater responsibility he has in nourishing and cherishing his wife, loving her as he loves himself. In this passage, there’s more instruction to the husband than the wife. Yes, the church is subject to Christ, but Christ gave His life for the church, and there is no greater love. You will also see a recurring theme of husbands loving their wives and wives respecting their husbands. I always find it amazing how Scripture speaks to the heart of the needs and desires of men and women today. Any professional therapist or psychologist will tell you that generally women look for ‘love and security’ and men look for ‘respect and approval’ in a relationship. Moving to our next controversial passage, 1 Cor. 11:3-16: 3But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ. 4Every man who has something on his head while praying or prophesying disgraces his head. 5But every woman who has her head uncovered while praying or prophesying disgraces her head, for she is one and the same as the woman whose head is shaved. 6For if a woman does not cover her head, let her also have her hair cut off; but if it is disgraceful for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, let her cover her head. 7For a man ought not to have his head covered, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man. 8For man does not originate from woman, but woman from man; 9for indeed man was not created for the woman’s sake, but woman for the man’s sake. 10Therefore the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels. 11However, in the Lord, neither is woman independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. 12For as the woman originates from the man, so also the man has his birth through the woman; and all things originate from God. 13Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? 14Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him, 15but if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her? For her hair is given to her for a covering. 16But if one is inclined to be contentious, we have no other practice, nor have the churches of God. First and foremost, it’s important to note that 1 Cor. 11:3 does not mean “women,” but “a woman” which should be translated as “a wife.” The Greek word is gune, and when it stands alongside the word Andros (meaning “husband”), it must be translated as such. In other words, the more accurate translation is that a “husband is the head of his wife.” This was written to the Corinthian Christians living in Greece. The Greek tradition here was for men to have heads uncovered and for women to cover theirs. This was against Jewish custom (and still is today, exemplified at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem). Paul’s advice was to examine the symbolism of the custom, and if it was not contrary to God’s word, accept it (v. 16). He goes on to show that the custom also demonstrates God’s “order of creation.” Why oppose something that demonstrates this? Still, Paul left it up to the believers; verse 13 literally means “decide in regard to it your own selves.” Another reason for women to cover their heads was to differentiate them from the priestesses, who were prostitutes, at the nearby Temple of Aphrodite in Acrocorinth. These women never covered their heads and had short hair. Due to the culture, Paul wanted to be sure Christian women did nothing that resembled those of low moral character, even if the custom in and of itself was not a sin. Verses 14 and 15 reemphasize the necessity of men and women to be distinguished from one another and not attempt to look like the opposite sex. Continuing in 1 Cor. 14:33-35: 33for God is not a God of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints. 34The women are to keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but are to subject themselves, just as the Law also says. 35If they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is improper for a woman to speak in church. This does not mean a woman should always be silent in all churches. 1 Cor. 11:5 makes reference to women praying and prophesying in church. We must understand this passages in context, 1 Cor. 14:27- 30: 27If anyone speaks in a tongue, it should be by two or at the most three, and each in turn, and one must interpret;28but if there is no interpreter, he must keep silent in the church; and let him speak to himself and to God.29Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others pass judgment.30But if a revelation is made to another who is seated, the first one must keep silent. In these verses, anyone speaking in a tongue was commanded to keep silent in the church if there was no interpreter or if another person was prophesying. This was to prevent confusion within the church, as v. 33 states. Immediately afterward is the command for women to be silent in the church, and this was given for the same reason. Notice that this was not a rule given in any other church. This was because of the cultural context: Across the bay from Corinth was Delphi, Greece’s most famous center of oracles and commerce. What happened in Delphi directly influenced Corinth. One of the primary practices in Delphi was consulting the Delphic priestesses. The practice was that a person who had questions would wait their turn in the inner shrine and hand over their questions written on tablets. The priestess would sit on a tripod over a great chasm and become intoxicated. She would then utter incoherent sounds which were interpreted by waiting poets. The interpretation was usually obscure and only served to confuse the inquirer. Just as the widespread practice of sacrificing to idols probably caused Paul to focus on that sin in 1 Cor. 8, the predominant participation of women in this Delphic practice may very well have influenced these verses. Paul would have addressed a practice, such as speaking in tongues, that seemed closely related to such paganism, just as the practices of the Aphrodite priestesses influenced proper customs (head coverings, etc). The key verse is v. 33. It is a shame for a woman to bring confusion into the church, just as it is for any man to do so. It is not an issue of men vs. women, but of confusion vs. order. Again, “women” in v. 34 is the word gunaikes, which should be translated as “wives.” Just as with the submissiveness of a wife to her husband (not a woman to a man), a husband also has the responsibility to guide and teach his own wife so she does not cause confusion or disturbance in the church. Paul expects the same of himself; he says he would rather speak five understandable words than 10,000 which were not understood, not only for the sake of fellow believers, but for the sake of strangers who may see him and believe that he and others are mad or maniacs (1 Cor 14:19). Another aspect is the usage of two separate words. In this discussion, when Paul says the word “speak,” he uses the word lalein, the infinitive of laleo, instead of lego. Laleo is exclusively used because it refers to the mere utterance of sounds without the speaker necessarily knowing what he is saying or others understanding. Lego refers to saying something that is a product of one’s thought. Lalein is the word used for “speak” in v. 34. Basically there are three circumstances in which a person should be quiet in the church given here; the first two deal with men and the third with women: 1) If a man speaks in an unknown language without interpreter, 2) A man speaks and someone else gets up to speak, and 3) A woman begins to act like a Delphic priestess speaking in an unknown tongue. Our next controversial passage is the one to which Jon specifically refers, 1 Tim. 2:9-15: 9Likewise, I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments, 10but rather by means of good works, as befits women making a claim to godliness. 11Let a woman quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. 12But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet. 13For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve. 14And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. 15But women shall be preserved through the bearing of children if they continue in faith and love and sanctity with self-restraint. Women are active members of the church as is stated in numerous locations in the Bible; no differentiation was made in the importance of a man and woman in Kingdom work (i.e. Priscilla and Aquila). The key to the beginning of this passage is a necessity to uphold any customs that show distinction between men and women. Instruction due to this is based on specific customs of the day that did just that. As seen in 1 Cor. 11, having short hair or a shaved head is not the sin; the sin is having a characteristic of ones who are known to be immoral. Also, again 1 Tim 2:11 does not mean “women,” but “a woman” which should be translated as “a wife.” A key to understanding v. 11 is what is translated as “discreetly” in v. 9. It is the word sophrosune, which basically signifies a voluntary limitation of one’s freedom of thought and behavior. Since women were equal to men in Christ, the danger was that this newfound freedom would be misused and taken beyond the limitations that God had placed in appointing man as head over woman in the marital relationship. Paul is simply warning women not to try to look or act like men and usurp their position so as to maintain the parallel of the Church as the bride of Christ. This does not imply male superiority; it simply means that to function properly, every unit needs a ‘head,’ including a family. This is exemplified in the Trinity. John 10:30 says “I am the Father are one,” but 1 Cor. 11:3 says “God is the head of Christ.” In verse 11, the word translated as “quietly” is the word hesuchia which means “peaceable” or “tranquil, not disturbed.” The word “submissiveness” is hupotage, a combination of the preposition hupo (“under”) and the verb tasso (“to place in proper order”). The real translation of 1 Tim. 2:11 should be “Let the wife learn in tranquility in her positioning under.” At this time, only men had the privilege of education, so how could a wife learn (which was encouraged by Paul) if she did not receive it from her husband? Similarly, if a wife was allowed to teach men in this society, it would undermine her husband’s position as head of the household. A wife should place limits on her liberty in Christ in both dress and speech. The second part of verse 12, “exercise authority over” is the word authentia which means “absolute sway or authority.” In other classical Greek, this is the most extreme form of authority. Obviously this type of authority would usurp the role of the husband. Verse 13 is again just stated so as to exemplify the order of things as God created it, not that one is more intelligent or more worthy. “Self-restraint” in v. 15 is again the word sophrosune (limitation of one’s personal freedom). Our last passage is 1 Peter 3:1-7: 1In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, 2as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior. 3Your adornment must not be merely external– braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; 4but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God. 5For in this way in former times the holy women also, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves, being submissive to their own husbands; 6just as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, and you have become her children if you do what is right without being frightened by any fear. 7You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered. This verse seems to indicate that a level of submission still applies even if the husband is disobedient to the word; however, again, this does not and cannot apply to unreasonable or blatantly immoral acts and demands. The key for the husband is always servant leadership as the spiritual head, allowing God, Scripture, and his wife to help him make the best decisions possible for his family. The word in verse 4 translated as “quiet spirit” is the same word used in 1 Tim. 2:12 as “quiet.” Peter certainly did not mean by a “quiet spirit” that a woman must be silent; he simply meant a tranquil, gentle spirit. Finally, notice that if a husband doesn’t treat his wife correctly, his prayers will be hindered. After establishing God’s recognition of gender equality, it is very important to differentiate between God’s intended role for all men and women for all time, those that apply to only husbands and wives, and the gender roles due to the culture and time period. Hopefully I’ve given some insight into some of these verses. Sources: 1Copan, Paul. Is God a Moral Monster? 2011 2Sections of this article borrow heavily from the commentary included in the Hebrew-Greek Key Word Study Bible, New American Standard Bible, AMG International, Inc. 1984 and 1990.
Posted by Ben Jones

Part 4: Why Would a Loving God Send People to Hell?

