A Tale of Two Natures

It happened at the Century 16 Cineplex in the Town Center of Aurora, Colorado, a suburb of Denver.  It was just after midnight, on July 20, 2012, at a screening of the latest Batman film The Dark Knight Rises.  About twenty minutes into the film one of the viewers sitting near the front of the theater leaves through an exit door, but leaves it propped open.  He returns dressed in protective gear wearing a gas mask and armed with an AR 15, shotgun, and two pistols.  He tosses two tear gas canisters and as their smoke begins to fill the auditorium, he opens fire.  It is 12:38 A.M.

Twenty-four year old James Eagan Holmes coolly shoots fellow moviegoers who think it is a promotional stunt at first, but quickly comprehend the deadly reality of the situation.  Chaos follows.  Calls to 911 begin within seconds and the first police officers arrive at the theater within a minute and a half.  Before they can determine what is actually happening, Holmes exits the building returning to his vehicle in the parking lot behind the theater.  Police arrest him without incident at 12:45.  In those seven minutes of carnage Holmes has killed twelve people and wounded fifty-eight more.

In the aftermath Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates was asked if Holmes had a motive or a reason for his actions.  Oates responded, “We’re not going to get into why he did what he did.  We don’t have that information.”  Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper said the scene of the shooting revealed an “act that defies description.”  It was an inexplicable, horrific act of evil.

During these same seven minutes of terror there were acts of uncommon valor.  Air Force Staff Sergeant Jesse Childress is credit with action that saved a fellow airman seated beside him, before being fatally wounded.  Alex Teves pushed his girlfriend to the floor for her safety, but is gunned down before he can join her.  Three others, Jon Blunk, Matt McQuinn and John Larimer, helped their girlfriends to the relative safety of the floor, shielded them with their own bodies, and died doing so.

During those seven fear-filled minutes in that theater in Aurora, Colorado, we have witnessed the two extremes of human nature.  In Holmes’ murderous spree we see the depraved depth to which a troubled soul can stoop.  In the selfless sacrifices of these five men we view the heights of heroism that can be reached.  Humanity’s despicable and noble natures stood side-by-side.

We are now being told Holmes was under psychiatric care.  Modern psychiatry believes great strides have been made in understanding the human psyche, but the truth is the more we think we know about the mind of man the less we do.  The human brain is a labyrinth where even the most astute psychoanalyst can lose his way.  If pressed for a cause none can say with certitude what triggered Holmes’ rampage.  Modern psychiatry will not be able to explain Holmes’ reasoning anymore than Chief Oates could cite a motive.  Like him, the best any psychiatrist can say is, “we don’t have that information.”

The Scriptures give us the best explanation for these two contradictory natures.  In the first chapter of Genesis in the twenty-seventh verse we read, “God created man in His own image…”  The Bible goes on to record in the third chapter of Genesis our first parents’ transgression that resulted in their fall from innocence into sin.  This fallen nature was inherited by Adam and Eve’s offspring.  That inherited nature rears its ugly head in the very next chapter, when their oldest son Cain does to his brother Abel, what Holmes did in that theater.  Within the first four chapters of Genesis the stage is set for the drama of human history that follows.

The simple truth is each of us bears the image of our Creator, an image marred, and distorted by our inherited, fallen nature.  Life is a constant battle between the nature given us by our Creator and the nature inherited from our first parents.  Each of us possesses the capacity for good and evil.  The only hope for victory, the only remedy for our plight, if we want to overcome our inherited nature and have our created nature restored, is to flee to Christ.

“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come (2 Corinthians 5:17, NASB).”

A Theology Wrapped Around Evolution

In my last article I wrote about how science is in a state of change based on the ongoing discovery of new information, and the Bible has remained unchanged since it was written.  I went on to explain how the more science changes the closer it comes to what the Bible has revealed that does not change. Since the debate has been revived regarding theistic evolution, some may have thought I was making an argument for this position.  I was not.

Theistic evolution is an attempt to syncretize certain scientific theories on the origin of life, and its current complexity and diversity, with the revelation of Scripture.  Those who hold this view believe evolution is the method God used to create everything.  I rejected theistic evolution a long time ago because it is predicated on poor science and even poorer theology.

The guys over at BioLogos (biologos.org) disagree.  According to their website they see “evolution as the means by which God created life, in contrast to Atheistic Evolutionism, Intelligent Design, and Creationism.”  Of course they call their position Evolutionary Creation, which is theistic evolution in new semantic clothes.  BioLogos claims to be “…a community of evangelical Christians committed to exploring and celebrating the compatibility of evolutionary creation and biblical faith…”

That last statement is a little misleading.  They are more committed to “celebrating” the compatibility of evolution and the Bible than they are to “exploring” it.  When they suggest they are exploring the matter they imply there is an ongoing investigation into and search for scientific truth.  The only truth found here is their embracing of evolutionary creation over other competing views.