A Series of Responses to Jon Steingard’s Declaration of Disbelief in God How could a God of love possibly consign any person to eternal damnation in hell? Certainly Jon’s issue with this is one that many share. To some, the fact that God would send anyone to hell is incompatible with His being ‘loving,’ and thus gives credence to the belief that He does not exist. People dislike the idea that many people will spend eternity in a place called ‘hell’ and assume God is the one who puts them there. Thus, God becomes the object of disdain, and since they certainly don’t want to worship a God like that, they choose not to believe in Him at all. However, a misunderstanding of God and hell, or even a God they ‘don’t like,’ has nothing to do with whether or not He exists. In the real world, this is not how things work. If someone disappoints us (in our opinion, doing something unexpected and seemingly out of character), we don’t suddenly decide they don’t exist. This is an illogical conclusion. Rather, in the real world, we would either try to distance ourselves from that person, or try to better understand the reasoning behind those actions. As we briefly tackle this issue, let us open our minds to the latter. What is ‘hell’? If people die and go there, does that necessarily mean that God sent them there? If God acts out of love and justice, both of which are essential facets of his nature, is it possible that both a loving God and this place called ‘hell’ exists? These are all important questions. The most simple definition of ‘hell’ is ‘eternal separation from God the Creator.’ We often attribute flames and torture to ‘hell’, and it is indeed described this way in parts of the Christian Bible, but we must also remember that we are using human language to describe a terrible place of spiritual suffering. It is the soul that goes to hell, not our physical bodies along with its many pain receptors. We don’t know the exact nature of the suffering there. Whether these fiery descriptions be actual or metaphorical, I believe that hell is essentially a place of eternal hopelessness, eternal regret, eternal darkness, and eternal loneliness. This state can be worse for the soul than any flames. On the flip side of the same token, heaven will be a place of light, of eternal fulfillment, eternal fellowship, and eternal excitement. (This would describe our state both in the temporary spiritual heaven and the New Heavens and New Earth where we will have glorified physical bodies, but the specifics of that must wait until another time). Under the Christian worldview, a good and just God must punish wrong-doing. But let’s back up a moment. We can’t see a need for being saved from hell if we don’t understand why we are destined for hell in the first place. No one looks for a solution until they first recognize the problem. Only the person who is diagnosed with diabetes cares about insulin. It is intuitive to most people that those who commit moral crimes should be punished. We have a basic sense of justice built into us. If someone murdered a member of your family, you would demand that justice be served and the guilty party be punished. In fact, if the justice system chose to ignore the incident or simply let the perpetrator go free, it would be a bad government that could not be trusted. Saying that ‘if God is good, he couldn’t send someone to hell,’ is almost like saying that ‘if the government is good, they can’t give anyone a lifelong prison sentence.’ As author Alan Shlemon puts it, “A person who breaks the law in any given jurisdiction is subject to punishment by the authority in charge of that jurisdiction.” He continues: “In the same way, we live in God’s jurisdiction. God has given us laws that govern His universe. If someone breaks one of His laws, then they deserve to be punished. That is just and good of God. Failing to punish those who violate His laws is not noble, but negligent. We couldn’t call God good if He didn’t hold people accountable for their crimes. That’s why I don’t think the right question is, if God is good, why would He send people to Hell? The more puzzling question is, how can God be good and just but not send people to Hell? After all, God would be immoral if He ignored injustice. So it follows then that we must ask, ‘Have I ever committed any moral wrongs?’ If we are honest with ourselves, we must all admit that we are not perfect and that we all have committed numerous wrongs throughout our lives (called ‘sin’). By our own admission, we are guilty and deserving of punishment. We may make excuses, or we may think that the punishment doesn’t match the ‘sin,’ but we also underestimate the significance of sin in the face of a perfectly holy God. God in His perfection and holiness cannot be in the presence of sin in heaven, and thus our sin automatically separates us from Him. It’s where we should expect to go. But there’s Good News! God, in His love, mercy, and grace, offers us a pardon on His terms, and His terms are Jesus. If I know I’m destined for hell, does it matter what the conditions are to escape it? No, whatever they are, I’ll do it! In this case, God came down to Earth as the perfectly moral Jesus Christ. Since Jesus had no sins to pay for Himself, He is able to pay for our sins in our place, should we choose to accept Him. We can escape the punishment that we deserve because He took the punishment on Himself. Buddha didn’t do that. Moses didn’t do that. Muhammad didn’t do that. Jesus was the only sinless sacrifice that God could accept on our behalf (we will go into more detail on how this works when we tackle Jon’s question about ‘substitutionary atonement’). In a way, people send themselves to hell by freely rejecting the salvation that God offers through believing and accepting His Son, Jesus Christ. Again, hell is simply eternal separation from the very God we chose to reject on Earth. Hell is a continuation of the state we chose on Earth, yet without any hope. Think of the sun as a parallel analogy. The sun is a good thing in and of itself. Life on Earth literally could not exist without it. The sun’s warmth on our faces can be a great source of comfort and exhilaration. Yet this same sun has the potential of severely burning us. It bears down on all people equally. As imperfect, immoral people, we are all subject to a just God’s punishment. The New Testament of the Bible says that “All have fallen short of the glory of God,” and “No man is righteous, no not one.” However, God loved us so much that He provided a shield from the sun, someone to take the ‘heat’ of punishment for us. God provided the sunscreen, should we choose to use it. The sunscreen of salvation through Jesus Christ. Just because we can all be severely burned by the sun doesn’t mean the sun is bad (or doesn’t exist). In fact, we know the sun is good and necessary. When we go out to the beach, forget to wear sunscreen, and get badly sun-burned, we don’t curse the sun. We recognize that we are to blame for neglecting to wear sunscreen. Yes, the sun burned us, but the fault is ours. It is certainly just for us to be punished for our sin, but God in His loving mercy provided a way to protect us from His wrath by coming to Earth as a perfect human and paying the penalty for our sins. This question understandably holds weight for many people at first glance, but instead of raising our fist to God in anger at the concept of ‘hell’, perhaps we should be on our knees thanking God for His mercy, should we choose to accept it.
Posted by Ben Jones

Part 3: The Problem of Evil and Suffering

A Series of Responses to Jon Steingard’s Declaration of Disbelief in God How could a loving God allow so much evil and suffering in the world? This is not just one of Jon’s main concerns, but the single most prolific objection to the existence of God worldwide. In almost every survey conducted, it is the #1 reason why non-believers say they don’t believe in God, and it is the #1 struggle among believers as well, leading many to disbelief. In the words of renown philosopher, Ronald Nash: “Objections to theism come and go. Arguments many philosophers thought cogent twenty-five years ago have disappeared from view. A few other problems continue to get a sympathetic hearing from one constituency or another. But every philosopher I know believes that the most serious challenge to theism was, is, and will continue to be the problem of evil.” This question hits each person in a different way. For some, it may the genocide committed by a regime in another country, and for others, it may be the death of a son or daughter. It could be the incredible suffering caused by floods, earthquakes, and hurricanes around the world, or it could be the news story of a little girl starved to death by her own parents. For me, I have a hard time wrapping my head around the plight of long-term kidnap victims, such as that of Michelle Knight, Amanda Berry, and Gina DeJesus in Ohio, or Jaycee Dugard in California. These girls were raped, tortured, and starved for years on end. All they needed was for God to orchestrate one little instance where someone would have noticed something and they could have been saved from years of abuse. Would that be too much to ask? Questions about evil and suffering can also become very personal. Why are you letting this happen to me? Are you punishing me? Do you care? Are you there at all? These questions will come up in your life and in almost every life that you encounter. As powerful an objection as this may seem at first, if you are currently a believer, you’ll find that not only should evil and suffering not take the legs out from beneath your faith, but it should help substantiate that belief in God. For the unbeliever, I simply want to show how these things are indeed compatible under the Christian worldview. Before diving in, it’s important to note that there are two aspects of this problem: the intellectual and the emotional. The intellectual answer, which we will be dealing with in this article, is concerned with giving a rational explanation as to why God can co-exist with evil/suffering. The emotional problem is centered on individuals who are personally hurting and have a dislike of any God who would permit such evil and suffering. For them, it’s not actually an issue of logical incompatibility; they simply want nothing to do with a God who knowingly allows all the suffering that exists, thus they choose to believe He doesn’t exist at all. Though more people probably deal with this issue emotionally rather than intellectually, the two become easily intertwined. Thus we must first show that the intellectual problem of evil and suffering is not a proof of atheism. For the intellectual questioner, the problem resides in the notion that the following five statements cannot all be true: God exists.God is all-knowing (omniscient).God is all-powerful (omnipotent).God is all-good, all-loving (omnibenevolent).Evil and suffering exist in the world. Since the whole problem is based on the self-evident fact that evil and suffering exist, for the skeptic then, if God does exist, He either doesn’t know about the evil and suffering in the world (He is not all-knowing), or He doesn’t have the power to do anything about it (not all-powerful), or He doesn’t care (not all-loving). Since giving up one of those attributes seems to contradict our concept of God, then instead they give up the very existence of God. However, two assumptions are being made here. It assumes that (1) an all-powerful being can do absolutely everything and (2) a good being would eliminate all the evil and suffering that He possibly could. Neither of these is necessarily true. First, God cannot do logical impossibilities (i.e. create a square circle or a married bachelor). Second, it’s possible that God in his omniscience may have good reason to allow evil and suffering. Both of these will come into play moving forward. Just as there are multiple arguments for the existence of God, there are multiple answers to the problem of evil and suffering. You can pick whichever one most resonates with you! The Notion of Evil Requires the Existence of God. This stems directly from the previous article where we used the Moral Argument to help prove the existence of God. Ask anyone how they would define evil. Here are some definitions straight from the dictionary: the lack or corruption of goodness (this presupposes a standard of goodness, just as detecting an error is only possible if you know what is correct); profound immorality (this presupposes a moral standard); a departure from the way things ought to be (this presupposes a design-plan). Every definition points us to God, who is the very standard of goodness or morality and is the grand Designer of the universe. As stated in more detail in the previous article, there can be no objective evil without a standard of what is good, and the only objective standard we can point to is God Himself. Without God, how are certain things objectively evil? Under atheism, we are simply accidental by-products of nature. As famed atheist Richard Dawkins put it, “There is at bottom no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pointless indifference… we are simply machines for propagating DNA… it is every living object’s sole reason for being.” The implications of atheism are far-reaching and quite bleak, and certainly can’t form a solid foundation for calling anything objectively evil. We Live in a Fallen World. According to the Christian worldview, God created the world perfect, and it was exactly as He intended. There was no sin, no evil, and no suffering. However, when He created humans in His image, He gave us “free will.” Certainly for love to be real and genuine, there must be a choice, or else we would simply be puppets, and there is no pleasure, glory, or satisfaction in creating robots to do one’s bidding. There can be no true love and relationship without the choice to reject God, the choice to worship or blaspheme. It is logically impossible for God to create humans with free will without the possibility of moral evil. God cannot make someone freely do something. According to the Christian Bible, when God created the first man and woman, Adam and Eve, everything was good and perfect, but He did have one rule. That rule was not to eat the fruit of a specific tree. He told them that on the day they ate of the tree, they would gain something they would wish they never had, the ‘knowledge of good and evil.’ He knew that when they chose to disobey, evil and suffering would enter the world, and nothing would ever be the same again. There would always be a human awareness that things aren’t the way they should be. I know that people shouldn’t abuse children, but they do it anyway. If I didn’t know they shouldn’t, then it wouldn’t bother me that they do. That is the very knowledge of good and evil that is so inherent to our very souls, regardless of belief in God or in any other belief system. Evil and suffering are in this world because of man, not God. Man has the free will to do ‘bad’ things to people, and God would need to trump man’s free will in order to stop it directly. Sin affects everyone, not just the one who commits it. In fact, in a world where man is in a state of rebellion against God the Creator, Christians should expect there to be evil and suffering in the world. This also applies to the question of natural disaster. How does man’s free will explain floods, hurricanes, and earthquakes, which cause incredible suffering around the world? In a general sense, the earth, including natural disaster, reflects the fallen state of mankind. As goes man, so goes nature. According to Genesis, God cursed everything under man’s authority- the earth, the ground, and the weather. In the New Testament of the Bible, Scripture says that natural disasters will only increase as mankind continues to disobey and sin against God. In a more direct sense, the worldwide flood described in Genesis was a direct result of mankind’s rampant evil. This catastrophic flood would have completely changed climate patterns, destabilizing the earth’s crust, and creating the potential for most of the natural disasters we see today. But that’s not all. Man’s own decisions largely affect the amount of suffering caused by natural disaster. If they had chosen to build stronger and taller levees in New Orleans, there would not have been as much flooding due to the hurricane. Some decisions are simply human mistakes or oversight that lead to greater suffering, but most often, it is mankind’s sin steeped in selfishness. Consider earthquakes or monsoons that have affected third-world countries in Asia. The poor in these countries, if they have shelter at all, are forced to live in unsafe housing, which collapse more easily under the stress of natural disaster. If more people were selfless with their money and time, the funds and aid would be more readily available to build more suitable housing. If some corrupt governments didn’t keep the donated money for themselves, aid would be more quickly available and in greater force to help those affected by natural disaster. Can you imagine if the whole world (especially the USA) was focused on helping others rather than gaining power and living luxuriant lifestyles? There is no doubt that even the suffering from natural disasters would be much less. Suffering Can Be a Result of God’s Discipline and/or Judgment. Certainly this is not always the case, and in many circumstances, this explanation can come across as cold and heartless. However, we cannot ignore the Biblical precedent for this. As for judgment, many would think of examples such as the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah due to the endemic evil of those cities. When Adam and Eve disobeyed God, He did what any good and just God would do and He judged sin. We ask, Why do bad things happen to good people? But who are ‘good’ people? All have sinned; all have selfish motives at some point. It can be argued that no one is truly ‘good’. We may think God’s judgment is too harsh, but we must remember that the severity of sin’s punishment is a reflection of the position of the person sinned against. If a teenager punches his brother in the face, he may be grounded, but if he punches the President in the face, he may face prison time. The action is the same, but the punishment is based on the offended, not the offender. On the same token, we underestimate the significance of sin in the face of a perfectly holy and righteous God. A righteous and just God cannot turn a blind eye to sin. Similarly, any good and just Father will discipline His children. The imperfect discipline of our earthly parents is vital to our upbringing. Without discipline, we are simply spoiled bratty children of God, rather than the strong, mature men and women that He intends for us to be. Read Hebrews 12:5-11, which more plainly states the necessity of God’s discipline than anything I could write here. Hardship builds character. (See 2 Corinthians 12:7-10, 1 Peter 1:6-7, Romans 5:3-4, and James 1:2-4). God Can Work Good Out of Evil and Suffering. To start, an important clarification: There is a difference between God causing evil in order to produce a good result, and God allowing evil and working good from it. I am advocating only for the latter. Knowing the past, present, and future, God’s perspective is far broader and greater than ours as finite humans. How could we possibly presume to know if God has reasons to allow certain evils? Who are we to decide whether His reasons are valid? We can’t see the big picture. Consider the chaos theory or the butterfly effect- one small event may have a large and unforeseen effect, only known to God. Sometimes God may allow seemingly terrible things to happen but works great things out of them. A person dies of cancer, but 20 people come to saving faith in Christ at the funeral where the Gospel is preached. An earthquake causes much destruction but sparks a spiritual revival never before seen in that country (as it did in Haiti). In fact, Christianity is spreading most quickly in countries where persecution is the greatest. For those familiar with the Bible, think of the story of Joseph. He was sold into slavery, imprisoned, and wrongly accused. One can hardly find a story with a greater combination of evil (done both by his brothers and Potiphar’s wife), and of pain and suffering. And yet all of this had to happen for Joseph to become one of the most powerful men in all of Egypt, saving countless lives, including those of his own family (Gen. 50:20). What is the greatest evil ever committed in all of history? For Christians, we might say the crucifixion and murder of Jesus Christ, the very Son of God. Jesus may have willingly gone to the cross, but men are still responsible for this greatest of evils. God did not crucify Christ; He allowed Jews and Romans to use free choice to condemn and crucify Christ. However, God used it for His purposes and brought out of it salvation for all mankind and a restored relationship to Him. The greatest good came out of the greatest evil. God’s Chief Purpose for Us in this Life is Not Happiness. God is concerned first and foremost with the state of our soul and whether we will spend eternity with Him. Dr. William Lane Craig states this best, so I will quote from his book, On Guard, which I highly recommend: One reason that the problem of suffering seems so puzzling is that people naturally tend to assume that if God exists, then His purpose for human life is happiness in this life. God’s role is to provide a comfortable environment for His human pets. But on the Christian view, this is false. We are not God’s pets, and the goal of human life is not happiness per se, but the knowledge of God- which in the end will bring true and everlasting human fulfillment. Much of the suffering in life may be utterly pointless with respect to the goal of producing human happiness; but it may not be pointless with respect to producing a deeper knowledge of God. A relationship with our Creator, who loves us more than we can imagine and who provides eternal happiness and fulfillment, far outweighs our temporary earthly suffering. The worst trial will seem insignificant in comparison once we gain a true perspective on eternity and understand it as it relates to the Kingdom of God as a whole. When it comes to the evil and suffering topic, there are also logical issues to consider when we start demanding that God do certain things to prove His own existence. Where would God draw the line? I love the lyrics from the song “Truth” by Lecrae, which articulate this problem nicely: Some people say that God ain’t real ‘Cause they don’t see how a good God can exist with all this evil in the world If God is real then He should stop all this evil, cause He’s all-powerful right? What is evil though man? It’s anything that’s against God. It’s anything morally bad or wrong It’s murder, rape, stealing, lying, cheating But if we want God to stop evil, do we want Him to stop it all or just a little bit of it? If He stops us from doing evil things, what about lying, or what about our evil thoughts? I mean, where do you stop, the murder level, the lying level, or the thinking level? If we want Him to stop evil, we gotta be consistent, we can’t just pick and choose That means you and I would be eliminated right? Because we think evil stuff If that’s true, we should be eliminated! As these lyrics state, we are arbitrarily making demands of God as to how much evil He should be eliminating in order to prove that He exists and is an all-powerful, all-loving God. At the same time, how do we know how much evil and suffering God has stopped and we never knew about it? How many times may God have protected your loved ones from harm or supernaturally stopped a worldwide crisis, and yet we remain completely unaware of His actions? God may well have created a world with the least suffering and evil possible, given human freedom. Finally, just because God has not eliminated all evil and suffering yet, doesn’t mean that He won’t. The Bible says that one day He will wipe every tear from our eyes and there will be no more sickness and pain. So why hasn’t He done it yet? The Bible indicates that He is delaying his righteous wrath and ultimate judgment of evil in anticipation that as many people as possible have a chance to be redeemed. He is delaying everything out of His love for us, as He does not want any man to perish. (See 1 Timothy 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9). As of this writing, the two greatest issues in the United States are the COVID-19 pandemic and racial discrimination. One can be considered suffering due to ‘natural disaster’ (barring conspiracy theories which may have merit), and the other an evil stemming from the hearts of man. We could apply many of the above points to these two problems. The equality of humankind and the inherent value of every individual is rooted in the fact that God created every person in His image. Atheism has difficulty finding solid footing on which to say that racial discrimination is objectively wrong. We also can’t see the big picture of the long-term effects of the pandemic crisis and any good that may come out of it. Instead of raising a fist at God for allowing the COVID-19 virus to spread, perhaps we should be on our knees thanking God that the virus doesn’t have a higher mortality rate. Some may look at the previous points and say, “Well, you are explaining away the problem of Evil and Suffering using the Christian worldview and even examples and verses from the Bible. I am not a Christian, so that doesn’t work for me.” But that’s the entire point. From a secular perspective, it can be hard to believe in a loving all-powerful God in light of the evil and suffering in the world. However, the Christian worldview offers an explanation of how and why these are indeed compatible, if not expected. If you are a Christian, we must remember that no matter what happens in your life, God has already proven His love for you on the cross. In the middle of your circumstances, God has already met the deepest need of your heart. He has paid the price of your sins, and you are united with the One who already conquered death. Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage, I have overcome the world. – John 16:33
Posted by Ben Jones

Part 2: Selected Arguments for the Existence of God

A Series of Responses to Jon Steingard’s Declaration of Disbelief in God Every belief system must start somewhere, and there is no more foundational an aspect than whether or not God exists. When discussing the Christian worldview, this is our starting point, and thus seems an appropriate beginning before getting into the weeds of Jon’s more difficult questions regarding the faith. As mentioned before, one must weigh the ‘positive’ evidence of God’s existence against the reasons or questions we have that may lead to disbelief, however legitimate they may be. I submit that if we have tunnel vision about our few areas of doubt concerning God, then those doubts loom larger than life, but given a broader view and context, these questions dim in comparison to the overwhelming evidence we have for the existence of God. One of the reasons this is a good starting point is due to the fact that no reference to the Bible or any religious text is needed to make our case. We do need to first clarify what we mean by God. We are certainly not arguing for the existence of an old man with a long white beard on a throne floating around in space somewhere, as some envision. Neither are we advocating for the ancient Greek and Roman gods, nor the Hindu gods still worshipped today. The evidence is for a single, infinite, personal God of the universe. There are few tasks greater than attempting to prove God’s existence in a few pages, and there are many separate arguments for God’s existence. Different arguments will resonate with different people, but my concentration in this article will be on two of them: The Cosmological Argument and The Moral Argument (with an honorable mention to the Teleological Argument, or Argument from Design). Depending on the way an individual’s mind works, one of these two arguments will appeal to a large number of people. Having a more mathematically-oriented mind myself, the cosmological argument is most powerful to me, whereas the greater number of people more easily identify with the moral argument. The Kalam Cosmological Argument On a popular level, one could call this the “First Cause” argument, as it attempts to show that the universe must have a cause for its existence and this cause must be God. The argument has a long history, but has been brought back to the forefront by renown philosophers such as Dr. William Lane Craig. To see an excellent abbreviated visual animation of this argument, I highly recommend watching the following 4-minute YouTube video presented by Reasonable Faith. The argument is based on two premises that have a logical, inevitable conclusion. Whatever begins to exist has a cause.The universe began to exist.Therefore, the universe has a cause. Regarding Premise #1, this is the notion that anything that comes into existence at a certain point in time must have a cause. We live in a world of cause and effect, and there must be a cause that dictates that the thing comes into existence at that moment rather than earlier or later. This is confirmed in every human experience, and the denial of it is to say that things can simply pop into existence out of nothing at any given moment in time. In regards to the universe, we must clarify what we mean by ‘nothing.’ ‘Nothing’ is not simply empty space. ‘Nothing’ references a state in which there is no space, no time, no science, no random particles floating around, and no ‘potential’ for anything to happen. Atheists, more than anyone, should most readily accept this premise, given that they are naturalists at their core. A naturalist, by definition, does not believe in the supernatural, and would deny the notion that something may randomly come into existence for no reason with no cause out of absolute ‘nothingness.’ This premise is the more easily accepted of the two, so let’s look at the second. Regarding Premise #2, this is the notion that the universe came into existence at a certain point. In other words, it has not existed forever or for an infinite amount of time. There are two avenues of proving the truth of this premise. The first is scientific, and is based on the expansion of the universe and the Second Law of Thermodynamics. Due to astronomy, astrophysics, and the Theory of Relativity, we know that the universe is expanding. Though some say the expansion is decelerating and others say it is accelerating, there is no dispute among scientists that the universe is expanding and continually becoming less dense. Based on this, we can track this backward to a certain point in time of infinite density, or a time when the universe came into being. Even more importantly, the Second Law of Thermodynamics says that ‘in any closed system, processes tend toward a state of equilibrium’ or rather they run down and quit. Again, all scientists (and atheists) believe that the universe is a ‘closed system’, meaning there is nothing outside of it. Either the universe will stop expanding and collapse on its own weight into a gigantic fireball, or it will continue to expand. In the latter case, scientists tell us that due to reaching maximum entropy, the universe will eventually run out of usable energy. All stars will burn out, and there will be no light, no heat, and no life. If the universe has always existed, why hasn’t this already happened? Obviously the events of the universe were set in motion at a certain time. The second area of support for Premise #2 is philosophical. If the universe never began to exist, then prior to the present, there have existed an actually infinite number of past events or moments. In other words, one would have to cross an infinite number of previous moments to arrive at the present. To arrive at the present day, we had to pass yesterday, but to arrive there, we had to have passed the previous day. An infinite regression of days or events is impossible. Pretend that you tried to start counting up from negative infinity. It is philosophically impossible because you could never get to zero. You could never even get started! Thus, the universe must have begun to exist at a certain point in time. On the other hand, just as a side note, there can be an infinite number of future events. We can start counting from zero and continue counting to infinity, though we would never finish. Given the ability to live forever, we could continue to live through an infinite number of future events, and this parallels the Christian view of eternity. Thus, if we can stand solidly on the truth of the first two premises, then it follows that the conclusion is true: The universe has a ’cause’ and was brought into existence by something greater and beyond itself. What must be true about the nature of the First Cause? As the cause of space and time, the entity must be able to transcend space and time, existing atemporally (without time) and non-spatially (without the universe). It must be beginningless and causeless, since there cannot be an infinite regression of causes. It also must be unimaginably powerful! It created the universe! This certainly sounds like God. But we can take this one more important step. This timeless, causeless, powerful entity must also be a personal being. In a cause and effect world, there is a personal and/or scientific explanation for why something happens. Let’s say that a child wakes up and smells his mom cooking breakfast downstairs. As he walks down the steps, he sees the water boiling on the stove. He then asks, “Mom, why is the water boiling on the stove?” His mom could give two completely valid explanations. One correct answer is that “heat energy is being transferred from the coil to the pot and then into the molecules of water which begin to move more quickly, causing them to become water vapor which float to the surface as bubbles.” Or his mom could also correctly say “I wanted to make you breakfast.” One is a scientific explanation, and the other is a personal explanation. Before the universe existed, there was nothing, and therefore no science was at work. Since a scientific explanation for the universe is impossible, there must be a personal reason and explanation, and therefore the ’cause’ must be a personal agent. I would be remiss if I did not briefly address a common objection. So what about God? Who caused God? And given the impossibility of an infinite past, how then has God always existed? First, the question is not relevant to the premises in the argument. Premise #1 is not “whatever exists has a cause;” it is “whatever begins to exist has a cause.” We are not arguing that God began to exist at a certain point in time; we are arguing that the universe did so. The argument stands strongly without forcing any explanation of God. We have proven each premise as stated. Nevertheless, it is still worth suggesting an answer to the query. Many philosophers and theologians believe that God created time when He created the universe. Time itself had a beginning. Therefore God did not live through an infinite number of past events. He can exist timelessly, and did so before creating time and the universe. Thus, we have a proof argument for an infinite, powerful, personal cause of the universe. This is how we would describe God! The Moral Argument If you find the cosmological argument to be a bit cerebral, then you may find the moral argument to be more intuitive. This is the argument that if objective moral values and duties exist, God must exist. They cannot legitimately find their foundation in anything else. Like the last, I highly encourage you to watch a 5-minute visual animation of this argument produced by Reasonable Faith: Stated with premises: If God does not exist, objective moral values and duties do not exist.Objective moral values and duties do exist.Therefore, God exists. Of course, we need to prove each premise for the conclusion to follow. Let’s take Premise #2 first. To say there are objective moral values is to say something is good or evil independently of whether any human believes it to be so. To say there are objective moral duties is to say that certain things are right or wrong for any person at any point in history, in any culture, in any circumstance. Outside of serial killers and psychopaths, almost every person will eventually admit that some things are intuitively right, wrong, good, or evil. Was the Holocaust objectively evil? Is it evil to torture babies for fun? Is it wrong to murder, cheat, lie, and steal for one’s personal gain? Is it wrong when a priest sexually abuses a small boy? If these things are not objectively wrong or evil, we can only say that we don’t prefer them or don’t personally ‘like’ them. We may hate both child abuse and collard greens, but do we view these the same? Of course not! We believe one is objectively wrong and the other is a personal preference. Some hardcore relativists will be reticent to admit their belief in objective right and wrong, but they quickly backpedal when it becomes personal. They will think it is wrong if you steal their TV, or get them fired unfairly from their job, or kidnap their children. They also believe it is ‘wrong’ for you to push your moral code on them. Moral relativism is the opposite of moral absolutism. Relativism states that there is no objective morality, that ‘if it feels right, it is right”, and ‘if it feels good, do it’. ‘What’s right for you is not necessarily right for me.’ Let’s look at the implications of moral relativism. Under this worldview, nothing is obligated and nothing is prohibited. When a person rapes or murders, there is no moral significance at all because relative to that person, they may have thought it was a fine thing to do for a number of reasons. There is no moral accountability. Without belief in some type of moral standard that you will be accountable to, all that is left is your conscience to tell you something is wrong (which is an illusion because there is no ‘wrong’) or the fear of earthly punishment. There also can be no moral improvement since you can never become a better or worse person, as there is no standard by which to measure yourself. If we can establish that almost every person believes intuitively in objective right and wrong in some circumstances, then Premise #2 is secure. We may often not agree on what is right, wrong, good, or evil, or even where those notions come from; however we can still ultimately agree that objective morals and values do exist. Thus, we turn to Premise #1. Is it true that God is the only possible foundation for these objective morals and duties? This certainly seems like a leap. We have already shown that morality cannot simply be based off our personal preferences. If it was, we would have no right to speak against sex-trafficking or racial discrimination; it would only be our personal opinion that those things are wrong. All beliefs in right/wrong and good/bad are simply shifting sands, based on our own intuition, and one has no right to push any version of that moral code on anyone else. Instead, can morality be based off of our society? As in, if our culture and society have decided it’s okay, then it is in fact okay? For the Aztecs, child sacrifice was good and right. For the Nazis, they fully believed they were doing the right thing by exterminating the Jews. Certainly not too long ago, most of our own nation found nothing unethical about slavery. Even today, most Americans have no ethical issue with killing unborn children. We can find cultural moral abominations throughout human history. True objective morality rises above cultural and societal norms. It is to say that even if the Nazis had won World War II and succeeded in eliminating all dissenters until it was universally believed that the killing of the Jews was right, it would still be wrong and evil. If our moral code cannot be founded in the individual or in social convention, all that is left as a basis for objective moral values is an ultimate standard of ‘good.’ God is the standard by which right and wrong are measured; they are based in His moral nature. Moral values are grounded in the essence of God, and moral duties are grounded in the divine commands of God, which are reflections of His nature. If God does not exist, then morality is subjective; there is no longer good and evil (moral values), right and wrong (moral duties), and no moral accountability. The horrors of such a world should be obvious. If however they do exist, and it seems quite rational to believe they do, then we have good grounds for believing in the existence of God. As an important clarification, one does not need to believe in God in order to do right and wrong or believe certain things are good or evil. Nonbelievers can certainly work out their own ethical code of conduct, and faithfully live by it. The argument here is that the existence of God, not belief in God, is necessary for there to be an objective foundation on which those things rest. The Moral Argument is very intertwined with the Problem of Evil and Suffering which we will tackle next. Ironically, I’ll hear atheists (and Jon himself) say that they don’t believe in God because if He existed, He would not allow all the evil and suffering in the world. However, there can be no objective evil for the moral relativist; there can only be events or actions that they don’t like personally. No one can condemn war, oppression, brutality, child abuse or crime as evil. No one can praise brotherhood, equality, sacrifice, or love as good. Without God, there is no standard or basis on which to claim that something is objectively evil or good, so therefore the complaint falls on its head. My honorable mention, the Design Argument, deserves a few sentences as possibly one of the most powerful and self-evident cases for the existence of God, given the beauty and complexity of nature. From the tiniest cell of our bodies to the expansive nature of the heavens, God seems to have made clear his work of design in creation. The alternative is that the universe and all its properties came together completely by chance. This is simply unfeasible when looking at the probabilities. We needn’t understand or even know anything about the designer in order to recognize design itself. When an archaeologist uncovers a figurine or a tablet with writing from an ancient culture, he need not know anything about the culture or the designer, but he still immediately recognizes intelligent design when he sees it. At the same time, NASA looks to space for intelligent life, and the indicator of that life is any transmission that seems to have a pattern or design to it. In any other situation, obvious design points us to a designer, just as the intelligent design of the universe should point us to a Cosmic Designer. For an excellent abbreviated version on how the fine-tuning of the universe points us to God, check out this 6-minute visual animation: This is only a small sampling of the evidence we have for the existence of God. We could look to the Contingency Argument, the Ontological Argument, or the Argument from Intentionality. We could show how evidence for the Resurrection of Christ points us to the existence of God, or to countless peoples’ experience of God and how He changed them. Perhaps we could point to clear miracles from the past or present as indicators that God is supernaturally at work in the real world. No matter which argument resonates with you most strongly, we must always remember to weigh our doubts against this evidence. Remember, we don’t need to prove God’s existence; we simply need to show it’s more likely than not through good, rational arguments. Many people (both believers and unbelievers, such as Jon) have never heard someone give carefully formulated arguments for their belief in God. If you are a Christian, this will help you through times of doubt, give you more credibility in faith discussions, and make you a more effective representative of the God you serve.