Science consists of gathering data through observation of natural phenomena or observation and recording results of experimentation in a controlled environment such as a laboratory.  At its essence, science is observation.  Observation reveals facts and scientists speculate on what the facts mean and this gives rise to theories.  There is a huge gap between what science observes and what science speculates.

When it comes to the origin of life, that gap is about 3.5 billion years.  Scientists theorize life began 3.5 billion years ago and they have formulated several theories about the origin of life, but the whole scientific community is not in possession of a single observed fact about how life began.  They can only guess how life began because they did not observe how life began.  If you think that last sentence is an exaggeration, read on.

The National Academy of Sciences is a group of about 2,100 scientists representing every major science discipline.  About two hundred of their number have received Nobel Prizes in their various fields of study.  They are often called upon to advise the Congress of the United States regarding technical or scientific issues affecting pending legislation.  They promote the teaching of evolution and oppose the teaching of creationism.

In a publication entitled Science and Creationism: A View from the National Academy of Sciences, Second Edition (1999), page 7, we read, “Of course, even if a living cell were to be made in the laboratory, it would not prove nature followed the same pathway billions of years ago.”  This is a stunningly honest admission by a body of highly respected scientists.  Since the origin of life is an unobserved event shrouded in antiquity, they must admit they do not know what happened.  This same admission is repeated almost verbatim in a 2008 publication entitled Science, Evolution and Creationism, page 22.  Both publications can be viewed free of charge at the National Academies Press website.

Of course, other comments in these publications like “no one yet knows” or “scientists who study the origin of life do not yet know” seem to get lost in the wordy explanations of what scientist do know and serve to obscure what they do not know.  Scientists are very good at the art of observation and recording what they observe.  They are not always good at speculating about what happened in the distant past or even the near future, because the distant past and near future are unobserved.  They can only speculate, and history is replete with the speculative mistakes of science.  It is arrogance for any scientist to think that because he knows some things, he knows everything.

If the guys over at BioLogos think they have discovered more on the origin of life than the National Academy of Sciences it is time to lay their cards on the table.  Until then, I maintain evolution’s explanation of the origin of life is unproven speculation, and one should be wary of twisting their theology to wrap around it.

Imagine That

As I prayerfully considered what I would write on this week I pondered the similarities and differences of science and faith.  For instance, a similarity is both disciplines are fields of study.  Science studies natural phenomena and faith studies the supernatural or spiritual realm.  A difference would be that science studies what can be seen or better yet what can be observed, faith is a contemplation of what is not, for the most part, visible to the natural eye.

It should be no surprise that there are times when the two find themselves in agreement and at times they are at odds with one another.  One of the differences I have noticed between the two is science is in a constant state of flux; the Bible isn’t.  As science discovers new facts and gathers more information, its perception of the present and theories about the past and future change accordingly.  The Scriptures have remained unchanged from the time they were originally penned.  Theologians who believe the Bible is a divine revelation do not toy with changing it.  After all, God is omniscient; He knows the past, present and future.  What is there to change?

The Bible is not a science textbook.  Nevertheless, it does contain statements about the reality of the universe we live in, and when it does students of the Scriptures accept those declarations as being accurate.  Some think this puts biblical revelation in direct conflict with scientific fact.  There is not enough room in one article to address all of the seeming contradictions between science and religion.  So let’s see what the Bible says regarding the universe compared to what theoretical physicists say about it.

The first verse in the Bible says, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”  The Scriptures do not reveal when the universe (i.e., the heavens and the earth) began.  Moses does not claim to have observed it and I see nothing he wrote that would contradict the beginning taking place a long time ago.  The exact date of the beginning is irrelevant to the biblical narrative.  Remember, the Bible is not a science textbook.

Theoretical scientists, who did not observe the beginning either, say the universe came into existence in a “big bang” 13.7 billion years ago.  Of course, physicists may uncover information that may cause them to recalculate when the Big Bang occurred, but any change in their theory will not contradict what he Bible says because the Bible does not make any claim about when the universe began.

Theologians believe God created the physical universe ex nihilo, from nothing.  Theoretical physicists theorize nothing existed before the Big Bang.  In the third verse of the Bible God said, “Let there be light; and there was light.”  Light is a byproduct of expended energy.  Physicists are now saying that all the matter in the universe came into existence from a source of all the energy of the universe compressed to an area about the size of an atom.  This claim that energy became matter is not inconsistent with the biblical account.