Posted by Ben Jones

Part 1: Intro and Initial Thoughts on Famed Christian Artist’s Declaration of Disbelief

A top news story in recent days has been that Jon Steingard, the band leader of popular Christian music group, Hawk Nelson, has made public his disbelief in God, and thus Christianity as a whole. If you don’t recognize the band name, many of you would recognize their music, such as “Drops in the Ocean” and “He Still Does (Miracles).” This has been a shock to many in the community due to their overtly Christian song lyrics. Jon wrote a detailed and genuinely transparent post on Instagram regarding his journey to disbelief. You can read it at the link below: Jon’s experiences, doubts, and questions can lead to some excellent discussion, especially in regards to the importance of Christian apologetics (evidence in defense of the Christian worldview). The unanswered questions he has regarding God and faith are the same that many have, and over the next several articles, I will attempt to address each of them in a posted apologetics lesson. First, I would like to give five initial overarching points of perspective and teaching points specifically regarding his post: Don’t be afraid to ask the tough questions about your faith. As you can see from Jon’s experience, these questions were lingering afterthoughts at first, which progressed to active doubt, which then led to a solidified point of view. As he says, this was several years in the making. Perhaps when these questions first arose in his heart, he pondered them privately, and they continued to balloon over time. Or perhaps he brought them to a church leader who discouraged the questions, saying he should just ‘have faith.’ What we do know is that he brought it up to friends who not only did not have the answers, but they compounded the doubt because they struggled with the same and weren’t reaching out to find the answers either. The primary take-away here is to ask the questions, and do not be deterred on your search for a person or book that can at least give a possible answer to it, so that it is not a barrier in your faith. The heart cannot delight in what the mind rejects as false. As my subsequent posts will hopefully show, at least possible answers regarding the toughest questions are out there should you take the time, make the effort, and have the willingness to find them.Christian apologetics is vital in the believer’s life today. ‘Apologetics’ comes from the Greek word ‘apologia’ meaning ‘defense’. It is used in 1 Peter 3:15 which tells us to ‘always be ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you.’ This is knowing what you believe, why you believe it, and being able to explain it to people. This will make you more confident in your faith, especially in times of doubt; it will make you a more confident witness because you’ll know what you believe is objectively true (not just for you, but for everyone); and it will help clear away obstacles and objections that people have who are genuinely seeking Truth. As is evidenced in Jon’s post, having some powerful religious experiences, or growing up surrounded by a Christian family and church, is not enough to demonstrate the Truth of Christianity and arrive at Truth on a personal level. If we focus too much on entertainment and the emotions of our personal Christian experience, we’ll one day be a sitting duck for the doubts that creep in when difficult real-life events come up, or when a skeptic questions our faith, or when we are bombarded by one of the many secular relativistic humanistic philosophies that are out there. See Colossians 2:8.The ‘negative’ evidence must be weighed against the ‘positive’ evidence. Even if we consider Jon’s difficult questions about the Christian faith as evidence against the existence of God, he doesn’t consider the other side of the equation. He may not be familiar with the powerful scientific and philosophical evidence for belief in God. Many of us may have difficulty understanding the ‘how’ and ‘why’ of the biblical God’s actions and sentiments. These questions and concerns may pile bricks of doubt on the scale weighing towards disbelief; however, I believe this ignores the elephant of objective evidence for the existence of God that comfortably weighs down the scale on the other side. Thus my subsequent posts need to not only attempt to answer Jon’s questions, but also offer some of the ‘positive’ evidence for the Christian worldview, at least in regards to belief in God.Christianity is bigger than one’s personal Christian experience. Many people decide what they believe based on their own personal experience with God, and especially the people around them who represent Christianity to them. As Jon says, he didn’t ‘feel’ anything when praying or worshipping God. He wasn’t comfortable with the fancy Christian lingo. He thought it was unsettling to be asked to “date Jesus” for a year. Many can identify with the cliché tropes of youth groups and church experiences growing up. For Jon, these things contributed to his disbelief. Though understandable, these can cause us to lose sight of the much, much bigger picture of Christianity as a whole and how God has worked in and through peoples’ lives throughout all of history. From the Christian perspective, when a person decides they no longer believe, they automatically make illegitimate the work of every career missionary who ever dedicated and sacrificed their lives to spreading the Gospel. Christian martyrs become absolute fools. All the lives that have been changed throughout all of history by the evangelism of the likes of Apostle Paul, Hudson Taylor, and Billy Graham are shams. In other words, some personal experiences during an obnoxious childhood youth group are heavily contributing to the personal claim that Christianity is the greatest and most evil hoax ever perpetuated upon the human race. One does not logically follow from the other. True story: A few days ago, I found a long spider leg in my overcooked Chinese food. Based on this, let’s say I thought that every Chinese restaurant in the world was careless and dirty, and everyone who liked Chinese food was objectively an idiot for eating it. No, I had a singular and legitimately terrible experience and no one could blame me for not returning to that restaurant. This restaurant has served 10s of 1000s of meals… perhaps this was a fluke or perhaps they are truly a bad Chinese restaurant, but it certainly doesn’t follow that Chinese food itself is objectively ‘bad’ simply because of my singular experience. People often have negative feelings toward Christianity because they associate it with a legitimately bad church experience or a hypocritical ‘Christian’ they met, but that very limited perspective shouldn’t automatically cause one to disbelieve in Christianity as a whole, and the very real impact it’s had on billions of people throughout history. Though it is the most common practice in the world, sadly we cannot logically determine the truth of a belief system based on the actions of its adherents.Going through the motions of Christianity without an actual relationship with Christ will always cause internal resentment. The conversation changes somewhat based on whether Jon was ever truly a Christian. This is certainly not for us to judge, and there’s no way to know for sure, but there are indicators that he never accepted Christ in the first place. There is lack of a specific salvation experience in his story, and this in addition to his general discomfort and resentment toward prayer and worship from the very beginning. He disliked going to church and reading the Bible; Christian obligation seems to have always been a burden to him. He actually even says that looking back, perhaps he never believed in the first place. This very much seems to imply that Jesus never truly resided in Jon’s heart, as he never felt compelled internally to do any of these things. Going through the motions of Christianity because of family, friends, or general expectations will always eventually cause resentment. Without right internal motivation, and without understanding the ‘why’ behind these actions, they will always only be a weight on one’s shoulders. This weight becomes heavier as time goes on, and as soon as one is free of that environment of expectation, it becomes very attractive to consider dropping it from the shoulders completely. When one finally does, as Jon did, it can feel freeing, as he describes. However, if one truly accepts Jesus into their heart as Lord and Savior, these actions are no longer simply obligations; they are outpourings of love, humility, and deep appreciation of the grace and mercy that God gave us through his Son. This is where true freedom is found. See John 8:32. Once again, I would like to reiterate my respect for Jon’s post, along with its honesty and transparency. As I conclude this initial post, let’s sum up his questions about the Christian faith into categories to tackle each of them in a future post. All of these posts are currently available except for the one on Biblical Inerrancy, which is yet to be written: Selected Arguments for the Existence of GodThe Question of Evil and SufferingWhy would an all-loving, all-powerful God allow evil in the world?Does He not have the power to do anything about it or does He choose not to?Is evil and suffering a result of free will?What about the suffering caused by natural disaster where free will seems not to be at fault?Why would a loving God send people to hell?The God of the Old Testament vs. God of the New TestamentWhy does God seem angry in the OT, but a loving father in the NT?How do we understand His commandment not to murder in light of His instruction for Israel to kill all the Canaanite men, women, and children in the Promised Land?Did God allow Job to suffer in order to win a bet with Satan?Why does God tell Abraham to sacrifice his son (which seems certainly like murder), and then retract the command at the last minute?Women in the BibleWhy does the Bible seem oppressive of women (see 1 Timothy)? Why do biblical instructions seem to treat women more like property than equals? Why would a loving God seem to condone this treatment in the NT?Are the instructions regarding women in the Bible supposed to be applicable today or do they simply reflect the culture of the time?Substitutionary AtonementWhy did Jesus have to die for our sins? Why can’t God forgive humans without someone being killed (Jesus in this case)?If God requires human sacrifice (a perfect human in this case) in order to forgive sins, how come we humans can forgive someone without human sacrifice?Biblical InerrancyWhat about the seeming contradictions throughout the Bible? Does this not indicate that the writers were flawed and imperfect, and thus their writings would reflect the same?Can our current English translations be trusted having been passed down and copied throughout history?Can the original Hebrew and Greek manuscripts be trusted? Can we really take their writing as the flawless inerrant Word of God? If so, why? And why were certain writings chosen to be included as part of the perfect Word of God, the Bible, and some were not? (I added that one) Some of these questions are tougher than others. Some have strong, clear answers, and others have possible answers which hopefully will at least serve to remove the barrier to belief in Christianity. Some I have struggled with personally as well. Regardless, they are all questions worth asking. As mentioned, in addition to these questions, I believe it will be important to share some of the strongest evidence to support a basic belief in God (the God of Christianity). As I tackle these questions in subsequent articles, I pray that you will not be afraid to wrestle with your faith as well, asking the tough questions, and going to Scripture and trusted spiritual leaders to discuss them.
Posted by Ben Jones

Creation vs. Evolution Part 2

Is there really any evidence for six 24-hour creation days? Was Noah’s flood worldwide, and what were the results? Who was Cain’s wife? What about dinosaurs? Are there problems with Darwin’s evolutionary theory? Read this article in PDF format. *Select Page references from “Reasons” by Josh McDowell Continued from part 1… Natural Selection and “Survival of the Fittest” One of the assumptions of Darwinian evolution is that natural selection only allowed the “fittest” to survive and that there was severe competition between species- this is the driving force of evolution. The best and fittest society would be one where its individuals look out only for themselves and would advance themselves, if possible, at the expense or even destruction of others. Natural selection demands the destruction of the weak and the free domain of the powerful. [It demands annihilation of anything weaker than necessary and the ruling of anyone or anything more powerful than others.] In his theory, Darwin gives NO examples of this fierce competition. Since then, in fact, observation shows competitive fighting as relatively harmless activities. Translates mostly into territoriality (animal holds and defends territory against species) which is an attribute of most animals. Lethal fighting between territorial species is very rare! When two animals face off against each other, many use displacement activity: Fish chase each other back and forth, face off, then bury in the sandRoebuck destroys saplings in the forestGulls pull grassHowling monkey howls If anything, the very opposite is true! Observation of animal society seems more cooperative than destructively competitive. (quote, pg. 161) Many have observed the lack of support for this fierce competition. Petre Kropotkin best documented (quote). Whole books describe examples of animals within a species helping each other. Some of the examples come from Darwin’s own work! (pg. 163) What about symbiotic relationships? (pg. 170) Two animals or plants live in mutually advantageous relationships. Ex. Sirex and Ibalia Wasp, Dodo Bird and Calvaria Major Plant (they depend on one another to survive) And obviously we humans should fall in line with this “survival of the fittest” trend as products of evolution. However, people exhibit mercy, pity, and morality, all of which inhibit natural selection. And I think we can all agree that our need for love and friendship cannot be explained if all that we do is for survival. BUT, survival of the fittest tells us only of how something survives, NOT how it evolves from one species to another. Natural Selection and Genetic Mutation According to Darwin and his followers, natural selection is the driving mechanism behind evolution. Natural selection (along with mutation) is said to have caused organisms to evolve from one basic kind (animals that reproduce with one another) into another basic kind. Problem: Prohibited genetically because all of the information for the development of an organism has already been encoded into the DNA of its parent. Called information science. Variation and Adaptation must remain within its basic kind. A wide variety of dogs can exist, but a dog cannot become anything other than a dog. (Reminds us of Gen. 1:21, 24-25). Evolutionists admit this is true. They explain that natural selection must have happened in conjunction with genetic mutation. Problem: Mutations are small, random, and harmful alterations to the genetic code. This makes evolution from mutation impossible. A wristwatch is not improved, but is harmed when its inside parts are randomly altered, or even if one part ceases to work. We could stop here, but talk a little more about this. Evolution says it evolved using small successive modifications: Problem: The natural selection process could not have had the forethought to allow an organism to become worse temporarily in order to create over time some characteristic or part that would make it better overall. For instance, the creation of an eye. Natural selection requires that organisms begin as crude, yet some organisms could not survive at all without basic functions such as respiration and reproduction, which had to exist from the beginning of an organism. Also, consider this: Some new ‘features’ of an animal would have to have developed simultaneously in order to be a benefit or even usable at all. (Quote, pg. 164) [Ex. Surinam Toad is used by evolution as an example of how land-based amphibian solves the problem of no water. Female toad lays eggs on back with long oviduct. After eggs are laid, skin on back grows around eggs. How did this evolve? Darwin would say, ‘because the need was there.’ However, 3 phenomena had to happen at the same time or they would be extinct: Long oviduct evolvedSkin capable of surrounding eggsHad to use them properly No reason for either to evolved by themselves. A toad without water to lay eggs in is doomed… they would not need these modifications millions of years later, they would need it immediately. Slight modifications don’t work because many times they have to appear all at once, or it is useless. Ex. Another toad female lays eggs in male’s mouth whose vocal sacs become a nursery.] *Also contradicts the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics (All things, left to themselves, will tend to deteriorate rather than develop) Comets Comets are made of ice and dirt and orbit the sun. Every time a comet passes near the sun, some of the ice is blasted away (forms the tail) and the comet loses mass. A comet could orbit AT MOST 100,000 years before running out of material. Can be destroyed in one pass. They don’t last that long. If the solar system really were 4.5 billion years old, why do we still have comets? Rescuing Device- Way to protect evolution worldview… Perhaps there is a vast reservoir of comets beyond the visible solar system called an “Oort Cloud.” (vast sphere of potential comets beyond our detection) Comets are occasionally dislodged from this cloud and thrown into the inner solar system. New ones replace the old ones. How convenient… see universe could be billions or trillions years after all. Let’s ask: Is there any observational evidence for it? They say, “No, but you can’t prove that it isn’t there.” And that’s true. So, comets confirm the young universe, but they don’t prove it. Just like I can’t prove there isn’t an invisible unicorn in the room. Evolutionists can always invoke a rescuing device. Understandable because they are starting from a different worldview. Hold off on this until the end. Spiral Galaxies Evolutionary Scientists believe the universe is 10-15 billion years old. But galaxies appear young! Much younger than 10 billion years. Stars are gathered into clusters called galaxies. In a galaxy, stars revolve around galactic center. Stars nearer the center make more rotations around the center than do the ones farther out make in the same amount of time. 8,000 light years from center VS. 16,000 light yrs from center → 2.8 : 1 ratio 16,000 vs. 32,000 → 2.8 : 1 The nearer star will have revolved 2.8 times around the center by the time the farther star has rotated around once. So in most galaxies, the innermost star has gone around 8 times in the time it takes for the outermost star to go around only 1 time. Effect is that spiral arms would have wrapped themselves around center until arms were no longer noticeable. If our galaxy is 4.5 billion years old, then we would have made 22 revolutions (200 million years per rev.) A star half the distance to the center as we are would have orbited 62 times. No spirals should be visible in our galaxy, or any other, BUT THEY ARE! Galaxy Clusters Just as stars are grouped into galaxies, galaxies are grouped into clusters as well. There is a lack of gravitational force to hold these galaxy clusters together. Mass of galaxy is based on brightness. Once all galaxy masses in a cluster is calculated, the gravitational force holding the cluster together can be calculated. Then you calculate the velocity of galaxies in relation to each other. These two combined can be used to calculate the necessary gravity to hold the cluster together. If measured mass is anywhere close to correct, galactic clusters would have dispersed long ago. Ex. Coma Cluster- For this cluster to be stable enough to last for alleged 10 billions years, it would need 7 times more mass than calculated Ex. Virgo Cluster- Missing 98% of mass needed to hold it together Sun Energy If the earth is 4.5 billion years old, sun must be at least as old. Solar system- 4.5 billion years. The sun could not have lasted this long. Sun’s luminescence is caused by slow gravitational contraction; sun is shrinking under its own weight. Present luminosity is 1041 ergs/yr, which would keep in shining approximately 100 million years. Proven that the sun has been shrinking for 400 years. The sun would have scorched earth or touched earth if it was big enough to last this long. And if that’s ok, then you have to deal with changed orbit, length of year, etc. Objection: Sun’s energy comes from hydrogen fusion, so doesn’t necessarily need to burn off and shrink constantly. But hydrogen fusion gives off neutrinos. Only 4/month are given off which is less than 1/10 what would be expected if hydrogen fusion were occurring in the sun. Earth’s Revolution Speed Since man has been recording time, the earth’s rotation slows by one second per year. The spinning of the earth is slowing down. This means that 30 million years ago, the earth would make one revolution every second. The earth would be like a strobe light- on and off and on and off with the sun flashing across the sky. If you go much farther back, you run into problems with gravity, etc. Probability Factors “Origin of life is chance formation of amino acids, and the chance of union of amino acids to make protein.” Even the chance of the smallest protein to form would be extremely rare → large spans of time needed. (monkey example?) Age of universe: 10 billion. Age of earth: 4.5 billion. Insulin → 8×1027 combinations possible (billion is 9 ‘0’s) Let’s say each second the universe has existed, it produced a different combination. After 10 billion years, we would have 3×1017 combinations. This is 1/10,000,000,000 of all possible combinations. We would need to wait another 10 billion times the present age of the universe to be sure to get a combination the body could use. Or wait another 100 quintillion years. Hemoglobin → 135×10165 combinations- only a few are useful. Let’s say 10100 combinations created every second the universe has existed. (actually total number of atoms in observable universe is 1078, so factory would consume 10 sextillion universes to keep production rates up) Even at this rate it would take ten trillion trillion years to produce all combinations. Compared to the formation of a virus, this is nothing. In the smallest known virus, DNA has only 5,000 small chemicals making it up. That’s 10×101505 combinations. This is so far beyond scientific impossibility. There’s not been close to enough time in the universe for even the chance occurrence of the formation of chemicals needed for life. Conditions for Chemical Evolution Chemical evolution says that once a necessary chemical is formed by chance, it must be preserved until all other chemicals necessary are formed and brought together. When this happens, life appears. Can we see this today? No, because: If complex chemical formed, it would be eaten by microscopic plant/animalOxygen in atmosphere would oxidize chemicals (like iron left to rust) which breaks them down making them useless for evolution of life So if life originated by chance on earth, these must be absent. (1) is true. What about (2)? If oxygen were in the atmosphere, evolution of life could not occur. Evolutionists state this as evidence that atmosphere was different (see the bias here?). But NO alternative given! There must be some atmosphere of gas around any planetary body to hold it. Only conjectures based on the abundance of certain chemicals in atmosphere now, AND what is needed for evolution to have occurred. *Also, goes against the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics Carbon-14 Dating Process: Carbon-14 is produced when Nitrogen-14 is struck by a cosmic ray in the atmosphere. Disperses and is absorbed into plants through photosynthesis (small animal eats plants, big animal eats small animal) until all creatures have about same degree. When plant/animal dies, it quits absorbing Carbon-14 and starts to decay back Nitrogen-14. One can date object if conditions are met: Know how much C-14 present upon deathAssumes level of C-14 in atmosphere has been constant for 30,000 years (this means atmospheric nitrogen and rate of cosmic ray bombardment has been constant. First measurements were taken 80 years ago)Can measure proportion of normal C-12 to C-14 (true!)Rate of decay does not change But rate of decay can be changed in a lab! Experiment by John Lynde Anderson → electrical charge drastically changes rate of decay. What about electrical storms? Antler (Yale): 3 tests:Specimens in same rockBark:Mastodon:5,340 yrs oldstrata (Mich):(Chico)- 1168Outside- 78209,3101430(Mich)- 2200Inside- 750 yrs later10,3202040   11 tests done in village of Jarmo in Iraq- 6,000 year spread in dating. [Diamonds have C-14. C-14 doesn’t even last one million years. The crystal structure of diamonds does not allow for recent contamination of C-14. If the whole earth was C-14, it would be gone in 1 million years- decayed into nitrogen] Other Factors Matter from Nothing: More philosophical, but matter could not simply have come into existence from nothing without a cause. It is a logical absurdity. We live in a cause/effect world. Life from Non-life: Life is far too complex to have resulted from trillions of chance occurrences. Life coming from matter (non-life) violates the law of biogenesis and the cell principle which state that life must come only from life. Evolutionists have never come up with an decent explanation- most popular one being that it rode on the back of a crystal attached to a meteorite. Order from Disorder: Our bodies, as well as most other organisms, depend on systems that run according to intricate order such as from DNA. A system dependent on order cannot be created by disorder. (2nd Law of Themodynamics) Developed from Crude: Small and undeveloped things do become grown and developed (seed to tree, baby to adult), but small and undeveloped things first come from the developed (seed from tree, baby from adult). The pattern of growth is circular, not from crude to developed as natural selection states. Evolved Into or Created For: Evolutionists say that organisms are suited for their environment because they evolved into it, but it is better explained by the fact that they were created for the environment. Similar DNA: Evolution’s overall argument is based on the similarity of our DNA with those of apes and on down the line. First, life could only happen if certain things are similar. Secondly, is it not as good or better an explanation to say there was common designer rather than a common ancestor? Origin of Morality: There is no objective basis or explanation for morality in human beings under Darwin’s Evolutionary Theory, or even our mental capacity and overall dominance of the physical world which sets humanity apart by any reasonable means from the rest of the living world. Moon Dust- don’t use this one! Not evidence for either. Personally, I have never found any argument for evolution that I could not find the answer for in creationism! (“Star Light” below is the closest I have come) Star Light It would take millions of years for the light from stars to reach earth. The fact that we can even see as many stars as we can is evidence that the universe is at least as old as these stars. This is an evidence on the side of an old universe! (not evolution per se). Milky Way Galaxy is 80,000 light years across. Though this evidence goes on the side of the old universe, there are possible explanations (see below for more thorough possibilities): The make-up of the universe (density, etc) has not always been the same. Do we know the speed of light has always been constant? The universe is constantly expanding, so at one point these stars were closer to earth.We, as Christians, believe that God’s most important creation is human beings. Are we not in awe of the beauty and power of God when we look up and see all the stars in the night sky. If we are the center of God’s universe per se, then what would be the point of creating stars that we could not see? Is it too far a stretch to say that God could have created the starlight in route to the earth for the purposes of His glory? (Valid objection to this: This means that we would see events happen in the heavens that never actually happened. There are problems with this- see below) This is the best argument for old universe, but not a good argument. Is distant starlight solvable? Creation was a one-time event, not repeatable.Creation was supernatural (way God upholds the universe today, natural law, is not the way that He created the universe, so there will always be things we can’t understand through science)The dominion mandate (must understand things to take care of the world, Ps. 32- don’t be like horse or the mule, have understanding)- “gives us the right to ask the question”God is sovereign- not required to make all the universe understandable- “God doesn’t have to answer if He doesn’t want to”History has shown that many “problems” for creation are easily explained by newer evidence. (Mt. Saint Helens eruption, many layers formed, great canyons very quickly formed) The Travel-time Equation → D = vt (distance = velocity x time) Ex. 120 miles = 60 mi/hr x 2 hours Speed of light © is 670,000,000 mi/hr or one light year per year. One light year equals the distance light can travel in one year (6 trillion miles). Poor solutions: “Those distances are not real”- not true, distances to these stars are accurateLight in Transit: light was created already on its way- not best solution. Support- universe was created “mature.” Philosophical Problem: We see events. We would be seeing events… that never happened. We see super-nova… blue star blew up in 1987 and we see it happen → this is 179,000 light years away. If God created that beam of light, then he created the picture of that explosion, but in fact it never happened; blue star never existed. Don’t think God would create pictures of things that never happened- more philosophical. Possible Solutions: CDK: Is the speed of light constant in time? Proposes that the speed of light in the past may have been much greater than the speed of light today. Potential Problem: The speed of light is not arbitrary. It is ‘linked’ to nature. Lots of things depend on light speed being this speed, such as E=mc^2. If speed of light had been significantly greater in the past, then there should have been dramatic changes in the energy or mass of everything in the universe. Other constants could have changed to, so not fatal. Testable? Nothing tells us that speed of light has changed. This changes VGTD: Gravitational Time Dilation: Time can flow at different rates. Perhaps the universe has aged millions of years, while only 6,000 years has elapsed on Earth. From universe’s perspective, there was plenty of time for light to reach earth. General Relativity has shown that the rate at which time passes is related to the gravitational potential. Clocks tick more slowly when they are in a “gravitational well.” Gravity affects time. Clock at sea level ticks slower than official clock in Boulder, Colorado. If the earth were near the center of a finite universe, time would flow more slowly here than elsewhere. That would allow time for starlight to get here in 1000s of years, per Earth clocks. This is well-tested physics. Potential Problem: If universe is infinite, or at least galaxies throughout, and earth’s position is not special, there would be no gravitational well. Also, is GTD significant enough to get starlight here in 6,000 years (earth-time), in a way that is compatible with known red shifts. Potential solution, but details yet to be resolved. This changes TASC: Alternate Synchrony Convention: (use plane example) Possible that Stars were created on Day 4 (Cosmic Local Time), and their light reaches Earth on Day 4 (Cosmic Local Time). Only works if plane is going west… only works for light coming towards earth (stars were created in the firmament to shine upon earth, right?). If we use CLT, events in space happen as we see them from Earth. Why use this? More convenient! …doesn’t require knowing distance to the source. They use Cosmic Universal Time and CLT (they name supernovas by CLT). Issue: Does Bible use CLT or CUT? Today, CUT is considered the standard, but CLT used throughout history (they didn’t know light speed or distances). Objection: Does that mean stars were really created before Day 4? Works only if Bible uses CLT. Always possible supernatural acts were at work. (see this in Bible) Summary: CDK: The speed of light may have been greater in the past. GTD: Time may have flowed more slowly on the earth. ASC: “Time-zones” allow light to leave stars on Day 4 and arrive at Earth on Day 4 (CLT) Conclusion: Distant starlight does not prove universe is old. Light Problem with the Big Bang: There is uniform temperature in the universe, but even in billions of years, there would not have been time for light to have been transferred between galaxies for this to happen. Astronomers have measured the observable universe as 156 billion light years. We can see 78 billion light years out into space. But they say the universe is 13.7 billion years old. Secular astronomers believe that light can travel 78 billion light years in only 13.7 billion years? Isaiah 55:9 (scale) How could so many people and scientists be wrong? Presupposition of Anti-supernaturalismWe come at things with presuppositions (i.e. senses are basically reliable, ex. Rock, that memory is reliable). We all have access to the same information. Your worldview tells you what to make of the evidence. Its not that people don’t have enough evidence… Romans 1 says everyone has enough evidence to believe in the Creator God, but the problem is that they suppress the Truth in unrighteousness and God tells us there is no excuse for that. [Story of man who thought he was dead- walk, talk (spasms), charts (wrong interpretation, name swapped), dead men bleed?]Evolution is taught as fact, not as theory, through school, television, movies, etc. Creationism has not been offered as an alternative explanation.Scientific fields of study have become very narrow; a scientist can easily believe that missing evidences for evolution is found in another field.The theory of evolution was welcomed as it made sense at the time, and allowed for people to explain the earth without God.Scientists want to be accepted by other scientists; if someone falls outside the common belief, especially when it comes to denying evolution, many are written off. Non-Christian scientists normally don’t have the incentive and self-will to do this to themselves, so they believe in order to be accepted.When a scientist says that “Evolution is proven,” it is true in one sense of the word, but there is a difference between Micro-evolution and Macro-evolution:Micro-evolution: living things have a built-in variability which allows for adaptation within species to small changes in the environment. When scientists say that evolution is proven, this is what they mean. This is true!Macro-evolution: People from hydrogen gas. Large scale change possible because of small scale change. But living systems have limits beyond which no further change can take place.
Posted by Ben Jones

Creation vs. Evolution Part 1

Is there really any evidence for six 24-hour creation days? Was Noah’s flood worldwide, and what were the results? Who was Cain’s wife? What about dinosaurs? Are there problems with Darwin’s evolutionary theory? Read this article in PDF format. *Select Page references from “Reasons” by Josh McDowell Continued from previous Creation study… Gen. 8:22- Reassurance of how world will not end; not global warming, etc Gen. 9:2- Reason for animals reaction to humans The Flood Gen. 7:11-12 Waters from above → Water Canopy Water from below → Fountains of the deep, wells, etc Waters around → Oceans Water canopy that served as a kind of ‘hyperbaric chamber’ came down in the Flood. Heard of Pangaea? (Gen. 1:9 seems to indicate this is true) “Fountains of the deep bursting open” could have created higher mountains (Gen. 7:19) and caused Pangaea to break apart. The whole earth was in turmoil! Evidence of a worldwide flood? (people probably only lived from Persian Gulf up to the Caspian Sea): V. 19- all high hills were covered, V. 22- all that was on the dry land diedGod didn’t need ark if it was only local; He could have moved 8 people to a new locationGen. 9:8-11 – God would have been making the covenant with Noah to never again send a local flood?Worldwide flood tradition comes from around the world, and in almost every ancient cultureWhat sort of miracle kept all water in local area? (Mt. Ararat is 17,000 ft- and water was 15 cubits higher than this)Other scriptures on the flood include: Job 12:15; 22:16; Ps. 29:10; 104:6-9; Is. 54:9; Matt. 24:37-39; Luke 17:26,27; Heb. 11:7; 1 Pet. 3:20; 2 Pet. 2:5; 3:5&6.Worldwide flood also accounts for many of the so-called evidences of evolution Flood Timeline: Gen. 7:11 (start)- Gen. 8:14 (end) = 1 year, 11 days (Noah’s time in ark) Rock Strata and the Fossil Record Fossil- A remnant or trace of an organism of a past geologic age, such as a skeleton or leaf imprint, embedded and preserved in the earth’s crust. Explain sedimentary layers… Evolutionary view → layers, each layer represents millions of years, fossils are found in every strata, typically smaller to larger. Fossils require tremendous pressure to be formed. When an animal dies, it immediately begins to rot- scavengers eat the animal and bacteria destroys it. Then the bones are either dissolved in the sea or weathered away on land. This is why it is extremely hard to find fossilization today because it doesn’t happen naturally. And if you do find it, you can almost always point to a specific event that caused it. For fossilization to occur, you must take away two agents: Biological scavengersWeather Must be buried deep enough where scavengers and oxygen-dependent bacteria can’t get to it (no oxygen)Must be buried immediately or shortly after deathHigh amount of pressure Most liberal typical rate of deposition is .024 in/yr (evolutionists claim it was even slower in the past). This is not nearly deep enough. Also, doesn’t provide the pressure needed. Take a fish- lots of fish fossils (ironically, these are the ones that don’t fit as well into the evolutionary model because sea life is found in all the sedimentary layers). To cover a fish with 2.5 in. of sediment would take 100 years. Even then, worms can get to this depth bringing bacteria and oxygen. Looking at current fossils (especially large ones, like dinosaurs), tremendous amounts of sediment was required to preserve. Examples of fast fossilization: Derek Ager, paleoecologist- lobster from Solenhofen Stone in Germany which was fossilized in the act of catching a small fishCharles Schuchert, Carl Dunbar- great slab of Hamilton Stone, found at Mt. Marion, NY. Now in State Museum at Albany. Preserves starfish who died hovering over clams they were in the act of devouring. What about footprints? Animal footprints preserved in the fossil record. As soon as footprints are left, wind, rain, etc, begin to destroy them- especially on a sandy beach or sand dune with waves and wind. Obviously, they must be covered quickly by another material, and done so quickly, until the sand or mud (in which the footprint lies) turns to stone. Let’s look at the flood: Provides the pressure needed- lots of force along with gravity associated with massive amounts of water coming from the sky and gushing out of the earthLots of sedimentary deposition in a short time, this would provide the depth necessary to keep away biological scavengers and weathering. Like dinosaurs, who would need lots of sediment to cover them.Accounts for the speed of burial and fossilization. You can show in lab that fossils can form very quickly with rapid burial, ground water and minerals. (Human Finger- can see fossilized cartilage and blood vessels)Circulating water of flood (along with gravity) would naturally bury smaller organisms first and lower in layers and more mobile organisms, with the ability to temporarily avoid the flood, to be buried closer to the topAccounts for fish fossils found high in mountains. Sea life is found in strata all over the continents, even at high elevations and the tops of every major mountain range.Better accounts for sedimentary layers. Boundaries between strata are straight and abrupt. This would not be at all expected if each layer represented millions of years.Widespread strata- continent-wide sedimentary layers are visible (flood)Sedimentary- the strata are mostly sedimentary. This means that each layer was laid down by water. That the continents were raised up and down hundreds of time to create each sedimentary layer over millions of years, and yet the boundaries between the strata are straight and abrupt. This is hard to believe! No evolutionary based uniformitarian model can properly answer the fact that the layers are sedimentary layers with abrupt boundaries.Major mountain ranges are all found on the continents parallel to the ocean ridges. In other words, they are found exactly where we would expect had the flood caused Pangaea to break up. Polystrate Fossils- Fossils that cross two or more sedimentary layers (strata). How could these trees have been fossilized if it took millions of years for each strata to form as evolutionary timeframes dictate? Yet, these are found on every continent all over the world. Some eroding mountainsides have exposed thousands of these together covering large numbers of strata which clearly had to be buried at one time. Whale found through layers of diatoms. Grand Canyon- supposed to represent the deepest exposed strata layers in the world. Supposed to be the best representation of rock layers. It’s interesting that less than half of the strata are actually seen and it’s not in the order science says it is and there are gaps where there are no strata from a presumed era. All over the earth, depending on where you go, there are strata layers missing, they are in completely different orders from one place to another, and some places have certain layers that others do not. There are layers, certainly, but the “column” is not evident or complete as it is taught anywhere on the planet. The Grand Canyon and other canyons supposedly took millions of years to be carved by the rivers running through them. Mud from the Mississippi river is dumped into the Gulf of Mexico at the rate of 80,000 tons per hour. Where is the mud from the Colorado River as it carved the Grand Canyon for millions of years? It didn’t take a lot of time, it took a lot of water. Oil, Natural gas, coal – the fossil fuels that we use today are remnants of the flood. They are the remains of vegetation and animals buried during the time of the flood. The post flood earth is now buried by as much as two miles of water born sediment. Note: Laboratory test have shown that buried plant material and moderate pressure and a little bit of heat can create coal in weeks, not millions of years. Tropical remains at poles- Tropical remains are found frozen at the poles, including Northern Alaska and Siberia, There are no forests containing these types of trees and vegetation even close to these areas. These are clearly remains of the flood that had been frozen or buried until they were washed to shore. Additionally, palm trees, pine trees, and tropical foliage in great amount are found frozen in the northern regions. They’ve found 90 foot plumb trees frozen in the ice 600 miles north of the Arctic Circle. They have ripe plumbs and healthy leaves, all frozen.Flood was necessary for fossilization- nothing else could have caused it to occur. The flood and the old earth view are mutually exclusive- if you believe in the flood, then you would expect lots of sedimentation. Can’t believe in both. [Other: typical answer is that the organisms slowly sank into ocean, covered with other sediment. No! This is done through erosion, waves would have wiped them away. Response: Maybe they hardened before entering wave zone, but waves erode solid rock, much more incomplete lithified sand or mud. Quotes: 217-218 (218 first) End with Coconino Footprints- Permian Coconino; Sandstone in northern Arizona- quote End with pg. 224-227] No Transitional Fossils If all organisms have arisen by slow, small modifications, we should find some of these transitional fossils! We have never found a creature with half-formed feet or a half- formed wing. (use monkey example?) Evolutionists just say that the fossil record is incomplete. This is also what Darwin said. He proposed his theory of evolution on the basis that these transitional fossils would eventually show up. Evolutionists say that these half-evolved monstrocities lived, but were not preserved. (revisit lack of forethought) (Quote- pg. 172) Many paleontologists starting to believe that we have a complete fossil record because none of these supposed gaps have been filled in a century after Darwin’s time. Two choices: If it’s complete, there’s a large % preserved, evolution is not supportedIf it’s incomplete, small fraction preserved, and what right does science have to fill these gaps with imaginary animals for which there is no evidence. Many evolutionists now believe that evolution had to happen suddenly. WHAT?? There are no transitional links and intermediate forms in either the fossil record or the modern world. Therefore, there is no actual evidence that evolution has occurred either in the past or the present. [A word about Neanderthal Man: Called hominids, there were creatures that evolutionists believed to have been in-between ape and human. There were twelve original specimens they found. Nine were found to be extinct apes/monkeys. Three were actually modern human beings. Human skulls naturally vary in size and many other characteristics. They are also misshapen by certain diseases such as rickets, arthritis, Paget’s disease, congenital syphilis, and starvation. Variation or disease could lead many to think they are less than human. Neanderthal Man- history: First skull found in 1848- Forbes Quarry in Gibraltar. (Not recognized as Neanderthal until 1956, when another partial skeleton found near village of Neander in Germany.) Evolution was just being proposed, so scientists jumped on this as the missing link. Lots of doubt raised, but main one was renown scientist Rudolf Virchow (expert in disease and fossils), who diagnosed rickets in the Neanderthal bones, which accounted for seemingly simian cast. In 1888, Galley Hill Skull, very modern-looking skull was found in rock strata believed older than Neanderthal. Other similar discoveries in 1855 in Ipswich, 1863 in Abbeville, 1932 in Kenya. Authenticity always questioned. 1939- Prof. Sergio Sergi proved that Neanderthal man walked erect as we do, not with ape-like crouch. 1947- Discovery was made that a Neanderthal was found to have lived in a cave after a modern man had inhabited it. Thus finally proving Neanderthal is not ancestor. Currently considered homo-sapien.] The 2nd Law of Thermodynamics Law of science- basic, unchanging principle of nature; a scientifically observed phenomenon which has been subjected to very extensive measurements and experimentation and has repeatedly proved to be invariable throughout the known universe (e.g., the law of gravity, the laws of motion). This is one of three Laws of Thermodynamics. This is a branch of physics which studies the efficiency of energy transfer and exchange Thermo = “heat”, dynamic = “power” 1st Law- Matter/energy cannot be created nor destroyed. It may change forms, but the quantity remains the same in a closed system. 