The first chapter of Genesis says creation occurred over a six day period.  Lawrence Krauss, theoretical physicist at Arizona State University and author of the book A Universe from Nothing, said in episode one of How the Universe Works that all the matter in the universe was created within the first three minutes of the Big Bang.  Krauss claims this matter was disorganized and needed to be coalesced to form elements, but the rudiments for all the matter in the universe, a universe whose limits are not known, came into existence in three minutes.

Science also claims that the physical universe( inorganic matter) preceded the beginning of life (organic matter).  This is also consistent with the biblical account.  God created the physical universe, set it in order, and during the third day created life starting with plants.  And just as science says life began with simpler life forms followed by more complex life forms, so does the Bible.

Theoretical physicists also claim the universe will eventually cease to exist in a cataclysmic event similar to a nuclear meltdown.  Sounds like what Peter predicted, “…the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up (2 Peter 3:10).”

It seems the more scientific theories change the closer they come to the Bible that has not changed.  Imagine that.

Then and Now

     It began in Dayton, Tennessee, on May 25, 1925.  That was the day that high school science teacher John Thomas Scopes was indicted for teaching evolution.  It was against the law to teach evolution in a Tennessee public school back then.  The Scopes Monkey Trial, as it became known, pitted William Jennings Bryant for the prosecution against Clarence Darrow for the defense.  It proved to be a pivotal case for public education.
     It was a media spectacle.  In an unprecedented move prosecutor Bryant took the stand to be cross-examined by Darrow.  Playing up to public opinion Bryant’s testimony drew heavily on Christian sentiment instead of addressing the scientific premises of evolution.  Christians were afraid and suspicious of science.  They considered science an enemy to their faith.  That was then.
     Likewise scientists were afraid and suspicious of religion.  They considered religion an enemy of science.  The result was the competing issues became politicized.  School boards at the local and state levels became the battlefield for what would be taught in public classrooms.  The ongoing controversy generated a lot of heat and little light with evolutionists succeeding in framing the issue as fact versus faith.  Time and again faith was defeated.
     The vote of the Ohio State School Board in 2006 was typical.  The board voted eleven to four to remove language in the state’s science standards that encourages students to “investigate and critically analyze aspects of evolutionary theory.”  One school board member Martha Wise (poorly named) said her reason for voting to delete the language is because “it is deeply unfair to the children of this state to mislead them about science.”  Too late.
     The heart and soul of science is to investigate and critically analyze everything in the physical realm, including evolution.  I cannot fathom how it is misleading to teach children to do this very thing.  Anything less is not science, it is shamanism.
     Removal of such language and the reasoning for doing so reveal the fissure in the supposed factual arguments of evolutionists.  If evolution is more fact than theory, if it is so unquestionably true, if its underlying foundation is so faultless, why do evolutionists fear its examination?  If all roads of life’s origins and continued existence lead to evolution, why are evolutionists saying don’t read the map?
     This issue raised its head again in Tennessee.  Tennessee State Senator Bo Watson said, “It came to my attention that some teachers did not know how to respond when certain scientific theories were disputed in the classroom.”  If students raised questions regarding certain scientific theories the teachers were in a quandary as to their legal footing in engaging the students in honest dialogue.
     Senator Watson proposed SB 893.  It was the Tennessee Senate’s version of a bill that had already passed in the Tennessee House of Representatives.  It allows teachers, in keeping with the curriculum established by the Tennessee Board of Education, “to respond to the debate and dispute that may occur when certain scientific subjects are taught in the classroom.”  The ultimate purpose of the bill is to foster the “critical thinking skills of students and their ability to analyze information.”  Last month, May, the bill was adopted by the Tennessee Senate, about eighty-seven years after the Scopes Monkey Trial.  This is now.
     Of course the bill’s detractors claim it is an attempt to slip creation science and intelligent design in the back door of the schoolhouse.  So what if it is?  The bill is not a directive or mandate to teach a prescribed course of study.  It is a bill that allows open dialogue and honest debate.  That is something no true scientist should shy away from.
     Paul warned Timothy “guard what has been entrusted to you, avoiding worldly and empty chatter and the opposing arguments of what is falsely called “knowledge” which some have professed and thus gone away from the faith (1 Timothy 6:20-21 NASB).”  In the King James Version the Greek word gnosis (i.e., knowledge) is translated science.  Paul is not suggesting the avoidance of science, but the avoidance “of what is falsely called science.”
     I have maintained there is no contradiction between true science and true religion.  I have never read of any fact revealed by science that has caused me to doubt the Bible and I have never read anything in the Bible that caused me to doubt the facts revealed by science.  Science without religion is godless knowledge and religion without science is blind faith.  Mankind can ill afford either.
     Believers are beginning to recognize that what they thought was their enemy then is our friend now.