2nd Law (Law of Increased Entropy)- While quantity remains the same, the quality of matter/energy deteriorates gradually over time. “Entropy” is defined as a measure of unusable energy within a closed or isolated system (the universe for example). As usable energy decreases and unusable energy increases, “entropy” increases. Entropy is also a gauge of randomness or chaos within a closed system. Emmett Williams, Ph.D: “It is probably no exaggeration to claim that the laws of thermodynamics represent some of the best science we have today. While the utterances in some fields (such as astronomy) seem to change almost daily, the science of thermodynamics has been noteworthy for its stability. In many decades of careful observations, not a single departure from any of these laws has ever been noted.” As far as we can tell, these Laws are absolute. All things in the observable universe are affected by and obey the Laws of Thermodynamics. Usable energy is inevitably used for productivity, growth and repair. In the process, usable energy is converted into unusable energy. Thus, usable energy is irretrievably lost in the form of unusable energy. As usable energy is irretrievably lost, disorganization, disorder, randomness and chaos increase. 2nd Law describes basic principles familiar in everyday life. Known as a universal law of decay; the ultimate cause of why everything ultimately falls apart and disintegrates over time. Material things are not eternal. Everything appears to change eventually, and chaos increases. Nothing stays as fresh as the day one buys it; clothing becomes faded, threadbare, and ultimately returns to dust. Everything ages and wears out. Even death is a manifestation of this law. The effects of the 2nd Law are all around, touching everything in the universe. Decaying buildings. Massive structures may appear to be capable of lasting almost forever, but they will not. The need for ongoing repairs. Each year, vast sums are spent to counteract the relentless effects of this law (maintenance, painting, medical bills, etc.). Ultimately, everything in nature is obedient to its unchanging laws. This law observes the fact that the useable energy in the universe is becoming less and less. Ultimately there would be no available energy left. Stemming from this fact we find that the most probable state for any natural system is one of disorder. All natural systems degenerate when left to themselves. Outside forces can increase order for a time (through the expenditure of relatively large amounts of energy, and through the input of design). However, such reversal cannot last forever. Once the force is released, processes return to their natural direction – greater disorder. (painting a house regularly) Creates a problem for evolution Universe is constantly losing usable energy. We logically conclude that the universe is not eternal. The universe had a finite beginning- the moment at which it was at its most ordered possible state (‘zero entropy’). Like a wind-up clock, which is winding down. Evolutionism claims that over billions of years everything is basically developing UPWARD, becoming more orderly and complex. Naturalistic Evolutionism requires that physical laws and atoms organize themselves into increasingly complex and beneficial, ordered arrangements. Thus, over eons of time, billions of things are supposed to have developed upward, becoming more orderly and complex. 2nd Law says the opposite. It is well known that, left to themselves, chemical compounds ultimately break apart into simpler materials; they do not ultimately become more complex. The trend is towards simplication and disorder. Ultimately, when all the energy of the cosmos has become unusable, all molecules will move randomly, and the entire universe will be cold and without order. All experimental and physical observation appears to confirm that the Law is indeed universal, affecting all natural processes in the long run. Evolution is simply not feasible. In fact, it is one of the most important reasons why various Evolutionists have dropped their theory in favor of Creationism, or at least that there is a Grand Designer. A number of scientists believe the 2nd Law, when truly understood, is enough to refute the theory of Evolution. [Objection: The universe may be a closed system, but the earth is not. Evolutionists maintain that the 2nd Law does not prevent Evolution on Earth since the planet receives energy from the Sun. They say that the sun’s energy helped create life on this planet. True that open systems exchange heat, light, or matter with their surroundings. Earth is an open system, primarily because it receives outside energy from the Sun. Is Energy the Key? Compare a living plant with a dead one. Can the addition of energy make a completely dead plant alive again. A dead plant contains the same basic structures as a living plant. It once used the Sun’s energy to temporarily increase its order and grow and produce stems, leaves, roots, and flowers – all beginning from a single seed. If there is actually a powerful Evolutionary force at work in the universe, and if the open system of Earth makes all the difference, why does the Sun’s energy not make a truly dead plant become alive again (assuming a sufficient supply of water, light, and the like)? What actually happens when a dead plant receives energy from the Sun? The internal  organization in the plant decreases; it tends to decay and break apart into its simplest components. The heat of the Sun only speeds the disorganization process. Certainly, the sun’s energy is not a sufficient explanation for life on earth.] Mountains If earth was anywhere close to being 4.5 billion years old, all mountains would be eroded into the sea. (explain erosion?)Lowest/slowest estimate for erosion is 2.4 cm per 1000 years.Continents eroded to sea level in 34 million yearsAll ocean basins filled in 340 million years More likely it’s 6 cm per 1000 years- 13 million Evolutionists can’t accept this, so they state there must have been consistent continental uplift and mountain building to keep up with erosion rate. See problems? Bias causes them to assume propositions that have no evidence whatsoever to back it up, no explanation as to why this or that happened at allOpposite direction! Evolution bases most of its theories on sedimentary layers, smaller fossils deeper in the layers- doesn’t fit with deposition.
Posted by Ben Jones

Creation Study Part 2

Is there really any evidence for six 24-hour creation days? Was Noah’s flood worldwide, and what were the results? Who was Cain’s wife? What about dinosaurs? Are there problems with Darwin’s evolutionary theory? Read this article in PDF format. by Ben Jones Gen. 3:8-10, Notice personification/anthropomorphism of God (Jesus?) Serpent Seed Theory (Pentecostal Oneness Sects)- William Branham (1940s), Eve had illicit affair with serpent and offspring was Cain. No! First sin was not sexual, but eating from the tree Gen. 3:15 Humans vs. AdversaryOngoing opposition against humans, ultimately ending in Jesus ChristBruise on head: Mortal wound spelling utter defeat of Satan, happened at CalvaryBruise on heel: Suffering, physical death of ChristWoman’s Seed (normally man): refers to virgin birth Gen. 3:21- Notice that God killed first animal and shed first blood for sin Gen. 3:22-24 Does not suggest that serpent was correct about God’s insecurityDoes not mean He was threatened by man’s wisdom when He expelled themPenalty of death had to be carried out (couldn’t if they could eat from tree)This was merciful! They would have lived forever in a sinful and painful world with sickness, degeneration, and infirmity.God provided for them in a new environment, and eternal salvation through the Promised Seed How Did People Age? Today, a really healthy person might live to be 100. What age do we start dying? (some say as soon as you are born, maybe early-mid 20s) Condition of world before flood:Water canopy protecting earthNo disease, plague, viruses, infirmity, etcHumans lived much longer, but how? 6 = 60? No, they peaked in their mid-20s and stayed vibrant and healthy much longer- aged much more slowly. This also allowed for more offspring. Humans and Dinosaurs What is the interesting growth attribute of reptiles? They never stop growing until they die. Due to the water canopy, just like humans, they lived longer and grew much bigger- we call these dinosaurs! Evolution: Appeared 235 million years ago, died out 65 million years ago Creation: Created on the 6th day, were placed on Noah’s ark, then due to lack of water canopy, climate change, disease, competition for food, and man’s activities eventually helped cause their extinction Job 40:15-24, not talking about hippo or elephant (v. 17). “Brachiosaurus” Other Scripture: Gen. 1:24-25, Job 41, Jer. 51:34, Mal. 1:3, Ps. 74:13, Ps. 91:13, Ps. 104:25-26, Is. 27:1, Is. 30:6 (flying serpent), Is. 43:20 Words used most is: “Tanniyn” meaning ‘monster, sea monster, dragon’ The word dragons is used 21-30 in the OT. Fire-breathing dragons are in the history of almost every ancient cultureUnexplained cavities- unexplained passages in skulls connected to nasal cavity chemicals stored could be hydrogen peroxide and hydroquinone.ExamplesSumerian Story (2000BC) about Gilgamesh and huge dragonAlexander the Great (330BC) marched into India, found them worshipping huge hissing reptiles kept in cavesChinese dragon stories- pottery, carvings, etcPetroglyphs (drawings on rock) of dinosaurs- White River Canyon, UtahPaluxy Tracks, Paluxy River Bed in Glen Rose, TX (May 1939- Human tracks in the same as dino)T-Rex and duck-billed platapus- unfossilized bonesPlateau in Turkmenistan (Kughitang-Tau Plateau)- many human footprints along with 1000s of dino printsTuba City, AZ1000s of cases around the world Cain and his wifeSkeptics use, Scopes Trial in 1925 with William Jennings Bryant- was not answered and was a huge blow to Scriptural beliefWife must be a descendant of Adam/Eve- all men come from Adam, otherwise the gospel could not be defended; also “Eve” because she is ‘mother of all living’ (Gen 3:20)Gen 4:25- Seth was born after Abel’s murderGen 5:3- Adam is 130 years oldGen 5:4- Adam had other sons and daughters (Josephus- 33 sons, 23 daughters)130 years is time enough for at least 3 generations, Gen. 4:3 indicates possibly 100 years between Cain’s birth and Abel’s deathTwo Reasons Seth mentioned specificallySeth could have been the 1st son born after Abel’s deathJesus is a descendant of SethThis does mean Cain would have to marry a sister or niece Objection: The Law! Answer: Law forbidding marriage between close relatives was not given until Moses. All of us are relatives to an extent. Also God blessed Abram’s marriage to his half-sister.Objection: Deformities! Today, children of close relatives would have a very high risk of being deformedEvery person has 2 sets of genes- around 130,000 gene pairs. One gene comes from each parent.Many genes today contain mistakes- one ear lower than the other, etc. Result of Sin, the Curse, etc.The more distantly related parents are, the more likely they will have different mistakes in genes. Children are likely to end up with a max of one bad gene in each pair, and the good gene overrides the bad.Human race is slowly degenerating as mistakes accumulateMore closely related, better chance of similar mistakes. So child of a union of siblings results in same bad gene in a gene pair, resulting in serious defectsAdam and Eve did not have accumulated gene mistakes, they were physically perfect when created.Cain and his siblings would have inherited virtually no bad genes (but by the time of Moses this was starting to be an issue)Gen. 4:16-17, does not say that Cain found his wife in Nod; could have found her before as many believe. Gen. 4:14, who was Cain scared of? Before civil government was instituted to punish murderers, someone would want to harm Cain for killing Abel only if they were closely related to Abel!Some say that Cain needed technology developed by other races to build the city of Enoch in Nod. But Jabel created the harp, lyre, and pipes. Tubal-Cain worked with brass and iron- WE are degenerated, at the beginning of time, the human mind was working at the peak of creativity and learning. (Gen. 4:21-22) Methusaleh Gen. 5:21-27 Methusaleh died in the flood! Why would the Lord kill Methusaleh in the flood? Asked Dad.Look at Enoch Heb. 11:5, Jude 14 Enoch was a prophet who walked with God, and he gave his son a prophetic nameMethusaleh means “when he dies, it will come;” he did not die in the flood, he died, and then the flood cameThe fact that Methusaleh lived longer than any other man shows God’s patience and long-suffering with mankind before punishing with the Flood (same today)
Posted by Ben Jones